Monday, February 13, 2017

The problem with doublethink

I came across an article this morning, posted to Facebook by a Trump supporter, that troubles me for reasons quite beyond the partisan rhetoric. To me it exhibits a warped way of thinking, but most troublesome is that I'm unable to pinpoint why.

Written by John Nolte, a former Breibart editor, BE AFRAID: The Left's Resistance Movement Is EXACTLY as Orwell Depicted It (click at your own risk) proclaims "how truly Orwellian it is for the Left to pretend they are on the side of 1984's angels."

There has been renewed interest of late in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four.

What is increasingly troubling to me is how the same "evidence" can be held by both sides to argue opposite things. I acknowledge that I live in a bubble of my own devising; my personal bias is to dismiss the other side as dimwitted. But I'm certain that from their own bubble they share the same view of me.

So, how to objectively identify the the parts of and the problems with the arguments?

Quite serendipitously, this past weekend I was sorting through the last 3 boxes — milk crates, actually — of random stuff I need to contend with after having moved a year ago, among which I found a beige exercise book filled with notes made by my eighth-grade self (who even was I back then?) on CoRT III. This unit of CoRT Thinking covers debate and conflict and employs various strategies to examine both sides (EBS) by assessing the structure and value of the arguments.

My eighth-grade self was aware of 1984. The actual year was just around the corner, and soon, my very own big brother would take me to see the film adaptation.

My critical-thinking skills aren't what they used to be, so let me channel my eighth-grade self.

Nolte writes, "Orwell's seminal work is a cautionary tale aimed directly at the king of all Leftists, Josef Stalin."

Problem 1. Equating Stalinism with today's leftists. True that Orwell took aim at Stalin, but he is not the king of all Leftists.

I don't know a single left-leaning individual (and being a reasonably average university-educated, gainfully employed Canadian, I know a few) who condones Stalin. People who vote left of centre are not Orwell's target. Orwell stated that this and other works were "written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic socialism." Stalin was a totalitarian; I am, more or less, a democratic socialist. Very few left-leaning people would even self-identify as communists.

Problem 2. Interpreting the aims of the left as including:
  • "the horrors of an all-powerful central government (that knows what's best for us)" — Might that not describe a president who signs executive orders for the good of us all, because he knows things we don't, and he understands the law better than the lawyers do?
  • "speech and thought policing" — Like discrediting all media as fake news.
  • "endless wars" — Who wants that?
  • "the elimination of the family and gender differences" — Nobody wants to eliminate family! As for the elimination of gender differences, if there's one thing the USSR deserves credit for it's for having produced so many women doctors, engineers, scientists.
Nolte's article then summarizes (his view of) the state of today:
We conservatives are not without our flaws, but we most certainly are not the ones running around portraying a centralized federal government as the solution to every problem, policing language, brutalizing thought-apostates, seeking the destruction of religious faith, spewing anti-science nonsense about gender-fluidity, or doing everything possible to eliminate the nuclear family — including the replacement of the father with a government check. We are also not the ones ginning up endless race and gender wars based on viralized lies and hoaxed hate crimes
Problem 3. I don't even know where to start in picking apart that paragraph. It doesn't remotely resemble the world I live in or reflect the aims of people I know. Who wants the destruction of religious faith? (Perhaps those who fear Islam?) Who is spewing anti-science nonsense? (Maybe the climate change deniers?) I might concede the need to draw attention to race and gender wars, but based on the fact that gross inequalities exist. I'm guessing that John Nolte is neither black nor a woman.

Problem 4. Calling the media Big Brother is a false equivalence. Is that just misunderstanding the source material? Big Brother is the surveillance state. It's the NSA. It's CCTV cameras. It's big data without regulation. The media does not see all.
"Here we were in the middle of Reagan's golden-era. It is Morning in America and I'm supposed to worry about words being placed off limits, guys in dresses peeing next to my daughter, and the Christian Gospels being portrayed on 24/7 cable news as bigotry?"
Problem 5. Reagan's era was not all golden. I was just a teenager, but I recall it as a time of Cold War terror, living under the constant threat of nuclear war. Or meltdown. Doesn't he remember The Day After? Or Ultravox? Or Chernobyl?

Problem 6. I can no longer tell which side Nolte is on. I thought he was worried about guys in dresses peeing next to his daughter. So, he's not? Or is it just that it's thirty years too early for that worry? Is this a time-travel problem?
Now take a good long look around and what you'll see is the deeply-disturbing spectacle of the American Left using their own Resistance movement in the exact same way Big Brother did — to out dissenters, to crush the souls of dissenters, to make violence against dissent, to make an example of those who think in ways unapproved by the Party, to silence, humiliate and punish Thought Criminals.
Problem 7. My head now hurts from trying to unravel this. The Left is Big Brother, the Party, and the Resistance. But the Resistance are the Thought Criminals. So the Left is everyone.

This is the point at which I throw my hands up in the air. It's illogical. Does not compute.

Without engaging in politics, without name calling or condescension, is it possible to define the flaws in this article and argue against it?

This is doublethink: "We have a president capable of standing in the rain and saying it was a sunny day."

1 comment:

Stefanie said...

I think you have made a fine start in pulling the article and its bad reasoning apart.