What’s Wrong with a Little Political Correctness?

Political correctness is an instrument of oppression and scapegoating most prominently used by academic and political elites and enforced by mainstream news outlets. It is tyrannical, conformist and puritanical. Most egregiously, it is anti-thought. In On Liberty John Stuart Mill writes “Truth gains more even by the errors of one who, with due study and preparation, thinks for himself, than by the true opinions of those who only hold them because they do not suffer themselves to think…”

An analogy can be made with other forms of despotism. Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia, once he had executed 250,000 people at the beginning of his tyranny, proceeded to be a fairly benevolent dictator. This is no argument in favor of this form of government however because the fact of his benevolence was merely happenstance. There was no mechanism by which he might be removed should his actions become intolerable.

Likewise, counterfactually supposing political correctness had some beneficial effects, there is no mechanism of correction. Political correctness countenances lies and censorship if they be in what is considered a good cause. As many have noted, when it comes to political correctness, the truth is no defense. This means errors cannot be challenged, even in principle, by appeals to facts. Instead, insisting on pointing out inconvenient truths is an excellent way to find oneself being morally condemned.

The progressive  reaction to the Google memo concerning diversity made extensive use of the phrase “harmful stereotypes.” If instead the memo’s critics had focused on issues of truth they would have little to say. A stereotype is a generalization; as is knowledge. The mere fact of something being a stereotype in no way means it is false. In fact, social science, as flawed as much of it is, mostly supports the ideas presented in the Google memo.

Karl Marx claimed that his contemporary society was neatly divided into two; the proletariat and the capitalists; the oppressed and the oppressors. Murder the capitalists, and heaven on earth awaits. For Marx as he is popularly understood, ideas are held more as a matter of a person’s position within class relations than on the basis of truth; power and its lack becomes central to epistemology.

Many social justice warriors, it has been pointed out, similarly think it right and proper to silence speakers with whom they disagree because SJWs too are not so interested in truth but power; who has it and who does not. They tend to embrace postmodern skepticism regarding truth, especially anything concerning morality.  Fascination with power takes the central place the pursuit of truth should have. The powerless must be defended and the powerful suppressed. The ability to suppress opposing viewpoints that SJWs have demonstrated, including using violence to do so, is of course an exercise in power. The fact that SJWs should now oppose themselves is not a notion likely to bother them. It is similar to Nietzsche’s claim that the strong must be defended by attacks from the weak without noticing that the group that must be defended from attacks must actually, tautologically, constitute the weak.

Political correctness tends to make more and more areas of human interest political. When I expressed my wish years ago that my son’s high school teachers of English stick to literature, stay out of politics and philosophy, areas for which they are not trained, and avoid inserting “gender, class and race” into every literary analysis, an English teacher erstwhile friend of mine commented “but that’s all there is.” Even as a liberal eighteen year old studying English and philosophy in New Zealand in the 1980s, I recognized that analyzing novels using stock, ideological political perspectives like “Marxist” or “feminist” was intellectually stifling and likely to be hugely inappropriate and irrelevant. Instead of real thinking, even my juvenile self recognized that taking preformulated views and ideas and relatively mindlessly inserting them where they do not belong substituted prepackaged nonsense for thinking. It could be compared to majoring in fine art only to discover that the courses centered around paint by numbers.

Some might suppose that “a little” political correctness is all right, as though moderate political correctness were an option. However, it is not possible to pick and choose between politically correct dictums. That implies thinking for oneself and that is strictly prohibited. No one person gets to decide what is correct and what is not. The whole point of political correctness is to suppress deviations from the conformist group-think. One accepts political correctness in toto or one is anathematized, ostracized and condemned.  Mill comments: “Even despotism does not produce its worst effects, so long as individuality exists under it; and whatever crushes individuality is despotism, by whatever name it may be called, and whether it professes to be enforcing the will of God or the injunctions of men.”

Republican politicians have shown themselves to be often as willing as Democrats to follow PC rules, which force them into lies and falsehoods. For instance, “the wage gap” has been described as a problem by Republican politicians, presumably partly to garner the votes of women. The term “cuckservative” has been invented to describe such liars and frauds. Part of the appeal of Donald Trump, as many have noted, is his refusal to kowtow to this form of behavior which gets him described as uncivil, “unpresidential” and unsuitable to lead. Being genteel and being PC are at this point in time one in the same. A genteel Trump cannot do that for which his voters elected him. The moral fortitude it must take just to handle the venom of his detractors is quite amazing.

Of course, what counts as PC changes; sometimes, from month to month. This implies that last month’s verities are now to be considered false. Since this month’s notions are likely to be superseded by next month’s, political correctness condemns its adherents to being perpetually wrong. Even such a hero of political correctness, Barack Obama, ran against gay marriage in 2008 and 2012 only to find himself on the wrong side of history a few years later.

