Why did the internet left get so excited about the Duchess of Cambridge’s new baby? I have an answer.
As readers of this website are likely well aware, being a rebel is fun. And if I can think of one way in which leftists are at a disadvantage in modern political discourse, it’s that they don’t often get to be rebels. Today, after all, most powerful government institutions in the Western world have a decidedly left-wing character.
In the United States, only a minority of Democratic voters say it’s particularly important that we continue to have a Fourth Amendment. Where Republicans abandoned Bush en masse, most Democrats remain feverishly devoted to President Obama as he willfully expands Bush-era warrantless surveillance.
Likewise, more Americans now believe that “the First Amendment goes too far” than at any point since the months following 9/11. Who are these new opponents of free speech? They are predominantly left-wing, non-religious and young. To these nascent stormtroopers, your right to dissent is an impediment to social justice. 70% of liberals, for example, think that wedding musicians who personally object to same-sex marriage should be legally forced to go and perform at the weddings of same-sex couples who wish to hire them.
Presumably, the end goal is something like Europe. In Denmark, all churches, regardless of their beliefs, are required to host same-sex weddings. The UK’s imperious left now jails its citizens for crimes like “revving [one’s] car in a racist manner.” Another way to be locked in a cell “for racism” is to complain to your middle school teacher that the other students assigned to your group project speak only Urdu.
Liberty is not being smothered in the flag – as was once predicted – but trampled beneath the Converse jackboots of tolerance. Can police who jail schoolgirls for speech crimes be said to be in rebellion against a system of power? Not with a straight face. The leftists-as-rebels narrative is just not believable: a dismal picture for any left-wingers who long for the rush of defying the powers that be.
But wait – here comes Kate Middleton’s baby to remind us all that the British monarchy still exists. To a leftist, the royals’ sins are a virtual compendium of all the evil in the world. The monarchy is traditional and, if history is linear, is committing a terrible crime merely by being so old. It’s also religious: Elizabeth II is the ceremonial head of the Church of England. It’s even a bit complementarian: the words “king” and “queen” sound nothing alike. Perhaps worst of all: it’s relatively inexpensive and profitable. To the delight of nostalgic leftists, hungry for some tangible institution to oppose, the monarchy fits the bill.
Queue the fermenting bowels of the internet left. Having surveyed its reaction I’ll say, without getting into gruesome detail, that I saw that lovely Diderot epigram about the entrails of priests more times than I’d have liked. Perhaps the most widely circulated outburst was Gawker’s “Imprison the Royal Family and Abolish the Monarchy.” The author of this column squeezes the royals for every drop of rebellion he can, stopping just short of saying we should euthanize the Queen’s corgis.
The piece revealed its underlying authoritarianism, however, when it called upon the UK to “burn the queen’s home to ground during a grand national celebration of the birth of a new society.” The screed is emblazoned with an image glorifying the Jacobins, one of the most violently authoritarian regimes in the history of man. The Jacobin government drowned nuns for praying and beheaded people for using the word “monsieur.” As a libertarian, I will always work to decentralize power to whatever extent I can – but I would much rather live under British ceremony than whatever bloody utopia Gawker would install in its place.
The column’s strongest argument is that the royal family receives a great deal of money from taxpayers. Although Gawker grossly misrepresents the way this occurs, it is nonetheless true and objectionable. The Obama family, however, costs 20 times more than the royal family. The Daily Mail has noticed the irony:
Moreover, much of the money spent on Mr Obama’s family goes to perks such as entertainment and household expenses.
For example, the White House contains a movie theatre which is manned by projectionists 24 hours a day in case one of the family feels like a trip to the cinema.
And even the Obamas’ dog Bo costs the taxpayer thousands of dollars – his handler is reportedly paid over $100,000 a year…
226 members of Mr Obama’s staff are apparently paid over $100,000 – and the President can increase their salaries at any time.
I find it unlikely that Gawker has produced 20 times as much odium towards the Obama family as it has towards the British royals. For that matter, I find it unlikely that Gawker, in all its history, has directed against the Obamas even a comparable fraction of the hatred contained within this single column.
“But,” I hear you protest, “a majority of Americans voted for Barack Obama – and, by extension, his family. Isn’t that different?” Well, although Britain still locks people in jail for expressing opinions, republicanism has not been one of those opinions for some time. A famous political pressure group, Republic, has been calling for the abolition of the monarchy since 1983.
Britons have had plenty of opportunity to elect these republicans and then abolish the Crown by referendum. Yet modern polls consistently find that around 80% of Britons want to continue having a monarchy, with only 13% committed to abolishing it. I fail to see, then, how Britain’s opulence is any less democratic than ours.
On the other hand, Britain’s government has led our own in intrusive and sweeping surveillance. Britons are monitored by millions of CCTV cameras; the nation was already “the most surveilled country” in 2006. With an army deployed in more than 80 countries around the world, it is also one of the most interventionist nations on earth.
I am suspicious of anyone who weighs in on British politics to condemn the indignities of the nation’s symbolic monarchy but ignores ascending assaults on liberty and life. This selective moral outrage confirms the left’s prioritization of equality above liberty. Moreover, it reflects the left’s desire to reclaim something it’s rightly lost: its image of defiance.