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The Benghazi affair and Obama’s contempt for the First Amendment

This item, out a few days ago, from one of my favourite bloggers, Tim Sandefur, ought to be part of a firestorm of debate out there over the contempt that the current occupant of the White House has shown for the First Amendment. The sad fact is, however, that a large chunk of allegedly “progressive” or “liberal” opinion (such a shame that fine word has been debauched) is unsteady on defending free speech (and quite a lot of “conservatives” are not much better).

Read the whole thing, as the saying goes. And wonder if you will why not more of a stink has been created about this. Almost a quarter of a century ago, when Salman Rushdie went into hiding in the UK after publication of his Satanic Verses book (I haven’t read it), we had an early taste from how some people were willing to make excuses for the murderous intent of fundamentalist Muslims. But to their credit, lefties such as Christopher Hitchens were willing to take a stand. In fact this was the sort of issue that I think turned Hitch away from some of his reflexive Leftism and into being a more free-ranging contrarian.

55 comments to The Benghazi affair and Obama’s contempt for the First Amendment

  • Mr Ed

    From the linked article:

    There was a day when liberals would have been the most infuriated by such conduct. They once fought brave battles for the right to express even the most outrageous opinions, no matter what snarling theocrats and reactionary brutes might threaten.

    If liberals ever were infuriated, it was only a tactical manoeuvre as part of a longer game.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Once more I have to observe that when you know the Truth, dissenting views can only be an occasion of error. The real sin of progressives (and some conservatives) is that they’re Truth-knowers.

  • CaptDMO

    Let me make it official for you.
    The term “Liberal”, abused from history by disingenuous “usage” (in the US anyway), is no longer needed in discussing the current crowd finding itself under the (so-called)Democratic “MORE EXECUTIVE PROCLAIMATIONS”/”JUDICIAL” NULLIFICATUONS” tent.
    Progressive, Left (or gauche, IMHO), Socialist, Intellectually “challenged”, emotionally manacled, or New World Order, will do.
    The term “Progressive” is historically best in referring to the modern heritage of “The American Communist Party”, SOME current (self-defined)”Progressive” political practices show indubitable intersection with those of “old” American NAZI Party.
    PROBABLY not a good attendance credentials thesis subject at CERTAIN “accredited” American institutions of Higher Education.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Mr Ed: Exactly so.

  • Not true, Julie – there is such thing as an honest leftie. Whether such a leftie remains a leftie forever, is a separate question. Hitchens, who is mentioned in the post, is an interesting case in point.

  • But Mr Ed (as JP implies) there was a time when a “liberal” (UK sense) was actually er… liberal.

  • Mr Ed

    Nick, indeed, but what sort of fight is it to pick for a word ‘liberal’, when we have a bigger fight of ideas? ‘Liberal’ has a pejorative edge, use that to slice their ideas, no to seek to reclaim it.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa, I took Mr Ed’s remark as referring to the faux-free-speech hollerers of the bad old days of the New Left and its forbears. Those guys all loved Free Speech as long as it was speech they agreed with. And today’s librul and Proggie and gangsterite and Neo-New-Left free-speech enthusiasts are if anything worse.

    Now Mr Ed was making a general comment. I certainly didn’t take him as referring to every “liberal” (i.e. “librul”) who ever lived. First, I understand that once upon a time liberals were, well, liberal*. Second, neither Mr Ed nor I mentioned the word “leftie.” In my opinion there are a good many libruls who aren’t so much lefties as sheep, though some are sillier than others. But of course that doesn’t stop them from ba-a-aa-a-ing and doing damage. And being a little unclear as to just exactly “free speech” is supposed to mean. (This last could also be said, of course and unfortunately, of quite a few people who are neither librul, nor Left, nor Proggie.)

    *I see Nick just said the exact same thing. Great minds….

    If you want an honest leftist, the closest I can come is Dershowitz.

    – – –

    If you (general “you”) think it should be legally out-of-bounds to mention Jesus or Moses in a “public” building, you are not in fact truly given to the idea of Free Speech. There’s a reason why most non-Leftist, non-Proggie, non-librul, etc. people are willing to put up with all the speeches of all the demagogues of the Public Square who promote their trash, and don’t go calling for The Gov to write a new lawr [sic].

