Time was, soldiers had a saying: “There are three ways to do anything: the wrong way, the right way, and the Army way.” It was facetious, of course; an Army that refrains from doing things the right way as a matter of policy wouldn’t last very long. But the saying expresses some of the frustration soldiers feel – especially new recruits – at the regimentation Army life demands.
In point of fact, “the Army way” is as rigid and demanding as it is for very good reasons. First, it conditions the soldier to taking orders. Second, it habituates him to doing things in one, specific, maximally precise way. That way, certain actions will become “muscle memory,” and will be executed immediately upon command and exactly as taught, even under the pressures of lethal combat. These qualities are vital to a fighting man in an Army that could see combat at any time.
It has its downside, of course. It can impede other qualities, such as flexibility and spontaneity, that are of greater use to a soldier who’s left the military. It can also get in the way of “outside the box” thinking. But those are unavoidable side effects of the mental conditioning required of the man at arms.
Mental conditioning isn’t unknown outside the military. You’ll find it at work in several other venues, especially quasi-religious cults. We refer to the specialists who rehabilitate cult followers to normal life as “deprogrammers” for a reason.
Left-wing activists exhibit the mental rigidity and programmed behavior patterns characteristic of cult members. This is especially noticeable in their verbal behavior and reactions to others’ statements. It’s a great part of why it’s usually profitless to argue with a leftist.
Just now there’s a wee contretemps in progress over a recent faux pas by television personality Caryn Elaine Johnson, who usually goes by the name “Whoopi Goldberg.” If you’re unacquainted with the details of “Whoopi’s” misstep, here’s a brief Newsbusters report on it.
This is an excellent illustration of leftists’ programmed reactions, in this case specifically about race. In starkly factual terms, the Holocaust was not a racial pogrom, as European Jews were and are almost all racially Caucasian. Yes, the Nazis “racialized” their campaign against the Jews for the purposes of effective propaganda. But neither the bare facts nor the racial character of Nazi rhetoric were genuinely germane to “Whoopi’s” reaction. As a leftist, she is programmed to react harshly against any use of the concept of racism when Negroes aren’t on the receiving end.
That programming – the absolute prohibition against allowing that racism against whites is even possible – caused “Whoopi” to depart from the path of prudence. The reactions of her co-hosts ought to have put her on notice. Since then, after a massive counterblast from “The View’s” audience, “Whoopi” has issued a terse admission of error. Apparently ABC has penalized her mildly for it, as well.
But I doubt severely that “Whoopi’s” behavior will be any different in the future.
“Whoopi’s” behavior was in obedience to “the Left Way.” We could summarize it as an absolute adherence to rhetoric that expresses the Left’s certified positions. That includes an immediate contradiction – usually in unsparing, even insulting terms – of anyone who infringes on a Leftist issue, even in a metaphorical sense. The Left will permit no one to speak of “racism” in any setting or terms that don’t specifically involve Caucasians’ abuse of Negroes. It shall not pass!
The tactical value of such rigidity would strike most reasonable persons as dubious. It forecloses factual discussion. It certainly prevents reasoned argument. (I no longer cross swords with leftists for this reason, among others. Should I ever feel a need to be insulted…well, I am married, you know.) But its true value is in the reinforcement of leftist attitudes and adherence. It “keeps ‘em in the church.”
Leftism cannot be defended with reason and evidence. Therefore it must rely on other forces to maintain its grip on its adherents. This is a subject on which many commentators have held forth. I shan’t duplicate their efforts here, except to note once again that the inability to defend a proposition with reason and evidence marks it as a matter of pure faith.
All faiths involve premises whose acceptance is utterly necessary to the rest of the faith’s propositions. You can’t argue with a man’s premises, unless they involve direct and verifiable contradictions of observed or observable facts. The Left’s premise is that leftists are intellectually and morally superior to the rest of us. In Thomas Sowell’s formulation, this constitutes an assumption of differential rectitude, with the implication that he who contradicts the Left is stupid, evil, or both.
It is in expressing that assumption, whether in maintaining some position or as a blanket matter, that the leftist reinforces his conviction of superiority. Logically, it’s circular: To hold leftist beliefs is to be intellectually and morally superior to others. Why is that? Well, it’s because those are the Left’s positions, and the Left is intellectually and morally superior to the non-Left. But breaking out of that circle is painfully difficult. It requires a frank admission that you’ve been duped.
“Whoopi’s” misstep won’t cost her much. She’s a card-carrying leftist whose fellows have all been programmed the same way. They won’t question her bona fides. The major media are wholly owned by such persons. They don’t normally act against their own. They do so only when the Left suffers intolerable damage from the errant allegiant’s words or deeds.
However, the incident is instructive. It illuminates the course decent persons should follow: Draw attention to the stratum of programmed behavior beneath it. If we in the Right can get enough others to take it seriously, the Left Way will doom the Left itself.
“I’m Guinan. I tend bar, and I listen.”
Someone tell Ms. Goldberg that she ought to take some more cues from one of her most famous characters.