Attributed to Voltaire. "The better is the enemy of the good." Supposedly from the earlier Italian Il meglio è nemico del bene, attested since 1603. (Wikipedia) The thought is perhaps better captured by "The best is the enemy of the good."
In an imperfect world it is folly to predicate action upon perfection. Will you hold out for the perfect spouse? Then you will remain alone. And if you yourself are less than perfect, how can you demand perfection in others?
Politics is a practical business: it is about the gaining and maintaining of power for the purpose of implementing programs and policies that one believes to be beneficial, and for opposing those whose policies one believes to be deleterious. It's about winning, not talking. It's not about ideological purity or having the supposedly best ideas; it's about gaining the power to implement good ideas, ideas that are implementable in the current configuration of suboptimal circumstances. The practical politician understands that quite often Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien, the better/best is the enemy of the good.
The Never Trumpers and the conservative opponents of the American Health Care Act displayed a failure to understand this important principle of practical politics.
Practical politics as opposed to what? As opposed to the effete and epicene political salon talk of Bill Kristol and George Will. Erudite and entertaining but useless in stopping the leftist-Islamist juggernaut.
The main external threat to civilization? Radical Islam. The main internal threat? Leftism. That the latter is in cahoots with the former makes for a nasty synergy. Prager:
Conservatives who voted for Trump believed that defeating the Left is the overriding moral good of our time. We are certain that the Left (not the traditional liberal) is destroying Western Civilization, including, obviously, the United States. The external enemy of Western Civilization are the Islamists (the tens or perhaps hundreds of million of Muslims who wish to see the world governed by Sharia), and the internal enemy of the West is the left. What the left has done to the universities and to Western culture at the universities is a perfect example.
Martin P. Seligman explains. Seligman! Now there's an aptronym for you. Selig is German for happy, blessed, blissful, although it can also mean late (verstorben) and tipsy (betrunken). So Seligman is the happy man or happy one. Nomen est omen?
Give some careful thought to what you name your kid. 'Chastity' may have an anti-aptronymic effect. As for anti-aptronyms, I was introduced a while back to a hulking biker who rejoiced under the name of 'Tiny.' A student of mine's name for me was 'Smiley' to underscore my serious-as-cancer demeanor.
The fan is on and my shirt is off. The Sonoran spring is sprung. Spring fever in the form of cacoethes scribendi has me in her sweet grip.
A weird mix of Greek and Latin, cacoethes scribendi means compulsion to write. ‘Cacoethes’ is a Latinization of the Greek kakoethes, which combines kakos (‘bad’) with ethos (‘habit’). It can mean ‘urge,’ ‘itch,’ ‘compulsion,’ ‘mania.’ Similar constructions: cacoethes loquendi, compulsive talking, and cacoethes carpendi, a mania for fault-finding. You can see ‘carp’ lurking within the infinitive, carpere, to pluck (Cf. Eugene Ehrlich, Amo, Amas, Amat and More, Harper & Row, 1985, pp. 71-72.) To this list I add cacoethes blogendi, compulsion to blog, a compulsion with which I have been for a long time afflicted. Aficionados of Jack Kerouac’s not-so-spontaneous spontaneous prose will recall how he got his revenge on poet and critic Kenneth Rexroth in his Dharma Bums: he bestowed upon him the name, Reinhold Cacoethes. Sweet gone Jack was a wonderful coiner of names. I’ll have to return to this topic in October, Kerouac month in my personal liturgy.
As for my own cacoethes scribendi et blogendi: once a scribbler, always a scribbler. My fifth grade teacher had us begin each day by writing a 200 word composition. At the end of the year, she announced in class that my compositions were the best she had ever seen in her teaching career. I decided right then and there to become a free-lance writer, which in a sense is what I have become.
Moral: be careful what you wish for. Wishes and dreams are seeds. They just might fall on fertile ground.
A news item is a report of a recent event. Must the report be true to count as a genuine news item? I should think so. Must the report be current as well? Obviously. It is true that Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 presidential election, but no longer news that she did. So there are two ways for fake news to be fake: by being false and by being dated.
Now that 'fake news' is a buzz word, or a buzz phrase, we need to be alert to this ambiguity.
But there seems to be another way in which a report can be fake news. Suppose an obnoxious leftist is out to damn Trump by showing that he does not pay Federal income tax. So she gets hold of his 2005 Form 1040 which reveals that he paid millions in taxes and trumpets this information on her political TV show. This too has been called 'fake news.' Here:
Unlike Geraldo Rivera, who was pilloried after his Al Capone vault debacle, Maddow knew that what was in the Trump tax returns wasn’t damning, yet she still hyped it on Twitter and played her audience for fools, thereby becoming the epitome of fake news.
What Maddow reported is true. And we the people did not know until a few days ago what Mr Trump paid in taxes back in aught five; so there is a sense in which the item reported is current. So what makes Maddow's reportage 'fake news'? Apparently, the fact that she was out to damn Trump but somehow did not realize that revealing the contents of his 2005 Form 1040 would make him look good! He paid more in taxes than Bernie and Barack!
I am inclined to conclude that the phrase 'fake news' does now mean much of anything, if it ever did.
Above I pointed to an ambiguity. But it is worse than that. The phrase is vague and becoming vaguer and vaguer. Chalk it up to the vagaries of polemical discourse in this time of bitter political division.
An ambiguous word or phrase admits of two or more definite meanings; a vague word or phrase has no definite meaning. 'Fake news' is a bit like 'buzz word' which has itself become a buzz word.
As for Rachel Maddow, she is becoming the poster girl of TDS. How else do you explain the fact that this intelligent woman did not understand that her 'scoop' would hurt her and her benighted cause while benefiting the president? But I suppose lust for ratings comes into it too. Mindless hatred of Trump plus a lust for ratings.
I have been objecting to the calling of leftism a religion. Curiously, some people call atheism a religion. I object to that too.
The question as to what religion is is not at all easy to answer. It is not even clear that the question makes sense. For when you ask 'What is religion?' you may be presupposing that it has an essence that can be captured in a definition that specifies necessary and sufficient conditions. But it might be that the concept religion is a family resemblance concept like the concept game (to invoke Wittgenstein's famous example). Think of all the different sorts of games there are. Is there any property or set of properties that all games have and that only games have? Presumably not. The concept game is a family resemblance concept to which no essence corresponds. Noted philosophers of religion such as John Hick maintain the same with respect to the concept religion.
If you take this tack, then you can perhaps argue that Marxism and secular humanism and militant atheism are religions.
But it strikes me as decidedly odd to characterize a militant anti-religionist as having a religion. Indeed, it smacks of a cheap debating trick: "How can you criticize religion when you yourself have a religion?" The tactic is an instance of the 'So's Your Old Man' Fallacy, more formally known as the argumentum ad hominem tu quoque.
I prefer to think along the following lines.
Start with belief-system as your genus and then distinguish two coordinate species: belief-systems that are theoretical, though they may have practical applications, and belief-systems that are by their very nature oriented toward action. Call the latter ideologies. Accordingly, an ideology is a system of action-guiding beliefs. Then distinguish between religious and non-religious ideologies. Marxism and militant atheism are examples of non-religious ideologies while the Abrahamic religions and some of the Eastern religions are examples of religious ideologies.
I am using 'ideology' in a non-pejorative way. One could also speak of Weltanschauungen or worldviews except that 'view' suggests spectatorship whereas action-guiding belief-systems embody prescriptions and proscriptions and all manner of prudential dos and don'ts for participants in the flux and shove of the real order. We are not mere spectators of life's parade, but are 'condemned' to march in it too.
To repeat: there are theoretical belief-systems and belief-systems that are ineluctably action-guiding and purpose-positing. Among the latter we distinguish two subspecies, the religious and the non-religious.