  • Nick (Blame The French) Gray

    Was Hitchens an honest man? Didn’t he write ‘The missionary position’, a book supposedly about mother Teresa, without once mentioning the miraculous daily supply of food that keeps her charity going? (I have heard no news about that recently, so I suppose there has been no change.) Perhaps being honest would have required him to have changed his atheist mind?

  • Regional

    Mister Ed,
    The ‘Liberal’ only take affirmative action against their own side with lawyers strapped to their backs.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Julie near Chicago
    June 2, 2014 at 1:15 am
    If you want an honest leftist, the closest I can come is Dershowitz.

    I’d add Carl Hiassen.

  • Paul Marks

    Even before the Frankfurt School of Marxism (i.e. “Political Correctness” and “Critical Theory”)American Progressives were hostile to freedom – including freedom of speech.

    The Orwellian named “academic freedom campaign” of Richard Ely (the mentor of both T. Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson – and the founder of the American Economics Association a guild set up to ruin economics and replace it with number crunching and interventionism) was not really about defending freedom of speech (it was set up supposedly to defend the freedom of speech of a Stanford academic who Jane Stanford had fired for his economic collectivism and his vicious racism – the latter bit tends to be left out of establishment accounts) – the real purpose behind the Academic Freedom Campaign (with its demands for “tenure” and so on) was to CRUSH freedom – to make all universities the same (controlled by the collectivists) to destroy any CHOICE in the sort of university one could go to (as the world view of the all the universities would all be the same).

    It is no accident that the universities that the modern academic “freedom” types tend to go after are the handful of non leftist universities (such as Hillsdale and Grove City College – the places that also refuse government backed “loans” for students) – this is exactly what Richard Ely intended (“academic freedom” Was always about CRUSHING freedom, destroying CHOICE).

    Does anyone think that Woodrow Wilson with his “New Freedom” was more respectful of the First Amendment than Mr Obama is?

    Well he was not – Woodrow Wilson did not need Marxism to be an evil man, he could tap into other forms of collectivism (other forms of state worship – see his book “The State” unlike the Marxists at least Woodrow Wilson did not deny being a statist).

    That takes us back more than a century. Modern American liberalism can hardly reject Woodrow Wilson (he is at the heart of it) and Woodrow Wilson’s beliefs were profoundly evil (I use the word “evil” deliberately and after consideration).

    How about two centuries?

    The Westminster Review crowd supposedly at the heart of British liberalism two centuries ago (J. Bentham’s people – he of the 13 departments of state covering just about everything, and his follower Edwin Chadwick who specialised in writing reports, full of fake statistics and so on, “justifying” statism in….. well in just about anything) – the Westminster Review crowd were into such things as handing out money so that every library in the land could have a complete set of the works of Thomas Hobbes.

    Not Ralph Cudworth (the enemy of the Hobbes – and much read by the “Old Whigs”) – Thomas Hobbes the philosophical determinist and supporter of tyranny.

    Why would people who were really pro liberty revere Thomas Hobbes?

    Because they were not really pro liberty at all – it is a vast, stinking, LIE.

    These people revered not just Hobbes – but also Sir William Petty and Francis Bacon (the “Bowood Circle” out of which the Westminster Review crowd grew, was financially supported by Lord Shelbourne – Sir William Petty, with his statistic crunching to justify statism, Thomas Hobbes and Francis “The New Atlantis” Bacon are all part of the same intellectual tradition – and it is not a pro freedom one).

    Under the MASK of talking of “freedom” and “liberty” these people tried to “break the power” of the Church (the terrible oppression of the Anglican Church – sarcasm alert for people who do not recognise sarcasm) and the “Tory” land owners (actually many of the land owners were Whigs).

    “To produce freedom Paul”.

    No, no, no, – it was never about freedom .

    It was about “freedom from” – the state as the force of “enlightenment” (like the state of Frederick the Great – and the general PRUSSIAN tradition).

    A professional “educated” class of officials controlling us all (as in India – which many of the Westminster Review crowd were involved in) “for our own good”.

    In short the totalitarian Fabians (and the other “New Liberals”) did not totally transform liberalism (although they did make it worse) – because it already was corrupt, rotten (at its very core).

    Real pro freedom liberals did exist in the 19th century (of course they existed) – but they were already under siege.

    Is (for example) Henry Clay (if Woodrow Wilson is too recent) a liberal figure in American history? If he is then liberalism is the ENEMY of limiting government.

