Free speech and anti-Trump “protesters”

There are those who have defended the Bernie Sanders’ supporters, members of and the students of the University of Illinois-Chicago who shut down the Donald Trump rally in the Windy City as merely exercising their right to free speech. At the worst, this claim is dangerously incorrect, and at best, it’s grossly misleading. Some exfoliation is needed then.

Most charitably, it’s deceptive because while these malcontents do have the right to protest Trump on-site, they are stipulated to do it peacefully. They don’t have a carte blanche to engage in malicious actions, namely harassing those who came to see the Republican front runner and thereby molesting Trump and his supporters’ rights to assembly and speech.

And what did these “patriots” do? Precisely the sort of behaviors from which they are both legally and morally prohibited. Hence, one reason the sentiment is a grave falsehood. Though, there’s more.

As hinted above, contrary to popular belief, speech and expression is not absolutely unfettered and for good reasons. Defamation and libel laws come to mind. Furthermore, there’s issues concerning obscenity and public danger.

For the former, yelling the profane “Fuck Trump!” is difficult to construe as protected speech. And although what counts as obscenity is still up for debate among legal scholars, the Supreme Court has never considered what qualifies as under First Amendment protection.

Working even more to its disadvantage, the crass phrase pretty much summarizes the lack of a coherent idea ready for expression within the protesters. It betrays the inchoate urges that amounts to just a vehement recoil from The Donald—a purified coal seething of anti-Trump sentiment that belies a very feral temperament. “Fuck Trump!” is the magma bubbling up to the surface in the crudest manner possible. Unrefined, such a nugget of molten vulgarity directed at anyone adds nothing to the national conversation—in point of fact, it degrades it—and in some contexts, puts people in danger, bringing me to the latter.

Expression that incites rioting and panic is also not protected. Shouting “Fire!” in a crowded theater is the classic example, or more recently, pulling the fire alarm in an attempt to prevent Ben Shapiro from speaking at California State University-Los Angeles. Including Chicago, in each case, there was an implicit threat of violence in the unruly mob that manifested. Aggregated as a whole, the rabble-rousers endanger themselves, the non-belicose protesters and the supporters of the controversial men who came to speak.

Hence, it’s not at all unjustified to call the Leftists who live Alinsky exactly what they are—enemies. Democracy can’t function if these reprobates’ actions are treated as acceptable or understandable. History actually shows it doesn’t. As mentioned previously, the Nazis did the same sort of things against political opponents to rig elections, conquering the Reichstag and bringing Hitler into power.

It’s disgusting Orwellian mendacity to claim Trump and the majority of his voters are the new fascists. Totalitarians like fascists aren’t bullied; they’re the bullies. The only ones bullying here on a mass scale—organizing to intimidate and silence dissenters and aggressively cornering the marketplace of ideas—are the folks who preach “tolerance,” “inclusiveness,” “diversity.” The irony is really not at all unexpected coming from a lot so intellectually and morally effete their ululations of comparison demean the millions who suffered and perished due to the Third Reich’s barbarism as just the latest sample of stunted denouncements delivered down from sandcastle parapets.

These moral “giants” must be made low so as to preempt them from treading as tyrants on us all.


Modus Pownens

Confessions of a cis, straight, white, able Christian bigot of the patriarchy

My prompt. In the hope of facilitating better understanding in a lowish confrontational manner, what follows are the slightly tongue-in-cheek, slightly stern thoughts of someone on the other side of “social justice.”

