Anyone today who attempts to understand what is happening in the West (America, Europe) – the collapse into a cloaca that is the solipsistic Face Book pop culture, the avalanche of nihilism, the ciphers and the soft-totalitarian apparats, now seemingly unimpeded, closing their long, velvet-covered fingers around our necks – might wonder how a resurrected George Orwell would reflect on the rampant corruption that has greased the slide into this sewer.
In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.
Well, yes. This is, indeed, “our age,” politicized right down to the dictated pronoun assignation of transgendered whatever they fantasize they are and their restroom privileges, and you find yourself chocking on the daily output of the “mass of lies” from the sneering, self-infatuated pygmies resting on their glorified perches in the government, journalism, the entertainment industry, the NGOs and tenured professorships. Not to forget the social justice warrior CEOs like Mark Zuckerberg or the vapid, preening Hollywood celebrities who never tire of massaging their bloated egos and publicly wallowing in their invincible ignorance.
The aftermath of the recent leftist-inspired mob violence in Charlottesville with the Pravda-like organs of the mass media in high dudgeon has given us a clear and terrifying vision of the cultural Marxist monopolized control and manipulation of language that is used to shape the public perception of social conflict.
To get a better sense of what the left is all about with the relentless labeling of any and all opposition as fascist, racist, proponents of hatred, etc., and in the spirit of Orwell to try to understand how language in the service of ideology has become so corrupted, it might be helpful to consider the notion of “performative utterances” (hereafter, performatives) as developed by J. L. Austin, a British language philosopher from the last century.
From: How to Do Things with Words, ed. J. O. Urmson and Marina Sbisá. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1962.
[Defining the Performative]
Utterances can be found… such that:
· They do not ‘describe’ or ‘report’ or constate anything at all, are not ‘true or false,’ and
· The uttering of the sentence is, or is a part of, the doing of an action, which again would not normally be described as, or as ‘just,’ saying something.
Performatives, as Austin explains, are not, logically speaking, propositions, that is, assertions that can be shown to be true or false. They do not attempt to describe the world or to affirm or deny some aspect of reality. They are “utterances,” actions that change the social world. Austin gives a number of examples, but let me offer a couple to demonstrate the point.
A minister or priest performs a marriage ceremony and at the conclusion utters, “I pronounce you man and wife.” A judge at the conclusion of a trial says to the defendant, “I sentence you to ten years at hard labor.” Neither the minister nor the judge with these sentences describe the world; their utterances are socially sanctioned actions that change it. Now married, the couple has a different social status. The man and woman are viewed and treated differently, view themselves differently and have different roles, expectations and obligations than they had before the performative was made. Likewise, the accused now becomes a convicted criminal who is viewed and treated differently after the judge’s performative.
How then does this notion of performatives apply to the current efforts of the cultural Marxists to control and manipulate public perceptions of politics and morals? The left engages in a profound dissimulation that disguises what are actually performatives as demonstrable true propositions or assertions about reality. While they pretend to be describing someone or something, what they are really about is acting in a way that demoralizes and ultimately de-legitimates the status of those who may compete with them for power or resist their incursions into their lives. As employed by the left, these performatives do not inform; they deform people who refuse to conform. They are weapons the left uses to destroy those whom they always perceive as morally inferior beings, their enemies. Think of Hillary Clinton’s horrific “basket of deplorables” slur during the last Presidential campaign.
How, specifically, do these weaponized performatives work for the left? Let’s begin with oldest, the most reliable and the most predictable: “You are a fascist.” The speaker in making what appears grammatically to be an assertion depicting some feature of reality is really acting out in a well-established social ritual that seeks to alter social reality in two mutually reinforcing ways. First, it elevates the speaker’s social status as a morally superior and courageous person who recognizes evil and stands far above and against it. The speaker becomes immaculate. Second, the moral polarity comes into play and the “authority” of the accuser is established. Very good people must be opposed by very bad people, and what catch-all word seems to work best to capture all those malignancies associated with the villains who occupy the imaginations of the folks who write the opinion columns in the New York Times and who blabber on CNN and MSNBC– bigotry, intolerance, sexism, racism, etc.? “Fascist” works very nicely. There is, of course, no room for Fascists anywhere in “our democracy,” as they like to say (“our democracy” being their euphemism for “our invitation-only clubhouse”). Such an individual is morally contaminated, “irredeemable,” “not part of America” in Hillary Clinton’s parlance, someone beyond the pale, whose ideas and beliefs must be extinguished.
