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The Closing of the Liberal Mind

Suppose that you are a Soviet agent in 1955. Your cover is that of an insurance salesman.

Of your two "jobs", the Soviet agent part is more important, but you need to be a good insurance salesman to maintain your cover.

Being a good insurance salesman doesn't clash with being a good Communist, because your job selling life insurance allows you to pursue your real job. And you cannot conflate the two jobs. You can't sell insurance to your KGB bosses or pitch Communism to your insurance prospects. If you do that, then worlds will collide.

But if Communism is on the way up, then you can stop selling insurance and tell everyone who walks into your office that Communism is their best insurance. You are no longer a Communist who sells insurance. You are just a Communist running an insurance agent's office.

This state of affairs has applications beyond Communism and life insurance.

Suppose you are a liberal in the 1950s. You don't support some gang of reds goosestepping their way across the country and rounding up people into gulags. Nor do you want any of the revolutions that some of the radicals hanging around outside NYU sometimes recite poems about.

You believe that the best pathway to a liberal society is through liberal institutions. You disdain the Marxists with their rigid party orthodoxy for closing off their minds to open inquiry and healthy debate.

As a journalist, a professor, a scientist or a lawyer, you believe that maintaining liberal institutions will liberalize society. That a free press will invariably spread liberal ideas, that scientific inquiry and open debate will teach people to be more open-minded and that protecting everyone's rights will end a society of privileged tiers.

The society that you are working toward may be a one-party state, or a multiparty state where all the parties are of the left, but you still believe that will come about through a liberalized society where the vast majority will be educated and shaped into recognizing the truth. 

And you believe that values such as objectivity and scientific truth, and institutions that are open, will bring people to recognize that truth in the long-term, even if you have to accept defeats from these values in the short-term.

Accordingly, as a journalist you will report both sides of the story, even if your bias does spill out in the framing of it, and even if the other side's view becomes popular enough to temporarily threaten a program that you want to see carried out, calculating that maintaining trust in the institution of journalism will allow you to reach more people in the long-term.

As a professor, you will teach views that you disagree with even if some students may be influenced by them, because the legitimacy of academia as a place of open inquiry is more important in the long-term to the success of your ideas.

As a scientist, you will challenge wrong theories that may advance your views in the short-term, but threaten the integrity of science in the long-term. As a lawyer you will defend people you disagree with to maintain an open system that allows you the freedom to dissent.

It's not always like this. There's plenty of bias and favoritism in the mix. But underneath it is the notion that the institutions that keep a society open are the best means of creating a liberal society.

But now you are a liberal in 2015 and the society is already very liberal. You are the product of liberal professors who learned at the feet of other liberal professors for 3 or 4 generations. You grew up in a liberal community to parents whose grandparents were already singing red campfire songs. Like them, you came of age as a member of a natural elite.

The newspapers you read, the textbooks you studied, the movies you watch, the professors who taught you and every adult you grew up with all reflect your point of view. You have no sense of being marginalized or out of step. Nor do you have any sense that there is another point of view out there. Only ranks of ignorant teabaggers paid for by corporate money who are about to be swept away into the dustbin of history as soon as the multicultural youth of tomorrow put together another Hip-Hop Against AIDS protest.

You live in a bubble and you see no need for an open society or for maintaining the integrity of institutions such as journalism or the scientific community. The very idea of objectivity is at odds with your entire way of thinking because it presumes that there is some higher truth than the one propounded by the progressive reality-based community. And you know, with the casual faith of any born believer, that this is not possible.

As a journalist, you report a progressive narrative. The other side doesn't exist except as an obstacle, a stumbling block to the forward march of progress. They are only there to be ridiculed out of history. When you see numbers showing that very little of the country trusts the media, you disregard them, because what else are all those strange people in flyover country going to do anyway? Stop watching CNN? Stop reading Newsweek? And if they disagree, it's because they hate the truth. Truth being your ideology.

As a scientist, you formulate a conclusion that will lead to a healthier society, and then you build a hypothesis around it, and then you declare it to be science. Anyone who disagrees, hate science.

Science being equivalent to your ideology which, you believe, is based on science, making actual science unnecessary. 

Your science, like your journalism, consists of the progressive narrative that proves whatever you want it to prove, whether it's that capitalism will melt the icebergs, homosexuality is genetically fixed or oil is about to run out.

Scientific objectivity has no more meaning to you than it did to the Caliph who torched the Library of Alexandria. If science is worth anything, then it's progressive. And if it doesn't, then it's worthless.

