One of the things I find most frustrating is misinformation, particularly regarding my passions. In fact, one of the primary reasons I launched Across the Fruited Plain was to correct the record on many such fallacies regarding general science, history, and faith. Today, I am turning my attention to politics and to what is probably the most misunderstood area regarding politics–The Political Spectrum.
While I have been correcting the record personally for many years, a recent experience with an online political quiz coupled with a plague of political misinformation has motivated me to write and hopefully educate on this topic.
Why is this important?
Meaningful political discourse begins with a correct understanding of one’s own political positions as well as that of your audience on any variety of topics or issues. The coin of the political realm is language. Therefore, if we are not beginning the discussion with an accurate view of the landscape, including the correct vocabulary of concepts and ideology and where those ideologies line up on the political spectrum, then the exchange will not be genuinely meaningful.
Before we examine people’s misnomered misconceptions of politics, it is critical to understand the general difference between “Left” or “Left Wing” and “Right” or “Right Wing.” The terms “Left” and “Right” actually originate in the 18th century French Legislature where those loyal to the King and to religion sat on the right while those opposed to the King and were in favor of revolution sat on the left.
“Left Wing” and “Right Wing” today denotes a spacial placement along the political spectrum. The “Left”, if correctly displayed, will be on the left-hand side of the spectrum, while the “Right” should be represented on right side of the spectrum. The spectrum runs from left to right based on the ideology’s and or party’s concept of the scope of government which serves as the foundation. Generally speaking, the left believe that the government is the solution to our problems and the larger and more intrusive the government, the better. Representative of this side of spectrum are large totalitarian governments, Monarchism, Communism and Communism’s Marxist step brother, Socialism in all its varied forms including Fascism and it’s more racially motivated arm–Nazism.
“The Right” on the other hand, typically believe that, in the words of Ronaldus Magnus, “The Government is not the solution to our problems, the Government is the problem.” This, of course, is a fundamental dichotomy. Those correctly labeled “Right-Wing” will believe in limited government, low taxes and individual liberty. As a result, a correct political spectrum will align ideology along that general premise.
Let’s take a look at our first example below of political ignorance paraded as educated truth.
While this guy does use cool .gifs and .jpgs to make his political spectrum look snazzy and official, my five year old could tear apart the logic of this spectrum faster than you can say “confused”!
For starters, and what should be patently obvious to someone who has a modicum of political savvy, is that they have the “A” symbol which represents Anarchy or no government at all, as the farthest left position possible on the spectrum! In other words, this is teaching that Leftism taken to the nth degree will result in no government at all. That is completely incorrect and demonstrates a deficit of political comprehension. When I consider how many “Likes” and “Shares” this got, it was enough to make me sick. Since I explained above that Anarchy represents no authority and no government, this symbol could not have been more incorrectly placed than at the far left end, when in fact it is the end of spectrum to the far right, not the far left.
Unfortunately, beyond that, there is not another symbol correctly placed by my estimation. While I agree that Communism, Socialism and Liberalism are all left-wing ideologies and belong in that descending order from left to right, the rest of the spectrum completely falls apart under the scrutiny of examination.
Conservatism does not mean moderate or independent, therefore, placing “Conservatism” in the center of the spectrum is not a correct representation of the ideology. This misplacement becomes even further obvious when you consider that Monarchsim, Nazism and Facism are all placed to the right of Conservatism which is completely incorrect. As I earlier explained, all three of those views represent big government and collectivism, not freedom and individual liberty and thus belong on the left side of the spectrum.
Another point of peculiarity is how the ideologies are equidistantly spaced as though Conservatism and Monarchism are as closely related as Communism and Socialism.
Finally, to end with Fascism at the farthest right end of the spectrum is alone the most commonly made and perpetuated error in politics. I am only going to write this once, so please pay attention.
