Everywhere you look, what passes for the left today is crying wolf. The liberal-left pretends to see fascism in everything and anything. It is drunk with the power of cancel culture and its ability to censor speech. It is blind to how social justice goals and identity politics have been completely hijacked by actual centers of power and neutered as a force for change. It mistakes corporate, government and academia adoption of rainbow flags as a signal of success in achieving systemic change.
And most importantly, it has lost the words to correctly describe the world around us. By labeling everything with the harshest, most hyperbolic epitaphs it has numbed us all to what these words actually mean. It has ceded the power of language to alert us to real danger.
We’ll just glance at a few recent examples as well meaning liberals fall into line one after the other.
Journalist Patrick Cockburn warns us of apocalypse in this article whose title says it all : The Republican Party has Turned Fascist and is Now the Most Dangerous Threat in the World.
Loretta Ross, professor from Smith College, contributes to the debate with an ahistorical, hyperbolic screed that explains how all Republicans are worse than even those milder, actual Nazis who engineered the Holocaust.
This article in the San Francisco Chronicle compares support for Hitler in the 1930s with today’s criticisms of critical race theory training in schools. Referring to those who push back against particular excesses of woke ideology the author says: “Hitler might as well be laying a road map for the recent Republican attacks on Critical Race Theory (CRT).”
Like endless other articles of this kind, it automatically ascribes any criticism of liberal identity politics, no matter from what end of the political spectrum, to literal… Naziism.
Trump derangement syndrome is an early and distinct form of crying wolf. The main symptom of TDS is the ahistorical belief that Trump is the worst possible thing that has ever happened to the U.S.A. and that he and his followers represented an ultimate danger unlike anything known before.
The interminable Russiagate obsession, which saved the careers of so many liberal journalists and which has been so well documented by Aaron Maté and others, was nothing but a sustained crying of wolf. Tune in to nearly any show by Rachel Maddow for a nightly dose of the same.
Even once measured observers such as Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! seem to have been struck down with the virus, as we see on display in this interview on Democracy Now! with Julian Assange from 2017, shortly after the election of Donald Trump.
The liberal woke left continues to cry wolf in academia and social media everyday by randomly throwing around the epithets Nazi, bigot, racist, transphobe, etc.
Set the subtitles to English and watch this video on a satirical German youtube channel. It tells an entertaining little story – a literal Nazi in full Nazi regalia walks onto the scene and is called out for what he is by an observant bystander. Our literal Nazi laughs as he denies the totally obvious truth that he is in fact a Nazi. We chuckle in recognition of the irony.
The video is presumably from a leftist perspective and naturally it manages to get everything wrong. It offers a feel-good, easy to watch fable. But it misses the real story. The video shows a Nazi in full regalia walking down the street. A bystander calls him out as a Nazi. But actually, before this actual Nazi came onto the scene, in the real life version, there would have been a stream of other individuals who also appeared walking down this same street. Each of them would have been indiscriminately ‘called out’ as Nazis by our bystander. Of course, they shared absolutely none of the beliefs, goals or world-view of the actual Nazi. Our bystander has been crying wolf and yet still expects to be taken seriously when he finally gets it right. That is the real irony.
There are undeniably real wolves. In France the mainstream media has recently discovered a hidden-in-plain-sight ecosystem of alt-right youtube channels. These channels are hugely popular; they feature charismatic individuals, young men who use transgressive humor and ‘lifestyle’ imagery to attract followers. They act collectively to boost each others’ channels and they are rapidly growing in influence together.
The U.S. has the rough equivalent in its 4chan memes and alt-right groups who also use humor and irony as a gateway to hard core ideology. This article in the Washington Post describes the phenomenon:
“A barrage of recent reports has revealed how online platforms popular with kids (YouTube, iFunny, Instagram, Reddit and multiplayer video games, among others) are used as tools for extremists looking to recruit.”
The liberal left continues to alternately ignore, mock or vilify the legitimate class demands of millions of people who supported Donald Trump all the while lumping them all together into a category of unredeemable ‘Nazis’. Nothing is more likely to bring to life a new version of Donald. But this next time it won’t be as a hopelessly narcissist billionaire but rather in the form of an actually competent, authoritarian and profoundly dangerous demagogue. This holds for the U.S., but the same dynamic is at play in many parts of the world right now where the left offers nothing to the popular classes, leaving the field wide open to the far edges of the authoritarian right.
Instead, the left, both here in North America and abroad–continues to do what it has always done best: circle the wagons and shoot inward.
When you’ve branded every dissenting voice–no matter how mild, with the harshest possible labels, what vocabulary do you have available to point out the actual wolf when it comes out of the forest?
What remains when you’ve debased language to such a degree that when an actual Nazi appears you have no special language left to describe them and the threat they represent? How will anyone know the difference when you try to sound the alarm–that same alarm bell you’ve been ringing nonstop? Who is going to even hear you when you say ‘this time we really mean it’?
Language is a tool for critical thinking and sorting out the world. When you have abused it so thoroughly you have not only lost the ability to name reality but you have also lost the ability to even see it and understand it.