SYNDICATED COLUMN: Right-Wing Liberals

Learning the Lessons of Egypt 

I’m not much for sports analogies, but any athlete knows about the home field advantage. It’s easier to win if you play your game, not your opponent’s.

This is even more true in politics. Playing by your enemy’s rules is a mug’s game.

For whatever reason, conservatives and right-wing activists — the latter distinguishable from the former because they want to push past stodgy establishmentarianism into radical reactionism (e.g., fascism and its close relatives) — understand that he who makes the rules usually wins the fight. Whether it’s the aggressive redistricting of Texas voting districts engineered by Karl Rove on behalf of Republicans, or the brutalist media activism of FoxNews and other Murdoch properties like The Wall Street Journal, or hiring goons to beat up election officials during the 2000 Florida recount, right-wingers get that politics is war, no Queensbury rules. Only victory matters.

Leftists — not soft, smooshy liberals but real, honest-to-a-nonexistent-God socialists and communists — get it too. Not that you could tell from recent history, at least in the United States. They’re dispirited and disorganized. Nevertheless, they remember enough Marx and Mao to remember that might makes right.

Liberals, on the other hand, can’t manage to internalize this depressing, historically proven fact.

Columnist’s Note: At this point, if you’re a seasoned reader of opinion essays, you no doubt expect me to list examples of liberal wimpiness. Al Gore giving up in 2000. Obama not getting anything done with a Democratic Congress a few years after Bush rammed through a raft of right-wing legislation through…a Democratic Congress. Next should follow the usual exhortation to grow a pair.

A reasonable assumption, but I’m taking a different tack this time: liberals don’t understand why others refuse to get suckered.

On the morning of Thursday, August 15th, NPR interviewed a “liberal intellectual” in Egypt, where the ruling military junta had ordered soldiers to slaughter hundreds of nonviolent demonstrators staging sit-ins to protest the coup d’état that toppled the democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamist party. As is typical in these pieces, we were given no explanation as to why this man was picked to represent the reaction of the Egyptian public to the crackdown. Fluency in English? Friend of the reporter? Well-connected publicist? They didn’t say. Regardless of the reason, the effect was to anoint this “liberal” as a reasonable, albeit extraordinarily well-educated, Average Joe. Whether or not NPR producers intended it, Mr. Egyptian Liberal Voice of Reason served as the voice of NPR and thus, by extension, of American liberalism.

NPR’s pet Egyptian liberal Thursday was “novelist Alaa al-Aswany, who protested against the Mubarak regime and criticized ousted president Mohammed Morsi during his time in office.”

Al-Aswany wasted no time discrediting himself — “No, there is no military rule in Egypt, and there will never be a military rule in Egypt. And what happened is that we are living in a transition period” — before an observation I found unintentionally illuminating: “We must have the constitution first, of course. And then after that, the election. And I believe that there would be civil elected president and elected parliament who will take over.”

What about the Muslim Brotherhood? They should participate in the democratic process, he said.

But why?

On the same network, on the same show, Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign Relations was pointing out that “it’s hard to make a credible claim if you’re an Egyptian liberal” because they supported the military coup.

“There is something called the Repression Radicalization Dynamic,” said Cook. “And one can imagine Muslim Brothers saying that they tried to play by the rules of the political game. They were shut out, shut down and now being hunted and they have no recourse but to take up arms against the state. We’ve seen that before, in fact, in Egypt, in the mid-1990s. There was a low-level insurgency which killed anywhere between 1,500 and 2,000 people. Throughout the Arab world we’ve seen it in places like Algeria.” In 1992 the Front Islamique de Salut (FIS) was expected to win Algeria’s elections. The military, acting with the backing of the U.S., canceled the election, prompting the coining of the term the “American Veto.” The Americans also effectively vetoed Hamas’ win of fair elections in Gaza in 2006.

From Algeria to Gaza to Egypt, the message to Islamists is clear: don’t follow the West’s rules. Electoral democracy is for them, not for you. If you play the West’s game, if you work within their system, they’ll do whatever it takes, including cheating, to prevent you from winning. If you win anyway, they’ll overthrow you in a coup. And if you demonstrate — peacefully, nonviolently, just the way they tell you you’re supposed to, they’ll shoot you like dogs.

I’m pretty sure Islamists — and other radicals who seek political power — have learned their lesson. Goodbye ballot boxes, hello guns.

Liberals, on the other hand, clearly haven’t. Not only do they themselves insist on accepting the rhetorical framework of the right, they expect everyone else to do so as well.

Of course, there may well be a simple if unpleasant explanation for that. Stylistic differences (e.g., George W. Bush vs. Barack Obama) aside, when push comes to shove, liberals side with authoritarianism — even though the autocrats in question plan to get rid of them sooner or later — over their leftist “allies.” We’ve seen it over and over, from Germany in 1848 to Washington in 2013, where a liberal president presides over an empire of torture camps, fleets of killer robot planes, and a police state that makes East Germany’s Stasi look penny ante.

