By Scott Ross
In a waning year of the Roaring ‘20s Bertrand Russell famously delivered a lecture entitled “Why I Am Not a Christian.” Although I pretend to nothing approaching Russell’s excellent mind, nor to his precise articulation of its febrile thoughts, and while I do not for a moment imagine it is as courageous a thing in 2019 to admit of a distrust of liberalism as it was for an atheist to explain himself publicly in 1927, one has to move with caution nonetheless. For if there is one thing liberals hate more than conservatives, it’s progressives — or in any case those who lean either to independence of mind generally or to the far left sphere specifically. We who do not thunder with the herd must nevertheless tread gently.
Introducing his song “Love Me, I’m a Liberal” to a live audience in 1966, the late Phil Ochs noted, “In every American community there are varying shades of political opinion. One of the shadiest of these is the liberals… Ten degrees to the left of center in good times, ten degrees to the right of center if it affects them personally.”
But surely Ochs was being generous. In his own his time, and as he alludes to in his song, it was fashionable for liberals to applaud the efforts of Civil Rights workers and desegregationists while never once inviting a Negro into their homes (except perhaps to clean them) and, secretly, hoping integration would not arrive before their public school children were safely beyond its reach… or perhaps weighing the option of bombing the first bus that came to take the little darlings to another neighborhood.
The liberals of a decade prior were, nearly without exception, dedicated anti-Communists, only slightly to the sinister of J. Parnell Thomas and no more aware, apparently, of history or current geopolitical realities than Senator McCarthy. Were it to be pointed out to these types (which, in those days included not merely Democrats but moderate and even liberal Republicans, a class now entirely wiped off the political map) that no nation had suffered more in the late World War than the Soviet Union (8-10 million military deaths and 24 million civilians) or that it was Russia’s beating back of Hitler at Stalingrad which, more than any other single factor, including D-Day, led to the Allies’ ultimate defeat of Nazism, one would doubtless have been met with incredulous stares, quivering jowls and the trembling accusation that one was at the very least a parlor pink. If one, further, reminded his listener that Stalin repeatedly asked for assistance on the Eastern Front, was as consistently assured he would get it, and that FDR and Churchill reneged at every turn, preferring the blood-bath of Omaha Beach to a successful collaboration with Russia which might have made the D-Day landing superfluous… or that following Roosevelt’s death his successor instantly turned on the Russians, in contradiction of all previous assurances, and that, far from being a world aggressor, the Russian nation was entirely surrounded by our bases, with our missiles pointed squarely at her heart… the hearer of such appalling and treasonous sedition would almost certainly have reached for the nearest telephone and placed a call to his or her local branch of the FBI.
It is never the liberal who effects positive change. It is, rather, the radical (if, if you prefer a softer epithet, the progressive) for whom the notions of universal suffrage, collective bargaining, the 40-hour work week, complete social and political emancipation for the descendants of our former slaves, the eminently reasonable demands of feminism and of the call for gay rights and an end to unjust wars (or indeed to stop their beginning) are not merely conversant with American ideals and traditions but virtually demanded by them, who move the nation to action. Although at present these past victories are touted, in easily-available memes, as “liberal” shibboleths (“The Weekend Was a Crazy Liberal Idea”), they were and are nothing of the kind.
