Sunday, July 29, 2007

So You Want to be an Ideologue - A Guide for Beginners

So, you want to be an ideologue?

As an ideologue, you'll find it's actually awfully hard work. Which is ironic, when you think about it. Ideologues so often choose to be ideologues because it's the easy way to define the political spectrum.

In otherwords, ideologues are inherently and ironically lazy.

However, being an ideologue can also be extremely rewarding. In the United States, for example, ideology made a president.

Ideologies bring with them a good deal of rhetorical power. Perhaps for all the unpleasant intellectual gymnastics they necessitate, they really are worth it in the end.

So, if you really want to be an ideologue, perhaps the best way is to simply get started:

Understanding the stakes of ideological conflict

The true fact of the matter is that to most people, ideologies are dead. The last two dominant ideologies on the face of the earth--capitalism and communism--died at the end of the Cold War.

For ideologues, this simply isn't good enough. Ideology has proven to be a very useful tool in the pursuit of political power. As such, ideologues can't allow ideology to die. If they aren't dead, they must be preserved. If they are dead, they must be resurrected. Otherwise, the political spectrum is full of all sorts of complexities, and we simply can't have that.

Ideological conflicts, by necessity, must be battles for the hearts and minds of our fellow citizens. Ideologues are too few to dominate the political landscape alone. As an ideologue, you'll find it very desirable to manipulate people to your ends. This is the only route to political power really left to ideologues in the modern era.

But before you can attain that kind of power, you'll have to harness the true power of ideology, and you can only do that by fighting an ideological conflict. Consider the following to be a useful guide to the world of ideological conflict.

Ideology is a moral issue - Most narrowly defined, ideological conflicts are merely differences in how one views and interprets the world. The fact that there are countless ways to view and interpret the world aside, this just isn't a glamorous way to think of it. It's more fun to imagine these conflicts as battles between good and evil!

As such, make sure you always, always write about your opponents in the most moralistically contemptuous ways possible. After all, if you can define someone as evil, there is literally no end to the tactics you can pursue against them and still have them be considered as legitimate.

Let's take a historical example: the atom bomb was originally developed for use against Hitler's Germany, who were defined in the public eye as evil (although for obvious reasons). Unfortunately, the Nazis had been defeated by the time the bomb was ready for use, so it was dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki instead of Berlin.

To this day, many people still consider the use of the bombs on Japan legitimate because the Japanese were allies of the Nazis in the war, and thus evil at least by complicity.

You, too, can reap the same rhetorical rewards. Your opponents don't merely see the world differently than you do; they're evil.

Find something to exploit - One of the most important things an ideologue needs is a rallying point--something by which they can bring new people to their cause, and something they can use as a rhetorical weapon against their opponents.

Religion is typically very useful. Consider "Islamic terrorism". Most "Islamic terrorists" claim they are acting exclusively on the teachings of Islam when they attack the so-called "unbelievers".

Yet, anyone with a more discerning eye can dissect these claims to find something quite different. Most "Islamic terrorists" (or, at the very least their leaders) are actually acting based not necessarily on Islam as a religion, but rather Islam as a political ideology.

Suffice it to say that this doesn't simply apply to Islam. Christianity can also be exploited as a political ideology, as can Atheism. As such, many politically active versions of so-called "fundamentalist" religions are actually fundamentalist political movements, who are exploiting religion for political capital.

Consider also the way that 9/11 has been manipulated. To many, 9/11 has become a symbol of the abject unpatrioticness of their political opponents (mostly Democrats). To others, 9/11 has become a symbol of incompetence (mostly of Republicans).

You'll want a good rhetorical weapon. Manipulation, you'll find, is a weapon in and of itself.

Ration is partisan - You'll find yourself to be most successful on the intellectual battleground if you can convince people that your opponents are entirely irrational.

You know what's a fun word? Moonbat. You can refute an opponent's grasp on sanity simply by calling them names, and most of the time you don't even need to worry about their ideas! You know what that is? Effective.

