Tag Archives: freedom of speech

A Dialogue of Brutes: the Successful Attack on the Free Press

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by Guy Walker

All that’s left is constant snorting, rummaging through the garbage heap for an edible morsel. Our language has degraded into a pile of censored insults and sensitivies; our press soon nothing more than congratulatory think-pieces on Donald Trump and Steve Bannon. The president’s administration has one main prerogative—more urgent than the wall, the immigration ban, or repealing healthcare: making all dissidence slander.

When Bannon spoke at the Conservative Political Action Conference in late February, it was the first time he appeared in public since Trump’s inauguration, his aura of putrid steam billowing across the ballroom like a hypnotic glaze. Supporters finally saw their man—the pale greased-up beast, occasionally scratching himself under his bristled chin—as they’d nod and reassure each other how smart a human turnip actually could be.

He sat there hunched. His gelatinous belly heaved over his sweaty and suffocating crotch, the liver spots that dazzle his face almost peeling at their corners. His eyes, tired and cavernous, are the eyes of complete and impenetrable nihilism—as if he was forced to stare at nothing but cat memes for thirty years, and now seeks revenge on the entire world.

His speech made the usual allegations, posturing conservatives as the underdog, as if they are the political embodiment of Rocky Balboa, knowing well that we humans root and holler for such figures. He said they were being unjustly attacked by the “corporatist globalist media that are adamantly opposed” to their agenda. It’s more a sophomoric tantrum than political rhetoric. It’s what they always blame liberals for doing: snowflakes who “cry and weep” when things don’t go their way—then Trump turns and tweets that SNL is “really bad television” because they made fun of him.

As chief strategist of the White House, Bannon is paralyzingly void of political acumen. He’s squirmish in his suit and tie—his natural, more charitable state is in a bulging-tight wifebeater (because it’s not an undershirt, it’s a way of life)—slouched in his sticky sofa, cursing at the news personality on the television as bits of uncooked pork rocket from his mouth. His ‘strategy’ from the beginning has been to silence dissidence, to insult those who question Trump’s infallibility. In late January, he said “the media”—in general sweeping terms—“should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and listen for a while.” In a way, it makes complete sense for Bannon to hate the news. He was, after all, executive chair of Breitbart News.

The patterned formula for Trump’s cabinet positions is to nominate someone who condemns the mere existence of that position. Betsy DeVos hates public education. Scott Pruitt sued the EPA many times before being appointed its chief administrator. Rick Perry once said he wanted to dismantle the Department of Energy (he actually forgot the name of this department, but later admitted that this was what he meant). They’re like schoolchildren giggling for wearing their underwear over their pants during Backwards Day, almost purposefully mocking the public for making us accept it.

Everything is reversed. A media tycoon hates the media. A 70-year-old baby plays with his toys of the world’s most advanced nuclear arsenal. Language is meaningless. War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. We’re all floundering in the dark, trying to grab hold of something real.

Writers have long waded into the depths of cliché by referring to the actions of the opposition political party as “Orwellian” (a queer and unfitting word, as George Orwell made a career of opposing tyranny). His concept of Newspeak in Nineteen Eighty-Four is used to describe the more disparaging antics of both the left and the right ad nauseam, leveraged to whatever paranoia is most fitting: from the flailing pettiness of political correctness that spawns from scrawny self-abusing leftists, to the Nixonian litigation of the War on Drugs, condemning every magical cabbage that sprouts its head. But Trump’s administration is something entirely new: a band of shit-smeared pigs haphazardly shuffling pieces on a Scrabble board, squealing triumphantly when they get a three syllable word. When journalists from the New York Times, CNN, and Politico were recently barred from attending a Spicer press briefing—and Breitbart and America News Network greeted quickly in—a new narrative unfolds: only praise will be allowed.

Milo Yiannopoulos, Gavin McInnes, and other professional conservative trolls who pose as free speech advocates, suddenly lose their platform. Their reality-show ideologue hates the freedoms of those who disagree with the minutia of his brutish declarations of absolute power. If he could, he’d fire every dissident, every skeptic and examiner of the truth.