Opponents of political correctness, if they have the stamina, attempt to point out its inconsistencies. At one moment homosexuals are to be accepted unconditionally because they have no choice in their sexual orientation. They are simply born that way. On the other hand, the transgendered are to be embraced for exactly the opposite reason. They are born male or female, but their wish, counterfactually, to be considered the opposite sex from reality is supposed to be the final word on the matter. Various places, such as New York City, have instituted laws to prosecute people who fail to use the pronoun by which someone decides he wants to be known which can, in principle, change from moment to moment.

The politically correct see themselves as opponents of scapegoating and in fact tend to see scapegoating everywhere, which is the logical consequence of considering all to be either oppressors or victims. Individual success or failure is then to be explained by which class of people a person belongs. Educational and economic success is to be explained by group membership. This is extremely dispiriting and demotivating for all. Those who are supposed to benefit from “white privilege” might imagine that just being white will be sufficient to succeed. Those without it are encouraged to imagine that their fate is not in their hands but in the minds of the oppressors.

In a podcast, a black woman from Africa recounted how when young she came home from her American school to tell her father the news that blacks had no chance of success in America because of white racism. Her father’s response was something like “screw that” and he promptly took himself off to medical school and became a doctor.

What goes unrecognized by its adherents is that political correctness is itself an exercise in scapegoating. It scapegoats those thought to be insufficiently sympathetic to supposed scapegoat victims. It often involves an inundation of inappropriately applied goopy compassion that is most despotically and tyrannically applied with no compassion for its targets.

Jordan Peterson compared the SJW with a mother bear. A mother bear feels laudable empathy and protectiveness for her cub – empathy sundering the borders between individuals – but her expression of that empathy will be unmitigatedly ferocious, involving disembowelment, decapitation and the like. No compassion of any kind will be extended to the threat. SJWs tend to behave in a similar manner, usually minus actual dismemberment.

Thomas Sowell’s nomenclature for the PC division between oppressor and victim is “target” and “mascot.” The bloody minded stupidity and arrogance of this division should be apparent to all, since membership in the “mascot” category is so arbitrary. Some races and ethnicities are mascots deemed to contribute to diversity and some are not. Weirdly and ridiculously, a black Canadian born to middle class African parents crossing the border to the US, gets all the benefits of affirmative action and belongs most definitively to the mascot group, despite not a single one of his ancestors ever having been enslaved in the US and despite his not even being American.

Asians and Jews are minorities in the US, but they tend to be so successful as groups, that they are “over” represented at prestigious universities and in high-paying jobs. They, it has been deemed, do not contribute to diversity and in fact have often been discriminated against at places like Harvard. Since they outperform white Americans as groups, one wonders when the phrase “white privilege” may be modified to something else. The racism would be just too evident if people started referring to “Semitic privilege” or “Asian privilege.” While not being mascots, there is still some hesitancy among the politically correct to regard them as targets. It remains to be seen what their eventual status will be.

Political correctness institutes a hierarchy of whom it is acceptable to scapegoat. Pakistani rape gangs in Rotherham, England, systematically raped, kidnapped, tied up, forced alcohol down the throats of white working class girls usually around thirteen or fourteen years of age, but certainly as young as eleven. The police were reluctant to investigate and make public these horrors for fear of being regarded as racist due to the ethnic identity of the rape gangs. One city councilor in particular did his level best to suppress news of this or to prosecute. In the perverse world of political correctness, adult Pakistani criminal men and rapists are not to be prosecuted in case anyone has second thoughts about Pakistani immigration and a backlash occurs. Hypothetical scapegoating of immigrants is more to be avoided than the actual rape of children.

White feminists have been completely willing to accept this kind of hierarchy. By embracing any treatment of women so long as it is done by Muslims, they abandon their role as the supposed protectors of women. Accordingly, Swedish feminists are reluctant to condemn rapes and sexual assaults of women in Sweden because they prioritize avoiding negative coverage of Muslim immigrants. The largest Swedish annual music festival has been canceled because of the number of rapes and sexual assaults that have occurred – it is thought, by Muslim immigrants. Roving gangs of Muslim immigrants have turned Swedish swimming pools into places no woman should wish to go.

Lying by omission thus becomes a major facet of political correctness.

Upholders of political correctness are very aware of scapegoating, but only of the “lower” variety of victim, what in the past would have been prisoners of war, women, foreigners, slaves and the like. Unknown to them are the “higher” class of victim – the powerful; kings and chieftains. If things go wrong, it can seem commonsensical to blame the one in charge. Kings are already visible, alone and easy to single out. Historically and anthropologically these two classes of victims have always existed and unfortunately, will continue to exist. Justice demands that scapegoating be abhorred in all its varieties. Current political correctness posits that blacks cannot be racist because racism involves power over the powerless. This suggests that practitioners of modern political correctness have tried to immunize themselves from awareness of their own scapegoating practices. It is unPC to point out the flaws in their point of view. In fact, many consider it unPC to use the phrase “political correctness.”

It is sympathy for putative victims that is important; not truth. The right feelings and intentions are what matter.

