by Peter Franklin
Friday, 28
May 2021
Debate
14:46

Should conservatives offer sanctuary to dissidents of the Left?

The Right can offer what progressives won’t: letting people be
by Peter Franklin
Glenn Greenwald has saddled up with the Right on a number of free speech issues

The road from Left to Right is a well-trodden path. Radicals who became conservatives include Kingsley Amis, Paul Johnson and Peter Hitchens. 

But more recently, the road has become choked not with converts, but refugees. They retain their affiliation as liberals, social democrats or even full-on socialists, but for one reason or another find themselves cast out by their former comrades. 

There is of course the whole Intellectual Dark Web thing which I don’t have the space to untangle here. Other refugees include radical feminists branded as TERFs just for defending women-only spaces; Jewish people forced out by Left-wing anti-Semitism; and old-fashioned Labourites sick of having their patriotism portrayed as bigotry.

The list is likely to lengthen as wokery tightens its grip. And thus, searching for a place where they can speak up without being shouting down, the dissidents of the Left find themselves rubbing shoulders with the Right. 

It’s not always a comfortable experience for either side. In fact, it can get downright weird. For instance, there’s the strange case of Russell Brand’s latest adventures — or how about this from Naomi Wolf:

How should conservatives respond to a confusing situation? 

First of all, with tact: don’t assume that every dissident is a potential defector. Secondly, with grace: the sharing of platforms with dissenting radicals is an opportunity not for point scoring, but to practice what you preach on free speech. Thirdly, with caution: not every new ally should be welcomed with open arms. For instance, the so-called Neocons — many of them former Trotskyites — did enormous harm to US conservatism by persuading it to embrace an adventurist foreign policy. 

At a time when so many people are finding themselves politically homeless, there’s a danger that conservative intellectuals might attempt a new synthesis of these unmoored strands of thought. But even if the dissidents wanted to be assimilated into an expanded conservatism (and most of them don’t) it’s an impossible task.

The Left is now so intolerant that it’s driving out dissident groups that are directly opposed to one another. For instance, anti-war Chomskyans like Glenn Greenwald and liberal interventionists like Christopher Hitchens. It’s also hard to see the Rad Fems getting on with liberals who believe the #metoo movement has gone too far. 

How can such a ferment of competing ideas ever be reconciled?

The answer is not to try. We should accept viewpoint diversity for what it is: a mass of contradictions. Conservatives must do what the woke Left won’t and that is let people be. 

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Mark H
Mark H
1 year ago

It’s a good idea to make an alliance in favour of freedom of thought and speech across ideological boundaries.
Then we can go back to having interesting arguments that enlighten one’s thinking, rather than endless policing of an ever shifting orthodoxy.

Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark H

Very eloquently put.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago

If by sanctuary, the author means to ask if conservatives should talk to liberals, well, yes. It’s fundamentally conservative to be able to have civilized discussions with people who may not agree with you on everything.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

Yes, it’s been interesting to see Glenn Greenwald and even Jimmy Dore appearing regularly on Tucker Carlson. I don’t think either Greenwald or Dore will ever leave left in terms of their core beliefs, but they are at least able to see that the Democrats and their supporters in the media (CNN, MSNBC, NYT, WaPo etc) are corrupt war mongers and endless liars. Thus they know that only Fox will allow them to speak the truth on certain subjects.

Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
1 year ago

OMG Noami Wolf! FFS!!

LEFT OF CENTRE PROGRESSIVES ARE NOT LIBERAL.

How can they be, when they are invariably proscriptive, censorious and irrational (on account of their ungoverned emotion)?

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago

I know its funny that some people describe themselves as liberals then proceed to give you a whole list of things they are illiberal about.

Sarah Johnson
Sarah Johnson
1 year ago

The only display of ungoverned emotion I see here is yours. Making nasty ad hominem attacks against people you disagree with means you are part of the problem.

