Portrait of an Ideologist — by Bernhardt Writer

One of our reasons for reviewing Kenneth Minogue’s book: Alien Powers – The Pure Theory of Ideology is that in it he promised a recipe book for constructing an ideology. The book didn’t provide a step by step method but it did provide a portrait of an ideologist. It is this portrait we sketch next.

General Characteristics

An ideologist believes that the modern world is evil and oppressive and that it must be overthrown. She sees particular incidences of evil as proof of ubiquitous, structural imperfection which can be remedied only by far-reaching and thorough change of the whole system. The difference between appearances and reality implies that the real truth is hidden by the system. Denial of this difference by the system’s apologists demonstrates the deception.

The ideologist believes that incremental social and moral reform is a mystification of (i.e., a means to obscure or conceal) the oppressive system’s real interests (i.e., the revealed secret) and a means to take its victims for a ride. Politics is a question of power and only a unified oppressed group can wrest their demands from more powerful oppressors.

The lead ideologist(s) owns the revealed secret, intimidating attackers and insubordinate followers via verbal abuse or direct action to maintain superiority. The full revelation is limited to only those who are attune to the shifting policies of the leader or leaders. This coterie is the vanguard of the movement.

Journalism is a conspiracy to suppress oppressor truths by defining facts and shaping how events are perceived:

“Communicative power is about the right to define and demarcate situations…In short, one must see the news as reflecting not the events of the world ‘out there,’ but as the manifestation of the collective cultural codes of those employed to do this selective and judgmental work for society.”

Ideologists deny that news viewers have the ability to exercise discernment. All viewers are helpless victims of journalistic bias.

Methodology

Social criticism is the tool ideologists use to reveal and undermine the system’s structure of domination. While social criticism purports to discover truth, it finds fault with everyday modern society for the purpose of confirming the ideologist’s theories of oppression. This oppression is imposed upon the masses via societal constraints (i.e., moral and civil rules of conduct).

By attacking so-called apologists for the status quo (i.e., structural oppression) the ideologists believe they perform the work of liberation. The ideologist as social critic is infallible because she’s either right or, because of the corrupting influences of society’s structural flaws, is wrong (and therefore right again having demonstrated those flaws in herself).

Ideologists’ claims to superiority arise from their heroically escaping societal constraints by embracing universal and comprehensive knowledge; from having arrived at their special knowledge of how the oppressors operate even in the face of societal conditioning to the opposite; and from their practical work of change on behalf of the oppressed masses. The ideologist demonstrates courage, discipline, and unwavering constancy in her mission when confronted with opposition and peril.

The ideologist sees the world divided into those who know the central secret and those who don’t. Those who don’t must be tutored. The ideologist determines the conditions under which all will live and disseminates these dogmas via indoctrination rather than open inquiry and discussion because their truths are incontrovertible and settled.

Politics and Argument

Ordinary politics relies on the evenhanded assumption that other parties share similar values and goals. Debate centers on what means should be employed to achieve common ends. This is not the case for the ideologist who is always fighting to liberate the oppressed masses from their oppressors’ central secret (and smaller subsidiary secrets).

When arguing, the skilled ideologist will establish that she recognizes reality, she is sensible, and that her approach is reasonable. She might make concessions to the opponent which may be sincere or merely a façade. All these remarks are made to set up a reversal signified by the words: ‘but’ or ‘yet.’ Then she reveals the hidden character of the domination she fights against. The ideologist derives power and force from using melodrama when unmasking her adversary’s secrets.

The ideologist is slippery. They pretend to confront particular problems but their intent is to gain an upper hand over their opponent and the issues. No practical issue can be isolated from the system’s universal imperfection. The only solution for the particular problem being discussed is comprehensive and total revolution to abolish the root causes (i.e., if coveting property is at issue then doing away with individual ownership is the fix).

The ideologist knows that arguments always reflect interests and do not objectively decide the truth or falsity of statements about reality. The ideologist must deny her opponent a position of neutrality on the issue under discussion. Arguments are a contest for power and dominance. Because the ideologist is struggling on behalf of the oppressed, she gains the moral high ground since truth always supports justice.