Even as a teenager I was uncomfortable both with Democrats and with liberalism, although I could not at the time have articulated precisely why, or explored in any meaningful way the alternative. But when, at 18, I registered to vote, I instinctively did so as an Independent — just as, a year later, I cast my first ballot against the “liberal” Democrat Jimmy Carter. Certainly I did not vote for that senescent Pithecanthropoid Ronald Reagan; as I would in 2016, I voted as an independent… which is to say, independently. Little the former (moderate) Republican John Anderson did later in his life, including the founding of FairVote, prevailing at the Supreme Court in Anderson v. Celebrezze, endorsing Nader in 2000, or helping to found the Justice Party in 2012, persuades me that my vote was in any way squandered. That, in 1976, Carter had potential is not in dispute. But that he chose to surround himself with slathering Cold Warriors such as the vicious, vengeance-maddened Zbigniew Brzezinski and to, rather than engaging the Soviets, place himself solidly against them, merely encouraged the following decade of Red-baiting, nearly unregulated arms acceleration and the cultivation of “freedom fighters” who would, inevitably (and, as they continue to do today) turn their American-made (or at least, -paid) arms against the United States… that is, when they had a moment free from their torture and slaughter of civilians. And let us not forget that it was the liberal Carter who exacerbated tensions with the Iranians by first physically embracing the hated Shah, then permitting him refuge after he fled the country.*
It was liberals who made possible the Hollywood and television Blacklist of the 1950s, and who permitted the establishment, and growing encroachment, of a National Security State which now permeates every fabric of our lives, and who sat back and watched, clucking their tongues as police first aimed fire-hoses at and sicced attack dogs on, then fired their guns at, peaceful Black marchers in Birmingham and Selma, and anti-war protesters in Chicago and at Kent State. It was liberals who did nothing to stop American activity in Chile, El Salvador and Honduras, which led to the wholesale killings of tens of thousands. It was liberals, whose old novels I still read and whose old movies I still see, who more than anyone else peddled and belabored the most venomous stereotypes about homosexual men in their books and television sketches and motion pictures, throughout the 1960s and ’70s and ’80s, well into the 1990s and even into the early Aughts, far beyond a point at which they would dare pillory any comparable group in the culture… aside, of course, from women, on whom it is always open season. The more liberal, indeed, the writer or filmmaker, the more flagrantly he nursed his often obsessive sexual victimizing; even the otherwise estimable civil libertarian William Bradford Huie, for example, drove me from the perusal of his The Execution of Private Slovik with a casual (and, as I recall, wholly unmotivated) loathing for queers, and the equally liberal Sidney Lumet’s period work is likewise inexplicably filled with homophobic contempt.
It was liberals who did nothing to curb the worst excesses of Carter’s successor. It should be remembered that, throughout Ronald Reagan’s eight-year Administration, it was Democrats, not Republicans, who were the party in charge of Congress and who, whatever their rhetoric, acquiesced time and again to the President’s wishes, approving his nominees and enacting his laws, exactly as they have those of the man they have professed to despise, and oppose, since 2016. It was the “liberal” Bill Clinton and his colleagues in Congress who gave us the disastrous Telecommunications Act of 1996 which has, by itself, changed Paddy Chayefsky’s 1976 Network from a satirical warning to a virtual documentary. It was a liberal named Madeline Albright who, asked whether the 500,000 Iraqi children dead as the result of U.S. sanctions were “worth it,” replied in the affirmative. It was liberals who, rather than enacting a universal healthcare plan which could have covered every man, woman and child in the nation, gave us a bill modeled on Mitt Romney’s Massachusetts plan. It is liberals who now tell us that single-payer — in the words of their erstwhile savior, Hillary Rodham Clinton — “will never happen.” (This is not to mention her laughing uproariously at the truly horrific 2011 murder of the Libyan Muammar Gaddafi, sodomized with a machete.)
