The recent coordinated attempt following Charlottesville to smother the Right has forced a renewal of the ancient debate surrounding censorship—what it is, when and if it is ever justified, and how to combat it in those cases that it is employed unjustly. There are many reasons to be pleased that this question should be so hot in public discourse at present, not least because the manifest injustice of the treatment of members of the Right, from any even remotely liberal point of view, might very well redound to our benefit in the long run. It is to be hoped that some portion of the wider populace will perceive the absurdity of the double standard which is wielded against us, and also the dangers inherent in these enormous “private” companies like Facebook, Twitter, and PayPal, which are able to inflict their arbitrary will on increasingly sizable portions of the agora.
But in a certain sense, that open debate concerns only the most obvious aspect of the question of censorship, the one that is the easiest to comprehend and critique, and the manner of resisting or evading it is comparatively straightforward. As the Right well knows, the most effective censorship is the subtlest—that which binds the tongues and the minds of countless individuals without so much as passing a law or banning an online account. True censorship, and certainly the most devastating kind for our cause, is none other than the “cultural” kind, which establishes certain limits on what can and cannot be said—not because the saying of such things is illegal, but because it is “taboo.”
To be sure, to pray for a world in which taboos utterly vanish and everyone can speak his mind on anything at all is not only to hope for a chimera, but also betrays a somewhat tenuous sense of the sacred and profane. A healthy society, far from having to impose clear limits on what is and is not acceptable in public discourse, simply possesses such limits, and but seldom transgresses them. On one side, it is reverence which imposes these rigorous boundaries, and on the other, noble taste. The trouble is that we are not living in a healthy society, and the bonds which presently restrict our speech have nothing to do with reverence nor with taste. Indeed, on the contrary: the present taboos are being actively manipulated by malign and often extraordinarily vulgar influences aiming at our silencing and ultimate ruin.
I would like to therefore extend the present critique of censorship into deeper ground, and I would like to enter into this question through a word which is all too familiar to us, both for its ubiquity and for its curious psychological power: namely, “racism.”
We need not mention the forces which are responsible for employing this word as a bludgeon against us. The readers of Counter-Currents are surely well-informed on this point. Neither is it necessary to demonstrate the inherent weaknesses in this concept; a great deal of pertinent and useful thought has been submitted toward this end by numerous figures of the Right. Let us rather, for a moment, take a wider view.
Already in the very existence of these debates and investigations, something curious and untoward is happening. We set about trying to get to the bottom of the word “racism” intellectually, even as we might do with any number of more or less neutral terms of continuing importance, like materialism or spiritualism. We treat this “racism” as a kind of intellectual datum which is merely in need of proper clarification and comprehension. But in point of fact, the concept itself is of recent origin, and it is anything but neutral. It is a word founded on an inherent bias—and that alone should awaken us to the peril it contains, and to the difficulty of building anything upon it other than what has already been built.
Suppose some new kind of Communist accused a man of being a “workist,” and defined this term as “a man who, because he would rather be well-paid for his labor, evinces ‘prejudice’ and even ‘hatred’ against the poor, and manifestly and unjustly considers himself ‘superior’ to them.” It is evident that the man to whom this epithet was applied should fling it off as ridiculous. But supposing, for some obscure reason, he did begin to dispute the meaning of the term “workist,” tacitly acquiescing to the accusation it contained but attempting to twist it to his advantage—well, would the Communist not be simply delighted at this turn of events? And if all of society then somehow began freely employing this term, and it became common currency to accuse this or that working man of “workism,” and a debate on this concept began to rage in the public forum—would this not indicate a decided victory for this new Communist movement, which, even before the advent of this word, could not have even articulated certain of its own concepts regarding “work” in ways that most people would understand? Should these new Communists not count it a triumph simply that this word has become a part of the lexicon, only because it had begun to reframe the “structure of thought,” so to speak, of the common man?