    Are people such as J. Bentham and Edwin Chadwick liberal figures in British history? If so then liberalism is the ENEMY of limiting government here also.

    Not just now – but even centuries ago.

  • Kevin B

    And today’s librul and Proggie and gangsterite and Neo-New-Left free-speech enthusiasts are if anything worse.

    Thanks Julie, you’ve given me an idea. Since neo- is the dismissive prefix du jour perhaps we on the neo-con and neo-libertarian side of the river ought to start repaying the gauchies in kind.

    Thus when Milliband starts wittering on about inequality or threatening us with price fixing, we can sneer “That’s just the sort of thing a neo-socialist would come out with”, or when Obama continues bypassing Congress with his ‘legislation by regulation’ scheme we can shout “Typical neo-communist neo-totalitarian behaviour by this unrepentant neo-Stalinist”.

    Hmm… I quite like this idea, even if it is mine.

  • Nah, Julie – ‘liberal’ in the American sense is the same thing as ‘leftie’ the world over, including the US itself. It’s just that US “liberals” would never refer to themselves as ‘lefties’.

    On Ed’s comment: sure, but I felt that it needed clarification for the sake of the quiet audience, if any.

  • Richard Thomas

    I think there’s a lot to be said to using “Fabians”. Modern communications make it much easier to reveal the wolf under the sheep’s clothing.

  • Richard Thomas

    I hadn’t read all of Paul’s post when I wrote that (I like what Paul writes but sometimes I need a bit of a run-up 🙂 )

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa, thanks for the clarification to me. :>)

    It seems to me that as Americans understand the terms (insofar as any of us do, political and philosophical taxonomy being a difficult area) there is some distinction between a “liberal” (modern variety) and a leftie. But I grant that if you drew a square to diagram the spectrum between “hard-left” on one side and “librul not leftie” on the other, and then marked one division of it “libruls who are really not lefties — just confused or unthinking” and across from it another line marking “clearly leftie,” the grey-shaded space in between would amount to about 85% of the square.

    I also grant that the “clearly leftie” margin would be wider than the other. At least in terms of noisiness. :>)) That’s part of why the “librul” percentage keeps being overtaken by the lefty percentage — the sheer volume of racket, and also the snowball effect of accretion.

    There is doubtless some truth in your observation that American so-called “libruls” aren’t altogether comfy classifying themselves as lefties (if they’re awake enough to sense a difference).

  • Snorri Godhi

    WRT the term “liberal” my “narrative” is this:
    British and continental social liberalism is a degenerate form of classical liberalism, which is itself a degenerate form of Whiggism.

    American “liberalism” is different, however, at least by ancestry: American “liberalism” originates from American Progressivism, whose European roots are to be found in Hegel, Comte, and Bismarck rather than in the Euro-liberal tradition. (At least, this is what i understand from Jonah Goldberg, though Goldberg, hilariously, calls Bismarck a “liberal”.)

    This is of course a simplification but it simplifies things for me.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Kevin B, I’ll buy that! Neo-communist (or, “neo-comm” !!) has already been spotted here and there. And, of course, neo-liberal, although it seems to me that’s more of a Brit term — is it? — and unfortunately doesn’t seem to refer to anybody except those who would formerly have been “libruls*” but who have now burrowed eveb farther into the Darkness of the left. Or are “neo-liberals” people who have moved from more-or-less Classic Liberalism to the modern anything-goes-if-it-discomfits-conservatives, or to the leftish, position?

    *My idiosyncratic spelling is always meant to signify “liberal”-in-the-American-sense, just so I can avoid verbiage. Although I don’t think much of libruls’ political theories (such as they are) and positions, the spelling isn’t meant as a put-down or pejorative.

  • Snorri Godhi

    WRT “lefties” it must be said that Bastiat used to sit on the Left in the French Parliament.

    Even quite recently, major free-market reforms have been initiated by the “left” in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada; the Chilean “left” continued the good work started under Pinochet (!); Blair+Brown initially were quite good on economic freedom; in the US, economic freedom peaked in 2000; and in Italy, the “left” has been, on the balance, more market-oriented than Berlusconi since about 1994 (that might change once B. gets definitely out of politics).

  • Julie, I think I now see the distinction – thanks for that:-)

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Julie near Chicago
    June 2, 2014 at 1:15 am
    If you want an honest leftist, the closest I can come is Dershowitz.

    I’d add Carl Hiassen.

