It is impossible to understand the world around us, or to cultivate a coherent set of core principles, if our use of language is fraught with sloppiness and imprecision. Nowhere is this truer than in the realm of politics, where emotionally charged terms are routinely bandied about with scarcely any conception of what they actually mean. “Liberal” and “conservative” are perhaps the most significant of these.
Many people who describe themselves as “liberal” typically use the term as a synonym for all things noble and morally pure. The late newsman Walter Cronkite, for instance, equated liberalism with a “broad-minded,” “unprejudiced,” and “beneficent” mindset. Author and radio personality Garrison Keillor – who views “conservatives” as people of “ugly and rancid” political beliefs – proudly declares: “I am a liberal, and liberalism is the politics of kindness … tolerance, magnanimity, community spirit, the defense of the weak against the powerful, love of learning, freedom of belief, art and poetry, city life, the very things that make America worth dying for.” And the revered “Liberal Lion” of the U.S. Senate, the late Ted Kennedy, defined a liberal as “someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions” and “someone who cares about the welfare of the people.”
But if one merely equates liberalism with what is “good,” and conservatism with what is “bad” – or vice versa, for that matter – he or she cannot lay claim to any authentic understanding of either term. Thus we need an operational definition for each term, just as we need definitions for any other words we employ in our daily lives. Regardless of how we feel about “liberalism” or “conservatism,” we need to know specifically what qualities give each of them their respective identities.
When the term “liberalism” (from the Latin word liberalis, meaning “pertaining to a free man”) first emerged in the early 1800s, it was founded on an unwavering belief in individual rights, the rule of law, limited government, private property, and laissez faire economics. These would remain the defining characteristics of liberalism throughout the liberal epoch, generally identified as the period from 1815-1914.
But many who call themselves “liberals” today are in fact leftists – i.e., the very antithesis of liberals. The modern Left – which traces its roots back to a faction of early-19th-century French liberals who proclaimed that capitalism and private property were agents of inevitable moral decay – is animated by a desire to topple the existing capitalist order and to replace it with a socialist regime where the utopian ideal of perfect equality will reign. Disingenuously portraying itself as an agent of enlightened commitment to “liberal” causes, today’s Left in fact rejects each of the liberal ideals enumerated in the preceding paragraph. We can readily observe, for instance, that the modern Left is the stalwart champion of:
- group rights and collective identity, rather than of individual rights and responsibilities (e.g., racial preferences, notions of collective guilt and innocence, and a devotion to identity politics generally);
- the circumvention of law rather than the rule of law (as exemplified by the flouting of immigration laws and nondiscrimination laws, and by a preference for judicial activism whereby judges co-opt the powers that rightfully belong to legislators);
- the expansion of government rather than its diminution (favoring ever-escalating taxes to fund a bloated welfare state and a government that oversees — and intervenes in — virtually every aspect of human life); and
- the redistribution of wealth (through punitive taxes and, again, a mushrooming welfare state), rather than its creation through free markets based on private property.
By calling themselves “liberals,” leftists have entirely redefined the terms of debate. The media and the general public have largely gone along with this fraudulent self-identification, as evidenced by the fact that few people nowadays draw any distinction between liberalism in its original and authentic sense, and leftism — or socialism posing as “liberalism.” Indeed the terms are generally used interchangeably by people at every point along the political spectrum. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, for one, calls Barack Obama “the most liberal president ever.” Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly similarly calls Obama “the most liberal president I’ve seen in my lifetime,” and then, in the next breath, says Obama “may well be the most left-wing chief executive in American history.” As a consequence of such imprecision, we witness the travesty of the “liberal” label being widely attached to leftists like Obama, Michael Moore, George Soros, Noam Chomsky, Al Sharpton, Jane Fonda, Ted Kennedy, and Hillary Clinton. In the process, the noble values and ideals that are genuinely “liberal” in the true sense of the word are wrongly conflated in the public mind with the socialist, revolutionary, and anti-American agendas of the foregoing leftists. As a result, the definition of “liberalism” continues to drift inexorably leftward.
The David Horowitz Freedom Center has created a website, DiscoverTheNetworks.org, to help explain exactly what, and who, the Left is – and how it utterly rejects every major principle that can legitimately be classified as “liberal.” This NewsReal blog post will be followed in the coming days and weeks by a series of additional posts taking you on a guided tour of DiscoverTheNetworks and its multitude of special sections and features. We invite you to come along for the ride. If you do, you will understand the Left, its agendas, its tactics, and its key players in a profound and illuminating way. And you will see clearly how the Left has fraudulently draped itself in the vestments of a noble tradition — liberalism — thereby giving the false appearance that its own socialist objectives are somehow consistent with that tradition. They are not.
