The difficulty of intellectually engaging the Left

Posted: Oct 25, 2005 12:05 AM

One of the more appealing aspects about being on the Left is that you do not necessarily have to engage your opponents in debates over the truth or falsehood of their positions. You can simply dismiss your opponent as "anti."

 Anti-worker: It all began with Marxism. If you opposed communism or socialism, you were not merely anti-communist or anti-socialist, you were anti-worker. This way of dismissing opponents of leftist ideas is now the norm. Anyone, including a Democrat, who raises objections to union control of state and local politics is labeled anti-worker: "anti-teacher," "anti-firefighter," "anti-nurse," etc. This is how the unions are fighting California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's attempts to rein in unauthorized union spending of members' dues to advance leftist political goals. He is depicted as an enemy of all these groups.

 Anti-education: Those who object to the monopoly that teachers' unions have on public education and to their politicization of the school curricula are labeled "anti-education." Of course, the irony is that if you love education, you must oppose the teachers' unions.

 Anti-intellectual: If you object to the dwindling academic standards at universities, or to the lack of diversity in ideas there, you are dismissed as "anti-intellectual." Given the universities' speech codes, the intellectually stifling Political Correctness that pervades academia, and the emotionalism that characterizes most leftist views on campus (American "imperialism," Israeli "apartheid," "war for oil" are emotional outbursts, not serious positions), if any side seems to express anti-intellectualism, it would be the Left.

 Anti-Semite: Leftists who attack Israel frequently claim that they are shut down by irresponsible charges of anti-Semitism. The claim is that people who criticize Israeli government policies are labeled anti-Semites. I have never come across a normative conservative or any other pro-Israel source that has labeled mere criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic. It is those who single out Israel of all the nations of the world for intense criticism, those who argue that Israel has no right to exist as a Jewish state (that it is, by definition, a "racist" state) who are sometimes charged -- and sometimes validly so -- with anti-Semitism.

 What is rarely noted is how often the Left will label anti-liberal comments as "veiled anti-Semitism." A left-wing Jew at a Jewish seminary sent out an e-mail charging Ann Coulter with anti-Semitism. His grounds? All of her attacks on liberals were really attacks on Jews. That she herself never made such a connection and that the vast majority of liberals are not Jews mean nothing to those who believe that "anti-liberal" often means anti-Jew.

 Anti-black ("racist"): Perhaps the most common of the Left's "anti" epithets is "anti-black," i.e., "racist." If a person opposes race-based affirmative action, for example, he is likely to be called a racist. And, of course, the recent libeling of Bill Bennett as a racist was a classic example. Though he and his wife have done more for blacks than most people in public life, black or white, Bennett implied while making another point (about abortion) that blacks were disproportionately involved in violent crime. This is a statistical fact and a sociological tragedy. But because a conservative made the point, the charge of racism permeated the (liberal) media.

 Anti-woman: If you oppose any aspect of feminism, you are likely to be called anti-woman or "misogynist." If you oppose "equal pay for equal work" because you believe it undermines economic freedom, you're anti-woman. If you oppose abortion on demand because you believe that the human fetus has a right to live, you are against women's rights.

 Anti-peace: The very fact that anti-war and "peace" activists have labeled themselves "pro-peace" and "anti-war" renders their opponents vulnerable to charges of opposing peace and even loving war. Again, no intellectual argument is needed. According to much left-wing rhetoric, those who support the war in Iraq do not love peace. Of course, there was no peace in Iraq prior to the American deposing of Saddam Hussein, and there would be far more bloodshed if America now left Iraq. But it is far harder to engage those arguments than to label those who make them "anti-peace."

 Anti-gay (homophobe): It is the rare proponent of same-sex marriage who acknowledges that it is possible to oppose this redefining of marriage yet affirm the equal humanity of gays. Overwhelmingly, the response to those who wish to maintain the normative way of forming a family -- basing it on a married man and woman -- is to simply declare them "homophobic."

 The same is true for conservative policies on the economy -- "anti-poor" -- and for opposition to any leftist policy on the environment -- "anti-environment."

 The "anti" arguments are effective. Conservatives have to spend half their time explaining that they are not bad people before they can be heard. But the Left has paid a great price. Because they have come to rely so heavily on one-word dismissals of their opponents, they have few arguments.

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