I want to introduce something. I call it the Law of Specific Ambiguity. It may already exist because I’m sure I’m not the first one to notice, but my formulation gives me an excuse to restate a brilliant piece written by Michael Anton (conservative essayist, speechwriter, and national security official in the Trump administration) back in July of 2021.
His article in The American Mind, titled “That’s Not Happening and It’s Good That It Is” was subtitled “A quick and dirty guide to regime propaganda”. In it, Anton sets forth six laws and tactics in use by the Biden Administration:
The Law of Merited Impossibility
The Law of Merited Impossibility holds: “That will never happen, and when it does, boy are you [homophobes, transphobes, racists, sexists, whatever] ever going to deserve it.”
The Celebration Parallax
Anton says the Celebration Parallax may be stated as: “the same fact pattern is either true and glorious or false and scurrilous depending on who states it.” The decisive factor is the intent of the speaker. For example, if the speaker is clearly cheering transgenderism, it is wonderful but if not, they better sit down and shut up.
The Law of Salutary Contradiction
The formulation of which is: “That’s not happening and it’s good that it is”, as in “We’re not teaching CRT in schools, but it is a darn good thing we are!”
A second formulation is ““Yeah, about that thing we’re not doing? We’re doing it and it is fabulous!”
The Smails Exhortation
Arising from the classic movie “Caddyshack”, this postulate is tied to Judge Elihu Smails saying to his whining son, “You will get nothing and like it!” It is the idea that certain people, the opposition, deserve nothing. Their complaints are neither just nor reasonable, so they should just learn to like getting nothing.
The Lie-Back Imperative
This diversionary tactic could best be described, as Anton noted, saying their “plain words could not possibly mean what they plainly say.” It is a way for the regime to incite their base without arousing too much opposition.
Anton notes that “whole institutions of the establishment ‘Right’ do little else but reassure their ostensible constituency that the Left not only doesn’t mean its proto-genocidal rhetoric but isn’t even saying it.”
The Enmity Counteraccusation
This one is formulated as “the enemy calls you its enemy for recognizing its enmity.”
A great example is the recent primal scream from the left about the “Great Replacement” theory. As many have noted, the Left has been cheering demographic change in America for decades – they wrote books about it. The New York Times even published an article by Michelle Goldberg, unambiguously titled “We Can Replace Them”, about “replacing” white conservatives, that stated that while “America is tearing itself apart as an embittered white conservative minority clings to power, terrified at being swamped by a new multiracial polyglot majority,” voters can “show them they’re being replaced” by electing the black female candidate, Stacey Abrams.
Tie to that a leaked memo from Jennifer Palmieri, at the time the communication director of Hillary’s 2016 campaign, which clearly stated that the importation of a new electorate is “a critical component of the Democratic Party’s future electoral success”, and it is clear the only people thinking about “replacements” are on the Left.
Tucker Carlson’s crime was noticing and putting the Democrat’s intent on television.
As noted, I want to add a seventh possibility that belongs and doesn’t belong in Anton’s list because it is part propaganda and part process. While this one has become a standard for Congress regardless of the party in control, the Democrat Left is particularly good at using it. I call it:
The Law of Specific Ambiguity
In contract law, there are two types of ambiguity: latent and patent.
Latent ambiguity is when a term is used that seems to have clear meaning on its face but contains ambiguity considering the extrinsic evidence – information that exists outside the four corners of the document suggesting more than one way of interpreting the words or phrases.
Patent ambiguity exists when it’s clear that something additional needs to be included in the document before what was meant by the provision or phrase is understood by the parties.
The realization of the Law of Specific Ambiguity borrows from pretty much all of Anton’s formulations to combine both latent and patent ambiguity into one process.
For example, let’s look at the current dust up over “disinformation”.
On its face, reasonable people will interpret the word “disinformation” to be something intentionally bad and events to fight it inherently good. Based on this conceptualization, most people would support efforts to combat dissemination of “disinformation”. Under this rubric, the Biden administration tried (and thankfully, failed) to establish the Orwellian “Disinformation Governance Board” under the control of the rabid partisan scarahoochie, Nina Jankowicz (who worked to get Volodymyr Zelensky elected in Ukraine, by the way).
Nobody has defined “disinformation” – except those who have. The powers that thought the DGB was a totally awesome idea, clearly had an idea what “disinformation” they wanted to stop.
Of course, this was an ambiguity that was intended. Disinformation was basically whatever the Head Scarahoochie decided it was at the time, which given Jankowicz’s history, would have been anything that conflicted or opposed a very far left Democrat agenda.
The Law of Specific Ambiguity exists by using terms and phrases that are generally understood by the public in a macro sense, but often have entirely different meanings when applied in the micro sense by a politically motivated authority.
Congress does this all the time by writing and passing legislation including undefined terms and then tossing the laws over to the regulatory agencies who define them, often along partisan or agenda driven lines.
Outside the regulatory process, this law is evident in the postmodernist drive to change our language so that words like “male” and “female”, words with concrete meanings, have alleged meanings quite different from those understood for literally hundreds of thousands of years.
Something to think about.