Progressives facing existential PR damage from Charlottesville


Moral superiority is the lily-white garb donned by progressive true believers to shore up their self-image as charitable guardian angels of lesser beings.  It feeds on constant virtue-signaling to keep the image pure, broadcast to an array of identity groups who eat up their public self-reverence.

The archenemy of their moral superiority is the merest hint of moral equivalence (whatever that is!) with apostates on the right.  Such a suggestion is an existential threat to progressive supremacy and simply must not be abided.  Embrace of their supremacy demands they reflexively label challengers as bigots, racists, sexists, evil, Nazis, homophobes, climate-deniers, transphobes, or whatever else fits the circumstances of the moment.

Almost without exception, embracing moral superiority doctrine and its specific tactics, besides signaling the virtuous superiority of the user, is intended to summarily end debate or discussion.  Rather than respond to counterpoints or questions coming from non-believers, it’s easier to cast the respondent as morally inferior.  Such thinking allows progressive supremacists to lift up the likes of Ted Kennedy and Robert Byrd to legendary status in the annals of liberal socio-political purity.

This backdrop provides the stage for the violent events in Charlottesville and, more particularly, the social and political fallout since then.  Progressives are outraged that President Trump asserted moral equivalence about the events, though he never uttered words to that effect.  TV talkers, numerous websites, and newspaper comment threads are rife with the same accusations hurled at anyone who suggests that Antifa, BLM, and the rest of the Alt-Left are violent thugs.  This rings true especially for those wearing monochromatic outfits with matching headgear showing only eyes to minimize the chance they’ll be recognized; that seems like something seen elsewhere, doesn’t it?  Then there are those who insist that uttering a simple truth like “all lives matter” is racist, calling for abject public humiliation, if not loss of employment.  How anyone can morally dismiss demands for “dead cops” leaves one dumbfounded.

Attempts to parse ordinary language into deep, dark symptoms of various psychological and political maladies are everywhere.  In keeping with today’s hyper-competitive news environment, talking heads, and others once considered reporters, fall all over themselves trying to outdo each other in prolonging and amplifying the outrage.  The usual suspects in the governing class join in, trying to leverage nothing into something for political advantage and face time on as many screens as possible.

We haven’t seen a single report of anyone asserting that troublemakers on the left and troublemakers on the right were “morally equivalent,” specifically, by using that exact term.  Nonetheless, numerous pundits on the progressive axis have hurled exactly those charges about freely, especially at the president.

Add to that a purge underway to eliminate every last symbol, artifact, and memorial that might have some connection to the Confederacy and slavery, no matter how flimsy the link.  Out, damned spots!  Those named “Robert Lee” suddenly find themselves pariahs in the media world.

Moral superiority and moral equivalence are complex yet squishy terms.  Are there ten (or more? or fewer?) measures of moral behavior constituting a consolidated score?  Or is it a matter of  the ear of the beholder when listening to public figures?  I suggest that the latter, filtered through learned biases, dominates the attitude formation process.

Such vagaries aside, moral superiority can be demonstrated in two primary ways.  One is to elevate perceptions of morality for one’s favored side.  The other is to lay a barrage of moral shortcomings upon the opposition.  Either way, there’s no avoiding that moral superiority and equivalence are relative terms, not absolutes.  One needs to exaggerate for a rhetorical margin of safety.

This explains the hyperbolic objections to statements and comments made by anyone not a progressive supremacist.  It’s simply impossible for these partisans to argue that Antifa, BLM, and their fellow Alt-Left soldiers are a gaggle of misunderstood, good-hearted, moral, principled advocates for lively debate and the common good.  At least, one is hard pressed to find arguments for that position that decent people could swallow (reference to others as decent people is another favorite taunt).

Realistically, Alt-Left Antifa-BLM moral stature is pretty much what it is and is amply on the record – as is their résumé of violence and destruction.  Not much can be done to hide or change it.

So there is no choice but to make them look morally superior by pounding on the Alt-Right participants until they pale in comparison to the upstanding youngsters and model activists on the Alt-Left.  Heaven knows, and the rest of us as well, that white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and KKK sympathizers are unworthy of respect, support, or any other defense of their tenets and behaviors.

No matter; anyone who makes the slightest mention of Alt-Left anarchy, destructiveness, and police hatred is immediately labeled an evil Nazi-sympathizer.  As discussed earlier, the clear intent is to mute and demean any challenge to the self-perceived moral superiority of progressive supremacists.

In a broader and more lasting sense, our situation is not at all about the events and violence in Virginia.  It is, instead, about self-image preservation, delusions of moral superiority, and the exaltation of progressive supremacy – and, most certainly, avoiding by any means possible the impression of giving even the slightest validation to President Trump’s words, thereby admitting that both participating groups are guilty of morally deplorable affronts to public safety,  propriety, and lawfulness.

This article was originally published in the American Thinker.

About Pem Schaeffer

Pem Schaeffer is a retired engineer who progressed to a position in business development leadership in defense electronics. He lives and writes in Brunswick, Maine, and blogs at: He can be reached at or you can always buy him lunch at a Maine Policy Institute luncheon. He's easy that way, and he'll still respect you if you do.

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