The recent spat between Jonathan Chait and Te-Nehsi Coates illustrates an interesting way that the Cathedral manages to control the narrative on issues through its stranglehold of the media. This issue serves as an illustration of another form of propaganda which permeates American culture, Type II or the false dichotomy. The actual dispute is rather droll, but a very brief summary is necessary.
Coates wrote an essay attacking the white liberals who place blame for Trump’s election on socioeconomic issues and the Democrats’ abandonment of the working class in favor of kulturkampf issues and urban upper-middle class priorities. He accused white liberals of attempting to dodge the blame for Trump by pawning responsibility onto the working class, so they can avoid the fact that Trump was elected on a platform of support for his white constituency. Policies which Trump passed to benefit his constituents would also benefit white liberals, thus implicating them in a system which oppresses minorities and enshrines white supremacy. For that reason, white liberal journalists who wrote on socioeconomic and class-consciousness angles surrounding the Trump administration are participants in white supremacy because they benefit from Trump but attempt to disguise that fact, according to Coates.
Jonathan Chait responded in New York Magazine by referring to the Left’s “discourse of panic” surrounding Trump and the way that the term “white supremacist” had been so enlarged in the last year to include anyone who fails to show sufficient zeal for the Democratic Party’s agenda. The result of this discourse, he argued, is that all opposition is lumped in with white supremacy and is therefore subject to violence and denial of political rights. He questioned if this principle will ultimately lead to all contrary opinions becoming invitations to physical attack.
In response to Chait’s article, Del Valle argued that Chait is giving cover to white supremacists on the Left, which she defines as any person advocating for “policies that harm people of color” and includes “polite white liberals who definitely don’t agree with neo-Nazis but will defend their right to chant ‘blood and soil’ on public property.” For Del Valle, Chait’s argument is an expression of his white supremacy and an attempt to dodge its consequences, part of the “two level” theory of white supremacy. This theory is outlined in Ian Hanley Lopez’s Dog Whistle Politics, in which overt white supremacy by Republicans is used to benefit covert white supremacists like liberal Democrats who maintain plausible deniability in order to profit from non-white constituencies. The debate continued on Twitter, including Jeet Heer and Damon Linker, with Chait himself getting into the mix.
The issue of defining white supremacy itself is not particularly interesting, but the rhetorical strategies used by the radicals both in the articles and on Twitter illustrate a potent tool which helps control dialogue and silence dissent from the orthodoxy of Cathedral elites. Returning to Richard Weaver’s essay collection In Defense of Tradition, the second form of propaganda, Type II, is defined as the false dichotomy. In this form, the propagandist uses either a monopoly or dominance over the channels of communications in society to reduce the public consciousness of alternatives to a problem outside of two given choices.
One such choice, the true prong, is the preference of the propagandist and is presented as the only rational option, and the other choice, the false prong, is manifestly absurd. Since the vast majority of viewers will lack information on alternative choices, they will be forced to choose the propagandist’s preference, since no reasonable individual would choose the absurd choice. Weaver describes it in these terms:
All rational choice is a process of sorting over two or more alternatives and taking the one which seems to promise best… Propagandists long ago discovered that no such process can occur if only one alternative is supplied. By this method freedom of choice is stifled almost as completely as if coercion had been used. Thus a people may be told by their government and by that arm of the press which practically every government has at its beck and call that the country has but one choice: it must fight, or it must inflate the currency, and so on… But when there exists a practical monopoly of channels of information and communication, it is next to impossible to put another alternative before any sizable part of the population… These and many other such partial renderings are alike in that they keep from the public a true picture of the situation with alternatives.
The essence of Type II propaganda is the illusion of choice being offered. America must invade Syria or the terrorists win. You must vote for McCain, or you’ll get Obama. There is one viable option given and a horrific consequence if it is not chosen.
Samuel Francis describes the managerial regime as a set of oligopolistic structures established in order to explicitly limit choice in just this fashion. In the corporate mode of this form of propaganda, however, both options are equally advantageous to the managerial elite. Options are limited, but there is no need for an absurd option because system is designed for multiple parallel benefits from either outcome. You must vote Democrat or Republican. You must be conservative or liberal. You must watch CNN, MSNBC, or Fox. You must shop at Walmart or Target. You must drink Pepsi or Coke. No, sir, I would rather drink water. Dasani or Aquafina?
In short, the entire structure of society is organized into a set of very limited choices which serve to trap the citizen in a system which benefits the elites while providing the illusion that the trap is freely chosen. It is the ignorance of potential options which prevents the subject of this kind of propaganda from being aware that he has options. To quote Orwell’s 1984, “Indeed, so long as they are not permitted to have standards of comparison, they never even become aware that they are oppressed.” While it is possible to opt out of the system, it takes intelligence and more importantly unbiased information to navigate the paths being obscured by Type II propaganda, as well as a willingness to be seen as strange or eccentric. Consider the look on most peoples’ face when you inform them that, no, you do not subscribe to either satellite or cable television service, not because you can’t afford it but because you reject the programming being offered by both services.
Now imagine informing them that you have opted out of democracy altogether.
