Monday, June 10, 2013

Weapons Part 3: Mass Destruction

Political weaponry, like the sort that really maims, kills, and destroys, comes in various gradations. In today's tirade, which will probably be the last of the Weapons series, we'll look at a political weapon of mass destruction: a freedom-killer that, if it detonates on-target, leaves nothing salvageable behind.

There might be other, equally fearsome political weapons, but just now I can't think of one.

Courtesy of Mike at Cold Fury comes this brief rant by Harry Stein:

Yet in America today, only one of the dominant political parties--guess which one--is actually dependent on the idiot vote for its very survival. Ignoramuses are the Democrats' core constituency. Can't name your congressman or a single Supreme Court justice? Have vaguely heard of Gettysburg, but can't quite place the war? Get your idea of news from People and Us or Comedy Central? You're a singe-issue voter and the single issue is more-more-more and who-cares-how-it-gets-paid-for. The Dems not only want you to vote, they'll hunt you down, fill out the registration form for you and show up on Election Day to drag you to the polls. And if you can't make it, they'll send someone else and say you did. And all the while, proudly cast themselves as defenders of democracy, because the right to vote is, you know, like, sacrosanct.

Feel free to doubt the veracity of Stein's accusation if you like. I don't. I can't; I've known far too many such "citizens" to dispute him...and they all vote for whatever baboon the Democrats have nominated, regardless of the character of the candidate, the elevation of the office, or any other consideration. You couldn't get them to vote against a Democrat with a loaded gun to the temple.

However, to mutter "idiots" and stop there falls short of a complete analysis. Commenters at the mighty Ace of Spades provide a few snippets of confirmation that this isn't just about stupidity:

99 My ultra-Leftist sister told me she could never vote Republican because of slavery, the Ku Klux Klan and the plight of the American Indian.

I informed my sister that the Republican Party was founded by fifty men determined to end slavery, that her Democrats tore America in two and went to war in defense of slavery, that her Democrats founded and controlled the Ku Klux Klan, and that the Trail of Tears was the direct result of a lawless Democrat president choosing to ignore the ruling of the Supreme Court.

She told me that “everyone knows that none of that is true.”

I offered her three history books. She refused to take them.

Posted by: Sam Adams at June 01, 2013 12:19 PM (ECDAN)

221 91 This isn’t quite as stupid but my father, who has a PhD in mechanical engineering so he’s no dummy, told me that Bush lied and the Republicans forced the authorization of force through the Senate. I told him that the Democrats controlled the senate in September 2001. He wouldn’t look at my phone when I pulled it up on the internet.

Posted by: Timon at June 01, 2013 12:17 PM (LGDTn)

200 “Margret Sanger was not a racist eugenicist!”

Upon showing him a website to the contrary (this was before Wikipedia) he declared it to be conservatively biased.

The website in question: Columbia University’s History Department.

Posted by: tsrblke at June 01, 2013 12:41 PM (GaqMa)

555 Another otherwise bright co-worker was upset that Military Spending was more than the US GDP. When I pointed out that it was more around 5% or less of GDP he said I didn’t know what I was talking about. When I sent him a link to the government figures he responded “Everyone is entitled to their own facts.”

Yes, really. He said that.

I'll go refill my coffee cup while you get over your shock and dismay.

If you're familiar with Eric Hoffer's conception of the "true believer," you've probably had occasion to classify persons such as those mentioned above in that category. But you might be surprised to learn that they tend to do the same to you. Consider this snippet from a highly unfavorable review of Hoffer's book:

President Eisenhower mentioned The True Believer during a press conference, and Hoffer won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1983. The ringing endorsement of this man by the United States government shows that he was a tool of the establishment as well as a hack. Do your mind a favor and read Chomsky instead.

It's staggering when it happens -- I should know; it's been done to me often enough -- because conservatives, in the main, place a great deal of importance on knowing the facts. But when you're confronted by someone who's already decided that you simply must be stupid, evil, or both, you're no longer dealing with facts...because you're in the presence of one who dismisses the conception of truth itself:

Truth is an evaluation: a judgment that some proposition corresponds to objective reality sufficiently for men to rely upon it. The weakening of the concept of truth cuts an opening through which baldly counterfactual propositions can be thrust into serious discourse. Smith might say that proposition X is disprovable, or that it contradicts common observations of the world; Jones counters that X suits him fine, for he has dismissed the disprovers as "partisan" and prefers his own observations to those of Smith. Unless the two agree on standards for relevant evidence, pertinent reasoning, and common verification -- in other words, standards for what can be accepted as sufficiently true -- their argument over X will never end.

