Salient: Victoria University of Wellington Students' Newspaper. Vol. 32, No. 15. 1969.
Liberalism The new Hypocrisy
Liberalism The new Hypocrisy
The Hero of today's society is often the liberal.
He is the man to whom social, moral and political problems art serious matters—worthy of at least a letter to the editor.
If pushed, he will join in a protest, a march, or even a demonstration, to show his "concern" to the world.
He is a man of moderation, or so he would have us believe, and he eschews the solutions of the political right and of the left.
Yet with all this, he is coming under increasing fire from both conservatives and socialists. Each regard the liberal with contempt, but does he really deserve this contempt?
Is he possibly something worthier—a moderating factor, perhaps, in our divided society —or is it simply that the derisive phrase "wishy-washy liberal" has some meaning?
It is regrettable, but none the loss true, that the typical liberal shows qualities of indecision and woolly-mindedness that are reflected in his political attitudes. He is usually in a abilities, but his contact with the problems that call forth his liberal attitudes is likely to he ephemeral.
He is often aroused by no more than the casual conversation of his colleagues: but he feels the necessity to take up a position and to defend it, and the position from which there are the easiest intellectual escape routes is usually the liberal one.
In this way a shallow acquaintance with the facts is one of the main characteristics of a liberal. The few limes that he is found to have an intimate knowledge of his subject, will reveal, under closer examination, that this knowledge is so specialised that it becomes somewhat unreal in its application.
We have such situations as that in which a senior official of the Canadian High Commission in Wellington. Mr R. M. Robinson, a professed liberal, speaking in the guise of an "expert", told a group of students early this year that the Republic of South Africa was the only country on the African continent where there was discrimination in voting rights.
After this authoritative statement, it must have been a trifle embarassing for him to learn that Liberia—also on the African continent has legal provisions which prevent any European from owning kind, practising in the professions, or taking part (including by voting), in politics!
Liberals have usually the same political attitudes as the proverbial Irishman: mildly "agin the gov'mint."
This position is almost always the easiest to take in a casual argument: destructive criticism is so much more simple than suggesting constructive solutions. A tendency to ossify into a position of acidulous waspishness soon develops, and in a while the automatic reaction of resentment becomes evident after any government action of consequence.
The government is then blamed for its "credibility gap".
Yet credibility gaps can exist in the mind of the recipient as well as in the words of the spokesman. The Omega affair exemplifies the creation of this syndrome, compounded equally of fear and frustration, but mainly self-induced.
When the affair first blew up, early in 1968, with exciting revelations of the imminent peril of nuclear catastrophe in which Christchurch was being placed, the government reacted slowly. It appeared to find it hard to believe that such nonsense could be believed by supposedly intelligent people.
First statements by the Department of External Affairs in defence of its position were somewhat fumbling, and did not always seem to comprehend the antagonism with which the Omega proposal was meeting.
Why should they have been prepared? No other country had protested, and both the Solid Union and China had agreed to the use of the assigned V.L.F. wavelengths. No wonder the government found it difficult to deal with the capacity for self-delusion inherent in the liberal mind, fostered in several cases by reports which depended for their argument on demonstrably false background material.
Later some of the scientists who wrote so glibly in the early stages of the dispute were shown to have deliberately distorted their source material, and in some cases had actually invented it.
Yet the liberal publications which had originally been so happy to carry their lies were not willing to print the refutations that followed. Particularly to blame here were Canta, Salient and the Journal of the Public Public Service Association.
Thus was demonstrated a third failing of the liberal mind.
Liberals, resting, as they so often do, their ideas on an inadequate basis of research, usually react in a characteristic way when their beliefs are called into question.
Their realisation that their errors have been picked up usually results in a hardening of position; verbal violence may, in extreme cases, actually turn to physical violence in a frantic effort to convince themselves, if no-one else, that they have a sole monopoly of truth.
(The writer has had some personal experience of this reaction. When in 1968 he was unwise and unkind enough to print in Salient some quotations from a speech made by Mr Krishna Menon in Wellington, which speech suggested, ipso facto, that anyone foolish enough to make these statements was suffering from senile dementia, he received—luckily at second-hand threats of violence. It was interesting to note, however, that at no time did anyone question the accuracy of his reporting of Menon's meanderings.
Liberals and others who read in this manner resemble nothing so much as cornered rats, which, realising in desperation that there is no avenue of escape, finally turn [unclear: on] their pursuer with shrill, but terrified, protestations.