    Correction, “Hiaasen.” Damn Danes can’t spell.

  • Regional

    Julie near Chicago,
    If you drew a Venn diagram of the Left a very large proportion would be black where the different colour circles overlap.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Snorri, that may be the ancestry of librulism (see above), but the Founders and Framers were big on people like Montesquieu, Say, Locke and Adam Smith (if one thinks they were Classic Liberals), along with Jefferson and Madison. When I used to call myself a liberal, those were the kinds of people I thought of. Of course at the time we were taught that J.S. Mill was a Classic Liberal. I just thought liberalism meant that one was not hide-bound, and did not propose to condemn others just because their behavior was outside the local social norms (short of criminality or unnecessary hurtfulness that is), one did not eschew tradition as such but one thought there was more to life than just tradition, one believed that there are values, one did not object to sharing the planet nor the country nor the neighborhood with Jews for instance, nor any other more exotic personages (Hindus? Negroes? Japanese, or Javanese? American Indians? Himmel, what a crew!) … in short a liberal was a live-and-let-live sort, who tried to avoid the evil twins of prejudice and hypocrisy.

    The economics aspect was off my radar altogether as a part of being a liberal — Mill, Smith to the contrary. So were all the issues of War. So, not yet a sort-of-libertarian. But certainly not a librul in the Progressive Ely-Roosevelt-Wilson-Dewey etc. line. Blast their ghosts! I wish T.R. hadn’t chosen to run as a Republican.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Yes, regional. But I hesitate to talk about Venn diagrams to a general audience, since there may be those who don’t know what they are.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa, :>))

  • veryretired

    I diagrammed a venn once, but I got a low grade because the teacher said I put the participle on the wrong line.

  • Endivio Roquefort I

    WRT “neoliberals” as mentioned by Julie near Chicago:

    I have tried in vain to locate a single politician, economist or thinker who describes himself/herself as “neoliberal”. Nevertheless, according to the Ecuadorian government daily El Telégrafo, and according to a large number of commenters on The Grauniad’s CiF, “neoliberalism” has dominated US and South American and British economic policy for the last 30 years, at least, and is the source of absolutely all the world’s present ills. How everything that’s wrong with the world can be blamed on a political and/or economic philosophy that no one actually professes does rather puzzle me, I will freely admit. Any clarification on this question would be welcome. Where do neoliberals hang out? Do they have special handshakes? Do they do Black Masses? Can anyone join or do you have to have done something notable first, like dollarizing a small Third World country?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Very, yes, you have to watch out for that sort of thing. Difficult and dangerous, these venns. *looks around fearfully, sits on hands to avoid rapped knuckles*

  • Nick (Blame The French) Gray

    Just to confuse things even more, when the right-wing parties coalesced into one big party, here is Australia, they chose the name Liberal, because it still carries the connotation, here, of a minimal style of governing. The Liberal party is sometimes accused of being too friendly to big business.
    So I sometimes get very confused when a visiting American scientist appears on a TV panel show (Q and A) and talks about liberal values! Despite having been here a whole week, does he know how we’ll react to that statement?

  • Julie near Chicago

    ER I, you bring up one of the Great Questions. If a thing does not exist, that is if there is no such thing as a thing, then how can the thing be known?

    Does the Veil of Ignorance lie over all that is and is not? Is the nonexistent thing the dancer and the rest the dance, or vice-versa? Even the poet

    Now it’s obvious that if the thing did exist it would be a force for evil, which is no doubt where the Grauniad gets its peculiar hypothesis, or, rather, conclusion. Yet the thing does not exist. Now since we only know the Good because of the existence of Evil, we need the thing that does not exist to exist. Since it doesn’t, it follows that the Good does not exist either.

    But that is Evil in itself.

    Therefore the thing that does not exist exists.

    Quod erat, or quod non erat, as you prefer, demonstrandum.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Oh well, we’ll let Mr. Yeats rest in peace. Or in pieces, as the case may be.

  • Endivio Roquefort I

    Alzheimer’s is kicking in. I actually thought of the Grateful Dead before I thought of Yeats.

  • Nick (Blame The French) Gray

    We have enough evil to share around equally. It is only when people try to give their share to others, or not carry their equal allocation of evil that they momentarily seem ‘good’, by false contrast!
    If you start from the assumption that we live in the worst of all possible worlds, then the world makes sense! (Don’t forget, Alisa and Julia, and Natalie, that I am masculine, and thus born bad.)

