Good news, folks! I’m not an extremist! At least not according to Joe Klein’s Leftwing Extremist Test. Not that I ever thought I was an extremist, but from the way that “centrist” pundits like Klein have talked for years, I thought for sure that I qualified.
And another breakthrough is that we now have definitive proof that Klein is a victim of Centrist Extremism. How do we know that? Because he’s been railing against leftwing extremists for years, yet his Extremist Test consists almost entirely of rightwing bogeymen. Strawmen designed to repel people away from an imagined leftwing position.
And it worked. Conservatives would use it as their casus belli for hating us and undermining our position, while “Centrists” would use it to draw distinctions between themselves and the “Liberal Extremists” whose positions looked so close to theirs. And while it was nice for conservatives to have a user-friendly attack argument, it was absolutely crucial to get the Centrists to hate us.
And so the Centrists were forced to spend all their time distancing themselves from us, while we naturally get offended and attack them back. And in the meantime, the conservatives get a free-pass from the Centrists, while we continue to shoot ourselves. It was quite brilliant, and is still working well even now. But I suspect that now that Klein has actually made his Extremist definition explicit, we’re well on the way to seeing that strawman destroyed. All this worked so much better before Joe told us exactly who he thought we were.
Let’s look at the first one on the list:
believes the United States is a fundamentally negative force in the world.
Huh? With that word “fundamentally” in there, what the hell does that even mean? That America can’t be a positive force, or never has been? Is it the “non-extremist” position that America is never a negative force in the world? I’m confused.
And that’s a good example of the rest of his list, which is entirely derived from a false narrative created by conservatives. They’ve taken our actions and created a plausible explanation of what our motives are. And that’s something they’re really good at: Taking a limited set of facts and creating a story tying them together. I myself am quite excellent at that and enjoy creating wild interpretations of existing facts. It’s endless fun.
But the difference is that conservatives confuse plausibility with undeniability, and assume that a story must be true because it could be true. They limit themselves to a specific storyline that they expect to see, and if a fact won’t fit into that storyline, then they will invent reasons to ignore it. And they buy their stories completely. I, on the other hand, can and do invent tons of alternate storylines, all of which are entirely plausible, but of which I believe none of them. In other words, I am the master of my imaginative narratives, while conservatives remain slaves to them.
And we see this all the time. Someone sees something that can’t be explained, and because it could be a ghost, UFO, or angel, they’ll insist that it must be one of those things. And unless you can prove that it was something else, they’ll only accept their plausible, yet equally unproven alternative as the correct answer. Just as with conservatives, proof is for the other guy. All they require is plausibility to defend their position. I, on the other hand, have lots of completely plausible theories involving ghosts, UFO’s, and angels, but don’t believe in any of those things. Plausibility isn’t proof.
Love it or Leave it
And that’s what conservatives did with the liberal position. They invented a narrative that explained our position as being one that hates America on an unbending and fundamental level. And if you didn’t have all the facts, it’s entirely plausible. But that doesn’t make it true. And if one bothers to research what liberals actually are saying, they’d know it was completely false.
Because the starting point of almost all liberals is that America is a great country that isn’t living up to its ideal. Not that we’re fundamentally flawed and are evil, but that we are fundamentally good, and need to be better. And we don’t criticize America because we hate it, but because we love it and expect more of it. And that’s also the reason we don’t like the Bushies: Because they’re derailing America and making it worse.
And that just makes sense. I mean, why the hell would we live here if we didn’t like it? Why do we want to change things, if we think it’s flawed at a fundamental level? That makes no sense. We really would all move to Canada or England or Amsterdam if that’s really how we felt. But we don’t. Because we like living here and want to make it better. It’s as if they imagine that we hate America so much that we’re willing to make ourselves miserable just to make America worse. And that’s just absurd.
And once that idea is made clear, it’s much more obvious which group really loves America. After all, the group trying to make things better by solving America’s problems would surely be the better group. And as we all know, the first step to solving your problem is to admit that you have one. But conservatives not only refuse to take that step, they’ll attack anyone who does.
Conversely, the reason why conservatives refuse to acknowledge our problems isn’t patriotism. It’s selfishness. It’s not that they think America is perfect. It’s because they don’t like to contemplate on how their own lives harm other people’s. And just as criticism of Bush is spun as if it were criticism of America, criticism of America is criticism of them. Overall, they’ve got a good thing going and don’t want to blow it, and their efforts to perceive this as patriotism is nothing but the sheerest egotism. That’s not to suggest that they don’t love America, but merely that they do so do to their own self-interest. And their self-interest rarely corresponds with America’s.
Talking Like a Duck
And that’s a much better explanation of our motives and actions. And even better, the Centrists can’t complain about that, as it’s exactly what they’re about. They’re not conservatives, but they’ve been infected with a virus that gets them to sound like conservatives. And the more they sound like that, the more liberals will attack them for being conservative.
And because they know that they’re not conservatives, they’ll assume that this shows how nutty and extremist the liberals must be, for thinking that they’re rightwingers. When it’s really their own fault for adopting the rightwing narrative in the first place.
And it all hinges on whether we hate or love America. The Centrists don’t necessarily disagree with our agenda, in fact, they probably agree with almost all of it. They’ve just been told that we have bad motives and that their own motives will be impugned unless they denounce us first. And returning fire on them and using vulgar insults doesn’t help our case any. In fact, it plays right into the conservatives’ narrative. And so rather than helping us, we’re really only undermining our own position.
Leftists and Rightists
And the Centrists undermine their own position this way. Again, so much of their debate seems to be about distancing themselves from the people who really are in agreement with them. And that’s exactly what the conservatives intended. It’s a Divide & Conquer strategy, and the Centrists continue to play right into their hands every time. To them, if only they could beat us extremists into submission, they could finally get to the business of enacting 85% of our agenda.
But of course, the problem is that they’ve got it entirely backwards. They could enact our agenda if only they’d stop trying to beat us, and turned their guns on the conservatives instead. We’re all just on different degrees of the same team, and should be working together; which is the exact reason why the conservatives continue to act as they do. And hopefully, we’ll be able to get more Centrists like Klein to finally make their absurdist assumptions explicit, and can finally get all this aired-out and get us back on the same page.
Sure, there are liberal kooks and communists on our side, but you’ll find them in any movement. But the difference is that the kooks on the left remain marginalized into powerless fringes, while the ones on the right are whispering to the Centrists and running the show. It’s about time the Centrists realized who the dangerous kooks really are.