Tuesday, April 30, 2013


If the scattered, early reports can be believed, the Obama Administration is attempting to prevent whistleblowers and survivors of the Benghazi massacre from telling their side of the story:

At least four career officials at the State Department and the Central Intelligence Agency have retained lawyers, or are in the process of doing so, as they prepare to provide sensitive information about the Benghazi attacks to Congress, Fox News has learned.

Victoria Toensing, a former Justice Department official and Republican counsel to the Senate intelligence committee, is now representing one of the State Department employees. She told Fox News her client and some of the others, who consider themselves whistleblowers, have been threatened by unnamed Obama administration officials.

“I’m not talking generally, I’m talking specifically about Benghazi – that people have been threatened,” Toensing said in an interview Monday. “And not just the State Department. People have been threatened at the CIA.”...

“It’s frightening and they’re doing some very despicable threats to people,” she said. “Not ‘We’re going to kill you,’ or not ‘We’re going to prosecute you tomorrow,’ but they’re taking career people and making them well aware that their careers will be over [if they cooperate with congressional investigators].”

It's inevitable that in our contemporary everything-is-political milieu, this will be derided by Administration insiders and cheerleaders as merely a ploy to weaken the Obama White House. Indeed, the attempt has already begun. But the more trickles out about the Benghazi affair, the less savory it becomes:

Why did Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans die in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012? We now know that President Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and then-CIA Director David Petraeus were likely behind a mishandled gun-trafficking program that ended up arming the radical jihadist rebels who stormed the U.S. consulate and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya on that fateful day.

Our CIA is still playing the role of vetting which Syrian rebel groups will obtain arms including machine guns, ammunition, and rocket-propelled grenades. While Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey are directly purchasing the weaponry, the Obama administration is aiding the Arab governments in shopping for these arms and transferring them from Libya, to Turkey, and finally into Syria.

Unfortunately the CIA has “vetted” shady intermediaries (including Syria’s Muslim Brotherhood) and shady recipients of thousands of tons worth of military equipment and millions of rounds of ammo. Consequently, weapons have fallen into the wrong hands. In the case of Benghazi, anti-tank weapons appear to have landed in the hands of terrorists.

It's understandable, albeit despicable, that the Administration would want that teensy fact to be kept under wraps. Unfortunately for these guardians of their own reputations, the truth is leaking out about what could have been done to save Ambassador Stevens and the others, but wasn't. A transcript follows:

BAIER: The administration has insisted there was no help for the Americans under assault in Libya, none that could arrive in time to change the outcome in Benghazi. Tonight is the first of three exclusive reports charging that claim is just not true.

Because the Special Operator in this piece is fearful of reprisal, we have agreed to conceal his identity. Correspondent Adam Housley has the story.

HOUSLEY: Many Americans are asking indeed, I asked myself. How could this happen? In the seven months since the Benghazi attacks on 9/11, information from the administration has been incomplete at best.

Details and time lines provided by the State Department, the U.S. military and intelligence agencies had been contradictory and failed to answer many questions.

In December, a State Department review concluded: There simply was not enough time for U.S. military forces to have made a difference: Having said that, it is not reasonable nor feasible to forces at the ready to respond to protect every high risk post in the world.

But members of the military who are monitoring events in Benghazi disagree.

Only a few dozen people in the world know what happened that night and Fox News spoke exclusively with a Special Operator who watched the events unfold and has debriefed those who are part of the response.

SO: I know for a fact that C-110, the UCOM SIF was doing a training exercise not in the region of northern Africa but in Europe. They had the ability to react and respond.

HOUSLEY: The C-110 is a command in extremis force... a 40-man SPECOPS force capable of rapid response and deployment, specifically trained for incidents like the attack in Benghazi. That night, they were training in Croatia just three and a half hours away.

SO: We had the ability to load out, get on birds, and fly there at a minimum stage. C-110 had the ability to be there, in my opinion, in four to six hours from their European theater to react.

HOUSLEY: They would have been there before the second attack.

SO: They would have been there before the second attack. They would have been there at a minimum to provide a quick reaction force that could facilitate their exfill out of the problem situation. Nobody knew how it was going to develop. And you hear a whole bunch of people and a whole bunch of advisors say hey, we wouldn't have sent them there because the security was unknown situation.

HOUSLEY: No one knew that?

SO: If it's an unknown situation, at a minimum you send forces there to facilitate the exfill or medical injuries. We could have sent a C-130 to Benghazi to provide medical evacuation for the injured.

HOUSLEY: Our source says many connected to Benghazi feel threatened and are afraid to talk. So far confidential sources have fed some information but nobody has come forward publicly on camera until now.

SO: The problem is, you have got guys, in my position you have got guys in Special Operations community who are -- still active and still involved. And they would be decapitated if they came forward with information that could affect high level commanders.

HOUSLEY: Despite the concern, our confidential source says the community feels there was a betrayal. All the way to the top. And that people on the ground in Benghazi were left to fend for themselves.

SO: I don't blame them for not coming forward, you know. It's something that is a risky, especially in a profession to say anything about anything in the realm of politics or that deals with policy.

HOUSLEY: Our source provides insight into how the U.S. government and military reacted from the moment the attack began through the immediate hours after ambassador Chris Stevens went missing. What they were told to do and what not to do as Stephens, Diplomatic Officer Sean Smith and former Special Operations members Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty were killed.

SO: There is a lot of responsibility and onus that needs to be taken up and accounted for.

HOUSLEY: The attack began on September 11th, 2012 at a diplomatic compound in Benghazi and culminated roughly seven hours later at a second location, a CIA annex about one mile away.

While the official responses from Washington have been that the assets could not have made it from Benghazi in time that killed Woods and Doherty, there were at least two military units that could have made it in time including the one training in Croatia.

SO: Besides those guys who went in on their own, we had two more assets that could have been there. Two more assets that could have been on the ground. It's frustrating, upsetting especially being in the community. The hardest thing to deal with in any kind of, you know, dangerous scenario or gun fight, is, you know, we always look to each other to help each other and that's how we get through situations. It's not about the assets overhead. It's about the guys on the ground.

HOUSLEY: He also says as the attack began there were at least 15 Special Forces and highly skilled State Department security staff available in the capital Tripoli who were not dispatched even though they were trained as a quick response force.

Meantime, a group of American reinforcements also in Tripoli, which included the CIA's global response agent Glen Doherty and seven others took matters into their own hands. This is a little known fact which contradicts the State Department's report. The team commandeered a small jet and flew to Benghazi while still under fire. Doherty would eventually be killed on the roof along with his friend Tyrone Woods.

SO: These men deserve the highest medal of honor for their action. If it wasn't for that decision we would be looking at different situation. 20-plus hostages... captured by AQ or you would be looking at a lot of dead Americans dead in Benghazi.

HOUSLEY: We have heard some of these same details from a number of our other sources who have not yet come on camera. Some of our British sources on the ground that night confirmed. Tomorrow, more of our exclusive interview including the hunt for those responsible or the lack of a hunt.

[Transcript courtesy of Doug Ross @ Journal.]

If the above-interviewed Special Operator is telling the truth, the Obama Administration made a policy decision to sacrifice four American lives, including that of an ambassador, to cover up its own wrongdoing. I can't think of an uglier episode in American foreign policy history, unless it was the Alger Hiss / Harry Dexter White orchestrated surrender of Eastern Europe to Stalin at Yalta in 1945.

This sort of knockoff reportage is uncharacteristic of Liberty's Torch, which is principally an opinion-editorial site. However, an outrage such as this demands the attention of every thinking American, for which reason the usual bloviation is suspended for this morning in favor of...well, outrage.

We must know what happened, and why.
We must know who authorized what and who forbade what.
We must hold anyone in the chain of command responsible for his decisions.

What, then, must we do?

Monday, April 29, 2013

Knowledge, Faith, And Zealotry

Mark Butterworth's piece just below got me thinking about the difficulties involved in distinguishing claims of knowledge from statements of opinion, such that we can distinguish what may be known from what can only be believed or disbelieved. It's a good topic for a quiet Monday morning, all of whose "news" seems to be about the recent White House Correspondents' Dinner.

As with so many other questions over which men dispute, the key to the puzzle is linguistic: the accurate and appropriate use of words.

Whenever we claim knowledge, we must provide all the following:

  1. A compact yet definite statement of what we claim to know;
  2. A sufficiently well-defined context to which our knowledge applies;
  3. One or more predictions, whether explicit or implicit, that flow from our knowledge.

The first of these should require no explanation. No one can get by with a statement such as "I know everything." Knowledge must be expressed in definite statements that address real-world conditions and the events that occur within them.

The second requirement is actually a consequence of the first. A definite statement is a statement that addresses specific real-world conditions, not some completely unbounded, context-free domain. That's what it means to define, which is merely the English version of the Latin word "to limit."

The third requirement is also integral to any claim of knowledge: it must be testable, and the only possible test is prediction. Given the required context, do the predictions implied by the claim come true? If so, the claim becomes credible; if not, it can and must be dismissed.

Let's look at a couple of statements of knowledge as exercises. First up:

The sum of even numbers will be an even number.

We could test this one all day, creating column after column of even numbers and adding them up. We would never arrive at an odd sum, except by error. Indeed, as everything it refers to is an abstract object within a completely defined and enclosed artificial system, this statement is provable under the laws of that system (mathematics). It constitutes positive knowledge.

Our second trial will be more interesting:

An unsupported object will fall toward the Earth's center.

