The Orthodoxy of Dissent

I found this delightful (and highly relevant) clip in “The Politics of Dissent,” an old Gertrude Himmelfarb essay in Commentary. It was aimed at the legacy of Dwight MacDonald, but it has only become more piquant today:

The politics of dissent, it has become all too evident, creates its own strident orthodoxy, in which the “independent critical intellect” tends to lose not only its independence but also its purity and its viability. “When you start looking for purity in politics,” Mario Vargas Llosa says of the Trotskyist hero of one of his novels, “you eventually get to unreality.”

We have seen this strident orthodoxy develop on the far Right as well as on the Progressive/Radical Left. It is discouraging to see it among the masses. It is disheartening to see it among the intellectuals of both sides. And it is fascinating and frightening to watch how it evolves in the Trump movement.

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