Thursday, July 12, 2007

Whence This Hysteria?

Dr. Sanity likes to refer to the Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) as displacement: unable to attack Islamic fascism because to do so would violate Tolerance, Multiculturalism, and their anti-jingoism, the Western Left instead turns their ire against George Bush.

But what of these memes:

  • American elections are rife with fraud
  • Americans soldiers are torturers
  • Global Warming will kill us
  • Safe Sex
  • Better single parenthood than a bad marriage
  • Embryonic Stem Cells will save us
  • Impeach!
How did these get to be such popular notions on the left?

I have a theory, which like all such theories do, simplifies a complex subject into a simplistic model.

When there is a societal consensus on some topic, such as "Marriage is between a man and a woman" or "Terrorists and those who support them are bad", there is always a tiny splinter group on the left that opposes that consensus.

This group "tells truth to power", standing bravely against the gale-force winds of cultural norms, and disagrees with the consensus. From high moral indignation, or sometimes simply to get attention, the group inserts itself under the fingernails of society.

Then a logically fallacious but no less powerful cultural identification occurs between that splinter group under our fingernails and the Pilgrims, Boston Tea Party braves, homesteaders, and cowboys, the lone individual or tiny group fighting for its beliefs against the odds, an iconic American hero. They believe it, so it must be true.

The group attracts fellow travelers, who often even claim personal danger for holding their idea, pointing to an isolated incident here or there in which someone was 'attacked' for holding the idea, where an 'attack' ranges from being dragged by a moving vehicle to perceiving raised eyebrows at the mall. Whether the target of the attack was targeted specifically because of the issue at hand, or even whether the attack is ever actually carried out, is irrelevant to the cohesive power of the shared feeling of danger.

As the idea spreads, it retains its counter-cultural tag long after it has ceased being "dangerous", and it is in fact advantageous for those who adopt it that others believe they hold it. More and more people hop on the bandwagon, lest they be left out of the movement and seen as backward, or not fully liberal.

If there is sufficient fuel in the form of demagoguery, displacement, or simple partisanship, the idea can take on hysterical (pun intended) proportions. It doesn't take long, unless something else takes its place, for the particular bit of madness to embed itself in the canon of leftist ideology.

And I am given cause now to wonder whether all leftist ideology arrived that way.

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