“Locational liberalism: Why do some Leftists admire foreign right-wing ideologues?

We all know of Western Leftists who admire political movements that are repressive and regressive. I wasn’t alive when academic Leftists were all hearts and flowers about Stalin, even when they knew of his excesses; more recently, Nick Cohen has documented the hypocrisy of Western liberals in, for example, ignoring the existence of Serb concentration camps. Although Noam Chomsky has taken up some good left-wing causes, he also admired the genocidal dictator Pol Pot. And we know about the Regressive Left, who, while vociferously in favor of gay rights and women’s rights, and strongly opposed to capital punishment and torture, suddenly aren’t so sure when those rights are abrogated by Islamic regimes. That’s what happens when you suddenly see pigmentation as a sign of virtue, and all Muslims as victims of Western oppression. It’s what Maajid Nawaz calls “the soft bigotry of low expectations.”

In his piece in the Jerusalem Post, “Why Western leftists adore right-wing religious extremists abroad“, Seth Frantzman gives other examples:

This is particularly odd and contradictory among those who self-identify as “Left” and “liberal” and then embrace movements, leaders, ideologies and religions that are manifestly illiberal and right- wing extremist abroad. For instance American philosopher and gender theorist Judith Butler said in 2006 that “understanding Hamas [and] Hezbollah as social movements that are progressive, that are on the left, that are part of the global left, is extremely important.”

That contradictory view is emblematic of a phenomenon spanning everything from Michel Foucault’s embrace of the Islamic Revolution in Iran to those “anti-war” activists in the UK who support Syrian President Bashar Assad and Russia’s bombing of civilians.

Why do people who support women’s rights in the US or France excuse the Iranian regime? Why do those who dislike militarism view as romantic people in uniform in Pakistan or Moscow?

Why do those who dislike US presidential candidate Donald Trump find bombastic populists like Venezuala’s Hugo Chavez so endearing? [JAC: Do they?]

. . . Whether it was George Bernard Shaw touring and apologizing for Stalin’s Russia, or Noam Chomsky claiming refugees from the Cambodian genocide were “unreliable” and that “massacre reports were false,” there is a long tradition of mitigating the kinds of crimes abroad people would never excuse at home.

Of course when it comes to Islam I have my own theory, which has to be right because the Regressives assert it themselves: Muslim countries are oppressed, largely by the West, and therefore we can overlook their abrogation of human rights. But that doesn’t explain the admiration for Putin that I’ve seen even on this website, or for Chavez, which I haven’t seen but Frantzman takes as ubiquitous.

Frantzman has two other theories.

1.) Westerner liberals harbor a lot of anger (where it comes from isn’t specified, I’d like to think through observing of injustice), as well as a pent-up nationalism, and it’s politically correct to harbor “surrogate” nationalism by admiring other countries. 

To understand the blind and contradictory loyalty of people who call themselves “progressive” but embrace manifestly reactionary policies abroad is to understand that humans need to fill the void of rage within.

For the self-declared “Right” in the West that void is filled through home-grown nationalism. But the “Left” eschews nationalism at home. Yet the nationalism of the “other” is authentic and palatable. Discarding one’s own flag is de rigueur but filling oneself up with the nationalism of the other is acceptable.

Thus the post-1990s embrace of religious fanaticism and right-wing nationalist extremism abroad has filled the void left by the fall of communism for the intellectual Left in the West.

This doesn’t explain, though, why that void is filled by admiration of thuggish ideologues rather than more admirable nations like those in Scandinavia. Perhaps it’s because Scandinavians can’t be seen as oppressed. But Frantzman has another explanation:

2.) Western Leftist nationalism requires a strong-handed, “virile” form of nationalism that helps release our suppressed aggression:

Why is Persian nationalism or other foreign nationalism so enticing to some in the West? Because American, French or German nationalism is not.

Abroad is a place to pour one’s love of “proud nations.” It’s where one can openly worship verile, powerful men; nationalism, religious extremism, war, caning and hanging in public, beheadings, stonings – let out all that aggression that living in the West has cooped up.

The love of foreign nation and religion one finds in the writings of so many on the “Left” who ostensibly oppose nationalism is always interesting. The love of “pride,” faith, dignity and roots in the soil, of brawn and flag, of sword and gun, points to a nationalist yearning that the Western self-defined Left cannot allow them- selves at home.