Mill writes “No one can be a great thinker who does not recognize that as a thinker it is his first duty to follow his intellect to whatever conclusions it may lead.” Having a person’s conclusions dictated in advance, by committee, in fact, the mob, means thinking has ceased. At the very least, it has been corrupted.

Currently, it is considered politically correct to be in favor of sanctuary cities and unlimited and unrestrained illegal immigration.

We uphold the right to determine who comes into our home and who does not. It is invitation only. If a guest starts to break things or behaves in an annoying manner, it should be possible to tell him to leave. Immigration policies should be considered analogous. But instead, in Sweden, there have been cases of Muslim immigrants raping women, being given miniscule prison sentences of mere months and not being sent back to their country of origin. One Somali Muslim man was found raping a corpse. When accused of murder and rape, he argued in court that she had been dead when he found her. He was not deported to Somalia. Sweden now makes a point of not recording the ethnic origin or identity of criminals in case anyone in Sweden has any second-thoughts about Muslim immigration.

Immigrants come to the US because the US is different from their home country. If too many immigrants come and do not assimilate, then the host country starts to resemble their home country – the very thing they were trying to escape. The advantages of the host country frequently are coupled with ways of life that an immigrant does not prefer. If these ways of life are intolerable, the immigrant can either return to his home country or learn to live with them.

Let us agree that we are all children of God. Imagine that a child is playing on the water’s edge. It is all very well for those watching to have a general feeling of beneficence towards all children. But it is much better and safer if one or two people are tasked with taking a particular interest in the welfare of each individual child. God has provided just such guardians. They are called parents. No other adults can be expected to take such a keen interest in a particular child. Partisan interest in the continuation and thriving of something in particular is completely consistent with the general good. If I take care of my children and you take care of your children, all children will be better off. To love my child is not to say that your child is unlovable or any the less valuable.

The same goes for countries. Those born into a country; those who love her landscape and her culture can be expected to have a particular interest in preserving that culture. We are both the guardians and the children of our country and culture. The emotional attachment to that particular way of life provides a special incentive to take care of it absent from more universalist sentiments. Universalism, by its very logic, obliterates differences. And if individual small cultures are obliterated, who will notice and mourn their loss if not for those born there?

However, to express attachment to any Western culture and wish for its preservation, unchanged, is currently unPC, as it is to laud the achievements of Western civilization. When Donald Trump said in his speech in Poland that Western civilization must be defended from its enemies both within and without many liberals regarded this as abhorrent. Only criticism of the West is regarded as proper and this, it has been argued, is why liberals are so in love with Muslims; they can make common cause against a shared enemy. Together with the potential for Muslims to be scapegoated in the West, this explains why liberals tolerate Muslim views that are often far worse than the indigenous non-PC white population.

Similarly, I have heard a liberal white man at a party agree unreservedly that white men are the problem. Instead of immediately committing suicide, he continued making his point in all obliviousness.

According to Mill, I should be thanked for my views. “Every man who says frankly and fully what he thinks is so far doing a public service. We should be grateful to him for attacking most unsparingly our most cherished opinions.” Instead, a venue for expressing unPC thoughts like The Sydney Traditionalist Forum has had its Facebook page shut down.

Likewise “on April 25, 2017, Google announced that it had implemented changes to its search service to make it harder for users to access what it called “low-quality” information such as “conspiracy theories” and “fake news.”

The company said in a blog post that the central purpose of the change to its search algorithm was to give the search giant greater control in identifying content deemed objectionable by its guidelines. It declared that it had “improved our evaluation methods and made algorithmic updates” in order “to surface more authoritative content.”

Google continued, “Last month, we updated our Search Quality Rater Guidelines to provide more detailed examples of low-quality webpages for raters to appropriately flag.” These moderators are instructed to flag “upsetting user experiences,” including pages that present “conspiracy theories,” unless “the query clearly indicates the user is seeking an alternative viewpoint.”

This is not true. Adding the phrase “alternative viewpoint” changes the search results not at all. An actual alternative search engine seems to be Dogpile or even better, DuckDuckGo. Mill was quite adamant: “the only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject, is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion, and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind. No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this; nor is it in the nature of human intellect to become wise in any other manner.”

Mill goes so far as to say: “If all mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.”

Mill argues that silencing an opinion harms those who disagree with it. If the opinion is right, what is wrong cannot be corrected. If the opinion is wrong, the truth of one’s own view would otherwise be made more palpable.

Someone does not really know something if he cannot refute reasons offered against his view. If he does not even know what those reasons are, then he has no ground for preferring his own opinion. Mill goes so far as to argue that we must be able to hear the opposing arguments from those who truly believe them so that they may be presented in “their most plausible and persuasive form.” Merely having a teacher who rehearses an argument with no conviction is insufficient. This is very far from the state of affairs at most colleges and universities.

It is strange to find myself in such agreement with Mill. Utilitarianism is a horrible moral theory that encourages people to treat other people as numbers in a calculation. It actually supports a scapegoating mentality. “The greatest happiness for the greatest number” is practically a description of scapegoating in the Girardian sense. And, it has no room for concerns about justice.

