This is a good, brief listen for a big education:
Steinem argued in the 1980s that opposing abortion is actually a secret form of Nazism, and she repeats the argument in an interview below:
Well, the new generation of reader is instructing me by saying that these essays are still relevant …. on a more serious note, to put it mildly, is why Hitler was actually elected, and he was elected and he campaigned against abortion. I mean, that was — he padlocked the family planning clinics. Okay, so that is still relevant in the terms of the right wing. So there were very few things, actually, that I had to take out.
Forget the historical improprieties. The main thing is this: Some people feel that you can argue against literally any idea by citing the Holocaust.
Here’s another example:
In a discussion of the symbols and/or actuality of transcendent being, Rebecca Goldstein says that Jordan Peterson’s use of Christian symbols and William Craig’s belief in a transcendent God make her very nervous because…the Nazis felt transcendent. As she begins to say it, she obviously feels it is nonsense but says it anyway. But the idea is basically that, “You guys are basically Nazis.”
So what’s my point: Godwin’s law is actually an iron clad counterpoint for anything. You’re against abortion: Hitler. You believe in God or symbolism: Hitler. You’re a Zionist: Hitler. You think Islam is wrong: Hitler.
This sourthpark skit is our reality now:
I’ve wondered this for a while. Why do folks with doctoral degrees, who look down on others for their stupidity, nevertheless reject the value of IQ tests? Why do academics who believe in the power of ethnic solidarity and identity politics also believe that human beings are born as blank slates? Why do academics who oppose fascism, support larger government all the time? Why do academics who believe in the sexual revolution decry rape culture which is essentially the direct result of that revolution (devolution)?
Here’s a nice summary of Jacques Ellul’s explanation:
A related point, central in Ellul’s thesis is that modern propaganda cannot work without “education”; he thus reverses the widespread notion that education is the best prophylactic against propaganda. In fact, education is largely identical with what Ellul calls “pre-propaganda” – the conditioning of minds with vast amounts of incoherent information, already dispensed for ulterior purposes, posing as “facts” and as “education.” Ellul follows through by designating intellectuals as virtually the most vulnerable of all to modern propaganda, for three reasons:
(1) they absorb the largest amount of second hand, unverifiable information;
(2) they fell a compelling need to have an opinion on every important question of our time, and thus easily succumb to opinions offered to them by propaganda on all indigestible pieces of information;
(3) they consider themselves capable of “judging for themselves.”
They literally need propaganda.Ellul, Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, 2
This is basically right. Nicolaus Taleb calls them “intellectual yet idiots.” Bruce Charlton calls them clever-sillies. It’s probably best to start calling them goobers and weirdos. Sometimes mockery is the best medicine for bad ideas.
What’s the difference between propaganda and education? I can think of one thing: propaganda provides ideas, habits, and attitudes while not providing its consumers with the tools to reject its influence. On the other hand, education provides a tradition of ideas, habits, attitudes along with the tools to reject them if they are inconsistent with apparent reality.
When you’re using dialectic, you want to be sure that you and your conversation partners agree about definitions. For instance, I was a part of a classroom management discussion recently, and the author of the material we were using eschewed the use of threats, manipulation, and shame. But those words all have conceptual overlap with these terms, “explaining consequences,” “persuading,” and “social proof.” The author of the materials was even against explaining consequences to students because he believes that changing student behavior only happens through the poorly defined concept of “relationality.” Here’s the point. Teachers were very confused about whether or not they had any discipline tools at all. The author of the material was also a Christian who talked a lot about showing grace to students, but he defined grace in a confusing way. So the main way available to teachers who need to manage their classrooms is basically forgiving them for things.
A discussion about the science and art of classroom management needs clear definitions, stipulated for that dialogue so that nobody is confused about what is occurring. But instead, the author tried very hard to make teachers feel guilty about using “threats,” but he defined threats as something like this, “If you talk, you’ll get your name on the board.” Here’s what he did: he chose a loaded term, defined it in a non-standard way (using an example rather than a technical definition). But the term “threaten” pulls negative emotional energy out of people, so that they feel guilty about doing it even though they are utilizing appropriate classroom management. Now, why would somebody sell a product that guilty tripped teachers into not using guilt? I do not know. I cannot fathom, but this technique of persuasion is very popular and there are many such cases.
You could think of this process as the inflation of terms, whereby you get more use out of a word by adding more concepts to the word while still trying to get the same emotional response from people.
Another example is the inflation of the term racism. Most people think of racism as “hating somebody for their race/skin color/culture.” People feel nasty feelings toward racists of this sort. If you simply hear the word, you feel negatively toward racists. Here’s the inflation: Over and over again, the term racist is broadened to include (and I’m not exaggerating) teaching your kids to read, caring about their education if they’re white, believing in the concept of western civilization, moving into a homogenous neighborhood (white flight), moving into a heterogeneous/diverse neighborhood (gentrification), identifying with your own culture (insularity), enjoying other cultures (cultural appropriation), and so-on. On the other hand, writing thousands of articles with explicit anti-white bias is not considered racist, which is funny because lumping all Asians into one group is racist, but lumping all Europeans and Americans into one group called “white” makes perfect sense…it doesn’t. It’s a trick.