Shane Emanuelle
Shane Emanuelle
1 year ago

Two years ago I considered myself on the left, and now I have no idea what I am; perhaps no-wing. Conservatives like Sir Roger Scruton and Australia’s former deputy PM John Anderson have been big influences. Libertarians like Tom Woods and Rand Paul likewise. And I still tune in to lefties like Russell Brand, Bret Weinstein and Yanis Varoufakis. And people like Jordan Peterson, whom I don’t know where to place; perhaps outside politics. Then there’s the plethora of diverse (i.e. different from mainstream) in non-politics areas like agriculture, ecology, astronomy, biology, etc, to which I wouldn’t otherwise have been exposed. But definitely love having a free and open mind.

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
1 year ago

Peterson seems to be an anti-Communist Classical-Left-Liberal, in US terms probably a Kennedy Democrat. But he’s not mostly about politics of course.

Glyn Reed
Glyn Reed
1 year ago

Perhaps its the whole left/right categorisation of thought that needs to go?

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago

“We should’ accept viewpoint diversity for what it is: a mass of contradictions.”

‘Hi, I am a Liberal and against everything you are for. I approve of that which is degenerate and am against decency. My goal is to destroy your kind, and in fact Westerners, and The West. Mind if I join you here?’

kathleen carr
kathleen carr
1 year ago
Reply to  Galeti Tavas

I don’t know how their ideas have got so popular. An actress called Cynthia Nixon ( who wishes to be a politician) thinks shop-owners should let the homeless steal items from their stores. Her brain cells must get very tired doing their full circuit. If the shop owner gives away his stuff , he is now a charity worker who needs to get another job to pay for his charity. If this were a single incident but apparently its a very popular idea especially in university towns who have extended the help yourself idea to students who help themselves & strangely are backed up by their college. Paying for things is not some quaint capitalist idea , its the exchange mechanism known throughout the world.

Annette Kralendijk
Annette Kralendijk
1 year ago
Reply to  kathleen carr

“An actress called Cynthia Nixon ( who wishes to be a politician) thinks shop-owners should let the homeless steal items from their stores.”
she could always open her home and let the homeless help themselves to her things if she feels that way.

Johannes Kreisler
Johannes Kreisler
1 year ago

Proceed with extreme caution.
Personally, i’m delighted by the spectacle of the old-school nasties finding themselves witch-trialled by the new woko haram. Couldn’t happen to a more deserving lot.

The answer is not to try. 

Yes, fully agree with that.

Dave Weeden
Dave Weeden
1 year ago

I can’t imagine how Christopher Hitchens earned a name check here. AFAICT, his opposition to the Clintons earned him the lasting dislike of a section of the US left, and his contortions defending the Iraq War only widened the range of people against him. Meanwhile, strident atheism hasn’t aged well. But, in any case, he turned up his toes in 2011, when only subscriptions got cancelled.

James Slade
James Slade
1 year ago

First and foremost Naomi Wolf has gone the full David Ike and should be simply be left alone.

Galeti Tavas
Galeti Tavas
1 year ago
Reply to  James Slade

Lizard Lover.

Steve Wesley
Steve Wesley
1 year ago

Well here in Blighty, if they join The Conservatives rather than with conservatives they’ll probably wonder what all the fuss was about, because The Conservatives seem to have forgotten what it is they stand for.

Chuck Burns
Chuck Burns
1 year ago

Either there is free speech and individual freedom or there is not. That is the fundamental difference between the Left and Conservatism. We believe in Live and Let Live. The Left Forces their opinions and ideology on the rest of us and insists, demands that we live as they dictate. There is no Live and Let Live with the Left.

Saul D
Saul D
1 year ago

Modern US Left (Progressives) – the darlings of corporations, billionaires and Wall Street – are very un-Left compared to 30 or 40 years ago, but also very very ruthless about controlling the levers of power.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
1 year ago
Reply to  Saul D

Yes, the new antiracist ideology being imposed upon us is nothing more than ‘peasant management’.

Gorgia Verolini-Wright
Gorgia Verolini-Wright
1 year ago
Reply to  Saul D

And what on earth is “progressive” about intentionally shutting down dissent?? The Left are the most unprogressive lot I have ever seen – relying on an outdated analysis of how society might/may/should work (i.e. Marxism in all its forms) & of course, wanting to ban anyone who disagrees. Back to the future??

