Monday, May 12, 2008

Loony Liberals + 9/11 -->Loony Conservatives?

I keep running into folks on the interwebs that say things like "I was a liberal before 9/11, but..." And I keep wondering: what kind of dumbass liberal would you have to be to get all conservative because of 9/11???? I mean, liberals often refuse to recognize how many witless liberals there are out there. This sounds to me like the foreign policy equivalent of the adage that a conservative is a liberal who's been mugged. Now mugging is extremely unlikely to change my attitude about crime. Why? Because I already have a reasonable attitude about it. I'm in no sense one of those liberals who weeps for the perpetrator. I want victimless crimes legalized, non-violent offenders largely in rehabilitation programs, and violent offenders locked up big time for a long time. Similarly, 9/11 did nothing to change my political orientation because I already had my head on straight (or at least as straight as it is now...however straight that might be...) before 9/11. I know there are bad people in the world and many of them want to kill Americans. I don't see why non-witless liberals should in any way deny that. 9/11 didn't change anything fundamental about my view of the world, nor of foreign policy, and if your view was sane it shouldn't have changed it much either. Did these liberals-turned-conservatives think, pre-9/11, that the world was an entirely friendly place? Did they think we didn't need to be prepared to defend ourselves? What? WHAT??? I just don't get it. Were they blame-America-first liberals? I mean, what exactly would your world-view have to be like to allow 9/11 to turn you into a conservative? It just doesn't make sense.

My guess is that they were dopey liberals then and they're dopey conservatives now. They probably had an unreflective, overly lefty view before, and they probably swapped it in for an unreflective, overly righty view now. Sensible liberals needn't have changed their views about foreign policy in any dramatic way after 9/11. Sensible liberals have always recognized that the world was largely a dangerous place. They just don't think that we have to be paranoid, self-interested warmongers starting random and unjustified wars in order to survive. As a matter of fact, we're much more likely to survive if we're NOT paranoid, self-interested warmongers starting random wars.

Here's a wee rough-and-ready test:

(1) If you thought that both Afghanistan and Iraq were unjustified, then you are probably a loony lefty leaning toward at least de facto pacifism.

(1) If you thought that Afghanistan is a justified and rational war but Iraq is neither, then you're probably in the ballpark, getting things more-or-less right.

(3) If you thought that Afghanistan and Iraq are both justified and rational wars, then you are probably a loony righty leaning toward at least de facto warmongerdom.*

*Note: if you are a Democratic member of Congress who voted in favor of the war, you are probably just spineless and afraid the Republicans will call you a pansy. That's a different thing entirely.


Blogger Aa said...

I think you've hit it pretty closely with "My guess is that they were dopey liberals then and they're dopey conservatives now". I liken it to the saying you often hear from religious apologists when explaining some inanity (usually creationism)...wait for it..."I used to be atheist". Sure they did, and they gave their atheism about as much serious thought as they do their religiosity.

"Victimless crimes legalized"?? You lost me on this one. Clarification would be appreciated.

11:19 AM  
Blogger lovable liberal said...

I find myself blessedly in category 2.

Similar to aa's point, most of the "I used to be a liberal" people probably say they used to be Democrats, too. I've known some of these people for a long time, and maybe they once voted for a conservative Democrat thirty years ago.

Also true that dopeyness is everywhere on the political spectrum. It's hard to imagine that one event - 9/11 - could move a thinking person off an entire set of beliefs. "Oh, I used to favor S-CHIP, but 9/11 made me a conservative." Social environment is important, so maybe they got social permission (finally!) to be the reactionaries they always wanted to be. One of the reasons false wingnut emails work so well is that they appeal to the wingnut desire to believe simple, stupid stuff. Hard choices? No thanks.

And then again, there is the liberal-neoliberal-neocon transformation, and even I have to admit they were thinking people, however poor their judgement. At least that took a couple of decades of rationalizing.

I guess the unthinking could just be faster at chucking their old vague beliefs, since they aren't pinned down by much actual understanding - more by rote habit.

1:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think quite alot of these former "liberals" were never such to begin with. They were on the right, but slightly more to the center, and the terrorism just confirmed in them some of their more right wing notions.

The "I was so soft-hearted and naive until 9/11 changed everything" trope is too perfectly in line with how the right wing views the left to correctly characterize a real person's political development, even with jarring eventsthrown in. I would take the claims on the part of the rightist of being a former wishy-washy liberal in the same way as the newly highly religious person'scharacterization of themselves as loving sin and hating god before their conversion. Really, most were just less religious and roughly decent, but the story of a true believer is always better when it comes with sudden Damascene road moment, the change coming from a hateful mirror image of one's new self.

Basicly, I'm saying that almost everyone who says that 9/11 changed them sudenly from liberal to conservative is lying to you, themselves, or both.

4:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, the "I used to be ..." formulation has been used for a long time in the right wing, pre-dating the Netscape era. As in "I used to be for abortion", or "I used to be a Democrat". When I've had the chance to query the speaker about his/her past, in every case I've found that the "I used to be story" was either exaggerated (i.e. "Well, my parents were Democrats, but they switched to Republicans after Truman kicked out MacArthur when I was 3") or just a flat out lie.

The idea is that you get more credibility as a speaker if you say you switched sides because it *sounds* like you are more objective.

This isn't to say that people don't change sides -- just that they often lie/exaggerate about it.

5:42 PM  

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