Word Salad: An Introduction
When does a bowl of word salad become just a crock of . . . mush?
Our Circling posts have recently focused on the importance of language in its relationship to truth. Truth is a judgement about reality every person makes to survive and prosper. No truthful language, no consensus reality. No consensus reality (based on reality rather than fantasy), no true happiness, flourishing, community, common good, or progress.
Words pointing beyond mere objects in the world require definition. For example, the word progress requires a standard of measurement.
To be kind today rather than “judgmental” or harmful, Americans often refer to a self-contained statement that seems confused, jumbled, or contradictory as a “word salad.” The phrase gets the point across in a light way with an added sense of astonishment.
But when does a confused, careless, or misplaced word, phrase, or narrative actually become a lie that’s bad or harmful?
When it serves power-plays. When it aims to destroy or kill. When intent creates the damaging or murderous result.
Such lies are no longer cute or funny. They are quite violent. They can destroy human relationships between individuals and groups. They murder truth, goodness, and beauty. They murder culture and even human beings. We see it happening all over the West today.
We saw it at home here in Richmond, Virginia during the Summer of 2020. It’s ongoing in many of our crime ridden neighborhoods. Such word “salads” today are regular fare across America.
Clearly, some leaders within the Mainstream Media, University-level academic establishment, Mainline churches, and Far Left radical groups have no compunction about smearing individuals or groups that get in their way.
They often use lieutenants within their cohort to do their dirty work. We know such attack dogs roam cyber space looking for victims, but they also lurk everywhere in our neighborhoods in up close and personal ways.
It has produced America’s dreaded Cancel Culture. People live in fear at work, in school, in Church, on the playground, even at home. America lives in a continuous state of conversational and cyber terror. We want a way out and haven’t yet imagined one.
One thing about life: No pains, no gains. We need bravery to find the way.
Today’s Features: Senior Fellow Nicholas Eberstadt and Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni
Speaking of bravery, in this post, I present two extraordinary bits of content, a clip from Nick Eberstadt’s full interview and the full text of Giorgia Meloni’s speech delivered in Rome on February 3, 2020.
Nick Eberstadt is a Distinguished Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, and Ms. Meloni is Italy’s new prime minister. Her speech is entitled “God, Homeland, Family.” I supplement her speech with a clip appearing just above it with the same themes from our interview with Rusty Reno.
As you know, Italy is the home of that original modern-day fascist, Benito Mussolini. Oh, beware world, here she comes! (Not serious with that last comment. See those that follow on fascists.)
Nick’s interview greatly expands our review of domestic economics and also represents our first intentional movement into American foreign policy. In full disclosure, Nick’s wife is Mary Eberstadt, and we will present her second interview next month.
In the clip shown above, Nick offers an extraordinary insight: The War in the Ukraine is another visible sign that America’s “Holiday from History is Over.” By that he means that if the debacle in Afghanistan wasn’t enough, surely the War in Ukraine will be. For America, after a thirty-year hiatus, reality is finally settling in.
Nick suggests America today is waking up from a 30-year elitist fantasy suggested by Francis Fukuyama that “history is over.” Though it wasn’t Mr. Fukuyama’s fault, his interesting theory inspired a dream after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War in 1991 that entertained the noble, though completely unrealistic, hope that all the world’s power brokers would make nice to follow the peaceful and cooperative universal Spirit of Davos, the EU, and America’s Washington, DC elites.
At long last, a fully secularized world would follow the science and yield to those progressive leaders who would guide us into a real material, liberalist utopia that’s obviously our destiny. If we can just be smart enough. Indeed, we’re almost there.
In response, Prime Minister Meloni’s extraordinary statement says that normal people everywhere in Europe and America have had enough of this harmful rot. We won’t say any more about the specifics of her speech and will leave the reading to you, other than to note that she does mention one of our Praxis Circle Contributors, Sir Roger Scruton, and our favorite pope, John Paul II.