Ultimately, no real discussion is possible. The ideologist’s role in arguments is to raise the opponent’s consciousness via a tutorial since she possesses the truth whereas the opponent advocates for oppression. By demonstrating courage and intellectual insight against the conformist pressure of the domination structure, having rejected its mystifications, the ideologists portray themselves as heroic and superior.

Achieving the End State

In order to achieve the overthrow of the existing system and establishment of their goals, the ideologist must make a direct assault on freedom. The ideologist replaces freedom through deception (and violence, if necessary) with an enlightened dictatorship promising distant perfection. In this perfection (i.e., the ideological terminus) there is no freedom because there is no need for it. Only the one right option will be what everyone wants to do.

Once the end state is achieved there will be no possibility for a reversal. The historical (i.e., temporary) progress from capitalism and individuality to socialism and community is inevitable. The ideologists are the beneficiaries of this shift in power. They alone speak for the oppressed masses since they (the masses) are not capable of speaking for themselves. The ideologists have selected (and cultivated) the masses based on the principle that those who are most excluded from a corrupt society are least corrupted by that society.

Dogmatic in rhetoric and ruthless in practice, the ideologist fights to transcend the evils of the world. The inevitable twisting and turning of political upheavals indicate that humanity is waking up from the nightmare of history. “Every event is providential and every slaughter is the price paid” to bring about the end of history in perfection (i.e., the ideological terminus).

***

As we’ve said before, all political persuasions and any grievance focus can be made into an ideology. That’s Minogue’s thesis. Once you decide there is only one universal way for all to proceed, you are on your way to becoming either a god or his (or her) slave.

After the fiascos of the Twentieth century most ideologists see that their role is to slow walk the inevitable revolution. You’ll recognize the tactics and techniques described above on our televisions, in our books, and from many claiming authority (especially on college campuses). Ideologists cultivate their oppressed masses even going so far as to prevent their rise from oppression. This, to me, is the most despicable aspect of the ideological project.

Again, I concur with Orwell’s assessment of his novel Nineteen Eighty Four: “The moral to be drawn from this dangerous nightmare situation is a simple one: Don’t let it happen. It depends on you.”

William F. Buckley and Kenneth Minogue – part 1

Able to Stand

I’ve been reminded repeatedly of this truth recently:

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. Romans 14:4 English Standard Version (ESV)

The immediate context is the weaker brother among those in the church at Rome, which was composed of former Jews trained to obey the Law and regulations and others who were never exposed to those regulations. Each looked down on the other for their freedoms and bondages.

Nowadays we look down on a brother (or sister) if they don’t dress the way we do, or perform ceremonies the way we do, work for an employer the way we do, or look at the world the way we do, or behave as responsibly as we do. I could go on. I’m sure you could supply more examples.

About this scripture passage, John Calvin comments:

To his own Lord he stands or falls, etc. As though he said, — “It belongs rightly to the Lord, either to disapprove, or to accept what his servant doeth: hence he robs the Lord, who attempts to take to himself this authority.” And he adds, he shall indeed stand: and by so saying, he not only bids us to abstain from condemning, but also exhorts us to mercy and kindness, so as ever to hope well of him, in whom we perceive anything of God; inasmuch as the Lord has given us a hope, that he will fully confirm, and lead to perfection, those in whom he has begun the work of grace [emphasis mine].

Lately, I’ve tried to practice what Calvin says constitutes true worship:

“God is not worshipped by external ceremonies, but when men forgive and bear with one another, and are not above measure rigid.”

and

“God values faith and kindness much more than sacrifices and all ceremonies.”

We would do well to follow his advice.

The Three Languages of Politics – A Review

Arnold Kling is a Cato Institute Adjunct Scholar, a Mercatus Center affiliate, and regularly posts to his askblog site. His book: The Three Languages of Politics is a short essay and analysis of political speech in the United States.