But this leaves me with the problem of specifying what it is that distinguishes religious from non-religious ideologies. To put it Peripatetically, what is the specific difference? Perhaps this: all and only religions make reference to a transcendent reality, whether of a personal or impersonal nature, contact or community or identification with which is the summum bonum and the ultimate purpose of human existence. For the Abrahamic faiths, Yahweh, God, Allah is the transcendent reality. For Taoism, the Tao. For Hinduism, Brahman. For Buddhism, the transcendent state of nirvana. But I expect the Theravadins to object that nibbana is nothing positive and transcendent, being only the extinguishing or dissolution of the (ultimately illusory) self. I could of course simply deny that Theravada Buddhism is a religion, strictly speaking. I could lump it together with Stoicism as a sort of higher psychotherapy, a set of techniques for achieving equanimity, a therapeutic wisdom-path rather than a religion strictu dictu.
There are a number of tricky and unresolved issues here, but I see little point in calling militant atheism a religion, though I concede it is like a religion in some ways.
But as I have been pointing out lately, if one thing is like another, that is not to say that the one thing is the other or is a species of the other.
However, most people understand their side is good and the opposing side is bad, so it’s much easier for them to form these emotional opinions of political parties.
This sentence features a misuse of 'understand.' 'Understand' is a verb of success. If you understand something, then it is the case. For example, if you understand that both 2 and -2 are square roots of 4, then this is the case. Otherwise there is a failure to understand. 'Understand' in this respect is like 'know' and unlike 'believe' or 'think'. My knowing that p entails that p is true. My believing or thinking that p does not entail that p is true. My understanding that my side is good entails that it is. The above sentence should read as follows:
However, most people THINK their side is good and the opposing side is bad, so it’s much easier for them to form these emotional opinions of political parties.
Not necessarily, says Taubes, who suggests that the ad hoc societal test of the low-carb solution lacks certainty. “If you understand beyond a shadow of a doubt that your disease is caused by sugar and flour and refined carbohydrates,” he says, “you are more likely to adhere to a diet that cuts them out.”
Some will say that usage changes, to which I will reply: no doubt, but not all change is change for the better.
Call me a prescriptivist if you like, but don't confuse me with a school-marm prescriptivist. If you end a sentence with a preposition, I won't draw my weapon. For that is a piece of pedantry up with which I shall not put!
One of the purposes of this website is to combat the stupidity of Political Correctness, a stupidity that in many contemporary liberals, i.e., leftists, is willful and therefore morally censurable. The euphemism 'undocumented worker' is a good example of a PC expression. It does not require great logical acumen to see that 'undocumented worker' and 'illegal alien' are not coextensive expressions. The extension of a term is the class of things to which the term applies. In the diagram below, let A be the class of illegal aliens, B the class of undocumented workers, and A^B the intersection of these two classes. All three regions in the diagram are non-empty, which shows that A and B are not coextensive, and so are not the same class. Since A and B are not the same class, 'undocumented worker' and 'illegal alien' do not have the same intension or meaning. If two terms differ in extension, then they differ in meaning. (The converse does not hold.) Differing in both extension and intension (sense, meaning), 'undocumented workers' and 'illegal aliens' expressions are not intersubstitutable.
To see why, note first that there are illegal aliens who are not workers since they are either petty criminals, or members of organized criminal gangs e.g., MS-13, some of whose illegal alien members are terrorists, or too young to work, or unable to work. Note second that there are illegal aliens who have documents all right -- forged documents. Note third that there are undocumented workers who are not aliens: there are American citizens who work but without the legally requisite licenses and permits.
So the correct term is 'illegal alien.' It is descriptive and accurate and there is no reason why it should not be used.
Now will this little logical exercise convince a leftist to use language responsibly and stop obfuscating the issue? Of course not. Leftism in some of its forms is willfully embraced reality denial, and in other of its forms is a cognitive aberration, something like a mental illness, in need of therapy rather than refutation. The latter are sick and one cannot refute the sick. They need treatment and quarantine and those who go near them should employ appropriate prophylactics.
So why did I bother writing the above? Because there are people who have not yet succumbed to the PC malady and might benefit from a bit of logical prophylaxis. One can hope.
Hope for the best. But prepare for the worst.
The winds of change that have blown the Orange Man into the White House have brought us to the shores of hope, hope for a return to sanity and order and the rule of law.
Thank you, Mr. Pollack, for saving me the work of excoriating this sorry specimen of leftist lunacy. Malcolm writes,
Behold Sally Boynton Brown, an industrial-strength ethno-masochist who wants both to “have a conversation” and “shut other white people down”.
(If you’re a student of political language, by the way, and you’re looking for examples of Orwellian phrases that mean exactly the opposite of what they say, it’s hard to beat “have a conversation”.)
I can’t think of any examples, throughout all of history, of any ethnic group despising themselves, and seeking their own abnegation and extinction, in the way that large numbers of white people are doing today. (I mean it: I’m really stumped here. Readers?)
Ms. Brown is standing for the job of head of the Democratic National Committee. I hope she gets it; she might even be a better choice than Keith Ellison.
'Have a conversation' is indeed Orwellian in the mouth of a leftist. It means shut up and acquiesce in everything we say. To which I respond: 'We are right and you are wrong and yet you have the chutzpah to try to shut us down?'
A list by Steven Pinker. Refreshingly prescriptivist. I agree with every example. For instance,
• Begs the question means assumes what it should be proving and does not mean raises the question.
Correct: "When I asked the dealer why I should pay more for the German car, he said I would be getting 'German quality,' but that just begs the question."
The MavPhil trinity of editors, me, myself, and I heartily agree. But if you disagree with me or the trinity I won't draw my weapon. I won't even give you a lecture or refer you to one of my erudite entries on the topic. Meaning is tied to use. So if enough people come to use 'begs the question' to mean raises the question, then that is what it will mean. The meaning of a word or phrase is not an intrinsic property of it. If you want to communicate using the phrase in question after the ignorant have their way with it, then you will have to acquiesce in the semantic corruption.
But why call it corruption? Because of the destruction of a very useful phrase with a specific meaning. We already have 'raises the question.'
When Trump was asked by Hugh Hewitt whether the former meant it literally when he called Obama the founder of ISIS, the Orange Man said yes, literally. Now there are degrees of descriptivism. Will you take it to the mad dog extreme of tolerating this use of 'literally'? Or will you dig in your heels? Not every prescriptivism is schoolmarmish. I have been known to split an infinite when the cadence of a well-crafted sentence dictated it. (Memo to self: write an entire entry on 'literally.')
The fact that we have the leisure to ponder these bagatelles is testimony to how good we have it. So be grateful for what you have while you have it.
David French is a good writer. But the following is from his January 11th NRO column, Shame on Buzzfeed:
So here’s what responsible people say when confronted with claims like that: What’s your evidence? If the answer is “an anonymously written and anonymously sourced series of memos that no one has yet been able to substantiate,” then you either pass on the story or — if you have the time and resources — try to substantiate the claims. If you can’t, then you pass. It’s that simple. Any other action isn’t “transparency.” It’s not “reporting.” It’s malice.
The intended meaning is clear, but only after two or more readings. The trouble is the ambiguous phrase 'pass on.'
In one sense of 'pass on,' to pass on a story is to tell it to one or more people, to publish or broadcast it. French's intended meaning is the opposite: to refuse to tell the story by 'taking a pass' on one's option of so doing.
The careful writer is sensitive to ambiguity, both semantic, as in the above case, and syntactic. We philoso-pedants call the latter amphiboly.
"The foolish fear that God is dead." This sentence is amphibolous because its ambiguity does not have a semantic origin in the multiplicity of meaning of any constituent word, but derives from the ambiguous way the words are put together. On one reading, the construction is a sentence: 'The foolish/ fear that God is dead.' On the other reading, it is not a sentence, does not express a compete thought, but is a sentence-fragment: ' The foolish fear/that God is dead.'