Nikki Hayes
Nikki Hayes
1 year ago

We should totally welcome our estranged left wing/liberal brothers and sisters into the conservative fold. I truly believe that when we actually talk to our political opposites we really find out just how much we have in common. I have a serious issue with the so-called TERFS and the way they have been treated by the left – there is nothing whatsoever wrong with women only spaces and I am sure pretty much every conservative agrees with that!

Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
1 year ago

Viewpoint diversity is inevitable, since perception is fragmentary and highly selective.
What we probably ought to do is seek out those who disagree with us, expose ourselves to their arguments, and hope our own perceptions are broadened by the experience.

I suppose, at the same time, we should not seek to dominate public discourse in trying to establish a particular narrative. If we do have a narrative to share we should be completely open to having that narrative changed by exposure to counter narrative.

This should not be a matter of a war of ideas, but of attempting to build a shared consensus. Nobody has all the answers, and the answers we do have are never the best possible answers.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kremlington Swan
Galvatron Stephens
Galvatron Stephens
1 year ago

This is a bit like Californians moving to Texas. They can seek refuge but they have to acknowledge that it was the Left that created the mess that forced them to seek a Republican state.

Eddie Johnson
Eddie Johnson
1 year ago

A recurrent theme on Bill Maher’s show.

vince porter
vince porter
1 year ago

No aphorism gets validated as manifestly as “The revolution eats its own”.

Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
1 year ago

There is no such thing as a right wing intellectual. Everyone who aspires to be an intellectual (or governed by reason) eventually ends up on the right of the political spectrum*. So there really are only intellectuals and idiots.

*Except for Tony Benn. And he’s dead. Which is a good thing, otherwise he would mess with the data,

Simon Coulthard
Simon Coulthard
1 year ago

Ah, the old, “anyone that disagrees with me is an idiot” argument.

Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
1 year ago

Find me someone who categorises himself as left of centre progressive, and who is prepared to engage in heated discourse about any subject without resorting to the use of ad hominem attack.
For a while I read and commented on the Guardian website. However, a pattern soon emerged. Commentators were permitted to be as unguardedly critical as they liked about any of the approved targets, but were soon silenced if they turned their fire on sacred cows.
The Telegraph, by comparison, is a bastion of free speech and genuine liberalism. It will even tolerate fierce criticism of Thatcher and her government. Of course, those who disagree with you (and there are many on this subject) will lose no time in defending her, but never once in all my time there was it suggested I did not have the right to express my opinions freely.

I suggest the difference is down to the Guardian writers and readers having insufficient confidence in their own thinking to allow uncensored challenge.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kremlington Swan
Mark H
Mark H
1 year ago

James Bloodworth, here?
And in the Guardian, John Harris?

Last edited 1 year ago by Mark H
Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
1 year ago
Reply to  Mark H

Harris is ok – at least he goes looking for evidence before putting pen to paper rather than dreaming stuff up for his column – but even he ends up aligning himself with the perspectives of his particular tribe.
Bloodworth I do not know. I will keep a look out for his articles.

N Millington
N Millington
1 year ago

Really. the Daily Boris is a bastion of free speech?
Come on man. The Guardian is an absolute flaming poo fire, but it’s a bastion of ethical and reasonable journalism compared to the Torygraph and its ilk.

Diana Durham
Diana Durham
1 year ago

how about actually govern, too? Which is the point really, to look after the nation and the wider culture of freedom and democracy, however flawed, Britain and the US still are and represent. This conservative government in my view is doing a lot more of that than pursuing crazy ideologies.

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
1 year ago

“We should accept viewpoint diversity for what it is: a mass of contradictions. Conservatives must do what the woke Left won’t and that is let people be.”
Seems reasonable.
Re the Neocons, that was a knowing attempt to infiltrate and take over the US mainstream Right, using similar tactics the Gramscian Neo-Marxists used to take over the US mainstream Left. I have not seen anything similar coming from the Left recently. The only Entryist attempt I can think of was the 2016 US Far Right (Fascist wing of the Alt-Right) attempt to infiltrate Trumpian Populism, and via that the mainstream US Right. That effort basically had crashed and burned by the end of 2016, largely due to self-sabotaging behaviour by the Far Right. I don’t see any organised Left or Left-Liberal faction attempting anything similar.
 

