Bryan Griffin: The Picture Of The Progressive Left | WAMC

Bryan Griffin: The Picture Of The Progressive Left

Jun 17, 2020

In Oscar Wilde’s famous novel The Picture of Dorian Grey, a man is beset with a unique curse. Invincible to harm and age, every ailment or injury that befalls him is transferred to a portrait of himself. If he views it, the wounds would then become his own, so he avoids it. Not knowing what his portrait holds, in time, he becomes dangerously unconcerned with what he has become. His inability to see the portrait of his true self is his undoing.

The progressive left seem to have the benefit of invincibility. Propped up by the media and given the megaphone at any justice-minded rally, they somehow seamlessly intertwine a leftist agenda with non-partisan movements, like those currently against racism and the pursuit of equality.

As an observer on the other side of the political aisle, I am seeing the following employed by the left:

  1. Shutting down discourse and refusing to even hear the other side;

Consider the treatment of conservative speakers on college campuses over the last few years who were censored, uninvited, had their microphones cut, or were refused the opportunity to speak. Or, consider the recently astounding decision of the New York Times to force the resignation of James Bennet, the editorial page editor, for publishing an Op-Ed piece by sitting Republican Senator Tom Cotton.

  1. Lying about the motives and viewpoints of the other side;

Consider mainstream Democratic leaders who casually lob “racist” or “bigot” at Republican lawmakers who propose policy solutions that aren’t derived from an increase in the size and scope of government.

Or consider several instances of completely fabricated stories about Donald Trump in which the falsehoods had zero penalty.

The lying about Donald Trump is now completely out of control,” writes Eddie Scarry of the New York Post.

  1. And a demanded allegiance and uniformity of thought.

Consider the attitude of the left within the current national dialogue about racial equality. The left has tried to make the movement synonymous with supporting Democratic candidates. Protests are filled with extreme leftist anti-capitalist and anti-American ideology. ANTIFA and other like-minded left groups demand conformity or threaten violence. Activists in Seattle who established the leftist “Capitol Hill Autonomous Zone” have essentially created an echo chamber where only leftist ideas are welcome. Border check-points and business extortion enforce the thought-fascism of the Zone.

“In CHAZ, you’re welcome to deliver ideologically driven speeches preaching to the most extreme left-wing positions. But free-speech rights are not universally respected,” writes Jason Rantz of the National Review.

What damage do they do to their own cause by not examining their tactics? What damage is done to society if we allow ourselves to become accustomed to this? If we find this acceptable?

Disagreement is good. Disagreement in an open and civil society can lead to better solutions and outcomes. This is the essence of democracy.

I don’t mean disagreements over the fundamentals, like whether racism is bad. The American left and the right – Republicans and Democrats – agree that racism is bad. At odds among the American political divide is the means by which to address this issue and the extent to which it has irredeemably penetrated American institutions.

A debate also requires multiple points of view, with varying perspectives. The best ideas, the most virtuous solutions for society, stand up to the wrong ones by their own merit. We should let them speak for themselves.

To overcome racism – to defeat injustice – to weed it out from the minds and hearts of individuals who may hold these prejudices within a society – these ideas must be examined in public discourse. Beyond this, those who would still choose to display such traits, like racism or sexism, can be bankrupted by consumers in a free society and kept out of power by voters who love the virtuous, opposing ideologies.

Shutting down debate and denying discourse is a form of ideological fascism. If progressives hate fascism then progressives should recoil at anything that resembles and any form of it, in form or function.

“A simple definition of fascism remains challenging even today,” writes Geoffrey Cain in a 2019 article in the New Republic. “Rather than a foundational text like Karl Marx’s Das Kapital, which communism could turn to, its markers were emotional—seen in its charisma, nostalgia and anger—or aesthetic, with enthusiastic crowds and goose-stepping soldiers cheering before a cultish leader, whose paramilitaries enforced loyalty through violence.”

The tactics of the anti-fascists themselves come to mind. Do they recognize this?

True state fascism died with World War II, thankfully. May it never see light again. Yet the left frequently looks to hang the word around the necks of the President, Republicans, and conservatives in general.

Fascism isn’t ascribing to limited government, conservative minded politics. Fascism is a form of thought control and singlemindedness―a weed that will grow anywhere it can take root. Thought fascism is killed with dialogue and discourse; it is overcome with freedom. In a society free to exchange ideas openly, the most righteous and virtuous voices will prevail.

Bryan Griffin of the London Center for Policy Research is a lawyer and author who specializes in American policy in the Middle East.

The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.