General Question

ibstubro's avatar

Extreme right-wing conservatives seem to feel a need to create things to shield themselves from opposing thought and ideas. Are there examples of the same need among extreme left wing liberals?

Asked by ibstubro (11755 points ) January 7th, 2014

Specifically, I’m referring to Conservapedia.
#1.) I don’t understand the reason for shielding your peers from thought, and
#2.) I don’t understand why the moderate conservatives don’t label them ‘fringe’ or worse.

It seems to me that moderate liberals tend to be more confident in their beliefs, more open to discussion, and more willing to label their fringe extreme (albeit somewhat affectionately) “nuts”.

If you’ve read this far (seems few do) my disclaimer is that I was raised by moderate liberals, yet grew into being a moderate conservative. I’ve been dumped in the same boat as both political extremes in my life, but the acceptance of the current conservative extreme embarrasses me greatly, whereas my former fellow liberal extreme amused me.

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58 Answers

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ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

They (We) DO label them fringe because that’s what they are. They just happen to get the most media attention. I think FOX news is set up to give mainline and moderate conservatives a bad name by catering to that fringe. Not surprising when you think about it. The rest of the media is slanted liberal so why not setup a straw man. That’s my conspiracy moment here. The left wing is not as fragmented and divided as the right wing. They’ll stick together even if they don’t always agree. I would consider the members of the weather underground extreme, yet for the most part they have managed to elude judgement for their actions from fellow left leaners. At least one is a college professor now. J.F.C.!

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bolwerk's avatar

@Kropotkin: Extreme could mean doctrinaire. There are doctrinaire liberals. Most call themselves conservatives, but are in fact neo-liberals!

@ARE_you_kidding_me: liberalism is by definition an authoritarian (right-wing) ideology, or collection of them anyway.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Semantics, oh ok. I think we are talking general perception and common language here. The problem is it’s been a catch-all kinda like um “conservative” which has different perceived meanings depending on when where you live.

jerv's avatar

One thing to remember here is that what passes for “Liberal” here in the US is considered “Conservative” in much of the rest of the world. Bear that in mind when talking about extremists, especially those that we consider “extremely Conservative”.

Seek's avatar

@jerv Yeah, the rest of the world uses the very simple “Batshit Insane” moniker.

ibstubro's avatar

If ”we are talking general perception and common language here@ARE_you_kidding_me, I think the mirror image of Conservapedia is emerging. Extreme right wing conservatives do not exist, either. Just as Conservapedia.

The <10% fringe extremes on both ends deny the existence of the other 90% of Americans and the 80% who are moderate (in degrees) allow it.

WHY was my question?

rexacoracofalipitorius's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me – You said:
“Semantics, oh ok. I think we are talking general perception and common language here.”

That’s what semantics is. As you point out, “liberal” and “conservative” mean different things to different people, even within the same (or as near as can be achieved) context. @bolwerk is correct in pointing out that “liberalism” is an authoritarian ideology- that definition does exist- but of course that doesn’t mean that every liberal everywhere is a right-wing authoritarian. So, semantic differences are meaningful (by definition); people need to specify context and interpretive parameters if they’d avoid talking past one another; and dismissing such side-band information as “semantics” guarantees that one will miss the point.

@ibstubro If “extreme right wing conservatives” exist only as Conservapedia, and Conservapedia exists, then clearly the extreme right-wing conservatives exist. If this syllogism doesn’t apply to your statement, then I’d welcome some clarification as to what that statement is supposed to mean. Also, if the mirror image of Conservapedia is “emerging”, then where is it? Do you have a link?

There are some “extreme left wing” folks out there, including the authors of the World Socialist Web Site and the Revolutionary Communist Party (I had to search for their website, and funnily enough there are three or four ‘Revolutionary Communist Party’ organizations in the US, each strenuously disavowing the others…) To call these “liberals” is probably quite incorrect. It might also be instructive to compare and contrast these with extreme right-wing sites.

