Thursday, May 01, 2008

America, You Have Been Had

Liberals are right about the "Right-wing Noise Machine." It really is a wonder to behold, and last week it was performing like a well-tuned NASCAR race car. They say that liberals are all prepared for the inevitable "swift-boating" of Barack Obama. Look behind you, liberals. It already happened and, like last time, it was an own-goal scored by liberals.

This time it's Bill Moyers' fault. Why, oh why, Bill, did you decide that you had to put Reverend Wright up Bill Moyers Journal on April 25, 2008 so that we could all hear his side of the story? You must know that the sooner Reverend Wright is rusticated to his $1.5 million house in a gated suburban Chicago development and never heard from again the better. So when Reverend Wright indicated on Bill Moyers' show that his sermons had been taken out of context the eevil right-wing talk-show host Hugh Hewitt saw his opening. He put the whole of Reverend Wright's post 9/11 sermon and his post Iraqi Freedom sermon up on his website and ran them on his show in drive time. I imagine that there wasn't a single bitter "god-and-guns" right-wing knuckle-dragging conservative who didn't have to stop the car to let the red mist of rage dissipate.

In his sermons Reverend Wright thoughtfully rehearses to an appreciative audience every humiliation ever suffered by African Americans in North America as though it had happened yesterday. He does not even forget to include the constitution's relegation of slaves to the status of three-fifths of a person. "Government lies!" he thunders again and again. Just to be sure that nobody misses the point the able rhetorician directs each congregant to turn to the person next to her and say: "Government lies!" The purpose of such a sermon is obvious. It is to raise the consciousness of Reverend Wright's congregants to fever pitch, to forge them into unity against their elected government, to prepare them for the moral equivalent of war.

It comes as a blow to the solar plexus to confront the fact that in urban African American communities all across America a frank racist hate-filled rhetoric is not merely condoned but actually celebrated. We white conservatives have been taught for the last generation to button our lips and never to give utterance to a racist thought. We thought that we were parties to a bargain: that if we shut up and truckled to the liberal race bullies sooner or later we would emerge from the post civil-rights era and its hypocrisies of affirmative action and diversity and we would ascend to the sunny green uplands of post-racism.

Now we hear the ravings of Reverend Wright and realize that we have been had. While we were buttoning our lips and attending compulsory diversity seminars liberals were not holding up their end of the deal and neutralizing the Reverend Wrights of America and their vicious racist bile. On the contrary, liberals were pumping them up! We used to wonder how it could be that blacks voted 90 percent for Democrats. How could this be, we wondered, when you can never get more that 60 percent of the rest of America to take sides on anything? We instinctively felt that it had to take something extraordinary to create such "unity" in the African American community. Now we know what it is. It is not just a few loose cannons like Reverends Jackson and Sharpton. It is, you might say, institutional.

I don't think we yet realize what a watershed moment this is in American politics. All of a sudden the veil has been ripped away from a sacred mystery and a horror revealed to an innocent world. We know why this systemic and shameful horror has been allowed to pollute America. The day that blacks stop voting 90-10 for Democrats is the day before the day that liberals will be out of a job. Some things are just more important than peace, justice, and racial harmony in America.

But there is more to the Wright story than that. It took me several days to realize what was wrong with the Reverend Wright's sermonizing--apart from its general meanness and its hatred of America. Finally, the penny dropped. Reverend Wright: didn't you get the message? The civil-rights struggle is over. African Americans won. You won perhaps the noblest, most stunning victory in all history. Why do you daub its shimmering white marble monument with filth and bile? A word to the wise, Reverend. Winston Churchill said it best: In defeat, defiance. In victory, magnanimity.

After your army has won a great victory you change the rhetoric. You stop the resentment and the defiance. Instead you inaugurate a new rhetoric that celebrates the glorious victory and memorializes the Fallen as eternal heroes. Even our liberal friends do this when they go on and on about how wonderful liberals passed wage and hour legislation, worker rights, Social Security, civil rights, women's rights, gay and lesbian rights.