Hmmm. This one is very weakly supplied with specifics. What sort of "object?" And from where do we start? If a cloud of helium is chosen for our test object, the statement will fail. If we suspend a piece of pumice in water, the pumice will float, for yet another failure. Yet many other cases -- i.e., heavier-than-air objects left unsupported within Earth's atmosphere -- yield the predicted results. So the context for this statement must be refined, at the minimum, to embrace only those objects in those conditions.

Our third trial is the most important of all:

God notes each sparrow that falls.

This statement is not testable, for two reasons above all others:

  • We have no agreed-upon identity for God;
  • Even the most common conceptions of God put His actions outside verification.

Because the statement is not testable, the person who makes it is barred from claiming knowledge, regardless of how fervently he believes it.

The three test cases above are examples of three sorts of human conviction:

  • Mathematics;
  • Science;
  • Faith.

Mathematical knowledge -- i.e., a statement pertinent solely to objects within a well-defined formal system -- is the only sort that can be proved conclusively. This is possible specifically because such systems are completely abstract. Though they are sometimes applied to real-world conditions and events, they are capable of being divorced from external reality and manipulated in isolation. Thus, mathematical knowledge is atemporal.

Scientific knowledge -- i.e., a statement pertinent to objects in the physical realm, which have properties that are separable from any abstractions uttered about them -- cannot be proved conclusively, because the range of test cases for any such statement is infinite. However, a claim of scientific knowledge can be disproved: all it takes is one test case that fails to produce the predicted consequences. A series of hundreds or thousands of successfully tested predictions does not prove the claim; it merely allows us to build up confidence in it. Scientific knowledge, being about things that happen in observable reality, is inherently temporal.

Articles of faith are untestable propositions. They involve inherently undelimitable contexts, or contexts within which human powers of observation are nil. Thus, they can neither be proved nor disproved. They ought not to be classified as claims of knowledge...which does not render them uninteresting or irrelevant to the real world.

People don't argue about propositions in mathematics. Scientists sometimes argue over their conflicting claims, but once those claims become testable and are tested, argument will yield to experimental results. The propositional domain that occasions the most argument, despite the inherent impossibility of proving or disproving anything therein, is that of faith.

He who takes up a cause of any sort will naturally be concerned to spread the underlying convictions to as many other persons as he can. But the convictions behind a cause have a particular place in the partition of claims: nearly all of them are articles of faith.

Convictions about politics and economics are especially important in this regard. The contexts within which statements about these things are made are seldom perfectly well defined. Worse, they're seldom perfectly reproducible. These difficulties make it effectively impossible to prove or disprove such statements. We who have strong political or economic convictions must never imagine that those convictions are permanently beyond disproof. That makes it impossible to argue conclusively that those who reject them are wrong.

Here we come to the distinction between the advocate and the zealot.

He who argues for a proposition beyond proof and disproof can only demonstrate its logical coherence and cite examples of where it has had beneficial effects. He cannot eliminate all doubt about it without providing that perfect definition of context mentioned above. Worse, even causally clear statements about politics or economics can be challenged with a one-word rejoinder: "When?" Politico-economic predictions seldom come with time thresholds -- i.e., the specific time after the stimulus is applied that the predicted effects will manifest -- which frees the skeptic to retain his skepticism about how much we really know.

The advocate will concede all this. He'll be aware of the nature of knowledge and the difficulty of predictions that involve inherently uncontrollable contexts. The zealot will not. He will insist that he's absolutely right despite all counter-arguments. In his frustration, he's likely to resort to distasteful non-arguments, including attacks upon the intelligence and character of those who reject his thesis.

The zealot's error is mistaking faith for knowledge.

Many Gentle Readers will bridle at the above. We all have faith in certain propositions. Persons who are engaged in political or economic discourse are likely to be passionate about their particular faiths. But no degree of confidence in an idea, or emotional attachment to it, can transform faith into knowledge.

The central irony therein is that we who champion conservative, pro-freedom politico-economic ideas -- limited government, free markets, private arms rights, well-controlled borders, the privacy of the family, the sanctity of unborn life, and so forth -- are, on balance at least, far less likely to behave as zealots than those who oppose us. Leftists' inability to argue persuasively for their propositions evokes far more bad behavior from them than our spokesmen normally exhibit. There may be sin on both sides, but that doesn't mean the ledger of such things is balanced.

As Robert M. Pirsig noted in his classic Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, no one organizes marches or defames opponents over assertions that the Sun will rise in the east tomorrow. The moral in that observation should be impossible to miss.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Manly Virtues

As usual at times when gutlessness and venality appear as a plague upon the land, there’s a lot of loose talk about "manliness" making the rounds. And as usual, the overwhelming majority of the gabbers haven't got the faintest idea what they're talking about.

Manliness isn't about size or brawn.
Being covered head to toe with hair doesn't signify manliness.
It has nothing to do with braggadocio, belligerence, or truculence.
Being obnoxious about your opinions makes you obnoxious, not manly.
Neither does preferring NASCAR to chess say anything about how manly you are.

Manliness is about the possession of the manly virtues.

Accordingly, I repost the following essay, which first appeared at the old Palace Of Reason in 1997.

We hear a lot of loose talk about "environmental damage" and "endangered species" from the left-loonies and their pet interest groups, but when you look for what's actually disappeared from the American environment, two things rear up and poke you in the eye:

  • Civility,
  • Men.

Get into your time machine, go back fifty years [i.e., to 1950 -- FWP], and walk the streets of any of the great cities of this continent. They were safe. They were almost perfectly clean. People didn't jostle one another, hurl obscene imprecations at one another, deface the sides of buildings with moronic scrawling, or pollute the air with pain-threshold levels of their preferred "music." Men treated women with courtesy, respect, and a certain protective affection. Even the poor, of which, though they were less numerous than they are today, there was no shortage, were clean, self-reliant, self-respecting, and courteous.

The police would sort out those who couldn't meet the prevailing standards and would unceremoniously tell them to "keep moving," in which effort they were overwhelmingly reinforced by the non-uniformed public. If you wanted to surround yourself with degeneracy, you had to find the local Skid Row, the only place where such things were tolerated. It wasn't a big place, and the folks you found there permitted themselves no pride about their condition. No one indulged in nonsense notions about the "dignity" of the homeless, of welfare dependents, of drug addicts, of gang members, or any of today's mascot-groups for the coercive-compassion camp. As a result, government, which fattens on public perceptions of danger and disorder, was relatively small and unintrusive.

Were there some blemishes on this pretty picture? Yes, of course there were. There were still legal barriers against women entering the workforce in many states. There were still entailments on women's right to hold real property in a few places in the south and southwest. A residuum of racism encumbered the black population's efforts to raise its condition -- though in fairness it must be remembered that a popular movement largely composed of white people was already afoot, and just fourteen years later it swept all race-based legal restrictions into the dustbin of history. Government had swollen due to the unconstitutional New Deal and America's involvement in two foreign wars, and those who liked the result were working to swell it still further.

Still, in 1950, America was a place of nearly overpowering civility. In 2000...?

How did we lose it?

Ask a hundred opinion-mongers and you'll get a hundred different answers. Here's mine: We made it unacceptable to be a man, at least in public.

The word "man" in the above is, for a change, not to be interpreted generically. I don't mean "a member of the human species,"or even "a masculine human being." I mean a man, the sort that fathers used to try to raise their sons to be, even if Dad wasn't quite one himself, because he knew it was his duty, and because it was expected of him. In 1950, the chattering classes and their hangers-on were already at work trying to make the manly virtues into vices, and to promote their opposites in their place.

What is a man, and what does a youth need to learn to become one?

Two things qualify a masculine homo sapiens as a man:

  • Knowledge of right and wrong, and the willingness to fight for the right;
  • Knowledge of his own obligations, and the willingness to meet them.

A man must learn "where the line is": the line that separates behavior that must be tolerated from behavior that must not be. He must be willing -- personally willing -- to fight in defense of the former and against the latter, though it might expose him to risk and cost him injury or death. He must be ready to swallow his distaste and protect the rights even of persons he finds repulsive, if they have harmed no other human being.

A man must learn proportionality and restraint. Biology has optimized the male body for purposive aggression, sudden acceleration and focused violence. These are not things to be deployed in their 200-proof strength against trivial or unworthy targets. A man doesn't kill the bounder who steals his parking space, his business idea, or his wife. Even a punch in the nose is excessive for infractions like these.

A man must learn never to shirk a freely contracted obligation. If you've said you'll do it, you do it. No excuses. Conversely, if you have failed to meet an obligation, you must admit to it and try to do better next time.

A man must learn not to whine about disappointments, reversals, or the ways of women. Especially about the ways of women. They're not men -- thank God -- and we can't fairly hold them to manly standards.

A man must learn reverence in the presence of the numinous. The fact that each of us is a part of an infinitely greater whole manifests itself in innumerable ways. Learning to let it in, to cherish it, and to use it to buttress oneself in times of darkness is critical to attaining the endurance the world expects from a man.

Last and most important, a man must transmit the manly virtues to his male children.

But no one has said it better than the poet the political Left hates worst in all the world:

IF you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
    And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
    If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
    And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
    Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
    And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
    And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
    And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
    To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
    Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
    Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
    If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
    With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
    And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

(Rudyard Kipling)

Friday, April 26, 2013

A War By Other Means

For some time now, any reference to the many attempts, inside or outside the halls of power, to eject all manifestations of Christian affiliation, allegiance, and principles from public life has evoked a chorus of derision from the Left. Their usual theme song is that we're just imagining it: "How could there be a war on Christianity when three-quarters of the country is Christian?" At least, that's the tune I hear most often from those dismissive of the charge.

