Thursday, 1 October 2015

The Perennial Tropes of Anti-Left Rhetoric

The tropes of anti-Left rhetoric have scarcely changed in decades, and certainly very little since the 1980's when I started taking an interest in politics. There are a number of invariant motifs, some of which I've outlined below:

* The pretence that there is left wing dominance in the fields of opinion and education. Thus, the use of terms like ‘the left (or liberal) establishment’, ‘the left-liberal consensus’ etc. Correspondingly, the dramatisation of yourself as a beleaguered iconoclastic minority fighting an entrenched consensus. The most trite Daily Telegraph common sense passes itself off as courageous dissent



* The attribution to the left of a fixed and fanatical mindset. The enemy is in thrall to ideology, uses abstractions to measure reality, sees things in terms of a pre-conceived template etc.Corbyn as 'Ideologue.'

* The left is simulataneouly merely ‘fashionable’, or trendy, and a "throwback" to the 1970's/ 19th Century etc. 

* The left is equated with immaturity - "sixth form debating societies" "undergraduates" (Varoufakis as "Kevin the teenager") .

* Supporters of any left-winger figure are to be seen as 'cult' like, irrationally attached to their Leader. From Chomsky to Corbyn

*The left is always represented as ‘middle class’, imagined as isolated from the real world, dangerously naïve, treacherously permissive and implicitly unpatriotic (they are working against what the country stands for etc). In producing this spectre of the 'middle class' leftist, the Right simultaneously lays claim to a fake populism.

(n.b., Whereas you might think The Mail and The Times are middle class papers reflecting middle-class preoccupations, for The Right, 'the middle-class' are exclusively Guardian readers and the Guardian is the quintessentially middle class paper.)


* Any left wing person not also in poverty is necessarily a 'hypocrite', a champagne socialist etc Only conservatism is compatible with any degree of material wealth.

* discrediting the vocabulary of the left. The use of this vocabulary only ironically or contemptuously. For example, capitalism is never spoken of directly, but phrases like “They [the left] blame all this on the evils of capitalism” or “I suppose you think this is all about nasty American imperialism”. The insinuation that this vocabulary is only a set of empty phrases and slogans.

It can be seen that each of these motifs is both a portrait of an enemy (who threatens) and an implicit self-dramatisation. Thus: The attack on the spectral middle-class is also the declaration of a no-nonsense populism; opining about left-wing dominance in the media entails a corresponding stance of valiant dissent; the charges of fanatical rigidity and trendyness lay claim to a normal commonsense viewpoint; accusations of left-wing ‘jargon’ and ‘sloganeering’ are also about legitimising one’s own ‘natural’ and transparent language.

In every age the self-appointed commentariat try to pass off these rusty old ideological tools as the free products of their own brains.

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