10 Aug 2009

“Angry, Smug, and Terminally Self-Righteous”

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Humorist Harry Stein’s a new book, I Can’t Believe I’m Sitting Next to a Republican, skewering the intolerance, self-regard, and intellectual provinciality of the establishment left is the occasion of this Front Page interview.

F(ront)P(age): …What inspired you to write this book?

Stein: It was simply the fact of living in a dark blue locale – the artsy New York suburb of Hastings-on-Hudson, literally and figuratively an extension of the Upper West Side – and daily facing the reality that, for all my neighbors’ ostentatious ‘tolerance,’ they are astonishingly intolerant of anyone who challenges their own left-of-center assumptions and beliefs. There are millions of us conservatives marooned in places like this all over America, and I wanted the book to reflect their experiences, horrific, amusing and otherwise. I also want to encourage those who tend to hide in the conservative closet to stand up and be counted – something that, in the age of Obama, is more essential than ever.

FP: Why is New York so liberal? What forces made it so?

Stein: …Historically, New York is a city of immigrants — immigrants who, in many cases, were fleeing genuine oppression. (This was certainly my grandparents’ case). So their tendency, way back when, was to be extremely liberal, if not outright radical, in their political orientation. And leftist politics, like any other faith, tends to be inherited. Question many New Yorkers closely about why and how they became liberal and they’ll look at you as if you’re mad; they’ve always been this way, so has everyone they know, how could anyone possibly be anything else? In fact, they’ll have contempt for you for even posing such an absurd question. …

FP: … Why are liberals and leftists so abusive?

Stein: I really believe it’s because they grasp on some level — we’re talking way, way, deep down, miles below consciousness — that their ideas do not stand up to rational argument. Theirs is a belief system grounded on faith, not on facts and certainly not, God knows, justified by experience. So they simply cannot afford to accord their opponents the status of moral equals; they must be attacked, and dismissed, as evil. That’s why trying to have an honest and fair-minded discussion with such people is useless, As soon as they’re cornered, they reflexively resort to name calling. …

FP: …Can you talk a bit about this echo chamber that the Left lives in? …

Stein: ‘Echo chamber’ is the right term, because these views tend not simply to be endlessly repeated in such environments, but amplified through the repeating. Something that strikes many of us who live in such environments is how blithely unaware they are of conservative views. What they think they know about who we are and what we believe, picked up from the likes of NPR or The New York Times, is invariably distorted; we’re reduced to crude caricature, so as to flatter their own smug sense of moral and intellectual superiority.


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