C. S. Lewis once remarked to the effect that the Devil's greatest triumphs have come from persuading people that he doesn't exist. So also with those who would strip us of our religious and philosophical foundations.

America is a Christian nation.
America has always been a Christian nation.
Should it cease to be a Christian nation, it will cease to be America.

Many persons react reflexively against those assertions. "That's exclusionary!" they bellow. "UnConstitutional! It omits all those wonderful Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Rastafarians, and atheists who've helped to make this country great! Why, it might even be illegal!"

Pardon my Belgian, but that's horseshit of the purest distillation. Even those who say such things know it.

America is not a Christian theocracy. America was founded on the Christian ethos, Christianity's code of acceptable behavior:

And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honour thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. [Matthew 19:16-19]

Note that that does not include all the Hebraic prescriptions and proscriptions from Exodus and Leviticus, which is why I say America is a Christian, rather than a Judeo-Christian nation. Christ's preachments above have been written into our secular law. (Yes, including the parts about adultery and honoring one's parents, though they've proved unenforceable by secular means.) Exodus and Leviticus have not.

Now, for the terminally slow of comprehension: That does not mean that Jews, Buddhists, etc. are unwelcome in this nation; they merely have to conform to the ethos stated above, which binds us all. Muslims have a really hard time doing that, as recent events have indicated. Even so, if they can just grit their teeth and control themselves, the rest of us are bound by law and conscience to tolerate them.

Does anyone object to any of that? If so, make no sudden moves and keep your hands where I can see them.

Militant atheists, incapable of tolerating religious belief of any sort, are prone to telling the most extravagant lies about Christianity and its key figures. For example, they like to claim that Hitler was a Christian, or that Pope Pius XII was secretly allied with him. It's nonsense, of course, but a lot of them get away with it even so. When refuted by one well educated in history, they fall back on nebulous all-purpose charges. For example, they'll complain that Christianity is "exclusionary," as if the Church should be a come-one-come-all gathering place like Facebook. That the Church proclaims certain doctrines "offends" them, though they're as free to disagree with those doctrines as anyone in America...some of whom self-identify as Christians, too.

A great deal of the animus aimed at Christianity arises from its teachings about sexual fidelity and how Natural Law applies to sexual behavior. That's to be expected in a time in which the purpose of existence has been reduced to a quest for the Ultimate Orgasm. All the same, the Church has no temporal power, nor does it seek such. If Adam wants to shove his joystick up Steve's poop chute, no one will stop him...well, except maybe Steve. And those of us who disapprove of such caperings will feel equally free to do so.

At my age, I suppose I should be used to idiots and bigots. God must love them too; after all, look at how many He made! But I get volcanically angry about it all when something like this comes along:

Only in Obama's world, where the truth about Islam and Jihad is banned, could such an outrageous insult to mainstream, peaceful religions be permitted by a US Army training instructor.

During the course of an Army Reserve Equal Opportunity training brief on extremism, Evangelical Christianity, Catholicism, ultra Orthodox Jews, and the Church of Latter Day Saints were listed among Al Qaeda, Hamas, the Ku Klux Klan, Sunni Muslims, and Nation of Islam as examples of religious extremism. Oddly enough, "Islamophobia" was also listed as a form of religious extremism, and the Westboro Baptist Church was excluded altogether by the instructor who apparently got her information from the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Stating the obvious, Ron Crews, executive director of the Chaplain Alliance for Religious Liberty said, “it is dishonorable for any U.S. military entity to allow this type of wrongheaded characterization.”

Nor is this out of the current pattern:

An Army officer assigned to a U.S. base says he tried to access SBC.net from his government computer but instead got a message that said the site was being blocked by “Team CONUS.” The message he received read:

“The site you have requested has been blocked by Team CONUS (C-TNOSC/RECERT-CONUS) due to hostile content.”

Team CONUS is the Department of Defense management and computer network overseer of the military’s Continental U.S. (CONUS) Theater Network Operations and Security Center (C-TNOSC) and Regional Computer Emergency Response Team (RCERT).

“So the Southern Baptist Convention is now considered hostile to the U.S. Army … It just corroborates the recent string of events highlighted by AFA,” the officer wrote in an email to American Family Association (AFA).

(Thank you, Debra Heine, for your exemplary service on this and many other subjects.)

Has "Team CONUS" blocked any Islamic sites, pray tell? Considering that the Koran openly commands Muslims to make war upon non-Muslims, and to use any and every means expedient to do us harm, there might be a teensy bit of logic in that. Yet somehow I doubt that any such blockings have occurred. By the way, who writes "Team CONUS's" marching orders, and under what rationale?

Frankly, given how successful militant atheist activists have been at getting courts to expel ever more harmless Christian displays from public places and events, anyone who doesn't think Christianity is under siege is either a villain or a fool. Never fear: you don't have to be a Christian, or embrace the Christian faith, to agree with me.

War, Karl von Clausewitz wrote, is a continuation of politics by other means. When governments go from trading words to trading blows, they haven't changed their goals, only the means by which they pursue them. Thus, there's a degree of plausibility in regarding all intergovernmental exchanges as "low-intensity warfare."

My point, which I've been orbiting for more than a thousand words in my usual circuitous fashion, is that not everything a government "makes war on" is another government.

Governments, being wielders of force under a veneer of "legitimate authority," are naturally hostile to competing and countervailing influences. Time was, their response to religious authorities was to attempt to co-opt them into collaboration, creating a mutually reinforcing alliance of Throne and Altar. The American experiment reversed that course, explicitly forbidding "an establishment of religion." Madison was of the opinion that the multitude of religious sects in the new nation would cause them to act as a check upon one another, such that no sect could possibly achieve dominance over all the others. And for a time, it seemed that it would be so: though the great majority of Americans have always been Christians, the profusion of denominations, each with its own twist on Christ's Gospel, has compelled them to tolerate one another as cousins, if not brothers, in a single enveloping faith.

No one expected that a tiny band of infinitely sensitive, perpetually offended militant atheists, incapable of tolerating the visible or audible expression of any faith but their own, would rise to overturn that state of affairs. No one expected that a government bound within the Christian ethos by its own Constitution and the common law would ally itself with them.

No one expected that three-quarters of Americans would find themselves marginalized, labeled as "haters" and "bigots," for following the teachings of the Prince of Peace. Yet it is so.

And though it horrifies me to say so, those at the levers of power find these developments very much to their liking. Our political masters have joined forces with the militant atheists of our era. What our rulers cannot co-opt, they are resolved to destroy.

More anon.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The New "Normal" in 21st Century Amerika

In a police state, citizens have no rights and can be ordered around at the whims of a militarized police force whose goons run around in black uniforms, terrorizing the populace. Welcome to Boston, 2013. The police state is running wild in this city, and it has reached the point where innocent families are being ordered out of their own homes by screaming, aggressive, 'roid-head SWAT teams armed with overwhelming firepower.


One member of the local police aims his M4 rifle directly at the resident taking above photo from a second-story window.

 Read the rest here.


The Mask Slips Dept.

Once in a while, a politician will say something so stupid, so wrongheaded, so completely at odds with observable reality that it offers an opportunity to demonstrate to the inattentive exactly what horrors governments are capable of:

An amended version of a bill that would extend new protections to California's homeless population cleared the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Tuesday morning.

Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, D-San Francisco, framed Assembly Bill 5 as an attempt to create a statewide baseline of homeless civil rights, citing a proliferation of municipal ordinances cracking down on behavior like lying or sleeping on the sidewalk as examples of the "criminalization of poor people."

"Today numerous laws infringe on poor peoples' ability to exist in public space, to acquire housing, employment and basic services and to equal protection under the laws," Ammiano said at a Tuesday morning hearing.

Ammiano's legislation faced a backlash from critics who said the bill would sanction behavior like urinating in public while exposing businesses to new litigation, undercutting the will of voters who had passed local ordinances and handcuffing city-level efforts to deal with homelessness. The California Chamber of Commerce included AB 5 on its annual list of "job killers" because it imposes "costly and unreasonable mandates on employers."

[Thank you, Jerry of Common Sense and Wonder, for this citation.]

So the assemblyman is concerned about "poor peoples' ability to exist in public space," is he? Well, well, well.

It's fascinating that Ammiano doesn't grasp the implications of his statement. Does he not realize that "public space" includes things like beaches, roads, and the lobbies of government buildings? Does he not grasp that a "right" to establish a static presence in such a place constitutes a privatization of that space -- a homesteading? If he were compelled to confront those realities, do you think he'd understand the problem, or would he accuse you of being "heartless" and "bigoted?"

Isabel Paterson dissected this most ably:

Theoretically, public property belongs to everybody equally, indivisibly, and simultaneously, which is absurd. If this assumption were applied, the result would be that any person presenting himself to use the property could be asked: "Are you everybody?" and he would be bound to reply: "No"; while he could not assert any claim to use any particular division of the property. The actual use of public property by the public is therefore limited to approximately two dimensional conditions, in which cubic measure, or solids, need not be taken into account, so that a man is regarded as a point in a line which is divisible into an infinite number of points; and with any number of lines intersecting without interference, on a plane surface. Thus it is practicable—whether or not it is necessary or advisable—to make roads public property, because the use of a road is to traverse it. Though the user does in fact occupy a given space at a given moment, the duration is negligible, so that there is no need to take time and space into account except by negation, a prohibition: the passenger is not allowed to remain as of right indefinitely on any one spot in the road. The same rule applies to parks and public buildings. The arrangement is sufficiently practicable in those conditions to admit the fiction of "public ownership."

