My Criticisms: Liberals vs Conservatives

I can be quite opinionated… as anyone knows who knows me.  I’m not shy about my opinions most of the time.  But my opinions are ususally nuanced and I don’t tend to shove them in people’s faces.  I’m open to listening to the opinions of others.

On the other hand, I can be outright aggressive in stating some of my opinions.  Some statements seem so obviously true based on the facts that I find irritating anyone who denies them… which isn’t to say my opinion is black and white even in those extreme cases.

I don’t try to hide my liberal bias.  Part of my liberal preferences are just my personality and some are based on research I’ve done.  I can’t help but be who I am and so my inborn liberal tendencies do cause me to be a bit unfair in my assessments at times.  Usually, though, my desire to be fair and reasonable wins out.

My liberal bias particularly shows when I’m talking about certain topics related to conservatism.  I don’t like Fox News, Roger Ailes, Glenn Beck, Sarah Palin, George W. Bush, Karl Rove, etc.  I don’t like them not simply because they’re conservatives, but because they represent the worst of conservatism, the worst of mainstream, the worst of human nature in general… and I’ve written many blog posts with examples and data to back up this conclusion.  That said, I’m not therefore promoting Democrats as a better solution to what ails the world. 

Yes, Fox News is propaganda, Roger Ailes is a Republican operative, and Glenn Beck is a political hack… then again, I don’t generally trust any mainstream media.  I find other mainstream news sources less annoying, but I never let my guard down when checking out the news.  My annoyance with Fox News is that it’s slogan is “Fair and Balanced” which is an obvious lie.  The other mainstream news outlets don’t make such ostentatious claims.  No news source is fair and balanced… which doesn’t mean that reporters shouldn’t strive towards this ideal.

Anyways, I prefer alternative news sources because you have a better sense of seeing what you get and getting what you see.  In mainstream media, any story has gone through numerous layers of people who decide what to approve, who decide how to present it, and who edit it down.  The final product often is closer to fiction than reality.  In the alternative media, there is less funding and so there are less layers between you and the information… and, if there is a bias, it tends to be more obvious.

In the political realm, yes, George W. Bush was one of the worst presidents that we’ve ever had and yes Karl Rove was a sinister mastermind… then again I don’t generally trust any mainstream politician.  I pick on the Republicans partly just because their evil behavior can be just more blatantly obvious (the Patriot Act being a prime example.  When Bush told a lie or was trying to obfuscate, it was obvious because he lacked (or maybe just pretended to lack) political slickness.  Some liked Bush because he appeared to have no pretense and just said things as he believed.  Assuming that is true, a lie blatantly told annoys me all the more because it insults my intelligence.  The way Bush acted seemed to me like a child pretending to be a grownup, a child playing at some game… ya know, the whole Texas cowboy act or his wearing a flight suit.  Whatever game Bush was playing, he wanted us all to play along and just ignore the man behind the curtain (ahem, Karl Rove).

I don’t assume that Obama doesn’t lie or that his policies are entirely motivated by some higher moral sensibility.  However, Obama does seem to take the moral authority of his position seriously.  He is just another Washington politician, but at least he makes his lies sound pretty and he inspires us in the process.  Ultimately, I doubt the end result of Obama’s presidency will be much different than the end reult of Bush’s presidency.  I’m of the opinion that presidents have a lot less power than we like to think.  Politics is just politics.  The politics we typically see in the media is just a show and there are people behind the scenes pulling the strings.  But, with Obama, for a brief moment I can suspend my disbelief and let myself be carried away by the rhetoric.  If we must have evil politics, it might as well be entertaining and uplifting.

So, am I being unfair to conservatives?  If most of the mainstream media is propaganda and if most Washington politicians are evil, then why spend more time complaining about one side or another?  I know I’m being biased in my liberal preferences, but I do complain about both sides even if my complaints about one side tend to be stated more strongly and more often. 

The reaon for this is partly just my response to conservatives and mainstream culture in general.  When Bush lied, why didn’t the mainstream media question the administration and do real investigative journalism?  Why did the American public buy into it hook, line and sinker?  Why do many conservatives still believe the lies?  When Obama lies (or simply doesn’t live up to his promises), everyone is all over it.. the media obsesses over it, the rightwingers attack him, and the leftwingers complain that he isn’t progressive enough.  Why did Bush get a free pas so often?  Because of 9/11?  Because he was a “War President”?  Is Obama not a “War President”?  Bush campaigned on bipartisanship and then acted entirely partisan when in office, and what was the response?  There was a public call for national unity and Democrats bowed to his every wish and command.  Obama campaigned on bipartisanship and then sought bipartisanship in office, and what was the response?  There was Fox News attack-fest and the Republicans went into obstructionist mode.