Kling identifies three ideological groups and their dominant dichotomies. Progressives divide issues along an oppressor–oppressed axis. Conservatives use a civilized–barbarous axis. And libertarians, Kling’s camp, use a freedom–coercive axis.

He goes on to say that individuals in each camp use political language divided along these axes to show loyalty, elevate status, and create hostility towards others in opposing camps.

Political debate using these preferred axes is frustrating and endless as each camp talks past the other without communicating.

A debater might either aim to: open minds of those in opposition, open minds of those in their camp, or close the minds of those in their camp. The majority opt for the third option.

Uncharitable discussion focuses on finding an opponent’s weakest argument and denouncing it.

Few participants attempt to be charitable and end up narrowing and reducing their audience’s understanding of the issues at hand.

In the course of argumentation, Kling observes, we suggest we are reasonable and our opponent is not. The only people we are qualified to call unreasonable [or other derogatory terms] are ourselves. Our opponents may be wrong, however, and it is our burden to prove it [which is often hard or impossible].

Kling suggests we treat these ideologies as languages to be understood and not heresies to be stamped out.

Learning the language of other camps enables us to understand how others think about political issues without demonizing their positions or them.

Constructive reasoning weighs the merits of facts and theories to take a stand on an issue. Motivated reasoning filters the facts and theories to legitimate preconceived opinions.

Engaging in motivated reasoning is like arguing a case at law. We present evidence to justify or reinforce already accepted ideas. Openness only extends to those facts and theories that support our views.

Kling concludes that constructive reasoning applies an equal standard to evidence that supports or contradicts our preconceptions. We become open to changing our minds.

Remarkably, we find scripture touches all these axes: oppressoroppressed, civilizedbarbarous, and freedomcoercion. Then again, perhaps it’s not surprising that He plays no favorites.

Newsstands in DC

Newsstands (propaganda) by InSapphoWeTrust (Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license)

A Christian Manifesto by Francis Schaeffer – A Review

L'Abri by Allan L. Winger

Chalet Les Melezes at Swiss L’Abri –
May, 1978 by Allan L. Winger

I was prompted by a Veritas Forum debate to reread A Christian Manifesto by Francis Schaeffer. Folks have raised various rumors and speculations about the quality of his home life and whether he accurately portrayed church history. However, his characterization and assessment of the conflict between the Christian and Humanist worldviews is insightful. Whatever you might think of Schaeffer’s politics (or, for that matter, his views on apologetics), his analysis is challenging. The following is a summary of the dichotomy through telescoped quotes from his book.

The Abolition of Truth and Morality (chapter one)

The basic problem of the Christians in this country in the last [one hundred ten] years or so, in regard to society and … government, is that … they have failed to see … a shift in world view—that is, … a fundamental change in the overall way people think and view the world and life as a whole.

These two world views [Christianity and Humanism] stand as total [ities] in complete antithesis to each other in content and also in their natural results—including sociological and governmental results, and specifically including law.

It is not just that they happen to bring forth different results, but it is absolutely inevitable that they will bring forth different results.

True [Christian] spirituality covers all of reality…the Lordship of Christ covers all of life and all of life equally [in such a way that He is neither complicit in nor tainted by sin]…It is true to total reality—the total of what is, beginning with the central reality, the objective existence of the personal–infinite God. Christianity is not just a series of truths but Truth…Living upon that truth…brings forth not only certain personal results, but also governmental and legal results.

The “humanist world view”…means Man beginning from himself, with no knowledge except what he himself can discover and no standards outside himself…Man is the measure of all things, as the Enlightenment expressed it.

They have reduced Man to even less than his natural finiteness by seeing him only as a complex arrangement of molecules, made complex by blind chance. Instead of seeing him as something great who is significant even in his sinning, they see Man in his essence only as an intrinsically competitive animal, that has no other basic operating principle than natural selection brought about by the strongest, the fittest, ending on top…both individually and collectively as society.

The problem … is: What is an adequate basis for law…so that the human aspiration for freedom can exist without anarchy, and yet provides a form that will not become arbitrary tyranny?