I’m not so sure about that. One could, I suppose, make this argument, but what’s the evidence? Not many Leftists in the U.S. admire either Putin nor Chavez, though Malgorzata tells me that admiration of Chavez is widespread in Poland and other European nations.

But regardless of the reasons, Frantzman gets the symptoms right if not the diagnosis (content note: fat shaming):

The same values in Trump or Brexit, Le Pen or Lega Nord that the progressives find objectionable in the West, when expressed in Venezuala, Syria, Iran or among Palestinians are admirable.

Don’t kid yourselves and pretend these progressives simply don’t hear their friends in Iran call abortion “satanic” or hear them say homosexuals are a “cancer,” or hear their chauvinist friends in the Muslim Brotherhood say a woman’s “place is in the home.”

They hear it, and they support it. When the overweight, bearded religious leaders in Iran say “women and men are different; women are driven by their emotions,” the same people who speak of “gender neutrality” in the West widen their eyes and say “yes I agree, such an insight,” not “where is the transgender bathroom?”

When Hugo Chavez said he couldn’t be a homosexual because he was “sufficiently macho to pulverize any accusation along those lines,” gay rights advocates didn’t bat an eye. Homophobia is cool – only abroad, not at home.

If you took an average progressive lover of Hezbollah and told them to dunk in a fountain and be born again in Texas they’d mock “ignorant religion” – but take them to the Beka’a valley and tell them to whip themselves for Ashura and they’ll find it beautiful.

This entire phenomenon is what should be known as “locational liberalism.”

Locational liberalism means you support liberalism only in one place, and support its diametric opposite somewhere else. The result is that there are basically two right-wing forces at war with each other in the West. One supports right-wing religious nationalist forces abroad, the other supports them at home.

That seems just a tad hyperbolic, but readers can weigh in about it. Still, just as we can separate the tenets of religion from the adherents of religion, rendering the cry of “Islamophobia” nonsensical, so the Locational Liberals should be able to separate what they consider the “good parts” of autocratic regimes (I’d be hard pressed, though, to identify much good in the Saudi government) from the reprehensible practices of those regimes.


  1. Petrushka
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    “Soft bigotry” is generally credited to George Bush speechwriter, Michael Gerson.

    Sometimes these things are difficult to track down.

    • John Higgins
      Posted August 4, 2016 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      And specifically, the phrase was coined to associate welfare with racism.

      It’s a right-wing dog-whistle, in other words, and I rather wish the phrase weren’t so apt in this context.

  2. Cindy
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I have seen Chomsky defend China and Putin, stating that, essentially, ‘they don’t put up with the United States’ heavy handed, domineering ways’

    So China and Putin are the ‘good guys’ simply because they oppose the USA, whereas Canada, for example, would be a ‘bad guy’ because Canadians roll over and take it:(

    • Posted August 4, 2016 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

      I think the problem is trying to map a regime or culture onto a one-dimensional left-right scale. People like Hugo Chavez should win points for standing up to US bullying in South America. It is refreshing and inspiring when done honestly (as opposed to those who bash the US just to win brownie points–and Chavez often did cross that line). The same can be said for many other regimes who stand up to the US or Russia or other abusive powers.

      However, this admiration of one dimension of their public policy shouldn’t blind us to their views on other dimensions of policy.

      Policy is not one-dimensional. Different people may weigh some dimensions more heavily than others. I think this is part of the reason why some in the left support repressive regimes. I note that most people who actually have to live under those regimes probably have very different weighting schemes than the ivory tower leftists who are safe and sound in the US.

      • Larry
        Posted August 4, 2016 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

        Well stated. This helps to expand the discussion to weighing policy and cultural/ethnic aspects to locational preferences.

      • Posted August 5, 2016 at 11:52 am | Permalink

        Exactly – I for example say that the Democratic party is just as bad as the Republicans (traditionally, federally) *from the perspective of a Canadian, i.e., from the outside. From the perspective of a US resident, the Democratic party has no theocrats, to speak of, so domestic policy is marginally more to my tastes.

