Tuesday, September 16, 2014

On Ward Churchill and Collectivism

by Dr. Gerard Emershaw

Prior to September 2011, Ward Churchill was unremarkable and not well known outside of the typical tiresome Marxist academic circles. A University of Colorado professor at the time, Churchill’s claim to fame was a dubious claim to American Indian heritage which he could not prove. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Churchill wrote an infamous essay entitled “‘Some People Push Back’: On the Justice of Roosting Chickens” which set off a firestorm of controversy by calling the victims who died in the World Trade Center “little Eichmanns.” Understandably, comparing innocent murder victims to Nazi war criminals did not sit well with Americans. While many are content to merely dismiss Churchill as a loon, it is important to understand his dubious reasoning and to see his errors in thinking.

Ward Churchill is a hardcore collectivist. He believes that human beings do not have individual metaphysical significance or value. They are only significant as part of a larger group. Given his Marxist leanings, this is not surprising. Given how prevalent collectivism is today in the guise of the two dominant mainstream American political movements of neoconservatism and neo-progressivism, it is instructive to consider some implications of collectivism. Given that the collectivist views collective society and not the individual human being as the basic unit of metaphysical analysis, collective guilt is a sensible concept. Under the individualist worldview, collective guilt is nonsensical. Nearly all of Churchill’s intellectual mistakes in his argument are based upon incoherent collectivist assertions.

Churchill begins by claiming that the United States was guilty of war crimes verging on attempted genocide against Iraqis in the Gulf War and beyond. Rather than debate this claim, assume that it is true. He then asserts: “[I]t was pious Americans who led the way in assigning the onus of collective guilt to the German people as a whole, not for things they as individuals had done, but for what they had allowed—nay, empowered—their leaders and their soldiers to do in their name.” This is entirely untrue. Only those Germans who individually committed crimes against humanity were prosecuted at Nuremberg. The Allies made a concerted effort not to repeat the mistakes of World War I. West Germany was quickly brought back into the family of civilized nations, and the Allied occupation ended by 1952. All things considered, the United States allowed the Germans a quick and thorough redemption.

Churchill continues:

As a whole, the American public greeted these revelations [of an alleged American program of attempted genocide against the Iraqi people] with yawns. There were, after all, far more pressing things than the unrelenting misery/death of a few hundred thousand Iraqi tikes to be concerned with. Getting “Jeremy” and “Ellington” to their weekly soccer game, for instance, or seeing to it that little “Tiffany” and “Ashley” had just the right roll-neck sweaters to go with their new cords. And, to be sure, there was the yuppie holy war against ashtrays – for “our kids,” no less – as an all-absorbing point of political focus.

Let us again allow Churchill to have the strongest possible argument. Assume that the American people were aware that Iraqi civilians were dying in large numbers due to the military operations of the Gulf War and the crippling economic sanctions which followed. Ignore the obvious fact that for consistency, one would have to assign collective guilt to the Iraqi people for the war that their government started by invading Kuwait. There is every difference in the world between inappropriately cheering something on and actually doing it. Those in foreign nations who cheered on the 9/11 attacks were not responsible for carrying them out. This is also true of the American people if they did actually cheer on the violence and brutal sanctions against Iraq. Despite the fact that the United States is a democratic republic, its citizens still cannot be held morally responsible for the actions of their President and Congress. The United States does not have a direct democracy, and elections are not held often. Even if every American had voted for and approved the Gulf War and the sanctions against Iraq, this still would not make them morally culpable. If such a notion of collective political guilt were to be held, it would mean that when a politician commits a criminal offense involving corruption, each and every constituent would have to be sent to prison. In addition, crony capitalism, disrespect for the Constitution among elected federal officials, and a broken electoral process all make the American people more and more attenuated from the harm caused to the Iraqi people. Also, the fact that the government lied to the American people about Iraqi soldiers killing Kuwaiti babies in incubators and about Iraq preparing to invade Saudi Arabia indicates that the American people were not fully informed. The government and the corporatist mainstream media used propaganda that would have made Goebbels jealous in selling the war.

Churchill also suggests that capitalism is to blame for the crimes against humanity committed against Iraqis:

Property before people, it seems—or at least the equation of property to people—is a value by no means restricted to America's boardrooms. And the sanctimony with which such putrid sentiments are enunciated turns out to be nauseatingly similar, whether mouthed by the CEO of Standard Oil or any of the swarm of comfort zone “pacifists” queuing up to condemn the black block after it ever so slightly disturbed the functioning of business-as-usual in Seattle.

While history has shown ad nauseum that free markets produce exponentially better economic outcomes for nations than the disastrous Marxist policies that Churchill favors, this is the one place where Churchill is not entirely off base. Corporatism involving the Military-Industrial Complex and war profiteers such as Halliburton does lead to the ginning up of unnecessary wars. The corporatist banking cartel of the Federal Reserve likewise encourages wars for its own ends.

Churchill’s next mistake is in his characterization of the 9/11 hijackers. He lionizes these murderers as brave warriors. He views them as “combatants” instead of terrorists. Given that the hijackers were predominantly Saudi, there is simply no way to characterize them as “combatants” connected with the Gulf War. The United States waged war against Iraq partly in defense of Saudi Arabia. Churchill’s claim is as ridiculous as Belgians claiming that they are waging war against the United States in response to Americans warring against Germany in WWII. To avoid this absurdity, he takes an even wider approach:

A good case could be made that the war in which they were combatants has been waged more-or-less continuously by the “Christian West”—now proudly emblematized by the United States—against the “Islamic East” since the time of the First Crusade, about 1,000 years ago. More recently, one could argue that the war began when Lyndon Johnson first lent significant support to Israel’s dispossession/displacement of Palestinians during the 1960s, or when George the Elder ordered “Desert Shield” in 1990, or at any of several points in between.