God in His sheer power could have crushed Satan in his revolt by the use of…sufficient power. But because of God’s character, justice came before the use of power alone. Therefore Christ died [so] that justice … would be the solution. Christ’s example…is our standard, our rule, our measure… The prince may have the power to control and to rule, but he does not have the right to do so without justice. This was the basis for English common law…the Magna Charta [and by implication and lineage, the Declaration of Independence and The Constitution].

Humanists push for “freedom” …that leads to chaos or to slavery under the state (or…an elite). Humanism, with its lack of any final base for values and law, always leads to chaos…then naturally to some form of authoritarianism to control the chaos. With its mistaken concept of final reality, it has no intrinsic reason to be interested in the individual… [but rather] the state and society.

Some excerpts from later chapters on this dichotomous theme:

Will Durant summed up the humanist problem with regard to personal ethics and social order: “Moreover, we shall find it no easy task to mold a natural ethic strong enough to maintain moral restraint and social order without the support of supernatural consolations, hopes, and fears.” (p. 45)

According to the Durants, Renan said in 1866: “If Rationalism wishes to govern the world without regard to the religious needs of the soul, the experience of the French Revolution is there to teach us the consequences of such a blunder.” (p. 45)

And the Durants themselves say in the same context: “There is no significant example in history, before our time, of a society successfully maintaining moral life without the aid of religion.” (p. 45)

The Humanist Manifestos not only say that humanism is a religion, but the Supreme Court has declared it to be a religion. (p. 54)

Most fundamentally, our culture, society, government, and law are in the condition they are in, not because of a conspiracy, but because the church has forsaken its duty to be the salt of the culture. (p.56)

If we are going to make judgments on any such subject [in this case, the Moral Majority] we must not get our final judgments uncritically from media that sees things from [the humanist] perspective and see it that way honestly. Most of the media do not have to be dishonest to slide things in their own direction because they see through the spectacles of a finally relativistic set of ethical personal and social standards. (p. 56)

…We must remember that although there are tremendous discrepancies between conservatives and liberals in the political arena, if they are both operating on a humanistic base [of personal peace and affluence] there will really be no final difference between them. As Christians we must stand absolutely and totally opposed to the whole humanist system… [and] must not become officially aligned with either group… (p. 78)

[If an elite authoritarian group takes over]…what form …might it take…? [Quoting Gerald Holton, Harvard professor of History of Science,] “If the layman cannot participate in decision-making, he will have to turn himself over, essentially blind, to a hermetic elite,”… the fundamental question becomes, “Are we still capable of self–government and therefore freedom? Margaret Mead wrote…about scientists elevated to the status of priests. Now there is a name for this elevation, when you are in the hands of—one hopes—a benevolent elite, when you have no control over your political decisions. From the point of view of John Locke, the name for this is slavery.” (p. 80 – 81)

We must never forget that the humanistic position is an exclusivist, closed system which shuts out all contending viewpoints—especially if these views teach anything other than relative values and standards. Anything which presents absolute truth, values, or standards is quite rightly seen by the humanist to be a total denial of the humanist position. (p. 112)

As a result the humanistic, material–energy, chance world view is completely intolerant when it presents itself through the political institutions and especially through the schools. (p. 112)

…Man is not basically good (bound only by social, economic, and political chains). Man is fallen. The Perfectibility of Man was the basis for much of the Enlightenment and of the French Revolution. [In] each place this concept…has been acted on it has led to tragedy, political chains, and to the loss of humanness. (p. 125)

One of their philosophers, in essence, proclaimed: We are gods and nothing will be impossible for us to do. As we see the rush of increasing progress mixed inexorably with confusion, is he not right? Yet, the rest of the thought, from scripture is: nevertheless, like men you shall die, and fall like any prince.

To end our review, Schaeffer was faulted (see links above) for an aggressive political stance and an allegiance (however tentative) with the then ascendant Moral Majority. Perhaps Glenn Tinder, publishing in Atlantic Magazine eight years later, offers a politic more agreeable to you and me. Plus, it’s in accordance with the practices of the third century AD.