I Never Left The Left. The Left Left Me

Clenched fist

Power to the… white, middle-class puritans!

Richard Herring is a favourite comedian of mine. He enjoys causing controversy (as, in my opinion, all good comedians should), and is funny with it. He recently caused a stir on Twitter by writing the following in his regular Metro column:

At one gig, a  woman was loudly  and unamusingly commentating on everything that happened. I said to her: ‘You’re a bit talkative, aren’t you? You’re loquacious. It’s annoying. You’re the one woman in the world where a man would put Rohypnol in your drink and then leave you in the pub.’

Funny? I’d say so, as heckle put-downs go. The people it offended were not my usual targets; they were some of the better known (along with many less well known) voices of the British left. Not only was the joke attacked, but the very right to refer to rape within comedy itself was questioned. I joined in the discussion, defending Herring’s right to free speech (the quality of the joke itself is down to personal taste). To me, there’s only one question that may affect his right to joke about rape: did his comment, in any way, put women in more danger of being sexually assaulted? I would say not.

The tendency for the left to attack free speech in this way has grown hugely since my flirtations with left-wing activism in the 1980s. How did it become so humourless, censorious and (from the perspective of someone who used to feel at home on the left) downright embarrassing?

It’s pretty normal, in my Twitter encounters, for right-wingers to label me a commie or some other meaningless “leftie”-type label. It’s certainly true, as should be clear to regular readers, that my political roots are on the left, and in many ways my views still remain there. MoronWatch arrived on Twitter expecting to find a wealth of deeply stupid right-wingers, and I haven’t been disappointed in that. In my observation, the IQ of the right is undoubtedly below that of the left – and research backs that up. But on some occasions when I tangle with left-wingers, I’m left surprised and disappointed with the lack of thoughtfulness and intelligence that I’d once have associated with them.

The left began from a powerful intellectual base: the progressive philosophers and activists of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The progressives analyzed and understood Capitalism better than its defenders did – after all, if you benefit from the status quo, there’s no need to understand the system’s strength or its flaws; you defend it without requiring intellect. Furthermore, and (I think) even more importantly, the left developed the modern foundation of individual liberty that underlies so much political thinking today.

Yes, you read correctly: the early left was the standard-bearer for political and individual freedoms. This will confuse many morons-of-the-right, because that’s not the story they’ve been told. The Cold War entailed the telling of a simple story by the US propaganda machine: The Free World vs. The Evil Communists. The loss of the Russian Revolution to Stalinism added weight to the claims that capitalism=freedom and communism=repression. But it wasn’t nearly that simple, then or ever. The first person to call himself a Libertarian wasn’t some tax-hating rich guy, but a 19th century French Anarchist Communist called Joseph Déjacque. The Russian Revolution, destroyed in practise by Stalin and then in memory by Cold War American propaganda was an explosion of freedom in one of the world’s most authoritarian countries. Among many other acts, the revolution legalised homosexuality, with leaders declaring “homosexual relationships and heterosexual relationships are treated exactly the same by the law” – decades before the “Land of the Free” got around to doing the same thing. And even during the Cold War, while the US could boast of better freedom of speech at home than in the Soviet Union (although the differences were exaggerated), it was simultaneously responsible for a massive, global attack on democracy and free speech (one strand of which came back to haunt the US on September 11 2001).

By the post-war period, the left had split into three broad sections: the social democratic, moderate strand that had gained power in western Europe, the authoritarianism of the Soviet Union and its communist supporters, and a libertarian strand led by the Russian revolutionary, Leon Trotsky. Perhaps the Trotskyists were ready to build a global, libertarian left, but Trotsky was murdered in 1940 by an agent of Stalin, and his fledgling movement fragmented into multiple, feuding splinter groups, brilliantly satirised in The Life of Brian. When the Soviet Union collapsed, so did the remnants of Communist parties worldwide. The formerly social democratic parties embraced “the market” (in other words, the rights of corporations were enshrined above the rights of individuals) and simultaneously became more authoritarian.

What remained of the old left had become conservative, authoritarian, unintelligent and dogmatic and, as I mentioned above, downright embarrassing. In place of free debate, political correctness now rules various subjects unacceptable for discussion, and you can expect lefties to shout you down if you try to talk about (or joke about) Forbidden Subjects. The British left has lost its working-class roots; its commentators are primarily middle-class professionals with no links to urban youth. It’s of no surprise then that the left had no more idea than the right as to why young people rioted last year.