A good writer avoids ambiguity except when he intends it.
I got my quarterly haircut the other day. A neighbor remarked, "I see you got a haircut," to which I responded with the old joke, "I got 'em all cut."
What about 'pretty bad girls.' Are they pretty and bad, or pretty bad? Is the ambiguity here both syntactic and semantic? After all, if something is pretty bad, it is not pretty.
Ain't English fun? And why is 'pretty' pronounced like 'pity' and not like 'petty'? It is because of history, toward which we conservatives feel a sort of natural piety.
Yet another example. (HT: Karl White) "University students demand philosophers such as Plato and Kant are removed from syllabus because they are white."
The Telegraph title isn't even grammatical. The stupid demand is that these greats BE removed. Has England declined so far that its journalists can no longer write or speak correct English and must take instruction from an American blogger?
Demands refer to future events. I can demand that you leave my house, but I can't demand that you not have entered it, or that you are leaving it. I could of course demand that you continue the process of removing your sorry ass from my premises, but that too is a future-oriented demand.
I demand that you are stopping to be a willfully stupid leftist and that you are removed from my presence!
UPDATE (1/10). Horace Jeffery Hodges comments,
I think the statement is British English:
"University students demand philosophers such as Plato and Kant are removed from syllabus because they are white."
American English requires a subjunctive form:
I demand that they be removed . . .
This is one of the things I dislike about British grammar.
I don't know. I may be wrong, and Jeff may be right. In any case, it makes no bloody sense to use the present tense to refer to a future event. It is in the nature of a demand that it point us to the future for its satisfaction or the opposite. There is more to grammar than usage; there is also logic broadly construed. But then I am something of a prescriptivist. The distinction between singular and plural, for example, is logical and good grammar respects it.
Correct: A polite chess player thanks his opponent for the game, whether he wins or loses.
Incorrect: A polite chess player thanks their opponent for the game, whether they win or lose.
What about this: A polite chess player thanks her opponent for the game, whether she wins or loses.
I argued years ago that if 'his' can be correctly used gender-neutrally, then so can 'her.' And this despite the fact that in 'standard English usage' (admittedly a tendentious phrase) 'his' but not 'her' can be so used. Lydia McGrew got her knickers in a knot over this, thinking that I had succumbed to political correctness. This goes to show that for some conservatives one can never be too conservative. The least little concession to liberals shows that one has 'sold out.'
But more important than quibbling over language is defeating the Left and the contemptible shitheads who would remove Plato and Kant from the curriculum.
What these cranially-feculent morons fail to grasp is that really to understand their own crack-brained POMO ideology, they would have to study Kant. Kant's defensible constructivism was part of the set-up for their indefensible constructivism. Besides, you need Kant to understand Hegel, and Hegel Marx, and Marx the Frankfurt School . . . .
If you are tired of 'conscious' and desire a stylistic variant, you may use 'conscient,' though it is a term that has fallen into desuetude. "They will make way for the unrepentant barbaric hordes of those who were conditioned throughout their conscient lives to believe that their time would never come." (Conrad Black)
An enjoyable way to resist change-for-the-sake-of-change 'progressive' knuckleheads is to resurrect and use obsolete words.
Malcolm Pollack goes Dennis Prager one better. BRIXISH is indeed superior to SIXHIRB for Malcolm's reasons below, but also because it is in the vicinity of BREXIT. After all, the BRIXISH would tend to support BREXIT. Here's Malcolm:
Saw an unfamiliar acronym over at Maverick Philosopher the the other day: “SIXHIRB”. I had to look it up. It’s a coinage of Dennis Prager’s, and it stands for Sexist, Intolerant, Xenophobic, Homophobic, Islamophobic, Racist, Bigoted: the “basket” of cudgels routinely applied to anyone to the right of the Vox editorial staff.
I’d have preferred “BRIXISH”: it sounds more like an adjective, and carries a faint echo of America’s founding people and culture (i.e., the usual target). But it’s still handy to have a linguistic shortcut for these reflexive and ubiquitous slurs, so here’s a nod to Mr. Prager.
I am slightly surprised that Malcolm did not instantly recognize the Pragerian provenience of SIXHIRB inasmuch as every other time I have used it I have credited Prager. I didn't this time to save keystrokes, figuring that everyone knew by now that it is Prager's coinage.
An acronym is a pronounceable word formed from either the initial letters of two or more words, or from contiguous letters of two or more words. For example, 'laser' is a pronounceable word formed from the initial letters of the following words: light, amplification, stimulated, emission, radiation. And Gestapo is a pronounceable word formed from contiguous letters of the following words: geheime, Staats, Polizei.
But what about BREXIT? It is not an initialism or a truncation as I define these terms:
An initialism is a string of contiguous letters, unpronounceable as a word or else not in use as a word, but pronounceable as a list of letters, formed from the initial letters of two or more words. For example, 'PBS' is an initialism that abbreviates 'Public Broadcasting System.' 'PBS' cannot be pronounced as a word, but it can be pronounced as a series of letters: Pee, Bee, Ess. 'IT' is an initialism that abbreviates "information technology.' In this case 'IT' is pronounceable as a word, but is not in use as a word. You can say, 'Mary works in Eye-Tee,' but not, 'Mary works in IT.' The same goes for 'ASU' which abbreviates 'Arizona State University.'
A truncation is a term formed from a single word by shortening it. 'App,' for example is a truncation of 'application,' and 'ho' is presumably a truncation of 'whore' (in black idiom). 'Auto' is a truncation of 'automobile,' and 'blog' (noun) of 'weblog.'
So I book BREXIT under acronym despite its difference from the other two. BREXIT fits my definition of 'acronym' inasmuch as it is a pronounceable word formed from contiguous letters of two or more words, in this case, 'Britain' and 'exit.' The fact that all of the letters of 'exit' are packed into BREXIT does not stop the latter from being an acronym.
'Post-truth' is a silly buzz word, and therefore beloved by journalists who typically talk and write uncritically in trendy ways. There is no way to get beyond truth or to live after truth. All of our intellectual operations are conducted under the aegis of truth.
Here is one example of how we presuppose truth. People routinely accuse each other of lying, and often the accusations are just. But to lie is to make a false statement with the intention of deceiving one's audience. A false statement is one that is not true. It follows that if there is no truth, then there are no lies. If we are beyond truth, then we are beyond lies as well. But of course lies are told, so truth exists.
I could squeeze a lot of philosophical juice out of this topic, and you hope I won't. I will content myself with some mundane observations.
'Post-truth' is used mainly to describe contemporary politics. The idea is that it does not much matter in the political sphere whether what is said is true so long as it is effective in swaying people this way or that. What is persuasive need not be true, and what is true need not be persuasive. But this has has always been the case, so why the need for 'post-truth'? Is it really so much worse these days?
For the Left, Donald Trump is the prime post-truther, the post-truth poster boy if you will, the prima Donald of the practice of post-truth. Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post doesn't expect him to truth up anytime soon. "Indeed, all signs are to the contrary — most glaringly Trump’s chock-full-of-lies tweet that 'I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally.' "
A very stupid example, Ms. Marcus! There is not even one lie in the tweet, let alone a bunch of them. Although verifiable in principle, Trump's tweet is unverifiable in practice. Trump had no solid evidence for the truth of his assertion. Still, it could be true. Don't forget the 'necro-vote' (a word I just coined) and the illegal vote. Trump's epistemic 'sin' was not that he stated what is not the case with the intention to deceive but that he confidently asserted something for which he had insufficient evidence. He pretended to know something he could not know. Very annoying, and possibly a violation of a Cliffordian ethics of belief, but not a lie.
