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April 18th, 2014

Below is yet another good xkcd cartoon, but it misses a point which is becoming more and more clear to me.

Free Speech

The problem is not that conservatives do not understand what free speech is; the problem is that conservatives have a built-in double standard, an innate hypocrisy, if you will.

They understand quite well that if somebody says something, and others disapprove, that person will be criticized and possibly punished by society as a whole. They understand this because they do it all the time. They try to get officials fired (Janet Reno and Kathleen Sebelius, to name a few), people taken off the airwaves (Gwen Ifill as a moderator of debates, for example, or more recently, Stephen Colbert), and to boycott or shut down businesses which do things they don’t like (Ben & Jerry’s, Starbucks, various sponsors of MSNBC, or more recently, Coca Cola for a multicultural ad, Girl Scout cookies for endorsing Wendy Davis, and Mozilla for the Eich thing).

No, they understand how it works just fine. It’s just that they do not believe that the same standards apply to them—only to people they disapprove of.

This is the key to understanding conservatives. Take “entitlements,” for example. If you’re a liberal and you claim entitlements at society’s expense, you’re a parasite, a taker, a leech. If you’re a conservative, a wealthy person, a corporation, then it’s simply a case of cleverly or justly utilizing resources that were available to you. My Medicare is a deserved right; yours is freeloading.

If you’re a liberal and you try to get raises for teachers, you’re an elitist, probably a union thug, and are just trying to “throw money” at the problem. If you’re a conservative and you suggest higher pay for corporate executives, you’re using the common-sense business strategies for getting the best performers. If you’re a liberal and you try to support the troops, you’re making them into dependent parasites. If you’re a conservative and just say you’re supporting the troops but vote for every land war that comes along, then you’re pro-military. If you’re a liberal and you use the filibuster to block a particularly extremist judicial appointment, you are against Democracy and are abusing the system; if you’re a conservative and you use filibusters on virtually everything as part of a concerted drive to make the opposition party fail, well, it just works for you, so fair game.

When liberals talk of income inequality, it’s class warfare; when conservatives propose eliminating taxes for billionaires, it’s economic good sense. When liberals criticize a Republican president, it’s treason; when conservatives call for assassinating a Democratic president, they are exercising their Second Amendment rights. When liberals run up a debt to fight a depression, they are wastrels; when conservatives run up a debt to pay for tax cuts and wars, they are doing what’s necessary.

When a Democrat finds and kills bin Laden, it’s all credit to the most recent Republican administration. When a Republican crashes the economy, it’s all the fault of the previous Democratic administration. Liberals calling conservatives teabaggers or even “right-wingers” are guilty of impermissible derision; but decades-long conservative movements to use “Democrat” as an adjective and change the very word “liberal” into a pejorative, well, that’s OK. Liberals say “Hitler,” they’re hysteric; conservatives say “Hitler,” it’s because it’s true. Romney does health care, it’s great; Obama copies it, it’s the apocalypse.

I could go on… and on and on and on… but you get the idea.

It’s not that conservatives do not know what these things are. It’s that they have a very specific worldview in which whatever they do is OK, and whatever liberals do is wrong, even if they are the exact same thing.

It’s very simple when you consider it.

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  1. Troy
    April 19th, 2014 at 05:36 | #1

    If you’re a conservative and you suggest higher pay for corporate executives

    . . .

    it’s that laissez-faire thing. People with advantage what to defend that advantage, and the majestic “free market” is such wonderful set dressing to encouch [that’s not a word but should be] their ‘sucks to be you’ ideology.

    Their ideology does make some sense — competition theoretically wrings inefficiency and rent-seeking out of the economy.

    Of course, in practice, corporations abhor competition and collude to eliminate it, or grow themselves to put their operations beyond their competitors’ scope (Standard Oil 100+ years ago, Comcast today).

    Part of the problem now is that we’re arguing in immense ignorance of what we’ve been through, 1800-1970, all the stuff that has passed from living memory.

    But big-government vs. small government is not a symmetric arrangement of positions.

    Ideally we should have a small government; the way I see things, government is evidence of the private system not working as it should, since with government-provided services we lose the option of choice, the voting power of being able to select our own service provider with our own money (though of course pay-for-play for that which is necessary to become and remain a productive member of society — health, housing, transportation, education, police protection — essentially relegates the poor to a permanent disadvantaged hereditary underclass).

    I could ramble on for another 20 paragraphs, but the economics dimension is a pretty complicated thing. I suspect nordic-style government intervention works best in small, homogenous populations of 5-10M people.

    As for the rest of right-wing hypocrisy, that’s their stock in trade. Without the bullshit, they don’t have much of an argument, since their policy preferences have actively made everything worse, 1980-now.

  2. Luis
    April 19th, 2014 at 10:33 | #2

    To be honest, it’s less about being correct or justified in any one point, and more about being hypocritical when it comes to the standards different people are held to.

    Actually, when commenting on this elsewhere, I realized another possible component of this: righteousness.

    Many Christians, for example, hold that you cannot be moral without being Christian. You can act in a moral fashion, but all you’re doing is mimicking what a Christian would do, but if you have not been saved, then what you are doing is not moral. Morality, these people believe, comes only from God.

    In short, being right is not a matter of consistency or logic; it is a matter of who is doing it. If you belong to the select, it’s right; if you don’t, then nothing you do can be good enough.

    I think that this may be an explanation beyond simple asininely childish behavior. Perhaps not being of that religious stripe per se, but having that general mindset. Perhaps it could be thought of as a strident form of tribalism, whatever—but I think that this is how many conservatives actually see things, and how what they do is consistent and true in their own minds.

  3. Troy
    April 19th, 2014 at 11:59 | #3

    yeah, you’re onto something here, the desire to be correct about something is stronger than reaching one’s opinions intellectually honestly.

    perhaps our brains aren’t generally wired correctly, we prefer taking shortcuts (read that somewhere recently, forget where exactly — probably via Digby since this is her ‘beat’)



    and as Barry said above, the right is living in a toxic stew of cognitive dissonance and confirmation bias, their infamous “epistemological closure”.


    There’s really something askew here and it scares me a lot. We were just lucky that in 2002-2003 our pinhead brigade didn’t start any wars that ended more disastrously, like how the German and Japanese regimes energetically threw themselves into the ashcan of history in 1941.

    As it stands, I suspect what conservatives did do 2001-2006 killed this country as a going concern, we just don’t know it yet.

    Fiscally, we did the same damn thing we did in the Reagan era:


    lever up a level in debt. This trend can’t continue indefinitely, though how it ends I don’t know.

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