December 21, 2005
The Liberal Bubble
By Thomas Lifson
To a remarkable degree, America’s liberal elites have constructed
for themselves a comfortable, supportive, and self esteem-enhancing
environment. The most prestigious and widest-reaching media outlets
reinforce their views, rock stars and film makers provide lyrics
and stories making their points, college professors tell them
they are right, and the biggest foundations like Ford fund studies
to prove them correct.
It has been
a disaster for them.
liberals are able to live their lives untroubled by what they
regard as serious contrary opinion. The capture of the media,
academic, and institutional high ground enables them to dismiss
their conservative opponents as ill-informed, crude, bigoted,
and evil. The memes are by now familiar. Rush Limbaugh and the
other radio talkers “preach hate.” Evangelicals are
“religious fanatics” comparable to the Islamo-fascists
in their desire to impose “theocracy.” Catholics observant
of the teachings of their church are “hypocrites”
and their priests possible “pedophiles.” Jewish conservatives
are members of the “neocon” cult, a suspicious lot
schooled in the esoteric works of Leo Strauss.
tend to cluster in the biggest cities, coastal blue states, and
if marooned in a red state, liberal enclaves like Austin, Texas,
Missoula, Montana, Lawrence, Kansas, and Moscow, Idaho. Ensconced
in their turf, they feel free to utter
causal epithets directed at the President, Republicans, or
conservatives in general, as if no person worthy of respect would
dare to disagree.
As a result,
liberal discourse has become an in-group code, perfectly understandable
and comforting among the elect, but increasingly disconnected
from everyone else, and off-putting to those not included in the
ranks of the in-group. Rather than focusing on facts, logic, and
persuasion, liberals find it easier to employ labeling (“That’s
racist!”) and airy dismissal of contrary views to sway their
audience, and because their authority figures in the media and
academia accept this behavior, they assume it is persuasive to
the rest of us.
(for them), the self-reinforcement they experience in their geographical,
academic and media strongholds encourages more and more extreme
expression of their worldview. Within the in-group, such strong
expression of group norms earns prestige. But to the rest of society
it becomes stranger and stranger, until it becomes repellant.
example is the recent “Bloody
Santa” display in front of a Manhattan townhouse. The
creators offered a high-minded excuse that they were protesting
the commercialization of Christmas. Their stunt certainly drew
plenty of media attention, and the creators of the display no
doubt were the toast of their own social circle, and will dine
out on the incident for years.
of children horrified by the sight may not be quite so enamored
of this particular example of “transgressive art.”
And the arguments of liberal pundits like Nicholas Kristof of
the New York Times that there is no such thing as a war
on Christmas looks more than faintly ridiculous in the face of
such visible evidence to the contrary on the same island housing
catchword in the mainstream media’s ongoing campaign against
President Bush was “bubble.” Newsweek pictured
the Commander in Chief helplessly trapped inside a transparent
sphere, and other journos and commentators joined the chorus,
chanting that Bush is out of touch, speaking only to friendly
groups and relying on a tight circle of advisors where no diversity
of opinion is tolerated.
President faces the danger of splendid isolation, and President
Bush does indeed rely on the advice of a long-trusted inner group,
there is more than a small dose of projection in this picture,
coming from practitioners of in-group journalism. The liberal
bubble, encompassing more than 90% of the education industry and
all but a handful of big city newspapers and all three broadcast
networks, dwarfs anything a conservative White House located in
liberal-dominated Washington, DC could construct for itself.
of RealClearPolitics notes
this same phenomenon:
the intensity of their left wing base and the overwhelmingly
liberal press corps produces a disorientation among Democratic
politicians and prevents a more realistic analysis of where
the country’s true pulse lies on these issues.
experiencing their isolation from the rest of us as “disorientation”
– a state which connotes confusion and uncertainty –
most liberals experience their differences with the rest of society
as a sign of their advanced intelligence and consciousness. At
best, they are perplexed at how long it is taking everyone else
to catch-up with their enlightened state of understanding.
on the other hand, have been fighting an uphill battle against
a dominant liberal establishment culture for over half a century.
As a result, we know we need to marshal facts, to develop careful
and logical arguments. We also realize we have no reservoirs of
generalized intellectual prestige, such as accumulated Pulitzers
or Nobels (except for economics), to fall back upon.
intellectuals living in blue enclaves have had to develop the
sensitivities and dual consciousness characteristic of many marginalized
groups. It is not enough to speak what one thinks, one must also
think ahead and anticipate the reactions of others who see things
differently. This is a taxing discipline, intellectually and emotionally,
but it also produces superior results in terms of winning over
the undecided or the wavering.
establishment in the media remains strong, but it is a vestigial
strength, weakening every year with the rise of talk radio, Fox
News, and the blogosphere. Because the liberal media’s circulation
and viewership still dwarfs that of the conservative alternatives,
they can sell a vague image or storyline as long as the public
isn’t paying close attention.
problem the inhabitants of the liberal bubble face now is that
War on Terror is a compelling story, one that affects vital interests
– like survival. Nobody wants to spend all day, every day
worrying about survival, so there is room for vague images to
gain a foothold, especially when there is at least some evidence
to support it. Missteps like Abu Ghraib can be blown out of proportion
to indict an entire military and administration.
But in the
end, those outside the bubble notice other data points: election
turnout, the prosecution of Abu Ghraib miscreants, and the overwhelming
decency and superb behavior of our armed forces. And timely reminders
of the stakes involved come up with regularity, often with tragic
consequences for the victims of bombings and other terror tactics.
President launches a counter-offensive, focusing the public on
the counter-arguments, the results are nearly immediate and dramatic.
bubble is a seductive delusion, one to which many liberals are
addicted. Repeated failures to persuade the public to vote into
power those politicians who agree with their political principles
will not persuade many to venture outside the glossy confines.
As result, expect the liberal spiral downward to increasingly
resemble a vortex, leading to oblivion.
Lifson is the editor and publisher of The