Churchill’s collectivist worldview is even more inappropriate here. There are no individuals in this collectivist vision. Those who live in the “West” or “Islamic East” are not individual humans beings. Neither Christians nor Muslims are individuals. They simply exist in virtue of class membership. Apparently, based on this reasoning, all collectivized humans are engaged in countless wars based upon their race, ethnicity, nationality, etc. Greeks and Iranians should still be killing each other as part of the ancient Greco-Persian Wars. And Parthonons and Fomorians should still be warring in Ireland.

Churchill’s most incendiary claim—the aforementioned “little Eichmanns” comment—is that there were no innocent victims on 9/11:

There is simply no argument to be made that the Pentagon personnel killed on September 11 fill that bill. The building and those inside comprised military targets, pure and simple. As to those in the World Trade Center . . .

Well, really. Let's get a grip here, shall we? True enough, they were civilians of a sort. But innocent? Gimme a break. They formed a technocratic corps at the very heart of America's global financial empire – the “mighty engine of profit” to which the military dimension of U.S. policy has always been enslaved—and they did so both willingly and knowingly. Recourse to “ignorance”—a derivative, after all, of the word “ignore”—counts as less than an excuse among this relatively well-educated elite. To the extent that any of them were unaware of the costs and consequences to others of what they were involved in—and in many cases excelling at – it was because of their absolute refusal to see. More likely, it was because they were too busy braying, incessantly and self-importantly, into their cell phones, arranging power lunches and stock transactions, each of which translated, conveniently out of sight, mind and smelling distance, into the starved and rotting flesh of infants. If there was a better, more effective, or in fact any other way of visiting some penalty befitting their participation upon the little Eichmanns inhabiting the sterile sanctuary of the twin towers, I’d really be interested in hearing about it.

In Churchill’s fevered brain, nobody is innocent. This collectivist belief provides a sickening justification for total war. It is also a double-edged sword. It means that innocent civilians—including children—in the Middle East are fair game in this war. A bloodthirsty neoconservative could use Churchill’s argument and claim that because the brave Islamic “combatants” attacked the United States on 9/11, this means that the United States has the right to strike back. Since young Muslim children will grow up to become militants who will hate the United States and may attempt to attack Americans, they are all fair game.

Ultimately, Ward Churchill’s hateful collectivism promotes endless cycles of bloody killing. One wonders with his cultural hyperopia if he is actually even able to physically see individual human beings.

(For a much more detailed critique of collectivism, read my new book The Real Culture War: Individualism vs. Collectivism & How Bill O’Reilly Got It All Wrong available now on Amazon in both print and Kindle.)

Sunday, September 14, 2014

The Ring of Gyges, the Internet, and Anonymity

by Dr. Gerard Emershaw
In The Republic, Plato introduces the Ring of Gyges thought experiment. This intellectual device—a ring of invisibility—has since become a standard in fantasy and science fiction literature and movies. What would Tolkien’s The Hobbit have been without the ring of invisibility? In Plato’s thought experiment, the possessor of this ring of invisibility uses it to seduce the Queen, murder the King, and usurp the throne. In a column in Time, Walter Isaacson, the president and CEO of the Aspen Institute, wishes to conjure up his own Platonic magical ring. This ring would allow him “to know and publicly reveal the names and addresses of all people who anonymously post vulgar rants and racist tweets.”

Isaacson complains that anonymity makes one less civil. He contends that “if we all thought we were subject to being rated, we might work harder to be on our best behavior.” He fantasizes of a world where everyone is rating everyone else in a Yelp or TripAdvisor fashion. While he admits that such a world would be Orwellian, he sighs with pleasure: “[I]magine how much better we would behave.”

A few thoughts are in order here. First, any person is already free to use the Internet to rate others. Providers of goods and services can be rated on Yelp, TripAdvisor, HealthGrades, Rate My Professor, etc. as Isaacson acknowledges. In a free market, those who provide goods and services in an honest and reliable fashion and provide excellent and courteous customer service are likely to best succeed. This is not new or revolutionary.

Secondly, and more importantly, online anonymity is good. The positive consequences of anonymity on the Internet outweigh the negative ones. Does anonymity embolden jerks to be rude? Sure. Discussions on internet forums quite often degenerate quickly into name calling. However, anonymity also emboldens truth telling. If no online speech were anonymous, then speech would be chilled. Who would ever blow the whistle against corruption in government or in business if he or she could not publish or post these revelations anonymously? How many fewer people would openly criticize the government or other powerful persons or entities if he or she could not do it anonymously online?

Thirdly, any person who does not wish to mix it up with the rude anonymous unwashed Internet masses can avoid websites and forums that allow anonymous posting of comments. One can exclusively frequent sites that require registration. One can even develop and exclusively use sites that require very detailed user information—a name, a verified e-mail address, a photo, a physical address, etc.—in order to post comments.

Fourthly, those like Isaacson, who lament how anonymity leads to rudeness which prevents online discourse from being “elevated” (whatever that means), confuse etiquette with morality. It is not difficult to imagine well cultured monsters. Imagine the Wannsee Conference on January 20, 1942. Nazi senior officials gathered to discuss the “Final Solution” to the Jewish problem—namely, the deportation of Jews to Poland where they were to be murdered. One can imagine that these Nazis were well behaved and well spoken at this conference. Perhaps they never raised their voices. Perhaps they never used vulgar words. Harmless euphemisms instead of anti-Semitic epithets. Maybe they even sipped their tea just right with their pinkies extended. Certainly none belched at the table. Contrast this with a typical day in the British Parliament. MPs screaming at one another like inmates in an asylum and using language that would make the saltiest of sailors blush. If the etiquette “elevated the discourse” at Wannsee, is that better?

