Dystopic has been doing excellent work for quite some time, but his most recent piece is a Jeremiad, a stunning summation of the tactics of the collectivist Left that lead directly to its strategic core. It’s must reading, and I beseech my Gentle Readers to head over there right now to drink it to the lees.
Here’s an appetite-whetter:
Underneath it all, of course, [Leftists] hate themselves. This has given rise to people who say things like “I won’t have children, because they would be white.” Or other folks, like Rachel Dolezal and Shaun King, who desperately wish to be black, perhaps because they could escape the weight of the world by identifying with the oppressed instead of the oppressor.
Weaponized Empathy has destroyed these people, body and soul. They mutilate themselves, hate themselves, rail against the very society that created them, and then seek to unload their shame and self-loathing on to others.
(If you’re not already conversant with Dystopic’s writings on Weaponized Empathy, repent of your sins, get over there, and start reading at once! No concept is more important to the comprehension of what’s been done to us this century past, entirely through appeals to what we think of as our better natures. But I digress.)
I’ll wait right here till you’ve finished.
The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command. His heart sank as he thought of the enormous power arrayed against him, the ease with which any Party intellectual would overthrow him in debate, the subtle arguments which he would not be able to understand, much less answer. And yet he was in the right! They were wrong and he was right. The obvious, the silly, and the true had got to be defended. Truisms are true, hold on to that! The solid world exists, its laws do not change. Stones are hard, water is wet, objects unsupported fall towards the earth's centre. With the feeling that he was speaking to O'Brien, and also that he was setting forth an important axiom, he wrote:
Freedom is the freedom to say that two plus two make four. If that is granted, all else follows.
There are particular concepts within the realm of argumentation tactics that, in my view at least, constitute heinous crimes against their targets: genuine violations of the moral law that deserve to be harshly punished. The two I have in mind at the moment are of such enormity that I find myself contemplating other horrors in reciprocation: things I would normally regard as beyond the pale.
The first of these is the deliberate contradiction or inversion of the facts: a practice that’s sometimes called “gaslighting.” This tactic, especially when substantially extended and prolonged, can erode the target’s confidence in the evidence of his senses. The point, of course, is to “persuade” him to rely entirely upon the pronouncements of others, even when his eyes and ears tell him that they’re lying to him.
Even the strong-willed can be brought low by a persistent gaslighting campaign. The Left is aware of this. Indeed, by combining it with the deliberate effacement of history, the Left weakened Americans’ will nearly to the point of surrender.
In that light, consider the passage Israeli Deputy Minister Michael Oren found in our “paper of record,” the New York Times:
Michael Oren: …I talk about an incident that occurred in May of 2010 with the New York Times when Mahmoud Abbas published an op-ed in the New York Times in which he alleged that he insinuated that the Arabs accepted the U.N. partition resolution of 1947, and the Jews rejected it. And I called up the editor of the New York Times, and I said wait a minute, this is exactly the opposite. Don’t you check facts? We [Israel] accepted it. The Arabs rejected it, and went to war against it. That was the war of independence. And the Arabs rejected the first two-state solution. And he says well, that’s your interpretation. Now wait a minute, there are certain in-controversial historical facts, uncontestable facts. I mean, did the Allies land, or did they not land on Normandy Beach in June, 1944? And the editor’s response was [analogous to] well, some people think so.
If the editors of the Times are complicit in this sort of deception, no one can be confident that he’s safe from it. The young, who have little knowledge of history owing to our government schools, are particularly susceptible.
The second tactic is one known to every schoolchild: group pressure. He who finds himself surrounded by a chanting mob will often surrender to that mob’s pronouncements just to get out from under the pressure. The Left has made use of this tactic in innumerable ways. For example, it strives to colonize propagative organizations – educational institutions, the media, the entertainment industries – because those organizations can create pressure waves in public opinion: waves that, if unanimous among such organizations, become all but impossible to resist. John Q. Public might start “swimming with the tide” before he realizes it.
On a micro-scale, consider how Julius Nyerere’s Communist TANU regime strove to “re-educate” the people of Tanzania via the compulsory “ten-house cell” led by a Communist apparatchik:
TANU recognizes the urgency and importance of good leadership. But we have not yet produced systematic training for our leaders; it is necessary that TANU Headquarters should now prepare a programme of training for all leaders – from the national level to the ten-house cell level – so that every one of them understands our political and economic policies. Leaders must set a good example to the rest of the people in their lives and in all their activities. [source]
The point of the ten-house cell was to marshal peer pressure against private dissenters – i.e., to encyst them within a chorus of Communist orthodoxy that would force the dissenter to choose between conformity and isolation. (Really stubborn dissenters, of course, were taken out back and shot.)
The combination of gaslighting with persistent, inescapable group pressure can overwhelm all but the strongest wills. This is a key element of what Dystopic addresses in his essay.
’Another example,’ he said. ’Some years ago you had a very serious delusion indeed. You believed that three men, three one-time Party members named Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford men who were executed for treachery and sabotage after making the fullest possible confession — were not guilty of the crimes they were charged with. You believed that you had seen unmistakable documentary evidence proving that their confessions were false. There was a certain photograph about which you had a hallucination. You believed that you had actually held it in your hands. It was a photograph something like this.’
