The form of propaganda known as False Definition, the third type described by Richard Weaver in his essay collection In Defense of Tradition, is the broadest and most flexible of the three major forms. False Definition includes gaslighting, goalpost-shifting, appeal to [false] authority, appeal to [false] consensus, the logical fallacy of False Cause and Begging the Question, and nearly any other argument that relies on purposeful manipulation of the meaning of words. This makes it particularly easy to find in practice, but particularly difficult to analyze as a scholar. The category is just so broad that any attempt to isolate and interpret this form of propaganda inevitably leads to a reductionist approach which ignores a key element of False Definition. There is one area, however, where the Cathedral and its media mouthpieces illustrate Type III propaganda in nearly its full depth: the media’s non-approach to left-wing terrorism.
Most people think critically about a name only the first time that they hear it. Then they assign it a value and tuck it away on a mental shelf. Political and other propagandists know this well, and one of their favorite tricks is to take the name down and use it with the value originally attached. The propagandist is thus making use of a certain force of inertia, created by the ordinary man’s unwillingness or lack of time to re-examine terms. In our day, such terms as “Tory,” “radical,” “copperhead,” “aristocrat,” and “red” are used in just this way, without reference to their rational content.”
Weaver describes the problem of Type III propaganda as evolving out of the various short-cuts that the human mind uses to organize information. The reader may certainly update Weaver’s list with a number of terms used by propagandists today without any reference whatsoever to their rational content. What this illustrates is that everyone in Western society marinates in this kind of propaganda throughout their life without the need to be aware of its presence. Type III propaganda is the liquid through which the shattered ruins of Western society swims.
The best illustration of the way that the Cathedral manipulates the waters of media propaganda is the various tactics used to deny and minimize the reality of left-wing terrorism in the West. Links will not be included, as a simple search can bring up sites far better versed in identifying the particular instances of the media’s attempts to obfuscate and redefine leftist terror away. Since the essence of False Definition is the perversion of the meaning of words into tools of political propaganda, the emphasis will be on these kinds of tricks, though this is not to say that left-wing propagandists fail to also use Type I (the Big Lie) and Type II (False Dichotomy) when dealing with leftist terror.
Of course, the term whose manipulation forms the groundwork of propaganda is “terrorism” itself. Every dictionary and textbook defines terrorism in nearly the same way: violence perpetrated by an actor with political motive whose goal is to create political change. The differentia specifica of terrorism, then, is not the kind of violence or even the political beliefs of the perpetrator but that the purpose behind it is to create political change out of violence. Nevertheless, from media figures to the broken records on Twitter, leftist propagandists consistently attempt to muddy the definition of terrorism for their benefit. Credentialed so-called experts on popular media shows attempt to redefine terrorism as any gun-related crime. Two-bit shock-jockeys imply that terrorism is a dog-whistle for non-white killers, which gets gleefully repeated by the echo-chamber of Twitter and Facebook. Paranoid, solipsistic ethnic activists define terrorism as neighborhood policing or public school redistricting.
The effectiveness of this propaganda rests on the idea that by confusing the definition of the term, opponents of the Left will not be able to successfully oppose and prevent future terrorist attacks. It is an attempt to scramble the ability of enemies to successfully identify and orient themselves in accord with the friend-foe dichotomy. In essence, it is like a form of radar jamming which serves to keep the anti-leftist flying blind. Without the ability to rally and organize after a terrorist attack, this propaganda serves to interrupt the OODA loop of the terror target and prevent any form of engagement of the enemy. Just like the Republicans spent years arguing over who exactly was responsible for 9/11, by keeping the base of the Right confused as to what exactly occurred after a terror attack, the Left removes the primary weakness of terror tactics: their ability to unite the opposition against the perpetrators of terror.
Sometimes, the attack is too large or too obvious for the Left to deny as terrorism. The information on social media makes it impossible sometimes to control the narrative and deny that terrorism has occurred. In that situation, Type III propaganda can still be utilized to cover for the causes of left-wing terrorism. False Definition is not applied to the act but to the person who committed the act and works by defining away left-wing motives.
Certainly, everyone is familiar with a simple pattern, wherein the media initially identifies the suspect as a white, male, right-wing, Republican NRA member. As the internet begins to organize and share screenshots of the suspect’s social media, layers eventually begin to peel away from the mainstream media dossier. The suspect usually loses the attribute “Republican-registered” first. When a long history of left-wing politics emerges out of social media, the narrative shifts to “white rage” or “toxic masculinity.” Often, the suspect’s race has to go, as it emerges that he was Hispanic, Arab, or central Asian. When the information about the suspect becomes clear, the media consensus emerges: it was the gun’s fault.
