[subscribe2]When I was a young man, it was possible to have a conversation with a man of the liberal cloth, even if you were a normal. By that I mean a conversation about politics. It was not that everyone got along. It was that everyone seemed to agree on the facts and the point of public policy. Only far out wackos thought you were evil for voting for Reagan or favoring tax cuts. Many a night I got drunk with fiends on the Left debating one thing or another. Liberals did not like Reagan, but they did not hate him and they did not treat his supporters like lepers.
In the 1990′s that began to change. The vulgarity of the Clinton crowd made civility difficult. I really think the culture gap became a chasm in the 1990′s. If you voted Republican it was not just because you happened to like their positions or their candidate. Party affiliation became tribal identification and the debates, therefore, were not about facts and reason. They were about which side you were on in the culture war.
On television, the public access shows turned into shouting matches. The liberal democrat would talk over everyone, ignore the questions and just chant the slogans the liberal democrats were embracing at the moment. They called it spin, but it infected everything. I lost a few friends because they simply would not stop repeating the party line to me whenever they saw the chance. I simply decided there was nothing I could do to help them. They had turned into moonbats.
These days I mostly avoid having anything to do with Lefty. The few liberal friends I still have are “weather and sports” only friends. Anything that bumps up against the tenets of the Cult, even tangentially, is avoided. Everywhere you turn a lunatic is preaching at you about gay marriage, the war on women, racism, white privilege and on and on. I often feel like Robert Neville in the book I am Legend. Instead of raging vampires, I’m surrounded by lunatic liberals shaking their piety bracelets at me.
This post over at The Spectator does a good job analyzing the ratcheting lunacy we see around us.
It has long been clear that expressing certain views has been a form of social signaling, although social media has made this far more explicit. Holding what might be loosely called politically correct opinions on a range of issues suggests that the holder is more likely to be well-educated, wealthy, young, probably attractive, and possessing social nous (ie in touch with social trends).
But Kristian’s theory also explains one aspect of political correctness: the speed at which the accepted and acceptable view moves, heading in an ever-more extreme direction.
I’d extend this further. Ever notice the speed that buzzwords and catchphrases get popular amongst Lefty? Obama used the word “shellacked” after the 2010 election and every Lefty in America was littering their language with it. Another example was “gravitas” after that idiot Biden was picked to be Obama’s running mate. I can rattle off a dozen more examples. It’s why I call it The Cult.
He uses the analogy of the music fan who, once the band he’s into has been discovered by everyone else, must find some other obscure outfit as a positional good. Once a wacky idea becomes accepted, the high-status politically correct brigadier must stand out with some new area of concern; this he or she does with one of those articles or blogs in which it is argued that, while progress has been made in one particular battle against prejudice or bigotry, the real war is now against racism in food labeling or the lack of transgender dolls for my children. It doesn’t matter if the issue at hand is inconsequential or, more likely, impossible to overcome; in fact the more so, the better.
Unlike with music, however, the trend is always in one direction and there is no re-centering; it would be as if the mainstream of elite taste in music went from Led Zeppelin to Black Sabbath to Metallica to Slayer and onto Napalm Death. Politically that’s what much of the commentary in places like Slate sounds like to me – just some guy atonally screaming in my ear about some micro-injustice.
Not a bad example. Thatcher called it the ratchet effect.
Another aspect of this mindset is the desire to punish people who have insufficiently correct views on doctrine, even if the beliefs they hold were orthodoxy ten or five years ago. I’d really like to conduct a Stanford Prison-style experiment in which people were rewarded (perhaps with a dopamine hit) for punishing those with heretical views, and to see where it led. To make it more interesting, only people with unorthodox views on only one side of the political spectrum would be punished, to see how extreme a group would become towards the other direction in a short space of time. Soon they’d be sacking people for disagreeing with an idea that didn’t exist anywhere in the world before 2001 – oh whoops, sorry, that was real life.
There are examples of the public simply going mad. Athens leading up to the Sicilian Expedition is an example that comes to mind. The Athenians appear to have lost their bolts and threw away their advantage on a crazy idea cooked up by a conman. The Abolitionist Movement is something closer to home. Large numbers of whites in the north wanted to murder the whites in the South and would not be deterred. Prohibition is another example from the American past. Maybe there is something wrong with our grain.