modernheretic

As I hear more and more about “sensitivity readers”—editors who are charged with screening books in advance of publication to ensure that the content does not result in ignorant or offensive portrayals of minority groups—I am reminded of classic American cinema from the 1930s through the 1960s and of the analogue to sensitivity readers that they had in the form of the Motion Picture Production Code.

Many people see movies from this era as quaint and old-fashioned and picture the quintessential image of the married couple sleeping in separate beds so as not to give even the illusion of sex. What most of them do not know is that such an image was artificially induced due to a minority of the population having editorial control over movie production. From 1934 to 1968, all movies had to comply with an editorial code known as the Hays Code, which forbade profanity (including religious blasphemy), interracial relationships, suggestive nudity, sexual perversion, illicit drugs, etc. Movies prior to the Code era were racy, and, in the well-documented opinion of film critic Mick LaSalle, way more subversive than contemporary films.

When people think of censorship, they think of government, but censorship can occur privately too, as it did with the Hays Code. After a series of scandals and sensational films, Hollywood was facing substantial pressure to reform. Catholics mobilized against the industry and organized a substantial boycott of theaters that resulted in a significant reduction in sales, much like how progressives mobilize today to pressure companies into deplatforming ideas they do not like. At the same time, governments were beginning to propose bills to regulate the film industry. In order to bypass these threats, the film studios banded together to create a private trade association that would regulate the industry. For thirty-four years, filmmakers had to submit their films to private censors who would force them to change any material deemed inappropriate, which often included rewriting story lines to make them more morally righteous in line with Catholic dogma.

As LaSalle observed in his book Complicated Women, the effect of the Code was very regressive, particularly for women. Movies in the early 1930s focused often on women’s stories, and these stories featured emancipated women who had their own careers and ambitions, who pursued sexual conquests outside of marriage, who bucked moral conventions, and who were not content to be reduced to housewives. Once the Code was enforced, these stories could no longer be told, or, to the extent that they were told, the female characters had to be severely punished for their transgressions to teach women across the country that it does not pay to be liberated. LaSalle argued in his book that even after the end of the Code era, women’s roles in film have never recovered the subversiveness they originally exalted in during the pre-Code era of the 1930s.

In addition to the effects on women, black people were virtually erased from film after the Code was enforced. Film companies had to make sure not to give blacks too prominent a role in predominately white films or to portray them as equal to whites. Blacks were relegated to subservient roles. Even a movie about a light-skinned black woman who passed for white was played by a white actress to avoid any actual miscegenation. As a result, we are left with a large body of films from the first half of the 20th century in which black people are almost non-existent to cater to the racist whims of a portion of the population (which, to be fair, was not limited to Catholics). All of this censorship resulted in a distorted view of reality while obscuring the forces at work that actively created that distortion.

Consequently, for almost 40 years, the movie industry was captured by the Catholic contingent of the population. Every movie that came out of Hollywood had to reflect a Catholic perspective. For almost half a century, a religious minority had a stranglehold on the film industry, and the entire population of the country, regardless of religion, was subjected to Catholic morality in their entertainment. During this era, a generation of screenwriters and directors had to shape, limit, and sometimes silence their own voices to gain the approval of the censors.

We inherited many amazing movies from this era in spite of this external and internal censorship. In some ways, we may have gotten better movies because of the censorship, with screenwriters having to resort to more wit and nuance to get their messages across without attracting the ire of the censors. But as LaSalle noted, we lost a lot too in the form of perspectives, stories, and voices that we still have yet to recover. Cinematic history has been changed forever because of the censorship, and the future is still being impacted by the residual effects of the years of conditioning the American public to see the world through Catholic and racialized lenses. It should be noted that, though the Code is dead, the enforcers of the Code still live on as the Motion Picture Association of America, or MPAA.

The rise of sensitivity readers appears to me to be a step back to the Code days, albeit with a different minority controlling the messaging. Trying to ensure fair representation of minorities in media is a laudable goal, but this trend could allow an elite, homogeneous minority to impose their worldview on society just as Catholics did with the movie Code.