If you can, invent a conflict between religion (if you're a right-winger) and science (if you're a left-winger). The debate between science and religion is inherently controversial. Few things divide people like it, and you do want to divide people.

Honesty is partisan - Accuse your opponents of being liars whenever possible. As an ideologue, you need people to be sceptical about any claims made by your opponents, even if they're inconveniently truthful.

You want people to think of your opponents as liars immediately. If people are willing to trust so much as the first thing to come out of your opponent's mouth, the possibility of defeat is on the table.

Sometimes, you'll even need to to lie about your opponent's alleged lies. On that note,

When necessary, lie - In many of his writings Leo Strauss envoked Plato when he advocated in favour of noble lies. This is the idea that some threats to the societal order can be so potentially devestating that it is permissable--even desirable--to lie in order to prevent them.

As an ideologue, you have to believe that the opponents you are fighting are threatening to society. As such, any lie you tell about them is a noble lie, so don't be shy.

Remember that you're fighting evil. No act is strictly immoral when fighting a "greater evil". You may be lying, but you're lying for the betterment of society, right?

Define your own truth - Truth was reverred by the ancient greeks. It was part of the golden triad of goodness (what is beautiful is true, what is true is good, what is beautiful is good).

If the truth is directly related to goodness, then we must hold a monopoly on the truth. Sometimes, however, what is objectively true isn't all that flattering to our cause. What we need is a form of subjective truth: if we approach the idea of truth as subjective, then we can invent our own truths, just like we can invent our enemies.

Of course, we'll never treat what is held to be true by our opponents to be subjectively true--rather, objectively untrue. On the same note, never admit that the truths you're asserting are subjective. Make sure anyone can understand that they're objective truths.

While you're at it, attack their looks - Yeah. Why not?

Control the "dialogue" - Of course, you don't really want dialogue. You want to monologue.

That's why it is of the utmost importance that when you engage with your opponents, you only engage them in places that either you control, or that those friendly to your cause control.

There are various ways of doing this. If a comparatively small group of your opponents are meeting somewhere, put together a larger group to invade their meeting and shout them down. If you're using the internet, try to draw your opponents to sites where you can control the terms of the debate. If any of your opponents post a particular scathing response, you can simply delete it. If they begin to defeat you on logical grounds (realistically, you'll win some and lose some), simply start deleting any evidence of that.

Your opponents will accuse you of censorship, and of course it is. (Don't admit that.) Consider that many people still support censorship when it's applied to something that is simply obsene. That's a good label to stick your opponent's ideas with: obsenity.

If they prove too persistent or too good for you to defeat, you can simply ban them from your site. It may be intellectually cowardly, but your allies and supporters will applaud you for it regardless. Also, it guarantees that you will always have the last word.

On that note,

Always have the last word - Always, always, always, always, always, always have the last word.

This cannot be stressed enough.

If they aren't with you, they're against you - When you start defining your political conflicts as battles between good and evil (or, in partisan terms, as between "great parties"), you morally oblige everyone to take sides.

If they don't take your side, they're at the very least open to subversion by your opponents. After all, they do say that idle hands are the devil's playground. Politically, as an ideologue you need to believe this.

You'll encounter a great many people who won't immediately fall in line with your views, but won't fall in line with those of your opponents, either. Conventional wisdom would define these people as "neutral". For your purposes, however, let's just say that Switzerland is not even a place on the map.

This is where you really get down to inventing your enemies.

Allow no middle ground - This is really just an offshoot of the "if they're not with you, they're against you" tenet. Polarizing political discourse is hard work, and ideologues cannot allow this good work to be undone.

See, as an ideologue you'll find that the idea of political middle ground--people holding a variety of "leftist" and "rightist" views on a variety of subjects is very threatening. It by necessity challenges everything you're trying to accomplish.

