The Left and its Holy Causes: The Pose is Everything

As Byron York (via Instapundit) points out,

I attended the first YearlyKos convention, in 2006, and have kept up with later ones, and it’s safe to say that while people who attended those gatherings couldn’t stand George W. Bush in general, their feelings were particularly intense when it came to opposing the war in Iraq. It animated their activism; they hated the war, and they hated Bush for starting it. They weren’t that fond of the fighting in Afghanistan, either. Now, with Obama in the White House, all that has changed. . . . Not too long ago, with a different president in the White House, the left was obsessed with America’s wars. Now, they’re not even watching.

Instapundit adds, “Yeah, funny how the fierce moral urgency drained out of the antiwar movement as soon as a Democrat was elected President.” I suspect the level of “fierce moral urgency” has more to do with personalities than parties. After all, the level of antiwar activism on the left was much greater under Johnson, another Democratic president, than it ever was under Bush. Of course, Johnson lacked Obama’s charisma, but I suspect that the main driver of the left’s “noble commitment to peace” in the 60’s was fear of the draft. Once the draft went away, the level of devotion to the cause of world peace became a great deal more subdued.

In any case, it’s obvious that the level of “moral urgency” of the left’s assorted holy causes has more to do with emotional posing than logic. For the time being, peace must take a back seat to the health care issue, at least until the “progressives” succeed in enlisting state power to force their version of “compassion” on the rest of us. Meanwhile, Cindy Sheehan’s blog has become strangely inactive over at Huffpo, although I suspect she’ll surface again at some point as such useful idiots often do.

Emotion trumps reason when it comes to the left’s other pet causes as well. It never bothered them a couple of years ago that hooded anarchists who threatened violence to counter-demonstrators always tagged along at their “peace demonstrations,” but now let grandma and grandpa hold up signs and get a little raucus at a town hall meeting and they suddenly become “enraged, crazy” nut cases, mindless fools manipulated by “astroturfers.” Meanwhile, they would have us believe that they are really serious about reducing greenhouse gases while they continue to oppose nuclear power, the one most effective step we could take to do just that. They preach to us about saving the environmental but, at the same time, wax eloquent in their promotion of illegal immigration to the US and other heavily industrialized countries in spite of the massive increase in global environmental degradation that entails.

Irrational support for holy causes is hardly a monopoly of the left, although it tends to be more a more dangerous characteristic of those who want to change the status quo than those who want to leave it alone. I suspect political proclivities in general are better understood as emotionally conditioned behavior than as a logical response to a given situation. Perhaps we all have innate psychological characteristics that make it more or less likely that we will tend to adopt a “liberal” as opposed to a “conservative” world view. Once we do, our opinions on any given subject will tend to be aligned with the prevailing dogma of our group. Logic will only be brought in as an afterthought to prop up these highly predictable “opinions.”

In a later post I will revisit this subject in the context of an earlier day.

Astroturf and the Swiftboaters

I recently ran across an amusing piece of irony in another of’s recent collections of essays by the intellectual avant-garde. It appeared in the introductory essay of the book, entitled “What Have You Changed Your Mind About?” edited by John Brockman. According to its author, Brian Eno, “There is now an almost total disconnection between the validity of a story and its media success. If it’s a good enough – or convenient enough – story, it will echo eternally around the media universe.” Eno then goes on to unwittingly prove his own assertion with the observation that, “The result is a diminishing accountability at almost every level of public discourse and a burgeoning industry of professional Swiftboaters.”

The rest of the essay is a ringing appeal to the virtues of intellectual flexibility and the ability to admit being wrong, closing with the sentence, “Changing our minds is our hope for the future.” The irony in all this is that, by using the term “Swiftboaters” in the context above, Enos identifies himself as both a denizen of the ideological left and an ideologue. He could no more change his mind about the Swiftboaters than a leopard could change its spots, because a particular perception of who the Swiftboaters were is part of his ideological identity. It defines the ideological box he lives in, and, if he changed his mind about it, he would lose that identity in the process.

The Swiftboat myth, which has been anchored in concrete in leftist dogma lo now these many years, is of a piece with the equally imbecilic “Astroturf” myth. The Swiftboat veterans served in Vietnam at about the same time I did. During the 2004 election campaign, we were to believe that scores of them, older men approaching retirement age who had everything to gain by their association with a heroic new President, suddenly threw honor, respectability and common decency out the door and decided to recite a pack of lies in unison like so many mindless zombies at the behest of Karl Rove. Absurd and implausible as this story was and is, it was seized on by the political left and believed implicitly because it was politically expedient to believe it.

Today we see the same phenomenon in response to the Tea Party Movement. Against all odds, we are to believe that all of the hundreds of thousands of people who have attended these events have no real political concerns of their own, but are merely the mindless tools of lobbyists, corporate bosses, and GOP operatives. Those who would foist this grossly distorted version of reality on us refer to the process as “astroturfing.”

Lacking expertise in such matters, I cannot presume to advise those who create these myths with respect to their political expedience. I can only speak for myself and note that, when the odor of the rotting corpse of the truth becomes too strong on the left, atheist that I am, I tend to turn to the right to avoid the stench.

Aha! Oho! Astroturf!!

Josh Marshall reels in a genuwine GOP staffer, thereby proving beyond the slightest shadow of a doubt that every single one of the hundreds of thousands of people who’ve shown up at the thousands of tea parties across the nation has been a mindless zombie under the control of a vast right wing astroturfing conspiracy.

…lean closer and I’ll tell you something else about these “teabaggers.” Closer… sshhhhhh… Most of them are white!