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.
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.
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