I think that True Scotsmen sometimes get a bit of a bad rap, in religion and in politics.
Of course, there is always debate about what Christianity, or Islam, or leftism, or Conservativism consists of. And from a logical point of view, it *is* unreasonable to say that 'Tom is no true Christian, because he supports violence toward innocent Iraqis and is preoccupied with punishing gays instead of helping the poor' or 'Ahmed is no true Muslim because he approves of blowing people up as a political technique and executing anyone who disagrees with him, instead of following a life of peace and justice' or 'Joe was no true leftist, because he oppressed people outside his own elite, and murdered and starved millions, instead of creating social justice and equality for all.' Because there can always be other people who disagree and consider that Christianity is about punishing social nonconformists, and that Islam is about bringing the faith to all at the point of a sword, and that socialism is all about crushing deviationists. And religious books tend to say lots of things that contradict each other, and as political philosophies are largely defined by those who practice them, it's hard to say which interpretation is correct.
But morally or politically? I consider that religions and many other ideologies tend to be tools as much as driving forces, used by harsh or kind people in the cause of kindness or harshness. And I would prefer that people consider that the harsh and violent are not true Christians, or Muslims, or leftists, or for that matter Scotsmen, and that they use their beliefs or identities in the cause of kindness, than that they use Christianity, or Islam, or Communism, or nationalism to justify harsh or violent actions.
So if people wish to use the No True Scotman argument, I will take it as an attempt to reject and exclude nasty people from one's group. Not a bad idea, generally.
But then of course I'm only of 25% Scottish descent, and I don't like porridge, so I'm obviously No True Scotswoman!
Hope Not Hate are inviting people to sign a book of condolences for the Norwegian people. Here is the link, for anyone who wants to sign.
as indeed I tend to dislike the term New anything. Generally, it either means 'Not at all any more' as in 'New Labour'; or something very old that people are trying to present as a new feature of evil modern life as in 'The new antisemitism' (nothing new about antisemitism!)
New Atheism seems to mean 'ideological promotion of atheism'. This is not new. People have promoted atheism for a long time, as they have promoted any ideology for a long time. So long as it's confined to argument and debate it may be boring to those who are not interested, but it is part of living in a free society.
Some atheists are intolerant and bigoted about non-atheists, but this is also not new, nor is it different from any other ideology in this respect. I have seen as much bigotry and intolerance between those who support different methods of education, e.g. 'Synthetic phonics' vs 'Analytic phonics' vs 'Real books' as in any other context! And as regards intolerance toward religious people, far more comes from members of other religions, or even other sects of the same religion, than from atheists.
'as long as they don't try to make their beliefs the beliefs of a country, try to teach hare-brained ideas to children that cripple their fruitful brains, or harm anyone, I could give a rat's ass as to what someone believes.'
I fully agree! But I think that many so-called 'new Atheists' are reacting against those who *do* seek to make their beliefs the beliefs of a country, or who use their beliefs to impose right-wing ideas and values. I don't care what anyone believes, so long as they don't use it in the cause of harshness, violence, oppression, or to make my country/ other countries/ the world any more right-wing than they are already.
As I have said, people tend to use their religion in the cause of attitudes that they already have, good or bad, peace or war, left or right. A strongly Christian politician, for example, may be an Ian Paisley or a Bruce Kent; a Pat Robertson or a Martin Luther King; a Martin Ssempa or a Desmond Tutu. I have no problem with people of any religion at all, or none. I do have problems with the seemingly increasing number of people who are right-wing political anti-secularists; who hate atheists and secularists because they are seen as a threat to old-fashioned morality and established power and helping women and minority group members get too uppitty! I might have called these 'The New Religious Right', but then I re-read Canning's 'New Morality' published in 1798:
'Guard we but our own hearts; with constant view
To ancient morals, ancient manners true,
True to the manlier virtues, such as nerved
Our fathers' breasts and this proud Isle preserved
For many a rugged age: - and scorn the while,
Each philosophic atheist's specious guile -
The soft seductions, the refinements nice.
Of gay morality and easy vice...'
So, just as 'philosophic atheists' were around over 200 years ago, so were the not New, but very Old Religious Right. And it is the Right, in all its forms, to which I object!
