Thought Prison: the fundamental nature of PC

I’ve just finished reading Bruce Charlton’s new book Thought Prison, the most radical attack on political correctness (by which Bruce means more or less what I mean when I say “liberalism”) that I’ve yet encountered.  You may be wondering why we need another book attacking liberalism and PC.  For a social view of PC as an instrument for smashing rival loyalties to the market and managerial State, we’ve got Jim Kalb’s excellent The Tyranny of Liberalism.  For a historical view of the rise of PC and the managerial/therapeutic elite, we’ve got Paul Gottfried’s trilogy of books of the subject.  For critiques of PC considered as an erroneous political philosophy, there are blogs like mine and Kalb’s.  Bruce has done something quite different, which makes his contribution essential; he’s provided a sort of existential analysis of the PC mindset, how from the PC adherent’s general sense of his place in the universe (or lack thereof), certain exigencies follow.  (This is not the same as a psychological analysis.  You all know that I hate explanations of one’s enemies’ beliefs in terms of their psychological or moral failings:  “He just doesn’t agree with me because his mom didn’t love him enough”, etc.  People of any caliber may fall into the PC perspective and be drawn to the same inhuman conclusions.)

The PC adherent sees the universe and human life as meaningless, and he sees truth as an arbitrary social construct.  He regards natural and customary human behavior as irredeemably corrupted with selfishness.  He finds moral purity rather in abstract organization, which alone can be truly altruistic because it can be undeniably unnatural and unspontaneous.  The specific nature of the alleged moral failings of prior systems are of secondary importance–more a matter of justification than real motivation.  How well the PC-managed replacement works is entirely irrelevant, because it is morally superior by definition.  The struggle to destroy the old, unjust, “reactionary” organizations re-fuses the world with pseudo-meaning;  PC has a greater need to identify enemies than belief systems that acknowledge an objective ultimate Good.  Bruce believes the PC overvaluation of abstraction goes back to the Great East-West Schism and is a core feature of the West.  Western civilization thus cannot be saved, because it contains the seeds of its own ruin.

The book is written in a brief, almost aphoristic style.  Bruce seldom deigns to give examples or evidence for the accusations he makes against PC.  He assumes his readers are already aware of the grotesqueries of PC and jumps straight to explaining them.  Not every objection or defense a PC defender might make is countered.  I expect this book will not convert many of the enemy, and Bruce says that this is not his goal.  The goal is to help those who are already somewhat alienated from PC to understand their adversary and to safeguard their souls against backsliding and despair.  The book’s ideal audience, then, is readers of this blog, who will profit, as I have, from Bruce’s many insights on the perverse workings of the modern world.

52 Responses

  1. I find it odd that “enemies” of PC talk about it more than anyone who actually favors it. Mostly because PC is a made up term, used to characterize liberal social values negatively. PC is, itself, a put-down value word, and I doubt anyone who uses that phrase continuously is going to give liberals a fair shot.

    Then again, I don’t have much sympathy for people who are complaining that “PC” is in power. Feudal-Christianity had its shot, and it had a thousand of years. Now it is dead. The world keeps spinning.

  2. The British traditional conservative Sir Peregrine Worsthorne wrote an article a few years ago saying that he couldn’t understand why political correctness got such a bad press on the right. His argument was that it is simply a system of speech codes and so on directed at controlling social behaviour, and that a conservative should be in favour of that sort of thing, as long as the content was conservative rather than progressive.

    The phrase, BTW, was originally coined as a joke by Trotskyists in the 70s (IIRC).

    The book’s thesis sounds a little eccentric to me – a bit like listening to a chap in a pub telling you his pet theory about what really motivates those damn lefties. But then most writers, of the right or the left, tend to find it easier to describe and defend their own worldview than to explain what’s really motivating the other side.

  3. David, would you apply your thinking about the use of the term “political correctness” to made up terms used to characterize conservative social values negatively, such as “racism” or “fascism”?

  4. Thanks very much for this generous review – I have put a taster of the book on a new blog:

    http://thoughtprison-pc.blogspot.com/

    Bruce G Charlton

  5. A person only complains about a rule when they are inclined to break it. The same is true of speech codes, particularly unwritten speech codes. A liberal doesn’t notice P.C., much less resent it, because it’s never placed a check on his speech. In the same way, I would scarcely be aware of anti-blasphemy laws, or even a social prejudice against blasphemy, because I have no urge to blaspheme.

