Squaring the Culture




"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

02/18/2008 (10:00 am)

The Screeching Inversion

I was reading a New York Times article discussing efforts within the Democratic party to avoid a bitterly contentious convention, when I came across this comment regarding Al Gore’s role in settling disputes:

Several allies said that because of Mr. Gore’s bruising defeat in 2000 presidential voting in Florida, he would have the credibility with Democrats to carry the message that the will of the people should be respected.

The sad irony here is that the Florida 2000 vote illustrated the precise opposite of what the Democrats claim. Gore took deliberate, cynical action to destroy the public’s confidence in the voting process in a vain attempt to change the outcome of an election he knew he had lost. I can think of no action more dismissive of the will of the people than to attempt deliberately to change the outcome of an election that’s been settled. His efforts to discard absentee ballots of military personnel over technicalities that had never been a problem in previous elections (the lack of a certified post office on board ship, for example) further illustrates his cynicism. And yet, this cynical effort earns him credence as a defender of the people’s will among Democrats.

This is an example of a cultural phenomenon I’ve come to call the screeching inversion. The short version of the screeching inversion is that the most immature among us get to pretend that they’re moral paragons, while the most mature are treated as moral pariahs, simply because the immature screech louder and a lot more often. Thus, in a morally deteriorating society, evil gets tagged as good, and good, evil.

Here’s how it works:

Decent, mature people show tolerance toward their adversaries, treating them with respect and arguing points with them reasonably. You only hear them complain about corruption when there’s genuine evidence of it. Immature people, however, constantly hurl accusations against their adversaries, calling them cheats, liars, corrupt, and the like; it’s characteristic of the immature to blame other people for their failures.

In a healthy society, immaturity is recognized for what it is, and mostly ignored. However, if society has deteriorated to the point that the immature equal or outnumber the mature, and if the immature congregate on one side of an issue or in one party, over time the stream of invective takes on a substance of its own; the constant accusations become evidence in themselves of the presence of corruption among the mature.

Here in America, the constant, irrational accusations by Democrats against Republicans has created the impression, particularly among Democrats but also uncomfortably common among independent voters, that Democrats play fair but Republicans cheat; that Democrats are tolerant, Republicans intolerant; that Democrats care about the poor, while Republicans dismiss them; that Democrats defend the Constitution, while Republicans ignore it; etc.

The accusations, themselves, have become increasingly irrational, to the point that a huge percentage of the populace is convinced that the Bush administration either planned the 9/11 attacks or knew about them in advance and deliberately let them happen, even though there’s not the slightest evidence of either. The list of unsupported, unsupportable accusations against Republicans has grown long: Diebold, Halliburton, “lies about Iraq,” “blood for oil,” “Bush=Hitler,” etc. Democrats have taken to calling for and wishing for the President’s assassination. Michelle Malkin wrote a book about the derangement of the Democrats, and lists relevant posts on her blog under headings like “unhinged,” “moonbats,” “Bush Derangement Syndrome,” and other categories that document a culture of immaturity gone berserk in their hatred of all things Republican.

Of course, this is all exacerbated by near-unbroken Democratic control of news reporting in the US, with the result that nearly all news is interpreted in the light of Democrats’ point of view. Examining the topic of corruption in Congress, for example, reveals a pattern of the press trumpeting every Republican foible, while allowing Democrats caught in some scandal to escape unremarked.

There have been several, corrupt political machines in America, usually operating in large cities: Tammany Hall in New York, the Prendergast machine in St. Louis, the Daley machine in Chicago, the Rizzo machine in Philadelphia, etc. These have several things in common, but the most notable is that they’re all Democrats. There is no such thing, in American history, of a large, urban, Republican, corrupt political machine. Facts are stubborn things. And yet, I occasionally hear some voter exclaim that “all the cheating seems to be from the Republicans.”