  1. I too never have been on Tumblr. Sounds like a scary place where I would have my online head rended from my cyber shoulders and put on a pike as a prop for social justice selfies and other revels from the culture wars. I do have Facebook and Twitter accounts, but I’m pretty much comatose on them. With that said, I probably should revive myself and reconnect with some peeps from college I dearly miss.
  2. As a peer-proclaimed racist, sexist, homophobe, xenophobe, Islamophobe, transphobe, all-around horrible person, who’s among the worst of the worst — the proverbial villainous lord of social injustice to the gallant social justice warrior in the fairy tale narrative — I do find it insulting to be decried as the scourge of the earth. No one likes being the subject of slander. In accordance with my view, minorities are undoubtedly human beings worthy of respect. I just disagree with the self-appointed “experts” and their advocacy as to what’s truly best for these people’s participation in our democracy. Additionally, I emphatically disagree that everyone must comply by the dubious “wisdom” of these “enlightened” “visionaries” on these matters, especially from my perspective, after all the stupefying rhetoric is stripped away, the only reason to adhere to their dogmas precisely amounts to the triviality that they’re the ones who hold them, which of course is no legitimate reason at all.
  3. Every time I’m chastised for not being “respectful” but “hateful,” failing to “check my privilege,” not “treating others like humans,” i.e. not being politically correct (PC), I shrug. Sure, there is a small sting from being slandered, but that subsides.
    1. What remains after enduring a self-serving semantic cudgel is the absence of any real meaning in the epithet. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I’mracist,” but so apparently are the Oscars, that Super Bowl Prius commercial, criticizing Cam Newton and Bing Crosby’s “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.” There’s individual acts of racism like slurs, but also “institutional,” “structural” and “systemic” racism as well as “cultural oppression.” Yet, no effort is made from activists to distinguish between or define all these evils. We get it: Everything is racist from the bottom up; injustice is comprehensively sewn in the fabric of society. As a consequence, apart from the moral obtuseness of freaking out at perceived slights as “violence” normatively equivalent to the physical variety we usually associate with the word, all this overuse and linguistic stretching renders the term “racist” and others like it useless as descriptive labels of meaning. Instead, voided of semantic content, they have become merely prescriptive bludgeons of use, deployed to sabotage honest deliberation between disagreeing parties. As such, remedying injustice actually suffers because much of our civil lexicon is now defunct and non-descriptive. It doesn’t describe or indicate anything — perhaps expect one’s moral approval or disapproval of something — and if we can’t describe and accurately identify injustice, we can’t address it nor resolve issues birthed from it. “Bigotry/bigots,” “sexism/sexists” and “racism/racists” etc. are tokens of a very much valueless currency. As such, they are thrown as if business transactions have functionally devolved to individuals chucking coins, which no longer work like legal tender, as projectiles at one another. Sure, getting struck hurts, but the discomfort is minimal, while the act itself is an exercise in maximal puerility and futility. I strongly suspect this is the dysfunctional state of dialectical exchange in our “marketplace of ideas.”
    2. Abuse of these terms also anesthetizes people to more virulent and empirical injustices and problems, while demeaning those who had to and do suffer them. For example, you’re for same-sex marriage, but how does that exactly curb domestic violence, eating disorders and substance abuse for homosexuals? Likewise, is getting Dan Snyder to rename the Washington Redskins some type of silver bullet for ending alcoholism and widespread poverty in Native American communities? Moreover, deriding Israel as an “apartheid state” — it’s not, by the way, as Israeli Arabs are enfranchised and integrated citizens — degrades the experience of Nelson Mandela, Rosa Parks and other blacks who underwent Jim Crow, “separate but equal” and other similar-styled segregation in apartheid societies.
    3. Thusly, it’s amusing for me to see social justice warriors strut with a moral ascendancy and act as if observing PC orthodoxy is tantamount to “treating others as human beings.” Social justice analysis depends on categorizing people into groups or classes, fundamentally removing from them individuality and agency, phenomena that shouldn’t be flippantly dismissed from the human existential equation. Therefore, according to this framework, one is not a person able to forge his or her own path, bearing responsibility for one’s choices, but a victim or beneficiary of external deterministic forces beyond his or her control, nameless members in masses of blackness, whiteness, gayness, masculinity, femininity, etc. that are pitted against one another. One’s virtue in such conflicts is vicariously obtained from which group one is identified with. There are no complex individuals but statistics, urges or impulses. This seems like the dehumanization of people not the liberation thereof and all the while a perversion of the primary lesson of the civil rights movement: to be judged not by the content of one’s character but by the color of one’s skin or another superficial feature. Hence, as per 2, 3.1 and 3.2, social justice warrior confidence in their magnanimity seems to be largely unfounded and unearned. The views underlying it are just dubbed as “social justice,” and those who oppose their implementation are hastily ascribed as sociopaths. Calumny stemming from severe partiality for one’s own view hardly indicates foresight and rectitude but rather narcissistic shortsightedness and moral deficit.
  4. I agree that 7 billion people simultaneously can accomplish highly differentiated tasks of social importance. But it’s silly worrying about “privilege” — another term defined so broadly as to be useless and is only utilized to stigmatize any opposition, i.e. “check your privilege” — as morally more problematic than the actual empirical crises that defy mainstream media attention. It’s hard to see that demanding the removal of a bust of Thomas Jefferson from campus to combat white privilege and “cultural oppression,” for example, does anything to induce more black teenagers to graduate high school. Then why is this quixotic gesture a moral hill to die on? For mine eyes, it and other similar displays serve no greater purpose than further romancing a thoroughly inane cause, emotional masturbation for those delusional enough to believe in such grandstanding. Again, see 3.2.
  5. Neither am I a hippie nor an emotional wreck. I too have my issues, but I also try to be open-minded despite some of my polemics. I acknowledge that I’m ignorant on many subjects and concede the possibility I could be wrong in these matters. Ironically, I’m deemed emotionally stunted and psychoanalyzed as having irrational fears and prejudices for holding my views. It does not matter that I’ve tried to justify them with arguments — vehicles of reason and rationality. Historically, bigots tend not to attempt to reason with those they oppress and hate. They tend to sic dogs on or loose concussive torrents via firehose upon those they find subhuman.
