Naturally part of my journey out of Christianity and out of the morally puritanical fundamentalism I was raised with was learning to become more open minded toward the idea of differing viewpoints. It would be easy to say that everything I believed in was challenged along the way but this is only partially true. Despite my religious upbringing the Conservative political views of my Father never quite transferred to me completely. Even though I spent much of my teenage years and early adult life being anti-abortion I also spent them being anti-Bush, anti-war and, after an eye opening assignment in a criminal justice class, anti-death penalty.
Despite my Father talking about the 'gay agenda' as if it was some dark conspiracy lurking in the shadows devised by Satan himself I supported the idea of gays having civil partnerships that were equal to what a marriage was (though at the time I suggested we win over the religious by not CALLING it marriage even though it would be legally equivalent).
Since 2008 I have largely considered myself to hold the same sorts of political views. I am a Left leaning person with Libertarian tendencies when it comes to various issues of personal liberty. For example I don't think the government should be locking up drug offenders for minor offenses involving drugs intended only for their personal use. I don't think Prostitution should be illegal and I think the rights of sex workers are important and they shouldn't be treated as criminals.
I have avoided attaching myself to any political labels because there is no platform that best describes me. For example I may have a Libertarian view on drugs but I don't share that view when it comes to guns, I think that in the case of guns we need stronger controls, but that's because in that particular case the needs of the many (namely to not be shot) outweigh the "needs" of those who pretend they need massive magazines and super deadly assault weapons.
According to a recent political test this is where I stand:
And yet with the recent election and the current political climate I have never felt farther from those I once considered my political peers. It's not that I supported Trump, I didn't care for either him or Hillary. On the Left I supported Bernie Sanders because while I do not share all of his views his positions aligned the closest with mine AND he didn't appear to be controlled by corporate money. On the Right side of the spectrum I would have settled for Rand Paul because his Libertarian tendencies make him the obvious choice for me even if, again, I do not agree with all of his stances.
What we got were by far the two most lackluster candidates in my lifetime.
I thought perhaps the loss to Trump would have caused the Left to do some soul-searching as to why they lost the election despite predicting a landslide victory for Hillary. Instead the immediate aftermath of the election was to continue the character assassinations and moral elitism that had so soundly lost them the election.
You see there is a contingent of folks on the Left, a pernicious and extremely vocal minority that many are calling the Regressive Left, the Illiberal Left, the Authoritarian Left, etc. These are moral authoritarians who have declared anyone who disagrees with them a bad person merely for their political positions.
What's that you say, you don't support letting millions of refugees from majority Muslim nations into America? You must be a xenophobic racist and an anti-Islamic bigot. There couldn't possibly be good reason for concern, nope, you're automatically a terrible person for even holding a different opinion.
In the past twenty years these people have increasingly risen to the forefront of much of the political discourse under a great deal of different names. The problem is now an entire generation of people have grown up believing that not only are Conservatives the enemy but that anyone who holds an opinion different to them is not just a political foe but a genuinely bad person deserving of scorn, social shaming or outright violent treatment.
In the past few years this has been taken to the extreme to the point where I can't go anywhere on the internet without hearing about how someone who used to be a conservative has been upgraded to being in the "alt-right" and then has been upgraded into being an outright Neo-Nazi. This insanely obtuse stupidity has become so prevalent that I am now in the position of having to defend people I don't even like and disagree vehemently with those I once considered on the same side of the issue as me.
Milo (sans Otis)
Take, for example, the case of professional troll Milo Yiannopoulos. Milo has made a career off of saying controversial things to the point where it is difficult to tell when he is joking and when he is serious. By no stretch of the imagination is he someone who represents my political views. Even on things that I do agree with him on, such as the rise of radical Feminism being a problem, I tend to disagree with his methods or the language he chooses. Suffice it to say that if Milo took the same political quiz I did we'd have dissimilar views.
I've only been aware of Milo's existence for about two years and in those two years he has gone from being labeled a Conservative troll to being labeled part of the Alt-Right to now being outright claimed as a Neo-Nazi by some "Liberals".
Milo is often invited to speak by Conservative groups at Universities, keyword: INVITED. When one of his talks actually takes place it is often taken over by protesters who do whatever they can to shout him down. When protesting isn't enough however bomb threats are sometimes called in, or, as in the recent debacle at UC Berkley, violence and criminal behavior is employed.
Anyone who is in favor of free speech wants BOTH of the people pictured here to speak, especially if they have been invited. Note that Milo has been upgraded to a full F5 nuclear threat Neo Nazi. Note the language being used "Republicans" "demand" "freely". This was written by an ideologue and a nitwit. Milo doesn't DEMAND to speak, nor do Republicans make demands on his behalf. MILO GETS INVITED TO SPEAK.