This consideration of the weaknesses in the liberal's personality should not lead one to suppose that his activities are always ineffectual.
The liberal virtue—in the purely pragmatic sense—is the capacity for selective indignation This ability to choose a matter for concern, and to follow it relentlessly, is at once the tactical strength (while the logical weakness) of the liberal's method of operation.
Accompanying the action are all the while shouts of "fascist, racist!" which has become the modern version of the huntsman's "tally ho!"
(For those who do not know the jargon of liberalism, one becomes a fascist by pointing out the inconsistencies in argument, the dubious irrelevancies, the moral flounderings, and sometimes the overt lies that so often are the basis for a liberal hypothesis.)
We can see this in the common liberal attitude towards South Africa—a country which suffers from the shared detestations of all liberals. A common argument presents the fact that some of the government leaders of the 1960's were, thirty years ago, against the intervention of South Africa in World War II. Ergo, they were Nazis. And this is one of the reasons why, in 1969, one should hate them!
Now remind a liberal that one of his folk heroes, the late Senator Robert Kennedy, was one of Joe McCarthy's right-hand prosecuting attorneys during the Un-American Activities hearings during the 1950s, and he will react with horror—despite the fact that McCarthyism is as dirty a word to a liberal as that catch-all "fascist".
Or, to give a more up to date example, there is the fascinating ease of F.B.I. head J. Edgar Hoover admitting to placing a wiretap on the telephone of Dr Martin Luther King. Jr. Liberal reaction came fast and furious. "Hoover must go," was the cry, echoed by liberal columnists throughout the U.S.A.—until it was pointed out that the wiretap was specifically approved in advance by the U.S. Attorney General of the time, none other than Robert F. Kennedy. And not only was it approved by Kennedy, but he had actually initialed the request.
When that news came out. Washington revelled in the sight of the liberal news media frantically backtracking.
We should not loose sight of their first reaction. The shouts of "muckraking," and "smear." That filled the air were the authentic liberal voice. Was not the beatification of the Kennedy's in progress, and is not is blasphemy to question the qualifications for sainthood?
One is also reminded when considering the capacity for self-delusion which mingles with the selective indignation inherent in the liberal protestor's motivations, of the cartoon which appeared in a recent issue of the London Evening Standard.
It showed the Nigerian delegate to the United Nations, surrounded by a pile of human bodies; presumably some of the decimated Biafrans. The caption reads: "Mind your own business, let's talk about Rhodesia!"
This attitude has penetrated, without any protest, into the higher echelons of the United Nations. No one could accuse the Anti-Slavery Society of racialism or fascism, or indeed of anything other than the wish to protect human rights, But when the Society's invited observer sought to raise at a conference in Dakar the question of the Southern Sudanese, the secretary (a senior official in the U.N. Human Rights Division) told him that if he attempted to do so, he would at once advise the chairman to send him packing.
The same blindness prevails in attitudes on Viet Nam. Liberals everywhere "expose" the government of South Viet Nam: corruption, censorship and totalitarianism are the normal charges. In contrast. North Viet Nam is presented as a friendly peasant democracy, under the benign leadership of Ho Chi Minh, whose smiling "Uncle Ho" image is continually peddled, and whose poems are required fillers in almost any liberal magazine.
Yet how many liberals—especially the ones who think it chic to wear those little enamel Viet Cong badges—remember that only last year the North Vietnamese government passed a law punishing any criticism of the war, or of the country's leaders, with death?
How many remember the methods by which Ho established himself in power? His treatment of the North Vietnamese National Assembly is typical, of the 444 members elected in January 1946, only 291 remained on October 28, of whom only 37 were opposed to Ho Chi Minh.
Further weeding-out ensured that, by the end of the year, there were only two delegates left to criticise the regime. Those who were elected to oppose were "missing", or were arrested on trumped-up charges of common-law crimes—despite their technical parliamentary immunity from arrest.
It is not surprising that there was little difficulty in securing the adoption of the Constitution of the Democratic Republic of Viet Nam on November 8, 1948.
With that business done, the North Vietnamese assembly had no need to meet again for another seven years—and then only did so for one day's sitting?
Yet this is the country that out liberals champion.
Perhaps, just occasionally, it is the liberal who has his values mixed?
