Today’s Headache: Thugs, Racism, Anti-Semitism
A few thoughts of a Sunday morning migraine.
China has “fat-shamed” Greta Thunberg, according to a headline I just read. I hate expressions like “fat-shamed,” as they are indicative of our egalitarian, hurt-no-feelings, “no-fault life” code of amorality — which is itself nothing but the ultimate assertion of judgmental power by the Whining Majority. Thunberg, for her pathetic puppet part, has apparently “responded to” China’s mockery. For what it’s worth, everyone on Earth has legitimate grounds for “responding to,” mooning, flashing the finger at, or in general spitting on, the Chinese Communist Party regime that is currently oppressing more humans than any single government in world history has ever had the pleasure of enslaving (not including today’s loosely affiliated network of progressive allies that we may collectively identify as “global governance,” to borrow Al Gore’s cute phrase). Everyone has legitimate grounds for spewing at China — except the kind of person whose own personal goals and methods are in every way aligned with the Communist Party’s own attitudes and premises. Thunberg, a teenage dupe seeking her fifteen minutes of social media fame by aggressively, angrily demanding Marxist solutions to “crises” she knows nothing about, is thus one of the few private citizens I can think of who has little right to criticize the Chinese government. Her whole schtick is about shaming everyone into conceding to her demands — and her demands are utterly authoritarian in character and communistic in principle.
It would be nice if Greta of Snark would just shut up. It would be nicer if the Chinese Communist Party would just blow up. Unfortunately, I suspect I should not hold my breath waiting for either of those eventualities.
Rick Santorum recently commented in a speech that America built its culture “from nothing,” which he then qualified by saying that of course there are Native Americans, but what is called American culture has little “native” culture in it, so his point stands.
In this age of collectivist egalitarian shaming and cancelling, Santorum should have known — indeed, I assume he did know — that any comment about American society or its history that does not begin with the premise that America is fundamentally evil and worthless is certain to be condemned by the thought police, regardless of the rest of its content. Foolishly, Santorum agreed to speak about this artificially manufactured “controversy” in a television interview with Chris Cuomo, a hardcore progressive authoritarian phony and brother of Governor Andrew Cuomo, also a progressive authoritarian phony. Supposedly (according to a news item I just grazed — who would waste five seconds watching a show hosted by a Cuomo?), Santorum’s attempted “apology” for his insensitive remarks did not pass muster with the CNN morality czars, and so Santorum has been cancelled as a regular CNN contributor.
I note, further, that the headline and accompanying story reporting these absurd events casually describes Santorum’s remarks as “racist.” That is now the absolute go-to adjective for any statement, theory, decision, or point of view that does not comport perfectly with this week’s latest progressive assault on common sense. In fact, “racist” is now treated not as a tenuous, difficult-to-prove accusation of moral impropriety or intellectual narrowmindedness, but rather as a simple fact, to be assigned to people and positions as easily as one might say, “Santorum spoke in English,” or “Santorum wore a blue tie.” “Santorum uttered racist remarks.”
But wait. What Santorum said was that American culture, as we normally understand that term, has very little in it of Native American origin. What if he had said that American culture has very little in it of Kazakhstani origin? Would that have been judged racist, or merely a statement of opinion about American culture, an opinion which one might judge as true or false, but would never think to judge as moral or immoral. Why, then, is holding a similar opinion about Native American influence morally wrong, “racist”? Why not just take Santorum to task on the factual correctness of his statement, if one disagrees? Why assume the authority to pass a condemnatory moral judgment against a man who makes a factual statement with which you may disagree? Is not adult discussion about politics and ideas inherently built on controversial statements?