  • I too sought the answer to The Great Question, and at least according to The Great Wikipedia, neoliberalism is basically the corporatist social-democratic order under which all of us have been living in one form or another for the past several decades. The reason it is used pejoratively by the Left is that they, correctly, see it as a step to the right from what they presumably would like to see instead – that, presumably, being something much less corporate and democratic? Not really sure about that part, myself. Not quite sure whether they themselves are all that sure about that either…

  • Nick (Blame The French) Gray, following your address to Julia(?), Natalie and myself, but speaking for myself only: personally, I have not the slightest interest in your masculinity (or lack thereof). Hope that helps.

  • Nick (Blame The French) Gray

    But I thought men were oppressors of women, and born that way! Wasn’t that what Natalie was writing about last week? And didn’t you agree with her?

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa, at 7:24 a.m.: Yes, no doubt you are right, but they’ll never admit it.

    The only good democracy is one where 99.995% of the vote goes to the only candidate who is permitted to run. (The .005% Nay vote is from the candidate’s goldfish, which knows him better than anyone else but is allowed to vote for the sake of appearances.) I believe the populace is encouraged to turn out in droves for the event.

    Nick, at 2:08 a.m.: Don’t feel bad about it. More to be pitied than censured, I’m sure, poor dear. We know you can’t help it. Well — unless you’d want an operation? *perky expression*

  • Kevin B

    When I made my neo- suggestion above I was under the impression that the prefix neo- meant new. Perhaps new in the ironic sense of, say, rehashed, but at least new. However, looking at the various neo- political usages I perceive that it means not-. Thus neo-liberal means not liberal and neo-conservative means not consevative.

    This is causing me all sorts of confusion, not least because in modern usage liberal means not liberal and conservative means not conservative.

    This is clearly all part of a devilish plot by our neo-lizard overlords to confuse us all by defining everything as being nothing, for without a definition to grab hold of, things gets very slippery indeed.

  • Paul Marks

    Breaking my rule about number of comments…..

    One of the main liberal publications in the United States (before the First World War) was still classical liberal – the Nation (which attacked Richard Ely and co). However, only a few years later (and without a dramatic change in ownership or even personal) it collapsed into interventionism and socialism.

    Snorri is correct – modern liberalism had degenerated from Classical Liberalism and this IN TURN degenerated from the believes of the Old Whigs.

    What some (not all) of the Classical Liberals of the 19th century tried to do was to marry anti liberty philosophy with pro liberty politics (just as Hayek tried to do in the 20th century) – it does not work. It is unstable and vulnerable to attack.

    The Old Whigs did not have this problem – as their philosophy fitted with their politics (there was no massive contradiction in it).

  • Paul Marks

    To give names…..

    Old Whigs such as Edmund Burke would not have nodded in agreement with the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes, or held that Francis Bacon and Sir William Petty were good guides to policy.

    I do not see how someone can (for example) praise Thomas Hobbes on the one hand and call for limits on government on the other hand.

    And this did not start with the formal “New Liberals” such as T.H. Green – it is there in the early 19th century and even (with the Bowood Circle) in the 18th century.

    One can oppose the opinions of the Old Whigs – but one can not honestly maintain that their philosophy was in contradiction to their politics

    But Classical Liberalism was (in part at least) an accident waiting to happen (a lot of its philosophy did not fit with its politics at least with some of its leading lights).

  • Snorri Godhi

    Julie: that’s interesting (@11:40). I assume that you grew up in the US. I didn’t know that there are some Americans who grew up associating the word “liberal” primarily with classical liberalism.

    BTW the reason i emphasized the (afaik) distinct origin of American “liberalism” is that it helps explain the contempt that US “liberals” seem to show towards free speech. There is even less freedom of speech in the UK (probably) but UK Liberals have the excuse that they do not have much responsibility for what has been going on in the last 100 years.

    I have no objection to calling Jefferson and Madison “liberals”, but according to wikipedia the word “liberalism” was first used in English in 1815, so perhaps they should be called Whigs … or perhaps neo-liberals.

  • Snorri Godhi

    A couple of essays worth reading about “liberalism” and “left” vs “right”:

    First, Herbert Spencer’s The New Toryism:

    It opens with the sentence:

    Most of those who now pass as Liberals, are Tories of a new type.

    Enough said.