  6. I must admit: I find trigger warnings to be the height of infantility. Pace our social justice warrior and her rather difficult-to-follow stream of conscious, they are not the equivalent to mere ratings of TV and film for a couple of reasons. Firstly, 18-year-olds, “adults” use them to censure both themselves and others in places like college where one is supposed to be exposed to ideas and worldviews that not only are different but perhaps are an anathema to one’s own sensibilities. Trigger warnings don’t preserve child-like innocence but perpetuate petulance instead of intellectual and emotional maturity. Secondly, trigger warnings are not stamped on truly inflammatory documents. Yes, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn feature slavery and “nigger,” but Twain’s classic is a literary case against slavery and racism. Likewise, Kant’s Critiques can be described as many things: A “Copernican” revolution, as I’m sure the sage of Koningsberg would have wanted, or boring to the typical philosophy undergrad. “Triggering,” however, is not among them and putting such a disclaimer on his work is asinine because Kant, who lived in the now extinct Prussia, could not abide by today’s PC categorical imperatives in his prose as he was blissfully unaware of them.
  7. On the contrary, I don’t hate anyone — even progressives with their benighted views — and I don’t feel any internal struggle to maintain such a demeanor. End of story. Though, as it’s very telling, this rant of a confession from my counterpart here really reads like psychological projection. For instance, on anti-feminists: “…it’s like they’re trying to be social pariah. Like, seriously. MRAs? Let’s insult as many people as possible and see how long it takes everybody to realise we’re nothing more than a hate group.” Now, I wouldn’t consider myself a men’s rights activist, as the justification behind the notion that men are really the oppressed ones uses just the same sort of broken analysis radical feminists rely upon, legitimizing the toxic methodology, yet the movement is the inevitable backlash to the type of intolerance so described. In other words, modern feminism, take a hard look in the mirror.
  8. Yes, I too have biases, but speaking for my bigoted self, I would never start from the assumption that, as a theist and social conservative, I’m predisposed against atheists qua atheists, feminists qua feminists or even social justice warriors qua social justice warriors, etc. Rather, I’m partial against atheism as a metaphysical position and feminism and other ideologies for “social justice” as philosophies and political movements. Obviously, there is a critical difference between the person and the view. So, I find it striking that this distinction seemingly is nonexistent for our social crusader here. As a professed atheist, feminist, LGBT activist, she is not biased against forms of theism, anti-feminism and traditional opinions on sexuality but against theists and those who are critical of feminism and have traditional view of sexuality. Her opposition is against people not positions. She does not distinguish between the two and cannot help but personalize things which are fundamentally not persons. Also note, she frames one debate as being only between two poles — feminists and non-feminists; there is no third option. Furthermore, she admits to wrestling with hatred against those she disagrees with and expresses what seemingly is irrational prejudice against heterosexuals. Again, all this is very telling, and thusly, I have reservations that she is fully aware of her bias. Now, how much of this Freudian slip is her being quirky with her writing? I don’t know, as much of what follows is rambling, but it’s in contrast to her proclamation of being “too logical.” One thing is for certain: These confessions, like many social justice manifestos, belie incoherence.
  9. I will “check my privilege” just as soon as social justice warriors “check their privilege” — the freedom to slander people without the fear or reality of suffering the social reproach it warrants. As per 3.1 and 4, this phrase is meaningless as it isn’t a description but a moral condemnation intent on beating possible ideological dissidents into line. Pray tell, should the black teenager living with two married parents check that privilege for the sake of the other 70% that don’t? Should said teenager prostrate him or herself in self-flagellation to the white trash, trailer park kid growing up with a single mother? After all, coming from an intact home is one of the most reliable metrics of individual success and financial independence.
    1. This term spurs further questions: How exactly does privilege or lack thereof confer de facto moral inferiority or superiority to such a person being who that person is? How is this is-ought gap crossed? Why should being white make me feel guilty? How is this blatant racist attitude justified? We’re equal, yes, in metaphysical worth, but variously unequal in physical and material terms. Naturally, some people are tall. Some are short. Many are average in height. Some are good-looking; some are ugly, but most people find mates. A few are rich; more are poor, but there’s also many who fall in between. There are the smart, the average and the gratuitously stupid. Each person is a composition of a myriad of these type of traits and can’t be merely reduced to a couple of them for accurate character evaluation. Anyway, I think you’re getting what I’m digging at. The concept of privilege, as referring to any unearned benefit from being who one is, is found to be so commonplace, so trivial, it describes nothing in particular, while the particulars its theorists do fixate on, e.g. sex, gender, skin color, weight, sexual orientation, etc., are too few and often too superficial to provide a comprehensive explanation as to why person A is well off while person B isn’t. Privilege is therefore descriptively useless. All that’s left is for it be another semantic bludgeon, but it remains very much a mystery to me as to why there should be any normative weight behind its swing.
  10. Of course we should avoid being hurtful and unnecessarily offending people. However, the problem is subjective grievance has become the basis of allocating millions of tax payer dollars at universities and making broad policy decisions for us all. The personal has become public. So, while we ought be courteous in our individual interactions, and I don’t doubt that social justice warriors nurse genuine hurt feelings, these aren’t nearly sufficient as reasons to cater to their large-scale demands. If they really want to have a conversation about race, the alleged patriarchy and such, they need substantially to invoke something more objective than anecdotal personal experience and outrage to change the world for the better. But if my above thoughts haven’t made it evident, I believe them to be incapable of the task. It’s not so much that I’m not unwilling to consider their case for “social justice,” but that I already have, and it frankly sucks.

