Promoted from the Ricochet Member Feed by Editors Created with Sketch. Liberalism and Profanity

 

shutterstock_173867810The pages of liberal, and especially feminist, commentary are awash with cursing. Just below the elite levels of the commentariat, cursing is as much a part of liberal discourse as “problematic,” “privilege,” and “narrative.” To read left-wing thought online, not merely in the comments sections but even in the featured pieces on websites like Salon and Slate, is to wade through cant peppered with curse words. In part, liberals use this vulgar lingua franca to establish their radical bona fides. Someone who regularly curses is manifestly not defined by the “establishment.” Despite their status among the cultural elite, the left is beholden to the imagery of radical chic. Comfort with cursing is a holdover from this stance and part of a deep-seated desire to relive the glory days of protest. All the same, there is more than radical posturing in the left’s love affair with profanity. The use of vulgar language is a logical extension of the pervasive grip popular post-modernism has in American culture and in its public discourse.

There is substance at the higher levels of liberal thought, but in its popular forms contemporary liberalism is the politics of symbols and emotion. Liberalism lacks an intellectual core, something we might trace to the great disillusionment with the failure of Marxism. In place of principles, liberalism has become an outlook of symbols. A liberal is what they support or what they espouse. See, for example, the absurd rise of #hashtag activism, perhaps the perfect distillation of symbolic politics. Holding events or episodes up as symbols of cultural malaise or depravity that need to be attacked is a core strategy for advancing the symbolic politics of liberalism. Kevin D. Williamson at NRO had an interesting piece on this notion recently.

If symbols are what form a liberal’s identity to the public, the chief criterion for the rightness or wrongness of an issue in the liberal mind is how it makes one feel. Post-modernism strips political and intellectual discussion of objective intellectual standards. The subjective self becomes the only criterion of judgment to which one has access. Once these suppositions are accepted, rational arguments are impossible and discourse is necessarily reduced to emoting, over-emoting, and playing on an interlocutor’s emotional sensibilities. In liberal blogging, the imperative is always to show more emotion. More anger, more joy, more disappointment. Forty years of obsession with feelings notwithstanding, the emotional and literal vocabularies of post-moderns are truncated things. The capacity to express complex and nuanced emotions in specific language is beyond many today (to the extent that one can express deep feelings in language). The result is that political commentary is frequently a struggle to out-emote an opponent with limited resources for expressing said emotion.

Profanity is effective at amplifying sentiments in a whole range of emotions. For liberals, cursing becomes the de rigueur tool for showing their superiority of emotion. The post-modern flight from rationalism coupled with a decline in emotional and verbal expression has led to a level of discourse where saying “I [expletive] hate Republicans for taking away my choice,” becomes a valid form of expression. Exclaiming how one [expletive] feels about something is the mode of communication of first and last resort. This is not to say liberals do not use cursing to claim an edgy or radical posture, or to be deliberately confrontational. Of course they do. Nevertheless, given the teaching and acceptance of the precepts of post-modernism, expletive-filled commentary as a symbol of earnest, if poorly articulated, emotion is the natural consequence. It is all they have.

There are 14 comments.

  1. namlliT noD Member

    Josh FX: The pages of liberal, and especially feminist, commentary are awash with cursing.

    Yeah, but how much? 

    Matthew Sheffield: Profanity greater on liberal blogs:

    Dividing the number of instances of profanity by the number of pages of the sites on which they appear, then multiplying the result by 100 yields what might be called a “profanity quotient.”

    The top 10 liberal sites […] have a profanity quotient of 14.6.

    The top 10 conservative sites […] have a quotient of 1.17.

    That’s quite a disparity. Liberals are more than 12 times likely to use profanity than conservatives on the Web.

    About an order of magnitude.

    (This is from 2008, the sites have changed since, but I’m sure the results are similar if not more disparate.)

    • #1
    • May 29, 2014, at 11:34 AM PST
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  2. Josh FX Inactive
    Josh FX Post author

    I thought about including some anecdotal examples but decided that between the CoC and my desire not to get bogged down in the liberal blogosphere I would just make the claim and hope people agreed with me. The data you’re presenting here entirely confirms my contentions – 12:1, that’s incredible.

    • #2
    • May 29, 2014, at 11:59 AM PST
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  3. Aaron Miller Member

    Josh FX: Profanity is effective at amplifying sentiments in a whole range of emotions. For liberals, cursing becomes the de rigueur tool for showing their superiority of emotion.

    Feigned authenticity is the most annoying kind of fraud.

    • #3
    • May 29, 2014, at 4:02 PM PST
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  4. John Walker Contributor

    This may be as much a generational thing as one linked to politics, although of course there is presently a correlation between the two. When I view YouTube videos with no political content whatsoever, in which the political viewpoint of the creator does not figure (for example, do it yourself narratives, exploration of technological gizmos, etc.), I find that when the creator is less than thirty years of age profanity is used for emphasis as freely as I would have used strong language like “very” when I was that age during the Monroe administration.

