Internet reform at cross-purposes

I notice something odd about this Vanity Fair article on and interview with World Wide Web pioneer Tim Berners-Lee.  Berners-Lee is talking about how to make the web less centralized.  The author, Katrina Brooker, is concerned about how to squash fake news and keep President Trump and Russia from using their web-based mind control powers.  Presumably the answer to that is more centralized censorship.  Do the two realize that they are speaking at cross-purposes, or is at least one of them that muddle-headed?

Catholic priorities

Rod Dreher:

a quote from Francesco Montenegro, a Sicilian Cardinal Archbishop, and head of the Italian Catholic bishops’ migration committee: “Migrants, the poor are a thermometer for our faith. Not accepting them, above all by closing our hearts, is not believing in God.”

You don’t support opening the door to the flood of migrants to your country, Italians? You don’t believe in God. So says the Vatican, by retweeting this cardinal’s comment.

According to The Guardianthe Catholic Church in Italy is ramping up in favor of mass migration. Excerpts:

Gianfranco Formenton, a priest in Italy’s central Umbria region who has long preached against racism and in support of migrants, knows what it is like to clash with Matteo Salvini, the recently installed interior minister and leader of the far-right League party.

In response to the party’s xenophobic rhetoric in 2015 – the year more than a million migrants arrived in Europe and 150,000 landed on Italy’s southern shores – he put a sign up on the door of his church in San Martino di Trignano, a hamlet of the town of Spoleto, saying: “Racists are forbidden from entering. Go home!”

He immediately bore the wrath of Salvini, who wrote on Twitter: “Perhaps the priest prefers smugglers, slaveholders and terrorists? Pity Spoleto and this church if this man [calls himself] a priest.”

Think of it! If you believe your country’s borders mean something, then according to this priest, you are a racist who is not welcome in the church.

It gets worse. According to a story in Il Giornale about priests all over Italy becoming migration advocates, Raffaele Nogaro, the retired bishop of Caserta:

The two read the words spoken in an interview by Monsignor Raffaele Nogaro, bishop emeritus of Caserta, in which he said he was ready to “turn all the churches into mosques if it were useful to the cause and if it allowed to save the lives of men and women.”

Think about that. Just think about it.

The Remnant:

On June 13, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston and Houston and head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, read aloud a statement at the USCCB spring meeting in which he denounced the immigration policies of United States President Donald Trump and Attorney General of the United States Jeff Sessions. Cardinal DiNardo was particularly exercised by Trump’s and Sessions’ policy of refusing asylum to those fleeing gang violence, and of prosecuting everyone who illegally enters the United States, a practice which could potentially separate children from their criminal parents.

According to a Religion News Service (RNS) report, “DiNardo asked bishops to clap if they approved the statement. The room erupted in applause.”

Other bishops wanted to do more than just clap. “Bishop Edward Weisenburger of Tucson, Ariz., [suggested] implementing canonical penalties for Catholics ‘who are involved in this’, referring to children being separated from their families at the border. […] ‘For the salvation of these people’s souls, maybe it’s time for us to look at canonical penalties.’” Since 1973, more than sixty million of my countrymen have been murdered by abortionists. To the best of my knowledge, no “canonical penalties” have ever been levied against the politicians “who are involved in this”…

Tribal motivations are rational

For some time, I’ve been trying to reclaim the virtues of tribalism for the Church.  To survive and flourish, a group needs the habitual loyalty of its members.  Liberal critics of Catholic loyalty speak as if identifying an opponent’s behavior as “tribal” is equivalent to showing that it is irrational.  In fact, there is nothing irrational about tribalism; it merely supplies another set of concerns to guide our reasoning.  One sign of this is the fact that liberals do not apply the same anti-tribalist critique to the groups and loyalties they really care about.  They certainly do not think that their fellow liberals should seek out and carefully consider criticisms from their professed enemies.  Such critics are dismissed as irrational preachers of hatred, and it is considered important that they have no mainstream platform that might “legitimate” their views.  This is, indeed, a rational strategy for them in pursuit of the critical goal of space-control.  That Leftist beliefs about democracy, race, and sex roles cannot be questioned in the public square is a tremendous advantage to the Left, one that they would be foolish to forfeit.