Ah, it feels good to clear my conscious,

Modus Pownens

An open letter to the idiots who are ruining my alma mater, Mizzou (The University of Missouri)

Congratulations, Mizzou, UM System President Wolfe has resigned. Apparently, Chancellor Loftin is also on his way out. Due to the idiocy of a few despicable people, “change” has been imposed on everyone, both the innocent and guilty.

This result wasn’t a triumph of liberal ideals overcoming repressive conditions, but conversely, a renunciation of our Enlightenment heritage, a victory of sheer will and puerile emotivism. It wasn’t democratic deliberation but mob justice, pure and simple.

I submit it’s this dereliction of reason, not racism, that is the insidious threat that goes bump in the night at MU.

Are there significant numbers of racist minds, conscious or otherwise, on campus? Does MU’s collective culture foster these bigoted or “insensitive” attitudes and thereby “oppresses” – whatever that means – black and or minority students?

Perhaps, but neither activists citing a handful of events, no matter how unfortunate, unacceptable and publicized, over a span of several years on a campus of tens of thousands nor their allusions to personal anecdotes sufficiently demonstrates these alleged conclusions.

Moreover, their appeals to Michael Brown’s death and when MU enrolled its first black student compared to other universities, as presented, does not seem pertinent to the question whether MU is “institutionally racist” in the here and now.

Despite the insistence to the contrary, MU’s culpability is not at all obvious, as the accusations against the university are not particularly clear. A comprehensive and strong case that does not conflate individual acts of racism with an overarching system of racism must be given to substantiate the claims of “institutional” or “systemic racism,” “privilege,” “implicit bias,” etc. – whatever those phenomena are. They are frequently posited but hardly ever defined, perhaps except in self-serving ways that circumvent debate rather than contribute to it.

See, Jonathan Butler and company like to do a lot of telling but not a lot of showing, and to paraphrase a translation of a Latin proverb, what is gratuitously asserted, can be gratuitously denied.

As glaring as this inability to put forth an argument that does not suffer from equivocation, red herrings or other fallacies is, it’s all outdone by Butler and company’s habit of avoiding them all together as exemplified by their flair for begging—I mean burying the question underneath an avalanche of innuendo and demagoguery.

They have a great preference for sophistry over rationality, a tendency to resort to hashtag slogans instead of arguments and a fondness for ad hominem invective as a substitute for “respect” in dialogue, as apparently our institution’s value they clamor for only applies to them on their narrow terms.

For example, in the Missourian story headlined, “How MU has come face-to-face with racism on campus,” there’s the following quote: “’If you are white and you don’t recognize that there is oppression and you don’t do anything about it, you are part of the problem.’”

Within such a proclamation — the content of which has been similarly regurgitated in several places — there is no effort to convince or reason but to bludgeon. It’s not an argument. Even if constructed into one – “You’re not me (black); therefore, you’re wrong and the scum of the earth – is sheer Bulverism. Alas, this encapsulates the contemptible state of the one-side discourse surrounding this subject at MU.

Truly, Butler and his associates seemingly have no qualms about denouncing the community as being on “the wrong side of history” or resorting to other inflammatory epithets that, by implication, link us as morally comparable to the likes of Selma or Bull Connor. Yet, they don’t have the courtesy to provide a single fire hose, attacking dog or piece of evidence that typically or clearly characterizes a society built to disenfranchise, demean and or exploit a minority.

Hence, the calls for “discussion” are a mendacious joke, as most of everything that’s been uttered is a sweeping indictment that borders on calumny and seemingly is intended to engender compliance. If not assenting to our accusers’ narrative is an act of harm, i.e., “white silence is violence,” given their penchant for drama, then my dissent is likely to be construed as “genocide.”

Indeed, if not ignored, I expect to be excoriated as a racist, my subconscious “supremacist” impulses divined from my syntax, jargon and tone in a form of perverse literary psychoanalysis.

It does not matter that I don’t find the color of their skin appalling, only their methods and disdain for the truth by eschewing civil debate. My impassioned opposition would still be rushed forth as proof that further “change” is required, i.e. that #racismliveshere, but on the contrary, their zeal to demonize me only would vindicate my words.

Yet, instead of holding Butler and his cohorts accountable for their abhorrent discourse, as in forcing them to cease with the personal attacks, reconsider their assumptions and positions, nuance their claims — you know, thinking and not solely emoting – we’ve coddled their inanity and taught them the lesson that if one finger-points and cries “racist” loud enough, one gets to remake MU in his or her image.

In a whole institution supposedly systematically predisposed against them, constituent institution after constituent institution here rallied to Butler’s call, assuredly a siren song for any university founded on the liberal pillar of freedom of thought and expression in the pursuit of knowledge.

As our conduct over the last couple months, especially last week, shows, MU seemingly no longer values this principle. Instead of training critical thinkers inoculated against rhetorical manipulation, we are more interested in inculcating chronic feelers, who are not only susceptible to but enamored by it.

As such, I suspect the climate for academic freedom is about to get “chilly” here.

Undoubtedly, Wolfe lost his job not because MU did not seek and punish the perpetrators in those high profile incidents of racism, nor did it refrain from looking into legal repercussions when appropriate. The drunken student who interrupted the Legion of Black Collegians has been long removed from campus, the bizarre “Poop Swastika” prompted an immediate investigation by MUPD, Payton’s Head’s account of his drive-by slurring lacked details for any sort of lead. The university, in no way, tolerated these high-profile acts of racism.

Rather, he was excommunicated because he did not partake in Butler and his allies’ level of outrage; he was not a true believer, and for them to catalyze their “change” onto the rest of us, they needed someone more amenable to their views as system president.

Now who’s to say this episode can’t and won’t happen to anyone here again. Apparently, Wolfe’s failure to acknowledge them as legitimate by not getting out of a car was the proximate cause for the calls for his head, yet, at the time, these activists, with their diatribe delivered by bullhorn, seemed intransigent to interruption of any kind during Homecoming.

