Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Crimethink: The Collectivist War on Ideas
"To even consider any thought not in line with the principles of Ingsoc. Doubting any of the principles of Ingsoc. All crimes begin with a thought. So, if you control thought, you can control crime. "Thoughtcrime is death. Thoughtcrime does not entail death, Thoughtcrime is death. The essential crime that contains all others in itself."
-- Newspeak Dictionary: Definitions from Orwell's 1984
"Threat reports that focus on ideology instead of
criminal activity are threatening to civil liberties . . ."
-Michael German, ACLU Analyst, writing about the MIAC Report
I have been thinking quite a bit about politically correct language and the style of argumentation that is coming from the statists lately. In fact, I have been thinking about it since last fall, when I first ventured an unpopular opinion at that rumored bastion of free throught, the university. However, in the past several months, my thoughts have become focused on two issues, the redefinition of certain ideas as extremist and therefore outside ordinary discourse, and the inability of collectivists to construct or recognize an argument from principle. I think these two issues are likely related.
The redefinition of ideas (rather than actions) as extremist is really an extension of the redefinition of certain words and ideas as politically incorrect. Labelling some speech as politically incorrect narrows the terms of discourse and limits the ability of individuals to discuss any and all ideas. When judicial sanctions and legal punishments are imposed upon individuals who persist in discussing such ideas then the Western concepts of free thought and free expression are violated. However, social sanctions are also limiting, and it is through this nudge effect that certain ideas are expunged from discourse.
The imposition of politically correct discourse upon Western culture in modern times came from the Frankfort School, a Marxist think tank founded in Europe for the purpose of spreading a social correlate of Marxist economics. The Frankfort School thus established what they called "critical theory" which is critical, but it is not a theory. It is simply a method to bring down Western culture by criticizing it in all its aspects, without suggesting an alternative to any of its institutions and/or ideas. The Frankfort School moved to Columbia University in New York during WWII, and brought the concept of political correctness with it. This Social Marxism was spread first in academia and then throughout the culture courtesy the Consciousness Revolution of the 1960's.
What is so insidious about political correctness is that it supresses the free expression of ideas that do not conform to those approved by a self-appointed cultural elite. These people have placed themselves into the position of deciding what ideas may be discussed and which ones may not. For the past decades, they have relied on self-censorship and social nudging to enforce their particular ideological orthodoxy. More recently, through the use of academic judicial processes and by laws against hate speech and hate crimes, they have sought to impose such censorship from above. As Willian Lind put in an AIA address in 2000:
"America today is in the throws of the greatest and direst transformation in its history. We are becoming an ideological state, a country with an official state ideology enforced by the power of the state. In "hate crimes" we now have people serving jail sentences for political thoughts. And the Congress is now moving to expand that category ever further. Affirmative action is part of it. The terror against anyone who dissents from Political Correctness on campus is part of it." (The Origins of Political Correctness: An Accuracy in Academia Address).
There are two particularly troubling aspects of this supression of ideas.
One is that, as free Americans find their voices and try to use reason to support our founding ideas, they find that more and more concepts are being subsumed under politically correct labels. Thus recently, a popular talk-show host was accused of a "smear campaign" for correctly labeling former Green Jobs Czar Van Jones as a Marxist, even though Jones used that label for himself. Apparently, labels for ideas such as socialism, fascism, and Marxism, are now themselves politically incorrect and may not be spoken. At least, not by us.
If an idea may not be spoken, it first becomes unspeakable and then becomes unthinkable.
Having no way to name the concept, opponents to an idea become inarticulate. The battle is lost to the politically correct mavens before it is begun; It is lost, not to superior arguments, but to the refusal to name the insidious nature of political correctness. This is why it is so important for those of us who oppose such censorship to define our terms and argue our position from principle, and to do so as consistently, rationally and firmly as possible. We must refuse to self-censor. We must name the ideological origins of politically correct censorship and name the motives of those who wish to silence us.
The second problematic aspect of political correctness is that its proponents group together a set of positions that do not logically rely on one another, thus linking them into a series by which they can shift the discussion. For example, if I were to argue that parents have the right to educational choices for their children, (as I have) a proponent of PC would (and has) immediately launched into a diatribe of name-calling, accusing me of being a creationist (which I am not). If I defend myself against such an objection, I have conceded to political correctness, and if I do not defend myself, I am conceding to an untruth. Instead of being caught in this false dilemna, I must recognize that in shifting the discussion, the PC czar has conceded that he has no argument; the whole thing has devolved into name-calling. At that point, the discussion is essentially over. All that remains is for me to name what has happened. Calmly and clearly. There is no way to "win" such a dilemna, but by bringing the reality into the light of day, I can inform reasonable listeners about what is really going on.
As for the opponent, usually when he finds he has no argument, he gets mad:
For example, consider the following diatribe by a supporter of statism from a Facebook page. This person had been challenged several times to answer a direct question after calling a Native American from Utah who opposes certain Obama policies a racist, even though the policies he oppose have nothing to do with race. Backed into a corner, he responded:
"Apparently you psycho GOP sheep would be more comfortable if obama told our kids, "Ignore evolution, intelligent design (RELIGION) is the only truth. Join the army someday, hopefully you won't be sent to a foreign land to die based on bad intelligence (LIES). And don't forget to abstain from sex, but if you can't, whatever you do, don't wear a condom."There was no partisanship in the speech. Eat your (expletive deleted) words and admit that you made up your minds about the speech before the speech even happened. Why? Because you don't want to share this country anyone who isn't like you. What other reason is there to still be a republican? GW Bush was the worst president in the history of the united states. Where was your outrage then? Small thinking out of small towns, people living in small bubbles. When election time rolls around the GOP will pander to your beliefs, to get your vote and rob you (expletive deleted) blind when they are in power. And with a black president, the GOP are starting to lose their (expletive deleted) minds. Back to the good ole days, right? When bush and his corrupt scum of a white house spent every day trying to (explitive deleted) the middle class out of every dime and commit war crimes. (Expletive deleted) who created this bullshit nutjob KKK group and (expletive deleted) all you parents who are actually scared of this president. Most of you wouldn't even know how to identify socialism even if it was anywhere near what the president said. Which it wasn't. Psychos." (Name expunged to protect the guilty).
Notice that there are no arguments in this piece of very poor writing. It is a string of undemonstrated assertions, repetitive lies, and name calling, originally complete with the repeated use of a certain strong Anglo-Saxon word beginning with F. (Although this is the worst I've seen, almost every non-argument I've encountered is there). What this writer wants is for his interlocutors to argue each claim.
But there are no arguments here at all, and nothing worthy of response.
He is not even wrong.*
*A friend showed . . . [physicist Wolfgang Pauli]the paper of a young physicist which he suspected was not of great value but on which he wanted Pauli's views. Pauli remarked sadly, 'That's not right. It's not even wrong.' " Peierls, 1960).
This is the reality of it: those who impose PC have no arguments. If they did, they would not have to attempt politically correct censorship. This is why they use propaganda techniques, such as subject-shifting, name-calling and the big lie, rather than engaging in principled discussion. Ultimately, they believe they are right, not from rational thought, but by some magical superiority. This is why they cannot construct an argument. Their sense of rightness comes not from reason, but from emotion. They feel it, so therefore it must be true. This is, as I have pointed out many times in this blog, the vision of the annointed. Until such a person chooses to think rationally about his claims, there is no point in continuing the discussion.