Or we could all just ignore the nuances of meaning and pretend that words have one and only one interpretation regardless of context, and further reduce Fluther’s signal-to-noise ratio.

ibstubro's avatar

You forgot or ignored “There’s no such thing as an extreme liberal, nor a left-wing liberal.” @rexacoracofalipitorius.

I was not aware that we had to account for every nuance of the language and critically define every term, thought and idea expressed in order to ask a thoughtful question that might generate insightful discussion.

How did I Twilight-Zone from Fluther to the US Congress?

bolwerk's avatar

Even if you think of it in terms of “common language,” there is no equating the milquetoast reform politics of someone like Elizabeth Warren or Dennis Kucinich with the frothing crypto-fascism of a typical “Tea Partier.” Anyone who does so is being either obtuse or has an agenda favoring the crypto-fascists.

“Left-wing liberal” is literally (deliberately?) self-contradictory. Which is it?

bolwerk's avatar

For that matter, self-identified conservatives mostly aren’t technically conservative. They are usually economically liberal (“capitalist,” in a very unregulated yet proprietary sense), which is in direct contradiction to the core meaning of conservatism. Conservatism is about preserving tradition in the face of rapid change. Rapid social and technology change, inherent in capitalism, doesn’t really allow that.

ETpro's avatar

@ibstubro Great question. As @bolwerk has eloquently noted, there isn’t any large camp of extreme left liberals operating in American Politics today. That movement hit its peak it the “Turn on, tune in, drop out” days of the Vietnam War Protests and reaction to environmental outrages like acid rain killing the nation’s forests and rivers so full of reeking filth they actually caught on fire. How do you put a burning river out, spray water on it?

But if we want to allow that the communists countries are far left, and we analyze how the most vehement supporters there act, they are very much like the liars here who call themselves conservatives while actually advocating radical revolution, which is the polar opposite of what conservatism means.

Both are either authoritarian followers or authoritarian leaders. And the psychology behind why they swing so far to the fringe is identical whether they are left-wing authoritarians or right-wing authoritarians. Dr. Robert Altemeyer has studied both. In The Authoritarians he delves into the psychoology behind this aberration. He deals mostly with Right-wing Authoritarians because that’s almost exclusively what we have here, but he notes that studies of Soviet and Maoist regimes show that the same psychological dysfunction rules them as well. The book is available free as a PDF download and if you’re interested, I highly recommend it.

ibstubro's avatar

Pssst! @ETpro. Over here! @bolwerk said, “There is no such thing as a left-wing liberal”.

ETpro's avatar

@ibstubro I know, but I take him to mean as a power base in comparison to the Rush Ditto Heads and the Tea Party bunch. Clearly, the folks torching SUVs on dealer’s lots are pretty extreme. But we really don’t have a lot of Ted Kaczynski types.

ibstubro's avatar

Thanks, @ETpro, for at least marginally addressing the question rather than debating the semantics of semantics and denying that everyone but yourself either
A.) doesn’t exist or
B.) doesn’t count because they’re too stupid to understand.

I find “Left-wing liberal” is literally (deliberately?) self-contradictory. Which is it?” slightly stronger in language than “Lacking a power base.” Although I do consider it off topic.

jerv's avatar

When the same word has different meanings to different people, semantics becomes a core issue. C’est la vie.

Regarding the second part of your question, some do. Republicans for Obama comes to mind, and there seems to be a growing number of Conservatives that are starting to try and distance themselves from the Batshit Brigade even if it means voting Democrat.

mattbrowne's avatar

The extreme left tries to equate all entrepreneurs with ruthless predatory capitalists, but the fact is most successful capitalists are actually decent people who care about their employees. This is especially true for small and medium-size companies.

Kropotkin's avatar

Perhaps liberals shield themselves from opposing ideas by having responses spuriously moderated.

bolwerk's avatar

It’s unhelpful to correct the record? I can’t see why that was moderated at all. Liberalism is by definition not left-wing.

LostInParadise's avatar

By definition, a conservative is someone who resists change. Unfortunately for conservatives, our knowledge is constantly changing and forces us to re-evaluate the way things are done. To resist this process, conservatives have to put on blinders.

