Without a doubt, the most endearing thing about the modern progressive left is the way it thinks that it is the first movement in history to think things that most of us learn from childhood. This is complemented by its almost universal view that the world’s problems would be solved if the rest of us would just listen to these things when they are shouted at us.
Rape? Rape can be solved, at least in part, goes the theory, by shouting “don’t rape people!!” very loudly at demonstrations. This is helpful because it never occurred to anyone before that rape was bad until Ross O’Carroll-Castro from People before Profit screamed it in their faces.
Racism? Racism is bad. Did you know that? Just in case, here’s your local progressive feminist to remind you that racism is bad. Oh, and sexism too.
It really is tremendous, isn’t it, what education teaches you. You arrive in Trinity, discover that violence, racism, and sexism are undesirable traits in a person, and you suddenly feel the need to scream it at everybody else, just in case they didn’t already know.
This is why you have to go to consent classes in Trinity now, by the way. Yes, I know your mother and father taught you that raping people is bad, but you won’t really get it until the nice lady from the Student’s Union with the slightly crazy glint in her eye patronises you a few times and suggests that maybe you don’t quite get it the way she does.
Incidentally, this article has no particular objection to anybody setting up a class on consent. Nor does it have any objection to a class on how to operate a wheelbarrow, or how to properly cut ones toenails. What is objectionable is the idea that such classes should be compulsory – that one should have to prove knowledge of things that any decent and normal person knows long before they wander through front arch and encounter the progressive re-education program.
(Incidentally, what use is a consent class when, as feminists rightly point out, rape is a crime of power in almost all cases. Rapists don’t rape because they don’t understand that the person they are raping does not wish to have sex, they rape because they wish to physically dominate and own their victim. This is universally recognised, and acknowledged by every academic study ever conducted. So consent classes aren’t even treating the problem. They’re just designed to make the teachers feel better.)
What about free speech? Well, if you have ever argued with somebody from the left about free speech, chances are you’ve seen the cartoon that festoons this article. Our friends on the left love a good cartoon, because it’s a good way to explain things to stupid people like you and I, and this is one of their favourites. It’s very reasonable, isn’t it? “Absolutely”, it says, “you have free speech”. “But nobody owes you a platform. Nobody has to listen to you. And if we consider you to be an asshole, we can show you the door”.
Well gee, thanks for enlightening us.
I didn’t need that cartoon to tell me I can show people I disagree with to the door. I’ve been refusing to read the Irish Times for a decade now, for heaven’s sake. (Try it, your life will improve immeasurably).
Where I, and you, should depart from the left is that I consider not reading the Irish Times to be perfectly sufficient. I don’t like what they say, I think many of the opinion writers are preachy bores, and I’m denying them a platform by refusing to read or listen.
Much as I would dearly love to march in there and try to close the whole damn thing down, I don’t.
Other people (though fewer every year) seem to enjoy the Irish Times, and I see no reason to get between them and the latest “woman’s podcast” episode about how the Handmaid’s Tale is a good allegory for Ronan Mullen’s speech that day, or whatever.
Our friends on the left do not agree that not listening to someone and “showing them the door” is sufficient. Last time I checked, for example, attending a speech by Ben Shapiro had not been made compulsory. Nonetheless, left wing activists have tried to have him banned from speaking at several American campuses.
Nor, last I checked, was it the case that people were entering Trinity lecture halls with hundreds of sets of headphones every day at noon, and forcing the student body to listen to George Hook. It is not compulsory to do so. This did not prevent activists from circulating an online petition demanding his removal, nor from contacting advertisers to ask them to pull their support.
The problem is, of course, that for our left-leaning friends, not listening isn’t enough. They lie awake at night worrying about you, you see. They themselves are incorruptible, and pure of thought, and quite impervious to dangerous ideas. You, being simple of mind, are not, is how the thinking goes.
Good heavens, what if somewhere, somehow, somebody else is listening to somebody with a bad opinion? What if this person is influenced by a bad opinion? What if this person is so influenced by a bad opinion that they commit violence? Or worse, end up voting Tory or not backing Mrs. Clinton?
The only safe solution to this problem is that platforms must be denied. Hate speech must be extinguished. (What “hate speech” is varies from day to day. Today, it might be saying that immigration is too high. Tomorrow, it could be this article, for trivialising an important piece of art like The Handmaid’s tale).
It strikes this author that this cartoon does not represent the views of the modern progressive left at all. If it did, there would never be any need to deny somebody a platform.
To understand the progressive view of free speech, you have to understand the left wing view of humanity itself. You have to understand why they use words like “dangerous” and “radical” to describe people’s speeches or thoughts. You have to comprehend why they are so damn worried all the time. Worried about the rise of fascism. Worried about the rise of racism. Worried about the rise of sexism. There’s no end to the list of things your average progressive is worried about – and they all have one thing in common.
They’re things that you might do.
They’re never worried about themselves, have you noticed that? There’s no danger of a progressive left winger listening to a speech by Milo Yiannopoulos and turning fashy, is there? No sir. They can see through the likes of Milo, you see, to what he really is, because they’re smarter than you are.
They don’t hide away from Trumpy rhetoric about immigration for fear that they might agree with it, do they? Nope. Nor do they lie awake at night turning over the latest stupid tweet from Katie Hopkins, growing more Nazi by the hour, you’ll note.
Such things can be analysed, discussed, dissected, and rebutted by their advanced and enlightened minds, but not by you. It really does come down to the basic conceit at the heart of all left leaning thought – you are stupid, and must be protected and guided by your intellectual betters.
This informs almost everything the progressive movement does, and explains much of its popularity. After all, who doesn’t want to join the club of self-identified really smart people? I mean, there’s no faster way to intellectual credibility in left leaning circles than to be able to cite a good academic explanation for a conservative’s behaviour. Sure, you can’t iron your own clothes, get a job, or get out of bed for a 10am lecture, but by heck, you understand that the voters of Kentucky voted for Donald Trump because of internalised misogyny, and you can say it with the appropriate levels of sadness, world-weariness, and disdain.
This, incidentally, is why progressives try to speak to you in cartoons.
There’s no great unifying theory of why socialism always fails so miserably, but I’ve never thought it was difficult to understand, myself.
When you believe that you are smarter than everyone else, and that the public are a rabble likely to be incited to fascism at any moment, as the left do, it becomes your duty to protect the public from those who would harm them with bad opinions.
I mean, if the people of Kentucky, or in this case, first year engineering, labour under false consciousness, then they must be enlightened. This means that they must be fed a steady diet of good opinions, and bad opinions must be denounced and eliminated.
This starts off well enough, and we all have a jolly good time chasing some “fascist scum” like the mild-mannered Israeli Ambassador off campus, and back to his nice residence and successful career. It progresses to taking down posters erected by hate-filled pro-lifers less anyone end up questioning the holy repeal movement. It ends up, always, in Venezuela, with special constituent assemblies being set up to protect the people from the bad opinions of their elected parliament, and to reduce fascist talk about the failing carrot crop.
But they’re smarter than you, and know better, so don’t worry.
Now, read this cartoon and shut up, you idiot. What is this, The Handmaid’s Tale?