It’s sometimes difficult to understand why progressives will often be so unamenable to persuasion, even when they don’t seem to work for the state or have a direct interest in it.
It’s easy to understand a dogmatically left-wing primary school teacher. Their interests and their political beliefs are entirely in alignment. It’s a little harder to understand someone who is both left-wing and is at least indirectly harmed by left-wing policies — like, say, a small business owner, or even a high-earning employee at some firm or another. Why would he be happy to have half his income taxed, and then his free time further ‘taxed’ on paying attention to the latest developments in politics and cultural degeneration?
The easier way to understand it all is that leftists all work for the state, even when they’re not on the payroll. They’re also, to some extent, the eyes and ears of the state — or at least some of its lower-order nerve receptors. The state has certain needs of its people, and most people are more than happy to perform the functions that it requires of them.
So, why is this? It’s because the modern state is totalitarian. There’s a tension between totalitarian and liberal tendencies in the modern West that has become increasingly undone as there is no alternative pole for the West to distinguish itself against. When the Soviet sphere was still strong, Western leaders found it useful to emphasize classical liberal limits on state power over society and to some extent over economic society.
Now that the contrast is gone, the logic of the total state progresses without serious impediments. The characteristic ‘informer culture’ common to totalitarian states is now something that we all have to deal with, with some special empowerments thanks to easy-to-use internet tools like social media which ’empowers’ everyone to become deputy commisars, on the lookout for unacceptable speech and deviationist tendencies.
The destruction of liberal political norms does cause some consternation on both the left and the right. Plenty of leftists understand that without liberalism, modern democratic societies tend to degenerate into civil conflict rather quickly, as the leading party faction proceeds to liquidate all of its rivals. So, they feel uneasy, and tend to complain about violations of liberal norms in areas like privacy and restrictions of speech. These complaints have no force (they’re backed by feelings rather than weapons most of the time), so amplifying those complaints is mostly useless. Complaints about the NSA’s mass spying, for example, are the whimpers of a dying animal — not an expression of authentically vigorous resistance.
This is where the liberal remnant tends to go badly wrong: they think that they can persuade people dedicated to eradicating the liberal remnant can be persuaded through debate to either not eradicate their liberal opponents or to slow-roll the eradication. It’s important not to mistake a fight for a debate. The two types of conflict have entirely different rules and results.
Instead, we need to reconsider the political construct of liberalism, think more about why it has failed, and what alternative supports can be developed for the maintenance of the good life under civilized conditions. Civilization predates liberalism: one isn’t a requirement for the other to exist.
The liberal remnant’s effective position is that they will, even in the face of people determined to eradicate them, never let go of their liberal beliefs and restrictions on their behaviors. Liberals have tended to be brakes on the excesses of the left, which has a tendency to engulf entire continents in fire & destruction.
If you understand leftists as people who are fascinated by the flames — who authentically want to bring about the apocalypse — it starts to make sense as to why they would want to eliminate the liberals first, because of their moderating effects on the rest of the population. They wouldn’t give prizes to photos of rebels chucking molotov cocktails if they didn’t love the fire.
The mental model that people tend to have about leftists tends to be fundamentally rationalistic and utilitarian. It’s perhaps more useful to conceive of them like one of the many species of animal with an instinctive urge towards self-destruction and mass death. That’s what they shoot for, and how they ought to be understood as political opponents. They have to be contained rather than bargained with.