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Saturday, March 25, 2017

The war over fake definitions

The left doesn't have to repeal the First Amendment if they can rewrite the dictionary.

T his week actress Gwyneth Paltrow has come out advocating ‘orgasm equality.’* The Internet has erupted because the wife of someone named Brad got fired from a restaurant called Cracker Barrel. A group of naked people slaughtered a sheep at Auschwitz and, for reasons as yet undetermined, chained themselves to a gate. At UT 15% of students (presumably meaning 30% of women) have claimed to have gotten raped. At WVU, a fourth-rate college in West Virginia, 25.2% of students recently claimed to have been sexually assaulted.

What's going on? Mass insanity? Brain virus from outer space? Alternative dimension full of crazy gnome leprechaun people?

No, there's a simpler explanation. There's an ongoing competition going on in people's minds about what's important, and the election of Donald Trump has thrown a monkey wrench into it. One side of the political spectrum is overcome with delirious glee, while the other is cart­wheeling, like an airplane with one wing dipping into the ocean. People just can't handle this.

Dictionary in trash basket
No longer needed

Take the Obama ‘wiretapping’ scandal. Hillary accuses Trump of colluding with the Russians in spying on the DNC. Through a bizarre chain of events it turns into a huge scandal for the Dems; it's starting to look like it was actually Obama who was spying on President-elect Donald Trump and he tried to cover it up with EOs in the last days of his presidency.

Or take the bathroom scandal. Gay activists, for some inscrutable reason, have picked a fight about which bathroom transsexual people should use. There's only one possible outcome: public bathrooms will become really, really small so that only one person at a time can use them. Companies will love it because they'll only need one instead of two. And we'll all be standing in line waiting for the ... person ... to come out. Thanks a bunch.

My theory is: just as it's always darkest before the dawn, it's always craziest just before a catastrophe occurs.

Catastrophes don't always require a terrible war. Often they happen because there's something we're not allowed to talk about. In fact, I would go further: if there's something we're not allowed to talk about, it will inevitably cause a catastrophe. That's because we won't see it coming and we'll be forbidden to label it as a problem, and so we'll be unable to stop it.

One way to block discourse is by rewriting the dictionary. So we get things like: Being born a white person is racism. Having sex with somebody you decide you don't like the next day is rape. Wearing your hair a certain way is cultural appropriation. Defending national borders = racism. Saying something unpopular = Nazism. Not giving us enough attention/money/power = cultural genocide.

This isn't new: the 19th century anarchist Proudhon famously said “Property is theft!” Proudhon knew it was self-contradictory: he wanted to say that no one should be able to own property, but what it actually says is that the existence of property makes theft a crime. Other slogans, like “Question authority!” are similarly self-refuting.

Can we say that all slogans are nonsense? Or is this too a slogan and thus self-refuting?

Some verbal battles, like the one over pronouns, are a great convenience: if a book uses PC pronouns that violate the logic of the text, you're getting a free red flag that the author is merely pandering and the book is only useful as kindling. I could keep my house warm with sociology textbooks these days.

But the slogans are dangerous, and not just because they contribute to global warming. The format is always the same: something you dislike = something terrible. Their actual meaning, if any, is irrelevant. Their only purpose is to justify grabbing somebody else's resources or assuming power and control over them.

And we let them get away with it. When the alt-right tried to take ownership of certain unpopular memes, some conservatives called them racist. That may or may not be true, but it's not the point. These faulty chains of logic are dangerous and they must be broken.

Take these three equations:

    p: Opinions we don't like = bigotry.
    q: Bigotry = hate speech.
    r: Hate speech = violence.

These aren't mere academic sophistries; they are weapons being used to justify violence. The metaphor is the reality. It should surprise no one when college left-wingers react with violent riots when confronted with someone like Charles Murray who challenges their ideas.

The next logical steps in the series are:

    s: Violence = murder.
    t: Murder = genocide.

When the logic reaches p→t, as it inevitably will, you'll have activists who think they're faced with impending genocide because somebody said something they didn't like. And you've got a problem. How would you react if you were facing genocide? These fake equations can lead to chaos if left unchallenged.

Mainstream conservatives ought to forget about expunging fringe groups and focus more on the larger political trajectory. The left doesn't have to repeal the First Amendment if they can rewrite the dictionary.

* Finally, a cause we can all support—much work is needed here to reduce this kind of inequality.

Last edited mar 28 2017, 7:09 am

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