Ontario Human Rights Tribunal Ruling Denies Christian Ministry's Right to be Christian

Ruling has the Christian community in Canada deeply concerned for religious freedom

The ruling of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal against a Christian ministry serving disabled people in Ontario has the Christian community in Canada deeply concerned for religious freedom. Don Hutchinson, General Legal Counsel for the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada, summarized the situation by way of analogy in a article in the National Post today. He wrote: "Imagine that Mother Theresa and her Missionaries of Charity had been told that their ministry in the streets of Calcutta was, in essence, not ministry but 'social work.' In order for the sisters to continue in their work, they would no longer be permitted to require that staff members share their beliefs and ministry commitment."

Christian Horizons (CH), the group in question, describes itself as "an evangelical ministry seeking to reach out with Christian love to people with disabilities." Its services have been so well received by the province that it has become the largest provider of community living services in the province providing care and residential services to 1,400 developmentally disabled individuals with over 180 residential homes across Ontario, and 2,300 employees. CH receives $75 million in funding annually from the Ontario government in order to carry out these services.

CH has always been up front about being a Christian ministry. They have a statement on their website that says that the top criteria for their employees is, "A commitment to personal conduct and lifestyle consistent with the values and principles of Christian Horizons."

Connie Heintz, the former employee who launched the complaint against CH which led to the current ruling, had, like all employees, signed a "morality statement" as a condition of employment, promising not to engage in "homosexual relationships", among other un-Christian activities such as "extra-marital sexual relationships (adultery)", "pre-marital sexual relationships (fornication)", "viewing or reading pornographic material" and "lying".

Hutchinson's comparison between Mother Teresa's sisters in India and CH's operations in Canada is particularly apt. In India Mother Teresa's sisters were often persecuted by Hindu extremists because they wore their habits - wore, as it were, their Christianity 'on their sleeves'. Hutchinson told, "It is unreasonable for any tribunal to make a decision which assumes that faith and practice can be severed and in this case the capacity for practice in the type of ministry that Christian Horizons exhibits is dependent on a shared faith commitment amongst its staff."

One very alarming aspect of the ruling, according to Evangelicals, is that the OHRT is requiring that all of CH's 2,500 employees be given a pro-homosexuality "human rights training program". Rev. Royal Hamel, spokesman for Campaign Life Evangelical told that the situation was reminiscent of Orwell's novel '1984' where the 'Ministry of Truth' was used to indoctrinate citizens into believing the currently held lies of the state. "It's 2008 and we've finally reached 1984," he said.


It's official: it is now a crime in Britain to be arrogant

The imprisonment of Abu Izzadeen for the `criminal offence' of Talking Bollocks In A Mosque represents a grave assault on free speech

Like me, you probably don't care very much about what happens to Abu Izzadeen, the Radical Cleric Formerly Known as Trevor. He's the ranting mullah best known for heckling former home secretary John Reid in 2006, who was born plain old Trevor Brooks in Hackney, London, and who worked as a BT technician until he decided to convert to Islam and spend his adult life making finger-wagging speeches about evil Jews, British kaffirs, and how `magnificent' 9/11 was. For all I care, Trev can go to hell. In fact, maybe he should make real his promise to become a suicide bomber and `be blown into pieces, with my hands in one place and my feet in another' (1). That sounds like a fitting end for this fancy-dress `terrorist'. just so long as he does it far, far away from other human beings.

However, you should care - a lot - about the implications of the arrest, trial and imprisonment of Izzadeen on charges of `inciting terrorism' and `fundraising for terrorists'. On Friday, Izzadeen was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison at Kingston-upon-Thames Crown Court, after being found guilty of these terrorist offences; five of his cronies received sentences of between two and four years. Reading the coverage of Izzadeen's trial over the weekend, you could be forgiven for thinking that he had literally shaken a tin to collect cash for terrorist groups, and then posted the contents to training camps in Afghanistan or Iraq. In fact, his only `crimes' were crimes of thought and speech - he has been jailed for what he said, and even for how he said it, rather than for anything that he did. His imprisonment represents a new low blow to freedom of speech in Britain.