    The language seems to be evolving toward normalising profanity as part of normal discourse. What is interesting is that we now seem to have run out of words that shock people. I’ve been pondering a post titled “What shocks millennials?”. I can’t think of any words which would, comparable to the impact of words I hear all the time would have on me at their age.

    Perhaps concepts, such as “People are born with different aptitudes for different things.”

    • #4
    • May 29, 2014, at 5:10 PM PST
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  5. Roberto, Crusty Old Timer Member

    John Walker:

    The language seems to be evolving toward normalising profanity as part of normal discourse. What is interesting is that we now seem to have run out of words that shock people. I’ve been pondering a post titled “What shocks millennials?”. I can’t think of any words which would, comparable to the impact of words I hear all the time would have on me at their age.

    I do not believe this is quite the case. It is not so much that there are no words which will shock millennials so much as shock is beyond them. The case seems to me one where they express “shock” in two modes either complete indifference or blind rage. For example if you wished to “shock” a millennial write something non-laudatory regarding homosexuality. In a previous generation a perceived breech of etiquette would produce shock but in this case you will see rage. 

    Shock requires a more developed sense of aesthetics than millennials appear to posses. 

    Perhaps concepts, such as “People are born with different aptitudes for different things.”

    This might work as well. 

    • #5
    • May 29, 2014, at 7:03 PM PST
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  6. Podkayne of Israel Member

    This is true in my experience. Excessive and habitual use of profanity tends to reflect either weak vocabulary and debating skills or prolonged service as an enlisted man in the US armed forces.
    Yes, the feminists are particularly guilty; evidently they believe it makes them seem “authentic”.
    I think it is a form of verbal bullying, but if you say that, it just makes them swear more.

    • #6
    • May 29, 2014, at 10:35 PM PST
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  7. Profile Photo Member

    Ur f_ _ _ _ _ _ wrong, man.

    • #7
    • May 29, 2014, at 11:12 PM PST
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  8. Josh FX Inactive
    Josh FX Post author

    Aaron Miller:

    Feigned authenticity is the most annoying kind of fraud.

     To some extent, though, I think they believe it. 
    As far as it being a generational thing, I think you’re right, John, but I don’t think that excludes my argument. The millenial generation who do most of the liberal blogging were brought up deeply immersed in what I’ve been calling popular post-modernism.

    • #8
    • May 29, 2014, at 11:49 PM PST
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  9. Josh FX Inactive
    Josh FX Post author

    As an aside, and I thought about including this as a separate paragraph, I think that the popular post-modern intellectual foundation of the subjective self helps explain why “privilege” and the need to check it has become a core part of left-liberal-progressive conversation. When everyone is beholden to ostensibly equal subjective selves, with no objective criteria to discern between the two, clashing feelings and lived experience tend to devolve, if the arguees stick to their guns, into a detente. The notion of privilege allows one interlocutor – the most oppressed, marginalized, and victimized – to undermine their opponents lived experience, essentially making an end run around the subjective self and asserting their subjectivity as, what?, less subjective or at least less distorted by the myopia that goes hand-in-hand with being in a privileged class.

    • #9
    • May 29, 2014, at 11:54 PM PST
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  10. Songwriter Member

    A Beleaguered Conservative:

    Ur f_ _ _ _ _ _ wrong, man.

     Made me snort coffee.

    • #10
    • May 30, 2014, at 6:08 AM PST
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  11. Western Chauvinist Member

    Damn straight. ;-)

    I’ve been saying for years that progressives got nothin’. They fill up their “conversation” with a bunch of vulgarity to compensate for the lack of content.

    Zafar is about the only liberal I know who tries to argue coherently. He’s still wrong, of course. ;-) He’s such a rarity, though, maybe we should all pitch in and buy him a membership upgrade.

    Perhaps we should kick around the idea of a Ricochet prime — a place where the rules are relaxed a little so progressives can have a crack at intellectually honest conversation. For instance, everyone gets one CoC violation per day. Save it up and make it a good one!

    • #11
    • May 30, 2014, at 3:22 PM PST
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  12. Podkayne of Israel Member

    Western Chauvinist:

     For instance, everyone gets one CoC violation per day. Save it up and make it a good one!

     I like what the late British comic Michael Flanders said. If we use profanity all the time, what will we have left for special occasions?

    • #12
    • May 31, 2014, at 11:09 AM PST
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  13. AIG Inactive
    AIG

    Profanity is now considered an appropriate form of debate, sufficient to earn you first place at national debating championships.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFbQftMe6qY&feature=share

    I should put a warning on this video. It is not for the faint of heart.

    • #13
    • May 31, 2014, at 3:43 PM PST
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  14. Fredösphere Member

    Josh FX: The notion of privilege allows one interlocutor – the most oppressed, marginalized, and victimized – to undermine their opponents lived experience, essentially making an end run around the subjective self and asserting their subjectivity as, what?, less subjective or at least less distorted by the myopia that goes hand-in-hand with being in a privileged class.

    That’s well-said; it’s a kind of attitude where some subjective viewpoints are more equal than others.

    • #14
    • May 31, 2014, at 4:46 PM PST
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