I don't think that they do so by creating divisions between left and right. Quite the contrary. They would like nothing better than to neutralize even the moderate left through compromise with the right. The right wing media, especially in America from what I gather, like to portray the 'left' as divisive; as refusing to 'come together' with the right; as placing ideology above country. And they also of course tend to portray the Democrats as more left than by international standards they are. (I have come across people proposing a 'Moderate Party' between the extremes of left and right - hello, the Democrats *are* the Moderate Party!)
Powerful people do like to exploit divisions between white and black, men and women, Jews and Muslims, working class people in jobs and the unemployed, etc. I often say that people in different minority and disadvantaged groups must, in the words of Benjamin Franklin in a somewhat different context, 'all hang together or assuredly we will all hang separately.' But joining 'populist' movements that include the right will only encourage and exaggerate these divisions, as one of the main points of right-wing ideology is the creation of scapegoats.
It is a common myth in this context that left and right, at least among those who are not rich, are divided solely by 'social wedge issues'. Even here, if 'social issues' involves racism and the scapegoating of social minorities, there is no room for compromise. But in any case, the biggest differences between left and right are on *economic* issues. Two of the most key issues of most 'populist' right-wing movements are:
(1) Government is tyranny, or likely to become so; or at the very best is inefficient, wasteful and probably fraudulent. Therefore public services are a bad thing. At the extreme: If you allow, for example, public health care, the next thing that will happen is that the government will declare martial law and herd you all into death camps!
(2) The ordinary hard-working taxpayer is being exploited and defrauded by benefit claimants and the unemployed 'workshy'. The 'bloated welfare state' pampers such people, and is responsible for our economic problems!
(1) seems commonest in America; (2) is common everywhere.
And there is no common ground between left and right on such views.
'Powerful people' are themselves divided and not a monolith, and tend to battle with each other for power, causing the less powerful to end up as literal or metaphorical collateral damage. But one thing that generally does unite them is an opposition to a more egalitarian society where they might have to give up some of their own power in favour of poorer people and minority groups. As such, they would like the left to compromise with the right, whether within the establishment (Blair-Bush; Clegg-Cameron); or outside it (anti-establishment leftists collaborating with teabaggers or the equivalents in other countries).
To clarify: Not all people who vote for right wing parties are truly right wing in their basic attitudes. Many do so just out of family tradition; some do so because economic desperation leads them to vote for *any* party other than whoever are the current incumbents. There is certainly plenty of room for trying to win over people who currently vote for right wing parties. But there is no room for considering any compromise with right-wing ideas and viewpoints.
Firstly,although I consider homeopathic medicines a waste of money, I would only consider homeopathy as 'a religion' or 'anti-science' if it is accompanied by a rejection of so-called 'conventional' medicine.
The rejection of conventional medicine seems to me generally more right-wing than left-wing. True, the suspicion of Big Pharma and of its pernicious role in American healthcare plays into it (but could people please take it in that not everywhere is America, and that countries with single-payer healthcare also use 'conventional' medicine?) And there is perhaps also some association with the Green, back-to-nature movement. But many of the organizations that are strongly anti-conventional-medicine or anti-vaccination in particular are very right-wing; and in fact what bothers me most here is that some on the left are tempted by these organizations and their propaganda to quote and use some very right-wing memes.
The anti-conventional-medicine (and even just anti-vaccination) groups and individuals tend to express the following right-wing attitudes:
(1) Traditional is better than modern. What was good enough for our ancestors is good enough for us! We should not do anything in medicine that wasn't used by Great-Great-Grandmother at the turn of the last century (who died at 45 after producing 8 children, of whom 5 lived to grow up). Newfangled inventions are to be distrusted!
(2) Despite all that is (rightfully) said against the profit motive when it comes to Big Pharma, alternative-medicine practitioners should have the right to conduct their businesses and advertise and sell their products without any legal interference whatsoever. With regard to alternative medicines, basic consumer protection is an infringement of freedom!
(3) Ideology trumps need. People should die rather than take medicines that might give a profit to Big Pharma (just like the Christian Right's view that they should die rather than take advantage of stem cell research).
(4) People's health is entirely their personal responsibility, and the use of conventional medicine saps such responsibility and leads to a wimpish society with a 'culture of dependency' on vaccines, drugs and surgery. (Very similar to the Economic Right's argument that welfare saps personal responsibility and leads to a 'culture of dependency' on benefits.)
(5) Evolution has provided us with the immune systems that we need, and relying on artificial vaccines and drugs is going against nature. It is actually desirable that people with weak immune systems should perish, as this weeds them out of the gene pool and selects for toughness in future generations!