Racial and other groups are not monolithic, and its members do not all think the same way. Sensitivity is in the eye of the beholder. Having seen what some people today deem offensive enough to censor, I shudder to think about what characters, stories, and ideas I will miss out on because someone more sensitive than me finds it offensive. Sometimes in trying to walk the impossible tightrope of sensitivity to all, the end result is content that is bland, muted, and safe.

Certainly there have been many movies, television shows, and books that relied on lazy, racial caricatures that could have benefited from adding more nuance and complexity to their minority characters, but I am skeptical that sensitivity readers are an ideal way to accomplish that. We may gain improvements in diversity representation (some of which will be debateable), but, as with the Code, we will suffer collateral damage in the loss of diversity of expression overall, making media output increasingly bland and homogeneous.

But more than that, by creating an artificial veneer of “sensitivity,” we are losing insight into the very times that we live in just as the movies censors did by forcing all films to have a veneer of virtuousness. Censorship, even willing self-censorship, ultimately shrinks the marketplace of ideas and diminishes the ability to discuss certain topics with nuance or at all. And the people who ultimately will be the victims (or beneficiaries, depending on how you look at it) of this censorship will have no voice in these matters and will have to again passively accept being fed someone else’s dogma.

It just goes to show that progress does not always mean moving forward.

The perpetual cycle of outrage in American society is so predictable as to be boring. It hardly takes a psychic to foresee the reactions to the events at the Capitol last week.

Progressives reacted with indignant outrage at the “storming” of the Capitol and the “insurrection.” To them, the protests was a violent riot, a mob attack on our government. They compare it unfavorably to the Black Lives Matter (“BLM”) protests of last summer; to them, last week’s events were an episode of domestic terrorism while the BLM protests were merely a peaceful exercise of constitutionally protected civil liberties. What little violence occurred during BLM events was not representative of the movement as a whole and was overblown by the media. Once the conservative protest was thus distinguished as treasonous, progressives felt, as is becoming increasingly typical, that they had the moral authority to actively censor anyone or anything related to the protests on social media.

Many conservatives see the Capitol protestors as true patriots, the remaining few who are willing to fight to protect the democratic values of the United States in the face of rampant electoral fraud. They blanch at the negative media portrayals of actions they believe to be righteous. To them, last week’s conservative protests were merely a peaceful exercise of constitutionally protected civil liberties, unlike the BLM protests, which were little more than lawless riots. What little violence occurred at the Capitol protest was not representative of the movement as a whole and was overblown by the media. Conservatives bristled at the left’s hypocrisy while simultaneously denying their own and were resentful of yet again being subjected to more censorship from the progressives, all of which reinforce the feeling of persecution.

The familiar and tedious script played out at usual, each side claiming righteousness and accusing the opposing side of being morally bankrupt. Each side rightfully pointed out the hypocrisy on the other side while ignoring the hypocrisy on their own side. Empathy, compassion, and tolerance for differences were once again casualties in this war between the United States’ political constructs of left and right.

What do people get out of participating in this cycle of outrage? No one’s life is made better for it. To the contrary, it seems to make people feel more stressed, fearful, and angry, and it is certainly making our country more divided. Progressives seem attached to the cycle of outrage because it gives them a smug sense of superiority over their opponents and, in this instance, a feeling of victory for their side.

My coworkers derisively deconstructed the events following the protest last week the same way they would the outrageous antics of a reality television show. They indulged in a mocking tone that has become common in the cultural script for assessing political events, a tone that prevents engagement with the other side’s ideas in any meaningful way. Our politics is entertainment, simply another reality show to watch on television.

To my blue state cohorts, conservative Americans provide comedic relief as people too stupid and backwards to see the supposed truth of progressive thought. If a red state American disagrees with a progressive idea, it is because they are too provincial and uneducated to know better or because they are simple-minded bigots. There is no acknowledgment that their different viewpoints could be the result of different values and lifestyles that are equally valid as those borne of coastal, urban life. This worldview is reinforced by the fact that many of the conservatives that we are exposed to in the media are provocateurs who make their fame and fortune by being outrageous and offensive.

