What kind of country do we live in where law-abiding businesses are fined, threatened and demonized for refusing to bake gay wedding cakes, but barbaric baby butchers are hailed by feminists, Hollywood and a president who asked God to "bless" them?
God help us.
In Obama's Amerika, the state, among whose legitimate functions are the protection of life, liberty, and property, sanctions and profits from the taking of the lives of the unborn while violating the liberty of those who refuse, as a matter of conscience, to be complicit in ceremonies to which they have moral objections.
Brendan Eich resigned as the chief executive of Mozilla, a company he helped found, after gay rights activists launched a boycott against the company for placing him in a senior position. Eich's sin? More than five years earlier, he donated $1,000 to the campaign for California's Proposition 8, which sought to ban same-sex marriage in the state. It didn't matter that he'd explicitly assured employees that he would treat them fairly, regardless of their sexual orientation. What mattered was that Eich (like the 7 million people who voted in favor of Prop 8) had made himself a heretic by coming down on the wrong side of an issue on which error had now become impermissible.
Liberals indulged in a wildly overwrought reaction to the Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, with seasoned journalists likening the plaintiffs to the Pakistani Taliban, and countless others taking to social media to denounce a government-sanctioned theocratic assault on women's health — all because some women working for corporations that are "closely held" by religiously conservative owners might have to pay out of pocket for certain forms of freely available contraception (as, one presumes, they currently do for toothpaste). Apparently many liberals, including the Senate Democrats who seem poised to gut the decision, consider it self-evident that these women face a far greater burden than the conservative owners, who would be forced by the government to violate their religious beliefs. One highly intelligent commentator, inadvertently confessing his incapacity to think beyond the confines of liberal dogma, described the religious objection as "trivial" and "so abstract and attenuated it's hard to even explain what it is."
Beyond the Beltway, related expressions of liberal dogmatism have led a Harvard undergraduate to suggest that academic freedom shouldn't apply to the handful of conservatives on campus — because their views foster and justify "oppression." In a like-minded column in The Chronicle of Higher Education, a professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania argued that religious colleges should be denied accreditation — because accrediting them "confers legitimacy on institutions that systematically undermine the most fundamental purposes of higher education," one of which is to pursue "skeptical and unfettered" (read: dogmatically liberal and secular) inquiry.
I read John D.Caputo years ago, in the late '70s, in connection with work I was doing on Heidegger. I read a couple of his early Heidegger articles and a couple of his books. One of them, The Mystical Element in Heidegger's Thought, is in my library. Caputo seemed worth reading at the time. But he appears to have gone off the deep end. This from a New York TimesOpinionator interview entitled "Looking White in the Face":
John D. Caputo: “White” is of the utmost relevance to philosophy, and postmodern theory helps us to see why. I was once criticized for using the expression “true north.” It reflected my Nordo-centrism, my critic said, and my insensitivity to people who live in the Southern Hemisphere. Of course, no such thing had ever crossed my mind, but that points to the problem. We tend to say “we” and to assume who “we” are, which once simply meant “we white male Euro-Christians.”
Postmodern theory tries to interrupt that expression at every stop, to put every word in scare quotes, to put our own presuppositions into question, to make us worry about the murderousness of “we,” and so to get in the habit of asking, “we, who?” I think that what modern philosophers call “pure” reason — the Cartesian ego cogito and Kant’s transcendental consciousness — is a white male Euro-Christian construction.
White is not “neutral.” “Pure” reason is lily white, as if white is not a color or is closest to the purity of the sun, and everything else is “colored.” Purification is a name for terror and deportation, and “white” is a thick, dense, potent cultural signifier that is closely linked to rationalism and colonialism. What is not white is not rational. So white is philosophically relevant and needs to be philosophically critiqued — it affects what we mean by “reason” — and “we” white philosophers cannot ignore it.
This is truly depressing stuff. It illustrates the rarefied, pseudo-intellectual stupidity to which leftist intellectuals routinely succumb, and the level to which humanities departments in our universities have sunk. We speak of 'true North' in distinction from 'magnetic North,' which is what a compass needle points to. The difference in location between the two is called declination and must be taken into account for accurate navigation. The phrase 'true North' has nothing to do with Nordo-centrism or insensitivity to those who live in the Southern Hemisphere. It is just a physical fact that compass needles track magnetic North, and that magnetic North is not the same as true North.
I feel as if I should apologize for pointing out something so obvious, but in the lunatic precincts of the postmodern, the obvious gets no respect. Does Caputo perhaps imagine that the Earth and its magnetic properties are social constructs? I hope not. One wonders what is going on in his head. Perhaps he is afraid of hurting the feelings of people who live in the Southern Hemisphere by his use of 'true North.' But for them to take offense at that phrase would be like a black person taking offense at 'black hole,' which, mirabile dictu, has actually happened. The phrase is from cosmology. Roughly, a black hole is a region of spacetime from which nothing can escape including no form of electromagnetic radiation such as light. Black holes have nothing to do with people of African-American descent or with black whores: 'hos' in black street idiom. And this is the case even when 'black hole' is used metaphorically to refer to, say, a windowless office.
It is the same with 'true North.' If used literally, it does not mean that the North is 'true' and the South 'false' or any such nonsense. And the same goes for the phrase used metaphorically.
People with basic common sense know that there is such a thing as taking inappropriate offense and that one should not cater to the whims of the absurdly sensitive. In this connection I remind you of the case of the poor schlep who lost his job because of his use of the perfectly innocuous English word 'niggardly,' which, of course, has nothing to do with 'nigger.' By the way, I just mentioned the word 'nigger'; I did not use it. I said something about the word; I did not apply it to anyone. (Is your typical Continental philosopher aware of the use-mention distinction?)
The purveyors of POMO need to be reminded that thinking is not association of ideas: if you associate 'niggardly' with 'nigger,' that is your problem and no basis for an argument to the conclusion that a user of 'niggardly' is a racist.
Should we question our presuppositions? Of course. That is essential to the philosophical enterprise. But one ought to do this without absurd exaggerations ("the murderousness of 'we' ") and double standards. I say we ought to question our presuppositions. Who am I referring to with my use of 'we'? To those of us who aspire to be reasonable and to seek the truth. I am afraid I don't see the "murderousness" of that. And I don't see how a white person is barred from referring to rational truth-seekers by his use of 'we' just because he or she is a white person.
Now to our title question. Is pure reason a white male Euro-Christian construction? This is just nonsense and is really beneath refutation. But given the sorry state of things, refutation is needed. Caputo is alluding to Kant's 1781 (2nd ed. 1787) Critique of Pure Reason. And Caputo must know that for Kant 'pure' means: free of empirical elements (CPR B 3) and that pure reason is the faculty that "contains the principles whereby we know anything absolutely a priori." (CPR A 11 B 24) This has nothing to do with racial purity.
Caputo is here instantiating the role of Continental mush-head: he is not thinking but engaging in argument by association, which is not argument at all, any more than another Continental favorite, argument by incantation, is argument at all.
But it is worse than this because Caputo is engaged in a sort of philosophical smear job. Here we have a great philosopher, Immanuel Kant, who is undertaking to evaluate the cognitive 'reach' of pure reason. His project is to assess the capacity of reason unaided by sensory input to secure knowledge in special metaphysics (metaphysica specialis) whose main objects are God, the soul, and the world as a whole. Corresponding to these objects are the highest concerns of humanity: God, freedom, and immortality.
And what does Caputo do? He conflates the purity that Kant speaks of with racial purity and then goes on to associate, scurrilously and irresponsibly, pure reason with "terror and deportation" and "colonialism." This of course is right out of the cultural Marxist's playbook.
For a leftist, anything a reasonable person says is 'code' for something else. The leftist cannot take anything at face value as meaning what it obviously means. He is out to debunk and deconstruct and unmask. As cultural Marxists, they are out to cut through 'false consciousness' and 'bourgeois ideology.' Theirs is the hermeneutics of suspicion. So 'pure reason' cannot mean what Kant says it means; it has to mean something else: it is a "cultural signifier" for terror and deportation and what all else. Or if I speak of truth and of seeking truth, then my use of 'truth' really signifies power and white privilege and what all else.
And when I refute the POMO nonsense and show that it is self-contradictory, that too cannot be taken at face-value as meaning what it manifestly means and showing what it manifestly shows; it has to be 'deconstructed' as masking some sort of power play or re-affirmation of 'white privilege.'
Is Caputo trying to convince us of certain truths? Then he presupposes truth, in which case truth cannot be a social construct. It is not that there are no social constructs; the point is that not everything can be. Truth, for example. Who constructs it? White males collectively? But if this is so, then that is the case beyond all constructions, in which case truth cannot be a white male construction or a construction by any person or persons. Truth is absolute by its very nature.
Could reason be a social construct? When Caputo tries to convince us of something he appeals to our reason to convince us of what he takes to be reasonable and true. He gives arguments and adduces various considerations. He makes assertions that purport to be true. (And, of course, in purporting to be true, they purport to be objectively and absolutely true, which is to say: not merely true for me or for us or for this social class or that historical epoch.) But how can Caputo, who is a white male who enjoys all sorts of perquisites and privileges, appeal to reason if reason is a white male Euro-Christian construct?
Of course, it may be that Caputo has no intention of appealing to reason. It could be that his POMO verbiage is nothing but obfuscatory rhetoric that masks a bid for power for him and his ilk. I prefer not to believe this, if possible; I met the man once and he seemed like a decent human being.
Is Caputo appealing to a 'true reason' that is not a white male Euro-Christian construct? But he can't do this by his own constructivist, relativist principles. For then he would have to put a different construct in its place, say reason as a black female Afro-Islamic construct. But then he won't be able to convince us or himself of anything rationally. For that different construct would just be another contingent, unbinding framework. If there is a 'true reason,' then it cannot be any sort of contingent human construct vriable across races andf sexes, regions and religions.
The problem, very simply, is that if reason is culturally or racially or in any way relative, then there is no such thing as reason. Reason is like truth in this respect. Truth is absolute by its very nature; talk of relative truth is nonsense. Similarly, reason is normative and impartially adjudicative by its very nature. Talk of reason as reflective of class interests or racial biases is nonsense. So either there is no reason or it is not a social construct. And if it is not a social construct, then of course it is not a white male Euro-Christian construct.
"Your country's PC crap has come to my home town!"
I am sorry to hear that, but I would point out that it is not my country's PC crap, but the PC crap of the hate-America leftists who are destroying a great country. And yes, they do hate America because America is an idea before all else and these slanderous race-baiters hate the principles that articulate the idea.
Both are destructive of the past. Examples aplenty in the news. “The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.” (George Orwell) Quotation found here.
A tip of the hat to London Karl for bringing the following to my attention. Karl writes, "I love your country, but it gets more absurd by the day."
It does indeed. Contemporary liberals are engaged in a project of "willful enstupidation," to borrow a fine phrase from John Derbyshire. Every day there are multiple new examples, a tsunami of folderol most deserving of a Critique of POOR Reason.
Here is a little consideration that would of course escape the shallow pate of your typical emotion-driven liberal: If Kant's great works can be denigrated as products of their time, and as expressive of values different from present day values, then of course the same can be said a fortiori of the drivel and dreck that oozes from the mephitic orifices of contemporary liberals.
