A couple years ago I read the article Kafkatrapping by Eric Raymond: http://esr.ibiblio.org/?p=2122. It struck a chord with me how political and religious institutions use unfalsifiable accusations to scare people into obeying them rather than facts.
“Degenerate” is a word I see thrown around a lot these days. I immediately recognized it as another variation of Kafkatrapping, the psychological manipulation that defending yourself from an accusation makes you guilty of that accusation. By the twisted “logic” of the kafkatrap, this means that the accuser is always right in every circumstance; no one can ever be innocent.
Why is the word “degenerate” used? The accuser has some subjective desire they want to coerce society into bending over for, like banning pornography (usually ugly women who want to eliminate sexual competition), or banning public displays of homosexual affection (laughably, these are the same people who rail against “trigger warnings”). However, if their naked motivation was made publicly known – their subjective want – they would not have the justification to coerce society into indulging their solipsism. They would be a laughingstock.
So, they use the specter of objectivity. The rhetoric of “degenerate” implies that there is an objective standard of civilization that will inevitably come to fruition with or without the accused’s approval – the accused can only hope to join the winning side, or face inevitable condemnation. And of course, this specter of objective civilization always supports the accuser’s subjective, often irrational, wants.
Therein lies the irony of the kafkatrap: the rhetorical inevitability of the accuser’s subjective desires are only made into reality through the support of the deceived. Churches only continue to thrive as long as their congregation believes themselves sinful.
Degeneracy, racism, misogyny, privilege, heresy, sin – all of these accusations are the same.
It is not hard to see the Judeo-Christian genealogy of the kafkatrap. Several thousand years ago, a man once got the idea that by fabricating an omnipotent, invisible, and unknowable (hence, impossible to disprove) God based upon his own desires, he could trick the entire world into conforming to him. That devious little con artist became the world’s first priest.
The political ends to which the specter of God is applied has changed over times and cultures, but the structure of the kafkatrap has remained the same. From YHVH to Jesus to anti-racism to degeneracy… mankind remains ever predictable in its shamelessness.