The Loch “Non” Monster

(c) Neydtstock

Several seemingly innocuous words in our society’s political language are actually doing great harm. Sometime soon, we will all have to decide whether to continue using them.

I discussed the most damaging of these fallacies – the word centrist – in a previous post. But not far behind is the term non-partisan: it also wreaks large levels of havoc within our collective discourse.

Those who self-label as non-partisan typically sort into two broad categories: the insincere and the sincere. One influences the political narrative intentionally …… and with selfish motives. The other influences it unintentionally.

The sincere folks use this term because they’ve fallen into a trap. In their defense, though, they can hardly be blamed for the predicament because almost everyone suffers from a similar limitation: partisanship has been defined as a one-dimensional concept.

These sincere non-partisans look at the liberals on the left and think, “I’m not one of them.” They also look to the other end of today’s spectrum and have the same reaction. Then, when their attention turns to the so-called center, they decide to avoid the folks who reside there as well. This leaves them no political faction to identify with. They say, “I’m not a part of that paradigm.” ……. “I’m non-partisan“.

At its core, the problem is spatial. We rely on a false concept: the horizontal line segment. This linear model – despite its current dominance over political thought – is so limited that it grants the sincere non-partisans no real estate on which to locate their political position ……

In contrast, the insincere non-partisans function more like a Trojan horse. They pretend to have no political leanings, but in reality they’re pushing either a left-centralizing viewpoint or a right-centralizing viewpoint …… with its language cleverly disguised.

Regardless of the intent behind its usage, a logical fallacy is at work beneath this term. We believe that partisanship can only function in one direction, when, in fact, there are two dimensions to partisanship. The first orients toward left and right. The second orients up and down …… along the Power Axis.

So, a distinction can be drawn the next time you hear this term being used: the sincere non-partisan will typically favor citizen-based power, while the less sincere is often seeking greater control over centralized power structures. This isn’t a hard-and-fast rule: occasionally someone who resides near the circle’s top will use the term with good intentions. But the diagram below can still serve as a general guide for understanding the motives of the non-partisan self-labelers ……

Whether sincere or insincere, the term nonpartisan has created a monster. It is a fictional concept that foists a false impression upon the listener. It relies on the deeply flawed assumption that partisanship can only be defined as left versus right. Meanwhile, few thinkers address the crucial Power Question head-on …… while its misuse increases.

As one of the trickster terms of our political vocabulary, non-partisan must be recognized for its true nature. The stakes are too high for concepts like this to be ignored.

Image: copyright Neydtstock

The Five Types of Political Words

If you don’t trust a particular political player – but can’t put your finger on why – these distinctions can help you test the language they use to distort a listener’s worldview ……

CATEGORY ONE: TRICKSTER WORDS

The two prime examples in this group are the terms centrist and non-partisan. We discuss them as if they really exist, but they’re provably false when submitted to a thorough analysis.

These labels are often featured in the language of the political con artist, who hides within them like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. A few self-described “non-partisans” do use the description sincerely, however …… if only because the left-right model provided no other option.

CATEGORY TWO: THE BARNACLE-CLAD

This group includes words like libertarian and progressive. They aren’t falsehoods but neither are they adequate. The confusion lies in the layers of conflicting connotations that have gradually encrusted the terms. This makes them difficult vessels for maneuvering the choppy waters of complex political conversations.

CATEGORY THREE: THE ULTRA-SOPHISTICATES

This category includes words like communitarianism and theoconservatism. They can sometimes be useful when applied to a discussion of great depth, but are too complex and obscure to make sense in a pragmatic conversation.

Ultra-sophisticate terms can be recognized by their long syllable strings and by the personalities who use them: political science professors, media pundits, etc.

CATEGORY FOUR: INDISPENSABLE TERMS

Four words reside in this category: liberal and conservative …… and their synonyms, left and right. Our society can’t be discussed without them.

Try the following experiment some time: ignore the point being made by the participants in a political conversation and instead count the number of times one of these words is used. It can be surprising how often they come up …… and how frequently conflicting meanings are applied to the same term.

Unfortunately, the indispensables are incomplete until combined with other important terms that are rarely used: the “power words” like centralizing and citizen-empowering.

CATEGORY FIVE: THE CONFLATORS

This category subdivides into greater and lesser conflators, though the “lesser” group has still done “great” harm.