Finally, and most importantly, the less anonymity there is on the Internet, the less privacy there is from government. One can imagine that there was a lot of smiling and politeness in Stasi East Germany during the Cold War. In a world without any possibility of anonymity, there is less and less privacy. For anyone who loves free speech, rudeness and vulgarity is well worth the assurance that one can speak his or her mind online without fear of reprisal from the government, powerful private entities, society, or anyone else.

(For more analysis of the First Amendment, natural rights, and the Real Culture War, read my book The Real Culture War: Individualism vs. Collectivism & How Bill O’Reilly Got It All Wrong available now in print and digital on Amazon.)

Friday, September 12, 2014

President Obama, Bill O’Reilly, and Dr. Strangelove Foreign Policy

by Gerard Emershaw

Nobel Peace Prize winner President Barack Obama is anything but a pacifist. He continues to conduct unconstitutional and counterproductive drone wars in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia. His unconstitutional air campaign in Libya, which helped Islamist rebels overthrow Qaddafi’s government, led directly to the tragedy in Benghazi. Despite his claims that the United States will leave Afghanistan by 2016, the President actually intensified the fighting in Afghanistan during his 2012 “surge.” President Obama seemed desperate to bomb Syria in 2013, but Russian President Vladimir Putin’s initiative in getting the Assad government to destroy its chemical weapons put the damper on the Obama administration’s warmongering. The unpopularity among the American people of a potential war against Syria combined with scores of other scandals scarring the Obama presidency made the Commander-in-Chief reluctant for once to be militaristic. Despite having no use for the Constitution and feeling that he had the power to attack Syria without Congressional approval, the President gambled by letting Congress do its constitutional duty. This gamble did not pay off as Congress did not vote to take military action against Syria.

President Obama again violated the Constitution by bombing the Islamic State in Iraq without Congressional approval. While neoconservatives, who are even more bellicose than the neo-progressive militarist Obama, constantly blame the President for withdrawing from Iraq, this decision was made by President Bush. President Obama wished to remain in Iraq, but the Iraqi government refused to grant any remaining United States troops immunity from local prosecution, which is standard in Status of Forces agreements. Remaining in Iraq when the Iraqi government clearly wanted the United States gone would have painted the United States as even more of an imperialist occupier and would have practically painted bull’s-eyes on the backs of remaining American troops.

Unbelievably, for traditionalists like Bill O’Reilly and his militaristic neocon fellow travelers, President Obama has not been nearly enough of a warmonger. In a weekly column entitled “Take Us to Your Leader … Please,” the Fox News Channel host accuses President Obama of having been “cowed by the world’s bullies” prior to his speech on September 10 when he announced that he would be violating the Constitution by continuing his bombing campaign against the Islamic State in Iraq and by widening this new war into Syria by attacking targets there.

In his speech, President Obama admitted that the Islamic State does not pose a direct threat to the United States. Even the President does not have the gall to claim with a straight face that an insurgent force of approximately 30,000 half a world a way could pose a threat to the world’s mightiest military. Nevertheless, President Obama attempted to justify Iraq War Part III:

So ISIL poses a threat to the people of Iraq and Syria and the broader Middle East, including American citizens, personnel and facilities. If left unchecked, these terrorists could pose a growing threat beyond that region, including to the United States. While we have not yet detected specific plotting against our homeland, ISIL leaders have threatened America and our allies. Our intelligence community believes that thousands of foreigners, including Europeans and some Americans, have joined them in Syria and Iraq. Trained and battle-hardened, these fighters could try to return to their home countries and carry out deadly attacks.

The need to protect Americans in Iraq makes sense. Especially after what happened in Benghazi nearly two years to the day earlier. However, a surer way to protect American personnel would be to simply evacuate all diplomats, security personnel, and “military advisors” from Iraq.

If the Islamic States does pose a threat in the Middle East, the obvious question is why regional powers cannot handle a 30,000 member insurgency themselves. Turkey has one of the ten strongest militaries in the world. Saudi Arabia also has formidable military capabilities and oil wealth to further increase its offensive capabilities. Despite its pathetic performance to date and its either inability or unwillingness to stand up to Sunni insurgents, Iraq has over 270,000 active troops and a large supply of heavy military vehicles. If Iraqis cannot defend themselves after so much time and American tax dollars have been spent in rebuilding the Iraqi army—which the Bush administration foolishly “de-Ba’athified”—then Iraq may simply never again be a viable nation. Americans can no longer be forced to sacrifice blood and treasure for such a lost cause.

The idea that we need to fight American Jihadists who have joined the Islamic State over there so we do not have to fight them over here is even more dubious than it usually is. The Islamic State is occupied fighting against Iraq, Syria, the Kurds, and rival Syrian rebel groups. Any foreign fighters who attempt to leave the Islamic State to return to the United States or Europe are likely to be labeled “traitors,” tortured, and eventually killed by the Jihadi leadership. American members of the Islamic State are likely only coming back in body bags.

Nevertheless, President Obama is determined to unconstitutionally act and do the dirty work for corrupt regimes in Iraq, Turkey, and Saudi Arabia, wasting American tax dollars, risking the lives of American “military advisors” in Iraq, and courting even more future blowback against the United States. Yet Bill O’Reilly considers all this only “a start.” What more does he want?

