Moonbat in flight
Explore the political spectrum ...
The Left
Left Media
Left Thought
Left Action
Liberal Media
Liberal Thought
Liberal Action
The Center
Centrist Media
Centrist Thought
Centrist Action
The Ticker
The Feature
Our Rights
Science & Technology
The Horse's Mouth
Arts & Science
The World
Conservative Media
Conservative Thought
Conservative Action
The Right
Rightwing Media
Rightwing Thought
Rightwing Action

The Left

The "Left" does not simply consist of people who are more extreme than garden variety liberals and progressives; it consists of several quite different groups. And many are quite overtly distant or even disdainful of liberals and "liberalism", although most embrace "progressivism" even if there is little consensus about what that is.

The most familiar are various socialists and communists, who argue that social institutions -- often the government -- should distribute obligations and resources rationally and equitably. Major leftists of this category include Karl Marx and Jean Jaurès. While socialists and communists in the Twentieth Century influenced liberal and progressive (social democratic) politicians, they also provided bonapartists like Joseph Stalin and Mao Zedong with rationales for their regimes.

On the other hand, anarchists argue that such institutions (particularly the government) are themselves the primary source of human misery; major anarchists include Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Mikhail Bakunin.

There is also a "Romantic Left", which traces its ancestry through figures like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Henry Thoreau, and Leo Tolstoy, and much of the modern environmental movement from Rachel Carson on.

The Romantic Left has has influenced innovators who developed machinery for influencing western liberal democracies, such as Saul Alinsky, Mohandas Gandhi, and Martin L. King, Jr..


While radicals and revolutionaries are as ancient as John the Baptist and Wat Tyler, it was Mr. Gutenberg that made mass radical dissent more than, say, chronic complaining and occasional explosions.

Major media organs tend to be concerned with being responsible members of society, or responsibly providing a reasonable return to their investors, and tend to be wary of the Left. That leaves the field to a vast and diverse array of newspapers, magazines, websites, and other organs collectively if misleadingly called the Left Wing Press.

  • AlterNet is a news service.
  • Counterpunch is co-edited by one of the Left's most notorious curmudgeons.
  • The Daily Kos is a sort of blog-world for American progressives.
  • Democracy Now is a radio system with a growing web presence.
  • In These Times was founded to "identify and clarify the struggles against corporate power now multiplying in American society."
  • Mother Jones is the American Left's glitziest outlet.
  • The Nation is the American Left's leading daily.
  • The Guardian called the British-based New Left Review the "flagship of the Western intellectual Left."
  • A British socialist magazine founded by members of the Fabian Society, the New Statesman is one of the great survivors.
  • Pacifica is a small radio network.
  • The Progressive is one of the American Left's honest gloomy Puritans.
  • The Real News Network covers "the critical issues of our times."
  • The Utne Reader trolls through the Left, presenting to its readers the bright, glittery loot it finds.
And check out the funnies at the Humor Times.

There are also many weekly tabloids making up an Alternative Press of independent media outlets (along with small radio stations and other groups).

See also the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. And of course, above all these like the jet plane it is, is the cover of the Rolling Stone.


Since the Left is a community, there is no left wing thought, but rather a lot of left wing thoughts. Ethologists tell us that among social animals, useful new ideas rise from the bottom of the social hierarchy. But since new ideas from the bottom of the hierarchy are not necessarily left wing (far from it), "left wing thought" is difficult to define, or even recognize.

There are several kinds of think tanks, study groups, and similar left wing institutions.


If the Left consists of radicals and revolutionaries, then they should do something. In fact, this is one of the most common criticisms of the Left. Historically, leftists tend to be at their most positive and effective as reformers -- and many of the commonsensical amenities (and necessities!) of modern life began as crazy left wing notions. But human beings are not particularly patient, and some leftists have sought to save the world by next Tuesday.

There are many organizations dedicated to specific causes, such as:

And then there are the more direct descendents of the German & British movement associated with Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels.

