DANGER ON THE LEFT A weekly column by Ross Dubberly
The Left’s Totalitarian Temptation Within Leftism’s soul there is strong totalitarian temptation. Consider, momentarily, two incidents in August alone. James Damore, a former Google employee, was fired for daring to pen a document that suggested some of the male-female disparities in representation throughout the tech world could, perhaps, be attributed to biological differences between men and women rather than societal sexism. Talk-show host Dennis Prager was the second victim. Scheduled to conduct the Santa Monica Symphony Orchestra at Walt Disney Concert Hall, he found himself the object of a boycott by three of the symphony’s members. Why? The open letter, written by the symphony’s boycotting members, explained, “A concert with Dennis Prager would normalize hatred and bigotry.” What’s more, after Mr. Prager decided to punch back by encouraging his radio audience to attend the concert in support, one of the boycotting members, in Orwellian fashion, asserted that it was in fact Mr. Prager who had politicized the evening. The allegation was a flat-out lie, not to mention prima facie absurd; Prager had theretofore conducted numerous orchestras, all utterly devoid of political discussion. As he put it in a column: "I conduct orchestras because I love making music. But I also do so because I want to help raise funds for local orchestras (I have never been paid to conduct) and I want to expose as many people to classical music as possible." One might think Mr. Prager’s boycotters would find this goal noble. But instead, they chose to lie about Mr. Prager and sit out the evening, petulantly refusing to play for a “bigot.” (Incidentally, Mr. Prager proved victorious, as the concert was a sell-out.) That Dennis Prager--a devout Jew and deeply moral man--has devoted a lifetime to defeating evil in all its forms was immaterial to these Leftists. I cannot think of a better example of Mr. Prager’s own axiom that “Truth is not a Left-wing value.” More important, however, is what these two incidents demonstrate. Not only can espousing non-Leftist views get you fired from your job--as James Damore quickly discovered--but now, as evidenced by the hullabaloo surrounding Mr. Prager’s concert, such views may disqualify you from participating in any institution--political or otherwise--that the Left controls. The fascinating question, though, is why? Why does the Left go to such extremes to suppress its opponents’ opinions and shame them for their nonconformity? The reasons are copious, I presume, but there are two that strike me immediately. The first is the fragility of the Left’s ideas. That is to say, their precarious positions cannot withstand debate. This should be rather obvious. The demonstrable weaknesses of their arguments are why they are so often insecure and unwilling to put those arguments under the microscope of discussion, much less debate. The moment the Left subjects its ideas and principles to the rigors of a dialogue, they lose. And they know this. More important, and more frightening, however, is the second reason. There is, as alluded to in the opening paragraph, a predisposition toward totalitarianism that is at the heart of Leftism. (An important point that I might as well make here is this: Leftism/Statism/Progressivism, or whatever term one may employ to describe this ideology, is not the same as liberalism. Alan Dershowitz is a liberal; Elizabeth Warren is a Leftist. Dave Rubin is a liberal; Barack Obama is a Leftist. The distinction is striking, yet this piece is not the place for further exploration.). Putting aside the two recent examples of Dennis Prager and the erstwhile Google employee, consider your local university. Universities--by which I mean the “liberal arts” faculties, not those of the hard sciences--are mostly moral and intellectual cesspools. To be sure, there are a handful of exceptions, e.g., Hillsdale College, Grove City College, and a few others. But these exceptions are just that--exceptions. Their existence does not at all refute my general indictment. Fascistic students prevented Heather Mac Donald--a truly deep intellectual--from speaking at Claremont McKenna College. The distinguished, prescient sociologist, Charles Murray, encountered a Leftist mob that not only prevented him from giving his scheduled talk, but also assaulted the professor with whom he was supposed to have a dialogue. (Incidentally, that professor was a Leftist). The brilliant young journalist, newsman, commentator, and graduate of Harvard Law School, Ben Shapiro, encountered a strapping police officer upon arriving at DePaul University, where he was invited to speak by the Young Americans for Freedom chapter there. The police officer informed Mr. Shapiro that, should Shapiro take another step onto the property of DePaul, he would be arrested. Radical Leftists at Evergreen State College called for the resignation of one