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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Cultural terrorism

The term political correctness doesn't fully express the threat that we're facing.

F orget left and right. Politics appears one-dimensional only because of our two-party system. Trump has pushed the Overton window not left or right, but toward himself. Already his ideas, which sounded crazy at first, have become mainstream. People are scratching their chins. Hmm, why not build a wall and have a moratorium on immigration?

Trump's biggest problem is not Hillary, but the establishment types, who are still writing article after article against Trump. If Trump loses, there will be terrible recriminations between the GOP establishment and the Trump fans, who will accuse each other of leading the party to defeat.

The accepted wisdom among progressives is that Trump represents the hope of white people. Naturally, being left-wingers, they can't help adding that since they're whites they're also racists. The left has redefined the terms to make them synonymous.

But this trope is becoming more tiresome by the day. Yes, many political writers still cower in their offices, carefully couching their words in anodyne generalities to avoid being called racist. News websites is still devote half their space to fake exposés of some white person saying one of the bad words. But the rise of the alt-right, which defiantly ignores the accusations made against it by the left (and even by some conservatives), is evidence that the term ‘racist’ is becoming a mere punchline, just as ‘sexist’ has become.

There are still some feminists out there, mainly at the universities, complaining about ‘misogyny’, but for the most part feminism is over.

The retrieved memory scare

Indeed, future generations may wonder why political correctness was such a threat. To see why, let's recall the retrieved memory scare in the 1990s.

In the 1980s, the news media began spreading stories about widespread child sexual abuse. The stories were started by psychologists who had invented a new theory: traumatic memories of abuse were being repressed—that is, forgotten—and could only be retrieved by hypnosis. Suddenly children across the country were remembering tales of horrific sexual abuse that was so traumatic that they forced it out of their minds, and only the expert psychologists knew how to retrieve it.

Eventually the story became more elaborate: some people started claiming there were Satanic cults ritualistically abusing children. Leftists today focus on the satanic cult aspect to blame it on religious conservatives. But the claims were by no means restricted to satanic cults.

Although the true number of falsely accused people will probably never be known, many people were undoubtedly falsely accused and their lives ruined. In a style reminiscent of today's global warming scare, respected experts insisted that “the evidence for repression is overwhelming and obvious” and that up to 59% of all people had repressed memories of childhood abuse.[1] Anyone who disputed the repressed memory theory was ridiculed for denying the consensus and risked becoming a suspect themselves. This dispute about false memory syndrome[2], which is still going on, was called the “memory wars.”[3]

Psychological tests have shown that even without hypnosis, selective reinforcement often produces false recall in children. In one study, kindergarten children provided false answers up to 52% of the time to questions about whether a clown visiting their classroom did something nasty like breaking a toy.[4]

Although some psychologists still believe in repressed memories, the episode is generally regarded as a witch hunt fueled by quack psychologists peddling pseudoscience. Under hypnosis, a certain percentage of subjects, given selective reinforcement, can be induced to recall virtually anything, including alien abductions and past life experiences. Mainstream clinicians have become increasingly skeptical about repressed memories: in 2012 only 11.3% of Ph.D. psychotherapists agreed with the statement “When someone has a memory of a trauma while in hypnosis, it objectively must have occurred.”[3]

Yet the hysteria has taken its toll: today when a lost child in a shopping center comes up to a man and asks for help, his usual response is to tell the child to go find a cop. It's simply too easy for some woman to drop an accusation that will destroy his life and career. We have been terrorized into abandoning our natural urge to protect children.

One time while I was working at my lab, a little girl came up to me in tears, saying something incomprehensible. I realized she must be lost and led her back into the elevator area of the building. But I was careful to maintain as much distance as possible and to avoid any verbal or hand-to-hand contact or any sign of sympathy. Luckily someone came out of the elevator and recognized her, and I took off without even waiting to verify their identity. If that person hadn't shown up, I probably would have just told the child to wait there and gone off to find a cop. Even asking the child her name was out of the question. (Of course this particular child was incoherent and it would have sounded like ‘Mmmff blrfff glrff waaah!!’).

