Someone on Twitter asked, “Is there any actual evidence that _______ is racist?” I don’t remember what _______ was; it doesn’t really matter. Some progressive social justice warrior douchebags had accused someone of being racist, and these people never let the lack of evidence deter them from making accusations. I replied to the tweet, “At this point, racist/sexist/homophobic/etc. are just progressive marketing catch phrases with no actual content.”
This was just an off-the-cuff comment, but the more I thought about it, the more truth I realized it held. Not only are such accusations by progressives just marketing spin; progressive ideology itself is marketing spin. It’s a marketing campaign for itself. To put it another way, progressivism is a virus.
Allow me to explain.
I’ve long been puzzled by the way progressives/liberals respond to questions and criticisms about their positions. For example, a progressive friend posted an article on Facebook that was pushing various–seemingly arbitary–restrictions on gun ownership. The article’s author urged–among other things–outlawing semiautomatic weapons and high capacity magazines. In response, I posted a comment with what I thought were some pretty fundamental questions: are revolvers and other manually loaded guns somehow less dangerous than semiautomatic weapons? (For those who don’t know, “semiautomatic” just means that a bullet loads into the chamber with every squeeze of the trigger; a fully automatic weapon is something entirely different. Fully automatic weapons are extremely difficult for civilians to obtain legally.) Also, I asked, was there some reason to think that outlawing magazines with more than, say, 8 bullets would somehow reduce crime or make mass shootings less severe? Or would a mass shooter simply disregard the ban (or bring a bunch of smaller magazines and switch them, as Adam Lanza did at Sandy Hook)?
Neither my friend nor any of his progressive, pro-gun control cohorts could answer my questions. In fact, they didn’t even try. Instead, they immediately launched into ridicule of me as a gun nut (I’ve never even owned a gun, for the record) and gave vague responses about how it was important to “do something about gun violence.” I left the thread having no better idea how these proposed legislative changes were going to accomplish anything, but I did learn something about progressives’ penchant for eschewing honest discussion for generalities and insults.
Another time, a friend posted one of those “Don’t teach women not to be raped; teach men not to rape” memes. Curious about the thinking behind this, I posted a comment asking (1) whether my friend thought people generally committed crimes because they didn’t know any better or because they just didn’t care. That is, does someone steal a car because he’s never heard that auto theft is a crime, or because he’s a thief who doesn’t care about other people’s property rights? And secondly, (2) even if eliminating crime were strictly a matter of education, would you leave your keys in your car, knowing that car thieves exist, just to prove a point?
Unsurprisingly, no one was interested in answering these questions either. In fact, several people on the thread were offended that I even asked. You would have thought this would be a perfect opportunity to educate a dumb male about rape (which is what the meme was about, after all!), but the tolerant progressives on this thread mostly called me names and told me that I couldn’t possibly understand because I was a man. So apparently because I’m a man I both (1) need to be educated about rape; and (2) cannot be educated about rape. I came to the discussion thinking that the meme’s message was at best nonsensical and at worst dangerous, and I left in the same state of mind.
For another example of this principle in action, see my post about Unloaded, a crime anthology dedicated to the idea of “reducing gun violence.” I pointed out in my post that nothing about the concept made any sense, and that there was no indication that the organization to which the proceeds were being donated was doing anything about “gun violence.” A commenter responded that my analysis was “logical to fault,” which is exactly right. I had fisked what was essentially a marketing campaign. There was no argument to dissect, just a marketing campaign about how we should do something about gun violence by buying this book that doesn’t have any guns in it and donating to this organization that’s going to do something about gun violence by doing something about gun violence and oh by the way buy our book. There’s no point in using logic on a something like that, because there’s no content to analyze.
One last example: I used to follow the sci-fi author Robert J. Sawyer on Facebook. A few months ago there was big hubbub about the author Colleen McCullough’s obituary in The Australian, which called her “plain” and “overweight.” A lot of observers understandably criticized the newspaper of sexism. Some progressive writers, though–Sawyer among them–tried to fit this incident into a larger narrative of sexism in the media. I can’t recall Sawyer’s exact words in the Facebook post, but it was something to the effect that this sort of thing (sexist obituaries) happened all the time.
