Thanks to everyone who emailed links and comments in response to the Peddling Stupidity article about Carolyn Guertin and her postmodern ‘scholarship’. One item in particular, posted at Carnal Reason, caught my attention. I’m going to have to quote myself to provide a little context. It’s shameful, I know, but bear with me. Regarding PoMo prose, I wrote:
“The intention behind such wilfully unintelligible text is, it seems, not to invite thought or reward it, but to repel and discourage it. This is done by exhausting the reader’s efforts to comprehend and reducing him to a state of demoralised dishonesty, whereby absurd and vacuous statements are repeated and endorsed, regardless of incomprehension and for fear of appearing stupid. By publicly endorsing vacuity, and making great claims in its name, the unsuspecting student is thus painted into a corner and any subsequent rethinking entails an intolerable loss of face and credibility.”
Carnal Reason highlights this passage, then teases out its implications:
“To corrupt a man, get him to tell lies in public. Make him espouse what he does not believe. To make sure he does not believe what he espouses, make what he espouses unintelligible.”
This point is illustrated with an extract from an interview with Theodore Dalrymple. Dalrymple is talking about PC censorship and learned dishonesty, but the parallels with Guertin, and with politicised PoMo generally, shouldn’t be too hard to fathom:
“Political correctness is Communist propaganda writ small. In my study of Communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of Communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect, and is intended to.”
Dalrymple gives good interview and the piece is worth reading in full.