This attitude of superiority filters through the news media companies, which are centered in major blue state cities like New York and Washington, D.C., and pervades the news product in the selection and portrayal of news stories and players. As financially struggling news media companies increasingly capitulate to progressive employee and audience demands to be on the right side of “truth,” the problem has gotten worse and the news perspectives more condescending and homogeneous. It is no wonder that conservatives and independents are flocking to alternative media where they can at least get some validation of their values as well as some diversity in perspective.

Progressives are only inflicting injury on themselves and the country by being dismissive of the sizeable portion of Americans, including half of Republicans and 30% of Democrats according to some polls, who believe that the election was stolen. That is tragic, and we should be ashamed at laughing off such a large portion of the population feeling politically disenfranchised. That is a dangerous idea that undermines our very #democracy and should not be written off as the rantings of people too stupid to see the facts. Such dismissiveness will only lead to more “insurrections” down the road.

That so many people believe the election was stolen is indictment of the state of politics and news in this country. The people who believe the election was stolen are not the problem. Online media trafficking in conspiracy theories are not the problem. Trump, though he fanned the flames of the conspiracy, is not really the problem. The actual problem is that there is no longer a universal standard that all Americans trust for reliable information.

The news media and tech companies have lost people’s trust by their choices in recent years. Their obvious promotion of a progressive narrative to the exclusion of all others and their censorship of information and opinion that does not fit the narrative stripped them of their status as objective purveyors of information. Now they are standard-bearers for the Democratic cause and are seen by many as mere propagandists who are trying to shape the way Americans think. Further #censorship, besides being illiberal and anti-democratic, only exacerbates this problem. Rather than changing how people think, it radicalizes them more.

We need more freedom, not less. We need more diversity in viewpoints and more rigorous discussion. It is only when Americans of different political stripes feel that their voices are properly represented in the media landscape that they will also feel a sense of political efficacy.

The framers of the United States Constitution understood the essential truth about humanity: people loathe non-conformity and are given to tyrannical impulses. They cannot stand that other individuals can think, speak, believe, live, and act differently than they themselves do. Groups coalesce around uniformity, so deviance is a threat to the group. It is an intrinsic quality of the group to use its collective power to bend non-conformists to its will. That is why history is replete with certain groups dominating and oppressing other groups, usually on the basis of religion, national origin, ethnicity, etc. Once a majority forms around certain beliefs and behaviors, that group will try to oppress those outside the group.

The framers recognized this problem even as they themselves continued to engage in similar group dynamics in their own lives. Though they did not fully live up to their lofty and novel ideals of equality, they strove to create a form of government that would allow multiple, diverse groups to coexist. They realized that the only way to protect minority groups was to ensure the recognition of #liberty rights endowed in the individual. As long as individuals are free to live, think, speak, pray, and act in a manner of their own choosing, groups can sustain themselves regardless of whether they are in the majority and without persecuting other groups. Thus, individual liberty is essential to preventing tyrannical rule by a majority.

But enumerating individual liberties for protection is only half of the solution. In Federalist No. 10, James Madison articulated the potential problem of a group ascending to such dominance that it can wield the power of government against its dissenters, thereby revoking or ignoring the individual protections outlined in the Constitution. He argued that such factions would not be able to co-opt the federal government because the United States was too expansive and diverse. Even if a faction managed to seize power locally, it would not be able take control over the whole country because the regions are too sprawling and diverse to succumb to distant and foreign influences. Each region could have its own faction, but these factions would be varied enough that the country as a whole would not be overtaken by one group. Any success a group might have in gaining national prominence would simultaneously cripple it; to appeal to such wide swaths of people requires diluting the essence of the group to make disparate peoples feel equally welcome.