    Speaking of blasphemy, and partly in response to Reggie Perrin, the speech codes a conservative might favor are very different from the speech codes of liberal P.C. The conservative is interested in preserving hierarchy, and so would forbid speech (such as blasphemy) that degrades something that should be exalted. The liberal is interested in preserving equality, and so forbids speech (such as racial stereotyping) that recognizes difference. Same means, different ends.

    But speech codes are just a tool of P.C.. and P.C. is just an aspect of something larger yet. That something larger is liberalism metastasized into a system of what Voegelin would call spiritual totalitarianism. It’s a great irony that the great program of liberation should come to this, but not at all surprising in hindsight.

  6. JMSmith is right-ish. What P.C. actually is is a concerted effort by this society to discourage racism, sexism, etc etc. It is discouraged by social ridicule and by legal means whenever those means do not violate the rights of an individual.

    But the idea of calling PC totalitarianism is, well, really fucking stupid. Rightists often appeal to a strawman version of The Right to Free Speech, which in their mind means “I can say whatever the hell I want and there are no consequences.” What Free Speech ACTUALLY means is that THE GOVERNMENT is prevented from punishing you for speaking your mind.

    In America, I could, for example, say “I think all niggers are animals” and the only punishment I will get is a social backlash. In the Soviet Union, if I said “Marxism is a fraud” I would be sent to a Gulag. THAT IS TOTALITARIANISM. Having people not like what you say and using their lawful powers to prevent you from discriminating IS JUST HOW SOCIETY WORKS.

    The intellectual problem with Conservatism is that it is always an emotionally motivated attempt to logically defend things that already exist because of the natural fluctuations of human power. Noblemen were noble because they were strongmen, they weren’t noblemen because they were, in some way, fundamentally naturally different from other people. But for the Conservative saying “It is how it is and I like it” isn’t enough – they tend to try to justify the state they created by appeals to “God” or “Natural Law.”

    “PC” is nothing but a change in who is holding the whip hand in society, and thus complaints about liberal tyranny are the whimperings of the impotent.

  7. David: You are right to say that this “is just how society works.” People with unpopular opinions are censured and ostracized, and popular prejudices and conventions are upheld. But when liberals took over, back in the nineteenth century, they said that everything was going to be different now. A liberal society wasn’t supposed to be a society in which liberals had the whip hand. But that’s what it has turned out to be, as you say. I think we really agree on this.

    I confess the word totalitarian is hyperbolic. I couldn’t resist the urge to drag in Voegelin. But I do think a society can be totalitarian without being authoritarian. We were headed into the former once the left began to say that “the personal is political.” It was the beginning of the end of true privacy, of a sphere of life that “ain’t nobody’s business but my own.” That sphere has now dwindled to abortion and irregular coitus.

  8. I agree about the use of terms like “totalitarian” to describe the hegemony of liberalism in the west. It’s an abuse of terminology. (At most, it means that liberalism is incompatible with its competitorsbut that seems to me to be a truism which could be applied to any ideology.)

    Speaking of the abuse of language, I agree that the notion of “racism” is somewhat overused by liberals, but “fascist” is an ecumenical term of abuse which is happily used by both sides.

  9. (My last post crossed with Mr Smith’s.)

  10. “His argument was that it is simply a system of speech codes and so on directed at controlling social behaviour, and that a conservative should be in favour of that sort of thing, as long as the content was conservative rather than progressive.”

    The managerial-therapeutic state is allegedly based on the very latest version of liberal ideology.Thus, the only public arguments you can use against its intrusions are liberal arguments relating to freedom. Speaking out in favor of the Ancien Régime will get you dismissed as an eccentric. Classical liberal arguments have made some progress (in the USA) at least in the area of self-defense/gun rights. That’s something-you at least have a better chance of living or dying with dignity, unlike those whites who were stripped naked in the streets of London by black rioters.

    Homeschooling rights too have become more widespread in the last few decades.

  11. In Thought Prison I show that political correctness (modern liberalism) just *is* totalitarian – this is a fact, it is simply not up for debate.

