In George Orwell's novel 1984, the Ministry of Truth was hard at work on the creation of Newspeak, a new language to intended replace English by 2050. Orwell explained:
"The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc [English Socialism], but to make all other modes of thought impossible."
Fortunately, Orwell's novel was not itself written in Newspeak, because it would be hideously boring: "Ultimately it was hoped to make articulate speech issue from the larynx without involving the higher brain centers at all".
Newspeak was carefully designed to make its speakers stupider:
"A heretical thought … should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words."
And, of course, thought—at least thought of any complexity—is indeed highly dependent upon words, especially published words.
Words are central to political battles, not only because they are necessary for rational thought, but also because they can obliterate rational thought. They can take on emotional associations from past victories and defeats, developing magical, incantatory powers.
For example, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the term "un-American" was highly useful to politicians who wielded it.
Yet, today, it is seldom used by conservatives. Now, "un-American" is mostly a term used by liberals, who brandish it less as a logical contention than as a symbol of their triumph in the culture war over what is remembered about Communists in the U.S.
Here are some recent examples from Google News:
"Not only would removing birthright citizenship be cruel, it would also be fundamentally un-American" — Ezra Klein of the Washington Post [When did Lindsey Graham change his mind on immigration?, July 30, 2010]
"Most Democrats hailed the decision, saying Arizona's SB 1070 was 'un-American and unconstitutional…'" — Politico, GOP says Ariz. ruling will hurt Dems, July 29, 2010
"New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg says it would be un-American to investigate a mosque that is planned for construction near where the World Trade Center once stood" — AP
"Rangel: Resigning now would be un-American" — The Hill
But in the Newspeak reigning in America today, no word has more totemic power to suppress rigorous thinking than "racism".
The intellectual sophistication of today's conventional thinking about race is at the Newspeak level. To label your opponent a racist is to declare him, in 1984's useful term, a "doubleplusungoodthinker". And what more needs to be said? As Orwell put it:
"But the special function of certain Newspeak words, of which oldthink was one, was not so much to express meanings as to destroy them. … In Newspeak it was seldom possible to follow a heretical thought further than the perception that it was heretical: beyond that point the necessary words were nonexistent."
To accuse someone of "racism" is no longer to express any particular conception, but instead merely to declare your victim a loser and yourself a winner.
Contemporary uses of the word "racism" are explored in the crisply-written new book Racism, Schmacism: How Liberals Use the "R" Word to Push the Obama Agenda by James Edwards, the young host of the weekly radio talk show The Political Cesspool.
Edwards himself is certainly a doubleplusungoodthinker in that he unashamedly looks at things from the point of view of whites, although he describes himself as a paleoconservative rather than a "white nationalist". This of course means that his show has been denounced as a "hate" group by the Southern Poverty Law Center ($PLC to VDARE.COM). The Political Cesspool recently became an issue in the bitter Arizona GOP Senate primary, when Sheriff Paul Babeu, the stooge in Senator John McAmnesty's hilarious conscience-rupturing "build the dang fence" ad, was denounced for appearing on the show and immediately went into a full PC cringe, which the show denounced contemptuously.
But Racism, Schmacism eschews really controversial issues, such the genetics of racial differences. Its work-friendly approach is actually quite similar to, if less high-brow than, Jared Taylor's 1992 Paved With Good Intentions—which, however, probably would not find a Mainstream publisher today.
Edwards argues that the word "racist" has lost conceptual content:
"It doesn't matter that you don't have a hateful bone in your body, or that you believe all people should be treated equally by the law, and civilly by their fellow man, no matter the color of his skin."
Instead, the definition has become something much simpler:
"It's been getting increasingly obvious, for years now, that "racist" doesn't mean someone who hates members of other races and wants to harm them (which is the definition most white people think of when they hear the word). Instead, it has become nothing but a racial slur directed at white people in order to shame us into voting, believing, or behaving a certain way. In other words, liberals and non-whites use the word to "keep us in our place." And boy, have we learned our place!"[Links added]
Edwards begins Racism, Schmacism by recounting how John McCain took a dive in the 2008 election. As Edwards points out, some McCain staffers put together an ad contrasting McCain's refusal to walk out of the Hanoi Hilton for half a decade with Obama's refusal to walk out of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's church for two decades.
(You can watch the spiked ad here. It's a lot better than any ad I can remember McCain actually running, but then I can't remember any of them anyway.)