If Wolfe’s example is any indication, each member of the faculty, staff and student body better take care with every glance, word and thought. And yes, our mental contents have been deemed inappropriate, as diversity training always justifies itself on the supposition that those in need of it have both “offensive” thoughts and subconscious urges in need of purging, lest we create an “unsafe” environment manifested by our speech, actions or lack thereof.

Make no mistake: We’ve just abdicated MU to ideologues who not only see a mere hint of disagreement with them as tantamount to a hate crime but find racism, discrimination and insensitivity anywhere and everywhere. They perceive “prejudice” in body language, such as how fast one walks while acting to assist them. They feel “oppression” from Thomas Jefferson’s statue off the Quad. No amount of catering to their demands, e.g., diversity re-education, hiring quotas or Wolfe’s resignation, more social justice centers, will ever make this institution suitable to their totalitarian standards.

Moreover, it’s safe to presume they have no idea what an ideal MU looks like. Whether Butler and his compatriots realize it or not, “change” for the sake of “change” has become the end in itself for everything they do. As their behavior and linguistic mischief illustrates, they’re about subversion, not transformation. They’re destroyers, not reformers. By appeasing them, we’ve shackled ourselves to their capricious will and its increasingly insatiable and punitive whims searching for higher education utopia.

To borrow from Arthur Miller, “We are what we always were in Mizzou, but now the little crazy children are jangling the keys of the kingdom, and common vengeance writes the law!”. We are flirting with a puritanical hysteria that might not make Joseph McCarthy blush, but I find my face flushed in a couple of ways for a multitude of reasons.

Butler is finally eating food again, which, of course is good. No one wanted to see him starve to death, but he, his allies and enablers really never stopped feasting, as this institution cannibalizes itself.

Modus Pownens

Rorty on the role of college indoctrinat–I mean education

It’s an old post, but I recently discovered this nugget on Edward Feser’s blog about a unnerving passage attributable to the late American pragmaticist philosopher Richard Rorty and his casual musings monologue (it’s more villainous) on the general schema of college education and his view of himself within it (added emphasis mine):

It seems to me that the regulative idea that we—we…liberals, we heirs of the Enlightenment, we Socratists—most frequently use to criticize the conduct of various conversational partners is that of “needing education in order to outgrow their primitive fear, hatreds, and superstitions.” This is the concept the victorious Allied armies used when they set about re-educating the citizens of occupied Germany and Japan. It is also the one which was used by American schoolteachers who had read Dewey and were concerned to get students to think ‘scientifically’ and ‘rationally’ about such matters as the origin of the species and sexual behavor [sic] (that is, to get them to read Darwin and Freud without disgust and incredulity). It is a concept which I, like most Americans who teach humanities or social science in colleges and universities, invoke when we try to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic, religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own.

What is the relation of this idea to the regulative idea of ‘reason’ which Putnam believes to be transcendent and which Habermas believes to be discoverable within the grammar of concepts ineliminable from our description of the making of assertions? The answer to that question depends upon how much the re-education of Nazis and fundamentalists has to do with merging interpretive horizons and how much with replacing such horizons. The fundamentalist parents of our fundamentalist students think that the entire “American liberal establishment” is engaged in a conspiracy. Had they read Habermas, these people would say that the typical communication situation in American college classrooms is no more herrschaftsfrei [domination free] than that in the Hitler Youth camps.

These parents have a point. Their point is that we liberal teachers no more feel in a symmetrical communication situation when we talk with bigots than do kindergarten teachers talking with their students….When we American college teachers encounter religious fundamentalists, we do not consider the possibility of reformulating our own practices of justification so as to give more weight to the authority of the Christian scriptures. Instead, we do our best to convince these students of the benefits of secularization. We assign first-person accounts of growing up homosexual to our homophobic students for the same reasons that German schoolteachers in the postwar period assigned The Diary of Anne Frank.

Putnam and Habermas can rejoin that we teachers do our best to be Socratic, to get our job of re-education, secularization, and liberalization done by conversational exchange. That is true up to a point, but what about assigning books like Black Boy, The Diary of Anne Frank, and Becoming a Man? The racist or fundamentalist parents of our students say that in a truly democratic society the students should not be forced to read books by such people—black people, Jewish people, homosexual people. They will protest that these books are being jammed down their children’s throats. I cannot see how to reply to this charge without saying something like “There are credentials for admission to our democratic society, credentials which we liberals have been making more stringent by doing our best to excommunicate racists, male chauvinists, homophobes, and the like. You have to be educated in order to be a citizen of our society, a participant in our conversation, someone with whom we can envisage merging our horizons. So we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable. We are not so inclusivist as to tolerate intolerance such as yours.”

I have no trouble offering this reply, since I do not claim to make the distinction between education and conversation on the basis of anything except my loyalty to a particular community, a community whose interests required re-educating the Hitler Youth in 1945 and required re-educating the bigoted students of Virginia in 1993. I don’t see anything herrschaftsfrei about my handling of my fundamentalist students. Rather, I think those students are lucky to find themselves under the benevolent Herrschaft of people like me, and to have escaped the grip of their frightening, vicious, dangerous parents. It seems to me that I am just as provincial and contextualist as the Nazi teachers who made their students read Der Stürmer; the only difference is that I serve a better cause. I come from a better province.

