by Ben Johnson
One of the great quotations of our time is from James Burnham, a former Trotskyite Communist-turned-conservative who became an editor at National Review.
Fifty years ago, he wrote in his book Suicide of the West that “Modern liberalism, for most liberals, is not a consciously understood set of rational beliefs, but a bundle of unexamined prejudices and conjoined sentiments. The basic ideas and beliefs seem more satisfactory when they are not made fully explicit, when they merely lurk rather obscurely in the background, colouring the rhetoric and adding a certain emotive glow.”
To compensate for five decades of public education and pop culture, let’s simplify Burnham’s message to say that most left-wingers do not base their views on facts but on their feelings.
The truth of Burnham’s observation can be proven by examining the cavernous gulch that exists between the ideas
modern pop culture idols must believe and espouse at the same time. For example, to be a sexual revolutionary in
good standing, you must believe:
• That someone’s sex is an infinitely malleable social construct that can be changed at will, but who someone feels
the desire to have sexual intercourse with is permanently fixed and can never be altered.
• That capitalism is evil, and that in our corporatist society every big business will lie, cheat, steal, and possibly kill its own customers for the sake of short term profit — except Big Abortion.
• That conservatives are waging a “war on science” — and that scientists have never determined when life begins.
• That gay “marriage” is “inevitable,” because the rapid, tidal wave sea change in public opinion on the issue of same sex “marriage” proves that the polls can never, ever change again.
• That feminism frees women to have it all, as long as their children and home are not their whole world.
• That there is no difference between the races or sexes of mankind — and that we need special testing scores and
government programmes to compensate for those differences.
• That eating chicken eggs is immoral but aborting a child should be available free, on demand, and without apology.
• That is it wrong to sexually objectify women — and that men should lust after all women regardless of their
weight or appearance.
• That there are no moral absolute — and that is absolutely certain.
• That it’s wrong to be prejudiced against anyone because of their race, sex, religion, or ideology, and it’s certainly wrong to base your social life around these artificial distinctions.
But you would already know that if you weren’t an ignorant, closed-minded, racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic,
knuckle-dragging, Neanderthal, rural, Christian, white, cisgendered male.
Which is why I’m unfriending you on Facebook.
This far-from-complete list of contradictions affirms the words of a greater writer than Burnham or me, who wrote,
“A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways”. Sorry, double-minded men or womyn.
So, which ones did I miss?
Ben Johnson is an author and US Bureau Chief of He was managing editor of FrontPage Magazine from 2003-10. He is also a regular guest on the AFR Talk network’s Nothing But Truth with Crane Durham.