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History shows liberals’ visceral response to opposition

By From page A9 | January 26, 2014

Editor’s note: This is the fourth in a four-part series on the topic of fact-free liberals.

One of the things that attracted me to the political left, as a young man, was a belief that leftists were for “the people.” Fortunately, I was also very interested in the history of ideas – and years of research in that field repeatedly brought out the inescapable fact that many leading thinkers on the left had only contempt for “the people.”

That has been true from the 18th century to the present moment. Even more surprising, I discovered over the years that leading thinkers on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum had more respect for ordinary people than people on the left who spoke in their name.

Leftists like Rousseau, Condorcet or William Godwin in the 18th century, Karl Marx in the 19th century or Fabian socialists like George Bernard Shaw in England and American Progressives in the 20th century saw the people in a role much like that of sheep, and saw themselves as their shepherds.

Another disturbing pattern turned up that is also with us to the present moment. From the 18th century to today, many leading thinkers on the left have regarded those who disagree with them as being not merely factually wrong but morally repugnant. Again, this pattern is far less often found among those on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum.

The visceral hostility toward Sarah Palin by present-day liberals, and the gutter level to which some descend in expressing it, is just one sign of a mindset on the left that goes back more than two centuries.

T.R. Malthus was the target of such hostility in the 18th and early 19th centuries. When replying to his critics, Malthus said, “I cannot doubt the talents of such men as Godwin and Condorcet. I am unwilling to doubt their candor.”

But William Godwin’s vision of Malthus was very different. He called Malthus “malignant,” questioned “the humanity of the man,” and said, “I profess myself at a loss to conceive of what earth the man was made.”

This asymmetry in responses to people with different opinions has been too persistent, for too many years, to be just a matter of individual personality differences.

Although Charles Murray has been a major critic of the welfare state and of the assumptions behind it, he recalled that before writing his landmark book, “Losing Ground,” he had been “working for years with people who ran social programs at street level, and knew the overwhelming majority of them to be good people trying hard to help.”

Can you think of anyone on the left who has described Charles Murray as “a good person trying hard to help”? He has been repeatedly denounced as virtually the devil incarnate – far more often than anyone has tried seriously to refute his facts.

Such treatment is not reserved solely for Murray. Liberal writer Andrew Hacker spoke more sweepingly when he said, “conservatives don’t really care whether black Americans are happy or unhappy.”

Even in the midst of an election campaign against the British Labour Party, when Winston Churchill said that there would be dire consequences if his opponents won, he said that this was because “they do not see where their theories are leading them.”

But, in an earlier campaign, Churchill’s opponent said that he looked upon Churchill “as such a personal force for evil that I would take up the fight against him with a whole heart.”

Examples of this asymmetry between those on opposite sides of the ideological divide could be multiplied almost without limit. It is not solely a matter of individual personality differences.

The vision of the left is not just a vision of the world. For many, it is also a vision of themselves – a very flattering vision of people trying to save the planet, rescue the exploited, create “social justice” and otherwise be on the side of the angels.

This is an exalting vision that few are ready to give up, or to risk on a roll of the dice, which is what submitting it to the test of factual evidence amounts to. Maybe that is why there are so many fact-free arguments on the left, whether on gun control, minimum wages or innumerable other issues – and why they react so viscerally to those who challenge their vision.

Thomas Sowell is an author, economist and senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

Thomas Sowell


Discussion | 24 comments

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  • CD BrooksJanuary 26, 2014 - 6:55 am

    Did you really use Sarah Palin as an example? No you didn't! While your party is literally imploding from their reluctance in stepping up to the 21st century and recognizing that all American citizens have equal standing. You might be better looking at it from that perspective. This would be almost funny if it wasn't so pathetic.

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  • Teach5thJanuary 26, 2014 - 9:24 am

    CD - refresh your memory and look at what you wrote to me last week. No dealing with what I wrote because that wouldn't be possible from your left-leaning viewpoint. Rather, you got angry when I wasn't bothered by your taunt. As far as Sowell writing about Sarah Palin, did you miss the commentator on CNBC making a reference to defecating in her mouth? And that was recent. The Left had a field day mocking her while and long after she ran for V.P. Or what about Mitt Romney's grandson being made the focus of another CNBC commentator? The Left has no boundaries or as Sowell points out -ideas to counter facts on the right. The list goes on and on of the Left making fun of those with a difference of opinion.

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  • CD BrooksJanuary 26, 2014 - 9:41 am

    Teach5th, I don't keep a record so you'd have to remind me. I don't get angry and probably didn't recognize your lack of enthusiasm. I've probably said this over hundred times here, I don't watch CNBC or MSNBC or FOX. heck, I had to look at the channel guide to see where they were! My comment is 100% accurate and I will stand by it the evidence is overwhelming. Thanks for your comments though, always entertaining.

