Adventures in Illinois Higher Education: “Equality” ≠ Freedom
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By: Shane Radliff
February 13th, 2016
This past week, I came across an article discussing the fact that the most assigned book in Michigan higher level institutions, is none other than The Communist Manifesto, by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. I can’t say I’m surprised, but what I will say, is that the first month at Illinois State University (ISU), has actually been relatively mild (notwithstanding, the required alcohol and sexual violence course that I have already written about). Luckily, before this past week, the Marxist ideology has been seldom mentioned, and when it has been brought up, it has been in passing, without the admiration and advocacy that I have become accustomed to.
There has been an evident shift towards socialism in the United States (and around the world), and that is surely due to the significant decline in the economy, higher levels of unemployment, and the unrest that has occurred across the American landscape. Although, what most of these newly, self-avowed socialists fail to acknowledge, is that the differences between socialism and communism are extremely minute. To put it more simply and succinctly, socialism is communism with a smile.
For the new readers of this series, it’s worth reiterating the dangers of communism and its consequences throughout history. An examination of the democide statistics in the 20th century reveals much about the evils of this ideology. In that century alone, roughly 260 million civilians were murdered by their own government, and that is excluding war causalities. With that said, let’s take a look at the most deadly regimes, and examine the political systems of those various governments.
- The People’s Republic of China (Communist): ~76,702,000 murdered
- The Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (Marxist/Leninist Communism) ~61,911,000 murdered
- Nazi Germany (National Socialist): ~20,946,000 murdered
- China’s National People’s Party (Leninist Democratic Centralism): ~10,075,000 murdered
The next question to ask is this: how many of those regimes were strict adherents to the Market? Not a single one of those four; their ideologies were, without exception, collectivistic, given that their economic systems were all centrally planned.
With that said, Alexis de Tocqueville more accurately described my experience thus far. In most of my Communications courses, the discourse has been mostly focused on “oppression”, the “issues” with capitalism as well as the importance of the media, especially when it comes to “social movements.” That is, until these past two weeks, when the discussion has shifted to the various communication theories that originated with Marx.
First off, I will cover a particularly atrocious article that was published in the 1992 edition of the Western Journal of Communication, and then the various communication theories that originated with Marx.
Earlier this month, we were studying an approach called critical theory. Critical theory is a “school of thought that stresses the reflective assessments and critique of society and culture by applying knowledge from the social sciences and the humanities.”
That may sound vague, so let me expound upon that. Critical theory is a neo-Marxist philosophy that originated from the Frankfurt School in Germany, and was based off of the writings of Marx and Immanuel Kant. To put it more simply, critical theory is the process of observing, interviewing, and absorbing one’s self into a specific “culture”, and drawing conclusions based off of the experience.
My initial reaction can be explained as such. There’s hardly, if any, science involved with this procedure. Additionally, it’s highly subjective and the biases and presuppositions held by those that partake in this application are sure to be intertwined with any “conclusions” that may be arrived at. It’s also unfalsifiable, and that is mainly due to its subjectivity. Let’s say, for example, I repeated the same experiment as the gentleman that we will discuss momentarily. My biases and presuppositions will be intertwined, and I may arrive at a completely different conclusion.
Who is right and who is wrong? No one is—and, again, that is due to its subjectivity.
With that said, let’s move forward to an application of this theory (more specifically known as a critical ethnography) that we were required to read for class. It is titled Interpreting (the Work and the Talk of) Baseball: Perspectives on Ballpark Cultures, written by Nick Trujillo. It is worth noting that in the original article, emphasis is placed by the use of italics, but in this circumstance, bolding will be used. Any added emphasis by the author will be appropriately identified.
Throughout the first five pages of the article, you can see a number of references to “capitalism” and “capitalist labor”, yet this excerpt speaks volumes:
“This section examines how baseball employees are socialized as workers and it reveals how the ballpark is used to reproduce the ideology of American capitalism.” (p. 5)
That being said, keep in mind this was published in 1992, long after the planks of communism had taken over American society. Therefore, the “American capitalism” he is referring to, doesn’t exist in any real way that matters, especially considering the onslaught of the administrative agencies as the fourth branch of government. You would think accuracy would matter to someone who has his “Ph.D”, but apparently it doesn’t. What he is describing is corporatism (fascism), which is the complete opposite of a true, free market capitalist economy.
