Punchinello’s Chronicles

January 24, 2009

Terror is the New Communism

Filed under: Word of the Day — Punchinello @ 2:05 am
Tags: , , ,

I was listening to Dennis Prager tonight, truly a kindred spirit. He brought up this topic, and it gives a perfect example of a “swing premise,” something I was discussing yesterday (below).

A swing premise is like an optical illusion. It’s the same phrase or set of words used as a premise to an argument, with two exactly opposite interpretations. Those interpretations depend entirely on one’s perception of reality, one’s ideology, and nowadays, whether one is a conservative or liberal. In short, it’s an outward example of our intellectual bias.

It seems Prager was on a plane talking with a young woman sitting next to him during the flight. This woman was a student at one of the country’s more prestigious universities. When they got around to politics, she asked who he’d voted for. He told her McCain, and she questioned his choice. It wasn’t that she was interested in his reasoning, rather that she thought he was a bit daft. She, like many younger people, is an Obama supporter.

In the course of the answer, he told her that one of his main concerns was the current problem of terrorism and the US position in the war on terror. That’s when this young lady said, “Oh, but terror is the new communism.”

The premise is a perfect audio illusion. The way she meant it was that communism, “back in the old days” (of old people like Prager or myself) was used as a bogey-man, a straw villain. It was used as a way to ignite fear and anxiety in foolish American citizens for the purpose of getting money for the military and other such things.

All this was presented as if communism never really existed, that in “fact” it never did exist. If it did “happen to” exist, then it wasn’t at all a dangerous and violent process. Communism was a benevolent attempt to bring paradise to the world, and only “evil” capitalists told stories of how it was A Very Bad Thing, to scare little children and fools.

As Prager tells it, he could hear in her voice that the student was parroting back what she was being taught in the university. Without bothering to research or check what the professors were telling her, she simply accepted it all as fact.

He told her that communism was (and still is) responsible for millions upon millions of deaths. This young lady simply didn’t hear him at all. Her continuing argument (hence, a premise) was that a) communism never existed, b) it was used to panic people so they would give the military money, therefore c) terrorism doesn’t exist either.

On the other hand, Prager was inclined to agree with her “premise.” Indeed, communism was a terrible problem for the entire planet, leading to the formation of the Soviet Union and the collapse of democratic governments across much of Europe and Asia. Today’s broken Russian economy is a result of the entire morality of communism, based as it is on the elimination of the individual in favor of the collective.

Communist ideologues were and are similar to terrorists as we know them today. The entire concept of guerrilla warfare was brought to a fine level by Mao Tse-tung in his writings about the application of such tactics. It was that type of warfare that the US encountered in Viet Nam, making the war much worse than it might otherwise have been.

For that reason, there’s not much difference between communist anarchists and modern-day terrorists. The main difference is only that communism is a political-social-economic process instead of a religious fanaticism, as associated with Islamic terrorists. So yes, it’s true that terrorism is the same thing as communism, especially in tactics.

A swing premise, like an optical illusion, presents a single statement. It’s a single vision. But depending on how you move your mind (not your eyes), you see two entirely different pictures. So too, depending on your mental bias you’ll come up with two directly opposing conclusions when using a swing premise.

One of the more famous optical illusions is that of the old woman and the young woman.

The Old Woman - Young Woman Illusion
The Old Woman – Young Woman Illusion
j-oldwoman-illusionb Depending on how you focus your attention; where you highlight your vision of the image, you’ll see either an old woman with a wart on her bent nose and a linen cap, or the exact opposite.

The old woman on the left, is looking to the left in profile. The young woman, highlighted to the right, is staring away from the “camera,” and we see only the tip of her nose and her left cheek.

What appears as the old woman’s eye, in the opposite view appears as an earring in the young girl’s left ear. What was the old woman’s toothless mouth becomes the young girl’s black neck ribbon or necklace.


Swing premises are like this. The exact same phrase, “terror is the new communism” can mean either that it’s another make-believe fantasy, dreamed up by the government to control people; or that it’s the latest form of war against freedom, individual choice, structure, society, progress, and free thought.

The tragedy is that to understand that there even is interpretation taking place requires some modicum of actual thought. In a world dominated by feelings and magic, more than half the population chooses to abdicate the difficulties of reason and critical thinking.


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