Liberty and Freedom vs. Conservatives

About the notion of liberalism; the panic among White Christian nationalists; a book about the John Birch society, which anticipated the modern MAGA movement; and examples of conservatives’ opposition to liberty and freedom.

Let’s start with this short video by Yuval Noah Harari, about the idea of being “liberal.” The Facebook clip I saw (pic here) is an excerpt from this very long YouTube video.

Harari notes that “liberalism” derives from “liberty.” He has four simple questions.

Do you think people should have…
1. the liberty to choose their own government;
2. the liberty to choose their own religion;
3. the liberty to choose their own profession;
4. the liberty to choose their own spouse?

If you answer yes to all, you’re a liberal. And most people aren’t and never have been. “For most of history, most people objected” to one or another of these ideas. Thus monarchies, that impose government; in the middle ages you weren’t able to choose your profession, not if you were born into a peasant family; same for choosing your spouse.

The little Facebook clip ends before exploring obvious contemporary aspects of illiberalism: how the churches (in America, especially, evangelical Christians) want to impose their religious beliefs on everyone, to the point of writing into law their own values at the expense of everyone else’s (currently, their ideas about abortion), and demonizing those who would choose a spouse who doesn’t conform to the values of the ancient desert tribes who wrote their holy books.



Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin, 19 Mar 2023: Opinion | Why white Christian nationalists are in such a panic

You might find it strange that a large segment of the Republican base thinks Whites are the true victims of racism and that Christians are under attack. After all, America’s biggest racial group is still Whites; the most common religious affiliation remains Christianity. Whites and Christians dominate elected office at all levels, the judiciary and corporate America. What’s the problem?

This group feels besieged because they are losing ground. …

As recently as 2008, when our first Black president was elected, the U.S. was a majority (54%) white Christian country.” By 2014 the number had dropped to 47 percent, and in 2022 it stood at 42 percent.

The group that has declined the most is at the core of the MAGA movement, the group most devoted to Christian nationalism. “White evangelical Protestants have experienced the steepest decline. As recently as 2006, white evangelical Protestants comprised nearly one-quarter of Americans (23%). By the time of Trump’s rise to power, their numbers had dipped to 16.8%,” Jones explains. “Today, white evangelical Protestants comprise only 13.6% of Americans.”

So maybe liberalism and Enlightenment values might prevail after all.


More perspective. When I was growing up the far right — I think the term then was “reactionaries,” those who reacted against progress and modern values and wanted to return to a simpler past — was embodied in the John Birch Society. They especially reviled communism. This is a review of a book about the movement.

NY Times, Jennifer Szalai, 15 Mar 2023: Far Right and Aggrieved: How the Birchers Fueled Today’s G.O.P., subtitled “A new account of the John Birch Society by Matthew Dallek charts its history — and outsize influence on the contemporary Republican Party.”

Before the 2016 presidential election and Trumpism, before Sarah Palin and the Tea Party, there was the John Birch Society: Founded in 1958 at a secret meeting of 12 men, the group was named after a young missionary and intelligence officer who was killed by Mao’s Communist forces in 1945. As the historian Matthew Dallek explains in “Birchers,” his illuminating new account of the society’s right-wing activism amid postwar prosperity, a number of the founding members were business leaders, and all of them felt deeply aggrieved.

“Rich, white and almost uniformly Christian,” Dallek writes, the first Birchers nevertheless believed they had been “abandoned” and “exiled to the margins.” They railed against Communism, the civil rights movement and the New Deal. …

But for all the spectacle offered by the lurid politics of the right-wing fringe, Dallek urges us to pay attention to how the organization, at least in its first decade or so, took care to keep a foot planted in the mainstream. “Countless Birchers were rational, educated, skilled political operatives,” he writes, detailing their mix of canny know-how and intemperate rage. It would turn out to be a potent combination for American conservatism and, as a consequence, the Republican Party.

This sense of grievance, of life not being fair to groups that had once been dominate in society and are losing ground, holds true to the modern Republican party, especially the MAGA crowd. They are of course in no sense liberal; they want to impose their values and tastes on everyone.


Slate, Christina Cauterucci, 17 Mar 2023: These People Aren’t Interested in Expertise, subtitled “The most consistent posture among those who would restrict abortion is to disregard pregnancy as a medical condition.”

Yet another example of how conservatives simply believe simple things that aren’t true.


Via: Mediaite: Daily Wire Host Wants to Bring Back Public Executions, Complains We ‘Don’t See Death Period Anymore’

It seems conservatives would prefer to live in the Middle Ages.


(click for larger image)

NY Times, 16 Mar 2023: Florida Scoured Math Textbooks for ‘Prohibited Topics.’ Next Up: Social Studies., subtitled “Behind the scenes, one publisher went to great lengths to avoid mentions of race, even in the story of Rosa Parks.”

More about the ambition of the right to install correct political thinking. It’s getting scary.

They don’t really believe in liberty or freedom.

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