Monday, January 23, 2012

Newt Gingrich and the Left's Thought-terminating clichés

Robert Lifton's 1956 book Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism is one of the definitive analyses of brain washing.  One of the techniques that Lifton described was the Thought-terminating cliché:
Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism popularized the term "thought-terminating cliché". A thought-terminating cliché is a commonly used phrase, sometimes passing as folk wisdom, used to quell cognitive dissonance. Though the phrase in and of itself may be valid in certain contexts, its application as a means of dismissing dissent or justifying fallacious logic is what makes it thought-terminating. [emphasis in the original - Borepatch]
Partly this is a defense mechanism designed to protect the thinker from Unapproved Thought™, but mostly it's a means to enforce group-think and suppress intellectual challenge.  As the Left - the institutions of the University, and Dinosaur Media, and Hollywood - have become the Establishment, this has been a very useful club for them to marginalize potential opposition.

The tropes are well known, if tired and boring: "Republicans are racist." "Republicans are sexist." "Republicans hate gays."  "Republicans want the poor to starve in the street."  "Republicans are warmongers."


But yawn no more - maybe.  What causes Newt to electrify the audience is that he takes on these thought-terminating clichés head-on, unapologetically, and destroys them before our eyes.

Williams leads with a thought-terminating cliché - several, actually:

1. "Jobs not food stamps" is insulting to Americans, especially minorities.

2. Janitorial work is demeaning, particularly to minorities.

3. Even speaking these thoughts is belittling to Americans, especially minorities.

Newt's reply is simply devastating: No, I don't [see that].

That - and his detailed explanation that follows - brings the crowd cheering to its feet.  No, it's not insulting - the Obama administration has vastly increased the food stamp rolls.  No, it's not demeaning - Newt's own daughter did that work as a youth.  No, it's not belittling - only liberals think that getting paid money when you're poor is a bad thing.

All of these are, of course, entirely logical, but Politically Incorrect and therefore anathema to the Left.  And so Williams - a fully paid up member of the Liberal Media (redundancy alert) is utterly incapable of replying.

I think that it's because the thought-terminating cliché, while of course present on the Right, is vastly more prevalent on the Left.  Case in point, the reaction to this exchange  by Chris Matthews: Newt calling Williams "Juan" is code for racism, and that's what the audience was reacting to.

Translation: Republicans are racist.  And if you don't understand that you're racist, that's just proof positive that you're racist. [rolls eyes]

What Newt has going for him - uniquely among all the candidates (including Obama) is that he is able to articulate ideas.  I think that this is why he's gaining strength during the debates - he gets ideas out there, and particularly ideas that hammer Progressive's thought-terminating clichés.  Every time he does this, he ticks up in the polls.  If he can stay disciplined on this matter - admittedly a big "if" with Newt - he will continue to tick up in the polls.  The reason is simple addressable market analysis.

Consider the breakdown of self-identified political persuasion in this country.  It's something like this:
40% - Conservative
35% - Moderate
20% - Liberal
  5% - Leave me alone/no opinion/gone fishing
Newt won't appeal to the Liberals, because their thought-terminating clichés are well established and they simply won't listen to his arguments.  They'll roll their eyes, and this will be 90% of what you'll hear and see from the Liberal Media (redundancy alert).  But they're only 20%.

He doesn't need the Conservatives, assuming that he gets the nomination - they'll crawl across broken glass to vote against Obama.  They're sick of being told that they're racist, sexist, ignorant rednecks, clinging to their guns and religion and so this may be the path to the Nomination for Newt, but they'll likely hold their noses and vote for Romney if that's the choice.

But the self identified Moderates are the ones who like to think that they think for themselves.  They like to think that they have open minds, and take some ideas from the Right and some from the Left.  In other words, their thought-terminating clichés are weak (note: this is a good thing).  They'll listen to him.