For today, why not visit DiscoverTheNetworks’ section titled “Defining and Understanding the Left”? It’s a great starting point if you’re not yet familiar with this vast and informative website.
Sitting in the U.S. House of Representatives is a laughable, petulant little boy named Anthony Weiner. He represents the 9th Congressional District in New York. In an interview Wednesday with Megyn Kelly of Fox News, Weiner showed the world that he and his fellow “progressive” comrades in Congress believe, to the very core of their being, that they are entitled to micromanage every last cent that you have ever earned – not only while you are living, but after you are dead and buried, as well. read more…
Striking a powerful blow in defense of Martin Luther King’s memory, Reverend Al Sharpton accused Glenn Beck – who held his “Restoring Honor” event in DC last Saturday, on the 47th anniversary of King’s immortal “I Have a Dream” speech – of engaging in “a blatant attempt to hijack” the civil rights movement “that changed America.” As one of the leading stewards of that movement over the past quarter-century, Sharpton is of course eminently qualified to determine who should – and who should not – be permitted to enter the fraternity of those who nobly defend the cause of civil rights. read more…
In a recent speech to the Young Democratic Socialists, an arm of the Democratic Socialists of America, longtime ACORN luminary Bertha Lewis publicly embraced her socialist ideology, declaring: “First of all let me just say any group that says, ‘I’m young, I’m democratic, and I’m a socialist,’ is alright with me.” She also suggested that conservatives planned to reinstitute segregation and set up internment camps in the United States:
“Right now we are living in a time which is going to dwarf the McCarthy era … It is going to dwarf the internments during World War II. We are right now in a time that is going to dwarf the era of Jim Crow and segregation.”
Lewis especially condemned the Tea Party Movement, calling it a “bowel movement” filled with “racism.”
When the Obama administration announced that it would use a civilian court in New York as the venue for the forthcoming trial of five Guantanamo Bay detainees with ties to the 9/11 conspiracy, David Horowitz called that decision “a propaganda gift to Islamic murderers who will turn the courtroom into a media circus to promote their hatred against the Great Satan.” The loathsome Scott Fenstermaker, an attorney who is currently representing (on a pro-bono basis) one of the five defendants, has confirmed beyond any doubt the accuracy of that prediction.
Fenstermaker’s client, Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, is the nephew of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Uncle Khalid, you might recall, initially honed his terrorist skills on such projects as Operation Bojinka (a foiled plot to simultaneous blow up 12 commercial airliners in mid-flight), the Bali nightclub bombings, the failed bombing of American Airlines Flight 63, and the beheading (with what Mohammed described as his own “blessed right hand”) of journalist (and “American Jew”) Daniel Pearl. read more…
In today’s NewsReal, Paul Cooper and Joseph Klein have offered some fine analyses of how the leftist media have willfully distorted Rush Limbaugh’s views about race. Those views have suddenly become newsworthy because of Rush’s current effort to purchase the National Football League’s St. Louis Rams, whose roster, like the rosters of NFL teams generally, is mostly black. Six years ago Rush was excoriated for his infamous on-air observation that the media were overrating the skills of then-Philadelphia Eagle quarterback Donovan McNabb because of their own desire to see an African American dominate the quarterback position. At the time,Â high-profile leftists like Al Sharpton andÂ Howard Dean called for Limbaugh to be fired immediately.
Less well known — in fact, scarcely known at all — is the fact that soon thereafter a white member of the print media made precisely the same points as Rush had made, yet unlike Rush, he was not smeared as some kind of narrow-minded racist who resented the success of a black athlete. The writer was Allen Barra, and his piece, titled “Rush Limbaugh Was Right,”Â appeared in Slate — hardly an organ of conservative thought. The article is well worth a read, even six years later. Some of Barra’s money quotes include the following: read more…
For Part 1 of this blog series, click here.
