What's Wrong With Centrism?
Centrism is less a reasonable political position and more a posture of defensiveness.
On January 21, 2022, Douglas Murray, a card-carrying neoconservative and member of the “Intellectual Dark Web,” rhetorically asked, “Why is the Right so unattractive?” The context of the question was Murray’s panel discussion last year at National Conservatism Conference with Dave Rubin, Sohrab Ahmari, and Yoram Hazony. During this time, they talked about the anti-Woke liberals and traditional leftists who find themselves more and more at odds with the increasingly-radical progressive agenda. Murray contrasted people like Bill Maher and Bari Weiss, who refuse to renounce their leftism, with neoconservatives like Irving Kristol and Norman Podhoretz, who publicly renounced their Marxism back in the day. This raised a question: why weren’t they seeing more apostasies from the Left?
Murray believed that he hit upon the answer after listening to a speech at the conference by Patrick Deneen about the decline in people’s habits of dress, manners, and sexual etiquette. Murray believed that such an image – that of a distinguished conservative scholar (in Murray’s words) lamenting about the Fifties – is precisely the reason why disaffected liberals like Maher would never join the American Right. He then goes on to claim that the conservative opposition to contraception, no-fault divorce, abortion, and homosexual relationships act as “a special type of kryptonite to any separation-of-church-and-state liberal.” In Murray’s eyes, so long as the conservative movement is “intrinsically tied to religion,” it will remain in “the political wilderness.” He concludes his essay by urging the Right to stop blaming liberals for not joining their side. See, it’s their fault for having these silly religions and moral hang-ups about sex. If they all became socially liberal atheists like Douglas Murray, then they’d stand a much better chance of opposing the Woke Left.
As right-wing commentator Pedro Gonzalez pointed out, neoconservatives like Murray have a long history of deprecating social conservatives. The only difference between neoconservatives like Douglas Murray and non-Woke leftists like Bill Maher is that the latter group is more honest about which side they’re on. Neoconservatives pose as men of the Right while demanding that the conservative movement conform their politics to the tastes of disenchanted liberals. However, these so-called “reasonable liberals” are no less unhinged than the Woke – Bill Maher thinks that conservative opposition to mass immigration is “bigoted” and that “religion must die for mankind to live.” Bari Weiss thinks that foreign policy doves are “toadies” of autocrats. And like previous generations of neoconservatives, Douglas Murray sees no problem lobbing bogus accusations of anti-Semitism at those he disagrees with – like how he called for Gonzalez's cancellation.
When reading Murray’s article, I noticed the conspicuous absence of any discussion of the Woke Left’s position on sexuality. This is unsurprising, as such a discussion could only amount to an admission that we religious fuddy-duddies were right about everything. Whether or not it’s fallacious, the slippery slope argument reached the correct conclusion. As I write this, primary school teachers throughout the English-speaking world are instructing children on how to respect gender pronouns– including in Red State America. Modern movies are blurring the line between liberal political propaganda and children’s entertainment. In the words of the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, they’re coming for your children. Given all of this blatant messaging, one would expect more pushback from “reasonable people” like Douglas Murray.
“But we do oppose this,” protests the “reasonable” centrist liberal. And true, many liberals do disapprove of the Woke Left’s grooming campaigns. However, they ignore the fact that the Woke was only able to get this far as a result of the world they created. The conservative critique of the sexual revolution has always been that when you separate the conjugal act from the formation of families, the only limit on one’s sexual desires becomes the subjective consent of the individual. Children, who cannot consent by definition, are then stuck in a gray zone. Do we keep them entirely ignorant until they turn 16? Do we leave it to the parents? Regardless of what the centrists think is the right answer, the Woke left has already decided for them: recruit, recruit, recruit.
While centrists may be rightfully outraged by this, they cannot do so based on liberal principles. Was it not the Gamergate crowd who told us that violent video games have no negative effect on people’s behavior? If that is the case, then why prohibit Woke sex ed classes and children’s entertainment? Was it not the classical liberals who stood for freedom of speech? If so, how could they justify banning entire political ideologies from public schools – especially ones as credentialed as gender ideology? Ultimately, all the moral principles classical liberals love can be used by the Woke to justify all the things classical liberals hate by concern-trolling them into protecting the Woke agenda.
