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Social Liberalism: Simple-minded and Pernicious Memes

When I wrote my first post on liberalism as more of a social phenomenon than an intellectual one, I imagined a series of posts dealing with many different implications of that idea.  So far I’ve written three other posts in the series on topics ranging from slogans to leftist intolerance and political changers to the so-called “wealth gap.”

One big topic that I haven’t explored yet–even though I’ve meant to do so since the start of the series–is the way in which liberal ideas are perpetuated on social media and elsewhere through the use of simple-minded memes.  As I considered the idea of social liberalism, one point which came to mind is that so many liberal memes might seem catchy at first glance,  but they are either responses to outlandish straw men, or they make no sense whatsoever when subjected to even the slightest bit of scrutiny.

At Legal Insurrection, Professor Jacobson has written a few posts about the role of the leftist site Upworthy in promulgating memes of both sorts, including a post this past Tuesday on the high cost of low-information voters.  And he’s not the only one to recognize the importance of simple-minded memes for the left.  For example, this post at Breitbart.com takes the idea one step further to reflect on the significance of LOLcats in politics.

What interests me at the moment, though, is that there is a whole class of liberal memes which go beyond the simple-minded to the downright pernicious: they promulgate leftist thinking in a way that seems ironic or clever or humorous, even as they blatantly acknowledge the darker goals of leftist ideology.   I stumbled across a prime example of one such meme on Facebook about two months ago when an acquaintance “shared” a meme which had been promoted by the Facebook group “Being Liberal” back in December 2011.  I’ve pasted the image below.

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We’re all familiar with the common liberal tropes about “beating swords into plowshares” and the frequent lament heard on the left that “if we spent on education or social programs what we spent on the military” somehow all of society’s ills would disappear.   This meme takes that same tack, but uses “irony” to take it one step further by suggesting that the government can use the military to “win the hearts and minds of the population” and put the “locals to work” working on infrastructure politics.

By supposedly employing “irony” to make its point, therefore, it moves from the simple-minded lament about spending more on education and social programs into the territory of the pernicious by endorsing the use of the military as a means of social control.  The person who posts or re-posts the idea can feign ignorance of the pernicious implications by saying that the meme isn’t “serious” or that it is “just making a point through irony,” but it’s a point which betrays the left’s ignorance of the way free people and free markets operate.  The point of the meme is unmistakable:  all good comes through government, and we ought to use the force of government to establish a planned economy.

The Facebook page for “Being Liberal” attributes this meme to one of its readers named Terry Sebolt who wrote in and said (with the disingenuousness common on the left): “”Those were my words, but not my pic. Feel free to put it anywhere you want. I meant every word of it, and hope people enjoy the irony, regardless of credit. It was a throw away line…”

The claim may be spurious, though, as I did some internet searching and the earliest example I could find for the meme online was this appearance on Twitter from August 9, 2011.  I’ve posted a screenshot of the image below.

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Regardless of the authorship, though, the claim is intended to make a point by shocking, even though those who quote the statement will try to distance themselves from its actual implications.  Those implications, though, tell us a great amount about the worldview of the left.

What’s even more amazing in the case of the person I know who re-posted this meme is that she is an immigrant from eastern Europe with a PhD in a scientific field from an American university.   She often refers to the bad days growing up in her country under a brutal dictator when everyone was suffering.  And so she moves to the U.S. and spends time in universities and decides that she’s a “liberal” and approvingly re-posts that “ironic” image.  If that’s not an example of a socially-promulgated disorder, then I’m not sure what would be.