An oblong slip of newspaper had appeared between O’Brien’s fingers. For perhaps five seconds it was within the angle of Winston’s vision. It was a photograph, and there was no question of its identity. It was the photograph. It was another copy of the photograph of Jones, Aaronson, and Rutherford at the party function in New York, which he had chanced upon eleven years ago and promptly destroyed. For only an instant it was before his eyes, then it was out of sight again. But he had seen it, unquestionably he had seen it! He made a desperate, agonizing effort to wrench the top half of his body free. It was impossible to move so much as a centimetre in any direction. For the moment he had even forgotten the dial. All he wanted was to hold the photograph in his fingers again, or at least to see it.
’It exists!’ he cried.
’No,’ said O’Brien.
He stepped across the room. There was a memory hole in the opposite wall. O’Brien lifted the grating. Unseen, the frail slip of paper was whirling away on the current of warm air; it was vanishing in a flash of flame. O’Brien turned away from the wall.
’Ashes,’ he said. ’Not even identifiable ashes. Dust. It does not exist. It never existed.’
’But it did exist! It does exist! It exists in memory. I remember it. You remember it.’
’I do not remember it,’ said O’Brien.
Winston’s heart sank. That was doublethink. He had a feeling of deadly helplessness. If he could have been certain that O’Brien was lying, it would not have seemed to matter. But it was perfectly possible that O’Brien had really forgotten the photograph. And if so, then already he would have forgotten his denial of remembering it, and forgotten the act of forgetting. How could one be sure that it was simple trickery? Perhaps that lunatic dislocation in the mind could really happen: that was the thought that defeated him.
If “we” have any collective responsibility at all, it would be a responsibility to acknowledge reality. What happens has happened; we are obligated to resist all efforts to deny or efface it. The O’Briens of the world are our mortal enemies.
Yet O’Brien represents his efforts as beneficial, curative; he tells Winston to regard him as an ally, if not a friend. It is the supreme horror of the novel that sufficiently prolonged, O’Brien’s tortures “persuade” Winston to accept him as such. The Left aspires to a different position: as the hegemon over all things.
The ultimate tyranny is tyranny over the mind. Dystopic notes how vulnerable any one of us could be:
The pressure is both great and subtle. Imagine a conversation about the weather, innocent enough on its own. A friend might say “wow, that global warming sure is kicking in today!” You’ve a few choices here. You can challenge him, but the immediate counter is likely to be something like “well, 99% of scientists agree, sooooo….” The implication, of course, is that you are stupid for disagreeing with 99% of scientists (whether or not there is any truth to that claim, either). You could remain silent because it’s easier. Or you could just give in, regardless of the truth of the matter, because it’s easiest. Meanwhile, if you counter your friend successfully, you may be down a friend by the end of the night.
Placed in such a situation, many of us would regard the loss of a “friend” as weightier than the maintenance of reality. This is especially urgent for those without support. That’s why the Left seeks to separate us from one another. That way, its gaslighting campaigns and group pressures could not be resisted or relieved.
“Senor D’Anconia, what do you think is going to happen to the world?”
“Just exactly what it deserves.”
“Oh, how cruel!”
“Don’t you believe in the operation of the moral law, Madame?” Francisco asked gravely. “I do.”
[From Atlas Shrugged.]
An old mantra of the early New Left was that “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” That’s the zygote of collectivism – yet in one and only one sense, it contains a kernel of truth. The kernel consists of a phrase that was once an essential part of international law: “enemies of all Mankind.”
The category of “enemies of all Mankind” subsumed pirates and other felons who plied their trades on the high seas, beyond the territorial jurisdictions of Westphalian states. It was considered an obligation of every nation with seagoing capability to collaborate in expunging such felons, as they threatened the travel and commercial intercourse that made possible the advancement of civilization. In more recent years, “enemies of all Mankind” has enlarged to embrace slavers, terrorists, and those who kidnap for ransom of any kind.
I submit that if there is any obligation that lies upon every man that has ever lived or ever will, it would be to oppose the “enemies of all Mankind” by any and every means, a outrance -- and in that category I would unhesitatingly include those who strive to deny or efface reality. Dystopic’s peroration concludes thus:
It is, often times, difficult to resist the allure of just giving up the fight. It’s so much easier to throw in the towel, and jump when someone else tells you to. When damn near everyone accuses you of something, to just say “yes, I’m guilty.”
But you can’t. I can’t. And even if I could make such a choice for myself, I cannot make it for my family, for my country, for my civilization.
You are not Atlas, and you do not need to suffer his punishment. You are not Christ, and you will never be morally perfect, and can never carry the weight of another’s sins (you will have enough trouble with your own).
If the ultimate tyranny is tyranny over the mind, then the ultimate bastion of liberty is mental liberty: the insistence upon the real, “the freedom to say that two plus two make four.” He who maintains the facts as witnessed, confirmed, and recorded by reliable record-keepers is a defender of freedom; he who excuses himself from that effort, whatever his rationale, has joined forces with the tyrants.
And that is really all that need be said.