Kropotkin's avatar

@mattbrowne No, they do not. If you actually listened to any number of “extreme leftists”—like myself—you’d hear that much of the actual analysis is targeted at systemic issues with capitalism itself, and not at the personalities of individual capitalists. Whether Bob the entrepreneur, or Steve the CEO is a nice person or not is almost completely irrelevant.

@ibstubro Your own question was framed in the sort of cultural and ideological terms that you are accustomed to. By calling some segment of liberals as “extreme” and “left-wing”, you are, at some cognitive level, and metaphorically—placing them at a distance, outside of the norm, perhaps even out of sight and out of mind. If this is not an example of an ideological defence mechanism, then I do not know what is.

You can call it semantics, and feign frustration at responses you don’t like to hear—but semantics, and other aspects of linguistics, are actually very important in shaping public perception and constraining what is deemed as “legitimate political discourse”. It’s why you (not just you personally) use the words you use to position particular strains of political thought, and why there’s a huge realm of political theory that simply doesn’t register in people’s minds at all.

Framing yourself as a “moderate” is itself a continuation of this semantic and metaphorical game. It’s positioning yourself in the middle, as the mainstream norm, within the band of what is “legitimate discourse” and “thinkable ideas”. Many “moderate” liberals often continue this theme with fallacious arguments to moderation, with clichés like “we need a mix of the left and the right”, ” we need some capitalism and socialism”, and so on.

I realise you really wanted some silly examples like you found on Conservapedia, but from what you call “extreme left-wing liberals”. Well, I can’t think of any. Left-wingers (from the socialist and radical traditions, not liberals) aren’t generally as stupid, and rhetorically manipulative as the American right-wing. I also think that there are so-called moderate conservatives who are actually embarrassed by the stupidity of other self-styled conservatives.

Also, I’m from the “extreme left-wing”, and I’m opposed to liberalism—just to give you some modicum of sense of where I’m coming from.

Seek's avatar

I might include anti-GMO activists among the “extreme left wing”.

Claim to need actual scientific evidence for everything, but believe the government is poisoning you to aid Monsanto’s profits totally on blind faith.

ibstubro's avatar

So the long and short of it is that the fringe right wing hide behind an unquestionable moral enlightenment passed down from God and the fringe left wing hide behind an impregnable intellectual enlightenment evolved from their own intellectual superiority.

Both ends deny their own existence. Both ends claim to merely be the top, the enlightenment trying to allow their light to shine down. The other 80–90% of us exist in the limbo of ‘moderate’ (since I clearly framed my simple question in the currently common American political terms), and pretty much see both extremes as rainclouds blocking the light.

Build an Ivory Tower. By all means, re-take the Crystal Cathedral. Compound yourselves, both camps. Surely if all that prayer-power and all that deep thinking doublespeak were focused in one place for a generation the Earth could be made new again. As it is, both sides come across as sanctimonious asses, in my opinion.

bolwerk's avatar

@ibstubro: You made up a strawman and attacked it. Nobody said anything about being superior or receiving anything from God; a sizable minority of religious fanatics aside, the notion of getting political marching orders from God is pretty rare. This heuristic that politics works like a scale with counterweights is not meaningful; the idea that people automagically become more fanatic because their opinions fall in a certain place on an arbitrary, centuries old seating arrangement is not particularly defensible. There not just two camps; even within the narrow band of authoritarian neoliberal thought that makes up the sanctioned American Democratic-Republikan spectrum, there are plenty of factions that hate each other – and virtually all of them are right-wing. Even the ones that call themselves conservatives are not neatly uniform in their opinions and are made up of different factions with divergent goals.

And what do you gain by retarding political discourse into pretty oversimplifications? It’s not even accurate, let alone descriptive. The only answer I can come up with is such oversimplifications shield people from uncomfortable opposing thoughts.

ibstubro's avatar

I consider comment confirmed, @bolwerk:

So the long and short of it is that the fringe right wing hide behind an unquestionable moral enlightenment passed down from God and the fringe left wing hide behind an impregnable intellectual enlightenment evolved from their own intellectual superiority.

