Sunday, January 27, 2013

Lady Macbeth is a Racist: Newspeak, Self-Censorship and Withdrawing Sanction


A good deal of the literature of the past was, indeed, already being transformed [ideologically]. Considerations of prestige made it desirable to preserve the memory of certain historical figures, while at the same time bringing their achievements into line with the philosophy of Ingsoc. Various writers, such as Shakespeare, Milton, Swift, Byron, Dickens, and some others were therefore in process of translation: when the task had been completed, their original writings, with all else that survived of the literature of the past, would be destroyed.

--George Orwell: Principles of Newspeak


Simply put, if you are . . . for Constitutionally limited government, free market capitalism, equality under the law, and freedom for all Americans, then you are a racist. If you are for unlimited government and increasing dependency on the Democrat Party, then you are not a racist. Any questions?

-- Kyle Becker: The Politically Correct Guide to Racism for Idiots 


I saw that there comes a point, in the defeat of any man of virtue, when his own consent is needed for evil to win—and that no manner of injury done to him by others can succeed if he chooses to withhold his consent. I saw that I could put an end to your outrages by pronouncing a single word in my mind. I pronounced it. The word was “No.”

--Ayn Rand: John Galt’s Speech, Atlas Shrugged


There has been much discussion on the internet of the Progressive Democrat’s tendency to avoid constructing an argument or to shout down a painful truth by accusing others of racism. On the punditry level, such accusations has gone from the ridiculous to the outright idiotic as black Democratic Party hacks have gone from accusing libertarians and conservatives of racism for criticism of the president for his ideology and policies to accusing us of racism for the use of certain otherwise neutral words in our political speech. It has come to the point where one can neither criticize Obama for his general ineptitude, foreign policy or domestic policies, nor use certain words (“golf,” “apartment,” “anger,” “socialist” and “crime” all come to mind) in reference to any administration official whatsoever, without being accused of being a racist.

In the political arena, we know the purpose of this tactic: it is to silence and isolate the opposition without the bother of actually constructing an argument. Such demonization is a shortcut to winning through intimidation, in order that certain ideas become impossible to talk about at all, ensuring the Democratic party an unearned hegemony over public discourse. In short, it is Newspeak in the Orwellian sense:

The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of IngSoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought -- that is, a thought diverging from the principles of IngSoc -- should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words.

--George Orwell: Principles of Newspeak

Thus the accusation of racism in response to political speech in this fashion is the tool of the demagogue, pure and simple.

Even more troubling is the use of the tactic by progressives against their “friends” during personal and public conversations on any topic in which someone lets a political (but not necessarily partisan) statement slip out. Here again, the purpose of the accusation is to demonize someone who does not agree on some issue, and to 
silence opposition in order to evade an unwanted truth.

Since we live in a society that conflates accusation with guilt, such an attack is difficult to recover from, because it is impossible to prove a negative. It is a powerful technique of the political left, placing their enemies on the defensive, and allowing the demagogues to claim the moral high ground while conducting themselves in the most vile manner, in an impressive display of irrationality and bullying. 

Such attacks serve to impoverish the language of discourse, and leave rational people scratching their heads over whether they can talk about the ‘pot calling the kettle black’ or calling a ‘spade an f***ing shovel’. The self-righteous censors thus achieve their object of making discourse on certain topics impossible, and setting boundaries on what people who disagree with them are able to say, right down to the nouns themselves: black, dark, spot . . .

Did I say spot? Yes, I did. Because according to one self-righteously progressive former friend, Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth is a racist. In a personal conversation relating to a rather bitter and nasty remark she made toward another of her “friends” in the context of Obama’s second inaugural, “spot” is a racist term. After I allowed as to how the statement was unlike my  former friend’s usual happy and sunny disposition, she commented to me: “‘Methinks the lady doth protest too much.’” To which I responded:
“I don’t think I am ready to “out, out that damned spot.’”  She then enquired about the health of my sense of humor. Seeing that she didn’t really “get” my reference to her quote from Macbeth, I told her I didn’t have a sense of humor, apparently—since my poor attempt was not understood—excused myself and went about my day.
Later, I was totally blindsided when, in connection with a different discussion that she initiated, she wrote about the “racist comment” that I had left on her Facebook Timeline. Having already been accused of “protesting too much,” I pointed out that the reference was to Lady Macbeth’s mad scene, and when my former friend insisted it was a racist reference (I suppose about Obama, even though he had not been a topic of the conversation), I did not bother to continue the conversation.