An interest group that has "put its back against the wall" as regards its central interest, and is unwilling to concede the battle regardless of the evidence and logic raised against its claims, will obfuscate, attack the motives of its opponents, and attempt to misdirect their attention with irrelevancies. When all of these have failed, its last-ditch defense is to attack the concept of truth. Once that has been undermined, the group can't be defeated. It can stay on the ideological battlefield indefinitely, preserving the possibility of victory through attrition or fatigue among its opponents.

Without the prior concession that facts are independent of anyone's opinions or preferences -- the acceptance of objective reality -- there can never be agreement about the nature of truth. But if there is no agreement about how to test the truth of a proposition, there can never be an end to an argument. Either side's assertions of fact and inferences from them will be deemed "partisan" or worse by the other side.

No one can so much as cross the street without acknowledging the existence of opinion-proof facts:

  • If you quaff battery acid instead of orange juice, you will die.
  • If that onrushing truck hits your undefended body at highway speed, you will die.
  • If you saunter up to that maniac with the bloody machete and demand that he "play nice," you will die.

Them's the facts, Jack.

Yet in political intercourse, millions of Americans are unwilling to concede facts inimical to their positions. They'd much rather accuse you of delusion, idiocy, partisan propagandizing, or worse...even though bad politics has killed more people than any other single factor over the century behind us.

The one and only question of importance now arises to bedevil us:


The dismissal of facts for political purposes must proceed from one of two things:

  1. A desire, on the part of the dismisser, that something be true that cannot withstand the contradiction those facts create;
  2. A desire for power over others.

The second motive describes the sort of person who profits from the operation of the first, but those of the first category are far more numerous. What notions could such a person be defending against destruction by those nasty, intolerable facts?

  • His conviction that government can be made into an engine of social or economic improvement;
  • His conviction that power itself is not inherently evil -- that unlimited power is safe in the hands of "the right people;"
  • His insistence that he's been right all along, without which he cannot maintain his assumption of superior intelligence and morality.

These three motivations couple with one another in obvious ways. It's my contention that the third one is the key, because among the most powerful of all human desires is the desire to believe oneself superior to others.

Dale Carnegie wrote that "the unvarnished truth is that almost all the people you meet feel themselves superior to you in some way," and he was absolutely correct. But when the subject is wisdom about social and moral-ethical matters, each and every one of us wants to believe he, and perhaps he alone, possesses the Golden Key.

Salesmen have known for a long time that appealing to the customer's vanity, when it's possible and plausible, is a powerful sales technique. When you invoke the other fellow's image of himself as a sage and an exemplar, you are eliciting his very best feelings about himself. If you can couple those feelings to something you want him to accept, you have virtually guaranteed your success.

Inversely, when you advance a proposition whose acceptance demands that the other fellow admit to error, you're hoping that his self-knowledge includes knowledge of his own fallibility, and betting that his honesty and humility will eclipse his desire to think well of himself...especially in comparison to you, you brute. When the error in question is one that (in combination with others' coordinated errors) has caused damage to innocent others, you're on the short end of the odds. That's the circumstance in which "true believer" behavior is most common.

The salesmen of the Omnipotent State have striven with all their might to persuade Americans that the acceptance of their nostrum is an infallible indicator of superior wisdom and virtue, and by implication, that those who reject it are beneath contempt. Far too many of our fellow citizens, being without adequate supplies of honesty and humility, have snapped at the hook. They now find themselves trapped in a contradiction that can only be resolved in one of two ways: either by admitting to having been gulled, or by denying the very possibility that they could be wrong.

A great many of them -- perhaps the majority -- have chosen the latter path. Such is the power of the appeal to human vanity. He who lacks adequate honesty cannot even conceive of the possibility of personal limitations; if he lacks adequate humility as well, he would rather go on in error and ignorance than confront facts that would abrade his self-esteem. In the most extreme case, he would rather see the entire world destroyed than admit to them.

That's what makes it a true weapon of mass destruction.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We are witnessing history. The economy is in a depression hidden by massive borrowing and printing of money. Our world is in war with major powers ready to jump in and make it all worse. And our country is in the hands of criminals who depend on useful idiots and greedy voters who will vote for "free stuff" in preference to freedom. We will see this house of cards fall. The only questions are when, exactlyorwi and how, exactly.