There is also anti-industrialism rhetoric used throughout. For example:
“…employees learn organizational principles of mechanization first-hand as they experience the ballpark as a site of industrial labor.” (p. 6)
On page 7, the Marxist references begin to shine through, which is obvious throughout the article, to a market anarchist. For one, the use of the term “commodification”, which is defined as “the transformation of goods, services, and ideas into commodities or objects of trade.” I don’t see any point of contention when it comes to that definition, so let’s look at Marx’s interpretation:
“The Marxist understanding of commodity is distinct from its meaning in business. Commodity played a key role throughout Karl Marx’s work; he considered it a cell-form of capitalism and a key starting point for an analysis of this politico-economic system. Marx extensively criticized the social impact of commodification under the name commodity fetishism and alienation.”
(Author’s note: it’s worth mentioning that “alienation” is another term used throughout this article.)
With the Marxist influence throughout, it’s safe to assume that what Trujillo meant, was that interpretation. That becomes evident when examining this excerpt:
“…much formal (and some informal) communication is focused on how to increase and/or handle revenue. And it is through such income-oriented interaction that baseball becomes enculturated as a capitalist enterprise.” (p. 7)
At this point, it’s also safe to assume that Trujillo despises the idea of capitalism or, as Professor Statist thought, there just has to be a “perfect balance” between the free market and communism.
Directly after the most recent quote, that assumption is further verified. Let’s take a look:
“All employees are informed about the policy on complimentary tickets which stresses that all tickets, complimentary or paid, are treated as money, a lesson signified by the use of the term ‘vault room’ to describe the place where tickets are printed.” (p. 7)
And no, there was no “emphasis added” in that previous quote. Any time the word “capitalist” or “money” are brought up they are always italicized, which indicates that the author wanted to put increased emphasis on those words. To summarize this 22 page article into one sentence: voluntary transactions are bad, and anything used in that transfer of property is bad.
This next quote is laughably absurd. Trujillo references the “disparity” between average employees and the players, and believes that this is somehow immoral. Employees are paid according to how much value they bring to their employers; in turn, employers are paid according to how much value they bring to their customers. It would be bad business practice (and would put the company under quickly), if the employers paid their employees whatever they wanted (such as an increased minimum wage hike), or thought that they were “worth” (for example, strictly on the basis of a cost-of-living adjustment), without proving that they were providing actual value to the customers. Unfortunately, the “customers” in this scenario of the baseball racket are the central planners, not those individuals attending games; these “customers” are what compose what Frédéric Bastiat called “that which is not seen.”
“Most franchise employees also know how the game of player salaries is played on the corporate field, so they understand that there will be a huge disparity between their own salaries and players’ salaries.” (p. 8)
Directly following that quote, a stadium manager discusses their frustration with the way things are at their place of employment. They mention that their budget and salary are determined by the players’ performance, and if it isn’t substantial enough, they won’t get what they need (i.e. a new computer).
How is that wrong? Let’s relate that same scenario to something even these socialists and communists will understand.
For example, a family wants to buy their newly turned 16-year-old son a car. They have a budget and the money allocated for that purchase, but that money had to be spent on something unexpected; therefore, those funds are not available anymore.
Is the son justified in being pissed off about not having his new car? Well, obviously, he can be disappointed, but his parents’ budgeting through the appropriate allocation of resources is a phenomenon that is required for a family, much like a business, to exist.
Interestingly enough, Trujillo also recognized the acceptance of the environment, by an exchange with a couple of employees by saying:
“This episode reveals how the process of hegemony – of symbolic domination by one group over another – in the ballpark. As Dennis Mumby, citing [Antonio] Gramsci, argued, ‘The process of hegemony works most effectively when the world-view articulated by the ruling elite is actively taken up and pursued by subordinate groups.’ In this way, the ballpark is not just a site of capitalist work; it also is a site of capitalist struggle.” (p. 9) [Emphasis added]
Before even beginning to rebuke that argument, it’s worth mentioning the absurdness of citing an author, by way of another author, when Trujillo could have simply quoted Gramsci (who is, unsurprisingly, a renowned Marxist). Going two or three layers down within a quoted citation is unnecessarily difficult, when it’s just much easier to go to the original source you want to directly quote.
With that said, those folks that Trujillo interviewed could venture out into the free market as entrepreneurs, if they really hate their jobs that much. Nothing is stopping them, except for themselves. Granted, there is always risk involved in entrepreneurship, but at least those individuals are taking responsibility for the voluntary choices they made about their own lives, instead of “expressing their grievances” in the infantile attempt to redirect the blame for those decisions onto others who failed to coerce them.
