Column on M.A.S.H. & Lessons in Liberalism

M.A.S.H. and Lessons in “Liberalism”
Tibor R. Machan
Many moons ago, when I would now and then check out the very popular TV
comedy show M.A.S.H., I noticed that whenever their rightwing villain
Frank Burns (played by the late Larry Linville) acted badly, the good
guys, lead by Alan Alda’s character, Hawkeye, had no compunction about
physically assaulting him. They set traps that would clearly injure him.
It was not enough to ridicule him, show up his views as asinine, no. The
writers, directors and actors had no problem at all with hurting him.
A few days ago I decided to check out a new legal drama, “Raising the
Bar,” and lo and behold the second show featured one of the extremely
politically correct guys–you know, the one with the long hair and oozing
with sentiment for the little guy, never mind what made him little or how
guilty he or she is–punch out one of the politically incorrect ones–you
know, the guy who comments on women’s physical attributes and makes nearly
racist or ethnic jokes. Evidently, here too, it mattered none that the
offense was confined to words. These words deserved to be punished and
punished not with equally painful words but with out and out physical
Interestingly both of these shows appear to be emblematic of the political
ideology of contemporary liberalism. If something is objectionable, it
deserves to be punished good and hard, never mind that no one was actually
made to physically suffer, no one’s rights were violated, nada. In the
1980s there was a wing of feminism that made this feature of modern
liberalism quite explicit. The University of Michigan law professor,
Catharine A. MacKinnon, wrote a book laying out the position. It was
titled Only Words and published by Harvard University Press. The thesis
put forth was that pornography and other insults toward women need to be
banned or punished, if need be by prison sentences. Never mind that the
offense consisted only of words. It needed to be dealt with harshly, with
physical force.
I mention this because it is often claimed that the Left in America would
never go so far as, say, Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, in dealing with
opponents to its ideas and policies. But there is reason to think that the
American Left can easily degenerate into using physical force when it
encounters opponents. M.A.S.H. indicated as much, as did this episode of
Raising the Bar and, of course, Professor MacKinnon’s book.
But, you might say, no one in government, however Left leaning it might
be, would ever resort to silencing the opposition, not in America. Well,
think again.
A little while ago, when the hysteria about global warming was at its
highest pitch, when Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth made the rounds and
garnered its Oscar, some “liberal” members Congress–and I have to put
quotes around liberal since it so perverts the meaning of that term–tried
to institute certain measures against people in business who would make
contributions to think tanks and researchers who were skeptical about
global warming. Several such organizations were actually named, including
the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., which had
received, I believe, some little support from certain corporations.
Whatever governmental favors these corporations received–and, mind you, I
think no corporation should receive any such favors–were to be withheld
from them if they continued their support of global warming skepticism.
This is worth observing when it is widely believed that only those on the
“extreme Right” would use coercive force or its threat against their
adversaries. Such policies are usually associated with extreme right
wingers or fascists, not with extreme Left-wingers or socialists. But this
is entirely mistaken.
In fact, both of these wings, Left and Right, believe in using coercive
force to try to have others follow their ways. What else does
redistribution of wealth or faith based government funded support amount
to than the use or threat of extreme physical force (jail, prison, major
fines, etc.) against the non-compliant? And if such non-compliance were to
be effectively advocated–say by those who support tax dodging or other
means of withholding their support of various public policies the
government carries out, be it run by the Left or the Right–certainly the
attitude exhibited in M.A.S.H., Raising the Bar, and Only Words could
triumph right here in our supposedly free society.
When the libertarian considers both the Left and the Right dangerous and
immoral, it is for these reasons, among many others. Right and Left do not
want to leave it to free men and women whether their ideas of community
life will be adopted. No, both Right and Left want to make sure their
ideas will triumph, even if its takes depriving people of their basic
right to live as they choose so long as they let others do the same.

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