    If you disagree you haven’t thought about it enough, or else you are on the inside, or you are not among the ruling ‘intellectual’ elite (with a responsible job) or are in a privileged group – or else you are forgetting the nature of that totalitarianism of the Soviet Empire in its last generation – the ‘Brezhnev era’. Read Vaclav Havel; read Solzhenitsyn.

    Ask yourselves – why are you all commenting anonymously? Why are almost all reactionary bloggers anonymous? (And those of us who are not anonymous and who have any kind of social status must be very careful what we say – none of us write freely.)

    Commenters who reject the totalitarian characterization should provide full names and work roles and addresses after each comment (without changing what they say in the comments), to prove their sincerity.

    But I do *not* recommend actually doing this, precisely because this is a totalitarian society.

    Bruce Charlton

  12. In America, I could, for example, say “I think all niggers are animals” and the only punishment I will get is a social backlash.

    David is, at best, misinformed. There is a ban on dissident speech in the US, enforced by loss of employment. Partial exceptions exist for tenured academics, employees of sufficiently small firms, and menials. And it is the government which enforces this ban.

    If an employer is sued for discrimination or if the EEOC investigates an employer for discrimination, then the public statements of employees are evidence in the lawsuit/investigation. It is much easier to win a case alleging racial discrimination, for example, if the defendant firm knowingly employs racists, especially as managers. Thus, to protect themselves from such lawsuits/investigations, employers fire public racists. In actuality, they do much more than just this (see below). Since labor law, courts, and the EEOC are set up and run by the government, these are government actions. It is utterly infantile to pretend that the government isn’t abrogating free speech here. Everything is exactly the same as if there were literally a law against employing dissidents, just the names of the enforcement mechanisms are changed.

    James Watson is a real person.

    Furthermore, the accoutrements of totalitarianism are in evidence. There are “party members” in every company whose job it is to ensure the political reliability of employees. We call them the HR department. There are Maoist self-criticism circles called diversity seminars. There is masses of mandatory propaganda. Employees are required enthusiastically to repeat the diversicrats’ propaganda. There is obvious, palpable fear when conversations stray too near dangerous subjects.

    In the Soviet Union, if I said “Marxism is a fraud” I would be sent to a Gulag.

    In the early USSR, when Lenin, Stalin, and Trotsky were running the show, this is true. In the Brezhnev-era Soviet Union, only really in-your-face dissidents (like, say, Edgar Steele) were sent to Siberia. Run-of-the-mill dissidents were simply denied employment. This is the system we have now in the US.

    And I am understating the intrusiveness of the regulation of speech. There are all kinds of weird ramifications. Real estate agents operate under a strange, constantly evolving speech restriction regime, for example.

  13. “I agree about the use of terms like “totalitarian” to describe the hegemony of liberalism in the west. It’s an abuse of terminology. (At most, it means that liberalism is incompatible with its competitorsbut that seems to me to be a truism which could be applied to any ideology.”

    At least given the context of a centralized, bureaucratic state that intrudes into every aspect of life, there’s some totalitarian flavoring when you can be sent to prison for secular heresy crimes like “hate speech” and “Holocaust Denial”. Nick Griffin was put on trial twice for calling Islam “a wicked religion”. Geert Wilders was put on trial for something similar. All trials *did* result in acquittals.

  14. So I say that if you make “dissident speech” you face social ramifications, and you say “But no, you get social ramifications”. Well, no duh. It is called power, and by firing racists they are using their power in order to shape society. Don’t like it? Get more power or learn to keep your ideas to the private sphere.

  15. In other words, you have no RIGHT to employment. You can sit at home on the couch and be racist until the sun goes down. No one is REQUIRED BY LAW to provide you with employment, and if they are employing you it will be according to THEIR terms. There is nothing UNJUST about that. That is called a “free market”, not totalitarianism.

  16. I agree with Bruce Charlton. If you can’t see the soft totalitarianism all around you, you’re either an insider or not paying attention. Brezhnev’s totalitarain state was not a decadent form of Stalinism; it was a perfected form. They discovered that people feared loss of status and income almost as much as they feared the Gulag or a bullet–at least they feared it enough to keep them in line (see Bill’s helpful overview of modern methods, above).

    icr: It’s interesting to consider the way we defend our traditionalism on liberal grounds. You’re right, of course. Do we poison ourselves when we do so? How many people today would even comprehend a traditional defense of traditionalism?