That seemed silly to me. The whole reason people went ballistic about this particular obituary was that it was so bizarrely out of character for a major newspaper. If this sort of thing happened all the time, we’d be seeing outraged stories in The Guardian and HuffPo once a week about how Harper Lee had been described as “homely and short” or Maya Angelou had been said to be “built like a Mack truck.” So I left a comment on Sawyer’s page, asking him if he could provide some evidence of this trend that he’d identified. Was there another sexist obit from the past ten years or so that he could point to?
I came back a few hours later to find my comment had gone missing. I had been (believe it or not) completely civil and respectful, so I at first assumed there had been some glitch with Facebook. I apologized for re-posting, saying my comment seemed to have disappeared, and asked once again. Next thing I knew, I’d been blocked. Hilariously, I mentioned this incident a few days ago on Twitter–and this mere mention was enough to get the brave Mr. Sawyer to block me there as well.
These are just a few examples, but I’ve seen this pattern over and over again. I’ve been blocked by Chuck Wendig, muted by John Scalzi, and been called names by David Brin. Never do these seemingly intelligent progressive authors ever attempt to engage in any sort of discussion. They do what they have to to maintain their progressive echo chamber, and go on, blissfully free from the threat of contrary opinions. To the extent that any of these people engage with me at all, it’s generally only to condescendingly explain that I “just don’t get it,” which is admittedly true.
The reason for this behavior was a mystery to me until the other day, when I had my epiphany about progressivism. You see, these people don’t engage in conversation because from their perspective there’s nothing to have a conversation about. Either you want “common sense gun laws” or you’re a redneck gun nut with a tiny penis. Either you’re for a “woman’s right to choose” or you’re a Bible-thumping zealot. Either you think corporations should “pay their fair share” or you’re a greedy Republican asshole. Asking progressives to support their positions–or even explain what these phrases mean!–is largely pointless. You may as well ask why Coke is the “real thing” or what Nike thinks I should “just do” or how Ajax can be “stronger than dirt.”
None of these phrases has any literal meaning, and therefore criticizing them is futile. They aren’t meant to communicate information or persuade you of a proposition; they are meant to evoke a sub-rational, emotional response. Wage gap. War on women. Sensible gun control. Living wage. Fair share. The one percent. Women’s health. Gun violence. Privilege. Climate change. Cultural appropriation. White supremacy. Social justice. The meanings of these terms are as malleable as they are irrelevant. They don’t mean anything, in the strict sense. They’re just marketing slogans.
Asking the question “What does it mean that Ajax is stronger than dirt?” is pointless. More than that, doing so outs you as an Ajax skeptic. What you’re really saying by asking that question is, “I don’t believe Ajax is really all that great. Give me some proof.” Similarly, if you ask “What do you mean by ‘common sense gun control’?” or “What is the economic principle behind the idea of a living wage?”, you’re just outing yourself as an opponent of the cause of progressivism. And–just as importantly–you’re also on the verge of discovering that progressivism is bullshit. Hence the insults and blocking: by asking a simple question, you’ve (1) shown yourself to be an enemy of progressivism and (2) shown that you’re not going to be satisfied with bullshit marketing slogans, which is generally all progressives have.
But Rob, you say, to what end? What are they trying to sell? I’m still thinking that over, but I think the answer is essentially that progressivism is a marketing campaign for itself. And to the extent this is true, progressivism is, in the end, fascism. It has no ideas other than increasing its own power.
It helps to think of progressivism as a self-replicating meme or cultural virus. A virus doesn’t have any ideas; it just wants to make more of itself. Any rational person trying to make sense of progressive ideology will soon see that it is self-contradictory and incoherent. It’s an ideology, for example, that tries to fight racism by promoting the idea that it’s desirable to discriminate on the basis of race. It pushes the idea that taxes on soda discourage drinking soda but taxes on working don’t discourage working. It tells us that outlawing guns will keep people from having guns but outlawing abortions won’t stop people from having abortions. And on and on. None of it makes a bit of sense, but it doesn’t matter, because progressivism isn’t about making sense. It’s about replication. It’s a set of lowest common denominator beliefs with just enough structure to replicate itself.
Progressivism isn’t an ideology; it’s a virus.