    Second, Mussolini’s Doctrine of Fascism:

    Key quotes:

    We are free to believe that this is the century of authority, a century tending to the ” right “, a Fascist century. If the XIXth century was the century of the individual (liberalism implies individualism) we are free to believe that this is the “collective” century, and therefore the century of the State.

    If liberalism spells individualism, Fascism spells government.

    In other words:
    “right” = authority, the collective, and the State;
    “left” = individualism, classical liberalism.

  • Snorri Godhi

    One last comment: it is gratifying that Paul Marks does not find my simplified history of liberalism objectionable. However, i am uneasy about his criticism of Hayek, who after all was himself uneasy with the “liberal” label. (See his Why I Am Not a Conservative.) But i won’t go into details here, i just wanted to put my disagreement on record.

  • Tedd


    In the circles I move in, neo-liberal seems to be mainly a euphemism for free trade, but with the presumption that free trade between wealthy nations and less-wealthy nations hurts the less-wealthy nations. So, to be a self-described neo-liberal one would have to simultaneously promote free trade and believe that it is harmful to less-wealthy nations. Not surprisingly, there aren’t a lot of people who will publicly admit to that stance.

  • Julie near Chicago

    I really have to try to draw a distinction here between American liberality, the attitude or mind-set of historical American liberalism properly understood, and American Librulism, its ugly stepsister.

    In the U.S., the “liberals” were originally those in the line of the Founders and going on back to Burke and so forth, the names I mentioned above. (I do not know when the term came into use.) And so liberalism was generally understood to be what we today call “Classic Liberalism.” It was not admired by all, in that it called for religious tolerance for instance, an attitude not entirely shared by the Catholics nor certain Protestant sects of the time. Liberals did not, as I said, object to Jews, either, and their greatest commonality was that ideas matter and should not be despised simply on the grounds that they took views different from the common ones. (This already has nothing to do with modern Librulism as it’s being sold by today’s Progressives, except insofar as the latter use the cachet of iconoclasm to rope in those in the Rebellious Years.)

    The idea that knowledge is a thing to be sought and valued was also a vital part of the liberal view. I think that although there was a certain cachet to formal education–it may have come in part through Jefferson and other pro-formal-education people–the basic idea was that it was good for the mind to know history and the Classics and humanities in general, plus some mathematics and science, whether this knowledge was gotten formally or through self-education. Indeed, this really is a part of Enlightened Self-Interest. (Hence the answer to the question, “Why should I bother to learn history?”)

    Regardless of WikiFootia, that was roughly the popular understanding (insofar as the populace did understand it) of “liberal” right up through the Fifties. (I started First Grade in Sept. 1949, when I was six, and graduated from High School in June 1961, when I was barely 18, just to orient everyone temporally.) When I was in grade school and high school, we were still taught that Enlightened Self-Interest was the underlying theme on which our country was founded, and some attempt was made to explain this idea to us, and to explain why it serves as the best way to approach living one’s life.

    Now, as Paul has explained, there had also grown up the strain of thought that by roughly the turn of the 20th century was being known as progressivism, as precursor to today’s “Progressives.” Whether this began as an offshoot of traditional liberalism (now called “Classic Liberalism”) or was a separate sprout entirely, I do not know; but I would guess that Ely and so forth began with at least a liberal bent that way, and a possibly-undue admiration of Europe, European ideas, European culture, European education; backed up by the fashion of going to Europe (and Germany) to get the best education going. And they came back and worked on Building a Better America, which was the beginning of activist progressivism. [Somewhere along the way liberalism (including the liberal religious, or religious liberals), and the nascent progressivism did conjoin in the Abolitionist movement.]

    So the Progressive Movement was born and grew, and we had all sorts of unsavory people entering the Elite, Mann, Dewey, so forth.

    But Progressivism in the popular mind at least was all but defunct as a movement by the ’20’s, and the Communists, who were always big on the tools of propaganda and infiltration, decided to rebuild it as their own creature, but keeping the name “progressive” so as not to frighten the horses. So Progressivism, already a Leftish project in its idea that the Government’s purpose was to shape society by drawing up blueprints for this and that institution (such as the schools), became Lefter.

    And gradually, the name “liberal” was co-opted by the people who signed on to this updated Progressivism. I conjecture that this was partly because superficially the progressive rhetoric wasn’t entirely unlike the standard liberal (“Classic Liberal”) explanation of the latter’s ideas. And partly it was because the Communist and communist and later the New Left contingent encouraged the confusion.

