A blog that critiques U.S. political culture from a radical left perspective and opposes illiberalism.

It’s just two weeks. It’s just staying three feet apart. It’s just staying six feet apart. It’s just not going outside. It’s just not giving handshakes. It’s just working from home. It is just non-essential businesses that are closed. It’s just bars. It’s just restaurants. It’s just theaters. It’s just concerts. It’s just dancing. It’s just intramural sports. It’s just choir. It’s just non-essential medical services that you have to give up. It is just non-essential items that you are not allowed to buy. It’s just not being able to exercise. It’s just gyms. It is just the closure of your business for a while. It is just not making money for a while. It is just not being able to pay your bills for a little while. It’s just a minor inconvenience. It's just not being allowed to carpool. It’s just not socializing for a while. It’s just a mask. It’s just not traveling for a while. It’s just not hugging people for a while. It’s just missionary sex that is risky. It is just not seeing your family and friends for a while. It’s just not visiting your grandparents temporarily. It’s just your grandparents not having visitors for their safety. It’s just one birthday you have to sacrifice. It’s just one Thanksgiving alone. It’s just one Christmas without your family. It’s just two birthdays you had to sacrifice. It is just not celebrating any milestones for a year and a half. It’s just temporary. It’s just a safety measure. It is just your ability to pay cash. It is just contact tracing. It is just a health screening. It is just a temperature check. It is just a scan of your face. It’s just a minor loss of privacy. It is just one semester. It is just two semesters. It is just one year out of your child’s life. It is just one more semester. It is just a high school graduation. It’s just the birth of your grandchild that you missed. It is just not being able to be there for your relatives when they are ill or dying. It is just not having a funeral. It is just in person that you cannot grieve with your loved ones. It is just not getting to attend religious service. It is just not getting to practice some parts of your religion. It is just misinformation that is being censored. It is just conservatives that are being censored. It is just some of the science that is being censored. It is just the people who have the opposing opinions that are banned online. It is just the opposition that the White House is targeting for censorship. It is just bad opinions that are being censored. It’s just the economy. It is just small business owners who are suffering financially. It is just poor people who are suffering financially. It is just people of color who are suffering financially. It is just financial suffering. It is just a few small businesses that had to close permanently. It is just a few big businesses that closed. It is just not going farther than a few kilometers from your house. It is just a curfew. It is just a permission slip. It is just being alone for two weeks. It is just being socially isolated for one year. It is just one vaccine. It is just one set of booster shots. It is just regular booster shots every six months. It is just another two weeks. It is just one more lock-down. It is just once a week—twice tops—that you will have to prove that you are fit to participate in society. It is just the unvaccinated that will be segregated from society. It is just a medical test. Pretty simple, no? Just fucking do it.

When you add up all the “justs,” it amounts to our entire lives. For over a year and a half and counting, we have been robbed of the ability to live our lives fully, to make meaningful choices for ourselves, and to express our values the way we see fit. It is “just” the inability to express our humanity and the total negation of our very selves. All of these measures have served as a prohibition of expressing outwardly one’s valid and complex internal reality. This kind of suppression of self does violence to one’s very soul.

All of these supposedly little and supposedly short-lived “justs” have transformed us into totalitarian states from which there appears to be no end point. In New York City, California, Australia, etc., the people have permitted government such control over our daily lives that we have to ask it for permission to control our bodies, to move freely, to practice religion, to educate our children ourselves, to protest, etc. Soon Biden, Trudeau, and other world leaders are going to clamp down on our ability to express ourselves and to associate with each other online so that we can no longer question, object to, or organize against government action. It is the destruction of democracy. It astounds me that my Progressive friends—the same ones who claim to support social justice—are welcoming a fascist society in which government crushes any opposition and individuals cannot make choices about their own lives. I will not comply because I do not want to live in the society that is being created by extraordinary submissiveness to government. I do not want to be complicit in this era’s atrocities.

What is the point of living if one merely exists to obey the elite to one’s own detriment? Is it even living if one lacks the agency to direct one’s life? I’ve already submitted in contradiction of my values to a shameful extent. One might say, “Well, what’s one more compromise,” but it won’t be just one more compromise. It will be just the next cut in a slow death by a thousand cuts. Submitting only validates tyrannical displays of power and ensures that there will be more such displays in the future.

And what does one get for compromising? Merely your continued membership in a society that will only have you if you immolate yourself and become nothing more than a reflection of the desires of the ruling class. If you cannot be truly yourself in a society, is that society worth clinging to? I think not. As much as leaving the stability of my comfort zone terrifies me, staying in it means continuing to silence and shrink myself for a disingenuous feeling of acceptance. In that way, it is more of a discomfort zone.