        Similarly, Chomsky is not endorsing or *defending*, as far as I can tell in the work I’ve seen, but showing why, in one way at least, they may be preferred, especially by the constituents or the world as a whole (and he says which he means, usually). For example, Soviet foreign policy was marginally less reprehensible (in terms of numbers killed, peoples suppressed, etc.) than the US was (but still horrendous); domestically the reverse was true. So if we want to state why sometimes folks in lesser powers would have preferred to ally with the SU rather than the US, that might be one reason. (Of course domestic suppression occurs other, less violent ways, in the US …)

  3. GBJames
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 1:24 pm | Permalink


  4. Zado
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    Orwell covered this phenomenon a while ago:

    “But for an intellectual, transference has an important function which I have already mentioned shortly in connection with Chesterton. It makes it possible for him to be much more nationalistic — more vulgar, more silly, more malignant, more dishonest — that he could ever be on behalf of his native country, or any unit of which he had real knowledge. When one sees the slavish or boastful rubbish that is written about Stalin, the Red Army, etc. by fairly intelligent and sensitive people, one realises that this is only possible because some kind of dislocation has taken place. In societies such as ours, it is unusual for anyone describable as an intellectual to feel a very deep attachment to his own country. Public opinion — that is, the section of public opinion of which he as an intellectual is aware — will not allow him to do so. Most of the people surrounding him are sceptical and disaffected, and he may adopt the same attitude from imitativeness or sheer cowardice: in that case he will have abandoned the form of nationalism that lies nearest to hand without getting any closer to a genuinely internationalist outlook. He still feels the need for a Fatherland, and it is natural to look for one somewhere abroad. Having found it, he can wallow unrestrainedly in exactly those emotions from which he believes that he has emancipated himself. God, the King, the Empire, the Union Jack — all the overthrown idols can reappear under different names, and because they are not recognised for what they are they can be worshipped with a good conscience. Transferred nationalism, like the use of scapegoats, is a way of attaining salvation without altering one’s conduct.”

    • Zado
      Posted August 4, 2016 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Or, to keep things more current, Christopher Hitchens summed it up as the liberal West’s “part-guilty and part-lazy attitude to the Muslim world, a torpor created by post-colonial superficiality and by the half-baked view of many on the Left that there must be something of value in any movement that hates Zionism and globalization.”

      • Posted August 4, 2016 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

        I miss Hitchens!

        • Damien McLeod
          Posted August 4, 2016 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

          I second that.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted August 4, 2016 at 2:12 pm | Permalink

      In sum, cultural dislocation at home is responsible for locational liberalism.
      My word-play may make that sound glib, but I think it’s actually very insightful of Orwell. Our liberal culture is somewhat fragmented, making leftists prone to a “grass is greener on the other side of the street” syndrome a longing to call that other home.
      Fear of being even remotely identified with the worst of American reactionaries at home creates a “If they said it, it must be wrong” syndrome.

      • Zado
        Posted August 4, 2016 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

        Agreed. And I think you bring up a pertinent wrinkle, one I’ve had personal experience with: many leftists’ don’t transfer their nationalism so much as experience a kind of anti-nationalism. It has no definite focus or basis for comparison outside the West because, like most Americans (including myself), the average leftist never learns very much about other-than-Western history. Instead, one is merely intoxicated with feeling superior to jingoistic rubes back home.

        Either way, as Orwell pointed out, it is not a “genuinely internationalist outlook.” It is just as culturally introverted as the conventional nationalism it mirrors.

  5. Bernardo
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    I think his analysis would have been richer if he had used Jonathan Haidt’s moral foundations theory. It offers a compelling picture of the moral values that drive us.

  6. Posted August 4, 2016 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

    I agree very much with this post. About the admiration of virility in others: I was puzzled for a long time that Malcolm X could be regarded as a hero, and not only by his fellow blacks but even by whites. I once asked about this a group of young (white) Americans and they told me that Malcolm X was liked “because he was a macho”.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted August 4, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      Malcolm X certainly had a lot of personal magnetism and charisma. But in a perverse way, so does Donald T.

  7. David Percival
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    To try and encompass all left and liberal opinion and tar them with the same brush is ridiculous. To through every country and scenario mentioned is impossible but just to pick up one or two, I would make the following comments.
    According to Wiki, Chomsky was sceptical of accounts of atrocities in Cambodia 1977 because he felt it important to stress the responsibility of the USA in creating the circumstances ín South East Asia (especially the Vietnam war). I am unaware, however, of any statement where he said he “admired” Pol Pot. Christopher Hitchins expressed understanding of his position.
    I have heard of very few people on the left saying they support the Assad regime or Putin (unlike Mr Trump by the way ion relation to the latter).
    Amongst the other areas mentioned e.g. Iran, Palestine, Venezuela (Cuba and Vietnam for some reason are missing from the charge sheet), the central reason why many on the left have been supportive of them in various ways is that they have been anti imperialist and for that reason have been victimised by the US.In particular, whereas a country like Israel which has been subsidised and cosseted while supressing a whole country for over five decades, they have been undermined economically (and sometimes militarily) by “the West”.
    Many on the left support Irish nationalism for similar reasons, even though they also have deplorable attitudes on social and sexual politics.
    In a fight between the thief and the sexist we support the sexist. When the thief is gone sexism can be tackled.