There was a time when `inciting terrorism' would have meant convincing and cajoling an individual or a group of individuals to commit a terrorist atrocity. And there was a time when `fundraising for terrorists' would have meant, well, raising funds for terrorists: that is, collecting money and handing it over to a terrorist group for the purposes of buying weaponry, semtex, flying lessons or some other item or thing likely to be useful in the commission or execution of an act of terrorism. Not any more. In the trial of Izzadeen and his accomplices, there was not a jot of evidence that anyone had been incited to terrorism by their words, or indeed that their words had been intended as a direct form of incitement, or that Izzadeen, his mates or anyone else who listened to their cranky sermons had sent money to terrorist training camps in Iraq. No, Izzadeen was found guilty and sentenced to four years' imprisonment on the basis of a rambling, incoherent 11-hour `protest sermon' he gave at Regents Park Mosque in November 2004. During the sermon, Izzadeen, who was surrounded by a tiny group of like-minded losers, slated the actions of the American and British armies in Iraq and praised 9/11.

At one point, he also said the following: `Fight the [enemy] with your wealth. Jihad with money, jihad with money. The jihad is to give money for weapons, for tanks, for RPGs, for M16s.' (2) Nasty words, no doubt. But no evidence was presented at Izzadeen's trial to show that those three sentences, delivered during an 11-hour dirge, were part of a broader fundraising campaign, or that anyone sent money to Iraqi insurgents upon hearing Izzadeen's comments. And yet Izzadeen and others were found guilty of `fundraising for terrorists' as surely as if they had been caught red-handed with dollars destined for the coffers of al-Qaeda. Likewise, no evidence was presented to show that Izzadeen's words incited anyone to go to Iraq and blow up some Brits or Yanks; instead it has been argued that his comments `contributed to an atmosphere' in which some Muslims consider killing to be a religious duty (3). Contributed to an atmosphere? When it comes to `indirect incitement', that is about as indirect as it gets.

It is hard to avoid the conclusion that Izzadeen's real offence was to Talk Bollocks In A Mosque - and whatever you might think of his vile ideas and gruff manner, Talking Bollocks In A Mosque should not be a crime, certainly not one punishable by four years' imprisonment. Izzadeen has effectively been found guilty, not of being a terrorist, but of being a fantasist - of dressing up and adopting the demeanour of a bin Laden-style motormouth mullah who thinks it is big and clever to sing the praises of violent jihad. There's no denying that Izzadeen had a point when he said during his trial that he and his accomplices had used `no other weapon than our tongue' - and so long as you are using your tongue to speak, rather than, say, to poke someone's eye out, then its use should never be a crime (4).

Does the sending down of Izzadeen show that the authorities are using the trials of ugly, unpopular, unctuous Muslim clerics - with whom nobody could possibly sympathise - to experiment with new restrictions on free speech? Certainly, there are good reasons why all of us should be deeply concerned about the precedents set by the imprisonment of this jester-jihadist.

First, the case shows how flabby the category of incitement has become today. Traditionally, in the eyes of the law, incitement involved a close relationship between two parties, where one encouraged, implored or cajoled the other into doing something criminal. Now it seems we can be incited by overhearing the words of a preacher in a mosque, or by watching a DVD of one of his sermons (5). This further erodes the distinction between thought and action, giving rise to the dangerous idea that speech itself is a potentially lethal act, which can easily and unwittingly provoke violence, or the funding of violence, or `create an atmosphere' in which killing becomes more common. Indeed, in Izzadeen's trial, speech and terrorism were treated as one and the same: his words were described as `terrorist fundraising' and as `incitement to terrorism'. In short, words themselves are a form of terror.