Unfortunately, James Madison could not have foreseen the homogenizing effects of future technologies like television and the internet. Whereas in his day the media was consumed from mainly local purveyors providing the information that was most relevant to its own locality in written form, today everyone in the country is tuned into a select few media organizations based out of a handful of cities around the country and which remain viable by keeping their consumers in a perpetual, irrational state of fear and outrage that is not conducive to deep and reasoned thought. Local journalism has been decimated by the internet, so news is now consumed from a mostly national perspective as filtered by a homogeneous collection of college-educated, affluent, urban, coastal progressives who in their delivery of news also unconsciously disseminate the belief systems of their own urban echo chambers. Everyone in the country now gets slight variations on the same overarching narrative, which boils down to a few emotionally charged, national themes that are each divided into exactly two diametrically opposed positions usually aligning with one of the two major political parties. As a result, all Americans regardless of background or geography now receive the bulk of information about the world in the same sensationalized and reductionist format from the same, limited echo chamber, a feat that was not possible in Madison’s time.

Additionally, Americans are almost never disconnected from these emotionally charged narratives since they are plugged into the internet at all times through their smartphones and other devices. Continually and passively receiving information that causes fear and outrage is the default. Absent concerted effort, they never have the space to receive more diverse information, to transition back to a more rational state of mind, or to otherwise think for themselves because 24/7 mainstream news headlines and other online notifications take all their attention. And even where they do make an effort to find information outside the mainstream narrative, it is becoming increasingly common that such information is censored by online media companies. Thus, Americans are being conditioned on a daily basis to see the world from the same, limited perspective; they have in effect been turned into a national faction centered around affluent, urban, elite values.

More troubling still, the major internet media companies are also dominated by highly educated, affluent, coastal, urban progressives, and their control over the most widely used online fora enables them to further project their worldview onto the populace. They openly and repeatedly censor and ban information and opinions that deviate from their personal beliefs. These progressives perform their #tyranny in the name of #science and #inclusivity, but that does not make it any less oppressive than doing so in the name of religious or racial prejudice. They are merely another instance in a long line of persecutors who justify their suppression of opponents in terms of the supposed societal good.

Tech companies put a lot of successful effort into ensuring that almost all functions of speech and association were transferred online, so the public square is now effectively based on the internet. Consequently, they have the power to censor information they do not like, to stop people from associating with other like-minded individuals, and to prevent protests and events from being planned and advertised. With tech companies having private control over nearly all the speech that takes place on the internet and an oft-demonstrated will to exercise that control to shape opinion, Americans no longer have a meaningful right to free speech and association. Tech companies have become leaders of the domineering faction that the founders feared and ultimately failed to protect against. The framers of the Constitution could not foresee that one day there would exist private companies that would have powers of #censorship that could rival government’s power.

The loss of meaningful speech and association rights is an abysmal situation, especially since it augurs a more threatening situation: factious control of the government against dissenters. Already, Americans have been primed by social media to have an authority figure regulate their speech, and they are increasingly comfortable with the idea of centralized authority control so that it is common now to see individuals calling for censorship offline as well as online. These attitudes have already successfully infiltrated and influenced news rooms and publishing companies, which used to be at the vanguard of free speech issues. Organizations like the American Civil Liberties Union have abandoned the civil liberties portion of their missions because of this change in climate. The antagonism towards free speech has become so normalized that university professors, activists, and politicians openly express illiberal ideas and make demands for censorship of those that are deemed to be on the wrong side of progressivism. It has also become common for people to disparage those who continue to assert individual liberty rights.

These are all signs that a faction has ascended to dominance in this country; has achieved a level of collective #groupthink which people are discouraged from questioning; and is attempting to use its power to silence its opponents, amplify favored voices, and further the agenda of the most vocal members. Both sides of the aisle are prone to these same tyrannical impulses, but the left-wing faction is the more imminent threat currently because of their control over nearly all the fora where the majority of speech now takes place.