LESSER CONFLATORS: The terms Democrat and Republican are used by many as synonyms for left and right …… or liberal and conservative. Their basic nature is quite different, however. The political parties are coalition builders whose main goal is to get one more vote than the competitor: an outcome they hope will lead to greater political power. Liberal and conservative are merely marketed as the party’s “brand.”

GREATER CONFLATORS: The term fascist is a poster child for this category. The left accuses the right of being fascist, while the right makes the same accusation in reverse. Meanwhile, neither side separates the power component of the term from its values component. When the political circle’s two axes are insufficiently distinguished, some person (or group) will be posited as a villain without sufficient evidence.

A FINAL NOTE

There might be additional categories of political words. If you think of one that doesn’t fit within these five, suggest it in the comments section below.

Centrists and Sasquatches

Everyone knows what a centrist is. It’s that wise person who moderates between the extremes of left and right. Few dare to doubt the virtue of these benign figures. If we questioned their role, we’d veer into a sketchy world of conspiracy theories, bigfoot encounters, and UFO sightings.

But the concept of centrism isn’t as solid as it seems.

For example, those who self-label with the term are often the most influential members of society. One of them, Jaime Dimon, asserted his credentials with: “My heart is Democratic, but my brain is kind of Republican.” Ben Bernanke staked out the same territory: “I view myself now as a moderate independent, and I think that’s where I’ll stay.” And most presidential candidates seek office as centrists too, like Barack Obama: “There’s not a liberal America and a conservative America. There’s the United States of America.

These figures are neither benign nor moderate. But they do skillfully control the levers of top-down power. And that approach isn’t necessarily acceptable to other Americans. One skeptic, the Australian blogger Caitlin Johnstone, has addressed this group’s agenda in several recent posts.

Fortunately, the concept’s spatial foundations can be analyzed. And this allows the term’s meaning to be assessed. For example, the centrist relies on a one-dimensional model to establish their position’s legitimacy ……

But there is no center on a two-dimensional construct. Positions sit only on the circle. Therefore, when specific players are examined within an accurate model, the Dimons, Bernankes, Obamas, Bushes, Clintons, Gates, Waltons, and Bezoses of America will always concentrate more power within institutions they control.

These actors can pretend to be one thing, while actually being something else, because the left-right model contains congenital flaws. Its limitations cause the rest of us to look the other way as an oligarchy pursues its ambitions. While we argue liberal versus conservative, they accumulate more control.

Here are a few of the policies put in place by people who label themselves centrists ……

  • Send troops to yet another foreign conflict.
  • Bail out the next corporation facing bankruptcy.
  • Quietly pass a new law benefiting some favored industry.
  • Print a few trillion dollars of unbacked currency.
  • Manipulate the price mechanisms of markets.
  • Pay executives lavishly, while regarding workers as costs.
  • Send jobs overseas in return for a few more points of market share

Some Americans will support these ideas, while others will disagree. But none can be construed as moderate; no definition of centrism can be applied. They conform instead to the requirements of centralized power.

Human history is littered with bad ideas that most people once believed, like witches, the aether, rain dances, fertility goddesses, or an earth-centric universe. Our generation arrogantly assumed it had left such fictions behind …… as we fell for perhaps the most damaging whopper of them all: the centrist.

But the logic is clear: centrists don’t exist. The concept is a false construct created to consolidate control. Your chances of meeting a centrist are the same as your chances of meeting Sasquatch.

“The Patriarchy”

The idea of a ubiquitous, entrenched patriarchy is regularly championed by certain members of the credentialed class. But patriarchy can’t be parsed without also addressing matriarchy. Like day and night, or north and south, paired relationships must be examined if we’re to understand either side of a duality.

The angst about patriarchy is generated by a specific sector of the left, where some assert oppression by it. Matriarchy is discussed far less frequently. But if you listen closely, you’ll hear the anti-patriarchy activists cautiously proclaim matriarchy’s virtues …… with a hope for its ascendance. The two concepts are linked.

To understand the meaning of these terms, it’s helpful to begin with their benign cousins – paternal and maternal. These concepts don’t contain the authoritarian connotations. In fact, they make few objective assertions at all. Each is a creature of the values axis. Therefore, they sit at the left and right poles of the circle.

Mother Earth is representative of the maternal impulse. Thus, liberal groups, like feminists and environmentalists, find a “safe space” at the left pole. Similarly, Father God represents the paternal impetus, so conservative evangelicals and warrior-oriented “patriots” gravitate to the right.

