This is the promised follow up to my “American Fascist” post. I began writing this a long time ago, but was never happy with it. So what appears now is a massive rewrite in the context of contemporary events.It ought to go without saying that the persons I am being critical of in this post form a small (albeit, vocal) minority of American Progressives.
Contemporary events are informed by, and created from, past events. And the past events that need to be resolutely, uncompromisingly, born in mind here, all have in common the FACT that fascism only ever came to power because those on the political left were so divided and busily bickering amongst themselves that their infantilism and ideology prevented them from presenting a unified front against an enemy that was unimaginably worse than their own childish, internecine grievances. Among our contemporary grievances is the rather presumptuous coronation of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee by major news outlets, before the final round of voting actually made her so. (Fantasies of Sanders “flipping” superdelegates at the convention were always nonsense on stilts; the results from New Jersey and California make them even more so.) This premature declaration has generated a considerable amount of complaint from the political left, including questions of whether it might have skewed the vote in California. Still, great deal of that complaint has taken on the air of the sort of cry-baby-ism we often see from persons with politically progressive leanings. And that is a problem.
There is no specific logical fallacy associated with being a whiner, especially when one has a legitimate complaint. But there is a certain class of whiner that is particularly tiresome both on account of the pettiness – which, often enough, amounts to overt childishness – of the complaint, and the complete absence of even the most ordinary level of logical discernment, such that manifestly different facts are conflated as undifferentiated and effectively indistinguishable. As is almost always the case, these two aspects feed off of one another to the point that they are basically flip sides of a single coin. So there really is a logical issue at stake here: dismissal of real distinctions is a case of equivocation, treating as equivalent things that are different; while the dismissal of those who genuinely DO insist on treating real differences as real, is an instance of a catch-all fallacy known as ignoratio elenchi – “ignorance of the refutation.” These are not mere abstractions – those jaws really bite, as these cry-babies are an especially irresponsible group.
An obvious example comes to mind: In the 2000 Presidential election, Ralph Nader ran as a third party candidate. Nader had insisted that the differences between Gore and Bush were inconsequential in view of the similarities that Nader emphasized. (Nader did not say that they were identical.) Nader barely avoids an overt equivocation by playing rhetorical games that pass the responsibility for that equivocation off onto others. Meanwhile, Nader hemorrhaged votes away from Gore such that, had he not been in the race, either or both of New Hampshire &/or Florida would have gone to Gore, thus deciding the election quite differently. There are alternative spins on this interpretation that insist Nader bled more votes from the Bush than from Gore. Such claims are as monstrously lacking in basic credibility (as well as factual support from the actual exit polls of the time) as one might possibly imagine. Nader was far to the political left of Gore; people voting for Bush, who found Gore too “liberal,” were hardly going to go rushing even further to the left and vote for Nader. And Gore never suffered from the “Hillary Derangement Syndrome” that so many on the contemporary political left demonstrate with such histrionic enthusiasm.
Even at the time, Nader’s dismissal of the differences between Gore and Bush amounted to cry-baby equivocation. Senator Gore had already authored Earth in the Balance in in 1992, and was an advocate for the Kyoto Protocol from the very beginning. Bush, on the other hand, was an oil man from an oil family. Indeed, Bush the younger’s successes in both business and politics flowed directly from the deep roots his family had in both the fossil fuel industry, and Republican government. It absolutely beggars the imagination how someone could be so willfully blind as to suggest that this distinction, even by itself, was a matter of no great significance, yet this is what Nader was insisting. It is also worth recalling at this point that Nader had absolutely no experience in governance at any level, and his petulant inability to engage in negotiation or compromise of any form was legendary even amongst his advocates and enthusiasts. Yet the capacity for negotiation and compromise is one of the single most essential qualities of any person seeking an elected position of public service.
After the election, of course, the childishness Nader’s of lies became even more grotesquely obvious, on and after September 11th, 2001. It is scarcely imaginable that a Gore administration would have ignored the piles of intelligence regarding the 9/11 conspirators that had been assembled. (Bear in mind that this intelligence was produced within the administration in which Gore himself was serving as Vice President.) Yet the Bush administration (which, according to Nader, could not possibly differ in any significant respect from that of Gore) did ignore that intelligence. And while it is possible that a Gore administration would have gone after al Qaeda and Bin Laden in Afghanistan (had the 9/11 attacks succeeded despite attention being paid to the intelligence) – an argument can be made that such a pursuit would be warranted. Perhaps it is not a very good argument, but it is, at least, an argument – there is no imaginable set of circumstances that a Gore administration would have expanded such a war to Iraq on the fabricated evidence, oil company greed, and personal daddy-issues that led the Bush administration to fabricate that conflict.
Clearly neither Nader nor his enthusiasts could have predicted the specifics of the above. However, any thinking person not only could have, but would have, recognized the general possibilities of such catastrophic decision making, given the egregiously indiscriminate brush with which Nader and his enthusiasts disposed of real differences between the candidates as bearing no significant weight.
But perhaps the question of whether Nader “really” put Bush into office is the wrong one to ask, given the irrefutable FACT that Nader and his ideological supporters were more than happy to do so, regardless of whether they actually succeeded. They will never admit to this fact, of course. They may even try to turn it on its head: Well, why didn’t Gore voters choose Nader instead! (Notice that they’ll never suggest Bush voters might have gone to Nader, unless they are trying to defend themselves from the very real, albeit loudly denied, consequences of they’re actions.)
If you ever encounter a Nader enthusiast who actually admits to even the tiniest culpability for the disasters that followed Bush’s election to the Presidency, I encourage you to tag that individual as a person of exceptionally high intelligence and integrity. Within the limits of my own (very limited) experience, I’ve yet to personally encounter such an individual.
In the meantime, the cry-babies are back with us. One sees Sander’s enthusiasts bitterly denouncing Elizabeth Warren for coming out in support of Hillary Clinton – after Clinton secured the nomination, mind you. Others’ suffer such a riot of Hillary Derangement Syndrome that the declare that they’ll vote for Trump. (Seen on the Internet: “In other news, the store did not have my favorite beer, so I’ll drink bleach instead.”) Others than myself shake their heads in astonishment at the quality of cry-baby-ism found amongst so many U.S. progressives. What is, perhaps, most noticeable about the cry-babies is their refusal to engage in the long, slow, hard work that goes into making real change. Instead, they want everything, exactly the way they want it, the instant they want it, and if that doesn’t happen, they break all the toys and go home to pout.
Indeed, the logical and ideological issues raised by cry-baby-ism on the American Left is such that I’ve barely scratched the surface here. So there will be yet a third part to follow.