As a teacher or professor, you teach your students to challenge whatever their parents taught them, while accepting whatever you teach them. Your goal is not to teach them to think, but to trap them in a closed loop of progressive thinking, forever looking down at the less enlightened while striving to become more enlightened without actually giving up any privilege.

As a lawyer, you work to create a closed system where no one gets any rights except through the progressive narrative. An open system is no longer in your favor now that you think you control it. You have no idea why anyone who is right would want to let those who are wrong speak out and spread their ignorance and hate.

Across a variety of fields, open institutions become closed systems. Their purpose is finished now that they have led people into the maze. What was once open inquiry has become closed indoctrination. The legitimacy of the institution and the system no longer concerns those who run it, now that they believe that there are no more alternatives to them. These systems have become discredited but those who run them believe that the debate is over.

The open mind was a useful tool in the past because it enabled the questioning of another way of thinking, doing and being. But now it's an obstacle because the way of thinking, doing and being is owned by the former questioners. Dissent is only patriotic when you're one of the patriots. Questioning authority should only be done when you are the questioner, rather than the authority.

Or to put it another way, the men who run them are no longer liberals who sell journalism, science, the law or ideas. They think that the revolution has come and they only sell one thing now.

It comes in a little red box that closes and never opens again.

The trap has closed, but the trappers are as much inside it as anyone else. Worse still, they are as unaware of being inside it as fish are of water. The closed system is all they know. Doublethink displays of cynicism and faith based on party affiliation are second nature to them.

They have forgotten how to think about things, but they are very good at thinking about how to convince others of those things. They no longer explore ideas, they only missionize. They are great marketers, but failed intellectuals. Their only skill set is a social media strategy. They can convince people to do something, but they can't ask whether the thing should be done.

The American liberal is dead from the neck up. A member of the elite, he rules, but has no talent for it. Like the Bolsheviks, he is adept at blaming others for everything and at manufacturing simple slogans. And like them he thinks only in terms of power, control and leverage, without understanding why his intellectual predecessors spent so much building up the institutional influence that he casually squanders by destroying the credibility of journalism, public service and academia. 

Generational degradation has robbed him of any sense of time. He is always living in the present, which also seems to him to be the future. The past to him is a treasure trove of eccentricities. And he cannot conceive of any future that supersedes his way of life. Patience, like objectivity, is a foreign notion to him. Nothing can wait for tomorrow or ten years from now. Everything must come about right now. Battles are won, but wars are lost. The liberal hare races ahead into the post-everything future, never considering that in the long-term, it is the slow conservative tortoise that wins the race.


  1. Naresh Krishnamoorti8/4/15

    The cultural Marxists understood that it would take a generation or two to do what the Muslim Brotherhood thinks it can do within a year -- use the openness of society to take it over, and then close it forever.

    For Christians, this is a week to commemorate the triumph of good over evil, and truth over lies. History will end with the triumph of good over evil. Evil knows it; it knows its time is short; and thus it rages.

    What we are seeing today, which is different from a generation ago, is the rage. What this rage evidences to me is the fact that the Left knows its time is short, and that it's just about to lose.

  2. Anonymous8/4/15

    Best thing I have read all year...

    God Bless You

  3. Anonymous8/4/15

    The liberals have become so close-minded and arrogant that is it totally obvious to anyone paying attention. Their philosophy is completely bankrupt. Let's pray that their whole power apparatus comes crashing down from the weight of their hubris and the rot at the foundation of their beliefs. - Halevi

  4. Whacked it right outta the ballpark, Mr. Knish! Beautiful, compelling, smart-ass, and profoundly true...all in equal measures.

  5. Wish I could write like that.

  6. Rich Kline9/4/15

    This says what I have trying to say for years, decades . . .

  7. Anonymous9/4/15

    Well stated. The problem with an open society is that it can't exist without a virtuous citizenry. Its institutions are inherently vulnerable to those who would destroy it. Materialists are not virtuous.

    Barring an act of God, we are heading into dangerous times, indeed. The Left has 18 months left to make itself invulnerable, because it has no intention of relinquishing power. The Obama regime will become oppressive in ways that will shock us, even today. This in turn will galvanize resistance, some of it dramatic. Plus, the Islamists will be encouraged to act aggressively against us while the window of opportunity is open, before Obama is conceivably replaced by an administration less malleable and in thrall to the Muslim Brotherhood. For similar reasons, China and Russia will also quicken their efforts against us, while we are down and out.