This is precisely the situation in which we find ourselves today with this little word “racism.” Indeed, we are at a far advanced stage of that process. The word is anything but ancient. Its first recorded use does not precede the turn of the last century. It has been suggested that its wider acceptance is owed to its appearance in a work by none other than Leon Trotsky—a claim which, whether it is true or not, is suggestive. This much is certain: it gained popularity during and especially following the Second World War, and was invented or immediately co-opted to be used as propaganda against certain ideas and political forms (most especially Nazism) which never themselves employed the word. Its intent from the start was polemical. (For more, see this very informative essay by Sam Francis.) And to that extent, our attempts to change the spirit of the word are doomed to frustration from the start.
The word has surely never lost its polemical edge and has never ceased to appear under the sign of denunciation and obfuscation. “Racism” was not the first, but it was surely one of the most successful, of a series of terms which employed the suffix -ism in an innovative and insidious way. Originally, –ism, which comes from the Greek –ismos, meant simply a practice or a doctrine. In this spirit, one speaks of “materialism” and “atomism,” and also, in a more contemporary context, of “globalism” and “Communism.” As its counterpart we have the suffix –ist, from the Greek –istes, indicating the adherent of such a practice or doctrine. Thus, it is usual in English to employ it in reference to a profession, as in “artist” or “scientist.” The “racist,” taking this word in its original meaning, would thus denote nothing more than one who studies the human races and develops certain ideas in regard to his discoveries in that field. Clearly, this is far from its accepted meaning today. At some point, these suffixes were subjected to an ideological redefinition; they were transformed into derogatory terms.
It would be most interesting to chart the course of this development, but for the present it suffices to clearly define the actual meaning of these suffixes in several contemporary neologisms, such as “sexism,” “classism,” “genderism,” and so on. It is evident that the suffix –ism here indicates nothing other than “a false, a prejudiced doctrine,” or what we contemporaries might (if rather strangely) refer to as a “dogma.” Such an –ism is nothing but an idea with no adequate basis, and no sound scientific or philosophical foundation—quite probably an idea which issues from the darker elements of the “subconscious,” and from any number of disagreeable and “irrational” emotions like hatred, envy, fear, and so on. An –ism, in this particular context, therefore indicates nothing but a debunked or groundless idea adhered to by weak and febrile minds—and precisely to those minds, one applies the –ist.
Let us not deceive ourselves here: these suffixes direct the destinies of the words to which they adhere. They form the root value-meaning of those words, and cannot be turned upon themselves. A word is like a man; its character is congenital, and not all the social (or in this case verbal) engineering in the world can finally make it into something it was not born to be. True, words live longer than a human being; it is possible, in certain cases, to fundamentally alter their meanings, given long enough stretches of time and sufficient effort. It is well for us to recall this fact, for such alteration forms part of the highest work of the Right. But we are speaking here at bare minimum of decades, and more often centuries or millennia, and that is time that we of the Right do not presently have at our disposal.
Then we must ask ourselves what can be done here and now about this eminently tendentious and all-too-powerful term?
If a man calls you a scoundrel, you will not get very far if you attempt to argue the meaning of the word with him, to convince him that it is actually desirable to be a scoundrel, or that everyone is in fact a scoundrel. Better to reject the accusation forthwith, and leave its demonstration to one’s accuser. Then he will be forced to engage you on details and particulars; and there, it is quite possible, and in many cases quite easy, to demonstrate the farcical and mendacious quality of the original allegation. In conversation, it often suffices to return the question to its proposer: when anyone employs “racist” against us, it is useful to demand to know what he means by this word, in good Socratic fashion, and to press him on it, thus putting him on the defensive. It does not take much to show that the word indicates nothing but a caricature of a real philosophical or political position. Generally speaking, it is better to affect a haughty indifference to these terms, rather than to permit them to drag one into the mud from which they first emerged and into which they must ever return.
