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Sunday, March 07, 2021

Against ideology

Ideology is incompatible with a search for truth. Most of the world's problems are caused by ideologues

T he other day a left-wing friend of mine recited a whole long list of 165 right-wing “militias,” none of which, despite being a avid consumer of conservative stuff, I had ever heard of. These 165 militias, she said, were a big threat to America, and the left has no choice but to defend itself against this enormous existential threat.

This is why no one takes any of what ideologues say seriously any more. The idea that the incident of January 6 was an “insurrection” is a fantasy of the news media. It now appears that almost none of the rioters, if that's what they were, were armed. The “QAnon Insurrection” the news media claimed was going to happen last Thursday was another fantasy, but like millennialists who are disappointed when the world doesn't end as predicted, the media decided that they just got the date wrong.

While there are indeed a few nutty people out there, these 165 “militias” are mostly pure fiction invented by ideologues to keep the people afraid. They know if people are scared they will clamor for more protection. The UK Guardian may claim that no one really died in the BLM/Antifa riots, at least no one worth mentioning, but they are now in the awkward position of explaining how those right-wing militias tricked them into burning down all those buildings.

The libertarian terrorist manual

Here's another example, a quote from John Brennan: “Intelligence agencies should look into religious extremists, authoritarians, fascists, bigots, racists, nativists, even libertarians.”

Some commentators have written this off as a joke, but it sounds more like a typical ideological threat. The central tenet of libertarianism is “Go away and leave me alone!” If there were such a thing as a libertarian terrorist manual, it would be something like this:

  1. We must bore the enemy to death by reciting passages from Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard. Our opponents will submit just to make us stop nattering.

  2. We must ask politely for them to leave us alone.

  3. We must complain bitterly about marijuana still being illegal in a few states.

  4. We must hand out free copies of the US Constitution on 1×1 inch books so people can carry the Constitution around with them in case someone walks up to them and asks what Article VII says.

  5. We must print 1×1 inch copies of Atlas Shrugged and politely ask people to read them. Granted, they will be 2 1/2 feet thick, so reading them will be impossible, but that is not our problem.

Clearly, libertarianism is not a terrorist organization. Libertarianism does not accept any authority, so it is not even an ideology. It is more of an anti-ideology. But to ideologues like Brennan, the truth doesn't matter.

What is an ideology?

An ideology, then, is a set of beliefs that divides people into supporters and opponents of an authority. The authority may be a person or an unquestionable belief. People invent ideologies to justify what they want to do. They dress ideologies up as philosophies, but they are not philosophies. They are ways of simplifying the world by turning it into a battle of ‘us’ versus ‘them.’

Ideologies are created when people discover that the world is too complicated to understand. They arise when humans experience a decline in IQ, whether caused by fear and hate or by bad education.

Different ideologies have different tactics. Take critical race theory, a form of racist ideology that is taking over the Democratic party. Its goal is to turn the races against each other. Creating hatred among races, social classes, or generations (as some new books are currently trying to do) may seem like an unlikely way to convince people of the truth of one's beliefs. But humans are opposed to injustice. We're programmed that way by our DNA, so it is a universal, unquestioned belief. So, if you can redefine your goals as a struggle against injustice, that becomes your source of authority.

The easiest way to convince people that injustice exists is to create it. But it is a trap. Once people discover that an ideology poses a threat, they may get caught up in it themselves, in which case they will view the world in the same phony terms as their opponents, handing a victory to the ideologue.

The goal of leftism is to impose their vision of big government onto everyone. Conservatism is a reaction to that, which is why it seems to follow whatever leftists propose. By default, conservatism does not exist. This may seem to be a weakness, but it is collectivism that must struggle against human nature and empirical truth, and it is why it must create ever more elaborate theories to discover injustice in the interactions of ordinary men and women. When an ideology is based on fantasies, the forces of nature work against it constantly and it becomes more detached from the real world. Ideology has no mechanism to decide truth other than authority, so it eventually entangles itself in absurdity.

Is religion an ideology?

Religion begins as an attempt to explain weird peculiarities in the world. For example, when a person encounters unexplainable phenomena, his natural tendency is to conclude that some capricious entity is behind it. Eventually a religion may come to believe that their deity has dictated certain behaviors everyone must follow, or find itself opposed by a government. At that point it becomes an ideology, and it uses its deity as the basis for its authority.

Over the years many religious people blamed atheism, secularism, or even Darwinism for the millions of deaths in Communism and Nazism. This is an example of how people try to use one ideology to fight another. Even some scientists got caught up in the dispute and tried to turn science into an ideology, but they were misguided: it was not atheism or religion, but ideology that killed the millions in the Thirty Years War and the two World Wars.

To ideologues, the ideology, not dispassionate empirical reason, is what defines truth. They deny this, of course, and always claim that the facts are on their side. But that is only because they ignore facts that are on the other side.

Politics is the opposite of science

This is why science, which is the realm of facts, must remain detached from all ideologies. To avoid entanglement with ideology, science must restrict itself to finding explanations and avoid making value judgments of any kind. The recent trend of withholding scientific findings because they might be used to support an ideology of which one disapproves is the worst possible strategy. Doing so turns your finding into an ideological statement. Ideologues will glom on to anything, declare it a “crisis,” invent facts to buttress their claim, and demand that people do what the ideologues want. If a scientist takes sides in a political dispute, no matter how benign and uncontroversial it may seem, everything he says from then on becomes an ideological statement and therefore has no credibility.

To survive, ideologies must suppress facts that contradict their beliefs. They may try to discredit them as arising from a political or pecuniary motive, or as "narratives" intended to protect one's privilege. They may invent facts or half-truths—facts claimed to be true for the victim, but which in fact are true for everyone. If these tactics fail, they will simply censor facts that support an opposing point of view. These tactics are incompatible with good scholarly practice, which is why politics is the opposite of science.

As much sympathy as I have for feminists, feminists invented many of those tactics. And look where it got them: now both partners in a marriage have to work to pay for what one could formerly afford, women's sports are about to get wiped out, and men and women mistrust one another more than ever before. It was a perfect example of how ideologies contain the seeds of their own destruction.

Are some ideologies downstream of other ideologies?

There's a whole branch of political thought dedicated to tracing which ideology is downstream of which other one. It's part of a desire to explain how the opposition could have come up with such crazy ideas, often with the purpose of reducing them to an instantiation of some ideology like Nazism or Communism that is commonly recognized as evil. Andrew Breitbart claimed that politics is downstream of culture. If this is true, it's true only in the same sense that sewage is downstream of culinary arts. Politics destroys culture—see socialist realism for an example—and it will destroy science if given a chance.

We complain about ideologies, but what are our preoccupations but ideologies? It is the way we live our lives that makes them so.

mar 07 2021, 10:32 am

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