Intellectual Dishonesty & The Death Of The Professional Left

Every time something momentous like the Zimmerman trial occurs, a gaggle of what we’ll call “political ambulance chasers” follows right along behind it, trying to score some cheap political points for their pet causes. This has been standard on the right for quite some time now, since they’re masters both manufacturing and cultivating hysteria and outrage. But, with each turn of the news cycle, increasing numbers of progressive-minded journalists, pundits, and academics are also heeding the siren’s call of cheap shots and straw men … and feeling much less squeamish about courting controversy for clicks or cash.

The most outrageous accusations from the left have been (unsurprisingly) against President Barack Obama himself: They’ve compared him directly to Zimmerman, claiming Obama’s so-called “drone war” is nothing more than a broader reflection of the attitudes that allowed Zimmerman to get away with murder. As such, they claim that the President holds no moral authority for speaking about the trial, let alone on racial politics at all. This argument — however valid or well-intended it might be -– has been brutally twisted and re-framed multiple times since the verdict. One so-called ‘journalist’ even referred to Attorney General Eric Holder as President Obama’s “Inner N*gger.” And no, I am not joking.

Meanwhile, supposedly more venerable political figures from the left have come forward to speak about the trial and other issues of the day. None have been more problematic lately than former President Jimmy Carter, who inexplicably stated that he believed justice had been served fairly in the Zimmerman trial. Then, he publicly denounced the NSA for spying on the American public, claiming that America no longer has a “functioning democracy.” From a progressive standpoint, the problem with his comments on the trial is obvious. Carter’s current stance on the NSA, however, lies in stark contrast withthat of the man who signed the FISA Amendment into law in 1978, essentially giving birth to the modern security state in America’s post-Nixon era.  This less-known fact is one of many that those who would use the Zimmerman Trial and the NSA scandal to shame Obama would oprefer that you didn’t know.

These attacks on Obama in the wake of the trial have signaled what feels like yet another disturbing shift in the tactics of progressive journalism. On the response to Carter’s NSA commentary, writer David Von Ebers offers the following:

“When did this become a thing, that centrist Democratic ex-presidents could do no wrong? When did it become not only acceptable, but expected, that centrist Democratic ex-presidents would routinely bash a sitting Democratic president, and the ideological purists on the left would cheer them on without so much as questioning those ex-presidents’ own liberal bona fides?”

In a separate article about Carter’s comments on the Zimmerman trial, Von Ebers writes:

“No doubt, Carter’s fans on the left – especially those wide-eyed young white liberals who often cite him as the elder statesman of liberal purity – will rush in to say, given all the good he’s done, we have to give him a pass for the Deen and Zimmerman faux pas, at the very least. And I can see that (although … Pol Pot? The Shah of Iran? Really?). But I wonder why the standard you apply to Jimmy Carter allows for some mistakes – including fairly major ones – when the standard you apply to President Obama allows for none.”

As conservatives continue pushing their brand of ideological extremism over the course of the past several decades, they have dragged the professional left right along with them. The conciliatory nature of liberal politics doesn’t allow for much in the way entrenched ideological standoffs. Over the years, media practices and political dealings once considered above reproach by Democrats have become increasingly commonplace amongst them. The shiny patina applied to Jimmy Carter and the ugly comparisons of Obama to Zimmerman are just the latest examples of how ideology continues to supplant reason as the guiding force behind certain progressive spaces, led by those who would use fear and hysteria and tribalism to further their own respective cults of personality. They peddle half-truths wrapped in layers of bias and fallacy, delivered with a passion and zeal that is as contagious as it is deadly.

There was once a time when the professional left considered it permissible to be wrong. Mistakes were thought to promote greater discussion, and provide opportunities for real growth. Now, much of the patience and humility of the liberal intelligentsia has been weeded out, and replaced by entitlement, hubris, and a growing competitiveness of a kind that only the Digital Age can offer. The information marketplace has expanded into a vast, dirty, incomprehensible bazaar, where hucksters, shysters, snake oil salesmen, and a few honest folk compete in a perennial Misery Olympics for that most valuable of all consumer commodities: attention. Question your sources, challenge their bona fides; in the Information Age, where there is no product, the product is you.

During Cornell West’s recent appearance on Democracy Now , he claimed that Obama has no ‘moral authority’ to speak on matters of race. He also claimed that Americans are living on Obama’s ‘plantation’ and that the Executive Branch is full of ‘house negroes.’ Here’s the video: