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:
35Out, damned spot! out, I say!—One: two: why,
36then, 'tis time to do't.—Hell is murky!—Fie, my
37lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we
38fear who knows it, when none can call our power
39to account?—Yet who would have thought the old
40man to have had so much blood in him?
41Do you mark that?
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.