One of my favorite books is 1984 by George Orwell. The story of 1984 is a paradigm of totalitarianism at its worst, based on Orwell’s observations of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Personally, I also see it as a reflection of true human nature under years of political and social duress, as well as an ominous prediction for the future – now present. There is a scene from 1984 in particular which I would like to reference as a guide for the rest of my post, in a memorable section from the “Two Minutes of Hate” program:
“The dark-haired girl behind Winston had begun crying out ‘Swine! Swine! Swine!’ and suddenly she picked up a heavy Newspeak dictionary and flung it at the screen. It struck Goldstein’s nose and bounced off; the voice continued inexorably. In a lucid moment Winston found that he was shouting with the others and kicking his heel violently against the rung of his chair. The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but, on the contrary, that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledgehammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp” (Orwell 18-19).
This is strongly reminiscent of our culture today, one that claims to hate intolerance and bigotry but is simultaneously guilty of it themselves. How many comments from otherwise seemingly intelligent people scream, “BIGOT! RACIST! HOMOPHOBE!”? Instead of engaging in intelligent and genuinely tolerant discourse with the victims of their fervent abuse, they trade carefully considered discussions for brief attacks on the person’s humanity. They accuse the one disagreeing with them to be “privileged bigoted racists” or some variation of that sort. And yet, by professing hatred for those who hold different opinions on a subject, they themselves are inherently guilty of the bigotry they apparently despise. After all, there is an ironic twist to the throwing of labels upon anyone who does not agree with you – you are guilty of those very behaviors of which you accuse someone. Isn’t the one who cries “intolerance” guilty of not tolerating those who disagree with him? Isn’t the one who screams “bigot” the one who is actually expressing his own bigotry?
To bolster this point, I would like to point out the definition(s) of a bigot:
a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc. : a bigoted person; especially: a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group)
a person who is obstinately or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance
Why have even the well-informed resorted to such language? Why has this kind of dialect become acceptable, even on national television? For many reasons. One of which, I think, is indicated very clearly in 1984. It’s popular. It gains support from like-minded peers. It removes the possibility of a real argument because when one is deliberately derogatory, he is expressing a boorish, childish sentiment to which one can only respond with a sigh and a meek attempt at actual conversation, which normally fails in the face of virulent, thoughtless diatribe. There is no process of reasoning in this immature, illogical mentality. It is the manifestation of our animalistic side, the one who wants to shout and call names and has no desire to listen to the mind’s reason. This is a very tempting side to revert to, but ultimately it is fruitless in the face of the rational mind.
There are very few cases in which I might say labelling someone is justified (though in general, I don’t believe that labelling people is a wise choice). In a case of extremes, such as a member of the KKK, I would agree that there is indeed bigotry present in the KKK member. However, this is an extreme case, and one that does not occur very often. Sadly, even with respect to the most well-thought out, descriptive articles on a certain subject – for instance, about the dangers of allowing Syrian refugees into countries – the exclamations of “bigot” and “Islamophobia” grow deafening.
I am all in favor of open and intellectually honest discussion about a subject, but the intellectual dishonesty and moral dementia of the modern thought process or lack thereof is astoundingly high. Here are a few examples of this insanity:
“When you’re labeled a racist, bigot, and Islamophobe for simply attempting to ensure the safety of the people in your state, rational debate is already lost and the terrorists have already won.” –Dumisani Washington