(6- and perhaps most pervasive). Government is to be distrusted. Government involvement in providing healthcare is at best wasteful and at worst tyrannical: a threat to the rights of a free people. In the more extreme forms of this, only 'sheeple' 'trust their government' with regard to healthcare, and they risk all manner of evils: death camps; 'marshal law'; deliberate culling of the population through toxic vaccines; government microchipping people; etc. 'Obamacare' is to be ferociously resisted.
Much of the anti-coventional medicine and anti-vaccine literature, including quite a lot that gets quoted here, is replete with such right-wing views. The frequency with which Ron Paul is cited approvingly gives some clue.
I don't think it is restricted to a Communist/ anti-Communist distinction. In fact, left-right in Britain has usually had relatively little to do with such a distinction.
People can be left in one area and right in another. But I would say that the fundamental differences between left and right are that the right favour a 'might is right' position, enhancing the position of the 'strong' even if this means further disadvantaging the 'weak', while the left favour protecting and helping the 'weak' even if this limits the potentialities for advancement by the already 'strong'. 'Strong' most often means basically 'rich', but may also mean 'physically strong'; 'member of a majority group'; 'well-connected'; or, when applied to international relations, 'possessing military might'. The more libertarian right simply allows the strong to advance by trampling on the weak, without interference. The more authoritarian right attempts to force conformity to the rules of a majority or well-connected group: e.g. that all must follow the social mores of a dominant religious group.
The 'strong' in a given society may be wealthy businesspeople or managers, or feudal lords, or generals, or ayatollahs, or Stalinist apparatchiks (thus so-called communist countries often ended up as very right-wing in all areas except economics); etc. On the whole, men are in stronger positions than women, especially in more traditional societies; and members of racial or religious majority groups are usually stronger than minority group members (except when a minority gains power for other reasons, as in apartheid-era South Africa).
Right-wingers tend to favour the advancement of the rich and economically successful; favour tax cuts and spending cuts especially in areas of spending that help and protect poor, disabled or otherwise disadvantaged people; and oppose much restriction and regulation of big business.
Left-wingers tend to favour safety-nets for poor or disadvantaged people; policies that prevent severe poverty; progressive taxation; government provision of and spending on public services; and tighter regulation of big business.
On foreign policy:
Right-wingers tend to favour strong defence and are readier than left-wingers to go to war. They tend not to regard foreign aid to poorer nations as a priority.
Left-wingers tend to favour foreign aid to poorer nations; consider military spending a lower priority than do right-wingers; and are reluctant to go to war.
On social policy:
Right-wingers tend to believe in harsh punishment for crime; and place the prevention of crime or terrorism very much ahead of civil liberties. They tend to be against too much protection to religious or racial minorities, and in some cases actively support discrimination. Many, though not all, right-wingers, favour forcing people into traditional social roles and mores, often based on religion: i.e. anti-feminism, anti-abortion and sometimes contraception, anti-gay-marriage, 'sin' in the religious sense should be against the law, etc.
Left-wingers place civil liberties ahead of prevention or punishment of crime. (Yes, I know that New Labour didn't. They were not left-wing, especially in this sense). They believe in equality for minorities, and in laws against discrimination. They are against forcing people into traditional social roles, and against religious intrusions into state law.
So it's quite a difference.
was that he cut benefits to working disabled people, ignoring the fact that for disabled people, being able to work generally *costs more money* (e.g. they are more likely to need to own a car, or to take taxis).
I think that we can agree that, with the one exception of the passage of the Disability Discrimination Act, most recent governments have ranged from rather bad to absolutely fucking awful on disability issues. There are, I think two reasons for this. One is that disabled people are easy to ignore or exploit, because they lack collective power. They are usually poorer than most of the population; often not in a position to raise hell and demand their rights (though happily some have); and don't even have a powerful union to back them. On the whole, disabled people, especially those with mental health problems, are less likely to vote, or at least are seen as less likely to vote, so that politicians are less likely to be inhibited by the thought that 'there goes the disabled people's vote!' than by the equivalent for some other groups.