Fascism is one of the most far left worldviews that can be held by a human mind. The reason that people, whether intentionally or inadvertently mistake Fascism for “right-wing” is because of the political landscape of 1940’s Germany. Your two competing parties of the day were the Nazi’s or Socialists and the Communists. Now, in reality, Communism and Socialism have very little difference compared to someone who is on the other side of the spectrum. With the exception of a small, hyper-regulated private sector, they are nearly identical. Just look at the mass murders produced by both ideologies last century and if your data and math is correct, you’ll find the body count far exceeds 100 million murdered souls. They are both far left, big government, totalitarian models of society. However, in Hitler’s Germany, to be “left-wing” meant to be Communist and to be “right-wing” meant to be associated with Hitler’s Nazi (Fascist) Party. Therefore, based solely on this match-up, the “Left” erroneously calls the Right Wing, Nazis and Fascists, when nothing could be politically or historically, further from the truth.
As I looked at this spectrum and considered that this person did not get one ideology correct on the right side of the spectrum, I though that perhaps they might better understand politics or even embrace the “right-wing” if they understood exactly what those terms conveyed.
And finally, while the far left of the spectrum reduces man to chattel and government property which is Slavery, the far right side of the spectrum means Freedom (even from government), not Slavery. Very odd that they place “Freedom” in the center as though “Centrism” or “Moderatism” equates to the only hope for political and civic freedom and as though “Centrism” is anything other than Liberalism in disguise. See, someone doesn’t want you to know that all the left-wing ideologies result in the enslavement of mankind so they project and sprinkle some of their worldviews across the entire spectrum to suggest that both wings lead to the same end result, and that is patently absurd and not true to history.
Next we have “Left vs. Right–A True View”
Oh, is it?
This person, with seemingly a bit more political acumen than the previous writer, correctly places the totalitarian regimes at the far left end of the spectrum and rightly associates the Democrats with Communists by placing a hammer and sickle on the donkey. (Don’t believe me? Show me a Communist world leader who could have destroyed America faster than Obama.) However, then he goes on to buying into the lie that Republicans are Nazis by placing the swastika on the elephant. He also mistakenly places Republican to the left of Center and suggests that Democrats and Republicans are identical in their view of governance, which is incorrect. Though very simplistic, at least he recognizes that Libertarianism means more individual freedom and rightly understands that the horizon of the far right is Anarchy or no government, not fascism like our friend above.
Above, we have what appears to be a child’s attempt at explaining politics. This kid rightly places Communism to the far left, followed by Socialism. By virtue of the fact however that this person mistakenly believes that Socialism means equality, he erroneously depicts the monstrosity of Socialism with an “equals” symbol, betraying his leanings. Then, he incorrectly places Liberalism in the center of his political spectrum, as though Liberalism is a Centrist and balanced worldview and not one deserving of left of center placement where it belongs. Next, he further betrays his politics by symbolizing Capitalism with a dollar sign, as though Marxist’s are uninterested in money. The symbol for Capitalism should be the Bible since free markets, rights of conscience, accountable government and free elections come right out of the pages of Scripture. Finally, he ends with the lie that prompted this piece in the first place–that the far right equals Fascism instead of Anarchy. How anyone could believe collectivism occupies both ends of the spectrum is entirely beyond me. That could only be true if the spectrum were a circular loop.
Now, many make the case that the most reliable political spectrum are depicted as coordinates through an axis grid and not on a linear plane. This method allows the display of both personal and economic liberty. While this approach offers a further dimension into an individual’s political placement, you are still at the mercy of the interpretation and leanings of the the axis’ creator.
Take the below as an example from politicalcompass.org:
According to the logic of the architect of this political axis:
- President Angela Merkel of Germany is more conservative than Mitt Romney
- Obama is way more conservative than Pope Benedict the XVI
- Romney and Obama are nearly identical politically
- Benjamin Netanyahu is only slightly more conservative than David Cameron
- Nelson Mandela is more conservative than the Pope
- Obama is to the right of anybody
A sharp eye will also notice that the creator of this political axis, also buys into the lie that right-wing equals Fascism. Notice how Merkel is listed as the farthest leader to the right on the axis. I submit to you that this was intentional for you to consciously or subconsciously link: Germany > Fascism > Hitler > Right-wing
It is one thing to disagree about politics, and to do so honestly. It is another matter entirely to muddy the water with ad hominem attacks while intentionally inverting the entire political landscape to promote a lie.