The relation between the screeching inversion and personal immaturity suggests that the deterioration of a culture is somehow related to a failure of parenting. Children raised properly treat other people with respect, and accept blame for their own role in any failure; the behavior that leads to the inversion is classic, immature behavior. In our culture, the explosion of immaturity seems related to the generation raised under the guidance of Dr. Benjamin Spock, who described his approach as a practical application of the theories of John Dewey and Sigmund Freud, two men I regard as destroyers of Western civilization. The ill-mannered youth of the sixties has become the Unhinged Left of the 21st century, and the air is filled with screeching.

I suspect that the willingness of a people to be misled by demagogues is related to the screeching inversion, as well. This could explain the frankly ecstatic reaction to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign, remarkable in its fervor and its absence of substance. There isn’t a business card’s width of difference between Obama’s platform and Clinton’s, and both simply support classical liberal approaches, but Obama’s followers exhibit a lot more excitement, mostly because of his rhetoric of hope. I think they’re exhibiting signs of Bush Derangement, and thinking Obama represents the opposite of the Evil Republican Administration.

It will be interesting, a decade or more from now, to compare our culture to 1920s Germany, which I suspect underwent a similar cultural deterioration. I’ll take a look at it.

In the meantime, the screeching inversion does not justify counter-screeching; descending to the level of the immature merely compounds the problem, which is why Ann Coulter’s sarcasm, while entertaining, troubles me. It’s accurate to talk about liberals gone berserk, but it must remain as precise as possible, lest we lend ammunition to those who thrive on moral equivalence to justify their own, continued insanity.

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23 Comments »

February 18, 2008 @ 4:00 pm #

Great thread. I have noticed this among many basically rational, normal people.

Gore’s attempt to exclude military people from voting has somehow almost vanished down the memory hole, while “Bush stole the 2000 election” is becoming close to the conventional wisdom on the subject.

“Unhinged” documents numerous examples of liberal lunacy, seething rage, intractability, and extremism; but conservatives are widely seen as the heartless, mean spirited, intolerant group.

The moral equivalence is staggering and only works in one direction.

I believe it has gone farther even than you have projected. The reaction to Obama will carry over to many independent voters and liberal/moderate R’s. The last seven years haven’t been “fun”. 9-11, seemingly never-ending difficulties in the ME and with the WOT, Katrina, on and on. All of us to an extent probably wish that some of it would just go away. But the more mature among us realize that it cannot all be laid at the feet of the nefarious W, and that we need to work through these problems – none of which can be neatly packaged and wrapped up like an American Idol contest. However, Obama offers a sunny, optimistic outlook, and it is selling well now. It goes back to your theme of maturity vs. immaturity.

I personally feel we are headed into a long winter where liberal nostrums and slogans will once again prevail; and conservatives will again become an endangered, somewhat loathed species in the popular culture and mode of thinking. Phil Gramm will no longer say, “I was conservative before being conservative was cool.” And when Bill Clinton is asked if he is a liberal, he won’t hedge, he’ll snap back, “You bet!. And the question is, why aren’t you?”

There is an information crisis in the country, and until conservatives and Republicans fully understand this and get ahead of the curve, we are in for a long road ahead.

February 18, 2008 @ 5:32 pm #

Just curious — would you speak further about what you mean by an “information crisis?” Thanks.

March 15, 2008 @ 2:29 am #

[…] post entitled “The Screeching Inversion,” to which Jan refers, can be found here.  | Related posts: […]

March 15, 2008 @ 7:04 am #

If it is true that when needed, the person arises from amongst us who can be the leader, a person of vision and ability, where will the next Buckley come from? He rescued and changed the conservative vision, was the eyebrow-raising wit on a skewer; from whence will come his like? We certainly need , now, as much as in his Yale days, another Buckley….

March 15, 2008 @ 7:35 am #

An excellent theory, and well described. My only qualm about your post is your reference to Obama and HC as “classical liberal”. They certainly are modern liberal (aka progressive), but not classical, in the Locke-Jeffersonian sense.

