Always someone more socially just than you…

I suppose that’s not actually true if you’re willing to go the full Pol Pot, but it’s what popped into my mind reading Jonathan Chait’s widely read lament over the rejuvenation of political correctness (which he bizarrely thinks has been dormant for the past two decades) and its propensity to terrorize not only conservatives but also its fellow liberals.  Chait assures readers that he is a liberal, one of the good guys in the Left’s Manichean worldview.  That is, he shares the same totalitarian goals as the politically correct (rewriting human nature and civilization to eliminate “racism” and “sexism”) but not their totalitarian means.  The way Leftists cower before their extremist factions makes me glad not to be in their orbit at all.  (Then again, the writers mentioned in that article can write under their real names.)  In opposition to PC’s bullying tactics, Chait affirms liberalism’s faith in reason, that is, a confidence that people can be carried along by the Leftist tide without resorting to coercion.

I don’t think reasonable liberals appreciate how much the power of reason for their cause depends on its ugly coercive accompaniment.  On its own, reason can do very little to convert nonliberals into liberals.  The arguments for liberalism nearly always involve question-begging invocations of a “freedom” or “equality” whose authority we don’t recognize; such appeals have little power over someone who hasn’t already committed himself to the Lockean nonsense.  In a freer market of ideas, the basic assumptions underlying universalism, democracy, and sexual nominalism could be subjected to critique and repudiation.  The debate over basic principles doesn’t happen because even moderate liberals–even the ones who call themselves “Republicans”–agree that these should be off limits and that the enforcement mechanisms of PC are appropriate against patriarchists, monarchists, and ethnonationalists.  About a year ago, I noted that the rules of public respectability in America allow a man to oppose gay marriage but forbid him to have any reason for doing so, since reasons would have to involve forbidden beliefs in distinct sex roles, nonliberal sexual morality, and/or a social interest in regulating sex and paternity.  With the game set up like this, there’s only one way it can proceed.  Liberals easily imagine that the operation of reason must necessarily be to commend an ever more rigorous implementation of liberal principles, because that is how it operates in the current environment.

Because they care so much about the children

As you all know, the media jihad against the Catholic Church is driven entirely by their caring so much more about our children than we do.

Interview with Dave Pierre: (H/T:  Mark Shea)

When I was living in Los Angeles, I became a contributing writer to NewsBusters.org, the popular media-bias blog of the Media Research Center. I would frequently look at the Los Angeles Times. A number of years ago, I noticed that the paper published a very large, 3,800-word piece on the front page about decades-old abuses that were alleged to have been committed by Catholic clergy in remote villages of Alaska. Indeed, many of the stories were heart-wrenching, painful, and tragic. However, months later, the shocking story of a Southern California teacher who may have molested as many as 200 children was buried on page B3.

I soon began to notice a trend: the Times was often giving front-page coverage to stories about Catholic priests alleged to have committed abuse decades ago. Meanwhile, arrests of public school teachers for abuse happening today were often not reported or buried in the “news briefs” section.

The double standard was glaring.

A 2004 report commissioned by the US Department of Education relayed the shocking finding that “nearly 9.6 percent of [public school] students are targets of educator sexual misconduct sometime during their school career.” Yet the report was barely touched in the major media. The author of the report, Hofstra University’s Charol Shakeshaft, later said, “Think the Catholic Church has a problem? The physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.”

Another section of that report chronicled an early 1990s study that revealed that zero of 225 cases of teacher sex abuse in New York were reported to police.

Two hundred and twenty-five abusers. None of them reported to police. By all measures, this would be defined as a cover-up. Yet the media has never seemed too motivated to follow up on this.

As far as statistics of false accusations, I have read credible estimates that as many as one-half of all abuse accusations against Catholic priests are “completely false” or “greatly exaggerated.”

However, the most recent and reliable numbers in this matter come from the Archdiocese of Boston. In August, the archdiocese released sweeping lists of all of its diocesan priests who have been publicly accused of abuse in past decades.

