Over recent years, I’ve notice that much political communication…ranging from formal statements by politicians down to off-the-cuff social media posts by individuals..has come to consist mostly of insulting one’s opponents. While there has always been a considerable amount of this, political insult has now become so prevalent as to drive out more rational forms of discourse. And while both/all sides do engage in the kind of behavior I’m discussing, it is much more predominant and extreme on the Left.
From a marketing point of view, this may seem a little odd: why would one want to insult one’s prospective customers–the people one is trying to persuade? I think the answer may be provided by Willi Munzenberg, who was Stalin’s master propagandist. Here’s what Munzenberg told Arthur Koestler, back when Koestler was still a Communist:
Don’t argue with them, Make them stink in the nose of the world. Make people curse and abominate them. Make them shudder with horror. That, Arturo, is propaganda!
And that seems to be the objective, recognized or not, of much of today’s ‘progressive’ speech. People are being intimidated from speaking their minds not only out of fear of practical consequences…loss of customers, loss of jobs…but out of fear of being publicly demonized as a Bad Person.
See Lead and Gold on Mediated Democracy and the Temptations of Leninism.
And here is Koestler again, this time in 1951 after very prominently breaking with Communism. He is speaking about the situation of writers who have escaped from totalitarian countries…especially the Soviet-occupied countries in Eastern Europe…and about how the cultures of these writers and their countries can be preserved:
I say ‘exiled cultures’ and not ‘exiled writers’ or ‘artists’ or individual refugees….We are faced today with the calculated and systematic extermination of whole national cultures–the Russian, Ukrainian, Czech, Hungarian, Polish and so on. Culture, as we understand this term, is dependent, among other factors, on two essential conditions; freedom of expression and continuity of tradition. Both these conditions are absent in countries under totalitarian rule.
To repeat the last two sentences:
Culture, as we understand this term, is dependent, among other factors, on two essential conditions; freedom of expression and continuity of tradition. Both these conditions are absent in countries under totalitarian rule.
And both of these factors are under heavy assault in America today.