Each time I expressed my fears about the future direction of society, my friends said “it won’t happen.” Each time it did happen, they shrugged their shoulders and reminded me that compliance was an option. At this point, if the government were to cart me away to an internment camp (which is not a completely far-fetched notion and which has happened in the past) for being a dangerous dissident I am certain that my friends and family would watch it happen and say it was my fault for not complying. They are no longer capable of recognizing the humanity of the opposition or of questioning government. I will not submit because I don’t want to live in a world in which my supposed allies would happily see me persecuted by the government.

I will not comply because the political climate has become so censorial, authoritarian, and generally toxic that my viewpoints will never be represented in the political process here. Without representation, my values and beliefs will be violated again and again by a polity that sees any deviation from itself as invalid. Thus, my compliance will provide zero assurance of any better treatment in the future.

I will not bend because I am not a conformist.

I will not give in because I do not want to reward government manipulation and coercion.

I will not surrender because I could die at any moment, and I do not want my final memories to be ones of craven submission to tyranny and the resultant misery and self-loathing.

I will not comply because it is not government’s first intrusion on my body, mind, and spirit; and if we comply, it will definitely not be the last. All I will accomplish by my compliance is validating the government’s claim on my body and life.

I am not submitting because this is war, and I am not handing the enemy its victories.

I will not comply because the reward for compliance will still be being treated as a second class-citizen by society.

I won’t acquiesce because I am a conscientious objector.

I will not cede because the measures are unnecessary and the only practical effect will be to increase government power.

I don’t comply because I do not want to be a mere slave in the future version of the world they are creating, doing only what I am told to do and having to beg for access to the necessities of life that I am entitled to as a living being on this earth.

I will not yield because their religion is not my religion, and I refuse to worship a false idol.

I will not capitulate because I do not want to betray my ancestors and predecessors who fought for me to be free.

I will not surrender because freedom is more important than convenience and ease.

I will not comply because if I did I would be filled with rage against society, resentment towards my friends and family, and self-loathing that would eat me alive. I would become bitter and closed-hearted, and I don’t want that for myself.

All of this is why I won’t “just fucking do it.”

Illiberalism is the Descendant of Imperialism

There is a lot of talk these days about the increasing trend of #illiberalism or #authoritarianism on what is considered the American Left, but the authoritarian Left are not leftists, not Liberals (in the sense of the Enlightenment philosophy that values freedom and equality) or liberals (in the sense of political attitude that seeks affirmative action of the state in advancing issues of social justice but also remains faithful to the bedrock freedoms of #Liberalism), and not Marxists or Communists. Neither liberty nor economic stratification is central to their outlook on life as it is for those in any of the many ideologies that comprise the Left. They are, rather, proponents of the ideology of #Progressivism, a philosophy that transcends the Left-Right dichotomy.

Progressivism is an ideology that champions limitless growth, unbridled use of technology, and dominion over nature. Under a Progressive model, humans exist primarily to grow the economy by continual work and constant consumption, not for any intrinsic sense of worth or fulfillment. Progressives are trying, largely successfully, to shape the world into a reflection of these ideals and do not care at all that others have different visions that are based in more humanistic values. We all get dragged along on the march of “progress” because Progressives assume any deviance from their values is inferior and not worthy of credit (and because they tend to control the world’s resources). Increasingly, Progressives emphasize specialization, expertise, and conformity, all of which are used to get people to comply with their vision of the world. Progress under this model is linear; the future is always an improvement on the past, and any attempt to resist change or divert course is seen as regressive and unscientific.

Progressives often appear as leftists because they talk a lot about the same things leftists are concerned about like equality, the environment, and social justice. Many of them truly believe in these causes while many others, especially politicians, strategically exploit these issues to gain traction for their own ends. But whether sincere or manipulative, Progressives’ proposals always result in strengthening and expanding the existing, inequitable system and further entrenching the existing, elite class. Progressives always propose band-aid policies rather than measures that would truly allow individuals and families to become more self-sufficient or otherwise reduce inequality because that would undermine the primary goal of unlimited growth. That is why Progressives increasingly take refuge in identity politics; it allows them to talk about changing the system without ever actually having to challenge the exploitative aspects of society that elite Progressives rely on for profit and growth. They then blame the increasing disparities on their opponents and dissenters for resisting “progress.”

