Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Adam Carolla is an American comedian with a tragic sense of humanity and life. One of his most famous starting points for a rant is to find people who say something inaccurate. Then asks the stupid or liar question and goes on to rave and complain in a manner that millions of Americans find amusing. There are complaints that he is overly harsh and mean, but that is not atypical in comedy.
In a recent podcast with Dave Rubin, however, he started to think about a third option beyond stupid or liar. He mentioned that Rashida Tlaib was calling for boycotts or UN sanctions or something against Israel because of the attack at the Gazan hospital. This was days after multiple confirmations by various sources that the hospital was exploded by a failed rocket attack by Hamas. Adam said something like, she has a phone like the rest of us, “why didn’t she look anything up?” he asked.
I think I figured out why. It’s not really stupidity and it’s not what we conventionally think of as a lie. I think Lenin said somewhere, “morality is whatever is in the interests of the party.” While I can’t find the specific quote, Trotsky came close, “To a revolutionary Marxist, there can be no contradiction between personal morality and the interests of the party, since the party embodies in his consciousness the very highest tasks and aims of mankind.”
As another member of Congress said, “I think that there’s a lot of people more concerned about being precisely, factually, and semantically correct than about being morally right.”
So whatever is actually true is not as important as the “moral truth.” Lying in the interest of the party is not actually lying to a Communist.
George Orwell coined the term doublethink in his book 1984. Forgive the longish but brilliant quotation.
Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them. The Party intellectual knows in which direction his memories must be altered; he therefore knows that he is playing tricks with reality; but by the exercise of doublethink he also satisfies himself that reality is not violated. The process has to be conscious, or it would not be carried out with sufficient precision, but it also has to be unconscious, or it would bring with it a feeling of falsity and hence of guilt. Doublethink lies at the very heart of Ingsoc, since the essential act of the Party is to use conscious deception while retaining the firmness of purpose that goes with complete honesty. To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies — all this is indispensably necessary. Even in using the word doublethink it is necessary to exercise doublethink. For by using the word one admits that one is tampering with reality; by a fresh act of doublethink one erases this knowledge; and so on indefinitely, with the lie always one leap ahead of the truth.
As an aside, I am impressed that I could not find one extraneous sentence to cut. Orwell’s writing style is always a pleasure, even if his content is bleak.
To Rashida Tlaib, the story of Israel as a racist apartheid state is so important that actual facts of the Gaza hospital bombing are nugatory. The importance of the narrative overwhelms the merely factual.
My personal favorite example of this is the rape charge against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. To summarize a long story, the rape accusation had the flimsiest of evidence and there was even some evidence to suggest it was wrong. Normally this would be laughed out of court and immediately dismissed as a nonsense accusation. However, Brett Kavanaugh was rightly suspected that he would vote against Roe v. Wade and return abortion rights to the states. Abortion rights are the most important thing to a significant minority of leftists, but it would be a bad tactic to vote against him.
In American tradition, senators vote for any Supreme Court Justice nominee regardless of party affiliation. However, pretending there was any merit to the rape accusation was more politically expedient and helped secure abortion rights.
Again, all the “facts” must conform to the narrative. Nancy Pelosi was informed by the FBI that the accusations against Brett Kavanaugh were nothing to take seriously. Then, midway through the confirmation hearings, she brought it up. Now, it is tempting to think of this as an all too typical partisan trick that doesn’t really need a psychological explanation. While none of us can see inside Nancy Pelosi’s mind (thankfully), it is entirely plausible that she holds abortion as being so sacred that focusing on nonsense accusations in service of a greater truth. Abortion to the American left is what the party was to Trotsky, after all.
To be fair, some of this can be viewed on the right. “I don’t like taxes on gasoline and the big government required to collect taxes, so I don’t believe in global warming. I don’t believe in the government forcing people to wear masks or to force vaccines, so I don’t believe they work.” However, these selective beliefs don’t technically require doublethink. They are a dismissal of inconvenient information. This is plain confirmation bias and it isn’t as psychologically complex or manipulative.
Racism of either the right or left variety seems to have strong elements of doublethink, though. People will work and cooperate with races they think little of to advance their interests while denying the value of those particular racial groups. They know that Sam, who belongs to a race they dislike, is capable and honest, but they don’t want to associate with others of Sam’s race. The fact that Sam and others of his race are fine workers and customers is subsumed by the narrative.
This brings us to some of the particular doublethink by some on Ricochet concerning Israel and the West broadly defined. I don’t think it’s about dishonesty, as some have accused. It’s about doublethink. The narrative that the West is not really any better than other cultures can crush all other evidence. Such a narrative is often held by people who have moved to the West and some who will never leave the West.
This is similar to folks who complain ceaselessly about how racist America is and then insist on having open borders to let as many people as possible into this terrible country. The beliefs are contradictory but serve the political interests of the left.
In conclusion, humans are made to fit into groups and not think logically or to pursue the truth as best as they are able. We were genetically designed by nature to adopt ideologies to fit into groups because humans most effectively survive in groups.* But as an admirer of the Scientific Revolution and the Scottish Enlightenment, I would like humanity to consciously try to be more logical and less tribal. We should struggle against our nature towards the better angels of reason. A shame it doesn’t come naturally.
*E.O. Wilson refers to humans as a super-organism and that the survival of the group is prioritized over the survival of the individual.