Is "Little Pink Houses" a Patriotic Anthem?
The Dale Cooper Quartet: Metamanoir

An Odd Little Incident in the Culture War

As I've surely mentioned before, the little town where I live has grown fashionable and affluent. And of course where there is fashion and affluence there progressives will be also. Which is ok, but as Justice Ginsburg said, there are certain populations that you don't want to have too many of. (I can't bring myself to use a smiley-face in a piece of writing meant to be at least somewhat serious, but yes, I do mean that in a mildly humorous way, and no, I do not wish to exterminate progressives. I just don't want them to rule the town in which I live.)

There is a Facebook group devoted to local news and general conversation. Happily, it mostly stays clear of controversy, though there are sometimes a few people who will insist on riding their particular hobby horse into any possible opening. The phenomenon of "Pride" Month, which weirdly groups advocacy for certain sins which don't appeal to most people beneath the umbrella of one to which we are all more or less deeply attached, produced a bit of that. There were one or two posts saying, more or less, "Yay Pride Month!" As far as I saw the only reactions they got was along the lines of "Yes! Yay Pride Month!" And I noticed with interest, but not surprise, that nearly all of these were from women, mostly young women. (I'm going by the profile photo thumbnails, and the names.) This is a feature of current aggressive progressivism that as far as I know has not been sufficiently remarked upon--sufficiently in relation to its significance, I mean, because it strikes me as quite significant, though I'm not sure exactly what it signifies.

Then a couple of weeks ago a "Yay Pride" post with a different slant appeared. This one, also from a young woman, was something like "Name the local businesses that you would like to see supporting Pride Month!", and was decorated, inevitably, with smiley-faces, rainbows, and such.

There were not many comments at that point: half a dozen or so comments in agreement, but this time there were some objectors, including the accurate but probably unhelpful "You need Jesus!" Apparently there were some people who agreed with me that this was a step too far: it's one thing to cheer for your team, another to demand that everyone cheer for it. I thought something along the lines of "More proof that woke progressivism is a religion." I considered saying something like that, and even clicked on the reply button and sat there for a minute or two trying to decide whether I wanted to wade in. Then I reloaded the page to see what new comments might have been added, and got a message saying "This content is no longer available." In other words, the post had been deleted. I have no way of knowing whether the author of the post deleted it, or the administrator of the group did. Either way, I was glad, because I thought it was a good sign that one or the other of them decided that it was inappropriate, and likely to start trouble. 

It's a small incident, but a couple of things about it struck me as significant. First, the moral confidence, or perhaps aggressiveness, exhibited by the original poster: she either saw her view as being so obviously right that it didn't occur to her that there was anything objectionable about urging people to join her campaign, or she knew many people would disagree and was deliberately challenging them. Either way, this was an example of the evangelizing zeal of the LG* movement. It was reminiscent of the story Rod Dreher got from Vaclav Havel and often refers to: the greengrocer in a Communist country who puts a "Workers of the world, unite!" sign in the window of his store, not because he believes it but to avoid hostile scrutiny.

Second, the reaction suggests a way for the evangelists and those who decline to join them to coexist. Consider the reception a Christian would get for posting "Christ is risen!" in a public group on Easter Sunday. Most likely only curmudgeons would object. (Actually I think this did happen, without controversy.) But it would be a different story if the Christian posted "Name the local businesses that you would like to see praising Jesus!" There's a hint of threat in that, even if unintended. It would make a non-Christian business owner feel uneasy, at minimum: are people going to avoid my business if I don't go along? 

In the current social climate, to perceive a threat from progressive activists requires no imagination, as the news is full of their attempts to punish people who disagree with them. This incident suggests to me that places like my town might be able to preserve the live-and-let-live attitude which is in fact the attitude of most Americans, left-wing rhetoric to the contrary. 


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"she either saw her view as being so obviously right that it didn't occur to her that there was anything objectionable about urging people to join her campaign, or she knew many people would disagree and was deliberately challenging them."

