On Wednesday, the New York Times published an opinion column by Thomas B. Edsall warning, “The Whole of Liberal Democracy is in Grave Danger at This Moment.” Like many pieces in the Times lately, this was a particularly laughable exercise in intellectual projection that nevertheless hints at the darker agenda of the Left: a one-party “democracy.”
Edsall first congratulates the Left for its open-mindedness and willingness to change convictions based upon evidence. Yep, that’s the hallmark of the modern Left: open-mindedness and a willingness to entertain evidence that challenges their beliefs. He cites a new paper out of Canada with a monstrously long title that amounts to an academic hit job on the “irrationality” of non-Leftists. On closer examination, the paper’s cited studies actually measure how people on the Left are much more likely to absorb the dogmatic assumptions of the Left and much less likely to tolerate controversial speech that challenges those assumptions.
The authors write, “Individuals who believe that beliefs should change according to evidence were: a) less likely to . . . [be] religious (and, specifically, theistic),” and “b) less likely to hold traditional moral values.” Contrary to Edsall’s assessment that conservatives are hostile to science, the paper also notes, “The correlation with conservative opinions and pro-science beliefs . . . were well above the 95th percentile.”
The test used a measurement called the Actively Open-Minded Thinking (or AOT) scale. Liberals, the paper notes, scored very poorly on the AOT scale on the question of free speech—agreeing with such statements as, “students should be able to block controversial speakers from giving talks at their university.” Conservatives, on the other hand, “more strongly disagreed” with censorship of “controversial” speech.
When one reviews the paper’s underlying studies, one quickly realizes that the investigators were not measuring “actively open-minded thinking,” but whether the test subjects properly absorbed the leftist assumptions the testers also assumed to be true. Thus, a student could receive a higher score for agreeing with statements about global warming and “microaggressions.”
Conservatives, the paper argued, were more likely to believe in “conspiracy theories.” What’s a “conspiracy theory?” The only example provided by the authors was a belief that “A small, secret group of people is responsible for making all major world decisions, such as going to war.” So, for example, a conspiracy theorist would question why the United States remains in Afghanistan in spite of public opposition to continuing the war.
The problem for Edsall is that too many people are receiving unapproved messages. Citing a Harvard study apparently commissioned to justify internet censorship, he writes, “While any group can come to believe false information, misinformation is currently predominantly a pathology of the right. Some conservative voters are even suspicious of fact-checking sites, leaving them particularly susceptible to misinformation.” Might that be because so many “fact checks” are hopelessly partisan?
So what exactly is the threat to democracy that has Edsall so excited? You only need one guess: Donald Trump.
The president, he argues, is responsible for an authoritarian dynamic. Try not to choke on the irony as you read this next quote: “Authoritarianism is a functional disposition concerned with maximizing oneness and sameness. The authoritarian dynamic activates, latent predispositions to authoritarianism and increases their expression in manifest intolerance. That is to say, intolerance is a function of the interaction of authoritarian predisposition with conditions of normative threat.”
You can tell somebody is an authoritarian when he fails to defend “legitimate political and social institutions that underpin societal stability and security [which] are a crucial pillar of democratic governance . . . in the real world, it is the authoritarians who are the revolutionaries.”Although Edsall doesn’t specifically call for censoring Trump, it’s clear that he would support it.
You can be forgiven for wondering whether these quotes were lifted from Mao’s little red book or the New York Times editorial pages. One is reminded of this quote from the most prolific mass murderer in human history:
The people’s state protects the people. Only when the people have such a state can they educate and remold themselves by democratic methods on a country-wide scale, with everyone taking part, and shake off the influence of domestic and foreign reactionaries, . . . rid themselves of the bad habits and ideas acquired in the old society, not allow themselves to be led astray by the reactionaries, and continue to advance—to advance towards a socialist and communist society.
Edsall, like all good modern leftists, doesn’t seek to win a debate in a two-party system. Debate itself has become the enemy. Only by eliminating the “authoritarian dynamic”—defined by the Left as anything opposing its dogmas—can we achieve the Maoist utopia of harmony that the New York Times wants for us.
When “reactionary” (i.e. non-Leftist) opinions are crushed, then we can have Edsall’s “democracy.”