  17. If we’re talking about Griffin and the British context, there are plenty of liberals who are opposed to the laws against incitement to racial and religious hatred (particularly the latter – lots of left-wing atheists opposed Tony Blair’s religious hatred legislation). I’m agnostic about this myself, but the laws can be defended on the grounds that the intention is not to stop people from expressing opinions per se, but rather to stop them from whipping up hatreds that tear apart the social fabric and ultimately lead to violence against people and property. We’ve seen in the last few days that community relations are a very sensitive issue, and it’s not “totalitarian” to stop fascists (using the term correctly for once) like Griffin abusing their freedom of speech to stir up social disorder.

    Incidentally, Griffin did a lot more than call Islam a “wicked religion” – that’s why he ended up on trial rather than Richard Dawkins, who has been just as insulting about Islam (and Christianity), but who no-one could accuse of trying to stir up social convulsions.

  18. But aren’t you all basically saying that you WANT the freedom to publicly express your traditionalist views without ridicule or financial and legal consequences? So you WANT freedom…

    Am I missing something here? I thought this was supposed to be an authoritarian, reactionary blog.

  19. David: Liberalism wasn’t supposed to be about using power to “shape society.” It was supposed to be about setting the broadest possible limits to individual liberty, and then leaving people alone within those limits. It was supposed to be about freedom of conscience, and judging a man only by his actions. It was a fraud from the start. We know that now. In fact, you’re providing us with additional evidence.

    In calling Bill a “racist” you’re just telling us you’re a P.C. Commissaire. Maybe he is, but you don’t know it. And what is a racist, anyhow? How much of a thoughtcrime does one have to commit? How far outside the box can one go?

  20. We’ve now moved from “totalitarianism” to “soft totalitarianism”. Again, I suspect that all that this means is that liberal ideology excludes antiliberal ideologies, which seems to me to be a truism that could be said of any ideological or social system. I imagine that a liberal living in your ideal society would perceive it as being at least softly totalitarian. It’s probably best if we leave this particular pejorative alone.

    As for only liberal arguments based on the notion of freedom being acceptable in public discourse, I’d say that that’s an exaggeration. It is quite common to hear this or that policy being defended on the basis that it promotes stability and order, that it favours family values or national culture, that it corresponds with the natural order of things, and so on. Cameron and others have been on the news just now defending the values of order and discipline, but such arguments are not a monopoly of the Right.

  21. “It was supposed to be about setting the broadest possible limits to individual liberty, and then leaving people alone within those limits. It was supposed to be about freedom of conscience, and judging a man only by his actions.”

    Not quite. In its classic formulation, it was about promoting liberty *where it does not cut across the liberty of others*. It is not difficult to argue that – to take the example that is being used on this thread – racism fails this test. I don’t see how being anti-racist, and ostracising people who genuinely are racist, is a betrayal of liberal principles.

  22. “And what is a racist, anyhow?”

    Someone who ideologically favors one race of human beings over another.

    “How much of a thoughtcrime does one have to commit? How far outside the box can one go?”

    Earlier in this thread I used the example of saying “Black people aren’t human” and I haven’t been arrested yet. So, apparently, pretty damn far.

  23. David: Not without ridicule. I would ignore ridicule, because it is by its very nature unanswerable; but I wouldn’t ask that it be repressed. Ridicule does me no material harm. Financial and legal penalties do material harm, and I can’t understand why I should be harmed for holding a harmless opinion. If I’m doing no one any material harm, I do expect the law to protect me from material harm.

    Reggie Perrin: I should have specified “soft” totalitarianism from the start. But heck, I’m just writing in a com. box. I agree with what you say about incompatible ideologies. Absolutely! But my point in various comments above is that liberalism first presented itself as a neutral framework within which a plurality of worldviews could peacefully coexist, but it turns out that this was just a stalking horse. Once it was in power, as David reminds us, it began to shape societies, and mould souls, and punish dissidents, just like any public doctrine. It wasn’t special after all.

  24. You’ve just reminded me of a passage from the well-known antiliberal Terry Eagleton (albeit Eagleton is attacking liberalism from a Marxist perspective rather than a conservative one):

    “Liberalism holds that the state should tolerate any opinion that does not seek to undermine that very tolerance. It is an ironic kind of politics. As Tony Blair warned: “Our tolerance is part of what makes Britain Britain. So conform to it, or don’t come here.” Whether this is comically self-contradictory or properly paradoxical depends on your view of the liberal state.”

