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Propaganda, ‘Misinformation’ and Other Lessons From Communist History

Posted on | December 17, 2022 | 3 Comments

“Marxism criticizes the achievements of all those who think otherwise by representing them as the venal servants of the bourgeoisie. Marx and Engels never tried to refute their opponents with argument. They insulted, ridiculed, derided, slandered, and traduced them, and in the use of these methods their followers are not less expert. Their polemic is directed never against the argument of the opponent, but always against his person.”
Ludwig von Mises, 1922

Everything you need to know about the motives and methods of the 21st-century Left can be learned from studying 20th-century Communism. What Mises said about Marx and Engels, and the ad hominem quality of their rhetoric — slander and insults, rather than actual arguments — was even more true of Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, et al. Having once seized power, the Bolsheviks immediately proceeded to suppress all potential rivals. Within a month, they established the Cheka (predecessor of the NKVD and, later, the KGB) and appointed Felix Dzerzhinsky as its leader. Eight months later, the Red Terror began in earnest, and within a matter of weeks, the Bolsheviks had summarily executed more victims than were sentenced to death in the entire preceding century by the Tzarist regime.

Lenin had a habit of sending telegrams urging more executions — round up 100 kulaks and hang them in public, to “make an example of these people” — and such state-sponsored mass murder was committed without any semblance of justice. No trials, no evidence, no witnesses, no testimony — just round up some “class enemies” and kill them, for the sake of intimidating the survivors. The Bolshevik regime was baptized in the blood of innocents, with the executions averaging 500 a week for four years, from 1918 to 1922. After the German socialist Karl Kautsky published a pamphlet criticizing the unprecedented and systematic brutality of the Bolsheviks, Trotsky replied with a polemic, Communism and Terrorism (Anti-Kautsky), justifying the Red Terror as a necessity:

Intimidation is a powerful weapon of policy, both internationally and internally. War, like revolution, is founded upon intimidation. A victorious war, generally speaking, destroys only an insignificant part of the conquered army, intimidating the remainder and breaking their will. The revolution works in the same way: it kills individuals, and intimidates thousands.

This was published in 1920, about midway through the Red Terror, and certainly Trotsky at that time could not have believed that the deadly instruments of revolutionary terrorism would one day be turned against him, as he was finally murdered by one of Stalin’s agents. But such is the logic of radicalism which, unable to refute its critics, instead resorts to slander and which ultimately must resort to mass murder as “a powerful weapon of policy.” And nothing has really changed in the Left’s methods, despite the collapse of the Soviet Union. American Democrats now support the arrest and incarceration of their enemies for daring to protest an election that the protesters believed to have been stolen and, in a remarkable feat of rhetorical jiu-jitsu, it is the protesters who are accused of being enemies of Our Democracy, rather than the officials who demand such prosecutions (and who advocate censorship of any criticism). We have not yet reached the point of telegrams to the secret police demanding public hangings of kulaks, but be patient.

All of that is preamble to David Strom’s take on “prebunking”:

The other day I wrote a piece about how the Left can’t argue anymore. My thesis was pretty simple: because they have owned the cultural means of production so long they have lost the need for or ability to argue things logically.
I still believe that. Having rarely been exposed to a conservative argument that [they] haven’t been able to dismiss merely through repeated ridicule the Left pretty much only engages in ad hominem attacks. Even very smart prominent Lefties . . . seem incapable of doing much more than insulting their opponents any more. It all boils down to Bad Orange Man or MAGA simps. . . .
But I ran into a slightly different perspective on the matter while cruising Twitter, and I think it deserves consideration: sometimes, at least, the person throwing out an absurd take isn’t actually hoping to convince you of anything. They are, rather, trying to discredit the source and do nothing more. The ad hominem attack is the only point — to destroy the credibility of their opponent, without actually convincing you of any particular argument.

Sic semper hoc — nothing has changed in the century since Mises succinctly described the rhetorical methods of Marx and Engels. You can study the history of “McCarthyism” (where the most prominent public enemy of Communism was defamed and destroyed, in order to prevent further exposure of Communist infiltration) and see where these methods have been practiced in the past. The example chosen by Strom, in which Caroline Orr Bueno, Ph.D., falsely accuses Elon Musk of promoting “QAnon” conspiracy theories, is typical of such methods. Because Musk has ended the Left’s control of Twitter (thus threatening their power to suppress opposition), he is an enemy who must be destroyed, and any slander will do, no matter how implausible it may be.

The claim by the Left that their opponents traffic in “misinformation” and conspiracy theories is, as Strom says, part of their effort “to destroy the credibility of their opponents,” no different than Trotsky’s attack on the socialist Karl Kautsky who, because he criticized the Red Terror, was denounced as an “enemy of the proletariat.” Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it, and is anyone really surprised that our education system — controlled by Democrats — doesn’t teach anything useful about the bloody history of Communism?

(Hat-tip: Instapundit.)



3 Responses to “Propaganda, ‘Misinformation’ and Other Lessons From Communist History”

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