Progressivism is the direct descendant of the #imperialism that shaped and dominated much of American history for centuries. While the common narrative of modern history would have us believe that imperialism faded away in the 20th century as military aggression was replaced with international, economic cooperation and democratic revolutions, imperialism never died. There has always been a duality of competing philosophies in the United States, a championing of Enlightenment ideals of liberty and equality while simultaneously denying these same values to other groups who were conquered, exploited, or oppressed for imperialist goals of expansion and increased profit. Consequently, both Liberalism and illiberalism have reigned side by side throughout the history of the United States. The legacy of imperialism is just as deeply imprinted on the minds of Americans as Liberalism is, with many people unconsciously carrying on the imperialist legacy that has been handed down to them in their own lives. This is where today’s illiberalism comes from; the authoritarian “Left” fail to espouse the bedrock values of liberty and pluralism because they are embodying America’s alternate ideological legacy of imperialism, which is the foundation for today’s Progressivism.

Attributes of Imperialism

Imperialism is the practice of one group of people forcibly subjecting other groups of people to its authority and control for its own benefit, though imperialists often rationalize their actions as an attempt to save or improve its victims. The history of imperialism in the United States has lent certain traits to its successor Progressivism: an extractive belief system, an antipathy towards the natural world, a rigidly prescriptive mindset, and a pathological feeling of supremacy.

Progressivism, like imperialism, is built on the depletion of natural resources, with little concern for sustainability. This attitude extends not just to the plants, animals, and minerals we consume, but to humans (“human resources” or “human capital”) as well. Thus, the extractive belief system is evident in the slave and sweatshop labor that has and continues to subsidize the American economy as well as the rapacious attitude towards nature. As an acquisition-focused philosophy, Progressivism treats humans as objects to be possessed and controlled, especially for financial profit. Progressives show no qualms about manipulating people or depriving them of freedom or livelihood to coerce them into compliance because they have no respect for personal agency, seeing other humans as just another resource to be mined.

Progressives view humans as separate from the natural environment, treating nature as something merely to be tamed and conquered. Nature is treated as inherently flawed and in need of improvement by humans. Human solutions, especially technological solutions, are always seen as better than letting nature run its course even when the problems are man-made ones.

Progressives have an obsession with data, technocracy, and standardization that creates a false veneer of objectivity that they use to reinforce their belief in the supremacy of their ideas and to discount the viewpoints that are discordant with Progressive ideology, often disdaining opposition as unscientific and false. This is true even where the dissent is something unfalsifiable, like satire, an opinion, or a philosophical objection. Progressive imperialists see their own opinions as absolute truth and fail to recognize their own biases and implicit assumptions. Once a Progressive opinion or belief is treated as fact, any opinion that disagrees is accordingly deemed false or misinformation. Unable to distinguish between fact and their own beliefs due to the dominance of Progressive ideology, they do not recognize the subjectivity of their own beliefs or that their beliefs are grounded in their own self-interest, just like how early American imperialists deemed their own racialized worldview as scientific and used whatever differences they could quantify between whites and blacks as further evidence of their own supremacy.

Imperialists’ belief that they have ownership of truth fuels their belief in their own supremacy. They believe they are better and smarter than everyone else and therefore that their beliefs are also superior. Once their beliefs are established as unquestionable truths, deviants and dissenters are viewed as inferior just by virtue of their deviance from the primary dogma of Progressivism. Progressive imperialists assume moral superiority on all matters and smugly treat opponents as savages that need to be tamed and controlled.

It is this feeling of supremacy that makes Progressives dangerous. Like the imperialists before them, Progressives’ belief in their own superiority is what is used to justify forcing their will on everyone else. They see no problem with censoring criticism, depriving individuals of freedom, and forcing lifestyle choices on others. Imperialists like today’s Progressives are narcissists on steroids; they have no respect for boundaries and fail to differentiate between control of their own lives and control of everyone else’s. They often see forcing a decision on someone else as merely an extension of their own personal choice. They have the hubris to believe that they have an innate right to control other people.

Domestic Imperialism Today

One can recognize Progressive imperialists in the wild because they are the ones who think their own beliefs are facts and opposition is misinformation to be censored. They are the ones who believe there is only one right way to do things and everyone should conform to that belief. They may pay lip service to freedom of choice, but upon further questioning you will find that that they also believe that people who make a choice in contradiction of Progressive orthodoxy should be punished for exercising that “freedom.” They are the ones who increasingly believe that people on the wrong side of Progressivism should lose their livelihoods or be excluded from society because of their heresy. They are the ones who believe they are morally justified in forcing other autonomous humans to bend to their will.

“Vaccine hesitancy” is a great example of Progressive imperialism today. The term itself is a propagandistic tool to pathologize non-compliance with an imperialist vision. Notably, the term implies that there can be no choice on the matter, that it is only a matter of time until everyone gets it. The entire discussion has been framed in starkly imperialist terms—asking how the state can overcome people’s objections and force compliance—rather than in the Liberal terms of personal sovereignty and pluralism (acknowledging that different viewpoints are equally valid and that the decision should be based on personal choice).