Your intellectual superiority outshines you point, much like a fringe right wingers moral superiority outshines theirs.

What I’d hoped to gain by oversimplification was meaningful discussion. In order to discuss Tinnitus does one first have to describe every aspect of the human body from hair follicle to phalanges of the toes? Or would that be obfuscation?

bolwerk's avatar

Obfuscation is deliberately conflating categories. I’m the one refusing to do that. The existence of fringe leftists in the USA is negligle, and fewer still wield actual political power. Of course, these people are by definition not liberals either, and would probably cheerfully bomb most liberals.

Nearly every sentence you wrote is literally wrong. There are probably countless reasons to have right-wing views, and most have virtually nothing to do with religion. Objectivism is a right-wing ideology that is explicitly atheistic. Nationalism is a right-wing idea, and often deliberately replaces the centrality of religious identity with one of membership in a group of people with a shared heritage/language/culture. I even have trouble seeing the Tea Party as a predominantly religious movement, as most of their grievances tend to be social and economic. Even fascism usually compartmentalizes religion into a propaganda tool.

Meanwhile, Liberation Theology? The Catholic Worker Movement? At least in economic terms, these are certainly left-wing religious movements.

And what is your problem with intellectualism? Research demonstrating “conservatives” are usually not as smart as “liberals” aside, actually wanting to think about problems and come up with solutions should generally be seen as a virtue. By oversimplifying everything to a caricature, you are simply robbing yourself of an ability to objectively evaluate your opponents and allies alike.

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ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@mattbrowne well said.
@jerv Conservatives are quite upset with right wing politics right now.
@Seek_Kolinahr I’m no extremist but I avoid GMO. It was not that long ago that margarine (partially hydrogenated oil) was considered the healthy alternative. Proof of safety requires time which is not a factor yet. Then I’ll consider consuming it. What Monsanto has done to the small farmers is a disgrace. A prime example of corporate-gov’t collusion and corruption.

@ibstubro “So the long and short of it is that the fringe right wing hide behind an unquestionable moral enlightenment passed down from God and the fringe left wing hide behind an impregnable intellectual enlightenment evolved from their own intellectual superiority.”——-In America that pretty much nailed it. This made laugh beer through my nose!
@bolwerk Meh

rexacoracofalipitorius's avatar

This guy specifically answers this question at the end of his talk. I think he’s a dope and that his answer is wrong, but he does answer it.

Seek's avatar

You can’t test for “safety”.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

Unfortunately you can, it will have a human toll over time and then we’ll say : “yeah that was a bad idea” Or nothing will happen and all will be well.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Kropotkin – Attacking the market system is another example. I’m a moderate lefty who believes in a social market economy, like the one we have in Germany. The only thing that really worked in East Germany was the black market, following the rules of a market economy. Clever people sold their skills and possessions in exchange for other skills and possessions. It already worked when homo sapiens started trading tens of thousands of years ago. Trade was a key invention to further human progress. Market economies need rules and penalties for those violating the rules.

Kropotkin's avatar

@mattbrowne I’m no anthropologist, but I’m almost certain that your understanding of ancient economic activity is not correct. The prevalent economic form thousands of years ago was that of the gift economy (also known as communism) within communities, and trade involved barter between disparate and distant communities. Things like credit, money, finance, contracts, and various mechanisms of the market system, are much more recent.

The market system is critiqued—and with good reason. It doesn’t matter if it’s good for a few individuals if the collective results lead to pollution, environmental degradation, overconsumption, irrational allocation of resources….

bolwerk's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me: Shielded from thought much? There needs to be a stop thinking award on here for people who can’t come up with anything more edifying than “Meh.” Maybe, to keep the site’s nautical theme, it can be the Francisco d’Anconia Award, named after the pirate from Atlas Shrugged.

Or it can just be named after something spineless, but I guess phylum Cnidaria is taken.