Terrorism is a type of attack that fully illustrates the character of politics as a fundamentally existential contest between competing, incompatible groups. Here, it is not a question of policies that strip away resources or deprive a people of their inheritance but a literal attempt to exterminate members of the opposing tribe. As mentioned before, the human response to such an attack is to band together with friends and repel the enemy. This is why terrorism is such an effective tactic at conflict escalation but a poor tactic for conflict which centers on deception.
Both James Burnham and Samuel Francis identified the Left with a type of elites Vilfredo Pareto labels as “Class I” or “fox” elites. Class II “lion” elites are identified by their strong in-group solidarity, group-interest orientation, and high levels of classical leadership virtue. Their weaknesses, however, mirror their strength. Solidarity prevents them from acknowledging subversion from self-interested and cunning Class I “fox” elites within their midst. These elites govern through cut-throat competition, self-interest, and indirect exercise of power. When an elite class are mixed, the “foxes” eventually predominate due to their tactics being superior within a high-trust organization. Unfortunately for them, however, the “foxes” overpopulate at the expense of the lions and erode the organization from within. At that point, a rival elite of “lions” has the capacity to seize power by overturning the regime and expelling the “fox” elite. This cycle relies on the rival elite recognizing the “foxes” for what they are: an enemy force in power.
Like “foxes,” the Left’s primary tool is deception and propaganda, and so Type III propaganda is used in this situation to throw the “lions” off the scent. By denying that the attacking force is from the Left, it hopes to redirect the attention of the rival enemy against a different enemy or even against itself. The redirection move is consistent with Pareto’s “fox” elite because it permits them to remain in power serving their own self-interests without having to actually engage in a fight for control of the institution.
At the utmost, it is sometimes even impossible to pull off this form of propaganda. When a perpetrator has put his crimes on social media, announced his left-wing motivations, and brags of his hatred of the rival tribe, the Left is still left with a propagandistic tool. The last form of false definition to be discussed is the twisting of language to justify terrorism against opponents of the Cathedral. This is the form that those on the Outer Right are most likely to notice because its essence is the identification and demonization of the targets of political violence with the various “apostate-names” derived from the Cathedral religion on the Left.
The thing to remember about this form of propaganda is that it is the cause of last resort for the Left. This kind of radical demonization is a form of scorched earth, and its prevalence in this day and age does not demonstrate the strength of the Left but its weakness. Since the Left is a “fox” elite, its primary tactic is to avoid confrontation, not provoke it, and so it is better to isolate and ignore an enemy than provoke a fight. The strength of the Left in the 50s and early 60s shows the ability to marginalize opponents like the John Birch Society and anti-Communists without resorting to censorship, speech-codes, or other forms of modern violent repression. Absolute control of the media, domination of both political parties, puppet ideological leadership, and other features of mid-20th century leftism made it possible to laugh away the enemy. When it is necessary to mobilize violent rioters, tap the police, use coercion in higher education, and so forth, it shows that the cultural hegemony of the Left is slipping.
By labelling the enemy as the “apostate-names,” the Left is hoping to convince proxy-agents to fight the conflict for them. It is a call for mercenaries and willing dupes to “punch Nazis” or whatever is the particular slur du joir. This form of propaganda is an attempt to redefine the friend-enemy dichotomy in such a way as to turn the enemy against himself, and as such to avoid as much of the fighting as possible. If by trickery, the Cathedral can use conservatives as their foot-soldiers to fight the actual Right, this is a preferred outcome to expending their own limited strength. Thus, the victims of terrorism are relabeled as the perpetrators and their efforts at self-defense are falsely defined as aggression.
To conclude this series on propaganda from Richard Weaver’s In Defense of Tradition, let one canard go to its grave on the Outer Right:
It is tempting to say that the only final protection against propaganda is education. But the remark must be severely qualified because there is a kind of education which makes people more rather than less gullible. Most modern education induces people to accept too many assumptions. On these the propagandist can play even more readily than on the supposed prejudices of the uneducated.
The only kind of education which protects against propaganda is not a liberal education, or even a technical education. Technically educated individuals have proven to be among the most gullible members of modern society. It is not by coincidence that Muslim immigrants with a Western technical education are prime candidates for terrorism. Nor is it a coincidence that those with vast liberal educations in the university tend to support the worst elements of the Cathedral regime. The solution to propaganda in Western society requires us to reach out to the concept of the Rectification of Names.
Cicero tells us that the three requirements for a group to become a community are a common language, common right, and common weal. The latter tells us that a group of people whose mode of life harms the prospects of others around them cannot form a community. The former two, however, illustrate the importance of a common linguistic paradigm. The latin “ius” is not merely “rights” in the modern reductionist sense or “law” in the sense of statute, but a society’s understanding of the nature of good and evil, right and wrong. To defend a civil community, there must be consensus on what words mean, how they can be applied, and the moral meanings of those words. Restoration of politics is not enough; the world requires a restoration of ideas and words. When words have meanings, those meanings are fixed, and people understand what others are saying, the tactics of False Definition become difficult, if not impossible.