Welcome to the reconditioning.
In George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984, the protagonist, Winston, finds himself secretly incredulous at the double-mindedness people need to live under Big Brother’s tyrannical rule. Slavish obedience defines his world, where no person can even think freely. He makes his meager living working in the so-called Ministry of Truth, where he rewrites history to fit the Party’s current, capricious narratives.
A dedicated team sweeps the streets, confiscating out-of-date editions of books, magazines, etc. that have been changed with no acknowledgement of the swap.
Largely through the power of manipulated language, called Newspeak, Party members are required to believe contradictory and manifestly false ideas. Winston’s country has supposedly always warred with East Asia and allied with Eurasia—until the alliances shift, and the people are told that they have always been bitter enemies with Eurasia and always aligned with East Asia. And the people accept this, partly out of fear of consequences, but mostly through persistent, incremental conditioning.
Orwell shows us this concept in society ad absurdum, particularly in a telling passage when Winston gets the news:
“It appeared that there had even been demonstrations to thank Big Brother for raising the chocolate ration to twenty grammes a week. And only yesterday, he reflected, it had been announced that the ration was to be reduced to twenty grammes a week. Was it possible that they could swallow that, after only twenty-four hours? Yes, they swallowed it.”
—George Orwell, 1984
The rule of law in Clown World
Many readers hail Orwell as a sort of prophet, foreseeing much of the surveillance technology and propaganda methods we take for granted today. How did Orwell so clearly foresee the future manipulations of truth? How did he predict a population with decreasing attention spans paired with increasingly rapid news cycles?
It is because the Soviets of Orwell’s time didn’t invent lying. The devil himself seems to have done that, before the dawn of man. But don’t worry—we’re quick learners.
So here we are in 2022, when we need courage to call a confused woman who thinks she is a man, “ma’am,” and when pundits earnestly tell us that men can give birth (and isn’t that wonderful?). We could also explore the idea-conditioning behind climate change and even pandemic lockdowns. But amidst these and many other seeming absurdities, gender-conditioning is the real headscratcher. How can something so blithely obvious, so truly self-evident and scientifically verifiable as the immutability of the sexes, be so thoroughly defenestrated?1
Here’s one plot twist: The Fast and the Furious did it. (In a moment, I’ll share what I mean.) So did countless other books, songs, films, and video games over the past twenty years. This campaign was impressive—possibly the most masterful propaganda con I’ve ever seen. It’s important to examine what happened, not only to step outside of the spell, but also to discern the principles of this wicked art of deception that often appear in the fantasy we love.
Principle 1: The best lies are mostly true
How does one persuade large swaths of a population (who have endless access to information) to believe such glorious falsehoods as, “Tommy feels like a woman, so he is one. And if you question that, you must be thrown into the outer darkness”?
Gradually, then suddenly, to appropriate Hemmingway’s famous epigram. But before we even get to the rollout, you must understand rule 1 of persuasive lying: The best lies are made of up mostly truth. If this were a recipe, it would start with, “Stir one part lie with twelve parts truth, and let simmer.”
Earlier, I mentioned The Fast and the Furious, and for good reason: What is the memed-into-legend phrase uttered repeatedly by a very serious Vin Diesel?
But here’s the thing: They aren’t. They’re a bunch of thugs and street-racers who like to hang out, until they turn on each other for a while, and then they’re not family, or something. But they’re family! … Yet no, not actually related.
At this point, thoughtful Christians might say: Not all families are biologically related. What about the biblical virtue of adoption? This is the vital key to explain why supposedly Christian societies fell for gay marriage, then the trans nonsense, and soon, the normalization of “minor-attracted persons.” It’s because people took this mostly-true idea of adoption, then added just enough untruth to poison the recipe.
You see, we Christians have a soft spot for adoption: the idea that someone born apart from a family can become part of that family, because spiritually, Christ has done this for us. We call fellow church members “brother” or “sister,” and we mean it. Christians share deep and abiding love for the lost, a desire to see them reconcile with their heavenly Father. This warms a place in our hearts, and rightly so.