When I look at what goes for mainstream liberalism, it seems fairly moderate.  There are, of course, the polls that show most Americans favor a moderate form of progressivism, but that isn’t entirely what I mean by this.  Obama seeks bipartisanship and his actions seem to be pretty much a carryover from Bush.  Obama is a progressive in words only.  Obama is just a politician.  The so-called liberal media bias is only liberal in that it supports a liberal status quo.  Mainstream America is slightly liberal and the media reflects that and shapes it to an extent, but there aren’t any flaming communists or populist progressives in the mainstream media.  Social liberalism is just the natural tendency of modern society.  Democratic and capitalistic idealism tends lead towards social liberalism.  It isn’t any scheme of the “liberal elite”.

On the other hand, when I look at mainstream conservatism, it’s been moving towards more extreme manifestations.  Maybe this is just the fundamentalist response to modernism as many have pointed out (e.g., Karen Armstrong).  Ever since taking up the Southern Strategy, conservatives have been fighting against the liberalizing elements of modern society.  They do succeed to an extent in obstructing and in riling up populist anger, but they seem to be fighting against the very nature of our society.  Some conservatives try to explain their failure by claiming Republicans such as Bush have moved away from true conservatism.  That is fair as far as it goes, but true conservatism hasn’t been allowed within the GOP for a very long time.  What I consider true conservatism are the “live and let live” libertarians.  The people who don’t want other people trying to control their lives and tell them what to do… whether it’s big government, big business, or big religion.  Despite what they may think, the moral conservatives aren’t the true conservatives.  The desire to control public morality inevitably leads to big government and the oppression of civil rights.

Maybe liberals have strayed just as far from true liberalism… I don’t know.  I guess that I tend to emphasize social liberalism which oddly can at times be fairly in line with true conservatism.  I think of social liberalism as being true liberalism.  From my perspective, true conservatism and true liberalism have more in common than either have to their mainstream equivalents.  The mainstream equivalents do talk the talk (Republicans call for smaller government and Democrats call for progressive change), but they don’t walk the walk.  I’m more forgiving towards the Democrats in that they seem closer in their ideology to the actual emerging public opinion.  Republicans too often just complain about the world, and their attempt to portray their complaint as populist is unfounded.

My ultimate bias towards liberalism isn’t in liberal ideology itself but in the overall liberal attitude.  I’m an intellectual liberal which isn’t necessarily the same thing as a political liberal.  However, there seems more similarity between the two than not.  Mainstream liberals seem on average to be more intellectually respectable than mainstream conservatives.  You can find intellectual liberalism within the conservative movement.  Buckley attempted to make conservatism more intellectually respectable, but Bush was definitely the intellectual bottom of the barrel.  Nowadays, within the conservative movement, the best examples of intellectual liberalism probably can be found among the libertarians.  The problem is that the intellectually liberal libertarians recently haven’t had a place at the GOP table.  Instead, the anti-intellectuals have become the loudest voices of the conservative movement.  That bugs me more than anything.

I’m fine with someone calling Keith Olbermann a ranting pundit if they so wish, but Olbermann isn’t merely the leftwing equivalent of Glenn Beck.  Unlike Beck, Olbermann isn’t an anti-intellectual.  Even the more intellectual conservatives on Fox News such as Bill O’Reilly don’t seem all that impressively intellectual.  I haven’t come across a popular rightwing equivalent of Noam Chomsky, for instance.  I’m not saying that all conservatives are stupid, but I am saying the smart conservatives tend not to be as popular within the mainstream conservative movement.

So, if more conservatives were willing to embrace intellectuality instead of moral righteousness, then I’d be a lot less critical of the conservative movement.  My complaint isn’t against conservatism as a general category.  True conservatism, in fact, seems quite appealing to me.  I wish more conservatives would think for themselves.  I see the Tea Party being promoted by the Republican Fox News and being taken over by the Republican agenda.  I’d love to see a true conservative protest movement.  When liberals protested the Iraq War, no media outlet promoted the movement and the protest remained independent of mainstream politics.  During Bush’s reign, you had to look to the Peace Protests in order to find the true conservative outcasts.  But, now in Obama’s reign, it seems true liberals have less of an outcast status.

Liberals seem more willing to embrace difference and self-criticism.  If there had been as many conservative critics of Bush as there are now liberal critics of Obama, then we might’ve been able to avoid at least some of the mess we now find ourselves in.  I’m critical of conservatives lack of criticalness (and by criticalness I don’t mean calling Democrats names), but maybe it’s just not in the nature of conservatives to be self-critical.