One of my channel’s earlier videos talked about how this centrist liberalism depends on a denial of mimesis, the tendency of human beings to use their neighbors as the model for their desires. If I see that all of my friends want something, that automatically makes that thing valuable in my eyes. It’s a simple fact about human psychology. In another video, I argued that mimesis plays a pivotal role in creating social norms in society. This is why the Left is so concerned with “representation.” If they can convince the population through media that there are a lot more “marginalized” people out there than there actually are, they can “normalize” these groups and make their behavior seem natural and healthy. The logic then follows that if this behavior is natural and healthy, then there’s no reason to treat it differently from more traditionally-acceptable behavior. After all, if you can have a romance between a man and a woman in a children’s cartoon, why can’t there be a romance between two men? By any objective measurement, they’ve succeeded.
That’s one problem. Another problem is that centrists simply don’t have a coherent position on sexuality. Centrist liberals (both in academia and outside of it) have so far failed to create a stable, liberal middle ground between Woke sexual anarchism on the one hand, and the pre-modern idea of natural law and traditional gender roles on the other. The problem is that you can’t claim to be adhering to biological reality without admitting the functional nature of biology. It’s impossible to characterize eyes without referencing their function of seeing or the digestive system without referencing its function of providing nutrients to the body. Likewise, you can’t adequately characterize the sexual organs without referencing their function of creating new life. The existence of statistically rare sexual minorities does not undermine these biological claims any more than the existence of blind people or people with pica. Those organs still have the same function even if their ability to perform the function is impaired by injury or genetic defect. If this is correct, then intersexuality, homosexuality, and the like are analogous to blindness, pica, and other dysfunctions.
We see here how biological reality itself is too politically incorrect – not just for the Woke left but for anyone to the left of Douglas Murray. Yet the logic that follows from recognizing such realities is inescapable. While people who suffer from these dysfunctions do deserve our consideration, we all recognize that we ought not to warp our entire political system and culture to appease them. One need only imagine the social consequences of catering to people who think eating hair or dirt is a-okay.
Take fornication as an example. A common conservative talking point is that one-night stands create single mothers who must be subsidized by the state, either to pay for their abortions or to help them raise their children. The fatherless young men that grow up in these households are then more inclined to gang activity, drug addiction, and other forms of criminality. This in turn leads to more violent confrontations with the police, greater distrust of law enforcement, and the rise of racial identity politics. Children who grow up knowing nothing but these dysfunctional arrangements will reproduce them later on down the line, perpetuating this cycle.
And that’s just the consequences of fornication – the least deviant part of the sexual revolution. Do centrists know what the consequences of pornography are? Do they care about the social harm caused by the parasocial relationships between Only Fans stars and their male simps? What do they think of homosexual adoption, in vitro fertilization, and the commodification of children that is the sequel to these things? Are centrists blind to these consequences, or do they not care?
Having watched these centrists for a long time, I feel confident in saying that they just don’t care. Their rhetoric has progressed from “Why do you care what happens in the bedroom between two consenting adults?” to “Why do you care at all?” Because despite all the wokeness, despite all the economic problems, despite the political corruption, despite the social dysfunction, centrists love late-stage modernity too much to support any radical change. Being a consumer in a market where every fetish is catered to feels good. Signaling that you are for LGBT rights and thus are one of the “cool kids” feels good. Bashing those religious fuddy-duddies feels good. But admitting that you were wrong and have to change your ways doesn’t.
While centrists may harp on about Wokeness, they know deep down that those in power will never take away their freedom to consume. Thus, they will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Woke Left against the conservatives that threaten their “right” to pleasure themselves. The sharpness of their anti-Woke stance is dulled by vanity and hedonism. The irony of this is that, for all their pretensions to reasonableness and sensibility, centrism is less a rational position and more a posture of defensiveness.