To make up for the lack of non-white faces, the left has spent the past three decades fast-tracking black people into key roles; the result has been that some of the leading black political figures of the left have been incompetent and often self-serving. Their appointment makes the left look more mixed, but leaves it as far removed from racial minorities as ever. The left’s painfully PC views on race have suppressed, rather than enhanced discussion on so many important issues.

Examples of the moronic left-wing attitudes and ideas I frequently encounter include:

  • Karl Marx is no longer a progressive thinker of his day, but a deity whose every word is sacred. In a recent debate about sex-worker rights, I was told that Marx didn’t support them. So therefore it’s not left-wing to support them (what could be more conservative than freezing your ideology in the mid-19th century?)
  • The market is always evil (neatly mirroring the right-wing morons who think the market is always right).
  • Every problem in black communities is caused by racism or is a legacy of the slave trade or colonialism (this pleases afrocentric thinkers, but does nothing to understand or fix real-life problems).
  • Only white people can be racist, because if non-whites people are racist, it’s not their fault – we made them do it by being evil to them. Note the colonial attitude here: apparently black and Asian people are simple creatures who learned everything from us.
  • While women can (of course) hold opinions on everything, female issues are the preserve of female discussion only (I was recently told by an apparently liberal person that I couldn’t judge whether a woman was a feminist or not – presumably because I’m male, although the person refused to clarify).

The left no longer values science as it once did – indeed, its loudest spokespeople appear to overwhelmingly consist of non-science graduates. The irrational hatred of genetically-modified organisms (because they are made by evil corporations) is one example. Never mind that GMOs have the potential to lift millions of people out of starvation; the fact that they were created for profit makes them evil. The PC-left castigates modern society for its environmental destruction and wars, but often idolises primitive “tribal” societies as being “wiser custodians of the planet”. In reality, many primitive societies destroyed their own environments (and sometimes themselves); and violence is probably lower today than at any point in human history. Idolising an imaginary golden past is the definition of conservative, not progressive; today’s left is often deeply conservative.

While attacks on sexual freedom used to come from the right, now they largely come from the left, using the intellectually-vacant excuse of “objectification” – effectively meaningless, but giving so-called liberals a cover to attack the baring of flesh, just as right-wing religious types used to do.

Although I have some nostalgia for the old left, it seems best to put it out of its misery now. Authoritarianism is on the rise, and I see no more sign that the left is deeply opposed to this than I do on the right. A new Social Libertarianism is needed, resting on twin pillars: social justice and individual freedom. Social justice isn’t just a “nice to have”, and neither is liberty; I’m convinced that neither can possibly exist without the other, and that both are vital to prevent a coming economic and social collapse resulting from today’s corporatocracy. The dangers to our freedom today come from an intertwined dual menace: corporations and the militarised state. Like fairness and freedom, corporate profiteering and the police state go hand in hand. The enemies of freedom were once largely found on the right; now they exist across the entire political spectrum. The new political battle-lines are drawn; those who attack a man’s right to involve controversial subjects in humour are the enemies of free speech, however “progressive” or “liberal” they may appear on the surface.

14 thoughts on “I Never Left The Left. The Left Left Me

  1. You would enjoy Rachel Reeves, MP for Leeds West, shadow secretary to the treasury and anti strip tease campaigner. Failed miserably twice in Bromley she was then parachuted into Leeds on a female ONLY short list Whilst having no issues with her campaign for jobs and female employment in particular I find it highly Moronic that she then sits on a moral high horse to try and close lap dancing venues that Leed’s council has approved licenses for.

    Not that I should be surprised when watching the amusing tweets from her. One day I might actually point out her stupidity.

  2. Lovely clarity of thought, as always, and with sentiments that match my own. So out of curiosity, when you are asked where on the political spectrum you stand, how do you now answer?

    • Rob- still left of centre, but very pro-liberty on the liberty/authoritarian scale. Legal and political decisions must be heavily biased towards free speech

  3. Your point about fast tracking people through professions in spite of poor qualifications may be fair, but I think this is just as much a problem on the right; through nepotism and favour, buffoon after buffoon seems propelled into a job they have no talent for beyond their family name, and promoted before they have proven themselves capable of exercising even some small authority with the diligence and honour you would expect.

