Quick Roundup 216

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Why Does Liberal Talk Radio Fail?

Myrhaf ponders an interesting question that came up at HBL just before the Binswangers went on holiday, and gets some interesting comments. This remark (within the fourth comment), by Dismuke, strikes me as right on target:

Nobody with an ounce of self-respect wants to listen to a bunch of condescending elitists tell them that they are a bunch of dolts - especially when the things they are being called a dolt over things such as fidelity to their values (philosophically valid or otherwise) or pursuing their own material self-interest and happiness.

If one's motive is to persuade - well about the last thing that one should do is start out by insulting their audience's intelligence. That might work as a form of intimidation for the insecure and the social metaphysicians of the world - but it sure doesn't work with someone who is mentally healthy. But that is the very first thing that a Leftist does - indeed, it is a major building block of their entire world view.
That's how talk radio fails as a vehicle for persuading non-leftist audiences. There are also some worthwhile points on why, apparently, even many liberals don't want to listen to it.

Old Photo Blog

Dismuke also recommends, via email, Shorpy, a blog featuring interesting, old photographs. A recently-posted photo of a man I can only describe as a "Mainiac" was quite amusing.

Aiding and Abetting

Jihad Watch reports that 45 Moslem physicians in the United States have vowed to emulate their British colleagues by conducting terrorist attacks here.

But if your employer uses software from firms like Websense to filter what you can access through the Internet at work, you probably wouldn't hear about it by following blogs:
[T]oday I'm going to try to contact every company about which I have been notified and ask them to remove the ban. Many thanks to all those who have written in with information and suggestions; I am very grateful for your help.

Some people have asked me: "But why should employees be reading Jihad Watch on the job? If employers want to block it, that's their right." But when CAIR and pro-jihad sites are accessible and Jihad Watch isn't, this isn't a question of trying to keep employees' minds on the job. This is an attempt to silence us.
As distressing as it is to learn about this, at least the filtering is being done by private companies. There would be no such speedy recourse (if any at all) as outlined above if the government -- in violation of our right to freedom of speech -- got into this act, as so many would like to see.

John Lewis in The Chronicle of Higher Education

I don't currently have a subscription to the Chronicle of Higher Education, but it has just released a report that will be of particular interest to Objectivists in general and those in academia in particular: "Tenure Shrugged: A Scholar's Affinity for the Philosophy of Ayn Rand Cost Him His Job".

Here is its opening paragraph:
In late April, John D. Lewis, a historian and classicist at Ashland University, flew to Virginia to deliver a lecture at George Mason University about U.S. policy toward Iran. Mr. Lewis is an admirer of the late Ayn Rand, and he shares her belief that democracies should respond to external attacks without much concern for civilian casualties. [See the update at the end of this article to find a more accurate description of Dr. Lewis's position. --ed] He wrote in an essay in 2006 that "America, acting alone and with overwhelming force, must destroy the Iranian Islamic State now. It must do so openly, and indeed spectacularly, for the entire world to see, for this is the only way to demonstrate the spectacular failure and incompetence of the Islamic fundamentalist movement as a whole."
I am quite glad to see that this story is getting some of the national exposure it deserves. Since I probably will not get a chance to subscribe and read the whole thing any time soon, I am particularly interested in comments on the full article by anyone who happens by and has read it. (HT: Randex) [An anonymous commenter provides a provides a link to the full article. Since it is in a directory called "temp", this link will probably expire soon.]

-- CAV


: (1) For those unfamiliar with Dr. Lewis's position, I strongly recommend reading the version of his talk that was published in last winter's issue of The Objective Standard. In addition, audio of the talk -- which should be heard for other reasons -- is also available from TOS. (HT: Ergo) (2) Added note to excerpt from The Chronicle of Higher Education. (3) Added note concerning link to the full article. (3) Corrected a typo.


Ergo said...


That comment attributed to Ayn Rand that democracies must respond to attacks without caring about civilian casualties is so reductionist and so wrong. It is unfortunate that it appears in the article so simplistically. I have not read the entire article, but I doubt that Rand's proper position is elaborated upon.

Other readers of this article have already expressed incredulity at Ayn Rand holding such a view--not only because they don't understand all the philosophical bases underlying the position, but also because the position has not been stated accurately.

