Opinion

Our Emerging Liberal Dystopia

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Allen Porter
Freelance Writer
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      Allen Porter

      Allen Porter is currently a second-year graduate student in philosophy at Rice University. Prior to Rice he received a M.A. in philosophy from Tulane; prior to that he was a German major at Princeton University. In his academic research he focuses on the philosophy of language and so-called “continental” philosophy. A voracious consumer of media of all kinds, he firmly believes that the most important practical task for philosophy today is to cultivate critical thinking in the populace at large.

You know things are bad when even a hardcore liberal ideologue like Bill Maher can not only see but publicly admit it.

In a recent installment of the infamous “New Rules” segment of the HBO show titled after himself, Maher tackled the trendy topic of the release of Donald Sterling’s recorded remarks. Only instead of falling in line with the mainstream liberal media’s inexorable march for political correctness in this as in all cases—instead of focusing on the “racist” dimension of Sterling’s comments, that is — Maher decided to buck the well-worn mantle of his ideology and, instead, focus on the real story. That is: instead of playing into the fabricated narrative predictably constructed by the pervasively liberal media, Maher saw what is really at stake in a case like this — namely free speech, privacy, and our Fourth Amendment rights.

The terrifying reality is that we are on the verge of, and moving ever closer to, a liberal dystopia in which speech is directly policed, and thought thereby indirectly policed; one in which principles of political correctness replace moral standards as the ultimate criteria of normative evaluation; one in which the chilling effects on discourse has become a deep freeze. Maher himself made the perfect historical analogy during the May 9 show, which is somewhat ironic:

Who wants to live in a world where the only place you can speak your mind is in your head? That’s what East Germany was like. That’s why we fought the Cold War, remember? So we’d never have to live in some awful limbo where you never knew who, even among your friends, was an informer. And now we’re doing it to ourselves.

Donald Sterling is being publicly and even ritually sacrificed upon the altar of political correctness by the speech police before our very eyes today. Why is what he said in private a matter of public concern — why does it constitute legitimate “news”? First of all, he may be a public figure, but he’s not a public political figure like the president; but secondly, and much more importantly, he wasn’t speaking “in the public square” when he made those comments. They were made in the privacy of his home during a private conversation.

Yesterday I was chatting with a friend over a few beers. We enjoyed — innocently, I would argue — some racially-based humor. Had my friend recorded those remarks, I wouldn’t want them made public — not because they expose me as a racist, but because they would provide all the fodder the cultural machine of political correctness would need to excoriate me as a racist (given that this machine essentially runs on its own fumes, all it needs is a trigger to start the process).

The truth is that there is no legitimate public interest in Donald Sterling’s private comments. There is an illegitimate one, however, as made abundantly clear by the liberal media’s relentless witch hunt for people who think wrong things (racists, sexists, homophobes, etc.): it is to extend and reinforce the policing of speech, and ultimately thought, according to the values of political correctness. When I hear System of a Down’s “Prison Song” on the radio these days, I don’t think of our massive, for-profit system of private prisons — I think of the cultural, intellectual, and psychological prison state being constructed by the constant policing of language and discourse by the media and academic establishments.

To see how deep the problem goes, and how far its potential ramifications extend, you need only consider a recent phenomenon — another liberal fabrication out of thin or rather hot air — namely, so-called “microaggressions.” While the term was coined in 1970 by a run-of-the-mill liberal Harvard elitist, it has only recently found its insidious way into the vernacular of contemporary liberalism. It basically refers to the supposed expression of an intolerance or prejudice (such as racism) in a non-physical act (such as communication) which does not overtly express or display that intolerance or prejudice.

Here’s a real-world example that a friend forwarded to me. In a Yale Law School email list, a rather personal and ad hominem dispute broke out between several of the students. After one student hyperbolically compared the law school’s administration to the institution of slavery, another responded that to make this analogy with regard to an elite law school that they all chose to attend was either inappropriate or, if meant as a joke, in bad taste. Then comes the accusation: this (as it happens) white person telling this (as it happens) black person that they shouldn’t make the slavery analogy in this case, where it is patently hyperbolic at best, is “a classic microaggression”. I will quote this particular cadet of the political correctness cabal verbatim:

I can already guess what your response to the above might be. “But that’s absurd! I’m not racist! I was just expressing a difference of opinion!” But you, [Name redacted -- ed], are a white man, [Name redacted -- ed] is a black woman, and we are situated in a white supremacist institution… I realize I may be stating the obvious here, but since it appears that these basic facts did not inform your thought process or your response, they merit some emphasis. You, a white man, felt that it was appropriate to tell a black woman that she was not allowed to make an analogy about slavery. You did this while situated in a white supremacist institution.

Do you see the move here? The liberal speech gestapo holds that Adam should not be allowed to make a perfectly legitimate and rational argument in response to another student’s almost absurdly hyperbolic claim — why? Simply because he is a white man and his interlocutor a “black woman, and because they are in the context of the “white supremacist institution” that is… Yale Law School?