So he didn't lie. What he did was close to what Harry Frankfurt defines as bullshitting in On Bullshit, a piece of close analysis, fine, not feculent, that was undoubtedly more often purchased than perused. The bullshitter doesn't care how things stand with reality. The liar, by contrast, must care: he must know (or at least attempt to know) how things are if he is to have any chance of deceiving his audience. Think of it this way: the bullshitter doesn't care whether he gets things right or gets them wrong; the liar cares to get them right so he can deceive you about them.
So you could fairly tax Trump in this instance with bullshitting. He shot his mouth off in a self-serving way without much concern over whether what he said is true. But why pick on Trump?
Because you are a leftist and thus a purveyor of double standards.
Obama bullshits with the best of them. A prime example was his outrageous claim that 99.9% of Muslims reject radical Islam. It is false and known to be false. (You can check with PEW research if you care to.) Now was Obama lying in this instance or bullshitting? A lie is not the same thing as a false statement. Let us be perhaps excessively charitable: Obama made a false statement but he had no intention of deceiving us because he did not know the truth. (Compare: G. W. Bush was wrong about the presence of WMDs in Iraq, but he did not lie about them: he was basing himself on the best intelligence sources he had at the time.)
But that Obama is pretty clearly bullshitting is shown by the cliched and falsely precise 99.9% figure. The whole context shows that Obama doesn't care whether what he is saying is true. He said it because it fits his narrative: Islam is a religion of peace; we are not in a religious war with Islam; Muslims want all the same things we want, blah, blah, ad nauseam. The difference between this case and the Trump tweet is that we know that Obama was wrong, whereas we don't know that Trump was wrong.
So once again we have a double standard. Trump is 'post-truth'; but Obama and Hillary are not?
A correspondent has just emailed me, completely out of the blue, to tell me that you're a “racist, islamophobe, bigot”. Thought you would like that. 😀
I like it very much except that he leaves out the remaining SIXHIRB epithets: sexist, intolerant, xenophobic, and homophobic. But three out of seven ain't bad.
To understand the Left, you must understand that they see politics as war. Von Clausewitz held that war is politics pursued by other means. But what I call the Converse Clausewitz Principle holds equally: politics is war pursued by other means. I wish it weren't so, and for a long time I couldn't bring myself to believe it is so; but now I know it is so.
David Horowitz, commenting on "Politics is war conducted by other means," writes:
In political warfare you do not just fight to prevail in an argument, but rather to destroy the enemy's fighting ability. Republicans often seem to regard political combats as they would a debate before the Oxford Political Union, as though winning depended on rational arguments and carefully articulated principles. But the audience of politics is not made up of Oxford dons, and the rules are entirely different.
You have only thirty seconds to make your point. Even if you had time to develop an argument, the audience you need to reach (the undecided and those in the middle who are not paying much attention) would not get it. Your words would go over some of their heads and the rest would not even hear them (or quickly forget) amidst the bustle and pressure of everyday life. Worse, while you are making your argument the other side has already painted you as a mean-spirited, borderline racist controlled by religious zealots, securely in the pockets of the rich. Nobody who sees you in this way is going to listen to you in any case. You are politically dead.
Politics is war. Don't forget it. ("The Art of Political War" in Left Illusions: An Intellectual Odyssey Spence 2003, pp. 349-350)
As the old saying has it, "All's fair in love and war." And so it is no surprise that leftists routinely proceed by the hurling of the SIXHIRB epithets.
One soon learns that it does no good patiently to explain that a phobia is by definition an irrational fear, that fear of radical Islam is entirely rational, and that therefore it is a misuse of 'phobia' to call one who sounds the alarm an Islamophobe. Nor does it do any good to point out to those who use these '-phobe' coinages that they are thereby refusing to show their interlocutors respect as persons, as rational beings, but are instead ascribing mental dysfunction to them. Our enemies will just ignore our explanations and go right back to labeling us sexists, intolerant, xenophobic, homophobic . . . deplorable, etc.
Again, it is because they see politics as a war to the death.
Leftists that they are, they believe that the end justifies the means. They see themselves as good people, as their 'virtue-signaling' indicates, and their opponents as evil people. So why to their minds should they show us any respect?
To ask Lenin's question, What is to be done? One has to punch right back at them and turn their Alinskyite tactics against them.
"But aren't we then no better than them? We are hen doing the same things they do!"
Suppose A threatens to kill B, shoots at him but misses. B shoots back and kills A. Suppose the weapons are of the same type. Both A and B instantiate the same act-type: shooting at a man with the intention of hitting him using a 1911 model .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol.
While A and B 'do the same thing,' B is morally and legally justified in doing it while A is not. So there's the difference.
We are defending ourselves against leftist assault, and this fact justifies our using the same tactics that our enemies use.
This helps explain the appeal of Donald Trump. He knows how to punch back, unlike Mitt Romney, Jeb! Bush, and so many other clueless gentlemen who "seem to regard political combats as they would a debate before the Oxford Political Union . . . ."
Examine a coastal Democratic establishmentarian, and there is little discernable difference in his lifestyle, income, or material tastes from those conservatives (usually poorer) whom he accuses of all sorts of politically incorrect behaviors.
I should think a conservative would want to resist all pointless innovations. The correct spelling points back to the Latin. Leibniz spoke of the identitas indiscernibilium not the identitas indiscernabilium.
I want the link to the Latin maintained out of a sort of salutary piety for our tradition.
This is why I write 'tranquillity' rather than 'tranquility.'
Pedantic punctilios? No doubt, which is why I will not draw my weapon if you disagree.
Now go read Hanson's excellent column which is more important than my picayune points supra.
On C-SPAN this morning I watched part of a re-run of a program from last Wednesday. A bunch of leftists were bemoaning Hillary's defeat. One Steve Cobble uncorked a real doozy to the effect that long lines at polling places are a form of 'voter suppression.'
This is too stupid to waste time refuting, but it's good for a laugh.
Turns out this Cobble character writes for the The Nation. Surprise!
For articles of mine on 'voter suppression,' see here.
If I ask how many people showed up at a party, an answer might be 'a few.' Another answer could be, 'quite a few.' The first phrase means a small number, while the latter means a comparatively large number.
It follows that the meaning of 'quite a few' is not built up from the meanings of 'quite' and 'a few.' This is so whether 'quite' is taken to mean entirely or very.
Equivalently, the meanings of 'a few' and 'quite a few' have no common meaning element. 'Quite a few' functions as a semantic unit. Its meaning cannot be arrived at by piecing together the meanings of 'quite' and 'a few.' It must be learned as the unit it is: 'quite-a-few.'
I rejoice in being a native speaker of this irregular and illogical language. Irregular and illogical as she is, she is my thought's alma mater, and I love her dearly.
But my love is not jealous. I do not begrudge the foreigner who attempts to learn my language and share in her charms and foibles.
It would seem so. Consider the way Peggy Noonan, no slouch of a political commentator, uses the adjective 'crazy' in this passage about Donald Trump:
He had to be a flame-haired rebuke to the establishment. He in fact had to be a living insult—no political experience, rude, crude ways—to those who’ve failed us. He had to leave you nervous, on the edge of your seat. Only that man could have broken through. Crazy was a feature, not a bug. (The assumption seemed to be he could turn crazy on and off. I believe he has demonstrated he can’t.)
That is perfectly intelligible of course, even though Noonan uses 'crazy' twice as a noun.
The syntactical difference between noun and adjective no doubt remains in place; it is just that a word that traditionally was always used as an adjective is here used as a noun, as a stand-in for the abstract substantive, 'craziness.' A bit earlier in her piece, Noonan uses 'crazy' as an adjective.
(Can you adduce a counterexample to my 'always' above?)
No word has a true or real or intrinsic meaning that somehow attaches to the word essentially regardless of contextual factors. Is the same true of syntactical category? Can every word 'jump categories'? Or only some?
