The Eternal Darkness of the Progressive Mind

by Bruce S. Thornton // FrontPage Magazine 

The attacks on Lone Survivor, the movie about 4 Navy Seals caught in an operation gone lethally wrong in Afghanistan, illustrate once again the fossilized orthodoxy of the left. The L.A. Weekly’s Amy Nicholson called the movie a “jingoistic snuff film” that “bleeds blood red, bone-fracture white, and bruise blue” and assumes “brown people bad, American people good.” Similarly, Salon’s Andrew O’Hehir called it a “jingoistic, pornographic work of war propaganda.” Such rhetoric reveals the anti-military, anti-American biases typical of progressives, a form of bigotry as stale as disco king Tony Manero’s white leisure suit.

The reference to 1977’s Saturday Night Fever isn’t random. The next year another movie debuted that goaded the left into a similar fit of anti-American high dudgeon. The Deer Hunter, Michael Cimino’s sympathetic portrayal of 3 working-class steelworkers caught up in the inferno of the Viet Nam war, generated the same sort of stale, leftist anathemas we’re still hearing nearly 40 years later. An op-ed by New York Times war correspondent John Pilger thundered, “Hollywood sensed that a lot of money could be made with a movie that appealed directly to those racial instincts that cause wars and that allowed the Vietnam war to endure for so long.” That’s how 37 years ago a lefty said “brown people bad, American people good.” Viet Cong collaborator Jane Fonda, whose treacly Coming Home lost the best-picture Oscar to Deer Hunter, without bothering to see the movie whined that it was “racist” and that “our picture was better.”

Fashion in dance and dress changes and evolves, which is why these days no one dances or dresses like Tony Manero. But the progressive mind is permanently lost in its ideological darkness. It is still hostage to the left-wing catechism of American evil, a narrative already in its second century and obviously immune to historical change or logical coherence. You know how it goes: American foreign policy has always really been about advancing the capitalist interests of corporate overlords by violently appropriating the labor and resources of the Third World, no matter how much cultural or environmental destruction is wreaked. The American people are coopted into this nefarious neo-colonialism by a spurious patriotism about the “land of the free,” and ginned up threats to “our way of life.” Behind this cheerleading rhetoric, however, lies the “inordinate fear,” to quote Jimmy Carter, of alien ideologies like communism and now Islamism, which threaten the capitalist hegemony and white superiority. This “jingoism” thus plays on the racist fear of “brown people” and the need to validate white identity by contrasting it with an inferior “other.” Deeper insecurities––no doubt of a sexual nature––among lumpen Americans are likewise exploited and soothed by militaristic “propaganda” and macho fantasies in which noble white heroes slaughter evil “people of color” under the banner of justice and freedom.

Leftists have been taught by Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, and Edward Said the deeper truths: that patriotism and “freedom” are just ways to con the oafish masses, racism is the cancer deep within the American psyche, and corporate profit and power are the prime movers of American foreign policy. This cartoonish melodrama is everywhere in American culture, from the movies of Oliver Stone to the obscure ruminations of university scholars.

Lest you think I exaggerate, here’s an example from 20 years ago, penned by a “cutting edge” academic from a prestigious university: “We too in our culture need to come to grips with our deep emotional investments in our own John Waynes, Charles Bronsons, Chuck Norrises, and Clint Eastwoods––with figures whose essential brutality, moral obtuseness, and gender-based emotional blockage we are constantly invited to forgive . . . And why? Perhaps because we are dimly aware that, as a society, our privileges derive from the genocide of Native Americans, from the crushing of Japan, the devastation of Korea and Vietnam, and––not least––the systematic brutal repression of the criminal element at home effected for us by our military and detective heroes.” Change the names of the actors, and this mash-up of Marx, Freud, and Germaine Greer would not be out of place in the reviews of Lone Survivor or The Deer Hunter, for these ideas have no grounding in historical reality, existing only as the free-floating jargon and clichés of the progressive rosary.

Indeed, the historical value of such comments is nil. Anyone who thinks that the “crushing of Japan” in World War II––the Japan of racist, imperialist Shintoism–– was anything other than a great service to the human race is morally and intellectually idiotic. Ask the 300,000 Chinese raped, tortured, and slaughtered in Nanking, ask the thousands of American and Philippine soldiers brutalized during the Bataan death march, ask the thousands of allied POWs routinely starved, tortured, worked to death, and beheaded. This same obtuseness persists today, as the left ignores or rationalizes the beheadings, torture, and massacres perpetrated by the Taliban, but patronizes and demonizes the American soldiers who not only put an end to such horrors, but risked their lives to rebuild Afghanistan and protect its people.

These pathologies of the progressive mind bespeak a cult-like mentality in which fact or consistent principle has no place. How else can one explain the deep and abiding affection of the left for some of history’s most brutal dictators? What else but terminal cognitive and moral dissonance can explain the creepy obsession with Che Guevara, a murderous thug whom lefties moon over like a teenybopper over Justin Bieber? What possible logical or moral reason could there be for the endless parade of celebrities and politicians––like New York’s new mayor–– making the pilgrimage to Havana to kiss Fidel Castro’s ring? Sure, fashion has a lot to do with it. But these thugs and killers are the saints of the left-wing cult, one that has always worshipped power and lusted to cut through the irreducible complexity of human identity and its conflicting goods in order to create their vision of heaven on earth, one in which they and their ilk will always call the shots.

As for those who reject the progressive gospel, they are heretics and sinners to be persecuted, scorned, and insulted, the “preterite,” as the old Puritans called them, cast aside by God to suffer eternal damnation while the “elect” enjoy eternal bliss in their tony bicoastal enclaves. That explains the smugness and self-righteousness of the typical progressive––the irony being that rather than enlightened, their minds have been darkened by stale clichés and ignorance of basic history, the furniture of the mediocre mind trained not in basic skills and critical thinking, but only to repeat by rote the progressive catechism.

Cults, however, can be dangerous. Right now a president marinated for decades in this rancid ideology of America’s foreign policy sins is ceding American influence in the Middle East to predators like Iran and Russia, leaving behind a world more violent and dangerous, and more hostile to America’s security and interests. And with his precipitate withdrawals from Iraq and Afghanistan, he is squandering the sacrifices and heroism of better men like the Navy Seals of Lone Survivor.

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