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The censorship temptation

Dr. Douglas Young, U. of North Georgia-Gainesville political science professor emeritus.

There’s no shortage of temptations to ignore our First Amendment free expression rights and pervert the law into a billy club to banish disturbing speech. Indeed, ever more people demand we outlaw all “hate speech” and “disinformation” in the name of “equity” and “social justice.”

In this vein, to justify their recent attempt to ban any pro-Israel speaker from the campus of the University of California at Berkeley, the school’s Law Students for Justice in Palestine explains: “Free speech and the exchange of ideas cannot be romanticized when the by-product of such rhetoric causes harm to marginalized communities.” Of course, this “reasoning” can easily justify the suppression of any statement alleged to “harm” some preferred group.

But freedom fans know that, as George (Animal Farm; 1984) Orwell observed, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” Indeed, as Justice Harlan Fiske Stone noted, “If only popular causes are entitled to enjoy the benefit of constitutional guarantees, they serve no purpose, and could as well not have been written.” Furthermore, we’re all vulnerable to the whims of speech censors. As Thomas Paine understood, “He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression.”

Ironically, totalitarians may appreciate even more the power of freedom and the ideas it conveys. Vladimir Lenin (not good Beatle John, but bad commie Vlad) proclaimed, “It is true that liberty is precious, so precious that it must be rationed.” His even less tolerant and bigger mass-murdering disciple, Joseph Stalin, stated, “Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns; why should we let them have ideas?”

Alas, the world has been littered with formerly free lands transformed into totalitarian plantations by snowballing restrictions on individual expression, and usually out of a sincere conviction to stop speech many decent folks find repellent. Anyone wanting the right to voice politically incorrect views is deemed as defending the indefensible.

In today’s U.S., to deter “hate speech” against “LGBTQ+” and other groups preferred by the ruling class, to protect “public health” against “disinformation,” and to “save our democracy,” so many controversial views are excised from Twitter and other media outlets that free public discourse has been substantially restricted.

But, as for unsettling internet content, who’s a better filter for what you read: big tech, the state, or you? Why entrust others to be nannies for your mind? As Thomas Jefferson declared, “We are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.” So fight bad speech with your own informed judgment and good replies.

Contrary to what 1984 implied, it’s precisely the modern flowering of the means of mass communication that has empowered more people than ever to stand tall for truth and freedom, making it harder for dictators to keep their citizens ignorant and oppressed. Witness the fall of the cruel communist tyrannies of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, the liberalization of post- Maoist China, and exciting liberty liberation movements, even in a Muslim theocracy like Iran.

The root of censorship is a lack of faith in people. The censor is an arrogant elitist idealist bent on saving the rest of us from our own ignorant, depraved selves. Since he also lacks confidence in his ideas’ currency, he stifles all opposition. Furthermore, as Joe Sobran observed: “If a would-be censor could express himself so well, he’d have no need, or urge, to censor. He’d be content to oppose words with better words. Censorship is a confession of failure…. [A]ll the qualities such people tend to lack [include]: candor, humor, self-confidence, and self-respect.”

This typifies today’s speech cops on so many American campuses who are true totalitarians seeking what censors sought in 1984. As Orwell explained, “It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all, and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought … should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words.”

There’s never a dearth of fervent ideologues and purists, secular and religious alike, eager to legally pounce on any deviation from their enlightened orthodoxy. But witness the bitter fruit of such repressive regimes as Revolutionary France, communist Russia and China, Nazi Germany, Muslim theocratic Saudi Arabia and Iran, Castroite Cuba, and socialist Venezuela and Nicaragua. While none would permit the controversial expressions many seek to end here now, neither would any of these statist societies sanction the most basic right of the people to even question their rulers. Remember that our Bill of Rights is a Ten Commandments of thou-shalt-nots restraining the state since rights are granted by God – not government.

48 comments to The censorship temptation

  • bobby b

    Even if we find a political idea not completely to our liking – even if we question it seriously – if we value freedom of speech, each of us has a duty to identify ideas that are being suppressed wrongly and repeat and amplify and spread those ideas through society – if only to ensure that the suppressors lose.

    Once the suppressors are gone, then we can start to deal with those ideas on a critical basis. But until then, we ought to be spreading them wide. Out of spite against the censors, maybe? But this needs to be the first battle.

  • Snorri Godhi

    The root of censorship is a lack of faith in people.

    That is a necessary but not sufficient condition: an implicit faith in the integrity, intelligence, erudition, and mental health of the censors is also necessary.

    I do not have such faith.

  • Steven R

    Censors and Commissars don’t need any of those things. They just need to know that if they don’t do their jobs properly they end up in a basement staring at a drain in the floor before getting a bullet behind the ear (or the ESG version of an execution).

  • bobby b

    ” . . . or the ESG version of an execution . . . “

    You lose your place on the Tesla waiting list, and the really cute wokie won’t date you anymore?

  • Steven R

    Or you get fired and blacklisted from the good jobs and evicted from your corporate owned apartment and you become a non-person, plus you lose your place in the Tesla waiting list and the hot wokie to boot.

    Maybe there can be some Struggle Session gameshow or something.

  • Jokes aside, the biggest problem of censorship is that it used to be largely a problem of functionaries of the state, nowadays it is functionaries of woke mega corporations which have government style overreach without the same controls or legal oversights.

    The argument about “If you don’t like Twitter, go build your own” doesn’t quite work as The Donald’s “Truth Social” demonstrates.

    Sure, some billionaire like Elon Musk can buy Twitter and largely correct the problem (or at least crank it back somewhere towards neutral), but if we’re reliant upon the good officers of billionaires then we’re already screwed.

    Pretty sure Jeff Bezos didn’t buy the Washington Post out of the goodness of his heart. I’m pretty sure it was about the ability to get his point across about taxes, SpaceX and/or whatever bugbear was running around inside his head.

    Same goes for things like payment services, which is used as a proxy for censorship as we saw recently with the Free Speech Union and PayPal.

    It’s all very well saying “A Company can choose who its customers are”, but when providers have monopoly (or near monopoly), then that can have the same chilling effect as direct censorship.

    Companies like PayPal, Mastercard, Visa, etc. that cancel or refuse to deal with organisations for purely political reasons need to face more than just the wrath of cancellations from outraged plebs.

  • Kirk

    It all breaks down, eventually.

    You can only succeed with censorship and ideology so long as it appears to the masses as both necessary and effective.

    The minute that it ceases to be both? You’re done for. Note the preference cascades that destroyed both Wilson’s nascent fascism, FDR’s New Deal, and the Soviet Union. Once the people figured out that all of that BS wasn’t really required and wasn’t working…? All of it went away, with a stunning quickness.

    Collective psychoses like the current fad for the LGBTQWTFBBQ are not going to last. They were imposed by fiat, not organic outgrowths of changes in culture. When the majority figure out that there really aren’t all that many of them, and that they’ve been engaged in outright cultural subversion to get where they are? It’ll end; I venture to predict that in later years, it will be seen as similar to the whole Salem Witch Trials hysteria. The follow-on won’t be pretty, either.

    Lincoln had it right with the old saw about fooling some of the people some of the time, and the various nutbars of the world would do well to remember that. In Iran, we’re seeing the beginnings of a repudiation of the mullahocracy, and I venture to predict that the Iran of the future is going to be a lot like France after the Revolution–Exceedingly secular with religion put into the background. The thing that the Mullahs forgot was that once they displayed their corruption, vice, and incapacity to govern, they were also discrediting their entire faith-based societal paradigm. I don’t think Iran is going to last as a theocracy.

