By C.B. Jacobi
Postmodernism can be described as a worldview nested in an uncertainty of knowing truth, epistemological skepticism, and holding values and moral presuppositions antithetical to traditional Western ones. Under a guise of tolerance and righteousness, postmodern proselytizers criticize Western values and often claim they stem from systems of oppression. Though now retracted and apologized for, the Smithsonian Institute produced a graphic claiming that “objective, rational, linear thinking” and “self-reliance” are aspects of whiteness. At one point in time, disagreements in discussions of value systems were socially accepted, but now entities like Antifa and Black Lives Matter enforce postmodern values with physical violence, property destruction, and intimidation. The postmodern method of evangelizing is a moral gaslighting of Western values as intolerant and bigoted, thus justifying enforcement. Admittedly, it’s quite intelligent — if you are able to label your opposite as something fringe, you aren’t obligated to contend with it.
People who hold traditional Western values, like many conservatives, seem to struggle with countering postmodern gaslighting. The gaslighting method seems new; however, this method was theorized by the German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. This type of moral gaslighting results from what the philosopher called cultural “decadence,” a sort of degeneration.
When reviewing Nietzsche’s writings on progressivism, it’s almost as if he were actually writing about postmodernism.
Nietzsche is well known for his pitiless critiques of socialism and progressivism, writing aphorisms like “Whom do I hate most among the rabble of today? the socialist rabble[.]” The philosopher held to a sort of hyper-self-actualization and development such as to distinguish one from society. The rise of 19th-century progressivism was a form of cultural decline, or cultural “decadence,” as Nietzsche called it: “Decay, decline … The results of decadence: vice-viciousness … hysteria — the weakness of the will; … pessimism, anarchy; debauchery (also of the spirit). The calumniators, underminers, sceptics, and destroyers.”
Nietzsche thought progressives chastised life-affirming or “noble” values such as personal strength, self-reliance, competitiveness, and industriousness as intolerant and societally unacceptable. Unable or perhaps unwilling to genuinely compete in society and develop oneself, Nietzsche claimed this was how progressives attempted to gain ideological ground. He writes in Beyond Good and Evil: “Our highest insights must — and should — sound like follies and sometimes like crimes when they are heard without permission by those who are not predisposed and predestined for them.” In other words, Nietzsche is saying that the more noble values “sound like follies and crimes” to the people who do not hold them.
This sounds all too familiar when examining the postmodernists of today. The same gaslighting technique Nietzsche describes is adopted to evangelize for postmodern values instead by means of civility. Under the postmodern system, contrarians are labeled as oppressors or bigots; therefore, any necessary means of progressing a postmodern agenda are permitted.
In a video posted on Twitter, a Portland protest leader shouted, “You ask for a peaceful protest. It’s white supremacy!” while the property-owner replied, “There’s my Biden sign! Don’t destroy anything! Be peaceful!” Not only are the fundamental liberties of peaceful protest and protection of private property gaslighted, but even equality of opportunity is “morally heinous” according to a popular postmodern media outlet. Equality of outcome, guised as “equity,” is the new and more righteous postmodern paradigm.
This is a textbook Nietzschean example: not accepting violent protest is labeled “white supremacy.” In reality, the subject of race is contextually absent. The gaslighting leaves the victim stuck, and if he dares to resist, he further digs himself into the category the postmodernist has prescribed for him.
Now, with social media, the risk associated with being labeled by the postmodernist is severe. If one is gaslighted, his new label can be spread around the internet and his well-being thus endangered. Those born with immutable qualities (race or sex) considered inherently “oppressive” by the postmodern system are doomed to the gaslighting and forever stuck in a feedback loop.
Indeed, postmodernism is akin to Nietzsche’s cultural “decadence,” given the worldview’s anarchical spirit and deconstructive nature. Even the moral gaslighting used by the postmodernist is well described in Nietzsche’s writings. Nietzsche was a harsh critique of 19th-century progressivism, and one can imagine what his opinions would be like of postmodernism.