The story of the week is the response of the Left-Liberal intelligentsia to the Arizona shootings. By now, all but the most partisan recognize that the shooter was a seriously disturbed psychotic man who was responding to his own internal delusions and had no relationship with the Tea Parties, Sarah Palin, or any Conservative ideology. The attempt to hijack this incident for political gain is noxious in the extreme; sadly, it is further evidence of the Left's need to demonize its opponents rather than engage their arguments. There is a relatively simple reason why they need to follow this well marked path: Leftism, as an ideology, has failed, is incoherent, and is truly post-modern; in other words, there is no core belief system for Leftism, there is merely emotional resonance disguised as rational argument.
For the Left, the use of martial metaphor and terminology by the Right creates a climate in which violence, even when non-political or coming from the Left, is caused or increased. At the same time, political violence from the Left and their allies is never considered to be symptomatic of Left wing excess. At one time this formulation worked to control the speech and thinking of most people; the Media was the gate keeper, not only of information, but of narratives, and when you hear the same story line repeated over and over again, most people do not spend the requisite time and energy to question the narrative. As I have noted on many occasions, our brains and our minds (which may overlap in the space they inhabit but are not equivalent conceptually) are conservative, that is, they aim to limit the expenditure of energy. In other words, biology is lazy. There is nothing wrong with recognizing that truism, but it does mean that when the narrative imposed on reality is limited, it is, for most people, too much work to question. That has changed with the advent of new media. The great problem for the Left is that the new media narratives are easier to understand and better reflections of most people's quotidian reality than the more complex narratives constructed by the post-modern Left.
A brief example should suffice:
For the Left, Anthropogenic Global Warming was an excellent narrative when it was first proposed. It explained warming trends, justified a massive expropriation of money and power from the wealthy world to the power brokers of the international elites (under the rubric of helping the poor who rarely ever saw a fraction of the appropriated money and none of the power), and it served as a useful weapon against the hated capitalist system. The problem was that as time went on the dire consequences of the world failing to end on time meant that the narrative had to be amended time after time. Now we are told that human derived CO2 is causing Climate Disruption or Anthropogenic Climate Change, née Anthropogenic Climate Warming. Granting there is a non-zero risk that through so far unexplained and undiscovered feedbacks, tiny increases in trace gases in the atmosphere are throwing the entire system into chaos, the current Conservative narrative is simply easier to understand and fits the visible facts better than the Ptolemaic epicycles built by the AGW proponents. That is, climate varies naturally, probably in relation to the sun's output and other long term variables over which man has no control; technology will increasingly allow us to reduce our dependence on carbon emitting energy sources; and the single greatest protection we have against Climate Change, human derived or otherwise, is increasing wealth, also enabled by our burgeoning technology. Game, Set, and Match to the AGW skeptics!
Because the post-modern Left has no core beliefs, they are capable of the most overt contradictions. For example, if they truly believe that martial verbal productions create a climate of fear and violence, then they should be appalled at what occurs on a daily basis in the Muslim World. Professor Barry Rubin explains:
If One Extremist Gunmen Can Do So Much Damage in America, How About Ten Million Such People In The Middle East?
When one crazed or ideologically obsessed gunman named Jared Loughner starts shooting in Arizona, people condemn him and start bemoaning the state of their society. How about a place with ten million people like that who are treated as heroes?
America this week is awash in a huge and passionate debate over whether angry political disagreements and harsh criticisms of certain views or groups inspired the attack on an American congresswoman (Jewish and a strong supporter of Israel, by the way). I’m not going to enter into that argument right now but I want to point out the Middle Eastern ramifications of what's going on here.
Every day for more than a half century, Arabs and Muslims have been inundated every day with hatred for Israel, America, the West, Jews, and often Christians. You can read transcripts of Syrian broadcasts or Palestinian speeches from 50 years ago that sound just like what is being said by their successors now.
Let’s say that the proportion of lies, slanders, extremism, and incitement in the American discourse is one-tenth of one percent of all the words spoken on controversial issues. The equivalent figure for the Middle East is well over 95 percent.
In addition to that tone, there is not only a total lack of balance but an absence of the other side altogether. It's all one-sided.
And in addition to those two points, the level of factual accuracy is farther away from reality than anywhere else in the world. (Though, admittedly, that gap has been narrowing in recent years as Western academic and journalistic standards decline).
And in addition to those three points, while extremists tend to be marginal in the United States, they are in control--either politically or at least setting the terms of discussion--throughout the Arabic-speaking and Muslim-majority worlds.
Thus, the level of incitement, imbalance, lies, and the hegemony of hatred in that region towers above that in the West like the World Trade Center towers over an anthill.
Oh, the World Trade Center doesn't exist any more. Well, that has something to do with this situation, too, doesn't it?
Or to put it another way, in the Middle East, the crackpot is often (usually?) given more credit than the rational or factual.
I won’t take your time with lots of examples but one might start with the widespread belief that the U.S. government or Israel carried out the September 11 attacks, coupled with the contradictory belief—held often by the same people—that it was something to be proud about. Or all the ridiculous conspiracy theories about Israel, as in the cases mentioned here and here. Or the editorial in al-Ahram, the most important Egyptian newspaper, that claimed all terrorism in Iraq was a U.S. plot to divide Muslims.
Read his whole post; it is replete with smart insights and includes a wonderful image that should be seen and savored.
Once again, the lack of core beliefs dictates that the Left must create its post-modern ideology on an ad hoc basis. There are general guidelines, such as "Capitalism bad, Socialism good" and "America and Israel bad, Arabs and Europeans good" but there is no coherence to the structure. As a result, those who follow such a belief system are forced to censor their own perceptions and attempt to limit the perceptions of others; too much reality threatens the narrative.
Please watch Melanie Phillips explain to an Israeli interviewer how abysmally Israel has failed in their hasbara, ie public relations; especially pay attention to her explanation of the difficulty Israel's positions have in gaining any oxygen among the British intelligentsia:
My fondest wish is that Melanie Phillips appear more often and in more venues. Americans still tend to hear better when a speaker has a refined and delightful British accent, perhaps a remnant of the respect one has for one's parents even after having declared independence from them.
The committed Leftist cannot help but force all data to fit his narratives; when the narratives change, the data is reinterpreted to fit. They have created a protean ideology that has no core and is impossible to combat in the realm of ideas (in part because they can not and will not argue ideas but can only argue power and money.) The Left and the parts of the economy that they dominate are losing power and influence as the need to become more efficient in producing the tangible assets requisite for life becomes ever more overt. Their livelihoods are threatened since they are fundamentally parasitic; (when was the last time a Left wing Professor of Literature produced anything of tangible value?) and as with any life form that feels its life is threatened, their defensive struggles are only going to become more and more vicious until they are marginalized and defeated.
If we are lucky, 2008 will one day be seen as having been the high water mark of Leftism, the moment when its inevitable decline into irrelevance began. More likely it will persist and return to threaten the freedoms of succeeding generations; in the future, however, the growth of uncontrolled information sources means that they will never again be able to control the narratives as they once did.