Thomas Sowell on 'micro-aggression.' Two examples of 'micro-aggression':
If you just sit in a room where all the people are white, you are considered to be guilty of "micro-aggression" against people who are not white, who will supposedly feel uncomfortable when they enter such a room.
At UCLA, a professor who changed the capitalization of the word "indigenous" to lower case in a student's dissertation was accused of "micro-aggression," apparently because he preferred to follow the University of Chicago Manual of Style, rather than the student's attempt to enhance the importance of being indigenous.
Next stop: The Twilight Zone. Sowell's analysis:
The concept of "micro-aggression" is just one of many tactics used to stifle differences of opinion by declaring some opinions to be "hate speech," instead of debating those differences in a marketplace of ideas. To accuse people of aggression for not marching in lockstep with political correctness is to set the stage for justifying real aggression against them.
This tactic reaches far beyond academia and far beyond the United States. France's Jean-Paul Sartre has been credited -- if that is the word -- with calling social conditions he didn't like "violence," as a prelude to justifying real violence as a response to those conditions. Sartre's American imitators have used the same verbal tactic to justify ghetto riots.
Word games are just one of the ways of silencing politically incorrect ideas, instead of debating them. Demands that various conservative organizations be forced to reveal the names of their donors are another way of silencing ideas by intimidating people who facilitate the spread of those ideas. Whatever the rationale for wanting those names, the implicit threat is retaliation.
This same tactic was used, decades ago, by Southern segregationists who tried to force black civil rights organizations to reveal the names of their donors, in a situation where retaliation might have included violence as well as economic losses.
In a sense, the political left's attempts to silence ideas they cannot, or will not, debate are a confession of intellectual bankruptcy. But this is just one of the left's ever-increasing restrictions on other people's freedom to live their lives as they see fit, rather than as their betters tell them.
Current attempts by the Obama administration to force low-income housing to be built in middle class and upscale communities are on a par with forcing people to buy the kind of health insurance the government wants them to buy -- ObamaCare -- rather than leaving them free to buy whatever suits their own situation and preferences.
The left is not necessarily aiming at totalitarianism. But their know-it-all mindset leads repeatedly and pervasively in that direction, even if by small steps, each of which might be called "micro-totalitarianism."
Centuries ago Voltaire said that “to learn who rules over you, simply find out who you are not allowed to criticize.” I now offer you Pollack’s Principle of Privilege:
To learn where privilege lies, simply see how people choose to identify themselves.
Once upon a time, people of mixed race did everything they could to “pass” as white. No longer. The mulatto Barack Obama ostentatiously identifies himself as black, while pallid Elizabeth Warren listed herself in the legal and academic community as a “Native American”.
Another sign of this inversion of privilege is that membership in groups considering themselves ‘oppressed’ is as tightly restricted as an exclusive country-club, and for the same reasons. No sooner had the news about Ms. Dolezal came out than she was denounced as a scurrilous pretender to victimhood. But people only defend what has value. In a right-side-up world, no sane person would ever bother fighting to keep others from seeking low status — but they will do whatever it takes to wall off their privileges against unqualified pretenders.
J. Christian Adams ends his piece on the Dolezal caper as follows:
Race is the fuel that runs the modern progressive agenda. It’s 24-7 race. Race is the weapon for the great transformation, for plunking Section 8 housing in wealthy residential areas, for undermining law enforcement and for transforming election laws.
It’s time that Americans start shaming those who would divide us.
Unfortunately, the race baiters who would divide us are shameless and thus impervious to shaming. Nixon could be shamed. But Hillary Milhous Clinton?
Is Dolezal perhaps a trans-racial mulatto? White in reality, black in her mind? Or white in the actual world, but black in some merely possible world? Another example might be George Zimmerman: Hispanic in reality, white in the febrile, race-obsessed, politically correct imagination of the NYT.
I have been saying it for years and every day supplies more evidence that I was and am right: there is nothing so ridiculous, devoid of common sense, bereft of wisdom, insane, or morally obnoxious that some contemporary liberal (leftist) won't jump to embrace.
University of California professors instructed not to say "America is the land of opportunity.' A list of 'microaggressions' is supplied.
Another 'liberal' assault on free speech: Principal loses job for defending McKinney cop.
Both. Here is a liberal professor, writing (not very well) under a pseudonym (of course!) who says he or she is terrified of his or her liberal students. But he or she does make a good point when he or she points to the consumerist mentality that prevails among students. That's been in place for a long time now and is one of the reasons I gave up a tenured position in 1991.
One of the phrases one increasingly hears these days is 'comfort zone.' I humbly suggest that if you are not prepared to leave said zone on a regular basis you will never really live.
One needs stress to grow, mentally, physically, and in every way. Stress is not to be had in a 'safe space.'
Glaubt es mir! – das Geheimnis, um die größte Fruchtbarkeit und den größten Genuß vom Dasein einzuernten, heißt: gefährlich leben!For believe me! — the secret for harvesting from existence the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment is: to live dangerously! Build your cities on the slopes of Vesuvius! Send your ships into uncharted seas! (Friedrich Nietzsche, The Gay Science, sec. 283, tr. Walter Kaufmann)
There is a website by the name of The Philosophers' Cocoon. You read that right: cocoon. On the masthead: "A safe and supportive forum for early-career philosophers."
Years ago I answered a reader's e-mail on line, providing his full name. The topic was technical and non-political. A while back he contacted me because he wanted his name removed from an arcane post buried deep in my archives. I did so. But then he started worrying about his name's occurrence in the ComBox . . . .
Now I sympathize with the young and unestablished. We live in nasty, illiberal times. I've made mine, so it requires no great courage to speak the truth under my real name. But it requires some, and more need to 'man up' and 'woman up' to confront the fascist scum on the Left. There is such a thing as civil courage without the exercise of which by large numbers we are done for as a free republic. Click on the link for another example of a reader who requested that his name be removed from my weblog.
And if you are unfamiliar with the disgusting Laura Kipnis affair, bang on this. Dreher's piece ends ominously.
UPDATE: A nationally known conservative college professor, a man who is well into his career, and protected by tenure, just wrote to say “it’s worse than you think,” then sent evidence. He said this has definitely had a chilling effect on the lectures he gives, for fear of triggering a Little Empress or Emperor, who will set out to ruin his academic life. I’m not going to quote his post, because I want to protect him and his position on his campus. But he adds:
If I had to do it over again, I would have never, ever entered academia. I cringe when I think of the few young, ambitious, and bright conservatives who are entering the academy now who have no idea of how even uttering their viewpoints will be turned against them to destroy them.
A safe and supportive forum for early-career philosophers. - See more at: http://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/#sthash.d68YIgKt.dpuf
A safe and supportive forum for early-career philosophers. - See more at: http://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/#sthash.d68YIgKt.dpuf
A safe and supportive forum for early-career philosophers. - See more at: http://philosopherscocoon.typepad.com/#sthash.d68YIgKt.dpuf
Professor of Government Charles Kesler in the Spring 2015Claremont Review of Books laments that "The culture of free discussion and debate is declining, and with it liberty, on and off the campus." He is right to be offended by the new culture of 'trigger warnings' and 'microaggressions,' but I wonder if his analysis is quite right.
What’s behind the decline? There are many factors, but among the most influential is that dead-end of modern philosophy called postmodernism, which has had two baneful effects. By teaching that reason is impotent—that it can’t arrive at any objective knowledge of truth, beauty, and justice because there is nothing “out there” to be known—postmodernism turns the university into an arena for will to power. All values are relative, so there is no point in discussing whether the most powerful values are true, just, or good. The crucial thing is that they are the most powerful, and can be played as trumps: do not offend me, or you will be in trouble. If we say it’s racist, then it’s racist. Don’t waste our time trying to ask, But what is racism?
Second, postmodernism devotes itself to what Richard Rorty called “language games.” For professors, especially, this is the most exquisite form of will to power, “a royal road to social change,” as Todd Gitlin (the rare lefty professor at Columbia who defends free speech) observes. So freshman girls became “women,” slaves turned into “enslaved persons,” “marriage” had to be opened to “same-sex” spouses, and so forth. Naming or renaming bespeaks power, and for decades we have seen this power rippling through American society. Now even sexual assault and rape are whatever the dogmatic leftists on and off campus say they are.
No truth, then no way things are; power decides
Kesler's analysis is largely correct, but it could use a bit of nuancing and as I like to say exfoliation (unwrapping). First of all, if there is no truth, then there is nothing to be known. And if there is neither knowledge nor truth, then there is no one 'way things are.' There is no cosmos in the Greek sense. Nothing (e.g., marriage) has a nature or essence. That paves the way for the Nietzschean view that, at ontological bottom, "The world is the Will to Power and nothing besides!" We too, as parts of the world, are then nothing more than competing centers of power-acquisition and power-maintenance. Power rules!
This is incoherent of course, but it won't stop it from being believed by leftists. It should be obvious that logical consistency cannot be a value for someone for whom truth is not a value. This is because logical consistency is defined in terms of truth: a set of propositions is consistent if and only if its members can all be true, and inconsistent otherwise.
Don't confuse the epistemological and the ontological
To think clearly about this, however, one must not confuse the epistemological and the ontological. If Nietzsche is right in his ontological claim, and there is no determinate and knowable reality, then there is nothing for us, or anyone, to know. But if we are incapable of knowing anything, or limited in what we can know, it does not follow that there is no determinate and knowable reality. Of course, we are capable of knowing some things, and not just such 'Cartesian' deliverances as that I seem to see a coyote now; we know that there are coyotes and that we sometimes see them and that they will eat damn near anything, etc. (These are evident truths, albeit not self-evident in the manner of a 'Cartesian' deliverance.) Although we know some things, we are fallible and reason in us is weak and limited. We make mistakes, become confused, and to make it worse our cognitive faculties are regularly suborned by base desires, wishful thinking, and what-not.
Fallibilism and objectivism
It is important not to confuse the question of the fallibility of our cognitive faculties, including reason in us, with the question whether there is truth. A fallibilist is not a truth-denier. One can be -- it is logically consistent to be -- both a fallibilist and an upholder of (objective) truth. What's more, one ought to be both a fallibilist about some (not all) classes of propositions, and an upholder of the existence of (objective) truth. Indeed, if one is a fallibilist, one who admits that we sometimes go wrong in matters of knowledge and belief, then then one must also admit that we sometimes go right, which is to say that fallibilism presupposes the objectivity of truth.
Just as a fallibilist is not a truth-denier, a truth-affirmer is not an infallibilist or 'dogmatist' in one sense of this word. To maintain that there is objective truth is not to maintain that one is in possession of it. One of the sources of the view that truth is subjective or relative is aversion to dogmatic people and dogmatic claims.
One cannot be a liberal (in the good old sense!) without being tolerant, and thus a fallibilist, and if the latter, then an absolutist about truth, and hence not a PC-whipped leftist!