But McCain, needless to say, refused to go after Senator Obama on his surrogate father relationship with the man to whom he had donated $53,770 in 2005-07. Edwards says:
"[McCain] rolled over and played dead for Obama, and allowed Obama to walk all over him. Why? For one reason: he didn't want to be called a racist. So he pulled his punches, and refused to go after Obama where he was most vulnerable, on the one issue that really could have connected with average Americans when it came to why they should vote for him and not Obama, which was Obama's long membership in Trinity United Church of Christ, and his love for 'Rev.' Jeremiah Wright, a man who clearly hates white people."
Edwards' analysis has been confirmed by the recent Daily Caller revelations from the Journolist emails, which show the liberal media mind at work. After Wright's vivid April 28, 2008 appearance at the National Press Club confirming the suspicions about Wright and Obama, Juicebox Mafioso Spencer Ackerman declared that Wright must disappear from the media—and the way to make that happen was to make wild accusations of "racism" against Republicans:
"What is necessary is to raise the cost on the right of going after the left. In other words, find a rightwinger's [sic] and smash it through a plate-glass window. Take a snapshot of the bleeding mess and send it out in a Christmas card to let the right know that it needs to live in a state of constant fear. … Instead, take one of them—Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares—and call them racists. Ask: why do they have such a deep-seated problem with a black politician who unites the country?" [ Documents show media plotting to kill stories about Rev. Jeremiah Wright, July 20,2010]
Of course, McCain's throwing the election was not the worst thing that ever happened to conservatives. Republican Presidents are usually so frightened of their opponents calling them "racist" that they are more dangerous to their own supporters. Edwards observes:
"The general operating theory of politics is that when you gain power you reward your supporters, and punish those who oppose you. But the Republicans won't do that, because their supporters are conservative white people, and, as everyone knows, conservative white people are racists. So they do the opposite. They constantly betray their base of white voters, while endlessly pandering to blacks. Yeah, that's a recipe for electoral victory!"
Thus in the 2000s, the Republican rank and file assumed (wrongly) that Bush had their backs. How many Republicans protested, while it was happening, the fact that George W. Bush let quota kid Alberto Gonzalez emasculate the White House's briefs in the 2003 Supreme Court college quota cases? How many noticed Bush's reckless White House Conference on Increasing Minority Homeownership that launched the Housing Bubble?
A McCain victory just would have led to the Third Bush Administration, with all the long-term disasters that implies.
The Obama years, in contrast, have been a period of partial regeneration for conservatives. Despite being virtually leaderless, they've done better than when they were led by Bush and McCain.
But the power of the "R" word remains. Edwards writes:
"When conservatives start talking about this issue, they're always quick to declare, quite vociferously (and on the Internet, often in ALL CAPS with lots of exclamation points!!!!) that race had absolutely nothing to do with how they voted, or that it plays zero part in deciding which candidate to get behind in an upcoming election. …
"No, blacks and liberals don't really believe it's wrong in general to prefer voting for someone of your own race. They only believe it's wrong for a white person to do it. Because that's racism!
"Why? Because a racist is a white person!"
Edwards reports that one Tea Partier had the gumption to hold up a placard to the press cameras reading, "It doesn't matter what this sign says, you'll call it racist!" But, in general, conservatives fatally remain vulnerable to panic over accusations of racism. Edwards points out a recurrent weakness of conservative organizations:
"In a futile attempt to pander to blacks and get the media to stop calling them 'racists,' they elevate just about any black person that shows up to a position of prominence. As soon as they come on board, the white leadership starts promoting them in the vain hopes the movement won't get called racist, which never works."
Michael Steele, the inept chairman of the Republican National Committee, is only the most obvious example of this. Edwards writes:
"Then the black 'conservatives' start talking about how the Democrats are the real racists who want to keep blacks on the liberal plantation, etc., etc., etc., and before you know it, the whole movement has been derailed, and the focus turns to how the other guys are more racist than we are, and we're better for blacks than the liberals are, etc."
Edwards scoffs at recurrent GOP attempts to persuade blacks that they should vote against pro-black government programs. He demonstrates the futility of GOP minority outreach in an age of legal preferences for minorities:
"If millions of white people moved to Nigeria for some unfathomable reason, and the government of Nigeria began establishing quotas and other policies to force black business owners to hire white people, and began giving out massive welfare subsidies that whites received far out of proportion to their percentage of the population, and passed law after law requiring Nigerian blacks to treat white people as privileged citizens who must never be criticized or insulted, and started turning every altercation between a white and a black into an 'anti-white hate crime' while downplaying every white-on-black crime no matter how violent...well, how many white people in Nigeria would vote to change things? Not very many. So why would blacks in America react any differently?"