One can examine the number of Boston priests who were found to have committed abuse versus the number of those whose cases were studied and found to be false. In the end, one can demonstrate the sobering figure that one-third of accused priests in the Archdiocese of Boston were accused falsely. (I provide all of the supporting numbers in my book.)

Again, this is an important matter that the media has not been eager to explore.

One Church leader who once thought that it would be productive to reach out to SNAP is Archbishop Timothy Dolan. When he was a prelate in Milwaukee years ago, he believed that making himself available to the group would be a constructive expression of support to abuse victims.

He soon learned the hard way that such an overture would not be welcomed.

At a contentious visit to a parish in Milwaukee, a member of SNAP actually spat in Archbishop Dolan’s face. The member then roared that he would not be silent “until there was a ‘going out of business’ sign in front of every Catholic parish, church, school, and outreach center.”

“That’s when I knew I should have listened to those who told me that working with them would not be helpful,” recalled Archbishop Dolan.

I also asked the reporter, “What if someone anonymously telephoned the newspaper today and said, ‘(I used the reporter’s own name) abused me 30 years ago?’ Would it be OK if the newspaper published this accusation and publicly suspended you while it conducted a months-long investigation?”

The reporter seemed genuinely sobered by such a thought. He understood the point I was trying to make. It’s easy for people to agree that a Catholic priest should be publicly suspended when someone lodges a decades-old accusation against him. But would people accept this same strict policy at their own workplaces and apply it to themselves? Most people would not, especially if it meant that their name was going to be plastered across the media landscape as a “credibly accused child molester.”

Also, I’m sure that the New York Times, in its boundless concern for THE CHILDREN, is going to be all over this story any day now:

Speaking of little boys, leave it to The New York Times to find a front-page story unfit to print because it wasn’t anti-Catholic: The Brooklyn DA recently arrested an astounding 85 Jewish Orthodox men on charges of child sex abuse. Back in 1985 a Hasidic “therapist” was indicted for abusing five boys, but police suspected he abused more than a hundred. Avrohom Mondrowitz fled to Israel, where he remains to this day a free man. Those nice guys who shoot rock-throwing Palestinian children refuse to extradite him. Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes now has to tread carefully. Fifty rabbis have signed a public announcement in Yiddish denouncing the Hasidic family who went to the cops. They asked—now get this—for any believer to kill the family that informed “on fellow Jews.” So what will happen to the 85 perverts? All I know is the Times has not published a word, whereas when the Catholic Church sex scandal broke, it led the news in the front page for months.

So far, about 38 cases in the Brooklyn D.A.’s Project Kol Tzedek — which the [New York] Post translates as Hebrew for “voice of justice” … — have been closed, with just under two thirds resulting in the perps walking free. Many pleaded to lesser changes, with the Post claiming that some got off mostly scot-free because “victims or their parents backed out under community pressure.” (see here)

A new age

How odd that we’d just been noting the death of one Cold Warrior (the commie Christopher Hitchens), when now I’ve just read about the death of two much more important Cold War figures:  Vaclav Havel and Kim Jong-Il.  Havel was, of course, a great hero of the anti-Communist resistance, while Kim was one of the last of the old-style communist dictators.  Both of them seem oddly out of place today.  The ultimate issue is the same now as it was forty years ago, but the forms are changed, and many of the old labels are no longer useful.  (How odd it sounds to me when I hear someone accused of being a “socialist”.)

Havel’s classical liberalism seems like something from another age; it doesn’t address the questions that vex us, now that the choices we face are no longer “communism” vs. “democracy”.  We certainly must honor him for fighting the great evil of communism, and for fighting it on the correct grounds:  not that it was inefficient, but that it was morally corrupting.  Still, I could imagine his anti-totalitarian writings inspiring either side of today’s great debate, since each side accuses the other of forcing the public to profess obvious falsehoods.