What we have are a bunch of radicalized young people who have been taught that when they believe they are morally superior to someone they can employ violence and criminal behavior in order to silence that person. Any opinion they deem too harmful to be heard, by their own standards, can be either shouted down or shut down outright using rioting, violence or the threat of violence. And in order to justify this action all they have to do is declare Milo a Neo-Nazi, a characterization that is so far off the mark it is reminiscent of those calling Obama a Communist or the actual Anti-Christ.
Obama was not a Communist, Obama wasn't even a proper Democratic Socialist. Milo isn't a Neo Nazi (though he is a total asshole and troll) and yet the moral authoritarians of the Left already have their minds made up that their views are SO SUPERIOR to his that he isn't even entitled to speak at an event he was invited to.
This is why so many are rejecting the idea that these new radicals are even Liberals. One would assume that being Liberal means standing up for Liberal principles, principles such as freedom of speech.
Evelyn Beatrice Hall once summarized the spirit of Voltaire, a hero to many free thinkers and skeptics, as believing this:
"I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it"
We now have a generation of young people who reject this Liberal principle. Why? Because they heard someone say something offensive. Somebody said something racist, or homophobic or transphobic and so from that moment forth anything else that comes out of their mouth might as well be coming from Hitler himself. For each of these Moral Authoritarians there is an invisible line and once you cross it you are declared a fundamentally bad person or perhaps just declared a Nazi or fascist. Make the wrong joke, use a slur even in jest, and you are dead to them.
This is why the Left is losing the culture war. Every time I see some dumbass post about how Islam is really a religion of peace or anyone who voted for Trump is a racist I am pushed into a position defending people who I wholeheartedly disagree with. I may disagree with a Trump supporter who wants a Wall on the Southern Border but are we going to pretend that illegal immigration causes NO real world problems? I may disagree with an administrations bumbling attempt at an executive order banning travel from seven war torn Muslim countries but are we going to pretend that Islamic migration hasn't caused terror attacks and other issues to multiply in Europe?
Being anti-illegal immigration isn't a xenophobic stance to take, it isn't even a Conservative stance. How is it that these Regressives do not have a grasp of how nuanced this issue is? Even I, someone who recognizes that borders are invisible lines that we must one day erase if we are to move forward as one species toward a brighter future, understand that in the immediate present we can't just let everyone who wants to get in into our country. Is it possible to understand the poem quoted beneath the Statue of Liberty AND not want people to come here illegally? I think so.
Part of this new Puritanical movement of Left-wing ideologues are celebrities and corporations doing their part to take full advantage of anything going on in politics. It started innocently enough with companies that used to come out in favor of gay marriage or you'd see a news story about Target not having a "girls toys" and "boys toys" distinction in their toy section.
Now, however, companies use this to win favor and publicity. Everyone wants to boycott everything. Recently Uber, an alternative taxi service app that exists just to get transportation decided to let their drivers drive during a taxi union strike. The strike was protesting Trump's "Muslim Ban" executive order and thus, by not joining in the protest, Uber was seen as in league with Trump.
At this point anyone remotely sympathetic with Trump is a Nazi or Nazi sympathizer and may or may not be a Sith Lord secretly assisting the Trump administration to the construction of a new Death Star. So naturally we were supposed to all jump on the Virtue ChooChoo train and boycott Uber because their decision not to protest means they are racist anti-Muslim bigots who probably grind Syrian refugees up into a fuel for their cars.
In the meantime we have dumbasses who want to boycott Star Wars, or Netflix, or Starbucks for the opposite reason, because they attempted to have too much diversity?
So we have a bunch of jackasses all shouting into their echo chambers and we have corporations who are playing both sides of this ideological war for brownie points. Good fucking grief.
Nazis, Nazis Everywhere
The Left is losing the culture war and a big part of that is due to the Moral Authoritarians declaring everyone they remotely disagree with as racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. Part of this is is a natural hyperbolic extension that we might expect to see from irrational young people arguing on the internet. Unfortunately now this hyperbole has bled through into the mainstream political discourse.
Recently internet sensation "Pewdiepie" has come under fire from mainstream news outlets such as the Wall Street Journal for making numerous racist and anti-semitic jokes as well as jokes about Nazis and Hitler. We now have something once considered a respectable news outlet essentially fishing for clicks and controversy by taking a whole bunch of clips out of context. This has led to the claim by Social Justice types and other Moral Authoritarians that Felix (pewdiepie) is himself actually genuinely a racist and anti-semite.