    • Ann German
      Posted August 4, 2016 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      Well, isn’t that the problem??? That the “thief” is never gone so sexism is never tackled.

    • darrelle
      Posted August 4, 2016 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

      It’s always funny to me how accusations of tarring with the same brush are often just as much tarring with the same brush. It’s getting to where I can’t stand that phrase.

    • Posted August 4, 2016 at 4:16 pm | Permalink

      The “country” that Israel is “suppressing” keeps attacking Israeli civilians and does not recognize their right to exist.

    • Rick
      Posted August 4, 2016 at 6:16 pm | Permalink

      David: Good points about Chomsky. I think that you sum up his position well, at least, as far as I understand it.

      For anyone interested, here’s a link to a part of “Manufacturing Consent” (the film, not the book) that elaborates on David’s summary of Chomsky’s views: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s8mP2jN6bJI.

  8. darrelle
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

    How depressing.

  9. Ann German
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    I have never forgotten, year ago, when a Jewish friend of mine and her husband were going to travel to the Middle East and I commented on how I was nervous about them going to Israel. She said, “Oh, we’re going to Syria.” I asked why, and her husband said it was because there was “no crime” in Syria. It didn’t occur to me to ask them why no crime in Syria . . . now, of course, I realize (if in fact it was true then) it was because of the repression. So, I guess you could say that one good product of an autocratic regime is “no crime.” (If you could stand to “vacation” in the midst of such suffering, that is.)

    • Ann German
      Posted August 4, 2016 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

      “years,” that is

    • David Percival
      Posted August 4, 2016 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

      That comment has little to do with the original posting but I would comment that Israeli suppression of Palestine is an ongoing crime where the criminals are aided and abetted by the supposed police.

      • Posted August 4, 2016 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

        What about the Palestinian anti-Israeli attacks aided and abetted by the supposed government?

        • colnago80
          Posted August 4, 2016 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

          Oh, Israel bashers like ole David don’t give a hoot about Israel or it’s Jewish inhabitants. I would be willing to bet that he is a big BDS supporter.

      • Posted August 5, 2016 at 1:26 am | Permalink

        I knew someone was going to gratuitously drag Israel into the discussion of a post where that country wasn’t mentioned. Really, did you have to? Couldn’t you control yourself?

        This is almost like a Godwin: the longer the thread, the more likely the perfidy of Israel will be mentioned. This is not the first time you’ve done this, and, looking at your previous comments, I see rules violations that were not caught. I’m not going to ask you to apologize, because you seem to be an unpleasant and uncivil person; I just invite you to leave this site and frequent some other ones.

        • somer
          Posted August 5, 2016 at 6:02 am | Permalink

          For some reason the anti enlightenment hate-the-west-type of Leftists can never ever resist mentioning what to them is the zionist entity. Just another identity stripe for the tribe they are so keen to show belonging with.

  10. tubby
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, I’ve seen that whole ‘secretly desires a strong male’ reason given before, though I can’t remember from whom. In that case it was the assertion that Western feminists support repressive Muslim theocrats because deep down inside they secretly harbor the need and desire to be dominated by a strong, virile man. That came with the implication that all women want this, but only feminists deny it. Some people think that sexual dominance and submissiveness are the primary driving factor behind, well, everything everyone does I guess.

    • somer
      Posted August 5, 2016 at 6:05 am | Permalink

      Or they just want to be accepted by society and tempering their “selfish” cause with this rubbish is more acceptable. Plenty of men are groupies too, and just want to be dominated by a strong successful leader to be accepted by other men

  11. Posted August 4, 2016 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Meanwhile, Lefty Jeremy Corbyn demonstrates his opposition to the British honour system by rewarding the only woman in the UK who couldn’t find anti-semitism in the Labour Party, with a peerage.


  12. mordacious1
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    If one is raised to “know” that the US is an evil empire, or is taught that while at university, and if that idea is reinforced by the media and Hollywood, then anyone (or any entity) that stands up to the empire is “good”. The Left felt that the North Vietnamese were the good guys based solely on the idea that they were fighting the American imperialists. From what I observed, the South Vietnamese, while not perfect, had many more freedoms under their government than they currently have under the communist regime.