“Fascist” is one of the most important words in the lexicon of the left, wrenched from its historical, political moorings, so vague and protean that it is descriptively useless. Bearing only vague, emotional associations, it has been stripped of its referents, and thus serves as an all-purpose, expandable-contractible label for prospective targets who may pose as obstacles or irritants.
Once upon a time there were real flesh and blood fascists, people who were recognized as such because they actually called themselves “fascists,” dressed up in black shirts, took power for a time and talked about how great fascism was as compared to the decadent bourgeoisie. As we know, things turned out badly for them, and Benito Mussolini, the man who brought fascism to the world ended up as a battered corpse hanging upside down from a steel girder above a gas station in Milan next to his mistress, Claretta Petacci in 1945.
That marked the grisly end of fascism as embraced and practiced by people whom everyone, including themselves, recognized as fascists; as an ideology and a movement that attracted a mass following it was kaput, an attraction that has lingered on for a few out on the fringe.
It was Joseph Stalin who recognized the mobilizing power of the word, “fascist” and fashioned an abstract, malleable “fascist,” introducing a being, unlike Mussolini, immortal and ubiquitous (Leon Trotsky was “baptized” by Stalin as one). Fascists who populate the Stalinist universe can only be contained by their antipodes, thus, “anti-fascist,” a word which endows one thus designated with a heroic, moral invincibility. The anarchists during the Spanish civil war who raped and murdered nuns and burned down churches were anti-fascists and thus remain vanquished heroes who fought a losing battle for “democracy.” The antifas who attacked and beat up people recently at Charlottesville and other rallies are lauded predictably by Nicholas Scylla Kristof and Mitt Charybdis Romney as opponents of bigotry and hatred. Stalin’s “fascist” was the gift to the left that keeps on giving and every generation of leftists since his demise has happily and eagerly attached it to whomever displeases them, most recently Donald Trump and his supporters.
The “You are a fascist” performative is the paradigm for the cultural Marxists’ engagement with all dissent and opposition. It moralizes the speaker, enveloping him with goodness and virtue. As well it immunizes him from (moral) criticism and (legal) accountability and at the same time demoralizes the accused making him into an enemy who represents an existential threat to their fictional “our democracy.” “Politics” for the left is shorthand for conniving at the destruction of the opposition, politically, always, physically, if possible.
“Racism” works in tandem with “fascism.” “You are a racist” is a weaponized performative camouflaged as a descriptive, yet another one of the expulsion rituals that render the accused “untouchable” while confirming the impeccable moral credentials of the speaker. Like “fascist,” “racist” has migrated from being a word that once perhaps referred to real and distinguishable features of someone to a slippery, nebulous abstraction that means whatever the speaker wants it to mean. This is why racism which has risen to the heights of a raging moral plague has of necessity been metastasizing into various strains such as, “covert racism,” “legacy racism,” “economic racism,” “environmental racism,” “systemic racism,” “institutional racism.” There is no relief, no escape from it; with this the left is refereeing a game of whack-a-mole that never ends.
No one today accused of racism can prove the accusation to be false. This means that the accuser cannot be held accountable, and because of this, as long as the threat of being accused of racism is widely and commonly resisted and feared, the left will use it with increasing recklessness and indifference to whatever damage it does. It has worked to perfection for them; whenever the threat goes down, the white flag always goes up. So, it is a near certain prediction that the racism that plagues the West will continue to mount toward epidemic proportions.
What Austin’s performative utterances may help us to understand is that for the left politics in all of its manifestations is war with no Geneva Convention-style restrains, with unconditional surrender as its end game. For them there is no compromise, no loyal opposition, no notion of fair play or rules of a civil society that limit what the players should do. We are the enemy. We forget it at our peril.