Once again I am put in a position of having to defend someone I do not even care for. I've never been a fan of pewdiepie, I find his content immature and pandering, but these accusations are outlandish and bordering on slander/libel/defamation.
When everyone you disagree with is a racist, a fascist or a nazi you might want to rethink the way you're defining and using those words.
Accusing Pewdiepie of being an actual racist is like accusing Larry the Cable Guy of being an actual redneck, he is literally a comedian playing a character.
Melania's Naked Pictures
One of the incidents that stands out to me as indicative of the Moral Authoritarians we now have shouting on the left came when I saw numerous posts about Melania Trump's Nude photo shoot with GQ. I saw people on the Left who were staunchly pro-Hillary (and presumably therefore pro-woman) going after Melania Trump as if it were somehow shameful that our new First Lady posed naked FIFTEEN FUCKING YEARS AGO.
This immediately made me angry, very angry. I had always thought that women wanted equality and I've never heard of people shaming men who pose naked for magazines. I've certainly never heard a man complain that other men are degrading themselves by being models or pornstars. In fact usually I hear men lamenting the fact that they are not attractive enough (or perhaps lack the stamina) to be male models or pornstars.
There is nothing, absolutely nothing, shameful about a woman posing naked. Why should there be?
At any rate these photos were taken fifteen years ago, long before there was even the slightest rumble of Trump running for Presidency or indeed higher office of any kind. HOW ON EARTH was Melania meant to have the FORESIGHT to turn down this modeling opportunity? How could she, or indeed ANYONE, have possibly predicted that Trump would not only run for President but win?
I guess it turns out I'm more of a Feminist than some Hillary supporters, since they don't believe it's okay for women to also be models. I am once again having to defend someone I otherwise wouldn't bother defending because the moral busybodies on the Left have to feel like they're winning a victory. Why not retroactively shame a woman for making a bold and empowering life choice by making some bizarre socially puritanical (conservative) claim that nude modeling is somehow degrading and shameful?
It was very reminiscent of the insane conspiracy theorists who thought Michelle Obama was transgender. Anything to feel like they're winning.
Ideologies Make You Look Like a Fucking Idiot
This is the world you get when instead of looking at each issue with any kind of rational or skeptical thought people make political judgments based on an ideology that they have decided to take hold of. Ideologues in the political sphere aren't much different to those in the religious sphere. They will defend even the most illogical aspects of an ideology even when there are opposing viewpoints staring them in the face. It's very easy to just declare an opposing viewpoint as immoral and declare yourself better than the other person.
When in doubt just ignore any valid points the other side has. If you're opponent is on the right they're probably a Fascist or Nazi and if they're on the left they're probably a Communist. Just skip any attempt at nuance or understanding and go right to declaring yourself superior and right by default. And if all else fails remember to shout down your opponent or start a riot because nothing conveys the superiority of your position like a hissy fit that ends in you almost burning down your own city or University.
Presidential election got you down? Just declare anyone who didn't vote for your candidate a racist sexist homophobe who hates America, drowns puppies and probably thinks Hitler was a swell guy. Declaring your political peer a Nazi doesn't make YOU look like the crazy one, not at all! They're all deplorable anyway, otherwise they'd agree with you, because you're the best person who ever lived!
During the election no one ever told me why I should vote for Hillary, they only told me that a Trump vote was a vote for racism, xenophobia and other deplorable things. Frankly I found both candidates deplorable and voted for neither. The act of not voting at all probably makes me an enemy to plenty of these insane ideologues.
The political landscape of our nation has shifted, in many ways it has shifted farther to the right BUT in other ways it has shifted farther toward the Authoritarian side and that is the side that scares me most of all.
I'm tired of feeling alienated from those who I would otherwise generally agree with and having to defend endlessly those who I disagree with but still believe deserve their say without being considered inhuman monsters. I shouldn't have to feel as if I've been left alone here when I don't think my stances are all that radical or different from the average American. Where is the voice of reason when the fringes of both parties are BOTH deplorable and regressive?
The Left NEEDS to regroup and get away from those rising to the top of that chart. This new movement of Left Wing Puritans is a big reason why the Left is losing the current culture war. The more they try to strangle to voices of those they deem deplorable the more people will rally to those causes, for good or for ill.
You can't defeat the ideas you view as bad ideas by simply declaring the people who espouse them as bad immoral or bad people. You can't character assassinate away bad ideas and the more people you label nazis the less meaning that word has.
When everything is racist, sexist and homophobic... nothing is.