Thursday, June 26, 2014

What I target when I say "progressive"

I don't like progressives. News to no one who reads this blog, I'm sure. But what I want to put across to anyone who reads these posts - what I want to make as clear as possible - is exactly what I'm talking about when I condemn progressives.

It isn't their political policies that I am reacting to. It's their mindsets, and in particular, their attitudes towards anyone who disagrees with them or isn't on their political side.

If someone comes to me saying they think communism is the answer to the problem of poverty, I'll disagree strongly. But, all else being equal? I will also want to hear what they have to say if I'm in the mood to discuss things - and if I'm not, I'll just ignore them. I will ask what arguments they have for their position, I will bring up criticisms, I will propose alternatives. They'll react to those, I'll react to their reactions and ideas, and they will react to mine. Eventually we may both decide we see things different - we put more stock in one bit of evidence than another, or we have different priorities, even if we ultimately have some overlapping goals and ideas in mind. Odds are, I'll think the policy is tremendously wrong-headed, and I'll fight the policy - but the person won't really be a problem, per se. At worst, they will be someone I disagree with, and may try to think of how to make them appreciate any mistakes I think they're making.

This recipe and result will stay in place for most progressive positions. The advocate of universal health care. The gay marriage proponent. The defender of abortion, of massive central government, of state welfare. I disagree with these things strongly, but this isn't what sets me off when it comes to the progressive. I can talk about these things, just as I can talk with an atheist at length and keep calm and polite, even friendly with the right people. The issue itself isn't the problem. I would go so far as to say as, the mere embrace of liberal positions is not enough to make a person into a progressive.

The key ingredient for the progressive - and the reason I end up having to categorize them with the Cult of Gnu - is hatred.

If you are an atheist or mere irreligious who doesn't believe in God... but who does not hate religion, despise religious figures, and wish fervently for the day when every religious believer is a pariah or chased to the absolute fringes of society - if you, in fact, think religious people may well be right, but you just don't believe them, and don't think they are on the whole stupid, wicked and dangerous - well, guess what? The Cult of Gnu has a word for you: accommodationist. You are seen as giving aid and comfort to the enemy, and will likely find yourself quickly cast out of their group. Because what makes a Gnu a Gnu isn't mere lack of God belief, or even the positive belief that God does not exist. It is the contempt towards religion and the religious. The conviction that it is, as PeteBog suggests, a sickness that is meant to be contained, controlled and eradicated - quite possibly with the aid of the state. The belief that religious people are not just wrong, but obviously wrong, and deserving of contempt is what makes an irreligious person into a New Atheist.

That's what the case is with the progressive. All that changes is the target: replace 'religious person' with 'conservative', and the same rules apply. I would go so far as to say that for some, New Atheism is just a natural extension of progressivism. If you merely disagree with conservatives but think they're largely normal, reasonable people who (God forbid) may well be right, you will find yourself shunned in progressive circles about as quickly as the 'accommodationist' atheist is shunned by the Cult of Gnu. When a progressive is expected to show their credentials, to signal whose side they are on, they do so principally by attacking or condemning conservatives - with actual support for or argumentation for 'progressive' ideals being a very distant concern. It is the glue that binds their communities together, a shared social hatred.

This is the conclusion I have been forced to come to after multiple intentional interactions with progressives, reading their articles, watching how their own view of the world manifests even in fiction. I saw it in the reaction to George Will, and sadly, I saw it even in the reaction to me that took place after that.

I will be challenged on this. Lothar in particular - who I do not think understands the extent of the progressive problem, or how far away he may really be from progressives - will hasten to argue it's 'not every progressive', and that conservatives have their faults. I won't go into it great detail this entry, but yes, I will admit straightaway that conservatives do have flaws on this front. But no, I don't think they are as pronounced as the progressives' problem by a longshot.

Lothar once challenged me to pose as a gay atheist and see how I'd be treated among conservative Christians. I may well take him up on that challenge sometime, and report my results. But I have a challenge of my own to throw back at him: pose as a polite social conservative, and see how you're treated on a progressive blog. Mark my words: you'll be treated worse than the polite gay atheist.


Legion of Logic said...

I'm pretty sure both sides of the aisle are becoming more polarized and more likely to view the other side as not only wrong, but dangerous and immoral. But I would also agree with you that this hatred of others - not just indignant outrage, but the absolute conviction of moral and intellectual superiority - is much more pronounced within the progressive movement. And since most Gnus seem to be progressives, it's not at all difficult to believe that the two share such a propensity for hating those who disagree and an unwillingness or inability to realize that there can be honest disagreement without stupidity or wickedness being involved.

Jakeithus said...

I largely agree with much of this. The overwhelming tendency to view everyone that disagrees with them as having some sort of personal failure or for acting out of hatred or malice is a defining attribute of "progressives",and is one of the reasons I oppose the position so strongly. By attributing all of your opponents positions to malice, politics and our ability to get along in society is practically eliminated.

Take abortion for example. Someone can hold that a human being prior to birth should not have legal protection and that the rights of the mother should overrule other considerations. They might be wrong, but with such a person debate can take place. Such a person is not a "true" Progressive however, as a "true" Progressive will likely claim that those who disagree hate women, lack compassion, or simply want to control sexuality. If you're male, they will make your opposition solely about your gender, if you're female they will pretend you don't exist.