    Just like the supposed meritocracy we have going here in the West, the participants in such a thing have to recognize that in order to maintain their positions, they have to actually demonstrate the virtues they embody. At least, occasionally… You can’t put over a “meritocratic swindle” on the rest of the population if you don’t actually demonstrate, y’know… Merit.

    Same with the theocracy in Iran: You want to play theocrat? Fine; you’d better never be seen to be anything other than simon-pure and entirely circumspect, carrying out the living embodiment of your faith. ‘Cos, if you don’t? Guess where all that religious fervor is going to go?

    Ideology is stupid, if only because it requires people to live out ideals they really don’t believe in and really aren’t capable of living up to. When the hypocrisy becomes too great, then those ideologies fail massively. The French Revolution can be analyzed as being a situation wherein the aristos fully discredited themselves with the general populace, and were then held accountable for their lack of demonstrated competency and virtue. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that today’s technocrats and overly-credentialed “elites” can’t go down in a similar fashion…

  • Steven R

    “The French Revolution can be analyzed as being a situation wherein the aristos fully discredited themselves with the general populace, and were then held accountable for their lack of demonstrated competency and virtue. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that today’s technocrats and overly-credentialed “elites” can’t go down in a similar fashion…”

    Which, in a way, explains the new technocratic revolution’s response to free speech.

    What’s the first thing successful revolutions do after seizing power? Make any counter-revolutionary thoughts, speeches, or actions crimes. What we’re seeing today is a new kind of revolution. We’re not seeing one where one government is removed and a new one takes over; we’re seeing a new system of government setting up show and the old system is powerless to stop it. We know about Fascism where government ran the show and big business was allowed to exist so long as it served the interests of the state, but we seeing Fascism is reversed and the state is the executor of businesses’ demands.

    Big business doesn’t have the authority to make free speech crimes, but it does have the ability to cut off access to the mainstream by non-approved voices. Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, are all large enough now that not only do they effectively control the internet, but they are also large enough to command a lot of money via donations, whether to a politician’s campaign fund or a university’s endowment fund or a special interest group’s funding. If they don’t want Speaker X to bloviate on whatever topic is at hand, all it takes is a phone call to remind Mayor A and the march’s permit is denied or to Provost B and the symposium is shut down for “security reasons” or to Community Organizer C and the speaker is actually shouted down at his own speech by unruly people in the audience.

    It’s kind of interesting to be able to witness something truly new in the world.

  • bobby b

    “Anyone wanting the right to voice politically incorrect views is deemed as defending the indefensible.”

    As a side note: if you’ve ever done any criminal defense, this is exactly how your work is viewed by everyone except people who have ever had to hire a crim-def lawyer. You defend the indefensible.

    My response was always the same: I’m not defending this one defendant so much as I am keeping the best criminal-justice system viable. The response ought to be the same for the guy out there arguing for the Nazis’ right to march and speak in Skokie – “it’s not for the Nazis’ benefit, it’s for the benefit of a free society.”

    You never know for sure that something is truly indefensible until you hear it defended. If you never get to hear that failed defense, you might adopt it in ignorance.

  • the French Revolution can be analyzed as being a situation wherein the aristos fully discredited themselves with the general populace, and were then held accountable for their lack of demonstrated competency and virtue.

    The French revolution can alternatively be analysed as a seizure of power by tyrants whose ideology is ancestral to that of our enemies. The regime they conquered had many faults (albeit not as many as the Tsar’s regime that the communists conquered) but was nevertheless improving and trying to reform itself.

    It is very true that the French aristocrats had been successfully neutered by Loius XIV, so had indeed been – and allowed themselves to be – rendered ill-able to demonstrate much competence (or even to develop much competence in key areas), but it was also very true that the new chattering class of the day wanted power.

    That was how Edmund Burke interpreted it. He was the first MP to tell parliament it must recognise American independence and the first MP to denounce (and accurately predict) the evils the French revolution would bring. In the OP’s spirit of knowing both sides, I’d encourage anyone seeking to analyse the French Revolution to study Burke. Many contemporaries analysed it the way the text I quote above does; their predictions (their assurances 🙂 ) of its sure and certain course proved ludicrously wrong. Burke analysed it as I’ve described; his predictions proved accurate.

    Because the French revolutionaries were some of the earliest originators of the ideology that writes much of modern history and that we fight today, Burke’s “refutation-before-they-really-started” analysis has been consistently hated by those left who knew of it, who try to conceal it from taught history as far as they can – which is a factoid relevant to the OP.

  • Kirk

    Niall, I think both interpretations can be right at the same time. The fact that the French aristos were self-discredited by their behavior, actions, and general dysfunction is what led to the Revolution even happening. How that came about? As you rightly point out, it was the King of France who mostly did it to reduce the power of said aristos in the first place. Where it wound up? Well, that’s on the people who filled the power vacuum he thus created.

    Discrediting and supplanting the aristos was a necessary first step for the Revolution. Who took it, and how? Really immaterial; one need merely observe that it happened, and what it enabled.

    Could a more astute and adept aristocracy, one that truly deserved the name and power, been able to maintain the fiction that they were truly “better” people and thus, deserving of their positions of authority in society? Perhaps. I doubt it, however, because the history of such things is replete with the examples of what happens with these hereditary class divisions. Where the first few generations might actually demonstrate some social virtues deserving of the power they arrogate to themselves, the long-term prospects are generally poor.

    Example? Look at Iran; first generation of the mullahocracy was sort of virtuous, but the power they accrued to the religious class attracted entirely the wrong sort of people, and we have what we have before us today in Iran. End state of that is yet to be seen, but I rather doubt that it’s going to be any sort of fervently religious society. Not until enough of the public manages to forget all the abuse and corruption.

    The root of all this turmoil and strife is this: Humans are really, really bad at building lasting social institutions. Every one of them we create starts out with “best intentions” and may actually attain some of those in early days. The problem comes in with the retirement or moving-on of the founders, even for the most virtuous of organizations. Inevitably, the power-seekers show up, and they then colonize the structure, building their petty little empires within it. Which leads to organizational sclerosis, corruption, and an eventual cessation of actually doing what the organization was founded to do. It all starts as virtuous, and degenerates into kakistocracy along a predictable curve.

    I would suggest that the best course to avoid abuse of power by those we place in positions of power is to simply not create those positions in the first place. Some might term that anarchy, but I’d call it a recognition that such hierarchies and power sinks are too great a temptation for the mentally-ill sorts that come to populate them.

    Ask yourself this: How many of the creatures inhabiting our political reef-structures that you’ve personally encountered were actually worthy people you’d like to have in your life and know better? How many of them were people you’d actually prefer far, far away, and entirely out of your life?

    I’ve met more than a few professional politicians. Universally scummish garbage people that I’d never entrust watching a dead rat while I went for the shovel. What’s more disturbing is that I can say the same about most of the people who I’ve encountered in the higher ranks of the US military–Every single officer and NCO who I wanted to work for wound up doing early retirement and never achieved their potential due to being drowned out by the internal politics and incessant backstabbing within the organization. Which explains why so many of the ones that stuck around and actually attained high rank were utterly unfit for their jobs, and basically scumbag egotists with little or no actual virtues of any sort whatsoever.

    Organization. Humanity, you’re doing it wrong.

  • GregWA

    Guest Writer, “…Lenin (good Beatle John)…”. I always thought both Lenins were communists, so not good.

  • Paul Marks

    Like Thomas Hobbes and Rousseau, the modern left twist the meaning of words.