Of course, in argument appraisal, this is the fallacy of equivocation. It’s a fallacy because it means being vague to make your case less subject to criticism. But it’s also a powerful tool to the rhetorically uninitiated. You use a term in a highly stipulated way, that you do not make clear, in order to take advantage of the emotional associations with the standard use of the word. Other words for which this happens frequently include privilege (it’s a technical term for social advantages, but it is used to make people feel guilty for advantages), nationalism (Hitler was an imperialist who used nationalism as the name for his effort to take over other nations, the association stuck), Nazi (Americans, the descendants of the men who killed the Nazis are accused of Nazism almost as though the movement was their fault in the first place), women’s health care (which literally now means abortion and birth control), the Tea Party (they defined themselves as a small-government political group was branded as fascist), and on and on and on.
When this inflation of concepts happens on a mass media level, it is propaganda. Why? It changes your attitudes toward things by using emotional associations tied to a word’s standard use and associating them with a different concept. When you’re reading or listening, try asking, “what does the author actually mean by this term” rather than letting your feelings guide you.
The abysmal truth is that few read before or during college:
“The desire to appeal to incoming students who have rarely if ever read an adult book on their own also leads selection committees to choose low-grade “accessible” works that are presumed to appeal to “book virgins” who will flee actual college-level reading. Since common reading programs are generally either voluntary or mandatory without an enforcement mechanism, such “book virgins” have to be wooed with simple, unchallenging works. This was our conclusion two years ago: the lay of the land is still much the same.”
If you want to get ahead in life, in college, and of yourself, read.
If you read you can:
- Get inside the head of somebody smarter than you. (Have you written a whole book?)
- You can empathize more effectively.
- You can learn new skills.
- You can be inspired by the great examples of great men.
- You can avoid the brain rot of emotional eating or over watching television.
- You can understand the foundations of your culture and find your place within it if you read the great books that helped make your people who they are.
What to read?
- Try reading classic fiction. Start easy with the Chronicles of Narnia, then try the Hobbit, A Study in Scarlet, Tarzan of the Apes, etc. Then try some Umberto Eco. Then the Iliad or Beowulf.
- Read a self-help classic or two: The Slight Edge and How to Win Friends and Influence People are really helpful.
- Read a how-to book for a skill that will help you make money, but as you read it, use the skill. This adds skin in the game of learning and therefore makes the process fell more valuable to you. Here’s one on public speaking. Here’s one on saving money. Here’s one on studying. Here’s one on weight loss.
- Read some classic philosophy. Try the meditations of Marcus Aurelius and the Lectures and Sayings of Musonius Rufus. Read the Handbook of Epictetus. Try The Last Days of Socrates by Plato or for something more practical like the Memorabilia of Xenophon, which presents a much more practical version of Socrates.
- Try reading about interesting figures in history. I like reading about Jesus, Alexander the Great, George Washinton, Teddy Roosevelt, Jim Bowie, and St. Paul.
- Think of a science topic you like (the launching of the moon rocket, the invention of the light bulb, the discovery of gravity, etc), and read a popular book about it.
How to Read
Now, you obvious can read words, but can you read well? Good reading involves several skills:
- Understanding what is being said (the point, plot, or core idea).
- Observing how it is being said (noticing the evidence, techniques, or tropes the author is using)
- Determining whether what you’re reading is true and to what extent (or if a fictional story, internally consistent).
- Finally, evaluating how what you have read matters.
These items have been framed as questions to ask when you read.
Mortimer Adler says that the core of good reading can be expressed in these four questions the reader asks a piece of writing:
1. WHAT IS THE BOOK ABOUT AS A WHOLE? You must try to discover the leading theme of the book, and how the author develops this theme in an orderly way by subdividing it into its essential subordinate themes or topics.
2. WHAT IS BEING SAID IN DETAIL, AND HOW? You must try to discover the main ideas, assertions, and arguments that constitute the author’s particular message.
3. Is THE BOOK TRUE, IN WHOLE OR PART? You cannot answer this question until you have answered the first two. You have to know what is being said before you can decide whether it is true or not. When you understand a book, however, you are obligated, if you are reading seriously, to make up your own mind. Knowing the author’s mind is not enough.
4. WHAT OF IT? If the book has given you information, you must ask about its significance. Why does the author think it is important to know these things? Is it important to you to know them? And if the book has not only informed you, but also enlightened you, it is necessary to seek further enlightenment by asking what else follows, what is further implied or suggested.How to Read a Book by Mortimer Adler
Most people never even ask the first or second questions and especially not the third. We live in an age of ever increasing memery and propaganda. May you and yours always read carefully.