There are times when the political left can be trusted to temper the fringes of its own ranks. Perhaps we are seeing it today with the backlash against extreme feminism and political correctness on university campuses.
Progressive pundit Bill Maher has been among the most vocal figures on such counts, not least due to being protested himself as last winter’s selected graduation speaker at UC-Berkeley (notably the home of the Free Speech Movement of the 1960s). The reason for Maher’s attempted dis-invitation was his misgivings, shared with several “New Atheists,” about the cultural beliefs of many in the global Muslim community.
In March, when Elton John declared a “boycott” against fashion house Dolce & Gabbana as a result of gay designer Domineco Dolce’s disapproval of in vitro fertilization (IVF), the Real Time host puzzled over why liberals seem to target other liberals: “What is the point of attacking people who are 95% on your side?”
But equally telling are the instances Maher never mentioned.
In 2013, for example, Jo Jordan (D-HI) became the first openly-gay legislator in U.S. history to vote against same-sex marriage–merely citing concerns about wording in the bill–and was promptly and verbally eviscerated by her own side. Similarly, for her belief that government has no business in marriage at all, and her hesitation on transsexualism, feminist and lesbian activist Julie Bindel was condemned by her respective circle as well–despite having become celebrated for her far more abrasive opinions about men.
I personally sympathize as I recall that Margaret Thatcher, the ultimate “feminist” role model by virtue of being both unapologetically female and a larger-than-life Prime Minister of the UK, is yet dismissed because (as they say) “she didn’t do enough for women” — by which is meant, she didn’t surrender to identity politics. It seems that in today’s world, where a soundbite can sink a career, actions no longer speak louder than words.
This reality is certainly familiar to Chick-fil-A owner Dan Cathy who, just like Dolce & Gabbana, was taken to task for comments made in a magazine interview and completely unrelated to the quality of his work. Chick-fil-A recently opened its first New York City location, handling some leftover protests with all the dignity and grace shown three years ago during the most chaotic episode in the company’s history.
In a New York Times article (10/9/2015), Ginia Bellafante posited that perhaps this time, a sandwich is really just a sandwich. The number of activists last week, after all, was visually overwhelmed by the queue of hungry Manhattanites stretching around the block. The impression isn’t only that even New Yorkers are ready to bury the hatchet, but that a real Chick-fil-A location in America’s biggest city was long overdue.
Whether these Americans realize it (or just crave lunch), ideological purity is a very problematic thing to demand. Bellafante aptly noted that while Whole Foods is very popular among left-wing health nuts, it is also owned by John Mackey, a libertarian who appreciates Ayn Rand “like so many businessmen.”
Indeed, there are strings attached to potentially everything that you can buy in this corporate economy — from food, to clothes, to gasoline, to phone and computer technologies. Not only are the means of production behind each of these goods notorious, but big business is a field virtually controlled by people that you might otherwise be hesitant to support–often merely political, but in some cases, of plainly venomous personalities. Luckily, a free market gives you both the right and the ability to affect the bottom line for such people, and to get others to do so as well.
And yet, untold amounts of time have been spent protesting a chicken franchise with a famously friendly waitstaff and, considering its size, unmatched accountability to its communities.
Again, this creeping lack of priority has not been totally neglected by the left. Unfortunately, as much as Bill Maher rants about the tyranny of the zeitgeist, he seems oblivious to his role in perpetuating it. When one’s ideology shares a command of popular media, and reinforces a generation of young Americans to believe that they are on “the right side of history” so long as they consider themselves “liberal” and “forward-thinking,” then that underlying hubris will spread to accommodate everything else they come to believe–even when in contradiction to themselves or their own “side”–and nothing will sway their dedication to it.
Like Maher, many Americans may be frustrated with the unhealthy outcome but are old enough to take comfort that it won’t be their problem for long.
But it will be America’s.