And now we notice a very interesting and important point. To be a liberal in the old sense (a paleo-liberal) is, first and foremost, to value toleration. Toleration is the touchstone of classical liberalism. (Morris Raphael Cohen) But why should we be tolerant of (some of) the beliefs and (some of) the behaviors of others? Because we cannot responsibly claim to know, with respect to certain topics, what is true and what ought to be done/left undone. Liberalism (in the good old sense!) requires toleration, and toleration requires fallibilism. But if we can go wrong, we can go right, and so fallibilism presupposes and thus entails the existence of objective truth. A good old liberal must be an absolutist about truth and hence cannot be a PC-whipped lefty.
Examples. Why tolerate atheists? Because we don't know that God exists. Why tolerate theists? Because we don't know that God does not exist. And so on through the entire range of Big Questions. But toleration has limits. Should we tolerate Muslim fanatics such as the Taliban or ISIS terrorists? Of course not. For they reject the very principle of toleration. That's an easy case. More difficult: should we tolerate public Holocaust denial via speeches and publications? Why should we? Why should we tolerate people who lie, blatantly, about matters of known fact and in so doing contribute to a climate in which Jews are more likely to be oppressed and murdered? Isn't the whole purpose of free speech to help us discover and disseminate the truth? How can the right to free speech be twisted into a right to lie? But there is a counter-argument to this, which is why this is not an easy case. I haven't the space to make the case.
Getting back to the radical Muslims who reject the very principle of toleration, they have a reason to reject it: they think they know the answers to the Big Questions that we in the West usually have the intellectual honesty to admit we do not know the answers to. Suppose Islam, or their interpretation thereof, really does provide all the correct answers to the Big Questions. They would then be justified in imposing their doctrine and way of life on us, and for our own eternal good. But they are epistemological primitives who are unaware of their own fallibility and the fallibility of their prophet and their Book and all the rest. The dogmatic and fanatical tendencies of religion in the West were chastened by the Greek philosophers and later by the philosophers of the Enlightenment. First Athens took Jerusalem to task, and then Koenigsberg did the same. Unfortunately, there has never been anything like an Enlightenment in the Islamic world; hence they know no check on their dogmatism and fanaticism.
Defending the university against leftists and Islamists
The university rests on two main pillars. One has inscribed on it these propositions: There is truth; we can know some of it; knowing truth contributes to human flourishing and is thus a value. The other pillar bears witness to the truth that we are fallible in our judgements. Two pillars, then: Absolute truth and Fallibilism. No liberal (good sense!) education without both.
The commitment to the existence of absolute truth is common to both pillars, and it is this common commitment that is attacked by both leftists and Islamists. It is clear how leftists attack it by trying to eliminate truth in favor of power. That this eliminativism is utterly incoherent and self-refuting doesn't bother these power freaks because they do not believe in or value truth, which is implied by any commitment to logical consistency, as argued above. (Of course, some are just unaware that they are inconsistent, and others are just evil.)
But how is it that Islamists attack objective truth? Aren't they theists? Don't they believe in an absolute source and ground of being and truth? Yes indeed. But their God is unlimited Power. Their God is all-powerful to the max: there are no truths of logic, nor any necessary truths, that limit his power. The Muslim God is pure, omnipotent will. (See Pope Benedict's Regensurg Speech and Muslim Oversensitivity.)
The subterranean link
Here is perhaps the deepest connection between the decidedly strange bedfellows, leftism and Islamism: both deny the absoluteness of truth and both make it subservient to power.
I caught a segment of Sean Hannity's show the other night during which a 'conversation' transpired over the recent spike in violence in Baltimore in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody. At 2:06, Adam Jackson, activist and CEO of Leaders of a Beautiful Struggle, begins a rap replete with the usual leftist jargon: systemic inequality, structural racism, etc.
What struck me was Hannity's failure to deal with ideas at the level of ideas, in this instance, his failure to question the very idea of structural racism. That is what he should have done. He should have cut off the leftist rap with some pointed questions: Just what is this structural or systemic or institutional racism you leftists are always talking about? Care to define these phrases? Can you provide a nice clear example for the audience? Is it evidence of 'structural racism' that the enforcement of the law has a 'disparate impact' on blacks? And while you are at it, tell us what exactly racism is supposed to be. Is it racist for a white cop to enforce the law in a black community? How can you speak of institutional racism when the institutions of our society have been reformed so as to help blacks and other minorities in all sorts of ways via Affirmative Action, federally-mandated desegregation, and the like?
But Hannity posed none of these questions. Typical conservative that he is, he is not at home on the plane of ideas and abstractions where one must do battle with leftist obfuscation. Conservatives are often non-intellectual when they are not anti-intellectual. I am talking about conservatives 'in the trenches' of ordinary life and the mass media, not about conservative intellectuals who are intellectual enough but whose influence is limited. The ordinary conservative, uncomfortable with ideas, gravitates toward particulars, the actual facts of the Freddie Gray case, the Michael Brown case, the Trayvon Martin case. That is all to the good of course. When one considers what actually happened the night Michael Brown lost his life one sees that there was nothing racist, let alone structurally racist, about Officer Darren Wilson's behavior.
But it is not enough to bring the leftist back to the hard ground of actual fact; one must also puncture his ideological balloons. When the leftist starts gassing off about 'disparate impact,' you must rudely point out that blacks are disproportionately incarcerated because they disproportionately commit crimes. The 'disparate impact' of law enforcement is not evidence of racism 'structural' or otherwise; it is evidence of disproportionate criminality among blacks. Why won't leftists admit what is obvious? Because they labor under the conceit that we are all equal. Now here is a another Big Idea that your typical conservative is not equipped to discuss.
Another example of conservative cluelessness is Bill O'Reilly. He often points out that we live in a capitalist country. It's true, more or less. But citing a fact does not amount to a justification of the fact. What O'Reilly appears to be incapable of doing is providing arguments, including moral arguments, in favor of capitalism. That is what is needed in the face of libs and lefties who, when told that we live in a capitalist country, will respond, "Well then, let's change it!"
But having a nasty streak of anti-intellectualism in him, O'Reilly would probably dismiss such arguments as mere 'theory' in his Joe Sixpack sense of the term.
Conservatives, by and large, are doers not thinkers, builders, not scribblers. They are at home on the terra firma of the concrete particular but at sea in the realm of abstraction. The know in their dumb inarticulate way that killing infants is a moral outrage but they cannot argue it out with sophistication and nuance in a manner to command the respect of their opponents. And that's a serious problem.
They know that there is something deeply wrong with same-sex 'marriage,' but they cannot explain what it is. George W. Bush, a well-meaning, earnest fellow whose countenance puts me in mind of that of Alfred E. Neuman, could only get the length of: "Marriage is between a man and a woman."
That's right, but it is a bare assertion. Sometimes bare assertions are justified, but one must know how to counter those who consider them gratuitous assertions. What is gratuitously asserted may be gratuitously denied without breach of logical propriety, a maxim long enshrined in the Latin tag Quod gratis asseritur, gratis negatur. So one reasonably demands arguments from those who make assertions. Arguments are supposed to move us beyond mere assertions and counter-assertions.
Could G. W. Bush present a reasoned defense of traditional marriage, or rather, just plain marriage, against the leftist innovators? If he could he never to my knowledge supplied any evidence that he could.
And then there is Romney. He lost to Obama in part because he could not articulate a compelling vision while Obama could. Obama, a feckless fool with no understanding of reality, and no desire to understand it, is a great bullshitter & blather-mouth who was able to sell his destructive leftist vision. Romney had nothing to counter him with. It it not enough to be in close contact with the hard particulars of gnarly reality; you have to be able to operate in the aether of ideas.
For a conservative there is a defeasible presumption in favor of traditional beliefs, behaviors, and institutions. The conservative is of course right in holding to this presumption. But if he is to prevail, he must know how to defend it against its enemies.
To beat the Left we must out-argue them in the ivory towers and out-slug them in the trenches. Since by Converse Clausewitz politics is war conducted by other means, the trench-fighters need to employ the same tactics that lefties do: slanders, lies, smears, name-calling, shout-downs, pie-throwing, mockery, derision. The good old Alinsky tactics. And now I hand off to Robert Spencer commenting on Andrew Breitbart.
Politics is war and war is ugly. We could avoid a lot of this nastiness if we adopted federalism and voluntary Balkanization. But that is not likely to happen: the totalitarian Left won't allow it. So I predict things are going to get hot in the coming years. The summer of 2015 should prove to be positively 'toasty' in major urban centers as the destructive ideas of the Left lead to ever more violence.
But liberal fools such as the aptronymically appellated Charles Blow will be safe in their upper-class enclaves.
When macro-aggression is no more, when wrongs have been righted and justice has been promoted and protected to the extent that it can be by government, it is then that leftists invent micro-aggression to keep themselves in business and assure themselves of an ever-expanding clientele of victims and losers.
I am reading an article on some arcane topic such as counterfactual conditionals when I encounter a ungrammatical use of 'they' to avoid the supposedly radioactive 'he.' I groan: not another PC-whipped leftist! I am distracted from the content of the article by the political correctness of the author. As I have said more than once, PC comes from the CP, and what commies, and leftists generally, attempt to do is to inject politics into every aspect of life. It is in keeping with their totalitarian agenda.
If you complain that I am injecting politics into this post, I will say that I am merely combating and undoing the mischief of leftists. It is analogous to nonviolent people using violence to defend themselves and their way of life against the violent. We conservatives who want the political kept in its place and who are temperamentally disinclined to be political activists must become somewhat active to undo the damage caused by leftist totalitarians.
By the way, there is nothing sexist about standard English; the view that it is is a leftist doctrine that one is free to reject. It is after all a debatable point. Do you really think that the question whether man is basically good is the question whether males are basically good? If you replace 'he' with 'she,' then you tacitly concede that both can be used gender-neutrally. But then what becomes of your objection to 'he'?
You are of course free to disagree with what I just wrote, and you are free to write as you please. I defend your right to free speech. Do you defend mine? I understand your point of view though I don't agree with it. I can oppose you without abusing you though I may abuse you from time to time to give you a tase taste of your own medicine should you abuse me. Call me a 'sexist' for using standard English and I may return the compliment by calling you a 'destructive PC-whipped leftist.'
It's all for your own good.
Here's a modest proposal. Let's view the whole thing as a free speech issue. Don't harass me for using standard English and I won't mock you for your silly innovations. We contemporary conservatives are tolerant. I fear that you contemporary liberals are not. Prove me wrong.
It's a funny world in which conservatives are the new liberals, and liberals are the new . . . .
This entry from over five years ago stands up well and is worth re-posting. Slightly improved, typos removed, infelicities smoothed. It originally saw the light of the 'sphere on 24 March 2010. As usual the MavPhil doctrine of abrogation is in effect: later posts abrogate earlier ones.
The qualifier 'conservative' borders on pleonasm: there is is scarcely any talk radio in the U.S. worth mentioning that is not conservative. This is part of the reason the Left hates the conservative variety so much. They hate it because of its content, and they hate it because they are incapable of competing with it: their own attempts such as Air America have failed miserably. And so, projecting their own hatred, they label conservative talk 'hate radio.'
In a 22 March op-ed piece in the NYT, Bob Herbert, commenting on the G.O.P., writes, "This is the party that genuflects at the altar of right-wing talk radio, with its insane, nauseating, nonstop commitment to hatred and bigotry."
