Sunday, May 01, 2016

Smug Alert

It's rare that you find an admission such as this in a liberal publication:
Nothing is more confounding to the smug style than the fact that the average Republican is better educated and has a higher IQ than the average Democrat. That for every overpowered study finding superior liberal open-mindedness and intellect and knowledge, there is one to suggest that Republicans have the better of these qualities.

Most damning, perhaps, to the fancy liberal self-conception: Republicans score higher in susceptibility to persuasion. They are willing to change their minds more often.

The Republican coalition tends toward the center: educated enough, smart enough, informed enough.
What's even rarer is the sort of introspection necessary to consider such thoughts. Nevertheless, Emmett Rensin does so in a article of April 21 entitled "The smug style in American liberalism". In it, he chides the self-appointed liberal intelligentsia for their increasingly blatant disregard for any idea that is not fashionable. They do not argue, they do not debate, they do not care for facts, only 'knowing'. As in, "Everybody knows that [insert the latest inversion of language and logic from the Ministry of Truth]."

I really would like you to read the whole thing, but you probably won't. It's long, and it's tedious, and as I said, it's introspective. This results in a piece where quoted or sarcastically ascribed statements are interspersed with the author's own sober points, and it is up to the reader to do the work of sorting them out. But toward the end he does cast much of that style aside in favor of being candid:
...what I am trying to tell you is that the smug style has fundamentally undermined even the aspiration, that it has made American liberalism into the worst version of itself.
It is impossible, in the long run, to cleave the desire to help people from the duty to respect them. It becomes all at once too easy to decide you know best, to never hear, much less ignore, protest to the contrary.
At present, many of those most in need of the sort of help liberals believe they can provide despise liberalism, and are despised in turn. Is it surprising that with each decade, the "help" on offer drifts even further from the help these people need?
Even if the two could be separated, would it be worth it? What kind of political movement is predicated on openly disdaining the very people it is advocating for?
The smug style, at bottom, is a failure of empathy. Further: It is a failure to believe that empathy has any value at all. It is the notion that anybody worthy of liberal time and attention and respect must capitulate, immediately, to the Good Facts.
If you're a Liberal yourself, you may not read that far simply because you may see far too much of yourself in this essay.

Rensin goes on to suggest that Liberals should...
...wonder what it might be like to have little left but one's values; to wake up one day to find your whole moral order destroyed; to look around and see the representatives of a new order call you a stupid, hypocritical hick without bothering, even, to wonder how your corner of your poor state found itself so alienated from them in the first place. To work with people who do not share their values or their tastes, who do not live where they live or like what they like or know their Good Facts or their jokes.
Perhaps there's some irony in the fact that this will happen. It has already gone long past the point where Liberals can pretend with any degree of veracity whatsoever that they are open-minded or base their opinions on logic and reason. The only people who haven't known this up to now are the Liberals themselves; and this article marks the end of that era where Liberals could be considered to be unknowingly hypocritical.

Blame South Park for the title of this essay.
How easy it would be to apply the "smug style" to the Liberals themselves. Take the most recent of social issues: gender-separated bathrooms. Liberals know that the issue is not one of hatred toward transgendered persons. Intellectually, that is, they know it. They know that there are no "junk inspectors" to determine who can and can't go into a restroom today, and that someone who passes as a woman simply uses the ladies' room without comment. They know that only 0.3% (zero-point-three-percent, in a generous estimation) of Americans are transgendered, and they know (because they have been told outright) that the Conservative position is to provide reasonable accommodation for that 0.3% while simultaneously providing for the safety and well being of the 50% who are women at risk of rape by people (non-transgenders, mind you), who would abuse access to female restrooms. They know that a woman is raped every two minutes even with the cultural restriction barring men from ladies' rooms. They know that their ideology has been historically opposed to those who would prey on women (and still is, nominally). They know that currently proposed laws are merely an (arguably flawed) attempt to put some objective standards in place to safeguard half of the population. They know that no political solution can possibly satisfy every individual. And yet they completely ignore all of that. Instead, they pretend that it's an issue of hate and bigotry. They argue against their own self-interest to grant rapists and murderers and thieves unfettered access to that half of the population that is least able to physically defend themselves against attack. They no longer even pretend to offer logic or reason, preferring to go straight to their comfort zone: throwing unwarranted insults. They do this knowingly and deliberately. How easy it would be to claim, with air-tight justification, that they either hate women entirely, or they're just fucking stupid.

They do this on many issues. They claim support for science while simultaneously displaying a completely lack of conception over what it actually is by claiming that "the science is settled". They argue that "stupid" Conservatives vote against their best interests and that they're greedy. They don't want to blame all Muslims for the actions of a few, but they're fine with blaming all policemen for the actions of a few. They want "safe zones" where their own opinions are exempt from criticism, yet all other opinions are vilified. They require photo IDs to attend a campaign speech but not to vote. They claim that they are both more intelligent than Conservatives and too stupid to get that ID. And the list goes on and on and on...

How easy it would be to apply the "smug style" to the Liberals themselves.
How far over the line it must be for the Liberals themselves to notice.


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