I think the latter often hides behind a pretense of the former, which can then be backed away from should pushback occur. This is one of the things that makes debating with the woke such a slippery business. A pretense of tolerance is floated as a sort of rhetorical loss-leader, then once there's a response the person will veer one way or another according to the nature of that response. The velvet glove often hides an iron hand, but the glove is removed or not according to the specific circumstance.

Something like the bait and switch, motte and bailey approach to political tactics: "we're only advocating that children learn about slavery and segregation" turns into "whiteness must be rooted out" which when challenged turns back into "we're only advocating tolerance".

I've given up debating progressives. The last four or five years have pretty conclusively shown that the "epistemic closure" attributed, sometimes accurately, to the right, is everywhere on the left. I've had several experiences that demonstrated that.

I don't know what I did to make the text of the post so small. Nothing deliberate. It should be the same font as the comments.

"I've given up debating progressives."

I'm going to do that too. It's been several years since I stopped debating ideological conservatives (free market fundamentalists and the like) for the reason you mention, and I need to apply that same reasoning to the ideological left.

I think this is what Kirk was saying when he said that a true conservatism will eschew ideology. And I've found that when I have common ground with those on the left it's generally with the least ideological among them.

There's a sense in which the more ideologically commtted you are, the less principled you actually have to be. I think this is why so many ideologues can only see hypocrisy on the other side, but never on their own.

For the true zealot, the ideology *is* the principle.

Wasn't it Kirk who described ideology as "armed doctrine"? Anyway, anyone who calls himself a conservative should take his warnings about ideology as commandments.

Something less than two years ago I made a comment about this (principles and ideology) on Neoneocon's blog. She thought it was interesting and made a post around it:

Here's what I said, in case you don't want to go over and read the post. On re-reading it, I agree with myself, but am a little disturbed that I can't remember the conversation that I refer to. It's possible that the "he" was actually a "she" and I was trying to obscure the source of the conversation, which was also online, probably on Facebook:

I recently had an exchange with a leftist who explicitly rejected the significance of plain facts to the debate. For him the only *fact* that mattered was that his cause was morally right. It dawned on me that principle in the sense that I or most people here would understand the term simply wasn’t part of his equipment. What he had was a very high level of moral outrage, which he kept referring to: “I don’t care about the factual details of this thing, I just know what’s morally right.” I know some very intelligent leftists who are very decent well-meaning people, and have had similar exchanges with several of them.

It dawned on me that when they use the word “principle” they mean commitment and zeal for the cause of equality, etc. To deviate in that support by acknowledging something that works against the cause is what they mean when they speak of betraying a principle. This particular conversation had to do with LGBT activism, and the person was quite willing to simply defy certain facts that didn’t fit the paradigm in his mind–and thought of that as sticking to principle. He didn’t necessarily even deny the facts. He just refused to let them affect the greater truth to which he was committed. The Covington thing brought that out in several people: It didn’t matter what the video showed, what mattered was that white people were on one side and an oh-so-spiritual native American was on the other.

Maybe this all sounds obvious, but the recent exchange was kind of a light-bulb moment for me. I’d never seen it quite that clearly. Suddenly their behavior and rhetoric made sense in a squirrely sort of way–it wasn’t simple stupidity or dishonesty, it was quasi-religious zeal.

That makes a lot of sense. And as I said above, when you have that understanding of principle it's very difficult to understand or admit to hypocrisy on your own side. In a way hypocrisy almost becomes an impossibility.

I remember an essay in Touchstone years ago that argued that there is a sense in which traditionalists will always have a certain disadvantage in debating liberals, because having a principled attachment to tradition limits your rhetorical "mobility". The author said that it's like two dogs fighting, one of which is chained to a stake and the other isn't. Even if the former is larger and stronger, he's at a disadvantage.

