The HBO documentary about Scientology, “Going Clear,” is a must-see. Not so much because it exposes Scientology as a moneymaking, totalitarian cult, something most people already have known for 50 years. More useful is the film’s description of Scientology’s ideas, techniques, and tactics, for they bear an eerie resemblance to contemporary Progressive belief and practice.
The first dimension of Scientology, as its name suggests, is scientism. This is the notion that human identity and behavior both individually and socially can be understood and hence manipulated as successfully as real science understands and manipulates the material world. Because of that success, genuine science has immense authority and commands respect that scientism attempts to expropriate. That’s why L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology’s founder, dressed up a retooled Freudianism and space-alien mythology with new technical-sounding jargon and dubious technology. Hence neologisms like “scientology,” “dianetics,” or “ingram,” hence the “E-Meter,” a glorified carnival attraction with knobs and dials replete with numbers and oscillating needles that supposedly identify and measure psychic trauma. This patina of scientific objectivity made Scientology attractive to potential recruits who had failed to find answers to their psychic discontent in traditional religion or in psychotherapy.
Scientism has similarly characterized Progressivism from its beginnings. The core conceit of progressives is that traditional knowledge and wisdom are inadequate for understanding human nature and solving the more complex problems created by industrialism and new technologies. Those problems needed “sciences” like sociology, economics, and psychology: “The great triumph of modern psychology,” Walter Lippmann wrote in 1914, “is the growing capacity for penetrating to the desires that govern our thought.” Thus we need government by the elite “hundreds who are wise,” as Woodrow Wilson put it in 1887, and “enlightened administration,” as F.D.R. called it in 1932. Politics should no longer be, as the Founders envisioned, about leaders of virtue, experience, and wisdom governing within the Constitutional order that protects political freedom from conflicting factions and clashing “passions and interests.”
Rather, progressives prefer technocratic rule based on “scientific” knowledge, not to protect freedom, but to achieve utopian goals like “social justice” and “equality.” Like Scientology’s “auditors” who possess the secret, “scientific” knowledge that can enlighten and improve the neophytes, progressives assume that their ideological opinions are the fruit of reason and science. As people of objective knowledge and respect for facts, they think they are better able to rule than those still mired in ancient superstitions like religion or even common sense, the masses who are “selfish, ignorant, timid, stubborn, or foolish,” as Wilson wrote, or “stupid,” as Obamacare architect Jonathan Gruber said, or who “get bitter” and “cling to guns and religion,” as Obama sneered.
Given the assumption that their ideology is really science, progressives dress up their subjective and frequently irrational prejudices in pseudo-science. Contrived statistics are a favorite device, for numbers with decimal points appear objective and inarguable. There’s the false claim that women earn only 77% of what men make, or that 20% of college co-eds suffer sexual assault, or that 97% of scientists endorse anthropogenic global warming. These numerical confections, like the dancing needles in the E-meter gauge, imply that these issues are no more a matter for debate than are the law of gravity or the spherical earth. Of course, in reality such statistics are camouflage for ideological, not scientific beliefs.
But to progressives, they are scientific facts, so anyone who disagrees is either hopelessly ignorant or willfully evil, blinded by bigotry or in thrall to religious superstition. This explains the nastiness of progressive attacks on those who disagree with them, the quick recourse to ad hominem smears of the sort that appear only on the conservative fringe. Just as Scientology defames critics and defectors with false accusations and character assassination, so too progressives frequently hurl epithets like “racist” at those who criticize Obama, or indulge preposterous tropes like the “war on women,” or throw ugly names like “denier,” redolent of Holocaust denial, at anyone who questions that anthropogenic global warming is a scientific fact rather than a hypothesis. And progressives are eager to use the power of government and institutions like the IRS and college administrations to silence and stigmatize those who oppose them.
This explains another similarity: the rationalization of opposition as a conspiracy of the malignant evil against the enlightened good. Nothing bespeaks the cultic mentality like the belief that a “vast right-wing conspiracy,” as a newly announced presidential candidate has put it, rather than the failure of progressive ideology and policy, explains their opponents’ criticism. Scientology is famous for its aggressive use of this conspiratorial rhetoric to deflect inquiries into its practices, blaming them on cabals of doctors and psychologists angry at Scientology for challenging their lucrative monopoly on mental health. So too we hear progressives harping on and on about the “Koch brothers” or the “Israel lobby” or “big pharma” or “big oil” or the “1%,” all those “malefactors of great wealth who defraud and exploit the people,” as the 1936 Democratic platform put it.