I find that vile outburst fascinating. There is no insanity, hatred, or bigotry in any of the conservative talk jocks to whom I listen: Laura Ingraham, Bill Bennett, Hugh Hewitt, Mike Gallagher, Dennis Prager or Michael Medved. There is instead common sense, humanity, excellent advice, warnings against extremism, deep life wisdom, facts, arguments, and a reasonably high level of discourse. Of the six I have mentioned, Prager and Medved are the best, a fact reflected in their large audiences. Don't you liberals fancy yourselves open-minded? Then open your ears!
So what is it about Herbert and people of his ilk that causes them to react routinely in such delusional fashion?
It is a long story, of course, but part of it is that lefties confuse dissent with hate. They don't seem to realize that if I dissent from your view, it doesn't follow that I hate you. It's actually a double confusion. There is first the confusion of dissent with hate, and then the confusion of persons and propositions. If I dissent from your proposition, it does not follow that I hate your proposition; and a fortiori it doesn't follow that I hate the person who advances the proposition. This double confusion goes hand in hand with the strange notion that the Left owns dissent, which I duly refute in a substantial post.
I leave you with a quotation from David Horowitz, Left Illusions: An Intellectual Odyssey (Spence, 2003), p. 273, emphasis added:
The image of the right that the left has concocted -- authoritarian, reactionary, bigoted, mean-spirited -- is an absurd caricature that has no relation to modern conservatism or to the reality of the people I have come to know in my decade-long movement along the political spectrum -- or to the way I see myself. Except for a lunatic fringe, American conservatism is not about "blood and soil" nostalgia or conspiracy paranoia, which figure so largely in imaginations that call themselves "liberal," but are anything but. Modern American conservatism is a reform movement that seeks to reinvent free markets and limited government and to restore somewhat traditional values. Philosophically, conservatism is more accurately seen as a species of liberalism itself -- and would be more often described in this way were it not for the hegemony the left exerts in the political culture and its appropriation of the term "liberal" to obscure its radical agenda.
One more thing. You can see from Herbert's picture that he is black. So now I will be called a racist for exposing his outburst. That is right out of the Left's playbook: if a conservative disagrees with you on any issue, or proffers any sort of criticism, then you heap abuse on him. He's a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe, a 'homophobe,' a bigot, a religious zealot . . . .
Why don't leftists -- who obviously do not share the characteristic values and beliefs of Islamists -- grant what is spectacularly obvious to everyone else, namely, that radical Islam poses a grave threat to what we in the West cherish as civilization, which includes commitments to free speech, open inquiry, separation of church and state, freedom of religion, freedom to reject religion, and so on? In particular, why don't leftists recognize the grave threat radical Islam poses to them? Why do leftists either deny the threat or downplay its gravity?
Here is a quickly-composed list of twelve related reasons based on my own thinking and reading and on discussions with Peter Lupu and Mike Valle. A work in progress. The reasons are not necessarily in the order of importance. I suspect that each of them has a role to play in a complete explanation of why leftists are soft on radical Islam.
1. Many leftists hold that no one really believes in the Islamic paradise. The expansionist Soviets could be kept in check by the threat of nuclear destruction because, as communists, they were atheists and mortalists for whom this world is the last stop. But the threat from radical Islam, to a conservative, is far more chilling since jihadis murder in the expectation of prolonged disportation with black-eyed virgins in a carnal post mortem paradise. For them this world is not the last stop but a way station to that garden of carnal delights they are forbidden from enjoying here and now. Most leftists, however, don't take religion seriously, and, projecting, think that no one else really does either despite what the religionists say and (according to leftists) pretend to believe. So leftists think that jihadis are not really motivated by the belief in paradise as pay off for detonating themselves and murdering 'infidels.' In this way they downplay the gravity of the threat.
This is a very dangerous mistake based on a very foolish sort of psychological projection! Conservatives know better than to assume that everyone shares the same values, attitudes, and goals. See Does Anyone Really Believe in the Muslim Paradise? which refers to Sam Harris's debate with anthropologist Scott Atran on this point.
2. Leftists tend to think that deep down everyone is the same and wants the same things. They think that Muslims want what most Westerners want: money, cars, big houses, creature comforts, the freedom to live and think and speak and criticize and give offense as they please, ready access to alcohol and other intoxicants, equality for women, toleration of homosexuals, same-sex 'marriage' . . . .
3. Leftists typically deny that there is radical evil; the bad behavior of Muslims can be explained socially, politically, and economically. The denial of the reality of evil is perhaps the deepest error of the Left. And so the beheadings, crucifixions, and other atrocities committed by ISIS and other Muslim savages are not expressions of radical evil, but reflective of contingent and ameliorable states of affairs such as a lack of jobs.
4. Leftists tend to think any critique of Islam is an attack on Muslims and as such is sheer bigotry. But this is pure confusion. To point out the obvious, Islam is a religion, but no Muslim is a religion. Muslims are people who adhere to the religion, Islam. Capiche?
When a leftist looks at a conservative he 'sees' a racist, a xenophobe, a nativist, a flag-waving, my-country-right-or-wrong jingoist, a rube who knows nothing of foreign cultures and who reflexively hates the Other simply as Other. In a word, he 'sees' a bigot. So he thinks that any critique of Islam or Islamism -- if you care to distinguish them -- is motivated solely by bigotry directed at certain people. In doing this, however, the leftist confuses the worldview with its adherents. The target of conservative animus is the destructive political-religious ideology, not the people who have been brainwashed into accepting it and who know no better.
5. Some leftists think that to criticize Islam is racist. But this too is hopeless confusion. Islam is a religion, not a race. There is no race of Muslims. You might think that no liberal-leftist is so stupid as not to know that Islam is not a race. You would be wrong. See Richard Dawkins on Muslims.
6. Many leftists succumb to the Obama Fallacy: Religion is good; Islam is a religion; ergo, Islam is good; ISIS is bad; ergo, ISIS -- the premier instantiation of Islamist terror at the moment -- is not Islamic. See Obama: "ISIL is not Islamic."
7. Leftists tend to be cultural relativists. This is part of what drives the Obama Fallacy. If all cultures are equally good, then the same holds for religions: they are all equally good, and no religion can be said to be superior to any other either in terms of truth value or contribution to human flourishing. Islam is not worse that Christianity or Buddhism; it is just different, and only a bigot thinks otherwise.
But of course most leftists think that all religions are bad, equally bad. But if so, then again one cannot maintain that one is superior or inferior to another.
Leftists are also, many of them, moral relativists, though inconsistently so. They think that it is morally wrong (absolutely!) to criticize or condemn the practices of another culture (stoning of adulterers, e.g.) because each culture has its own morality that is valid for it and thus only relatively valid. The incoherence of this ought to be obvious. If morality is relative, then we in our culture have all the justification we need and could have to condemn and indeed suppress and eliminate the barbaric practices of radical Muslims.
9. Leftists tend to deny reality. The reality of terrorism and its source is there for all to see: not all Muslims are terrorists, but almost all terrorists at the present time are Muslims. Deny that, and you deny reality. But why do leftists deny reality?
A good part of the answer is that they deny it because reality does not fit their scheme. Leftists confuse the world with their view of the world. In their view of the world, people are all equal and religions are all equal -- equally good or equally bad depending on the stripe of the leftist. They want it to be that way and so they fool themselves into thinking that it is that way. Moral equivalency reigns. If you point out that Muhammad Atta was an Islamic terrorist, they shoot back that Timothy McVeigh was a Christian terrorist -- willfully ignoring the crucial difference that the murderous actions of the former derive from Islamic/Islamist doctrine whereas the actions of the latter do not derive from Christian doctrine.
And then these leftists like Juan Cole compound their willful ignorance of reality by denouncing those who speak the truth as 'Islamophobes.' That would have been like hurling the epithet 'Naziphobe' at a person who, in 1938, warned of the National Socialist threat to civilized values. "You, sir, are suffering from a phobia, an irrational fear; you need treatment, not refutation."
When a leftist hurls the 'Islamophobe!' epithet that is his way of evading rational discussion by reducing his interlocutor to someone subrational, someone suffering from cognitive dysfunction. Now how liberal and tolerant and respectful of persons is that?
10. Leftists hate conservatives because of the collapse of the USSR and the failure of communism; hence they reflexively oppose anything conservatives promote or maintain. (This was Peter Lupu's suggestion.) So when conservatives sound the alarm, leftists go into knee-jerk oppositional mode. They willfully enter into a delusional state wherein they think, e.g., that the threat of Christian theocracy is real and imminent, but that there is nothing to fear from Islamic theocracy.
11. Many leftists are cowards. They will not admit the threat of radical Islam or speak out against it because of fear of reprisal. It is a rational fear, of course. And so the very same people who accuse conservatives of an irrational fear of radical Islam stick up for it out of a quite rational fear of what would happen to them if they condemned it the way they would condemn Christian terrorism if such a thing existed.
12. Leftists are fundamentally negative and oppositional. In Faust, Goethe refers to Mephistopheles as Der Geist der stets verneint, the spirit that always negates. That is the spirit of the Left: destructive, nay-saying, reactionary. So leftists take the side of Islamists because the latter oppose traditional American values despite the deadly threat Islamists pose to their own values. Compare Robert Tracinski:
The left is fundamentally reactionary. It is a reaction against capitalism and against America. The left are defined by what they are against, or more accurately who they hate. So they are drawn to sympathy toward Islam because it is not-us: non-Western, non-American, neither Christian nor a product of the Enlightenment. And I guess that’s what the two ideologies have in common: they are both reactions against the supposed evils of the West. Which explains why leftists tend to find themselves uncomfortable and look for excuses to retreat when they are called upon to defend the West against this rival group of reactionaries.
And then there is “pinkwashing.” You can’t make this up. Some left-wing, pro-gay groups attack Israel because it is tolerant of gays. See if you can follow the twisted logic: Since Israel is evil incarnate, its positive treatment of gays must be a way of diverting people’s attention. Devious people, those Jews. The Israel haters call it pinkwashing, meaning it is whitewashing with pink tint, to emphasize its sexual-orientation. People actually tour American, Canadian, and European universities pitching this tripe. The groups that invite them – guess who? – say nothing about ISIS sending out decoys to lure gay men out of the shadows so they can behead them. Of course, they remain silent about the 200,000-plus killed in Syria, Iran’s campaign of global terror, Hamas hiding rockets in school buildings, Christians being driven out of lands where they have lived since Jesus’ time, and on and on. That would only divide the group and divert them from their anti-Israel mission.
Further proof that nothing is so stupid, vile, and detached from reality that some sizable bunch of liberals won 't jump to embrace it.
From now on liberals bear the burden of proof. Prove that you are not insane, or stupid, or not moral scum. If you can muster that proof, then we will show you some respect.
Why stop at these traffic lights? (Pun intended) We need to go further so as to include the pederasts of NAMBLA and PIE. We need lights depicting an adult hand-in-hand with a child with a little heart between them to signify the sexual love that unites them. After all, it is discriminatory to marginalize the practitioners of sexual perversions. Surely it is the role of the state in these enlightened times to provide full acceptance and legitimation of everyone, regardless of race, creed, or sexual perversion. Story here.