The Nobel Committee’s proclivity for using its Peace Prize ceremony as a forum for ridiculing American foreign policy was on display again in 2001, when the Prize was given to theÂ United NationsÂ and its Secretary General,Â Kofi Annan.Â When presenting the award to Mr. Annan, Nobel Committee leader Gunnar Berge argued that the establishment of peaceful change in the 21st Century would “be a task for the UN, if not in the form of a centralized world government then at least as the more efficient global instrument which the world so sorely needs.” Berge attacked the Bush administration specifically, saying that “the USA provides the clearestÂ illustration” of a country “selective in their attitudes to the UN,” only favoring “an active UN when they need and see opportunities to obtain its support; but when the UN takes a different stance, they seek to limit its influence.” Soon thereafter the world would learn that Kofi Annan and the UN alikeÂ were up to their respective necks in scandal involving the Oil-For-Food program. read more…
Barack Obama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize yesterday for whatÂ the Norwegian Nobel CommitteeÂ called “his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples”; his “vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons”; and his efforts to create a “new climate” of “multilateral diplomacy” in international relations.
Mind you, allÂ Nobel nominations must be submitted by February 1 of the year in which they are to be awarded, meaning that Obama, who took his oath of office as President on January 20, was nominated for the Prize within his first twelve days in office. Had Obama achieved anything of substance during those few days to merit such an award? No serious thinker could argue that he had. His nomination is but a testament to the fact that the Nobel Peace Prize has increasingly devolved into an honor awarded to recipients who reflect the Nobel Committeeâ€™sÂ leftist politics and preferences. Consider some of the more notable winners of recent years.
In 2007 formerÂ Vice PresidentÂ Al Gore won the Prize for his success in spreading uninformed panic about man-madeÂ global warming, a controversial conceptÂ whose very existence is denied by tens of thousands of eminent scientists and climatologists.Â But then again, Barack Obama’s Regulatory Czar Cass Sunstein may have unwittingly revealed what the real motivation between global-warming initiatives is â€“ worldwide redistribution of wealth from the United States, to the Third World. Said Sunstein in 2007: “It is even possible that desirable redistribution is more likely to occur through climate change policy than otherwise, or to be accomplished more effectively through climate policy than through direct foreign aid.” read more…
This past Monday, Glenn Beck introduced Americans to Deepak Bhargava, the former ACORN official who has spent the past 15 years withÂ theÂ Center for Community ChangeÂ (CCC), where he now serves as Executive Director. CCC recruits and trains activists to spearhead leftist â€œpolitical issue campaignsâ€ â€“ modeling its training techniques on those of the famed radical organizerÂ Saul Alinsky, whose method of stealth revolution and infiltration deeply influenced a young community organizer in Chicago named Barack Obama. Thus it is no surprise that Bhargavaâ€™s enthusiasm for Obamaâ€™s presidency is quite profound.
Early in 2009 Bhargava, who serves as a board member for the far-left periodical The Nation and for George Sorosâ€™sÂ Open Society Institute (which seeks to fundamentally transform American politics and culture in so many ways), was a guest speaker at an event titled â€œAdvancing Change in the Age of Obama,â€ where he told an audience of supporters a great deal about what makes him tick. read more…
Poor Barack Obama. During the Presidentâ€™s recent Sunday morning TV interview circuit, ABCâ€™s George Stephanopoulos was the only questioner ill-mannered enough to ask “The One” a substantive question about the recent House and Senate votes to cut off all federal funding to Obamaâ€™s former employer,Â scandal-plaguedÂ ACORN. In response, our ever-genial President politely told the pesky Stephanopoulos that the ACORN scandals — though deemed matters of mighty urgency byÂ both houses of Congress Â — weren’t even on his radar, consumed as he was with the truly serious concerns confronting him. “George,” ObamaÂ lectured, “this is not the biggest issue facing the country. Itâ€™s not something Iâ€™m paying a lot of attention to.”
In recent weeks, Glenn Beck has elevated political/news television to an entirely new level. Without fealty to any particular party, he is shining a light into the dark corners of a political cesspool that has been hidden for too long. He is taking the esoteric and making it accessible; taking the complex and making it simple. The result: Millions of Americans are waking up and beginning to understand, often for the first time, exactly what the left is all about. At the David Horowitz Freedom Center, weâ€™re honored that one of the most vital resources from which Beck draws information that is presented on his program is our online encyclopedia of the left at www.DiscoverTheNetworks.org. It was our hope that by putting the networks, funders and covert agendas of the left up on the Web, we would awaken Americans to the internal threat to their freedoms from the legions of what is misnamed the â€œprogressiveâ€ left. (In fact they are reactionaries and closet totalitarians who want to re-run the discredited socialist scripts of the past.) Since we launched DiscoverTheNetworks in February 2005, more than 20 million people have visited the site. But Glenn Beck is reaching over half that number of Americans every single day. read more…