The Danger of Political Labels

How critical theory and Marx's ideology have ended discussion and debate
By Joshua Philipp, The Epoch Times
January 26, 2017 11:36 pm Last Updated: March 16, 2017 2:59 pm

There is now a prevailing method of argument that replaces discussion and debate with personal attacks. At its root is the same philosophy used by totalitarian systems and leaders over the 20th century—from Hitler, to Stalin, to Pol Pot—to label members of society as enemies of the regime’s social agendas, and to thus mobilize its citizens in acts of suppression or violence against those targeted.

These methods of attack and mobilization have found their way into the arguments of the postmodern left, and traditional liberals seem to be shocked by the emerging problem.

British actor and comedian Tom Walker commented on this in a viral video from Nov. 10, shortly after the election of President Donald Trump, and said the same issue had led to Brexit and the Tory majority in Britain. He blamed the left, “because the left have decided that any other opinion, any other way of looking at the world is unacceptable.”

The result of this mentality, he said, is that “we don’t debate anymore,” and instead turn to insults and labels. “If you’re on the right, you’re a freak—you’re evil, you’re racist, you are stupid, you are a ‘basket of deplorables.'”

“How do you think people are going to vote if you talk to them like that?” he said.

Jon Stewart, former host of “The Daily Show,” noted a similar problem during a Nov. 18 interview with CBS about the Trump victory. He said, “There is now this idea that anyone who voted for him has to be defined by the worst of his rhetoric.”

Stewart noted that most liberals “hate this idea of creating people as a monolith.” One example, he said, is that you can’t look at Muslims as a monolith, based on negative actions of a few individuals. “But everyone who voted for Trump is a monolith, is a racist. That kind of hypocrisy is also real in our country.”

Of course, the avoidance of direct debate was part of the original intention that is causing this new way of thinking—one that groups people into extreme definitions, and bypasses discussion to attack them personally.

A New ‘Ideology’

The method of debate is rooted in the Marxist idea of “ideology” and is meant to instill an altered worldview reinterpreted through the teachings of Marxism.

Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels argued that people aren’t in control of their views, and their views are instead formed by the system. All values, concepts, opinions, theories, and beliefs that many of us hold as self-evident are viewed by this theory as products of political developments.

The only ideas that are outside this system and should not be reconsidered, under the Marxist ideology, are the teachings of Marx. This is because it portrays its own ideology as being Utopian—the end of human progress.

It creates a way of thinking where those who subscribe to Marxist ideology believe they are among the enlightened few, and that all other beliefs and ideas are part of outdated ideologies of the past—things they believe should be discarded or destroyed.

“The concept vaulted to unprecedented popularity, primarily because it proved to be a most convenient tool in political conflicts: it allowed discrediting one’s opponents without entering into a substantive argument,” writes former Polish Minister of Education Ryszard Legutko in his book “The Demon in Democracy: Totalitarian Temptations in Free Societies.”

Rather than engage in direct debates and discussion, this new concept taught its adherents to dig out social characteristics of the individual they were speaking with, to reinterpret those characteristics according to the Marxist view of struggle, and then to attack them based on these labels.

This concept also pulled in an idea of partisanship proposed by Vladimir Lenin: A person is either for something or against something. Moreover, Lenin’s ideas created the understanding that all things should be viewed only in black and white. The spectrum of ideas and beliefs is narrowed to two opposing extremes, with only socialist ideology being valid.

Marxist ideology was used to terrifying effect under nearly all communist regimes, which are estimated to have killed 150 million people worldwide—including 80 million in China, alone—in a single century.

Under Joseph Stalin’s Soviet Russia, the enemies were labeled the “bourgeoisie,” “fascists,” “capitalists,” and “Zionists;” under Mao Zedong’s Chinese Communist Party, the enemies were called “rightists,” “counter-revolutionaries,” the “landlord class,” and those who believed in “superstition.”

“By being identified as serving the cause of the bourgeoisie, the philosophers, artists, and writers could be arraigned on a charge of being the enemies of the socialist revolution and standing in the way of the future, often with lamentable consequences for the defendants,” Legutko writes.

“This practically put an end to any form of intellectual argumentation,” he writes. “No one argued, but either accused someone of ideological treason or defended himself against such a charge.”

Marxism in the West

The Marxist idea of “ideology” was introduced to the West under the guise of “critical theory.”

Critical theory was brought to the United States by the Frankfurt School, founded as a Marxist school of social theory and philosophy, which was affiliated with Columbia University in New York from 1935 until after World War II ended, when it returned to Frankfurt.

The Frankfurt School has attempted through critical theory to understand knowledge as something that is defined either by a social context or a Utopian goal, not by objective reality. The thinkers in the school have used a variety of perspectives informed by Georg Hegel, Sigmund Freud, Friedrich Nietzsche, and, of course, Marx, although the school has also subjected Marx’s own thought to critical treatment.

Dr. John Lenczowski, founder and president of The Institute of World Politics, described critical theory at an event on Jan. 29, 2016, as a “nihilistic Marxist analysis of our society based on its materialism” that tries to alienate people from traditional values. In particular, this analysis targets the United States, which established a “moral order” that gave us international law and global concepts of human rights.

During the same event, Michael Walsh, author of “The Devil’s Pleasure Palace: The Cult of Critical Theory and the Subversion of the West,” explained the concept further. He believes that only by looking at what was behind critical theory can we understand its attacks on freedom of speech, freedom of belief, and our values as a nation.

Walsh said that most people, religious or not, believe there are some absolute truths based on the human condition, and that we have developed a code of morals based on this recognition. “That is now under attack.”

“What the Frankfurt School tried to do through the mechanism of critical theory, was to undermine your belief in reason,” Walsh said. “They erected a devil’s pleasure palace of illusion to give you the sense that what you previously had believed is no longer true and no longer operable.”

“Among the traits of the Frankfurt School is the war on language, and the war on what you can say and what you can’t say, and that is political correctness,” he said. “Political correctness is meant to forbid you from thinking. That’s what it is—it’s fascism of the mind. The theory being if you can’t say it, you won’t think it.”

The new ideology is a way of using debate to shut down debate. It’s a way of discrediting people based on their race, beliefs, gender, or creed. And it’s a way of using political labels to dehumanize a person so he or she can be stripped of rights and ultimately silenced.

Corrections: A previous version of this article misspelled Jon Stewart’s name. Epoch Times regrets the error.

A previous version of this article misspelled the time period the Frankfurt School returned to Frankfurt. The school of social theory and philosophy returned to Germany after World War II. Epoch Times regrets the error.

Communism is estimated to have killed at least 100 million people, yet its crimes have not been fully compiled and its ideology still persists. Epoch Times seeks to expose the history and beliefs of this movement, which has been a source of tyranny and destruction since it emerged.

See entire article series here.