An article by Jason Riley, a black conservative I highly recommend. Unfortunately, in this brief piece he does not penetrate to the philosophical heart of the matter by making the important point that education is not a legitimate function for the Federal government. Education is properly conducted by parents, families, and the local institutions of civil society such as local schools, churches, clubs, and the like. The Left, being totalitarian, hates these institutions of civil society that occupy the buffer zone between the naked individual and the Leviathan.
This is indeed troubling, but there is worse to come. According to McBrayer, the kiddies are taught that claims are either facts or opinions, where the disjunction is exclusive. And to make it even worse, the little rascals are further indoctrinated that every value claim is an opinion!
And so 'Cheating on tests is wrong' is an opinion, not a fact, hence neither true nor provable, and therefore something someone merely thinks, feels, or believes. God help us! Yet another argument for private schools and home-schooling.
I will now give you my considered opinion on how best to think about this topic.
First of all, it is a major mistake to think that an opinion cannot be true because it is an opinion. Some opinions are true and some are false. In this respect, opinions are no different from beliefs: some are true and some are false. It follows that some opinions are facts, on one use of 'fact.' I distinguish among three uses of 'fact':
Logical Use: A fact is a truth, whether a true proposition, a true judgment, a true belief, a true opinion, a true statement, a true declarative sentence, etc. In general, a fact is a true truth-bearer. If this is what we mean by 'fact,' then it is obvious that some opinions are facts. For example, my opinion (and presumably yours too) that the Moon is uninhabited is a fact. It is a fact because it is true. But much of what is true is true because of the way the world is. So we note a different but related use of 'fact,' namely, the
Ontological Use: A fact is an obtaining (concrete) state of affairs that can serve as a truth-maker of a truth. When a famous philosopher opined that the world is the totality of facts, not of things, he was not putting forth the view that the world is the totality of truths, nor the totality of what is known. (Ludwig Wittgenstein, Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus 1.1)
Epistemological Use: A fact is an obtaining state of affairs known to be the case or believed to be the case on evidence. It is important not to confuse what is known to be the case with what is the case. Everything one knows to be the case is the case; but there is plenty that is the case that no one of us knows to be the case.
The foregoing should make it obvious that a second major mistake is to think that only what is testable or provable is a fact. To make that mistake is to confuse the logical and the ontological on the one side with the epistemological on the other. There are facts (truths) that cannot be empirically tested or verified, but also cannot be proven by deduction from other truths. The Law of Non-Contradiction (LNC) is an example: No proposition is both true and not true. LNC is true and known to be true, but it is not known to be true on the basis of empirical observation or experiment. It is also not known by inference from propositions already accepted. How then do we know it to be true? A reasonable answer is that it is self-evident, objectively self-evident. One enjoys a direct intellectual insight into its truth.
If so, then some facts are objectively self-evident despite the fact that they are neither empirically verifiable nor provable by non-circular deductive inference from propositions known to be true. And so it may well be that a proposition like Setting bums on fire for fun is morally wrong is an objective fact (truth) and therefore not a mere opinion. Or perhaps a better example would be a proposition from which the foregoing is derivable, to wit, Causing severe pain to sentient beings for the sheer fun of it is morally wrong. The graphic depicts a homeless, mentally unstable, Pakistani set afire for blasphemy by adherents of the religion of peace. Now either you see (morally intuit) that doing such a thing is a grave moral wrong, or you don't, and if the latter then you are either morally obtuse or a liberal, which may well come to the same thing.
Without getting too deep into the topic of moral realism, all I want to say at the moment is that there is at least a very serious set of questions here, questions that cannot be ignored once one avoids the elementary confusions into which contemporary liberals tend to fall. Not every contemporary liberal, of course, but enough to justify my issuing a general warning against their slopheadedness.
Liberals typically confuse opinions with mere opinions. They confuse truths with known truths. They confuse the property of being believed by some person or group of persons with the property of being true. They confuse making moral judgments with being judgmental. They confuse merely subjective judgments of taste with moral judgments.
Men in bow ties look ridiculous. Or so say I. That is a merely subjective sartorial opinion of mine, and I recognize it as such. There is no fact of the matter here and so if you say the opposite you are not contradicting me, logically speaking. Note that It strikes me that men in bow ties look ridiculous is an objective statement of fact about how certain sartorial matters seem to me. But from this objectively true statement one cannot infer the former subjective statement. If you can't distinguish those two sentences, then you are not thinking clearly.
Too many liberals cannot see the incoherence of maintaining that we must respect other cultures because judgments as to right and wrong are culturally relative. They fail to see that if such judgments are indeed relative, then there cannot be any objective moral requirement that members of a given culture respect other cultures. If all such moral judgments are culturally relative, then the members of a culture who believe that the strong have the right to enslave the weak are perfectly justified in enslaving the weak. For if right and wrong are culturally relative, then they have all the justification they could possibly have for enslaving them.
Announcing his presidential bid this month, Sen. Rand Paul said he wants to repeal “any law that disproportionately incarcerates people of color.”
Did he really say that? If yes, then he's pandering Hillariously . 'People of color,' to use the politically correct phrase, are disproportionately incarcerated because they disproportionately commit crimes. Is Rand now a quota-mentality liberal? Then to hell with him. It says something about him that he won't stand on principle even though he has no real chance of getting the Republican nomination.
“History assures us that civilizations decay quite leisurely,” Will and Ariel Durant wrote in 1968’s “The Lessons of History.” Even as ancient Greece and Rome faced serious “moral weakening” and societal decay, for instance, both continued to produce “masterpieces of literature and art” and a steady flow of “great statesmen, philosophers, poets, and artists” for hundreds of years.
“May we take as long to fall,” the Durants exhort in their book, “as Imperial Rome!”
If the couple were alive today, one wonders if they could have retained their trademark pluck. On college campuses across America, an army of leftist snowflakes — a generation long told they’re special, fragile, and never, ever wrong — is on the march, aiming to squelch any threatening idea that “triggers” uncomfortable thoughts.
The lunacy of the Left seems to know no bounds. This shrinking violet needs a 'safe space' to hide from equity feminist Christina Hoff Sommers (via Legal Insurrection):
Many environmentalists who reject traditional notions of the Godhead and who regard themselves as agnostics or even atheists nonetheless express feelings tantamount to religious awe when in the presence of wilderness—a fact that testifies to the success of the romantic project. Those who have no difficulty seeing God as the expression of our human dreams and desires nonetheless have trouble recognizing that in a secular age Nature can offer precisely the same sort of mirror.
To put (roughly the same) point with Maverickian aphoristic pithiness: Nature for the idolaters of the earth is just as much an unconscious anthropomorphic projection as the God of the Feuerbachians.
Thus it is that wilderness serves as the unexamined foundation on which so many of the quasi-religious values of modern environmentalism rest. The critique of modernity that is one of environmentalism’s most important contributions to the moral and political discourse of our time more often than not appeals, explicitly or implicitly, to wilderness as the standard against which to measure the failings of our human world. Wilderness is the natural, unfallen antithesis of an unnatural civilization that has lost its soul. It is a place of freedom in which we can recover the true selves we have lost to the corrupting influences of our artificial lives. Most of all, it is the ultimate landscape of authenticity. Combining the sacred grandeur of the sublime with the primitive simplicity of the frontier, it is the place where we can see the world as it really is, and so know ourselves as we really are—or ought to be.
Related: Timothy Treadwell and Nature Idolatry. (Treadwell was the romantic fool who camped without protection among grizzlies in Alaska, thought it acceptable to end up bear scat, and did, along with his girl friend.)
You are free to imagine a world without religion as per the silly ditty of John Lennon, but if Pew Research Center predictions are correct, atheists and leftists need to brace themselves for serious disappointment:
. . . the religiously unaffiliated population is projected to shrink as a percentage of the global population, even though it will increase in absolute number. In 2010, censuses and surveys indicate, there were about 1.1 billion atheists, agnostics and people who do not identify with any particular religion.5 By 2050, the unaffiliated population is expected to exceed 1.2 billion. But, as a share of all the people in the world, those with no religious affiliation are projected to decline from 16% in 2010 to 13% by the middle of this century.
I prefer the more muscular 'lie.' Excerpts from a piece by John O. McGinnis:
Progressivism’s vision of the role of the state conflicts with the system of government envisioned by America’s Founders. The Founders wanted citizens to be free to pursue their affairs individually and in voluntary association; the powers of the federal state were to be tightly constrained. In contrast, the greatest political theorist of American progressivism, Herbert Croly, said that the nation’s “democracy should be focused on an equal sharing of wealth and responsibilities”—an enterprise that demands a larger and more intrusive federal state to enforce. Obama spoke from this tradition on the campaign trail in 2008—most famously, when he told Joe the Plumber that it was “good to spread the wealth around.”
[. . .]
Faced with these constraints, today’s progressives must resort to more misleading and sometimes coercive measures, as they seek to bring about equality through collective responsibility; they must rally support by looking beyond economics, to cultural and social identifications, in a bid to maintain the support of voters with little need for government intervention. They also want to limit the voices of citizens at election time, and thereby magnify the influence of the press and academia, which lean sharply in the progressive direction.
Nothing shows the progressive dependence on subterfuge more starkly than Obamacare, which, by imposing a personal mandate to buy insurance in an effort to bring health care to all, will restructure one-sixth of the American economy.
[. . .]
From its inception, progressivism has posed a threat to constitutional government. It has sought to replace limited and decentralized governance with dynamic, centralized authority in order to force some arrangement of equality on the nation. Because the world has a way of upsetting abstract designs, progressivism depends on empowering administrators to impose its frameworks while disempowering citizens from resisting these coercions. The Obama administration’s push for unilateral presidential authority to disregard the law is thus the logical extension of the progressive program. Opposition to this program requires nothing less than a rededication to our Founding ideals: our nation must be governed by the rule of law, not the rule of an elected monarch or of a legally privileged aristocracy.
When the otherwise distinguished Robert Paul Wolff over at The Philosopher's Stone plays the stoned philosopher and quits the reservation of Good Sense, I call him 'Howlin' Wolff.' Hear him howl:
I need to say this. If anyone wants to call me a self-hating Jew, so be it.
Israel is far and away the militarily most powerful nation in the entire Middle East. It has a large, fully functional nuclear arsenal with appropriate delivery systems, and a well-trained army with a large Ready Reserve. If Israel wants to start a war with Iran, let it put its own young men and women at risk, instead of adopting a belligerant [sic] stance and inviting the United States to shed our blood and spend our treasure making good on Israel's threats.
Let me warm up with a bit of pedantry. 'Self-hating Jew' seems not quite the right expression. After all, a Jew who hates himself needn't hate himself because he is a Jew. He might hate himself, not in respect of his Jewishness, but in respect of some other attribute, say, that of being white. I recommend 'Jew-hating Jew.' On whether Wolff is one or not I have no opinion. You may also draw your own conclusions from Wolff's having penned Autobiography of an Ex-White Man.
But it is entirely typical of a delusional leftist to engage in the sort of Orwellian reversal expressed in the paragraph quoted above.
According to Wolff, Israel threatens Iran, and not the other way around. And it is Israel's "stance" that is "belligerent," not Iran's.
Israel is militarily supreme in the Middle East. It has nuclear war-making capacity. Iran doesn't, at least not yet. But so what?