Pretty brutal, honest words that cause me to reflect on my time at the academy. I can think of a handful of classes that aimed to cure me of my superstitious filled bigotries. It also causes me to wonder on the introductory philosophy course I took: Why did we skip the Presocratics, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, Augustine, the Scholastics, more than 2,000 years of Western thought, and instead dive into Hume’s Dialogues Concerning Natural Religion as the first substantive and maybe one of the few works of philosophy we freshmen and sophomores would ever study? Is it because discussing the existence of God is a provocative topic that might interest a couple hundred millennials with low attention spans, or was it a bias for Hume’s epistemology that’s partial, though superficially, to secularism? Why did we spend only our time on the moderns, the implication being this is when real philosophy started? Is it because everything, prior to Descartes, at least lots of it, to borrow a phrase from Rorty, “give(s) more weight to the authority of the Christian scriptures,” and we can’t have that?

Upon reading Rorty’s confession here, I’m inclined to think my professor’s selection of topics was in part due to the attitude Rorty described, though not so conscious and disdainful. Of course, not all professors whose politics are “liberal” are this unethical, as my college experience also affirms. Yet, I can’t help but think that my peers, myself and generations before have been conditioned to be chronic feelers not critical thinkers, rendered purposefully more susceptible to the sophistry of emotional and psychological manipulation.

I feel compelled to point out how illiberal Rorty’s view of education is and he admits to such. There is no plurarilty of views, no “tolerance” of the rube-headed religious “other,” no inclusivity of those who believe deplorable thoughts, as narrowly defined by the elect. Just “herrshaft.” “Hegemony.” And “der Wille zur Macht” to implement it. On the converse to whatever Horkheimer means by the phrase, “real democracy” has never been engendered by such an outlook on the universe.

Ah, but Rorty’s cause is just because the “benevolent Rorty knows best. He has a proper, pragmatic understanding of things, and as such, it is his duty as an influential member embedded in a cultural institution to convert as many as possible; cull the rest. This is the work that needs to be done. The dissenting “bigots” have no place in the society, the utopia being erected by he and those “enlightened” enough to prophesize its coming.

I’ve quoted it before, but I’ll do it again: “The philosophers have only variously interpreted the world; the point, however, is to change it.” Marx’s pithy statement encapsulates the mantra of the leftist. Rorty was thorough enough to grasp and utilize it.

What number of us have fallen prey to he and his ilk’s applied machinations?

I can’t and won’t dare to say, but too many,

Modus Pownens

Atheism is still NOT a “lack of belief”: A polemical WilliamLaneCraigdum (addendum)

I’ve already written a refutation of the “atheism is a mere lack of belief” ploy abused by the New Atheists and their acolytes. However, I’ve conceived of another way to demonstrate and thereby lay bare this intellectually disingenuous tactic. And it’s going to mine deeper levels of irritation and gnashing of teeth by those married to deploying such rhetorical subterfuge. How so?

I’m about to invoke the Devil…

…at least the Devil for New Atheists: THE WILLIAM LANE CRAIG.

Yes, the mild-mannered philosopher, Christian apologist, debater and research professor at Biola University — who takes douchebaggery to whole new plane of existence, as he evidently doesn’t abide by the bro maxim of “sun’s out, guns out” — is such a Beelzebub-type archdemon in the collective conscious of online New Atheists. Their fermenting distaste for Craig and his arguments, in many respects, resembles a quasi-religious fervor and aversion that many hosts of the “deluded faithful” reserve for the malicious supernatural figure or forces that occupy some prominent adversarial role in their respective theologies.

Well, take heed of his baby, THE SPAWN OF CRAIG, his presentation of The Damien–I mean Kalam cosmological argument:

  1. Whatever begins to exist has a cause
  2. The universe began to exist
  3. Therefore, the universe has a cause

It’s simple, almost demure, making it both great for popular apologetics and easy to scoff at.

Now, for another plot twist, I have no interest in defending Kalam here. Nor am I about to make a case for the aforementioned cause as being what the theist affirms as God, like Craig eventually does. My prevailing intention is to dissuade you, good atheist, from ever adopting or resorting again to the “lack of belief” meme, which is typically used as follows:

  1. Atheism is merely a “lack of belief”
  2. One can’t argue for or prove a negative or a “lack of belief”
  3. Therefore, atheism does not require justification;
    is the default position in the debate;
    doesn’t have to provide any account for other phenomena like morality;
    isn’t a comprehensive worldview or ideology like that of religion;
    the burden of proof is solely for the theist; etc.

Well, I exclaim this will do you no good, atheist, especially if you’re one of those types who is so passionate about secularism, humanism and fending off oppressive religious dogma from infiltrating education, government and infringing on the non-religious’ liberties that you feel compelled to provide regular diatribes denouncing Christianity and its followers’ beliefs and actions as threats and functions of pernicious superstition. Conversely, I wholeheartedly concede and acknowledge there are atheists, who aren’t this noisy and just don’t believe in God, not giving the matter much thought in their daily affairs. So, my thesis here is not referring to these uncritical atheists, nor am I arguing about what makes one an atheist. I’m instead referencing the self-proclaimed “anti-theists,” often New Atheists, who are at least critical in voice if not critical in mind, as I’m about to show, and their definition of atheism as a mere “lack of belief.”

