Posted by Curt on 16 October, 2019 at 11:16 am. 1 comment.


Commenter “Mac” writes:

I recently had an exchange with a leftist who explicitly rejected the significance of plain facts to the debate. For him the only *fact* that mattered was that his cause was morally right. It dawned on me that principle in the sense that I or most people here would understand the term simply wasn’t part of his equipment. What he had was a very high level of moral outrage, which he kept referring to: “I don’t care about the factual details of this thing, I just know what’s morally right.” I know some very intelligent leftists who are very decent well-meaning people, and have had similar exchanges with several of them.

It dawned on me that when they use the word “principle” they mean commitment and zeal for the cause of equality, etc. To deviate in that support by acknowledging something that works against the cause is what they mean when they speak of betraying a principle. This particular conversation had to do with LGBT activism, and the person was quite willing to simply defy certain facts that didn’t fit the paradigm in his mind–and thought of that as sticking to principle. He didn’t necessarily even deny the facts. He just refused to let them affect the greater truth to which he was committed. The Covington thing brought that out in several people: It didn’t matter what the video showed, what mattered was that white people were on one side and an oh-so-spiritual native American was on the other.

Maybe this all sounds obvious, but the recent exchange was kind of a light-bulb moment for me. I’d never seen it quite that clearly. Suddenly their behavior and rhetoric made sense in a squirrely sort of way–it wasn’t simple stupidity or dishonesty, it was quasi-religious zeal.

Whether you call leftism “religious” or “quasi-religious” – or what I prefer, the more generic “fanatic” – Mac is describing something I had noticed even as a child among certain leftist relatives of mine, in particular an uncle I’ve written about before. If one observes the phenomenon over and over, it’s striking how every fact can be deflected or twisted or changed or even incorporated by the true believer to conform to the cause rather than to challenge it.

I think that Mac is correct that the word “principles’ is key. For a leftist and particularly a Communist, the Party became the only principle, the one in which all hope and all loyalty was invested. Family, friendship, religion, kindness, and even conventional notions of fairness were to be jettisoned if the Party said that doing so was to the Greater Good of the Party, and that some ultimate as-yet-unrealized Utopian time will come as a result of all this suffering. Those older principles must bow down before the new principle, which is Party Uber Alles.

For many other people (and one would hope it’s the majority, although I have extremely grave doubts about that) there are other principles that transcend blind faith in a particular socio-political theory of human history: truth, beauty, the Golden rule, and I’m sure you can come up with others. For them, if facts keep emerging that contradict a socio-political theory they hold, it must be abandoned or at the very least revised drastically.

That’s what happened to some Communists in the US: after Khrushchev openly spoke in the 1950s of the manifold crimes of Stalin, they abandoned their faith in Communism (although perhaps not leftism in general).

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