Ed Driscoll

Short-Circuiting a 'Progressive' Closed Loop

Last month we explored the closed loops of the left via quotes from two very different authors, Arthur Koestler and Ann Coulter. To recap, we’ll start with the former:

A closed system has three peculiarities. Firstly, it claims to represent a truth of universal validity, capable of explaining all phenomena, and to have a cure for all that ails man. In the second place, it is a system which cannot be refuted by evidence, because all potentially damaging data are automatically processed and reinterpreted to make them fit the expected pattern. The processing is done by sophisticated methods of causistry, centered on axioms of great emotive power, and indifferent to the rules of common logic; it is a kind of Wonderland croquet, played with mobile hoops. In the third place, it is a system which invalidates criticism by shifting the argument to the subjective motivation of the critic, and deducing his motivation from the axioms of the system itself. The orthodox Freudian school in its early stages approximated a closed system; if you argued that for such and such reasons you doubted the existence of the so-called castration complex, the Freudian’s prompt answer was that your argument betrayed an unconscious resistance indicating that you yourself have a castration complex; you were caught in a vicious circle. Similarly, if you argued with a Stalinist that to make a pact with Hitler was not a nice thing to do he would explain that your bourgeois class-consciousness made you unable to understand the dialectics of history…In short, the closed system excludes the possibility of objective argument by two related proceedings: (a) facts are deprived of their value as evidence by scholastic processing; (b) objections are invalidated by shifting the argument to the personal motive behind the objection. This procedure is legitimate according to the closed system’s rules of the game which, however absurd they seem to the outsider, have a great coherence and inner consistency.

The atmosphere inside the closed system is highly charged; it is an emotional hothouse…The trained, “closed-minded” theologian, psychoanalyst, or Marxist can at any time make mincemeat of his “open-minded” adversary and thus prove the superiority of his system to the world and to himself.

Arthur Koestler, via David Foster of the Chicago Boyz blog.

Much more recently, Ann Coulter wrote:

“If you can somehow force a liberal into a point- counterpoint argument, his retorts will bear no relation to what you’ve said — unless you were in fact talking about your looks, your age, your weight, your personal obsessions, or whether you are a fascist. In the famous liberal two-step, they leap from one idiotic point to the next, so you can never nail them. It’s like arguing with someone with Attention Deficit Disorder.”

— Coulter, as quoted in John Hawkins’ article at Townhall, “The 25 Best Quotes About Liberals.”

But how to break that cycle? At PJM today,  ex-Soviet immigrant Oleg Atbashian of the Peoples’ Cube blog employs the Socratic method to cut through the fog via a lengthy and fun series of  interrogatories. Don’t miss “Question Insanity: What to Ask Progressives.”