Politicians and private companies have learned to pander to this faction in order to curry favor with customers and to avoid being the target of ire for upsetting the #progressive group. This tendency to appease the progressive faction has bled into the news rooms of #media companies, with people from without and within now pressuring these companies to take a more activist role in contrast to the neutral stance that was the ideal for many decades. The line between factual news and editorials is now blurred. This of course serves the faction’s intention of indoctrinating more people into its narrative of of the world, but it alienates those who are not inclined toward the faction’s beliefs. The alienated observe all the little ways the news is curated to present a progressive narrative—from word choice to angle selection to omission of facts to outright censorship—and they come to distrust the news itself, recognizing that, whether intentional or not, that dogma is being served along with the facts. This is hugely corrosive to democracy because if one does not trust the fact-tellers, then one does not trust the facts. If Americans cannot even agree on basic facts, then there is no shared reality around which they can be united. Every person will trust only information from his or her own faction, leading to radicalization, polarization, and acrimony over community.

That is why I believe that the lack of resistance to factions rising to dominance is a preeminent threat facing the United States. Factions are a triple threat. Firstly, by controlling the selection and presentation of information they rob the individual citizen of agency and obstruct him or her from developing independent thoughts and conclusions. Secondly, by controlling flow of information to and from the individual, factions manage to artificially manipulate public opinion, possibly leading to political outcomes that do not truly represent the will of the people. And finally, they breed distrust in the news media and government among those who are outside of the faction, which erodes faith in democracy itself and prevents Americans from effectively using the political system to mediate their differences.

Whether the United States survives and remains a beacon of freedom and pluralism will depend on how committed Americans remain to their Liberal roots and whether they can resist the siren song of illiberalism even when they are in the dominant group. In short, Americans need to recommit to protecting individual and minority rights on principle regardless of whether it redounds to their benefit in that particular moment. It is only by ensuring that people in the minority are free to think and live differently that we guarantee the benefits of freedom and democracy for all Americans. If the least powerful among us are not free, then none of us are free.

The election of Donald Trump in 2016 humbled me and made me aware of the echo chamber I exist in and the failures of the media to present in good faith the thoughts and realities of those living outside urban, affluent, college-educated, Democratic enclaves. While I did not understand the appeal of Trump as a politician, I also did not believe as most on the left did that the people who voted for him were just racists and idiots. That explanation, besides being smugly offensive, was too reductionist to explain the motivations of a large, heterogeneous group of people, many of whom, I imagine, felt as frustrated with the lack of options as I did.

Even after Trump was elected, the media failed to report adequately on his policies and continued to this day to focus almost exclusively on the smoke and mirrors that are his tweets and contradictory, inflammatory statements. I was following the gold standard of news—the New York Times, Washington Post, NPR, etc.— and yet I knew little of what was happening policy-wise in the federal government. It took a conservative commentor lauding Trump’s policy accomplishments in response to a derisive op-ed that would have had me believe that Trump was accomplishing nothing that made me realize that I was learning nothing of substance from the news media. I was increasingly frustrated that the media was providing infotainment rather than information, and I was exhausted by the perpetual outrage cycle that the media was constantly feeding into. By focusing almost wholly on sensational click-bait stories, the media was creating a flawed and incomplete narrative of the state of the country, and I lost confidence in the news. Eventually, I cut back my consumption of news and took these revelations as a call to humility, a recognition that I need to try better to understand how others think outside of the narrative that I’d been presented with.

But many of my peers have done the opposite. They are more tuned in than ever into the cycle of outrage, each headline further reinforcing the narrative that the county faced an unprecedented threat in the form of Trump. For years I have watched in horror as purported liberals ironically adopted illiberal ideas in response to their fears that Trump’s term would usher in fascism. Apparently concluding that the ends would justify the means, they turned to illiberalism supposedly to protect against the decline of #Liberalism. Now people arguably on the left actively strive to censor ideas they do not like often on paternalistic grounds and to control the thoughts, speech, bodies, and behaviors of everyone else. Though operating in the name of anti-fascism, they became vocal proponents of fascist ideals.