For those who do not know the reference, as I suspect the progressive bully did not, here is the reference from Macbeth, Act 5 Scene I, in which the lady goes mad for having murdered the king:

35 Out, damned spot! out, I say!—One: two: why,
36 then, 'tis time to do't.—Hell is murky!—Fie, my
37 lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we
38 fear who knows it, when none can call our power
39 to account?—Yet who would have thought the old
40 man to have had so much blood in him?

41 Do you mark that?

42 The thane of Fife had a wife; where is she now?—
43 What, will these hands ne'er be clean?—No more o'
44 that, my lord, no more o' that: you mar all with
45 this starting.

The spot she is seeing in her madness is the blood of murder on her hands. My reference was simply an attempt to defuse the rapidly deteriorating conversation by responding to the reference to Lady Macbeth with a reference of my own.  As one of my friends said, upon seeing the exchange between me and my once friendly bully: “Good thing you didn’t refer to Othello. That would have forever blackened your name.” 

The response to this kind of bullying is often self-censorship. The individual so attacked and publicly vilified so unfairly will often begin to think before speaking, to spend time trying to avoid all of the trip-wire words and phrases that might result in another accusation of racism. This is a useless exercise.

Make no mistake about it, the purpose of such tactics is to demonize and isolate anyone with a voice who would oppose the progressive ideology, in order to try to render her ineffective through the art of the smear. It doesn’t matter what words liberty-loving libertarians and conservatives say, the progressive ideologue will twist them or outright lie about their import, diverting attention from the actual topic of conversation into the denouncement of a personal attack. The purpose—overt or covert—is to silence dissent from the statist/collectivist/progressive world view. (For more on this see David Horowitz’s pamphlet, Barack Obama’s Rules for Revolutionaries: The Alinksy Model).

Now here I hasten to add that not everyone who makes the politically correct racist accusation is, in fact, a leftist ideologue. Many are the useful idiots, who buy the moral high-ground without understanding the basis of the tactics involved. Nor do they necessarily aspire to the ultimate goal, although they usually have some inchoate sense of helping to bring about utopia. A sense of being wronged, of being entitled to something someone else has, that they want and have not gotten often fuels such an attitude, as it has in my former friend’s case. She angrily accused me of having “got yours” and of all manner of violent intention and lack of charity now that I had it. None of this has any basis in reality, but it does bespeak anger and resentment improperly directed at me. To put it bluntly, my former friend is playing the politics of envy for her own purposes, and is likely a useful idiot rather than a leftist ideologue.

But whatever the reason for such accusations as this, the purpose is the same: to silence those who disagree and threaten the leftist Vision of the Anointed. And it often works. Ask yourself how often you have bit your tongue rather than respond to some diatribe in a university classroom, how often you have erased a comment after trying to craft it in order not to be misunderstood, and you will begin to recognize how often you may have censored yourself.

Although the progressive left is not above an overt attack on the First Amendment ( and we have already heard the warning shots across the bow), it is far easier to get people to censor themselves rather than to suppress them by external force. The power of social condemnation is great, and many otherwise vocal Americans would rather be silent than to risk it for little purpose. After all, we reason, it is unlikely that my speaking up will change any minds in this place at this time.

I vehemently disagree. Of course, it doesn’t do much good to continue an argument on someone else’s Facebook Timeline, blog or in their home and on their turf. However, in public, whether it be in a college class or PTA meetings, it is important to speak up, peacefully but firmly. Silence can be taken for assent, and we must not give  up our sanction to such unreasonable and downright evil tactics as demonization by accusations of racism.

In her novel Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Rand’s protagonists call this “the sanction of the victim.” This is the ideas that evil in and of itself is powerless and unreasonable, and must not only take from the good to survive, but needs the moral approbation of the victim in order to triumph. By silently accepting an accusation of racism and allowing it to shut us up, we are giving that much more power to false accusation. By apologizing for our principles arrived at rationally, we are allowing unreason and emptiness to take the moral high ground. How then can we complain when that emptiness and meanness brings down all that is creative and productive in our world?

It is also true that if you speak out, it is likely you will soon hear from a number of other people in the room who were thinking the same thing, but frightened to say it, each one feeling alone and isolated, which is just what the irrational accusation was intended to accomplish. Nothing defeats a bully tactic better that straight up, reasoned confrontation that brings principled people together. Hearing others refuse their sanction to patent nonsense encourages good people to speak up. It benefits all people of principle to encourage one another, for the culture wars are nothing less than a battle for our liberty and our civilization. We must fight it with more passion and conviction than our enemies, who take it very seriously indeed.

