Here I will present a strategy for stopping what many of us recognize as the creep of totalitarianism, that is, the ideology of political correctness. The politically-correct authoritarians were perhaps diagnosed best by actor and comedian John Cleese when he said, “If people can’t control their own emotions then they have to start trying to control other people’s behavior.” The idea is simple: if people cannot or will not exercise internal control, they will instead try to control things externally.
This is exactly the idea of projection. Projection occurs when there is a disintegration in the psyche; a split between the conscious and unconscious mind. To integrate one’s self is to aim at self-mastery, but to remain unintegrated is to inevitably aim at mastering others. That is why, as I discussed in a previous article, a person will desire power over others to the degree of their own inferiority. The question is, how do we stop the would-be tyrants who seek to control us? How do we convince people that the motivations behind political correctness are sinister? It is not enough to lay out a logical theory of what is driving these ideologues.
It is not enough to explain to others that our classically liberal values—free speech, the rule of law, civility and individualism, to name a few—are worth fighting for. No, because political correctness is not gaining territory by use of reason, it is winning by instead appealing to people’s emotions.
Political correctness is often viewed as concern for victims, and so people can be sympathetic to politically-correct ideology because it appeals to their sense of compassion.
As former Stanford Professor Rene Girard said, “Victimism uses the ideology of concern for victims to gain political or economic or spiritual power.” But how do we expose this mask of compassion to reveal its underlying and true drive for power?
It cannot be by persuasion through reason, for politically-correct ideologues care nothing for reason, and those who are sympathetic to political correctness are attached by their hearts, not their brains. And besides, people almost never come to believe something just because they are presented with logical evidence for it. No, if political correctness is gaining ground by way of emotional appeal, then it must be countered in that same way. The mask of compassion must be removed to reveal the ugly face underneath.
However, political correctness cannot be unmasked by its opponents, or at least, not directly. Instead, the battle must be fought indirectly by way of not battling; the radicals can only be defeated by exposing themselves. Therefore, we cannot directly remove the illusion, but we can bait the would-be tyrants to remove it themselves.
This must be done by not taking the radical-left seriously. The authoritarians must be shown no respect, whether positively in the form of admiration, or negatively in the form of condemnation. They must not be engaged. Again, at least not directly.
See, it is not just admiration that shows respect for something. If one engages with an enemy, that too shows respect, just in its negative form. To engage an enemy is to show enough respect to engage; engagement is to take the enemy seriously. What I am proposing is precisely the opposite.
But would this not just allow political correctness to win? It appears that way initially, but consider the following: There is only one thing that aggravates people more than when their ideas and positions are disagreed with and opposed—that being when someone will not even give the respect of consideration. In conversation, what is much more frustrating than opposition is when somebody will not even listen; when somebody does not seriously consider your position.
We often consider that kind of behavior as childish, and perhaps it is. But, the key here is to remember that the politically-correct authoritarians are not well put together as individuals; they are weak and unintegrated. Those who are unintegrated respond to childish behavior, not with maturity, but with outrage. If you want to see a demonstration of this, look no further than at how the radical-left reacts to Milo Yiannopoulos.
Now, let me be clear, I am not proposing to use Yiannopoulos’ tactics. Yiannopoulos is a provocateur who purposefully acts in a way that often legitimizes the reaction he receives. And worse, Yiannopoulos has been an inspiration for the alt-right.
What I am instead proposing is an indirect provocation—a provocation precisely by not engaging—the reaction to which cannot at all be legitimized.
A problem with Yiannopoulos is that, by resorting to nastiness, he has in many ways become what he is fighting. The radical-left, because of their unintegrated psyches,will inevitably project evil onto their opponents. But, the key is to not actually become the projection, as Yiannopoulos has, at least to a degree, done himself. Here, Friedrich Nietzsche’s warning is critical: “Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster.”
If one becomes the opponent’s projection, then the crowd watches in confusion. It is not clear to bystanders who is good and who is bad, and so people will either remain neutral or side with those who they view as political allies. And, if one becomes the projection of the politically-correct mob, then the mob sees their actions, even if violent, as fully justified.
Although it may appear this strategy is weakness, it is not. Quite the contrary, for this strategy will require the utmost self-control. What I am proposing is to take the inner path of self-mastery, while the opponent does precisely the opposite. For, he who is master over himself cannot be controlled by others.
When the mob responds in outrage at not being taken seriously, we must allow ourselves to fall as individuals. State your opposition to the nonsense of the mob and state that for which you stand, but let yourself fall, exercising self-control. True resistance to the mob, as Carl Jung said, “can be effected only by the man who is as well organized in his individuality as the mass itself.”
That is the only way that the mob may be rid of their illusion and realize what they are doing. They will be opposing their own projection, and nothing more. The cognitive dissonance of the mob may thus be brought to a breaking point. And, if they will not see it, the crowd of bystanders surely will, and the mask of compassion will thereby be revealed to be just that, a mask.
Sam Dugan is a fourth-year student majoring in economics with a minor in philosophy. He can be reached at SP828988@wcupa.edu.