Nonetheless, on the topic of intellectual freedom he is categorically in support of it. I have the sneaking suspicion that were he alive today, with his sensibility, he might embrace quite different views. However, this is an unprovable counterfactual and quite possibly a slur on his memory. Let us hope so.

Shatov in Dostoevsky’s The Possessed:

“Marie, Marie,” said Shatov, turning to her, much moved, “oh, Marie! If you only knew how much has happened in those three years! I heard afterwards that you despised me for changing my convictions. But what are the men I’ve broken with? The enemies of all true life, out-of-date Liberals who are afraid of their own independence, the flunkeys of thought, the enemies of individuality and freedom, the decrepit advocates of deadness and rottenness! All they have to offer is senility, a glorious mediocrity of the most bourgeois kind, contemptible shallowness, a jealous equality, equality without individual dignity, equality as it’s understood by flunkeys or by the French in ’93. And the worst of it is there are swarms of scoundrels among them, swarms of scoundrels!”

28 thoughts on “What’s Wrong with a Little Political Correctness?

  1. Pingback: What’s Wrong with a Little Political Correctness? | @the_arv

  2. This ghastly spectacle that never seems to end only increases my misanthropy. Every day, it seems, I learn that I hate people even more than I thought possible. A few weeks ago, Professor Smith suggested that the Right should distance itself from folks who look forward to seeing the whole damned edifice burn. I thought to myself, “I’m one of those fellows.” Of course, revolutions tend to make everything worse, but our public culture in so many ways has become so revolting and wicked, I wonder how anyone can stomach it. The grotesque dishonesty seemingly everywhere infuriates me. Yes, as Kristor says, nihilistic freaks from the Bay might walk around with daughters dressed as cute little princesses, revealing the decency under the grime, but that’s a lot of grime to tolerate — especially when it drips unctuously from the mouths of of highpriest vipers. Oh, I shudder and despise them. May hell swallow them whole and soon! But then I think, how much more beautiful would the world be — and how much joy in heaven — if they repented. But my lack of charity and exposure to ever increasing absurdity render that sentiment a little bit more harder to find each day.

    Speaking of /The Demons, I just read it last year. As usual with Dostoevsky, I was bewildered and awed at his depth of prophetic understanding. Though his stories and characters capture my imagination, the power — the awful power — of his words frequently jar me from being engrossed in the book. I experienced this more often with The Demons than with any other novel. What, may I ask, does a leftist literary type think when he reads that story? Can he process it? I wonder.

    • Thanks, Joseph A. I understand your sentiments. I know a die-hard materialist atheist for whom Dostoevsky is his favorite novelist. I don’t get it! The Demons is astonishingly prophetic as you say.

  3. Pingback: What’s Wrong with a Little Political Correctness? | Reaction Times

  4. Any society must have a set of non-obvious propositions that everyone agrees on; otherwise it’s just an amorphous mass of people united by nothing. As every intellectual fancies himself the next Confucius and proposes “improvements” to this proposition set, there must be an Inquisition to crush these heretics, or at least exile them to distant monasteries and consider their ideas only after their deaths, so that people won’t see moral philosophy as a way to gain social status.

    The problem isn’t that we have an Inquisition, it’s that our Inquisition serves a religion that is insane and getting more insane every day. Spanish Catholicism wasn’t the greatest religion ever, but it was far more realistic than postmodern progressivism. As in biology, excessively conservative religions get out-competed by more evolved religions, while excessively liberal religions die of mutational overload.

    • Dear Dave, your comments (“The problem isn’t that we have an Inquisition”) indicate that scapegoating is fine so long as it is the right scapegoating. I believe Jesus Christ, and thus, God, begs to differ. It is true that human society has been founded on scapegoating. Maybe no other exists. I guess we can die trying. I am no more attracted to your vision of the way things ought to be than the progressive nutcases.

      If no reasonable debate is permitted, how are we to determine that our scapegoating is any better than theirs? Better not to side with the murderous mob in the first place.

      Facetiously, if debate is not to be permitted, how are you to persuade me of the error of my ways? 🙂 I know, I know. Ostracism is so much more efficient.

      • I took it the way that an inquisition is not there to prevent the debate. Instead, the inquisition is there to define the debate, its parameters and its quality. There is no, has not been and never will be such a thing as a totally free and open debate. Since we are human, that would be utter chaos. If we were disembodied, transcendental intelligences, then maybe it might work.

  5. Mr Cocks, you seem to devote most of your article to asserting that it is possible to deduce the good, the true and the beautiful by means of human reasoning. This fails to take Original Sin into account. Is this not Pelagianism? Yet, your last paragraph in your above reply to Zippy acknowledges the role of tradition and revelation.

    Would it not be the case that human reasoning is, by its nature, flawed and when detached from Revelation inevitably leads to transgression and ‘reasoned’ insanity? Didn’t Chesterton define insanity as the condition of those who have lost everything but their reason?

