The Left Isn’t Making The Right Extremist

They’re doing this to themselves.

There’s an argument going around, pushed by Mark Lilla who is desperately trying to flog a new book, that the left’s embrace of identity politics is turning white people into extremists (I’m using ‘left’ very broadly, as Lilla seems to define it rather inconsistently). There are critiques of certain schools* of identity politics to be made, as they don’t offer good explanations, and thus provide poor strategies for regaining political power–for example, one-third of racist whites vote Democratic, and simplistic, pseudo-woke explanations neither account for this, nor are able to capitalize on this.

But Lilla’s argument is stupid. The left isn’t turning the right racist, as they are capable of doing that to themselves. We’ll start with Lemieux (boldface mine):

First, the idea that you can impose complete message discipline on everyone on the left of the political spectrum is absurd. There will always be people who do things that annoy Mark Lilla, and there will always be random people Fox News can gin up outrage about, and none of this provides either a useful explanation for political outcomes or has any value going forward.

The highlighted part is critical. It strains credulity that most Fox News viewers are hearing about left-ish ideas and actions from leftists themselves directly. These are being introduced by and interpreted through conservative media. There is an entire conservative apparatus dedicated to finding annoying or ridiculous things people who can be identified as ‘liberal’ have done.

The Mighty Conservative Wurlitzer, with its zenith of Fox News, then pushes this out through talk radio, online sites, and conservative TV news. They do this for political and economic gain at every level of the media ecosystem in which they dwell. They have a vested interest in keeping their media consumers angry, regardless of the cost to others (‘no nation can endure half Fox News and half free’). If there isn’t a remotely legitimate reason for a story, they’ll find something (the internet helps with this)–often a stupid campus argument. Or an idiot college professor. Or a chucklehead activist. Or… If that doesn’t provide fodder, then they’ll just stovepipe lunacy from the nether regions of the right, talk radio, Alex Jones, and their ilk. It doesn’t help that rage and fear addicts who are their customers, like all addicts, always need their fix, and always want to up the dosage.

The bigotry of the right goes back to the John Birchers–and that wasn’t the ‘left’s’ fault either. There is always something that sets them off. More importantly, there is always someone who sets them off, and those someones have economic and political motivations for doing so.

We didn’t turn them into fearful bigots, their true leadership did.

*Calling them ‘schools’ gives them too much credit. There are a subset of commentators who got B-minuses in a couple of sociology seminars and now are inflicting their wisdom on the rest of us. Rather loudly too.

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1 Response to The Left Isn’t Making The Right Extremist

  1. Min says:

    The bigotry of the right in the US goes farther back than the John Birchers. You cannot understand modern American conservatism without understanding the ante-bellum South.

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