That brings us to, um, direct action. While there are a few Maoist, neo-Castroite, or otherwise Leftist groups wreaking violence in the third world, the old monsters are either gone (like the Red Army Faction, the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, and even the Weatherman) or gone straight (like the Palestinian Liberation Organization or Sinn Fein). Terrorist organizations in the news, like Al Qaida, are depressingly right of wing. Meanwhile, Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale sells cookbooks and ice cream. Oh, for the good old days ...


Liberals believe that people are and should be rational and good, and that government should be rational and rely on the goodness of people in working for the public interest. Progressives believe that government and society should actively promote the public welfare. These two goals are not particularly compatible, hence frequent food fights.

Modern liberalism goes back to Age of Reason and Enlightenment philosophers like Benedict Spinoza, John Locke, Baron de Montesquieu and Immanuel Kant, and more recently John Stuart Mill and John Dewey. Perhaps the gratest accomplishment of liberalism -- yes, of liberalism -- is liberal democracy (sometimes called western democracy). Major liberal politicians include Thomas Jefferson. William Gladstone, and Earl Warren.

Since liberty and justice were in the public interest, many liberals came to believe that government should advance liberty and justice: in America, the progressives (like Theodore Roosevelt), and in Europe the social democrats (like Eduard Bernstein) pushed for socialist reforms -- essentially industrial and commercial regulation and support for public infrastructure and welfare -- within the framework of liberal democracy. Major progressives include Franklin Roosevelt, Lyndon Johnson, and Robert F. Kennedy. The traditional tension in liberalism -- which progressives try to answer -- is the conflict between liberty and justice.


Despite complaints about the "liberal media", the media are not particularly liberal, much less left wing. But there are many outlets that tilt left of center, either liberal or progressive or (somehow) both.

A number of major media organs are relatively liberal or progressive.

  • The Daily Beast recently purchased Time magazine's old Democratic foil, Newsweek magazine -- which is prone to emulate Time at times.
  • The U. K. Guardian is probably the world's pre-eminent liberal newspaper.
  • MSNBC is the most prominent progressive outlet in America.
  • Salon is a creature of the new San Francisco bay area.
  • The Village Voice could be regarded as America's pre-eminent progressive alternative newspaper.
A number of news outlets are liberal-to-center. For example:
  • The two liberal-to-center metropolitan newspapers I am most familiar with are the Sacramento Bee, serving northern California, and the Tampa Bay Times, serving west central Florida.
Liberals and progressives have one advantage: a cluster of grand old magazines unmatched in America by anything from the center to the right (but is this a commentary on conservatism or on America?):
  • The Atlantic published those Nineteenth century writers you studied in school.
  • The Atlantic may have published Emerson's essays, but Harper's ran Nast's cartoons.
  • The New Yorker is the great American phoenix that every American writer aspires to publish in -- if only as an item in The Mail.
And for more liberal and progressive commentary:
  • The American Prospect has become more than just a reaction to the Reagan revolution.
  • Commonweal is a catholic Catholic publication.
  • Not as popular as it once was, Ms. is a special interest publication that makes 50 % of the population its special interest, albeit with a leftish tilt.
  • As the voice of responsible liberalism, the New Republic embodies the Washington limousine liberal beltway that the Left and Right can't abide.
  • Tilting at windmills, the Washington Monthly remains faithful to the mainstream that runs from FDR to LBJ.
There are other kinds of media organs.
  • The Huffington Post is a sort of uber-blog for progressives and liberals.
  • Literature and Economics may swing between Left and Right as fashion dictates, but the Nobel Peace Prize committee maintains one of the most powerful wurlitzers in progressive politics.


The Enlightenment was more liberal than progressive, but it provided wind for both sets of sails. But liberals and progressives agreed that human beings were fundamentally good, and that the social systems that governed them could and should be rational as well as just. One of the primary notions was that of the Social Contract, the idea that government is the result of a contract held in common by the people, either literally or metaphorically, and this has formed the basis for liberal prescriptions from John Locke to Baron Montesquieu (both of whom inspired our Founding Fathers), to John Rawls. This alleged goodness and rationality is the core of the basic disagreement between liberals and progressives versus conservatives.