Instances of the use of selective indignation by liberals could fill this article. It might be a little unfair to look too closely at the words find actions of that senile doyen of liberalism, Bertrand Russell, but how many of those who revere him would care to be reminded of his earlier attitudes on the uses of preventive nuclear war?
Which of our ex-Cnd liberals, with the walls of their rooms adorned with talismanic photographs of the decrepit philosopher, would admit to remembering him slating: "Either we must have a war against Russia before she has the atom bomb or we will have to lie down and let them govern us ..."
"Anything is better than submission".
Better "dead than Red." Lord Russell?
Dr Strangelove is not really so far distant from the liberal mind as that film's director would have had us believe.
One could consider the liberal faith in the United Nations as a power for world peace— a faith that persists despite the fact that troops operating under the U.N. flag brought more misery to the Congo than did fifty years of colonial "exploitation".
Their faith remains, even after it has become apparent that as a body the U.N. can never preserve peace, because so many of its members are interested in fomenting "wars of liberation"—the new jargon which replaces "holy war" in the liberal lexicon.
Typical liberal-supported groups such as the U.N. Associations throughout the world, ignore the incredible failings of the parent body, while praising many of the actions that have contributed to world tension and unrest.
The "Committee of 24", dealing with colonial and trusteeship territories, exhibits the qualities that liberals find little difficulty in supporting. With one voice they slate that the interests of the inhabitants of various countries should be paramount—and with another they condemn the people of Gibraltar and West Irian to incorporation under the rule of fascist and neo-fascist regimes.
The liberal mind is everywhere. Spouting its ill-formed opinions, waving its banners, it arrogantly asserts its right to dominate free thought everywhere. International organisations around the world, especially student organisations, are full of them.
An obvious example is ISMUN (the International Student Movement for the United Nations) whose Secretary-General said in an NZSPA interview that he saw right-wing views as needing to be excluded from his organisation. These views, he said, might include racial discrimination. When asked whether ISMUN would be likely to apply the same rules against the left, in considering Poland's anti-Semetic racial policies, he made it clear that situations automatically lost their connotations of racialism when practiced by the left.
It is not often that even a liberal will state such hypocritical views in to direct a manner.
Then we can look at Isc, the now disbanded non-communist international student organisation, which recently published a handbook for student journalists. Throughout the handbook (edited by David Robertson) are the usual liberal re Terences to "censorship" practices in South Africa—but never a mention of such practices in communist countries.
It is indeed Ironic, as well as tragic, that one of the contributors to the handbook. Rajat Neogy, formerly editor of the Kampala magazine Transition, is now in prison. Where? Not in South Africa, but in Uganda. The offence? Criticising the government.
Religion is often considered to be one of the fountainheads of modern liberalism. Everywhere today pious clerics persist in giving their foolish advice, which if followed, would result in death and extermination for millions. How has religion developed in this way?
Christianity is today thought to be a liberal religion. Its foundations are in the more authoritarian aspects of the Jewish faith, and its survival has been ensured by the fact that very few of its proponents have actually followed the liberal side of its leaching.
The history of many of the Christian Churches of the world is a history of hypocrisy: a liberal facade with authoritarian enforcement. Times are changing, however.
Now that many of the religious leaders of the present day are moving towards a greater implementation of the ideals they have always professed, their churches are steadily declining in influence.
Clerical liberals exhibit the same kind of moral blindness in choosing subjects for condemnation as do their lay brothers. Classic examples can be seen in the World Council of Churches, which at a conference in Genoa issued the following statement: "We ask America to stop the fight against Communism."
If this incredible suggestion were acted upon the World Council of Churches would not survive more than a few years, for communism cannot allow religion to remain in any position of strength. In their blindness, they are attempting to cut their own throats.
Lenin wrote: "Every religious idea, every idea of God, even flirting with the idea of God is unutterable vileness of the most [unclear: ous] kind, contagion of the most abominable kind. Millions of sins, filthy deeds, acts of violence and physical contagion are far less dangerous than the subtle, spiritual idea of God."
Regardless of one's personal attitude or religious beliefs, it would seem somewhat pointless to ally oneself with the protagonists of the above statement, yet this is what the liberal leaders of the World Council of Churches have done. A case of the blind leading the lame?
The role of the news media in distorting the presentation of the facts is worth looking at briefly. Liberal journalists, and liberal subeditors, can do as much to swing the news in support of their beliefs as can the most rabid communist or fascist censor with his blue pencil.