    By “disinformation” and “misinformation” they, (the State laws of California, the Biden/Harris Administration. the “mainstream” media, and the education system) mean the truth – yes, the truth. What they claim is “disinformation” and “misinformation” by medical doctors and others, is the truth. And what the establishment present, from information about Covid, to temperature figures over history, to inflation numbers and Presidential Election results, is a tissue of lies.

    By “Diversity” they mean uniformity (uniformity in lies and the desire to do harm), by “Inclusion” they mean exclusion, tyranny and persecution, and by “Equity” they mean injustice, looting, burning and murder.

  • Kirk

    I cannot overemphasize enough the value of reading the classics. Confucius got it dead to rights with his 13th Analect:

    13.3 Zilu said, “If the ruler of Wei were to entrust you with governance of his state, what would be your first priority?”

    The Master said, “Most certainly, it would be to rectify names.”

    Zilu said, “Is that so? How strange of you! How would this set things right?”

    The Master said, “What a boor you are, Yóu! A junzi keeps silent about things
    he doesn’t understand.”

    “If names are not right then speech does not accord with things; if speech is not
    in accord with things, then affairs cannot be successful; when affairs are not successful, li and music do not flourish; when li and music do not flourish, then sanctions and punishments miss their mark; when sanctions and punishments miss their mark, the people have no place to set their hands and feet.”

    “Therefore, when a junzi gives things names, they may be properly spoken of, and
    what is said may be properly enacted. With regard to speech, the junzi permits no carelessness.”

    Commentary on this selection from the Analects goes thusly: “Philosophical questions concerning the alignment of words and reality became central to fourth and third century BCE thought, and many interpreters believe that 13.3 is a product of that era or later.”

    This issue has been around awhile, and this is really the first citation for it that I can find anywhere in world literature. There’s a lot of value in it, once you parse it out and distill the essence of what Confucius is saying here.

    Language is a tool of thought. You may believe it is not, but the facts are that your thinking is shaped by the words and the constructions you use to think with, and communicate those thoughts. If your language is muddled and without clarity, then so too was your thinking. Expressing it through the same muddled language will do nothing to improve the situation, and will just act to spread the thought-contagion you created onwards.

    This is why the left harps on language so much, and creates their own false terminologies and vocabularies: The National Socialist Workers Party of Germany is now seen as “right wing”, and the only reason that you find that universally agreed upon is a multi-decadal effort by the left to cast them as such. Reality? Look at the party platform espoused by them, and count the points of harmony with any other socialist movement. Same with the Fascists. The Nazis were only slightly rightwards of the Communists, the key and primary difference being that they were self-assuredly nationalist and racist to the core. That this fallacy persists is due to that exact thing that Confucius outlines–A failure to rectify names and forthrightly use the correct terminology for a phenomenon or thing.

    It’s amazing how widely applicable this passage is, when you get down to examining things going on around oneself…

  • Snorri Godhi

    Same with the Fascists.

    I shall probably have to repeat this for as long as i live and am able to type:
    It was Mussolini himself who said that fascism is “right-wing”. But please note: within the same sentence, he associated the “right” with authority, collectivism, and the State. In other words, in Mussolini’s time “the right” meant the same as “the left” in our time.

    And don’t forget Lenin’s book: “Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder”.

    So it seems that in this case, it is you who needs to rectify names.

  • Fraser Orr

    @John Galt
    The argument about “If you don’t like Twitter, go build your own” doesn’t quite work as The Donald’s “Truth Social” demonstrates.

    I’m going to say it again — the problem isn’t politicians, it isn’t big corporations it is the people. It is perfectly possible to put up a blog where wokeness is not enforced (here for example) or only wokeness is allowed. But it is easier to hand over control to some big corporation. Facebook and Twitter are what people used to call blogs. The problem is that people don’t actually care enough about free speech to do what Perry did. The internet is free and open, it is just most people aren’t willing to take advantage, rather taking the easy route. Which might well be the right approach, depending on what you want to put your energy into.

    There are some single points of failure such as the DNS (which translates names like http://www.samizdata.net into a reachable address) and the app stores. So far the DNS has remained liberal, but the app stores are a real problem. Just to get away from wokeness, it is a horrifying truth that Google’s app store often bans Grindr, a gay dating site, in many Islamic countries like Indonesia. However, as it stands they are operating on public property — the airwaves — and so, under the current situation it would be perfectly legitimate to have the FCC demand that any phone that uses the public airways cannot have an app store that bans apps for any reason, or demands content moderation for any reason, except a few strictly defined categories in law. Certainly not for point of view discrimination. But of course the idea that the government should be involved in that is a little scary. At least it would allow the first amendment some interest. But of course that would require politicians to want freedom of speech which is kind of like the cops wanting the Miranda ruling, or Perry wishing long life and happiness to Putin.

    I think one thing that could be done is to define a public RFC describing a method for holding a friend network that was signed and managed by the owner. Blockchain would be an excellent way to distribute it.. Starting using it at the lower level and trying to push it upward. OF course the big companies would resist, but if there was enough of the second level companies connecting then that would be a decent alternative, and the big companies may very well have to fold in the same manner as the collapse of the Berlin wall — a leak turning into a flood.

  • Fraser Orr

    @Snorri Godhi
    It was Mussolini himself who said that fascism is “right-wing”.

    The problem with the “fascism is right wing” claim is the very notion of right wing/left wing. Fascism does have some aspects of right wing politics — strong nationalism, controlled borders, strongly enforced law and order — but it also have many aspects of left wing politics — strong central state, censorship of dissenting views, overtaking traditional institutions.

    El Duce would not at all favor LGBTQ+ rights, neither would be have a problem with banning people on twitter. He’d be in favor or expansive regulatory agencies, but in terms of law and order, look what he did to the Mafia.

    So fascism is neither left wing or right, it is a measure in a different dimension than that. Kind of like saying Jupiter is west of Saturn.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Fraser:

    The problem with the “fascism is right wing” claim is the very notion of right wing/left wing. Fascism does have some aspects of right wing politics — strong nationalism, controlled borders, strongly enforced law and order — but it also have many aspects of left wing politics — strong central state, censorship of dissenting views, overtaking traditional institutions.

    You don’t go far enough. The problem with “X is right/left wing” is the implicit assumption that we can all agree on what features (‘aspects’, as you call them) define the “right” and what features define the “left”.

    I reject that assumption. We do not and cannot agree on those definitions, and even on Samizdata (!) there are people who cannot stick to the same definition on consecutive days.

  • Snorri Godhi

    PS: even though i deny that “left” and “right” have any identifiable meaning (except, in some cases, a meaning specific to a given country in between 2 given elections), i certainly do not deny that we can argue about closeness and distance between political philosophies.

    It is clear, for instance, that Jonah Goldberg is correct in saying that there was a close relationship between FDR and Mussolini. (And other people have been making the same claim since the 1930s.) It is clear because of some common roots of their politics, and also because of their mutual admiration (before the latter invaded Ethiopia), not just common features of their politics.

    Where Goldberg moves into bullshitting territory, is in claiming that that relationship makes Mussolini “left-wing”.

  • Fraser Orr

    Snorri Godhi
    You don’t go far enough. The problem with “X is right/left wing” is the implicit assumption that we can all agree on what features (‘aspects’, as you call them) define the “right” and what features define the “left”.

