Wednesday, December 13, 2017

A Little Peace On The Side

     [The Donald Trump / Elizabeth Warren war of words over a Trump tweet about Kirsten Gillibrand got me thinking, for the first time in some while, about the Left’s harping on “code words.” Therefore, I decided to repost the following essay, which originally appeared at Eternity Road on September 12, 2006. -- FWP]

     In its attacks on the Right, the Left frequently employs the notion of "code words:" phrases of innocent appearance that conceal sinister intentions. For instance, we have this from two prominent Embarrassments-at-large to the United States Congress:

     Politicians know this trick well. In 1994, Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., likened tax cuts to racial epithets, saying, "It's not 'spic' or 'nigger' anymore. They just say, 'Let's cut taxes.'" Later that year, Rep. Major Owens, D-N.Y., used similar language to describe the Republicans' Contract With America: "These are people who are practicing genocide with a smile; they're worse than Hitler." [statements made during the debate over the Contract With America]

     Ann Coulter, the great conservative provocateuse, characterized such rhetoric thus:

     When arguments are premised on lies, there is no foundation for debate. You end up conceding to half the lies simply to focus on the lies of Holocaust-denial proportions. Kind and well meaning people find themselves afraid to talk about politics. Any sentient person has to be concerned that he might innocently make an argument or employ a turn of phrase that will be discerned by the liberal cult as a "code word" evincing a genocidal tendency....

     Vast areas of public policy debate are treated as indistinguishable from using the N-word (aka: the worst offense against mankind....The spirit of the First Amendment has been effectively repealed for conservative speech by a censorious, accusatory mob. Truth cannot prevail because whole categories of thought are deemed thought crimes. [From Slander: Liberal Lies About The American Right]

     This use of the "code word" notion as a sword is generally understood among persons of conservative and libertarian inclinations, but less attention goes to the Left's use of code words as a shield: a screen of attractive but irrelevant concepts deployed to prevent critical examination of something they favor.

     Consider the following, found at the head of this Web site:

     Finding peace in this world we live in seems like a daunting task. We watch as our own government is unmasked to reveal it's naked aggression, it's use of torture in the name of freedom and it's unholy alliance with corporate power and right wing religious extremists. Where are they taking our nation and and do we as a people even care anymore about peace, social justice and truth?

     Ignore the strange grammar and punctuation if you can. Ponder rather the implications of the statement, whose maker is undoubtedly in favor of "peace, social justice, and truth" her own interpretation, anyway. Read the most recent half-dozen of her posts and try to determine for yourself what her definitions of those things would be.

     They surely sound good, though, don't they?

     "Peace" by the norms of the liberals usually means surrender to socialist and communist insurrections, which they call "reform movements." "Social justice" by their lights means the erection of ever-larger transfer programs and laws that offer preferential treatment to their favored mascot-groups. "Truth" to a liberal...well, an Eternity Road reader is more than capable of judging for himself. But the terms themselves carry so pretty an aura that virtually no one is willing to compel their elucidation. So liberals get to hide their true intentions behind them: spinelessness before the march of totalitarians and thugs worldwide; exploding government spending and the ceaseless proliferation of laws that infringe upon freedom of speech, association, commerce, and the rights of private property; and the negation of objective standards by which statements of fact might be deemed pertinent to an issue and subjected to critical evaluation.

     Nobel Laureate Friedrich Hayek was especially harsh about the pseudo-concept of "social justice." Justice, he pointed out, refers to two things:

  • A state of affairs in which each individual has that which is his by right;
  • A process invoked to investigate situations alleged to be unjust and to correct them as necessary.

     The two meanings are tied together inextricably. A justice process cannot function to any advantage unless one can determine the just state of affairs toward which it must strive. But to determine that endpoint, one must concede that it once existed in reality, or that it would have existed except for an injustice that prevented it. This is impossible except by defining the rights of Man and specifying them for the particular persons in the controversy at hand. Thus, it is inherently an individualist premise; it cannot be "socialized" except by destroying the objective basis for the very thing it seeks to protect.

     Of course, socializing everything in sight is what the Left is all about. In liberals' ideal world, every imaginable human action is either compulsory or forbidden. There would nominally be "laws," but there would be administrators and commissions -- staffed wholly by liberals, of course -- with unreviewable plenipotentiary power to interpret those laws. Elections and legislatures would become meaningless; infinite power would rest in the hands of persons whose decisions could not be challenged, and who could be removed from their thrones only by death. That's the precondition for all "progress" by these "progressives'" lights.

     But for anyone to perform that analysis aloud must be prevented. It would give the game away in a rather final manner. So rather than campaign for infinite power for liberal mandarins, they prattle about "social justice," and hope that no one notices the opposition between the first word and the second.

     The thickness of the miasma that steams from such rhetoric -- accusations of "code word" employment by persons on the Right; deployment of "code word" defenses to avert critical analysis of the notions of persons on the Left -- makes it all but impossible to find a route back to wholesome, constructive discourse. Worse, calling a liberal on it is a glove hurled in his face. The fundamentally decent ones mostly lack the insight to see what their rhetoric really means. The indecent ones cannot abide the imputation that their favorite tactic is a tip to their dishonesty. Which suggests that the Era of Code Words is likely to hang around for a long time to come.

1 comment:

xmaddad1 said...

I truly believe that we are coming to the times that will require during conversation that upon the utterance of 'social justice trigger words' it will be polite to place the 9mm (or caliber of choice) right between the eyes and then wait for municipal trash removal as there does not seem to be any rational way to discuss politics or policies with them.