First off, it is not merely "democracies" that Rand gives the legitimacy to initiate an attack--because as such, even Hamas is justified in their attacks, and so in Iran. Second, it is not that Rand did not care about civilian casualties but that she emphasized that a free nation should not assume moral responsibility and guilt for civilian casualties as it may occur, because it would be an unearned guilt brought about by the hostile regime that has already demonstrated disregard for human rights.

Well, you know, there's more to it... but this is just upsetting.

Anonymous said...

Found a full copy of the Lewis Chronicle article here: http://chronicle.com/temp/email2.php?id=PxfXjHZFqSGqkJY6JkQfDSM8RcnBFFwj

May or may not work for you.

Gus Van Horn said...

You are right about his position being mischaracterized, but to ask a journalist, in this day and age, to call nations that respect individual rights anything other than "democracies" is probably hoping for too much.

I am holding out the desperate hope that John Lewis will have gotten to speak for himself within the article.

In any event, I am hoping that the point -- that we are too concerned with "civilian casualties" -- will pique interest in John Lewis's actual position, which is widely available.

Speaking of which, you have reminded me to add a link to his article at TOS to help such individuals, so thanks!

Gus Van Horn said...

Regarding the full article, this looks like a clear-cut case of abridgment of academic freedom on the part of Ashland University, and one of dubious legality.

The article's characterizations of Objectivism, although often inaccurate, do not detract significantly from its coverage of this shameful episode.

Jim May said...

We need to track this article until it gets to its permanent link, and then spread it around to as many places as possible.

This is serious stuff -- it shows CLEARLY that the conservatives would be NO BETTER than the Left should they acquire dominance in academia.

Post that link in the comments of EVERY conservative blog (particular targets I can think of are Dan Collins' posts at proteinwisdom, and Hugh Hewitt), on every post you find where they point out Lefist suppression of dissent as though contempt for dissent were solely a Leftist thing.

This may sound overdramatic, but if penetrating academia is the central aspect of disseminating Objectivism, this sort of thing is our Thermopylae.

Gus Van Horn said...

Overdramatic? If anything, you are guilty of understatement. After they deny tenure to Objectivists on the basis of our beliefs, others will surely follow.

For the Chronicle not to make this permanently and easily available is very short-sighted to say the least.

Vigilis said...

Gus, re: "Why Does Liberal Talk Radio Fail?"

A better question, in my opinion, would be to ask why some conservative radio shows succeed - what do they offer that liberals seem unwilling to match, and never debate?

The conservative shows ever worth catching (admittedly few) serve up archival facts that are often informative, sometimes compelling, and can be substantiated. There is economic utility in real knowledge. A steady diet of only propaganda (conservative or liberal) is insulting and of very little economic utility, in my opinion.

In a different vein, I selected this "science news" especially for you: "It undermines the libertarian idea that unrestrained selfishness is good for the economy and the game-theoretic tenet that people will be selfish and rational. Experiments based on the TD shed light on how an arms race or competitive struggle can act as a gradual process leading to ever worsening outcomes. But they also suggest, more hopefully, that humans possess a meta-rationality that enables players to follow a non-rational course that allows them both to do well." http://www.sciam.com/article.cfm?chanID=sa006&colID=1&articleID=7750A576-E7F2-99DF-3824E0B1C2540D47

You may buy me a beer. - V

Gus Van Horn said...


I may blog that article later if in the right mood and in possession of more time and a better Internet connection than I have at the moment.

The first example that article starts off with, that of the airline passengers who are given a chance to offer competing estimates for the value of a lost artifact by an airline official, illustrates perfectly what I think is baloney here: Logic is being equated with rationality.

Look at just a couple of the smuggled-in assumptions here: (1) That winning the two-dollar bonus is more important than -- oh, I don't know -- getting reimbursed for the lost artifact, and (2) that "winning" this game somehow represents rational behavior.

Just one of many possible far rational behaviors here would have been for the couple to buy insurance on the object before departing to avoid having to deal with being treated like congenital liars by some airline stiff.

Having said that, I am not always sure with you where you stand -- you seem, based on the scare quotes -- to agree with me that the article is hogwash.

You are, after all, something of an enigma to me, Vigilis.

But even if I am wrong, I'll happily buy you a beer since I am such a good sport, and you will have the added satisfaction of it looking like it took me several days to cook up a reply to your comment!