March 18, 2012

Progressivism and the authoritarian impulse

Performed rather perfectly by Stanley Fish, who — because he has spent an academic career immersed in the insular logic of the linguistic turn — is able to comfortably slide into a description of benevolent “liberal” tyranny that he counsels his fellow travelers (satirically?) to embrace.

To which I answer, well, at least he’s honest about what it is progressives are doing. Fish:

If we think about the Rush Limbaugh dust-up from the non-liberal — that is, non-formal — perspective, the similarity between what he did and what Schultz and Maher did disappears. Schultz and Maher are the good guys; they are on the side of truth and justice. Limbaugh is the bad guy; he is on the side of every nefarious force that threatens our democracy. Why should he get an even break?

There is no answer to that question once you step outside of the liberal calculus in which all persons, no matter what their moral status as you see it, are weighed in an equal balance. Rather than relaxing or soft-pedaling your convictions about what is right and wrong, stay with them, and treat people you see as morally different differently. Condemn Limbaugh and say that Schultz and Maher may have gone a bit too far but that they’re basically O.K. If you do that you will not be displaying a double standard; you will be affirming a single standard, and moreover it will be a moral one because you will be going with what you think is good rather than what you think is fair. “Fair” is a weak virtue; it is not even a virtue at all because it insists on a withdrawal from moral judgment.

I know the objections to what I have said here. It amounts to an apology for identity politics. It elevates tribal obligations over the universal obligations we owe to each other as citizens. It licenses differential and discriminatory treatment on the basis of contested points of view. It substitutes for the rule “don’t do it to them if you don’t want it done to you” the rule “be sure to do it to them first and more effectively.” It implies finally that might makes right. I can live with that.

Fish’s single standard, distilled and properly understood, is that self-styled liberals are (they’ll claim) morally superior by virtue of their very belief in their own political identities — which identity is tied to an ideology that, manifested politically, privileges governmental theft, sanctioned inequality as a function of tribal identity, and a giant foundational question beg: namely, that moral superiority comes from being on the left, so therefore being on the left means you can really do no fundamental moral wrong. Progressivism (that is, the leftist political home to philosphical anti-foundationalism), as Fish sees it, is the “non-formal” — that is, I suppose, situationally free-floating — antidote to restrictive “conservative” or classically liberal universalism*. That that restrictive conservative/classical liberal universalism is, as we know from the Declaration and Constitution, the foundation upon which this country was imagined and later framed, well, that’s irrelevant. Those documents are hoary totems, and their impulses Enlightenment fantasies. And we can “fundamentally transform” the country simply by denying it its institutionalized powers by force of will.

“Progressivism” is, as Fish evinces — and as I’ve spent years on protein wisdom demonstrating through my various discussions of identity politics and language — a belief system that, once its kernel assumptions are adopted, leads fundamentally and inexorably to tyranny. Fish doesn’t call it such, of course. He chooses “might makes right.” But there is no difference. Tyranny and authoritarianism — when lorded over by the “liberal” — is, by virtue of the adopted morality of those running it, both moral and good.

And it is because of this — the progressives’ fidelity to a belief system that is fundamentally at odds with the idea of equality of the individual before the law — that I’ve said time and time again that modern progressivism / “liberalism” is nothing like the classical liberalism upon which this country was founded, and is in fact antithetical and hostile to the very notion of individual autonomy, and a foundational “fairness” that comes about as a result of a system of law that seeks to create an even playing field. That is, it is in a very real and strict sense un-American.

To the progressive, your social and political worth — in fact, your very claim to morality — comes from your various identity politics alliances. That is, your morality is a function not so much of what you do, but rather of where you claim to stand, and with whom.

Progressivism cares not about fairness or equality in the sense those words are used under a political paradigm that adheres to classical liberalism; instead, it seeks to redefine “fairness” and “equality” (and “tolerance”) as based on the outcomes it desires, a deconstructive procedure it then justifies by tying those outcomes to its own self-serving descriptions of what comes to count as moral. It is circular reasoning made perfect. Might makes right. The ends justify the means.

Fish says he can live with that. I’ve spent a decade on my site showing you precisely why, if you believe in the American experiment, you cannot and should not.

The choice may soon be yours.

(thanks to TerryH and geoffB)

Posted by Jeff G. @ 10:48am
113 comments | Trackback

Comments (113)

  1. As I live and breath I am going to send a link to this to everyone I know.

  2. Incidentally, I know that this post concentrates on fundamentally unserious things — getting Mitt Romney elected is more important than a lot of this theoretical blah blah blah — but I think it’s rather important because it hopefully gives you insight into the very foundations of the progressive epistemology I’ve spent years illuminating.

    If such things matter to you, I mean.

    If not, go back to your current game, and try to forget that the rules have been slowly and constantly changing to make any win you may believe you’ve achieved a Pyrrhic victory.

  3. Only unserious to those who long to hold theose reins Jeff.

  4. “The choice may soon be yours.” There is good chance that ship set sail a la 2008.

  5. Forgot to ask; when is new baby due? Pregnancy going well? My best to all.

  6. Isn’t it nice that Fish has declared himself the Grand Mufti of America?

    According to several Arabic news sources, last Monday, Sheikh Abdul Aziz bin Abdullah, the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, declared that it is “necessary to destroy all the churches of the region.”

    The Grand Mufti made his assertion in response to a question posed by a delegation from Kuwait: a Kuwaiti parliament member recently called for the “removal” of churches (he later “clarified” by saying he merely meant that no churches should be built in Kuwait), and the delegation wanted to confirm Sharia’s position on churches.

    Accordingly, the Grand Mufti “stressed that Kuwait was a part of the Arabian Peninsula, and therefore it is necessary to destroy all churches in it.”

