One of my recurring themes here is how political liberalism operates more like a religious cult than a well thought out set of public policy opinions. In the latter, people sort through the available data updating and adjusting their opinions in order to arrive at a solution for a problem. Those opinions may be built on a set of beliefs about how society should be structured, but they say nothing about the people that hold them or the people who oppose them.
For example, the Weekly Standard crowd has a well defined set of positions, with regards to what we think of as the Middle East and North Africa. For twenty years they have insisted on heavy US involvement in these countries in order to impose Western liberal democracy and consumerism. They don’t think Obama is evil for not accepting their opinions. They don’t think Rand Paul is evil for rejecting their opinions. They are convinced these people are wrong.
Modern liberalism does not work this way. Obama and the Left were convinced Bush was evil for embarking on polices in the Middle East with which the Left disagreed. There was nothing that could dissuade them from this opinion. It was so strong that when Obama gained office, he reversed the Bush polices by evacuating from Iraq and ratcheting up the war in Afghanistan. The logic behind these decisions was simply a reaction to what they believed to be the polices of evil men. Doing the opposite of evil men, in their thinking, must be good.
Cults are always obsessed with the borders. The line between those inside the cult and those outside the cult is what defines the cult and therefore the people in it. People do not join mass movements in order to celebrate their individuality. People are attracted to mass movements out of self-loathing. They seek to exchange their identity, which they despise, with that of the group, which they believe is good or noble. Therefore, knowing that line between those who are inside and those who are outside is paramount.
This bright line between the good people inside and bad people outside frees the good people to think all sorts of things about the bad people on the other side of the walls. It’s why Progressives use words like “conservative, Republican, right-wing and extremist” as synonyms. These are all words that mean “outsider” which is just another word for bad. When I did not have a television I was often accused by liberal friends of getting my information from Fox News. They knew I did not have a TV, but they said it anyway.
People in a cult see those outside as an undifferentiated other. They are just eyes peeping out at them from the void surrounding the light of their movement. It’s why liberals will throw guys like Kevin Williamson, Nick Gillespie and Steve Sailer into the same bucket, despite the fact those three men disagree more than they agree. I’m regularly called a conservative, even though I agree with very little of what is labeled conservative these days. These distinctions do not register with Progressives.
This is on display with the Left’s reaction to the shooting in South Carolina. Progressives did not wait for the bodies to drop before pointing a finger at their enemies. They insist that the bad people are celebrating this shooting because that’s what bad people do. Progressives are largely silent on the victims and instead have invested all their time insisting this lunatic is just another member of the people outside the wall.
Small caliber opinion writers on what passes for the Right struggle with this, insisting that the debate is over facts and reason. Predictably, they spend all of their time rustling facts to disprove the claims of the Left, believing this is how one counters these attacks. I say predictably because this is another feature of how cults operate. As a defense mechanism, they look for ways to keep the people outside the walls focused on something other than the walls. It is not a conscious thing; it is an instinctual thing. People avoiding themselves naturally want to avoid notice.
Think of it this way. Imagine a herd of zebra on the plain. No single zebra wants to be an individual. They all struggle with one another to avoid the edge of the herd. The worst thing that can happen to a zebra is to be noticed by the lions. The individual instincts of each zebra become the herd’s natural group instincts. The defense mechanism of the herd is to be an amorphous blob. Just as the zebra uses stripes to fool the lion, herds of zebra uses shapelessness to fool the lions.
Modern Liberalism works in a similar way. The people who join these things, as I said before, do so in order to swap their identity with that of the group. The worst thing you can do to a Progressive is ask them questions targeting their opinions. They will try everything they can to shift the focus away from them onto something else, usually some defect they imagine in their questioner. The worst imaginable thing for a Progressive is be standing alone facing their true nature.
As an example, consider any discussion of homosexual marriage you have had with a liberal. The first bullet out of their gun is to demand why you are denying gays the same rights as straights. You see? They are not making an affirmative argument in favor of their new policy. They are not even saying their position is new. Instead, they are shifting the focus onto you, demanding you explain yourself to their satisfaction. By the time you give them the history of marriage the conversation is over and they have successfully avoided exposure.
This scales up by assigning any terrible event to the people on the other side of the wall. A lunatic shoots up a church and it is the NRA. A Muslim tries to set off a bomb in Times Square and it is probably an ObamaCare opponent. Blacks riot in Ferguson and it is white racism. The result here is the people outside the Left invest all of their time explaining why they are not to blame. That’s where the focus lies and therefore the Left avoids having the spotlight on them. It’s why they are so good at this tactic. It is integral to how mass movements function in the minority.