Rise of the cultural libertarians

Other liberals in good standing are slowly backing away from extremists on their own side: Jonathan Chait, writing in New York magazine, admitted early this year that “the language police are perverting liberalism.” Columnist Freddie deBoer, while scolding Chait for being patronising, endorsed his core argument.

Cultural libertarians recognise that efforts to police language and expression are not only counter-productive, but also fragile. The people pushing for greater control are a small segment of the population, whose voice is amplified by media support. To fight them, all you have to do is ignore them – or, better yet, mock them.

Because the social justice tendency takes apparently fringe issues and elevates them to the status of historic civil rights battles, and because humour can be in short supply wherever you find authoritarian points of view, cultural libertarians have found needling their foes with waspish critiques and satire highly effective.

Cultural libertarians can frequently be found skewering critics who take themselves too seriously or are excessively earnest, especially when making specious arguments about the supposed “real-world effect” of violent or allegedly offensive media. Their attitude is refreshing for readers tired of being lectured to by newspaper columnists and east coast bloggers, and one of the reasons cultural libertarianism is gaining traction so quickly.