    As with many grand muftis before him, the Sheikh based his proclamation on the famous tradition, or hadith, wherein the prophet of Islam declared on his deathbed that “There are not to be two religions in the [Arabian] Peninsula,” which has always been interpreted to mean that only Islam can be practiced in the region.

    shorter Fish: there will be no political order but Left-Liberalism.

  7. Dear “play nice” crowd, the crowd that demands We Not Sink To The Level Of Our Enemy, please consider:

    What do apologies to the Left for someone else’s putatively intemperate language (set aside the utter absurdity of apologizing for someone else’s actions) achieve?

    For one thing, it proves to the precious, invaluable moderate middle that apparently we think they are correct, that the Left’s enemies are every bit as vile and bigoted as advertised. Else, why apologize? For another, it proves to the Left that there is no price to be paid for slandering their enemies, as the “play nice” crowd will scramble to literally adopt the meaning the Left slaps upon our words, despite our obvious intent with those words. Put another way, the “play nice” crowd on the Right (nearly the whole of the Right, it seems) willfully accepts the lies about our words that the Left perpetrates when it criticizes us. See, George Allen deserved it. Whatever the fuck “macaca” means. It doesn’t matter, because we can’t buck perceived public opinion, and politics is perception.

    So the “play nice” crowd has, by acceding to the notion that only the Left gets to shape public perceptions, delivered us, by inches and sometimes feet, into the soft tyranny we have today.

    That tyranny will grow a tougher integument over time, as all aging things do. And hapless “conservatives” will ask themselves, fifteen years from now, how it came to pass that everything from the morning alarm clock to the evening piss came under government scrutiny. Because if you don’t turn in those urine tests regularly, you go to the back of the line on the Obamneycare waiting list for doctors. And you can’t complain about it online, because DHS is scouring conservative websites for domestic terrorists.

    There are indeed sluts out there on the Right, and they are selling themselves to the Left.

  8. from the non-liberal — that is, non-formal — perspective

    Please pardon my thickness today, but I’m still having trouble figuring out what the meaning of the formal/non-formal distinction is in this context, that is the context of the “non-liberal”, partly I guess, on account I’m not sure where liberal goes or points in this instance. In any case, somehow I don’t like to consent to the proposition that prior to any reading of political matters within the doctrine of Enlightenment Liberalism, all things are formless and murky, a chaos, as it were to be formed by the gods, i.e., that there was no “formal” aspect to political thinking as such, and the “form” was only acquired once Enlightenment Liberals (and which the hell are they, exactly?) had gotten ahold of the situation. But again, this may merely be a function of my density today.

  9. Since Cee Lo Green has apparently made such language OK, even Presidential, I say FUCK YOU to Stanley Fish.

  10. sdferr —

    So was I. I believe I’ve got it nailed in the latest revision. The problem comes because he conflates liberal with classical liberal, disavowing classical liberalism while still calling himself liberal. The non-formal is what he wants, because using it allows the similarities between Maher and Limbaugh to disappear. The formal — which he calls the liberal (“There is no answer to that question once you step outside of the liberal calculus in which all persons, no matter what their moral status as you see it, are weighed in an equal balance”) — is the classically liberal / conservative.

    Slippery as always, Fish dismisses classical liberalism while calling for its opposite, then claims the linguistic mantle not of the deconstructor of liberalism, but rather as its tenant.

  11. Okay, so Fishy is saying his team is better because it’s his team. If I say my team is better because it’s my team, don’t I have a claim in the Court of Multicultural Equivalence?

    I demand Fish ask himself “Why do they hate me?”!!!

  12. It’s because of asshats like Fish that I saw no need for anyone to apologize or denounce what Rush said.

    It only emboldens them.

  13. After a second reading of Fish, I’m not certain he isn’t simply making sport of the “liberals” (read progressives) in his audience. In a way, I leaning toward applause. He’s insulting them to their faces without giving the insult away.

  14. I’m leaning

  15. Could be. Either way, he’s to be applauded.

  16. It’s funny though, right? “Two Cheers!” and not three? Ha!

  17. don’t I have a claim in the Court of Multicultural Equivalence?

    Bribing regular judges is easy. Bribing the multiculti bench is tougher. You need oppressed ancestors, or gender reassignment to earn their sympathy.

  18. If Fish’s argument is an instance of progressive thought writ large by a man who is merely displaying its brush strokes in order to undercut it, nothing much changes: the argument made is the argument made, and I believe I’ve broken it down fairly.

    It’s quite possible Fish was shining on progressives; the question is, will they applaud him or realize they’ve embraced a totalitarian system?

  19. And on a cursory examination, who, in the parallelism of the metaphors is identified with who (or what)?

  20. Gulermo –

    End of April. All is going fine thus far, thanks!

  21. These questions come naturally to those who have been schooled in the political philosophy of enlightenment liberalism. The key move in that philosophy is to shift the emphasis from substantive judgment — is what has been said good and true? — to a requirement of procedural reciprocity — you must treat speakers equally even if you can’t abide what some of them stand for. Basically this is the transposition into the political realm of the Golden Rule: do unto others what you would have them do unto you. Don’t give your friends a pass you wouldn’t give to your enemies.

    At least so far as I can make it out, here’s what I think Fish notices is going on (yet keeps to himself for my conjectured purposes of amusement): “shift the emphasis” from the “good and true” to “procedural reciprocity” means to “hide”, by sleight of hand, what the Enlightenment suggests is “good”. Shift from the good and true (we, the Enlightenment tell you is good!), to the un-pre-judged neutrality of the “equality” of all speakers (only don’t notice while you’re doing this that you are doing what we Enlightenment thinkers recommend as good and true!)

  22. All this melodrama over the word “slut.” I hear worse things on the most highly awarded TV dramas fourteen times a night. What utter bullshit.

