A common criticism of the ultra-progressive Left is that its culture warriors now resemble the right-wing ideological enforcers of yore, excommunicating those deemed to have sinned or performed heresies. Indeed, anyone older than 30 or so should have at least a dim memory of the social conservatives who wanted every aspect of American society—from universities, to the media, right down to the content of children’s television shows—hewing to the same family-values prayer book, and who led campaigns to censor violent video games, rap music, and edgy Hollywood entertainment.
In 1996, Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole called out Time Warner for publishing hip hop music whose lyrics glamorized violence against police officers. (“I would like to ask the executives of Time Warner a question: Is this what you intended to accomplish with your careers? You have sold your souls, but must you debase our nation and threaten our children as well?”) A quarter-century later, it’s progressives demanding the cancelation of movies and TV shows that present the police in any kind of positive light (and numerous other “problematic” themes). Alyssa Rosenberg of the Washington Post, a former colleague of mine, wants us to “shut down all police movies and TV shows. Now,” or at least radically rewrite the scripts to portray police in a more negative light. Networks obliged by canceling shows such as Live PD. After 32 years on the air, the show Cops was axed by Paramount Networks in the wake of the protests that followed the May 25th killing of George Floyd.
It’s the same puritanical spirit that prevailed during the heyday of the Moral Majority, except that it’s been marshalled in service of a different faith. And you can hardly blame disaffected progressives, such as Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, for declaring that the “left is now the right” when it comes to smothering cultural and intellectual pluralism.
Over ten months, I have watched with incredulity as the liberal-left has unquestioningly and unequivocally embraced policies, ostensibly to manage the coronavirus pandemic, that are not only illiberal but authoritarian. With each passing day, those on the left-liberal side of the political spectrum display greater acceptance of increasingly oppressive measures. Maybe I should have been prepared.
With more and more frequency during the past years, I have found myself departing from my cohorts’ consensus during various discussions arising from current events, particularly insofar as they pertained to civil liberties issues. More disturbing than the substantive disagreement was the utter lack of regard for difference of opinion among many of my peers.
Nevertheless, I did not anticipate that the left would soon abandon all pretense of concern for liberal values, which are widely understood to consist of tolerance, open-mindedness, and protection of individual rights and dignity (As a preliminary matter, I am using the term “liberal-left” broadly, to describe: individuals who so identify, the Democratic Party and politicians, and center-left news outlets such as the New York Times, New Yorker, Washington Post, MSNBC, and CNN. I am aware that there is diversity of opinion, but believe it is fair to characterize the overarching left-liberal view as one that accepts the efficacy and morality of lockdowns, masks, and forced human separation).
At this point, those of us unfortunate enough to live in blue and purple states, as well as in many other parts of the world, have been deprived of our basic liberties for nearly a year. We cannot freely associate with other people, operate our businesses, send our children to school, or travel to many places without having to isolate for two weeks, which often translates into visiting loved ones becoming a practical impossibility. College students are imprisoned in dorm rooms for weeks because they or someone they interacted with tested positive for the virus (I will leave the topic of the unreliability of these tests for another day). They are expelled, harshly punished, and shamed for attending parties and socializing in groups. It is no surprise that, condemned for engaging in the most natural activities for those their age, suicidal ideation, depression, and drug usage have skyrocketed in this demographic. Children are forbidden from playing with one another or forced to do so while muzzled.
We laughed at the Republican busybody who couldn’t joke, declared war on dirty paintings, and peered through your bedroom window. Now that person has switched sides, and nobody’s laughing