This shift created a schism between myself and my supposed political allies on the left. The Liberal (in the classical, philosophical sense of ideology, not in the common usage that describes the political attitudes of people who tend to identify with the Democratic party and the left. I will use a capital ‘L’ to denote when I am referring to the Enlightenment philosophy rather than modern political attitudes.) values of liberty,  independence, pluralism, government restraint, and reason that I hold dear—that the country was founded on—used to be values that united the otherwise disparate populations of the United States.

Such cultural values form a creed, or a set of beliefs that the population shares, and creeds act as the nation's and individual's operating system, constantly running in the background of a person's mind so that they may not even be consciously aware of it though it shapes every action they take.  Increasingly, I find myself in a minority by continuing to champion these once bedrock ideals of Liberalism. There has been an ideological shift, and I frequently observe that Americans are disturbingly eager to cede longstanding Liberal ideals in favor of short-term exigencies. Even former champions of Liberalism like the ACLU are now retreating into this new illiberal mode of thought. In effect, many Americans now have a new set of values they operate on, values that are largely incompatible with the old. 

The Ideology Of Illiberalism

This burgeoning, illiberal ideology has the following values attached to it:

Collectivism: The mob rules over everyone. The individual is disposable and can be constrained to accomplish the group’s goals. It is proper to abridge the rights and welfare of the individual whenever the majority wishes it.

The individual is not intelligent or competent. The individual is easily swayed by information deemed dangerous by the group and therefore must be protected from that information through #censorship. There are no protections for deviant minorities.

There is a hollow dialectic of equity that fails to acknowledge that the group’s choices benefit some in the group more than others and a disregard for the harms suffered by those not favored by the group.

Authoritarianism: They believe heavily in expansive government and reliance on the state rather than on individual or local community reliance. Rather than limit government to protect individual freedom, government power should be utilized to the utmost to compel individuals into conforming to the majority. Again, since the majority assumes moral superiority, there are no protections for minority groups. They do not respect the concept of rule of law; rather, they feel the rules should be changed and constitutional rights violated to serve the desired ends. Moreover, general, unwarranted surveillance of the populace is appropriate, and the government should be able to compel individuals to act when it deems it necessary and without any due process.

Because of the jaundiced view of the individual as incompetent and ineffectual, there is a bias towards institutional solutions to every problem, especially government institutions. It is appropriate for the government to expand without limit to meet the goals of safety and conformity.

Further, every aspect of life and area of knowledge is outsourced to credentialed experts who are empowered to prescribe how the individual should act. #Science is reductionist and sacrosanct and, when wielded by authority, can quash non-quantitative, philosophical objections, including Liberal objections. Not complying with authority figures and experts is seen as immoral. Authority figures should be questioned sparingly. Absent state accreditation or other formal certification, the individual is not considered competent to question expert advice, which taken to the extreme means that the private individual should not question or criticize government policy. The lack of recognition of individual competence means the individual’s actions are not legitimate or appropriate when they contradict authority.

Risk Intolerance: They are completely intolerant of risk and discomfort, and they seek to eliminate all risk and suffering at all cost without reason. #Freedom is less important than safety. There is no balancing act, no recognition that some risks provide rewards, that some suffering can be necessary or even positive, or that the costs of eliminating the risk may outweigh the benefit. Anything that could cause pain is deemed an unmitigated evil to be avoided. These people believe that that which does not kill us does not make us stronger, and it is appropriate to employ government to avoid non-lethal risks. Every person is deemed drafted without due process to serve the cause of safety of others even at the expense of one’s own welfare. The collective pursuit of safety trumps the individual pursuit of happiness.

Because risk pervades all aspects of life, extreme risk avoidance coupled with #authoritarianism results in enabling government to police nearly every aspect of a person's life. The government can interfere to make the individual “safe” whether the individual wants it or not. Any person who admits a tolerance for some risk or hardship is deemed foolish, selfish, or malicious. Illiberalism encourages a culture of performative victimhood and discourages personal responsibility. The institutional bias inclines citizens to externalize all of their problems onto others and seek solutions outside of themselves instead of acknowledging their own loci of control.