I detect the typical leftist confusion of weapon and wielder, as if weapons themselves are the problem, not the character of their wielders. That, in tandem with some such silly equivalentism as that all actors are morally equivalent and that if one actor has nukes, then it is not fair that the others not have them. Should the U. N. provide them all around to 'level the playing field'?
I could go on, but my readers do not need their noses rubbed in the obvious.
Besides, some notions are beneath refutation. Their mere exposure suffices to refute them.
War is peace. Slavery is freedom. Less liberty is more liberty. Defense is attack. Concern for one's survival in a situation in which one's adversaries have threatened one with nuclear annihilation is belligerence. The Orwellian template: X, which is not Y, is Y.
In the interests of full disclosure, I am not now and never have been a Jew either ethnically or religiously, nor an Israeli, nor do I have any intention of becoming the two of these three that it would be possible for me to become.
Imagine a history teacher who tells his students that in the American South, as late as the 1960s, certain citizens lynched certain other citizens. Would you say that the teacher had omitted something of great importance for understanding why these lynchings occurred? Yes you would. You would point out that the lynchings were of blacks by whites, and that a good part of the motivation for their unspeakable crimes was sheer racial animus. In the case of these crimes, the races of the perpetrators and of their victims are facts relevant to understanding the crimes. Just to describe the lynchings accurately one has to mention race, let alone to explain them.
I hope no one will disagree with me on this.
Or consider the case of a history teacher who reports that in Germany, 1933-1945, certain German citizens harassed, tortured, enslaved, and executed other German citizens. That is true, of course, but it leaves out the fact that the perpetrators were Nazis and (most of) the victims Jews. Those additional facts must be reported for the situation to be properly described, let alone explained. Not only that, the Nazis were acting from Nazi ideology and the Jew were killed for being Jews.
According to recent reports, some Muslim jihadis beheaded some Egyptian Coptic Christians on a Libyan beach. Now beheading is not lynching. And religion is not the same as race. But just as race is relevant in the lynching case, religion is relevant in the beheading case. That the perpetrators of the beheadings were Muslims and the victims Christians enters into both an adequate description and an adequate explanation of the evil deeds of the former.
This is especially so since the Muslims were acting from Islamic beliefs and the Christians were killed for their Christian beliefs. It was not as if some merely nominal Muslims killed some merely nominal Christians in a dispute over the ownership of some donkeys.
Bear in mind my distinction between a 'sociological' X and a 'doctrinal' X.
What did Barack Obama say about this? He said: “No religion is responsible for terrorism — people are responsible for violence and terrorism."
Now that is a mendacious thing to say. Obama knows that the behavior of people is influenced by their beliefs. For example, he knows that part of the explanation of the lynchings of blacks by whites is that the white perpetrators held racists beliefs that justified (in their own minds) their horrendous behavior. And of course he knows, mutatis mutandis, the same about the beheading case.
He knows that he is engaging in a vicious abstraction when he sunders people and their beliefs in such a way as to imply that those beliefs have no influence on their actions.
Why then is Obama so dishonest? Part of the explanation is that he just does not care about truth. (That is a mark of the bullshitter as Harry Frankfurt has pointed out.) Truth, after all, is not a leftist value, except insofar as it can be invoked to forward the leftist agenda. It is the 'progressive' agenda that counts, first, and the narrative that justifies the agenda, second. (Karl Marx, 11th Thesis on Feuerbach: "The philosophers have variously interpreted the world; the point, however, is to change it." Truth doesn't come into it since a narrative is just a story and a story needn't be true to mobilize people to implement an agenda.
There's more to it than that, but that's enough for now. This is a blog and brevity is the soul of blog as some wit once observed.
What is to be done? Well, every decent person must do what he or she can to combat the lying scumbags of the Left. It is a noble fight, and may also be, shall we say, conducive unto your further existence in the style to which you have become accustomed.
Broplimenting. This is when a guy says something nice to you without asking for your consent first. Men should always ask. “Do you consent to me complimenting you?” before saying anything nice or else it’s assault. No, nonverbal cues don’t count – he still has to ask for explicit consent before offering that kind of affection.
I'll have to work on that. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
Fat Tuesday, coming as it does the day before Ash Wednesday, derives its very meaning from the beginning of Lent. The idea is to get some serious partying under one's belt just before the forty-day ascetic run-up to Easter. So one might think the ACLU would wish to lodge a protest against a celebration so religious in inspiration. Good (contemptible?) lefties that they are, they are ever crusading against religion. Perhaps 'crusade' (L. crux, crucis) is not the right word suggestive as it is of the cross and Christianity; perhaps 'jihad' would be better especially since many loons of the Left are curiously and conveniently ignorant of the threat of militant Islam and much prefer going after truly dangerous outfits like the Boy Scouts.
The schizoid Left: anti-religious in general, but not when it comes to religion's most virulent subspecies, the fanatic fundamentalism of the Islamo-head-chopper-offers.
If you are going to take umbrage at the creation of a Catholic town, why tolerate Mardi Gras? Why tolerate a celebration which originated in a Catholic town for a purpose that is obviously tied to religion? Inconsistency, or is it the pagan excess that the ACLU types want to celebrate? We can't have prayer or a moment of silence in schools, but drunkenness and debauchery in the streets is de rigueur. Interestingly enough, in 2002, The ACLU sued when a Mardi Gras celebration in San Luis Obispo was denied a parade permit.
. . . is like a mafioso's denying that there is a mafia. "Mafia? What mafia? There's no mafia. We're just businessmen trying to do right by out families." Our mafioso might go on to explain that 'mafia' is really just an ethnic slur used to denigrate businessmen of Italian extraction.
This an instance of a rhetorical pattern. Can we tease out the pattern and present it in abstracto? Roughly the pattern is this: A person who is something denies that there is that something. A proponent of a view denies that there is any such view as the one he proposes. A representative of an attitude denies that there is any such attitude as the one he represents. An employer of a tactic denies that there is any such tactic as the one he employs. A performer in a musical genre denies that there is any such genre as the one in which he performs. (I'll have to check, but I seem to recall that Dylan in his folk phase in an interview denied the existence of folk music.)
For instance, a person who is politically correct denies that there is political correctness. Note that only the politically correct deny that there is political correctness, just as only mafiosi deny that there is a mafia. Note also that the denial is not that there are politically correct people, but that the very concept of political correctness is misbegotten, or incoherent, or introduced only as a semantic bludgeon. The idea is not that a person who is something denies that he is that something, but that there is that something.
But we need more examples. Some of the people who are proponents of scientism deny that there is scientism. They may go on to reject the word as meaningless or impossible of application or merely emotive. But of course there is such a thing as scientism. Scientism, roughly, is the philosophical thesis that the only genuine knowledge is natural-scientific knowledge. Not only is there that view; it has representatives.
Suppose that some conservative denies that there is Islamophobia. Then I would have to object. There are a few people who have an irrational fear of Islam and/or of Muslims. They are accurately labelled "Islamophobes.' "Islamophobia' does pick out something real, a 'syndrome' of sorts.
But of course the vast majority of those who sound the alarm against radical Islam are not Islamophobes. For their fear of radical Islam and its works is rational.
Other examples that need discussing: white privilege, institutionalized racism, racial profiling. Could one reasonably believe in these three while denying that there is political correctness?
I'd like to go on; maybe later. But now I have to get ready for an 8 K trail run.
In the three and a half decades since the Iranian revolution, I have been watching my friends and neighbors (and distant neighbors) on the left struggling to understand—or avoid understanding—the revival of religion in what is now called a “post-secular” age. Long ago, we looked forward to “the disenchantment of the world”—we believed that the triumph of science and secularism was a necessary feature of modernity. And so we forgot, as Nick Cohen has written, “what the men and women of the Enlightenment knew. All faiths in their extreme form carry the possibility of tyranny.”1
BV: Two comments.
First, what might the triumph of science be if not the triumph of scientism, which is not science, but a philosophical view according to which the only genuine knowledge is natural-scientific knowledge? (I provide plenty of nuance as to the definition of 'scientism' in my Scientism category.) After all, if science triumphs, it triumphs over something, and what would that be? If you say 'religion,' then I will point out that science and religion are not in the same line of work and so not in competition; hence science cannot triumph over religion any more than religion can triumph over science. But scientism can triumph over religion because scientism and religions are worldviews. Scientism is logically incompatible with religion; this is particularly clear in the case of theistic religions. Scientism is the epistemology of naturalism, the ontological doctrine that reality is exhausted by the space-time system and its contents. If naturalism is true, then of course there is no God, and contrapositively: if there is a God, then naturalism is false. But there is nothing in science that rules out the existence of God. If you think there is, then you are confusing science with scientism.
Second, while it is true that most if not all religions in their extreme forms carry the possibility of tyranny, this is also true of non- and anti-religious ideologies such as communism. If one fails to point this out, as Walzer does fail to point it out, then then one can be suspected of a lack of intellectual honesty. Communist tyranny alone led to the deaths of upwards of 100 million in the 20th century.
Today, every major world religion is experiencing a significant revival, and revived religion isn’t an opiate as we once thought, but a very strong stimulant. Since the late 1970s, and particularly in the last decade, this stimulant is working most powerfully in the Islamic world. From Pakistan to Nigeria, and in parts of Europe, too, Islam today is a religion capable of inspiring large numbers of men and women, mostly men, to kill and die on its behalf. So the Islamic revival is a kind of testing moment for the left: can we recognize and resist “the possibility of tyranny?” Some of us are trying to meet the test; many of us are actively failing it. One reason for this failure is the terrible fear of being called “Islamophobic.” Anti-Americanism and a radical version of cultural relativism also play an important part, but these are older pathologies. Here is something new: many leftists are so irrationally afraid of an irrational fear of Islam that they haven’t been able to consider the very good reasons for fearing Islamist zealots—and so they have difficulty explaining what’s going on in the world.
My main evidentiary basis for this claim is the amazingly long list of links that comes up when you Google “Islamophobia.” Many of them are phobic; I focus on the anti-phobic links, and so I have entered the online world of the left. It is a large and exciting world, highly diverse, inhabited mostly by people new to me. It’s also a little disheartening, because many of the pathologies of the extra-internet left haven’t disappeared online. Obviously, there is no left collective, on or off the internet, but the people I am writing about constitute a significant leftist coterie, and none of them are worrying enough about the politics of contemporary religion or about radical Islamist politics.
For myself, I live with a generalized fear of every form of religious militancy. I am afraid of Hindutva zealots in India, of messianic Zionists in Israel, and of rampaging Buddhist monks in Myanmar. But I admit that I am most afraid of Islamist zealots because the Islamic world at this moment in time (not always, not forever) is especially feverish and fervent. Indeed, the politically engaged Islamist zealots can best be understood as today’s crusaders.
BV: I wonder if Walzer's fear extends to every form of ideological militancy, including anti-religious militancy such as communist militancy. If not, why not? If not, why the double standard?
Walzer needs to be reminded that we conservatives also harbor a rational fear, a fear of leftists who have no problem with using the awesome power of the state to destroy the liberties of individuals.
