There’s a phenomenon I keep seeing, mostly if not entirely in the younger leftosphere. I think of it as the “propagandization” of thought and rhetoric. What identifies it is the assumption of weirdly absolutist positions – which typically collapse under logical scrutiny – coupled with an aggressive posture of automatically disparaging opponents of that position with adjectives, not argument.
Instead of promoting a discussion about an issue, this rhetorical mode fits the profile of propaganda, which is designed to shut down thought and discussion; reinforce an approved posture, however illogical or unrealistic it may be; and vilify anyone who questions the approved posture.
I know about the Frankfurt School and cultural Marxism. I know where this comes from. I’m documenting the observable results, after cultural Marxism has been roaring in American schools for at least 40 years now – and was murmuring and sighing in them for 40 years before that.
Let’s look at an example. I caught sight today of a title slug on the main page at Daily Beast: “The Best Place to be Trans is a Dictatorship.” The article, by Jay Michaelson, is about Thailand’s new constitution and “transgender equality.”
Now, right there, I imagine Mr. Michaelson would peg me as a demon-reactionary because I put the words transgender equality in quotation marks. There is no such thing today as we-need-to-discuss-this quotes or definition-to-follow quotes. There are only scare quotes, which are deployed for partisan purposes to sow mean-spirited doubt or convey disdain.
In objective fact, however, what is meant by “transgender equality” requires definition. It’s not obvious what that expression would mean. And making transgender equality a social issue, with a vision for rules and mandates that are to be binding on the whole of society, means that the whole of society is owed an actionable definition.
But we don’t get one from Michaelson. Out of the gate, we get a disparaging reference to a lawmaker who apparently doesn’t have the same definition of it that Michaelson has.
… And here’s an interesting thing: the passage labeling the Kentucky lawmaker has now been removed. I knew I saw it when I first read through the piece, but the piece has now been revised and the passage excised. Fortunately, a reader copied it in the comments section in order to criticize the point.* Here’s what was originally in the post:
Thailand made headlines last month for proposing that its new constitution should prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender identity and gender expression. That would put the Southeast Asian nation ahead of 32 U.S. states and all but a few countries.
Coincidentally, the announcement came in striking contrast to a pathetic attempt by one lawmaker in Kentucky to require trans people to use the bathrooms associated with their given sex. Thailand 1, Kentucky 0.
What does this mean? And why Thailand? The answers to these questions are easily misunderstood, because sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI in international-policy-speak) mean different things in different cultural contexts. In this case, third-gender Thai people are both recognized and stigmatized. Traditional attitudes are both problem and solution.
It’s the second paragraph that’s been removed. Perhaps Michaelson thought better of it. That would be a good sign. It’s also possible, on the other hand, that the main sentence is phrased infelicitously from the transgender-advocacy perspective. What does “given sex” mean? The point of much transgender advocacy is that biological sex doesn’t necessarily have the construction we would put on that expression.
In any case, the reflexive propaganda-rhetoric mindset isn’t absent, even with the egregious passage removed; it’s just less obvious.
The tone of condemnation against the Kentucky lawmaker is pointed and unqualified. We are to be angry with him for his stance on trans people in bathrooms. If you go to the link, you find a Raw Story post on State Senator C.B. Embry, Jr., whom Raw Story characterizes, with clear prejudice, as proposing a “bounty” on the heads of trans high school kids.
He is doing no such thing, so I’ve screen-capped the page in case Raw Story thinks better of that headline. What Embry proposes is to keep school bathrooms free of opposite-sex students by authorizing students to sue the school if opposite-sex students show up in their bathrooms.
Is that a good idea? I’m not saying it is. I think we have a difficult, multifaceted issue here, and the point I want to make is that striking absolutist positions (that often don’t even make sense), and chasing each other around with angry adjectives, is an actively counterproductive way to approach it. But for too many younger Americans – like most of the writers now in the left-wing media – that seems to be the only way they have.
What does transgender equality mean, after all? If it means being allowed to use the girls’ restroom if you’re a biological male, that clearly isn’t equality of any kind. It’s actually a special privilege. Likewise with employment mandates. If a so-called “equality” law requires Hooters to consider hiring a transgender “woman” as a waitress, when no other type of person with the same physical attributes would be considered for that position, then it’s not equality we’re talking about. It’s creating, by law, a sub-demographic with unique privileges.
There is no predicting what new privileges will be required over time, either. Mandates become open-ended and metastasize through lawsuit and legal intimidation. The use of government to institute these things is in general a very bad idea, corrupting our concept of what government is for along with all the other harm it does to societal health.
But to say that is not to say that anyone should treat transgender people with disrespect, much less with cruelty. The legitimacy of the distinction I’ve just made is something that almost everyone my age and older understands. Even long-term leftists understand that their peers in age believe it, both in the abstract and as it applies to themselves and to society as a whole. It’s a true belief, held by people who know who they are and what they think.
The heavily propagandized generations behind us have been taught, however, that it’s not. They’ve been taught that the older generations either don’t know what they really think, or do know and are simply full of hypocrisy, cynicism, and/or alienation. Too many younger people suffer under a double-whammy: they’ve been taught to look suspiciously and disdainfully on most of the people around them, and then to provoke the worst responses from people by engaging with them mainly in aggressive propaganda mode.
I see children six and eight years old wearing brightly colored T-shirts around town that say things like “Haters gonna hate.” These poor kids don’t have a chance to grow up capable of discernment, tolerance, or logical thought. They’re being programmed to trust some people, and suspect and despise others, while waiting for familiar bells to ring to tell them what position to take on issues. It’s a nightmare of irrational profile-response, programmed into kids who are being told that profile responses – reacting to people based on how you profile them – are bad.
It’s certainly ingenious. And, as with so many things in human interaction, it often isn’t possible to counter it directly with logic and proof. What these severely propagandized people need is to know that, contrary to what they were taught in school, other people don’t despise them, and aren’t approaching them through a tangle of vicious prejudices and scary tribal dogmas. When people aren’t attuned to logic, or even mere courtesy, kindness may be the only thing that will penetrate the anger, accusation, and rhetorical aggression.
And that can be hard to maintain.
* Full quote from the commenter:
Marvin DaMartian 1 hour ago
“Coincidentally, the announcement came in striking contrast to a pathetic attempt by one lawmaker in Kentucky to require trans people to use the bathrooms associated with their given sex. Thailand 1, Kentucky 0.”
So is a man who says they are transgender but never had the surgery to remove their natural born parts still a man or are they considered a woman? Perhaps the vast majority of real woman do not want a man using their bathroom? Ever think of that Jay? “No” is the apparent answer. An obvious agenda to push here. IMHO Kentucky has an obligation to protect the wishes and privacy of the majority.