Quick Roundup 25

Thursday, February 23, 2006

An Open Letter to Liberals and Conservatives

I like this article, which I found at Capitalism Magazine a few days ago for its straightforward exposition of what is wrong with the two "ends" of the political spectrum.

I am neither Liberal nor Conservative and I have political convictions at odds with both. So what is the difference between us?

Liberals believe the purpose of government is to "help people." Conservatives believe the purpose of government is to enforce morality. I believe the purpose of government is to protect individuals from being "helped" by the Liberals or forced to pray by the Conservatives.

People arrive at their political beliefs because of certain assumptions they make about the nature of reality and the nature of man. These ideas are what create our different political views.

Liberals believe reality is whatever they want it to be, all they have to do is believe strongly and join with like-minded people and reality will mold itself to the will of the people. This leads to the political belief that anything goes, as long as people vote on it.

Conservatives believe the world was created by an all-powerful God and reality is split into our low earthly realm of suffering and imperfection, and Gods realm of heavenly perfection. This leads to the political belief that anything goes, just as long as you act in the name of God.
Statistics and Induction

Curtis Weeks does some interesting number-crunching over at Phatic Communion, where he notes that in each of the past two years, more than double the number of murders have been committed in the United States than one could project per annum by Moslem jihadists. These calculations are done in response to the work of a site he says supports "the argument that 'Islam is the problem'," a proposition with which he presumably disagrees.

He then goes on to ask, "Do such claims mistake correlation for causation? Or is it magical thinking?" before quoting a line from the Koran that could be construed to contradict one cited by web site he is discussing -- if one has a halfway rational view of what constitutes an "aggressor". I would offer a third possible reason for making such a conclusion without "debating interpretations of the [Kor]an": induction. If you see the Sun rise each and every day, you can safely conclude that it will rise tomorrow without attaining a PhD in astronomy, or even understanding that it does not revolve around the Earth.

Weeks says this immediately after dismissing as "drumming in the point" a long quotation from the site that notes the staggering geographic distribution of Islamist aggression across the globe:
Its all about Iraq, isn't it?

Yep, its all about Iraq and

India and the Sudan and Algeria and Afghanistan and New York and Pakistan and Israel and Russia and Chechnya and the Philippines and Indonesia and Nigeria and England and Thailand and Spain and Egypt and Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia and Ingushetia and Dagestan and Turkey and Kabardino-Balkaria and Morocco and Yemen and Lebanon and France and Uzbekistan and Gaza and Tunisia and Kosovo and Bosnia and Mauritania and Kenya and Eritrea and Syria and Somalia and California and Kuwait and Virginia and Ethiopia and Iran and Jordan and United Arab Emirates and Louisiana and Texas and Tanzania and Sri Lanka and Pennsylvania and Belgium and Denmark and East Timor and Qatar and Maryland and Tajikistan and the Netherlands and Scotland and...

... and pretty much wherever Muslims believe their religion tells them to:

"Fight and slay the Unbelievers wherever ye find them. Seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem of war." Quran, Sura 9:5
Or, as Mark Steyn put it so well:
These days, whenever something goofy turns up on the news, chances are it involves some fellow called Mohammed. A plane flies into the World Trade Center? Mohammed Atta. A gunman shoots up the El Al counter at Los Angeles airport? Hesham Mohamed Hedayet. A sniper starts killing gas-station customers around Washington, DC? John Allen Muhammed. A guy fatally stabs a Dutch movie director? Mohammed Bouyeri. A terrorist slaughters dozens in Bali? Noordin Mohamed. A British subject from Hounslow, West London, self-detonates in a Tel Aviv bar? Asif Mohammed Hanif. A gang rapist preys on the women of Sydney? Mohammed Skaf.
To make Weeks's comparison completely accurate, one must do one of two things: Either consider all murders or consider only murders animated by some ideology. Unfortunately, Weeks compares Islamist murders alone against any and all murders committed in the U.S. (And he should have quadrupled the U.S. figure to account for the fact that there about quadruple the number of Moslems worldwide than there are Americans.)

If he accounts for all murders in the Islamic world, he should account for atrocities such as those committed by Saddam Hussein when he was in power, what is going on now in Darfur, where the attempted murder of at least a million black non-Moslems is in progress, and so on. He might dispute whether the genocide in Darfur is religious in nature, but he's the one who decided to be less-than-fussy about such matters.

Or he should cut through the cognitive clutter and compare Islamic murders to other cases in which followers of an ideology have performed atrocities in accordance with that ideology. The genocide in Darfur reminds me of at least three instances offhand of mass murders committed by Communists: at least seven million by Stalin, 30 million killed in China's "Great Leap Forward", and most recently, two million during Pol Pot's rule of Cambodia.

