Contemporary liberalism is a scheme for the already affluent and influential to increase their powerexplains Matthew Continetti, with examples galore.
The 2006 Duke Lacrosse case is the paradigmatic example of a liberal rush to judgment when the perceived victim is a minority (in that case, a black woman) and the alleged perpetrator a straight white male. But it is not the sole example.
In 2007, an instructor at Columbia’s Teachers College specializing in racial “micro-aggressions” and under investigation for plagiarism discovered a noose hanging from her office door; when she was fired the following year for academic malfeasance it was widely suspected that she had put the noose there herself. The racist graffiti and Klan sightings that rocked the Oberlin campus in 2013 and served as the basis of an anti-racism campaign were later revealed to be a left-wing “joke.” And of course the leader of the Michael Brown protest movement, tax cheat Al Sharpton, was involved in the Tawana Brawley hoax of 1987.
Recently critics noted serious flaws in the reporting and writing of a Rolling Stone article that purports to describe a violent gang rape in a University of Virginia fraternity house. The article was the basis for the university’s decision to suspend Greek life on campus for the duration of 2014. The magazine was evasive in its response to the challenges. Then, on Friday afternoon, it released the following statement: “There now appear to be discrepancies in Jackie’s [the alleged victim’s] account, and we have come to our conclusion that our trust in her was misplaced.” The story is false.
Does it even matter? Some liberals are upfront that the factuality of these cases is secondary to their political import. “Actually, in both the case of the UVA rape and in the case of the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri,” says a writer for The New Republic digital-media company, “the major takeaway of recent weeks should be that our systems do not work” (emphasis in the original).
What The New Republic means by “our systems” is our systems of power: the institutions through which a free society allocates resources and decision making, chooses priorities, delegates responsibilities and authority. It is the goal of contemporary liberalism to command these institutions — in particular institutions resistant to the left such as police and fire departments, fraternal societies and private clubs, the military and extractive industry — and to alter them according to fashionable theories of equality and justice. The details are unimportant so long as the “takeaway” is communicated, the desired policy achieved.
It is sometimes difficult to understand that, for the Left, racism and sexism and prejudice are not ethical categories but political ones. We are not merely talking about bad manners when the subject turns to Michael Brown or UVA or Thomas Piketty. We are talking about power.
“The new elite that seeks to supersede the old one, or merely share its power and honors, does not admit to such intention frankly and openly,” writes Vilfredo Pareto. “Instead it assumes the leadership of all the oppressed, declares that it will pursue not its own good but the good of the many; and it goes to battle, not for the rights of a restricted class but for the rights of almost the entire citizenry.”
Such is the conduct of our new elite, the archons and tribunes of the “coalition of the ascendant,” which proclaims itself the advocate of minority rights, of the poor, of the sick, as it entrenches its power and furthers its self-interest.
… So much of contemporary liberalism reeks of a scheme by which already affluent and influential people increase their margins and extend their sway. Liberalism, mind you, in both parties: The Republican elite seems as devoted as their Democratic cousins to the shibboleths of diversity and immigration even as they bemoan the fate of the middle class and seek desperately the votes of white working families.
Just-so stories, extravagant assertions, heated denunciations, empty gestures, moral posturing that increases in intensity the further removed it is from the truth: If the mainstream narration of our ethnic, social, and cultural life is susceptible to error, it is because liberalism is the prevailing disposition of our institutions of higher education, of our media, of our nonprofit and public sectors, and it is therefore cocooned from skepticism and incredulity and independent thought. Sometimes the truth punctures the bubble. And when that happens — and lately it seems to be happening with increasing frequency — liberalism itself goes on trial.