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Scary Signs

Reading David Henderson’s recent EconLog post titled “Why Don’t People Speak Up?” prompts me to offer a more general yet personal point, which is this:

These are, at least for me, especially scary times. I refer here not principally to the covid lockdown (although that, too, is scary in its own way). Instead, I refer to the tsunami of virtue signaling now drowning the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd. Frank and honest disagreement with any parts of the narrative that dominates the mainstream media is treated by too many people as proof of evil intentions or, at best, of indifference to evil.

Underway now is something far more extreme than a mere loss of nuance. The world is now painted exclusively in the darkest black and brightest white. (Please, do not interpret my use of “black and white” as referring to anything other than the traditionally used example of the starkest of distinctions.) Failure to blame all problems suffered by minorities on racism – failure to denounce loudly and angrily American bourgeois society’s allegedly inherent bigotry, greed, and rapaciousness – failure to acknowledge that America today is a brutal and cruel place for all but the elite, and hellish especially for blacks, women, and gay, bi, and transgender people – is frequently interpreted as sympathy for dark-ages-like superstition and prejudices.

Equally bad, in the eyes of the Virtuous, are attempts at offering historical perspective. Even if accompanied by a sincere and express acknowledgement that serious problems remain, the mere suggestion that at least some of these problems were more widespread and worse in the past – the slightest hint that over time there’s been some real improvement for anyone but white, heterosexual, high-income Christian males – is treated as evidence of blindness or malignant bias.

Groupthink must be fun for many people. Emoting without as much as a thread of a connection to knowledge of history and careful consideration of the facts is the practice of very many people today. And it’s de rigueur now to treat one’s emotions – along with rioting-crowds’ outrage and passions – as sources of understanding and knowledge more reliable than an actual understanding of history and economics.

Sadly, but unsurprisingly, this irrationality centered in the political left spawns irrationality on the right. I’ve heard it said that George Floyd wasn’t killed by Derek Chauvin, or that Floyd deserved his fate. I hear it said that any success at reforming government police departments would undermine law and order. Nonsense, of course. Pure nonsense.

But what today most scares me – a true liberal to my marrow – is the rabid mobthink on the political and ideological left. My fear is neither my forgiving nor tolerating the many prejudices and idiocies rampant on the right. I despise these unconditionally. But today – June 12th, 2020 – I fear more the prejudices and idiocies rampant on the left, if only because these seem to me to be today more widespread and socially encouraged.

Seldom have I been as distraught as I am now.