Robert Ringer, in Restoring The America Dream, provides an example of what comes from dismissing this aspect of "public property:"

What would stop a gang of people from getting up early each morning and staking out fifty yards of the most desirable [public] beachfront in a given area? After all, since they would own every square inch of the beach in common with everyone else, it would be their right to do so. Is this what the original communist theoreticians had in mind -- a chaotic society that would operate on a first-come-first-served basis?

But wait a minute. Why should the gang have to arise early each morning to lay claim to the preferred area of the beach? Does communism provide for a time limit on the use of commonly owned property? Why not just have a couple of gang members guard the property at night? Technically they would merely be exercising their right to use "common property;" it's just that their use, in this particular case, would be continuous.

To carry this line of reasoning to its ultimate conclusion, why not just live on that particular area of beach on a permanent basis? And that would be the precise point at which "the people" would be engaged in something called private ownership of property.

"Public property" is inseparable from this implication. If we embrace the fiction of "public property" -- really, State-owned property to which private persons are granted conditional access -- the conditions under which it can be maintained viably come right along with it.

Assemblyman Ammiano fails to grasp these facts. Yet they are inescapable; attempting to legislate around them is like King Knut's attempt to sweep back the tide.

I once wrote a jeremiad against allowing really smart people to hold public office. It appears I'll have to write one against electing really stupid ones, too. California being what it is, I doubt it will make a difference in the Golden State.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Of Laws And Men Part 3: Paternalism

Remember Finnish Stalinist Pentti Linkola, cited in the previous part of this series? Remember this statement:

A fundamental, devastating error is to set up a political system based on desire. Society and life have been organized on the basis of what an individual wants, not on what is good for him or her.

There are several fallacies in those thirty-seven words, but the core premise is what matters most:

You’re an enormous idiot.
You don’t know what’s best for you.
You won’t do what would be best for you.
We know better, and we’ll see to it.
Whether you like it or not.

This is the premise of paternalism. The paternalist seeks to use the force of the State to compel certain behaviors and prohibit others, under the presumption that he knows better for you than you would. In his view, the need to make you behave properly gives him a license to coerce you. Those who disagree, he dismisses as stupid or evil; those who would defy him become lawbreakers.

There are many different flavors of paternalism, of course. On the Left, the paternalist might be animated by “compassion for the poor,” or by “the environment,” or by any of a number of other pseudo-moralistic abstractions. On the Right, the paternalist might be driven by Puritanical religious convictions, or by a distaste for certain pleasures, or some by notion of “social utility.” Whatever his overt rationale, the premise beneath it all is a constant.

Just as attempts to engineer the American economy into certain directions always fails, so also does the paternalist’s attempts to compel us to want other than we want, do other than we would voluntarily do...to be other than we naturally are.

If you destroy a free market, you create a black market. – Winston Churchill

In the overwhelming majority of cases, the behavior the paternalist wants to promote or curb involves persons acting together in some fashion.

Consider the case of illegal drugs. No other subject in political discourse involves such firmness of position or such high emotion. Enormous effort and expense has gone into the attempt to prevent the production, sale, and use of such drugs. All such attempts have failed, because black markets are inherently beyond anyone’s control. The permeation of America’s prisons by the most powerful, most dangerous illegal drugs testifies eloquently to the State’s inability to do anything effective about them. Indeed, our borders are porous in large part because of the immense profits to be made in smuggling drugs into the United States.

Consider the case of prostitution. We hear relatively little about this vice today, which has proved to be as far beyond control by the force of law as illegal drug use. When a man wishes to purchase sexual services and a woman wishes to sell them, they will find one another – and their transaction won’t appear on either one’s ledger. Nothing could illustrate the complete surrender of law to prostitution than the Eliot Spitzer / Ashley Dupree case of recent memory.

Finally for this segment of the tirade, consider gambling. It’s not that long since the only legal gambling in the United States took place in Las Vegas. Yet today, state governments routinely run lotteries, including the sort that was once called “playing the numbers,” reap considerable profits from them, and license as many casinos as there are persons willing to claim Amerind ancestry. In this case, the State decided that since it couldn’t suppress illegal gambling, it might as well get onto the gravy train. The gravy has proved rich indeed, fattening state treasuries beyond expectation owing to most persons’ inability to read the backs of lottery tickets or unwillingness to do basic arithmetic.

The above three cases are more the scourge of Right-leaning paternalists rather than Left-leaning ones; the paternalist of the Left is usually more interested in thrusting his hand into your pocket. But a Gentle Reader of Liberty’s Torch can easily provide himself with sufficient cases of the Left’s we-know-better-what’s-good-for-you postures.

If we must have a tyrant, a robber baron is far better than an inquisitor. The baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity at some point may be sated; and since he dimly knows he is doing wrong he may possibly repent. But the inquisitor who mistakes his own cruelty and lust of power and fear for the voice of Heaven will torment us infinitely more because he torments us with the approval of his own conscience and his better impulses appear to him as temptations. – C. S. Lewis

The paternalist dynamic opposes the determination of the paternalist to make you behave to the determination of his target to do as he pleases even so. Both persons tend to be implacable; neither is willing to concede defeat beyond a temporary setback. Their opposition often germinates into genuine anger, the sort that could express itself in violence...and sometimes does.

The paternalist’s besetting fault is his conviction of indisputable righteousness. It might be said that he cannot do other than he does; his need to maintain that conviction trumps all other considerations. One of the deadest of dead giveaways is that, when one suggests to a frustrated paternalist that his policy might be inherently impossible of application – that to revert to freedom would be preferable to the carnage his laws have evoked – his usual response is “we can’t do that.” Not “won’t,” mind you; “can’t.” To admit to error would be to sacrifice his belief in his moral and intellectual superiority, upon which his entire self-concept is founded. Besides, his addiction to “the approval of his own conscience” will not permit it.

So he sticks stubbornly to his laws, ratchets up the force behind them year after year, and as his failures mount to the skies repeatedly cries to heaven for an explanation: “Why can’t they see how much smarter I am than they are?”

Can you imagine Pentti Linkola making that plaint? I can.

Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you. – Confucius.
Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. – Jesus of Nazareth

If there’s an overarching theme to these “of laws and men” pieces, it’s the power of human presumption. We all want to think well of ourselves, granted; our problems arise, in large part, from some persons’ need to believe themselves smarter and / or better and / or more moral than the rest of us.

Let’s be candid: all human characteristics, including all the virtues and all the vices, are non-uniformly distributed across the reach of Man. Some people really are smarter than the rest of us. Some possess more self-restraint, or courage, or perseverance. And some are more moral, at least by their own standards. But the leap from any such recognition, objectively sound or not, to “therefore I possess the right to coerce these others for their own good” is a classic non sequitur. In making that leap, the person so doing forfeits any and all claim to the respect of others, for he has done something he cannot justify by any citation of precedent or exertion of logic.

He has set his will against the Natural Law.

It is in the nature of men to resent being coerced.
They will reorganize their affairs so as to avert it.
They will seek ways to profit, including from coercions.
As often as not, those profits come at the coercer’s expense.
Neither the coercions nor the responses will conduce to social harmony.

Verbum sat sapienti.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Enemies, Foreign and Domestic

Considering the two recent posts by my colleagues here at Liberty's Torch, I must hasten to add my own humble view that from a practical standpoint the "terrorists" have succeeded in achieving their main objectives to wit: a de facto diminution of the traditional rights acknowledged by the constitution of the United States as delineated in the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. This, when considered in light of recent attempts to ignore the black letter provision of the Second Amendment leads me to conclude that for the most part the Constitution of our formerly freedom loving nation is more or less a dead letter only to be observed according to the federal courts lacking a "compelling governmental interest".

I would also note that public statements issued by the "terrorist" operatives invariably attribute their motives to the foreign policies of the government in Washington interfering in the internal affairs of various and sundry Muslim nations. None of these statements refers to, as former president G.W. Bush averred: "their resentment of our freedoms". Be that as it may, can a philosophy/"religion" fixated on a seventh century mentality have any expectation of a victory over western science and technology? Of course all bets are off if the West self destructs by following the path of corrupt collectivist financial, economic and political leadership so much in evidence of late.

Stated differently: the West will only lose this struggle if it abandons the strategy which has resulted in its dominance.

video by Mat Bracken via WRSA ΜΟΛΩΝ ΛΑΒΕ


[The following essay first appeared at the old Palace Of Reason on November 16, 2002. I've edited it slightly for reuse today. Given current attempts by various idiots commentators to obscure the role of Islam in the Tsarnaev brothers' terrorist acts, it seems peculiarly relevant. I'll continue the "Of Laws And Men" series later in the week. -- FWP]

1. Statements Of Policy

A recent interview of the Grand Mufti of Egypt, conducted by veteran reporter and commentator Kenneth Timmerman and published originally in Insight magazine, reinforces the irreconcilability of Western concepts of rights and freedom with Islamic absolutism, and possibly with Islam of any sort. The most salient parts of that interview were excerpted at the online news site World Net Daily, to which I refer the reader with a passion for horrifying details.

In essence, the Grand Mufti defended Palestinian homicide bombing as legitimate resistance against Israeli oppressions. He also characterized the United States as an oppressor nation and such persons as Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson as "terrorists," because they had spoken critically of Islam. He repeatedly refused to engage the morality of Palestinian targeting of civilians, asserting toward the end that:

Life is sacred in Islam. But we are facing the Israeli state, which is militarily based. Israeli citizens are like warriors. They have their weapons with them at all times. So who are civilians, Palestinians or Israelis?