    So, yes, an ideology of tolerance can be very intolerant at times. But it would be audacious to claim that liberal societies are as totalitarian in terms of the acceptable limits of public discourse and behaviour as (say) Iran, or Tsarist Russia, or indeed Tudor England.

  25. I think we’re starting to go in circles here. I still don’t see how my opinions can constrain anyone’s liberty. Since I’m not going to let you back me into the racist cage, let me give a slightly less explosive example. Say I’d just been told that a woman who had recently delivered twins was planning to return to work as soon as possible, and I said “I’m sorry to hear that.” I cannot stop her, and won’t try to dissuade her. I’m just giving my (un-p.c.) opinion. Should I be shunned for that?

  26. Ok, what exactly did he say?

  27. As I recall, he and one of his lieutenants made speeches which were considered to have incited hatred against the Muslim community (the “wicked” quote being a soundbite from one of them). If you’re really interested, they’re probably on Youtube somewhere. The point is that Griffin was not engaging in an intellectual refutation of Islam or delivering a lecture on the sociological effects of immigraiton, both of which would have been perfectly legal (a la Dawkins). He was a racist demagogue who was alleged to be whipping up hatred against his neighbours in a country with a history of inter-community strife and violence. As it happens, the jury did not agree that his conduct overstepped the legal boundaries.

    You may agree or disagree with what happened, but I respectfully suggest that you can’t gibly cite it as an example of the nasty old liberal state acting in a totalitarian manner. There’s a bit more of a backstory to it than that.

  28. I should also point out for American readers that Griffin is *not* a traditionalist conservative of the Throne and Altar school. If you are a reactionary conservative, he is not one of your boys. His views are actually closer to those of Breivik.

  29. .
    It would be pretty bizarre for any incumbent regime to openly disdain “order”.

    family values= a few thousand professional comedians conspired to purge that term from the collective vocabulary about two generations ago

    national culture= OK for officially protected groups, others can only
    use the it as a synonym for universal, secular values

  30. There is no way you would be shunned. You are perfectly within your rights to say that to her. And she is perfectly within her rights to call you a sexist pig. And, if she complained to the boss, he would be within his rights (although I seriously doubt he would) to fire you.

    Most employment is at will. You can be a Neo-Nazi sado-masochist in the privacy of your own home, but at work you have to be bland and presentable, probably for good business reasons. Just like I have to smile and nod while my boss explains how awesome Supply Side Economics is, and I have to restrain the urge to make fun of various rednecks. You simply have no right to a job…so in order to hold one down you either have to found your own business and run it privately (in which case you can be as racist as you want in hiring and firing) or work for someone who, likely, has rules you have to follow. That is called “being an adult.”

  31. I’ll agree that the term “family values” has a dated flavour, but the concept is alive and well. Cameron explicitly campaigned in the election last year on the platform of strengthening the family (and Iain Duncan Smith has been banging this drum for years).

    By national culture, I meant British culture. After all, it was Gordon Brown who started the whole debate on Britishness, from a left-leaning perspective.

  32. “So, yes, an ideology of tolerance can be very intolerant at times. But it would be audacious to claim that liberal societies are as totalitarian in terms of the acceptable limits of public discourse and behaviour as (say) Iran, or Tsarist Russia, or indeed Tudor England.”

    FWIW, McCarthyism was defended on that very basis.

    Willmoore Kendall was probably the most ardent intellectual defender of Joseph McCarthy:
    http://www.mmisi.org/ma/19_02/nash.pdf