    My little bug, and I’m sure I go too far with it sometimes, is that the professional class which makes up the media in all its forms and politics both Left and Right, is drawn from the same small pool of university graduates who in themselves are fine but who have experience of nothing beyond that small internalized world of its own obsessions.

    There seems a lack of depth sometimes, for want of a better word. No doubt I could be accused of being a moron for saying that, but though it feels awkward and must seem a little unkind, looking round, I think I’ve got a point.

    • Staedtler, I agree. The make up of media is atrocious. It’s often like seeing two worlds – the real one, and the one journalists see. Oxbridge graduate journos can be pretty clueless at understanding and reporting the lives of most other people

  4. Moronwatch, I write this as a fan, so you know, more in sorrow than in anger and all that, but I’m struggling to see anything here beyond the anguish of someone on the hyphenated Left.

    The gist of your post seems, from the title onwards, to be hankering after some non-existent Golden Age of the Left, and therefore inherently conservative. Anyone on the Left (a usage I personally hate, incidentally: can’t we just call ourselves socialists?) must, by definition, want to see a fundamental shift in existing relations of power. Yet, in your criticisms, as I read them, of positive discrimination and of “political correctness” – and I assume you’re familiar with Richard Herring’s take on all of that – you seem to be arguing for the maintenance of those existing power relations which suit you.

    I don’t know your ethnicity, but I’m guessing from your comments that, like me, you are a white male.

    The freedom of speech which you claim is under attack from the left is a privilege. And it is a privilege which you would not enjoy to the same extent were you a woman, or for that matter, a person of colour. I remember an occasion when you and I, trapped within patriarchy as we are, went to defend a woman on Twitter who had been attacked as being “fat” by some corpulent Moron. So I know you know what I’m talking about, and I further assume that you are aware of the horrific abuse that women who express opinions no more controversial than yours or mine face when they express those opinions online. You will also be familiar with the fact that people who happen to possess a vagina are subjected daily to ridicule, abuse, unwanted and often disgusting sexual advances, quote apart from more severe forms of abuse and discrimination.

    So the freedom to make jokes about rape has to be considered in that context. And, as far as I am aware, no one prevented Richard Herring or anyone else from making such jokes. The simple fact is that they’ve had their freedom of speech. And others have the same freedom to call them out on it, as long as the power relations I have described persist.

    Now, if you were to say that there is a tension between a class analysis and what has become known as identity politics, I’d agree with you. As Tom Waits says, human beings are just monkeys with guns and money. We’re all just trying to work our way through this mess. But that is not the same as saying that those who are working, through their daily lives, to confront and change a bewilderingly-complex system of inequitable power relations have suddenly “left” you. As long as those power relations persist, you and I don’t get to make that judgement unless we’ve decided that current power relations are just fine the way they are. And I don’t think you have decided that.

  5. Pingback: Is the British Left Defunct? at MoronWatch

  6. I was riveted by this post; it is so well-written and well-argued. The person who told you that you may not judge whether a woman is a feminist on account of your not having ovaries is moronic indeed.

    As for the joke itself: I quite agree about the horrid tendency to attempt to shut down speech. On a personal level, I hated the joke, because I found it unfunny, rather nasty, and entirely unnecessary. If I were prone to dying in ditches, I should like to think I would die in one for the right of free expression, but I also believe in utility. That joke added very little to the sum total of human happiness. Chortling over the drugging and raping of females seems to achieve nothing good, and it made me sad and queasy. But if that is what Mr Herring wishes to do in a free society, that is what he must absolutely do.

    On the matter of principle: I support anyone’s right to make a cheap joke. I reserve my right to loathe it and not laugh at it. Perhaps where the nannyish element goes wrong is when it blurs boundaries. There is a vast difference between not liking something, and insisting it be stopped. The distinction should be marked.

  7. Pingback: The Left’s Huge Failure Over Julian Assange | MoronWatch

  8. Pingback: Rand Paul: Civil Liberties Hero? | MoronWatch

  9. Pingback: Rand Paul: Civil Liberties Hero? | MoronWatch | kakoluri.com

  10. Pingback: Sex Work & Feminism, This-ism, That-ism, Ism! Ism! Ism! | MoronWatch

  11. “To me, there’s only one question that may affect his right to joke about rape: did his comment, in any way, put women in more danger of being sexually assaulted?”

    Arguing about what someone technically has the right to do is perhaps not the most profitable response to the situation described.

Leave a Reply