Kropotkin's avatar

In all the responses given, there hasn’t been even one example of how “extreme leftists” shield themselves from opposing thoughts and ideas—yet in the attempts to do so, this entire thread has been a demonstration of how self-styled moderates shield themselves from opposing thoughts and ideas.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@LostInParadise “By definition, a conservative is someone who resists change. Unfortunately for conservatives, our knowledge is constantly changing and forces us to re-evaluate the way things are done. To resist this process, conservatives have to put on blinders.”

I have to respectfully disagree, as I am a conservative in most areas. Conservatives like to pontificate and study, see results, etc…before rushing to ‘save the world’ or ‘save the poor’. It’s a different style, not a resistance to change or blinders imo.

bolwerk's avatar

I agree with @KNOWITALL. Applying that definition is basically how we know Democrats are more conservative than Republikans. Democrats may not be to the right of Republikans, but Republikans are the more liberal party.

jerv's avatar

@KNOWITALL That is the traditional definition of “Conservative”, but lately, a whole lot of people who are called “Conservatives” are seeking a whole lot of changes. Laws that have served us well for 30–230 years that “must” be repealed. Biblical verses that have served since the first printing of the first edition of the Bible edited towars a more ignorant stance.

And as for wanting studies and see results, decades of research corroborated by >90% of the leading minds in a field will be ignored in favor of a hastilly-scribbled note from a guy whose drinking buddies nicknamed “Professor” because he stuck with his education long enough to get a High School Diploma if that is more inline with their views than what the majority of scientists have said for decades.

So, which “Conservatives” are you talking about here, @KNOWITALL? Are you talking the ones more like yourself that fit the definition you give and the actually was true in the past, or are you talking the ones like Ted Cruz that are still convinced Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim, women and non-whites are at best second-class citizens despite Constitutional amendments to the contrary, and basically give Conservatives a bad name? Or are you talking the anarchists who want government small enough to drown in a bathtub and weak enough to be be their bitch?

Or is it just that many “Conservatives” don’t fit the definition?

KNOWITALL's avatar

@jerv I think you and a lot of other people assume that Republican Tea Partiers are the entire party because that’s all the media wants you to hear, to get everyone all worked up.

I can assure you there are many Republicans who want good thing’s for us all. Republicans who believe that the government works for US and should NOT line their pockets with chinese currency by selling out the American Dream.

Some of us are just as angry as you are about the state of the Union, and I’ve said many times here that I pray for Obama like I did Bush. I voted for Clinton and I will NOT be lumped in with Ted freakin Cruz.

If the government drowns in a bathtub, it will be a bathtub of blood, sweat and tears from Americans like me who work their asses off to pay their over-inflated bills, taxes on houses that are worth 80% of what they’re STILL PAYING while some law-breaking loan officer gave everyone, liberals and conservatives and everyone in between, loans whether they could pay them or not. Why aren’t those people in jail?

Conservatives like me believe in God, we try to do the right thing, we don’t know many people that make over $60k a year (in my area.) They (not me) go to church on Sunday, work the rest of the week, spend Saturdays with their kids and don’t cause harm to anyone. Hate to tell you, but I have beer in the fridge from Thanksgiving, and a bottle of wine with one glass left from Christmas.

They are productive and valuable parts of this country and I WILL NOT listen to you belittle these fine Americans for wanting to know how we’re going to pay for something before we just sign it into law. We don’t fit in your little box and we are good people @jerv.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@bolwerk There should also be a troll award. The pirate in Atlas was Ragnar Danneskjöld B.T.W. Francisco D’anconia was the copper tycoon.

Paradox25's avatar

While I consider myself to be very liberal, I’m likely not a politically correct one, and there are a few issues that I dissent with many progressives on. I’m not sure what you mean by ‘moderate liberal’ either, and maybe you really mean just ‘moderate’ (there are moderate conservatives too, and moderates who deny they’re liberal at all).