In the same way the traditionalist is tied to the tradition in such a way that he isn't able to maneuver in a completely free fashion. He can't (or at least shouldn't) debate in such as as to deny or ignore the tradition. The liberal, not being tied to anything outside "the two sides of his skull," as I think Flannery O'Connor put it, is not bound the same way.

It's telling that many liberals/progressives are totally unable to see the goalpost-shifting, motte-and-bailey nature of their arguments. I always think of the "killer rabbit" scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, when Tim the Magician, aggravated by his inability to convince the knights that the rabbit is dangerous, finally cries out in exasperation, "Look at the bones!" But of course even that "fact" doesn't convince them.

"the traditionalist is tied to the tradition in such a way that he isn't able to maneuver in a completely free fashion"

And also is responsible for every evil which can be attributed to the tradition, whereas the progressive can just paint pictures of the way things ought to be. The actual track record of totalitarian leftism is a bit of a problem but can be attributed to the tradition at a couple of removes, the way Hitchens and/or Dawkins defined communism as a religion to preserve their view that religion is responsible for most bad things. Or like the young Chinese-American woman whose advocacy of communism I ran across somewhere: her own relatives had suffered badly under Chinese communism, and she was sorry for them, but explained it away: "They wanted communism, but what they actually got was fascism."

Yes, and as someone put it a long time ago, it thus becomes a homeopathic ideology: liberalism does not cause any problems, and anything perceived to be a problem with it can be cured by the select application of more liberalism.

Right now I think the problem with the Right is that as long as the former president is your "standard bearer" the other side will be seen as the moral ones in any debate.

Depends on who's doing the seeing. I'm not a Trump supporter, I still think my early appraisal of him was correct ("not right in the head"). And actually I agree that he's a problem for the right, not because he's not "moral," but because he's not right in the head. But I can't think of anything he ever said that was simultaneously as false and as consequential as Biden saying that a reasonable state election law was "Jim Crow on steroids," and other things along those lines.

"Right now I think the problem with the Right is that as long as the former president is your 'standard bearer' the other side will be seen as the moral ones in any debate."

I'm not a Trump supporter, either, but Biden does not appear to me to be more moral than Trump. Just nicer. If you think Biden seems more moral in the debate about life issues, you are mistaken.

Don't get me started....

He's not really that much nicer, but he doesn't spew meanness on Twitter all day, and he has a sympathetic press. There was the lie he told about the driver of the other car in the wreck where his first wife was killed: that the guy was drunk, which he was not. Not nice. And the incidents where he's lashed out at voters who challenged him in public. But he definitely projects a better image of niceness, compared to Trump (not a high bar).

The superficial idea that Trump is the "standard bearer" for conservatism does not take into consideration this tar baby nature of Trump (never mind that in many ways the GOP helped create that tar baby), and indicates a reliance on liberal media, which as far as I can tell, never brings this up. I agree that there is a broad perception along these lines about Trump and the Right, but that perception has been created largely by anti-Trump/anti-GOP media, which does not present the true state of things.

The GOP, and by extension the broader Right, got itself into a predicament by pretending to support DT (for the sake of keeping the Trump voters on the farm) while opposing much of his "populism" (whether real or not doesn't matter). This has carried over into the post-election GOP.

The question for them is, how do you get rid of DT in a way that doesn't alienate his supporters? The Lincoln Project people and other elitist Republicans simply want to throw the populist baby out with the Trumpian bathwater, but they know this will cost them votes. Thus the pretense of Trump/populist support makes it appear that there is more tolerance of him in the GOP than there actually is. You will never hear this from the liberal media, however, as it works against their agenda.

It's funny that liberals accuse the GOP leadership of lying about virtually everything, but when it comes to their alleged support of all things Trumpian, they believe them. As a former Republican I take everything the party leadership says with a pretty big chunk of salt.