The promiscuous redefinition of incitement is bad news for all of us. If the words spoken in a mosque, on a street corner or at a public rally are redefined as violent things in themselves, then that opens up thought and speech to the closer scrutiny and policing of the authorities. Moreover, the new view of incitement calls into question the existence of free will itself. Where the old legal definition of incitement viewed individuals as rational and reasonable, and in need of intense coaxing before they could be said to have been incited, in the current definition of incitement individuals are seen as vulnerable, unthinking automatons who can be provoked into violence upon overhearing a few sentences spoken by a robe-wearing loudmouth. In imprisoning Izzadeen, the authorities are sending a loud and clear message, not only to radical clerics, but to the rest of us too: `We're putting him away to protect your naive, reactive minds from his poisonous terror-words.'

Second, Izzadeen's trial shows how a nervous British elite is using new anti-terror legislation to shield itself from what it sees as political attack and criticism. Bethan David, the Crown Prosecution Service's counterterrorism lawyer, insisted that Izzadeen's imprisonment was not about making it an `an offence to have negative views about Britain and its values and culture'; rather it simply showed that it is an offence to `encourage acts of violence' (6). The lawyer doth protest too much. In making it a crime to `glorify terrorism', and in defining certain words and expressions as terrorist acts, the British authorities' new anti-terror legislation is deeply and politically censorious. When the Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer was asked in 2005 to define what kind of speech would be outlawed by new anti-terror laws, he said that people `attacking the values of the West' could be imprisoned for `long periods' of time (7). It seems contemporary British society is so fragile that it is scared of words; it is so uncertain about what its own core `values and culture' are that it desperately erects a forcefield of censorship around them in the hope that no one will knock them down.

Third, Izzadeen's trial shows how keen the authorities are to police our emotions as well as what we say and what we do. In his summing up, the judge attacked Izzadeen for being `arrogant [and] contemptuous'. To one of the other defendants, the judge said: `You are someone with extremist and dangerous views. Not only the words themselves, but the tone in which they were issued, showed the depth of your fanatical zeal.' So is it now a crime to be arrogant? Is it an offence not only to say certain words but also to say them in a particular tone? Perhaps all of us should watch what we say and how we say it, lest our tone upset one of the law lords. Izzadeen and his cronies were not only found guilty of speech crimes and Thoughtcrimes - they were also sent down for Tonecrimes, for putting the wrong kind of emotion into the words that they dared to speak in public.

The irony of all this is that if anyone provided the odious Izzadeen with a public platform it was Britain's own political and media elite. This buffoon with a miniscule number of followers was invited on to BBC Radio 4's Today programme and BBC TV's Newsnight to comment on 7/7, the war in Iraq and the outlook of British Muslims. Following his heckling of John Reid in an east London mosque in 2006, he was transformed into a media and political bogeyman. His `threat' was discussed at high-level government and police meetings. The DVDs showing him `inciting terrorism' in Regents Park Mosque in November 2004 were discovered during a police raid in 2006 and then made public, later becoming the basis for the trial. Prior to that, Izzadeen would have been lucky if three men and a goat had watched his recorded rantings; it was the police's actions that brought the rants to wider public attention. Given that every report still refers to Izzadeen as `the cleric who heckled John Reid', perhaps his true crime was to Embarrass New Labour In The Media.

Izzadeen's trial was a showtrial; worse than that, it was a showtrial of a straw man. The authorities turned him into a panto villain in recent years, and then made a spectacle of throwing him off the stage while sections of the media whooped and cheered them on. And in the process, free speech, the distinction between thought and action, and free will itself have been further dragged through the dirt. The showtrial of Izzadeen has been more harmful to British democracy and freedom than the idiot Izzadeen could ever have hoped to be.


On the Cosmic Meaning of Race

I guess it's hard to avoid the big kerfuffle of the day, which is Jeremiah Wright's speech before the NAACP over the weekend, in which he claimed that "black brains" have a different neurological structure than "white brains," so that cultural differences would be rooted in our hardware, not our software, so to speak. (Here is a link to the video.) Ironically, this is what got the authors of The Bell Curve in so much trouble a decade ago, for it is strictly forbidden to entertain the idea that race could involve any "essential" differences as opposed to "accidental" ones.

