Putting Liberals into Context
by David Veksler

January 3, 2003

One of the biggest problems with the rhetoric of today’s liberals is their use of context-dropping whenever it suits their ideological needs. Context-dropping is the over-simplification of ideas to create floating abstractions that ignore relevant distinctions that exist in reality.

 For example, take the notion of “extremism.” Liberals criticize conservatives' "extremist" views, hinting that their extremism follows from latent racism, overt religious fundamentalism, and quite often, support of capitalism. “Tolerance and moderation must replace extremism,” they say, but is this really a meaningful statement? Within some contexts, such as our daily intake of vitamins, moderation is indeed the best policy, as it is in our consumption of foods, exercise, rest, study, etc. In other contexts however, moderation is not a good thing – there is no such thing as too much love, justice, freedom, intelligence, etc. What thinking person would say that there should be moderation between freedom and slavery, kindness and cruelty, carefulness and negligence, or truth and falsehood? Clearly, the virtue of “moderation” depends on the particular context (just as the truth of every fact applies only within a particular context) and it is unreasonable of liberals to drop that context whenever it suits their ideological needs.

 “Discrimination” is another common area of context dropping. Liberals often say “discrimination is bad” regardless of whether the characteristic being discriminated is relevant or not. After all, nearly every action we take involves discriminating better choices from worse ones, good values from bad, and evaluating other people is no exception. In fact, when it comes to evaluating people and societies, liberals often condemn evaluations by relevant characteristics, while glorifying irrelevant ones. For example, differentiating those who are better skilled in something is “ableism,” differentiating moral from immoral men is “bigotry” or “elitism” and differentiating societies which have better values (such as freedom, capitalism, and democracy in America vs. mysticism, statism and force in Africa) is “cultural imperialism” or “ethnocentrism.” Irrelevant characteristics on the other hand, are glorified and promoted. While promotion based on skills and academic achievement is damned as “ableism” and “Western bias,” promotion based on irrelevant characteristics such as race, origin, and income is glorified. Once, again, the context of the discrimination at hand is dropped to serve the liberal’s purpose.

 Another example of context dropping is in liberals’ paranoia of carcinogens and pollutants. “DDT is bad” they say, so it should be banned. However, while all substances (even water) are fatal in sufficient doses, ignoring the potential benefit of a substance is irrational scare mongering. DDT has been shown to cause cancer in mice (but not humans) when ingested in helpings equivalent to 30 tons of treated crops a day, for a year, but it also reduced the malaria cases in India from 30 million to 50 thousand (and the number promptly went back up to 30 million when environmentalists banned it.) Broccoli has natural toxins, which can kill you if you eat tons every day, but that does not stop us from consuming the large majority of fruits and vegetables with built-in natural pesticides. Aspartame will give a rat cancer if you feed it half its body weight of aspartame every day, but toxins in soybeans will kill you much sooner if that’s all you eat your whole life. Turning a blind eye to the many benefits of modern chemicals and the promises they offer for improving our lives because of paranoia of the slightest toxin is a very dangerous consequence of context-dropping.

 Yet another example of context-dropping by liberals is their love of pacifism. War, violence, invasions, retaliations, and killing are always wrong (at least when referring to America), they say, muddling the distinction between those who initiate force and those who use force in self-defense. No one likes violence, but while self-defense and justice is a moral requisite, the initiation of force is always a moral evil. Pacifists drop the context of which is the moral and immoral party, and typically side with the side initiating force, rather than the side using force in self-defense. Few feminists protested when a young Arab woman was nearly beaten to death for performing in a pornographic movie, or the dozen or so women in Palestine who are killed by their own families for adultery every year, or the women in Afghanistan who were publicly beaten and privately raped by the Taliban, but feminists were very vocal in damning America for trying to change the regime of oppression.

 Likewise, liberals engage in context dropping when it comes to dealing with criminals in America. They say that violence and murder is always bad, ignoring the difference between victims and criminals. Each time an activist judge lets a guilty criminal go, he is in fact ignoring the plight of the victim, and worse, equating the two (often explicitly, making the criminal a victim of “social neglect” or “misunderstanding.”)

Liberals should heed Albert Einstein’s maxim that “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Dropping the context of various concepts may serve your political purpose, but it does not make for an honest discussion of the issues at hand.