This is an excellent specimen of a non-falsifiable argument -- a specious argument that no evidence nor logic could overcome. All states are militarily based. They are instruments for the wielding of force: to protect their citizens from foreign attack and from domestic predators. If merely being a citizen of a nation-state makes one a warrior, then there cannot be any civilians.

It is a regular characteristic of dishonest persons to attempt to confuse their opponents by twisting the terms of debate. We've seen enough of this from Islamic clerics not to be surprised by it any more. This kind of dishonest sophistry in defense of the worst men in the world, men who murder children in their beds, is nothing less than aiding and abetting political murder. It casts a huge pall of doubt over the sincerity of those who claim, against the contrary tide of blood-drenched evidence, that "Islam is a religion of peace."

But I'm not telling you anything you haven't heard before, am I?

The American attempt to combat Islamic terrorism without engaging its ideological underpinnings greatly resembles a scene from Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged:

[James Taggart] "What I mean is, there are practical problems to solve, which...For instance, what was that matter of our last allocation of new rail vanishing from the storehouse in Pittsburgh?"

[Dagny Taggart] "Cuffy Meigs stole it and sold it."

"Can you prove that" he snapped defensively.

"Have your friends left any means, methods, rules or agencies of proof?"

"Then don't talk about it, don't be theoretical, we've got to deal with facts! We've got to deal with facts as they are today...I mean, we've got to devise some practical means to protect our supplies under existing conditions, not under unprovable assumptions, which --"

She chuckled. There was the form of the formless, she thought, there was the method of his consciousness: he wanted her to protect him from Cuffy Meigs without acknowledging Meigs's existence, to fight it without admitting its reality, to defeat it without disturbing its game.

No one has ever dealt as well with archetypes as Ayn Rand.

2. Striking The Root.

One can destroy an ordinary threat by ordinary means. One opposes the armed enemy with more or better arms. One opposes the ideological opponent with a better ideology. These are not difficult things to do, at least in concept.

An enemy who combines a totalitarian ideology with a program of aggression is a true challenge. And all totalitarianisms are aggressive.

Consider the major totalitarian adventures in recent history. Not one was content with any delimited sphere of command. All insistently reached out for more territory, more subjects, more scope for the dictators' whims. All impoverished their people to build huge militaries, and all acted against "deviation" with the harshest means at their disposal, including torture, murder, hostage-taking, and coerced alteration of dissidents' personalities -- brainwashing.

In all measurable respects, they were identical.

This identity of result, this absolute convergence on an aggressive hostility toward anything that surrounded them, flows directly from their common premise: that one may, for whatever reason, use force against others to compel them to submit to one's will. That central filament of thought overcomes any and every impulse toward acceptance of divergent opinions or customs. Even to suggest that one might tolerate differences is to brand oneself an enemy of the regime.

The premise of rightful use of unlimited power couples the holder inextricably to force and its instruments. Force, as we know, cannot build; it can only destroy. A system of thought married to the wielding of unlimited force inevitably loses any constructive features and becomes a threat to whatever it approaches.

Systems of thought that limit the use of force to deterring and defending against enemies are viable as long as the limits are respected. They leave room for the differences of opinion, custom and taste within which market exchange and diversity of belief can flourish. Thus, a country such as the United States can possess a huge military, equal in capability to all the other militaries of the world combined, yet possess substantial internal freedom and economic dynamism. Compare this to Sandinista Nicaragua, whose totalitarian government destroyed all economic enterprise and all traffic in ideas, especially international traffic, even though its armed forces were never as much as one percent of America's.

The root is the totalitarian premise: unlimited use of force. One may shatter the enemy's army in the field, or overthrow its state and put its leaders to death, but if the root premise remains, the enemy will rise again, and will need to be put down again.

This is why military victories are not always sufficient to produce an enduring peace.

3. Facets Of Totalitarianism

The totalitarian will rationalize any deed, however atrocious, in pursuit of his objectives. The precise nature of those objectives doesn't matter at all.

Moreover, the totalitarian will strive to cast his opponents in the harshest possible light, branding him an enemy of all humanity if he can. The precise nature of the enemy is irrelevant. Hitler and Stalin were willing to demonize one another, despite the interchangeability of their regimes. The Soviet Union was willing to brand the United States and its NATO allies as the worst threats to peace on the planet, even though all the evidence was in the opposite direction.

This is both a tactical necessity and a feature of totalitarian ideology. Totalitarian ideologies cannot be completely successful unless they own, not merely the bodies, but the minds of their subjects. Such complete dominance of a people's thought is not possible unless all competing systems and alternative ideologies are anathematized, such that even the willingness to entertain them is a mark of the Beast.

The underlying need to be served is the preservation of absolute moral certainty.

No matter what one's overt posture on right and wrong, all persons, and all political schemes, must have one. The dichotomy between rights and force is unavoidable; the two are mutually defining. A passage from Eric Harry's recent novel Protect And Defend is eloquent on this subject:

"Rights are an archist concept. Rights have no meaning except when confronted with superior power. They are what is left to the people after the government has taken all it wants. Your country's Bill of Rights defines your most cherished freedoms how? By limiting the legal power of government to encroach upon them."

In this statement by a Russian anarchist theorist to an American reporter, Mr. Harry has exactly captured the nature of rights, and why they matter. From it we may easily infer why a power animated by the totalitarian premise can never concede any rights, nor allow its subjects to regard any potential instrument of opposition as possessing rightness in any degree. They must arrogate all authority over right and wrong unto themselves.

In comparison with this, all other, organizational or ideological facets of totalitarianism pale to insignificance. Why all totalitarian regimes converge on absolute oppression and aggression against their neighbors stands explained.

4. Today's Preeminent Totalitarianism.

We have entered an era in which political ideology is ceding the stage to other forms of ideology. Though he overstated the case, Francis Fukuyama's core idea in his book The End Of History And The Last Man was basically sound. Political theory has reached an end state where only two alternatives remain: liberal democracy and anarchism.

Economics, in practice, shelters under the wing of some political system. The prevailing economics of liberal democratic states is the free market, albeit adulterated by government interventions for particular purposes. There are degrees and variations, but the central features of all such economies are compatible, because they flow from a common concept of property rights and the right to exchange. Over time, we may expect still more substantial commonalities, as a result of international competition.

In the domestic economy of the United States, we see a trend toward ever greater liberalization. [FWP: Note that this was written in 2002.] Those who favor thorough government regulation are being swept back by the superior performance of self-regulating markets, where men's plans to produce and trade are subject to control only by their customers' preferences, and not by political whim or changes in the law. Inasmuch as America is the economic heart of the world, this pattern will probably be reproduced in other states which respect equality before the law and whose people want to achieve as Americans have. Thus, as with politics, economic theory has reached an end state: the free market.

Religion is the battleground of our time.

The Judeo-Christian religions, which share a common moral code and a vision of the Divine will as benevolent toward all men, have no problems with one another. There will always be some amount of sniping, of course -- you can't have a religion without asserting that you're right where others are wrong -- but internecine warfare of the sort that blotted earlier eras is unlikely.

The risks arise from the sole major religion that asserts Divine intolerance of dissent and instructs its followers to act accordingly: Islam.

Islam has all the other earmarks of a totalitarian ideology as well. The religion's clerical keepers assert unbounded authority, punish all deviations from absolute orthodoxy, and demonize any competing belief system without reference to its actual pronouncements. The "fundamentalist" clergy, in accordance with the unaltered words of the Qur'an, sanctify the use of force to spread Islam, promise rewards in the afterlife to those who die in such service, and indemnify the Muslim for acts against "infidels" that would be crimes if committed against a brother Muslim. The results have been horrifying.

Most critical is the transformation of Islam from a creed to an instrument for domination. The Grand Mufti of Egypt, in his adroit avoidance of any objective assessment of the deeds of Palestinian Muslims and his passionate denunciation of others who have "insulted" Islam, exemplifies a major consequence of a totalitarian system: Those who act according to the system cannot be wrong, while those who resist it cannot be right.

The fault lines that run through the Islamic world, and the response of the "fundamentalists" to the "liberals," further underscore Islam's totalitarian nature: they demand absolute authority and are willing to kill even dissident Muslims to get and keep it.

We may observe a great irony in the use of "fundamentalist" to describe certain Christian communities. Though they teach Biblical literalism, and emphasize traditional behavioral proscriptions to a degree that others consider harsh, they are essentially liberal toward those who disagree. The most any "fundamentalist" Christian threatens a dissident with is undesirable accommodations in the afterlife. Clearly, "fundamentalist" Christians are of a different and far more benign stripe than "fundamentalist" Muslims, whatever the Grand Mufti might think.

A Christian of any denomination recognizes a Christian of any other sort as a brother and fellow-traveler on the road to salvation. The same applies to the various subfamilies of Judaism. To a "fundamentalist" Muslim, a "moderate" Muslim, who argues for modernizing his creed and adapting to secular states, is an apostate from Islam in the process of defining a competing creed, and therefore must be destroyed.

The cloth is of a single pattern.