    So in 1965 I was a liberal, meaning “freshman Classic Liberal” (prior to that I would say I was in the Novitiate *g*). In 1985 I was liberal socially and intellectually, but as a former student of Objectivism, I was much more aware of the political dimension. (Although I had strongly disapproved of quite a bit of governmental action as such going clear back to my teen years.) I still think I’m a liberal properly speaking, but I’d never call myself that in public. :>(

    In sum, if you want to say that American Librulism began as an suite of ideas and projects imported from Germany (Prussia) and painted red white and blue, that’s fine, but it’s far from American liberalism–or better, American liberality, as it is really a basic attitude rather than a philosophy, and still less an ideology–which did indeed stress political freedom and independence along with the more personal virtues I mentioned above.

    Don’t confuse the two just because they appear to share some opinions, and the name of the one has been misapplied to the other. It’s today’s conservative-ish libertarian (for some value of “conservative-ish” and of “libertarian”) who is truly in the line of historical American liberality.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Kevin, when people first began raving about what they called the “neo-conservatives,” I considered myself one such: a “new”-style conservative, a conservative as opposed to a traditionalist; a don’t-throw-out-the-baby-with-the-bathwater type.

    Then I discovered that on the libertarian U.S. board that was my natural habitat, “neo-conservative” was understood to be a code-word for Joooo. Ridiculous! I tried to explain word-meanings (as everyone knows is my wont, 🙁 ), but considering that most of the combatants lived in the infested librul swamps of DC and environs and of San Francisco and environs, this was ineffective. I asked a friend, a Dem, who also inhabits a suburb of Chicago, what the term meant to her, and she oddly enough said it probably meant a new-style conservative. 🙂 🙂

    Nowadays the libruls and Proggies have stitched things together so that a “neo-con” is a formerly Communist Jew who is just as ideological, disturbed and distasteful as he was in the bad old days when he was still a Radical.

    Give me strength.

  • Laird

    Richard Thomas, I don’t agree that “there’s a lot to be said to using “Fabians”; it would just confuse things even more. To most Americans, Fabian was a mediocre pop singer in the 50’s.

    If I may steer this thread away from its long frolic into the etymology of “liberal” and back to Johnathan’s original post, I don’t particularly agree with Sandefur. Yes, the producer of that silly movie was jailed, but the reason for it was hardly a “pretext”. The man was a convicted criminal (credit card fraud, among other things), and his “supervised release” was simply revoked on the basis of admitted parole violations. Frankly, I can’t get too worked up over that, even it the motive was purely political (which I accept is unquestionably the case).

    To me, the most serious aspect of L’affaire Benghazi* is the issue of why Ambassador Stevens was there in the first place. The Obama administration has never answered that fundamental question; presumably Trey Gowdy and his Select Committee will push for one. However, it appears that Stevens may have been supervising an illegal arms sale through Turkey to Syrian rebels (themselves sympathizers, if not actual members, of al Qaeda). A leftist (sic!) version of Iran-Contra, if you will. If that is true, it is even more damning than the charge that Obama and Clinton falsely blamed the attack on “protesters” incensed by that silly movie, and refused to provide military support, purely to protect Obama’s re-election chances (since most of his campaign was premised on the claim that “we got bin Laden and al Qaeda is on the ropes”). There is a lot of substance to this scandal, but the re-imprisonment of one convicted criminal is the least of the issues (faux-liberal acquiescence in the trampling of his first amendment rights notwithstanding).

    * Don’t these things always sound better with French names?

  • Julie near Chicago

    I am strongly tempted to say, in my most sternly school-marmish tone of voice, “Laird! Don’t change the subject!”

    LOL :>)))!!!

    – – – – – –
    – – – – – –

    By the way, I agree with your point, except that I have to observe that Iran-Contra was undertaken in order to free the hostages, AMERICAN hostages. From the Foot of All Knowledge:


    The [Iran-Contra]scandal began as an operation to free the seven American hostages being held in Lebanon by a group with Iranian ties connected to the Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution. It was planned that Israel would ship weapons to Iran, and then the United States would resupply Israel and receive the Israeli payment. The Iranian recipients promised to do everything in their power to achieve the release of the U.S. hostages. The plan deteriorated into an arms-for-hostages scheme….

