"Other Peoples' Liberals"

Oct 02 2009 Published by under Politics, Rant

As I listen to the Hollywood Elite fall all over themselves defending Roman Polanski, saying how awful it is that he's been apprehended for the 30-year-old crime of rape of a 13 year old (perhaps not involving physical force, but certainly involving drugs and coercion), I'm reminded of a term I use, "Other Peoples' Liberals". This is related to the term "Limousine Liberal" (or even, at times, "Marin County Liberal" if you happen to live in the right place, although that's too broad a brush).

These are the folks who drive SUVs because they have a "legitimate" reason, but decry the fact that so many people drive cars with low gas mileage and destroy the environment. This is Dianne Feinstein, a staunch gun control advocate but who had a concealed carry permit; when confronted, she said she needed it for her protection. This is parents of a friend of mine who was one of the most out gay people I knew. He said that they were all for gay rights in the abstract, but were not happy to find out their son was gay. This was the father of a women I knew in high school, who was all for racial equality, but who expressed some objections when she was dating a black man.

These are people who are all for tolerance and environmentalism, as long as it doesn't require them to disturb their own back yard.

In a word, hypocrites.

To be sure, it's not at all an exclusively liberal thing. It seems that a few months can't go by without our finding out about the extreme illicit sexual adventures of an extreme outspoken conservative "family values" politician. Rush Limbaugh was all no-tolerance on drugs, until all of a sudden he's up on drug charges. Excessively wealthy executives are for the unregulated free market and treat "socialism" as the dirtiest word ever, until all of a sudden their bank is failing and they need government bailouts to survive.

High standards of behavior that everybody else must be held to, but which are clearly too strict when applied to you.

Hypocrisy is universal. As is the ability for people to be able to overcome cognitive dissonance and justify their own bad behavior, and to come to the defense of the people they have chosen to celebrate, even when they themselves or those they celebrate have violated things they would otherwise speak out against vociferously.

We just need to recognize it for what it is, even when the subject is somebody who's produced challenging art and that has been celebrated for that art.

5 responses so far

  • Brandon says:

    I always defined a limousine liberal as somebody who sits on their computer wolfing down Cheetos and complaining about everything wrong in the world, while doing absolutely nothing about it. My favorite example is a blog post about a Christian missionary who traveled to third world countries and provided water to the people - after they listened to a spiel about Jesus. And the commenters absolutely vilified this guy. They didn't just state that they wished he would provide the water without the preaching. No, they thought this guy was pure evil and poisoning the world with his clean water and short lectures about Christianity. So I pointed out, "Why don't all the angry atheists get together and raise money for a foreign aid group they approve of?" I never really got a response to that.

    I'm not saying people need to dedicate every waking moments of their lives to charity work. But I have no respect for people who think bitching on blogs is an adequate substitute for real activism.

  • I hope Polanski goes to jail for a long time. Not that he will, but he deserves it.

  • Bau says:

    Beloved Rob, I think you have conflated some things that perhaps don't really go together.

    Would it be better to have a world in which everyone who is uncomfortable about their kid dating someone of a different race is also in favor of apartheid?

    Would it be a better world if everyone who wishes their queer son were straight were also demonstrating against gay marriage and trying to get gay teachers fired from their jobs and refusing to rent apartments to gay couples?

    Human beings are not going to be perfectly faithful. The imperfection of their faithfulness to hatred, greed, fear, and ignorance lets them grow in kindness and generosity and courage and wisdom. Inconsistency is the chink in the dam of blindness. It is inconsistency that allows human beings to be as good as they are.

    And please, have a bit of mercy toward people who struggle with the difference between the future world they advocate and the world in which they must exist right now.

    Lack of gun control in this country is the only reason for me to have a gun. If the gun control laws I advocate existed, I would obey those laws. But as long as every cretin and psychopath in the country can easily get a gun, it creates an environment where I may need one too. I don't think that's hypocrisy. That's disgusted concession to a reality that I am trying to change, and in the mean time I would like to live long enough to help change it.

    SImilarly, with SUVs, I drive a tiny sensible Echo that gets 44 miles to the gallon and would be crushed like a soda can if it were hit by a Hummer. If there weren't so many obese stupid SUVs on the road I would be entirely content with my little soap bubble of a car. But I don't blame people who, given the current state of things, are too nervous to get a car like mine, or who buy a large vehicle for their teen to learn to drive. We need whole societal solutions to problems precisely because when the norms are bad, the cost to individuals who want to defy them are greater than the good they can do by defying them.

    The engineers who created hybrid cars drove to work in cars that used gasoline. The Civil Rights activists of the 1950s wore shoes that were bought in segregated stores, but they walked to Walgreens lunch counters and sat down and would not move until they were served on an equal basis with white customers. Some Abolitionist Quaker congregations "owned" black people in order to keep them from being sold to owners who would really regard them as mere property. Gandhi was a terrible husband but he really wanted the societal changes that would improve conditions for women, and India is a better place than it would be if he had used his life to be a responsible husband and a decent parent. Human progress is nonlinear, and heterogeneous, polluted, enigmatic, Tantric, and inconsistent, but it is still progress.

    And yes, of course, Polanski should be in prison.

  • Bau says:

    By the way, atheists do get together and give money to help people. The least religious countries among the wealthy developed nations -- Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and the Netherlands -- give a higher percentage of their gross national product to the Red Cross and international humanitarian work than do the Catholic countries and the US, which has the highest percentage of pious people in the West.

  • Bau says:

    hhmmm about the shoes, that's wrong. There were a lot of black-owned shoe stores and general stores. But people got to Walgreen's in segregated buses.