    You know why this fight over a stupid word matters? It reminds me of that fantastic interview Adam Carolla had with Andrew Breitbart some months ago. Carolla, while averring he is no fan of the NRA, allowed a begrudging admiration for their successful approach to defending the Second Amendment.

    He noted that when the Left comes after the NRA incrementally, for example over a high-capacity magazine, everyone including the NRA knows that “look, no one really needs a high-cap mag, it’s not a big deal in the overall picture.” However, that is not where the NRA ends the matter. Their response to the Left as Carolla put it is “Nevertheless, fuck you. We could be all reasonable and give in, but no, we’re going to have a fight about this, we’re going to have an argument. We give in to you here, we’ll give in the next time and the next. So fuck you, we’re not going to agree to forgo that little trivial matter about a hi-cap mag. We’re fighting you on this.”

    Carolla noted that this attitude accounts for the NRA’s relative success over the years in politics. Perhaps we ought to defend our very words with the same alacrity.

  23. Humn – he didn’t finish the article in a manner suggesting that he was being sly.

  24. Sort of more about that incoherent sleight of hand in another thrust at the modern “liberal” — in this case, Richard Rorty. And along with it, concomitant applause of a sort for his “honesty”, or at least forthrightness about the will to power.

  25. “didn’t finish . . . suggesting that he was being sly.”

    Can I call it a poker-face?

  26. Jeff, I suspect progressives that are smart enough to think Fish is having them on will studiously avoid noticing Fish.

    However, since the majority of progressives are mindless drones, they’re going to say “Fuck Yeah” to Fish without realizing just what they’re admitting.

  27. it seeks to redefine “fairness” and “equality” (and “tolerance”) as based on the outcomes it desires

    You can already see how invasive the redefinition of words has become. “Freedom” is not impunity from the proscriptions of government over your speech, person and property, it is “getting free stuff.” Because when the stuff you need costs you nothing, you are free to do what you want… spank your junk, get to level 42 on Grand Theft Auto: Crack Whore Party Bus, do some community organizing…

    “What good is freedom when you can’t afford your doctor’s bill?”

    Pragmatic conservatives are scared to death of that question.

  28. Carolla noted that this attitude accounts for the NRA’s relative success over the years in politics. Perhaps we ought to defend our very words

    That’s what I’ve always counseled.

    You don’t surrender the principle for the comfort and convenience of having it taken from you gently.

  29. Jeff, I suspect progressives that are smart enough to think Fish is having them on will studiously avoid noticing Fish.

    However, since the majority of progressives are mindless drones, they’re going to say “Fuck Yeah” to Fish without realizing just what they’re admitting.

    I agree. And either way, it’s a win for us.

    Were we to pick up the flag and charge against it, I mean.

    Which is what we would have done years ago. Now? I’m not so sure we have it in us. After all, our goal is getting Romney elected! The rest of this is so much theoretical nonsense.

  30. Pragmatic conservatives are scared to death of that question.

    And that’s why we should be scared to death that our party is run by pragmatists.

  31. You need oppressed ancestors

    I’ve got one ancestor who was banished from his country and sold into (temporary) slavery for a political offense.

  32. By the way, that embedded link to the Melanie Phillips interview in the Robert Lux piece is a good ‘un. She’s the bomb.

  33. Not all conservative “insiders” have lost their marbles. Believe it or not, Bill Kristol gets it.

    http://www.weeklystandard.com/articles/man-who-likes-mandates_634000.html?page=2

    Kristol snips some delicious transcripts from the 2008 debates between Republican candidates before the nomination. There are a few very embarrassing lines where Romney trips up on his own version of socialized medicine. But then there is this:

    Romney: I would not mandate at the federal level that every state do what we do. But what I would say at the federal level is, “We’ll keep giving you these special payments we make if you adopt plans that get everybody insured.” I want to get everybody insured.

    Charlie Gibson: Okay.

    Romney: In Governor Schwarzenegger’s state, he’s got a different plan to get people insured. I wouldn’t tell him he has to do it my way. But I’d say each state needs to get busy on the job of getting all our citizens insured. It does not cost more money.

    So let’s get this straight: Romney is fine with the kind of socialized medicine Der Governator imposes upon Clownifornia. Furthermore, he is more than happy to dangle other people’s money (federal money) in front of individual states to coax them into their own versions of Romneycare that mandate every breathing citizen to buy a product from a private company, specifically medical insurance. Under penalty of law, be it fine or otherwise.

    Yep, Willard Romney. Roger L. Simon can go diddle himself… Roger, who has been whining lately about people bagging on Romney, might want to consider that despite Roger’s protestations no one reasonable actually thinks Willard is a Marxist. Roger has been building strawmen over at Pajamas Media, one of Obama’s favorite pastimes. However, Roger, there are some of us, including Bill Kristol, who think Willard just isn’t a conservative. Deal, bald man.

  34. “What good is freedom when you can’t afford your doctor’s bill?” Used to be this question answered itself.

  35. “Schultz and Maher are the good guys; they are on the side of truth and justice. Limbaugh is the bad guy; he is on the side of every nefarious force that threatens our democracy.”

    I guess some truths must exist inside rotting Fish heads and thus be self evident to all by their authoritarian patriarchal stench.
    Great guy that Schultz…

    I prefer “go fuck yourself”

  36. By the way, that embedded link to the Melanie Phillips interview in the Robert Lux piece is a good ‘un. She’s the bomb.

    I liked the Voegeli one enough to buy the book.

  37. Furthermore, he is more than happy to dangle other people’s money (federal money) in front of individual states to coax them into their own versions of Romneycare that mandate every breathing citizen to buy a product from a private company, specifically medical insurance. Under penalty of law, be it fine or otherwise.

