Lupus Liberalism and the Regressive Left


I wrote recently about the concept of Lupus Liberalism, and I wanted to take a moment to 1) explicitly define the term, and 2) show how it relates to Maajid Nawaz’s term Regressive Left.

First, Lupus Liberalism.

And the Regressive Left.

I prefer the Lupus Liberalism term because I believe it more accurately captures the key concept, which is something good (sensitivity to intolerance) becoming hyperactive and attacking the wrong thing—in this case fellow progressives.

The concept of a Regressive Left is supposed to specifically address intolerance within minority communities that liberals fail to notice, but no such indication is present in the term’s name.

So someone coming to the term Regressive Left has no way of knowing what is meant by it, where anyone familiar with the idea of an immune system becoming overzealous and attacking the wrong thing will instantly grasp Lupus Liberalism.

What Lupus Liberalism is and isn’t

Now let’s talk for a moment about what Lupus Liberalism is and is not. It’s evidently important to do this, because judging by the comments on my original essay, many on the left cannot tell the difference between liberalism and Lupus Liberalism.

So here are some guidelines:

  1. It does not apply to anyone who is concerned about someone being intolerant. It’s a natural and good thing for progressives to seek out intolerance and other indicators of prejudice and negativity, and this should continue to be encouraged.

  2. It does apply to those who lose sight of the central principle of humanism and begin attacking the wrong people. More specifically, it applies to those who mistake an attack on intolerance as intolerance itself. Hating homosexuality is not the same thing as speaking out against homophobes or ideologies that support homophobia.

  3. It does not apply to those who worry that opposing beliefs within an ideology will dangerously morph into hatred of anyone who is involved in any way with that ideology. For example, it is a perfectly valid to worry as a liberal that those who oppose barbaric concepts within Islam may (in some cases) become bigots against Muslims. This is a generalization that must be guarded against, and it’s not Lupus or Regressive to protect that boundary.

In sum, I think Lupus Liberalism is a better way to describe the sickness afflicting (Affleck-ting?) the left right now, because it directly refers to a good thing becoming a bad thing.

The key way to distinguish it from healthy liberalism is to look for people on the left attacking other humanists for criticising specific beliefs and values (not entire populations) that directly counter their shared humanist ideals.


  1. The “Affleck-ting” comment comes from Affleck’s appearance on Bill Maher where he attacked Maher and Sam Harris for calling out the intolerance present in many Islamic values.

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