O’Reilly claims: “We are in desperate need of leadership from the Oval Office, and it has to begin with ISIS.” He insists:

It is a mere seven years since Barack Obama predicted that he would fundamentally transform the Middle East. And now Islamists are slaughtering infidels, Libya and Egypt are in chaos, Iraq is a mess, and Israel faces existential threats. It is not easy for anyone to admit error, and that seems especially difficult for Barack Obama, whose charmed life was largely bereft of criticism until his near-magical ascent to the presidency.

So now what? The time has come for President Obama to take a step back and survey the world. Putin has gobbled up Crimea and may have more conquests on his menu; Syria's Assad has annihilated tens of thousands; Iran’s mullahs continue their quest for a nuclear weapon; even China is growing more belligerent.

O’Reilly is correct that President Obama has “fundamentally transform[ed] the Middle East,” but this is not the result of inaction or dove-like actions. In fairness, much of the violent chaos in the Middle East is the result of American foreign policy decisions which long predate Obama’s presidency. Tensions with Qaddafi in Libya went back thirty years prior to his ouster. American support for Mubarak in Egypt for decades set the stage for the current tensions between Islamists and the military. And Iraq has been a mess that has just kept getting worse due to foolhardy decisions by Presidents Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush. However, the notion that Israel faces “existential threats” is ludicrous as the one-sided war against Gaza showed. Like with Americans, the greatest threat that Israelis face is from their own government.

Nevertheless, President Obama has clearly not been innocent here. His “kinetic military action” in Libya led to the rise of powerful Islamist militias. His continued military support of Egypt following the illegal coup by the military junta led by el-Sisi is almost certainly going to lead to future problems for the United States. And not washing his hands of Iraq after withdrawing American forces is likely to produce blowback. The bombing campaign against the Islamic State has already been a major causal factor in the murders of James Foley and Steven Sotloff. Expanding the military campaign against the Islamic State instead of letting regional powers handle it will only unnecessarily lead to more violence aimed at the United States.

O’Reilly is very strongly hinting that he believes President Obama should be taking more decisive action against Russia, Syria, Iran, and China. But, other than giving aggressive nationalists something inappropriate to bolster their self-esteem, what would be accomplished by even rattling a saber here? Crimea and Ukraine have no strategic importance to the United States. Expanding his “empire” will only make it more likely that Putin is going to overextend Russia and cause it to again collapse under the weight of its centrally controlled quasi-communist economy just like the Soviet Union did. What would the upside be to risking another expensive Cold War or risking a nuclear war with Russia? Unless and until Russia becomes a free market economy, it is only a matter of time before it collapses. United States sanctions against Russia are unnecessarily hostile as it is. Doing nothing is the surest solution. And what sense would it make to war against Assad while simultaneously warring against the Islamic State? Attacking Syria only empowers the Jihadists. Money and weapons sent to “moderate” Syrian rebels have already been increasingly getting into the hands of the Islamic State. Active American military action against Assad would simply increase the size of the Islamic State’s “caliphate.” President Obama’s attempts at diplomacy with Iran is the best hope for preventing it from becoming a dangerous rogue nuclear nation. The United States cannot afford the blood and treasure that a needless war against Iran would cost, and the effect of destabilizing another major petroleum supplier like Iran could very likely destroy the world economy. And what O’Reilly fails to recognize is that as long as the United States wrecks its own economy with foolish and expensive wars, China is emboldened. The United States is dependent on China to help in funding the American warfare/welfare state. As long as the United States is unnecessarily dependent on China economically, it has no way of standing up to China. And quite frankly, acting like a “tough guy” with nuclear nations like Russia and China is risking an apocalyptic world war.

Bill O’Reilly is living in a fantasy world as far as foreign policy is concerned, and unfortunately, that fantasy is Dr. Strangelove. Only two sort of people believe that President Obama’s foreign policy is not aggressive enough—maniacs and contrarians who simply disagree with President Obama on every single thing because he is President Obama. President Obama needs to be far more dovish and far less hawkish. It is actually hard to see how he could be even more hawkish despite O’Reilly’s misguided criticisms.

(For a much more detailed critique of the arguments and worldview of Bill O’Reilly, read my new book The Real Culture War: Individualism vs. Collectivism & How Bill O’Reilly Got It All Wrong available now on Amazon in both print and digital.)

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Devil Went Down to Oklahoma: Black Mass and the First Amendment

by Dr. Gerard Emerhaw

The First Amendment guarantees religious freedom: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof … .” The constitutional guarantee of free exercise of religion was incorporated to the states in Cantwell v. Connecticut (1940). Invoking the state’s defense of this natural right always seems easy and convenient when the religious practices in question are popular—e.g. when Christianity is involved. When the Supreme Court ruled recently in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby that under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, it was an unconstitutional violation of the religious freedom of closely held for-profit corporations to require them to provide certain contraceptives for their employees, many Christians vocally expressed their approval. However, when the state violates the religious freedom of non-Christians, many people view it as less problematic. For example, when developers wished to build the Park51 Islamic community center in Lower Manhattan, some critics sought to thwart religious freedom by preventing the erection of the “Ground Zero Mosque.” Former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin infamously urged Muslims to “refudiate” it. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich referred to the project as “a symbol of Islamic conquest”: “It's not about religion and is clearly an aggressive act that is offensive.” If Christians sought to erect a Serbian Orthodox Church in a community that consisted primarily of Bosnian Muslims who had been the target of genocidal ethnic cleansing at the hands of Bosnian Serb forces in 1995, would Palin or Gingrich complain? Would there be any public outrage at all? Unlikely.

