Beware the narrative engineers in government and the media, the ones who craft fear and suspicion from quite ordinary things. Have an example:
In December of 2021, the Pentagon furthered the ‘white rage’ narrative, warning that ‘extremism’ within the ranks was on the rise, which would require ‘detailed new rules’ to prohibit service members from engaging in ‘certain activities.’
The new policy lays out in detail the banned activities, which range from advocating terrorism or supporting the overthrow of the government to fundraising or rallying on behalf of an extremist group or “liking” or reposting extremist views on social media. The rules also specify that commanders must determine two things in order for someone to be held accountable: that the action was an extremist activity, as defined in the rules, and that the service member “actively participated” in that prohibited activity.
Previous policies banned extremist activities but didn’t go into such great detail, and also did not specify the two step process to determine someone accountable. -AP
Extremism among men equipped and paid to kill people and break things! OMG!! That’s got to be bad, doesn’t it?
Well, maybe not. Pull the emphasized portion apart. It cites four “scary” things:
- Advocating terrorism;
- Supporting the overthrow of the government;
- Fundraising or rallying on behalf of an extremist group;
- “Liking” or reposting extremist views on social media.
Three of those four things are largely subjective. Two make use of a wholly undefined term: “extremist.” These days, advocating a return to strict Constitutional fidelity is frequently condemned as “extremist.” I know people who’ve been stripped of their right to keep and bear arms for arguing that the Second Amendment means what it says. (Enjoy the irony.)
But my attention is on the fourth item on the list. Just what does it take to get some emission on Facebook or X/Twitter classified as “extremist?” A handful of shrieking complainers has managed it in times not so distant. Indeed, statements from United states Senators have been labeled “extremist” because they upset some Leftist whiner. And thereafter, is everyone who agrees with the sentiment an “extremist?” A threat to others, or to our “institutions,” or – may God help us – to “our democracy?”
I’ve written about this practice before:
That sort of deliberate mixing of immiscible statistics is an important tactic in the Narrative Engineers’ toolkit. Thomas Sowell highlighted it in The Vision of the Anointed:
One of the common methods of getting alarming statistics is to list a whole string of adverse things, with the strong stuff up front to grab attention and the weak stuff at the end to supply the numbers. A hypothetical model of this kind of reasoning might run as follows: Did you know that 13 million American wives have suffered murder, torture, demoralization, or discomfort at the hands of left-handed husbands? It may be as rare among left-handers as among right-handers for a husband to murder or torture his wife, but if the marriages of southpaws are not pure, unbroken bliss, then their wives must have been at least momentarily discomforted by the usual marital misunderstandings. The number may be even larger than 13 million. Yet one could demonize a whole category of men with statistics showing definitional catastrophes. While this particular example is hypothetical, the pattern is all too real. Whether it is sexual harassment, child abuse, or innumerable other social ills, activists are able to generate alarming statistics by the simple process of listing attention getting horrors at the beginning of a string of phenomena and listing last those marginal things which in fact supply the bulk of their statistics. A Louis Harris poll, for example, showed that 37 percent of married women are “emotionally abused” and 4 million “physically abused.” Both of these include some very serious things–but they also include among “emotional abuse” a husband’s stomping out of the room and among “physical abuse” his grabbing his wife. Yet such statistics provide a backdrop against which people like New York Times columnist Anna Quindlen can speak of wives’ “risk of being beaten bloody” by their husbands. Studies of truly serious violence find numbers less than one-tenth of those being thrown around in the media, in politics, and among radical feminists in academia.
The prevalence of such deceitful practices argues for a default attitude of distrust. No longer can an American afford to confront any governmental or media emission in a trusting fashion. In particular, the media are not interested in informing us, except as that would conduce to increased circulation. What does, quite reliably, increase circulation, is scare talk – and if nothing truly scary has happened lately, those eagle-eyed blokes in the newsroom will slap something together out of whatever’s lying around the cutting room.
Samuel Johnson warned us three centuries ago about the “general degradation of human testimony.” He was principally concerned with “falsehoods of convenience.” Today, the falsehoods that matter most are uttered by persons determined upon power. Just now, with a presidential election season about to swing into high gear, remaining alert to such nefarious practices is more important than ever. Tag those who practice them as not to be trusted, and pass on.