And as long as the Left spouts nonsense ('"code" for racism') and as long as Newt keeps hammering away the way he did, he'll keep them listening.  And this cunning plan isn't a new one, and I didn't think this up.  I got it from Newt:

2 + 2 = 4.  The 20% can't stand the Truth, which is why they try so hard to suppress it.  The 40% is thirsting for someone to vigorously defend the Truth, and the 35% are willing to listen.

Will Newt be disciplined enough to do what Newt says?  In the past, he frequently hasn't been.  But the Oval Office is a big prize for one who - like Newt - has spent his life chasing that particular golden ring.  The Establishment won't help him get there.  The Media won't help him get there.

But ideas?  And an attack on a rotted out ideology still shambling, zombie-like, unaware that its brain has been devoured by the virus of Progressive thought-terminating cliché?  Well, that's an advantage that only Newt has right now.  Maybe this is premature, but if Newt wins, it will be because he hammers this home every day between now and November:

The Progressive ideology that so grips this Republic was not established over night.  It will not be banished over night.  But it is so over-extended, so wrapped up in desperate attempts to bend 2 + 2 = 4 to preserve its voting coalition that this is a rich target environment for anyone who will bring firepower to bear.  Romney won't, because it's too risky (not to mention anti-establishment).  Ron Paul actually is, and his support reflects this - but it's much too narrow a base, and he's a walking tl;dr*.  People will tune him out.

But Newt won't let them.  He has shown that he can hammer simple 2 + 2 = 4 concepts in a way that the Progressive Media (redundancy alert) simply can't cope with.  Certainly Barry can't, because he's nothing but thought-terminating cliché.  I mean, it's what he does: says a lot of big, pretty, empty nothings.

Will Newt make a good President?  I haven't the slightest idea.  Certainly he won't do some things I'd like to see: end the War on (some) Drugs, and end the War on a Verb (end the Patriot Act all other "Terror" related things).  If he stays focused on breaking the moribund Progressive ideology with simple, repeated 2 + 2 = 4, he'll go down as transformative - despite the expected flightiness, venality, and general piss everyone off that we can expect.  If he can't do this, he simply won't win.

But the game can no longer be played at the margins.  The clichés are killing this Republic.  It's time to find someone who will kill them.  Maybe we've found him.


* No offense to Ron Paul, but I know tl;dr when I see it.  Heck, I make a practice of it here.  If you've actually read this far, you might follow Paul's arguments to their admittedly logical conclusion.  The other 95% of the population won't.


Paladin said...

I don't normally bother to comment on a post if my only input is "I agree"...

But, I agree.

Old NFO said...

Great post! Agree and then some... Newt is calling a spade a spade, to the dismal of the liberals AND backing up his comments :-)

Maureen said...

Made it to the end!! And I too, am intrigued. If Paul's too far out there, maybe Newt's just far enough out to engender some change (or at least a wake up call).

NotClauswitz said...

Thanks for the Wikipedia link to that material! I see the Left attempting all eight of those things constantly, in various ways and aspects: Identity Politics (#7), OWS (#2), Victimhood (#4), Global Warming (#5) and Abortion (#8) - and The Media acts on #6 constantly.

Broken Andy said...

I have self professed moderates emailing me links to Newt's videos... so your theory could be correct. He's getting to the middle. Even if Newt doesn't win a race against Obama, at least he will have challenged the ideas of the left in a way not done so openly before.

Anonymous said...

I suspect that the ovations Gingrich gets come out of the (justified) fury and rage that conservatives feel when confronted with the mainstream media and its blatant bias.

The media are best understood as the propaganda arm of the Left, and have been since, roughly, the New Deal. Even old guard Dems (Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., for example) were academic shills for FDR.

I have large reservations about Newt because I think he's an ego-driven showboat. He loves to pull 180° ideological turns to wow and amaze the rubes. Whether these changes make for good government or small government or increased liberty is highly questionable.

Put it this way, if you think Romney's a weathervane, he ain't got nuthin' on that boy Newt. And when it comes to thinking he's the smartest in the room, well, BHO ain't got nuthin' on that boy Newt, either.

So — be very wary of this man.