Monday, February 24, 2020

The Socialist Front In The Lexical Wars

     Good morning, Gentle Reader. It’s yet another unnaturally wet and foggy day here on the fabled Island of Long. As noted social commentator Tom Bombadil has observed, wet days are good for getting the wash done...but not much else. As the news has been fairly boring, I shall return to one of my favorite obsessions, which, owing to the state of the presidential campaign, has become particularly relevant. But first, a musical lead-in:

     (Does anyone know whether Brenda Ann Spencer is still in prison?)

     If you can control the terms of debate, and the meaning of those terms, you can guarantee victory regardless of the opposing forces’ arguments and rhetorical skills. This effect is growing particularly important within the Democrat Party: first, among those who’d like to preserve it beyond the 2020 elections; second, among those who want to impose their own agenda on it.

     It should not be news to any Gentle Reader that Senator Bernard Sanders (I-VT) is currently the front-runner in the Dems’ nomination contest. Sanders is, of course, an avowed socialist...but, he will immediately add, he’s a democratic socialist. How does a democratic socialist differ from an unmodified socialist? Sanders won’t elucidate. Moreover, every attempt to probe for a difference that makes a difference elicits the conventional Leftist response of attacking the questioner’s motives.

     Historically, when “democratic” socialists rise to power in some land, they maintain a pretense of deference to majority opinion for a while, but are replaced in short order by full-on / conform-or-be-shot authoritarian socialists. That’s the kind that doesn’t give a fig for the consent of the governed. Their attitude is that “We know what’s best so sit down, shut up, and take what we give you.” The most recent progression of this kind was in Venezuela.

     Indeed, even in the “democratic” phase of the disease, if the regime can’t produce an authentic show of majority support, it will contrive to create the appearance of one. Election fraud is the first stage. Voter intimidation follows soon after. And in the sweet rushing fullness of time, the regime begins imprisoning popular dissenters and shutting down organs that dare to criticize the goings-on. At that point the transition to authoritarian socialism has been completed.

     All this is well documented in case after case. However, the aspiring “democratic” socialist will avert all discussion of such naughtiness. He’s different, you see. He cares about “the people,” or “the workers,” or “the marginalized,” or whatever flag he’s chosen to wave for his current campaign. And don’t you dare to differ with him or he’ll call you, in the treasured formulation of an old friend, “everything but white.”

     But the progression will roll on as it always does. He and those who back him really do believe that they know what’s best. If those idiots the voters disagree, well, they’ll just have to be made to accept it. Given time they’ll learn to like it...and if they don’t, well, the regime has all the guns. Disarming the populace is an absolute and indispensable prerequisite to socialism.

     But Americans have made it impossible to disarm us. There are too many of us, we have more guns than any populace in history, and we’ve made it clear that any attempt to take them from us will trigger a civil war. So what’s a socialist to do?

     An old saying that probably originated in some corporate conference room is pertinent here:

If you can’t dazzle ‘em with brilliance,
Baffle ‘em with bullshit.

     Now, bullshit is, in a sense, the universal currency of politics. All politicians, in practical terms, are bullshitters. They might represent themselves as caring about the nation – the smarmier ones will attempt to convince you that they care about you personally – but in point of fact, their highest priority is political advancement: a higher office, more power, grander status and perquisites. The lowliest town clerk will tell you – if you get him drunk enough, at least – that he could run this country better than whoever is currently in the Oval Office. The implications for the character and pretensions of the political animal “should” be “obvious.”

     But socialist bullshit is different – indeed, it differs in kind from conventional political bullshit. Socialist bullshit has major three aims:

  1. To promulgate the fantasy that government can provide you things “for free:”
  2. To obscure the congruity of the speaker’s program with those of all other socialist regimes;
  3. To delegitimize all criticisms and critics of the speaker’s claims by attacking them as evilly motivated.

     The astute observer can see all three of those aims being advanced in the campaign rhetoric of Bernie Sanders. Moreover, they interlock in mutual support: a perfect, highly useful political ideon.

     The first aim, the fantasy of “free stuff,” ought to be the easiest of all to counter. After all, nothing in the material world is free of cost. Anyone who claims otherwise has never been responsible for his own upkeep. Those who claim a “right” to free education, free housing, free healthcare, or what have you are actually claiming they have the “right” to reinstitute slavery, to produce the freebies they demand. But to note that out loud makes you the vilest creature on Earth, and they’ll be sure to say so.

     The second aim is a bit tougher to cope with, but only because Americans’ knowledge of the histories of nations that have lapsed into socialism is meager. There’s quite a lot of history about socialism, but it’s not taught in schools, and the typical American adult’s leisure reading doesn’t cover it...assuming that he reads at all, which many don’t. That leaves a relatively clear field for the socialist campaigner to claim that his version of the ancient evil will “work,” in comparison to all those other “fascist” regimes that falsely wore a socialist label. They “weren’t real socialism,” and once again: don’t you dare to differ with him if you don’t want to be drowned in his venom.

     The third aim – the rhetorical tactic of denouncing the opponent – is extremely tough to counter because the target’s immediate, automatic reaction is to go on the defensive: to deny the vilifications. To this response, the attacker can reply with more lies and an “Oh yeah? Prove it” stance that demands that the target humiliate himself. Moreover, the attacker will often “argue” that his critic must be of low motives and character: “He’s trying to deny you all this free stuff! Why else would he do that?”

     Hearing this must get Demosthenes spinning in his grave fast enough to power Los Angeles. Personally, I would prefer the customs of the Camiroi.

     In effect, the socialist front in the lexical wars is a struggle over the meaning of certain words fundamental to political discourse: most particularly “socialism,” “rights,” and “free.” Bernie Sanders is an active combatant in that war. He gets away with his deceits and concealments routinely, but then, those who have the opportunity to challenge him mostly share his positions and wouldn’t want to see them defeated.

     Sanders has never had to debate anyone who both knows his stuff and is willing to challenge him on specifics. Thomas Sowell would have him bawling within ten minutes. Anyone sufficiently knowledgeable, who possesses the courage required to stand his ground against a flood of vilification, could do so. But actual debates, in which facts matter and a panel of judges decide who has the better arguments, have vanished from use. And in that observation lies the explanation for the inroads socialist promoters have made with our woefully miseducated youth.

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