That is to say, a controversial statement, as I teach my writing students every year, is simply an opinion about a topic on which reasonable people might disagree. Thus, if one were to take the opposite view to Santorum’s — if one were to say, for example, that Native American culture has played a major role in the development of American culture — this would be a legitimate way to express disagreement, and then the two sides could present arguments and evidence for their respective opinions. Such disagreement about subjects of controversy is the lifeblood of serious discussion, and also the only path to improved understanding and the development of knowledge. To condemn any statement of a controversial opinion with which you disagree as “racist” — or “sexist,” or “undemocratic,” or “elitist,” and so on — is to attempt to curtail or circumvent the responsibility of adult conversation, which has much to do with respecting the other person’s mind and motives enough to engage in dialogue, rather than to attempt to disqualify the other from consideration on tangential and artificial grounds.
To disagree with and dispute Santorum’s claim, which has no inherently racial connotations whatsoever, would be to address Santorum himself — either in person or in absentia — with alternative arguments. To simply shout “racist” in response to his remarks is not to speak to Santorum at all, but to play to the crowd, to attempt to suffocate another man’s voice in the crowd’s whipped-up outrage or mockery. This is the difference between dialectic and sophistry, political argument and demagoguery. This distinction — this historical shift — is the primary reason civil society has died, and global tyranny has arrived.
Note to conservatives.— When you criticize Barack Obama, the leftists knee-jerkingly accuse you of racism, as though there could be no legitimate grounds for objecting to Obama’s policies, principles, or person apart from hating black people. When you object to the Black Lives Matter agenda, the left says you support systemic oppression, as though your rejection of violent revolutionary behavior could only be evidence of a desire to return to slavery. You want to tear your hair out hearing your morality and intentions smeared by thugs and sophists who accuse you of having a corrupt soul as a means of silencing you, belittling you, avoiding any need to answer you.
Remember that, the next time you are inclined to leap in with accusations of anti-Semitism when someone objects to Israeli policy or Benjamin Netanyahu’s motives — as though anyone’s attempt to question anything a certain nation-state wishes to do, or any judgment its prime minister makes about life and death, war and peace issues, could only be evidence of hatred for Jews as such, or a desire to initiate a new Holocaust. I point this out in response to another news item I just read, about a CNN talking head who accused Pakistan’s foreign minister of making “anti-Semitic remarks” — i.e., of being an anti-Semite — and demanded that he retract his comments on air, when he opined that the Western perception of the current conflict in the Middle East is distorted by pro-Israel financial interests in the media.
If you want to return to a civilized world of open dialogue, rational argument, and political freedom, you must do everything in your power to eradicate all political untouchables, and not merely the ones you do not favor. An untouchable, in politics, is nothing but an uncriticizable power. Uncriticizable power becomes unlimited power very easily, as any conservative living in this world of mock sensitivity and identity politics can attest. If you are not automatically a racist for criticizing Barack Obama or condemning Black Lives Matter — and you are not, of course — then neither is anyone automatically an anti-Semite for criticizing Israeli policies or practices, or for suggesting that pro-Israel money has a decisive influence in the media and in Washington, D.C.
Just as in the case of the racism accusation against Rick Santorum, the proper response to such claims, if you disagree with them, is to attempt to show how they are false — not to smear the character and credibility of the speaker by applying one of the most ominous, loathed, and simplistically overused epithets of our time to anyone who dares to utter an unutterable. (We used to call that sort of smear an ad hominem, if you recall, before political discussion was reduced to nothing but competing ad hominem attacks.) There should be no unutterables in a free political discussion, only better and worse opinions, as determined by rational argument. The leftists and other such punks are forever trying to shut you down with epithets hurled at you in place of facts and logic, which epithets are intended to discredit your mind and life outright, thereby short-circuiting all intellectual challenges to their principles and positions. Do not join their game. It is a game for fools and thugs.
The best solution for a migraine, at least in my case, is often to spend the hours of discomfort facing and stating hard truths, as bluntly as possible. The “philosophizing with a hammer” approach, as the great thinker most famously associated with debilitating headaches phrased it, seems to have the effect of smashing through pain, as a kind of physical byproduct of smashing through restrictive theoretical edifices. I, for one, have had enough of restrictive theoretical edifices of all kinds, along with all the restrictive practical conditions they foster.