Out of Focus: Radicals who hide behind liberal rhetoric
“Liberalism and liberals have a way of buying off contemporary social critics. Liberals are willing to heap praise, popularity, and fellowships on any bright social critic who agrees to obey one rule — he must recommend the amendment of existing institutions rather than recommend new institutions. A critic who agrees to obey this rule, who agrees that Western institutions are indeed basically moral and capable of reform, reaps many benefits. He remains a part of the culture he criticizes; he is awarded a public platform and an attentive audience.
“But this convinced kind of liberal critic is not the only kind. There are also liberal critics whose private opinions are different from their public opinions — critics who retain their radical views but adopt a liberal rhetoric ‘in order to be understood.’
“The first kind of liberal can only be regretted for his innocence, but the latter kind can be condemned not only for a lack of demonstrated insight, but also for a lack of candor.”
— John Hartwell Moore
Excerpted from Moore’s “Assault from the Left,” published in the September-October 1966 edition ofFOCUS/Midwest.
Moore, a Vietnam War veteran, was a graduate student in anthropology at Washington University in St. Louis and first president of the university’s chapter of Students for a Democratic Society. His essay was one of several submitted in a national contest co-sponsored by Local 688 of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters. Winning essays were published in the special “Revolution in America” edition of the magazine.