Uproar against unpopular religious freedom and the First Amendment is occurring in Oklahoma City, where the city government has agreed to allow the Dakhma of Angra Mainyu to hold a black mass on September 21 in rented space in the publicly owned Civic Center Music Hall. The Dakhma of Angra Mainyu is “a religious and educational church dedicated to Angra Mainyu (Ahriman).” Angra Mainyu is the “destructive spirit” of the Zoroastrian faith, and the ancient template upon which Satan is based. The Dakhma of Angra Mainyu seems to blend Zoroastrianism, Hinduism, the Satanism of Anton Levay, the occultism of Aleister Crowley, and New Ageism into a bizarre mélange of rebellious spiritualism:

Destruction and Reconstruction is another way of describing the Death and Rebirth cycle of life. Systems and structures must be dismantled so that new life can be born. Myths and legends about gods and goddesses bringing destruction to the earth are common to all traditions. Yahweh destroyed the world through the great Flood and rained fire and brimstone on Sodom and Gommorah [sic]. In the Hindu tradition, the goddess Kali, generally pictured wearing a belt made of dismembered arms and a necklace of human skulls, represents the positive power of destruction, annihilating ignorance and maintaining the world order. The god Shiva, Kali's male counterpart, destroys in order to create. …

Dakhma of Angra Mainyu is about freedom from any religion that chooses to bind you to some type of dogma the forces you to restrain your natural animal instincts.  They say desire and “sin” move you away from the ultimate consumer of souls through fire.  Ahura Mazda is the slave driver that forces laws onto mankind that completely against man’s nature.  Only through spiritual and chaotic destruction of this enslavement, will one become spiritually free from not only mortal/ethical enslavement, include freedom from Atar which is the Holy Fire that will consume your soul to recharge Ahura Mazda.  The truest form of freedom is brought about by evil speech (blaspheme).  3 ways define the human existence: thought, speech, and action.  Knowing that mankind is judge off this paradigm, does it make sense to inhibit your animal desires because some “God” said they were evil?  No, the inhibition is to build internal pressure, like a teapot without a valve.  Upon death this gives the Ahuras (angels) that much more energy to consume as they live off of pain and blood.  Thus requiring sacrifice and becoming a mayrter [sic].

The group describes its black mass as “a form of inversion to the Catholic mass”:

The modern form of the Black Mass is still practiced by modern Devil Worshipers to celebrate the perversion of the Catholic Mass still seen in society today.  The Black Mass as gone through a transformation to maintain practice within societal law.  The consecrated host is corrupted by sexual fluids then it becomes the sacrifice of the mass.  The blasphemy remains intact along with corruption of Catholic Mass.  Modern/Laveyan Satanists see this as ritual to mock the Catholic Mass in the form of a blasphemy rite used to deprogram people from their Christian background, however Religious Satanism sees the Black Mass as a religious ceremony to empower themselves and receive a “blessing” from the Devil.  The Black Mass being performed at the Okc Civic Center has been toned downed as to allow it  to be performed in a public government building. The authenticity and purpose of the Black Mass will remain in tact while allowing for slight changes so that a public viewing can occur without breaking Oklahoma's laws based on nudity, public urination, and other sex acts.

Unpleasant? Perhaps. But the religious traditions and rites of one need not appeal to another in a nation that respects the natural right to liberty. It is likely that terrifying but entirely fanciful movies like Rosemary’s Baby, The Omen, and The Devil’s Advocate have induced irrational fear of devil worshippers in the public consciousness. However, the Dakhma of Angra Mainyu does not preach violence as so many other religious groups do: “I respect all life, meaning I will only kill in self-defense or defense of those whom I watch over.”

The Dakhma of Angra Mainyu has a First Amendment right to hold its black mass. However, many are less than thrilled about their exercise of this natural right. TFP Student Action has an online petition against the black mass. The petition states:

With my whole heart and soul, I express full, complete and vehement rejection of the satanic “Black Mass” scheduled at the Oklahoma City Civic Center on September 21, 2014. I urge you to cancel this event which offends 1 billion Catholics worldwide, 200,000 Catholics in Oklahoma and countless more God-loving Americans. Sacrilege is simply NOT free speech.

TFP Student Action allegedly “defends traditional moral values on college campuses.” It was formed in 1973 “to resist, in the realm of ideas, the liberal, socialist and communist trends of the times and proudly affirm the positive values of tradition, family and private property.” TFP Student Action’s director John Ritchie calls the black mass “the most obscene attack against the Catholic mass that can be imagined.” He claims

For someone to deliberately attack the supreme good, [God], intentionally, to cause harm [and be] deliberately filled with hatred is something that not only hurts Catholics and Christians, in general, but everybody of good will.

Ritchie views the First Amendment as anything but absolute:

I don’t think the First Amendment should be used as a baseball bat to bash Christians over the head, and in this case I think it's being used in that way.

The natural right to freedom of religion is inalienable and cannot be abridged by the government no matter how many Talibanesque blowhards sign a petition. To allow democracy to determine rights is to invoke tyranny of the majority. Today enough hard-line Christians sign a petition to get the government to shut down a black mass. What if tomorrow enough Neo-Nazis sign a petition to get the government to shut down a synagogue? What if the day after that enough Islamophobes sign a petition to get the government to shut down a mosque? What if some dark day in the future enough communists sign petitions to get the government to shut down all places of worship?

The black mass is clearly an expression of hostility against Christianity in general and Catholicism in particular. However, most religious rites are at least subtle expressions of hostility toward all other religions. Whether a religious service is Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist, Zoroastrian, or Satanic, it is essentially sending the message that all other religions are false. And all religious services essentially send the message that atheism is false.