    • @ mickvet. I have written a very long essay at the Sydney Traditionalist, Philosophy and The Crisis of the Modern World where I defend exactly your line of reasoning – taking my cue from Guenon. It is also my view that human reasoning without the aid of revelation and tradition is a nullity and can only lead to nihilism. That is one of the conclusions that human reason can deduce as you and I have done.

      One of the things that human reason can do is to get some idea about the limits of human reason – particularly reason alone. If I am permitted free speech and free thought, I can potentially figure that out, as I and you have done.

      The purpose of my article on PC is not to provide us all with all the means for determining the truth, but to elucidate the need for freedom of conscience, thought and debate. If Orthosphere contributors wish to dispute that, then they would appear to be hypocrites, since this site is precisely a venue for expressing what is regarded as inexpressible by PC wingnuts.

      The alternative to letting people figure it out for themselves with the help of right-thinking professors and teachers, is to cudgel them into nonexistence, ostracize wrong-thinkers, or to put your foot firmly on their throat until they cry uncle. I don’t like it when the Left do that, and I don’t have any interest in anyone else doing it either. It engenders simmering resentment likely to lead to violence and overthrow of the tyrant.

      In advocating an Inquisition, as Dave has done, he is literally siding with Dostoevsky’s Grand Inquisitor in The Brothers Karamazov who thinks we would all be happier if free will were to be removed – freedom of thought and action being too much a burden for most people. That is possibly true. But this is to abandon reality and truth and also prevent goodness from existing. When my actions are compulsory I can take no credit for them. I believe that a universe that includes goodness is better than one without it. If happiness requires slavery, then good riddance to happiness.

      • Thank you. Must have a look at your article.

        In truth, was the Inquisition deserving of its notoriety? It certainly wasn’t as universal or as invasive as the modern PC culture. From what I’ve read, one had to be a rather determined heretic to catch its attention. Maybe it was because of lack of means rather than lack of intention.

        I, for one, hope that popular simmering resentment explodes sooner rather than later. One must hope that the consequent violence will be restrained as most advocates of pc are more guilty of stupidity and fear than they are of malice. Who would you suggest deserve to hang from the lamp-posts? Who exactly are the people most responsible for generating this appalling evil?

    • Revelation is part of the world about which reason reasons; part of revelation is the admonition to reason not to inflate its account of itself and to admit, therefore, that some things are un-derivable. When Richard refers to reason, he refers to it with the foregoing as an unspoken background. It is not Pelagianism. As Richard says, he has written of revelation elsewhere, and it would behoove any agitated criticism to seek out that writing and to read it.

      • Sorry if I came across as ‘agitated’. I wasn’t and didn’t mean to convey that impression. I read the Sydney Trads article that Mr Cocks referred me to and it completely dispels any notion of a charge of Pelagianism, with its emphasis on the supra-rational and the limits of human reasoning. Cost me money too, as I ordered the Guenon and Schumacher books he mentioned.

        I must offer you my sympathies for your horrendous wickedpaedia experiences. It’s very clear why you so gallantly support Mr Cocks’ vivid description of this satanic ideology.

      • @ mickvet: Thanks for reading the article the Sydney Trads article.

        The actual Spanish Inquisition was not the irrational, dogmatic exercise it is frequently portrayed as. My understanding is that it was a response to the foreign and unwelcome influence of Moorish invaders and that The Inquisition was an attempt to reassert Christianity against Islam. Unfortunately, Jews got caught up in it and were expelled too.

        Academics, politicians (both Republican and Democrat) and mainstream media outlets and assorted globalists are most to blame. Since they engage in lies and contradictions, reality will catch up with them and they will be exposed as the liars and frauds that they are. Unfortunately, the time frame may be very long. At some point, people will scratch their heads and wonder about our delusions. I’m not a fan of the French Revolution – once such things start, the logic seems to demand ever more blood until its instigators are victims. Neither is scapegoating moral. So, I have no list of those to be lynched.

  6. PC is not authoritarian. Authoritarianism implies authority. Authority implies legitimacy – it must be limited by Law *and* Morals.

    PC is hardly limited by anything but its purpose. It is not authoritarian; it is tyrannical.

    You can’t find truth by questioning everything every time. What is the point of questioning if you admit – nay, you posit – that no answer will ever be good enough? That implicitly means there is no actual truth or that it is impossible to find, which is the same in practice.

    • @ A Portugese Man:

      OK. PC is tyrannical.

      You said:

      “What is the point of questioning if you admit – nay, you posit – that no answer will ever be good enough? That implicitly means there is no actual truth or that it is impossible to find, which is the same in practice.”

      I do not believe “there is no actual truth or that it is impossible to find, which is the same in practice.” My reply below is intended to address this point.

      You say:

      “What is the point of questioning if you admit – nay, you posit – that no answer will ever be good enough?”