And again, how can there be “capitalist work” or “capitalist struggle”, if that is damn-near nonexistent in America today? It seems like these socialists and communists are projecting, as they are being worn-down by the systems that they advocate for, and “capitalism” is just the most convenient boogeyman to place that upon. Additionally, how can baseball stadiums be considered “capitalist”, while at the same time receiving government subsidies? Theft isn’t something that’s permitted in a voluntary society, but it is in a statist one, providing said theft is “legal.”
The next few pages or so focus on the “drama” and the “show” of baseball, and there isn’t anything of significance there, so I’ll leave that for you to read. Essentially, the author is arguing that baseball is an American pastime and that “hyper-commercialization” has hurt the image of the sport.
Although, things get interesting when examining the author’s conclusions. The author makes a distinction between “romantics” (those who view baseball in an idyllic way) and the “functionalists” (those who use baseball to learn about mainstream American culture, and its impact on it, with the goal of applying it to reality).
The anti-capitalist rhetoric continues when Trujillo says that:
“Functionalists endorse the ideology of the baseball business to remind us that performance in professional sports, like in other businesses in American capitalism, is judged ultimately by a measurable bottom line, and that the American Dream can be achieved only by ‘putting up the numbers.’” (p. 16)
For further affirmation, he states that:
“…critics argue that sport is one resource through which dominant groups in America promote hegemony. Critics argue that the business of sports reaffirms the ideology of American capitalism; thus, as Hargreaves asserted, sports have ‘come to serve the exemplifications of the bourgeois ideal of the individualistic, competitive, meritocratic society’.” (p. 16)
To continue beating the same dead horse, what is this “American capitalism” you speak of Mr. Trujillo? Additionally, what is this “American Dream” that you speak of? I think George Carlin had something to say about that.
Moving onto the second quote, hegemony is brought up once again. I’m hard-pressed to figure out a way to explain the negation of this concept to some of these socialists and communists, but I’ll settle with this: what about NO RULERS? How about you live your own lives however the hell you want to, as long as you don’t violate anyone else’s person or property? Were you born a man, but want to get your dick cut off? Go for it. Do you want to call yourself a gender-binary, asexual, or aromantic? Go for it; just don’t infringe on the natural rights of others, by your decision to do so. Besides, argumentation ethics suggests that when “progressives” argue against property rights, they must first use their self-ownership of their own body and mind in order to make such anti-propertarian arguments in the first place; this is what philosopher Hans-Herman Hoppe called a performative contradiction.
It’s an extremely simple concept, and is much easier than attempting to understand Bernie Sander’s centrally planned socialist oyster, while having no understanding, whatsoever, of economics.
I’ll move past the reappearing “American capitalism”, as I don’t think you can even tell that it’s a horse, dead or alive, anymore (maybe a zombie?). The term “bourgeois” is brought up, and I feel that’s worth defining first:
“In Marxist philosophy the bourgeoisie is the social class that came to own the means of production during modern industrialization and whose societal concerns are the value of property and the preservation of capital, to ensure the perpetuation of their economic supremacy in society.”
Ideas have consequences, and words have meaning. That being said, let’s look at the application Trujillo chose to summate his article. The quote he presented shines a negative light on those that are individualistic and competitive, but that is just what you would expect from a collectivist. In my personal experience, individuals and affinity groups have made far more success than any “group”. Why Trujillo is assuming that “society” even exists, tangibly, is beyond me.
In summation, Trujillo states:
“…the critic in me recognizes that the ballpark does reflect and reinforce many problems of American capitalist culture. Like society, the ballpark commodifies people as products and stratifies them along gender, racial, and socioeconomic lines.” (p. 17)
Taking a glass half full approach, I suppose it’s better than my teachers advocating for communism openly. Although, the majority of those in that lecture hall will not consider all of those things that I mentioned in this article. They will rely strictly on the discussion in class, and that is all they will take away from the article. Their college career will continue, and they will be force-fed more of this garbage, and will (more than likely), not even question what they are being told. To conclude this part, critical thinking is encouraged in class insofar that students don’t challenge the beliefs that make up higher level institutions; at least in my case.
If you’re sick and tired of hearing about Marx, I understand and feel those same sentiments, and wish that this article conclude here. Although, for purposes of full transparency and emphasis, there is more that needs to be said.
