Progressives Are Eating Their Own

Posted on 2015 November 22


"the left is eating its own" Francisco_de_Goya,_Saturno_devorando_a_su_hijo_(1819-1823)-1.jpg

If you have always believed that everyone should play by the same rules and be judged by the same standards, that would have gotten you labeled a radical 60 years ago, a liberal 30 years ago and a racist today.Thomas Sowell

Like Saturn, the revolution devours its own children. — Georg Büchner

A friend passes along this comment from a journalism professor. “Twenty years ago, when I asked students why they wanted to become reporters, they answered, ‘To bring the truth to people.’ Today they say, ‘To change the world.’”

What’s wrong with that? Simple: it turns reporters into political advocates. The truth has been replaced by propaganda. The fight for freedom of the press, long a cause of the Left, has enjoyed massive success over the past century, but now youthful Progressives want to repurpose it to the point where it now contravenes the original ideal fought for by liberals. It’s as if, in some strange twist on an ancient Greek myth, the young journalists are now consuming their own parents.

For decades, the Left campaigned for sexual freedom, in the arts as well as the bedroom. Prostitutes agitated for acceptance; moviemakers argued for the right to film explicit scenes. Today, feminists want to ban prostitution and sex films, the very industries they once crusaded for, on the debatable grounds that these are part of a system of violence against women. Liberals thus undo decades of sexual progress fought for by their predecessors. They’re grinding up and spitting out their forbears’ achievements.

The Free Speech movement of the 1960s highlighted the importance of academic freedom. Today, the campus Left wants professors to restrict any speech that might offend students — “trigger words”, “micro-aggressions”, politically incorrect utterances. They’re tearing down what their radical ancestors struggled so hard to build.

Diversity and multiculturalism, once celebrated by the Left, are now sources of discomfort. Simply asking “Where are you from?” is no longer an act of friendly curiosity — it’s considered a micro-aggression, a form of violence.

Negros fought and died in the streets for the right to be called Blacks. It was considered a great move forward for equality. Then they decided “African American” was the new correct moniker. Now that, too, has been tossed out as unseemly, replaced by “people of color”. This petty controversy undermines the nobility of the original civil rights campaigns.

Israel, once the shining beacon of liberalism in a harsh Middle East, is now a pariah to the Left. Progressives who fought against anti-Semitism have given way to those who paint Israelis as Nazis.

One of the great icons of liberalism was President Woodrow Wilson, who pushed through the first income tax on the wealthy, established the Federal Reserve to control the economy, put limits on harsh work hours, advanced antitrust laws, and brought the U.S. into World War I to “make the world safe for democracy.” Today he is vilified for his racism — an attitude common among his peers — and student activists have demanded his name be stricken from buildings at Princeton, where Wilson presided for several years as university president. 

Thomas Jefferson, author of the Declaration of Independence, similarly has been condemned because he had slaves. In fact, he campaigned repeatedly to free them in Virginia. But hindsight is 20/20, and today one of the Fathers of Our Country, his face emblazoned on Mount Rushmore, is now regarded as a bad guy. Half of the Founders owned slaves; they, too, are censured as “dead rich white men”. Our forbears fought and died for freedom and justice — classic qualities of liberalism — but now those men are unworthy of respect.

What will happen if the Left discovers that its greatest warrior, President Franklin Roosevelt, had some sort of cultural shortcoming? It won’t be long until a scholar discovers and promulgates passages from FDR’s notes that prove he was — who knows? — anti-gay or anti-people-of-color or something equally onerous. President Johnson, architect of The Great Society — the ’60s follow-up to Roosevelt’s New Deal — also likely kept politically improper skeletons in his private closet, someday to be ferreted out and paraded before a shocked community of liberals. It’s only a matter of time.

Progressives have won most of the political battles of the last hundred years. But lately the Left seems caught up in a crazed orgy of angry self-destruction, like some genius who, in a fit of pique, burns all his notes and papers because they’re not perfect. 

Maybe success has spoiled the Left, and now nothing pleases it anymore. A sense of entitlement is a hallmark of recent Progressivism, along with a touchy tendency to take quick offense. These are not the grown-up liberals of decades past; they’re more like pouty children with victim complexes. And victims often cannot abide their own success, because it undermines their worldview and sense of oppression.

In a way, then, it’s no wonder modern liberals are working so hard to undo what’s been achieved in their past. It’s no surprise they’re rejecting the very triumphs their predecessors fought so hard to gain.

It makes a dreadful kind of sense that the Progressives are now devouring their own parents.

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UPDATE: All those presidents were racist

UPDATE: On-Campus Thought Police

UPDATE: “Thus it is that the revolution devours its children.