    There's a lesson for us in this, but "Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is high; I cannot attain it."

  8. Anonymous9/4/15

    Does the conservative turtle really win the race? We thought the blue cities and states would have to start becoming more business friendly after their industrial and financial bases left en masse but all that has happened is that the urban machine Democrat moved into the Federal government and State Department. The opponents of the closed system will eventually win as the system collapses but will that really be conservatives as we understand them?

  9. Anonymous9/4/15

    Brilliant piece, Daniel. Power is always a lure, of course, but looking at today's politically correct social scientists, it seems to pay very, very well, too.
    Not that that matters, or so they say.


  10. This liberal take-over began years before, but it was codified when B.F. Skinner published (with a grant from HHS) "Beyond Freedom and Dignity" in 1973.
    Skinner has been called the most influential person regarding mental health in the 20th Century.
    Skinner is all about behavior modification instead of character modification.
    The gist of the book is that not only are we not responsible for our choices and behavior, but the very idea that we have the ability to choose should be scrubbed from society to the point that it is impossible for that concept to even exist.
    The liberals are all about control.
    Skinner's theories have polluted our institutions throughout this nation from, Corrections (what an Orwellian term), hospitals, schools, and universities. The book spent weeks on the NYT Best Sellers List.

  11. Somehow I thought you were no longer posting here. I'm glad I was mistaken.


  12. Anonymous9/4/15

    Liberals will never give up until their personal oxen get gored. Then they will show themselves for the crybabies they are. It will then be time to get all the 't-baggers' kids rounded up for military service, they deserve to suffer..
    Does Obama think that when Iran nukes us, they will spare his favorite golf courses, or that his wealth will be protected ? Never mind what the M.E. would look like without Israel.
    Long term thinking seems to give him a headache.


  13. The Liberals I know or have encountered are some of the most miserable people on earth. Who would want to live like that? And most of them are cowards to the core. What really cracks me up is if a war comes with Muslims in this country, the libs will have to side with Christians if they want to survive. However, there is some hope. The fog of progressive crap is beginning to lift from some of their minds, and they see what a jerk-off we have in DC. Ohio is going to pass an open-carry and silencer allowed law, and many other states are enhancing their right to carry laws. Progressives have turned this country into a terrible place where we need 310 million guns, and that will probably save us. There was hope when I was growing up. There is no hope now, and the future seems to be misery and war in America.

  14. Anonymous9/4/15

    You're being too generous, writing as though the left has been sleepwalking into this state of affairs. The process has always been intentional. The whole point of freedom and openness is to lay the groundwork for authoritarianism: http://www2.law.ucla.edu/volokh/blog/baldwin.pdf

  15. that's actually the point of the article

  16. "Twelve voices were shouting in anger, and they were all alike. No question, now, what had happened to the faces of the pigs. The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which." George Orwell, Animal Farm

  17. Anonymous10/4/15

    I have stated this truth often, but much less eloquently and philosophically; that the left is wearing their heads up their asses. And they are morally and intellectually incapable of pulling them out.

  18. Anonymous10/4/15

    Liberals, Bolsheviks, Communists. You sound rather McCarthy-esque here. And, judged by the comments above, it played brilliantly.

    Paranoia runs quite deep.

  19. Anonymous11/4/15

    Antonio Gramsci would be so proud.

  20. A wonderful, deeply thought out article as ever Mr Greenfield. But I would take issue with your final sentence re the Conservative tortoise and liberal hare, purely from a racial-demographic point of view. White Americans are already a minority group amongst the very young and the majority of non-whites are not, historically speaking, natural conservatives. We could very well see the minority tortoises unable to resist the onslaught from the liberal hares. We are not just in a long term political war, we are in a demographic war as well and at the moment we are losing. Badly. How this will affect our future fills me with little optimism regarding our long-term democratic means of survival. Or in other words, there will have to come a time when we must physically fight for our racial, cultural and economic interests.

  21. DAMN I wish you Yanks would stop calling profoundly illiberal people "liberals".

  22. Anonymous11/4/15

    We need to rehabilitate the idea of bigotry. Make it seem so foolish as to be against bigotry. Demand transgender quotas in civil rights organizations. Equality is equality for all!

  23. I fail to see that conservatives ever win races. Conservatives pick up the pieces after the wreckage of progressive victory leaves few alternatives. But we may have moved into territory which was once unnatural in America, where the past is so buried in disrespect that there can be no return of conservatives.

