Tuesday, August 20, 2019
Marcuse, asymmetry, and the modern "regressive Left": they can remold the world in such a way I don't belong in it
Why is the “regressive Left” so intolerant of normal free speech of others, even of moderates?
There are many papers around that trace the ideology to philosophy professor Herbert Marcuse and the Frankfurt School. For example, consider Dinesh D’Souza in the Daily Signal. Ulysses Alvarez Laviada (who apparently likes gender fluidity personally) has an even more detailed explanation on Medium. This seems to describe a very dangerous ideology indeed.
The basic idea seems to be existential. The “oppressed” (whether a religious, racial, sexual, or simply exploited worker minority) must become combative in order to survive. Once there is a privileged, oppressing class exploiting visible minorities (which may be race-based, or may be just class, as with the original Russian revolutions), tolerance and free speech become tools for staying in power and retaining order.
You see this in arguments and tweets (some sent to me) which maintain that the lower-level left-wing violence (Antifa groups) is acceptable because the extreme right creates a much bigger threat for loss of life or further abuse of already oppressed groups. So the “both sides” depiction falls apart. Moderate speakers and journalists are hounded to put down their pens and take action and join fights for the oppressed. Journalism gets viewed as violating Burning Man’s “no spectators”, or “skin in the game” moral paradigms.
Another way to put it, is that (in the view of the authoritarian Left) being oppressed makes you morally superior and automatically gives you reparative privileges. To counter oppressive speech, you are allowed some violence, and it isn’t nihilistic.
Once there is this kind of asymmetry in the way different groups in society function, free speech comes to be seen as destabilizing. That’s why China is now a fairly successful and stable country now for most of its people, as it suppresses speech (Hong Kong extradition now) and urges citizens to mind their own local business in collectives. I wouldn’t want to live there. But it makes some sense.
On my first job as a young adult, at RCA in Princeton NJ (David Sarnoff Labs) in Princeton NJ in 1970, I had a co-worker who liked to talk about Marcuse. He was straight and married, but noted that men can only “shake hands” to interact. In 1972, I ran into Marcuse-like ideas at the People's Party of New Jersey, that made no bones about revolution in private meetings and saw me as an oppressor for merely being employed as a "salaried professional". In 1973, I came out again.