If it abjures violence and edits from its sacred texts the many sanctifications and exhortations that its adherents do violence in its service, Islam might survive as a religion in some altered form. However, textually absolute, doctrinally inerrant, "fundamentalist" Islam, now fully converted from a body of belief to an instrument for the acquisition of absolute power over others, cannot -- unless it is permitted to take over the world. In its identity of premises and methods with all other totalitarian ideologies, it demonstrates daily why men of good will cannot coexist with it.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Of Laws And Men Part 2: Do-Gooders

"I came to Casablanca for the waters."
"The waters? What waters? We're in the desert."
"I was misinformed."

[From Casablanca, of course.]

If you've never before encountered the word meliorist, "do-gooder" is as close as synonyms come, with a single exception for connotation: Whereas the do-gooder might be willing to act on his own initiative and out of his own resources, the meliorist is not. The meliorist seeks to use the force of law and the resources of the State to advance his aims.

The aims, you see, are what matter. They're his rationale for poking a gun into your ribs and reaching for your wallet. He can justify his coercions -- to himself, at least -- by referring to the moral imperatives expressed in his aims whether they be the succor of the downtrodden, the uplifting of the culture, or something perhaps not quite so palatable:

What to do, when a ship carrying a hundred passengers suddenly capsizes and there is only one lifeboat? When the lifeboat is full, those who hate life will try to load it with more people and sink the lot. Those who love and respect life will take the ship’s axe and sever the extra hands that cling to the sides....

The United States symbolises the worst ideologies in the world: growth and freedom....

Any dictatorship would be better than modern democracy. There cannot be so incompetent a dictator that he would show more stupidity than a majority of the people. The best dictatorship would be one where lots of heads would roll and where government would prevent any economical growth.

We will have to learn from the history of revolutionary movements — the national socialists, the Finnish Stalinists, from the many stages of the Russian revolution, from the methods of the Red Brigades — and forget our narcissistic selves.

A fundamental, devastating error is to set up a political system based on desire. Society and life have been organized on the basis of what an individual wants, not on what is good for him or her....

Just as only one out of 100,000 has the talent to be an engineer or an acrobat, only a few are those truly capable of managing the matters of a nation or mankind as a whole. In this time and this part of the World we are heedlessly hanging on democracy and the parliamentary system, even though these are the most mindless and desperate experiments of mankind. In democratic countries the destruction of nature and sum of ecological disasters has accumulated most. Our only hope lies in strong central government and uncompromising control of the individual citizen.

Pentti Linkola's rationale is that he "loves life." He's willing to demonstrate that for you, if you'll kindly just lay your neck on this chopping block -- preferably face-down -- and wait there a moment while he fetches his axe. Don't fret about the blood; that's just part of the price he willingly pays for his love.

Meliorists will protest endlessly about how they "only want to help people." That's why they need secret police, concentration camps, and legions of watchers to remain alert for dissent. They can't help people if you stand in their way -- and you'd be amazed how broad and inclusive a category of behavior that is.

Before we proceed, I'll telegraph a part of the conclusion:

Meliorists' aims are never sincere.

You'll see why I can make that statement with confidence in just a moment.

The meliorist's enveloping rationale -- i.e., the notion that underpins all his more specific contentions -- is utilitarianism: "the greatest good for the greatest number." He seeks to shape State policy in a fashion that will produce such a condition, according to his lights. It sounds purely benevolent to the uncritical, but it has powerful implications that are seldom adequately explored.

Way back in March, 2005, at Eternity Road, I once wrote:

A government, being a human institution, must rest upon one of only three kinds of basis for its existence and its operation:
  1. Hobbesian absolutism ("Princes are gods") denies that the State, however organized, need suffer any constraint whatsoever.
  2. Benthamite utilitarianism argues that constraints on the State are temporal and topical, and may be set aside without qualm when they impede "the greatest good for the greatest number."
  3. Lockean natural-rights theory holds that the State must remain within those constraints arising from rights that individual men possess by nature -- that when it violates those constraints, then, regardless of its intentions or effects, the State has become criminal and must suffer to be judged.

Gentle Reader, you could struggle and strain for the rest of your life without elucidating a theory of legitimate government that differs in substance from all three of the above. There simply aren't any....

Utilitarianism attempts to supplant the concept of rights, which Jeremy Bentham and his followers deemed too abstract, with the concept of collective utility: "the greatest good for the greatest number." In this formulation, the actions of the State could and should be justified entirely on the basis of the results they achieve, or, alternately, how well they "work." Utilitarianism was prominent in the thinking of early American socialists such as Edward Bellamy, Herbert Croly, and Charles Sanders Peirce.

But collective utility presupposes many things:

  1. Defensible concepts of "good" and "better" that can be applied to collectives;
  2. Accuracy in the formulation of policy to achieve what's deemed as "good" or "better,"
  3. Continuity of policy, once formulated, until the sought for "good" or "better" has been achieved,
  4. The moral defensibility of policies formulated "in good faith" even after they've failed.

All four of these suppositions are provably unsound, usually by their own internal logic.

If "good" and "better" are applicable to a collective, then by implication individual choice by any member of the collective must be irrelevant, perhaps even invalid. Yet decisions about "good" and "better" must be made somehow, whether by majority vote or by some designated planner or planners. In the first case, collective utility comes up hard against the ephemeral nature of the collective: it has no enduring identity. Its component individuals will change over time, by death, procreation, association or disassociation, which can easily lead to changes in the majority's verdicts about "good" and "better." But if the collective's decisions can change in such a fashion, with no "upper limit" on how fast they can change, under what circumstances, or in response to what developments, then how seriously can we take the concept of collective "good"?

In the second case, where designated planners decide on "good" and "better" for the collective, the utilitarians have reintroduced individual choice. The sole difference here is that some individuals are deciding on "good" and "better" for many others, rather than each man deciding for himself.

It is obvious that many a State policy formulated to bring about some well-conceived end has failed to do so. Sometimes the failure was inherent in the policy conception; sometimes it was the result of discontinuity in administration or application. What matters is that the result upon which the policy was founded was not achieved. How, then, shall we defend, morally or practically, the imposition of collective decision-making that overrode individuals' claims to rightful autonomy, when the very good they were promised in exchange for their rights has failed to materialize? Shall we make restitution to those who were deprived of their lives, liberties, or properties in service to the unachieved goal? If so, what becomes of collective utility's conceptual superiority to individual rights? If not, why should individuals agree to submit to the usurpation of their rights, however conceived, in the first place?

It becomes clear from such simple analyses that utilitarianism in theory reduces to absolutism in practice.

The meliorist will never willingly confront those implications. Indeed, to press them upon him usually results in a screaming match. His aims are all that matter, and they are not to be questioned. He only wants the best -- for everyone if possible, but at the very least for "the greatest number." Nor will he accept any of the odium for the damage his policies do. Why should he shoulder the blame when he didn't intend any of the bloodshed, destruction, or impoverishment?

Well, yes, some of them, like Pentti Linkola above, do intend it, and will say so candidly. But that's beside the point...isn't it?

I have no patience for persons who would object that to conflate the Pentti Linkolas of the world with sincere American meliorists who really, truly, do "just want to help people," I'm committing some sort of injustice. Linkola and the mildest advocate of government redistributionism are on exactly the same moral plane, and cannot be separated. Both seek to use the State's defining privilege -- its pre-indemnified use of violence and intimidation -- to achieve conditions they would prefer to those that currently obtain.

The touchstone of moral acceptability is not "wanting to help people;" it's whether one accepts the Natural Law as binding upon oneself.

More anon.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Of Laws And Men

Weekends tend to be lower-traffic days here at Liberty's Torch, for which reason I try to reserve my more abstract and philosophical emissions for those periods.

Hey, guess what? It's Saturday!

Many generalizations can be made about law, legislation, jurisprudence, and associated subjects. Most of them are irrelevant and the majority of those that remain are simply wrong.

I omit natural laws from the above, of course. There are very few generalizations to be made about those, though most of them are irrelevant as well. The only demonstrably incorrect generalizations one can make about the laws of nature are that:

  • There aren't any;
  • We know them to their fullest extent.

However, we can discuss Man's laws in an abstract, generalized fashion. Indeed, there's a great deal of insight available even from making the attempt.

In the 1932 movie Island of Lost Souls, derived from H.G. Wells's classic The Island Of Dr. Moreau, the mad doctor catechizes his beast-men with a simple three-part law code:

"What is the law?"
"Not to eat meat. That is the law. Are we not men?"
"What is the law?"
"Not to go on all fours. That is the law. Are we not men?"
"What is the law?
"Not to spill blood. That is the law. Are we not men?"

We have here:

  • A Lawgiver whose authority is deemed beyond question;
  • A code of laws he promulgates and enforces;
  • A rationale for them.

This is the pattern for all law, however made, pronounced, or enforced, among men.

All three components in the pattern are necessary. Every attempt known to history to enforce a law code behind which stood no rationale, or a rationale in which its subjects ceased to believe, eventuated in the fall of the regime, often by a bloody revolution. Moreau's Beast-Men needed to believe that men must abstain from certain acts, just as much as they needed to believe that the Law would be enforced against those who dared to violate it.

Societies need to believe in the founding rationales of their law codes just as strongly. However, only one rationale will hold men's allegiances for very long:

This is the one and only right way for men to behave.

In short, man-made law must conform to Natural Law. No mortal Lawgiver can remain forever beyond question without that foundation beneath his decrees; ultimately, all will fall.

The reason is not hard to find: Laws compel and constrain, and men dislike compulsion and constraint. The Natural Law is built directly into our souls; its dictates are ultimately irresistible. All man-made law will either express a dictum derived from the Natural Law, or will somehow contradict it. To maintain laws of the latter sort, the Lawgiver must articulate a rationale with which he can replace or occlude the Natural Law...but no such can long endure.

