Thought-Terminating Clichés

A thought-terminating cliché is verbal device used to obstruct and terminate the rational thought of one’s verbal opponent.

The phrase, “thought-terminating cliché” was used by Robert Jay Lifton M.D. in his book, Thought Reform and the Psychology of Totalism: A Study of “Brainwashing” in China.

Lifton is a visiting professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and Cambridge Hospital, a former distinguished professor of psychiatry and psychology at the Graduate School University Center, and director of The Center on Violence and Human Survival at John Jay College of Criminal Justice.

In his book Lifton states: “The language of the totalist environment is characterized by the thought-terminating cliché. The most far-reaching and complex of human problems are compressed into brief, highly reductive, definitive-sounding phrases, easily memorized and easily expressed. These become the start and finish of any ideological analysis.”

Lifton goes on to show that in totalitarian regimes, thought-terminating clichés are used extensively to obstruct rational discourse, to misdirect self-guided thinking and to mold its victim’s thoughts.

Several years ago, I was discussing free market ideas with an acquaintance, and I explained that “capitalism improves life by creating cheap labor saving products.” His response was, “That’s just another ism.” I fell for the trap and my thoughts were terminated.

Recently, a woman asked a friend of mine to attend a speech held by a candidate for US Senate. The woman’s comment was, “You’ll like the speech if you’re not a hater.” Obviously, her statement was a thought-terminating cliché. How could one possibly respond to such a statement? Well, you could say, “I’m not a hater,” in which case you would be expected to believe everything you heard during the speech.

For another example, consider the term, “climate change.” The term previously was “global warming,” but the advocates changed the term. Why? This is a very good question. Notice with the term, “global warming,” one can employ objective measurements of temperature and compare them to earlier dates, etc. With the term “climate change,” no measurements are implied or possible; the term is out of context to any rational discourse.

What this switch achieved was to confuse the issues and block critical thought. Global warming is vaguely understood to be part of this climate change, but global warming is not everything in climate change, it is just part of it. What remains is ambiguous. The term is therefore nebulous, hazy, and indefinable. It makes no sense. This thought-terminating cliché therefore sneakily assigns any extreme events in the weather to be a result of “climate change,” which has become nothing more than a stealth term for human activity.

Statists, people who seek total government control of your life, use thought-terminating clichés as a part of their propaganda and thought control techniques.

Notice that when a leftist runs out of intellectual ammunition, he will resort to calling his opponent, “Racist” or “Sexist.”

Those who use thought-terminating clichés are liars, deceivers and intellectual cowards.

Practice uncovering thought-terminating clichés and you will improve your understanding of the world and the psychopaths who wish to destroy your nature.

For much more on delusions, intellectual fraud and the psychopath’s desire to control your life, see my book, The Biology of Human Freedom.