March 15, 2008 @ 7:36 am #

I enjoyed your post and found myself liking the “screeching inversion” label to describe what has become a rising chill, if you’ll excuse the oxymoron, on new or controversial ideas. John Stossel, for example, covered the censorship of politically incorrect or unpopular ideas either by a detached academic elite or a vocally misinformed student body on many campuses in the 90’s – a point that has been recently carried by Ben Stein in a recent documentary.

Despite being a valid and important point to consider, I submit that “screeching inversion” is not a Democrat or liberal phenomenon but a sadly bipartisan one. I’m not saying this merely to “balance out” the blame or use the media’s outdated left-right binary model in viewing issues but that it’s something that activists of all political agendas have used.

Defining what is “screeching” and what isn’t becomes very subjective. A rally of individuals all screaming about an evil Bush conspiracy to enslave the world would be terribly misinformed about the bigger picture of American foreign policy over the past 50 years but what about a rally of people who all simply yelled “Support Bush!” or “USA! USA!”. The latter of the two would certainly be a valid point but if you were to ask them for concrete reason for their position, the logic would come up just as empty.

The blind and venomous rhetoric that could be classified as far-left or far-right in the past 8 years alone could fill entire hard drives but its contribution to national debate and progress has been very little. In a day and age where everything is reduced to these small talking points with truncated facts, most people are simply too willing to “screech and go home”.

This is not to say that every single voter should have to come up with a ten-page explanation of their personal views but the phenomenon of most people willing to delegate the hard task of making choices to specialized charlatans who will provide tailored rhetoric for the citizen to parrot is becoming all too common. That was, after all, the root of why the Bush administration’s policies failed not on a political or ethical level but on a practical level.

March 15, 2008 @ 8:12 am #

The “screeching inversion” also has a corollary that goes a long with it, the quiet dismissal.

Toaspark just provided an example of it. He agreed with “screeching inversion”, then said it was no different than “cheering agreement”.

Since those that where cheering could provide no reason to cheer other than “small talking points” and are as unthinking as those screeching.

What Toaspark has done, is compare “screeching inversion” of a single person in a discussion to that of a group cheering for their side.

Large group dynamics is much different than a discussion between between a small group of people.

March 15, 2008 @ 9:14 am #

We saw this in 1991 when my West Point educated and 3 years in the Army wife attended law school in Tacoma, WA. A public student meeting on student dues supporting activist homosexual groups where filled with students chanting, taunting, and yelling down anyone opposed to supporting these groups. The next morning, she had to put on her uniform again to uphold her oath to support and defend the constitution, especially freedom of speech.

March 15, 2008 @ 9:55 am #

John Stossel, for example, covered the censorship of politically incorrect or unpopular ideas either by a detached academic elite or a vocally misinformed student body on many campuses in the 90’s

I was in college during the second half of the 1980s, and we were already seeing this — and calling it “political correctness” — back then.

In fact the first time I saw the term it was used ironically by a conservative school-paper columnist in criticizing his leftist editor, which suggests to me that its unironical use began even before that.

March 15, 2008 @ 9:58 am #

There is an information crisis in the country, and until conservatives and Republicans fully understand this and get ahead of the curve, we are in for a long road ahead.

I am not RM, but I will take a stab at what he is getting at. Part of the information crisis he refers to is the lack of knowledge of the history of this country. My experience of history taught in the public schools (South Carolina) is that it is mostly inadequate. We barely got through covering World War I (this was in the 1960’s). In college, I managed to avoid US history entirely never got more than a cursory view of European history.

Part of the problem is that there is so much to cover. I think another part of the problem is that history is now largely being written and taught by academics who are guilty of “screeching inversion” themselves. Colleges and university faculties are loaded with Baby Boomers who dodged the draft during Viet Nam by taking advanced degree work. A lot of them endied up teaching. It is also a fact that many, many faculties are hotbeds of feminist activists as well as racial activists of different stripes. Latino studies, anyone?