Now, there is no question that Jeremiah Wright is a lunatic, a racist, and a hate-monger, but that's beside the point, for truth -- if it is truth -- cannot be sullied by its vehicle. 2 + 2 = 4 is no less true even if it comes out of the deranged mouth of a Keith Olbermann. But let's look at this in a detached and disinterested way, and see if there's any truth to it.

This subject is truly the "third rail" of academia, so I will no doubt say something offensive in what follows -- or, at the very least, something that will be willfully misunderstood. On the one hand, we're all supposed to be obsessed with race and racial differences, and yet, deny that they have any intrinsic basis. If you are a politically correct leftist, you must simultaneously believe that race is "everything" and yet "nothing." It is of the utmost importance in judging people, and yet, of no importance at all. To believe there are racial differences is to automatically brand oneself a nazi, even if one is positively disposed to the differences. It's a very confusing message. Remember the Seinfeld episode, in which Jerry proclaimed that he loved Asian women? Elaine responded, "that's so racist!," and a bewildered Jerry asked words to the effect of, "how can it be racist? I said I love them."

As an example of how ideology shapes scientific perception -- or what the scientist is "permitted" to believe, and even perceive -- it has long been assumed in anthropological circles that race is entirely contingent and superficial. We are all descended from the same small band of Homo sapiens from as recently as 70,000 years ago, and that's just too short a time in evolutionary terms to result in any real changes to the human genotype. On this assumption, all human beings are genetically no different than a human being from 70,000 years ago. I am hardly the first to observe that this stance is largely an institutional reaction to the monstrosities of the racial theories of the 20th century and to the legacy of Western slavery.

The most recent scientific evidence suggests that the idea that evolution ceased 70,000 years ago is simply untrue. Awhile back I posted on Nicholas Wade's Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors (Wade is a science writer for the New York Times, no less), and he says that there is no question that significant genetic changes have taken place within just a few generations as a result of certain human groups being isolated from one another.

I don't recall all of the details, but I do recall Wade's example of the Ashkenazi Jews, whom he said rapidly developed higher IQs because they were prevented from working in most fields as a result of European anti-Semitism. In short, Jews could mostly find work in "disreputable" fields that required a certain kind of more abstract mental ability as opposed to "honest labor." But Jews got the last laugh, as they were genetically selected for higher IQs in a very short span of time. If this is true, it would explain why Ashkenazi Jews continue to have a significantly higher IQs than the average. (That's not me talking, but Wade summarizing the scientific evidence.)

Another relevant book along these lines is Richard Nisbett's The Geography of Thought: How Asians and Westerners Think Differently...and Why. The Publishers Weekly review says the book "may mark the beginning of a new front in the science wars. Nisbett, an eminent psychologist..., contends that 'human cognition is not everywhere the same' -- that those brought up in Western and East Asian cultures think differently from one another in scientifically measurable ways.... Westerners tend to inculcate individualism and choice..., while East Asians are oriented toward group relations and obligations ('the tall poppy is cut down' remains a popular Chinese aphorism). Next, Nisbett presents his actual experiments and data, [which] seem to show East Asians [to be] measurably more holistic in their perceptions (taking in whole scenes rather than a few stand-out objects). Westerners, or those brought up in Northern European and Anglo-Saxon-descended cultures, have a 'tunnel-vision perceptual style' that focuses much more on identifying what's prominent in certain scenes and remembering it."

Now, I am not a big fan of IQ testing as a measure of general intelligence, and I believe that any average human being is equipped to comprehend absolute truth; conversely, a high IQ in no way correlates with conformity to truth, much less to creativity. If anything, the opposite is true. After a certain cut-off point, a high IQ is associated with less creativity, not to mention a narcissistic pride that results in idiosyncratic deviations from truth, which are no more than an egoic and thoroughly disposable "song of myself." Conformity to truth requires a humility that is too often lacking in the intellectually grandiose.