      I didn’t actually posit that “no answer will ever be good enough” in my article on political correctness. Some answers are plenty good enough.

      However, I do think that concerning some important metaphysical matters the best we can do is approximate the truth. Answers at the level of rational discourse will thus never be good enough to express the entire truth, but may act as a useful heuristic. Also, I am attracted to the claim that every generation needs to (re)discover important philosophical truths for itself and may need to find ways to express these truths and connect them to current circumstances. That would mean the old answer was good enough at the time, but the old answer needs to be understood and assimilated by contemporaries by connecting it to modern issues.

      As a philosopher I am aware of the need for first principles.

      [I did not say: “You say that “of course” there are limits to free speech, “of course” there are first principles”]

      In describing my view in such an extreme manner [i.e., “no answer will ever be good enough”] you are creating a straw man argument for yourself to knock down. I wish to be allowed to question the truth of things even when I turn out to be wrongheaded. If some clever person wishes to demonstrate the error of my thinking, then that person should also be allowed to contribute.

      I don’t remember saying no answer will ever be good enough. I take it back if I did.

      To believe that knowledge is impossible is a contradiction. So I do not believe that knowledge is impossible. If someone says “knowledge is not possible.” The appropriate response is “Do you know that knowledge is not possible? If so, knowledge is possible.” It is impossible to know that knowledge is not possible.

      I do think that epistemic absolute certainty is rare. We believe there is an absolute truth and a reality as a matter of faith. When I teach moral philosophy I advocate moral realism combined with epistemic fallibilism. Why fallibilism? Because I and you and everyone else has had the experience of being wrong. Also, faith implies the possibility of doubt. I’m as sure as I can be that God exists and that part of the proof of his existence is the existence of moral right and wrong. But, I can’t really claim it as the status of certainty especially when it comes to proving it to a nonbeliever.

      Goedel’s Theorem is absolutely certain – but since the theorem states that any axiomatic system beyond a certain level of complexity (beyond addition) must contain an axiom not provable within the system – then what is absolutely certain is that beyond a certain level of complexity, certainty is not possible! (Goedel’s theorem is not an axiomatic system – it is a theorem – therefore it is not affected by its claims of uncertainty.)

      It’s frustrating. But it is also the human condition. Goedel’s Theorem proves the need for faith and it also proves that not everything that is true can be proven to be true.

      Plato contains descriptions of the afterlife and near death experiences. Common to descriptions of NDEs is an omniscience not possible when incarnate. The physical brain appears to be, among other things, a limiting device making individual biological existence possible. Plato describes knowing the Forms immediately without the intervention of thought or reasoning in the afterlife. It is commonly said that when in such a state, everything makes sense and the order/Logos of the universe is evident. I strongly suspect that most human reasoning in comparison will then appear most inadequate. Fortunately, we have all experienced these realities, according to Plato, and thus experiences on Earth can remind us of what we once knew. What we call intuition can come to the aid of mere reason. But all this means, again, that the role of faith will continue to be necessary when in earthly existence. The plus side of the need of faith, is the existence of free will – and thus, love and goodness – since I can choose not to love and not to be good.

  7. PC is an active and aggressive evil.

    Some years ago and out of all proportion to my modest achievements, I became the topic of a Wikipedia article, which described me as “an American intellectual” and listed some of my publications. Persistently over the last year anonymous “editors” of the same article have inserted into it outright lies and slanders about me. I must be vigilant now on a weekly basis to see that these calumnies do not reappear.

    Why should anyone want to perpetrate such malicious mischief? And with what aim? The motive is that any voice not on the left, no matter how small or unremarkable, must not be allowed to speak. The aim is quite simply to destroy me, by painting me in ugly colors, notifying my employer, and agitating for my severance. I am obviously not a person to the miscreants who target me; they give no thought to my welfare or to the welfare of my family, and they are willing to lie simply because I propose an interpretation of things at variance with theirs.

    Who is the perpetrator of the calumny? Someone sitting in a room somewhere, salaried by George Soros to seek out any and all dissent on the Internet? Or someone, perhaps, with whom I work? In either case, I live with the knowledge that Big Brother is Watching.

    I would like to thank Richard Cocks for his brilliantly clear exposé of the so-called progressive agenda’s creeping wickedness.

  8. Apparently I should have waited for Mr. Cocks’s post for the comment I left on JMSmith’s last post. To repeat what I wrote there:

    I am hoping that the left’s attacks on ‘free speech’ will awaken some on the right to the fact that there is no such thing as truly neutral free speech: there is always some implicit moral code that is presupposed in determining what counts as free speech.

    The left has been making this more explicit recently by saying that speech that denies the humanity of others does not count as free speech. …

    Those on the right who defend free speech do the same sort of thing, limiting what counts as free speech by some more fundamental moral commitments. It’s just that they don’t typically realize that this is what they’re doing. For example, speech that is intended to incite violence does not count as free speech. I’m even told that back in the racist, misogynist past, speech that was obscene or blasphemous did not count as free speech (ah, those were the days!).