    Remember the Feds saying to states “well, you can choose not to impose an upper speed limit of 55 mph; and then we’ll choose not to send you any highway funds.”

    Kinda like Texas decided not to let abortion mill Planned Parenthood receive any more taxpayer funds and Obama has yanked ALL Fed healthcare funds.

  38. Remember the Feds saying to states “well, you can choose not to impose an upper speed limit of 55 mph; and then we’ll choose not to send you any highway funds.”

    Because we’re all about choice. That’s the hallmark of government: You’re free* to choose.

    *your understanding of this word may vary, in fact we guarantee it

  39. Too bad states didn’t respond “and so we will choose not to send taxpayer dollars to you Feds that we need to keep to take care of our OWN roads and highways.”

  40. That would get the State’s National Guard put under Federal control and used to forcibly collect it “by any means necessary.”

  41. How is stealing your state’s taxpayer money and then saying “I’ll give some back to you if you buy what I demand” not a mandate in everything but name? A bright successful consultant like Mitt Romney can square that circle. Trust him.

    This sort of coercion-at-a-distance always reminds me of a crazy scene from the old movie “Beneath the Planet of the Apes.” The telepath jailkeeper is going to use his mind control to force prisoners James Franciscus and Charlton Heston to beat each other to death with maces. He tranquilly opines “Mr. Taylor, Mr. Brent, we are a peaceful people. We don’t kill our enemies. We get our enemies to kill each other.” So, metaphorically, will our socialized medicine be mandated.

    Somehow that comparison must be racist, since it involves a radioactive black mutant, sentient apes, and white-as-snow conservative gun freak Charlton Heston.

    I like it.

  42. Morally superior according to what morality and according to the interpretation of which prototypical subscriber to that morality?

    Anyone can be found inherently morally superior to another despite behavior for certain values of “morally superior”. The problem is that those “certain values”
    that enable the statement to be true are bizarre and pathological and bear no relation to real life.

    Without any real context the whole moral weighing process is a meaningless operation with no universal application. One of the problems of relativism is that you need a point of view for it to have any significance and your own point of view should not withstand relativism if you apply it honestly. The only way to wield both relativism to knock down your opponents point of view and still hold on to your own point of view (your sacred cow) is to go out of your way finding lame excuses to separate your point of view from relativism.

    That’s just known as ‘not being honest with yourself’ which calls the validity of your use of relativism into serious question. If you won’t let relativism destroy the meaning of your own personal point of view (which is itself implicitly an illusion) then you don’t believe in relativism at all and therefore its use to destroy the opponent’s point of view was a sham. By applying it sparingly you have invented a modified pseudo-relativism that has no significance to the person who’s point of view you wish to destroy. It comes down to selling utter bullshit to any willing and credulous ear and posing it as a form of enduring truth when it is no such thing.

  43. All the academic word frosting is mere decoration for the liberal. I refer to the address Evan Sayet gave the Heritage Foundation back in 2004 where he brilliantly dissected the liberal mind.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eaE98w1KZ-c

    Remember, we’re Hitler. Period. You don’t discuss Social Security policy or education reform with him, you defeat Hitler. You don’t fret about calling Hitler names, you defeat Hitler.

  44. Without any real context the whole moral weighing process is a meaningless operation with no universal application

    Right. You’ve just described the whole of the postmodernist project where it obtains to epistemology. See, eg., Rorty.

  45. Good piece, Jeff.

    I’d say more but St. Pat’s done murdered my thought-maker.

  46. I always had the vague sense that Fish retained some elements of classical liberalism, so to have him be so honest all the way through and then close with a lie is disheartening – it’s not I can live with that, it’s I surrender to the Collective.

  47. The progressive’s /nonclassical liberal’s argument is Jacobinism. The population’s representatives replace the population as the authority and the population is kept low to keep things that way. Thus the power of the mob is transferred to experts and cannot be transferred back.

    “There are a lot of us, we are armed, we are bloody minded when angered and we have suppressed our impulses towards pity and brotherhood with those who oppose us. We Do you have the guts to take us on? If not you will find obedience much easier in the short term than any form resistance. In the long term what can stop us”.

    Oddly in time the mob believes this even though they are what the individuals are being threatened with. Everybody has a gun to someone else’s head so the enforcer is the oppressor in alternation. The experts use the crowd to oppress itself and keep them in power.

    The non progressive’s counter argument has usually been guerilla movements, organized crime, cults, formation of closed violent armed “tribal” communities, massive defensive build ups and offensive saber rattling, and viking-like looting/raiding.

    Given the instability of socialist/communist governments without a successful capitalist competitor to misguidedly prop them up with humanitarian aid they poop out in 20 to 50 years or are at least forced into massive reforms or must look to a socialist neighbor to prop them up, one can presume that these forms of resistance are generally ultimately successful and better than surrendering to the terror and security of a place in the mob.

  48. That would get the State’s National Guard put under Federal control and used to forcibly collect it “by any means necessary.”

    And that would make each individual National Guardsman liable under the Nuremburg Standard for not refusing that UN-Constitutional and illegal order.

    Which is why I’ve been asking LTC John and several other military commenters / bloggers just where their definition of a “domestic enemy” lies… and when Obama and the rest of the socialists will meet it.

  49. Don’t drink that green beer, bh. It’s not ripe yet.

  50. The problem Stanley Fish has is he believes he is operating from a position of power: might makes right. The implication is he will always be in a position of power. But, that is not so. Power always shifts. We can expect when Fish recognizes, at some time, he is in a position of weakness, his whole philosophy will change. And, that is the problem. When one has no principles, he cannot appeal to his opponents principles.

    Poor Stanley, he is building his edifice on shifting sands.

