Monday, January 19, 2015

Speak No Evil?

As public confidence dwindles in the supposedly protective mechanisms around us, we confront a choice of paths into the future:

  1. We can surrender to the tides that threaten us;
  2. We can become self-reliant;
  3. We can close our eyes.

(Note carefully what I didn’t say. We cannot make the inherently untrustworthy agents of the State trustworthy, nor will improving their equipment, their training, or – may God help us all – their “inclusiveness” make us any safer. It’s been tried, people. It didn’t work then and it won’t work now.)

He who has surrendered mentally will choose option #1. He who has resolved to survive and flourish will choose option #2. But he whose fragile mettle will not allow him to confront the evidence of the onrushing darkness will choose option #3.

It’s notable that #3 types cannot endure any dispute about what they’ve chosen to deny. That might be because it’s harder to shut your ears than your eyes. Whatever the reason, if a #3 type leans in a certain direction politically, he’ll want to silence those who’ve chosen options #1 and #2. If he’s politically or journalistically active, he’ll strive for exactly that result, whether through the law or through derision and intimidation.

Kevin Williamson gives us a look at one of the tactics employed:

The “Fox News Is Stupid and Evil” article is by now its own genre of journalism, albeit one that almost nobody does very well. In the course of attempting to enlighten some not especially bright Democrats earlier this week — hola, @mcspocky! — I went looking through a few of the so-called studies that purport to demonstrate that Fox News viewers are deeply and uniquely misinformed about public affairs. They are mostly horsepucky, as I demonstrated with this assortment of dim-witted accounts of the PunditFact “study” (which is not a study) of disputed Fox News statements, the authors of which rightly warn against using it to make general conclusions about Fox News, inasmuch as the data sample is admittedly arbitrary and biased — not out of malice or bad faith, but because the very structure of such fact-checking columns ensures that it is so, among other things by examining only disputed statements.

Other entries in the genre are not holding up well over time, either. The gentlemen-scholars of Alternet gave it their very best with a piece published under the subtle headline “Study confirms that Fox News makes you stupid.” The column contains a bullet list detailing nine outrageous things that Fox News viewers believe in error, which I have reproduced here with my comments in brackets.

The entire piece is well worth your time – Williamson, whom I have criticized in the past, does yeoman’s work in this selection – but above all, ponder his conclusion:

The Left has learned over the years that winning debates is difficult but discrediting people and institutions is relatively easy. You point the finger and yell “racist!” or “stupid!” or “stupid racist!” long enough and loud enough and it will start to stick. And for a long time, the Left did not have to do very much debating, because there was no Fox News, no Rush Limbaugh et al., and no conservative alternatives online. Now there are, and so the Left’s most pressing order of business is the delegitimization of Fox News, Rush Limbaugh et al., and conservative alternatives online. And if that doesn’t work, Harry Reid is ready to repeal the First Amendment, and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is ready to see you locked up for your political views.

And when that happens, you can bet that somebody will publish a study finding that it’s the only rational thing to do.


Does anyone else here recognize the name of Theodor Adorno? You can be forgiven for it if you don’t. Yet Adorno was among the originators of the “stupid or evil” rhetorical tactic of which the Left is so fond. As he fancied himself a “scientist,” he gave it a pseudo-scientific gloss. His book The Authoritarian Personality became a basic text for the Frankfurt School rhetoricians and dialecticians who came after him. Notable among them was Herbert Marcuse. Marcuse embraced Adorno’s “conservatives are fascists” thesis wholeheartedly. As he wrote in his infamous 1965 tract “Repressive Tolerance:”

Liberating tolerance, then, would mean intolerance against movements from the Right and toleration of movements from the Left. As to the scope of this tolerance and intolerance: ... it would extend to the stage of action as well as of discussion and propaganda, of deed as well as of word....

Such extreme suspension of the right of free speech and free assembly is indeed justified only if the whole of society is in extreme danger. I maintain that our society is in such an emergency situation, and that it has become the normal state of affairs. Different opinions and 'philosophies' can no longer compete peacefully for adherence and persuasion on rational grounds: the 'marketplace of ideas' is organized and delimited by those who determine the national and the individual interest. In this society, for which the ideologists have proclaimed the 'end of ideology', the false consciousness has become the general consciousness--from the government down to its last objects. The small and powerless minorities which struggle against the false consciousness and its beneficiaries must be helped: their continued existence is more important than the preservation of abused rights and liberties which grant constitutional powers to those who oppress these minorities....

[1968 Postscript:] As against the virulent denunciations that such a policy would do away with the sacred liberalistic principle of equality for 'the other side', I maintain that there are issues where either there is no 'other side' in any more than a formalistic sense, or where 'the other side' is demonstrably 'regressive' and impedes possible improvement of the human condition.

Note the use of “false consciousness” in the above. This is a thinly veiled assertion that if you disagree with Marcuse, you’re probably stupid. Marcuse subsumes the “evil” part from Adorno’s assertions about “the authoritarian personality,” which he unabashedly identifies with political conservatism and incredibly equates to “fascist.”

(Yes, yes, the Gentle Readers of Liberty’s Torch are already aware that fascism is a Marxist phenomenon, but some things cannot be said too often.)

Adorno and Marcuse provided the activist Left with rhetorical weapons they’ve used to campaign against freedom of expression for decades. Happily, they’ve made little progress so far. However, as the storm clouds mass above us, an increasing percentage of Americans find that they prefer not to hear the plain facts about any of them. Some of them would like to silence the rest of us and the organs we use for communication and mutual information, and are willing to sign on to the activists’ campaign to see to it.

A managed democracy is a wonderful thing, Manuel, for the managers...and its greatest strength is a free press when ‘free’ is defined as ‘responsible’ and the managers define what is ‘irresponsible.’ – Professor Bernardo de la Paz, in Robert A. Heinlein’s The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress

The political campaign to limit free expression to what political powers that be decide is “reasonable and responsible” will be presented to us under a number of rationales. Some will have a superficially attractive veneer. Others will be wrapped in the stark colors of fear. Regardless of the rationale, the aim will be to put the State in charge of what may and may not be said: an abrogation of our First Amendment guaranteed rights.

As Clarence Carson once wrote, left-liberals have long maintained that freedom of speech plus the vote are sufficient to “protect freedom.” They were insincere then; they’re showing their true colors now. All that remains is to see whether decent persons will let them get away with it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Years ago there was a story published in ANALOG which I didn't fully understand until I'd learned about Adorno and THE AUTHORITARIAN PERSONALITY. As I recall the story, military forces from the US and western Europe were engaged in a war with forces from the East (not further specified) and were pushing them back. Part of their problem was that some of the people in the territory they'd conquered were actually infiltrators. Everyone thus "liberated" was given a written test which would distinguish between genuine democrats and would-be authoritarians. If the test showed someone to be the latter, they were summarily executed. Only after I learned about Adorno did I realize that the "test" was similar to ones devised by is group to reveal the "authoritarian personality." In retrospect I'm surprised John Campbell let the story through. Maybe he wasn't acquainted with Adorno's work.