    So, I’m hopeful that the left’s re-definition of free speech will make this more apparent, and so those on the right can start defending our principles by explicit appeal to the truth rather than by appeal to free speech.

    In a healthy society, there might still be howling mobs protesting and shouting down speakers. The difference would be that the speaker being shouted down would be someone advocating sodomy rather than someone defending the white race.

  9. Richard Cocks:

    I don’t believe in “free speech”. I think it is a nonsense concept used to beg the question in favor of the particular configuration of speech empowerment and suppression that the speaker favors.

  10. Mr. Cocks,

    I can like free speech and also agree that there must be limits, which I do. Even sane liberals would, I imagine.

    If there are limits – which of course there are – how does this differ from any other society? Medieval society also believed in ‘free speech’, it’s just that things like public blasphemy and heresy were considered outside the limits of it. I can imagine a medieval nodding enthusiastically were a modern to ask him, “Do you believe in free speech and debate?”, and then staring at the modern bewildered when the modern followed up with: “So you permit blasphemy?”

    Your original post suggested the suppression of seditious anti-Christian liberal speech. I disagree with that. If you believe in free speech, then you and I have different ideas about what the limits of what that free speech should be.

    What will be the practical consequences of this? If a society says that seditious anti-Christian speech is acceptable, then how will people begin to view seditious anti-Christian speech? They’ll begin to view it as not that big of a deal.

    The norms that society regards as most important are protected by society. To say that people have a right to flout a norm is to signal that it’s not much of a norm. To place some principle of free speech above proscribing seditious anti-Christian speech is to prioritize liberalism over Christianity and guarantees that society will end up regarding liberalism as more important than Christianity. (Which is exactly what has happened).

    • @ Ian – Yes. We are arguing about the proper limits of free speech. I am rejecting the politically correct limits placed on free speech. That was the specific target of my article. What the proper limits are should be open to debate. Either you agree that PC is wrongheaded and oppressive or you do not. These particular limits are unique to our particular society and I reject them. What about you?

      In the course of these arguments I have not actually been paying attention to the word “sedition.” All my comments should be read as limited to reacting to the notion of banning “anti-Christian speech.” Sorry for any confusion and it’s my fault – but there have been a lot of comments to respond to.

      To discuss a norm is not necessarily to flout it. More later.

  11. Mr. Cocks,

    I’m not sure how much my comments will add to the discussion, since everything I would want to say, Zippy is saying already, except better. But here goes:

    We are arguing about the proper limits of free speech. I am rejecting the politically correct limits placed on free speech. That was the specific target of my article. What the proper limits are should be open to debate. Either you agree that PC is wrongheaded and oppressive or you do not. These particular limits are unique to our particular society and I reject them. What about you?

    Yes, I reject the limits unique to our particular society. (In other words, I think our present limits are the wrong ones).

    But if you acknowledge that there will be limits to speech, then what extra work does invoking ‘free speech’ do? We disagree about what speech should be acceptable and what shouldn’t be, what more is there to the question?

    In the course of these arguments I have not actually been paying attention to the word “sedition.” All my comments should be read as limited to reacting to the notion of banning “anti-Christian speech.” Sorry for any confusion and it’s my fault – but there have been a lot of comments to respond to.

    Ok, so forget ‘sedition’: I have no problem with banning ‘anti-Christian speech’.

    To discuss a norm is not necessarily to flout it. More later.

    Conceded. But to allow (for example) blasphemy is implicitly to say that blasphemy doesn’t matter.

    By the way, one other point: consider Mill’s argument that truth will win out in the long run if speech is allowed to be free. Isn’t it obvious that just the opposite has happened? So even if I were to concede that there is such a thing as free speech, on practical grounds alone, shouldn’t I want to reject it?

    • Hi, Ian: Yes. I’m not sure how this all became about free speech. My essay was prompted by someone who asked me in an email – “What’s wrong with a little political correctness?” My essay was my answer to that question.

      The truth has most certainly not won out, as you say. And a big reason for that, I am suggesting, is that the truth about many many things has been actively suppressed and anyone who tries to raise it is attacked with ad hominems regarding their character and vilified. If public debate in universities was not violently censored. If mainstream media did not present just one very one-sided perspective and if just about every politician hadn’t caved concerning contemporary ideas about what you are and are not supposed to say, then perhaps we wouldn’t be in this situation.

      It is the near total silencing of the voices in opposition that I am objecting to. The fact of this voicelessness is one of the reasons, I believe, that President Trump was elected.

      There is an online group called Heterodox community. The idea of that I have some sympathy for.

      When I say the truth will win out in the end, I am talking about the very, very, long term. Perhaps a thousand years of this BS more. “The Last and First Men” by Olaf Stapledon opened my eyes to much longer time frames than I had been used to.

      Islam’s unwillingness to tolerate people making fun of the prophet is just one of Islam’s many nonattractions for me. Blasphemy matters but so does free will. I’m not going to participate in silencing the blasphemers but I might be less inclined to socialize with them.