In many ways their activities are the more insiduous, for the liberals are scarcely aware of the extent of their actions. Nearly everyone can recognise where the more dogmatic slantings of ideologically committed editors and censors have operated, while the liberal influence however, is so much harder to identify.
The danger becomes particularly great when the channels of news communication are limited, as in New Zealand. With each and one evening paper, and the only other source of news being the N.Z.B.C., we are, for a western country, very susceptible to any re-writing of the news.
Examples are plenty, for those who care to look. After the riots in Chicago during the Democratic Party's nominating convention, a commission was set up to report on the causes and effects of the violence, especially in view of the fact that the police had been extensively blamed for accentuating the riots, rattier than calming them.
The conclusions of the commission were that, while the police had over-reacted, they had done so in the face of strong physical attack. Instances were given of police being attacked with various weapons, and of them retaliating in an over-enthusiastic manner.
It can be proved that the wire services sent a full report of this to New Zealand. Yet when the story appeared in The Dominion, the only instances recorded were those showing police in an unfavourable light. Can it be that the sub-editors concerned had decided that the Wellington public should not be shocked by reports of good little liberal kids clubbing and razor-slashing police?
Whatever the reasons, it is painfully clear that a certain overall picture was established in the minds of readers of The Dominion: that of the Chicago police being entirely at fault, rather than the findings presented by the investigating commission, which suggested fault on both sides.
Much of the distortion that occurs is of a minor nature, but the effect is cumulative. In the course of a news—not feature—report in the Evening Post recently, the following sentence appeared.
"A strong white backlash vole kept Mayor Sam Yorty in office in Los Angeles." The rest of the report dealt with quite different matters.
The reader might well be forgiven for being left with the impression that the white citizens of Los Angeles had voted on racial lines— for a white candidate—and as there were more white than negro citizens. Mayor Yorty won.
An actual breakdown of the pool figures shows a different story. Precinct by precinct analysis indicates that over 95% of the negroes in predominantly negro areas voted for Thomas Bradley (the black candidate), while only 65% in the predominantly while areas voted for Yorty.
Who were then the race-minded voters? According to the news report in the Evening Post, the "strong white backlash" was responsible for Sam Yorty's win. But facts—conveniently omitted—tell another story.
The dubious role often played by the student press should not be forgotten. We have already looked briefly at the Omega affair, and noted the liberal postures enshrined in the Isc Handbook for Editors: it is worth zeroing in on the activities of one particular organ of the student press, Salient.
In particular, Salient's attempt at miniMcCarthyism, with all its nauseating insinuations, smears, and use of guilt by association, deserves to be remembered—with shame. In Salient 2 of this year, a from page article written by the editor alternated to victimise a Victoria University graduate employed by the External Affairs Department.
How many students would wish all their past activities paraded before their employers and the public activities that took place in their student days, without a thought to the future. Indeed, this was one of the main concerns of several participants in the Security teach-in held during Term II Victoria this year.
It is a principle, recognised in practice by courts of justice in New Zealand, that university students are particularly susceptible in their later years to the results of their youthful behaviour. For this reason, students obtain many concessions from the courts; suppression of names, and acquittals with costs are commonly used to protect those who would otherwise be prevented from entry into one of the professions by a criminal record.
Yet Salient deliberately set out, despite warnings tendered well in advance, to try and wreck a person's career, by dragging up a letter written by him as a student, and showing it to his employers. That it failed is due only to the level-headedness of a Government department in refusing to be panicked into unjust action.
I do not wish it to be thought that in any way I condone the attitudes expressed by the victim of Salient's attack. It should not be necessary to write this. But there are those —often liberals—who will carefully examine the political and moral beliefs espoused by a victim of circumstance before they decide to involve themselves. The moment they do this, their protestations of concern become a sham.
They have proved that they are only using general beliefs in the rights of the individual to further their own political ideals, under a mask of total hypocrisy. They are, of course, behaving like normal liberals.
The intolerance of many professing liberal ideals towards those whose ideas or beliefs are at variance with their own has already been explored. It may not yet, however, be realised to just what astonishing lengths this venom can go.
At a Special General Meeting of the Victoria University Students' Association held in late April this year, various people showed their willingness to apply standards of censorship which would have brought a cynical smile to the faces of George Orwell's 1984 propagandists.