Ritchie assumes that the Christian God—“the supreme good”—exists. The government cannot make such an assumption. Theology is not the job of the government at any level. The job of the government is to protect the life, liberty, and property of its citizens. To expect or allow the government to do more is to beg for tyranny. What gives the government the right to decide when someone is exercising his or her religious freedom under the First Amendment and when he or she is using his or her religion “as a baseball bat to bash Christians over the head?” The answer is always inevitably more speech and not less speech. Whether the arena is political, religious, or anything else, “the marketplace of ideas” always best thrives and always best leads to the truth when there is more speech and not less.

The irony is that TFP Student Action is emulating the communism it claims to deplore by seeking to shut down religious expression. Communists in Spain, the Soviet Union, and elsewhere were notorious for oppressing Christians. Why should anyone rationally believe that the government will stop at oppressing devil worshippers? Once the beast gets a taste for religious oppression, it will eventually go after Muslims, Jews, Christians, and all other people of faith. Without social freedoms, economic freedoms are not possible. A government that picks winners and losers in the realm of religion will eventually seek to do the same in the realm of business. The erosion of the natural right to liberty will eventually lead to the erosion of the natural right to property. Eventually, this will all lead to the erosion of the natural right to life. Ultimately, natural rights stand or fall together. The choice is freedom or tyranny.

(For more analysis of the First Amendment, natural rights, and the Real Culture War, read my book The Real Culture War: Individualism vs. Collectivism & How Bill O’Reilly Got It All Wrong available now in print and digital on Amazon.)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

What Is the Real Culture War?

by Dr. Gerard Emershaw

What is the Culture War? Bill O’Reilly of “The O’Reilly Factor” on Fox News is viewed by many as the authority on it. However, as I argue in my new book The Real Culture War: Individualism vs. Collectivism & How Bill O’Reilly Got It All Wrong, O’Reilly is completely mistaken in viewing the Culture War as a battle between so-called traditionalists and secular-progressives. The following is an excerpt from the Introduction of my new book, which is now available on Amazon in both print and Kindle formats:

The concept of a Culture War was first given tangible linguistic form in the guise of the German Kulturkampf. The Kulturkampf was a campaign of totalitarian discrimination waged by Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck against German Catholics circa 1871–1887. Bismarck, displaying the paranoia typical of authoritarian despots, became convinced that Catholicism was a threat to his empire. In order to combat this perceived threat, Bismarck instituted the Kulturkampf (“culture struggle”) against Catholicism by depriving German Catholics of their political voice and by transforming Catholic parochial schools into government-run schools.

The concept of a Culture War entered the realm of American scholarship in 1992 with the publication of Culture Wars: the Struggle to Define America by University of Virginia sociologist James Davidson Hunter. Professor Hunter defines “culture conflict” in the following manner:

I define cultural conflict very simply as political and social hostility rooted in different systems of moral understanding. The end to which these hostilities tend is the domination of one cultural and moral ethos over all others. Let it be clear, the principles and ideals that mark these competing systems of moral understanding are by no means trifling but always have a character of ultimacy to them. They are not merely attitudes that can change on a whim but basic commitments and beliefs that provide a source of identity, purpose, and togetherness for the people who live by them. It is for precisely this reason that political action rooted in these principles and ideals tends to be so passionate.

Professor Hunter more specifically identifies the American Culture War as an intellectual and moral struggle between orthodoxy and progressivism. He defines orthodoxy as the worldview by which there is “commitment on the part of its adherents to an external, definable, and transcendent authority.” This objective and transcendent authority “defines, at least in the abstract, a consistent, unchangeable measure of value, purpose, goodness, and identity, both personal and collective.” This objective and transcendent authority also “tells us what is good, what is true, how we should live, and who we are.” He defines progressivism as the worldview in which “moral authority tends to be defined by the spirit of the modern age, a spirit of rationalism and subjectivism.” Politically, he says, “it nearly goes without saying that those who embrace the orthodox impulse are almost always cultural conservatives, while those who embrace progressivist moral assumptions tend toward a liberal or libertarian social agenda.”

Hunter’s concept of an American Culture War was transformed from an academic concept to a political call to action by Patrick J. Buchanan in his 1992 Address to the Republican National Convention:

Friends, this election is about more than who gets what. It is about who we are. It is about what we believe and what we stand for as Americans. There is a religious war going on in this country. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we shall be as the Cold War itself. For this war is for the soul of America. And in that struggle for the soul of America, Clinton & Clinton are on the other side, and George Bush is on our side. And so to the Buchanan Brigades out there, we have to come home and stand beside George Bush.

In this call to battle to his “Buchanan Brigades” in the Culture War, the paleo-conservative Buchanan rants against “the amoral idea that gay and lesbian couples should have the same standing in law as married men and women” and against “the raw sewage of pornography that so terribly pollutes our popular culture.” Twelve years later, Buchanan would succinctly characterize the Culture War as “a radical Left aided by a cultural elite that detests Christianity and finds Christian moral tenets reactionary and repressive is hell-bent on pushing its amoral values and imposing its ideology on our nation.”

Several months after Buchanan’s famous speech, Fox News pundit and blowhard Bill O’Reilly, host of “The O’Reilly Factor,” “reinvented” Hunter and Buchanan’s concept of the Culture War. He castigated the network television news departments for their “core liberal philosophies” and accused them of not serving “traditional and conservative Americans”:

There is no question that the daily headline service provided by the big three networks is valuable. But it is a random, often timid, reportage. The intense culture war in America is often ignored or presented in a one-sided manner. Even network news supporters would have to admit that the presentations are extremely politically correct. For example, the joke in the industry is that the only time you hear a pro-life point of view is when some nut blows up an abortion clinic.

