By Denis G. Rancourt, PhD
(This article was first published on Dissident Voice.)
When one is critical of the human-rights violations of the state of Israel, there follows a vehement charge of “antisemitism”. When one supports institutional measures to counter systemic racism, there follows a charge of “reverse racism”. And when a white person is critical of a black person’s apparent support for systemic racism, there again follows a charge of “racism”.
In all these examples, a charge of racism is levied in response to words used to criticize actual physical racism occurring on a spectrum from outright violations of personal safety to exclusion from status and resources.
The reason that such fallacious responses have sting is because there is a strong cultural taboo that racist language is as nefarious as violent physical racism itself. In present middle-class Western society, there is a pathological extreme intolerance against any expression that has cognitive similarity to racist expression.
The said taboo is not as present in the working-class because the economically stressed classes live a high degree of physical and status discrimination themselves. This discrimination is a higher priority to them than identity-tied system-ideology maintenance via personal investments in language policing.
The said taboo is poison because it precludes needed frank discussions and arguments about actual physical racism and hierarchical dominance. It also contributes to creating a class divide between those manipulated to adopt the identity politics of language purity and those who have less to gain from self-censorship and who “fucking need to speak”.
Thus, the taboo against racist and racist-sounding language is of great utility in enforcing an excessively totalitarian social hierarchy. Therefore, the said taboo is systemically promoted and enforced by major institutional instruments, including universities and the legal system.
In a healthy democratic society, free discussion between individuals and classes reigns and shapes a sustainable distribution of power and status. In a defective society, totalitarian encroachment is enabled by class divisions and by suppression of free expression. And there can be runaway encroachment when there are feedback pathologies such as when criticism of racism itself is reflexively tainted with the stigma of racism, or when social-media comments lead to terminations of employment, and so on. Excessive and widespread correctness policing is a recipe for disaster.
In that limited sense, the Trump and Brexit phenomena may well be expressions of natural societal repair mechanisms against runaway totalitarianism, rather than causal factors towards “fascism”. The said phenomena may be “indicators” of totalitarian encroachment by being indicators of responses against totalitarian encroachment (loss of democracy, globalization).
If so, the more the establishment bosses attempt to impose and leverage class-based containment against free expression and free political participation, the greater the danger of large future negative consequences for society as a whole.
Denis G. Rancourt is a former tenured full professor of physics at the University of Ottawa, Canada. He is a researcher for the Ontario Civil Liberties Association. He has published more than 100 articles in leading scientific journals, on physics and environmental science. He is the author of the book Hierarchy and Free Expression in the Fight Against Racism. Read other articles by Denis at Dissident Voice.