There is also a distinction that needs to be made and I don't see Walzer making it. It is the difference between 'rampaging,' say, because your religion enjoins such behavior and 'rampaging' in defense of your life and livelihood and religion. Islamic doctrine enjoins violent jihad; there is no Buddhist equivalent. This distinction at the level of doctrine is crucial and must not be ignored. Doctrine is not mere verbiage; doctrine is at the root of action.
Walzer is equivocating on 'religious militancy.' If some Buddhist monks go on a rampage, then, that could be called religious militancy, but not in the same sense in which Muslim destroyers of Buddhist statuary or Muslim beheaders of Christians are religiously militant. For in the latter case the militancy flows from the tenets of their religion -- which is not the case in Buddhism.
Can Islamist zealots best be understood as today's crusaders? Hardly. For one thing, this ignores the fact that the Crusades were a response to Islamic jihad.
[. . .]
The Christian Crusades have sometimes been described as the first example of Islamophobia in the history of the West. The crusaders were driven by an irrational fear of Islam.
This is absurd. The Crusades were a defensive response to a Muslim land-grab. If someone grabs your land, is your fear of that party irrational? There is no point in going on with this. While Walzer is not a bad as the typical leftist loon, he has already made enough mistakes to justify my wishing him a fond fare well.
This from a graduate student whose paper I posted:
Shortly after you posted my paper, I got an email from a friend who also reads your blog. My friend wondered if this was, all things considered, bad for my chances on the job market. He thinks in this age of Google searches, having my name come up on your blog will be viewed negatively by some hiring committees, given that most are leftists. It is completely absurd to me that someone might chuck my application in the trash just because they see a serious metaphysics post on a blog that defends conservative views some of the time, and I'm quite happy to have my name associated with yours, but I was wondering what you thought.
Might it be better to change the post and title a little so it doesn't mention my full name? If it is indeed true that some departments would not hire me because of this post, there is a significant part of me that doesn't want to work with such people anyway, but then there is another part of me that loves teaching philosophy enough that I'd be willing to try to put up with such people, at least for a while. I don't know. I'm not terribly worried about it at this moment, since I won't be on the job market until fall of 2016.
I did remove the author's name out of concern for his prospects. I suspect his friend has a better understanding of how bad things have become than he does. The universities have become leftist seminaries. The few exceptions prove the rule. And where there are leftists there is political correctness and the party line. Anyone who refuses to toe it, anyone who thinks independently and critically and speaks out against leftist excesses and outright inanities runs a serious career risk. But even if one does not speak out, and is only tenuously associated with a website that publishes some conservative material, one is at risk.
I've made mine, so I can afford to speak the truth. A little courage is involved, but not much. I cannot recommend that people who are young or starting out take career-destroying risks. And I ought not expose them to danger. Never underestimate how vicious and vindictive leftists can be. The case of Brian Leiter is very instructive. Details of some of his recent antics here.
And don't ever underestimate the lengths of lunacy to which lefties will go. Recent example: CUNY. Morris Raphael Cohen must be rolling over in his grave.
Graduate students in a philosophy department somewhere in the English-speaking world did some online sleuthing about a job candidate for a position in their department, and learned that the candidate seems to hold views they find offensive. In particular, they found reports (including alleged quotes) that the candidate had expressed in online fora the view that homosexual acts and premarital sex are immoral.
It is a good thing Immanuel Kant did not apply to this department. He holds that "Every form of sexual indulgence, except in marriage, is a misuse of sexuality and so a crimen carnis." (Lectures on Ethics, tr. Infield, Hackett, p. 169.)
Over at NRO, I found this in an otherwise very good column by Charles C. W. Cooke:
I daresay that if I had been in any of the situations that DeBoer describes, I would have walked happily out of the class. Why? Well, because there is simply nothing to be gained from arguing with people who believe that it is reasonable to treat those who use the word “disabled” as we treat those who use the word “n***er” . . . .
Isn't this precious? Cooke shows that he owns a pair of cojones throughout the column but then he gets queasy when it comes to 'nigger.' Why? Would he similarly tip-toe around 'kike' or 'dago'? I doubt it. It is clear that he is aware of the difference between using a word to refer to something and talking about the word. Philosophers call this the use-mention distinction. Call it whatever you like, but observe it.
True: 'Boston' is disyllabic. False: Boston is disyllabic. True: Boston is populous. False: 'Boston' is populous.
Consider the following sentence
Some blacks refer to other blacks using the word 'nigger.'
The sentence is true. Now of course I do not maintain that a sentence's being true justifies its assertive utterance in every situation. The above sentence, although appropriately asserted in the present context where a serious and important point is being made, would not be appropriately asserted in any number of other easily imagined contexts.
But suppose that you take offense at the above sentence. Well, then, you have taken inappropriate and unjustified offense, and your foolishness offends me! Why is my being objectively offended of less significance than your being merely subjectively offended? Your willful stupidity justifies my mockery and derision. One should not give offense without a good reason. But your taking inappropriate offense is not my problem but yours.
In this regard there is no substitute for sound common sense, a commodity which unfortunately is in short supply on the Left. You can test whether you have sound common sense by whether or not you agree with the boring points I make in such entries as the following:
Thomas Sowell points to central planning. I would add that the 'progressive' conviction that people are basically good along with the concomitant conviction that there is no such thing as radical evil is also deeply delusional, and also dangerously delusional.
Sowell also has wise things to say about 'under-representation' and 'over-representation.'
Do libertarians have a central delusion? I should think so. It is the tendency wildly to exaggerate the number of people who know their own long-term best interest. To properly qualify and explain this claim requires a separate entry.
I heard Nicholas Kristof use the phrase the other night. But is there such a thing as religious profiling?
I have argued that there is no such thing as racial profiling. The gist of my argument is that while race can be an element in a profile, it cannot itself be a profile. A profile cannot consist of just one characteristic. I can profile you, but it makes no sense racially to profile you. Similarly, apparel can be an element in a profile; it cannot be a profile. I can profile you, but it makes no sense sartorially to profile you.
The same holds for so-called religious profiling. There is no such thing. Religious affiliation can be an element in a profile but it cannot itself be a profile. A profile cannot consist of just one characteristic. I can profile you, but it makes no sense religiously to profile you, or to profile you in respect of your religion.
There are 1.6 billion or so Muslims. They are not all terrorists. That is perfectly obvious, so obvious in fact that it doesn't need to be said. After all, no one maintains that all Muslims are terrorists. But it is equally obvious, or at least should be, that the vast majority of the terrorists in the world at the present time are Muslims. To put it as tersely as possible: Not all Muslims are terrorists, but most terrorists are Muslims.
It is this fact that justifies using religion as one element in a terrorist profile. For given the fact that most terrorists are Muslims, the probability that a Muslim trying to get through airport security is a terrorist is higher than the the probability that a Buddhist trying to get through airport security is a terrorist.
Or consider the sweet little old Mormon matron from Salt Lake City headed to Omaha to visit her grandkiddies. Compare her to the twenty-something Egyptian male from Cairo bound for New York City. Who is more likely to be a terrorist? Clearly, the probability is going to be very low in both cases, but in which case will it be lower? You know the answer. Liberals know it too, but they don't want to admit it. The answer doesn't fit their 'narrative.' According to the narrative, we are all the same despite our wonderful diversity. We are all equally inclined to commit terrorist acts. Well, I wish it were true. But it is not true. Liberals know it is not true just as well as we conservatives do. But they can't admit that it is true because it would upset their 'narrative.' And that narrative is what they live for and -- may well die for. A terrorist 'event' may well be coming to a theater near them, especially if they live in New York City.
It is the same with Muslims as with blacks. Blacks, proportionally, are much more criminally prone than whites. That is a well-known fact. And as I have said more than once, a fact about race is not a racist fact. There are facts about race but no racist facts. There are truths about race, but no racist truths. The truth that blacks as a group are more criminally prone than whites as a group is what justifies criminal profiling with race being one element in the profile.
Again, there is no such thing as racial profiling; what there is is criminal profiling with race being one element in the profile.
There are two mistakes that Kristof makes. He uses the unmeaning phrase 'religious profiling.' Worse, he think there is something wrong with terrorist and criminal profiling, when it is clear that there isn't.
But Kristof's heart is in the right place. He doesn't want innocent Muslims to suffer reprisals because of the actions of a few. Well, I don't either. I have Turkish Muslim friends. I met Zuhdi Jasser a while back. (The sentence I just wrote is logically independent of the one immediately preceding it.) Perhaps you have seen him on The O'Reilly Factor. An outstanding man, a most admirable Muslim man. May peace be upon him and no harm come to him. I mean that sincerely.
London Karl is a young Irishman living in London. I had heard that Birmingham is a 'no go' zone, so I asked London Ed about it. Ed told me that it is 80% 'no go' but that nobody would want to go there anyway: it is rainy and like Detroit. When I mentioned this to London Karl, he wrote back:
Funny you mention Birmingham. I went there for the first time on Saturday. It has a reputation for having a large Asian, Black, and Muslim population, and this was certainly very noticeable on the streets. I also saw the usual table on the main thoroughfare with Muslims handing out free Korans and Islamic literature, with a few Whites availing. One could say this was insensitive, given what was going on in Paris, or one could say that it was non-violent Muslims trying to ensure their faith was not being confounded with that of the terrorists.
Actually, the real ghettos in England are further north. An acquaintance of mine lectured in the University at Bradford, and told me it was a nightmare, as large numbers of the undergrad intake couldn't even speak, let alone write, English! He was instructed by the admins to pass them anyway, as if he didn't, there would be the inevitable 'racist' outcry. Unfortunately the press are so soft and PC in the UK that anyone who even raises legitimate fears is immediately slapped with the 'racist' tag, as indeed is the case in Ireland.
I think one thing people are underestimating is that it only takes small bands of dedicated elitists to change the course of history and certainly the history of ideas and religion. Think of Christians in the first three centuries, Protestants in the 16th, French revolutionaries, Nazis, Bolsheviks etc.
Karl is quite right and wise beyond his years: it only takes a few to bring about huge changes some of which eventuate in disaster. This is why decent people ought not sit back and do nothing. You must do your bit. Speak out. Vote. Blog.
It doesn't take much to shut down a great city such as Paris or Boston. A pressure-cooker bomb, an armed assault of an editorial office by a few Muslim fanatics. What are you PC-ers waiting for? A nuclear event in Manhattan? Do you think that might make a dent in your precious 'lifestyle.'
You say it is "unimaginable"? Then I suggest your powers of imagination are weak. People said the same about 9/11 before 9/11 became 9/11.
The quality of 'elite' publications such as The New Yorker leaves a lot to be desired these days. Adam Gopnik's recent outburst on Newtown is one more example of a downward trend: it is so breathtakingly bad that I am tempted to snark: "I can't breathe!" Could Gopnik really be as willfully stupid as the author of this piece? Or perhaps he was drunk when he posted his screed one minute after midnight on January 1st.
Again I ask myself: why is the quality of conservative commentary so vastly superior to the stuff on the Left?
