The biters on the left are bitten
Published in: Melanie's blog
Fascinating to see tiny movements on the left to attempt open up debate just a fraction on a taboo subject– and then watch the vicious response.
Last Friday, Deborah Orr wrote in the Guardian that she despaired of the left’s knee-jerk reaction on issues such as abortion. Making it clear she remains firmly on the left, being not only pro-choice but claiming that ‘the right’ had a deadening effect on the terms of the debate about abortion (that’s not how it feels to some of us, but let that pass) and confusingly equating in the course of her article abortion on demand with UK abortion law (a telling muddle, maybe, but let that one pass too) she nevertheless pointed out that, on the left, even to question whether it might be better for women to bring down the abortion limit from 24 weeks’ gestation was to be accused of ‘giving in to the right’, thus making ‘honest, involved and sincere debate’ impossible.
Now look at what has happened to Mehdi Hasan, a left-wing writer with whom in the past I have crossed swords, when he dared voice a similar abortion heresy. Last week he wrote a column in the New Statesman in which, musing as did Orr on the howls of rage when the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt suggested that the abortion limit should be reduced to 12 weeks’ gestation, he recalled the late Christopher Hitchens’s apostasy in identifying the ostensibly compassionate left-wing ‘pro-choice’ position as in fact the apogee of selfish individualism, while the supposedly callous right-wing ‘pro-life’ position was in fact on the side of equality, human rights and defending the innocent. Making his principled opposition to abortion as morally wrong, Hasan insisted that this did not make him any less left-wing and pleaded for his fellow-lefties to understand and respect those who held such views rather than demonise them as reactionaries or medieval misogynists.
Fat chance! Hasan was promptly engulfed in a Twitter firestorm, in which he was repeatedly told there was simply no debate to be had on this issue; being ‘pro-life’ was synonymous with evil. Hasan subsequently wrote:
‘It slowly dawned on me, at about 5pm on Sunday evening, that no matter how politely, gently and sensitively the anti-abortion case is expressed in the future, people on the ‘pro-choice’ liberal-left will never want to hear it.’
Welcome to Planet Reality, Mehdi. So nice of you to drop in.
He was subjected to more of the same on the Today programme this morning, when his opponent Suzanne Moore scarcely allowed him even to finish a sentence, apparently on the grounds that she was fed up with having to debate abortion once again with men. How dreadful for her! Of course men shouldn’t be allowed to say anything on this subject!
Mehdi Hasan’s point was duly made for him.
Today asked whether abortion really was a left/right matter. As with so many issues, there is nothing intrinsically right-wing about having reservations about the abortion time limit or opposing it altogether. It’s a religious and moral issue instead. And there are conservative voters who believe that abortion should be legal and that it is a woman’s right, just as there are lefties who believe the time limit should come down or that it is morally wrong altogether.
Nevertheless, being ‘pro-choice’ as opposed to ‘pro-life’, and expressed in those terms, certainly is a left-wing position. This is because essential to the left is, first, a secularist onslaught against Biblical morality -- including the acknowledgement of the innate value of human life and the need to respect it -- and its replacement by the unchallengeable authority of subjective desires.
And second, the left is governed by the Manichean belief that everything not the left is the right; that the left is the embodiment of virtue; and that the right is therefore irredeemably evil.
Two things follow from this. First, Biblical morality and the innate respect due to all forms of human life become an evil right-wing position. In fact, not just on abortion but across the board the left is not compassionate, generous or humane at all but is defined by selfish individualism, callous utilitarianism and narcissistic self-regard.
Second, lefties are totally obsessed with defining themselves as on the left. That’s because they really do believe that the left is synonymous with virtue. That’s why both Orr and Hasan are so desperate to maintain their left-wing purity – and why the inevitable left-wing witch-hunt against such heresy on abortion is so unendurable for them.
Third, and as a result of the above, the left shuts down freedom of speech and thought itself, by substituting vilification and demonisation for reason and argument.
The abortion issue stands proxy for the closing of the western liberal mind.