I know some will protest that the sacrifice of individual autonomy and the state coercion of vaccination is morally defensible because the intention is ostensibly to save lives. That very response is a perfect illustration of the uniquely imperialist mindset that I am describing. That certainty that one’s position is objectively, morally right; that there can be no room for diversity on the matter; and that one’s superiority of belief is so obvious that it justifies forcing other individuals to submit their very bodies (and, in the case of those who may suffer fatal reactions, possibly their lives) is the epitome of imperialism, the basis from which all oppression in this country has been borne. The assumption of infallibility and the feeling of entitlement to play God with someone else’s health is pure colonization of other humans. The very tendency to assume that someone else’s personal choices about his or her own life should be subordinate to your beliefs is the essence of imperialism. It is an expectation that one can and should dominate others. Such a person is carrying on the storied legacy of the numerous American imperialists before them. Every generation has them, and these people are this era’s imperialist oppressors, though of course, like all imperialists, they see themselves as heroes.

This is particularly salient when you consider the racial dynamics at play with regard to “vaccine hesitancy,” with reluctance to take the vaccine being higher among blacks and other people of color. What could be a more striking example of modern-day, domestic imperialism than today’s rich, white elites assuming that the reluctance of people of color (as well as non-compliant whites) to take the vaccine is invalid, irrational and ignorant and must be overturned? When you see the means that they are employing to entice these communities to comply—using everything from free fast food to hip hop videos—you realize that Progressives think that people of color fail to comply because they are too stupid to appreciate what Progressives believe to be the obvious truth of their beliefs. Progressives do not think people of color are capable of having intellectual and philosophical rationales behind their decisions to opt-out and so rely on cheap attempts to manipulate them emotionally, which leads them, for instance, to believe that black people can be swayed from a profound health decision by merely watching a hip hop video telling them to get vaccinated. It is the kind of patronizing appeal that could only come from people who already assume they are superior and have no respect for the intelligence of any groups they deem inferior. Once again, we see the privileged white upper class acting as missionaries to spread their beliefs as absolute truth to classes of people they deem inferior to themselves, the modern-day savages whom they must tame, control, and manipulate in service of their supposedly objective worldview.

Like the missionaries of old, Progressives rationalize their tyranny by telling themselves that they are doing it for the good of their victims and society as a whole. But make no mistake, the end-goal is their own Progressive cause. That is why, despite claiming that their desires for vaccine mandates are about saving lives, the lives of those people who died after getting these novel technological interventions do not matter to Progressives. Those people died in service of Progressive goals so their deaths do not matter. To a Progressive imperialist, every such death is a righteous one because humans are just another tool to fulfill Progressive ends.

The topic also highlights the Progressive loathing of nature. The idea that someone could want to rely on natural immunity—what humans have relied on for the maintenance of health since the dawn of human history—rather than a completely novel technology is disdained by Progressives as ignorant and pseudo-scientific. We are no longer permitted to live as human beings have lived for millennia because Progressives have decided that such ways of life are outdated and wrong. We cannot opt out of new technologies. Never mind the fact that there has been a consensus on the existence of natural immunity in the scientific community until last year when Progressives censored any scientist and scientific data that failed to corroborate their directives and replaced them with their own dogma. Progressives hate nature and refuse to respect its laws, so we must all fear nature and live in disharmony with it. Progressives will not allow any other philosophy of living but their own. And the fact that people can still get and transmit the virus after getting the vaccine makes it little more than a superstitious ritual that we all must observe as unwilling participants in the religion of Progressivism. It is an example of how adept imperialists are at transforming their own self-interest into moral imperatives for everyone else.

That is why Joe Biden and Progressive politicians around the world are ramping up their rhetoric around the idea of censoring supposed misinformation, which is any information that is even obliquely critical of the Progressive stance on the pandemic. The failure to see dissenters as equal, full-fledged, rational human beings who are competent to make up their own minds is astoundingly condescending but notably characteristic of imperialism. The supremacy attitude and the sense of entitlement to control others and deprive them of rights and privileges are the hallmarks of imperialism, the same qualities that have under-girded all the atrocities of the past and those underway and to come.

It is ironic that the people who are today most vocally outraged by the United States’ imperialist history are the same people who are beholden to the imperialist-oriented mindset. Progressives talk a lot about being on the right side of history, but the right side of history that they are referring to is the Liberal side that recognized and respected the humanity and personal sovereignty of other individuals despite their differences. The Progressives’ failure to adopt that same appreciation for pluralism and autonomy and to instead carry on the illiberal tradition of imperialism is why they are in the standing to be this era’s oppressors.

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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