The Dehumanization of Dissent

by Patrick J. Buchanan – February 5, 1999

Browsing through Reason magazine recently, I stumbled on an article by a free-trade True Believer, who was profoundly perplexed over the inroads being made by economic nationalists.

“In a time of unrivaled prosperity,” wailed Brink Lindsey, “what has made trade liberalization so bitterly controversial?” At which point, the author announced that he had discovered why it is that “free traders … (had) wound up in the present mess.”

Was it the Asian contagion raging through the Global Economy that threw the free traders on the defensive, or the huge International Monetary Fund bailouts, or the reports of U.S. plants closing down? By no means. “The answer lies,” says Lindsay, “in an emerging nervous disorder called ‘globalphobia,’” a “fear” and “anxiety” that “affects both right and left.”

In short, the economic nationalism that has taken such forms as British mercantilism, the “American System” of Alexander Hamilton and Henry Clay, Republican protectionism from Abe Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt — is the result of a “nervous disorder,” a phobia.

Lindsay’s discovery is not without its humorous aspect. But the argument is reflective of a deeply corrupted political dialogue, in which traditional stands are routinely dismissed as the byproducts of bigotry or mental disease.

In most traditional faiths, for example, homosexuality is said to be unnatural and immoral. That view was uncontroversial. But any who express such opinions today are “homophobes” whose views must have come out of a mental disorder or a hateful bigotry.

Conservative scholar Paul Gottfried describes this method of argumentation as the “dehumanization of dissent.” Brand a person a hater or mentally ill, and you can ignore what he has to say.

Consider how commonplace the practice has become.

Though 80 percent of Americans seek a return to the stricter immigration policies that existed from the 1920s to LBJ, those who champion such changes are now written off as “nativists” who hate foreign peoples or “xenophobes” who are terrified of them.

Oppose racial preferences in hiring and promotion, and it is you who will be called a “racist.” That term, once set aside for race-baiting politicians such as the late Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi, is now regularly used on conservatives and Republicans.

In the 1950s, abortion was a felony, universally condemned as an abomination. No self-respecting doctor would do one; those who did were pariahs. If you forcefully argue that traditional view today — that an abortion is the taking of innocent life, and thus wrong, a view held by John Paul II, Billy Graham and Mother Teresa — you are an “extremist.”

Do you believe that God created man and woman different, with differing natural roles in the family and society? So did we all, not so long ago. Now, only a “sexist” believes that.

In the 1950s, proprietors of “no-tell motels” who rented rooms to unmarried couples were considered sleazy. Now, if you refuse to rent to an unmarried couple, you can be fined for, yep, bigotry.

What is taking place is something far more serious than the emergence of some new tolerance. Beliefs and values integral to our Judeo-Christian ethic and Western civilization are not only being displaced but adjudged to have been medieval and wicked.

Those in the 1960s who argued that the West was corrupt, colonialist, racist and rotten at its core, that the “white race was the cancer of human history,” as one intellectual put it, are now about the deconstruction of that detested civilization. And the strides they have made are as disheartening as they are impressive.

Like any fighting faith, this militant anti-Western ideology does not seek compromise with older faiths but their extirpation. It wants a new morality and a new history to replace the old, and the old to be seen for what it was — hateful and reactionary.

The gods of post-modern secularism are jealous gods; they will tolerate no other. And the inquisition of this new dispensation will bring before it — to be branded and burned at some symbolic stake or made to recant — all who stubbornly persist in the heresy that the old faith was true and righteous altogether.

After all, what are these terms — homophobe, racist, sexist, xenophobe, nativist — but anathemas hurled by the disciples of modernity at those who reject the new faith?

By the dehumanization of dissent and the demonization of the right as either sick or bigoted, our cultural elite has gone a long way toward establishing a new orthodoxy that few are willing to resist.