  51. Tyranny … by the “liberal” — is, ….both moral and good.

    Which is why the people who shaped Obama’s id were nonplussed when the intelligentsia amongst them proffered putting citizens who resisted their authority into re-education camps and exterminating millions.
    That is a belief they have not repented of. Just sayin’

  52. The word I was looking for was “Patrician”.
    Sniffing with horror at the thought of anyone tuning into the Mark Levin Show

  53. Bravo, Mr. Goldstein.

    Interesting times.

  54. @ SDN and RickCaird

    Serving Officer’s will not speak of this, but they are
    taught that deciding if an order is unconstitutional
    is an individual duty, and deciding to disobey it is a personal moral choice.

  55. Rush Limbaugh is no Julius Caesar, but I can’t help but be reminded of Shakespeare’s play and the HBO series “Rome.” When Julius Caesar walks into the forum and the conspirators begin stabbing him, the final killing blow is struck by his “friend” Brutus. One thing you can always depend on is that if you are a Conservative, if you create controversy, if you become a target, if you are wounded, people on your side will finish you off with the sort of smug satisfaction that reminds you of the townspeople in “The Scarlet Letter.”

    Exhibit A: Wall Street Journal reporter/columnist Dorothy Rabinowitz:

    Before this pitiful exhibition, I was an admirer of Rabinowitz. She has done great reporting, especially on the shameful sex-abuse witch hunts of the 1980s and 1990s which sent many innocent nursery school employees to jail. She exhibited courage when she was younger and she always seemed clear headed before. But the Rush Limbaugh/Sandra Fluke controversy has professional commenters heading for shelter. All I can surmise is that now, when she has won her awards, she is determined to keep her place in the New York literary world and, like Brutus, decided that stabbing Rush was necessary in view of her friends and professional acquaintances.

    For whatever reason some on the Right want to appear to uphold some vague standard that is applied only to others …. on the Right. Go to any comedy club and you are assaulted by words that are only found in pornographic novels … or used by “comics” who are lauded and applauded for their “humor.” Open a newspaper or turn on the TV and you will find Conservatives referred to as racists, sexists, bigots and homophobes. Which has more sting in today’s society: being referred to as a “slut” or being called a “racist?” Liberal women are holding “slut walks” for God’s sake and Dorothy Rabinowitz has the vapors over this term when Rush Limbaugh uses it?

    In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s day they branded people who had children out of wedlock with a scarlet “A;” today we praise them for refusing to live the “Father Knows Best” lifestyle. Can you imagine a TV show today with that name? Liberalism tells us that sex outside of marriage is not only OK, but people who don’t lose their virginity by the time they enter college are strange. There are mainstream websites like The Frisky which give very, very frank sex advice. One article begins with
    “I’ve never been afraid to ask for what I want in bed. I guess because during my teenage years I figured out I was/am a perv and I just owned it. But in my decade-plus of hooking up with dudes,…”

    So what do YOU call a woman who casually mentions that she is a “perv” and has spent a decade “hooking up?” How “perv” do you have to get with how many men before the term “slut” has any meaning. Or is it a term that no longer applies? I would really like to know. Is the term so rarely used that it has shock appeal? Sluttiness has gone mainstream, and appears to be the main topic of grocery line check out racks featuring Cosmopolitan, among others.

    You cannot tell me that people for whom four-letter words are commonly used adjectives really object to the term “slut” when it’s used to illustrate the point that the unmarried thirty-something Sandra Fluke was demanding that a Catholic institution that opposes contraception should provide her with free birth control.

    It is sickening to watch people like George Will, Dorothy Rabinowitz, Bill Bennett and a host of others write Rush’s obituary, all to remain in good standing with the people who openly despise them. These are House Negros on the liberal plantation who loved or feared their masters so much that they worked to keep other slaves in line. These are the Jews in concentration camps that helped the guards.

    Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote in one of his books that people in the USSR were only really free when they were prisoners in the Gulag. People who have nothing more to lose don’t have to kow-tow to those who can take their belongings or status.

    Andrew Breitbart understood this and it’s one of the reasons his death was marked by genuine mourning, knowing that we had lost a fearless champion. When Rush dies, we will also feel a void. When these modern Brutuses pass, their passing will be remarked and quickly forgotten, their places taken by others like so many interchangeable parts.

    Be Breitbart.

  56. Check out racks? Ok. Will do.

  57. Well stated, but allow me to elucidate some points further.

    One, Fish isn’t proposing a true standard but a rationalization being asked to do duty as a standard.

    Two, all major US political parties have had liberalism (that is, promotion of individual liberty) as a component. The Whig, Republican (and, naturally, Libertarian) parties were explicitly founded on Enlightenment Liberalism. The Democrats have had a more distant relation, but the surge of Northern Dems in taking initiative in the ’60s and ’70s on Civil Rights gave them some claim to fame they are still milking. Today’s Progressives/Social Democrats making the bulk of the Dem party are actually anti-liberal. It is curious and noteworthy that even sophisticated progressives (that is, who understand what they are actually up to) are keen to play up the liberal label and associate themselves with past policy successes that actually were liberal. (They must not have a high regard for our smarts.)

    The most economical rule of thumb for liberal (strict sense) vs. progressive is whether the locus of political control is perceived as residing with the individual (liberal) or with (anointed) political elites (progressive).

    Three, in my experience, the thing that most devastatingly deflates a lefty is good-natured ribbing together with pointing out his many inconsistencies-they think they are morally and intellectually superior after all.

    The Obama presidency and the coming national repudiation of the progressivism he stands for based on its manifest and manifold failures promises should deliver the humiliation wide-scale. Meanwhile, we each need to do our part!

  58. What a remarkable confession. Fish’s position boils down to, “You (conservatives) think you’re right. We (progressives) know we’re right.”

    And if you object that he is accepting the principle of might makes right, his reply is, Sure, I can live with that.

