The Vagueness of Words as Cultural Revolution

On the cultural hysteria surrounding issues of race and class warfare, the liberty movement has not gone unscathed. There’s been recent debates about whether or not racism is compatible with libertarianism.

So-called “thin libertarians” (so-called because they used to just be, you know, libertarians) are aghast at the idea that there are some self-described libertarians who call into question whether one can actually be a racist and a libertarian at the same time. After all, we point out, libertarianism is a doctrine having to do with property rights and the use of coercion in society. Logically, it is not mutually exclusive to be both a racist and an adherent to the libertarian creed. Whether it goes against the “spirit of liberty” to be a racist, as the thick libertarians claim, is a vague and unhelpful line of argument.

Of course, 99% of us thin libertarians are not racists at all– we are just addressing the issue in question: the logic of the matter.

But why this issue at all? What is the cultural context? Such debates do not exist in a vacuum. They come to the libertarian movement as a reflection of cultural shifts more broadly.

The problem is that the word itself has become useless, meaningless. What is it’s definition? Racism should be relegated to the idea that one race, as a whole, is morally or essentially superior than another race. As a corollary, the inferior race can be treated without dignity and respect by virtue simply of his race.

In our time, however, logical fallacies abound.  For instance, when a white man mistreats a black man, this is interpreted ipso facto as racism regardless of whether the mistreatment had anything to do with the racial theory held by the white man.

One man being mistreated by a man of a different race does not mean the cause of the mistreatment was intellectual adherence to a racist theory of man.

But emotionalism has defeated reason.

Thus, when pro-border conservatives and libertarians offer their opinion on the border question, their arguments are returned simply with accusations of racism, as if this were the only categorical possibility for their position. Trump, for example, was crowned as racist par excellence by the left media and left-libertarians for his declarations regarding immigration. But in fact, his loud demands for a southern wall and a much stricter immigration process had to do primarily with what he conceived to be issues of security and economics. Obviously, his security concerns were misplaced and without a proper perspective on the nature of US militarism, while his economic concerns are based on outdated economic fallacies. But these aside, simply dismissing Trump as a racist exacerbates the problems caused by vagueness of words.

But the vagueness of words is a not a coincidental phenomenon, it is in fact intentional, calculated, strategic. For it is by the vagueness of words that masses of people can be silenced into submission. If at first it is made clear at a cultural/social level that racism, sexism, and homophobia are the greatest of social sins, then the slow redefinition and broadening of their application can be used as leverage in pursuit of cultural consensus.

For example, as Paul Gottfried documents extensively in his Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt, the entire complex of guilt manipulation over issues relating to race and sex was intended as a means of political power. If racism and sexism, bigotry and discrimination, inequality and victimization are the Great Social Sins, then there is a strong preference, by the masses, for government intervention against these things.

Whereas the early twentieth century was the era of “managerial statism,” (Gottfried’s phrase), wherein it was the task of the state to manage the economy for the sake of equal distribution of wealth, the emphasis has since shifted, or at least broadened. “Therapeutic statism” is the new game in town and wealth inequality is only a piece of the puzzle. The state now emphasizes the sentiments and emotions of the alleged victim classes, declaring war on what is perceived as traditionally oppressive social classes. These include, of course, whites, Christians, opponents of homosexuality and transgenderism, and so on.

But the way they perpetuate their cultural revolution is not simply by the strong arm and brute force of the state. It is not Stalinist means of revolution— it is slower, quieter. And part of the equation is a war on how we use words. The masses have already been convinced that racism and sexism are the terrors of our age and the only thing left to be done is to apply the once well-defined labels to everyone who opposes the gospel of therapeutic statism.

Thus, to oppose welfare, subsidies for black communities, laws which force businesses to make special accommodation for women, and higher taxes is in fact racist, sexist, and bigoted. See the trick? First, bigotry is declared as the worst of transgressions; and second, bigotry is applied to everything and everyone. Here we face the sad reality that there is no escape from our social sins, the only atonement is to hand over our freedoms to the state, in the name of egalitarianism and social justice.

In this way, the debate has been whether one can actually be a libertarian and a racist when we cultural conservatives should recognize that engaging in this debate assumes our opponents slight of hand in the first place! Rather than debate whether we can be racist and libertarian (or sexist and libertarian), we should point out the core of the issue: it’s not in the first place, for instance, “sexist” to defend the traditional family or “hateful” to consider transgenderism as weird, unnatural, or uncivilized.

This brings us to consider the various ways other words have been weakened in order to encourage cultural revolution. A recent article claimed that a certain athlete discouraged any gay athletes from being loud about their preferences for fear of abuse in the locker room. “Abuse?” Really? His teammates might actually physically beat him up? Of course not. But again, we know as a society that abuse is a bad thing. A very bad thing. Nobody condones abuse. And therefore employing the word in this context feeds into the narrative to victimization. Abuse now means hurting someone’s feelings by disagreeing with their opinions or decisions.

Of course, after a time, these accusations of racism begin to lose their muster. After all, if everyone is a racist, then it becomes difficult to fuel the public outrage. And so racism as a smear label is a normalcy and we’ve moved on to worse things.

Trump— and Jeff Deist— is a Nazi sympathizer!

Economically, we do know that Trump has a tendency toward economic nationalism, just like some paleoconservatives such as Pat Buchanan. This is an economic fallacy. But all we get from the left media and even left-libertarians is that his is a white nationalist! This is something entirely different than plain old economic nationalism. But it is an effective smear-phrase in our time, as the racism card is not enough. We are actually told that the cultural right is a front for white nationalists, white supremacists, neo-Nazis, neo-fascists, and so on. The smears get more extreme, more ludicrous and reaching, as the narrative goes on.

This effort to destroy the vocabulary in order to push the cultural revolution succeeds in tearing apart the social fabric, exactly as it was intended to do. Strife, tensions, disharmony gives the state a justification for expansion. What we don’t need is government-mandated unity. What we need is secession and political disintegration, with the social ties rebuilt around the market, around free exchange, around voluntary cultural ties. The state transforms natural unity (the market and exchange) for coerced unity (politics). And sometimes it does this (via its media and educational institutions) by influencing the way we talk and think.

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