O’Reilly, former joke writer for “Uncle Ted’s Ghoul School”—a 1970s late night B-movie horror show on a local station in Scranton, Pennsylvania—and former host of trashy tabloid news show “Inside Edition,” ran with this borrowed idea and published the book Culture Warrior in 2006. Rebranding the adherents of Hunter’s orthodoxy as traditionalists and adherents of Hunter’s progressivism as secular-progressives, O’Reilly attempts to make the case that secular-progressives—or SPs as O’Reilly likes to “opine”—are destroying the very fabric of the United States and that traditionalists must unite and rally to defeat them. However, O’Reilly’s SPs are bogeymen that do not actually exist. O’Reilly simply lumps all those which he wishes to vilify—progressives, socialists, secularists, civil libertarians, etc.—into one straw man under a unified banner. In reality those under this SP banner are as likely to be in opposition to one another as they are to be fellow travelers. With the bully pulpit of his popular television program “The O’Reilly Factor,” he was able to popularize the notion of a Culture War in a way that Hunter and Buchanan were not.

O’Reilly—following Hunter and Buchanan—is correct in stating that there is a Culture War raging in the United States. However, he does not dig deeply enough. The Real Culture War has been raging for thousands of years. It is probably as old as human civilization itself. The Real Culture War pits individualism versus collectivism. Individualism is the view that the basic metaphysical unit of social analysis is the individual. Individualism states that human beings have intrinsic value and possess the natural rights to life, liberty, and property. This view was held by the Founding Fathers. Collectivism is the view that the basic metaphysical unit of social analysis is the collective—society. Collectivism states that human beings only have value in virtue of their relationship to the collective. This view was held by Mussolini, Hitler, Stalin, and Mao as well as American leaders Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Al Gore, George W. Bush, and Barack Obama. Such collectivist dictators historically view themselves as being “Philosopher-Kings” (PKs) in the Platonist mould. However, unlike Plato’s model of enlightened leadership by which leaders must possess esoteric knowledge, these PKs are nothing but tyrants who wish to exempt themselves from the totalitarian collectivism that they seek to force upon the people. It is these PKs and their minions—and not SPs—that are the true enemy of freedom.

In characterizing the Culture War as a struggle between traditionalists and SPs, O’Reilly oversimplifies the battle. Ultimately, traditionalism and secular-progressivism—at least the coherent progressivist elements of it—are two forms of collectivism. His account of the Culture War is akin to writing a book about World War II and describing it as a battle between fascism and communism by conveniently ignoring the important role that democratic nations such as the United States and the United Kingdom played in the war. In effect, O’Reilly blindly ignores one side of the conflict and instead focuses entirely on an internal battle being waged within one side of the war.

In what follows, Bill O’Reilly’s conception of the Culture War will be analyzed and critiqued. It will be argued that he gets the concept of the Culture War totally wrong. The true parameters of the Real Culture War—historical and intellectual battle lines between individualism and collectivism—will be presented in detail. The intellectual foundations of individualism and collectivism will be examined, and it will be argued that individualism is the superior worldview because individualism leads to peace, prosperity, and freedom whereas collectivism invariably leads to war, poverty, and tyranny. First, specific formulations of collectivism—communism, fascism/Nazism, progressivism, environmentalism, neoconservatism, racism, religionism, corporatism, and labor unionism—will be fully exposed and critiqued. Next, an alternate conception of the individual state will be developed and defended while building the night-watchman state from first principles. Finally, modern threats to individualism within the United States will be described in detail, and a plan of action for what individualists can do to win the Real Culture War will be recapitulated.

(More details about The Real Culture War: Individualism vs. Collectivism & How Bill O’Reilly Got It All Wrong can be found at my website.)

Friday, September 5, 2014

Doomed to Repeat It

by Dr. Gerard Emershaw

On June 28, 1914, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, was assassinated by members of the Serbian nationalist group Young Bosnia, which was funded by the Black Hand, a secret military society with close ties to the Serbian military. On July 28, 1914, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia after the Serbian government refused to suppress the Black Hand, arrest two officials suspected of taking part in the assassination plot, allow the Austrian police to investigate Serbian links to the assassination, and stop Serbian smuggling of weapons to Bosnian separatists within Austria. Taking active part in the assassination of the heir to the throne of another nation is an unambiguous act of war. If a foreign power had clear links to the assassination of an American Vice President or President-Elect, it is reasonable to conclude that the United States would have the right to declare war upon that nation.

What would the likely result of two Central European kingdoms such as Austria-Hungary and Serbia going to war in 1914 have been? Serbia was battle tested, having been on the winning side of the Balkan Wars against the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria in 1912–1913. Thus, even though Austria-Hungary was much more powerful and had a far greater population than Serbia, Serbia would not be easy to conquer. Austria-Hungary was already a basket case. After having annexed Bosnia in 1908, Austria-Hungary was facing an increasingly hostile and violent separatist movement. The polyglot empire was dealing with the rising tide of panslavism, which made it unlikely that Austria-Hungary would be able to hold onto its Balkan possessions for long, let alone add Serbia to it. If Austria-Hungary did conquer Serbia, this domination would not have lasted for long. Like the  Indian subcontinent following independence from the United Kingdom and like Iraq today, Austria-Hungary was doomed to collapse and splinter sooner rather than later. Most likely both sides would have soon found it had no taste for more war. Serbia may have thrown Austria-Hungary a bone by scapegoating the Black Hand and causing the heads of a few of its officials to role. Austria-Hungary may have extended more autonomy to Bosnia. The Austria-Hungarian–Serbian War of 1914 would most likely have wound up a small footnote in history remembered, like the Balkan Wars, only by extreme history buffs.