And how quaint is North Korean brutality!  It’s as if they’re the only ones to get the memo that that isn’t how the Left operates anymore.  Now that the society-altering visions of today’s Leftists are less ambitious than were those of Lenin and Mao, but they’ve learned how to work toward them without yielding a huge crop of martyrs.  People and organizations who openly oppose the Left will get broken, but they won’t be martyrs.  Can you imagine a professor losing his job for writing against a cherished Leftist belief?  Perish the thought!  Of course, sometimes people must be let go for creating hostile work environments, environments where gay and transgendered students feel insufficiently “affirmed”.  Can you imagine a Leftist government confiscating Church property because it disapproves of Catholic doctrines?  That’s so 1920s!  Now we look for some crime, like adolescent sexual abuse, that Catholic clergy engage in at the roughly same rate as the rest of the population, gather together every accusation–viable or not–over the entire globe over the course of 60 years (which inevitably creates a large absolute number sure to impress the mathematically illiterate), and use your pet media to create a moral panic.  Then bend statute of limitation laws only against the Church and award order-of-magnitude larger settlements than other organizations face for comparable offenses, and pretty soon you can eradicate the communal patrimony of an entire religious group (made largely of working-class ethnic whites and hispanics) while making sure that they get no sympathy in the process.  No, anyone who objects to this ongoing cultural genocide will be accused of not caring about “the chiiiillllddddrrren!!!!”  (Me:  “But how does it help children to obsess every few years over the same set of accusations from the 1970s?  Today, priests in most parishes aren’t even allowed to be alone with children anymore.  And why don’t we spare some attention for the much vaster problem of child sexual abuse in other institutions?”  Them:  “Don’t change the subject!  If you really loved your children, you wouldn’t ask those questions!”)  Don’t you see how stupid the communists were?  They allowed people to go to jail explicitly for their beliefs.  When the Left attack me, they’ll tell the world either that I don’t respect my students or that I don’t love my kids.  Today’s Kims have learned how to avoid making Havels.

Do we need intellectuals?

What do we mean by “intellectuals”?

The original meaning was “Dreyfusard”, more generally an ideologue of the Left, an anti-clerical working for the social marginalization of Christianity.  By that definition, we certainly don’t need intellectuals.  The world would be immeasurably better without them.

Of course, the common meaning for “intellectual” is broader.  It’s also rather vague, so let’s see if we can nail it down a bit.  How about this:  an intellectual is a person who does original intellectual work for a broad public audience.  This would distinguish intellectuals from specialists on the one hand, who write only for their particular community of scholars, and popularizers on the other, whose work for general audiences just presents the scholarly consensus rather than presenting new arguments.  By my definition, it’s possible to be both a specialist and a popularizer without being an intellectual, and this says nothing about that person’s intelligence or creativity.  Richard Feynman and Stephen Hawking would be examples among physicists who, as far as I know, did their original work in exclusively in physics journals, but also wrote successful books for the general public.  (Feynman’s popular book on QED is really marvelous, by the way.  He builds up all the basic ideas behind the theory pictorially.)  Physicist intellectuals might include Arthur Eddington, Freeman Dyson, and Roger Penrose.  All of these did their “serious” specialized work first, but also presented first-rate new stuff to the public.  Eddington’s writings on the philosophy of science made a big impression got referred to by philosophers and theologians long after they were written.  Penrose’s The Emperor’s New Mind is a wonderfully broad and exciting book which amazingly brings together why he thinks artificial intelligence will never work, why time reversibility is a flaw in the laws of physics, how gravity might affect the measurement problem in quantum mechanics, …  Of course, if you’re going to attempt something ambitious like this, it helps to already have a solid reputation as a genius, as Penrose (and Eddington and Dyson) had.

The above examples are all scientists, where the specialist/general audience gap is hardest to bridge.  Where a subject is a matter of public interest–e.g. anything relating to politics–the gap can be leaped more easily.  Political scientists have it easy.  The End of History and The Clash of Civilizations were both big intellectual hits when I was younger.  Like The Bell Curve, everybody had a cartoon version of what was in these books and could tell you why they were wrong and were horrible, wicked ways of thinking.  To name just one philosopher intellectual,  Josef Peiper’s Leisure: the Basis of Culture presented a new and important argument directly to the general public.  Intellectuals can even do their work entirely outside an academic community, e.g. Jane Jacobs.