This first reason encompasses all political parties. The second is most explicitly associated with the Tories, especially the Thatcherite branch: it is a harshly moralistic idea that it is *good* to be 'tough' with people seen as 'weaklings'; that all they need to do is pull themselves together and 'get on their bikes'; and that depriving them of their benefits is really doing them a favour. Such Tories of course tend to think this of the poor in general, but disability, especially invisible disabilities, can bring out some of the pure venom. For example, the 'workshy' allegation in the Daily Mail article in the OP, or the more wordy, and utterly vile, comments in the Ed West article that I linked:
'Of the 2.5m on this benefit, nearly 1.1 million people are unable to work due to mental disorders and behavioural problems, with the number of people off work suffering stress trebling under Labour, and half a million people now off because of “Depressive episodes”. ..
There are, of course, people for whom the world of work is just too much, but there is no effective system that can justly help them without eventually collapsing under its own weight. Most of these psychological problems are spectrum disorders, some of which we all suffer from to a certain extent – many of us are anxious, stressed, depressed and drinking too much, but we labour on nonetheless, accepting these woes as part of life. This makes it extremely hard for the state bureaucracy to disprove someone is eligible to claim – for example, has anyone heard of a doctor telling someone who is “stressed” to just pull themselves together, rather than signing them off? Add to this the fact that incapacity benefit pays out more than jobseeker’s allowance, and you have a recipe for disaster.
And disaster is what it is, trapping the weak into a life of idleness on £70 a week. Socialists are often accused of promoting a “nanny state” but that is unfair to nannies – what we have now is a state that acts like indulgent parents to grown-up children.'
This sort of attitude to 'the weak' is as far as I am concerned, one of the most evil things in the universe, and one of the few things that makes me wish I wasn't an atheist, as I don't even have the comfort of believing that such people will have their come-uppance in the afterlife! ('What you did not unto the least of these...') It is a central reason why I hate Thatcher and Thatcherism so much!
So that there are two villains to fight: the pragmatic, politically selfish dismissal of disabled people as a powerless group, easy to shortchange; and the harshly moralistic desire to *punish* 'weak' (and poor) people. For the first villain, disabled people are collateral damage in the fight for power; for the second they are the actual enemy.
The first villain can and should be fought by giving disabled people more of a political voice; promoting more advocacy and self-advocacy. There is more than there was - but still not enough. The second is even more heartbreaking, and harder to fight.
I am glad to say that the first comment on West's article is scathing:
'Quack-hack preaches prejudice and hatred of all things disabled', would be an altogether more honest title for this article of propaganda.
Having maligned any source of disagreement, the Quack-hack dazzles us with his stunningly in-depth knowledge of all things medical, not least of which being his knowledge of the finer workings of the mind. To think that we have such a shortage of adequate mental health provision in this Country. But for why?...
Hearing voices? Simply tell them to be quiet, problem solved. Agoraphobic, can't get a foot outside the door? Stick a leg out the window and enjoy the breeze. Heart failure, cancer, three months to live? That's three months to work, don't even think of dropping or he'll have to get the whip out...
How staggeringly ingenious, revolutionary and yet so deliciously simple. I am amazed that no other hack has discovered such puritanical tripe before now. In order to save billions from NHS Budgets, could the almighty (he who must not be disagreed with) Mr Ed West, also stamp out some other pesky nuisances.
Perhaps he could tell tumours to stop growing. As that's really rather naughty of them, silly tumours! Could he tell germs to stop spreading, viruses to stop infecting and mutating. That should do to start with...'
Maybe there is hope for the human race after all!
The one real 'feel-good' story of the election - though undoubtedly they will regroup and we will always have to be on guard against them; they will never really go away!
MPs expressed concern tonight after it emerged that far-right activists are planning to step up their provocative street campaign by targeting some of the UK's highest-profile Muslim communities, raising fears of widespread unrest this summer.
Undercover footage shot by the Guardian reveals the English Defence League, which has staged a number of violent protests in towns and cities across the country this year, is planning to "hit" Bradford and the London borough of Tower Hamlets as it intensifies its street protests.
The English Defence League, which started in Luton last year, has become the most significant far-right street movement in the UK since the National Front in the 1970s. A Guardian investigation has identified a number of known rightwing extremists who are taking an interest in the movement – from convicted football hooligans to members of violent rightwing splinter groups.
Thousands of people have attended its protests – many of which have descended into violence and racist and Islamophobic chanting. Supporters are split into "divisions" spread across the UK and as many as 3,000 people are attracted to its protests.
All very nasty!