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  • CD BrooksJanuary 26, 2014 - 9:59 am

    ...FOX 40 for sports. I DO know where that is! ;)

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  • Rudy MadronichJanuary 26, 2014 - 2:31 pm

    Well CD you suprise me you just stated that you don't watch cnbc, msnbc or fox yet you seem to comment alot about conservitives like myself using foxisums So tell us all if u don't watch fox for news how would u know what a foxisum is. I for one would like to know.

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  • CD BrooksJanuary 26, 2014 - 3:09 pm

    Mr. Madronich, gladly I study people Sir, I've done it my entire life. One of my favorite sayings is that my perception is honed to razor-sharpness! I read a lot and watch stories on differing subjects on different stations radio television and on line presentations. My "FOX-isms" creation comes from years of listening to smatterings from Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity (I call them the three amigos), and assorted religious loons. Then comparing them to the GOP/FOX band-wagon minions that can't help "stepping in it," another of the colloquialisms I often use. BTW, you don't have to watch any of those networks to get this information. The results are often hilarious and provide me with all this material! I’m sort of watching the fiddler and enjoying it a great deal!

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  • Rudy MadronichJanuary 26, 2014 - 3:26 pm

    CD You write about listening to Limbaugh, Beck, and Hannity the last time i checked they were or are on fox so you must have or still watch fox now.I guess listening to them on the radio is not watching them on fox news so with your liberal spin you are correct. But it looks like you got caught with your hand or should i say your eyes in the cookie jar, or am i using a fox-isums

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  • CD BrooksJanuary 26, 2014 - 3:39 pm

    Rudy, are you serious? Do you have the FDC non-comprehension bug? You asked a question I responded. Please read again and maybe you'll see what I said. Go ahead, take your time.

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  • CD BrooksJanuary 26, 2014 - 10:02 am

    Teach5th, "facts on the right?" Could you please present one of those? In context? Not sure I've ever seen a real one form over there.

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  • Dave ShreeveJanuary 26, 2014 - 10:56 am

    Here's a simple "fact on the right" for you. The Department of Defense, along with the State Department, knew almost immediately that the attack on the consulate and CIA annex in Benghazi was a terrorist attack and informed the President of such. Yet for two weeks the current occupant of the White House, along with the then Secretary of State pushed the lie of the attacks growing out of the anti-Islamic video, going so far as to tell the surviving family members of those who died that they were going to get the film maker. Facts matter and it does make a difference!

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  • Teach5thJanuary 26, 2014 - 11:19 am

    Thank you, Dave. I won't have to cover that. What about the IRS delaying Tea Party applications for tax exempt status based on the fact that they were Tea Party apps? How about Obama stating over and over and over again that if you liked your insurance/doctor you could keep it? (The Left danced around that one trying to cover Obama's inept statements). How about taking Huckabee's statements out of context this week when he said the Left don't give women credit for being able to deal with their own health issues? They were aghast that he used the word libido, but stopped short of the rest of the quote. CD - you can't talk about the Left or the Right saying things if you don't educate yourself by watching Fox and MSNBC. Watch a couple of each shows, and if you can't honestly say that there's a difference in the way Fox and MSNBC cover the news, you're not as smart/honest as I think you are.

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  • Danny BuntinJanuary 26, 2014 - 12:33 pm

    @ Teach:If you would take off your blinders, you would know that the IRS targeted both so called right wing and left wing groups. It is in the order/memo that started this action. It is obvious where you get your information. That individual was fired for the remark about Palin. Why were these facts omitted from your comment?. Do you really think Fox news has your back?@ Dave: When in doubt.......Benghazi!Benghazi!Benghazi!

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  • CD BrooksJanuary 26, 2014 - 1:13 pm

    Danny, thanks I knew somebody would come forth. I appreciate that! The instant anyone defends Palin I know we have a live one on the line! Scandals and alleged cover-ups. Not exactly the "truths" I was looking for!

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  • FDCJanuary 26, 2014 - 3:05 pm

    Danny: You and CD are again trying to rewrite history. The IRS's own auditor confessed to the systematic targeting of conservative groups and the turning a blind eye to progressives by the IRS. The facts ( "fact": something that is indisputable) are that as of June 30, 2013 the IRS attacked 104 conservative groups with an average number of 15 questions and approved only 48 (46%) but questioned only 7 progressives with 5 questions each and approved all 7 (100%). So you see, Danny, you are as wrong as one can be. As for CD's gratuitous slam on Sarah Palin, CD is mainly upset that he lost one of his valuable resources, that towering intellect Martin Bashir of MSNBC.