As far as Conservapedia is concerned, that is about as bottomline of a website that you can get. Even when I was a conservative I would had stayed very far from a site like that, though the Internet as we know it today didn’t exist then. I’m also reasonably certain that many conservatives would disagree with that site’s rigid definition of conservative: A conservative is someone who rises above his personal self-interest and promotes moral and economic values beneficial to all. A conservative is willing to learn and advocate the insights of economics and the logic of the Bible for the benefit of all. I’m sure even a few fluther conservatives would disagree with that definition too, so Conservapedia probably isn’t the best example to use when defining the term ‘conservative’. Most theists that I know would even laugh at that site too.

jerv's avatar

@KNOWITALL I know that not all Conservatives are rabid Tea Partiers, just as I know that most Christians are not homophobic zealots. My point is merely that you can have a lot of different types of people under the same label, so when you use a label like “Conservative”, that still leaves the question of what type of person you’re talking about.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Jerv Okay. All I’m saying is the corrupt govt screws us all & we fight eachother instead of them.

mattbrowne's avatar

@Kropotkin – Ancient trade was already based on supply and demand. A good more recent example is amber. Huge demand. Huge price. Today almost worthless. Huge supply. And I can’t think of an ancient communal politburo creating a plan for how many berry are to be picked. What was present was solidarity in a community. And this is what modern social market economy is all about. People who are more able offer more to the community.

bolwerk's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me: ARE_you_saying_ur_trolling_me?

@mattbrowne: supply and demand are as much a component of a command economy as they are of a capitalist economy. Regulation or lack thereof is not even a defining characteristic of capitalism; heavily state capitalism is a common arrangement in your country, afterall.

Kropotkin's avatar

@mattbrowne “Ancient” is a long time. For the entirety of human prehistory, and for most of ancient history (and even some modern history), humans didn’t even use money—you can’t have a market system without money, since there’s no medium of exchange and no price system. To reiterate, the predominant economic form was that of the gift economy, nothing silly about politburos or anything like that, and you even sort of accept this when stating:

“What was present was solidarity in a community… People who are more able offer more to the community.”

The only exchange, which took place between communities, was through barter, and although barter may well be subject to supply and demand, it is not what anyone is talking about when referring to a modern market economy.

I can gladly accept that the German social market economy is somewhat preferable to most other systems, which is defined partly by state interventionism and strong union influence—and therefore does not simply allow supply and demand to blindly regulate prices, wages and allocation of resources

That you prefer the social market system also implies that you must have some criticism of or dislike of other market systems. So, we’re in a very similar position, except that you argue in favour of one more specific market system than I do.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@Kropotkin It may not have been specifically “money” as we know it but we have used some form of proxy to exchange value since we were able use our thumbs. That’s what money really is.

Kropotkin's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me Gift economies do not store or exchange value. They are literally moneyless and market-less.

Your account of what money “really is”, is comically over-simplistic. The history of money, and even current economic theories of money are actually interesting topics. I recommend you familiarise yourself with some of the scholarship—rather than making up nonsense that you feel is right.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I’m not talking about simple barter or even a gift economy. Going back to the stone age we traded things indirectly that were simply a proxy like I said. These items usually had intrinsic or consumable value but not always to the parties involved with the trade. That’s the key difference. It was however known that these items could be traded to others for things that they needed and had a relative “value.” This is why trade of these items was generally accepted by anyone regardless if they needed it or not.

mattbrowne's avatar

Yes, I have some criticism of or dislike of other market systems, e.g. the one in the US. Therefore I think the US should adopt a social market economy. But that is unlikely to happen due to lack of majority of voters.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@mattbrowne I agree and I think that was the original intent here in the US with all of the early rules on corporations and monopolies that are being ignored now. People here will hear “social market economy” automatically think “socialism” and will reject it.

jerv's avatar

@ARE_you_kidding_me…and then crucify you for even thinking that way.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I’m not for Laissez-faire economics or socialism.

mattbrowne's avatar

Social market economy wants privately owned enterprises working for the common good. Socialism forbids privately owned enterprises. US market economy wants privately owned enterprises working for the shareholders and CEO bonuses.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@mattbrowne That was the original intent here in the states. To have the opportunity to incorporate you had to prove that you were serving the public good. Give any power structure an inch and they’ll take a mile.

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