Michael Gove will make much of the new focus implied by the departmental name change. One of his first acts as education secretary was to send a letter to key supporters in which he said he wanted to "refocus the department on its core purpose of supporting teaching and learning". He is already planning ways of underlining the break from the past. These will include advising schools of a raft of past guidance, red tape and targets that they will no longer have to adhere to. His motto will be: "Less is more"...
The coalition agreement also promises greater freedom over the curriculum. The proposed new primary curriculum, based on Sir Jim Rose's review, has been stopped in its tracks. The big question is whether Gove's stated preference for a primary curriculum built around learning key historical dates, phonics and "proper mental arithmetic" will triumph over the conflicting Tory philosophy of letting teachers do their own thing.
...So, as we adjust to coalition government, some things are clear for education policy. Report cards, the licence to teach, extensive targets, micro-management, and the 50% university participation target are all off the menu. The language of government will change. There will be less instruction, less legislation and less detailed prescription. But expect some very nasty shocks on the spending front.'
Deep sigh. Doesn't look that good. But could be worse, I suppose.
He is the sort of rather simplistic evolutionary psychologist who thinks that every individual item of behaviour must be genetically controlled and have directly evolved for some specific purpose.
This can lead, and does in his case, to very reactionary views that traditional social mores are 'human nature' and cannot or should not be modified. For example, sex roles. He has called feminism 'evil':
His views on race are equally nasty:
Also see his views on war, hate, and Ann Coulter:
Even when he comes up with a result that we happen to like, I think we need to distrust him.
In response to a thread by Lerkfish objecting to the view that the far left and far right are equal
It is true that authoritarian leaders who impose an ideology to maintain power for themselves often end up resembling each other - whether the ideology is explicitly right-wing (Fascism), religious (Christianity or Islam) or supposedly left-wing (Communism). However, the commonality is between the authoritarianism of the leaders, not between the ideologies. Once a leader is prepared to oppress his (or more rarely her) people and allow the strong to trample on the weak in the name of their ideology, then their government is fundamentally right-wing, even if it is imposed in the name of a left-wing ideology.
In any case, most people who are described as 'far left' in the American context are anything but. They are centre-left or even centrist by the standards of many other countries. Universal publicly-funded healthcare; a social safety net; opposition to the death penalty - these are not far left; they are policies shared by all mainstream Europaean governments, including those of the centre-right. A Europaean government that does not share these values is considered *far right*.
There is a huge difference between the far left and the far right in terms of ideologies. And that is even when we are considering the two just in terms of general economic and social policies. When the far right's xenophobia, racism, sexism and general intolerance of minorities is put ino the equation - the gap becomes enormous.
However, it is not just anti-leftists who have been pushing this meme on DU. I have on several occasions seen people argue that sometimes far right-wingers are telling 'truths' that others are hiding, or that progressives should join hands with the likes of Ron Paul supporters or even 'teabaggers' to form an anti-elite, anti-establishment movement. This if ever put into practice could be EXTREMELY dangerous, enabling the far right to use a populist image as a bait for encouraging racism and oppression - as happened in the 1930s. Opposing the status quo because you want something better does NOT mean that you have anything in common with those who oppose the status quo because they want something worse!
The far right everywhere are the ultimate enemy of all that is good in the world; and we should NEVER enable them!
In response to a great post about the Right by Nance Greggs
In response to some comments here: I interpreted 'shunning' as meaning not excluding far right-wingers from society and its provisions, but simply putting their views on a real-life version of 'ignore' rather than trying to convert them or compromise with them.
I think that while on the one hand some people split themselves into hostile factions on trivial issues (sadly common on the left), some do try too hard to seek common ground with extreme right-wingers.
This happens where people on the left or centre assume that dealing with the *extreme* right is like dealing with the *moderate* right, and that they share basic principles in common, and differ only in how to achieve and implement them. Not true with the extreme right; the principles are fundamentally different.
It happens when people argue that 'the Right may be right on some issues; the Left have no monopoly on truth'. The Far Right are IMO *always* wrong on fundamentals; they may happen to achieve a correct conclusion for the wrong reasons (e.g. xenophobic-isolationists who oppose the Iraq war because they oppose all dealings with foreigners); but I will stick out my neck and say that there is *never* any issue where right-wingers are consistently right where non-right-wingers are not.