It is a particularly liberal belief that if a think tank provides factual support for a policy, that policy will be implemented. But liberal think tanks tend to lack the resources to compete effectively with their competitors across the aisle.

One major source of progressive ideas -- and a major target of right wing politicians -- are academic institution concentrating on labor studies. Examples include: While the big important universities are creatures of The Establishment, and thus ultimately advance Conservative Thought, the small liberal arts colleges that offer (in the humble opinion of an alumnus of one of them) the best undergraduate education in the world do tend towards the liberal and progressive side: places like Bowdoin, Bryn Mawr, Carleton, Haverford, New College, Oberlin, Reed, St. Michael, St. Olaf, Swarthmore, Wesleyan, with honorable mention to places like Caltech, Chicago and Princeton which, despite their virtues, are power players whose first priority is graduate education and R & D. Many of these institutions were actually launched by eccentric religious groups typical of America, and several Christian denominations are strikingly supportive of liberal and / or progressive causes, including:


Liberals and progressives -- especially progressives -- have formed many action, pressure, and reform organizations. Some have lasted a long time and have had a profound effect on our society. This is where food & drug laws, sick leave, and public education came from.

Perhaps the most influential organizations for the left of center are the unions, most notably:

Most U.S. employees have the RIGHT TO ORGANIZE A UNION, a right that is supposed to be enforced by agencies like the National Labor Relations Board, which has a very spotty history: if you want to organize a union at your workplace, you should contact one of the unions listed above for help. Here is the AFL-CIO page on how to form a union.

Political action is the perennial dream, and effective action requires political organization.

The Center

Aristotle argued for moderate government by men of moderate means acting moderately in their public and private lives. Since then, stirred by (the liberal) Gary Trudeau's rallying cry, "The World Needs Grown-ups," centrists have advocated grown up virtues.

But moderation is a controversial subject: Tom Paine claimed that moderation in principle is always a vice, while Barry Goldwater claimed that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue. Moderates argued that they were the advocates of sanity and common sense.

During the Eighteenth century, the notion of a balance of power (originally in foreign affairs) emerged at the same time modern political parties (such as the Whigs and the Tories of Great Britain). The moderate George Washington made the typical argument in his Farewell Address that a faction (party) will try "... to make the public administration the mirror of the ill-concerted and incongruous projects ... rather than the organ of consistent and wholesome plans digested by common counsels, and modified by mutual interests."

Since then, extreme partisanship has just as often led to paralysis -- perhaps the most notorious example being the Weimer Regime (whose collapse led to the ascendancy of the Nazi Party). But moderation -- now called bipartisanship -- remains controversial.


The centrists in the media are often centrists because they value moderation itself as a virtue, often regarding moderation as an attribute of maturity (one of the stereotypes of adolescence is extremism). Others may position themselves in the center strategically, although the center may not be the best place to be (Leftist commentator Jim Hightower has quipped that where he comes from -- Texas -- the only things in the middle of the road are yellow lines and dead armadillos). Even others are "centrist" because if you viewed the their positions (often extreme) on a large number of issues, the average would be close to center (these may be what Pogo cartoonist Walt Kelly called the extreme middle). However vanilla it may appear to be, the Center is no more monochromatic than anyplace else on the political spectrum.

The Left calls them the Corporate Media while the Right calls them the Mainstream Media. Criticized by both sides, they tend to regard themselves as the responsible center, but media watchdogs may be correct in pegging them leftish on social issues and private morality, and rightish on economic and public policy, and not particularly moderate in either. The main actors are:

  • Mismanaged, unreliable in science issues, and prone to pander to the defense establishment, The New York Times calls itself "The Newspaper of Record," although everyone else calls it the Old Gray Lady.
  • The Times' pre-eminent competitor is probably The Washington Post, which is sort of a small-town newspaper whose small town is the capitol. Of course, the Los Angeles Times would object to following the Post.
  • It may not have the highest ratings, but whenever there's an emergency, people turn to the Cable News Network.
Meanwhile, some media are more indirectly or directly responsive to the public, and thus may tend to drift towards the center -- or towards "balance", which is not necessarily the same thing.
  • Not venerable at all, USA Today aims to please, and is available in hotels across the country.
  • The Associated Press and Reuters have a compelling business reason to be more moderate: they make their money by selling stories to other outlets, which they don't want to antagonize.
  • The great news popularity contest is Google News; Google has software robots called "spiders" that select news based on various measurable popularity metrics. Yes, Google does have competitors, notably Yahoo News, which may be the most visited news site on the web. Such sites will tell you what everybody else is reading.
  • And then there are new outlets like Slate that package commentary as news.