This position isn't the fringe of the pro-choice, progressive side, it is increasingly the default, mainstream position.

Crude said...

I'd agree that conservatives are getting more polarized, in part because that hatred is either appearing or losing its subtlety. Once it becomes clear that your enemy doesn't only disagree with you but actually hates you, hating them becomes pretty easy in turn - in fact it almost becomes necessary.

What I usually see among conservatives is the view that progressives are making big mistakes - but 'big mistake' tends to be wrapped up with the assumption that that motivation is good. Conservatives will typically regard progressives as being tragically, even comedically, mistaken about (say) health care. 'State-run health care won't cover as much as you think.' 'It costs more than you think.' 'It has a higher ethical and rights-related price tag than you think.' Etc, etc. Yeah, this comes with more bombastic language, even some mockery at times. But as near as I can tell, the progressive view of conservatives on health care is 'They don't WANT poor people to have health care so they DIE because conservatives are MONSTERS.'

Or you look at John Shore with this conviction that conservative Christians don't just think gay marriage or same-sex sexual behavior is wrong - no, they actually want to beat gays to death with their bare hands. And as near as I can tell, Shore's not some outlier in that respect - whenever I see someone critical of gay marriage or same-sex sexual behavior depicted in a comic or a game or the like, it's always of the 'Ah sure hate me some FAGGOTS. If'n ya ask me, we oughta take that QUEER out back and KILL HIM fer bein' a FAG' variety.

And the worst part is? Clearly this works to a degree, which just encourages it all the more. George Will actually got dropped from one newspaper due to that lunatic outburst. That didn't go as bad as it did, but frankly, any amount of success at all is a horrible thing in that case, because it just makes sure it will happen again. It also runs the risk of provoking a conservative culture that responds precisely in kind in the mainstream. Even if it doesn't, this kind of mentality tends to turn inward, and when you run out of conservatives to put on trial, insufficiently progressive progressives are next up to bat.

Crude said...

I think Pro-Lifers are actually in a better position on this one because, frankly, there's no shortage of pro-lifers who will flat up call a woman (and certainly an abortion doctor) a baby killer for getting an abortion. They can say 'sexist' as much as they like, but the hook's got blood on it at the end of the day.

Dan Gillson said...

Eh ... Group think, tribalism, and rule by majority are bad. I mean, I'm radical left (anarchist, not communist) and I think the same thing about most progressives as you do.

Crude said...

Hey Dan.

Anarchist, eh? That's actually interesting. I imagine you'd find more sympathy for the idea on the right than the left for that view, at least what I know of it. Individualism and anti-state and all, as far as the more libertarian types go.

So long as you brought it up - what's your view of the current state of anarchists? I will be honest: when I read about them they usually strike me as subsidiaries of some other extreme left or right tribe. But perhaps I'm misinformed.

Dan Gillson said...


It depends. I'm definitely libertarian, but of the leftist variety, which means basically that I'm against statism as much as I am against bossism. (If you are interested, a guy named Gary Chartier is both a Thomist and a left-libertarian anarchist. He's written a few books and he blogs occasionally at

My view is, I don't know. I'm more of a fair-weather anarchist than a pure one. I wouldn't resist a morally legitimate state. If a state can justify its political authority, and if it can justify our moral obligation to obey its laws, I wouldn't have any reason to be an anarchist.

Crude said...

What makes a state morally legitimate in your view?

Dan Gillson said...

Simply a state which could justify its political authority (without begging the question; if the state has a Divine Right to rule, it should be able to countenance that independently from an argument for its authority), and our obligations to obey its laws.

Crude said...

Okay, but... can you give me a hypothetical state that could do that? Do you have any justifications in mind you would accept?

Do you reject all current states? Just some of them?

lotharlorraine said...

Hello Crude.

I think I'll write a well-deserved answer when I'll find more time.

Currently my hyperactive and inattentive ADHD brain (I hope your Conservative readers can forgive such a shameless "coming out" on your blog) brings me to many directions at the same time.

On my blog I interview many people from different perspectives and I just did that with a Conservative Christian apologist, David Marshall on the New Atheism:

Link text

So I'm certainly against bullying Conservatives and generally want to understand their strongest arguments.

I've one proposition. I also want to start soon a series of DVUP (Disccusions between Very Unimportant People) whereby I discuss with all sorts of VUP I know throught the Internet or the real world.
What about a written chat we'd have on all those issues?

This would certainly foster understanding and more mutual tolerance between Conservatives and Progressives (even if, GIVEN your own personal defintions, I might very well prove to be neither of those).

If you feel offended by the letter U, I can replace it by a I ;-)

Crude said...

Sure, I'd be up for that. And David Marshall is great - smart guy, nice guy besides.

Dan Gillson said...

I can't think of a good way to finesse my response, so don't judge me too harshly:

1. A non-coercive, minimal state which focusses on providing public goods (whatever those are) instead of wheeling and dealing with, for lack of a better word, rich capitalists.

2. Authority should be, for lack of a better word, natural, instead of ... I don't know, bureaucratic.

3. I think that the United States is definitely an illegitimate state. I would suspect that all modern nation states are illegitimate, but I'm unqualified to make such an assertion.