Whose Moral Panic, Which Censorious Moralism?

If the 1950s gave us Communists under every bed, 2020 has given us fascists in every boardroom. The cultural Left cannot abide so much as sharing the same 3.8 million square miles with “those people,” let alone the same workplace, or even the same social media app.

I am old enough to remember when this situation was reversed. Through the 1990s and the 2000s, the Left (with some justice) yammered on that it was conservatives—particularly working-class evangelicals in red states—who were bound to get overexcited about non-issues like violence in video games, illustrations in Dungeons and Dragons books, or even the book selection at public libraries. Then, the overwhelming belief was that the Left was the fun party, the party of sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll, the party of free speech, the party of the cowboys warring against the censorious Puritans and church ladies of the world.

… The cultural Left has much in common with the shrieking Twitter eggs of the alt-right who complain of “degeneracy” in their opponents over often cringeworthy but otherwise harmless lifestyle choices. While they would never admit it, the cultural Left and the alt-right are two sides of the same coin: both are cults devoted to creating a culturally homogenous authoritarian state where racial allegiance takes precedence over citizenship. The alt-right’s favorite insult “cuck” and Joe Biden’s statement that black Trump supporters “ain’t black” are not just cut from the same cloth, they’re the same garment in different shades.

Moreover, Trump supporters are far from immune to the appeal of moral ideas about preventing harm to the vulnerable or ensuring fair treatment. What has been our constant drumbeat about the need for empathy toward those like the people depicted in J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy, if not an appeal to care for the vulnerable? What has our outrage at the seemingly arbitrary standards applied by social media companies been if not an appeal to the basic idea of fairness and consistent treatment? Read more»

Callicles, “ The Left’s Algorithmic America,” American Greatness (November 8, 2020).


Subscribe to the Heidelblog today!


  1. There is nothing quite so aggravating as Boomer liberals (in the classical sense or otherwise) who cannot see past the moral turpitude practiced and preached in their youth to see that arc of the cultural war we have been battered by for half a century if not significantly longer bends toward transvaluation, not tolerance. Just as tolerance for heresy is invariably a mere stopping point to anathematizing orthodoxy in religion, so post-, anti-Christian morality, as our country shifts toward evermore by the day, inevitably, inexorably, anathematizes Christian morality.

    • James,

      The American Republic, in the late 18th century, was formed on the assumption of classical liberalism. That’s America, a polity that, for the purposes of civil life (living together without killing each other over political and religious differences) is tolerant and pluralist.

      I take it that you’re not happy with that arrangement?

    • Formal political ideology is downstream of worldview. America has maintained religious tolerance and pluralism because the American people, myself included, have believed that people have a right to practice religion without fear of persecution. No amount of paper is going to protect us if that belief evaporates.

      But what does tolerance and plurality have to do with the so-called morality laws at hand? Is, say, adultery something classical liberalism binds us to tolerate? You’d be denounced as a libertine if you asserted that to anyone before the sexual revolution. Indeed, we strong-armed the Mormons into abandoning bigamy before we would admit them to the Union. Is there any room for the civil use of the Law in such a system?

      • James,

        Well, politics may be downstream from culture and perhaps worldview.

        Did the tolerant Republic envisioned by the Founders presuppose Christianity? Well, not exactly though it might have assumed a Christian morality divorced from the supernaturalism of traditional Christianity.

        I agree that the American people believe that they have right to practice their religion without persecution.

        Tolerance and pluralism are connected to morality via natural law. See the resources I linked at the bottom of the post. If you’ll look at the resources (see the HB Resource page https://heidelblog.net/resources) you’ll see extensive arguments from natural law against homosexuality, the transgender ideology, and adultery. This nation is founded on natural law and we have right to argue from it to universally accepted (prior to Obergefell v Hodges) principles.

        I agree that the most recent sexual revolution (we’re in the 3rd in the last century) would indeed shock our 19th century forebears but now we’re not discussing a Christian nation. The theological Liberals of the early 20th century were stern, teetotaling moralists, as were the German (Pietist) Liberals before them.

Comments are closed.