In many civilizations, there are a few thoughtful people who support moderation, either as an ideal in itself, or at least as a necessary ingredient for good governance and sane living. The resulting philosophy is often more grown up, and therefore usually less entertaining. However, from its central vantage point, one can see things from the Center that one might miss elsewhere. Take a long look at this picture, and remember that (the somewhat liberal) John Tenniel drew it for (the somewhat conservative) Lewis Carroll's Looking Glass ...

Think tanks need resources to support scholars, and a think tank that desires a broad and stable base will tend to be sort of centrist. The bigger respectable think tanks tend to be centrist, while the bigger disreputable ones -- which rely on a few sugar daddies -- tend to be more right wing.

Some organizations are more focussed, and represent particular groups whose ideology may span the political spectrum. These range from think tanks to advocacy groups.
  • Ferociously liberal, ferociously anti-progressive, radically anti-conservative, prone to sympathy for the romantic Right, the Reason Foundation seems to exist largely to confound the pigeonholes.
  • Small Business Majority conducts studies and makes reports on issues facing small businesses.


Moderation in itself usually appeared in philosophy and ethics as advice regarding wine, women and song. The critical notion is the
balance of power. The notion arose in the Renaissance, although it is associated with Great Britain's foreign policy during the Nineteenth century: to "hold the scales" to prevent any one power from becoming dominant on the continent. But the notion crept into national politics, especially with Great Britain's experiments with parliamentary democracy in the Eighteenth Century (after the excitement of the previous century convinced many British people of the value of maturity).

The way that the U. S. Constitution is supposed to work is that the branches of the U. S. government are forced to the center by checking and balancing each other. Those branches are the Executive, with the White House on top; the Legislative, divided into an upper house, the Senate, and the lower house, the HOuse of Representatives; and the Judicial, with the Supreme Court. All these bodies float on top of a massive administrative superstructure of executive agencies, regulatory agencies, and courts.

Some centrist organizations are self-consciously centrist, pushing centrist policies.

  • The Democratic Leadership Council proposes to rescue the Democratic Party from its disintegrating base by seeking a less progressive and well-heeled clientele willing and able to pay for lots of television.
  • A group of grumpy independents launched a bipartisan on-line non-party, Americans Elect, but its failure to select a candidate for the 2012 election makes its future uncertain.
  • The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has a ... colorful ... history, and after a long dalliance with shady conservatives, it is more receptive to progressive notions.
Government organizations with agendas often wind up being centrist ... or all over the road. And there are a number of organizations advocating reforms which, if combined with a sufficient supply of civic virtues, would result in a happier world.
  • The Sikh Coalition is a volunteer organization seeking to build friendly relations between Sikhs and other Americans.
  • The Education Trust supports a number of moderate reforms.
Citizens also get together to do good works in officially apolitical (often centrist beige) organizations, ranging from the quintessentially European (like the Freemasons) to the quintessentially American (like the The Rotary). Other networks of lodges for pillars of the community include the Ancient Arabic Order of the Nobles of the Mystic Shrine (viz., the Shriners), the Lions Clubs International, and the Loyal Order of Moose. And there are more specialized organizations, such as the League of Women Voters, the March of Dimes,the Parents - Teachers Association, and the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

And there are centrist religious organizations. Religion is not beige, and a religious organization is often centrist simply because, on average, it isn't anything else. But such an organization will have many diverse points of view, especially if it is part of an ecumenical, interfaith, or (parental guidance warning here) movement. Such organizations include the Council for a Parliament of the World's Religions and the World Council of Churches.