The Tender Tyranny of American Liberalism

by Prof. James Tracy

Liberalism itself is a synthetic creation of the power structure, a humanitarian facade behind which the dirty work of policing the world can go on uninterrupted by idealistic spasms in the body politic.

Journalist Eric Norden’s perceptive critique, “The Tender Tyranny of American Liberalism,” appeared in the early years of the Vietnam era, accurately identifying how a predominantly liberal worldview projected by the ruling technocracy and its intellectual adherents acted to subordinate genuinely Left-progressive ideas and social movements at home while ensuring the furtherance of US imperial designs abroad. Today Norden’s insights are worthy of reconsideration in light of how the Left remains largely devoid of its own voice or vision and more than ever liberalism provides ideological cover for aggressive Anglo-American militarism, the prerogatives of transnational corporations, and an ever-expanding police state.

The modern-day liberal handily anticipates and deflects criticism of her policies through a trumpeted alarm for a variety of social and political issues—student performance, public health, environmental degradation and the alleged atrocities of foreign enemies, waving about an array of solutions, from “educational initiatives” and “carbon credits,” to “humanitarian” military actions.

“Moving Forward” and the Disavowal of Historical Agency

Speaking for the liberal intelligentsia in 1964, at a time when there was considerable skepticism over the establishment’s account of JFK’s assassination, historian Richard Hofstadter warned of the dangers awaiting intellectuals who might drift into the treacherous waters of “the paranoid style.” In an ideological move characteristic of an openly totalitarian society and taken to a whole new level by the liberal thought police at organizations such as the SPLC, Hofstadter was more than subtly suggesting how journalists and academics alike jeopardized their standing by questioning the state along certain lines.

Once the evidence surrounding JFK’s death pointed to “a well-organized conspiracy within agencies of the federal government,” Norden reminded his readers, “the liberals looked the other way. JFK could be mourned, but not avenged: too many apple-carts would be upset in the process.” In the end liberals fell in lockstep, “moving forward” while simultaneously betraying the principles they claimed to uphold and once and for all denying their own historical agency.

Since 2001 some of the most vocal detractors of the 9/11 Truth movement have not been conservatives but rather left-liberal intellectuals, the foremost among these being Noam Chomsky. Chomsky’s pronouncements and leadership in this regard are exemplary yet also consistent with his liberal technocratic forebears, setting the tone for the collective silence of left academicians and the so-called progressive alternative media. “This [September 11] attack was surely an enormous shock and surprise to the intelligence services of the West,” Chomsky commented, echoing the early responses of the Bush administration almost to the word.

Chomsky’s remarks deserve attention given his notoriety among the left. “One of the major consequences of the 9/11 movement,” he remarked shortly after the event, “has been to draw enormous amounts of energy and effort away from activism directed to real and ongoing crimes of state, and their institutional background, crimes that are far more serious than blowing up the WTC would be, if there were any credibility to that thesis.”

Confining itself to historical examples indicating how political intrigue and coups are a mainstay in foreign lands, liberalism stubbornly clings to the childlike notion that America is that rare exception where political leaders and institutions have the very best of intentions and carry out policies with the overall public interest in mind. Those who question the avuncular goodwill of liberals’ idealizations are likely “’extremists’” with a “’conspiratorial view of history’”—tantamount to Malcolm X, 9/11 Truth, or Nazi skinhead types. Yet “history is not, of course, a succession of conspiracies,” Norden concludes. “[W]hat liberals conveniently forget was that there are conspiracies in history. The world, much less America, is not the tidy design of the League of Women Voters; it can happen here.”

Michael Parenti has claimed that “liberal progressives are the dumbest ones in the room”. The realities of the power relationships that exist must be understood and acknowledged in order to fight the right fight. Full text of the article is at