Finally, and most important, is the “great leader,” the messianic figure, the transformative personality whom no one must doubt or criticize, and whom the faithful must defend and protect. For Scientology it is founder L. Ron Hubbard, a mythic figure whose alleged intellectual talents and achievements have nothing to do with the real man. One of the spookiest moments in “Going Clear” is the footage of Tom Cruise and current Scientology honcho David Miscavage saluting a gigantic picture of Hubbard in a scene evocative of Orwell’s 1984.
As for progressives, they have a long history of romances with dictators, from Mussolini in the 1920s to Mao in the 1960s and Fidel Castro today. This preference for a strongman reflects the progressive belief that their utopian aims require a vigorous centralized power unimpeded by the will of an ignorant “people.” Thus no matter how many murdered, imprisoned, or tortured, the “revolutionary” hero, the messiah bearing the new knowledge of “social justice” is worshipped by progressives, who will viciously attack Israel for dispersing mobs with rubber bullets, even as political prisoners in Cuba or Venezuela are tortured and silenced. To paraphrase Sylvia Plath, every progressive “adores a fascist, the boot in the face.”
So too have progressives viewed Barack Obama ever since he came upon the political scene in 2004. No other presidential candidate or president has been larded with so much hyperbolic praise and inflation of his mediocre abilities, from Chris Matthews’ tingling leg to David Brooks’ awe at The One’s perfect crease in his trousers. Nor has any other candidate or president been spared scrutiny or investigation as much as Obama has.
Much of his history remains as mysterious as his college transcripts, and what we do know comes from his semi-fictional memoirs. Meanwhile the media have been complicit, like good cult-members, in protecting the image and burnishing it when necessary, ignoring inconvenient facts like Obama’s long friendship with race-baiter Jeremiah Wright and ex-terrorist Bill Ayres, winking at his blatant abuses of executive power, and letting pass gaffes and blunders that would have kept the media frenzied for weeks had a Republican committed them. We’ll soon see if Hillary Clinton is afforded the same adoration and studied indifference to her lack of achievement and her personal scandals.
Progressivism under Obama has finally transformed from a political movement into a cult. Fact, reason, argument, and evidence are fruitless against the blind certainty and commitment to dogma that characterize the progressive mind. The only thing to do about progressives is expose their absurdities, and then beat them at the polls.
On Tuesday, CNN ran what should have been a puff piece in its travel section about the wonders of visiting Cuba. The title of the piece spelled out the angle: “Why you should travel to Cuba before it looks like everywhere else.” The authors, James Williams and Daisy Carrington, write, “Cuba is not like other places, or rather, not like anywhere that exists today. To some outsiders, it looks firmly stuck in the 1950s. Vintage cars roam the streets, the landscape is absent of strip malls and global chains, and the buildings — though crumbling — hark back to a grander time.” The authors conclude, “It is these throwbacks that lend Havana, the country’s capital, an undeniable charm. A charm that, some worry, is in peril once the U.S. embargo lifts.”
Who are these unnamed sources who worry deeply about the charm of poverty degrading into the soulless maw of capitalist enterprise? The left speaks of poverty with the same fervent attachment with which a lover speaks of his partner’s quirks. Poverty is charming. Poverty ennobles. Poverty is Mimi from “La Boheme,” Fantine from “Les Miserables,” Che Guevara (the icon, not the mass murderer) and Gandhi (the icon, not the shamanistic wife beater). Poverty is artists struggling for their bread while crafting masterpieces.
And poverty is equality. Everyone calls each other comrade while they hoe their gardens for scraps of food. There’s a real sense of community when everyone shares a general sense of hopelessness.
Most of all, poverty is wonderful — for other people. It’s a great place to visit, but not a place you’d like to live.
But you need others to live there so you can visit.
And so the left romanticizes poverty.
Primitive civilizations must be preserved, since they represent a simpler, deeper way of life. The poor rubes who occupy such civilizations must be kept that way for their own good, lest they be transformed into shallow husks of themselves by commercialization. John Smith came to America to rape and pillage for gold; Pocahontas stood for the spirituality of the mountains and the inherent value of the eagles. Only those clinging to the bottom rung of material existence can know the colors of the wind.