We needn't look further than leftist academia to appreciate the truism that a certain kind of one-dimensional high intelligence more often than not correlates with systematic nonsense, not truth. For example, college educated people vote overwhelmingly Republican, while people who have attended graduate school (business or economics excepted, of course) vote overwhelmingly Democrat. This doesn't surprise me in the least, as the problem of over-education is actually much more harmful than the problem of under-education. The latter group causes relatively few societal problems compared to the former. This is why William F. Buckley famously quipped that he would prefer to be governed by the first 100 names in the Boston telephone book than the Harvard faculty, and why he was correct. It truly takes an over-educated buffoon to believe most of the nonsense that comes out of academia.

You can only be a racist if you believe that race is unvaryingly rooted in genetics, and that certain groups are unavoidably superior and therefore inferior. But again, what if different groups are just different, but not in any pejorative sense? Or, what if each group has its strengths and weakness, so that it is once again not a matter of "either/or" but "both/and"? Just as the human being is not male or female, but the complementarity of male/female, what if the archetypal Man is all of the races harmoniously combined? What if we really should cherish the differences rather than use them as a battering ram for leftist grievance-mongering and victimization?

The most up-to-date research on intelligence indicates what should be a truism, that intelligence is not only not a general construct (or not only), but that it has many relatively independent "modules." For example, one can obviously be a musical genius but a political dolt. Too many painful examples come to mind. Likewise, one can be a scientific genius, like Einstein, and be a philosophical mediocrity and political nuisance. Or, one can be a religious genius and be a scientific kook. One can have rhetorical skills, like Obama, which conceal an intellect that is mediocre, or poor rhetorical skills, like President Bush, and have a superior IQ.

Now, I don't happen to believe that race is genetic -- or only genetic (everything is by definition genetic in some sense, so it's a tautology). Furthermore, one of the most critical points to bear in mind is that intelligence is on a Bell curve anyway, so that each group actually contains all of the human potential, just in a different mixture. Yes, the vast majority of immortal jazz musicians were black, and I believe only could have been black. And yet there have been some white jazz musicians that also achieved aesthetic perfection, e.g., Bill Evans, Stan Getz, Art Pepper.

As Schuon observed -- and Schuon is a person who not only loved racial differences, but truly cherished them -- "If racism is to be rejected, so is an anti-racism which errs in the opposite direction by attributing racial difference to merely accidental causes and which seeks to reduce to nothing these differences by talking about blood-groups, or in other words by mixing up things situated on different levels." To put it another way, nothing as precious and valuable as these differences could be a result of mere genetic shuffling. Thus the differences between, say, Taosim and Christianity, which really do involve different "inflections" of the one truth, even though -- at least according to Schuon -- they are each "complete."

What we call "race" must be a combination of genetics, culture, archetypal essences, and individuality. So it is impossible in principle to reduce someone to his race, even if we can discuss it in general terms. Furthermore, it seems to be something we can't help noticing, even if we needn't attach any negative connotations to it. For example, my son's best friends are a Japanese boy; a Chinese-American girl; an African-American adoptee of a white couple; and a boy and girl of a mixed Caucasian/African American couple. We assumed that Tristan would grow up not noticing race, but the other night we were watching a Dodger game, with the Japanese pitcher Hiroki Kuroda on the mound. Tristan happily exclaimed, "he looks like KK!," his little Japanese friend.

One of the reasons I am so disoriented by the left, is that by the 1970s, like any good liberal, I had been naive enough to believe that Americans really were "beyond race." I was raised to believe that it was of no importance, and I didn't even know any liberals who believed otherwise. It seems to me that only with the OJ trial was the mask ripped off, and the full extent of the horror of invidious leftist race obsessions became apparent. That's when it dawned on me with great force that these people are not like me. Not African-Americans. The left. And that is much deeper than any mere racial difference. Let's put it this way: I am a different race than Jeremiah Wright, but the same one as Thomas Sowell. But I wish I were the same race as Bobby Bland or Van Morrison....



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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