Would Weeks dispute whether "Communism is the problem" here? If so, I wonder at what point he would excuse one from examining the minutiae of some belief system to determine whether it "is the problem" when its followers, presumably animated by these beliefs, commit so many atrocities. Furthermore, I would hasten to add that I would not conclude from this that Islam is necessarily any "less dangerous" than Communism. Rather, I would take these data as a warning that we do not want to find out what life would be like under Islam. The United States, even with all those murders, sure seems like a safe place when we consider that. And it might be worth examining what about its predominant ideology differs from Islam and Communism that makes it that way.

I disagree with this analysis, with the notion that it is unreasonable to conclude that something about Islam is causing so many of its followers to kill in its name, and with the idea that it is unimportant to attempt to understand why.

Eric Raymond on "Meme Warfare"

New Linker informed me of an article by open source guru Eric S. Raymond that contains a wealth of interesting information on the Soviet "disinformation" campaign of the Cold War.
In a previous post on Suicidalism, I identified some of the most important of the Soviet Union's memetic weapons. Here is that list again:

* There is no truth, only competing agendas.

* All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the Wests history of racism and colonialism.

* There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such standards is an evil oppressor.

* The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of the Third World; therefore Westerners actually deserve to be impoverished and miserable.

* Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal. Poor criminals are entitled to what they take. Submitting to criminal predation is more virtuous than resisting it.

* The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only victims are virtuous. Therefore only the poor and criminals are virtuous. (Rich people can borrow some virtue by identifying with poor people and criminals.)

* For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself. But oppressed people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.

* When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorists point of view, and make concessions.

As I previously observed, if you trace any of these back far enough, you'll find a Stalinist intellectual at the bottom. (The last two items on the list, for example, came to us courtesy of Frantz Fanon. The fourth item is the Baran-Wallerstein world system thesis.) Most were staples of Soviet propaganda at the same time they were being promoted by progressives (read: Marxists and the dupes of Marxists) within the Western intelligentsia.
I haven't had time to go through the entire post which is, I believe, part of a series, but the real question isn't "What 'memes' did the Soviets release into the West?" It's, "What about the West enabled the Soviets to spread their demoralizing propaganda so easily?"

Many commonly-accepted beliefs, such as altruism as a moral ideal, were already present in the West. The Soviets merely cashed in on them by crafting propaganda that elaborated upon these beliefs.

The Objective Standard

According to the email list, Craig Biddle's essay, "Introducing The Objective Standard", is now online.
It is widely believed today that our cultural and political alternatives are limited either to the ideas of the secular, relativistic left -- or to those of the religious, absolutist right--or to some compromised mixture of the two. In other words, ones ideas are supposedly either extremely liberal or extremely conservative or somewhere in-between. We at The Objective Standard reject this false alternative and embrace an entirely different view of the world.
I'm looking forward to receiving my copy in the mail soon!

-- CAV


Vigilis said...

Wow, powerful roundup, Gus. If you are not mining too selectively, opinions are really starting to mature in America. About time.

Anonymous said...

Ah, at last a para-fisking by Gus Van Horn!

I shall be forced to respond. The post you cite was actually exploratory in nature; I've since been stimulated to look at other angles in my pursuit.

One of my regular reads and semi-regular readers remarked on his blog that I came close to a Moorish comparison (referencing Fahrenheit 9/11) and that I should have compared Islamist murders with gang violence in the U.S. So there is more to look at. I replied that we should look at the 1bil or so Muslims in the world, consider the "Islam is the problem" metaphor, and wonder why America hasn't been utterly defeated in Iraq and Afghanistan by now if all Muslims are rabid Islamists.

Anywho, thanks for the look. I'll try to collect my thoughts and respond accordingly -- at PC!

Anonymous said...

er, I suppose he meant "Bowling for Columbine," since he mentioned the comparison between Canadian and the U.S. murder rates...

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for your support!


I'm sure that, as usual, I'll be at odds with at least some part of your conclusion, but I'll take a look. (((:~{/> I'll give you one thing, though. The "exploration" was thought-provoking.

As for why the world of Islam is not defeating us despite its numbers, I would point out that this is a civilization that reached its peak centuries ago and has been in decline since.

Their tendency to produce terrorists and their decline are both due to the fact that this culture, which saved the West from itself by passing Aritotle and classical learning to us, abandoned reason ages ago. And when you abandon reason, persuasion is not your method of choice to get your point across.


Gus Van Horn said...

One more thing:

On the score of Moslem ineptitude, pleas go here.