Now, it turns out that those experiencing poverty like it a lot less than those who look upon it from above with a wistful eye. Those Cubans who still hope to ride their 1959 Chevrolets to Key Largo don’t see their throwback vehicles as a selling point; they’d trade them in a heartbeat for a 2005 Honda Civic and the ability to drive it to an actual job. The Cubans who inhabit those quaint, run-down buildings would likely beg to have Banana Republic buy them out and let them retire elsewhere.
But that would ruin the ambience. And so the left insists that Banana Republic stay out. Because, after all, the left appreciates the authenticity of poverty, even as they artificially create it.
So now it turns out that Israel’s security, perhaps its very existence, will be jeopardized in order to give Barack Obama some post-presidential bragging points.
It was recently revealed that the President intends to publicly endorse specific borders and other terms for a Palestinian state, which he hopes will go down in history as the “Obama Framework.” But it would be more truthful to call it what it is — the Palestinian Framework.
The new “Obama Framework” scheme was reported on March 30 by Jackson Diehl, deputy editorial page editor of the Washington Post, a journalist whom the Obama administration has often used to leak information it wants to float for trial balloons.
Why does Obama intend to push forward with a plan that will be rejected by Israel and lead to a crisis in Israeli-American relations? It would be a “bid by Obama for a foreign policy legacy,” Diehl writes. “At a minimum,” according to Diehl, Obama hopes that “diplomats who now talk of the ‘Clinton parameters’ from 2000 (a proposal by then-President Bill Clinton) would henceforth speak of the “Obama framework.”
So the President’s bid for a “legacy” should become Israel’s security nightmare?
Most disturbing are the specific terms that President Obama intends to embrace, as outlined by Diehl. They mirror the Palestinian position in almost every respect.
• “Palestine’s territory would be based on Israel pre-1967 borders with the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with territorial swaps to allow Israel’s annexation of some Jewish settlements.” However, it takes two sides to swap, so if the Palestinian Authority does not want to swap, there will be no swapping. Let’s call it for what it is: the pre-1967 borders.
That would leave Israel nine miles wide at its vulnerable mid-section. A Palestinian tank column would be able to cut the Jewish state in two in a matter of minutes. A study by the Joint Chiefs of Staff after the 1967 war concluded that in order to have “a militarily defensible border,” Israel would need “control of the prominent high ground running north-south through the middle of West Jordan” [i.e. most of Judea-Samaria].”
• “Jerusalem would be the capital of both nations.” Since it is physically and administratively impossible to have two countries use the same territory as their capital, there would have to be a geographical division. The Arab position has always been that the pre-1967 parts of the city should be the Arab capital–meaning the Old City section of Jerusalem (where the Temple Mount and Western Wall are located), the Mount of Olives cemetery, and the neighborhoods of Ramot, French Hill, Gilo, and Har Homa, among others.
• “A description of security arrangements would glide over the question of exactly how the West Bank and Gaza would be prevented from becoming a launching pad for attacks on Israel.”
Even when security arrangements have been spelled out, the Palestinians ignored them. Recall that the Oslo Accords required the Palestinian Authority to outlaw and disarm terrorist groups, and extradite terrorists to Israel. The PA has ignored Israel’s dozens of extradition requests and never disarmed or outlawed terror groups.
• “The thorny question of Palestinian refugees would be dispatched with a call for an ‘agreed solution’.”
This sets up a minefield for Israel. By failing to rule out the right of the Palestinians to flood Israel with millions of “refugees,” the Palestinians will keep on demanding that right, and will threaten war if they doesn’t get their way.
“A stipulation that Israel would remain the homeland of the Jewish people.”
Whether this stipulation will really be included in the U.N. resolution remains to be seen. If it is, it will be a meaningless gesture intended to mollify Israeli and world Jewish opposition — an attempt to get Israel to trade territory it needs to survive, for words that will be as worthless as Yasser Arafat’s 1993 pledge of “peace.”
In conclusion, Diehl conjectures that “As in the case with restoring relations with Cuba, Obama can also disregard the domestic political considerations that restrained him before he began his ‘fourth quarter’ in office.”