Shortcuts & Delusions: Chasing Shadows From Fear


Three conservative writers I read on a routine basis, Ben Shapiro, Jonah Goldberg, and Kevin D. Williamson, have articles this past week that address the existential crisis the Left threw itself into following Donald Trump’s election. In a level of despair that would make Kirkegaard smile in rage and weep in jealousy, the Left has been noisily casting about in all directions for some semblance of balance and meaning, and the writers listed above examine the ideological panic attacks that now comprise the DNC, and the progressive movement at large.


From Jonah Goldberg’s “Given a Choice between Fear and Apathy, I’ll Take Fear“:

Franklin D. Roosevelt gets too much praise for his claim that the only thing Americans had to fear was “fear itself.” Fear imparts vital information. I fear snakes and sharks and the possibility of falling out of an airplane. These are all healthy fears. Fear is dangerous when it serves as a substitute for thinking. (I still swim in the ocean and travel on airplanes.) But fear can be very useful when it informs our thinking, when it focuses the mind on potential dangers ahead…
Apathy is the practical opposite of fear. Given that tyranny, going by the historical and evolutionary record, is the natural state of humankind, the greatest bulwark against it is a highly cultivated, deeply informed but nonetheless instinctive fear…
One of the things that make our politics so ugly isn’t fear, but a lack of sympathetic imagination for the fears of others. Under Obama (and FDR and others), many conservatives articulated thoughtful, informed, and rational fears about where his policies might take the country. Other, often louder conservatives offered barbaric yawps based on some of the same fears. The standard liberal response was undifferentiated scorn and mockery…
It’s far better to cultivate mutual understanding of each other’s fears than try to smooth away the fear of tyranny with the grease of apathy.

This is an eloquent retelling of the Chicken Little story, and the metaphor warning against yelling “fire!” in a crowded theater. What Goldberg is saying is that it is better to be cautious of threats, even if those threats are unfounded or outlandish, because the opposite of fear is an ambivalence that does not serve the interests of the human evolutionary traits of self-protection, empathy, and objectivity.

For years, a great many conservatives and libertarians warned that President Obama was a socialist, communist, or worse. Obama is undoubtedly of the Progressive Left, but he turned out to be a bigger advocate for corporatism than the workers owning the means of production. It was also warned that he wouldn’t be a strong enforcer of the war on terrorism, though he presided when bin Laden was killed and oversaw countless drone strikes against terror groups. Conversely, so many of the hopes Obama’s voters projected onto him either evaporated, or he did the opposite; the war on drugs continues unabated, his administration was far from “transparent,” and he became involved in LGBT issues only when he could no longer avoid them, but these shortcomings were always deflected by the Left, because it’s more important for them, for purposes of emotion and self-esteem, to cheer lead their guy than to be objectively, fairly critical of him.

The greatest fears of conservatives and libertarians regarding Obama did not come to pass, nor were the greatest aspirations of liberals for Obama fulfilled. So, now that the glove is on the other foot, warning Trump is literally Hitler will fall on conservatives’ deaf ears, and they will mock liberals for their disparagement even if/when Trump flirts with fascism.


Kevin D. Williamson writes:

It is not the “Deep State” that prevents, say, serious reform of the financial-services industry. If you want to understand why Wall Street reform seems so difficult, you should begin by considering the fact that Wall Street’s most energetic critics do not understand what Wall Street does and have no interest in taking the time to learn. The most concrete banking-reform measure Bernie Sanders ever proposed before the financial crisis was a cap on ATM fees. You don’t need a “Deep State” to outmaneuver enemies like that. Bernie Sanders couldn’t outmaneuver Mr. Magoo…
Watching Barack Obama careering around Syria policy was enough to make one wish there were some highly capable men in black behind the scenes pushing him in the right direction — they could hardly have done worse…
Neocons, globalists, the Deep State, the shadow government, the International Jew, the Illuminati — it is nice to have someone to blame, especially if that someone does not exactly exist…
Team Trump’s first-down fumble on immigration and congressional Republicans’ apparent surrender on the Affordable Care Act are not the result of arcane and shadowy forces acting against the American interest — they are the result of choices made by identifiable people, and those people have got to go. But that is not going to get done if you spend your days hunting the political equivalent of the Loch Ness Monster. President Trump likes to read the tabloids, but presumably it was not Bat Boy advising him on that first executive order on refugees. The irony is that all this chasing after shadows instead of undertaking the hard and thankless business of governing is one of the things that empower those unaccountable bureaucrats and the time-servers in the alphabet-soup agencies. You think they’re sitting around having debates about how many neocons can dance on the head of a pin?
 Ah, yes, the Deep State. What better bogeyman to blame if you’re on either the Right or the Left? Don’t like the outcome of the election? Well, you never had a chance to win, since the Deep State controls everything anyway, and their operatives are responsible for traveling back in time and convincing the Founding Fathers to dream up the Electoral College so as to thwart the will of the people.
Did your side win an election, but they can’t bring about the changes and reforms they promised voters they would enact? That’s also thanks to the Deep State! It doesn’t matter that Obama had both houses of Congress for two years, it was the Deep State that wrote Obamacare in such a way that it would consume the body politic and lead to their expulsion from power at both the state and national levels. Want to keep out Muslims? Well, you can’t, thanks to the Deep State that put judges on the bench.
What could better explain the Left’s collective ennui than the Deep State? They spent decades increasing the size of government so that it could enforce the Left’s notions of equality and prosperity on all of America, but it turns out that the administration state has priorities that don’t include divorcing Wall St. money from politics. Huh, who knew?!?!?!

I often comment on the topic Ben Shapiro writes about in “A Field Guide to Harvard’s Field Guide on ‘Fake News’”:

“Fake news,” of course, is the source of all evil, according to the Left. It’s only thanks to lies that Donald Trump was elected! Instead of targeting stories that are completely false, however, the Left applies the label of “fake news” to outlets that report factual stories but draw political conclusions from them — in other words, they call everything with which they disagree “fake news…”
Which means that their talk of “fake news” is actually fake news…
No wonder conservatives don’t trust the media — or the supposed media police. They’re too busy upholding the myth of mainstream-media objectivity to be concerned with the truth, which is that every outlet has its bias, and that we’re all better off admitting our bias openly rather than slathering facts in opinions and then conflating the two…
All in all, don’t believe that everything the Left labels “fake news” is fake news. It’s far more likely that the real fake news is that the Left is capable of policing fake news honestly, rather than merely determining that sources they hate must be ruled out of the news realm entirely…
Imagine you’ve spent your career fairly successfully convincing most people that what you say is the truth, but you then started to take too many liberties, and it’s become common knowledge that what you’ve been passing off as the truth is now known as “the truth.” Put differently, opinion with the veneer of fact had been assumed by half the population to actually be fact, and has been exposed to have been opinion all along, that agenda had driven facts, rather than the other way around. The more gullible and lazy among us take what our teachers, guidance counselors, professors, and the news media say at face value, because it didn’t occur to so many people that they may have been taken for a ride because the popular belief that educators and reporters have above all else a fealty to the truth. How would you feel if you learned the people you trusted to properly inform you of how to think and feel had been twisting facts into a narrative this entire time?
Since Trump’s election, the Left have resisted, more than anything else, two things: “fake news” (any news media that does not carry typical liberal bias) and Betsy DeVos’s confirmation as Education Secretary. Why? Because controlling what information is provided to the young and gullible is the key to the Left’s electoral victories.
And that’s the way it is, as far as you know.
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Dillon Eliassen is a former Managing Editor of Being Libertarian. Dillon works in the sales department of a privately owned small company. He holds a BA in Journalism & Creative Writing from Lyndon State College, and needs only to complete his thesis for his Master’s of English from Montclair State University (something which his accomplished and beautiful wife, Alice, is continually pestering him about). He is the author of The Apathetic, available at He is a self-described Thoreauvian Minarchist.