In my situation with my former friend, I knew it would be fruitless to continue in an “was not, was too” fashion there on her Timeline. I also recognized that we are not and cannot be friends. Friendship requires shared values and mutual respect—a sanction of one another’s goals at some level, and a genuine desire to bring out the best in the other. It is not a mark of friendship to tolerate another’s wrongs or weaknesses, and to accept less than the best in that person. I have known for some time that the shared values I used to enjoy with this friend have disappeared, and that her political ideology precludes any agreement. 

For the longest time, I did not understand why many of my friends and compatriots in the battle for liberty and reason would make announcements such as: “If you voted for Obama, then please unfriend me.” I thought that it was still possible to keep the lines of communication open. It has now dawned on me—too slowly to spare me pain—that there is no communication with those who substitute platitudes for principles and demagoguery for reason, that this is not about the ordinary disagreements of normal American politics, it is a battle between two incompatible world views, one of which will destroy the other.

Now I understand my friends’ actions. I will not tolerate a so-called friend who turns on me and demonize me so readily, because that is not the behavior of a friend. I cannot continue to give my sanction to irrational ravings and untruthful accusations, because I myself will lose my mooring to reality. There can be no compromise on principle, and there can be no surrender of my values without the loss of all that I have learned and all that I hope to accomplish in the future. 

I will not sit idly by while accusations of racism pervert and destroy discourse, silencing the good for the sake of the weak. 


Thursday, January 10, 2013

Of Bullies, Trolls, Curmudgeons and Aspergers

“ ‘The Kid’ never races anybody. He just sits there and scares the hell out of ‘em.”
--- Paul Stookey, Paultalk

"Who is more foolish? The fool, or the fool who follows him?”
--Obi Wan Kenobi, Star Wars: A New Hope

Yetzer ha-Ra: That Troll hole sure looks interesting . . .
Yetzer ha-Tov: Stay on target. Stay on target!Yetzer ha-Ra: Maybe we can have a productive conversation, he can’t be ALL bad!            Yetzer ha-Tov: Negative, Captain. That Troll’s female hatred index is 78%,  and the diction analysis indicates a high level of cruel cynicism. Recomend aborting the diversion and heading straight for an Objectivist bulletin board.  Yetzer ha-Ra: Poor troll, there’s probably just a scared little boy inside. You can bring out the . .
Yetzer ha Tov: Do NOT feed the troll! Do NOT feed the . . . . Damn. She’s gonna . . . there it goes! Libertarian Trolls are NOT rational. It’s gonna be ugly . . .                                     Ship: Ping! Brrrrwahahahahahaharhrhrhrh! Pow!
Yetzer ha-Ra: Beetle-bomb!                      Yetzer ha-Tov: Captain, impulse engines still operating. What are your coordinates, Ma’am?
Ship: (Coughing slightly and waving smoke away). Where is that Objectivist site, again?  I think maybe a fuel change is in order.  Earl Gray. Hot!

---- Fragment of Internal Dialogue


TrollOn the internet, bullies are people who derive a certain sense of power by sneering and whining, deliberately targeting those who take a discussion seriously or literally, and taking conversations off-track. In short, petty cyber-bullies—often called trolls—will do anything to keep a conversation from evolving in order to keep themselves at the center of attention, even as the circle of that attention becomes smaller and smaller. 

Outside of the cyber-world, the way to stop a bully is to call him out. A bully is generally  a coward with an aversion to picking on someone who will fight back. Running in and slashing at others, then retreating like a hyena is the typical bully style. This is why I taught my son that the manly thing to do is never to start a fight, but always finish it. Decisively.  

But in the cyber-world, where people have been intimidated by a false definition of censorship, and where the only person with any freedom of speech is the bully himself, what most often happens is that bullies are not confronted or removed. Instead, conversation at a site or page dwindles to just the few bullies, who jockey and sneer at imaginary foes, and the utility of the place is lost. This is a problem for site owners and administrators, who have often spent a good deal of time building a place for a certain kind of conversation, only to have it devolve into endless and meaningless bickering over tangential details, while the point—and the pleasure—is lost.