    I don’t really agree with you. The whole point of “left” and “right” is to have two teams that you can chose from. They come as a package. For example, tell me what you think about gun control and I can tell you what you think about abortion, for the most part — even though these two things are really completely unrelated. So there is an identifiable package of views that are “left” and one that is “right”, in fact, the packaging is the whole point. Of course that isn’t to say that people don’t disagree about every detail — of course they do, it also isn’t to say that the contents of the package doesn’t drift over time — it most certainly does, finally it isn’t to say that the contents of the package aren’t different in different countries and political systems — the definitely are. But within those general parameters the packages are reasonably well bounded. What is left and what is right in the USA in 2022 is fairly well defined, and so similar in Britain in other countries.

    Now an important point is that there is another package of beliefs, 95% of beliefs in fact, that left and right both subscribe to. So the difference is very small. Nonetheless, the differences are, in my view, not terribly fuzzy — like I say, that is the whole point.

  • Snorri Godhi

    The whole point of “left” and “right” is to have two teams that you can chose from. They come as a package.

    As i said, in one particular country, between one particular election and the next. You are not paying attention.

    (And even between elections, a Black Swan can hit that leads to a major re-alignment.)

    Now an important point is that there is another package of beliefs, 95% if beliefs in fact, that left and right both subscribe to.

    If you are talking about political beliefs, i probably disagree with most of them.
    But i agree that the Earth is spherical and goes around the Sun once a year.

  • Lee Moore

    as George (Animal Farm; 1984) Orwell observed, “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

    I have a wee problem with this. The “pure” form of liberty in relation to speech is that no one is entitled to interfere to prevent a communication between willing speaker and willing listener.

    But a willing speaker imposing his speech on an unwilling listener is a different thing. In principle, a speaker who deliberately inflicts his speech on a listener he knows to be unwilling, is infringing on the liberty of the listener to enjoy his quietude.

    And thus all sorts of difficult boundary questions arise. How does the speaker discover the listener’s willingness or unwillingness to listen ? How do natural and location effects cause conflicts between the liberty to speak and the liberty to avoid unwelcome incoming speech ? How do we cater for multiple listeners ? When person A wants to speak and Person B wants not to listen, does Person B have to retreat out of earshot in all circumstances ? What if Person A simply follows the retreating Person B ?

    Is there a presumption in favour of the speaker, and if so is the presumption adjustable according to content and/or volume ? If you and your mates are having an argument in your garden and the argument carries over the fence to your neighbour who would prefer you all to shut up, what’s the deal ? In practice, there have to be norms and customs to regulate these boundary issues.

    And then are there not proper limits to the liberty to escape hearing unwelcome speech ? You may very reasonably wish to avoid hearing a man who insists on telling you exactly what he would like to do to your 12 year old daughter. But if you are parked blocking your neighbour’s drive, isn’t your neighbour entitled to tell you to move your car, whether you like it or not ?

    It’s easy enough to deal with the set piece cases – eg where the Society For the Abortion of Toddlers hires a room and gets in a guest speaker and the meeting is crashed by anti-toddlerabortion protestors who chant away making the Toddler Abortion Speaker inaudible. Here you have readily identifiable willing speakers and willing listeners, and a group of deliberate interferers in that communication. But in other cases it’s not quite so easy.

  • Kirk, I agree with much of what you write in your second comment (October 7, 2022 at 11:55 am), but a point of disagreement will illustrate why I think the comparison of the 1789 French aristocracy with the woke ‘elite’ of today fails, which is my main point.

    Could a more astute and adept aristocracy, one that truly deserved the name and power, been able to maintain the fiction that they were truly “better” people and thus, deserving of their positions of authority in society? Perhaps. I doubt it, however, because the history of such things is replete with the examples of what happens with these hereditary class divisions.

    Moderate left-inclined historians (and sometimes others too) have said that the most important event in British victorian history was “the revolution that never happened.” The British aristocracy survived that challenge. Any elite may look very different two whole centuries later, of course, but I’m hoping the woke elite will not endure that long. In La Vendee, the one place where French aristocrats had imitated the British – had refused the lure of Versailles and stayed on their estates – the revolution failed locally and had to be imposed by external force.

    Hannah Arendt’s summary of a key part of de Tocqueville’s explanation was that the French disliked eighteenth-century aristocrats more than earlier ones because the earlier ones had ruled – and so they had a point, they served to make society function, even when not very well – whereas the crowd at Versailles no longer had a function, they only had their privileges and people were less ready to tolerate privilege without apparent function “because no one could see why it should be tolerated”.

    The woke, by contrast, are no neutered mere spectacle but on the contrary exercise real power. They do not admit any lack of function but on the contrary swear (and teach) that an ever increasing set of minorities would be being hastened towards concentration camps but for their ceaseless active vigilance. Their defeat is I hope achievable, even likely, but that is for other reasons, not for the same reasons as saw the downfall of the ancien regime in France.

  • Paul Marks

    Kirk, very good comment – very good indeed.

    Snorri – you are quite correct that some Collectivist movements have indeed described themselves as “right” or “right-wing”, but at-least-in-the-English-language there is a deeper matter.

    “Right” means (in English) correct-moral as in “righteous” – at least since the Fabians and the Bloomsbury Set from the start of the 1900s the “left” has been in open revolt against righteousness, against the right-hand path, the steep and difficult path that requires terrible effort every day, and supports the left-hand path – the broad and easy path to Hell (whether or not Hell actually exists – I will not get into that argument here).

    The Fabians and the Bloomsbury Set made-evil-their-good – whether it was George Bernard Shaw saying that all people who could not “justify their existence” to government board should be executed (killed) – he was quite serious, in spite of his little smile and nice southern Irish accent. The other Fabians were much the same.

    The Bloomsbury Set, and other important groups of the elite, in the early 1900s engaged in various practices (which I will not describe) not always because they enjoyed them (often they did not), but as a political, philosophical and spiritual activity – to show their rejection of good and their embrace of evil. Today the American left sexually mutilates children for the same reasons – it is done to demonstrate their rejection of good and embrace of evil (the left-hand path).

    Satan (the Devil) may not exist (so the atheists tell us) – but that does not mean that evil does not exist. Evil exists in every human being, what the leftist does is give up the struggle against evil within themselves (the terrible burden of moral responsibility – free will) and embrace the evil within themselves.

    And, yes, this does go back to the French Revolution – turning the churches into Temples of Reason and putting a prostitute in the place of the Virgin Mary, and the mass killings and abuse that came from the very start of the Revolution (which its English and American supporters desperately tried to ignore).

    The left-hand path (being a leftist) is indeed about “rejecting authority” – but NOT the authority of the state, on the contrary the state becomes all powerful (the French State stole lands that had been in the hands of the Church and traditional families for a thousand years – they created a new calendar, they changed the names of the months, the system of weights and measures, everything – nothing was safe from the all-powerful state).

    The authority that the leftist rejects is moral authority – the voice of conscience (moral reason) within themselves – reason becomes a slave of the passions (not a moral voice), just being instrumental “how do I get away with this?”.

    Again whether it is sexually mutilating children (or murdering babies – ) in modern America, or promising someone safe conduct and then torturing them to death (an act the French left celebrates every 14th of july – they set a pig running and then kill the pig, in memory of how they promised safe conduct to a man, a man who had committed no crimes and had no “political prisoners”, and then cut him to pieces, whilst they laughed and danced).

    The manner of killings is important – not just the killings. The shouting, the cheering, the getting the hairdresser of a murdered women to do her hair and makeup after her head had been cut off (after she had been raped and tortured) – so the Queen could be taunted with the head of her dead friend.

    The sadism is important – it is a sign of having chosen the left-hand path, of having rejected the voice of moral reason (moral responsibility), moral authority (not state authority, the state is to be all powerful – moral authority).

    As for the National Socialists.