    It’s a rare thing for a progressive to show his hand so openly.

  59. Chazzle –

    That’s actually a running theme here, that today’s self-described liberals tend to be anything but. Even in his piece, Fish on one hand counsels to break from the constraints of liberalism as understood classically — while he continues to apply the label of liberal to his side, knowing as he does that it is plump with historical signification unearned by those currently wearing it like contented belly flab.

  60. Instapundit linked this post.

  61. George O:
    “…hi-cap mag….

    ….Carolla noted that this attitude accounts for the NRA’s relative success over the years in politics. Perhaps we ought to defend our very words with the same alacrity.”

    Ayup. And in that spirit we don’t give in to the Lefty hype by calling them ‘high capacity magazines’, we call them by their proper name which is ‘standard capacity magazines’.

    As Jeff has noted for years now on this blog, when we give up the definitions to the Left, we lose.

  62. memeorandum posted this too

  63. C.S. Lewis wrote:

    “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

    Fits modern-day liberalism to a T.

    Hale Adams
    Pikesville, People’s Democratic Republic of Maryland

  64. Glad to hear it, Jeff. It’s often lonely to point out those distinctions.

  65. There’s one itsy-bitsy thing wrong with this post & the comments on it.

    I’ve known Stanley Fish for 30 years. He is NOT a liberal. He’s a conservative, through and through. You would know that he was a conservative if you read his NYT posts regularly; he’s a big fan of Sarah Palin, for instance.

    That’s why it is not surprising that he thinks one rule applies to one’s “tribe” and another rule to everybody else. So your little “expose’” is an expose’ of conservative thinking, not of liberal thinking. Nice try, though.

    This post, and the commentary on it, is one huge Emily Litella “Never mind.”

    Get a grip, people. You’re bashing a conservative, not a liberal. Bet you like Stanley better already.

    The Constant Weader at http://www.RealityChex.com

  66. If Stanley Fish is a conservative, I shudder to think what passes as liberal in your circles.

  67. There’s one itsy-bitsy thing wrong with this post & the comments on it.

    I’ve known Stanley Fish for 30 years. He is NOT a liberal. He’s a conservative, through and through. You would know that he was a conservative if you read his NYT posts regularly; he’s a big fan of Sarah Palin, for instance.

    Marie –

    I certainly allowed that Fish was making the argument tongue-in-cheek, which doesn’t change the thrust of what he wrote, just as Swift’s having been taken seriously in a Modest Proposal wouldn’t have changed the thrust of his argument — just the way we’ve come to interpret it. This is the argument Fish made, and it remains to be seen if progressives will praise him for it or pretend it doesn’t exist.

    When I met Fish years back, he had really just then begun his taking a more intentionalist stance toward language; such a stance tends to manifest in a respect for individual autonomy. So it’s quite possible he’s moved to the right, away from his earlier academic incarnation as a proponent of reader response theory. And in fact I mentioned that in an email with someone earlier today.

    As to the rest of your comment, well, you seem not to understand classical liberalism at all: classical liberals are about individual autonomy, not tribal affiliation and consensus meaning, which is why you don’t see libertarians or classical liberals or even most legal conservatives pressing for things like race-based affirmative action, or faux-”diversity” measures that concentrate on cosmetic traits, or pernicious ideas of the kind that underpin, say, Said’s Orientalism. In fact, we tend to reassert the ideas of our founders and framers, who were classical liberals and who set up a system under which we were to be treated equally under the law, and beyond that free to pursue our various pursuits without centralized governmental molestation. When Fish speaks of moving outside the liberal calculus of equal measure among individuals, he is speaking of moving outside the classical liberal calculus. And he is counseling the left that doing this enables them to justify separating how they treat Maher from how they treat Limbaugh or Palin, etc. If he’s offering that advice as a conservative, he is doing it tongue-in-cheek. If he’s not, then he isn’t conservative or classical liberal. And if he’s offering it as a conservative to conservatives, then he’s just wrong.

    So were I you, I’d base my assertion that Stanley Fish is conservative on your knowing him to be from personal testimonial experience. Because explaining his conservatism by way of trying to suggest conservatives are the proponents of an identity politics measure of either morality or “knowledge” is just plain cuckoo. (By the way, Alan Dershowitz is a big defender of Israel; and yet he’s a lefty. So I assume one can like Sarah Palin and still be a liberal.)

    All of which is to say, I think it’s you who should get a grip.

    I’ve read Fish for years, by the way. And argued for him when I thought him correct and against him when I thought him incorrect or slippery. No shit. You can even check my archives.

    Bet you like me better already. So the “nevermind” is back in your court, Ms Litella.

  68. Heck, I hadn’t thought so much about the question of liking Stanley or not liking Stanley marie, since I don’t know him. It may or may not be of any interest to others here though, they’ll have to say. I do happen to notice you don’t make a claim to like him. But I’ll forgo assuming that means anything one way or the other.

    As to the other question whether I should say nevermind? I think I wouldn’t.

  69. I’ve known Stanley Fish for 30 years. He is NOT a liberal. He’s a conservative, through and through. You would know that he was a conservative if you read his NYT posts regularly; he’s a big fan of Sarah Palin, for instance.

    please do cite mr. fish’s views as a conservative once. reading him seems to point to a panderer of sorts ie talking from multiple sides of the lip.

  70. One other thing, Marie –

    Your belief that because you labeled Fish a conservative, we here would suddenly “like him better,” kinda sinks your suggestion that it’s conservatives who believe in the tribalistic moral calculus Fish offers in his piece. When it’s you who seems to think we chose our positions that way. I mean, not to put too fine a point on it, but you pretty much just made my freakin’ point for me.

    – Which you’d have caught yourself, were you anywhere near how smart you think you are.