Edwards documents a long list of bizarre media panics during the Age of Obama. For example, there was the collective press frenzy over the purportedly racist nature of handbills posted in Los Angeles last summer depicting Obama as Heath Ledger's Joker in The Dark Knight above the word "Socialism".
That racism charge made no sense whatsoever. But its idiocy was its point. Obama's supporters weren't trying to hold a "conversation" on race—they were intimidating their opponents. Edwards explains:
"If we don't start fighting back now, and insisting on our right to ridicule, lampoon and laugh at any politician we disagree with, not just white ones, and in any way we see fit, then we'll not only lose our precious right of free speech, we'll also be rendered politically impotent. … It's not about civility, or manners, or raising the level of discourse, or whatever phony excuse liberals and the left-wing media come up with to justify their assaults on our free speech. It's about paralyzing conservatives by making us feel guilty and ashamed for disagreeing with a non-white politician. … It's time to say 'No more Mr. Nice Guy,' and start laughing in their faces when they call us racists.
I strongly agree. Satire makes people better.
It's worth noting, however, that while the media embargo on ribbing Obama can protect him, it's losing its ability to promote him. Thus the headline on Sunday's New York Times read:
To Help Fellow Democrats in the Fall, Obama May Stay Away, [By Jeff Zeleny, July 31, 2010]
Obama has been largely off limits to satire, but he now strikes a lot of people, including many minorities who voted for him in 2008, as a crashing bore, a downer.
One caveat: I think the Memphis-based Edwards may see things too much in traditional black-white terms. From my point of view of a Los Angeleno who worked for Mayor Tom Bradley three decades ago, the future of black political power in America looks hollow.
Granted, in the long run, black and white are the natural polarities toward which politics tend in a multicultural America. Yet, the current division of votes, money, and talent between blacks and whites is too uneven nationally to support, at this point, a sharp partisan division along black-white lines. Parties naturally tend toward a fifty-fifty split, and blacks can't get anywhere close to fifty percent without massive help from whites.
Thus, much of what Edwards documents is really a power struggle among whites, with both sets of whites pandering madly to acquire black proxies to make themselves look better to other whites than their white enemies.
But the overwhelming Democratic success in winning blacks has self-limiting aspects. The rise of black Democratic power in 2009-10 is naturally making more white Independents and Democrats take a second look at the GOP. The liberals' best chance to avert a historic realignment is copious use of the "R" word.
If the Republican Party plays its cards right, in the very long run the two parties will likely emerge clearly distinguished as the White Party and the Black Party. Contrary to today's conventional wisdom, that should be much to the advantage of the GOP in appealing to the most dynamic immigrant groups arrayed between white and black.
While blacks have advantages in charisma and in the sentimental role they play in the currently dominant narrative of American history taught in schools, they lack the numbers and, most importantly, the effectuality to be terribly powerful without strong white backing. Look how it took an utter exotic like Obama to finally satisfy the deep hunger for an African-American President that has been observable in science fiction and spy movies for at least a couple of decades.
Left to its own devices, black political power tends toward farce. For example, the two most famous black Representatives, Charlie Rangel of New York and Maxine Waters of California, are both heading toward trial before the House on corruption charges, the first such trials since the 1980s. The New York Times admits:
"It would also be an embarrassment for the Congressional Black Caucus. Ms. Waters and Mr. Rangel are two of its most revered and long-standing members, and both have spent decades as key leaders in banking and financial services issues in the House."
James Edwards' final advice is right on target:
"'Racist' is simply a slur liberals use against conservative white people. …
"Don't try to prove you're not a 'racist.'
"Just laugh in their face. Then counter-attack. Point out how whites in this country just want a level playing field, and that it is the minority groups who want racist preferences. Tell them they're obsessed with race instead of what's best for our country."
[Steve Sailer (email him) is movie critic for The American Conservative. His website www.iSteve.blogspot.com features his daily blog. His new book, AMERICA'S HALF-BLOOD PRINCE: BARACK OBAMA'S "STORY OF RACE AND INHERITANCE", is available here.]