N Millington
N Millington
1 year ago
Reply to  Simon Newman

Did it? Right now a sizeable percentage of the Trumpian right wing is happily going along with his fiction that the election was stolen, a classic and time honoured fascist tactic.

Simon Newman
Simon Newman
1 year ago
Reply to  N Millington

Were Democrats Fascist in 2000 when they disputed the ‘hanging chad’ election? You don’t become Fascist by disputing an election!

N Millington
N Millington
1 year ago

The Naomi Wolf who can’t keep her trap shut about the efficacy or inefficacy of vaccines, a subject she is both ill fit to discuss and completely delusional about.
Naomi Wolf barely had anything to say even when she started. In 2010 she compared Barack Obama, the most milquetoast George Bush continuity liberal to Adolf Hitler. If you want to know how we British liberals felt about Obama, watch Charlie Brooker on the subject when our conservative media turned him into Jesus.
Thing is, I get what you mean. However the reason you’re offering these people sanctuary or whatever you call it is because it helps further your agenda that the woke left is somehow all there is of the left. It isn’t. The centre left has always been the crux of an incredibly lively debate and there is plenty of overlap between the centre left and centre right.
What you’re doing is giving a home to the left’s crazier conspiracy theorists. They’re still conspiracy theorists, mate.

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
1 year ago

I agree. The New Right can be a broad church that prides itself on viewpoint diversity.

mac mahmood
mac mahmood
1 year ago

Is ‘liberal interventionist’ not an oxymoron? We intervene for their own good! C Hitchens became an interventionist after he discovered that his mother was Jewish and he thought intervention was going to be good for the Zionist state. Neo-cons were a front organisation of the Zionist lobby.

Galvatron Stephens
Galvatron Stephens
1 year ago

The way the non-woke fawn over TERFS is unbelievable.

Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
1 year ago

Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist.

AKA women who don’t think a man who calls himself Mary is a woman.

Galvatron Stephens
Galvatron Stephens
1 year ago

They also think a lot of other things which are as woke as the TRAs they criticise. They are remarkably selective with biological characteristics.

Last edited 1 year ago by Galvatron Stephens
Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
1 year ago

They are remarkably selective with biological characteristics.

I’m afraid I’m guilty of that too. I go for women with female biological characteristics. Indeed, it’s something I’m pretty inflexible about. Had no idea that was considered woke.

Kremlington Swan
Kremlington Swan
1 year ago

Like what? Genuinely curious. I was unfamiliar with the term TERF until I read your comment, and had to look it up.

The very name suggests a label that is designed to dismiss out of hand.
Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist.
Makes them sound like a crazed minority, but if you were to take a poll anywhere in the world you would find nearly everyone would disagree with the idea that
gender is a matter of self-identification. Whether that is right or wrong is another matter – the point is that it is hardly a minority perspective.
Speaking personally I do not know whether gender is a matter of self-identification or not. In order to know this I would have to be trans. Do I believe that someone can genuinely believe he or she can be trapped in the ‘wrong’ body? Yes, I do. I do not think this is a made up thing at all, because I have known someone all my life for whom this has been a reality. If you had known that person you would not doubt it either.
But do I believe that a trans person has the right to insist others simply accept their assertions of identity? No, I do not. You cannot take away someone else’s right to believe what they believe just because you believe something different, whether it is about yourself or something else.

Last edited 1 year ago by Kremlington Swan
Simon Newman
Simon Newman
1 year ago

“My enemy’s enemy?” I don’t find it surprising at all. ‘TERFs’ and the non-woke may disagree strongly about a lot of stuff, but they don’t deny objective reality – they just reach different moral conclusions based on that reality. The Trans movement denies objectively ascertainable reality, it’s a 2+2=5 movement.