PC World

Two Forms of Mass Hysteria

March 11, 2017

Multiple Pages
Two Forms of Mass Hysteria

The mode of transmission of the disease kuru was established by the American virologist D. Carleton Gajdusek, who won the Nobel Prize for this work.

Kuru was a fatal neurodegenerative disease found only among the Fore, a tribe in the highlands of New Guinea. It was their custom to eat the corpses of their deceased, women and children consuming the brains while muscles were reserved for the men. Gajdusek injected brain tissue from those who died (women and children) of kuru into chimpanzees, who then developed a similar disease. Kuru was caused and transmitted by a particle of protein called a prion.

Whenever I come across the politically correct, which these days is more and more frequently, I think of kuru and prions. Of course I recognize that they, the politically correct, do not indulge in what is known to anthropologists as funerary cannibalism, and that political correctness is not literally a neurodegenerative disease caused by a prion; but it might just as well be, so devastating is its effect on intellection. It also appears to be infective, spreading from brain to brain, though at a pace much quicker than that of kuru. Perhaps it is more like a form of chronic mass hysteria.

“To argue against rubbish is to immerse oneself in rubbish; not to argue against rubbish is to allow it to triumph.”

I was leafing the other day through a philosophy magazine whose self-proclaimed aim was to make philosophy accessible to the masses. Since the masses now have university degrees, this might not seem as quixotic an aim at it might once have seemed, though whether the extension of tertiary education has actually raised the mean or median cultural level of the population may be doubted. There is still no better way of going bankrupt than starting an unsubsidized cultural magazine without pictures or advertisements for luxury goods.

The magazine was relentlessly politically correct. But political correctness is a little like our economic system: It must be forever expanding in order to survive at all. The capitalist economy has to stimulate new desires in consumers and make those desires as quickly as possible seem like real needs, without the satisfaction of which life is rendered impossible. In order to extend its soft totalitarian hold over the population, political correctness must discover new injustices to set right by a mixture of censorship, language reform, and legal privileges for minorities. This is because the meaning of life for the politically correct is political agitation.

Political correctness is contradictory. Thus there was an article in the magazine arguing, on what might loosely be called philosophical grounds, for an end to the separation of men and women in sports. Women tennis players, for example, should compete against men, even if this means (as it does) that no woman could ever again make a living as a tennis player. In the name of equality of the sexes, one sex should be eliminated from a whole field of endeavor. Presumably, also, there should be no concessions for the handicapped, who would be forced to compete not against those similarly handicapped but against the fully fit.

Though this be madness, yet there is method in it: For the greater political correctness’ violation of common sense, the better—at least if its goal is power over men’s minds and conduct. In this sense it is like Communist propaganda of old: The greater the disparity between the claims of that propaganda and the everyday experience of those at whom it was directed, the greater the humiliation suffered by the latter, especially when they were obliged to repeat it, thus destroying their ability to resist, even in the secret corners of their heart. That is why the politically correct insist that everyone uses their language: Unlike what the press is supposed to do, the politically correct speak power to truth.

One of the strange things about the politically correct is that they never seem to become bored with their own thoughts. And this leads to a dilemma for those who oppose political correctness, for to be constantly arguing against bores is to become a bore oneself. On the other hand, not to argue against them is to let them win by default. To argue against rubbish is to immerse oneself in rubbish; not to argue against rubbish is to allow it to triumph. All that is necessary for humbug to triumph is for honest men to say nothing.

The opposite of political correctness, however, is not (or at least ought not to be) vile abuse. I looked on the internet recently for articles about the riots in Sweden that followed President Trump’s remarks about that country. Apparently the rioters burned cars and smashed storefronts in an attempt to demonstrate to him how well integrated they were. (The cars and shops were probably owned by people very like themselves, but rioters are not, on the whole, great thinkers.)

Some of the commentary that followed the articles was so vile that I wondered whether it accurately represented the state of mind of those who wrote it, or whether they thought up this vileness especially for the internet:

Grind them [the rioters] up for animal food, hopefully pig slop.

The commentators soon moved on from Stockholm and Sweden to Mexico, Mexicans, and the famous—or infamous—proposed wall:

We gotta dig a bad ass trench for the wall’s foundation, line it with invader criminal corpses and fill with concrete.

Worse, perhaps, was:

By deport, we mean send them 6 feet under. Use the bodies to fill the coyotes’ tunnels along the border and there will be a lot fewer uneducated, marginal gardeners and housekeepers for the faux rich and multinational corporations to exploit in the blue hives.

I presume that what the writer meant by the blue hives were the states (such as New York and California) that voted Democrat in the recent election; but what was particularly unpleasant about this last comment was that it was clearly written by an intelligent and educated man and not by a high school dropout. It breathes a hatred and resentment so strong that it overcomes all reason. The writer evidently does not believe or understand that a desire to kill and dishonorably inter hundreds of thousands or millions of human beings should not be expressed, and that decency requires that one controls one’s darkest thoughts. To express them is to encourage and strengthen them.

I am against political correctness and in favor of freedom of expression, but I am against the coarsening of thought and language. The latter will lead in the end to one of two things, or both: vileness of conduct or censorship.

Daily updates with TM’s latest