See, in addition to their tirades against religion and insistence that atheism is a “mere lack of belief,” I guarantee these atheists can be and have been observed doing a particular behavior when stimulated by an argument for God’s existence. They vehemently deny one or more of the premisses, especially if the argument is structurally valid. Or in the case of Craig’s Kalam, for example, they reject as false either of the syllogism’s premisses: 1) Everything that begins to exist has a cause and 2) The universe began to exist. Hence, they are committed to some if not all of the following negations of the claims advanced in Kalam’s premisses:

  1. Everything that begins to exist doesn’t have a cause, i.e., some thing begins to exist without a cause
  2. The universe did not begin to exist, i.e., the universe has always existed
  3. The universe does not exist

Undoubtedly, these atheists would disregard 3, as so deduced here, making it of no further consequence. Nevertheless, they are stuck with 1, 2  or the combination of the two; and as such, their atheism no longer merely consists of a lack of belief in God. In addition to their alleged absence of belief, they at least uphold one positive belief in order to diffuse Kalam and its theistic conclusion. By the very act of arguing, they do show their noggin is indeed empty but certainly not in the sense they purport it to be. Simply, they doth protest too much.

Nor is this problem exclusive to Kalam. Sure, you might be an atheist invested in showing the folly of religious belief via your YouTube channel where you “refute” all the arguments for God’s existence in videos, yet your repudiation of any of those efforts’ premisses entails your subscription to some positive epistemic and or metaphysical proposition to maintain your atheism. As one of my philosophy professors, an open atheist, said once during lecture — and I’m paraphrasing: “For every solution to a philosophical problem, there is a cost.” Let’s explore said cost.

Again, referencing Kalam, to subvert the proof is to profess that some thing begins to exist without a cause and or the universe has always existed. Assuredly, there are atheists who do assert that something can begin to exist without a cause, citing that matter cannot be destroyed and utterly rejecting Aristotelian forms. I imagine even more believe the universe is eternal. Personally, the latter undermines causality, which, in turn, makes their precious science worthless, as the discipline utterly relies on matter interacting with other matter and causing new material states of affairs to appear that are empirically accessible. They would have to formulate some other causal principle that makes scientific investigation possible while remaining sterile for logical armament in cosmological arguments — not a trivial challenge, to be sure. Moreover, in regard to the former, it’s also difficult to justify the necessity of the universe and the existence of a quantitative infinite, which an eternal universe would be. Additionally, notions of causality, necessity and quantitative infinity are all metaphysical issues, thereby, demonstrating that metaphysics is not just theistic bullshit disguising mysticism but is inevitable for anyone treading in these waters.

Anyway, it’s not so much whether these naturalistic metaphysical theses can be stomached, but rather they are the sort of pills that must be swallowed. Admittedly, for the New Atheist, none of it is appetizing. If you actively reject the premisses in the arguments for God’s existence, then atheism is not a mere “lack of belief.” Otherwise, you don’t really believe the reasons as to why you find the cosmological, moral and ontological proofs flawed, essentially lying, which is dishonest. Or you can be true to character, dismissing my argumentation and stubbornly retaining that you can rebuff the premisses in the arguments for God’s existence and simultaneously affirm atheism as a mere “lack of belief,” which is dishonest. Ignorance no longer has any utility as an excuse. The only option is to forfeit the notion that atheism is a mere “lack of belief” in God.

It frankly is by no means an expensive concession to make. It has no bearing on whether or not atheism is any less true or false. The God-question is very much up for grabs. All it does is reset the game board and ensure that the deck is not stacked heavily in the atheist’s favor. What I have argued for is so modest of a proposal that it ought not have been a point of contention — simply fighting for a fair debate.

Undoubtedly, in doing so, however, I will have incensed many of the incorrigible New Atheists out there. They take their lack of beli–I mean positive belief in the purely natural and physical world very seriously. Old habits die very hard indeed. In fact, I would say their devotion can be characterized as spiritual in nature. Not only have I, the deluded Christian theist afflicted by “mind-viruses,” described their dislike for Craig as being so zealous, which is repulsive to them, I have struck at the veritable heart of their anti-theistic enterprise.

In their polemical sorties against religion, New Atheists love to attack from both the moral and cognitive high ground. They pride themselves on their understanding and application of reason and science, their open-mindedness and how tolerant they are. Well, I have stung their pride and impugned their self-indulgent romanticism. At least in this case, it’s been strongly implied but now will be explicitly stated that they are anything but superior, instead being dogmatic, dishonest, intellectually facile. Their self-ascribed righteousness is a resolute parody worthy of contempt.

Their abuse of philosophy to buttress their ideology is abominable. They have no respect for it and it’s purposeful quest for the truth. Instead of honest inquiry, they wield philosophy as a blunt instrument, denying causality to defend their hollow “lack of belief,” for example, all the the while negligent to the absence of their own foresight to determine that such a denial leads into utter Humean skepticism. It’s true that everyone who enters the struggle between theism and atheism is at once a neophyte. But, at some point, it behooves that person, regardless if they align philosophically with ranks transcendental or physical, to mature and be mindful of not only what they belief but how they believe it.

With their persistence in the “lack of belief” meme and other gauche conduct in discourse, I cannot perceive any such humble introspection from the New Atheists and other anti-theists: The Dawkinses, the Graylings, the Dennetts, the Barkers and the Thunderf00t’s of the world. Despicable, the lot of them and what amounts to their anti-philosophy. Of course, there are thoughtful and erudite atheists I admire, but the New Atheists and their disciples are not among them when it comes to philosophy of religion. Oh, I know I’m not making any friends here. Yet, one must first be a friend of Truth first before one can have a productive and amicable discussion with someone whom one diametrically disagrees with. If we are to personify Truth, then she is a fair maiden to be courted.