It is obvious, of course, that in certain cases it is impossible to ignore or sidestep the question. Anyone who upholds the cause of White Nationalism, for instance, must sooner or later address the “race issue” directly in one way or another. And here is the real value which the intellectuals of the Right have afforded us in the candid, head-on confrontation of these charges of “racism” which are so universally brought against us. But it is equally clear that if we let the matter lie at these efforts alone, we cannot hope for much success in the future, since we remain, as it were, on “their turf,” and in a way our very participation in this debate does nothing but augment their strength. For it is they who have set the terms of battle, and they who have chosen the ground, which they know well since they themselves formed it. We thus remain forever in a handicapped defensive position.
Here we find the very deepest sense of the word “censorship”—the censorship, not of speech, but of meaning and value. This is a censorship built into the structure of our language by “interested” parties. It delineates, with lines of power whose very invisibility forms an essential part of their influence, the realms of “acceptable knowledge” and “acceptable speech.” It exploits the enormous reservoirs of shame which previous religious epochs have accumulated in the human soul, and redirects them toward the quiet and subtle channeling of conversation and contemplation. And it casts into the frightful shadows all those ideas, issues, problems, and topics which threaten or offend it.
It is evident that we cannot battle this kind of censorship without understanding its mechanisms and turning them to our favor. It is informative to consider the Latin root of the word: it comes from the Latin verb censere, meaning “to judge, to esteem, to decree.” A word is “censorial” in this sense: it contains judgement, and it imposes this judgement on sense itself. In this spirit, it is fit for us of the Right to meet censorship with censorship. As an example in the present case: it would be well for us to invent some neologism, which is the spiritual opposite of “racism” and which can be used in swift response to accusations of racism—something like “mediocritism,” for example, to indicate the beliefs of one, the “mediocritist,” who has become contemptibly indifferent or even hostile to human quality and excellence. It does not matter if these words at first mean nothing to those we use them against. One hundred years ago the word “racism” would have fallen on similarly deaf ears.
It is the intent which is key; it is the justice which we carry, the simple, confident presupposition that it really is despicable, risible, and wretched to live as if there were no fundamental differences between man and man. The determined use of tactically conceived concepts on our part is the essential first step; the rest, given our consistency and our insistency, will follow of a course. And if such terms can be made a part of the popular discourse, even if only marginally, they might have a proportionate effect. The history of modernity has without any doubt shown that this is true.
The Left has a decided advantage over us in the fabrication of such language; intuitive knowledge of the popular mindset is its peculiar heritage. Even beyond the fact that its historical connections to the “proletarian” movements and its present obsession with all kinds of “minority issues” and “social ills” render it naturally more sensitive to the common mindset, even its so-called “elites”—its George Soroses, Rockefellers, and Bill Gateses, for instance—are for the most part nothing but capitalists, which is to say, common men writ large. These “elites” owe almost their entire instinct in these matters to precisely that origin—though they themselves surely take it as another aspect of their entitlement to rule. But a true ruler, which is to say, a true aristocrat, knows as little about that kind of purely manipulative and demagogic “command” of the “people” as an upstanding citizen knows about successfully playing the part of the strong-armed pimp in a bordello.
Nonetheless the Alt Right in particular has demonstrated a degree of inspiration in the production and employment of novel and efficacious terms. One thinks of such happy inventions as “cuckservative,” “redpill,” and “social justice warrior,” though a goodly portion of the so-called “meme war” ultimately has no other purport. With concentration and discipline, these particular tendencies might be turned to our advantage. But it is a truism that if the archer does not know where to direct his arrow, he shall never hit the target. Rather than consuming our energies in continuously defending ourselves from the veritable stream of partisan jargon which oozes eternally about our heels, we would be well counseled to attempt to fashion the active counterparts to this contumely. That requires clear knowledge of what it is we are aiming at and what kind of society and principles we are proposing to the world. It requires clarity in our spirits, and also the inner strength to which Chad Crowley recently and so justly incited us. It requires, in other words, positive points of reference.
Only if we begin to work from such an affirmative position as this, rather than from this continual and continually disadvantaged, if necessary and often creative, defense, can we ever hope to put ourselves on the offensive with respect to this most powerful and most secret censorship.