In our previous two episodes, we began examining the mindset of people who feel entitled to silence others by quoting from Explaining Postmodernism by philosophy professor Stephen Hicks. Let’s jump in with another quote:
Postmodern accounts of human nature also consistently emphasize relations of conflict between those groups; and given the de-emphasized or eliminated role of reason, post-modern accounts hold that those conflicts are resolved primarily by the use of force, whether masked or naked; the use of force in turn leads to relations of dominance, submission, and oppression. Finally, postmodern themes in ethics and politics are characterized by an identification with and sympathy for the groups perceived to be oppressed in the conflicts, and a willingness to enter the fray on their behalf.
So here’s what we know about postmodernists so far:
- Unlike the objectivist/Enlightenment thinkers, they believe logic and reason are irrelevant and don’t teach us anything about reality – because there is no objective reality
- They believe feelings are more important than reason
- They are monolithically far-left in their politics and are drawn to subjectivism because Marxism doesn’t fare well under any objective analysis
- They believe reason and logic are tools of the oppressors
- They believe many of us who employ reason and logic are unwitting tools of the oppressors
- They believe their mission is to enter the fray on behalf of the oppressed
It shouldn’t surprise us that people with these beliefs have a rather different view of the purpose of speech and the value of freedom of speech. But before we get into that, let’s return to the book, where Hicks lays out the objectivist arguments for freedom of speech:
In contemporary language, here are the elements of those arguments that are still with us:
- Reason is essential for knowing reality (Galileo and Locke).
- Reason is a function of the individual (Locke, especially).
- What the reasoning individual needs to pursue knowledge of reality is, above all, freedom—the freedom to think, to criticize, and to debate (Galileo, Locke, and Mill).
- The individual’s freedom to pursue knowledge is of fundamental value to the other members of his society (Mill, especially).
A corollary of this argument is that when we set up specialized social institutions to seek and advance our knowledge of the truth—scientific societies, research institutes, colleges and universities—we should take special pains to protect, nurture, and encourage the freedom of creative minds.
Freedom of speech – the freedom to reason, criticize and debate – is how we eventually get to the truth. That’s how John Stuart Mill believed The Marketplace of Ideas benefits individuals and society as a whole. Postmodernists have a slightly different view:
Language is not about being aware of the world, or about distinguishing the true from the false, or even about argument in the traditional sense of validity, soundness, and probability. Accordingly, postmodernism recasts the nature of rhetoric: Rhetoric is persuasion in the absence of cognition.
Using language as a tool of conflict resolution is therefore not on their horizon. In a conflict that cannot reach peaceful resolution, the kind of tool that one wants is a weapon. And so given the conflict models of social relations that dominate postmodern discourse, it makes perfect sense that to most postmodernists language is primarily a weapon.
Now we’re getting to the crux of the matter. Viewing language as a weapon rather than as a tool to get to the truth leads to very different kinds of language:
This explains the harsh nature of much postmodern rhetoric. The regular deployments of ad hominem, the setting up of straw men, and the regular attempts to silence opposing voices are all logical consequences of the postmodern epistemology of language. Stanley Fish, as noted in Chapter Four, calls all opponents of racial preferences bigots and lumps them in with the Ku Klux Klan. Andrea Dworkin calls all heterosexual males rapists and repeatedly labels “Amerika” a fascist state. With such rhetoric, truth or falsity is not the issue: what matters primarily is the language’s effectiveness.
Dennis Prager, an affable conservative commentator who has been laughably accused of promoting “hate speech” by the wackadoodle left, recently wrote this in one of his columns:
As I constantly note, truth is a liberal and a conservative value but has never been a left-wing value. The left’s only criterion in determining whether or not to say something is not whether it is true or false but whether it is effective or ineffective.
Hicks continues with the same point:
On this hypothesis, postmodernists need not believe much of what they say. The word games and much of the use of anger and rage that are characteristic of much of their style can be a matter—not of using words to state things that they think are true—but rather of using words as weapons against an enemy that they still hope to destroy.
If you hate someone and want to hurt him, then hit him where it counts. The truth or falsity of the rumors does not matter, and whether those you tell believe you does not really matter. What matters is that you score a direct, damaging hit.
Saul Alinsky spelled out the strategy in his book Rules For Radicals. It can be summarized like this: If you can’t debate your opponent on the facts, change the argument by calling him a racist instead. If racist doesn’t work, you can always try sexist, homophobe, climate denier, animal murderer … whatever lures your opponent into a sidetrack debate he can’t possibly win.
I’m amazed at how many people still fall for this tactic. During the 2016 campaign, Jeb Bush used the term anchor babies in a discussion about whether kids whose mothers sneak across the border just before giving birth should automatically become U.S. citizens. One of the fine, objective news reporters covering the campaign immediately declared (loudly) that anchor babies is an offensive, racist term. Bush fell for it. Instead of ignoring the comment and continuing to debate the actual issue, he ended up arguing with the fine, objective news reporter about whether he was using racist language. Mission accomplished.
I recently had someone try the tactic on me during a Twitter debate. As so often happens in Twitter debates, my opponent felt free to raise challenging questions, which I answered, but simply ignored the challenging questions I asked him. I eventually told him to man up and answer my questions or go away. That drew a response something like this:
Man up?! Do you know how many men have committed suicide because they were told to just MAN UP instead of dealing with their mental-health issues? That phrase has caused more damage to men … blah-blah-blah.
This guy had been insulting me at every opportunity, by the way. He was quite fond of name-calling. But as soon as I suggested he man up, he wanted to sidetrack me into argument about how insensitive I am towards men suffering from mental health issues, as evidenced by my use of man up.