    As Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddinhn explained at length – although the National Socialists might be called “right wing” they were very much of the LEFT – the rejection of moral authority (indeed of the very idea of objective and universal moral right and wrong – right and left) – in their bestial practices the National Socialists (and, to a lesser extent, the Italian Fascists) were rejecting traditional concepts of universal and objective moral right and moral wrong – they were most certainly not righteous (not of the right), they rejected righteousness, the terrible burden of the struggle that our moral reason has to undertake (every day of our lives) against “the passions”, against evil.

    Instead, the National Socialists embraced evil – they gave up the struggle against the darkness within themselves (the darkness that all human beings have – I certainly have it) and embraced the darkness – they embraced the left-hand path.

    In some of their writings and in their rituals the National Socialists made this horribly clear. Just as the American, and general Western left, do today – a rejection of the steep and difficult path (the right-hand path) where we have to drag ourselves up (against the darkness within ourselves – for the passions, evil, is within all of us), and an embrace of evil – even against the most helpless (such as babies and young children) – indeed ESPECIALLY against the most innocent and helpless.

    Moral reason rejected, and reason reduced to simply an instrumental thing (a slave) – “how do I do this evil- and get away with it”.

  • Paul Marks

    None of this was really invented by the French Revolution.

    Even Rousseau, when he boasts (in his so called “Confessions”) of how he abandoned his own children in Foundling Homes – where he knew most children died, was inventing NOTHING, he was following evil that has existed since there have been human beings (free will beings – capable of choosing good or evil and knowing what they are doing).

    The “Lawgiver” in the system of Rousseau may not be Satan in any literal sense (the Devil may not even exist – I am not going to get into a religious debate here), but the “Lawgiver” serves the function of Satan in pushing evil.

    Far from the authority of the state (the Lawgiver) being rejected – it becomes all-powerful, overwhelming everything else.

    Most importantly it is to overwhelm individual moral conscience – moral reason. “The People” (the Lawgiver) has ordered this terrible deed – so it must be done.

    Not only must the terrible acts be done (for, as with Thomas Hobbes, “law” and “justice” no longer have an objective and universal moral meaning – they are just the will of the ruler or the rulers, the Lawgiver in the system of Rousseau) – the terrible acts must be ENJOYED.

    It is not enough to commit these terrible acts – one must enjoy doing them. If anyone seems to be acting reluctantly (if anyone shows a sign of moral conscience) – they are to be the next victim.

    This is how the French Revolution operated, and the Marxist coup in Russia as well – but they invented NOTHING, this goes back to the very start of human beings (free will persons – subjects not just objects).

  • pure form of free speech … no one is entitled to interfere to prevent a communication between willing speaker and willing listener … willing speaker imposing his speech on an unwilling listener is a different thing. In principle, a speaker who deliberately inflicts his speech on a listener he knows to be unwilling, is infringing on the liberty of the listener to enjoy his quietude. (Lee Moore, October 8, 2022 at 1:41 am)

    Edmund Burke once told his electors that

    Being warned by the effect of contrary examples in some persons in high place, I have resolved to take my principles of liberty very low, that they might stick to me, and I to them to the end of my life.

    In the recent discussion on this blog about regulation of the Queen’s funeral, I got to say some things relevant to my take on Lee’s point. I discuss two contrasting-answer cases here, the equal protection from heckler’s veto here, a special case aspect here, a comic (but not irrelevant) case here and the dangers of going beyond any of the above here.

    I think Burke was right, and one consequence is to wish Lee’s point be strongly hemmed in, limited in time and space and justification, unable to grow let alone become the norm, rather than simply to deny it wholesale.

  • NickM

    I could be very wrong here… But I have a vague memory from somewhere that “left” and “right” in the polical sense are quite literal and came from the direction members of some parliament, assembly, congress or whatever went to vote. I am vague here but is this true? If so then left/right is esssentially arbitary.

    Even if I am entirely wrong it is certainly the case that left/right is most usually used as a verbal assault on someone you politically don’t like. Essentially left/right is a bi-polar insult.

  • The Mystery of Fascism by David Ramsay Steele of the old Libertarian Alliance (from which milieu, it could perhaps be suggested, such things as the Samizdata blog also emerged) deals well with the question of Fascism: left or right? It’s only 16 double-column pages, but for those would rather have it under 30 lines, I summarise below.

    Mussolini began political life as a hardline marxist. His rise to power in the pre-WWI Italian socialist party, becoming editor of its newspaper and etc., was a symptom of its becoming more radical.

    The fall-out from the 1890s “crisis of Marxism” saw some socialists abandon Marxism (in fact if not always in weasely word) to become ‘revisionists’ while others (such as Mussolini), refused to give up the beloved idea of radical revolution and so became advocates of breaking capitalism and seizing power by a general strike. It wouldn’t matter that Marx’s ‘inevitable’ revolution wasn’t, provided determined socialists made it happen anyway, forcibly correcting history’s failure to do so.

    Thus the revolution-desiring socialists evolved to no longer think of themselves as Marxists too. Their Marxist-derived socialism was now a ‘myth’ whose point was to provide the revolution by inspiring the workers to revolt – not to be actually ‘true’ in some pedantic sense.

    In violent confrontational politics in summer 1914 and earlier, Mussolini reluctantly began to realise that Marxism just didn’t inspire the workers that much. The sight of workers in other countries queueing up to fight for their country, not their class, at the start of WWI precipitated an already-dawning realisation that he needed a better myth. Having stopped believing socialism was literally true, he had readied himself to (all those years later) stop believing in it.

    Mussolini and the majority of those at the preparatory meeting to found the Fascist Party were still committed revolutionaries but they were ex-socialists. So is Fascism right or left? It was certainly of the left and its terms and concepts mostly emerged from socialist and syndicalist debate. So you can call it a socialist heresy, but cautiously, because it explicitly denied it was socialist and explicitly rejected certain socialist tenets.

  • (from which milieu, it could perhaps be suggested, such things as the Samizdata blog also emerged)

    Without a doubt. Reading LA pamphlets is what let me into blogging, seeing blogging as online pamphleteering in continuous ancestry from the pamphleteers of 1642 onwards

  • Martin

    According to fascism scholars like Stanley Payne and Emilio Gentile, what was distinctive about fascism wasn’t support for violence and dictatorship (evidently Communists shared that). Nor was their embrace of modernity, which was shared across elements across politics. What was different was the emphasis on supposed moral and cultural ‘anthropological revolution’ to create a ‘new man’ that lived by spirit and willpower, one that was fit, virile, ready for war. In contrast to Communism, fascism’s aspiration for a ‘new man’ was anti-materialist and anti-egalitarian. I think this is what places fascism on the right as I agree with those that view egalitarianism as a key feature of the left.

  • There is only one reason the left-right spectrum is used by both fascists & Marxists: they seek to differentiate themselves from each other, presenting themselves as polar opposites, thereby masking the notion they are both socialist ideologies just with different approaches to achieving a centrally directed society. Everything else is noise.

  • Lee Moore

    Contra Martin’s point, my recollection is that Marx was also a believer in the “new man”. Perhaps not precisely the same “new man” as the fascist one, but a new one all the same. In particular, he recognised that human nature as currently constituted was an obstacle to the communist phase in which the state withers away. Human nature would have to be reformed during, and by, the dictatorship of the proletariat.

    And we can see the tenacity to which lefties cling to the reformability of human nature. They absolutely will not abandon the Blank Slate model of human psychology, because it is absolutely central to all their dreams. The most recent manifestation is all this insistence on the fluidity of sex, but the road passes through Pol Pot along the way.