Catholics are just as rational in summarily dismissing negative claims made about the Church in anti-Catholic outlets like the New York Times and the National Catholic Reporter.  Consuming enemy propaganda is needlessly demoralizing, and there is danger in giving one’s less discerning brethren the impression that these are credible sources of commentary about the Church.

Hostility to foreign ways is rational if one wants to preserve a culture.  To function, a culture must be normative, must be taken-for-granted, within some social space.  Suppose, for argument’s sake, that the effects of alcohol and marijuana are identical.  I may nevertheless reasonably want alcohol to remain legal and pot to remain banned for purely tribal reasons.  Beer and wine have a long history among Western peoples.  It is part of our rituals and festivities, and we have developed some widely-known guidelines to govern its use.  Even its overindulgence is familiar to us, and, within bounds, we have learned to deal with it.  Pot is what the other tribe, the goddamn hippies, use.  It’s come to function as a sort of flag for their “counter”-culture.  I’m perfectly happy to have it illegal just for that reason, as a claim of my tribe’s ownership of the community.  If it’s legal, they’ll sell and perhaps use it in public, imprinting the public square with their foreign ways.  God knows the damned hippies do everything in their power to assert their ownership of the public square and to drive us from it.

I actually don’t particularly care about marijuana.  My point is that a person who doesn’t want it legalized just because he associates it with commie-loving hippies is not necessarily being irrational, acting blindly on emotion, or violating some universal ethical principle.

Liberalism promised there could be a truce, with nobody owning the public communal consensus.  It turns out this is incoherent; the only way to do without consensus is to do without community, and liberal rhetoric turns out to be just one more weapon in the perpetual war for hegemony.

more humanities lament: it’s the politics, stupid

The Chronicle of Higher Education has yet another article combatting the supposed loss of status of the humanities to STEM.  Also, Evolutionist X reviews Tom Nichols’s The Death of Expertise lamenting the public’s insufficient docility toward the authority of experts.  About the Chronicle article and Nichols’s book, I will have nothing to say.  They make a number of interesting and perhaps valid, but ultimately tangential points.  As in my review of Prof. Fish’s article, what strikes me is the odd omission of what is clearly the main issue:  politics, the question of loyalty, of friend vs. enemy.  I don’t trust sociologists and literary critics not because I don’t see the use of what they’re studying, or because I imagine that every opinion no matter how uninformed is as good as any other.  I don’t trust them because they are clearly hostile partisans.

Continue reading

Franco’s bones

From the Catholic Herald

The Archdiocese of Madrid has warned the Spanish government against plans to exhume the remains of the country’s late dictator, General Francisco Franco, without obtaining agreement from interested parties.

“We want a solution which helps build a peaceful country,” said Rodrigo Pinedo Texidor, archdiocesan communications director, noting that the archdiocese is not for or against the removal of Franco’s remains.

“We are against moves which don’t have his family’s consent and don’t consider what the Church has to say,” he told Catholic News Service after Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez confirmed plans to remove the remains from a state mausoleum at the Valley of the Fallen, near Madrid, by the end of July.

Fr Jose Maria Gil Tamayo, bishops’ conference secretary-general, told journalists that the proposed exhumation had been discussed by Sanchez and conference president, Cardinal Ricardo Blazquez Perez of Valladolid, in talks at Madrid’s Moncloa Palace on June 25.

Cardinal Blazquez had confirmed the bishops’ conference would not oppose the move, which was “not up to the Church to decide one way or another,” Fr Tamayo said.

The greatest hero in the history of Christendom, and this is the best our clergy can do for him.  That’s how priests are.  Just listen to how the ungrateful rodents talk about Constantine.  No matter what a layman does for the Catholic Church, even saving a nation of Catholics from genocide by communist animals, the bishops are always ready to sell him out for a crumb of popularity.