Well, I got off lucky. In the old days, an adult might have led the child by the hand to find the parent. That is inconceivable today. After the 1990s if the woman asked “did that man touch you?” the child would honestly say yes and your life would be over.

Political correctness or cultural terrorism?

When I watch old TV shows from the 1950s and 60s, I'm often struck by how often the characters touched each other. Ward patted the Beav on the back (no jokes please!). Captain Kirk touched his lieutenants, grabbing them by the arm—even the female ones. Wilbur patted Mister Ed on the nose. Yet only a few years later Captain Picard rarely touched his crewmembers. We may think that we've just become more stand-offish, more British. But it was not by choice. We are living with the effects of cultural terrorism.

It's fair to ask: is today's Snowflake Generation the result of insufficient attention paid to them by their dads thanks to the abuse scares of the 1980s? The psychology literature is full of reports on the importance of physical contact in psychosocial development.

The purpose of the scandal, based as it was on the pernicious feminist myth of the male as predator, was to break down the bond of trust between adult males and children, and it succeeded. It was a victory for feminists, but even more for the left: if it's too dangerous for adults to protect children, that duty falls to the state. The biggest losers were children.

Today, people are being terrorized by false accusations of racism. As one commentator put it, it's a threat: Do what I say or you're a racist. Use our terminology, give us money, or you're a racist. Oh, and just to convince you, here's somebody who used that term once in the past, and they're now a racist ... and despised, disgraced, and unemployable.

On a bigger scale the strategy is similar: create a problem, then propose a new government program and new funding to solve it. And put our people in charge of it. Or else.

Pinprick attacks and capitulating capitalists

But small pinprick attacks are the left's main strategy. They know if they suspended the Bill of Rights they'd be facing an armed revolt. So they pick issues they calculate are not worth fighting over, like using ze and zir instead of he and her, or ‘person of color’ instead of ‘black person’. Or they force bakeries run by Christians to bake a cake bearing a slogan that is offensive to them, while a bakery run by liberals is under no such pressure.

Sure enough some conservative always caves on the issue to portray himself as reasonable—a nice person, not a racist at all. So the next day we wake up and people who say the now-forbidden word are being fired. If progressives get their way, it'll be fines and prison, as it is now in Europe and Canada.

These are not small matters. They are not even symbolic. When conservatives capitulate to maintain peace and harmony, they let progressives push us another inch down the road to tyranny.

It's exactly the same strategy used by Islamic terrorists: don't kill enough civilians to provoke a war. They learned after 9/11 to kill only enough to pressure a weak society to capitulate and make little concessions, maybe hate speech laws or more representation in the government. The victims convince themselves small concessions are reasonable. But the pressure stays on until sharia is imposed and the terrorists are in power.

Maybe Trump somehow picked up on that, and has ridden it to victory in the primaries. The Never-Trumpers and the conservative establishment make a good case, but I suspect Trump's fans intuitively recognize that cultural terrorism is terrorism too. That's why many of them support Trump: for whatever reason, he seems immune. And every time a conservative caves, Trump gets another thousand votes.

1. The Reality of Repressed Memories (1993). American Psychologist 1993, 48, 518–537. Elizabeth F. Loftus. Link https://faculty.washington.edu/eloftus/Articles/lof93.htm

2. Annu Rev Clin Psychol. 2007;3:311–28. Unwarranted Assumptions about Children's Testimonial Accuracy. Ceci SJ, Kulkofsky S, Klemfuss JZ, Sweeney CD, Bruck M.

3. Psychol Sci. 2014 Feb;25(2):519–530. Are the "memory wars" over? A scientist-practitioner gap in beliefs about repressed memory. Patihis L, Ho LY, Tingen IW, Lilienfeld SO, Loftus EF.

4. Garven S, Wood JM, Malpass RS. 2000. Allegations of wrongdoing: the effects of reinforcement on children's mundane and fantastic claims. J. Appl. Psychol. 1:38–49.

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