Much conservative energy has been spent fighting the progressive re-definition of the word “racism.” The academic left has aggressively pushed the novel formulation that racism is the combination of prejudice and power. This, conveniently, renders underprivileged or oppressed groups (or at least those groups the left recognizes as underprivileged or oppressed) definitionally incapable of being “racist.”
…the right is not winning this fight.
Conservatives and libertarians are understandably angry about this; all of a sudden, this nasty, argument-ending pejorative has been defined in such a way that it seemingly only applies to members of their political coalition. And, predictably, they have pushed back.
But the right is not winning this fight. The left has invested an enormous amount of time and energy into building the intellectual edifice justifying this semantic move. As a result, conservatives find themselves on the low ground, unprepared to deal with the onslaught of progressive justifications for this novel formulation.
But there’s a word out there that progressives haven’t taken the time to redefine. This word carries almost the same burden of negative connotation that “racism” does.
That word is bigotry.
As a word, “bigotry” has fallen out of fashion in the last 200 years, especially in comparison to its younger cousin.
But even though “bigotry” has fallen out of favor, it still retains its punch. No one wants to be called a bigot. Even the sound of the word has a harshness to it, ending with an abrupt, hard consonant.
And perhaps its greatest virtue is that it is an equal opportunity pejorative. It doesn’t matter how underprivileged or oppressed you are; everyone is definitionally capable of being a bigot.
DEHUMANIZING PRO-LIFE ADVOCATES
In the past week, we’ve seen two obvious instances of pro-abortion bigotry – one coming from the American left, the other from the British “right.”
Brian Sims, a Pennsylvania State Representative, livestreamed himself harassing a group of teenage girls on the street for the egregious faux pas of suggesting that just maybe there might be an ethical problem with abortion.
Seeing these young women praying was enough to turn Sims into a screaming madman. In that moment of rage and narcissism, Sims viewed those young women the same way he views a 39-week old fetus: as not fully human.
We have a word for dehumanizing people on the basis of what they think, and for being utterly intolerant of another political viewpoint. Bigotry.
In a similarly contemptible display, British broadcaster Andrew Neil interviewed Ben Shapiro about his book The Right Side of History. I’ve read Shapiro’s book; while his brisk survey of Western philosophy and theology is impressive, there are plenty of areas available for a progressive to critique it in good faith.
That said, there was nothing resembling good faith in Neil’s interview.
Much of it was dedicated to reading ancient Shapiro quotations out of context and demanding that Shapiro explain himself. Neil seemed to suggest that because Shapiro said mean things fifteen years ago, he had no right to argue for more reasoned discourse today. Neil’s approach was facile, and Shapiro was perfectly justified in taking off his microphone and ending the interview early.
But the most striking thing about the interview was Neil’s attitude towards the pro-life position. Neil suggested to Shapiro that “some of the ideas that are popular on your side of politics would seem to take us back to the dark ages – Georgia, new abortion laws, a woman who miscarries could get thirty years [in prison].”
Neil’s statement reveals an outrageous bigotry towards those who oppose abortion.
Apart from this being a blatant mischaracterization of Georgia’s new “heartbeat” law, Neil’s statement reveals an outrageous bigotry towards those who oppose abortion. It’s one thing to suggest that the pro-life position gives insufficient consideration to the liberty interests of women, especially early in their pregnancy. It’s another thing entirely to suggest that the pro-life position is so barbaric that it would “take us back to the dark ages.”
When Shapiro challenged Neil on late-term abortion, and specifically on whether Neil would ask similarly loaded questions to a pro-choice advocate about late-term abortion, Neil dodged. In so doing Neil revealed the Spartan nature of the “modern,” absolutist pro-choice position.
If any political position would augur a return to the “dark ages,” it’s surely not the one held by those opposed to near-infanticide.
Too many progressives in 2019 are like Neil and Sims: myopic, unable to recognize that there are perfectly defensible, legitimate reasons to oppose the positions they hold dear.
In short, they are bigots.
Will Chamberlain is the publisher of Human Events.