This creates a cycle of fear; individuals are perceived as increasingly ineffectual in the face of institutional solutions, and that sense of impotence makes the world appear more dangerous in relation to the individual, who now has no sense of control over his own safety. The more risky the world appears to be, the more government and other authority figures are called on to make society safer, further disempowering the individual.

Conformity: There are right and wrong ways to behave and think, and the individual must conform to the group. There is no room for experimentation. Rather than tolerate diverse manners of lifestyles and faiths, the group expects the individual to bend to the majority. Once the group forms a consensus about a thought or action, then any deviance should be punished and eliminated. Dissenters are enemies, and questioning or criticizing the consensus even mildly is not permitted. If you are not with the group, you are against the group. Speech is deemed violence when incongruent with the group consensus. Loss of livelihood and ostracism are appropriate punishments for speech crimes and other deviant acts because it is important to send a message to those witnessing the speech that such divergence is unacceptable, which purposefully chills further such speech.

The marketplace of ideas needs to be highly regulated, and the individual should not be able to judge for him- or herself whether an idea has merit; rather, the group should actively censor supposedly inflammatory ideas and arguable misinformation to avoid allowing the individual, who is incompetent to judge for himself, to be seduced into deviance. The group must take control of the media in all its forms to ensure that only the accepted narrative is presented to the corruptible individual. It is an anti-intellectual and anti-scientific ideology, more concerned with ensuring that every person is indoctrinated into the proper mode of thought as determined by the elite members of the majority rather than trying to better understand the truth of a matter. Once the proper mode of though has been established by the majority (or more specifically the powerful elites who control the majority), it shall not be questioned, not even by disinterested scientists. If any new studies cast doubt on the group consensus, those studies should be censored. #Truth is something decided on by the most powerful voices in the #majority.

Post-Modernism: Nature is inherently flawed, individuals are broken, and technology is necessary to tame and correct both. There is no agreed upon #reality aside from the subjective group consensus dictated by the elite, no self-evident truths. Everything material is socially constructed and therefore not real, but the subjective is real when promoted by the majority. The focus is on fragmentary identities and labels that separate us from one another rather than on those universal truths that unite us. It is society’s and the individual’s job to validate other people’s subjective, internal realities and to constantly keep these subjective realities at the forefront of our existences, which perpetually reinforces the seeds of division that prevent true collective action and mobilization.

Liberalism vs. Illiberalism

Thus, illiberalism is a deeply paternalistic ideology that diminishes individual autonomy, eliminates diversity in thought and action, negates intelligent discourse, and uses government and institutional force to manipulate the populace into complying with the wishes of the elite. These modern values are in violent conflict with Liberalism’s values of individual liberty,  independence, pluralism, limited government, and reason. Americans now seem increasingly hostile to the Enlightenment ideals that provide the foundation for the country’s government. They value conformity more than liberty and diversity and cannot tolerate that their fellow citizens can think and believe differently than they do. And while these illiberal values have been flourishing on the left, many of the same tendencies are evident on the right as well (Although, due to reflexive opposition to the left and the fact that conservatives have become the target of leftist illiberalism, it is common to see those on the right today at least nominally defending Liberal values, unlike many on the left.).

Americans are more than willing to sacrifice freedom if it means they can be the ones dictating how others behave. No longer concerned with defending against illegitimate power, Americans now want to ensure they have the power to control other people's lives, bodies, thoughts, speech, and actions. Modern Americans value power more than freedom. We have regressed to the point that many Americans now openly sympathize with dictatorial appeals rather than the ideas of Enlightenment revolutionaries and philosophers. Consequently, the very rights and freedoms enshrined in the Constitution are under threat.

This illiberal ideology amounts to a secular #religion that a large portion of the population are attempting to foist on everyone else. The believers of illiberalism see their values as indisputable truth and will deride, police, ostracize, criminalize, and quash anyone who dares to question the new religion. To question or criticize is heresy. Consequently, to be a Liberal in today's society is to be a modern heretic.

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