    Also, everyone loves a fascist as long as that fascist is pushing an agenda that they agree with. The leaders of various left wing groups tend to exhibit authoritarian behavior (no platforming, etc) and members of those groups don’t bat an eyelid. There’s probably some innate disposition for humans to follow strong leaders and strong leaders tend to be authoritarians.

    • David Percival
      Posted August 4, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

      What is this about Hollywood reinforcing the idea of the US being the evil empire? I must have missed those films. Could you tell them what they were as I would love to see them.
      As far as Vietnam is concerned, nobody at the time had any doubt that the Viet Cong were overwhelmingly popular and that if free elections had been held before the US intervention they would have been won by them (which is why the French refused to hold them). It would have been impossible to fight to victory without the support of the great majority in the country in the face of the huge financial and military force used against them.

      • mordacious1
        Posted August 4, 2016 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

        Watch any film that involves the CIA or the NSA. In Hollywood, these organizations are run by evil, corrupt, power hungry despots who are above the law. It takes the hero to bring these monsters down, usually resulting in a Senate hearing (ooo scary).

        Anything by Oliver Stone.

        • David Percival
          Posted August 4, 2016 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

          I don’t think most people would recognise your view, even about films which include references to the CIA. Mind you that film Top Gun was pure communist propaganda.

        • charlize
          Posted August 4, 2016 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

          Yes, it depicts them as rogues operating contrary to the pristine American ideals they so defile which would otherwise allow an inerrant march toward the perfection of Freedom and Democracy everywhere in the world….or else.

          In other words – no, those movies do not depict the US as an evil empire. You can’t sell movie tickets (Hollywood’s raison d’etre) on that premise to a population who has largely been co-opted by the notion of America as the shining city on a hill.

          If they did, and that were the popular sentiment, Noam Chomsky would not be relegated to the University lecture circuit, allowed onto mainstream media outlets once or twice a decade on a short leash wearing a muzzle.

          • Posted August 4, 2016 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

            I know of no issue on which any group of human beings agree. Arriving at consensus for functionality and appropriate action seems impossible. This one included. It seems we have a knee-jerk reaction to most issues, one person presents the “white” version, therefore the other person must say “Yes, but…” and present the “black” version. Few perceive or state the viewpoints in between. There are two competing views of the U.S: the “shining city on the hill” and the “rogue nation” that commits atrocities.

            The self-flagellation of the U.S. because of how bad we’ve been, and are (and demonization from others), is not only depicted in film but in a great deal of our popular fiction. It is portrayed in newspapers and magazines, on television, as well as in movies. This is not a new trend. Our historian would be able to share with you the good and bad extremes portrayed of us throughout our existence from the beginning, including the Revolution, Civil War, WWI, WWII, Vietnam, the Middle East, Central and South America, etc. However, we also are lambasted if we don’t take action soon enough as with Sarajevo, many situations in Africa, etc. The citizens of this country have never been in agreement about who and what we are, and how to act. The reactions of citizens of other countries to us is equally divergent. How are other countries different from this?

            • charlize
              Posted August 7, 2016 at 11:30 am | Permalink

              The notion that the “self flagellation” comes anywhere near to the “self glorification” is a display of false equivalence preposterous beyond remedy. Name a few, if you can even name one, mainstream Hollywood movies built around the premise of our hypocrisy -of how bad we’ve been and are. Mainstream entertainment movies watched by the masses – not documentaries watched by a rarified intellectual elite in some off off Broadway basement theatre.

              The recent Kahn-Trump brouhaha acted almost as a perfectly controlled science experiment providing a litmus test as to where the overwhelming consensus i.e. the standard accepted sentiment lies:

              All across the political spectrum voices united in asserting the sanctity, immunity and unassailability of the Gold Star Family. Even the sheer notion of merely wondering whether their fallen one had any business being where they were at when they got killed is seen, nationally, as welcome as loudly farting at a funeral.

          • TJR
            Posted August 5, 2016 at 5:03 am | Permalink

            Indeed. To most of us outside the USA Hollywood looks like right-wing, rampantly nationalistic pro-US-empire propaganda.

            I’m sure the cinema of most countries looks similarly nationalistic to everyone else.