But he doesn’t really need to. A storm cloud of disinformation has overwhelmed the modern political dialectic. The fake news phenomenon is more a pop-culture phenomenon than anything else—it’s yet another symptom of what Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer called the “culture industry,” the churlish beast of mass culture that anesthetizes an entire generation through its pageant of entertainments. In Adorno’s 1951 book, Minima Moralia, he writes:

    “Lies have long legs: they are ahead of their time. The conversion of all questions of truth into questions of power, a process that truth itself cannot escape if it is not to be annihilated by power, not only suppresses truth as in earlier despotic orders, but has attacked the very heart of the distinction between true and false, which the hirelings of logic were in any case diligently working to abolish.”

The bucktoothed carnies are in charge now, chanting their new vocabulary, requiring us to debate only in grunts and farts, the most repulsive one winning a garland of Easter basket nesting in order to better resemble their god. Kellyanne Conway’s “alternative facts” moment was testament to this—a lazy-eyed performance art of Gustave Flaubert’s famous remark, “There is no truth. There is only perception.” She tours one news station after the next, her procedural drawl resembling a sticky-fanged bobblehead, a wax paper automaton smiling larger when she lies, shifting her aching buttocks in front of another green screen. It demonstrates the annihilation of truth is a necessary prerequisite for the rise of authoritarianism—it leaves a void that is naturally occupied the quickest by power and aggression.

And it clearly works. A Fox News poll marked Americans’ distrust of “reporters” deeper than their distrust of Donald Trump. The slithering reality-show host who launched his political career by alleging that Barack Obama was a Muslim born in Kenya, and then officially endorsed by the Ku Klux Klan, has more favorability than the grossly generalized populace of journalists and talking heads. Bannon’s comments are not actual threats to shut the media up—he’s simply gloating that he can say this and get away with it. He thrives on the inflammatory, on offending entire populations of fragile leftists into yet another frenzy.

Orwell never wrote anything that argued specifically against fascism. He took it for granted that Cartesian common sense wouldn’t let a generation go entirely mad. He was, however, obsessed with language. In one of the most important political essays, Politics and the English Language—written a year before Trump shoved his veiny head out of his mother—Orwell conferred that we “ought to recognise that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language.” He meant the hyper-intellectualization of language—speech used by many economists, politicians, academics with the intent to confuse the reader or listener under a glaze of jargon. He criticized use of ‘pretentious diction’ and ‘meaningless words’ as confabulatory, stupid, and manipulative. If Orwell could look upon today’s political arena, and listen to the level of debate and discourse, he may very well enjoy a fiendish delight in even his most pessimistic concerns being surpassed. There is nothing Daedalean or exaggerated about the Trump-Bannon-Conway approach to their speech, but rather a literal degradation of language, a dogmatically stubborn defense of adult retardation assuming the highest office in the world.

Early-stage fascism is the most opportunistic and consequential, and yet also the most fragile. As the Trump administration takes its first steps forward, it momentarily glances around to see if it can still get away with it—Trump’s affinity for Putin is obvious, as he restricts the press and puffs his chest as he does it. But he succeeds only through the sordid apathy of the public, through our splendor of the culture industry, like bugs flying stupidly towards a florescent lamp.

Wallowing for a Trifle: Why the Left Always Loses

by Guy Walker

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Not all children throw tantrums when they lose a game on the schoolyard. The kids who make certain they win next time sure don’t. It’s the already unpopular ones, those who flail their arms gruesomely like a dying pigeon, tears streaming down their cheeks because they lost in tetherball—the same runny-nosed children who tattle on their peers for saying a bad word—they actually make certain they lose every time, because in a way, they relish in being the victim. This is the problem with the left. They keep losing because they deserve to lose, because they enjoy throwing fits of self-flagellation for everyone else to see.

This is most obvious in the context of freedom of speech. Last week, the “gay conservative provocateur” Milo Yiannopoulos, was supposed to finish his Dangerous Faggot Tour of US campuses at the University of California, Berkeley—the same university that celebrated its 50th anniversary of the Free Speech Movement just two years ago, but also the same university who tried to ban Bill Maher from speaking on their campus a little over a year ago for his criticisms of Islam. After the escalation of violence and property destruction from so-called anti-fascist demonstrators, the talk was forced cancellation, shoving the name “Milo Yiannopoulos” further into the mainstream—or simply as “Milo,” as he is now of the pop-star status of a single name.

