The Inthinkables

And so another notch is marked on the belt of political correctness.  This time, it's Papa John himself.  John Schnatter has been excommunicated from the company he began in the broom closet of his father's tavern.  Since 1984, Papa John's Pizza has become one of the most successful chains in America, with almost 5,000 locations and providing jobs to countless individuals from all facets of society.

Schnatter lost it all this week, including his name on a football stadium and a business school.  His offense?  Referring to irrevocable history about the founder of a competing franchise during a conference call, though inappropriate vernacular has never been ascribed to Schnatter himself.

Once upon a time, Schnatter could have spoken of Colonel Sanders's ingrained culture without consequence.  And once upon a time, Blazing Saddles was produced.  Mel Brooks often laments that his comedy masterpiece could never be made today.  But in 1974, the art of thinking without being offended was not lost.  Sane people were not actively searching out cause for their feelings to be bruised.

David Howard learned much the same in 1999.  The aide to the mayor of Washington, D.C. used the word "niggardly" in discussing the city's budget.  "Niggardly" is a ye olde English publick word for stinginess.  It has nothing to do with any racial epithet.  But merely the sound of its first two syllables enunciated together evoked official complaint.  Howard was compelled to resign, though he later was offered his position back.  He declined.

Nobody of decent mind today would harbor the passive racism of Harland Sanders.  It's even debatable whether The Colonel and most of his era sincerely deemed minorities as second-rate.  Growing up in rural North Carolina, I heard "that word" plenty enough, from whites and blacks alike.  Not once was it spoken with connotations of contempt.  I've never used the word except in quotation, and only if necessary.

We were wise enough once to know what was truly evil and what wasn't.  We were also strong enough to think for ourselves.  Regardless of our level of education, we knew what words meant.  And even those of meanest sustenance could articulate abstract notions without fear.

Words are vessels of thought.  Words are not thought themselves, but they contain and convey thought, albeit sometimes crudely.  But words must never supplant thought.  Destroy a word, and it becomes difficult to conceive that thought again.

What transpires today is a more grievous abomination.   If words are retained at all, they are now weighed and measured according to the feelings they evoke, and not the concepts they contain.  It is but one channel through which reason is being actively replaced with unfettered emotion.

Perhaps it began in academia.  Universities had for centuries been halls of challenge and discovery, for the teachers as much as for the students.  Today, they are incubators of intellectual insulation.  A young person does not emerge from college with a broadened mind.  Those modern professors and instructors, who deferred their own minds to "liberation" in previous decades, indoctrinate new generations toward renouncing the necessities of thought for the capriciousness of "feelings" and emotion.  Colleges – and mostly taxpayer-funded at that – often provide "safe spaces" as emergency harbors from the perils of reason.  The ideologies of guest speakers have become largely homogenized, and those speakers who defy approved dogma are hounded off campus by rioting "protesters," if the administration allows them on campus to begin with.  Holding to beliefs counter to the prevailing mentality is branded a threat to the world.  It does threaten a world: one of unsustainable denial and delusion.

Critical and rational thought is being vanquished.  In its place is a Randian horror of mental surrender.  Orwell described Eastasia's dominant philosophy as "death worship," better translated as "obliteration of the self."  I can conceive of no more fitting phrase.  The academic world and the realms of entertainment and media have nurtured and encouraged too many to offer their minds as sacrifice to convenience and their souls to mass approval.  Most have happily complied if they have been cognizant of having a choice at all.

Nature abhors a vacuum, and so it is that the obligation for reason is abdicated for the intoxication of emotion.  At last, there is no logic whatsoever.  There is only an instinctive response to sounds and sights that seduce or offend.  For some, the condition may be irreversible.

So kindly allow me to introduce a new word into the English lexicon: "inthinkable."

An inthinkable is a person for whom critical thinking is difficult if not impossible.  That is at best.  At worst, an inthinkable is a person capable of thought but who has willingly chosen to shirk the responsibility of engaging his mind.

An inthinkable has no sufficient grasp of reality.  Indeed, reality is an anathema to be avoided and destroyed if need be.  The inherent motive of the inthinkables is to vanquish reality.  They never succeed and cannot possibly succeed, but that does not mean they have not wrought incalculable havoc in the attempt.

And the inthinkables are legion.  Unfortunately, they are also in all the wrong places.

When can you last you remember an A-list celebrity writing an opinion piece or some other contemplated essay about a topical subject?  The best I've readily come up with are articles written by Charlie DanielsPat Sajak, and Chuck Norris.  No others from the entertainment industry spring to mind.  Yet it is the top-most earning actors and musicians and directors who are fervently trying to sway the culture – not with words of thoughtful reasoning, but with the weight of their own fame-fueled arrogance.  Rather than appeal to the intellect, these people – professionally tasked with little more than memorizing lines from a script – vent unbridled rage and rancor on Twitter or in shallow interviews or appearing at "awareness" events.  When they violate the decorum of celebrity, they are faintly condemned yet practically applauded by their colleagues.  It does not dawn upon them how much they revel in their immaturity.  Perhaps they cannot.  Because they are inthinkables.  Emotion is all that they can comprehend.

When some celebrities dares to deviate from the prevailing paradigm, he swiftly meets sure reprisal from his peers for the offense of using his mind.  Consider Oscar-winner James Woods.  He recently lost his agent, who cited "patriotism" in reaction to Woods's stance against illegal immigration.  Ironically, the notice of departure came on the Fourth of July.

Inthinkables dominate entire communities.  Consequently, they enjoy significant numbers in high office.  Maxine Waters and Chuck Schumer in a more enlightened era would never darken the doors of the Capitol.  They are chronically returned to office by constituents who seem oblivious to the outrageous statements made by them and too many other representatives.  Waters is almost the poster child for political inthinkables.  In every possible figurative sense, it is the blind leading the blind.

The most diabolical of the inthinkables infest many – if not most – of the places of learning.  An inthinkable left to his own devices is loathsome enough.  That such a person would make a career of perpetuating the destruction of mind with them who come after, and those who come after them, is a crime.

The situation with John Schnatter is troubling.  His peers in the corporate world should be wiser than to capitulate to the inthinkables.  But the greater concern is that more of the common folk are not rallying to his defense.  I prefer to believe that that is only out of fear.  I also believe that such fear is coming to be dispelled, and that the old blood of wisdom and strength is rising to the occasion.

If a person chooses to disavow the mind given him, that is his problem.  If entire segments of society are ridden with inthinkables, let them wallow in their folly.

But those of us who have chosen to think for ourselves should not be burdened with the costs of the inthinkables' abandonment of that most precious core of the human condition.

Christopher Knight is a writer, filmmaker, former teacher, and many other things.  Visit his blog at and find him on Twitter at @theknightshift.  He's not ashamed that among his favorite movies is Blazing Saddles.

If you experience technical problems, please write to