And yet we forget that adoption is the exception, and not the rule.
Principle 2: Emphasize exceptions until they become preeminent
Every rule has exceptions, does it not? It rains in the desert, plenty of people can say “Swiss” without a smile, and one California woman died from drinking too much water.
And water is supposed to be good for you.
So while we find adoption endearing, we forget that it is an exception to the natural order. We do not, generally speaking, get to choose our families. It is determined from on high, and that’s part of the beauty of life: God ordains your father and mother and siblings, and they are your father and mother and siblings whether you like it or not. Adoption is a joyous outlier, but it remains the outside, extreme case, the exemption to the state of things.
But the Fast and Furious franchise beats us over head with this exception—and please notice it’s not quiiiiite adoption anyway. Instead, the movies portray friends who declare themselves to be family. This theme isn’t just found in this action franchise. Often, I find it in children’s books (“Families come in all different kinds! There is no right kind of family.”), novels, movies, video games, and TV shows. If you’re paying close attention, you’ll notice increased emphasis of this theme within the last twenty years. Writers don’t need to hit this idea quite so hard now, because we’ve already been conditioned. But the next step is crucial:
After you’ve normalized the exception, create a new exception to that.
In this light, is the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges decision really so surprising? Culture redefined “family,” and the broader Christian community didn’t notice. Sure, many of us suspected something was fishy about this whole marriage thing, but we missed the larger deception. So, we neither prevented gay marriage (or gay “mirage” as Douglas Wilson renders it) nor foresaw widespread acceptance of transgenderism. Why not? Because if family is malleable and without definition, then we can do more than simply add members. We can shift roles. And if we can shift roles, marriage is malleable. And if marriage is malleable, gender is malleable.
Now, we’re being asked to believe that self-chosen families can be formed with a dog and cat, three street racers, or six goats, two teeny-boppers, an eighty-year-old ‘Nam vet, and a shower curtain.
All of this sneaked into our world inch by inch, by repeated exposure to a concept that we mostly agree with. And yet the truth was subverted, because we forgot that we could not have been adopted as God’s children without first being created in his image. The adoption we receive is reinstitution, the Father seeing us from afar and running to us. We have forgotten the meaning of imago Dei. It sounds sweet to say, “There is no difference between an adopted child and a natural-born one,” but it’s just untrue. Ask anyone who’s been adopted. This is a beautiful accommodation for our broken and sinful world, but even in the best cases, this is not the same as a created family.
Our acceptance and promulgation of inarticulate platitudes like, “There’s no right kind of family; we choose our family,” played very nicely into the propaganda.
Principle 3: Train people to self-censor
We live in a world where Twitter mobs chase down anyone with a cancelling vengeance if they dare speak against the sexual revolution’s holy writ. People are regularly fired, doxed, bullied, threatened, and physically assaulted. It isn’t surprising that people feel hesitant to point out obvious truths these days. Silenced people, however, eventually begin to discover others who think like they do. Then, in a process one economist called a “preference cascade,” they are emboldened by each other’s speech and resistance, and more people start to speak out. That’s why big tech and a lapdog media are so quick to censor, stepping in with a disclaimer to say, “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.”
But now we’ve arrived back at 1984. The chocolate ration has been increased, and Oceania was always at war with Eurasia.
- Sure, we find other rampant falsehoods and chicaneries circulating today. Global Cooling became Global Warming, which became first Climate Change, then Climate Crisis, and now, Climate Catastrophe. And when moderate conditions prevail, it is just weather, but when storms hit, it is Climate Catastrophe.
Or, to take a more recent example, we went from counting deaths, to counting hospitalizations, to counting cases of COVID, as justification for first slowing the spread, then flattening the curve, then enduring until a vaccine was developed, then getting everyone vaccinated, then shutting down the virus, then… I’m not sure where we are on this one now, actually. I haven’t checked Twitter in the last twenty minutes, so my information is likely to be out of date. ↩