By this definition, I think it is beneficial to have intellectuals.  Historically, they are more important than specialists, because the specialists can only exist after the intellectuals–the Galileos, for example–have established a field of inquiry and brought together a community of interest.  Intellectual conservatism only exists because of intellectuals like Roger Scruton; our voices are not welcome in academia, and they play little part in the debates of professional political philosophers.

A final definition:  an intellectual is a person who does intellectual work and is precisely not a specialist in any field.  In other words, people who mouth off about everything without knowing much about anything.  People who have never subjected their minds to the discipline of going deep into any subject and who deliberately abstain from learning the subtleties of any question they address.  Because they don’t really know anything, these intellectuals are valued for their rhetorical skills or their supposed moral passion.  (Note the large overlap with the Dreyfusard definition.)  Christopher Hitchens is an example that comes to mind, but in all fairness G. K. Chesterton would also fall into this category.  I doubt one man in a million has a similar opinion of these two men (I certainly don’t); what you think about them no doubt depends on whether you agree with them.  I am often surprised by the seriousness and depth I find in Chesterton hidden behind his glib style.  I’m sure some atheist and neoconservative readers would say they’ve found layers of profundity in Hitchens that are entirely invisible to me.  Still, even I would say that Chesterton’s tendency to mouth off prior to careful study marred his work.  One sees it in his sharing the fashionable prejudice against Calvinists, his overly rosy view of the French Revolution, and his anti-evolutionism.

I think it should be made more difficult rather than less for someone to win respect as an intellectual of this sort.  I would like there to be a social penalty if someone writes on a subject, and their work is then shown to be inexcusably ignorant.  People should make fun of them.  Publishers and readers should be wary of them in the future.  Instead, there seems to be an effort to make a place for these people.  Today, that place is the editorial columns of the newspapers.  There is, in fact, a strong prejudice I’ve found among the educated that one can’t really be an informed person without reading the editorials in the major newspapers.  This really baffles me.  Why should I care what journalists think about this or that issue?  What do they know that I don’t?  We shouldn’t be overly credulous to specialists either, but there is at least some sense in reading the opinion of an expert.  In the opinions of a journalist I see no value at all.  It’s especially odd given the things about which the educated class feel safe in boasting their ignorance.  The doctrines of religions they despise, for example.  As it gets easier to be an intellectual of this sort, they keep getting stupider and stupider.  Consider the line of devolution that runs from Erasmus (with his silly scholastic-baiting but serious translation work) to Voltaire (with his mindless anti-Catholic bigotry but respectable histories) to Hitchens (an all-around ignoramus).  The barriers to entry need to be raised.

Corruption and other dangers

Conservative partisans of democracy make it their special boast that they are alert to the dangers that power will corrupt anyone who wields it, and that power must therefore be divided, broadly shared, and accountable.  For the sake of argument, I will grant that democracy does a very good job of checking corruption.  I even think it’s possible that today’s democratic governments constitute the least corrupt ruling class in history.  I do find it odd, though, that democrats make such a big deal out of such a small problem.

Corruption is when a public official uses his office to pursue his own good rather than the public good:  taking bribes, embezzling public funds, having the police harass his private enemies, that sort of thing.  A free press and regular elections might help discourage that sort of thing.  The problem today, at least in the developed world, is not corruption.  The problem is purity.  Corruption is one of the things that make Leftist rule bearable.  If all the civil servants with an itch to save the world were to just take their salaries and do nothing, I would consider that public money well spent.  But these busybodies aren’t corrupt, and they can’t be bought off so easily.  They take their public moneys and use them to try to inflict social justice on the rest of us.  And so it is with our elected rulers too, who become more tolerable the more corrupt and hypocritical they become.  Unfortunately, they do have a strong accountability mechanism–the free press–that spurs them to be more pure, that is, more pitilessly fanatical.