    Into this fray he moved with characteristic vigor and flamboyance, soon emerging as one of the most capable of the academic defenders of Senator Joseph McCarthy, whom he knew personally. Tirelessly he defended McCarthy’s crusade, Whittaker ‘Chambers, and the determination of many Americans to declare Communists beyond the bounds of public protection. He criticized Alger Hiss and J. Robert Oppenheimer23-activities not likely to smooth the ruffled feathers of some of his enemies on the Left. Discussing the Nixon- Mundt bill t o control Communism in 1950,
    Kendall even suggested deportation as a possible sanction against Communists (and, back in the1930’s Nazis, too). Kendall
    acknowledged that “liquidation of a minority” must be a very careful undertaking. But h e insisted on two principles: a ) that a democratic society that has a meaning to preserve, as I think
    ours still does must stand prepared to make such decisions, and b)that the surest way for i t to lose its meaning is for it to tell itself, and its potential dissidents, that where dissidence is concerned, the sky’s the limit.24 In another letter several years later Kendall amplified his point. H i s campaign against Communists did not depend on proving that domestic Communists were a clear and
    present danger. Indeed, a t the moment they were not a clear and present danger a t all. His argument was different: “we do not
    make sense a s a community so long as we tolerate ‘Communists and pro-Communists i n our midst.”25 Or a s he put i t on another
    occasion: “The reason for striking a t [domestic] Communists is not so much that they a r e dangerous as that they a r e incap-
    able of participating in democratic government.’26

  33. In response to this question:

    How much of a thoughtcrime does one have to commit? How far outside the box can one go?

    David said:

    Earlier in this thread I used the example of saying “Black people aren’t human” and I haven’t been arrested yet. So, apparently, pretty damn far.

    Fascinating. David thinks he went “pretty damn far.” Merely forming and expressing a hypothetical example of racism *could* make a person liable to social ostracism (or worse). In his original point, he used the example of someone making a statement and experiencing social backlash as a result. It’s clear to any objective reader David approved of the consequences.

    Now, David betrays a fear that for even expressing the hypothetical–for just saying the words–he could (perhaps at some point in the future) be liable to negative social consequences.

    The line between actual bigotry and objectively discussing bigotry must be very thin indeed.

    Perhaps David thinks his ability to completely spell out the word “nigger” in a hypothetical and not be punished is some great example of the free speech rights he enjoys under liberalism.

    Or, perhaps David thinks he has performed a minor act of courage (“pretty damn far”) by expressing the hypothetical.

    Either way, we’re at a point where the hypothetical and the actual are blurred. Our society has arrived at a point where the distinction is not even clear in the mind of a highly intelligent fellow citizen such as David.

    To be afraid to utter a hypothetical in the very service of defending reigning social mores is to live subject to tremendous totalitarian pressure to conform. Not all totalitarianism is accompanied by the paraphernalia of jackboots and bayonets.

  34. So, yes, an ideology of tolerance can be very intolerant at times. But it would be audacious to claim that liberal societies are as totalitarian in terms of the acceptable limits of public discourse and behaviour as (say) Iran, or Tsarist Russia, or indeed Tudor England.

    The ideology of tolerance is an assault on truth and reason itself. Neither Iran, Tsarist Russia, or Tudor England were so audacious as to attempt such a thing.

    Tolerance is the false prophet that compels all, the small and the great, to worship human choice as God.

    Idolatrous Choice, elevated to the ultimate methodological principle, above truth, where human choice determines truth, where it cannot be said or even thought that the constitution of the natural family is superior to the constitution of a homosexual “family,” or that homosex is inferior to heterosex, is a crime against the world itself.

    Through the black magic of tolerance, the safest place on earth–the human womb–transmogrifies into a death chamber.

    Tolerance, by inverting choice and truth, assaults reason. As demonstrated in my comment above, liberals instinctively suppress the distinction between the actual and the hypothetical in thought.

    Why? When choice is God, reality is confessed to be the product of the human mind’s operations. The human mind becomes then the Master of Reality, and as soon as the hypothetical is entertained as a possibility, the liberal is so very close to birthing a new reality out of his brain.

  35. “When choice is God, reality is confessed to be the product of the human mind’s operations.”

    That seems like just a wee bit of a non-sequitur. Choice is simply the ability to freely interact with reality. Choice only changes reality in that it changes the actions of a human being.

    That Christianity has convinced many that moral truths exist in the same way that brute facts do is…well, problematic. Because they don’t.

  36. Missing the point much? I wrote that specifically to show that I could. That I wasn’t afraid of writing it. It was a refutation by demonstration of the idea that we live in a totalitarian state.

  37. What’s exceptional about being able to freely utter a hypothetical in defense of the reigning ideology, David? What does it prove? Why would you think there’s even a question in our minds that you can write such a thing without fear of reprisal?

  38. Because that is what totalitarianism is. Because the internet is censored in China, and people are unable to freely demonstrate and speak their minds.

    You know, I was just disproving the very idea that the US practices Totalitarian Liberalism.