    It’s true that the lefty desire to reform man himself is sometimes couched in terms of rediscovering the “true” man, after peeling away the wrongthink of accreted culture; but that certainly wasn’t Marx’s view. For him each stage of history was correct for its time, and the communist time of the withered away state could only arrive after humans had been reformed to fit in with it.

  • Martin

    Contra Martin’s point, my recollection is that Marx was also a believer in the “new man”.

    So did Nietzsche, but his conception of the overman is very different to the Marxian new man. Nietzsche is acidic towards socialists.

    The fascist conception of new man was spiritual, hierarchical and anti-egalitarian in nature, whereas the Marxist conception is egalitarian, levelling and materialist.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Perry:

    There is only one reason the left-right spectrum is used by both fascists & Marxists: they seek to differentiate themselves from each other, presenting themselves as polar opposites, thereby masking the notion they are both socialist ideologies just with different approaches to achieving a centrally directed society. Everything else is noise.

    I think that is true wrt fascists and Marxists, but there are other dodgy characters who benefit from this false dichotomy.

    For instance, Anglo-American “leftists” keen to associate US Republicans and UK Conservatives with fascists. What better way than to slap the same label on all 3?

    The other side of the coin is the less literate “conservatives” such as Jonah Goldberg, keen to associate American “liberals” with fascists. Which, as i said yesterday, is a valid proposition, but not to be achieved by slapping labels. Especially not a label explicitly rejected by Mussolini.

    But Mussolini also played this game: he associated “socialists” (ie Marxists) with classical liberals, on the tenuous ground that the class struggle is divisive, and therefore a step towards extreme individualism.
    The fact is, fascism is also divisive, because it divides people by nationality. (Nazism is even more divisive.)

    In Italy, and i believe also in Germany, some people make, or used to make, a sensible distinction between the “constitutional spectrum”, which includes parties committed to democracy and the rule of law; and the extra-constitutional left & right, ie commies and fascists.

  • JohnB

    Regarding Left and Right in politics, to quote history.com:
    The split dates to the summer of 1789, when members of the French National Assembly met to begin drafting a constitution. The delegates were deeply divided over the issue of how much authority King Louis XVI should have, and as the debate raged, the two main factions each staked out territory in the assembly hall. The anti-royalist revolutionaries seated themselves to the presiding officer’s left, while the more conservative, aristocratic supporters of the monarchy gathered to the right.

    However in dealing with reality, the truth to me, is that the left/right confrontation is now largely a straw man, a confusion, a con.

    The real polarity is between collectivists and individualists.

    And my understanding is that libertarians are individualists, believing in individual liberty and individual responsibility. The responsibility of the individual to manage their own life within the given circumstances.

    Fascists, Marxists, Communists, National Socialists (Nazis) all come from a collectivist mentality, and in truth, are on the same side. Indeed as has been pointed out, Mussolini was a failed Marxist.

    Further to this, as Paul Marks points out, we are corrupted and imperfect, and my understanding is that outside the will and direction of God, through the Person of Jesus Christ, we are indeed, ultimately, in trouble.

  • Paul Marks

    Nick M – you are correct sitting in Parliament (the French Parliament) is where the terms come from.

    We can indeed (as Snorri reminds us) point at individual people, such as Bastiat, who were pro private property and individual freedom, who sat on the left-hand side of the National Assembly – but they were rare, and Bastiat was surrounded by socialists.

    Going back to the French Revolution – the various Revolutionary factions were devoted to Rousseau, and Rousseau was just as much a Collectivist as Mussolini.

    Hard to imagine a person more of the left than Mussolini – he was a “Red Diaper Baby” born to a Marxist family and became the most senior Marxist in Italy, and one of the most senior Marxists in the world.

    It is true that Mussolini became a heretic – but never rejected Karl Marx, even to his dying day (when killed by Orthodox Marxists – who also killed his mistress, most likely raping her first) Mussolini remained an admirer of Karl Marx and of Collectivism in general.

    If Rousseau and Karl Marx were of the left – then so was Mussolini and his Fascists.

    As JohnB points out – the choice between the individual soul (in the religious – or the Aristotelian sense) and Collectivism.

    The opposite of Mussolini was not Lenin and Stalin (on the contrary – Mussolini and Lenin had known each other and were much the same, and Stalin just carried Collectivism to its “logical conclusion”) – the opposite of Mussolini was President Calvin Coolidge.

    Of course, one can be cynical about “rock ribbed Republicans” “walking down Main Street, soberly dressed as if for church, with a Bible in the hand – but with a pistol in the other hand, and a well-thumbed account book in their back pocket” – but human beings are flawed beings, and such a type is still the opposite of a Fascist or an Orthodox (or Frankfurt School) Marxist.

  • Paul Marks

    Martin – if Mussolini was not of the left, then neither was Rousseau, Karl Marx, or Lenin.

    As for a conception of a “New Man” to replace the flawed human beings of traditional thought, I cannot find such thinking in President Warren Harding or President Calvin Coolidge, or President Ronald Reagan either.

  • Unless discussing France in the 1700s, I am not convinced the Left-Right paradigm really means much & often obscures more than it reveals. As I have said, Fascist socialists & Marxist socialists love the differentiation but when Benito Mussolini & Maggie Thatcher are both said to be on the “right”, it really should indicate the terms need to be avoided whenever possible. It doesn’t convey anything useful.

  • Martin

    Martin – if Mussolini was not of the left, then neither was Rousseau, Karl Marx, or Lenin.

    Depends how you define what distinguishes left and right. If you define it on some distinction between collectivism and individualism, then of course Mussolini would be on the left. But then you would have plenty of dubious cases. The relatively laissez-faire Girondins of the French revolution would be on the ‘right’, while the Catholic and Royal Army (fighting for God and King after all, not economic liberalism) and counter-revolutionary thinkers like de Maistre would join the Jacobins on the left.

    I prefer the distinction that left-wing political movements generally stand for egalitarianism, levelling, and secular universalism. The ‘right’ stands for anti-egalitarianism, hierarchy, and particularism. Within these definitions there can be a morass of movements and tendencies, and especially due to the anti-egalitarianism and particularist features of the right, there is more ideological diversity within the right than left. I would concede that this can limit the use of a left-right distinction as there can be wide differences within them as between them, but I still see some use in the categories.

    Within this left-right distinction, I’d say the pre-WW1 Mussolini is on the left (orthodox socialist), while the post WW1 Mussolini on the right, as the fascists rejected egalitarianism, and despite half-hearted attempts at a ‘fascist international’, remained a relatively particularist movement that took off in Italy and had relatively significant support in a few Southern European states but flopped elsewhere. Lenin on the other hand was an extreme egalitarian, extreme internationalist, and extreme universalist, in line with orthodox Marxism. So Lenin was clearly a leftist.

    As for Rousseau, he is an interesting case. I’ve always considered him on the left, but have read some interesting scholarship years ago that presented him as having counter-enlightenment elements that make him a bit more complex than the average philosophe of the era.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Martin:

    If you define it on some distinction between collectivism and individualism, then of course Mussolini would be on the left.

    …unless you equate collectivism with “the right”, as Mussolini himself seemed to do 🙂

    I prefer the distinction that left-wing political movements generally stand for egalitarianism, levelling, and secular universalism. The ‘right’ stands for anti-egalitarianism, hierarchy, and particularism.

    This seems more sensible to me. It implies, however, that i myself am not committed either to “the left” or to “the right” (except that i am against hierarchy): there are other dichotomies that are more important to me.