The movers and seconders of three different motions sought to use the sanctions of the association to punish one of Victoria's most eminent graduates, the Chief Justice of New Zealand, Sir Richard Wild, In the course of debate it emerged that they were not even trying to penalise him for what he had said, but rather for what he had not said.
And all this in a university, supposedly that most "liberal" of institutions, devoted to the free acquisition of knowledge by free debate in a Tree society!
Thus it becomes apparent that in the liberal stale one is not only not permitted to criticise the "right" views, but one must actively parrot them to the exclusion of all others. Said the mover of the first motion, with regard to a reported remark of Sir Richard Wild: "This is a notably tolerant statement. It is not good enough."
One would not accuse some of those active in this rather sordid little affair of being "liberal" in any sense of the word. But others had pertained to the attitudes and outward appearances of the campus liberal, and as such they must be judged.
When the S.G.M. of the students' association voted overwhelmingly against these three motions, it threw out the spectre of thought control, as practised by our juvenile liberals. But the warning was clear: in their own search for the perfect world, liberals have no hesitation in trampling on the rights of others.
For those who are not convinced, or for those who would wish to apply the suggestions outlined above in their own manner, to see if the liberal threat is nearly as bad as I have painted it, I would suggest two further fields of study. One is a genera! topic, the other is more specialised.
The first is the liberal attitude towards demonstrations. Consider the justifications advanced by liberals for short-circuiting the democratic processes with a touch of violence, all in the best possible cause, of course. Watch how the liberal, secure in his belief that he is the "conscience of the country", ignores the rights of our freely elected representatives in parliament to run the country during their term of office.
He knows, does our liberal, shouting at the back of a mob of students and workers outside parliament, that his cause is so righteous that it must prevail—and heaven help he who stands in the way. Encased in his coccoon of arrogance, he can happily forget that the majority of his countrymen have shown that they want a particular policy, or are content to let a certain group of men decide for them. Our liberal has the right to change this, he thinks, because of his superior moral attitudes.
The other suggested study is the agitation over the N.Z. Security Service, culminating in the submissions to the statutes revision committee. All the usual groups are there, from the civil liberties outfits to the student "representatives". The study should not forget that peculiar orgy of mutual back-patting that went on under the guise of a teach-in, at Victoria, referred to earlier, during the course of which several speakers contended for the "Most-spied-upon" prize. (It appears to be a point of liberal pride to have one's telephone lapped—or at least to imagine this.)
He who follows this more particular study could well end up believing, unless he demands proof at every stage, that 50% of New Zealanders live in dread of a midnight knock on the door, and that the cellars of the Security Service offices in Wellington's Taranaki Street are in fact a rather well kitted-out torture chamber. Alas for wishful thinking. No-nne has yet come forward to substantiate this. Do I hear a liberal somewhere saying that this is because the Service is so efficient?
"The end justifies the means" may have been a Jesuit motto, but it is true of liberals as well. By their actions liberals show how false is their alleged devotion to the ideals that liberalism professes to adhere to.
Although it gives them strength, the technique of selective indignation is also the weakness of liberals. The logical fallacies that inevitably stem from over-use of the selective process, coupled with the lack of theoretical framework, expose them to the derision of both the left and the right.
It is sometimes claimed that when a liberal grows up, he moves towards either conservatism or socialism. The implied definition of liberalism in that statement assumes the infancy of political development in the liberal position.
The liberal is "underdeveloped"—the word being, of course, the liberal substitution for "backward". He is underdeveloped in that his political stance has no stability, for it has no framework.
Bearing this in mind, it becomes easy to understand why so much of the liberal's glitter is mere dross. His intentions are so often golden, but the basis is lacking.
To sum up.
The liberal illusion is: that man is intrinsically good.
The liberal delusion is that [unclear: man] will happily co-operate as his world is made belter— whether he wants it that way or not.
The liberal delusion is as contrary as its definition, for liberalism has its counterpart in the animal world, with the ostrich, who hides his head in the sand to make the wicked world go away.
The liberal constructs his fantasy-world in his own image, selects the facts that seem to prop up the shaky edifice of opinion on which it is founded, and ignores those deemed inconvenient. Unfortunately, the "inconvenient" facts are as mortar to his rubble— which is why no edifice, no civilisation, no philosophy, no complex rationale of human behaviour, has ever stood the test of time if constructed in a wholly liberal mould.