  39. “Political correctness” isn’t in itself a particularly offensive term; it certainly doesn’t invoke the instinctive and reactionary nastiness that, say, “Nazism” does. If the term has come to have negative connotations, it’s because of the subject matter with which it’s come to be associated.

  40. David, if human choice is God then it logically follows from the definition of God that reality is a product of the human mind.

    “Choice is simply the ability to freely interact with reality.”

    Which reality, David? The meaningless reality you think exists, or the meaningful reality that is? How does choice transmute evil into good? That chopping up a baby inside its mother’s womb is now good, while before it was evil?

    “That Christianity has convinced many that moral truths exist in the same way that brute facts do is…well, problematic. Because they don’t.”

    David, I deny there is such a thing as a brute fact. Defend your assumption that there are brute facts.

    Also, please reproduce for me a quotation from a any Christian philosopher that says “moral truths exist in the same way as facts.” I’ve always believed that moral truth is of a higher order than facts known through mundane experience. Moral truth imparts meaning to mundane facts; natural phenomena have no power to “reach” upward and influence/ alter moral realities.

  41. Also, I’m more certain that torturing human babies is evil than I am about most facts of my experience. Most of the facts I’ve known have been forgotten. Moral knowledge seems to have more “staying power” in memory than mundane facts.

  42. You know, I was just disproving the very idea that the US practices Totalitarian Liberalism.

    Really? Well, you’ve made quite a persuasive case: Liberalism can’t be totalitarian because it allows liberals to defend liberalism.

    Since China allows Communists to defend Communism, what does your argument prove?

  43. My thanks to everyone making this a lively discussion, especially to David and Reggie for ably representing the liberal (“PC”) side.

  44. Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur.

  45. “Liberal Democracy” was a brief, historical interlude, between the absolute state of the 18th century and the total state of the 20th. It rested on the supposition of a “private sphere,” comprising a large area of social, economic and cultural life, outside the “public sphere” of the state. It came to an end with the rise of mass political parties, which meant a broadening of their agenda to include every aspect of society – everything is potentially political.

    Liberals believe in the possibility of neutral rules that can mediate between conflicting positions, but there is no such neutrality, since any rule – even an ostensibly fair one – merely represents the victory of one political faction over another. Likewise, Liberals insist that there exists something called “civil society,” independent of the state, but this is an illusion because no real state would ever allow other forces, to contest its power. ’ States arise as a means of continuing, organizing and channelling political struggle. It is political struggle, which gives rise to political order. The Liberal’s world depends on a relative stabilization of conflict within the state, and on the state’s ability to keep at bay other potentially hostile states; real politicians, who never believe their own propaganda, know that they are sittiing on a volcano.

  46. Well put.

  47. Yes, you have a remarkable ability to “miss something.”

    The claim “we live in a totalitarian society” is a positive claim (a factual claim about how the world is) not a normative claim (a claim about how the world should be). A good general guide is that declarative sentences which don’t have words like “should,” “want,” “good,” “evil,” &c are about positive claims. Of course, natural language is imprecise and often a mixture of the two things, and this requires that, if you don’t want to “miss something,” you have to actually try to understand what is being said (and this usually requires putting aside what you wish was being said). That positive/normative thing again.

    Drifting towards the normative, there is implicitly by me and explicitly by JMsmith an argument against liberalism. But this argument is not “we wish we had the liberalism you liberals promised but didn’t deliver.” It is “one of the reasons we know liberalism is bullshit is that it fails to deliver the specific things it claims as central to its project: that is autonomy and expressive freedom.”

    It’s also worth noting that “I want to live in an authoritarian society” and “I don’t want to live in a totalitarian society” are consistent with one another.

    Finally, and speaking only for myself, in a properly ordered society saying something like “blacks and whites have a different distribution of abilities by dint of genetic differences,” would not make you a dissident. On the other hand, saying “we should overthrow the King” would. See, there’s a whole world for you to explore between “freedom of speech should be absolute” and “speech should be regulated in whatever way authority happens to feel like today.”

  48. We’ve now moved from “totalitarianism” to “soft totalitarianism”.

    And don’t forget, next Tuesday is the demo against the Ghirardelli Chocolate Company. Bring your rage: how dare they bait us by telling us they sell chocolate and then switch to claiming that they sell “milk chocolate” and “dark chocolate.” Bastards. Fight the power!