      • chris moffatt
        Posted August 4, 2016 at 3:57 pm | Permalink

        It wasn’t the French who refused to hold elections in Viet-Nam; in fact elections were called for in the Geneva peace agreement. The refusal came later on the part of the provisional government of South Viet-Nam under Diem supported by the Government of the United States, which had refused to accept the treaty. This refusal led to the ultimately successful attempt by the government of North Viet Nam to overthrow the SVN government by force.

    • Posted August 4, 2016 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      A lot of it is collectivism vs individuality. Left and Right don’t come into it. Foreign cultures, if you know them only via stereotypes, represent conformity.

      Look at a Nazi propaganda film about the ‘folk’ and a Soviet film about communal farming and you won’t spot the difference.

      Nazis and Communists love marching behind tanks and missile launchers.

      Authoritarianism is about conformity; of speech, of behaviour, of thought. There’s a limited amount of expression of ‘difference’ allowed but it’s strictly regulated: Person A gets to wear cornrows, Person B does not. Person C gets to eat sushi.

  13. Posted August 4, 2016 at 2:07 pm | Permalink


  14. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

    Starting in the 40s, a number of former sympathizers with Soviet Marxism came to the conclusion they were wrong, and wrote eloquently about their mistakes.A good anthology of the tales of 6 such is the book “The God that Failed”.

    Folksinger Pete Seeger has been fairly forthcoming about how wrong he was to be so enthusiastic about Stalin in his early youth. Susan Sontag similarly retracted her sympathies with Soviet Communism in the 1970s.

    Unfortunately, most ex-Muslims are of Arab descent and likely to be written off by the American Regressive Left, IMO. While we had European Westerners actually becoming Communists back in the day, we now only have European Westerners trying to sympathize with Muslims, without actually converting, notwithstanding rare examples like Yusuf Islam (Cat Stevens).

    It’s a bit disconcerting when ex-leftists go to the opposite extreme as is the case with David Horowitz. Both his 60s left persona and his current right-wing persona seem fairly deplorable to me.

    • colnago80
      Posted August 4, 2016 at 6:31 pm | Permalink

      There were a number of former Trotskyites like David Horowitz, Irving Kristol, Norman Podhoretz etc. who started out on the extreme left and eventually joined the neo-cons. It was quite embarrassing to see Podhoretz defending Jerry Falwell.

    • Filippo
      Posted August 4, 2016 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

      I read somewhere where Seeger, commenting on his mis-judgment of Stalin, said to the effect that he though Stalin was just a “hard driver.”

  15. Sastra
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    I don’t feel capable of evaluating all the elements of this particular analysis, but I’ll mention something interesting I’ve noted in some of my friends who self-identify as liberal: a strong moral opposition to the entire idea of “judging people different than myself.” This is also expressed as “I refuse to condemn other cultures and/or faiths.” They’ll defend this statement even when all the obvious “what ifs” are brought up (“but what if the other culture is sexist/racist/violent/imperialist?”) I know. I’ve tried it.

    It seems to me that a reasonable idea of tolerance and loving acceptance of The Other has morphed into a sort of shallow virtue-signaling. It’s apparently more important to look open-minded than it is to defend human rights. Whether this is a general theme or not in the grand scheme of things, I don’t know. But it annoys the living f*ck out of me sometimes.

    • Posted August 4, 2016 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

      Seconded, though there is a stereotype far leftie who is a self-loathing xenophile, who likes everything but the West, and seems to have a nihilistic longing that the other grows strong and annihilates him, and all that he despises. I’ve seen such characters when I was myself in the left scene as a teenager and young adult.

      They often seem to start out with a broken home, or are disconnected from their parents who they perceive as conservative dullards, making it plausible that they might find the strong foreign leader appealing. Maybe part teenage rebellion, because this is the opposite of what the parents like, and part for they are against the own “fascist state”. With such a mindset in place, and funneled by confirmation bias, the crimes of the West come trickling in. After a while they know every CIA conspiracy and war crime(real and imagined) and then believe the others are merely reacting to the foul play of the West, or are otherwise excused.

      Some people might excuse me of this view too, because I tend to agree with Noam Chomsky, but I am fully behind the West, democracy and Enlightenment values, and think while not perfect, superior to all alternatives. I just also know that — generally speaking — US propaganda is the norm, for most of the time and US schenanigans, propaganda and such is typically downplayed or denied.

      • Sastra
        Posted August 4, 2016 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

        Just based on my very limited experience, there seems to be a correlation between considering it wrong and intolerant to criticize other cultures — and having been raised by controlling, disapproving parents.