Instead of tipping the scales of intellectual justice, we now find the political discourse to be more like a teeter-totter with several children trying to ride it at once. Some choose to position themselves on the comfortable seats for easy riding, while others choose to straddle the bar at various points according to their liking.

Now, instead of tipping constantly and overwhelmingly back and forth, we find that which is most frightening to any ideologue of any stripe: equilibrium, under which the views of a great number of people influence the "movement" of the political discourse. There's two serious problems with this: first, it's a good deal less exciting than costantly riding the wave of political sentiment up and down. Secondly, it makes it much harder to be dominant!

As an ideologue, however, you'll find that you have a number of devious tools at your disposal in order to deal with this inconvenient and irritating "middle ground". You could choose to consider their views that most agree with you exclusively from those views you don't agree with in order to rhetorically twist them into an ally. Then, however, you have to worry about what to do when they don't agree with you.

You'll probably find that it's better to approach this method inversely: consider only the views they hold which disagree with yours exclusively from any views they hold that don't. Consider that, as an ideologue, creating enemies is a lot more fun--and useful--than creating friends.

"Calculated ambiguity" is also a good label to toss around. It instantly paints your opponent, as it were, as deceptive, and immediately discredits any views that don't pour amicably into the little mould that you've set for them.

It may be dishonest, but honesty isn't anything you're concerned with. Politics is a game played for keeps, and you're trying to win a permanent victory.

Your opposition must be destroyed - There is only one way to win a permanent victory; that is to destroy your opposition (even your invented opposition) completely and utterly.

In a battle of ideas, the best way to destroy your opponents is to discredit them.

Sometimes, however, you just can't discredit an opponent by attacking their ideas. You'll find this is particularly true with your invented enemies. Now's the time to really have fun: if you can't beat them by refuting their ideas, write nasty things about them.

This is what Americans have come to known as the politics of personal destruction, and it's powerful stuff. It derailed an otherwise comparatively-successful American president, Bill Clinton, and has also been directed at his wife.

The politics of personal destruction come across most powerfully in political attack ads (the Republicans excel at this). Keep in mind that for a true ideologue, there is no act too depraved to accuse an opponent of. And you don't want to be an ideological pretender, do you?

Of course not. You're in this to win.

"Ideological? Who, Me?" - Most important is this: as an ideologue, you'll want to deny that you are, actually, an ideologue.

Ideology is something relied upon by your opponents. Within your line of reasoning, you must be certain that you aren't the extremists; they are. Which is ironic if you think about it, because you'll often be branding your invented opponents as ideologues.

Also keep in mind that the label of ideologue is inherently discrediting. It immediately paints you as inflexible and dogmatic. Once again, you don't want people to think of you as inflexible and dogmatic; you want people to think of your opponents like that.

Once people recognize you as an ideologue, you've lost. This doesn't preclude destroying your opponents, but it will most likely prevent you from attaining the kind of power you turned to ideology for in the first place.

Finally, if you can successfully brand your opponents as ideological, you've effectively achieved your goal of destroying them. If you yourself have been destroyed in the process, then it isn't a complete victory, but at least its something.

It would be fundamentally wrong to claim that this is all there is to being an ideologue. As you wage your battles against your opponents, you'll discover many things about being an ideologue that you'll find endlessly useful.

The most important thing to remember is this: your opponents under no circumstances deserve your respect, only your contempt. If you find yourself beginning to respect your opponents, you've lost.

Learning that respect for your opponents may make you a better person, but you didn't get into this to become a better person. You got into this for power.

To this end, you'll serve yourself best by ideologically blindfolding yourself and keeping your eyes on the prize.


  1. Excellent post. The same thing applies to theocratic ideologues. Nice blog.

  2. Absolutely brilliant!

    For a brief moment I considered the impact having to study a piece like this in school might have.

    Then I remembered the ideological fervour with which teachers, principals, superintendents and Ministry of Education bureaucrates approach their work. No chance for anything remotely resembling reality there!


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