  49. Perhaps David thinks his ability to completely spell out the word “nigger” in a hypothetical and not be punished is some great example of the free speech rights he enjoys under liberalism.

    This reminds me of this news story:


    Trial Set Over Reporter Tom Burlington’s Firing For Use Of ‘N’ Word

    The sentence for which the guy was fired for uttering (at a staff meeting) is “Does this mean we can finally say the word ‘nigger,'” and the news article carefully does not use the word itself. In fact, they substitute “n-” for “nigger” in the quoted sentence (that is, when they are directly quoting someone) without even using square braces to mark off what they are doing.

    Grown up people saying “the n-word” is our version of the standing ovations in the Soviet Union. From _The Gulag Archipelago_:

    A district Party conference was under way in Moscow Province. It was presided over by a new secretary of the District Party Committee, replacing one recently arrested. At the conclusion of the conference, a tribute to Comrade Stalin was called for. Of course, everyone stood up (just as everyone had leaped to his feet during the conference at every mention of his name). The small hall echoed with “stormy applause, rising to an ovation.” For three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, the “stormy applause, rising to an ovation,” continued. But palms were getting sore and raised arms were already aching. And the older people were panting from exhaustion. It was becoming insufferably silly even to those who really adored Stalin. However, who would dare be the first to stop? The secretary of the District Party Committee could have done it. He was standing on the platform, and it was he who had just called for the ovation. But he was a newcomer. He had taken the place of a man who’d been arrested. He was afraid! After all, NKVD men were standing in the hall applauding and watching to see who quit first! And in that obscure, small hall, unknown to the Leader, the applause went on–six, seven, eight minutes! They were done for! Their goose was cooked! They couldn’t stop now till they collapsed with heart attacks! At the rear of the hall, which was crowded, they could of course cheat a bit; clap less frequently, less vigorously, not so eagerly–but up there with the presidium where everyone could see them? The director of the local paper factory, an independent and strong-minded man, stood with the presidium. Aware of all the falsity and all the impossibility of the situation, he still kept on applauding! Nine minutes! Ten! In anguish he watched the secretary of the District Party Committee, but the latter dared not stop. Insanity! To the last man! With make-believe enthusiasm on their faces, looking at each other with faint hope, the district leaders were just going to go on and on applauding till they fell where they stood, till they were carried out of the hall on stretchers! And even then those who were left would not falter. . . . Then, after eleven minutes, the director of the paper factory assumed a businesslike expression and sat down in his seat. And, oh, a miracle took place! Where had the universal, uninhibited, indescribable enthusiasm gone? To a man, everyone else stopped dead and sat down. They had been saved! The squirrel had been smart enough to jump off his revolving wheel.

    That, however, was how they discovered who the independent people were. And that was how they went about eliminating them. That same night the factory director was arrested. They easily pasted ten years on him on the pretext of something quite different. But after he had signed Form 206, the final document of the interrogation, his interrogator reminded him: “Don’t ever be the first to stop applauding!”

  50. It’s funny that “David” here trots out the argument that:

    “In other words, you have no RIGHT to employment. You can sit at home on the couch and be racist until the sun goes down. No one is REQUIRED BY LAW to provide you with employment, and if they are employing you it will be according to THEIR terms. There is nothing UNJUST about that. That is called a “free market”, not totalitarianism.”

    This was, of course, the EXACT SAME argument used by conservatives to oppose “anti-discrimination” laws and other various social engineering measures that “liberals” implemented to FORCE employers to hire members of “protected” groups. So David’s comment, properly formatted, should read:

    You have no right to employment.”

    That is to say, dissenters from the reigning ideology have no right to employment. “Protected” groups, the footsoldiers of the reigning ideology, do have such a right – employers are REQUIRED BY LAW to provide them with employment. And if you have a problem with that, well, you can sit at home on the couch and stew about it until the sun goes down.

  51. Ably?

    It’s discussions like this that convince me that discussion with the Left is utterly futile.

    The strong do what they can, the weak endure what they must. That’s the rule of our society, even as it was for the Melians.

  52. […] Nature of Political Correctness is coming out on October 17, and if the reviews of it on Throne and Altar and Collapse: The Blog are anything to go by, it’s well worth buying. While you’re at […]

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