For a long time now, verbs have been used as nouns. 'Jake sent me an invite to his Halloween party.' 'How much does the install cost?' 'An engine overhaul will cost you more the vehicle is worth.' How far can it go? Will tire rotations ever be advertised as 'tire rotates'? 'I thought the rotate was part of the deal!'
Some words have always (?) had a dual use as verbs and nouns. 'Torch,' might be an example.
'I' is an interesting case. (I mean the word, not the English majuscule letter or the Roman numeral.) 'I' is the first-person singular pronoun. But it can also be used as a noun.
Suppose a Buddhist says, 'There is no I.' Is his utterance gibberish? Could I reasonably reply to the Buddhist: What you've said, Bud, is nonsense on purely syntactical grounds. So it is neither true not false.
Other things being equal, one should not mock, deride, or engage in any sort of unprovoked verbal or pictorial assault on people or the beliefs they cherish. So if Muslims were as benign as Christians or Buddhists, I would object on moral grounds to the depiction and mockery of the man Muslims call the Prophet despite the legality of so doing. But things are not equal. Radical Islam is the main threat to civilized values in the world today. Deny that, and you are delusional as Sam Harris says. The radicals are testing us and provoking us. We must respond with mockery and derision at a bare minimum. The 'Use it or lose it' principle applies not only to one's body, but to one's rights as well. For the defense of liberty, the enemies of our rights must be in our sights, figuratively at least, and this includes radical Islam's leftist enablers.
Hillary, for example, who won't even call it what it is.
Why do people exaggerate in serious contexts? The logically prior question is: What is exaggeration, and how does it differ from joking, lying, bullshitting, and metaphorical uses of language?
Donald Trump in the first of his presidential debates with Hillary Clinton made the astonishing claim that she has been fighting ISIS all her adult life.
Note first that Trump was not joking but making a serious point. But he couched the serious point in a sentence which is plainly false and known by all to be false. So he cannot be taxed with an intention to deceive. Since he had no intention of deceiving his audience, and since the point he was making (not merely trying to make) about Clinton's fecklessness is true, he was not lying. He was not bullshitting either since he was not trying to misrepresent himself as knowing something he does not know or more than he knows.
Our man was exaggerating. That is different from joking, lying, and bullshitting.
Exaggeration bears some resemblance to metaphor. If I say, 'Sally is a block of ice,' I speak metaphorically or figuratively. What I say is literally false. But by saying it, I manage to convey to the listener some such proposition as that Sally is unemotional and (perhaps) sexually unresponsive. And when Trump exaggerated, though he said something literally false, he managed to convey to his audience the true proposition that the Obama-Clinton response to ISIS was and is a failure.
But I wouldn't want to say that the Orange Man was speaking metaphorically. I am merely pointing to a similarity between metaphor and exaggeration.
The similarity may consist in the coming apart of sentence meaning and speaker's meaning. In our example, the sentence meaning is that of a falsehood. The speaker, however, using a literally false sentence means something different from what the words 'by themselves' mean, and manages to convey a truth to his hearers.
So I suggest that to understand exaggeration we need to understand metaphor so that we can delimit the former from the latter. But what exactly is metaphor? That's a tough one.
But the main thing in politics and life is that exaggeration erodes credibility. He who exaggerates betrays an inability or unwillingness to adjust his discourse to the world as it is.
Trump could easily win the election if he could get a grip on his rhetoric. But he can't and he won't.
HereI catalog three specimens of exaggeration by well-known philosophers.
Consider three types of case. (a) A Muslim terrorist who was born in the USA and whose terrorism derives from his Islamic faith. (b) A Muslim terrorist who was not born in the USA but is a citizen of the USA or legally resides in the USA and whose terrorism derives from his Islamic faith. (c) A terrorist such as Timothy McVeigh who was born in the USA but whose terrorism does not derive from Islamic doctrine.
As a foe of obfuscatory terminology, I object to booking the (a) and (b) cases under the 'homegrown terrorist' rubric. In the (a)-case, the terrorist doctrine, which inspires the terrorist deeds, is of foreign origin. There is nothing 'homegrown' about it. Compare the foreign terrorist doctrine to a terrorist doctrine that takes its inspiration, rightly or wrongly, from American sources such as certain quotations from Thomas Jefferson or from the life and views of the abolitionist John Brown.
The same holds a fortiori for the (b)-cases. Here neither the doctrine nor the perpetrator are 'homegrown.'
There is no justification for referring to an act of Islamic terrorism that occurs in the homeland as an act of 'homegrown' terrorism.
The (c)-type cases are the only ones that legitimately fall under the 'homegrown terrorist' rubric.
So please don't refer to Ahmad Khan Rahami as a 'homegrown terrorist.' He is a (b)-type terrorist. There is nothing 'homegrown' about the Islamic doctrine that drove his evil deeds, nor is there anything 'homegrown' about the 'gentleman' himself. Call him what he is: a Muslim terrorist whose terrorism is fueled by Islamic doctrine.
The obfuscatory appellation is in use, of course, because it is politically correct.
Language matters. And political correctness be damned.
Yes, but only in the febrile 'mind' of an Hillarious liberal.
You have to realize that when Trump is 'off script,' he talks like a rude New York working man in a bar. He does this in part because it is his nature to be rude and vulgar, but also because he realizes that this helps him gin up his base.
Let me try to put his point in a more 'measured' way. His point was not that Hillary's bodyguards ought to be disarmed so that she could more easily be 'taken out.' His point is that if guns cause crime and have no legitimate uses, then why are her bodyguards armed to the teeth with the sorts of weapons that she would like to make it illegal for law-abiding citizens to possess and carry?
If guns are never the answer, why are they 'the answer' for government agents? If law-abiding citizens cannot be trusted with semi-automatic pistols and long guns, how is it that government agents can be trusted with them?
The graphic makes the point very well. Trump was not inciting violence. But if you say he was then you are slandering him and his supporters. Be careful, the Second Amendment types may 'come after you.' Politically.
UPDATE (9:25 AM). Here is what Trump said:
She [Hillary] goes around with armed bodyguards like you have never seen before. I think that her bodyguards should drop all weapons. They should disarm. Right? Right? I think they should disarm immediately. What do you think? Yes? Yes. Yeah. Take their guns away. She doesn’t want guns. … Let’s see what happens to her. Take their guns away, okay? It would be very dangerous.
Wrangling over terminology and nomenclature is a good part of what goes on in the culture wars. For he who controls the terms of the debate controls the debate. What I call semantic rehabilitation is one side of this.
'Gaffe,' for example, has a negative connotation. It refers to to a social or political blunder or misstep, a faux pas, a noticeable and usually embarrassing mistake. A recent example is Gary Johnson's query, "What's Aleppo?" which betrayed his ignorance of the fact that Aleppo is a city in Syria as opposed to, say, one of the Marx brothers. (Groucho, Harpo, Zeppo, Chico . . . Aleppo!)It is perhaps not all that surprising that a Libertarian who favors marijuana legalization and a non-interventionist foreign policy would not know about Aleppo.
Semantic rehabilitation involves taking a word or phrase with a negative connotation and giving it a positive one. This morning I noticed at a couple of lefty sites the following definition of 'gaffe': "a statement that's politically damaging precisely because it's true." The authors were referring to Hillary Clinton's "basket of deplorables" smear.
But of course that is not what 'gaffe' means. Meaning, however, is fluid, tied as it is to use. So if our lefty pals can make their mischief stick, they will have (a) narrowed the meaning of 'gaffe' and (b) given it a positive connotation.
What is the opposite of semantic rehabilitation? Whatever we call it, it is illustrated by the fate of 'checkered past,' which has come to possess a negative connotation as I demonstrate in A Checkered Past.
