Friday, 29 November 2013

What's in a Name?

I've noticed something over the past few years. Names, labels, have changed their meaning. I know that this happens normally, as a language evolves, but this is something quite different.

There used to be people who called themselves communists. Not many people do, now, although there are quite a few who call themselves socialists but seem to espouse ideals that could readily be described as being communist. 

Similarly, people who would once have called themselves socialists as often as not consider themselves to be liberal. It's interesting. Especially when we look at what 'liberal' has come to mean for so many. 

I have had conversations, discussions and arguments with modern liberals. What a tolerant and liberal bunch they are! How accepting of everyone, how ready to stand up for people they are. And how ready they are to listen to the views of others. 

They do not discriminate against anyone on the basis of sex - unless you're male. They do discriminate on the basis of the - unless you are white. They do not discriminate on the basis of religion - unless you are Christian. They do not discriminate on the basis of wealth - unless you are not poor. They do not discriminate on the basis of sexuality - unless you are heterosexual (and male). They will listen to your opinion - unless you disagree with them. 

And it is particularly this last point that is of interest.

Increasingly, we are finding that those who describe themselves as 'liberal' are less and less tolerant of dissent.  If one dares to gainsay a feminist, one is described as a misogynist.  Make the point that - in the UK, at least - black boys have fallen way behind in school, and you're labelled a racist.  Point out that Islamist terrorism is connected to Islam, and you're labelled an Islamophobe.  And so it goes.

Try going on the Guardian website (for example) and commenting on an article in a vain contrary to that of the majority and see what happens.  Go on - try it.  A tirade of abuse will come your way, be sure of it.  And the abuse will be out of all proportion to whatever comment you may have made - believe me when I say that I speak from experience.  The opprobrium will come flying at you propelled by a shocking degree of vitriol and vehemence.

More and more we see the 'liberal' demanding increased censorship, and distortions of the truth where the truth does not fit the political (i.e. ideological) zeitgeist.  Even students, once considered radical in their opinions and beliefs, are demanding ever more censorship and thought-policing; to a degree reminiscent of countries that are decidedly not liberal, or of certain European regimes of the twentieth century.

Most galling (and worrying) is the degree of self-censorship that is now expected of everyone - politicians most of all, as Rod Liddle points out rather well.  I even find that I do it myself from time to time; and given the level of grief one can get for expressing opinions, I don't beat myself up too badly about it.  But I do also try to make a point of saying just what I mean wherever and whenever possible - and having the argument to back up my opinions.  Much good it does, though, on occasion.

You see, many who now consider themselves to be liberal favour censorship - both in the press and in everyday speech.  They support the suppression of ideas that they find objectionable.  Now, I am not saying that I don't find some of those same ideas repellent, but here is the difference - I would not ever try to prevent anyone from holding those ideas or expressing them.  Acting on them, certainly - but expressing them, no.

Many who now consider themselves to be liberal favour defining certain crimes as 'hate crimes' -  a ludicrous definition by any reckoning, as such crimes are never committed out of love.  If a person is physically attacked because of their race, then the fact that they were attacked should be sufficient under the law for a suitable punishment of the attacker.  The fact that the attack was motivated by race in the mind of the perpetrator is neither here nor there; an unprovoked attack took place, and so mens rea is established.  But not to the liberal; no, to him (or her, lest we offend anyone) the racism involved makes it all so much worse.  It's not the violence he objects to - it's the opinion behind it.

So, what do we call our New Liberal?  What do we call someone who believes in censorship, in ideology trumping reality, in the suppression of 'unfavourable' ideas, in the punishment of those who hold those ideas - and in the meting out of violence to those with whom they disagree?  I'd be more inclined to use one of their favourite labels that they apply to others with merry abandon - fascist.