The New Atheists are unsavory, rapacious and ungentle in pursuit of her,

Modus Pownens

Atheism is NOT a “lack of belief”

One of the tactics new atheists (i.e., those who think drink the infantile swill of Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, Dan Barker, Bill Maher or Jerry Coyne as if it’s the Kool-Aid of Jim Jones) employ that just aggravates me more than the Seahawks not giving the ball to Marshawn Lynch at the goal line in the Superbowl is defining atheism as a “mere lack of belief in God.” Frankly, it’s intellectually lazy, intellectually dishonest and utterly unacceptable.

Isn’t this assessment a little uncouth and uncivil, Modus Pownens? Well, those who claim to have the market cornered on reason and wax on about how they sit at the intellectual big kids table in contrast to us delusional, superstitious faith-based types should behave as exemplary masters of incisive and profound erudition. If you talk big game and belittle, you better bring it. If you’re a superior thinker, conduct yourself accordingly. And those who repeatedly lord their alleged cerebral advantage over others yet continually produce hollow rhetoric deserve to be exposed similarly like the ancient sophists were appropriately trivialized by Socrates. In the words of Bill Vallicella: “Civility is for the civil.”

Now that that’s out of my system, I don’t think of myself as Socrates. I’m no more intelligent than the average person, and I’m always still learning and refining my views and argumentation. However, it’s no braggadocio for me to claim that I’m more initiated in “the love of wisdom” than the typical online, armchair philosopher of religion. I’m far from an expert, but my prowess in the subject likely extends beyond my undergraduate minor, as I’ve taken non required upper level courses in ethics and metaphysics and continue to keep my skills sharp by reading the writings of professional philosophers when I can. I present all this modestly, yet accurately, as I’m about to put this irksome meme — because that’s what it really is — into the ground.

Let’s start with the commonly articulated reasoning to this claim of “lack of belief” — if any is given at all — which is based in etymology. Basically, it’s the prefix “a” refers to a lack thereof, and “theism” means belief in God, ipso facto, atheism is a “lack of belief” in God with no positive beliefs of its own. Apart from the latter part of the conclusion being patently false as atheists appeal to positive claims about reality when they argue for atheism against theism, the breakdown of the word is equally egregious.

Theism also isn’t strictly confined to meaning a belief in God, as the suffix “ism” has other connotations. As per Wikipedia, “Ism is a derived word used in philosophy, politics, religion or other areas pertaining to an ideology.” By their nature, ideologies or philosophical positions are not devoid of beliefs. But more importantly, theism, loosely speaking, can and has been accurately defined to remove belief from its articulation to the philosophical position that God exists. If atheism is derived from how theism is defined as the New Atheists seem to do, then why can’t atheism, loosely speaking, be expressed as the antithetical philosophical position that God does not exist?

Moreover, the more we scrutinize here, the New Atheists’ semantic game appears more and more questionable. Even if we define theism in the terms of a belief in God, beliefs are often held by philosophers to be propositions, meaning they express statements that are either true or false. As atheism is held in direct opposition to theism, yet if it is a “lack of belief,” then it can’t be either true or false. But this can’t be right, as it doesn’t square with the behavior of atheists, who maintain both the claim that God does not exist  — and by extension, atheism —  is true and conversely the claim God does exist — and again by extension, theism — is false. Simply, “lack of belief” is a psychological state or a property. A property is not the sort of thing that can be true or false. Atheism clearly is considered to be either true or false. It’s not a property like having blueness or sadness, and anyone who argues otherwise clearly brings into doubt as whether or not they should be taken seriously.

What’s also worth talking about is the host of ideologies and positions that feature the suffix “ism.” Why are these never defined as an “absence of belief” in something? Conservatism isn’t considered the “absence of belief” in liberalism and vice versa. Likewise, communism isn’t deemed a “lack of belief” in capitalism, and we can go on indefinitely. What about atheism makes it different than every other “ism” out there? Even in the case of positions that make statements about what or what not exists, the position defending the negative claim is never defined as a “lack of belief.” In philosophy, nominalism is the view universals don’t exist, but it is never posited as being a “lack of belief” in universals. It seems to me, the new atheists reek of special pleading.

Then there’s philosophy of religion and philosophers of religion. Shouldn’t the very discipline and its experts, the people whose livelihoods are based on their ability to think critically and be rational, likely know what’s best? Here’s some quotes:

Atheism is the view that there is no God.

Matt McCormick

‘Atheism’ means the negation of theism, the denial of the existence of God.

J.J.C. Smart

An atheist, like a Christian, holds that we can know whether or not there is a God. The Christian holds that we can know there is a God; the atheist, that we can know there is not.

Bertand Russell, the father of analytic philosophy

I anticipate there will be those who will bring up strong/weak varieties atheism. Oh, I’m well aware, but I find the strong and weak forms of atheism as problematic to establish a presumption of atheism not only for the above reasons, but it also obfuscates perfectly good terms like atheist and agnostic, puts an unreasonable burden of proof on the theist and distracts what’s at issue, i.e., whether or not God exists.

I suppose I always can redefine theism as the lack of belief in metaphysical naturalism and see how the atheist likes it.

That’s only fair, right?

Modus Pownens