Beyond Orwell, Herbert on Rhetorical Despotism
By: Mark W Adams

Unceasing warfare gives rise to its own social conditions which have been
similar in all epochs. People enter a permanent state of alertness to ward off
attacks. You see the absolute rule of the autocrat. All new things become
dangerous frontier districts-new planets, new economic areas to exploit, new
ideas or new devices, visitors-everything suspect. Feudalism takes firm hold,
sometimes disguised as a politbureau or similar structure, but always present.
Hereditary succession follows the lines of power. The blood of the powerful
dominates. The vice regents of heaven or their equivalent apportion the wealth.
And their know they must control inheritance or slowly let the power melt away.
An excerpt from God Emperor of Dune the fourth installment of the epic sci-fi series by Frank Herbert written in 1981 about mankind's far distant future. The following tracks a dialog Leto II has with his majordomo, Moneo that reminded me of the fanatics who still pay homage to George W. Bush -- those whose steadfast support can only be explained in terms of faith despite all reasonable evidence that suggests that faith is misplaced:
"Religion always leads to rhetorical despotism," Leto said. "Before the Bene
Gesserit, the Jesuits were the best at it."
"Jesuits, Lord?"
"Surely you've met them in your histories?"
"I'm not certain, Lord. When were they?"
"No matter. You learn enough about rhetorical despotism from a study of the Bene
Gesserit. Of course, they do not begin by deluding themselves with it."

"It leads to self-fulfilling prophecy and justifications for all manner of
obscenities," Leto said.
"This . . . rhetorical despotism, Lord?"
"Yes! It shields evil behind walls of self-righteousness which are proof against
all arguments against the evil."

"It feeds on deliberately twisted meanings to discredit opposition," Leto said.
"All of that, Lord?"
"The Jesuits called that `securing your power base.' It leads directly to
hypocrisy which is always betrayed by the gap between actions and explanations.
They never agree."
"I must study this more carefully, Lord."
"Ultimately, it rules by guilt because hypocrisy brings on the witch hunt and
the demand for scapegoats."
"Shocking, Lord."

George Orwell wrote at excruciating length, both in his fiction and non-fiction works, of the way those in power use language gimmicks to convince the people they exploit that their oppression is good for them. Our government today, and much of our media seems to delight in such double-speak.

I can think of only two reasons this behavior continues despite it's transparency:
  1. It works.
  2. It helps powerful hypocrites sleep at night.


Ara said...

Nobody is better (worse?) at this sort of thing than Rudy Giuliani:

“Freedom is not a concept in which people can do anything they want, be anything they can be. Freedom is about authority. Freedom is about the willingness of every single human being to cede, to lawful authority, a great deal of discretion about what you do.”

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