Why is the Left so danged mean? Why do they scream and chant insults rather than treat civilly those with whom they disagree? Why do they harry, hector, and harass, rather than discuss calmly? Smear opponents rather than honestly investigate issues? Resort to violent protests that destroy public property rather than participate in open and civil debates in the public square?
There are the usual and obvious reasons, which are all true enough. The Left is more deeply formed than the Right by the slash and burn cauldron of social media. Political Correctness is the default view of the Left, and defines issues in ideologically sharpened terms, with those who disagree with its canons relegated to the morally subhuman. The 24-hour news cycle thrives on extremes to draw viewers and clickers, and Left-leaning CNN and MSNBC are increasingly desperate to lift sagging ratings by throwing gasoline on any spark in hopes of creating a raging conflagration.
True, all true. But similar things affect the Right to some degree as well. So I don’t think that these go to the heart of the Left’s meanness. We need to look more deeply.
Is it perhaps TDS, Trump Derangement Syndrome? No, that is too near-sighted a view. Not only have many on the Right been afflicted with TDS, but even more important, the Left’s near-hysterical hatred of President Trump is nothing new. For those of us old enough to remember, we witnessed the same unrelenting vitriol of the Left during both Bush presidencies, and those of Reagan and Nixon as well.
The real reasons for the meanness of the Left are both tactical and philosophical.
Considering the tactical side of things first, everyone concerned about the increasing meanness of the Left should read Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. Published in 1971, Rules for Radicals was the culmination of Alinsky’s “wisdom,” drawn from the previous four decades of political agitation.
Immensely influential on the Left—and not just with Hillary Clinton and President Obama—Alinsky made it clear that meanness was a central tactic the Left should use in the never-ending revolution of the Have-Nots vs the Haves. In the battles of this revolution, the Have-Nots should avail themselves of any effective means, leaving aside any ethical considerations.
Alinsky’s reasoning? When fighting the Nazis, any means is justified. In the fight between the Have-Nots and the Haves, motivating the Have-Nots is one of the key difficulties facing the organizer. In order to fill them with sufficient zeal, the opposing side must be presented as the equivalent of Nazis. In Alinsky’s words, “Before men can act an issue must be polarized. Men will act when they are convinced that their cause is 100 per cent on the side of the angels and that the opposition is 100 per cent on the side of the devil.”
The Left is mean today—calling its opponents “Nazis,” “Fascists,” and “racists”—because they have been trained by their motivators to believe that all who oppose them are devils, and so any and all such meanness is justified. To keep the revolutionaries convinced that they face only devils, Alinsky further advised, never admit that the opposition has any good qualities or points: instead, always “polarize.”
But Alinsky didn’t leave it there. The revolutionary leaders must fuel the hatred of the Have-Not community. “The organizer dedicated to changing the life of a particular community must first rub raw the resentments of the people of the community; fan the latent hostilities of many of the people to the point of overt expression.” Otherwise, they’ll cool off, and go home, and perhaps think things over.
Obviously if you purposely rub peoples’ resentments raw, you can expect meanness to boil over against the devils that they have been told oppressed them. That’s why Alinsky leaders cannot allow thoughtful dialogue or consideration of complexity. Instead, they must “stir up dissatisfaction and discontent,” then “provide a channel into which the people can angrily pour their frustration.”
How about Antifa? A rally against a conservative speaker? A pile-on of a pro-life marcher? A Supreme Court nominee? An attack on a hapless white male who represents all white male devils?
When we read Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals, and realize how influential he has been on the Left for decades now, culminating in the leadership of the Democrat party by the Clintons and Obama, the Left’s meanness becomes fully intelligible: it is in no small part the result of leadership tactical training from the top for decades.
Turning to the philosophical, we find Alinsky influential there as well. Philosophically, Alinsky was a self-proclaimed moral relativist. While Alinsky is not the only source of the Left’s characteristic moral relativism, he is certainly one of the most formative of its political tactics. For Alinsky, no matter how grandly one painted oneself morally, at bottom everyone is only motivated by amoral self-interest—revolutionaries included. Thus, life is a battle of arbitrary wills, an endless ebb and flow between Haves and Have-Nots that takes place on a battlefield without moral lines. Therefore (to repeat) any means is justified, including the most vulgar meanness.