To me, Meloni’s speech is an extraordinary sign that the Anglo-Continental divide in philosophy and politics developed over the last 200 years normally drawn across the English Channel might be closing, just a smidgeon. Apparently, the English and Italian people are increasingly seeing eye-to-eye, and it’s possible that over the long-term even the people of France and Germany could follow.
Democracies do not work well when “We the People” give up trying to curate their own character and virtue by delegating sovereignty to arrogant, isolated elites. Our history has demonstrated this truth over and over.
What does all this mean to America? We’ll get a further clue in just three weeks on November 8, Election Day.
Now, back to “word salad” versus lies.
Three Particular Word Salads: Fascists, Progressives, and the 1619 Project
To finish, I will focus on three-word salad candidates: “fascists,” “progressive,” and “the 1619 Project.”
One thing America recently noted is that President Biden on September 2 in his Orwellian “Dark Side” speech (remember the electric red, Hellish background anchored by two Marines in dress blue on either side?) accused half or more of voting America of being fascists. As you know if following the MSM, January 6 is also all about fascists taking over America.
If these fascists aren’t stopped now, Nazis from Charlottesville wearing Confederate uniforms and flying the Stars and Bars will surely follow. You have been warned.
In a recent excellent editorial PC Contributor Frank Hill, the Senior Opinion Editor of the North State Journal, explained why these claims are ridiculous (What progressives get wrong in their narratives about conservatives, September 28, 2022).
No one I know can tell you where these American “fascists” are hiding. Based on any generally accepted definition of the word, fascists invariably favor Big Government (a Colossal State) in partnership with large corporations.
In stark contrast, the American ideal and tradition favors limited government. That’s what the U.S. Constitution describes so carefully.
Jonah Goldberg’s 2008 book Liberal Fascism demonstrated this beyond question. During the first half of the 20th Century, the murderous reigns of Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao all favored large central governments that dominated all private sectors allowed to exist, if any.
Toward a colossally large, corrupt, and wholly self-interested State is where the Swamp in Washington is leading us. It goes without saying, but I will say it anyway: Fascism or any form of central government tyranny is what those who favor limited government are sworn to resist.
(As a relevant aside, Jonah Goldberg’s 2013 book The Tyranny of Cliches: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas directly exposes the world salad problem addressed here. Want to educate yourself on how to counter Alinsky in America? Goldberg’s books are fun reads written before we lost our national sense of humor in the George Floyd-inspired, identity politics hostile takeover, now holding culture temporarily captive.)
Under traditional liberalism, a government operates at the voters’ direction through a republican structure. If any limited government doesn’t behave well for an extended period, voters should replace it.
True “liberalism” is not individualistic. Individualism is a Far-Left selling point disconnected from reality, otherwise known as a lie. On the contrary, classical liberalism operates primarily in a communal sense through the family and close associations maintained locally at work, church, and in other important small-to-large private and public sector institutions. These are close group associations. Liberalism can even favor working through the central government to achieve the common good and its goals, such as Civil Rights and social safety nets for the truly needy.
Replacing a harmful sovereign is what the Declaration of Independence was all about. Essentially, the Declaration was a long explanation of why the People had had enough and weren’t going to take it anymore. Prime Minister Meloni’s speech presented below speaks this in volumes.
I should also mention that Frank Hill’s next editorial, Word Revolutions (October 5), highlights Ms. Meloni’s February 3 speech and lists others that have had revolutionary consequences, the Declaration of Independence being one.
We’ll come back briefly to another much larger and good revolution here in the end.
To move on from the word fascist, when does the word “progress” or “progressive” become a lie?