Although we all know that “feeding the troll” is pointless, most of us from time-to-time foolishly do it anyway, whether out of a misplaced sense of respect for the humanity of the little shit, or the transparently naive hope of breaking through to have a real conversation. And sometimes, we hope that by so doing, somebody else on the page will be drawn out of their silence and the page will become what it was. This seldom works, and the page generally continues its bully-induced slide into silence and obscurity, until even the troll moves on to greener cyber-pastures. 

At a Libertarian-sponsored site, the conversation was about the threat to the Second Amendment. The post was a quote from a Colorado State Senator who announced that with some bravado that he would rather die than give up his weapons. The Curmudgeon joined in, hinting darkly that there is no remedy to the present tyranny, and that bravado and courage itself will wither in the face of omnipotent police brutality. The Troll made his move: “I sneer at all those who . . .”
Dominance established. The original poster never piped up again.


As an administrator of the site, I though that perhaps a suggestion to the Troll that he should take his sneering to the source of his anger would bring the conversation back on track. Curmudgeons can be good discussion partners, but trolls never are. I then tried to bring the conversation back to the Curmudgeon’s salient point. The Troll was not having it. He responded with a hurt little boy tone, and I fell for it, against the better angels of my nature. They were saying: “He’s a troll. A TROLL! An unmannerly, babyish,  woman-hating, mom’s-basement, never-had-a-grown-up-relationship, T-R-O-L-L! TROLL!” Being low on estrogen and testosterone both, I ignored the warning.

Beetle-bomb! Shards of hope and sparks of action falling Explosion into the netherworld of Cyberspace. Neither the Curmudgeon nor the Troll will ever take any kind of purposeful action. The first wants to impress people with his cynicism, and the second, to prove what a tough guy he is by how badly he treats anyone who crosses his path.


There has been precious little dialogue in this group, and what is there dominated by the Curmudgeon and the Troll almost exclusively. Other members drop in, make announcements, and drop out. Why be bullied? It is difficult for members to confront the bullying, because they have no power to stop it.

Smart other members.

The current characteristics of the group alone tell the story. The group has become the Troll, with “ain’t it hopeless” choruses from the Curmudgeon, and a few— mostly ignored—attempts by new members to start a conversation. I have been dropping in to make announcements and to see if there are any libertarians who have mistakenly thought it was a place to discuss libertarian ideas with an eye to actually doing something. But as every idea that does not belong to the Troll or the Curmudgeon lands on the ground in a burning heap, and every suggestion for some kind of action is sneered off stage, the place has become  cobwebbed and dull, leaving the taste of dust and ashes in the mouth. 


“Don’t bother with Liberty, folks,” these types announce by the subtext of their behavior. “It can’t be defended, all is lost, and there is no point fighting for it. You’ll just fail and thinking otherwise shows how stupid you are. What we need to do is close the curtains, sit here in the dark, and keep ourselves from getting hurt. Because the animating contest of freedom is a hopeless illusion, and the power of the state is omnipotent. Anyone who thinks otherwise is either naive, deluded or posturing, and will be driven from this group by mean and petty sniping and malignant hatred.”

I bring this up, because I have seen other libertarian site administrators frustrated by the same or a similar senses of life imposed on their discussion groups, and more malignant, those who hate libertarians for whatever reason, and set out to deliberately hurt and destroy them. I have seen anti-Semites ruin the image of the Ron Paul Campaign for Liberty, and Nazi hunters crying anti-Semitism on Libertarian sites where it doesn’t exist. I have seen conspiracy theorists bully anyone who wishes to have a rational conversation virtually shut down all discussion over a minor reference, obscuring the actual point of the conversation because they lack the faculty to look critically at their own dogmas.

Site, page and group administrators are frustrated because if we are paying attention, we know the destructive end of such behavior is the same every time. A perfectly good site becomes useless, and someone’s (often many someone's’) work was all for naught. And yet, we often tolerate it. We sigh in exasperation, complain about the solipsistic immaturity of a certain group of Generation-Xer American males, and try to laugh it off over a beer with friends or take comfort in participating in more rational forums. But we TOLERATE what is not tolerable.

Why do we tolerate it? It is the use of subtle force by others to dominate, bully and harm the work of others. But when a site administrator does edit, block or ban someone wreaking such havoc, they immediately respond with the indignant cry of the cyber-bully: Censorship!
And many libertarians, having been brought up with an education that failed to teach them the (not so) subtle difference between liberty and libertine, immediately take it up.