It's just nice to not have the POTUS attacking people every day. Biden's faults notwithstanding, we are back to normalcy for our country where everything does not revolve around the person in the White House. If Biden is to be replaced by someone from the GOP in 2024 I would hope for someone different. A guest on Bill Maher's show a while back likened the Trump presidency to a jackhammer outside your window every morning. It is the only four year span in my life that was like that, and I can't imagine anyone wanting to go back to that sort of unpleasantness. Since the end of this period of darkness I have completely stopped watching the news (I don't consider B Maher the news) and feel much relief. One thing this has proved is that our system of government does not work and "we the people" should probably vote less, or not at all. The GOP is certainly taking steps for less voting, and there is outrage, but it is all magical thinking anyway. I'm trying to keep a "who cares" attitude; let other people fight these fights, I want to read books and listen to music.

Well, Stu, at the risk of offending I'll say that I think you're somewhat embubbled. We are back to "normalcy" only in the sense that Biden's presidency is not generating the kind of noise that Trump's did. The press and other Democrats were willing cooperators in that. Half the noise was from his enemies. I kept wishing people would not give so much attention to the demented tweeting, but that was a foolish wish.

As for Trump being the standard-bearer of the right, I think there's more substance in that than you do, Rob. I don't have to tell you that "the right" is pretty big. There are a lot of people on the right who genuinely support him, not only those tens of millions of anonymous enthusiasts but also pundits and politicians. Probably much of the GOP establishment detests him and sees in that tar-baby way. But he is such a major force that openly opposing him is politically risky.

The "Lincoln Project" (scare quotes seem warranted) seems to have been a desperate maneuver by hacks trying to stay relevant.

Or maybe I should say "employed."

I should add that I am in complete disagreement with the "woke" left, but they are still better than the January 6th insurgents who ended up killing people.

If Trump does run again his opponents will be playing and re-playing him talking to those people (urging them one) and then videos of them storming the Capitol. Only a lunatic would think that was a great day for America.

Well, that's an example of what I mean about the bubble. The January 6th rioters (I think that's a better term) didn't kill anybody. The officer who died the next day, Brian Sicknick (I think that's the name) died of natural causes, which could have been related, but there was never any evidence that he was struck with a fire extinguisher. The only person who was *killed* that day was one of the "insurgents."

Nevertheless I agree that only a lunatic would think that was a great day for America. Most people on the right, as far as I can tell, think it was in effect a Reichstag Fire--i.e. a great gift to the Democrats.

Neo-neocon has researched those events very thoroughly. As she often points out, the Democratic media gets their story out there first with not a whole lot of regard for the truth, and then even when other facts emerge, the average person never hears of them. Biden continued to repeat the fire extinguisher story after it had been contradicted, maybe still does. The only reason the truth about the Covington kids ever had a fighting chance was that those crazy black guys recorded it and, being kind of crazy, were apparently proud of themselves and put it on the net.

I would agree that DT is a standard bearer for many on the right, but would deny that his support is anywhere near universal, and that the GOP leadership is part of that support.

Personally, I think that as bad as Jan. 6 was, the February Time revelations about the cross-party elites colluding to defeat Trump under the guise of "expanding voting" is far worse.

Agreed. Trump and his administration were a bunch of noisy fireworks. The Democrats and others undermining the integrity of the voting system are a bomb. Naturally any resistance is labeled as a racist attempt to suppress voting.

I really have no clue how many people professing support for Trump are sincere and how many are just scrambling to get on or stay on a bandwagon that seems to have some momentum.

"I really have no clue how many people professing support for Trump are sincere and how many are just scrambling to get on or stay on a bandwagon that seems to have some momentum."

Good point. You've also got people who support him to some degree or other but are reluctant to say so. I just wish he'd go away. He's a huge distraction in all sorts of ways.

I think I wrote a blog post to this effect a while back: the Trump phenomenon is tragic, in that he actually perceived, at a sort of instinctive level, what might be the most significant aspect of our times, which is the fact that the country is dominated politically and culturally by people who hate it. But he was absolutely the wrong person to mount an effective resistance to it.

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