Last year, when I attended a sociological conference, I was part of a panel discussing how to get a book published. At the time, I had written sixteen books and hence had a fair understanding of how this happened.
One of my co-panelists, who had written fewer works, insisted that conservatives dominated the publishing industry. They supposedly owned the businesses and discriminated against liberals. He, therefore, bragged that, in getting his books into print, he had spoken truth to power—and gotten away with it.
In fact, liberals have long since ceased speaking truth to power. Nowadays, they scarcely speak it to anyone, including themselves. They have become such rigid ideologues that they cannot tell the difference between phony talking points and reality.
If the truth be known, liberals are often the ones in power. For nearly a century, it has been that way. This is certainly true in publishing. Most of the biggest houses are owned and run by liberals who are reluctant to publish views that run counter to their own.
Plainly, liberals own the New York Times and the Washington Post. As a consequence, their editorial policies do not run counter to those who pay the bills. Nor do the opinions expressed in the mainstream media. Here too those in charge of what makes it onto the airwaves are part of a liberal establishment.
The same is patently the case when we examine who runs the federal bureaucracy. Progressives are entrenched in the deep state. Lois Lerner was able to get away with discriminating against conservatives when at the IRS because most of the agency’s managers were liberal. As such, her tactics did not offend them.
Nowadays, I work at a university. As bastions of higher education go, KSU is more tolerant than most. Nonetheless, conservatives have learned to be careful about what they say. We recently had a conservative speaker (Katie Pavlich) whose sponsors were obliged to pay for extra security, precisely because liberals frequently seek to shut down voices they find controversial.
Even when I write columns about the vices of neo-Marxists, I can expect liberal pushback. Many more than once, progressive readers have demanded that I no longer be allowed to write for the MDJ or Cherokee Tribune. These folks assume that they have a right to dictate editorial policy.
This liberal sense of entitlement has become pervasive precisely because leftists so often control contemporary seats of power. Although they pretend to be weak outsiders, who are mercilessly suppressed by conservative tyrants, the opposite is more nearly true.
Many times, readers commend me for the courage to say out loud what they privately think. By the same token, I am frequently asked how I have managed to survive for so long on a college campus. These folks react this way because they are aware of how autocratic liberals can be.
Speaking truth to power is a good thing. It is one of the virtues that make democracy possible. But nowadays, it is conservatives who must exhibit the audacity to speak up. It is they who are more likely to be punished by the powers that be.
Once upon a time, liberals believed in tolerance. They insisted on the value of an open marketplace of ideas. Those days are gone. Today’s liberals assume that if you disagree with them, you are a moral monster who must be stopped. They refuse even to listen to views that contradict their own.
But how are we to decide what is right in such an environment? If free speech includes only liberal speech, we are doomed. If the first response of liberals is to gag those who challenge them and their second is to ruin the careers of those they find offensive, can a gulag be far behind?
Conservatives believe in liberty, which should include the ability to speak truth to power. Liberals must understand that they too ought to honor the rules for which they once so valiantly fought. Instead of reflexively muzzling their opponents, they might want to listen to them.
Power, as Lord Acton warned, corrupts. Guess what, it corrupts liberals too. If they do not realize that they are abusing their power, they are more likely to do so!
Melvyn L. Fein, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology
Kennesaw State University