    But thanks for signing up. You were quite useful, as it turns out!

  71. Having now briefly perused the website referred to us by marie burns, I think it’s safe to say that Stanley Fish is only conservative in the sense that he’s not sufficiently liberal by her standards (which is to say, I was just as right as I knew I’d be).

    Seems to me I remember Jeff did a post about ideological labels and moving goal-posts some time ago.

  72. Perhaps Stanley Fish has transcended ideology and just says the correct thing in any given situation or else recognizes that there is no correct thing and thus provides various stimuli that one may either use wisely or unwisely.

    Or perhaps he is the 21st century schizoid hive-minded man who’s multitudinous and contradictory components make war and peace with one another and yield a confused composite being who thinks in the form of some networked consensus of impulses formed exactly the same way that small town democracies vote. There are presumably a lot of inner children, savage shadow selves, Pepsi commercials, and bits of grandma’s wisdom all smacking each other around in Herman’s head to form Mr. Fish’s opinions from moment to moment.

  73. No. He’s said nice things about Sarah Palin (the bitch) ergo, he must be conservative.

  74. Does Ace of Spades know how this works? They should be informed before they make a blunder.

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  76. Get a grip, people. You’re bashing a conservative, not a liberal. Bet you like Stanley better already.

    Perhaps you should avoid projecting your own tendencies upon others.

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  81. Marie is demonstrating the lefty modus operandi – their big tent that allows people who should be ideologically opposed to each other marching side by side. You know, like union workers and greenpeace.

    And “Queers for Palestine”.

  82. They, of course, operate under the “NEVER CRITICIZE” each other rule, while we tear each other apart.

  83. Does this mean I can go back to using the “some of my best friends are…” defense? I have some seriously offensive jokes to tell.

    Of course, they are only seriously offensive to the L7 crowd, and they’re not really funny, but hey, the Hail Mary ain’t that great a poem either. Knowhutahmsayin’?

  84. Jeff wrote: One other thing, Marie –

    Your belief that because you labeled Fish a conservative, we here would suddenly “like him better,” kinda sinks your suggestion that it’s conservatives who believe in the tribalistic moral calculus Fish offers in his piece. When it’s you who seems to think we chose our positions that way. I mean, not to put too fine a point on it, but you pretty much just made my freakin’ point for me.

    As Russell Kirk wrote:
    …For there exists no Model Conservative, and conservatism is the negation of ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order.

    The attitude we call conservatism is sustained by a body of sentiments, rather than by a system of ideological dogmata. It is almost true that a conservative may be defined as a person who thinks himself such. The conservative movement or body of opinion can accommodate a considerable diversity of views on a good many subjects, there being no Test Act or Thirty-Nine Articles of the conservative creed.

    http://www.kirkcenter.org/index.php/detail/ten-conservative-principles/

    As we do not subscribe to any system of ideas, conservatives, we do not, as you say, blindly side with any tribe [ie: ideology]. Kirk again: ‘…conservatism is the negation of ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order’ and, therefore, we do not march in lock-step with our fellows just because they are our comrades, as it were; we believe in something because we have determined that it is honorable and moral to do so. That’s Free Will properly exercised right there, and the Left cannot tolerate it.

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  87. Not quite OT, but tangential, from the Kristol article linked above in the comments…

    Romney: Here’s my view: If somebody—if somebody can afford insurance and decides not to buy it, and then they get sick, they ought to pay their own way, as opposed to expect the government to pay their way. And that’s an American principle. That’s a principle of personal responsibility.
    . . .
    So, I said this: If you can afford to buy insurance, then buy it. You don’t have to, if you don’t want to buy it, but then you got to put enough money aside that you can pay your own way, because what we’re not going to do is say, as we saw more and more people .??.??.

    What’s incomprehensible to me is how Romney arrives at his mandate-loving conclusion, given the premise he starts out with.

    The problem is that Romney (and, really, anyone arguing for a health insurance mandate) ignores half the problem. That problem is twofold:

    On the one hand, there have always been people who don’t buy insurance (whether or not they can afford it) and don’t have money put away to pay for unforeseen medical expenses.

    On the other hand (and this is the part everyone ignores), there is the “tradition” of not denying care to anyone for inability to pay.

    The combination of these two “hands” is necessarily catastrophic in the long term.

    What is needed is a reexamination of this tradition of free care. The elimination of this system and its replacement with a no-pay, no-care ideal, will quickly dry up the first problem. People who would otherwise not buy insurance despite being able to afford it will have no choice but to either make sure they have substantial savings or buy insurance. For those who cannot afford either insurance, savings, or catastrophic expenses, there should be indigence funds, run by some combination of the hospitals, state and/or local governments, and private charities. Secured bank loans for medical expenses should also be easily and quickly obtainable.

    Watch costs plummet as hospitals (and private practices and clinics) are no longer forced to inflate prices to compensate for the losses generated by the dispensation of free care.

    Bottom line – regardless of Romney’s principles or lack thereof, does the fact that his improper (and severely unconservative) prescription stems from his incomplete-by-half diagnosis make him incompetent even as a pragmatist technocrat?

  88. It is not even about whether Fish is a conservative or a liberal, it is about whether he is a post-modernist or a realist – he describes himself as an “anti-foundationalist”. I for one have been writing about the danger of the wave of post modernist thought that is rampant in the Democratic party and is beginning to take hold in certain conservative enclaves.

    From a post at my site:

    Fish’s position dovetails perfectly into a Godless, post-modern belief that there is no truth except what I believe there is, all things are relative and that universal truths and natural laws are to be ignored because they simply don’t exist in a post-modern construct. Fish may not be a “progressive” by definition but he certainly shares the same vision that we all are to create a virtual world where nothing matters except what we want and that there are no rules accept those that we make for ourselves.

