Knee-Jerk Liberalism

Amidst another piece on the Taliban Man at Yale, which John Fund has been all over, I was struck by these three grafs:

Even some who defend the right of Yale to make its own admissions decisions now say it went too far with its Taliban Man. Mark Oppenheimer, a Yale grad who edits the New Haven Advocate, an alternative weekly, says he has “finally come to the conclusion” that “Yale should not have enrolled someone who helped lead a regime that destroyed religious icons, executed adulterers and didn’t let women learn to read. Surely, the spot could have better gone to, say, Afghani women, who have such difficulty getting schooling in their own country.”

Mr. Oppenheimer attributes his prior reluctance to realize Yale had erred to “basic human stubbornness” and says he finds it “awfully upsetting to agree with jokers like Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly,” both of whom have discussed the Yale story on Fox News Channel. “The harder they flogged this issue, the more I became convinced that they had to be wrong. I just feel better across the fence from them. . . . I think it’s utterly fair to blame the right wing for making me so desperate to dissemble.”

James Kirchick, a Yale senior, wrote last month in the Yale Daily News that he was disturbed by the refusal of liberals to be outraged over the religious fascism the Taliban represent. Echoing Mr. Oppenheimer, he noted that “a friend of mine recently remarked that part of his and his peers’ nonchalance (and in some cases, support for) Hashemi has to do with the fact that the right has seized upon the issue. Our politics have become so polarized that many are willing to take positions based on the inverse of their opponents’. This abandonment of classical liberal values at the expense of political gamesmanship has consequences that reach far beyond Yale; it hurts our national discourse.”


I recall that when the president announced his new space policy a couple years ago, many on the port side of the debate opposed it purely because it was his proposal. Chad Orzel even admitted that if a Democrat president had proposed it, he’d be supportive.

While irrational, it’s only human to do this sort of thing, of course, and I’m guilty of it myself, but only to this limited degree–I will use peoples’ opinions as a counterindicator in the absence of any other information. For instance, when I was living and voting in LA, and there would be a long roster of judges, and I didn’t know anything about them (as was usually the case), my philosophy was to look at who the LA Times endorsed, and vote the other way. But if Michael Moore came out in favor of wine, I’m not going to stop drinking it.

It’s beyond perverse to oppose something for this reason and this reason alone, and ignore any other knowledge you have of the situation (and refuse to consider any). But that’s exactly what these students and alumni were doing. For them, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly’s opposition to the Yale Taliban was sufficient, in and of itself, to support him. It was more important to them to be on the opposite side of an issue with those two people than it was to stand up for western liberal values.

This is of course a microcosm of the larger political debate since George Bush took office (though it happened on the starboard side of the spectrum when Clinton was president, but I think to a much lesser degree). Much of the Democrat Party has come to define itself almost solely as opposition to George W. Bush (and for the left, opposition to American foreign policy in general). That was in fact Kerry’s primary campaign plank–he wouldn’t be George Bush. Fortunately, the politics of the nation haven’t (yet) become so poisoned that this was quite sufficient to get him elected. But it’s very sad when a left that is supposed to be in favor of human rights and liberal values ends up objectively supporting regimes that are some of the worst on earth in that regard, simply because, in their Bush-hating derangement, the enemy of their enemy is their friend.

Which is why I found this so encouraging. I don’t agree with everything in it, but I could sign on to much of it. I hope that much of the current loony left can come to embrace it as well.