by Ed West
Tuesday, 10
August 2021

Proof: The progressive revolution arrived before Trump

The proliferation of prejudice words in the media began years earlier
by Ed West
Miss him yet?(Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

The 2010s were the decade of social media-led revolution. In the Arab world, Facebook helped to spread uprisings which overturned the old order, leading to success in Tunisia, failure in Egypt and tragedy in Syria.

In the US, social media has had almost as big an impact, with American progressive opinion undergoing a rapid shift from about 2013 – whereas the average conservative has changed very little.

It means that Americans on the Left now have self-declared views on race that are more pro-black and pro-immigrant than actual black Americans or immigrants, despite having generally quite ill-informed ideas about race.

Perhaps that’s related to the frequency they read about the issue, illustrated by a recent paper, which looks at media coverage of “prejudice related terms”. The study found the words “racist or sexist increasing in usage between 2010 and 2019 by 638% and 403% in The New York Times or 514% and 141% respectively in The Washington Post.” (This is a percentage of all words in those publications).

Frequency of words denoting prejudice in NYT and Washington Post. Credit: David Rozado

The paper also found that this process long predated Trump and that in 2014: “The usage of words denoting racism, homophobia, transphobia or sexism were at or near, up to that year, all-time highs. These results suggest that the trend of increasing prevalence of prejudice related words in media discourse precedes the political emergence of Donald Trump — although Trump’s presidency and subsequent reactions to it may have exacerbated these trends.”

Centrist outlets were least likely to use these terms, presumably because Right-wing websites spend so much of their time Owning the Libs and responding to the R-word, while centrist publications are busy focusing on unimportant stuff like climate change and people having enough food to eat.

The paper, like Zach Goldberg’s work in similar areas, points to a seismic shift in American liberal opinion from about 2013, a change in worldview almost without precedent; even during the 1960s and 70s public opinion changed quite slowly in western countries, and in Britain the basic premises of the sexual revolution weren’t accepted by the majority until well into the 1990s.

This is a form of runaway progressivism, driven by status anxiety, and it is usually attributed to social media and the iPhone, which encourages clickbait and dopamine-producing culture war content.

The shifting political position of upper-middle class Americans and the proliferation of prejudice-related words are obviously not unrelated, and presumably the causal arrow goes both ways. A radicalised population demands more morally-affirming condemnation of the sinners, but the proliferation of prejudice words pushes people into more radical political positions.

Prejudice words are hugely effective at making political positions toxic if they successfully attach to them, and the strategy is probably aided by simple repetition (just as religions often use repetition to install an idea in people’s heads). Contrary to what we’d like to believe, shouting “racist” is a pretty effective argument.

Part of the cultural imbalance between Left and Right is due to the fact that the mind of the former is effectively vaccinated against conservative ideas; once anything has a prejudice word attached to it, the mind’s ideological immune system is able to dismiss it; it recognises it as something dangerous and malign, and probably Nazi, before shutting it down. It’s why conservatives so frequently respond to bad progressive arguments by insisting that their idea is actually the more racist or sexist — lib-owning which only confirms the oppositions’ basic premises. Conservatives, in contrast, have few terms with which to disarm opposing ideas, and you can’t the battle of ideas when your opponents literally write the dictionary.

Join the discussion

  • To help rewrite the dictionary, isn’t time the left were referred to as trash liberals, not because they are personally trashy but because what they stand for is trashing the culture – especially in the universities, the family- broken and the country – turning cohesive England into atomised and evermore Multiracialland?

  • Which are the main centrist news outlets? I’m sure I don’t know many.
    What a disappointment outlets like the NYT and Washington Post have become…. I used to follow them and they have become ludicrous.

  • A couple of things. 1. it’s just Tablet magazine, not The Tablet. 2. I always hear about “owning the libs” but I am not in the least bit sure what this means, nor have I ever seen examples of this. Indeed, if they are “owning the libs” then it is because the libs in question are selling themselves so cheap.
    But my main point is, of course Trump wasn’t the cause of this, he is a reaction to it. A trial balloon of sorts, if you will. Proof of concept. By that I mean what Trump did was show that you can push back against the left, but that it takes getting out of the ring, so to speak, and not being Democrat lite, but actually supporting conservative ideas forcefully. And much of the language that drove the left so batty that he used simply showed, right or wrong, that he would not be bound by the left’s rules of what is and is not acceptable, that he would not allow them to decide the terms and conditions of political battle. And now we are starting to see the result of that in DeSantis’ rise, JD Vance in Ohio, and so on.
    I am not a conservative by any means, but I want options about what is best in life, and with two viable options, if not more, life is better, and that also drives the left nuts.

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