A year-and-a-half ago, the name was little heard of—he was the technology editor for Breitbart News, and rose to stardom through the Gamergate controversy, which, if you forget, was nothing more than trolling women in the video game industry on Twitter. He’s more an inevitable phenomenon than anything else—a charismatic hero for the online trolls to claim as their own. As a writer, he’s desperate to be provocative, picking fights with Perez Hilton about who’s the better gay icon, asking Trump to “deport fat people,” mocking conservative pundit Ben Shapiro for being shorter than him. His content is insubstantial at best, but he’s struck a nerve with political internet culture, making his newly published book Dangerous the number one bestseller on Amazon.

And it’s obvious why. The history of banning controversial thought has never given victory to censorship. Banning Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer from import into the United States only dramatized its luster. The federal court cases of Joyce’s Ulysses or Ginsberg’s Howl became landmarks of hugely successful titillation. When the UK tried to ban the Sex Pistols from their Anarchy tour in 1976, it completely backfired. And for good reason: these were advancements in freedom of speech and freedom of the press—they further liberated the prurient thrusts of thought and language, they shoved our sheer humanness into the light, sending the dying generation of proudly overgrown pubes and milky underwear forever into the past.

In August of last year, Yiannopoulos spoke at the launch of the Young British Heritage Society—essentially a band of internet goons describing themselves as the “new conservative and libertarian national student organization dedicated to opposing political correctness on the university campus.” A newfangled trollish political organization who’s entire ideological platform is centered around confronting political correctness. And not through rational constructive means that psychologists Jonathan Haidt and Jordan Peterson, and former philosophy professor Christina Hoff Sommers, have worked on, but through meme culture and name-calling. Herds of socially awkward male bovines who hunch behind their PC’s on 4chan and Twitter, securing their fear of women in their group-curated echo chambers, are envisioning an illustrious futuristic utopia where students can freely pass one another exchanging insults.

The problem with “being against political correctness” is the same as any unwavering position taken in politics: there’s no nuance. It’s always one side against the other. As if “being PC” were one huge agglutinative eating mass of the same substance, as if the group of people that said it’s no longer acceptable to call a black man a nigger is the same group of people that now self-identify as animals or non-humans and require you to call them by their appropriate pronouns. Yes, in this unfortunate hell of reality there is an ever-expanding list of made-up nonbinary pronouns—and not just the gender-neutral pronouns of “zie” and “zir,” but even more sinister ghoulish ones: “pedal,” “pan,” “sprout,” “wormself.” Like man-eating cartoon figures, this new tribe of leftists has emerged on the horizon, chanting their unacknowledged rights to be worms and pixies, taking attention away from the truly dire issues of our time. It is similar to the uproar every Halloween when a celebrity dresses up as a pilgrim or wears a sombrero on their head. The problem is the fanatics are always the loudest. They contaminate the rest of the party, sending the whole charade to the circus.

For all our quantum computing and rocket engineering, we hominids are soft tribal beasts. We’re taught to despise the Little League football team one neighborhood over; Protestants were long taught to hate Catholics; Sunnis against Shiites. It’s what Freud termed the “narcissism of small differences”—the glorious dramas that erupt out of superfluities. When one identifies an example of absurdity within PC culture they often conclude they are entirely anti-PC, consequently making it much easier for them to call out much more reasonable cultural advances in our language also to be absurd—hence the rise of racial rhetoric in our modern political arena.

But it can be far more sinister and dangerous than this. Look at Charlie Hebdo. When twelve people—including eight journalists—were murdered for drawing cartoons of Mohammed, thousands marched the streets, hand-in-hand, with signs that read “Je Suis Charlie,” to decorously express their solidarity, assumingely to stand for a free and open press. The irony was, most major newspapers and television stations refused to publish the inciting cartoons, in fear of retaliation. There was a faction of the left that said Charlie Hebdo was hate-speech and although they may not have deserved to be massacred, they sure were asking for it. This kind of thinking is incredibly regressive, and it invalidates the seriousness and urgency of other issues.

The right to free speech is more fragile than we moderns deem it to be. When the anti-fascist demonstrators prevented Yiannopoulos from speaking, they were being profoundly fascist themselves. In a moment of blinding anger, they stood for the fundamentals of tyranny, for everything they thought they were fighting against, for everything the United States was founded on.

If the left continues in these petty quarrels, throwing fits every time they’re offended, they’ll continue to lose elections. There are principled issues of urgency to debate and wrestle over, and without defending the right to free speech we will only encourage the oppression of ideas.


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