Every human answers two fundamental questions, however. And the terms paternal and maternal (aka liberal and conservative) stand as valid answers to only one of them: the values question.

We must therefore ask …… how do these concepts shift when the power question has its say? The obvious response is that some of the maternalists (liberals) will favor a centralization of power, while others support a citizen-oriented distribution. The paternalists (conservatives) will sort in the same way.

This brings us back to matriarchy and patriarchy. The roots of these terms – matri– and patri– – represent contrasting values responses. Meanwhile, their shared suffix, –archy, functions as a common answer to the power question.

Archy– is related to the term hierarchy, which represents a top-down approach to human organization. Therefore, matriarchy and patriarchy both assert a “centralized” power answer. They reside within the upper quadrants of the political circle ……

A spatial model functions as a tool for analyzing political speech. In this case, the circle helps us to assess the assumptions made by specific partisan actors. Those who make statements critical of “the patriarchy” are fighting against top-down control by conservatives. But they often seek to replace it with top-down control asserted by liberals.

A troubling issue arises here: what about those liberals and conservatives who favor neither patriarchy nor matriarchy? No descriptions exist for people who combine their values orientation with a citizen-oriented power answer. In other words, there are no labels for a maternal or paternal emphasis within the lower quadrants …..

Specific qualities attract someone to the lower quadrants. A “matrizen” will favor liberal values, but they’ll also join fluid, flat organizations that favor a clear mission, full transparency, and an often-local orientation. They’ll be pragmatic and data-driven, and will view dissidents like Edward Snowden or Julian Assange favorably. The “patrizen” will exhibit similar preferences, but they’ll lean conservative.

These citizens, and their organizations, already exist in large numbers. In fact, their myriad grassroots movements are growing. But they remain unlabeled within the collective conversation. And they’re ignored or dismissed by the centralist gatekeepers of major media.

If our society continues to structure its politics on the wrong spatial model (the left-right line) such blind spots and gaslighting will fester. Conflation and unclear definitions will further degrade the discourse surrounding words like patriarchy.

When we shift to a two-dimensional construct, however, the circle allows clear distinctions to be drawn within the language of politics.

Spelling Out “Facism” ……

Photo by Walter Bean (CC BY-NC 2.0) cropped

How often have you viewed images from a protest – either left or right – and noticed that some sign-maker failed to spell the term fascist correctly? The moral outrage is diminished by the mental laxity.

For many words in our vocabulary, it’s easy enough to overlook such minor errors. But a handful of political terms call attention to themselves because they function as the heavy artillery in our arsenal of partisan language. The term fascist is one of them. It ranks just behind racist ( rascist? ) in its ability to dismiss a political opponent’s ideas.

Is there anyone left who hasn’t been labeled a fascist? Republicans, democrats, wokesters, evangelicals, the military, and anti-war protesters have all been linked to the Nazis by some angry opponent. This trend has caused an important concept to devolve into overuse and hyperbole.

There’s not much we can do about the name-calling, or bad spelling, of our fellow citizens. But we can assess the confusion that surrounds this pejorative. At the heart of that dysfunction lies today’s one-dimensional political paradigm.

For example, liberals often claim that fascists are “far right.” Visually, this describes a position at an extreme edge of the horizontal line.

Conservatives don’t like this label. They argue that “far left” figures have killed more innocents than those on the right. This leads to the assertion that fascism includes actors like Mao, Stalin, and Pol Pot ……

The “who is a fascist?” debate exposes the limitations of America’s dominant political paradigm. A one dimensional model simply can’t describe where these actors reside on the spectrum. Instead, a two-dimensional framework must be applied ……

Thus, the true fascist can only be identified at the spatial level of analysis. When political terminology is viewed visually, we see that fascism can lean either left or right, but it always sits at the top of the circle. History’s villains really aren’t that far apart on the spectrum.

Is every person who holds a high position on the circle a fascist? Certainly not. But specific conditions do embolden latent sinister forces at that location. The primary prerequisite is an imbalance toward centralized power. In other words, when top down hierarchies (state or corporate) dominate the political system, too much control becomes concentrated in too few institutions. Cunning, psychopathic individuals then plot to take over.

Politics must be analyzed from a visual orientation first, before proceeding to definitions of terms. Fascism is one case in point. This crucial concept must be applied with precision to become useful on the public square. Under the left-right-only paradigm, it was understood as poorly as it was spelled.