  12. Hi Mr. Cocks,

    Yes. I’m not sure how this all became about free speech.

    I think it’s because of your approbation of Mill’s quotations, which make it pretty clear that you support the concept of free speech. You’re going to get pushback on that at a presumptively traditionalist website.

    The truth has most certainly not won out, as you say. And a big reason for that, I am suggesting, is that the truth about many many things has been actively suppressed and anyone who tries to raise it is attacked with ad hominems regarding their character and vilified.

    Ok, but our society had been becoming more and more liberal long before the rise of PC and SJWs, indeed during the entire time that classical liberals and mainstream conservatives would probably consider to be the ‘golden age’ of free speech. I suppose your suggestion might be that we just didn’t wait long enough for the truth to win out?

    Islam’s unwillingness to tolerate people making fun of the prophet is just one of Islam’s many nonattractions for me.

    Indeed, that’s one of the things I find attractive about Islam (not of course that I support Mohammadan mobs murdering people). It shows that the Mohammedans at a societal level take their religion seriously.

    Blasphemy matters but so does free will.

    Outlawing blasphemy no more takes someone’s free will away than outlawing murder takes someone’s free will away.

  13. Richard Cocks:

    Thank you for your answer.

    I cannot point where you said the things I wrote, because you didn’t say them – explicitly, that is. But if we are not to draw inferences and apprehend to some degree what is implicit in words, thoughts and ideas we won’t be able have a discussion.

    Now, it seems to me you’re retreating to your motte in regards to free speech, free thought and trial and error.

    You say that “of course” there are limits to free speech, “of course” there are first principles, “of course” knowledge is possible. But those didn’t follow immediately from your previous affirmations. They are not a matter of course.

    When you say you like the creed of free speech, how are we to know what limits you are including? How do we know that you even admit limits?

    When you mention trial and error, how are we to know what you deem should be kept subject to trial or not?

    So let me ask you directly: what are the limits that you include in free speech? How “free” is *your* free?

    And why is it that saying some things ought not to be publicly said – and this is censorship – while saying there are limits to free speech is somehow not censorship but mere “limits”?

    And what should happen to those that go beyond *your* limits of “free” speech? Should they be bludgeoned with a spiked club? If not, why presume this is what others mean when they too, propose their own limits to “free” speech?

    Does it not sound absurd to you speaking about the “creed of free speech” while being immediately forced, as soon as you need to apply that notion to a concrete reality, to put limits to it?

    Free is the opposite of confined. And limits are, by definition, confinement.

    So, “free speech” with limits is limited speech; limited speech is confined speech.
    Confined speech is the opposite of free speech – unless we can just make up the meaning of words and the definition of concepts as we go along.
    The speech may be free inside the space it is confined to, but then so is the bird free inside his cage. But when we talk about free birds we don’t mean caged birds!

    So you don’t really like free speech. You like confined speech. And that’s fine and most reasonable – we may now agree or disagree on the actual confinements of speech.

    But if by “free speech” you really mean “confined speech” – why talk about free speech at all?

    Why not, instead, talk of good speech or wicked speech, as Zippy suggests? Why not talk about simply speech?

    • @ A Portugese Man – I did not mention a spiked club with regard to your post or discuss free speech. I only replied to your post when I replied so it seems a bit rich to complain that I haven’t addressed your points in this second post. My reply for you was titled – @ A Portugese Man. If you don’t know to what I was referring in my reply to you, (“I cannot point where you said the things I wrote, because you didn’t say them”) I will go back and insert quotations from your first post. [I have now inserted quotations from your first comment in my response to your first comment.]

      “When you mention trial and error, how are we to know what you deem should be kept subject to trial or not?”

      My reference to trial and error was with regard to the emergence of traditions. I am not responsible for the emergence of traditions so I am not deciding anything.

      “You say that “of course” there are limits to free speech, “of course” there are first principles, “of course” knowledge is possible. But those didn’t follow immediately from your previous affirmations. They are not a matter of course.”

      I can only address your concerns as they arise and as you express them. If you want to know how I think, I have dozens of articles at The People of Shambhala, The Orthosphere and The Sydney Traditionalist. I cannot preempt every possible concern you might have in advance without writing an endless screed, and not even then.

      You said in your first post: “What is the point of questioning if you admit – nay, you posit – that no answer will ever be good enough? That implicitly means there is no actual truth or that it is impossible to find, which is the same in practice.”

      I do believe that knowledge is possible because to claim to know that knowledge is impossible is a contradiction. I didn’t address this question in advance because I didn’t know you would raise it. I regard the existence of knowledge as noncontroversial. My reply to you concerning Goedel’s Theorem etc. was an attempt to show that I don’t think the truth is impossible to find and that my essay does not imply that it is impossible to find, contrary to your assertions.

      I will address your other questions about free speech in a separate post.

  14. Pingback: This Week In Reaction (2017/08/20) - Social Matter

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