Increasingly, professional bodies such as the American Psychiatric Association and the equivalent group for psychologists have become politicized in that activists have gained control over key committees and seized the agenda. Hence, the decision to remove homosexuality from the DSM. That was a political decision, not a scientific one. Such takeovers have a lot to do with what research sees the light of day in the various professional journals. The current “debate” over the causes of climate change – it seems now that we are in a cooling cycle, not a warming trend – is a perfect example of this. When the group which certifies meteorologists refuses to certify those who do not buy into the idea of “global warming” being caused by human activity, you begin to see the problem.

So maybe a better hnadle for what RM is talking about is that there is an educational crisis rather then an information crisis. We’ve got tons of information; I am just not sure that our leadership has the education to deal with it all.

Posted by a member of the Baby Boom generation, perhaps the most coddled and spoiled bunch of whiners ever seen in this country. I am ashamed of what we have managed to contribute to civilization. It is not a pretty thing to contemplate.

March 15, 2008 @ 1:01 pm #

The Democrats in Academe have been saying or many years that words are just a mask for power.

We need to realize that they really believe that, and operate on that premise.

March 15, 2008 @ 7:50 pm #

How about Palestinians vs. Israelis: the Jenin “massacre” and the Muhammed Al-Dura accusation?

March 15, 2008 @ 9:33 pm #

The comment by Nancy:

How about Palestinians vs. Israelis: the Jenin “massacre” and the Muhammed Al-Dura accusation?

was a good example of Information Crisis, and it’s honestly nothing new. Unless we dig into a particular subject or issue, most of what we do know is really mis-information. The media is managed.

March 16, 2008 @ 9:04 am #

I second the motion on the “classical liberal” point.

Locke & Jefferson, etc were classical liberals.

Building on the works of Rousseau and subsequent Marxists and progressivists, modern, or neo liberals tainted the term “liberal” in the late 19th & early 20th century.

March 16, 2008 @ 9:33 am #

One thing I’ve noticed, and perhaps this is a sequel for you to write to this article, is when the “screeching inversion” or other moral or ethical failures of modern liberals are pointed out, they play the “everybody does it” card. In other words, accuse the other side of doing it to, thereby at least maintaining moral equivalency once they’ve lost moral superiority (at least in their own minds).

The other transparent tactic is to ignore the facts and focus on the rhetoric, such as “It’s all about sex” minimizing the actual severity of the moral or ethical failure. Use of simplistic “bumper sticker” explanations (fire can’t melt steel – which makes one wonder how we make steel to begin with, but I digress…) and the utter inability to think for themselves without direction from the “mother ship” aka as the DNC, indicates to me, at least, that the modern equivalent of the Village Idiot is the “progressive” liberal.

Or as a great man once said: “There is none so blind as he who will not see…”

Thanks for the article!

March 16, 2008 @ 10:03 pm #

[…] This post is from last month, but good squishy never gets old… […]

March 17, 2008 @ 11:13 am #

AL GORE is probibly the most corupt person around his attempt to subvert the will of the voters in 2000 his lies and fruad his undeserved awards he should be barred from running for public office for life

March 17, 2008 @ 11:26 am #

I stand corrected on the “classical liberal” point. I actually know better; both Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama are Alinsky-trained radicals, not traditional American liberals.

March 25, 2008 @ 4:21 am #

[…] hell, it needs to be repeated, and maybe someone will see it and have a light go on. Decent, mature people show tolerance toward their adversaries, treating them with respect and […]

June 5, 2008 @ 6:04 am #

[…] instance of the Screeching Inversion is appearing before our eyes on the topic of science. Leftists are making a federal case […]

September 20, 2008 @ 2:58 pm #

[…] we’re watching is a planned, deliberate screeching inversion. The Democrats are counting on support from the national press to produce a preponderance of […]

October 16, 2008 @ 1:00 pm #

[…] going to go the way of all civilizations. This is some of the same line of thinking that produced The Screeching Inversion back in February, only this goes farther. It illustrates why moonbattery is not just funny, not […]

January 20, 2010 @ 9:08 am #

[…] repetitive noise generated by this reflex tactic produces what I’ve called in the past a “screeching inversion” — the appearance in public that Republicans are jimmying elections, when in fact it’s […]

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