The Logopathology of the Left
The moral and intellectual pathology of the left revolves around its misuse of language. It is not so much that leftist thought consists of lies, as that it is based on a primordial Lie that causes it to enter a parallel universe where, even if they say something that is technically true, they aren’t saying it because it’s true, which makes all the difference.
The primordial lie is the nullification of the covenant between language and reality, so that language is used for its effect rather than as a tool to convey truth. For the left, good language is effective language, whether it means ridiculously exaggerating the danger of heterosexual AIDS in order to increase funding, brazenly lying about George Bush supposedly lying about WMD, or blaming hurricaine Katrina on Bush's environmental policies.
Of late, the left has come under the influence of a new guru, Berkeley professor George Lakoff, who argues that the reason the left’s ideas are so unpopular among Americans is that they simply fail to frame them properly. Conversely, the right is successful simply because they trick people into endorsing things that are against their own self interest by framing ideas in a deceptive way.
If you listen, you can hear Lakoff’s influence in action all the time. For example, you now hear the left trying to frame issues in terms of “values,” since that is something that people seem to care about. Therefore, Howard Dean’s new mantra is that Democrats care about morality more than the Republicans do, because, unlike Republicans, their values do not include making children go to bed hungry at night or forcing people go without health insurance.
In fact, George Lakoff’s analysis of the problems of the left is exactly backwards, because the left is actually incapable of simply presenting their ideas without framing them in a deceptive way. Nor are they able to discuss conservative ideas without mischaracterizing them in a deeply misleading, condescending, and generally insulting way.
The argument about conservatives actually wanting children to go to bed hungry is a case in point. There is not even the pretense of engaging with the merits of the conservative argument on how best to combat poverty. Rather, before the argument can even begin, conservatives are tarred as inherently evil people who enjoy making children suffer. Why even argue with such a sadistic person?
We saw the same phenomenon last Friday evening, in the debate over the Murtha proposal to immediately withdraw our troops from Iraq. Interestingly, on Friday morning liberals were ecstatic about Murtha’s proposal, which was headlined in all of the large liberal papers (not to mention al Jazeera) in its completely naked, “unframed” manner. For example, in the Los Angeles Times, the headline read “War Hawk Calls for Immediate Withdrawal of Troops From Iraq.”
Naively believing that language refers to reality and means what it means, Republicans decided to call the Democrats bluff, and arranged for a vote on the matter. Sensing a trap -- the trap being having their stupid and dangerous idea actually taken seriously -- the Democrats immediately called upon their shape-shifting relationship to language, and magically reframed the debate. This wasn’t about Murtha’s proposal. This was simply about an attack on the patriotism of an American hero! The "swift-boating" of another brave veteran! (The presumption being that the Swifties had engaged in the first degree Murthing of Kerry.)
And of course, the press played along. This is because, as I have argued before, the Democratic party has been reduced to the political action wing of the MSM, which actually speaks for the Democratic party, sets its agenda, and covers its backside in situations such as this. The MSM, which is supposed to be comprised of people called “journalists” who have a more secure relationship to language, turns out to be a research and development lab for leftist experiments against reality.
On Friday morning, for example, my local paper carried the headline “House Combat Vet Urges Pullout,” accurately stating in the first paragraph that Murtha had “called for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.” But Saturday’s headline was “House Divided Against itself Over Iraq War,” despite the fact that Murtha’s proposal was defeated nearly unanimously. And the paper characterized the resolution as a stunt by Republicans that mischaracterized Murtha’s call for withdrawal, saying that it wasn’t really a call for immediate withdrawal.
In short, immediate meant immediate when it suited the agenda of the MSM, but no longer meant immediate when it appeared that immediate withdrawal might not go over too well with the public, the vast majority of whom are not leftists.
Conservatives will just have to learn to live with being framed by the MSM and their Democratic operatives. If you are for low taxes on principle, you really just favor tax cuts for the rich. If you want to have control over your own retirement, you really just want to enrich large mutual fund companies. If you are for the liberation of Iraq, you are really just a colonialist who wants to steal their oil. If you want judges to interpret and not make law, you really want to destroy civil rights and return to the days of Jim Crow. If you are against affirmative action, it can’t be because you think it’s harmful and insulting to blacks, but because you are a racist. If you are uncomfortable with redefining marriage, it can’t be because you actually think that a child does best with a mother and father, but because you hate homosexuals.
You will also note that, when these sorts of accusations come from the left, the media will never make any effort to determine whether or not they are true. Rather, they will preface their story with “Democrats say,” as in “Democrats say George Bush lied about pre-war intelligence.” It wasn’t too long ago that the job of the press was to actually determine whether such statements were true before irresponsibly transmitting them to millions of citizens. In this case, it wouldn’t be difficult for a motivated press to establish the charge as a baseless slur, or, for that matter, to establish the fact that Joe Wilson is an inveterate liar with no claim to credibility.
And of course, this is why controlling the courts is of such vital importance to advancing the leftist agenda, because they need people “on the inside” who don’t believe that words mean what they mean. In the film Devil’s Advocate, there is a scene in which the Keanu Reeves character asks Al Pacino why satan would incarnate as a lawyer. I can only paraphrase Pacino, but he thunders something to the effect of, “because lawyers have a hand in everything!”
In the case of activist Supreme Court justices, it is like having linguistic termites at the constitutional foundation of the country, eating away at its meaning. By reframing the words of the Framers, they can unmoor the language of the constitution from its plain meaning, and thereby create a country based upon the rules of power and expedience. For when language cannot make an appeal to truth, it simply becomes a mask for power.