The Prison-House of Political Language

The Prison-House of Political Language, by Neema Parvini.

In Fools, Frauds and Firebrands (2015), Roger Scruton reminds us that “intellectuals are naturally attracted by the idea of a planned society in the belief they will be in charge of it” (p. 12), and this is one reason why they most often start with the area over which they have the most control: language. Another reason is because reality has a stubborn habit of not cooperating with their utopian visions: thoughts are easier to control than economies or the revealed preferences of individuals. …

It always comes back to PC control of the media:

If you are trapped in an echo chamber without anyone to challenge your ideas, it is difficult to be self-aware because there is no motivation to do anything other than revel in the righteousness of your cause. Inside the confines of your own imagination, you are a freedom fighter, a member of the Rebel Alliance – or should I say, #TheResistance – fighting the evil Empire. …

Language, language, language:

People who are part of the “Rebel Alliance” develop a way of speaking designed to circumvent the possibility of debate or even the introduction of evidence. They employ what Thomas Sowell called, in The Vision of the Anointed (1995), “pre-emptive rhetoric” (p. 64), a set of words and phrases that assert the correctness of the argument before anything else has even been said. At their most effective, such pre-emptive strikes become what Scott Adams has called, in Win Bigly (2017), “linguistic kill shots” which he defines as “a nickname or short set of words so persuasive that it can end an argument or create a specific outcome” (p. 28). …

As David Horowitz puts it in Take No Prisoners (2014):

Whenever a Republican and a Democrat square off, it’s Godzilla versus Bambi. They call us racists, sexists, homophobes, and selfish pigs, and we call them … liberals. Who’s going to win that argument? They spend their political dollars calling us names and shredding our reputations; we spend ours explaining why the complicated solutions we propose will work and why theirs won’t. But when you are being called a racist, an enemy of women, and a greedy SOB, who will listen to your ideas about the budget? Who is going to believe you when all of your motives are portrayed as vile? (p. 105) …

The PC left versus everyone — but they control the language:

Indeed, one of the ironies of Ridley’s piece is that he is forced to use the term “right” for “opponent of the left,” but I am not convinced that the “right-wing” exists except as a weapon of ridicule for the left to wield; it is a smear-word, another linguistic kill shot, a way of dismissing any counterpoint without the burden of engaging with the substance of what is actually being said. …

In considering the leftist definition of “the right,” what then unites Southern Baptist preachers, certain Catholics, Lockean classical liberals, Rothbardian Libertarians, One Nation Tories, neoconservatives, paleoconservatives, Fascists, Nazis, “the alt right”, and all other ragtag groups that the left sees as a unified group? The answer of course is “not much” because what the left sees as a monolithic “basket of deplorables” is nothing more than a disparate jumble of distinct groups thrown together with the express purpose of tarring them all with the same brush. This is why the term “the right” such as it exists today could only be accurately described as “opponents of the left for any reason,” which is why I refuse to use the label. As Sowell put it, the left-right dichotomy, as it stands, “is a somewhat Ptolemaic view of the political universe, with the political left being in the center of that universe and who all who differ – in any direction – being called ‘the right.’” (Vision of the Anointed, p. 208).

On a recent podcast, Jonah Goldberg …complained that those on the American left can seldom, if ever, accurately summarise their opponents’ positions in a form to which said opponents would be willing to subscribe. They routinely use “the right” as linguistic kill shots, whether wrongly calling John Bolton “a neo-con,” or smearing Candace Owens as “toxic” and “far right,” or defining Jordan Peterson as “alt right.” Actual neoconservatives tend not to like Bolton (and vice versa), and the same can be said of the actual alt-right, in relation to both Owens and Peterson. The point is not that the left simply does not care about fact checking, but rather in each of these cases their implicit hope is that the stigma of the label will stick, regardless of the facts.

Pre-emptive rhetoric is an attempt at thought control: put the words “Jordan Peterson” and “alt right” together in a headline enough times and it will be one of the first two or three things that the average person will accept about him, irrespective of what he’s actually said or done, so that fewer people will listen to Peterson or engage in the substance of his ideas.

It’s made the PC mob ignorant:

One side effect of dealing with political opponents in this manner is that the left has become increasingly accepting of straw man fallacies created out of their own righteous bigotry and refusal to respectfully address counterpoints. They have no concept of Jonah Goldberg’s philosophical world of Burkeans, Straussians, Hayekians and so on, because many of these people are so ignorant that they genuinely believe that Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher sit closely on a political continuum with Adolf Hitler.

Read it all.