I’ll start by saying that some of these communication theories we’ve studied are applicable within normal, everyday life, and I can look back on examples when I’ve utilized them, much like the Trivium method. Understanding the various processes of communication is definitely interesting (and something that could, and is used in a manipulative way), but it’s still not cost-efficient “education”. Notice also, there is not one word about Hoppe’s argumentation ethics, which is a communications theory, but of course that is to be expected since it is an a priori intellectual defense of private property and the self-ownership ethic.
The first theory we briefly looked into, was something known as “standpoint theory”, which can be defined as:
“A postmodern method for analyzing inter-subjective discourses. This body of work concerns the ways that authority is rooted in individuals’ knowledge (their perspectives), and the power that such authority exerts.”
I wonder where this theory originated from: that’s right, Marx and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (the Hegelian Dialectic).
The standpoint theory can also be applied to feminism as well, as Nancy Harstock did in 1983. This specific ideology (standpoint feminism) is deeply rooted within Marxism. Let’s just say, Wendy McElroy would not approve. Besides, at the risk of sounding completely annoying, self-ownership justifies natural liberty for women all by itself, and argumentation ethics are the logical explanation for self-ownership, therefore you’d think that all types of “feminists” would use argumentation ethics to uphold the rights of all women, but they can’t afford to do that because to do so would be for them to simultaneously validate property rights, which is unacceptable to them because these “progressives” desire socialism above anything else.
With that said, it’s already bad: a theory originating from someone who “put to paper” one of the most dangerous and detrimental ideologies, tied at the hip with the founder of the Hegelian Dialectic, and finished with a direct tie to statist feminism. Of course, also notice that these statist feminists utterly refuse to acknowledge that corporatism (fascism) is deceptive because it is a fake market totally based upon graft and political pull (corruption), as opposed to the sum of all voluntary interaction, which is the Market (the agora); the implications of this to “women’s liberation” is staggering, to say the least!
But don’t worry, it gets worse.
The next theory discussed was “muted group theory” (MGT), which can be defined as such:
“…a critical communication theory that examines asymmetrical power-related issues between genders, cultures, societies, and groups.”
I’ve mentioned the analyzing of the aforementioned theories, so what’s next? That’s right: MGT is the application of Marxist and feminist perspectives, specifically in regards to communication. If that sounds vague, here’s some additional context from Richard West and Lynn H. Turner in 2010:
“It helps us understand any group that is silenced by the inadequacies of their language.”
With the “application” of Marxism and feminism, it’s intellectually dishonest to use the word “silenced”. Those two things are “louder” than they have ever been. The term “socialism” is damn-near synonymous to “communism” and these social justice warriors are altering the English language. Pay attention, too, that these statist feminists are economically illiterate, hence their match made in hell with the communists, which is a bed they must now lie in (puns-intended!)
My already minimal respect for “experts” with Ph.D’s is disappearing in a cloud of gender-neutral smoke. Their research and rhetoric is fraught with inaccuracies, misapplications, and misappropriations. It’s quite sad, although unsurprising, that these de facto titles of nobility allow these folks to spout whatever irrational, illogical, and anti-scientific rhetoric they wish, without any fear for their financial well-being (you’ve got to love that tenure).
There is no point of contention between myself and these socialists and communists, in identifying that there is “something wrong”. I agree with them that the State is overbearing and oppressive. The point of contention betwixt them and I is their proposed “solution.”
State socialists and communists claim that a more centralized government, with increased and complete control (respectively) will lead to “equality” and freedom. Few ideas have been more incorrect during the history of the human experience.
On the other hand, voluntaryists (like myself) believe that all human interaction should be voluntary and free from coercion; hell, even the syndicalist trade unions are voluntary! Adherents to this ideology believe in the non-aggression principle and self-ownership, two things which no socialist or communist can adhere to consistently, especially when they fail to adhere to argumentation ethics.
It’s quite sad, although, again, unsurprising, to see academia propagating the two former statist ideologies. Modern-day academia is not in the business of promoting truth or freedom; rather, they propagate what has now become known as the Tocqueville effect, namely, the collective preference for “equality” over that of freedom, and Tocqueville totally called it back in 1835. Coincidentally, the Texas Revolutionary War for Independence commenced that very same year.
Equality does not equal freedom. Being able to ask Daddy Government for permission to get married does not equal freedom. Asking Daddy Government to use violence against another for disagreeing with your subjective beliefs is contrary to the notion of free speech this country was founded upon, especially according to Mr. Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence (and that’s coming from an anarchist!).
Embrace logic. Embrace rationality. Violence is not the answer.
Reject authoritarianism. Reject the use of coercion. Embrace voluntaryism.
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Thanks Fred. I hope all is well.