If you say that Trump is the 'lesser of two evils,' you invite the riposte: why vote for anyone who is evil? Say this instead: "Despite Trump's manifest negatives, he is better than Hillary." And then go on to explain why he is better.
Politics here below is not about Good versus Evil. It is not so Manichean as all that. Politics here below is about better and worse.
A thalassocracy (from Greek languageθάλασσα (thalassa), meaning "sea", and κρατεῖν (kratein), meaning "to rule", giving θαλασσοκρατία(thalassokratia), "rule of the sea") is a state with primarily maritime realms—an empire at sea (such as the Phoenician network of merchant cities) or a sea-borne empire. (Wikipedia)
Putin is now massing troops near Ukraine. Iran is absorbing Iraq and Syria. China has carved out a thalassocracy in the South China Sea. Tensions will only rise in these areas in the next 90 days, to the point of either outright war or more insidious and humiliating withdrawals from U.S. interests and allies. Either scenario favors Trump’s Jacksonian bluster.
A dog whistle is, according to Wikipedia, “political messaging employing coded language that appears to mean one thing to the general population but has an additional, different or more specific resonance for a targeted subgroup.”
Saying that Hillary Clinton lacks the physical and mental stamina to take on ISIS [as Donald Trump said in his speech last night] is literally saying the thing that supposedly needs to be dog whistled as a supersecret message. It can’t be secret, coded messaging when it’s the thing he says!
If you fancy yourself clear-thinking, then you ought to be very careful with the word 'over-represent' and its opposite. They are ambiguous as between normative and non-normative readings. It is just a fact that there are proportionately more Asians than blacks in the elite high schools of New York City. But it doesn't follow that this state of affairs is one that ought not be, or that it would be better if there were proportional representation. So don't say that the Asians are 'over-represented.' For then you are trading in confusion. You are blurring the distinction between the statement of a fact and the expression of a value judgment.
Consider the sports analogy. Asians are 'under-represented' on basketball teams. That is a fact. But it doesn't follow that this state of affairs is one that ought not be, or that it would be better if there were proportional representation. Enforced proportional representation would adversely affect the quality of basketball games. Women are over-represented among massage therapists. Is that bad? Of course not.
Since we are now back to the delightful and heart-warming topic of race/ ethnicity/ gender, let's talk about Jews! They are 'over-represented' in the chess world so much so that there is much truth to the old joke that chess is Jewish athletics. Should the government do something about this 'problem'? (This is what is called a rhetorical question.)
I once told my Jewish and Israeli friend Peter that I had never met a stupid Jew. He shot back, "Then you've never lived in Israel." The very alacrity of his comeback, however, proved (or at least provided further evidence for) my point.
I have noticed, however, that Jews get nervous when you point out that, as a group, they are more intelligent than some other groups I won't mention. I finally figured out what makes them nervous. Jews are a small minority who have been hounded and persecuted and slaughtered through the centuries. They don't like to 'stick out.' They prefer to 'lay low.' Can you blame them? That is at least part of the explanation as to why they don't want attention drawn to them.
In the interests of full disclosure, I should point out that I am not now, and never have been, either an Asian or a Jew or an Israeli. And the chances of becoming one of these is either zero, or near zero.
I am a chess player, however, a patzer/potzer to employ a choice word of Yiddish, presumably from the German patzen, to make a mess, or do something incompetently. But be careful! Should our paths cross in some coffee house, chances are good that I will clean your clock!
Everybody profiles. Liberals are no exception. Liberals reveal their prejudices by where they live, shop, send their kids to school, and with whom they associate.
The word 'prejudice' needs analysis.
It could refer to blind prejudice: unreasoning, reflexive (as opposed to reflective) aversion to what is other just because it is other, or to an unreasoning pro-attitude toward the familiar just because it is familiar. We should all condemn blind prejudice. It is execrable to hate a person just because he is of a different color, for example. No doubt, but how many people do that? How many people who are averse to blacks are averse because of their skin color as opposed to their behavior patterns? Racial prejudice is not, in the main, prejudice based on skin color, but on behavior.
'Prejudice' could also mean 'prejudgment.' Although blind prejudice is bad, prejudgment is generally good. We cannot begin our cognitive lives anew at every instant. We rely upon the 'sedimentation' of past experience. Changing the metaphor, we can think of prejudgments as distillations from experience. The first time I 'serve' my cats whisky they are curious. After that, they cannot be tempted to come near a shot glass of Jim Beam. They distill from their unpleasant olfactory experiences a well-grounded prejudice against the products of the distillery.
My prejudgments about rattlesnakes are in place and have been for a long time. I don't need to learn about them afresh at each new encounter with one. I do not treat each new one encountered as a 'unique individual,' whatever that might mean. Prejudgments are not blind, but experience-based, and they are mostly true. The adult mind is not a tabula rasa. What experience has written, she retains, and that's all to the good.
So there is good prejudice and there is bad prejudice. The teenager thinks his father prejudiced in the bad sense when he warns the son not to go into certain parts of town after dark. Later the son learns that the old man was not such a bigot after all: the father's prejudice was not blind but had a fundamentum in re. The old man was justified in his prejudgment.
But if you stay away from certain parts of town are you not 'discriminating' against them? Well of course, but not all discrimination is bad. Everybody discriminates. Liberals are especially discriminating. The typical Scottsdale liberal would not be caught dead supping in some of the Apache Junction dives I have been found in. Liberals discriminate in all sorts of ways. That's why Scottsdale is Scottsdale and not Apache Junction.
Is the refusal to recognize same-sex 'marriage' as marriage discriminatory? Of course! But not all discrimination is bad. Indeed, some is morally obligatory. We discriminate against felons when we disallow their possession of firearms. Will you argue against that on the ground that it is discriminatory? If not, then you cannot cogently argue against the refusal to recognize same-sex 'marriage' on the ground that it is discriminatory. You need a better argument. And what would that be?
'Profiling,' like 'prejudice' and 'discrimination,' has come to acquire a wholly negative connotation. Unjustly. What's wrong with profiling? We all do it, and we are justified in doing it. Consider criminal profiling.
It is obvious that only certain kinds of people commit certain kinds of crimes. Suppose a rape has occurred at the corner of Fifth and Vermouth. Two males are moving away from the crime scene. One, the slower moving of the two, is a Jewish gentleman, 80 years of age, with a chess set under one arm and a copy of Maimonides'Guide for the Perplexed under the other. The other fellow, a vigorous twenty-year-old, is running from the scene.
Who is more likely to have committed the rape? If you can't answer this question, then you lack common sense. But just to spell it out for you liberals: octogenarians are not known for their sexual prowess: the geezer is lucky if he can get it up for a two-minute romp with a very cooperative partner. Add chess playing and an interest in Maimonides and you have one harmless dude.
Or let's say you are walking down a street in Mesa, Arizona. On one side of the street you spy some fresh-faced Mormon youths, dressed in their 1950s attire, looking like little Romneys, exiting a Bible studies class. On the other side of the street, Hells (no apostrophe!) Angels are coming out of their club house. Which side of the street would you feel safer on? On which side will your concealed semi-auto .45 be more likely to see some use?
The problem is not so much that liberals are stupid, as that they have allowed themselves to be stupefied by that cognitive aberration known as political correctness.
Their brains are addled by the equality fetish: everybody is equal, they think, in every way. So the vigorous 20-year-old is not more likely than the old man to have committed the rape. The Mormon and the Hells Angel are equally law-abiding. And the twenty-something Egyptian Muslim is no more likely to be a terrorist than the Mormon matron from Salt Lake City.
Clearly, what we need are more profiling, more prejudgment, and more discrimination (in the good sense). And fewer liberals.
A note on the above image. Suppose all you know about the two individuals is what you see. The point is that the likelihood of the old white lady's being a terrorist is much, much less than the likelihood of the man's being a terrorist. This is what justifies profiling and why it is insane to subject both individuals to the same level of scrutiny. For that would be to assume something obviously false, namely, that both individuals are equally likely to be terrorists.