I asked one of the members of Parliament whether a majority of the House could legitimize murder. He said no. I asked him whether it could sanctify robbery. He thought not. But I could not make him see that if murder and robbery are intrinsically wrong, and not to be made right by the decisions of statesmen, then similarly all actions must be either right or wrong, apart from the authority of the law; and that if the right and wrong the law are not in harmony with this intrinsic right and wrong, the law itself is criminal. [Herbert Spencer, The Proper Sphere of Government]

Herbert Spencer was an ethicist above all other things. He was passionately concerned with "intrinsic right and wrong:" what the late Clarence Carson called "the moral order of the universe." Legions of detractors have attempted to destroy his Natural Law-based ethical edifice; none have succeeded, for which reason the accusations universally leveled at him are that he "lacked compassion" or was "a Social Darwinist." Those accusations are leveled at present-day spokesmen for the Natural Law, as well; no objective case can be made against them.

Some of the most foolish, ultimately self-contradicting assaults on Natural Law have been fallaciously claimed to rest on Christian ethics. Yet C. S. Lewis, the greatest Christian apologist of modern times, defeated all such notions utterly. In his mighty essay The Abolition of Man, Lewis lays out a perfect secular argument for the Natural Law:

If by Reason we mean the process actually employed by Gaius and Titius when engaged in debunking (that is, the connecting by inference of propositions, ultimately derived from sense data, with further propositions), then the answer must be that a refusal to sacrifice oneself is no more rational than a consent to do so. And no less rational. Neither choice is rational—or irrational—at all. From propositions about fact alone no practical conclusion can ever be drawn. This will preserve society cannot lead to do this except by the mediation of society ought to be preserved. This will cost you your life cannot lead directly to do not do this: it can lead to it only through a felt desire or an acknowledged duty of self-preservation. The Innovator is trying to get a conclusion in the imperative mood out of premisses in the indicative mood: and though he continues trying to all eternity he cannot succeed, for the thing is impossible. We must therefore either extend the word Reason to include what our ancestors called Practical Reason and confess that judgements such as society ought to be preserved (though they can support themselves by no reason of the sort that Gaius and Titius demand) are not mere sentiments but are rationality itself; or else we must give up at once, and for ever, the attempt to find a core of 'rational' value behind all the sentiments we have debunked. The Innovator will not take the first alternative, for practical principles known to all men by Reason are simply the Tao which he has set out to supersede. He is more likely to give up the quest for a 'rational' core and to hunt for some other ground even more 'basic' and 'realistic'....

Telling us to obey Instinct is like telling us to obey 'people'. People say different things: so do instincts. Our instincts are at war. If it is held that the instinct for preserving the species should always be obeyed at the expense of other instincts, whence do we derive this rule of precedence? To listen to that instinct speaking in its own cause and deciding it in its own favour would be rather simple-minded. Each instinct, if you listen to it, will claim to be gratified at the expense of all the rest. By the very act of listening to one rather than to others we have already prejudged the case. If we did not bring to the examination of our instincts a knowledge of their comparative dignity we could never learn it from them. And that knowledge cannot itself be instinctive: the judge cannot be one of the parties judged; or, if he is, the decision is worthless and there is no ground for placing the preservation of the species above self-preservation or sexual appetite....

'All within the four seas are his brothers' (xii. 5) says Confucius of the Chün-tzu, the cuor gentil or gentleman. Humani nihil a me alienum puto says the Stoic. 'Do as you would be done by,' says Jesus. 'Humanity is to be preserved,' says Locke. All the practical principles behind the Innovator's case for posterity, or society, or the species, are there from time immemorial in the Tao. But they are nowhere else. Unless you accept these without question as being to the world of action what axioms are to the world of theory, you can have no practical principles whatever. You cannot reach them as conclusions: they are premisses....If nothing is self-evident, nothing can be proved. Similarly if nothing is obligatory for its own sake, nothing is obligatory at all.

I cannot overstress the power and penetration of this magnificent essay. Despite its brevity -- or perhaps because of it -- it expresses the irreducible core of all rational philosophy, and demonstrates the fallacy behind men's unending attempts to build an edifice that could replace Natural Law.

Yet what has Lewis affirmed that Herbert Spencer did not? Not a thing. What innovation in rational thought did he propose? None that I can detect. The two men said exactly the same thing, one at greater length and with more detail:

Right and wrong are absolute.
They are above modification by mortal agencies.
Any attempt to displace, efface or occlude them constitutes hubris.

It's a lesson that, despite millennia of experience, has yet to sink in.

I've been counseled against going on for too long in any one essay, so I'll continue the elucidation of these thoughts tomorrow. But before I sign off for the day, I'd like to leave my Gentle Readers with a bit of history to ponder.

One hundred twenty-four years ago today, a child was born in a small town in Austria. His mother had syphilis, which she transmitted to him. Syphilis in its tertiary stage has some remarkable effects:

  • It increases abstract intelligence, in some cases by as much as forty IQ points;
  • It induces hallucinations and a sense of detachment from mundane reality;
  • It correlates with the development of megalomania.

That child, in his maturity, decided that he was capable of reordering the world to his own design, starting with Europe. He marshaled a large nation capable of prodigious things to his cause: the cause of war and conquest. His enterprise took millions of lives. It took the combined might of the largest and most advanced nations of the world to put an end to the carnage his madness caused.

Adolf Hitler took his own life rather than face justice. Perhaps at that point he was completely incapable of recognizing justice, or any other aspect of objective reality. He accomplished great, unprecedented horrors, the world rose against him, and he fell -- but not before inspiring a large and capable nation to rally to his madness and fight for his cause: the cause of Man's will elevated above the Natural Law.

His imitator to the East, who remained an admirer to the last despite the war between them, would transmit his hubris to several generations of inheritors before it collapsed.

More anon.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Vladimir Putin on Russian minorities.

Would that majority (white European) Americans had leaders like Mr. Putin (2/4/13):
In Russia live Russians. Any minority, from anywhere, if it wants to live in Russia, to work and eat in Russia, should speak Russian, and should respect the Russian laws. If they prefer Sharia Law, then we advise them to go to those places where that's the state law. Russia does not need minorities. Minorities need Russia, and we will not grant them special privileges, or try to change our laws to fit their desires, no matter how loud they yell 'discrimination'. We had better learn from the suicides of America, England, Holland and France, if we are to survive as a nation. Russian customs and traditions are not compatible with the lack of culture or the primitive ways of most minorities. When this honourable legislative body [the Russian parliament] thinks of creating new laws, it should have in mind the national interest first, observing that the minorities are not Russians.[1]
Or, more to the point, would that white Americans had the common sense to demand such leaders.

Now, however, any leader willing to express such sentiments would be cut off by the RNC, the Tea Party, and the Libertarians and the white population, the ultimate tragedy, would for the most part shrink from such courageous, prescient individuals like vampires from the dawn, oblivious of the presently inevitable day when whites become a minority in their own country that it heralds.

[1] Quoted in "Russia Allegedly to Resist ‘Minority’ Pressures ." By Chris Brandt, IQ & PC, 4/15/13.

Narratives Part 2: Distractions

In the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings and the fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas, one of the things we can see most clearly is just how irritated the Left becomes when real-world events cross-cut The Narrative.

Before the above events, the Obama regime and its media handmaidens strove to make The Narrative all about Sandy Hook and gun control. The significance of that decision reaches back to the last stage of the 2012 presidential campaign, when Obama decided that gun control would become one of the signature issues for his second term. But for a leftist in high federal office, it's not enough that he, personally, has adopted a particular issue as his precious pet. The rest of the country must be bombarded with his preferred message, the newspapers filled with it and the airwaves saturated with it, such that no matter which way a private citizen might turn, that one subject will be staring him in the face. The tactic has a Biblical feel: just keep knocking, and eventually the guy inside will give you what you want, if only so you'll go away and he can go back to sleep.

In this regard, Obama and his fellow travelers had two problems even before reality intruded on them:

  • The public didn't (and doesn't) regard gun control as particularly important in the larger context;
  • It was clear from the outset that no gun control bill, however cleverly designed, would have prevented Adam Lanza from getting his hands on his mother's firepower.

Needless to say, they didn't let that stop them. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D, CA), Joe Manchin (D, WV), and others continually harped on the 20 juvenile victims of Lanza's murder spree, associating their bills with Sandy Hook as if they would indeed have thwarted the insane young man. Obama cited several statistics -- all of them entirely false-to-fact -- about how "the American people" want stricter gun control, and were being denied their desires because of "NRA lies." The falsity of such claims didn't slow them at all.

Then came April 15 and the Boston Marathon bombings.

A couple of pols made half-hearted attempts to associate the bombings with a need for stricter gun control, but these were soon shuffled shamefacedly offstage. It was obvious that there was no connection; it was just as obvious that the gun-controllers were angered by the sudden demotion of their pet cause to "inside the paper." Obama's tirade in reaction to the defeat of his lieutenants' bills in the Senate said more about him personally than about anything else. It certainly didn't reflect on Americans' attachment to the right to keep and bear arms.

Another fatuous attempt to scavenge some political hay from the bombings was evident in the repeated statements by both politicians and media figures that, given the date, they might have been the work of "anti-government extremists" or "right-wing tax protesters." There was no substantiation for such claims, but just as when Michael Bloomberg attempted to associate the failed Times Square bombing with opposition to ObamaCare, they were determined not to let that stop them.