Based on the last approximately 100 years of history, one can make an excellent case that the growth of Big, Corrupt Government has proven a failure, destroying the family, marriage, education, work incentive, morality, and community across every population sector. While material poverty has been eliminated, which arguably was happening anyway, and while the 1960’s instantiated a lasting and good social effort to provide the disadvantaged equal rights, opportunity, and social safety nets, the Great Society hurled America into a position of spiritual poverty. Today, Washington is disconnected from reality. Its primary focus is eliminating evil in the racism of good character, talent, merit, and equal opportunity, the sexism of our two natural sex differences (male and female), and the unpredictability of our particularly sinister weather.
As an example of family destruction and government failure today, our home city Richmond, Virginia births 60% of its children without fathers, cannot fix its public school system, and allows crime to run rampant. While it goes without saying we’ve always supported integration, Richmond had strong families, good schools, and low crime before the Great Society.
No, in every direction we look, yet again, Big Brother is creating new problems and exacerbating old ones. In return for votes, it then bribes various vulnerable sectors of the population with promises to cure the problems it has manufactured, while continuing with great skill nurturing along still larger ones.
Talk about a vicious cycle. As our just introduced Contributor Nick Eberstadt says, we are left with misery or spiritual poverty.
When will American voters learn? “Progressivism” is dead. It’s a lie. It has no connection to reality and offers no good pathway forward. The Far Left and its captive, the Democrat Party, has no progress to offer by any reasonable American standard, most notably our still dominant Classical Judeo-Christian culture.
American citizens should place confidence in themselves and each other together. At some point when given real freedom and opportunity, one must quit complaining and playing victim, and begin the long, often difficult process of making a good life for oneself, loved ones, friends, and neighbors.
Our PC Contributor Michael Novak way back in 1982 explained to his Marxist friends in The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism how Western society has traditionally accomplished this. Our Founders understood our system well without any notion of the word “capitalism,” and they engineered the values and systems that are curing poverty worldwide now. It’s about God, country, and the community of family.
Racism is stupid. A red herring. It’s what “progressives” highlight when they have nothing else to offer.
Speaking of racism, finally, let’s move to the 1619 Project. When does a whole narrative’s word salad become a lie?
By now, the 1619 Project’s story casting American history as centered around slavery and the evils of capitalism have been thoroughly debunked. No need to go into that here.
Some of the nation’s most respected historians have discussed its falsehood at length. We show a small stack of recent books in the picture below that suggest how wrong it is. 1620: A Critical Response to the 1619 Project, Red, White, and Black, The 1619 Project: A Critique, We Can Overcome, Land of Hope.
Over 150 years after the Civil War and 50 years after Civl Rights legislation, slavery is not the proximate cause of anything. No one can stop those who choose to think negatively. 1619 will die the death truth issues in the long run under the conditions of free speech, association, and access to true knowledge, information, or data.
But what about other less-noticed or publicized narratives like A New History of the American South or Robert E. Lee: A Life? One centers the history of the South squarely around slavery and race relations (adding a few asides). It shows Thomas Jackson on its cover in Confederate uniform but hardly mentions him, if at all, or anything much about the crucial military aspect of the Civil War beyond the circumstances of the Emancipation Proclamation. The other book calls RE Lee a traitor in its first paragraph.
The question is, to what extent do they become 1619-like? I have the utmost admiration and respect for these two historians and have followed their careers and work closely. Clearly, they strived to be objective in these projects, but they have changed since, say, 2000 as our culture has changed. In general, Praxis Circle applauds those who adjust their worldviews with maturity. But when does one cave to faddish culture?
Certainly, race is vitally important in Southern history, but it’s only one of many key factors. In the same regard, certainly Lee defended the states that left the Union (a complicated situation) in no less than legendary fashion, but he was never charged with treason and his citizenship was restored via an Act of Congress. Most of America remains quite proud of RE Lee as an exemplary American and man, yet typically flawed person . . . as he would readily admit.
When does any scholarship become this (the power dictate of a party temporarily in charge) or this (arguably, pure bias)? All Americans have a vital interest in our national heritage, and we’re losing it. Our heritage needs to be balanced and not the dictate of small groups of interest.