professor after he refused to leave the campus and participate in the students’ egregiously racist “no-white-people day.” (This professor, incidentally, was a self-avowed supporter of Bernie Sanders for president in 2016.) And I could enumerate additional examples until Christ’s Second Coming. Now, no reasonable person would contend that conservatives control universities and academia. Is it not interesting, then, how the modern American university--a place the Left controls almost entirely without opposition--is one of the most fascistic, totalitarian institutions in society? Coincidental? Hardly. The Left believes in an ever-expanding State because, in their view, the State is the vehicle to progress. And any Leftist who denies this is intellectually dishonest. Think about it: Putting aside pot legalization, policing, incarceration, and abortion, can you name a single issue for which the Left’s answer does not involve more government? One of the key sources of the Left’s affinity for the large State, in my judgment, is rooted in their secularism. It is not insignificant that the modern American Left is largely secular. And, as I have argued elsewhere through both written and spoken word, the consequences of secularism, although rarely discussed, pose a serious threat to Western civilization. G.K. Chesterton put it beautifully: “When men choose not to believe in God, they do not thereafter believe in nothing, they then become capable of believing in anything.” That “anything” of which Chesterton spoke has historically manifested itself in the belief that human nature can be perfected, total material equality can be achieved, and man can “immanentize the eschaton,” to use the phrase of the 20th-century philosopher, Eric Voegelin. That is, in a word, humans can create the hereafter here and now. Or as Barack Obama put it, “We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change we seek.” But of course, creating heaven on earth will take a lot of work. It will take a lot of resources. It will take a lot of power. It will take a lot of human capital. It will take a lot of laws, a lot of groupthink, and a lot of conformity. In a word, it will take totalitarianism. And there is only one institution in existence that can, at least theoretically, control the totality of a society--the State. (Of course, we conservatives know that even the State is not capable of undertaking a task of this enormity. Because the State is comprised of humans, it, too, is fallible.) Here is where that aforementioned totalitarian temptation rears its head. If the State is to create the hereafter here and now--that is, if the State is to eradicate racism, is to ensure equal income distribution, is to eliminate wars, and is to ensure eternal happiness for all--total devotion to the State and its ideology among the people is a necessity. There is no room for dissent. And for those who do dissent, well, they must be, in the words of Rousseau, “forced to be free.” This is why, in short, the Left loves the idea of a big, unfettered, ubiquitous, Leviathan State, notwithstanding history’s numerous demonstrations of the inconceivable evil such a State has the capacity to commit. Leftism holds that we--meaning we human beings--are our own saviors and the State is our vehicle to Paradise. In a word, it is a religion--albeit a secular one--eliciting just as much, and arguably more, religiosity from its acolytes. Raymond Aron--a 20th-century French philosopher--in his essay, “The Future of Secular Religions,” provides some truly brilliant thoughts on the subject. “It is a fact,” Aron writes, “that the secular religions are capable of converting souls to the same kinds of devotion, the same kinds of intransigence, and the same unconditional fervor as ever the traditional religious beliefs did in the days of their most universal and authoritarian influence.” Aron goes on: "Such doctrines set up an ultimate and quasi-sacred goal and define good and evil in relation to this ideal. . . The followers of these religions of collective salvation know of nothing…that is superior in dignity or authority to the aims of their own movement. That being so, they relate everything--men and things, thoughts and deeds--to that ultimate end, and utility in terms of that end is the measure of all values, even spiritual ones. Partisans of such religions will without any qualms of conscience make use of any means, however horrible, because nothing can prevent the means from being sanctified by the end [emphasis added]." The totalitarian temptation is not easily resisted on the Left. David Horowitz has it right: “Inside every progressive is a totalitarian screaming to get out.” And why should this not be so? The opposition represents the forces of evil. And those on the Left represent the army of the saints. Any and all means, therefore, are permissible. For Paradise is on the line.
— Ross Dubberly is Book Editor at The Arch Conservative.