In the movie The Usual Suspects, the wily main character utters one of the most memorable movies lines in recent times. “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” The line is allegedly lifted from the 19th century French poet Charles Baudelaire. According to the Quote Investigator, versions of the line have been used by Christian ministers before Baudelaire. That seems plausible, given the inclinations of reformist Christian ministers.
Something similar can be said for radicalism. Perhaps its greatest trick is to convince the world they did not win and rule the West for the last century and a half. Instead, the radicals go from triumph to triumph, convincing their adherents that the fight must go on, as well as convincing their opponents to fight future battles in a way that is guaranteed to result in their defeat. It really is a remarkable thing, when you stop and think about the past century or so of political conflict.
One trick the Left has used is to alter the shared consciousness in such a way that everyone is a binary thinker. That is, every issue, not matter how trivial, is assumed to be one thing or the other. Whatever the issue, there are only two options, so if one is made invalid, the other is the right answer by default. Therefore, everyone participating in political discourse is forced to defend one side or the other. Further, they think they advance their side by discrediting the other side.
The classic example of this was the homosexual marriage debate. Before anyone knew what was happening, the beautiful people were insisting that anyone opposed to the idea must hate homosexuals. In fact, anyone not embracing everything about the homosexual lifestyle must be a hate-filled bigot. This binary thinking has now extended to men dressed as women. The only options for the debate were one extreme position or the other, which obviously worked to the advantage of the Left.
Another example is the current debate over the pandemic lock downs. The alarmists insist that the choices are lock everyone in their homes until there are no more sick people or allow people to die in the streets from the virus. Most people have happily accepted this framing, so that anyone questioning the lock down is viewed as a dangerous nut. The idea of a third or fourth position is no longer possible, as those are lumped into one extreme or the other by the two sides.
Yet another example is one that has turned up in fringe politics. Those opposed to the current economic order are cheering the lock down, as they assume it must be bad for those they blame for the current economic order. This urge to harm their perceived enemies is so intense, they seem willing to harm themselves and their friends in an economic collapse, if it harms the bad guys. Any questioning of this is characterized as a defense of the current order, possibly even a betrayal.
Probably the clearest example of this binary way of thinking is something you see from the intelligent design people. They assume if they can discredit evolutionary biology, their preferred explanation of life must be true. They make no effort to prove their claims about a great designer. They just assume that if they discredit the alternative, they must be proven correct by default. It is why they invest all of their time and energy into attacking evolutionary biology. Theirs is an either-or worldview.
There’s almost always a strong moral component to binary thinking. Side A looks at Side B as immoral, perhaps evil. We see this now with the lock down. Those questioning the policy are accused of being indifferent to their fellow humans or even putting lives at risk with their crazy ideas about going outside. The same moral signaling was at play with the homosexual marriage debate. In the binary worldview, there are only good guys and bad guys, black hats and white hats.
This hyper-moralized binary thinking can have some bizarre results. The Left is endlessly mewing about the danger of right-wing authoritarianism, but cheers what can only be described as authoritarianism during the lockout. Right-wing opponents of cosmopolitan globalism are now embracing left-wing schemes to crash the system, like rent strikes and overloading the welfare system. The so-called hard-right now sounds like a bunch of leisure suit wearing Progressives from the 1970’s.
The reason for this is the hyper-moralized world of binary thinking must necessarily be detached from anything resembling fixed truth. If all that matters is opposing the bad guy, then the only truth that matters is they are wrong and therefore the opposite of what they say is the truth. In a world of binary thinking, everyone is defined by who they hate and what they oppose, not by objective truth. In the great dance with the Devil, he leads by simply existing in the mind of his partner.
That is the great trick of the radicals. By convincing the world that politics is a constant struggle against some enemy, the corrective of factual reality has been abandoned in favor of binary logic. Since radicalism itself is rooted in the endless revolution against something, societies in a constant struggle to find some new devil to oppose must always embrace radicalism. The very identity of a radical society is rooted in the constant struggle to move past some evil onto the next.
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