Again we face the question why liberals are so preternaturally stupid. And again, the answer is that they have enstupidated themselves with their political correctness and their fetishization of equality.
An obfuscatory leftist phrase. And therefore used by Obama the Mendacious. Why obfuscatory? Because it elides an important distinction between those terrorists who are truly homegrown such as Timothy McVeigh and those who, while born in the USA, such as Omar Mateen, derive their 'inspiration' from foreign sources. Mateen's terrorism comes from his understanding of what Islam requires, namely, the liquidation of homosexuals. There is nothing homegrown about Islam. This in stark contrast to the American sources of McVeigh's terrorism.
It is perfectly obvious why liberals and leftists use 'homegrown terrorist' in application to the likes of Mateen: they want to deflect attention from the real problem, which is radical Islam.
Petula Dvorak, Washington Post, 13 June: "Omar Mateen despised gays in the same way that Donald Trump and too many of his supporters despise Muslims."
Why isn't this libel?
'Libel' as defined in the law:
1) n. to publish in print (including pictures), writing or broadcast through radio, television or film, an untruth about another which will do harm to that person or his/her reputation, by tending to bring the target into ridicule, hatred, scorn or contempt of others. Libel is the written or broadcast form of defamation, distinguished from slander, which is oral defamation. It is a tort (civil wrong) making the person or entity (like a newspaper, magazine or political organization) open to a lawsuit for damages by the person who can prove the statement about him/her was a lie. Read more.
Dvorak and her employers ought to be careful. Trump is a vindictive man with the will and the wherewithal to take legal action against his enemies. There are plenty of negative things she could say about the man that are true.
Whether or not Dvorak's outrageous statement counts as libel, she has no evidence for it. To call for a moratorium on Muslim immigration is perfectly reasonable in present circumstances and does not imply any hatred of Muslims.
Analogy. The law forbids the sale of firearms to felons. I think this provision of the law is wise and good and conducive unto law and order. Does that make me a hater of felons? I don't hate them; I merely hold that it would be unwise to allow them to purchase firearms. Similarly, I don't hate Muslims, I merely hold that in present circumstances it would be wise to vet carefully immigrants from Muslim lands.
A massage parlor is given the name Nirvana, the implication being that after a well-executed massage one will be in the eponymous state. This betrays a misunderstanding of Nirvana, no doubt, but that is not the main thing, which is the perverse tendency to attach a religious or spiritual significance to a merely sensuous state of relaxation.
Why can’t the hedonist just enjoy his sensory states without glorifying them? Equivalently, why can’t he admit that there is something beyond him without attempting to drag it down to his level? But no! He wants to have it both ways: he wants both sensuous indulgence and spirituality. He wants sensuality to be a spiritual experience and spirituality to be as easy of access as sensuous enjoyment.
A catalog of currently misused religious terms would have to include ‘heaven,’ ‘seventh heaven,’ ‘hell,’ 'dark night of the soul,' and many others besides.
Take ‘retreat.’ Time was, when one went on a retreat to get away from the world to re-collect oneself, meditating on the state of one's soul and on first and last things. But now one retreats from the world to become even more worldly, to gear up for greater exertions in the realms of business or academe. One retreats from ordinary busy-ness to prepare for even greater busy- ness.
Instead of dropping 'retreat,' which would be the honest thing to do, the secularist drains it of its religious meaning and gives it a worldly one, but without entirely stripping it of its original sense. In this way the secularist can attempt to profit from ancient associations without quitting his secularity.
And then there is ‘spirituality.’ The trendy embrace the term but shun its close cousin, ‘religion.’ I had a politically correct Jewish professor in my kitchen a while back whose husband had converted from Roman Catholicism to Judaism. I asked her why he had changed his religion. She objected to the term ‘religion,’ explaining that his change was a ‘spiritual’ one.
I didn't lay into the good lady as I perhaps should have, for her 'spiritual' good.
Etymologically, ‘religion’ suggests a binding, a God-man ligature, so to speak. But trendy New Age types don’t want to be bound by anything, or submit to anything. I suggest that this is part of the explanation of the favoring of the S word over the R word. Another part of the explanation is political. To those with a Leftward tilt, ‘religion’ reminds them of the Religious Right whose power strikes them as ominous while that of the Religious Left is no cause for concern.
A third part of the explanation may be that religion is closely allied with morality, while spirituality is often portrayed as beyond morality with its dualism of good and evil. One of the worst features of New Age types is their conceit that they are beyond duality when they are firmly enmired in it. Perhaps the truly enlightened are beyond moral dualism and can live free of moral injunctions. But what often happens in practice in that spiritual aspirants and gurus fall into ordinary immorality while pretending to have transcended it.
One may recall the famous cases of Rajneesh and Chogyam Trungpa. According to one report, ". . . Trungpa slept with a different woman every night in order to transmit the teaching to them. L. intimated that it was really a hardship for Trungpa to do this, but it was his duty in order to spread the dharma."
This gives new meaning to the phrase 'dharma bum.'
'Theology' is often misused. In the reliably politically correct NYT, we find:
“When you buy gold you’re saying nothing is going to work and everything is going to stay ridiculous,” said Mackin Pulsifer, vice chairman and chief investment officer of Fiduciary Trust International in New York. “There is a fair cohort who believes this in a theological sense, but I believe it’s unreasonable given the history of the United States.”
So to believe something 'in a theological sense' is to believe it unreasonably. It follows that liberals have plenty of 'theological' beliefs. In the 'theology' of a liberal theology can be dismissed unread as irrational.
Some liberal-left idiot is arguing that 'again' in Donald Trump's 'Make America Great Again' is a racist 'dog whistle.' The suggestion is that Trump wants to bring back slavery and Jim Crow. Yet another proof that there is nothing so vile and contemptible and fundamentally stupid that some liberal won't embrace it. If you think I go too far when I refer to contemporary liberals as moral scum, it is incidents like this that are part of my justification.
Mark Steyn supplies some other 'dog whistles' for your delectation:
On MSNBC, Chris Matthews declared this week that Republicans use "Chicago" as a racist code word. Not to be outdone, his colleague Lawrence O'Donnell pronounced "golf" a racist code word. When Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell observed that Obama was "working to earn a spot on the PGA tour," O'Donnell brilliantly perceived that subliminally associating Obama with golf is racist, because the word "golf" is subliminally associated with "Tiger Woods," and the word "Tiger" is not-so-subliminally associated with cocktail waitress Jamie Grubbs, nightclub hostess Rachel Uchitel, lingerie model Jamie Jungers, former porn star Holly Sampson, etc, etc. So by using the word "golf" you're sending a racist dog whistle that Obama is a sex addict who reverses over fire hydrants.
I must reiterate my principle of the Political Burden of Proof:
As contemporary 'liberals' become ever more extreme, they increasingly assume what I will call the political burden of proof. The onus is now on them to defeat the presumption that they are so morally and intellectually obtuse as not to be worth talking to.
Apparently, nine out of ten American Indians are not offended by the Redskins name, thereby demonstrating that they have more sense than the typical liberal. This calls for a reposting of an entry from August 2013. Enjoy!
'Redskin' Offensive? What About 'Guinea Pig'?
Apparently, the online magazine Slate will no longer be referring to the Washington Redskins under that name lest some Indians take offense. By the way, I take offense at 'native American.' I am a native Californian, which fact makes me a native American, and I'm not now and never have been an Indian.
But what about 'guinea pig'? Surely this phrase too is a racial/ethnic slur inasmuch as it suggests that all people of Italian extraction are pigs, either literally or in their eating habits. Bill Loney takes this (meat) ball and runs with it.