  16. MDorian
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think Nawaz is the author of this quote: “the soft bigotry of low expectations.” I first heard it in a speech by Goerge W. Bush. So I just looked it up and it’s credited to Michael Gerson, a Wash Po Op-ed columnist and former Bush speechwriter: “Gerson is credited with coining such phrases as “the soft bigotry of low expectations” and “the armies of compassion”.[17] His noteworthy phrases for Bush are said to include “Axis of Evil…”


  17. Nicolas Perrault
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    To embrace an ideology, any ideology, is to desert free thinking.

    • rom
      Posted August 4, 2016 at 9:15 pm | Permalink

      Partly tongue in cheek:

      Is this the truth?

  18. chris moffatt
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    We mustn’t forget the role that thorough indoctrination by schools and universities plays coupled with a profound ignorance and an aversion to anything resembling rational thought or fact.

  19. RGBowman
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 4:06 pm | Permalink

    All of this Regressive Left stuff, sends me back to Bob Altemeyer and his political psychology seminal work “The Authoritarian Specter” (about the makeup of authoritarian followers). This was used extensively in John W. Dean’s “Conservatives Without Conscience”, which even Glenn Greenwald praised highly.

    RWAs (Right Wing Authoritarians) have a generally inherent in-group persecution complex, while LWAs would have a potentially out-group persecution complex. Hmm…

    Although Altemeyer was never able to develop a reliable LWA scale, others have since tried to fill it out.

    Some food for thought:

    ‘Chasing the Elusive Left-Wing Authoritarian: An Examination of Altemeyer’s Right-Wing Authoritarianism and Left-Wing Authoritarianism Scales’

    ‘The Presence of Left-Wing Authoritarianism in Western Europe and Its Relationship with Conservative Ideology’

    ‘Left-wing authoritarianism is not a myth, but a worrisome reality.’

    ‘The Other “Authoritarian Personality”‘

    ‘Power and Fear: Explaining the Authoritarian Personality’

    ‘The Authoritarian Personality in the 21st Century.’

    ‘Analysis of Right-Wing Authoritarian (RWA) Followers: Insight into Donald Trump and Ted Cruz Supporters’

    ‘Pure Authoritarianism: A New Approach to Authoritarianism’

    • Posted August 4, 2016 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

      Thanks for the material. I found Altemeyer’s work also useful for the Left Authoritarians, who are structurally similar, and even concerned with law and order — like right wingers — just in their unique version, as social justice and safe spaces, even with forms of cultural purity (cf. cultural appropriation, segregation).

    • Zado
      Posted August 4, 2016 at 11:24 pm | Permalink

      Funny you brought that up; I just got done reading it yesterday. Thought it made a lot of sense.

      Plus, it reassured me of something. While I appreciate the undermining wordplay of “regressive left,” I prefer “authoritarian left” (which, as far as I can remember, I’ve only seen PCC use). I think it’s more descriptive because the same underlying psychology is at play, only channeled differently.

  20. Leftist atheist
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

    This is like Christians asking why atheists love Satan so much.

    Your “tad hyperbolic” comment is apropos but still understated, since the entire premise is hogwash.

  21. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 5:34 pm | Permalink

    What’s needed is a leftist organization to fight the authoritarian PC crowd the way the old lefties (like Eleanor Roosevelt, Reinhold Niebuhr, J.K. Galbraith et al.) who formed Americans for Democratic Action fought the Stalinists back in the post-war period. Or maybe the ADA itself just needs an infusion of anti-authoritarian-left Leftists.

  22. rickflick
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 7:16 pm | Permalink

    I think a lot of regressive left sentiment comes from a juvenile romanticism. It begins in adolescence and, in some people, stays with them, nostalgically, into maturity. I know people like this. It sometimes scares me. I’d like to think that most people, as they mature, take on a bit of cynicism and skepticism that puts them a sane distance from credulity in romanticism and exoticism.

  23. Henry Fitzgerald
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    I think it’s simply embarrassing to be caught waving one’s own flag, and some people overcorrect – bending over backwards not to be too patriotic or too much in favour of their own country or bloc, they fall over backwards.

    It’s an old sentiment, immortalised in the Gilbert and Sullivan lines (unfortunately likely to be cut because of other lines in the same verse):

    There’s the idiot who praises, in enthusiastic tone,
    Every century but this and every country but his own.