If the men of the Church had any honor at all, they would not only not oppose this move; they would actively promote it.  Spain is no longer worthy to host the holy remains of General Franco.  His remains should be transported in the greatest pomp and splendor to Rome, where an appropriate shrine to the holy relics can be erected.  Pilgrims could come to Rome and pray to the General, from his place in glory among the heavenly host, that he ask God to make haste and send us a dictator, a new Augustus, to rescue Christendom from republican degeneracy.

Miscellaneous

swing vote

Once, someone asked me if the state I lived in was a “swing state”, then said that people who live in those states are lucky, because only their votes count.  The sentiment seems to be common, but as usual my instincts are different.  In a non-swing state, most people get the outcome (or, at least, the electoral votes of their state) that they want.  In a swing state, nearly half the votes are overridden.

Similarly, I can’t understand all the hostility toward retiring Justice Kennedy, all this talk about him being the nation’s real ruler just because his vote is not as predictable as the others’.  I can understand being angry at the man for what one regards as his bad rulings, but one should be angrier at the justices who consistently and predictably give bad rulings.

the herd of independent minds

Steve Lagerfeld writes

Much of what social critics decry as rampant individualism in contemporary America is really rampant crowd behavior. It is herds of people busily declaring that they are not part of the herd.

The contrarian’s great temptation is moral vanity, and what a sweet one it is. I am contrarian by birth and temperament and not a joiner, but when the Satanic Temple made its pariah pitch I knew exactly what they were talking about. For some of us, there is nothing like the joy of being a pariah. There is no better place to be than on the wrong side, scorned, hated, and despised by people about whom you have exactly the same feelings. I’m right and they’re wrong. Their scorn is an intoxicating indicator of my own rightness and moral superiority. The sensation is physical, like what I imagine people get from extreme sports. But it’s a pleasure I strive mightily to deny myself. Over the years, I’ve learned that its costs are high, and that I’m not as smart as I think I am. Even when I’m right, my impulses can lead to bad things. I’ve gone from thinking of my instinctive desire to be a minority of one as a distinguishing trait to thinking of it as something more like Asperger’s syndrome—a disability that can in rare circumstances be an advantage.

One of the virtues of traveling a relatively solo path is that you pay the price directly for what you do. Crowds are shielded from the hard lessons of the contrarian way. They combine the frisson of being an outlaw with the comforts of belonging. The more contrarian they are, the more belonging they offer—and the more belonging they offer, the more conformity they demand. Psychologists Matthew Hornsey and Jolanda Jetten write that “there is a perverse tendency for groups that define themselves most aggressively against the mainstream to be characterized by the highest levels of intragroup conformity.”3 That doesn’t leave a lot of room for introspection.

More non-conformism

Jonathan Ree writes

Back in the 1970s, Raymond Geuss was a young colleague of Richard Rorty in the mighty philosophy department at Princeton. In some ways they were very different: Rorty was a middle-class New Yorker with a talent for reckless generalization, whereas Geuss was a fastidious scholar-poet from working-class Pennsylvania. But they shared a commitment to left-wing politics, and both of them dissented from the mainstream view of philosophy as a unified discipline advancing majestically towards absolute knowledge. For a while, Rorty and Geuss could bond as the bad boys of Princeton.

Out of his twelve philosophers, Geuss seems closest to Lucretius, who despised religion…In the wake of Lucretius, Hobbes, Hegel and Niet­zsche, philosophy seems to be essentially a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by moralistic sentimentality.

Good thing these Leftists have escaped from the bewitchment of moralistic sentimentality.

Erasure

I am saddened to hear that the Laura Ingalls Winder award is being renamed.  My wife and I read Little House in the Big Woods to our girls a while ago, and it is a wonderful book.  I didn’t like Little House on the Prairie as much and actually wondered if the author’s memories had been influenced in a PC direction.  If so, it wasn’t enough to save her.  Even so, that the vote was unanimous and in one account followed by a standing ovation is just gratuitously insulting.  I guess we should be grateful they didn’t rename it the Harper Lee award.  Ominously, the librarians promise that this is only a first step, and that they’re looking for other white authors to purge.

