March 23, 2022
Firstly, I want to start by thanking Mr. Lywood for his letter last week and for clarifying his position on the Russian invasion of Ukraine. When we live in such deeply divided times as these it is refreshing when a dialogue can stretch across the weeks and in print, no less – not reduced to Twitter wars and mindless sound bites. Now that we are 20-plus years into this new century it should be obvious, to even the most casual observer, that the rancour and division is reaching a fever pitch in our world and here too I agree with Mr. Lywood, there is plenty of blame to spread around. Certainly, in the past four or five years, whether due to the rise of certain orange-haired demagogues or woke millennials spending too much time online, things have gotten much, much worse. The mono-culture of our mainstream media and the bland leftist uniformity of our cultural institutions have left us in a perilous place.
We only need to look at the West’s response to Russian aggression in Ukraine to see the perils of this group think. I beg the indulgence of your readership to provide a touch of history and context and I will endeavour to keep the excess verbiage to a minimum (or not). In the 2012 U.S. Presidential Debate, Republican Mitt Romney was asked what he thought the greatest foreign policy threat was to the United States – to which he replied “Russia.” This elicited much eye rolling and sarcasm from Barack Obama, who replied that; “the eighties were calling and wanted their foreign policy back” and the rest of U.S. media elites piled on mercilessly. It was not enough for them that Romney was a God-fearing man and an adherent of Mormonism, he was also hopelessly out of date and unsavvy and gosh, hadn’t he read Francis Fukuyama’s 1992 The End of History?, hadn’t he gotten the memo that Neo-Liberalism and the Davor set had carried the day? Fast forward 20 years and our hopelessly square friend is the toast of the town for his seemingly prescient views.
But today’s media can’t or won’t or refuses to air a diversity of views or opinions. On the left, where we have the overwhelming majority of the media, the same far left world view is a complete and total orthodoxy from which one cannot deviate, in the case of CNN they might spice things up with some salacious celebrity gossip and closer to home our decrepit CBC will throw in some obscure musicians to satisfy CanCon regulations, but the end result is the same. On the right, outlets like Fox and Breitbart try to outdo each other in pledging fealty to their Orange Haired idol. Ultimately, a zero-sum game where the average citizen is the only one who loses out.
I would like to quote Alan Newhouse, a former Democratic Party operative and Columbia University journalism graduate (all of which is to say someone far brighter and more eloquent than me): “For seven decades the country’s intellectual and cultural life was produced and protected by a set of institutions – universities, newspapers, magazines, record companies, cultural venues, publishing houses, Hollywood studios, think tanks, etc. They are all broken, these institutions now insist on sameness and purity, they have become a mutually validating pipeline for conformists with approved viewpoints – who then credential, promote, and marry each other.”
To illustrate this further, I must regretfully use another two American examples, though it would certainly seem that here in Canada we are not immune to these forces. Five decades ago, 144 House Republican were less conservative than the most conservative Democrat and 52 House Democrats were less liberal than the most liberal Republican – translation, lots of overlap and lots of moderation. By 2004, through retirement, lost election bids, or party defections there was exactly zero overlap. When I attended the 1990 Liberal Leadership Convention in Calgary, subsequently won by Jean Chretien, one of the five candidates was avowedly pro-life (Tom Wappel), by the time our current PM, that paragon of liberal values and virtue, took over, only pro-choice candidates were allowed to run for the federal Liberal Party – no dissension could be broached, only ideological purity was allowed.
In a 2016 study of 7,243 professors at the 40 leading U.S. universities, Democratic professors outnumbered their Republican counterparts by a ratio of 12 to 1. A 2016 study by Sarah Lawrence College professor Samuel Adams showed the progression (regression?), in even starker terms. In New England, in 1989, liberals outnumber conservatives 5 to 1, by 2014 that figure was 28 to 1, out on the West “ Left” Coast that figure was 6 to 1 and even in the South it stood at 3 to 1. If the very institutions that are, in theory, shaping the minds of our young, so completely monolithic in their world view, is anyone, left or right really well served by this state of affairs?
When I was a student at the University of Calgary in the early 90s, all student clubs were given office space and the university, in their wisdom put all of us young political types in the same office, Liberal, ND, Reform, PC, we all drank, debated and dated together and were all the better for it. Next to us was the Rodeo Club and next to them the Gay and Lesbian Students Society and we all managed to get along amazingly enough. When I visited some 20 years later and met a current political science student he asked me what things were like in that strange, primordial time and when I recounted our set up he just stared blankly and said that such a thing would never occur today.
So, maybe if we listen to more of the Mitt Romneys of the world (left and right) and the Jeffs and Kens of the world can exchange viewpoints we might be all be better for it. And who knows, if they ever repair the roads in deepest Lake Ainslie I might even peruse his gallery!