While the race issue was nowhere near fixed by World War I, it was vital for America to heal from the Civil War or “War Between the States” (pick any name).
My own study of the post-Civil War period reading the ongoing dialogue of the Northerners and Southerners who erected the monuments reveals that reconciliation and hero veneration, not racism, was mostly what our Civil War monuments are about. They knew what they had experienced was America’s Old Testament “war to end all wars.”
Books and lecture series often indicate one seemingly harmless theme in the title or on the cover, then emphasize quite another as underlying themes. This can be dishonest and destructive.
Given the Civli War’s unparalleled levels of death and destruction, reconciliation in only one-to-three generations by the late 1800’s to early 1900’s is one of humanity’s most astounding accomplishments. Only a forgiving and Judeo-Christian population could have accomplished this. We should be extremely grateful for such inheritance.
Yet, on the same set of facts, we seem to be unwilling to forgive today from a far more distant, decadent position. Extreme iconoclasm leaves communities sad, angry, and divided.
Often writing from outside our communities, Critical Theory-based historians enjoy it. Such is their purpose: to gnaw at America’s foundations without ceasing. The more extensively recorded civilizations in Europe and Asia witnessing our destruction of history must be laughing at stupid Americans, yet again.
A divided America is the last thing our ancestors from every corner would have wanted for us today.
In contrast to the Godly kind, historical truth does not care about the feelings or political situation of any particular disadvantaged group at any point in time, no matter how much we care about them today. We should not focus all of history or social science too much today on any single point of view. Sadly, however, many viewers are highly vulnerable to whole narratives that are nothing but politically-oriented word salads.
Here’s a quote from Joshua Mitchell’s insightful America Awakening: Identity Politics and Other Afflictions of Our Time (2020):
Christianity has not disappeared from America; rather, the Christian categories of transgression and innocence have moved into politics – a development Tocqueville thought would lead to the complete paralysis of politics and religion. Exactly this has happened. (pages 34 – 35)
What Mitchell is writing about here is the collapse of the Mainline churches resulting from their embrace of Identity Politics. We see it happening in Richmond, Virginia. It is pathetic. The same has happened in the halls of the Academy. Boomer professors everywhere have given up teaching the truth to serve political agendas, and anyone with a decent education can see it. Again, the problem is our educational institutions are eliminating “decent education.”
In sum, what fascists, progressivism, and the 1619 Project all have in common is the Far Left’s love of a big, central, State-dominated society. Good luck with that one.
From the Word Salad Menu: You Decide
In the end, I leave it up to you to determine when a given word salad – whether one word, a phrase, or a whole narrative of lectures – becomes just a crock . . . of what is probably the final question you must answer. Watch the clips; read the speeches; buy the lectures; read the books; and search the Internet.
When does a word salad become a lie? You make the call. The information and practical results of history are there for you to examine.
Finally, please enjoy Prime Minister Meloni’s speech, “God, Homeland, Family,” presented in full below.
Does she sound like a fascist, or a just a concerned and brave mother and citizen, telling it like it is? She is clearly a very gifted orator. Listen to her speak in Italian!
Is nationalism itself bad, or are there good and bad forms of nationalism, just like there are good and bad people? Are all white people bad, or are they good or bad only as individuals? What about African-Americans?
What about your three-month old white grandson? “Guilty” as transgressor/systemic racist at birth?
What about university-level professors?
My judgement is that Prime Minister Meloni’s pathway offers real progress – the most revolutionary pathway history has witnessed so far that began 2,000 years ago, based upon a foundation God began establishing for humanity many, many centuries before that. We’ll see where her public career takes Italy, herself, and family.
That’s the PC story and we’re sticking to it. Please enjoy Mr. Reno (2:34) and Prime Minister Meloni (15:08).
Rusty Reno on Faith, Flag, and Family:
Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni on God, Homeland, Family:
The transcript appears here.