October 8, 2008

Exposing The Appropriation Of The Word “Liberal”

The term “liberal bias” is very sneaky.

“Liberal” and “conservative” have very different meanings. They really do imply and denote profoundly different orientations to our fellows and to our world. They work very differently because the beliefs and practices they entail are profoundly different. They shape and transform our relations and our planet in opposing ways.

To associate them together through the articulation of “bias” is an especially effective trick- because it works to contaminate, to degrade the “liberal,” through the unspoken (but true) implication that bias itself is bad.

Here’s a definition of bias from the Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition Copyright 1934 by G. C. Merriam. It is a substantial definition.

n. ; pl BIASES
2. A temperamental inclination; propensity or prepossession toward an object or view, not leaving the mind indifferent; bent; tendency; prejudice.

“Bent” indeed. In common usage, a bias, as in a biased perspective, opinion or understanding, suggests a “skewing,” a distortion, a warping. Bent. A prejudicial preconception and conviction, unsupported by fact and probably unjust.

Think of racial bias. Or economic bias. Biases against the specific interests of a groups. A categorical judgment and demonization of a group “identity.” But “liberal bias?

Suggesting a “liberal bias” to complement conservative biases suggests that the two words,  “liberal” and “conservative,” and their meanings, converge: that they have the same value, the same relevance, the same substance, and similar relative moral weight. It suggests that “liberal” and “conservative” have common or comparable commitments to values, to philosophical integrity and to intellectual honesty. It implies that the terms function the same way in public discourse, in language and meaning.  They don’t. Don’t be confused.

This is a deception, a perversion and theft of language. It contaminates the meaning and the accomplishments of ’the liberal project’ with the greasy and sordid language of greed and fraud.

The greatest trick of all is that it does so through the poisonous linkage of the word BIAS- a word that contaminates. It is especially poisonous because it has been tainted by the greed and meanness of a panoply of self-interested, money-grubbing, power-thieving “conservatives,” fundamentalists and sundry extremists of several stripes.

are groups that ARE “biased.“ They are highly prejudicial and discriminatory. They are groups that hate. They are overtly antagonistic to the real rights, opportunities and interests of others who are unlike themselves.

We know bias is ugly and dishonest. Why? Because we know that biases toward the rich, toward big business, toward fundamentalisms and extremisms, in general toward the interests and agendas of the powerful and privileged, are deceptive, injurious and unjust. Taken in this meaning, bias is plain, bald prejudice and discrimination. That’s what it is, and it is mean and ugly.

It seems like the very definition of bias, doesn’t it? Muddy, tarted-up “ideology” underwrites open attacks on the enfranchisement of a particular group, based on some hypocritical fundamentalism or other. Often joined with real, emotional and visceral anger and hate, toward identifiable, specific individuals.  Obviously, the injustice and the cost to the victims is real, and the benefits in the conservation and extension of power to the ideologues are all too real. These are real appropriations of power and money. Otherwise the power-hungry and acquisitive political operatives and reactionary ideologues wouldn’t traffic in this stuff.  This is greed, and this materiality alone distinguishes it from the ‘liberal’. Money changes hands. Yes, bias is ugly. And biases and their victims are particular, personal, specific and plural.

The suggestion of “liberal bias” is clearly meant to be unsavory. Influence of the benefits of public good in pursuit of what we encode as an “agenda”-any “agenda-” is naughty and undemocratic, correct?

This dishonest usage paints liberalism, and liberality itself, as avaricious, acquisitive, filthy, greedy and dishonest- and somehow covertly,deliberately and deceptively against the common good. That nefarious Liberality has been caught thieving.

To be liberal, in honest contemporary usage, is a belief in, a passion for, a commitment to liberality.

The Liberal discourse is that of liberality, and inclusion, and consensuality, and collective interests. It is about equality of opportunity, social and economic justice, equality of rights, and access tp the public institutions of democracy and justice. It is about public goods in the public trust, and defending the disenfranchised… and, well, we know what it really is. We could look it up. If you care to dig up some working Definitions for a New World Order, please post them here. Seriously.

Let’s remember that these things are real. These are real beliefs and commitments about how we think of one another and how we treat one another- liberally. They have concrete policies associated with them, and they have real consequences for us real people. They matter.
Liberalism is a commitment to the exercise and appropriation of power to… what- distribute power? Diffuse power? Empower? Throw open the gates to the City of Power?

A liberal bias would be a skewing or prejudice toward these things. This is an inherent contradiction not only in terms, but of ideas. That makes it especially hard to untangle, and an especially effective kidnap-murder of a term of reference. But we can take it back.

Let’s remember too, that “conservatism” has real people, with real beliefs and real power and real interests and Real Money, associated with it. And real policies, real “think tanks” and “pundits” and operatives, and real, concrete consequences. Maybe you share the view that these are harmful, injurious and unjust. Maybe you see them as discriminatory, or racist, or greedy, or vicious, or hugely destructive and dangerous. Maybe you just see a massive, fraudulent rip-off of public goods, the common-wealth and the dignity and livelihoods of others. Maybe not. But remember that what is at stake here is real. That is the underlying fact of “conservatism.” Real money, and real power, are at stake. And this is a real theft of our language.

We know that the “biases” of the rich and powerful –their cynical exercises of power, the policies and practices they promote and institutionalize- make them more rich and powerful. “Conservative” interests are ‘biased’ toward specifics: the concrete, material enrichment of specific individuals. Toward the accumulation and preservation of actual money and real power for the already rich and powerful.

Bias is prejudicial. It prejudges. It prejudices your opportunities and interests, and mine.

Liberalism is not a bias but an idea. It is a Project. Like the Project of Democracy. Maybe not so separable, even. Yes? Maybe it is ideological, or even an “Ideology”. We hesitate to use the term, and enclose it in quotation marks, because it too has been stolen from us and rendered dangerous and destructive to public discourse. An “Ideology” might be biased, now, mightn’t it?

The “biases” of the poor and the excluded would be… laughable? Pathetic? Would… make them more rich and powerful? Would their biases be against the interests of the rich and powerful? What kind of fundamentalism is that, anyway? Hah. You call THAT an ideology? Shit, that’s just angry, poor, brown losers talking, people.

We can’t be biased toward some folks, now can we? Especially if they have some kind of, well, defining characteristic that would easily distinguish them, like skin color or poverty or “mineral wealth” or something. Now THAT would be bias.

Liberalism is inclusion, the full expression of every voice and every interest and every truth and every experience of the world.

“Liberal bias” prejudices… equality of opportunity. It is predisposed toward… fairness. It is biased against… bias. It is, precisely, an opposition against bias! It is notbias. It is anti-bias! Oh, and bias is anti-democratic. And to invent (and harbor and abet) the term “liberal bias” is dishonest and anti-democratic. It is a Theft of Our Language. Please don’t suffocate the clarity of your thinking by using this term, or terms like it.

The language of inclusion, of populism, of liberality simply cannot be skewed or biased in this way. It is fundamentally straightening, aligning, “truing” in its meaning and in the policies and beliefs that it attends.

Clever, huh? Using the sordid taint of conservative bias to execrate liberality.

Sick fuckers. Next Week: “Liberal Agenda.”

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editor @ 9:52 pm

1 Comment »

  1. The RIGHT is WRONG

    Comment by bob bobbin — November 12, 2008 @ 2:12 pm

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