It is liberals such as Pelosi, Schumer, Booker, Harris and Schiff who are now most in thrall to big pharma, the insurance industry, the military-industrial complex, the bankers and Wall Street generally. It was the “liberal” Barack Obama who, quite contrary to ending our illegal wars abroad, expanded two wars to seven… and liberals in Congress and the Senate who permitted, when they did not in fact encourage, him. It is liberals who evince public nostalgia for the un-indicted war criminal George W. Bush and who — including such alleged progressive stalwarts as the over-hyped and imbecilic Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez — wail and rend their garments over the passing of men such as his equally vile (and equally un-indicted) father, as well as the unrepentant war-monger John McCain. It is liberals who applaud and defend officials of CIA and even the once-hated FBI, whose current agents are the descendants of those who routinely infiltrated student groups and civil rights organizations in the 1960s and who murdered their leaders (Malcom, Martin, Fred Hampton) with impunity and without punishment or even governmental investigation. It is liberals who not only accede regularly to Trump’s demands but routinely give him more than he asks for; when he submits a defense budget larger than that of any previous occupant of the White House the Democrats, not content with that obscenity, tack on millions more. It was liberals who embraced a war-mongering sociopath as their candidate of choice and, having endured her all-too-predictable defeat, turned at last to the bogeyman-god of, not their own youths but that of their parents, as the receptacle into which they have placed all of their hurt, anger, fear and pique. And it is liberals now who, after three years of screeching that Trump is both a puppet of Vladimir Putin and an existential threat to America and the world, cheerlead for his attempts — roundly condemned by those nations not entirely in America’s thrall — at a putative putsch to eject from Venezuela its duly elected leader. There is your liberal “Resistance.”
The 2105-2016 election period was a bruising one, particularly if one had liberal friends. I suspect I lost more friendships during that 18-month period than during the previous several decades of my life, some of them stretching back 40 years and more, to childhood. As dispiriting as it was to see so many old liberals quiver with senile avidity over Clinton, to hear supposed lefties and alleged feminists like Gloria Steinem sneeringly dismiss young women in the Sanders camp as “boy-crazy” and the Human Rights Council proffer its endorsement, not to the candidate who has been a vocal, public supporter of gay rights since the early 1970s but to the woman who opposed marriage equality (until, that is, the magic 51% of respondents said they supported it) how much more depressing was it to hear and read the comments and see the actions of our own old friends as they championed, and campaigned for, a reactionary neocon in liberal Democrat pantsuits? For it is liberals who, succumbing to Hollywood pop-imagery, proclaimed themselves “The Resistance” and now hold marches in support of a man who helped lie us into Iraq and carry placards assuring us — as if we didn’t already know — that, if a mainstream (read: neoliberal) Democrat was in office, they’d be having brunch instead of making a protest.
Yet something larger than mere selfishness is at work here. Those of us who were equally repulsed by Clinton and Trump have not allowed our special disgust at the latter to interfere with our ability to think, and to reason, for ourselves; indeed, it was precisely this positive trait, I would argue, that would not permit us to vote for Trump’s immediate rival. And many of us who have been dismayed for three years by our liberal friends’ inability to sort reality from fantasy, truth from rumor (Steele dossier, anyone?) have presumed that they are exhibiting cognitive dissonance, an offshoot of the apparently permanent derangement with which so many were left by the seemingly endless election and the, to them, insupportable results of that protracted assault on our pretensions of Demos. But as my friend Eliot M. Camarena suggested to me recently, American liberals today are stuck in that phase the developmental psychologist Jean Piaget termed “transductive reasoning.” A few bits of definition and commentary should be sufficient to define the concept. (Thanks, Eliot.)
“As children progress from infants to toddlers, they also progress from the sensorimotor stage to the preoperational stage. The preoperational stage includes transductive reasoning. According to information on Piaget’s Theory from Michigan State University, transductive thought involves seeing a relationship between two things that are not actually related. Your child may be using transductive reasoning if she tells you that an orange is a ball. Because both the ball and the orange are round, her transductive reasoning tells her that they both must be a ball.” — Kristen Lee, List of the Cognitive Development of Early Childhood
“With transductive reasoning, a child reasons from case to case, ignoring important, well-established facts they have yet to learn. For example, a child might reason that pizza is triangular in shape rather than round, if they have only seen single slices. Also, a child might reach the conclusion that he is capable of turning into an Asian if he eats rice, because his friend Larry, who eats rice regularly, is Asian. Both of these cases exemplify the use of transductive reasoning.” —https://www.reference.com/world-view/transductive-reasoning-mean-eabbb9bff8ee8b16
“Transductive thinking in preoperational stage: Transductive thinking is prominent in children’s thoughts. They create a connection between two situations that occurs at the same time, even though there’s nothing in common to both of them. Transductive reasoning leads to illogical conclusions, since it involves reasoning from one particular instance to another particular instance without reference to the general. Transduction can sometimes yield a correct conclusion, but the overgeneralization resulting from this type of reasoning often leads to stubborn, rigid behavior. As the child matures, he becomes capable of logical thought based on inductive and deductive reasoning. ‘Inductive reasoning’ proceeds from specific to general ‘Deductive reasoning’ moves from general to specific.”