This mode of propaganda is pervasive throughout modern society. Many immature reactionaries are still trapped within this mindset and are incapable of breaking through to mature, successful ways of thinking. Ordinarily, Type II propaganda compels the subject to choose the option provided because the other choice is absurd. The immature reactionary, however, in rebellion against the Cathedral power structure, chooses the absurd option and signals a politics of ridiculousness. Given the false dichotomy of the Syria campaign between an American invasion and ISIS victory, it is one thing to reply rhetorically with, “then let the terrorists win.” It is another thing to advocate for ISIS unironically because one opposes the Cathedral regime. The immature reactionary is still permitting Type II propaganda to frame his worldview because he accepts the facial validity of the dichotomy but chooses the option which was intended to be undesirable. The way to defeat this kind of propaganda is to educate oneself on the topic and the full range of options available, not to counter-virtue-signal against the Cathedral.
Returning to the original topic, the radical position on white supremacy shows all the hallmarks of an attempt at Type II propaganda. It sets up the false dichotomy, one answer of which is framed as absurd and denies any other valid approaches to the question. In this case, however, there is a division in the powers which control the avenues of communications. Chait represents a group of Cathedral apparatchik liberals, who are finding themselves increasingly isolated from the elites and of diminishing value to their regime.
Their “fief” in communications, however, has not been revoked yet, and they maintain their ability to signal their preferences through it. The radicals are not yet capable of enforcing their false dichotomy on the public mind because they cannot control a large enough proportion to block out contrary opinions. The liberals know that to permit the radicals control would spell their own demise, as they, too, become white supremacists, exiled from the halls of power in the Cathedral.
In addition to ordinary Type II propaganda, however, the radicals have innovated by tying the “absurd” option to the friend-enemy dichotomy of wartime politics. Ordinarily, Type II propaganda relies on the fear most individuals possess of appearing ridiculous. What prevents the subject from rejecting the preferred option is that they believe the other option to be a decision only a fool would make and do not have the information available to articulate an alternative. By making the alternative not only “foolish” but also “evil” places the subject in an untenable position. If the consequence of the policy decision promoted by the propagandist is sufficiently costly, a person might be willing to look absurd or stupid. An intelligent propagandist is willing to accept a certain amount of “leakage” of this type because a handful of defectors who choose to look stupid are hardly a risk. Libertarian politics are permitted by the Cathedral in this way; by choosing a political option which the Cathedral labels silly or absurd, they are opting out of the false Republican-Democrat dichotomy, but they opt out in a way that is harmless to the power elite.
When the consequence of rejecting the preferred option is to become out-grouped, the price of rejecting the propagandist’s claim rises dramatically. This kind of propaganda is becoming weaponized, not merely as a means to control the narrative but a means to identify subjects of violence and expropriation. It is the overt admission that the radicals see politics as a form of warfare and are legitimizing physical aggression against its foes and other targets of opportune plunder.
In this case, the false dichotomy has been turned into a tool to strip resources from a rival: either the Liberals turn over their assets to the radical Left or they will be declared the enemy and be subject to violent dispossession. Either option is equally beneficial to the radicals. The risk of this strategy, however, is that by closing off any avenue of escape, it opens the door to real anti-Cathedral radicalism by forcing the subject to renounce the Cathedral system altogether if he is for some reason incapable of accepting the majority position. For the radicals to risk this, they must be confident that the liberals and their elite patrons are fundamentally incapable of turning against the Cathedral in such a way as to pose a real threat to their ascendancy, such as by overtly embracing and promoting a politics of white interests. In this case, they are probably correct.
The maneuvering of competing apparatchik factions within the Cathedral’s power structure and their attempt to control the Cathedral’s tools for the propagation of propaganda demonstrate the importance of absolute control of mass communications to the Cathedral’s propaganda efforts. If this control was not important, these factions would not compete over it. There would be no need for the radicals to outgroup the liberals as racist if the media outlets controlled by them were not of significant value. This favored tool of control only truly functions in an environment where access to alternative media is strongly limited. Thus, using Type III propaganda, the false definition, as the “false” prong of the dichotomy, and gaslighting liberals as white supremacists, the radical faction is consolidating their grip on one of the most formidable means of power possessed by the Cathedral.
Chait’s cry is the desperate call of a drowning victim for a life preserver. As numerous reactionaries have mentioned, free speech is the characteristic cause of a losing faction. The powerful have no need for protections from state censorship either in its direct form or indirectly through social harassment and violence. The first lesson that reactionaries should take from this is that free speech rhetoric and activism is pointless. It is the whining of the losers as they are being punched in the face by the winners. Secondly, Type II propaganda of this type works so well and is so inherently believable because existential politics of conflict boils down to the Friend-Enemy dichotomy. Type II propaganda relies on media trust and control, but even when the media is deeply distrusted, it strikes a chord in human nature because it says that you are either with us or you are will the evil ones and this true dichotomy is recognized instinctually. Reactionaries would be wise to both understand and respect the power of this form of propaganda.
Feeling himself trapped within the steel jaws of Type II propaganda, the liberal who wants to avoid the problem of Trump’s implicit whiteness knows his fate is sealed. Between the rhetorical dichotomy of black power and white supremacy, his political faction will be crushed because the propaganda machine of the Cathedral is falling into the hands of people who see liberals as competition to be defeated, not allies within the Cathedral system against the designated enemies: blue-collar rural whites. Chait paraphrased their argument as the following: “You are either with the people beating up the racist-fascists, or you are with the racist fascists themselves. To oppose one is to support the other.”
Unfortunately for Chait and his fellow liberals, this is now the official party line of the regime.