Unfortunately for him, I recognized the tactic and told him if he’s emotionally triggered by the term man up, he’s far too sensitive to be engaged in Twitter debates and should go get some therapy instead … and then man the @#$% up.
But I digress. The point is, postmodernists aren’t actually interested in debate and discussion. They don’t view language as a tool to get to the truth; they view language as a weapon, period. And just like any weapon, it can by wielded by bad people to hurt good people. Yup … they believe engaging in free speech causes actual harm if you say the (ahem) “wrong” things, as Hicks points out:
Postmodernists infer there is no distinction between speech and action, a distinction that liberals have traditionally prized. According to postmodernists, speech is itself something that is powerful because it constructs who we are and underlies all of the actions that we engage in. And as a form of action, it can and does cause harm to other people. Liberals, say postmodernists, should accept that any form of harmful action must be constrained. Therefore, they must accept censorship.
The oppressors have used reason, logic and free speech to harm the oppressed. Therefore, while the oppressed can say anything they choose, the oppressors must be censored to prevent them from causing even more harm. That’s the belief system.
This isn’t some paranoid interpretation. In their excellent book The Coddling of the American Mind, Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt describe how many young people today believe that if they’re exposed to ideas and speech they don’t like, they are actually being harmed. College students (full of the nonsense put in their heads by postmodernist professors) have rioted to prevent conservative speakers from appearing on campus. When asked why they felt justified in resorting to violence instead of just ignoring the speaker, the little snowflakes have given answers like I don’t have to tolerate people who are threatening my very existence!
Yeah, right … someone gives a speech you don’t like, makes arguments you don’t want to hear, and your life is in danger. Goodness, you’re just like Anne Frank, aren’t you? How very important and relevant you are, bravely standing up to those who threaten your very existence. But hey, if that’s what you feeeeel, then it has to be true. So go ahead and riot to prevent someone else from speaking. You’re entitled to defend yourself.
So who gets to distinguish between the oppressors and the oppressed? Who gets to decide who’s allowed to speak freely and who has to shut the hell up? Well, that’s where the fun really begins. Naturally, this wackadoodle belief system has created a stampede of people heading for the nearest door labeled I’m One Of The Oppressed … or the door labeled I’m Exempt From Censorship Because I Support The Oppressed.
If you can’t squeeze through either door, well, too bad for you … because now it’s okay to prevent you from speaking, lest you harm the oppressed. Delete your Wikipedia page, ban your Facebook group, take down your YouTube videos, suspend your Twitter account … whatever we have to do to stop you from causing actual harm to the oppressed with your bad words.
I began this series of posts by writing about people and groups that have been deleted, banned or otherwise de-platformed on social media sites: Malcolm Kendrick, Jimmy Moore, Uffe Ravnskov, me, a Banting diet group, etc. Perhaps you’re wondering how the twisted logic of it’s okay to censor the oppressors figures into it.
I believe this answers the question:
There you have it. Noakes may not be powerful himself, but he’s a shill for the meat and dairy industries … and by gosh, those industries are powerful. They’re run by powerful, powerful, evil people who oppress innocent little animals! Milking cows is a form of sexual abuse! Hens are rape victims! Meat is murder! And worse, they’re all causing global warming, which will harm the oppressed people in poor countries the most! (We know this is true, because Walter Willett told us so in the Eat-Lancet manifesto.)
As I pointed out in my speech Diet, Health and The Wisdom of Crowds, The Anointed like to believe that anyone who opposes their Grand Plans is either evil or stupid. It doesn’t matter if neither label makes any actual sense.
A lefty buddy of mine from my days in L.A. once commented that conservatives are CLIMATE DENIERS because we’re more interested in protecting oil-company profits than saving the planet. Being a logical sort, I pointed out that he’s single with no kids, while I actually have kids who will inhabit the planet long after I’m gone. I also have zero investments in the oil business. Was he actually suggesting I care more about Exxon’s profits than my children’s future well-being? How does that make any sense? But of course, logical arguments bounced off his head like little rubber bullets.
Remember, as far as the postmodernists are concerned, there’s a good chance you’ve been duped into being an unwitting tool of the oppressors. So if you promote a diet based on meats and eggs, it doesn’t matter that you’re not intentionally supporting the evil meat and dairy industries … you’re still engaging in speech that helps them to oppresses the innocent animals, so it’s okay to censor you.
If you’re a CHOLESTEROL DENIER, you’re undermining the attempt to scare people away from animal foods, which means you’re encouraging further oppression of the innocent animals — not to mention overheating the planet which will harm people in poor countries — so it’s okay to censor you.
If you convince people that grains are harmful, they might end up eating more animals foods instead … which means you’re encouraging further animal murder, cow sexual abuse and hen-raping, so it’s okay to censor you.
In the first post in the series, I asked why the people who support de-platforming don’t just make their own counter-arguments instead of attempting to silence those whose opinions they don’t like. Now you know. They believe that free speech produces an unfair fight in which the powerful (or their unwitting tools) will dominate the oppressed.
They believe that for people (and animals) to be truly free, we must restrict freedom, including freedom of speech. Here’s a quote from Herbert Marcuse, a major influence in the postmodernist movement, describing what must be done:
They would include the withdrawal of toleration of speech and assembly from groups and movements which promote aggressive policies, armament, chauvinism, discrimination on the grounds of race and religion, or which oppose the extension of public services, social security, medical care, etc. Moreover, the restoration of freedom of thought may necessitate new and rigid restrictions on teachings and practices in the educational institutions.
So if you’re against, say, the expansion of Medicare, you should lose your freedom of speech and assembly. That’s the mentality. Unfortunately, his prescription for restoring freedom of thought through “rigid restrictions on teachings and practices in the educational institutions” is already being filled. I’ll get to that later.