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  • CD BrooksJanuary 26, 2014 - 3:25 pm

    Honestly folks, if you can watch Sarah Palin and take her seriously you have brain damage! The GOP is LOADED with people just like her. THAT IS WHY THEY ARE LOSING! Wake up and smell the friggin coffee!

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  • FDCJanuary 26, 2014 - 4:39 pm

    And CD, if she is so bad, why do you squeal so much about her? All your rantings do is solidify the opinions of those who support her. Because you squeal incessantly, one might think she is doing something right. But I love you anyway, CD.

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  • CD rapJanuary 26, 2014 - 4:58 pm


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  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k0BWlvnBmIEJanuary 26, 2014 - 7:08 pm

    I still think Sarah Palin has Mk-Ultra Beta programming...also even Mitt Romney seems very programmed to me....video has a lot of Illuminati Kitten programing images...remember the old fashioned way is to start the programming as a very young child.....The Illuminati even program their own children....To me a very scary thing is who knows how they have advanced now.....what if you have a perfectly righteous, not programmed person, and THEY ( Illuminati programmers thru CIA and University centers ) can get the person alone and sequestered for a sufficient short period and start the Brainwashing through the newer Techtronic torture methods and more quickly produce a "slave" at least set to trigger for some specific tasks.

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  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JeqNsqi2Q7EJanuary 26, 2014 - 7:46 pm

    and keep in mind that if Sarah was MK-Ultraed she is a victim....here I would have to agree with most everything she says....But the Illuminati are very tricky...to me the thing is she does not condemn John McCain here a big Illuminati insider, like Lieberman is....Just do not know.....we all want a hero, someone to believe in...does this person actually exist on the political stage? remember people who have come out of the Illuminati say that anyone that gets any main-stream media coverage is working for THEM, if you can see them on the TV then the Illuminati has put them there for a reason....Ted Cruz apparently is only good if he really has turned his back on the Republican and Banking establishment, but how do we know if he really has....He is saying the correct things......READ REVELATION IN THE BIBLE

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  • Puddin TaneJanuary 27, 2014 - 7:21 am

    It's not so much squealing, so much as being incredulous that Palin managed to get as far as she did while being a complete ignoramus. Remember the Couric interview that the right wing constantly decries as an ambush? Go watch it again and try not to feel too embarrassed when she can't even answer basic questions without looking at the smudged note on her hand. What's worse, Palin and others like Santorum seem to hold such disdain for intellectual pursuits that they actively scorn those who pursue them, like some sort of adult-sized school yard bully. And these are the bright, true-conservative stars of the GOP! And as for Sowell's premise that right wing politicians are more magnanimous: he must have been watching a different GOP primary in 2011-2012 than the rest of us. Who could possibly think that the party that has Donald Trump or Alan "80% of the democrats are card carrying communists" West were gracious in their depiction of the opposition? Half the time you guys say that they're socialists (not by any historical definition of the word) and imply that because they are not "Real Americans"(a quote from the ever gracious Palin) they need to be rounded up and forced to leave. Maybe a deep breath and some self-reflection are in order, eh?

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  • Yes but.....January 27, 2014 - 8:02 am

    Democrat Liberals are brainwashed also and will happily vote for quite literally an Illuminati Witch like Hillary Clinton ( the Bushes and John Kerry are Illuminati also ).....again who took down my links to President Clintons "We Force the Spring" inaugural address?....just Google this people....Force the Spring is witch talk....Hillary Clinton ordered the Burning of the people at WACO on April 19 a Witch and Satanist Holiday..... April 19 - May 1 - Blood Sacrifice To The Beast. Fire sacrifice is required on April 19.....Just like Bushes reference to a 1000 points of light is actually an Illuminati Luciferian reference......WAKE UP PEOPLE

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  • C.D Brooks 666January 26, 2014 - 6:35 pm


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  • rlw895January 27, 2014 - 9:20 am

    People who think they have the upper hand are often more polite in their language than the people who are about to be devoured. Just think of the old James Bond movies!

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  • Do you drink blood rlw? Host of the chalice?January 27, 2014 - 10:33 am

    If you are as smart as you think you are you would have pointed out that .......The Reverend Thomas Robert Malthus FRS (13 February 1766 – 23 December 1834[1]) was a British cleric and scholar, influential in the fields of political economy and demography Malthus became widely known for his theories about change in population. His An Essay on the Principle of Population observed that sooner or later population will be checked by famine and disease, leading to what is known as a Malthusian catastrophe. He wrote in opposition to the popular view in 18th-century Europe that saw society as improving and in principle as perfectible.[4] He thought that the dangers of population growth precluded progress towards a utopian society: "The power of population is indefinitely greater than the power in the earth to produce subsistence for man".[5] As a cleric, Malthus saw this situation as divinely imposed to teach virtuous behaviour........was evil actually one of the fathers of eugenics and population control.

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