It happens when anti-establishment left-wingers think that it is OK to accept or collaborate with anti-establishment far-right-wingers, because they share some enemies. Not so. The right-wingers oppose the establishment because they want to replace it with something *worse*, not better; and progressives should never collaborate on that. That way could lie new or even old forms of fascism.
It is perhaps easier to identify the real Far Right and its fundamental opposition to democratic and pro-society principles in multi-party systems, where the most extreme often have their own political parties. The British BNP or French National Front are obviously not parties with which left-wingers or moderates should be seeking to collaborate! Related to the above: as someone from a different system, I am struck by the rather different use of 'conservative' in American than in much Europaean politics. Here, it mostly means the moderate right and usually excludes true extremists (though some of the latter do slip through the net!) Americans appear to use the term both for the mainstream right and for the far right. On the whole, the equivalents of 'teabaggers' here would not be referred to simply as 'conservative'; they might or might not vote for the mainstream Conservative Party, but such extreme views are called *right-wing*, not conservative. I would describe Blue Dog Democrats and moderate Republicans as *conservatives*; Pat Buchanan and Michele Bachmann and Senator DeMented are not *conservatives* but at least borderline fascists. I wonder if this broad use of the term 'conservative' helps to blur distinctions between moderate and extreme right-wingers, and encourages some liberals to think that common ground can be made with the latter?
My Ron Paul essay from Jan 5th, 2008 - still relevant!
RON PAUL: WHY SHOULD HE WORRY SOMEONE THOUSANDS OF MILES AWAY?
Ron Paul won’t win the presidential election, or come anywhere near it. He will continue to be a Texas Congressman. I will continue to live in England, thousands of miles away from him. So why should I worry about him?
Some quotations from his own website indicate some of the serious problems with his views, from a progressive perspective:
'A Republic, If You Can Keep It’ by Dr. Ron Paul, U.S. Representative from Texas
Address to the U.S. House of Representatives delivered on the Floor of the House January 31 - February 2, 2000
....The modern-day welfare state has steadily grown since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The federal government is now involved in providing health care, houses, unemployment benefits, education, food stamps to millions, plus all kinds of subsidies to every conceivable special-interest group. Welfare is now part of our culture, costing hundreds of billions of dollars every year. It is now thought to be a "right," something one is "entitled" to. Calling it an "entitlement" makes it sound proper and respectable and not based on theft. Anyone who has a need, desire, or demand and can get the politicians' attention will get what he wants, even though it may be at the expense of someone else. Today it is considered morally right and politically correct to promote the welfare state. Any suggestion otherwise is considered political suicide.
....Controlled curricula have downplayed the importance of our constitutional heritage while indoctrinating our children, even in kindergarten, with environmental mythology, internationalism, and sexual liberation. Neighborhood schools in the early part of the 20th Century did not experience this kind of propaganda.
....It is now accepted that people who need (medical) care are entitled to it as a right. This is a serious error in judgment.
...Probably the most significant change in attitude that occurred in the 20th Century was that with respect to life itself. Although abortion has been performed for hundreds if not thousands of years, it was rarely considered an acceptable and routine medical procedure without moral consequence. Since 1973 abortion in America has become routine and justified by a contorted understanding of the right to privacy. The difference between American's rejection of abortions at the beginning of the century, compared to today's casual acceptance, is like night and day. Although a vocal number of Americans express their disgust with abortion on demand, our legislative bodies and the courts claim that the procedure is a constitutionally protected right, disregarding all scientific evidence and legal precedents that recognize the unborn as a legal living entity deserving protection of the law. Ironically the greatest proponents of abortion are the same ones who advocate imprisonment for anyone who disturbs the natural habitat of a toad.
....The welfare system has mocked the concept of marriage in the name of political correctness, economic egalitarianism, and hetero-phobia.
....Any academic discussion questioning the wisdom of our policies surrounding World War II is met with shrill accusations of anti-Semitism and Nazi lover. No one is even permitted without derision by the media, the university intellectuals, and the politicians to ask why the United States allied itself with the murdering Soviets and then turned over Eastern Europe to them...'
So let's see. Paul is totally against any form of welfare state, even in its current American sense (very limited compared with most other developed countries); considers benefits for poor people to be 'theft'; does not think that people are entitled to medical care. Despite all his libertarian justifications for all the above, thinks that the government is entitled to ban abortions and 'defend marriage', (though he considers that these, like other government functions, should be carried out by individual states rather than the national government). He is opposed to gay rights ('heterophobia') and considers concern about the environment to be based on 'mythology'. Moreover, he is so isolationist or anti-Soviet or both, that he would apparently rather have had Hitler take over Europe than have an alliance between America and the Soviet Union during the war.