  24. Martel the Second11/4/15

    Excellent article!

    I see a few signs of hope in the West -
    1 - The left's ideology - socialism - is one that has never worked anywhere that it's been tried. This also makes it easy to criticise using reason and logic (tools that the left don't have).

    2 - The success (and increasing numbers) of charter schools. These schools are unlikely to be pumping out the same left-wing indoctrination that passes for "education" in government-run schools. This means that more and more young people will be gaining an ability to reason and think - two things that the left hugely fears.

    3 - There are still a good number of conservatives out there. We have *facts* on our side along with the tools of reason and logic to back them up. All that the left has is abuse and vitriol.

    4 - We can *undermine* the left by continually criticising it and showing up its ignorance, hypocrisy, foolishness and evil.
    It's the old saying - "attack is the best form of defence". *We* have facts and logic on our side - the left only has abuse and labels.

    If the massively-outnumbered Brits could hold off the might of the Luftwaffe in the Battle of Britain then I'm **damned SURE** that we - the conservatives - can and will eventually triumph over the hollow left.

  25. Anonymous11/4/15

    To Mr. Perry de Havilland: Sir, you are right on point. Conservatives play along with the game and use the names/word created by the left as if they have existed forever. It is all newspeak.

    I noticed how after the fall of the Soviet Union, somehow, the left wound up with the color "Blue" as their color while conservatives wear "Red", the traditional color of marxist, fascist, communist people. Just who assigned these colors? And why did the "right" accept this? I think it was simple for the media but it did not have to be accepted. I think the conservatives should replace "red" with the flag, "red-white & blue" and let the left keep their blue. It was meant to disguise their motives to the public and paint the conservatives in a bad light subconsciously.

    So it is not too late to make these kinds changes for whatever they are worth. But sadly, the sheep do not even bleep about their freedoms being trampled upon. All they know is they get free stuff. Yippee!

  26. Ray, you are so right. The left controls the language and orwellized all the good words starting with Liberal & Democratic and the colors too. We should change conservative into Valuers

  27. Is art and entertainment reflecting trends or is it dictating trends?

    When art and entertainment become political statements.

    The more that art and entertainment become political statements, the less they are art and entertainment. Art and entertainment should be independent of politics. Any contribution that they make to life and politics should be incidental. They should reflect reality not dictate it.

    Entertainment first and foremost should entertain, and art should be about art.

    Which is not to say that they cannot be about politics or life in general, only that they should not directly indoctrinate. If art and entertainment is educational this should be unintentional, it can be satyrical and critical but should never be designed to depict a one-sided political ideology. They should not be designed to indoctinate, they can influence but not dictate. Art and entertainment should be intended to be neutral and fulfill primarily its artistic and entertaining function.

    Much of what we are served by the media of news, art and entertainment often reflects a political correctness and a one -sided positive view of multiculturalism, portraying political mismanagement in a positive light where it should be exposing it. Negative and destructive policies are never scrutinized. While opposition and objection to policy is scrutinized, condemned, marginalized, bagatellized and ridiculed. Art and entertainment is no longer neutral or objective and it is intended to intimidate into acceptance any opposition to the dominant political doctrine.

    Art and entertainment has to be independent of politics.

    Leftist, internationalist, multicultural, open-borders immigration positive, anti-nationalists dominate the media, universities, the arts and entertainment industries.

    Theoretically they appear right, but the world descends into chaos as a result of their policies, with social conflict almost everywhere. The world (or a country) cannot be run on well-meaning theories. The world has to be run on a very practical level. The causes of the conflicts; indiscriminate immigration and an unfounded belief in the multicultural society has to be brought under control and rejected. Reality is falsified and reason denied by leftist-multiculturalists that dominate the media and dictate policies that are fosters of the imagination.

  28. Anonymous16/4/15

    Great article as usual. I'd recommend readers check out Closing of the American Mind by Allan Bloom to see a book length treatment on this same topic. But to be honest, I haven't been able to even finish the book because I started to lose my heart about 1/3rd the way through.

    We are all quite close to losing everything we cherish: life, liberty, property. Best to swallow this bitter reality and get ready for battle to save America.

  29. When I am weak I appeal to freedom because that is according to your values. When I am strong I take away your freedom because that is according to mine.

  30. Anonymous23/7/15

    Joe Tomei is an asshole.


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