    Also, see Lebanon_hostage_crisis at WikiFootia, although the article carries its slant pretty openly. Commences:

    The Lebanon hostage crisis refers to the systematic kidnapping in Lebanon of 96 foreign hostages of 21 national origins—mostly American and western European — between 1982 and 1992. At least eight hostages died in captivity; some were murdered, while others died from lack of adequate medical attention to illnesses.[1]

    Whereas, I frankly don’t think the Left does anything because it will help America or Americans. And certainly not its “leader” is this present whatever-it-is.

  • Julie, thanks for the June 3, 9:23pm comment – a very interesting summary.

  • BTW, I would like to hear more about this part, from Julie or anyone else:

    But Progressivism in the popular mind at least was all but defunct as a movement by the 20s, and the Communists, who were always big on the tools of propaganda and infiltration, decided to rebuild it as their own creature, but keeping the name ‘progressive’, so as not to frighten the horses.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Alisa, regarding the Progressive movement in the ’20’s, the bald fact is pretty much the extent of my expertise *g*, but I will try to dig up some specific references in the next day or three.

    I’m glad if you got something out of the other comment, most of which is really based on my own recollections of what things were like, in the middle of the Midwest least, in mid-century. Think of it as “oral history.”

    It’s also true, as you probably know, that somehow Hobbes has made it into the list of people that the academics, at least, mostly, at least, seem to think are Classic Liberals. How this happened is a huge puzzlement. I almost fell off my chair when I discovered this a few years ago.

    Back to the Progressives. The original Progressive Party had disappeared early in the 20th century, but in the late ’40’s, a new Progressive Party was created. David Horowitz gives the following sketch (which I think is too long to read easily in italics) of the New Left, in the era between roughly 1948 and on past 1968 (when the Chicago riots, i.e. “Days of Rage,” were staged). From his article “Who are Our Adversaries?”, posted on April 29, at


    He writes:

    – – – –

    It is an often overlooked but immensely significant fact that during the Cold War the vast majority of American progressives supported the Communist enemy, working as apologists, appeasers, and enablers for a global movement openly dedicated to the destruction of their country. At the time, the progressive movement was much smaller than it is now and was opposed by mainstream Democrats whom progressives referred to derisively as “Cold War Liberals.” In 1968, progressive activists staged a riot at the Democratic Party convention. The riot was overtly designed to destroy the electoral chances of Hubert Humphrey, regarded as the Cold War Liberal in Chief because of his support for the Vietnam War.

    The Progressive Party, was formed in 1948 to challenge the cold war liberalism of Harry Truman and was in fact controlled by the Communist Party. The so-called New Left that emerged in the Sixties did not represent a clean break with communism and was not, in fact, a “new” left but a continuation of the old. It developed a modernized, deceptive political rhetoric — calling itself “populist” and even “liberal” — but it was mobilized behind the same malicious anti-individualist, anti-capitalist, and anti-American agendas as the Communist movement from which it sprang.

    After the convention riot of 1968, this neo-Communist Left marched off the streets and into the Democratic party, and over the next decades took commanding positions in the party’s congressional apparatus, and eventually its national leadership. As it acquired power, it gradually shifted its self- identification from “liberal” to the bolder “progressive,” a designation shared by most leaders of the Democratic Party today. The betrayal of the Vietnamese by the “Watergate” Democrats, the appeasement of Latin American Communists (now firmly entrenched throughout the hemisphere and allied with our enemy Iran), the betrayal of the Iraqis and the sabotage of the war on terror, the traducing of the civil-rights movement and its transformation into a mob led by the racial extortionists Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton (the latter now the president’s chief adviser on race), the subversion of the modern research university and the conversion of its liberal-arts divisions into doctrinal institutes for training American youth in the radical party line known as political correctness, the rise of a campus fascism aligned with Islamic Jew haters and genocidal terrorists, the political undermining of the public-health system during the AIDS epidemic which led to half a million avoidable deaths — all these were crucial battles lost during the 40 years that preceded the White House reign of Barack Obama. All are documented in the pages of these volumes in week-by-week accounts of the arguments and conflicts that accompanied them.

  • Julie near Chicago

    To clarify the last paragraph above: The quote is taken from an article in which Mr. Horowitz explains his reason for putting together his what he thinks are his most effective pieces in a multi-volume opus entitled The Black Book of the American Left.

  • Excellent, Julie – thank you.

  • Julie near Chicago