Moreover, despite his support for his country’s Constitution, he seems to be a less-than-fervent supporter of his country’s democracy. Democracy, in the sense of allowing all adults to vote, was not a feature of American politics at the beginning, or specified in its original constitution, even if America was closer to democracy than England or most other places in the late 18th century. America’s constitution was amended to allow women to vote in 1920. It had been amended to allow African-Americans to vote in 1870; but this was frequently evaded in southern states until the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Paul has gone on record as opposing this act, as contrary to ‘states’ rights’, even to this day. Should he really be trusted to uphold democracy?
However, most of the Republican candidates have worrying right-wing views; and some of them are far more likely than Paul to win their party’s nomination. What is specifically worrying about Paul is that some ‘progressives’ sympathize with him, and prefer him to some if not all of the Democratic candidates. This is predominantly due to his opposition to the Iraq War and to the Patriot Act: both of which are rightly important issues to liberals. But in addition some people support him because they are frustrated with the status quo, and he is seen as opposing it. Some people even describe him as ‘anti-corporate’ despite the fact that his extreme economic libertarianism, if ever put into practice, would undoubtedly increase the power of corporations.
Some argue in this connection that the old distinction between ‘right’ and ‘left’ is no longer relevant. And it is indeed accurate to say that the right/left distinction should not be seen as a unitary dimension. People can be right vs left on a number of different issues, and different asp. Four important ones are: war/defence; economic/welfare; civil liberties; and social/ civil rights.
So here is where I would rate Bush, Blair and Paul:
War/defence: Extreme right
Civil liberties: Right
Social/civil rights: Right
War/defence: Extreme right
Economic/welfare: Centre-right by British standards (i.e. to the left of Thatcher, but to the right of moderate Tories of the past such as Harold Macmillan)
Civil liberties: Right
Social/civil rights: Centre-left.
War/defence: Left on Iraq war, but right on other aspects of world policies
Economic/welfare: Extreme right (could go no further right)
Civil liberties: Left with regard to Federal government infringements of civil liberties; Right with regard to such infringements by state governments or private organizations.
Social/civil rights: Extreme right.
So Blair overall is to the left of either Paul or Bush, but to the right of what I'd find acceptable. Paul and Bush are both thoroughly right-wing. Bush is right-wing on more issues; Paul is more extreme on the issues where he is right-wing.. If Bush is more dangerous than Paul, it's simply because he has more power.
What is frightening here is not so much Paul as a fairly powerless individual, but that some supposedly liberal anti-war people seem to be prepared to ally themselves with RW extremists, if they happen to be against the war. If this leads to liberals' acceptance of a combination of far-RW economic 'libertarianism', social conservativism, and xenophobia, this could have serious impact for future politics. Some of the danger is, I think, not so much from Paul himself, as from the groups and websites that support him. I fear that Paul and other of his ilk may appeal to disaffected progressives in a way that could get them to join a far-right movement without initially realizing that it *is* far-right.
Some of the original fascist organizations/ parties appealed to some left-wingers and lots of apolitical disaffected people at first, and this contributed to their success. And communism was and is of course 'left-wing' in its original impetus, but most Communist states ended up, according to the above classification: "War/defense: Right; Economic/welfare: Left; Civil liberties: Extreme right; Social/civil rights: Right".
I don't think that the particular form of right-wing movement that Paul represents is likely to lead to old-style fascism or other totalitarianism – though such things might be possible if different right-wing movements joined under one umbrella; but it could readily lead to a xenophobic scapegoating of ‘outsiders’ and to a far-right economic libertarianism that murders the poor or sick just as surely, if a bit more slowly, as an act of direct violence. It is important that progressives avoid getting involved, directly or indirectly, in such a movement. That is my real concern. Once the distinction between progressivism and far-right populism is blurred, dangerous hybrids could grow and readily spread to other parts of the world. I fear that an alliance between progressives and Paul supporters could be a step on a slippery slope to forming links with far-RW nationalist groups and individuals that oppose the war, such as Pat Buchanan; the British Nationalist Party; Jean-Marie LePen; even David Duke; etc. If that happens, and such groups gain respectability, especially in the eyes of people on the 'left', we may be sunk!