The danger of corruption, as I have defined it, is much different from the danger of tyranny or hubris.  Robespierre was incorruptible, unfortunately.  Suppose we redefine “corruption” to take these other vices into account, so that we can say that a politician is “corrupted” by ideological recklessness or imprudence.  If we focus on these vices, though, it should be clear that it is not power that corrupts, but powerlessness that corrupts, and absolute powerlessness corrupts absolutely.  The ruling party is forced to confront practical realities, to distinguish between the ideal and the possible.  The party out of power tries to win favor with the multitude by ideological posturing, making demands of the state that are unattainable or counterproductive.  Then, after making their silly and pointless demands (“The ruling party should fix the economy, make sure all Americans have jobs, eliminate the national debt while increasing social spending and subjugating all our enemies worldwide”), the party out of power sits back and hopes bad things will happen to its country, so it can reap the benefits.  Throughout my adult life, this has been the pattern:  it’s always the party in power–whichever one it is–that acts the most responsibly.  Perhaps this is the advantage of different parties controlling different branches of government, not to keep any party from becoming absolutely powerful, but to prevent any party from becoming absolutely powerless and thus devoid of responsibility.

Is this an argument for democracy then, to give the people power so that they won’t be corrupted by powerlessness?  No, because the perverse incentives that make powerlessness so corrupting are created by elections and the press.  People certainly should be invested with responsibilities, since these are schools of the virtues, but this is not done through giving them power as a mass, but through our individualized responsibilities as parents, siblings, neighbors, and professionals.

Who really rules us?

Who ultimately rules the modern West?  I’m always complaining about us being under the thumb of the media/educational establishment/government civil service, but could I be more specific?  The safest way to identify the ruling class is to name some broad group.  Too broad, though, and it ceases to be informative.  If I whisper to the man next to me “It’s the college-educated class that rules us”, he might legitimately think to himself, “Well, of course.  Who else would be running the country?”  On the other hand, a very specific answer makes you sound like a conspiracy nut (and probably makes you be one too).  Try telling someone that America is ruled by the president of Harvard, and see if you’re taken seriously.

Still, of the three pieces of the modern triumvirate–media, academia, government–is it possible for us to identify who leads and who follows?  To me, it seems pretty clear that the media is the ultimate ruler.  Academia may be the idea factory, but it doesn’t decide which ideas get enforced in the nation at large.  Consider this:  the academic elite are all in favor of indoctrinating children in sexual perversion, which is being done nationwide, but they’re also all gung-ho for old-fashioned communism.  As in nationalize all industries, abolish private property, establish the dictatorship of the proletariat communism.  But America is in no danger of having any kind of socialism imposed on us.  Why?  Surely it’s because the newspapermen have decided to push perversion, but not collectivism.  Also, the government exercises pretty direct control over the universities through the latter’s dependence on government funding.  I assure you that obeying the government affects hundreds of academic decisions every day.  Of course, there are limits to how the government will use its power; it would never use its power of the purse to put and end to the “subversive” theorizing going on in the sociology department, for example.  But why is that?  First, because the media has taught public officials that censoring (Leftist) speech is a bad “fascist” thing to do.  Second, because commie professors know that the media would raise a hue and cry if they lost funding for “unAmerican” activity.  So it sort of goes to make my point.

Government and journalism have a very asymmetric relationship.  The ruling understanding of the first amendment is that journalists may attack and manipulate government with impunity, while the government may not retaliate against journalists in any way, even for the most defense of the common good.  It’s a very odd arrangement when one thinks about it.  Of course, few do, since we’ve all had it been drilled in us from a young age (and who did the drilling?) that the “freedom of the press” is a sacred, inviolable principle.  The newspapers’ privileges carry with them no restrictions and no responsibilities, though.  It’s nothing like our “freedom of religion”, which is interpreted to mean that the church’s may do their own thing as long as they do nothing that annoys the government.  (That would be “politics”, and we all know that “religion” and “politics” must never mix–an indirect way of saying that atheists and freemasons must rule over Christians as a matter of constitutional principle.)