Power

You know what cultural power is?  Suppose a cabal of Catholics took over the Miss America board of directors and announced they were abolishing the swimsuit competition because it is immodest.  And suppose everyone just accepted this, with no grumbling about theocracy or the Taliban.

Of course, every bit of this scenario is unimaginable.  But feminists can do this sort of thing with the snap of a finger, and their decisions are irrevocable.  At most, some people will make fun of them, but even that is becoming dangerous.

Whither the humanities?

Humanities professors are always worrying that the public doesn’t appreciate them.  This article in the Chronicle of Higher Education is a generally sensible argument against the strategy of defending the humanities because of their “usefulness” for inculcating communication skills or even broad-mindedness and empathy.  The author, Stanley Fish, rightly rebukes historians taking it upon themselves to tell the public how to vote, and his skepticism to the claim that immersion in literature makes one a better person is refreshing.  There is an admirable honesty in his conclusion that the humanities must be defended as valuable in themselves but that he has no idea how to “sell” this to the wider public.

Oddly, Professor Fish doesn’t address the usual conservative claim that the humanities are dying because they have become politicized.  At the very least, the Leftist orthodoxy in academia keeps it from making the most emotionally powerful defenses of the humanities that it might have made.  One of these, I think the most powerful, is the argument from piety.  It would be natural, would it not, for a people to invest some resources into the careful preservation and transmission of its higher culture, its collective memory, its myths, its narratives, the wisdom of its most revered sages, the highest expressions of its collective soul?  This would be a natural role for a people’s literature professors and historians, but it is certainly not one that today’s humanities scholars would be willing to assume, or even willing to pretend to assume for the sake of funding.  Today, all scholarship, to be considered legitimate, must assume a position of hostility toward its subject (at least, if its subject is a part of Western civilization, and not an oppressed minority).  But really, if white, Christian England was wicked and ignorant, why should we invest resources and time into studying English literature?  The other argument I could imagine would be unashamed elitism–that there is a known canon of objectively superior (but rather inaccessible) works that must be studied and transmitted.  But again, if the whole point is to deconstruct the follies of the past, one wonders what the point is.  Why bother about things that we know are wrong?

I’m not convinced that the humanities really are suffering eclipse from the “STEM” subjects, anyway.  Measured in terms of external funding, I’m sure the sciences appear stronger, but this is an obviously inappropriate metric.  Science needs funds to build and operate experiments; literature and philosophy have no comparable material needs.  In terms of number of students taking a course in their departments, I expect the humanities as a whole does well, thanks to general education requirements if nothing else.  Probably more students take a course in the English department than in the Physics department except at colleges that cater mainly to engineers.

However, when it comes to influence outside of academia, the dominance of the politicized departments (a continuum within which the humanities exists) over the sciences is obvious.  People may say that science is the only source of real knowledge (an idea they got from positivist philosophers, not scientists, by the way), but which of the following random collection has had the biggest effect on the public consciousness:  renomalization group theory, Bose-Einstein condensation, cardinal numbers, category theory, or microaggressions?  The last is an utterly puerile idea but has affected the thought and interactions of modern men more than any idea in the history of chemistry save perhaps the existence of atoms.  Or how about this one:  which unobserved object has more greatly affected modern men’s idea of their place in the cosmos:  the theory of dark matter or the theory of invisible knapsacks?  Even science departments are having to adjust their admissions and hiring policies to accommodate these nonsense ideas coming out of the humanities, social science, and “studies” departments.

Well, you may say, that’s not a fair comparison, because humanities and social science ideas are “actionable” in a way that STEM isn’t.  The existence of invisible knapsacks inspires action, but dark matter isn’t something we need to do anything about.  Indeed, this is an intrinsic structural advantage that the politicized subjects have, but it is an advantage nonetheless.  Critical theory, not computer science, is the road to influence, that is, the road to power.

Speaking for myself, I lament the oversized influence of the non-STEM sector of the university.