I think that there are differences between plausible and less plausible CTs, and also between a hypothesis that is rejected when the evidence does not support, and one which is held firmly in spite of the evidence.
There are indeed 'dangers of allowing fantastic, baseless ideas to morph into a belief that is perceived as a reality'.
I think that most of these CTs are neither right nor left in themselves. There are 'Truthers'; people who are suspicious of vaccines and other forms of modern medicine; and people who believe that Princess Diana was murdered, both on the right and left wing of politics, for example. There are differences in *how* these are expressed: for example, the left-wing anti-vaccinator is more likely to express suspicion of 'Big Pharma' and the right-wing vaccinator to express suspicion of government-run or mandated public health programmes. The left-wing 'MIHOP'-er is more likely to justify their beliefs in terms of the wickedness and untrustworthiness of the Bush government in particular and the right-wing 'MIHOP'er to do so in terms of the wickedness and untrustworthiness of all governments. It is among right-wing MIHOP-ers that accusations of involvement by Israel or 'Zionists' are likely to become most pervasive; just as it was among right-wingers that the idea that Iraq was somehow involved became most pervasive.
IMO, one of the dangers of certain CTs is that they can tempt left-wingers into an alliance with right-wingers. You don't need CTs for that. Progressives who are against the war, and against government encroachments on civil liberties, may become tempted to seek alliances with right-libertarians (and worse) who hold similar views on these specific issues. But strong beliefs that the government and large parts of the world are automatically 'out to get you', and that no mainstream information source can be trusted, can contribute to some (IMO) dangerous beliefs; e.g.:
(1) Icononoclasm and anti-establishment views are in themselves a good thing. The anti-establishment right is at least better than the pro-establishment right, and an alliance between the anti-establishment left and right might be a good thing. (LB: No, it might not! That's one way that fascist movements gained ground in the 1930s.)
(2) It may really be true that Jews or 'Zionists' are controlling the world, and that other countries are being forced or duped into fighting 'wars for Israel'. After all, such theories have been proposed by people who oppose the war and Bush, so there may be something in them! (LB: Do I really need to explain why that view is dangerous? And no, this has nothing to do with objecting to any criticism of Israel's internal politics or its treatment of the Palestinians. Being critical of the latter doesn't require one to subscribe to some 21st century version of the Protocols!)
(3) There is no real difference between right and left beyond some 'formalism' and 'mere words'. Some global elites are manipulating us, and using the left/right distinction to divide us. (LB: It is true that *party labels* may be formalistic; but there is a real difference between right-wing and left-wing attitudes to life. If someone is blaming racial minorities and foreigners for everything; proposing drastic cuts in public services and safety nets for poorer people; and attacking women's rights, then they are no allies, even if they support some of the same CTs as you do.)
(4) No source of information can be trusted fully, and therefore all can be considered equally valid. Right-wing CT sites, such as those of Alex Jones, WakeUpFromYourSlumber, and WhatReally(Never)Happened can be used as valid sources. On the other hand (as one now-TS'd DU-er once proposed), the Holocaust is only a 'purported' Holocaust as 'I don't trust the History Channel'(!) (LB: While it's indeed sensible to question all media sources, that does *not* justify plunging headlong into right-wing cesspools on the grounds that they are telling you what the government don't want you to hear!)
(5) All collaborations between countries, even for the most peaceful purposes, should be seen as actual or potential 'global conspiracies' and as steps in the creation of an evil 'New World Order'. (LB: Here lie all sorts of opportunities for justifying ultra-nationalism, racism and xenophobia. Indeed one of the surest ways of telling that a site or organization is anti-establishment-Right rather than Left is the serious use of the phrase 'New World Order')
I should emphasize once again that people can hold all kinds of CTs from the reasonable to the bizarre *without* supporting direct or indirect collaboration between progressives and the far-right; and people can attempt to validate the far right *without* having any of the usual CTs. But the two do IMO go together more often than would be expected by chance. That is perhaps the biggest danger of uncritical, single-minded support of certain CTs. And in the week of the Tiller murder and Holocaust Museum shooting in the USA, and the worrying rise of Right-wing parties in Britain and Europe - I think we should heed these wake-up calls, and shun ANY progressive/ right-wing collaborations that may lead us to tolerate xenophobia, hard-right economic 'libertarianism', and even forms of fascism.
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