    It seems to me, however, that definitions of “left/right” that better describe what most (not all, and not Paul Marks) people mean, are:
    Right: party of the *current* ruling class;
    Left: party(es) opposed to the *current* ruling class.

    Note the lack of ideological connotations: the party of the current ruling class can have any ideology, whether divine right of kings or communism, and it is still “the right”.

    (Except that, if you believe in hierarchy, then you belong to “the right” — unless you want to replace the current hierarchy with a different hierarchy.)

    NB: I am just brainstorming. I might recant tomorrow after sobering up.

  • Perhaps we could start by classifying Thrasybulus, tyrant of Miletus. When Periander, another Greek tyrant, asked him his principles of government, Thrasybulus led Periander’s messenger into a cornfield outside the city of Miletus, where, with his cane, he snicked the top off every stalk that projected significantly above the average level. Then he told the puzzled emissary, “Go – tell your master what you have seen.”

    Very egalitarian – except for him and his fellow tyrant (which was the point).

  • Paul Marks

    Mussolini revered Karl Marx to his dying day – he remained a leftist and so was his Fascist movement. Like all despotisms there was also an egalitarian streak – everyone is equally nothing under the ruler (whatever the title of “The Leader” happens to be in the local language).

    As for Adolf Hitler and his National Socialists – their revolutionary, anti-traditionalist, nature was explored at depth by Erik Von Kuehnelt-Leddihn.

    The economic collectivism of the National Socialist movement is explored by F.A. Hayek in “The Road to Serfdom” and by Ludwig Von Mises in “Omnipotent Government” – regardless of rank, no one had any rights against the state (this was the egalitarian nature of the Nazi regime – the only egalitarianism that is possible to human beings, everyone having no rights against the state what-so-ever).

    The influence of Fichte is not stressed enough – even though this philosopher was a century before, many of the ideas of the National Socialists (although not so much the Italian Fascists) go back to Fichte.

    On the racialism – this was not really a defining feature of Italian Fascism, but it was very much a feature of German National Socialism. The philosopher Herder may have been a nice man – but his influence was not good, ditto Fichte.

    Antisemitisms itself could tap into a rich German tradition going back centuries – Adolf Hitler in his speeches could cite (in context – he did not need to cheat by selective editing) long passages from Martin Luther and others. Although in the case of Dr Luther it was mainly from Luther’s later writings (he became more intolerant, and more violent in his language, with age and ill health).

    Mussolini continued to cite leftist writers to the end – again in context (quite fairly), the influence of Sorel is well known.

    The influence of Saint-Simon (the French socialist) on Mussolini needs to be more studied – as it seems to have been where the Corporate State ideas originated – Saint-Simon also seems to have influenced Karl Marx as well (the real Karl Marx – not the Karl Marx for public consumption who pretended that “the workers” would actually run their own affairs – which is certainly NOT how Dr Marx operated, he treated workers like non-agents and never had any intention of letting them decide anything).

    In the end it all goes back to Plato – his ideal of a Collectivist society, this runs all the way through (right to Klaus Schwab and others today).

    As for the right – to say that Mussolini and Hitler were on the same side as righteous political figures in the 1920s and 1930s (such as President Calvin Coolidge) is false. One might as well claim that were on the same side as Roman Republicans (traditionalists) such as Cato the Younger and Cicero.

    Whatever they may have claimed – neither Fascism or National Socialism were of the right (they were not righteous) – they were leftist movements that opposed all concepts or natural law and traditional rights against the state, no one was to have any rights against the Leader (what Rousseau called the Lawgiver) who was to be even more absolute than an Ottoman Sultan – a despot.

    As Ludwig Von Mises was fond of pointing out – the much talked of egalitarianism of the east (which leads modern historians to, de facto, support the Ottomans against the Hapsburgs in their accounts of the centuries of war) was the egalitarianism of slaves (the only form of egalitarianism that is possible) – slaves of “The Leader”, with no traditional rights even to the private ownership of land against the whims of the ruler.

    The Middle East at the start of the 19th century was less populated and less developed than it was under the Romans or Byzantines – although the “Woke” left do not like being told this.

    It would have been much the same with Hitler and Mussolini – rule by whim, with no private rights against the ruler (not even to defend one’s own private land) would have had the same result over time.

    Such is the way of the left-hand path – whether it be Plato, Rousseau, Karl Marx, Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, or all the rest of them.

    The point of “Feudal” and other law (whether it be the Edit of 877 in France or the that of 1215 in England) is to limit the power of the ruler or rulers – to defend traditional rights, most importantly private property rights.

    That is the right. It can be seen in the writings of such figures as Cicero, Marcus Aurelius (Roman Emperor though he was) – and, in the time of Mussolini and co, in the speeches of Calvin Coolidge and others.

    Political figures such as President Warren Harding and President Calvin Coolidge (the right) were not like Mussolini and Hitler, they were the opposite of Mussolini and Hitler.

    The ideological kin of Mussolini and Hitler (different gangs but on the same side of Collectivist tyranny) were Lenin and Stalin.

    For example, what did the Liberty League in the United States have in common with the Fascists and the National Socialists in the 1930s? Nothing – they were opposites.

    It was Franklin Roosevelt’s National Industrial Recovery Act and National Recovery Administration that were drawn from Fascism – the Corporate State.

    If we are going to say that Mussolini was on the right – then we are going to have to say that so was Franklin Roosevelt on the right, and the Liberty League was on the left.

    So please stop wasting my time.

  • Paul Marks

    The modern left tie themselves into knots over this – because they do not like the implications in regard to themselves. For example, it is obvious by just looking at “Antifa” that they are not really “anti” Fascists – they are ideological kin of Fascists, and not just because they wear black paramilitary uniforms.

    “Antifa” may be Orthodox or Frankfurt School Marxists – but their kinship with Fascism is obvious, the way they try and supress all dissent (with violence) and their desire for total collectivism. Like Fascism “Antifa” is a leftist movement – it rejects all traditional private rights, it rejects natural law and limits on state power. It is very much on the same wavelength (tyranny) as Mussolini and the National Socialist Adolf Hitler. It would love the “Lawgiver” of Rousseau, or the Collectivist (and egalitarian) “Guardians” of Plato – with their bringing up children in common and-so-on. Himmler and his SS experiments with breeding and communal raising of children spring to mind.

    If one looks back to the 1930s – American historians refer to Father Coughlin as “right wing” – but it is obvious from reading the transcripts of his radio talks that he was attacking Franklin Roosevelt from-the-LEFT.

    To Father Coughlin (as to Huey Long and Mr Townsend) Franklin Roosevelt was not leftist ENOUGH, they wanted him to be more leftist – to attack private property more, to destroy private civil liberties more, and-so-on.

    “But Father Coughlin wanted to destroy the Jews” – so have many leftists. Essentially it is a side issue – although a side issue that got members of my family murdered.

    As both Hayek and Mises pointed out – many of the Nazis came from the Marxist tradition, and they did not really have to change their basic beliefs to go from being Marxists to being Nazis. Their philosophical and political Collectivism remained.

    They remained leftists. Ditto the Italian Fascists.

  • Paul Marks

    A little line from my own youth before I go to bed.

    The Badder-Meinhof Gang, the Marxist terrorists of the 1970s, were asked why they so often targeted Jews – were they, dread the thought, a bit antisemitic?

    No, no, no, the Marxists replied – “we only hate money Jews”.

    As Karl Marx (himself from a Jewish family – hypocrite that it was) put it, a businessman is an “inwardly circumcised Jew” – “what if the God of the Jew? Money! What is the religion of the Jew? Hucksterism!” What a charming man Dr Marx was – I will not weary everything with his long diatribes about “the niggers”. Or with the view of so many Fabians that “inferior races” should be exterminated (the Fabians “right wing”?).