And I haven’t even brought up the fact that, to our misfortune, we live in a democracy.  Public opinion rules the government, so ultimate power goes to those who dictate public opinion.  This can only be the monopolists of information, before whom we are all powerless:  the mass media.

Tocqueville thought that freedom of the press was a harmless bit of foolishness, because the newspapers were too diverse and decentralized to form a single entity.  That is certainly no longer the case.  Newspapermen think alike, act alike, believe alike, and the smaller ones take their marching orders from the bigger ones.  So, who rules America?  The editorial board of the New York Times.  God help us.

The people should not have been asked

Suppose there were a kingdom where divorce and blasphemy were illegal.  The king foolishly decides to reform the government in a democratic direction.  Radicals agitate for, and get, a popular vote on the divorce and blasphemy laws.  The public votes to abolish them, and the country sinks into an Americanized sewer.  Conservatives lament, “If only we had not voted on the divorce and blasphemy laws, we would still have a faithful and pious people.”  Liberals retort, “The fact that the public voted to abolish your laws proves that they were already unfaithful and impious, but were only prevented by force from acting on their vices.  What you miss was only an illusion.”

No doubt we’ve all heard arguments like this.  It sounds convincing, but it’s wrong.  First, it assumes that only freely-chosen good behavior is valuable, but that’s obviously not the case.  Often, bad actions have bad effects, and we make laws to avoid the bad consequences of others’ misbehavior, regardless of what’s going on in their souls.  We might wish to preserve a pious public space even when most of the public doesn’t appreciate it; we might wish to protect children from the effects of divorce that their parents are too selfish or stupid to see.  In addition to this, I would say that the public affirmation of the good, and condemnation of the bad, has moral value in itself.

But there’s another reason why these sorts of arguments are wrong.  We assume that, because people voted for X when they got a chance, they were in favor of X before it became a political issue.  I think, though, that the very act of putting something to public vote and making it a matter of public debate alters the perception of the populace.  A population that has a vote on whether to keep its monarchy has already abolished its monarchy, because a king who exists only by popular desire is no king.  If a people debates whether to embrace chastity or hedonism, it has already chosen hedonism.  The moment one steps outside the demands of chastity and considers, between the chaste and hedonistic ways of life, which one gives us the most benefits, that moment one has already adopted the hedonistic perspective.  We may not judge chastity; chastity judges us, or it is not chastity.  A nation may, to a man, be willing to lay down their lives to defend their king, because they see it as their God-given duty.  When revolutionary forces overthrow the monarch, revolutionary media agitate for a democracy, and the public is asked to vote, they may very well choose democracy.  The very act of being asked has made them democrats.  I would say, because I think being a democrat is a bad thing, that an injustice has been done to them.  The nation is left with a poorer sense of authority than it had before.  The people should not have been asked.  As de Maistre said, a people should be surrounded by dogmas, i.e. unquestioned truths.

Why does the public always vote for some branch of the revolutionary party?  Why is it unthinkable that a genuine conservatism could be electorally successful?  It’s because, when the public is asked to vote on things that should be independent of popular will, it has already adopted the liberal stance.  If tradition and natural law are not binding, they can only be justified as advantageous to our private preferences.  But a society designed to satisfy our private preferences is liberalism.

Does public opinion exist before polls and voting booths measure it?  I suspect in many cases that it doesn’t.  The media, and democracy–the means by which the media rules, creates opinions by framing them and prompting them.  Then they announce triumphantly that the majority of the population supports, say, sodomitical civil unions.  Even if the media did not themselves manufacture this opinion (and, of course, they did), the reporting of it creates a new social fact.  The sexual libertarians are thrilled to find their opinion ratified by the populace, and those who don’t think perversion should receive any positive recognition learn how marginalized they are.