Many mainstream outlets recently ran a fake news story about hospitals in rural Oklahoma being overrun by people overdosing on Ivermectin. The hospitals were indeed crowded, but there was no evidence, beyond the twisted testimony of one doctor, suggesting it was because of ignorant bumpkins ingesting horse dewormer.
Commenting on this story in The Federalist, Rachel Bovard points out how these journalistic mistakes consistently fall in one direction — against conservatives —and how the correction so many days or weeks later is buried behind other headlines. Also, as Bovard notes, it is clear that corporate media are “using their platform[s] as an advocacy tool for their ideological goals.” Even if the instance in question isn’t factually true, it is “morally right,” as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez notoriously said.
So what’s the narrative in this case? That conservatives are dumb and oppose science. They would rather take a drug intended for horses or cleaning aquariums than the vaccines developed by America’s greatest pharmaceutical experts.
But why perpetuate this narrative? What’s the goal? Even if it might be true (it isn’t), how does it benefit anyone to call half the country a bunch of morons? Will this really change their ways and help them become more progressive (as it’s satirically depicted in the show “South Park,” where the residents are shamed into building a Whole Foods in their small town), or will it simply push so many Americans away from public discourse? Do the people who push these narratives even care one way or the other how people respond?
Obviously, there’s tribalism at work in which one group vilifies and ridicules the rival to dominate them. There’s a great deal of satisfaction in “owning” or “dunking on” the other side. It makes for good entertainment and it creates a sense of belonging. Life may be bad, but it could be worse: you could be one of the idiots in Oklahoma overdosing on Ivermectin.
However, underneath this tribalism, there seems to be some genuine insecurity. In most cases, bullies resort to this kind of name-calling, scapegoating, and false narratives to make up for something lacking in themselves. After all, if they were confident in their ideas and in their ability to carry out those ideas, they would simply speak the truth and not feel the need to mock their rivals.
Consequently, one of the signature qualities of today’s left is a stubborn refusal to engage in debate or dialogue. They control every platform and institution, yet they still fear losing an argument to an outsider or debunking the false claims of a non-expert. Is it that they don’t trust their audience to follow the better case, or do they not really believe in objective truth?
Either way, the result of this one-sidedness is the stoppage of thought. When one side is silenced and stigmatized while the other is repeated on every medium of communication, there is really nothing to think about. Either the person parrots what they hear to stay with polite society, or they have objections about it and join the deplorables.
This was illustrated in the recent story of the Portland State University professor Peter Boghossian, who made the mistake of encouraging his students to think for themselves and consider different perspectives. For this, students accused him of being a bigot and administrators harassed him with investigations. Finally, he resigned after teaching at the school for a decade. All the while, his students will go on to graduate and take with them the lesson that asking questions and thinking deeply about issues is morally and intellectually wrong.
It must be said that in the short term, this strategy has been effective for the left. Conservatives have been systematically identified, marginalized, and essentially eliminated from the public discourse and most positions of influence. This then clears the way for progressives to occupy such positions and continue perpetuating narratives that keep them in authority. The “long march through the institutions” has arrived at its destination, and its participants are now closing the gates.
However, in the long term, this strategy of silencing discourse, stopping thought, and brainwashing the population with propaganda has serious consequences. It turns out that when unqualified people occupy and run the institutions, those institutions will break down and stop working. Government will stop leading, companies will stop producing, schools will stop educating, entertainment will stop entertaining, and even adults will stop adulting. People may have the right beliefs and say the right things; they just don’t have a clue of what they’re doing and why they’re doing it.
It’s not a coincidence that the Afghanistan withdrawal was a disaster, that the economy is doomed to impending stagflation, or that COVID-19 policies seem arbitrary and frequently tyrannical. It is the result of incompetence, or people who have never questioned others and are never questioned themselves.
It is also apparent in the sophistry of today’s intellectuals. Because they have dispensed with the tools and labor required to solve complex problems, the best they can do is to redefine the problem, deflect and point to some other issue, and, as mentioned before, blame an unpopular group of people (for easy reference, see Biden’s speech on the calamitous pullout from Afghanistan).
In more and more areas of modern life, this pattern of one side thinking and one side not thinking continues to manifest itself. In this way, conservatives are becoming the advocates of intellectual pursuits while progressives are degenerating into an anti-intellectual movement. One side can be seen promoting real scholarship, culture-building, and dialogue while the other side is promoting slogans, cultural destruction, and activism.
All this is happening despite everyone’s best efforts. Ostensibly, the right has embraced the cause of the working class, often taking a negative view of intellectuals, and the left continues to champion the academy and push credentialism. But being pro-working class is compatible with being pro-intellectual.
The next move, at least for conservatives, would be to recognize the left’s massive brain drain and to appeal to disaffected intellectuals, like Boghossian, who want the freedom to explore what is true. Only by doing this will they retake the institutions, and more importantly, make those institutions work again.