— Ashana Suri
“[Transductive reasoning] is so called because it focuses on concrete instances and does not follow the principles of either induction or deductive reasoning. Also called transductive logic, but this is avoided in careful usage, because it is clearly not a form of logic.” [Emphasis mine.]
Am I saying my liberal friends — those few I have left — are children? No. Merely that they are thinking like children. And in so doing, are assisting the very man whose presence in the Oval Office has driven them from reason. The unintended result of their ceaseless yammering and instant adoption and repetition of words and concepts (collusion, the Emoluments Clause, redaction) about which they know nothing has been to strengthen the position of Donald J. Trump with his electoral base… and perhaps with a considerable number of his quieter foes as well.
Such transductive reasoning as has gripped liberals for the past three years plus is, of course, wholly enabled and abetted by the legion of CIA assets in the American corporate media. As I write these words, the Ecuadoran Embassy this morning opened its doors to a phalanx of British secret police, who duly arrested and carried Julian Assange — “guilty,” as far as is known, of little more than being a publisher — into a waiting van. Passing by for a moment the shame-making sight of a dozen burly, uniformed thugs dragging one small, bedraggled and, from what one hears, seriously ill, man into the street — how brave the guardians of law! how noble the soldiers of order! — I note that the babbling heads on CBS This Morning have already begun the disinformation campaign, accusing Assange of, in addition to the spurious and easily disproven charge of “conspiring with and encouraging” Chelsea (then Bradley) Manning, of somehow being involved in the “Russian hacking of our elections.” Thus is the official National Security narrative begun, and reinforced. Next up: Endless reiterations of the false and discredited accusations of rape and the horrified/outraged cries that this Australian and, now, Ecuadoran citizen, is somehow a “traitor” to a nation he has never been a citizen of.
Cue too the delighted squeals of liberals across the land as Assange, slayer of their goddess, is first surrendered to U.S. authorities, then perhaps carried in secret to some “rendition center” (possibly in Saudi Arabia?), there to be further tortured and denied the basic jurisprudence no liberal would countenance having removed from him or her. But then, as they will no doubt smugly remind us all, they would not be engaged in “espionage.” (What do they think doing the bidding of America’s shadow government for pay is — knocking on doors for the Welcome Wagon?) What, one wonders, will their excuse be when they are dragged from their homes in the early morning hours? For an unfortunate majority of liberals, the concept that one is innocent until proven guilty is merely a quaint remnant of unenlightened thought. How else could they have kept going for three years, with a concomitant waste of our national treasure, their inane (if not indeed actually insane) natter that Trump, in the face of no supporting evidence whatsoever, has been demonstrably guilty of this offense, or that?
I was deeply depressed by the news this morning. That depression has given way to intense anger. But although I am at present absolutely livid, I have seldom been more relieved than I am at this moment that I am not a Democrat.
And I have never been prouder of not being a liberal.
* I had wondered often over the years, since the 1979 seizing of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, why, as the Shah was a Central Intelligence Agency-installed puppet, and as we are so often told by our elders and betters that the analysts employed by that Agency are non pariel, the C.I.A. was unable to warn the U.S. government to get its employees out of its embassy before the takeover. It has lately come to my attention that the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq during this crucial period was no less a personage than that chilling psychopath Richard Helms, one of the men most likely to have given the go-ahead for the assassination of John F. Kennedy. We may be forgiven, then, for entertaining the notion that Helms, no fan of Carter’s, knew what was coming, smiled that sneering grimace of his, and let it happen.
Text copyright 2019 by Scott Ross