Alas, this conflict did not remain a small and regional war. On July 31, Russia mobilized against Austria-Hungary. Germany in turn declared war on Russia. Germany then signed a secret alliance with the Ottoman Empire, invaded Luxembourg, declared war on France, and invaded Belgium when it denied Germany permission to pass through to the French border. On August 4, the United Kingdom declared war on Germany. By 1917, warmongering American President Woodrow Wilson coaxed the United States Congress to enter the war on the side of Serbia, Russia, France, and the United Kingdom. All told, over 30 countries became involved in what became known as the Great War. The War to End All Wars. Of course, despite over 20 million casualties, it was only the warm up act to World War II. As a result of this small regional conflict getting out of control and being used as an excuse for imperialist tyrants to settle nationalistic and colonial scores against one another, the seeds of Nazism, International Communism, and Middle East unrest were planted.

Russia and Germany had no interest in the conflict between Austria-Hungary and Serbia. Leaders must not allow themselves to become enslaved by alliances. As a result of becoming involved in a war despite the fact that neither Russia nor Germany was attacked, the Russian and German people unnecessarily suffered. Russia suffered over 9 million casualties—a staggering 76.3% of the forces it mobilized. As a result, the government fell and the Soviets began their 70-year reign of terror. Germany suffered over 7 million casualties—almost 65% of the forces it mobilized. The reparations that the victorious Allies forced upon Germany would ultimately destroy it economically and kill German democracy along with the economy. Nazism rose.

Warmongering world leaders did not learn their lesson despite all the suffering caused by the Great War. When Germany invaded Poland, France and the United Kingdom declared war upon Germany, setting off World War II. Germany had not attacked France or the United Kingdom. In 1939, Poland was essentially a right-wing totalitarian government ruled by an oligarchy known as “Pilsudski’s colonels.” France and the United Kingdom had no interest in propping up this corrupt regime, and they certainly had no right to demand their citizens sacrifice blood and treasure to support a foreign military dictatorship.

Similarly, Japan invaded China in 1937, clashed with the Soviet Union and Mongolia in 1938, and set its sights on South Pacific domination by invading French Indochina. The United States renounced trade with Japan in 1940 and placed an oil embargo on it, essentially setting the stage for an economic war that would inevitably lead to a real war between the nations. Japan had not attacked the United States, and the United States had no true interest in China or the South Pacific. Despite desperately needing petroleum to run its fascist war machine, Japan should not have bombed Pearl Harbor. Likewise, alliance or no alliance, Germany should not have declared war on the United States following the American declaration of war on Japan in the wake of Pearl Harbor.

If the fascist Polish government were replaced with Nazi rule, what difference did it really make to France and the United Kingdom? Instead of brazenly and foolhardily declaring war against Hitler, the two nations should have simply fortified their defenses and prepared to defend themselves against Germany in the event of an attack. They should have waited and allowed the inevitable war between the megalomaniacal tyrants Hitler and Stalin to take place. The United States should have continued to trade with Japan. What difference did it make if Indochina was enslaved by the French or the Japanese? The Japanese would eventually have been involved in battling against fierce insurgencies in China and Indochina. The United States had no real interest in either the Chinese or the Vietnamese.

The failure to learn the lessons of the Great War led to World War II which produced over 61 million deaths and led to the Cold War. Surely, the United States had to have learned the lesson by now, right?

Ukraine is a right-wing nation whose government contains Neo-Nazi elements. Its government has been making dubious claims that Russia has already invaded. Ukraine has not attacked or threatened to attack the United States. Russian separatists in Ukraine have not attacked or threatened to attack the United States. Russia has not attacked or threatened to attack the United States. It makes no difference whether Ukraine is ruled entirely by Ukrainian fascists or split apart and ruled partly by Ukrainian fascists and partly by pro-Russian communists.

It also makes no difference if Putin decides to embrace his inner-Stalin and re-annex Ukraine. Vlad may fancy having his photo taken without a shirt. He may enjoy acting like an alpha dog—or perhaps like a rabid dog. However, a new Russian Empire is destined to collapse just like the Soviet Union. Russia is not a vibrant free market nation. It is 140th in the world in terms of economic freedom. The Russian economy is a schizophrenic mix of communism, fascism, corporatism, and gangsterism. If the tyrannical and deluded Putin wishes to pretend that he is Stalin and that it is the twentieth century, why stop him? Russia is no threat to the United States. The Cold Warriors who fearmongered about the Soviet Union during the twentieth century were not free market capitalists. They were mostly fascists and corporatists who had no true faith in free market capitalism. It was never truly a matter of whether the United States or the Soviet Union would prevail during the Cold War. It was always just a matter of when communism would lead the Soviet Union to economically collapse. The same is true today. Russia’s centrally controlled and unfree economy will eventually collapse.

It is time to finally learn from history and not again be doomed to repeat it. The United States should not rattle any sabers at Russia over Ukraine. The United States should not even contemplate any intervention in Ukraine. There is simply nothing to be gained. No upside. The potential downside, though perhaps unlikely, is a wider war. Perhaps even World War III. The point is that regional conflicts can widen and get out of control. Why risk it? Especially in service of a fascist nation which seems intent on ginning up a wider war with its dubious tales of Russian invasion?