In tones dripping with entitlement they cry that the administrator is a fascist pig, an authoritarian, and that they have the right (god-damn-it) to bully, disrupt and destroy whomever and whatever they want, because THEY are RIGHT, and more than that, they are MORALLY SUPERIOR to every being that has ever walked the earth before them. (Because of us the seas stopped rising, poverty ended, and heaven was brought to earth. “WE are the ones we have been waiting for . . .” and all of that bullshit). In other words, they have a serious case of the Vision of the Anointed. Good will toward others and simple manners were never part of their curriculum.

Many administrators, especially old-school libertarians, are caught off guard by this, and if one is not fully grounded in libertarian thought (and even if one is!), it is easy to be cut to the quick by the sheer virulence of the attack. It is usually delivered complete with a tone of dripping sarcasm and righteous indignation.


Being an Aspergian, I am almost always caught off guard by this, because no matter how often people are cruel and nasty to me, I never expect it. This, along with my tendency to be overly literal, and to fail to see the language pragmatics that warm Neurotypicals off, makes me an excellent target for bullies.

Troll Spray In any case, as a helpful guide to Aspergian and other Libertarians of Good Will, these people are wrong and most of them—particularly the bullies—know it. Censorship is a function that only a government can perform. Private individuals may indeed keep order and regulate the environment of their own private property, or do so on the behalf of other owners and stakeholders, in order to preserve the purpose of the site, forum or group for all.
But private property owners cannot and do not wish to stop the dissemination of speech or behavior that they dislike altogether. Only a government, with its monopoly on physical force, can do that. The disgruntled bully can always start his own forum, build his own platform, or hold forth on a public street corner, although in the last, he cannot abuse or detain the public.


People of good will follow the rules and regulations of a private property owner gracefully, as a matter of respect and good manners, and if they do not agree with them, they feel free to excuse themselves and go elsewhere. Being themselves self-respecting and effective individuals, they are capable of creating their own platforms for free-speech, and if they err on the side of passion, create a misunderstanding, or take a disliking to someone, they are amenable to the direction of the owner or administrator of the forum, and either correct themselves or move on.

But bullies are seldom self-respecting, effective individuals, and thus need to get and hold the attention of others in any way they can. Thus, they scream about their over-arching rights while ignoring the rights of others. And the libertarian movement seems to attract a large number of them. I believe that there are some philosophical reasons for this, but that is another blog.

The point here is this: although libertarians of good will are naturally hesitant to block or ban someone who is pissy, sarcastic, disrespectful of others, and subjects others to personal attack, it is right and responsible to do it. And it is appropriate to warn others who come crying “censorship” that such behavior will not be tolerated. In such cases, it might be a good idea to explain why it is not censorship, but if we find ourselves being called “fascist” and other names, it is a good bet that the name-caller is also a bully trolling for a response.


Finally, when a forum has been allowed through neglect orDementor appeasement to become a place in which fruitful discussion can no longer take place, or when administrating it has become a tiresome and painful chore, it is time to move on. In my case, I should have done so long ago, before I got sucked in by my own naivety and desire to discuss something important to me. Bullies do not discuss or share. They attack and troll for a response, feeding on the pain of others, and like Dementors, they suck the joy out of everything. Curmudgeons are generally not malevolent themselves, but they believe that the world is. They are incapable of kicking around an idea because they have already decided that action is futile and nothing that anyone else thinks about can possibly be worth discussing.

As an Aspergian, I often get played for the fool because I don’t read the subtleties of the words or language pragmatics that NTs see right through. I tend to take longer to learn from painful experience. However, as an Aspergian, I do have empathy. I do feel pain and I see it in others. I just do not always know what to do about it. Although it is painful to be treated like crap by bullies and trolls, and although I often have the sinking feeling that I did it to myself again, I know this is not entirely true. Bullies and trolls are responsible for their behavior and I firmly believe that what goes around comes around. Although as an Aspergian, I am not really capable of delivering a proper and cutting retort--I always think of one in the middle of the night--there are others who are and will do it. In any case, their unhappy, unwholesome view on life, the universe and everything is punishment enough, and brought on by their own selves, leaving me free to enjoy the benevolence of more healthy people, elsewhere.


In the meantime, I refuse to give up on Liberty. It may be a struggle because of those who hate and fear it, and sometimes we may be called upon to fight and lose, and fight again for our freedom, acting from Liberty makes me feel happiness and wholeness. And for me, that makes it worth the work.

aspies for freedom