Liberals are right-wing.

(Ted Rall’s website is Go there to join the Ted Rall Subscription Service and receive all of Ted’s cartoons and columns by email.)


4 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Right-Wing Liberals

  1. Of course liberals are authoritarians. Liberals never meet a statist they didn’t like. Never mind the facts though — The Idiot Whimsical will be along to tell you to just vote democRat, and sit back and wait for the change to blossom. You know, like HCR. The liberal solution to change the abysmal health care system was to adopt the idea of the conservative think-tank, the Heritage Foundation. Namely, to entrench the private insurance system even more by forcing Americans to purchase their faulty products and further their profits. Nitwits like The Idiot Whimsical say this will magically transform into Single Payer. How? They don’t say. That’s the magic of liberals like him. You just vote democRat, and sit back and wait for the change to blossom.

  2. Some years ago, ‘epistemic closure’ became the insult du jour, and I had to look up what ‘epistemic’ meant.

    My own epistemology is repeated weekly by Michael Feldman: ‘What do you know?’ ‘Not much.’

    In the case of Egypt, everyone is screaming, ‘Liar, liar.’

    Members of the Brotherhood and the members of the press embedded among them agree: it was a peaceful protest, and the army killed more than 700 unarmed, peaceful protesters (and some journalists), and anyone who says otherwise is a liar.

    Those who oppose the Brotherhood have YouTube videos taken with mobiles showing people in civilian clothes shooting. They say members of the ‘peaceful Brotherhood protest’ were shooting at the army and police, who returned fire, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar.

    When the only witnesses to what really happened contradict each other, and no reliable source for what really happened is available, I tend to agree with Mr Feldman: What do we know? Not much.

    According to the anti-Brotherhood witnesses, Morsi agreed to a Kristalnacht DADT policy for attacks on infidels (Copts et al.). According to the Brotherhood, that was a lie.

    According to the anti-Brotherhood witnesses, Morsi appointed as director of tourism a senior member of the Brotherhood who’d been jailed for killing tourists, and whose official policy on tourism was that no infidels would be allowed in Egypt, thereby killing one of Egypt’s biggest sources of revenue. According to the Brotherhood, that was a lie.

    According to the anti-Brotherhood witnesses, Morsi said only members of the Brotherhood would get any of the spoils of being in complete control of Egypt. According to the Brotherhood, that was a lie.

    So I have no idea what to believe.

    But Egypt is NOT Algeria, and even for Algeria, I have heard slightly contradictory stories. Both agree that the civil war resulted in more than 200,000 deaths, but some say that was more than died fighting for freedom against the French, and some say that was the second worst cause of deaths AFTER the war for freedom from the French.

    The Brotherhood say that it is supported by more than 70% of Egyptians who will join it in fighting against the oppressive anti-Islamist forces. The anti-Brotherhood say 70% of Egyptians wanted a Constitution with a recall provision, and would have voted to recall Morsi.

    So, as Pilate asked, ‘What is TRVTH?’

  3. I liked the “Columnist’s note” and the “wasted no time discrediting himself.”

    A primary example of commonplace cognitive dissonance. People should have democracy unless they vote for the wrong guys.

  4. What is certain is that the military resorted to slaughter when it was completely capable of political engagement. That is absolute — everyone agrees on that. Its one saving grace after removing Morsi from power was that it stopped right there. It was plausable, hell, persuasive, to argue that Morsi had de facto (or de jure) destroyed democracy with his changes. A public acknowledgement that such ridiculous rulebreaking is a de facto rebellion against the population that will lead to and justify a rebellion against the government would have given the military and the parties concerned some credibility. Political negotiations could ensue.

    Instead, we’re seeing a purge.


    Ted defines liberal VASTLY differently than I think he should. The phrase “left wing” doesn’t mean shit, imo, and a “liberal rightwinger” is an utter oxymoron. Whimsical, for example, is just a rightwinger, not some kind of bizarre hybrid.

    Left wing is meaningless because right wing doesn’t refer to an ideology, but a completely immoral political stance. That’s why rightwingers can change principles so quickly: they don’t have any. A rigthwinger for state’s rights on Thursday and against them on Friday isn’t inconsistent: he’s just a lying asshole. Being the latter part of that imprecation is what being a rightwinger is all about.

    Left wing, then, would just mean everybody else with at least some morals, which puts vastly and virulently contradictiory political philosophies in the same boat. That’s meaningless, an incoherent category.

    Liberal actually has some hard-and-fast values. If you say you’re liberal and you don’t have those values, you’re just a liar, no matter how many fellow-travellers you have. For example, voting rights are a liberal value, historically speaking. Hell, the notion that the government exists for the people’s sake (instead of it being a gang used to extort the population) is a liberal position. There are plenty of “liberals” who disagree with these notions, and these persons have vast amount of political and social power — but they haven’t changed the definition of liberal. They’re just lying assholes.

    I’m not trying to make the word “liberal” a shiny badge of goodness. I’m saying that words have meaning and corruption doesn’t change that.