  24. somer
    Posted August 4, 2016 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    Such a good phrase “Locational Liberalism”. I hope it gets taken up alongside “regressive left” for those elements of the left to whom it applies

  25. Posted August 4, 2016 at 11:39 pm | Permalink

    The leftist love games with 3rd world dictators and despots have had specially perverse effects on their disciples in those countries.

    As a particularly disheartening example, I witnessed in the past few days how some Iranian leftists took to the social media to to justify the horrifying execution of 19 Sunni Kurds by the Iranian regime. Their reasoning was that the victims were Salafists as the regime claimed and as we all know the left is against Salafism (and Saudi Arabia! Remember: it’s an America’s ally.)

    That being said, many nationalists also justified the execution on the grounds that the executed were planning to join ISIS and fight against the motherland(another claim made by regime media).

    The sad fact is liberals in the West are not serious about their principles. A typical liberal is ready to throw the principle of due process in the trash can if it means more gun control. To me, this is as sad as seeing people cheer for Donald Trump when he demands bombing the families of ISIS members.

    Why then do we expect a backward regime such as Iran to respect Western demands for human rights when Western intellectuals themselves are ready to sacrifice their principles for their politics?

  26. Posted August 5, 2016 at 2:46 am | Permalink

    Definitely a strange phenomenon. I have a former work colleague who, despite being as radical liberal in most ways as you can probably be, seems to love Kim Jong-Un and North Korean politics and culture in general. He blames the US “occupancy” of South Korea for all the regions problems, and insists that all the stories and pictures of North Korea from the inside are fabricated or framed to make the country look bad. It’s actually a communist utopia, you know!

  27. TJR
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 4:20 am | Permalink

    Many leftists seem to end up as de facto apologists for third world ruling classes.

    Very strange, given that third world ruling classes are pretty much by definition the worst people in the world.

    I suppose its easy to romanticise a ruling class that isn’t ruling you personally.

  28. Jose
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

    About Chávez, well, he’s been dead for more than three years, so the reference seems a bit outdated. Maybe we should speak of chavism then, or the actual president, Maduro.

    About chavism, then, we have to consider it has won election after election (less the last parlamentary one) without any proven electoral fraud by international observers. Venezuela it’s a democracy in any ligth you see it. And the oposition has won finally the parlamentary elections after years of uniting all his parties in a single candidacy, with all kinds of parties from left to right. And of course, it helped the economic war fougth with the shortages, which are caused by two things, one, the desire itself to damage the goverment, and the appraisal for basic products (hygiene and staple foods)which made desirable to dealers and distibutors to retain them or sell in the black market.

    What this means is the chavism has a strong support between the voters, venezuelans want chavism to rule the country.

    Yes, the personality of Chavez and now Maduro are picturesque to say the least, I remember hearing maduro, soon after taking ofice, talking about former président Chávez like he was the holy spirit, saying he appeared to him. Well, in don’t understand that, I condemn hompphobic expresions like that one of Chávez being a “macho”, but I’m not fool enough to condemn the “regime” as a whole, and be happy with and alternative which would erase all the social conquests of chavism and would be equally or even more homophobic.

    • Gianko
      Posted August 20, 2016 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

      Winning elections is not the only factor to be a Democracy. They have elections as well in Cuba.

      and… economic war?! Come on!…

      The reasons there are shortages are price control and currency control, that’s like economics 101.

      • Jose
        Posted August 21, 2016 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

        You are correct. Price control is a reason for shortages. but how come? Things don’t happen in a vacuum. Price control, put in place to make possible for lowers incomes to pay for the merchandise, makes greedy distributors to retain the controled products,and deviate them to ilegal black markets.

        About democracy and elections, well, I don’t get what are you exactly triying to say. If you think there´s no democracy in Venezuela, well, just say so.

        • Gianko
          Posted August 21, 2016 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

          Yes, there is no Democracy in Venezuela. Elections is just one of many factors of a democracy, not the only one.

          “makes greedy distributors to retain the controlled products,and deviate them to ilegal black markets”

          No, you can do that in Venezuela… the goverment has the SADA and SICA which controls who transports and gets the product. You can’t even move a truck without those permits.

          Do you know a thing about Venezuela, or just what the propaganda wants you to know?

  29. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    Authoritarians love authority. Doesn’t matter about the left or right. If you love a strong man, you’re going to love Putin and Trump.

  30. somer
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 8:37 pm | Permalink


  31. somer
    Posted August 5, 2016 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    I agree but that was meant for “expected backlash to regressive leftism hits American colleges in the pocket”

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