The West, Texas disaster has certainly reduced the Left's thunder, though it's done so by implication: though the tragedy has claimed an unknown number of lives and injured at least 150 persons, Obama and his minions have had virtually nothing to say about it. Small wonder there: it's completely outside The Narrative. It deflects the public's attention from the Left's preferred subjects. Worse, it offers no handle by which to use it for political purposes. But in this we see a continuation of the Obamunist pattern: The Won will only involve himself in those developments where he foresees personal or political gain.

As usual, the more one looks, the more ironies one sees. The defeat of all the gun control proposals has dealt a strong blow to Obama's political muscle. His party is beginning to sidle away from him, somewhat more obviously and quickly than is the usual case with a second-term president in the period before the mid-term elections. The Democrat senators who have associated themselves with any of the gun control bills have taken similar blows; the worst of them have gone to the loudest complainers. The Republican senators who favored any of the bills must now look to their flanks; the probability has increased that they'll need to defend themselves against primary challengers when they stand for re-election.

Beyond all that, we have Nancy Pelosi's insistence that "we'll be back," and what it means for the Democrats' prospects in the House of Representatives in 2014. Were Obama's claims about popular support for more gun control factual, Pelosi's defiance of the defeats might be harmless or better. But since the American public appears moderately staunch in upholding the right to keep and bear arms free of further state or federal intrusion, Pelosi's insistence that the issue will be revisited could cost the Democrats further seats in the lower chamber.

As always, we shall see. But in one respect, we have already seen: When real-world events deflect Americans' attention from The Narrative, the Left loses political clout -- and to the extent that defeat makes their high-profile spokesmen act out, they lose credibility and respect, as well.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013


Normally, I resist writing about what everyone else is writing about. I prefer to be off the major axes of public interest, so that my columns will at least be memorable for that. But now and then, there's no help for it: there's a single topic of importance, and all attention must flow to it.

Of course, the exact nature of that topic is often invisible to the thundering herd.

There can no longer be any doubt that the bombings in Boston on Monday were the work of terrorists. There's little doubt, given the methods and the bomb components, that the terrorists were Islamic jihadis, perhaps al-Qaeda affiliates. Given those things, the work of our time is the elimination of jihadism -- I refuse to call it "Islamic extremism," inasmuch as violent jihad is integral to Islam -- from our shores and, if possible, from the larger world.

But what coloration have the talking heads been straining to apply to this atrocity? That it might have been the work of "right-wing extremists." Why, given that April 15 is the statutory deadline for filing a federal income tax return, perhaps it was a group of TEA Partiers! After all, didn't the Tea Party of 1773 take place in Boston?

Why would anyone make such a foolish suggestion? Quite simply, in defense of The Narrative.

The Narrative -- the enveloping backdrop of assumptions about conditions, causes, and motivations being promoted by the government and its media handmaidens -- has several components. The parts that matter here are:

  • The claim, uttered by no other than Barack Hussein Obama, that "the War on Terror is over;"
  • The continuing effort to persuade Americans that the greatest danger to us consists of the private ownership of firearms.

A large component of The Narrative since 2009 has been the Obamunist declaration that "the War on Terror is over." This contention carries with it the implication that the expenditures and efforts devoted to combating terrorism can now be "saved:" i.e., deflected to other federal priorities, such as fattening the wallets of Obama's cronies. Ironically, even if the premise were correct, the consequent would not follow. A "war" is a delimited action in which governments strive to impose their wills upon one another by force. The terrorist threat is only loosely (if at all) connected to any government, nor has war been declared on any such. But Obama and his lieutenants begrudge the use of federal resources merely to keep Americans safe in their homeland; they don't believe we deserve such a sense of security. The Narrative must prevail.

Another rush to defend The Narrative arises from the Sandy Hook atrocity, in which emotionally disturbed Adam Lanza took 27 lives before taking his own. Mind you, Lanza didn't purchase the guns he used to kill all those innocents; he stole them from his mother, whom he then killed. Neither did he use an "assault weapon," the fanciful left-liberal term for a rifle with certain cosmetic embellishments; the only "assault weapon" found at the scene was locked in the trunk of his car. But the Left must defend the notion that the way to safety is citizen disarmament and "Gun-Free Zones." Therefore, these things must be effaced, so that nonsensical, irrelevant, and utterly unConstitutional anti-firearms legislation will have a chance of passing Congress.

Other components of The Narrative have been brought under harsh scrutiny in recent months. One notable case has been the trial of horror-abortionist Kermit Gosnell. I've striven to remind others that back in the Sixties, when the legalization of abortion was first discussed, conservative opponents predicted that legal abortion would lead to infanticide. The response from abortion defenders has usually been to claim that Gosnellian atrocities were commonplace before abortion was legalized. A weak response, to be sure, but when the Narrative requires defense, even the slenderest slivers will be rushed to the barricades. What's that you say? Senator Barack Hussein Obama actually voted in favor of allowing what Gosnell did? Twice? Shut up, you racist!

Why such passion for The Narrative? Quite simply, because we convey knowledge of causal relations to one another principally in the form of stories. The Narrative attempts to wrap left-liberal policy positions in stories with happy endings. When the endings prove to be not so happy after all, the associated story will be questioned and possibly dismissed. Can't have that, especially when America's first black president has stated so plainly that the War on Terror is over, gun-control legislation is being debated on the floor of the Senate, and ever more Americans are coming to understand the horrors unleashed by legalized abortion.

A long time ago, I wrote:

A number of brilliant analysts of argument and persuasion have set down the requirements of honest exchange: the supremacy of facts, avoidance of personalities, willingness to admit that one might be wrong about propositions for which the evidence is inconclusive, and so forth. Arthur Herzog, in The B.S. Factor, mentions another: sufficient decency to disdain victory through force of rhetoric.

Argument differs from rhetoric in many ways, but one above all others: the goal of argument is not to defeat one's opponent, but to increase one's understanding. Rhetoric is a sheaf of techniques for prevailing at verbal combat, regardless of the rightness of one's position. Demosthenes, the classical icon of rhetoric, was said to be capable of taking either side in any controversy and prevailing through sheer rhetorical skill....

In these United States, free and open communication is the rule. (We shall omit consideration of the universities and the Old Media for the purposes of this screed.) There's essentially no prospect for a regime of censorship that would suit the purposes of the Left. Its thrusts at imposing the shackle of "political correctness" on Americans' speech by the cultivation of unearned guilt have all rebounded catastrophically against it. What remains to it is the pollution of the intellectual waters, such that we recoil from them in disgust and futility.

Sadly, unless the defender of freedom is intellectually well armed and possesses a robust sense of humor, the tactic works more often than not.

The sense of humor is a shield against the sense of outrage Alger alludes to in his piece above. Outrage in a discussion format only feels energizing. In fact, it's wearying. It also tempts one to unsuitable responses. If an honest debater feels outrage stealing over him, he must invoke his sense of humor at once, both as protection and as the beginning of the only effective available retort: the leap to the meta-argument.

The "meta-argument" is to the argument itself as the rules of a game are to the play of a particular game. It "summons the referee" to bear witness to a dirty trick. If one can show that the opponent is violating the rules and hoping not to be called on it, the gain can be immense. Given the pattern Alger cites, imagine a reaction like this:

[Hearty chuckle] What Phil is doing here, friends, is stating a group of rumors and outright lies as if they were unchallenged facts. He has to assert them quickly and move on to other subjects, to keep them from being challenged and destroyed. An honest arguer wouldn't do that. But Phil's not interested in argument; he's trying to prevent argument and spread propaganda in its place. Phil, as our listeners don't have any patience for that, we don't have any time for you. [Click]

If you detect the sort of behavior described above, the meta-argument is your best recourse. Granted that it won't work on a case-hardened liberal. Granted that honesty demands that you admit that you, too, could be wrong. But if you're playing by the rules of honest argumentation, the mere fact that you've caught your opponent in a violation of those rules is a heavy stroke in your favor.

The Narrative, being a tissue of lies, can be countered factually. Indeed, the leftist's primary aim is to spread lies. If you can demonstrate to your audience that he's attempting to win their assent by dishonest means, you can protect third parties from his wiles.

The problem of Main Stream Media defense of The Narrative is much stiffer. People will tend to accept what's repeated at them sufficiently often, especially if it comes from a source deemed authoritative. Ironically, the media are treated as authoritative for no other reason than that they are the media. You, on the other hand, are a mere peon, subject to being dismissed no matter how eloquent or well supplied with facts you might be. After all, if you're so smart, why aren't you on television?

Quite a three-pipe problem, Watson.

If there's an effective counterstroke to The Narrative, it probably lies in the promotion of a competing narrative founded on actual events: true stories to counteract lies.

True stories possess an inherent advantage over deceitful ones: an attentive listener will grasp the causal relations for himself. He won't need them pointed out to him. A man is far more likely to believe his own inferences than those presented to him ready-made, and far more likely to defend them energetically when challenged.

The time has come for massive efforts in this direction. Indeed, it came long ago. We have firm evidence that we're under attack by the adherents of a vicious theocratic-totalitarian ideology. Despite that, and despite the complete lack of Constitutional or utilitarian justification for infringements on our rights to keep and bear arms, rapacious governments determined to extinguish the vestiges of freedom and eager to use fear in that effort are straining to disarm us. Meanwhile, soulless creatures are killing fully born, viable babies because, after all, what's the difference between a partially-born infant, head still within the birth canal, and a wholly born one? The proponents' principal tool is The Narrative.

It's time to knock it flat and crush it into dust.