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150px-Thought_Reform_Lifton

Cesspit of lies link

I’m going to pull an Ophelia Benson and just do a block text dump, add a line or two and pretend I’m a huge intellectual.

Loading the Language

The language of the totalist environment is characterized by the thought-terminating cliche. The most far-reaching and complex of human problems are compressed into brief, highly reductive, definitive-sounding phrases, easily memorized and easily expressed. These become the start and finish of any ideological analysis. In thought reform, for instance, the phrase “bourgeois mentality” is used to encompass and critically dismiss ordinarily troublesome concerns like the quest for individual expression, the exploration of alternative ideas, and the search for perspective and balance in political judgments. And in addition to their function as interpretive shortcuts, these cliches become what Richard Weaver has called “ultimate terms”: either “god terms,” representative of ultimate good; or “devil terms,” representative of ultimate evil. In thought reform, “progress,” “progressive,” “liberation,” “proletarian standpoints” and “the dialectic of history” fall into the former category; “capitalist,” “imperialist,” “exploiting classes,” and “bourgeois” (mentality, liberalism, morality, superstition, greed) of course fall into the latter. Totalist language, then, is repetitiously centered on all-encompassing jargon, prematurely abstract, highly categorical, relentlessly judging, and to anyone but its most devoted advocate, deadly dull: in Lionel Trilling’s phrase, “the language of nonthought.” (more…)

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[continued from part 1]

gimme, gimme, gimmeGive me convenience or give me death

The Dead Kennedys

So forget impending government doom for now. The far more realistic threat of a totalitarian surveillance and censorship state will not arrive via that route in the short term, but by one less anticipated. One could argue that it is already here. Of the twin dystopias of Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four and Huxley’s Brave New World, it would appear that Huxley’s vision was by far the most prescient – and the reasoning for that is captured with absolute perfection in this web comic by Stuart McMillan. [Far too big to reproduce here, but you can also download a 7.5 meg .pdf copy. Bonus trivia, McMillan is an OzBrisbanite]

The absolute policing of our thoughts and (except for Britain where its already a fact of life) saturation surveillance will not arrive by gunpoint and anonymous spiffily uniformed thugs. It will be (and already has been) invited in the door by the general public that is oblivious to what they are enabling. (more…)

Why are you here?

It’s the sort of question that if dwelt on for too long as a generality drives men insane and makes them invent religions. So don’t think about it in the general way. Instead, take the question literally and apply it to this precise point in time – then there is a simple answer and it doesn’t require any priests or shamans or philosophers or spooks. You are here, reading this, because sometime in the ’70s the US defense department gave a pile of blank cheques to a bunch of libertarian hippies and told them to build a communications network that could remain functional even in the event of a nuclear war. And they did.

That’s why you are here. (more…)