    Fish and the post-modernists are maddening to me because they never address the legitimacy of creating this Utopian virtual world where being right doesn’t matter. They never successfully address how the universal truths and natural laws of the world are wrong, they simply argue that we must ignore them. As I have written in the past, this is akin to an intellectual Ponzi scheme, building a tower upon a crumbling foundation of illegitimate ideas and relativist “truths”.

    Therein lies the problem with contemporary society in a nutshell.

    Modern man has convinced himself of his self-righteousness and superiority to God’s Nature, yet in every civilization there comes a time of collapse where mankind is taught once again that natural law is real and we must painfully re-learn that lesson. The greatest civilization known to man, the Roman Empire, learned that in 476 BC. I hope that through examination of the foolishness of men like Stanley Fish and the whole post-modernist/”progressive” movement, America can avoid that fate.

    I agree with Jeff G. on the definition of a classical liberal and have seen my personal journey go from Republican to conservative to classical liberal as the first two mutated from ideologies into political movements.

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  90. Marie is demonstrating the lefty modus operandi – their big tent that allows people who should be ideologically opposed to each other marching side by side. You know, like union workers and greenpeace.
    And “Queers for Palestine”.

    They, of course, operate under the “NEVER CRITICIZE” each other rule, while we tear each other apart.

    Well Carin, here’s why (bold emphases mine):

    As we do not subscribe to any system of ideas, conservatives, we do not … blindly side with any tribe [ie: ideology]. Kirk again: ‘…conservatism is the negation of ideology: it is a state of mind, a type of character, a way of looking at the civil social order’ and, therefore, we do not march in lock-step with our fellows just because they are our comrades, as it were; we believe in something because we have determined that it is honorable and moral to do so. That’s Free Will properly exercised right there, and the Left cannot tolerate it.

    I agree with Jeff G. on the definition of a classical liberal and have seen my personal journey go from Republican to conservative to classical liberal as the first two mutated from ideologies into political movements.

    We argue because we have a lot to disagree about. The left doesn’t because they’re in fundamental agreement that there’s nothing in the status quo worth preserving. It’s easy to be for change when you don’t care what that change is.

  91. Richard Fernandez at Belmont Club adds his take on the Fish piece.

    The usual process in dealing with lies is to regard all declarations from that source as suspect unless corroborated. “Falsus in unum, falsus in omnibus”.

    The answer, as supplied by Stanley Fish of the New York Times, is that certain doctrines are so true that in order to falsify them you must go byte by byte, from the beginning of the record to the end of it, leaving no slice unrefuted if you are to falsify them in their entirety. False in one, or two, or n, and n+1, but true in all. The liberal narrative is like a self-sealing fuel tank of political truth. You can shoot as many holes in it as you like, but the rest of the container oozes over the breach and the whole remains intact.

  92. Didn’t the Stalinists used to talk about the difference between “bourgeois” and “revolutionary” truth?

  93. Ernst – I don’t have a problem with disagreement among conservatives. I don’t like the tenor, at times. But it must be acknowledge that the liberal approach has served them, politically, better.

    That’s how they get blacks voting with the gays, and Environmentalists voting with the UAW.

    Eh. I don’t have any answers.

  94. Mostly I just appreciated the sequence of comments and decided to call attention to it.

  95. We still haven’t committed to a thorough analysis of the two literary examples Fish uses, from The Wild Bunch, and Paradise Lost, with the Daley family story sandwiched in between. I’d attempt it but very much doubt my capacities to do the analysis well. As a first impression, in any event, we’re sailing into a sea of the question of “honor among thieves”, one of the earliest of such double standard questions to appear among men, I’d guess.

  96. We argue because we have a lot to disagree about. The left doesn’t because they’re in fundamental agreement that there’s nothing in the status quo worth preserving. It’s easy to be for change when you don’t care what that change is.

    I really don’t think this is why they march in agreeable disagreement.

    I think the truth is ignorance. And myopia. Liberal women ONLY care about reproductive rights. They don’t care about the rest. Liberal gays ONLY care about gender politics. UAW members ONLY care about their wages and worker’s rights … etc.

    I think many are absolutely ignorant of their fellow traveler’s concerns, and the liberal powers-that-be and opinion makers like it that way.

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  98. I think of that as the flip side of the coin I’m talking about Carin.

    Until every chil’ is a wanted chil’ (to quote Joycelyn Elders), there can be no social justice and the imperfect existing order deserves to be overthrown. Until every human joining concievable is not only recognized, but celebrated, there can be no social justice, etc. Until every working man wears the Union lable, etc. etc.

    They don’t particularly care about the varying Ends they all pursue, because they’re united in the Mean (i.e. overthrow the existing imperfect social order).

  99. Thank you Ernst.

  100. A classical liberal need Stanley Fish like a bicycle needs __________________.

  101. Gloria Steinem?

  102. I think classical liberals would mostly argue about how much liberty we are willing to give up in exchange for some perceived good. I assume we’re all in favor of promoting liberty, so the questions come down to where to draw the lines on the encroachment of said liberty.

  103. I think traditional conservatives and social conservatives have some concern about the proper ends of liberty. Some things wouldn’t be seen as an encroachment on liberty, because you shouldn’t be at liberty to do those things in the first place.

    Slightly (or not, as the case may be) different perspective on the issue you raise.

  104. That’s why I don’t call myself a conservative, Ernst.

  105. Just saying that some of the contention on the right is legitimate, and not about who swimgs the biggest….

  106. that should be an n not an m

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  108. This post was so good I hit the tipjar.

  109. I’m sure Stacy’s grateful, but what about Jeff?

  110. A classical liberal need Stanley Fish like a bicycle needs __________________.

    Broken glass.

  111. carbon dioxide?

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