Thursday, August 15, 2019

To Avert Responsibility, Collectivize!

     To him who hopes to deceive others for profit, the most attractive of all occupations is rhetorical tactician. Perhaps it always was that way. Demosthenes would probably say so; he was, after all, the man who framed rhetoric as the art of making “the worse appear the better cause.” Whatever the case, if your principal skill is lying, there’s no better job for you than rhetorical tactician for a political organization.

     That’s not to say that all politicians and political organizations are equally deceitful. Some tactics aren’t infinitely adaptable. That includes the one I have in mind this morning.

     Let’s start with an example: more exactly, a schematic of one. Imagine that you’ve signed on with some political group as a rhetorical tactician. Such a group will naturally prioritize protecting its members, its agenda, and its funding. At least, if it doesn’t have those things at the top of its priority list, it won’t last very long. But a political group’s focus will be on political action: i.e., on influencing the State, its agencies, and its agents toward support for the group’s agenda. That implies an orientation toward political incentives and governmental responses, usually as instantiated in law and executive policies.

     Now something unfortunate happens for your group: One of its more prominent members is caught doing something naughty. Moreover, the specifics of the naughtiness appear contrary to your group’s overt agenda. You’ve been assigned the task of detoxifying the event rhetorically: i.e., it’s your job to craft rhetoric that will frame what he did as something harmless or irrelevant to the group’s interests. What methods, in categorical terms, are available to you?

     There aren’t many choices. If there were a plausible alternate suspect to whom the deed could be ascribed, that would serve the purpose...but let’s postulate that your guy was caught red-handed. That excludes any possibility of attributing the offense to another individual. What’s left?

     Now now, let’s not always see the same hands!

     Just yesterday there was another mass shooting, this time in Philadelphia. The targets were Philadelphia police officers, six of whom were hit. The shooter eventually surrendered and is now in police custody. Media commentators immediately launched into rants about “white supremacy” having created “a climate of fear.”

     But the shooter is black. It takes some work to find a picture of him being apprehended, but they exist:

     Moreover, the shooter isn’t exactly unknown to the police. So how does this connect to “white supremacy” or “a climate of fear?”

     Yet this is what the Left’s mouthpieces do. They strain to redirect the responsibility for the crime from the individual onto some group, preferably a group hostile to the Left’s interests. They put a special effort into it when the individual is from one of the Left’s “mascot groups” (Thomas Sowell).

     It’s been going on for a long time. Ordinary people have begun to tune it out. Yet it will persist, because categorically speaking there’s no other way for the Left to deal with offenses committed by members of groups allied with them, or which they find politically useful.

     There are several such groups. American blacks. Illegal aliens. Muslims within America’s borders. (I refuse to call them “American Muslims” or “Muslim Americans,” as their creed commands them to deny their allegiance to anything but Islam and its ummah.) The media’s coverage of such persons’ misdeeds is invariably gentle; the political rhetoric wrapped around them is invariably deflective and collective.

     The consequences are coming home to roost.

     Collectivization begets collectivization. When the flacksters’ tactics become consistent enough and uniform enough to be widely recognized as what they are, those who recognize them are moved toward a “counter-collectivization” inimical to the flacksters’ agenda. We’ve already seen that identity groups will evoke counter-groups of other – usually opposed – identities. Groups that attempt to redirect responsibility for their miscreants onto “the police” or “society” have become noxious in the public mind. The reactions are unpleasant; they’re definitely the opposite of what a good person would wish.

     Ironically, the best counteraction to the presence of serious, disproportionate misbehavior within an identifiable demographic, regardless of whether it’s united by race, ethnicity, creed, occupation, or any other characteristic, is the institution of internal discipline. That is, the good people within the group would do best to deal with the criminals, disrupters, antisocials, et cetera internally, such that they can represent to those outside that “we know we have a problem, but we’re dealing with it, so please be patient with us.” For people cannot be prevented from seeing things in groups united by categorizing characteristics. We’re hard-wired to do so, and no amount of “re-education” will prevent it.

     The behavior of early Twentieth Century bootlegging gangs is instructive. Those gangs were often at war with one another. Blood often flowed freely during those contests...but only the blood of gang members. The bosses were scrupulous about not allowing gang-on-gang violence to involve outsiders. Outsiders were their customers; their good will had to be preserved. As for law enforcement, the bosses preferred bribery to the murder of policemen, wherever and whenever possible.

     The paramount need is to prevent government and its agents from taking a collectivist attitude toward the citizenry: regarding us not as individuals responsible solely for our own actions, but as members of groups that bear collective responsibility for whatever any of its members might do. That attitude, when inculcated in the State and its agents, invites preferential enforcement of the law at the very least. It can result in pogroms and “ethnic cleansings.” However, the prevailing political-rhetorical dynamic is in the direction of collectivization, and has been for some time.

     That dynamic must be countered and reversed. It might be inimical to the strategists of the Left – it certainly wouldn’t be good for the career prospects of their mouthpieces – but it’s one of the chief necessities of our time.

     More anon.

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