A tip of the hat and a Happy New Year! to Malcolm Pollack from whom I snagged the above hyperlinks. Malcolm is a very good writer as you can see from this paragraph:
The New Yorker‘s essayist Adam Gopnik — whom I have always considered to be quite lavishly talented, despite his dainty and epicene style — beclowned himself one minute into this New Year with a stupendously mawkish item on gun control. It is so bad, in fact — so completely barren of fact, rational argument, or indeed any serious intellectual effort whatsoever — that I was startled, and frankly saddened, to see it in print. It is the cognitive equivalent, if one can imagine such a thing hoisted into Mr. Gopnik’s rarefied belletrist milieu, of yelling “BOSTON SUCKS” at a Yankees-Red Sox game, at a time when Boston leads the division by eleven games.
Leftists like to call themselves 'progressives.' We can't begrudge them their self-appellation any more than we can begrudge the Randians their calling themselves 'objectivists.' Every person and every movement has the right to portray himself or itself favorably and self-servingly. "We are objective in our approach, unlike you mystics."
But if you are progressive, why are you stuck in the past when it comes to race? Progress has been made in this area; why do you deny the progress that has been made? Why do you hanker after the old days?
It is a bit of a paradox: 'progressives' -- to acquiesce for the nonce in the use of this self-serving moniker -- routinely accuse conservatives of wanting to 'turn back the clock,' on a number of issues such as abortion. But they do precisely that themselves on the question of race relations. They apparently yearn for the bad old Jim Crow days of the 1950s and '60s when they had truth and right on their side and the conservatives of those days were either wrong or silent or simply uncaring. Those great civil rights battles were fought and they were won, in no small measure due to the help of whites including whites such as Charlton Heston whom the Left later vilified. (In this video clip Heston speaks out for civil rights.) Necessary reforms were made. But then things changed and the civil rights movement became a hustle to be exploited for fame and profit and power by the likes of the race-baiters Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.
Read almost any race screed at The Nation and similar lefty sites and you wil find endless references to slavery and lynchings and Jim Crow as if these things are still with us. You will read how Trayvon Martin is a latter-day Emmett Till et cetera ad nauseam.
For a race-hustler like Jesse Jackson, It Is Always Selma Again. Brothers Jesse and Al and Co. are stuck inside of Selma with the Oxford blues again.
In case you missed the allusions, it is to Bob Dylan's 1962 Freewheelin' Bob Dylan track, "Oxford Town" and his 1966 Blonde on Blonde track, "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again."
Wake up you 'progressive' Rip van Winkles! It is not 1965 any more.
I now hand off to Rich Lowry who comments on the movie Selma.
Our friend Mike provides us with an accurate overview of this pernicious Weltanshauung and rightly points out that it is by no means dead but (as I would put it) enjoys a healthy afterlife in those leftist seminaries called universities, but not only there:
I am convinced that ML [Marxism-Leninism] is alive and well in spite of the death of the Soviet Union. It has assumed new forms, discarded some ideas, taken some new ones on, but its spirit is healthy. Its spirit is essentially a collectivist one that does the following: It affirms that Man is infinitely malleable rather than limited by his nature, it denigrates individualism for the sake of collectivism, it de-emphasizes personal responsibility by making our behavior depend on things outside of our control, it relatives truth and morality by making them functions of group membership, it corrodes liberty for the sake of equality of results, it advocates the silencing of political opponents, and it is virulently anti-American (and anti-Israel, for that matter).
Many characteristics of ML are present in vibrant abundance among a large number of political movements, particularly its hatred of capitalism and its emphasis on ‘imperialism.’ These political movements include the environmentalist movement, the Occupy Wall Street movement, the sustainability movement, the social justice movement, the social equity movement, the discipline of Sociology, nearly any academic discipline with the word “Studies” in it, and so on and on. ‘Political Correctness’ is a phrase that we rightfully use disparagingly to refer to any number of aggressively Leftist movements and tendencies that threaten the value of liberty.
Or, as I like to say, PC comes from the CP. Valle goes on to ask why Marxist-Leninist ideas retain their appeal and concludes with four important truths:
You may well reject my path, but what is most important is that you do not abandon these four beliefs: There is objective truth, there is an objective morality to which you are bound, human freedom is real, and we must all be held personally morally accountable for our actions. These four beliefs will inoculate anyone against the twin poisons of collectivism and postmodernism.
He's baaack, bearing 'gifts.' Professor Christian Munthe has the story:
Remember The September Statement from earlier this year, signed by 648 academic philosophers in North America and elsewhere against Chicago philosopher and law professor Brian Leiter's unacceptable treatment of his UBC colleague Carrie Ichikawa-Jenkins, ending in Leiter's statement of resignation from the institutional ranking operation he had founded and coordinated up till then, the Philosophical Gourmet Report? If not, a recapture of some of the essential of this sad and disgraceful story is here (start at the bottom to get the adequate chronology). This detailed chronological account is also rewarding.
One would have thought that after this, Brian Leiter would prefer to lay dead and lick his wounds for a while, waiting for the memory of the scandal and his own disgrace to settle, and maybe find new pathways to having himself feel good about himself besides bullying and threatening (apparently mostly female) academic colleagues for one of the other, more or less fathomable, reason found by him to justify such behaviour. Maybe do something meriting a minimal portion of admiration and respect from academic colleagues, perhaps?
Not so at all.
As revealed on Christmas eve by Jonathan Ichikawa-Jenkins, Carrie's husband, Leiter has recently had a Canadian lawyer send a letter to them both, threatening with a defamation lawsuit unless they publicly post a "proposed statement" of apology to Leiter, with the specifically nasty ingredient of a specific threat that such a suit would imply " “a full airing of the issues and the cause or causes of [Carrie’s] medical condition;”. Moreover, the letter asks the Ichikawa-Jenkins to apologise not only for the personal declaration of professional ethos that made no mention of Brian Leiter whatsoever but that for some reason – to me still incomprehensible as long as a deeply suppressed guilty conscience or outright pathology is not pondered – to to be an attack on his person, but also for the actions of other people, such as this post at the Feminist Philosophers blog, and The September Statement itself – implying obviously that all the signatories to that statement would be in the crosshairs of professor Leiter. The full letter of the lawyer setting out these threats is here. The (expected) response from the Ichikawa-Jenkins' lawyer is here, stating the simple and obvious claim that all that's been publicly communicated on this matter – such as making public bullying emails of Leiter – is protected by normal statutes of freedom of speech.
Via John Pepple, I just learned that John McAdams, a tenured associate professor of political science at Marquette University, has been suspended with pay and barred from campus for criticizing a graduate student philosophy teacher who shut down a classroom conversation on gay marriage. As McAdams puts it at his weblog Marquette Warrior:
This incident further illustrates what I mean when I say that the universities of the land, most of them, have become leftist seminaries and hotbeds of political correctness. The behavior of the philosophy instructor illustrates the truth that there is little that is classically liberal about contemporary liberals.
The implicit logic of the Draft Warren movement is that after eight years of the Obama presidency, the American people want to move . . . further left.
Well said, my man. And this too:
Amid the recent, violent anti-police protests (whose political consequences will be real but unmeasurable), Smith College President Kathleen McCartney sent the student body an email titled, “All Lives Matter.” The phrase horrified Smith students. Her words, they said, diminished black lives. They demanded that Ms. McCartney issue a public apology. Which she did. This is a scene straight out of the public shamings of officials in China under Mao Zedong.
But Chairman Mao did get one thing right: the line about power emanating from the barrel of a gun. Another reason why the Democrat stupidos are stupid, one not mentioned by Henninger, is that their recent antics are fueling gun and ammo sales. (Pew Research Center report) Why on earth would any citizen need an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle? How about this: to protect oneself, one's family, and one's business against looters and arsonists on the rampage egged on aand enabled by race-baiting, rabble-rousing, hate-America leftist scumbags who undermine the police and contribute to a climate in which people need to take over their own defense. The Obama Admininstration's assault on the rule of law motivates the right-thinking to arm themselves.
By the way, libs and lefties routinely elide the semi-auto vs. full-auto distinction. It is not that they are ignorant of it, or too stupid to understand it; it is worse: they are deeply mendacious and will use any means to further their agenda. Never forget: PC comes from the CP. The end justifies the means. It is on all fours with their elision of the legal vs. illegal immigrant distinction. It is not that lefties are ignorant of it, or too stupid to understand it, etc.
Getting back to 'Fauxcahontas', here is an entry from 21 May 2012:
Let's assume the 1894 document is accurate. That makes Warren one-thirty-second Native American. George Zimmerman, the Florida accused murderer, had a black grandmother. That makes him a quarter black, four times as black as Warren is Indian, though The New York Times describes him as a "white Hispanic."
In the upside-down world of the liberal, the 'white Hispanic' George Zimmerman is transmogrified into a redneck and the lily-white Elizabeth Warren into a redskin.
The Left's diversity fetishism is so preternaturally boneheaded that one has to wonder whether calm critique has any place at all in responses to it. But being somewhat naive, I have been known to try rational persuasion. See Diversity and the Quota Mentality for one example.
Of course they do. All lives matter. Black lives, white lives, yellow lives, red lives, even redneck lives. And let's not forget the lives of black cops. They too matter. Did someone well-placed proclaim that black lives don't matter? Who? When? Where can I find him?
All lives matter. It follows that black lives matter, including the lives of the peaceful, law-abiding, hard-working black residents of Ferguson, Missouri. And because these black lives matter, it matters that laws be enforced. All reasonable laws from traffic laws to laws against looting and arson.
As if to prove once again that that there is no coward like a university administrator, Smith College President Kathleen McCartney, after having said in an e-mail to students that all lives matter, has retracted her statement and apologized.
Horribile dictu. And yet another proof that the universities of the land, most of them, have turned into leftist seminaries and hothouses of political correctness. And yet another example of abdication of authority.
And so I pinch myself once again. Am I awake? Or is this all a bad dream? Could this stuff really be happening?
Memo to President McCartney: grow a pair, or the female equivalent thereof. You don't apologize for speaking the truth; you stand up for the truth and fight back against the the foolish know-nothings who you are supposed to be 'educating.'
"If the product is so superior, why does it have to live on the tit of the State?" (Charles Krauthammer)
One answer is that the booboisie of these United States is too backward and benighted to appreciate the high level of NPR programming. The rubes of fly-over country are too much enamoured of wrestling, tractor pulls, and reality shows, and, to be blunt, too stupid and lazy to take in superior product.
Being something of an elitist myself, I am sympathetic to this answer. The problem for me is twofold. NPR is run by lefties for lefties. That in itself is not a problem. But it is a most serious problem when part of the funding comes from the taxpayer. But lefties, blind to their own bias, don't see the problem. Very simply, it is wrong to take money by force from people and then use it to promote causes that those people find offensive or worse when the causes have nothing to do with the legitimate functions of government. Planned Parenthood and abortion. NEA and "Piss Christ." Get it?
Second, we are in fiscal crisis. If we can't remove NPR from the "tit of the State," from the milky mammaries of massive Mama Obama government, what outfit can we remove from said mammaries? If we can't zero out NPR how are we going to cut back on the 'entitlement' programs such as Social Security?
Ah, but no one wants to talk about a real crisis when there is 'Ferguson' to talk about.
Don't get me wrong. I like or rather liked "Car Talk" despite the paucity of automotive advice and the excess of joking around. I even like the PBS "Keeping Up Appearances" in small doses. But if frivolous flab like this can't be excised, what can?