What do you see when you consider the image above? Do you get a sense of oneness? Of diversity? Of individuals making their mark among other individuals? What if a certain subset of all possible reactions to all possible stimuli happens to be something other than intuitive, perhaps even something slipped into unsuspecting minds through the deliberate conditioning of terminology that gets redefined again and again until it confuses more than it informs? Who might be so deliberate, and how difficult is it to perceive their motive?
“When words lose their meaning, people lose their liberty.”
Is it true that We are One, or is pluralism among fallible humans the praxeological outlet which maximizes both tolerance and prosperity? Starting from an a priori proposition that humans act to achieve purposeful ends, analyzing the state of society might be easier by studying the desires of those who contribute to its conditions.
All rhetoric grows from seeds of the grammar and dialectics that rhetoricians choose as their means for convincing others about subjective opinion being objective truth. Sometimes, altered grammar and fabricated dialectic bridges the rhetorical gaps between subjective and objective.
No tyrant ever seizes power without releasing a flood of collectivist rhetoric, disguised as it might be in zwangswirtschaft euphemisms and colored always with scaremongering about some verisimilar threat from an external force. Most often, a self-styled savior is not what their packaging suggests.
“This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs: when he first appears he is a protector.”
Amid this shrinking world of the Information Age, aspiring tyrants feel compelled to update their rhetoric. As more people interact in real time from distances reaching halfway around the planet, fewer are susceptible to traditional propaganda about their distant neighbors. Today’s reputed threats must be likewise global, as must any “protector” solution. Whatever the specific form, a tyrant’s best tool for manufacturing consent remains induced panic.
There is a reason why the go-to metaphor for common gullibility among humans is sheep. Even sheep, though, don’t act as a collective. Each individual sheep does what it believes at a given moment to be in its best interest, and a hundred sheep choosing identical courses of action do not turn those individual decisions into any collectivized action of singular intent. Such an assertion would merely demonstrate a composition fallacy.
Of fallacy and non sequitur
Appeals to popular opinion and consensus are seldom rational. Tyrants and aspiring tyrants count on the average person’s desire to avoid thoughtful scrutiny, and they will place spurious bromides under the noses of the agreeable for purposes of encouraging fallacious conviction.
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
– Mark Twain
Also dangerous to sustained freedom is the either-or fallacy (aka the false dilemma), exemplified within nonsensical arguments about criticism of one politician or party being evidence that the critic “must obviously love” another politician or party. It is possible, of course, to dislike all sources of coercion.
When it comes to seizing control over others, both self-styled progressives and self-styled conservatives tend to dismiss their professed principles. Collectivists of both the communitarian and the nationalism varieties talk the Big Talk about dangers that are external and solutions that appear magical.
“Whatever deceives men seems to produce a magical enchantment.”
Is collectivism the natural state of society, or is humanity more like an association of individuals? Is there a collective that can act as a single unit, or are some individuals within the group attempting to influence other individuals? Many are those claiming to be the priest who intervenes the least, even as clergymen of all persuasions, figurative or literal, agree that gaining centralized control over society is righteous.
In all cases, grifters appeal to emotion. Whether it’s a short con or a long con, comprising a single table of three-card monte or spanning a multi-generational global agenda, emotions frustrate critical analysis and often lead the impressionable toward what is perhaps the worst fallacy of them all: an appeal to those who arrogate authority over others.
“I use emotion for the many and reserve reason for the few.”
– Adolf Hitler
Politicians and bureaucrats take advantage of widespread fear. When it comes to central planning, though, unintended consequences are a given and long term hardship is exacerbated. Whatever crisis appears to be threatening society is an echo. History tends to rhyme.
Despots hype diversity and unity at once, spreading doublethink among as many as they can. Such an idiosyncratic jumble is contrary to human nature, because the very definition of unity renounces plurality and with it any possibility of diversity. “We” only ever make things worse.
More on pluralism: https://mises.org/node/49687
More on caution against we-language: https://hbr.org/2020/03/your-code-of-conduct-may-be-sending-the-wrong-message
More on encouraged panic and slippery slopes: https://www.aier.org/article/panic-policymaking/
More on maintaining perspective: https://www.armstrongeconomics.com/armstrongeconomics101/opinion/asking-for-your-help-forward-this-letter-to-whoever-you-may-think-will-help/
More on the history of economic thought: https://mises.org/library/austrian-perspective-history-economic-thought