Christine O’Donnell at the Values Voter Summit:
“When I talk to people out on the campaign trail in Delaware, I’m hearing frustration, not only with the direction our country is headed but with the anti-Americanism that taints every outlet of the ruling class. Americans want our leaders to defend our values, our culture, our legacy of liberty and our way of life, not apologize.”
My, someone has been reading Andrew Codevilla. In retrospect, what Joe Biden called the “Summer of Recovery” turned out to be the “Summer of Codevilla.” Codevilla’s little essay is being pumped into the conservative borg by the likes of Limbaugh and Beck and faxed into the brains of candidates by GOP operatives. Now I wouldn’t be surprised if Codevilla’s essay sits on the desk of Mitch McConnell. If you wonder why there is an “enthusiasm gap” between the GOP and the Dems, well one side is dancing around with rhetoric of class conflict in their heads while the other is being asked to rally around a logo.
However, as pointed out previously on this blog, Codevilla’s essay is not an accurate deconstruction of class conflict. Rather, it’s merely serving to reinvigorate the culture war. That sucker just won’t die.
For fun, let’s take some artistic license with O’Donnell’s quote and rewrite it a bit:
“When I talk to people out on the campaign trail in Delaware, I’m hearing frustration, not only with the direction our country is headed but with the anti-Plutocratic sentiment that taints every outlet of the Plutocracy. Americans want our Plutocrats to defend our values, our culture, our legacy of liberty and our way of life, not apologize.”
Rewritten, O’Donnell’s quote becomes laughable, and everyone would laugh at it. That’s because the language is clear. The first quote, of course, is saying the same nonsensical thing, but the clarity of language is being destroyed by the introduction of cultural war terms like “anti-american” and “leader” so that which should be nonsensical is instead conveying a cultural war meaning. This is how language destroys ideology.
I hate to keep harping on Orwell, but he accurately foretold the predicament we now find ourselves in. In Orwellian theory, it doesn’t matter who wields the power as long as the institutions, the hierarchies remain unchanged. The persistence of the Oligarchy is maintained by the manipulation of the language that reduces the meaning of language and restricts the vocabulary. In this way, language becomes incapable of expressing any consistent ideology that can challenge the ruling class. Language then becomes the tool of the ruling class.
Now in Orwell’s literature, the State’s ability to control information resulted in a “NewSpeak” that made “doublethink” the only cognitive reality. In the real world, because of a number of things such as information economics, language is not necessarily dominated by NewSpeak. But in the political dialogue, there is a certain restriction of vocabulary and certain domination of Newspeak and DoubleThink.
In political debate dominated by an endless war between right and left communitarians(that is, by an endless culture war), we end up with a quite limited “acceptable political vocabulary” infested with NewSpeak and DoubleThink. In Orwellian theory, this allows an oligarchy to thrive. The Political Newspeak and DoubleThink don’t allow a consistent ideological challenge to emerge. It can’t be expressed in such a limited vocabulary and it ends being seen as almost alien. This is what leads the likes of Andrew Sullivan to write that libertarians don’t live in political reality. To that I plead guilty because “political reality” is a limited cognitive reality plagued by DoubleThink. To me, it’s a trivial exercise to point out how many “serious political writers” engage in DoubleThink. I occasionally write commentary pointing this out in specific cases, but there are not enough hours in the day.
Another way this endless culture war conforms to Orwellian theory is that in an endless battle to de-legitimize each other, each side attempts to rewrite history in terms of today’s limited political categories. So one side will attempt to cast, say, Thomas Paine as a “Mike Lux Progressive” while the other side will cast the “founding fathers” as “Rush Limbaugh Christian Conservatives.” In Orwellian theory, the rewriting of history was necessary for the ruling class to maintain a permanent enemy. In the culture war, the drive by each side to rewrite history is one of the things that keeps the culture war going.
Political Commentators are a dime a dozen and each has their own pet theory of what drives politics. But personally, I would stick to Orwell. I think he nailed it pretty well. In our current context, we just have to tweak it a bit it to make it an accurate model. The endless left-right culture wars creates a restricted political vocabulary dominated by Newspeak and DoubleThink that allows a thriving Plutocracy to go ideologically unchallenged in the political sphere. The Permanent war economy that underlies the Plutocracy is a sign of catastrophic liberal institutional failure; historically, permanent war is what lead to modern class theory. For the plutocracy, the class conflict is the old-time class conflict. The Permanent war is against any non-political ideological challenge to the Status Quo.
For those libertarians who were praising Codevilla’s essay, well I present you Christine O’Donnell. The conventional wisdom, articulated by those subsumed by “political reality,” is that she represents a civil war among the establishment. I don’t think so. I think she is a Plutocrat’s wet dream.