And then there is 'coonskin cap.' 'Coon' is in the semantic vicinity of such words as: spade, blood, spear chucker, spook, and nigger. These are derogatory words used to refer to Eric Holder's people. In the '60s, southern racists expressed their contempt for Martin Luther King, Jr. by referring to him as Martin Luther Coon. Since a coonskin cap is a cap made of the skin of a coon, 'coonskin cap' is a code phrase used by creepy-assed crackers to signal that black folk ought to be, all of them, on the wrong end of a coon hunt.
'Coonskin cap' must therefore be struck from our vocabulary lest some black person take offense.
But then consistency demands that we get rid of 'southern racist.' The phrase suggests that all southerners are racists. And we must not cause offense to the half-dozen southerners who are not racists.
But why stop here? 'Doo wop' is so-called because many of its major exponents were wops such as Dion DiMucci who was apparently quite proud to be a wop inasmuch as he uses the term five times in succession starting at :58 of this version of 'I Wonder Why' (1958). The old greaseball still looks very good in this 2004 performance. Must be all that pasta he consumes.
'Wop' is from the sound pasta makes when thrown against a wall, something excitable greaseballs often do when tanked up on dago red. Either that, or it means With Out Papers.
I could go on -- this is fun -- but you get the drift, and the serious politically incorrect point of this exercise -- unless you are a stupid liberal.
One often reads the following definition of political correctness. "Someone who is politically correct believes that language and actions that could be offensive to others, especially those relating to sex and race, should be avoided." Here. Merriam-Webster, Wikipedia, and other sources offer similar definitions.
This is not at all what 'political correctness' means when used by people in the know. The above definition conflates being politically correct with being polite, civil, and respectful of others and it conflates being politically incorrect with being rude, offensive, and disrespectful of others. For example, Donald Trump was not being politically incorrect when he made his vile comments about Megan Kelly and Carly Fiorina. He was being rude and offensive in a politically foolish display of misogyny.
It is worth noting that in some cases rude and offensive speech is justified as a response to same. Justified or not, the politically incorrect and the rude/offensive/disrespectful are separate categories. A Venn diagram may help where the A region below contains politically incorrect statements and behaviors, the B region contains rude/offensive/disrespectful statements and behaviors, and the intersection of the two classes contains statements and behaviors that are both. For example, suppose someone says, 'Broads do not belong in the Navy SEALs or the Army Rangers.' This statement is both rude/offensive/disrespectful and politically incorrect while 'Women do not belong in Navy SEALs or the Army Rangers' is politically incorrect but not (objectively) offensive. Of course, one might take inappropriate offense at the second statement, but that is his or her problem. People, cry bullies and liberals especially, take offense at the damndest things!
One way to define a term is extensionally by giving a list of the items to which it applies. These are the items that fall within the extension of the term. I will now provide a list of some politically incorrect statements and then ask what they have in common. This will allow us to pin down the intension of the term 'politically incorrect,' and from there the intension of 'politically correct.' Here then are some politically incorrect statements:
Blacks are incarcerated in proportionally greater numbers than whites because they commit proportionally more crimes.
Not only do black lives matter; all lives matter including the lives of law enforcement agents and the lives of the unborn.
While Muslims qua Muslims ought not be barred from political office, Sharia-supporting Muslims ought to be.
The killing of innocent human beings is a grave moral evil, and this includes the killing of pre-natal human beings.
At the present time, the majority of terrorists in the world derive their ideological support from one religion, Islam.
The Crusades were defensive wars.
The purpose of taxation is to raise monies to cover the costs of governance, not to redistribute wealth.
Free market economies under the rule of law are more likely to lead to human flourishing than socialist economies.
There was no moral equivalence between the USA and the USSR.
Women are 'underrepresented' in philosophy, not because of 'sexism' or a male conspiracy to exclude them, but because of the following factors: women as a group are not as interested in philosophy as men are; the feminine nature is averse to the argumentative and occasionally 'blood sport' aspect of philosophy; women as a group are just not as good at philosophy as men, where exceptions such as Elizabeth Anscombe prove the rule.
Apart from the STEM disciplines, the universities of the land have become leftist seminaries, hotbeds of leftist indoctrination. They have lost touch with their noble ideals and traditions.
Equality of opportunity is no guarantee of equality of outcome, and it is fallacious to argue from inequality of outcome to sexism or racism as the cause.
Political correctness is a major threat to the values of the West including the West's commitment to open debate, toleration, and free inquiry.
So there you have a baker's dozen of politically incorrect statements. There are plenty more where those came from. I would say that each is true, though I will grant that some are rationally debatable. But whether true or false, rationally defensible or indefensible, they are all clear examples of politically incorrect statements.
Now what do they have in common in virtue of which they are all instances of political incorrectness? The most important common feature is that each opposes the contemporary liberal or leftist or 'progressive' worldview. To be politically correct, then, is to support the leftist worldview and the leftist agenda. It follows that a conservative cannot be politically correct. P.C. comes from the C.P. The P. C. mentality is a successor form of the Communist mentality. To be politically correct is to toe the party line. It is to support leftist positions and tactics, including the suppression of the free speech rights of opponents. Essential to leftism is the double standard. So while the politically correct insist on their own free speech rights, they deny them to their opponents, which is why they routinely shout them down.
A philosophical paper ought to record the results, not the genesis, of the author's thought about a topic. In this hyperkinetic age it is a good writerly maxim to state one's thesis succinctly at the outset and sketch one's overall argument before plunging into the dialectic.
Which of the following is correct? 'He presented an argument whose logical form is Modus Tollens.' 'He presented an argument the logical form of which is Modus Tollens.'
The second. But it would be absurd to insist on a punctilio such as this in a world going insane. Besides, you are not going to write, 'An idea the time of which has come' are you? No, you will write, 'An idea whose time has come' despite the fact that time is not a person.
For your goal is to communicate with your readers, not distract them with your schoolmarmish scruples.
Perhaps you have noticed that radicals are rather less interested in speaking truth to power after they get power than before. Their transgressive speech and behavior becomes curiously 'conservative.' Giving umbrage gives way to taking umbrage.
What happened to shrugging at an opinion with which you disagree and leaving it at that? That notion is history, as communications executives seem to have convinced themselves that they are not censoring dissenting opinions but rather protecting the innocent from crude speech.
Twitter took that phony stance, too, when it announced a "Trust and Safety Council" in February. "Twitter stands for freedom of expression, speaking truth to power, and empowering dialogue. That starts with safety," CEO Jack Dorsey tweeted.
This is a good example of the sort of Orwellian mendacity we have come to expect from contemporary 'liberals.' War is peace. Slavery is freedom. A defense of religious liberty is a violation of religious liberty. Those who protest being forced by the government to violate their consciences and religious beliefs are imposing their religious beliefs. Curtailment of speech is free speech. 'Inclusion' is the exclusion of dissent.
The Orwellian template: X, which is not Y, is Y.
The open forum is a 'safe space' in which no one's feelings are hurt.
Freedom of speech is freedom from 'micro-aggressions.'
And notice that at bottom it's about money. Twitter and ESPN toe the party line because it is profitable to do so. A curious development: significant numbers of once anti-capitalist leftists are now driven by the profit motive to spread Pee Cee drivel.
The destructiveness of the Left extends even unto our alma mater, the English language. London Karl, who sent me the YouTube link, comments:
Guardian writer declares that those who like to use correct grammar are likely to be 'whiter' 'older' and 'wealthier' than those they correct. The irony of her being an editor on a major newspaper escapes her!
Tom owns fewer guns than Tim, not less guns. This is not just a matter of acceptable usage; it reflects a logico-semantic distinction between count nouns and mass terms. The typical leftist, however, is a leveller who cannot tolerate clarity of speech and thought. This is why we define the leftist or contemporary liberal as a person who never met a standard he didn't want to erode.