Today is the anniversary of Joe Sobran’s 75th birthday. He and journalist Tom Bethell developed the metaphor of “The Hive.” Joe explains the metaphor, below.
Sobran’s: The Real News of the Month, June 1999 — Twenty years ago, I was struck by the way various sorts of political “progressives” — Communists, socialists, liberals, “civil libertarians,” “moderates,” “pragmatists” — all spontaneously cooperated with each other. It wasn’t a conspiracy; there was obviously no central direction. But the pattern was too clear to be denied.
The word “Left” was a dead metaphor; it said nothing interesting about the people it referred to. So I used the metaphor of an insect hive, which captured the way such people moved in harmony and communicated with each other.
In a beehive, the worker bees have many specialties. The hive is organized around the queen bee, but she doesn’t have to give the workers their instructions. The bee that finds pollen returns to the hive and flies in figure eights; this tells the others the direction and distance of the pollen, and they go get it. And of course the bees need no orders to attack an enemy. The Misinformation Age... Best Price: $12.12 Buy New $11.62 (as of 03:27 EST - Details)
Members of the progressive Hive likewise act on their own instincts and have their own code of communication. They feel free, but they are also predictable. Liberals laugh at conspiracy theories that assume that because there is a pattern there must be some central control; but the fact that there is no central control doesn’t mean that there is no pattern.
My Hive metaphor was enriched by an essay by Igor Shafarevich, “Socialism in Our Past and Future,” in Solzhenitsyn’s collection of dissident writings, From under the Rubble. Shafarevich argues that socialism is not just a modern phenomenon, but a perennial problem of decadent societies. In the name of equality, it tries to destroy the family, private property, and religion — institutions that prevent the state from monopolizing loyalty, wealth, and authority. Since ancient times, socialists (under whatever labels) have favored sexual license — “the community of wives,” “free love,” “sexual freedom,” et cetera. By breaking down bonds of kinship, sexual anarchy reduces the individual to a mere unit of the state.
I saw immediately what Shafarevich meant. His words applied not only to doctrinaire socialists and overt Communists, but to all those liberals whose efforts constantly (though implicitly) tend toward a socialist order. Liberalism, I saw, was the retail version of the society of which Communism was the wholesale version. Liberals don’t speak (or think, as a rule) of outright revolution; they move one step at a time, always edging toward the socialist model of an egalitarian centralized state, always nibbling at the family (in the name of sexual freedom), property rights (in the name of social justice), and religion (in the name of the separation of church and state). Like bees, they swarm against enemies of (or perceived threats to) their Hive. Joe McCarthy, Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan, and Kenneth Starr are just a few of the many targets of Hive attacks over the years. Leather Journal Tree o... Best Price: $28.03 Buy New $29.95 (as of 02:46 EST - Details)
The Hive especially hates anti-Communism and traditional Christianity. Though only a few bees espouse Communism, all of them at least feel some sympathy for it. Like American liberals, Soviet Communism strove to “build a new society” — that is, to destroy all tradition. Liberalism’s ad hoc style is only superficially different from that of Communism. At bottom, it wants the same things, without being fully aware of it.
“Civil rights,” feminism, environmentalism, national health care, gun control, and abortion on demand may not seem intrinsically related, but they all extend the authority and power of the centralized state over private relations. The Hive intuits this with almost infallible accuracy, so the liberal bees support and promote such causes at every turn.
Liberalism, unlike Communism, adopts the pose of pragmatism, scorning “ideology,” so liberal bees consistently pretend that they favor this or that measure for purely practical reasons. But the pattern is clear. What they really favor is a state that is both limitless and godless.
The Hive has had to make concessions to reality. Communism has collapsed; the market has shown that it will assert itself against any attempt to control it from above. But since liberals profess to be nonideological, they have been able to adapt to these facts of life, giving lip service to the free market. Yet they continue to favor more centralized government, more state economic power, higher taxes, and limitations on property rights whenever possible. Rothco Special Ops Tac... Buy New $103.99 (as of 04:57 EST - Details)
By using pragmatic language for its agenda, the Hive misleads the general public about its ultimate goals. It gains power as ordinary people adopt its language without grasping the implications. After all, who could oppose such worthy causes as “civil rights,” “a woman’s right to choose,” “protecting our children,” and “saving the environment”? The news media use the buzzwords of the Hive so habitually that they have become virtual organs of the Hive. The typical bee isn’t a fanatical Marxist-Leninist; it’s Dan Rather or Katie Couric.
I’ll say more about the workings of the Hive in future issues.
This article was published originally by Griffin Communications in the June 1999 issue of Sobran’s: The Real News of the Month. You may link to this column at your website and social media.