    Clearly Karl Marx and the Baader Meinhof gang were “right wingers” – as was Rousseau (sarcasm alert).

    There is nothing righteous about these evil people – they were and are leftists.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Just a couple of clarifications.
    I wrote:

    It seems to me, however, that definitions of “left/right” that better describe what most (not all, and not Paul Marks) people mean, are:
    Right: party of the *current* ruling class;
    Left: party(es) opposed to the *current* ruling class.

    I should clarify that “what people mean” is NOT the same as “what people refer to”. E.G. one could say that “Lenin was a leftist” and mean that Lenin was an egalitarian; even though, in fact, Lenin was not an egalitarian. Or one could say “Jim Callaghan was a leftist” and mean that Callaghan was a totalitarian dictator; even though, in fact, he was not.

    See also the distinction between sense and reference. My thesis is that
    A. the labels “left” and “right” have both been applied to pretty much every political philosophy: their referent is everything and nothing;
    B. the sense of the word “right”, however, has traditionally been the party supporting the current establishment.

    I also wrote:

    (Except that, if you believe in hierarchy, then you belong to “the right” — unless you want to replace the current hierarchy with a different hierarchy.)

    Perhaps i did not make myself clear. What i had in mind was that, if you support the current hierarchy, then you are “right-wing” (in the traditional sense). If you want to replace the current hierarchy with a new hierarchy (as Lenin and Mussolini did) then you are “left-wing” — but once the replacement has taken place, then you become “right-wing”. At least Mussolini was honest enough to admit it.

  • Martin

    With regards to hierarchies, I think they are inevitable in any society. Going back to Michel’s iron law of oligarchy, hierarchy was observable in even supposedly egalitarian organisations. There will always be elites. Egalitarianism is untenable. The ‘right’ in its varied forms, are realistic and honest about it. It doesn’t mean the right in a country at any specific time will approve of the current elites. The right in the United States today for example increasingly despises the American elites. But I don’t think it disputes the necessity of elites, it wants to replace the current elites.

    The left, due to it’s attachment to egalitarianism, think it can get rid of hierarchies and the like through social engineering.This fails and more often than not they simply create new elites, often more exploitative and venal than the previous elites. But their dream of overcoming inequality and hierarchy never seems to go away.

  • Paul Marks

    The defining feature of the right (of being righteous) is JUSTICE – defined as “to each their own”.

    This is true of Cato the Younger, Cicero, Marcus Aurelius, Edmund Burke, John Adams, Calvin Coolidge, Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher – just to give a few examples.

    The defining feature of the left (of the left-hand path – of evil) is SOCIAL JUSTICE – Collectivism, the idea that income and wealth belong to the collective and need to be “distributed” by wise rulers – with existing owners being robbed (as the income and wealth does not really belong to them – it belongs to the collective). This “distribution” need not be egalitarian – and, in practice, never has been. There can be equality before the law (“equal rights and equal freedom of speech” as Marcus Aurelus put it) – but material equality (egalitarianism) is only possible (in a large society) by total slavery – and the slaves are not the equals (in any way) of the Marxist slave masters (Dr Marx, Lenin and the others).

    The Collectivist vision goes back at least to Plato (with his Guardians controlling everything – and bringing up their children in common) as well as Rousseau, Karl Marx, Mussolini and (indeed) Adolf Hitler and his National Socialists who were most certainly Collectivists – private rights against the Collective were totally rejected by the National Socialists (that the Nazis were racial socialists used to be well known – but seems to have been shoved down the “Memory Hole”).

    Whether it is the “Social Justice” (the name of his magazine) of Father Coughlin in the 1930s (again Father Coughlin attacked Franklin Roosevelt from-the-left, not the right – he was not a righteous man) or that of Mussolini – the key point is the Collectivism, the denial of private rights against the Collective (against the state).

    The choice is between Justice and Social Justice – this is the choice between moral right and moral wrong, between right and left.

    Talking about race does not alter this – after all the Fabians (anyone want to deny that the Fabians were of the left?) talked of wiping out “those teeming millions of blacks, browns and yellows”.

    And talking about a “ruling class” (although there may be one) is beside the point.

    Both the Fascists and the National Socialists, like Rousseau and Father Coughlin, were very much of the left – they were not righteous, they rejected all private rights, all limits upon their own desire for total power.

    The French Revolution did not reject state authority – on the contrary the state was to be absolute and unlimited (all the private rights going back to 877 AD and before were to be REJECTED) – it was a rejection of moral authority (not state authority – moral authority), a rejection of the voice of moral conscience (self-restraint – respecting the rights of other individuals).

    The “freedom” proclaimed was the collective freedom of “the people” to commit any crime – because the deeds of “the people” were declared to be what decides what is a crime and what is not (very Thomas Hobbes and Rousseau – with crime and law just being the “will” of the ruler or rulers, technically this is called “Legal Positivism” – where it the “Law Giver”, who may be many people, the mob, not just one person, declared robbery, rape and murder not crimes then they are not crimes).

    This is Social Justice – the evil that the left (from Plato, to Rousseau, to the followers of “Equity Agenda” in the Western World today) support. And the Fascists and National Socialists were most certainly “on board with it”.

    There is an old story of a elderly Professor finding some of his students celebrating the coming to power of the National Socialists (that leftist movement that is falsely, falsely, called righteous – of the right).

    The students (National Socialism was very popular among students – just as Collectivism is very popular among American students today) were saying now they were going to be “free”.

    But surely, the elderly Professor pointed out, under National Socialism the students would just be part of the Collective – they would have no freedom.

    “No, you do not understand” replied the students, “now we will be free not to be free”.

    The students were correct – the great burden of moral freedom (of free will – moral responsibility for one’s actions before one’s conscience) had been taken from their shoulders – they were now “free” to rob, mutilate, murder (and so on) when they were told to do so – and to delight in such evil.

    The leftist revolt against the terrible burden (and it is a terrible burden) of objective and universal moral reason – against conscience, moral responsibility. As with the French Revolution so with the Nazis (for they to were Revolutionaries – and openly said so). Remember hundreds of thousands of people were murdered by the French Revolutionaries – the murdered being mostly ordinary peasant farmers and craftsmen in rural areas. The bestial nature of the mass murder (the mutilations and abuse) was quite deliberate – a sign (a demonstration) of having chosen the left-hand path. Of having rejected morality – the burden of moral right and moral wrong.

    “Antifa” (so called “anti” Fascists) are much the same today, they just (presently) lack the power to carry out their Satanic designs (again whether Satan literally exists or not) – designs that would be no better than Himmler and co. As the grip of such evil people grows in the American government (including the American military – with the Frankfurt School indoctrination “Critical Race Theory” and so on) we may see it, the American government, murder millions of Americans – let us hope that this does NOT come to pass, that the evil people who presently see their power waxing in the American government are defeated, before their grip becomes total – and they can unleash Hell upon the population.

    The defining feature of the right (of the righteous) is Justice – to each their own. The defining feature of the left is Social Justice – Collectivism, the denial of private rights as a limit upon power.

  • Snorri Godhi

    Martin: I did not make myself clear when i wrote that “I am against hierarchy”. I did not have in mind the abolition of hierarchies, but the reduction of other people’s arbitrary power over me to a minimum (sustainable over the long term).

    Much depends also on how such power is used, of course.

    As for the rest of your last comment, it seems to me that you still suffer from the delusion that we can all agree on the meaning AND the referents of “left” and “right”.

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