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The False Security of Moderation

The False Security of Moderation

I was just ran out of an establishment because of where I work. Chewed out, abused. But I guess that’s the norm now.

Kat Timpf

In the aftermath of the terrorizing of Tucker Carlson’s home, there were a few echoes of the Western condemnations laid on Salman Rushdie in 1989: he had it coming.

Admittedly, many celebrities and big names came out to condemn the threatening and vandalism, but often, these were the same voices promoting incivility (Clinton) and even harassment of Republicans (Waters). At the very least, they were of the same talking class, and they are now–as always–trying to have it both ways. At lower levels, people are often surprisingly ambivalent about

As sociopathic as that kind of sentence may sound, it’s a surprisingly common sentiment even from moderates. Moderates usually don’t support attacking people, and will condemn it in general. But whenever they see someone who has been labeled as “far-right/left” or an “extremist” get punished for expressing their views, they will often pussyfoot around condemning the attackers, and sometimes even make excuses for them in some capacity.

Why is that?

I believe there are two related reasons.

First, the moderate hopes that his or her own fence-sitting will keep them out of the heat. Condemning “extremism” in itself is a play for the moral high-ground, but more importantly, it’s big billboard that (attempts) to say “I’m not an enemy! (So don’t attack me!).”

Secondly, the moderate hesitation over condemning acts of terror–sometimes even preferring to say the victim “knew what they were doing” or in some other manner, got what they deserved–is an appeal to objective causality. A kind of double-evasion, if you will. Condemning a particular human action, you see, might in itself be a form of taking sides. But if particular human actions (specifically, those of they who appear to be sufficiently powerful in the moment) are treated as a kind of force of nature, rather than the choices of responsible agents, then the moderate can retain their objective status without angering any particular side. It’s all just cause-and-effect, you see.

The problem, of course, is that this moderate approach doesn’t protect you.

Yesterday, Kat Timpf — a libertarian and a small-“c” conservative — was allegedly run out of an establishment (restaurant?) because she works at FOX News.

Maybe it’s just me, but I find it difficult to peg someone who called Trump a ‘hack’ and whose biggest issue is political correctness an “extremist.” When you get down to it, it’s actually hard to be more moderate than Timpf, as far as stated issues go. Caring primarily about political correctness is like saying, ‘my big controversial opinion is that I think other people should be able to say controversial opinions.’

And let’s be honest, Kat Timpf is really pretty moderate in the grand scheme of things so to attack her of all people at Fox? That’s just someone who doesn’t really pay attention.

— Sam J, Twitchy

In a conflict, there is no safety in moderation because conflicts are moralizing by nature. Refusing to side with someone’s team is not seen as reasonable and objective by either side. Rather, it is seen as a failure to acknowledge the importance of the subject in dispute and the values pertaining to it. In many instances, moderation may be seen as mere cowardice, which is far worse than mere ignorance, and will often get less respect than even being an enemy.

Moderates are not usually the first to be attacked, but to when it inevitably does happen, it is doubly surprising to them: first, that they were attacked at all (“Guys, I’m not even in this fight! Guys?!?”). Second, they are surprised by the lack of sympathy — perhaps even schadenfreude — from both sides.

Being the perpetrators of the attack, the left obviously has no sympathy for Carlson or Timpf, but why not the right?

People on the right have been getting attacked for years now, from the infamous punching of Richard Spencer to the deplatforming of Alex Jones. It’s perfectly viable to disagree with what Spencer or Jones may have to say, but true defense of free speech and the rule of law requires a strict dedication to the appropriate assignment of responsibility. If an “extremist” or a “radical” is extra-judicially punished for something they said, their extreme or radical nature has zero relevance to the justice of the consequence. They didn’t “have it coming” in a culture that respects free inquiry and political expression, nor–incidentally–is attempting to repress them an effective way of supressing their views. In any case, when all of this was going on, all the “right-wing moderates” had nothing but platitudes to say, if they said anything at all.

“Guys, I really want to let you all know that I don’t condone censorship or violence.”

How brave and principled.

There is no safety in being a moderate. Not in the long-run. Nor should there be. The same sorts of people who chants “evil triumphs when good men do nothing” when things go awry will, of course, do nothing if they can get away with it.

Ultimately, principled moderation is nothing but principled cowardice. It is moral parasitism, benefiting on the courageous in your society without contributing, and then disguising one’s cowardice as a kind of objectivity, even a moral superiority.

It is almost enough to make one wish for the reality of Dante’s hell,  where purgatory is reserved for fence-sitters. But it is only almost, because if you are patient, you sometimes get to see the “moderates” get what they hoped to avoid.

Because there is no safety in being a moderate.

Don’t take refuge in the false security of consensus and the feeling that whatever you think, you’re bound to be okay because you’re in the safely moral majority.

Christopher Hitchens

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