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Tuesday, August 16, 2016
The Left Refuses to Learn
Much has been said and written about the deleterious effects of political correctness, which makes it next to impossible to speak truth without meeting volleys of censorship and defamation.
Another cognitive tendency, however, is now reaching massive proportions, namely the pervasive refusal to learn, to ferret out facts from the welter of conflicting claims and competing opinions that obscure or deform the exchange of ideas on which the health of a democracy depends, in short, to seek truth. No less destructive to the existence of an informed public than the scourge of political correctness, the lassitude that afflicts us is no doubt, or at least in part, owing to an increasingly dysfunctional educational system at all levels from primary to post-graduate, and operates in conjunction with a widespread cultural propensity to a sort of epicurean laziness that comes with prolonged affluence and an entitlement mentality.
Three recent instances of willful ignorance got me thinking once again about this noxious contagion from which we suffer.
The first was a personal encounter on a Facebook chain in which I misguidedly sparred with an academic colleague on the subject of Islam. My colleague took exception to an article I had posted, "How to Defeat Terrorism," in which I put forward a series of severe but sensible measures to reduce the incidence of jihadist attacks. I had set terror squarely in the camp of canonical Islam and provided textual evidence to support my contention. My interlocutor accused me of proposing a Nazi-type "final solution," of thinking in black hat/white hat terms, and of mischaracterizing Islam, which he asserted was 90% based on the bible and which honored the prophetic figures of the Judeo-Christian tradition.
When I pointed out that he was quite mistaken, that Islam had misconstrued these august personages and substantially perverted the message of the holy scriptures, and that he had little accurate knowledge of either the authoritative sources of Islam or the bible in any detail, he was affronted. My knowledge of these matters, while by no means panoptic, is the fruit of 15 years of study, as my correspondent knew from books and articles I had published; nonetheless, he dismissed my information as amounting to nothing more than "ten minutes on Google." He offered no counter-argument or substantive engagement. He had obviously gleaned his comfortable point of view from watching TV, reading our liberal newspapers, and conversing with his academic peers -- and maybe, from ten minutes on Google. And he wore his ignorance proudly.
But he was not yet finished. He proceeded to contradict himself, stating that the Judeo-Christian tradition, which a genial Islam had duly respected, was responsible for atrocities like the Third Reich. When I responded that one can't have it both ways -- the Western tradition is either benign or culpable -- and that Nazism was a pagan incursion into the democratic life of the West, he could only resort to evasion, once again displaying a profound lack of investigative grounding. He then signed off, ending our correspondence with an offhand insult. Why should I have been surprised? After all, the academy has proven to be among the most remiss of our institutions in the pursuit of truth.
A second instance involves the media-hyped controversy regarding Donald Trump's embroilment with the Gold Star family of Khizr Khan, whose son died a hero in combat. Khan portrays himself as a Muslim American patriot unfairly abused by Trump, and Trump has been duly attacked by the talking heads, the political class and even by members of his own party for his presumed insensitivity and his plan to halt or reduce Muslim immigration into the U.S. Again, research would show that Trump has a valid point in suspecting Khan's motives, Khan having authored a paper called "Juristic Classification of Islamic Law," in which Mohammad is effectively beatified and Sharia is clearly exalted over all other forms of jurisdiction, including, obviously, American law. "To Muslims," he posits, "the Quran being the very word of God, it is the absolute authority from which springs the very conception of legality and every legal obligation." The Koran, he allows, is not a legal document, but a book of revelation and exhortation, though it constitutes the basis of Islamic law, codified and expanded in the annals of Islamic jurisprudence. Even differences on various points of law and ritual, he argues, are understood as steps on the way to a larger unification. For Khan, "the invariable rules of Islamic law are only those prescribed in the Sharia. All other juridical works must be subordinated to the Sharia."
Breitbart discloses, too, that Khan has enthusiastically approved of Pakistani jurist Allah Brohi's writings in which the latter asserts that "Divinely ordained punishments have to be inflicted." Who is the real patriot, Trump or Khan? Khan, who worked for Hogan Lovells LLP, a U.S. firm hired by the Saudis to represent their interests, is a Saudi-trained Islamic scholar who has successfully hidden his genuine credentials from the public with the aid of the deliberately uninformed and the complicity of the insidiously partisan. The conduct of this affair is a real eye-opener, though eye-closer might be a better term. Indeed, according to a FOX news poll, 69% of Americans think Trump was "out of bounds" in his criticism of Khan. PJ Media commentator Tyler O'Neil seems to have it right: "the military dad's outspoken remarks against Trump's Muslim immigration ban might reveal that his opposition to The Donald was as personal as it was politically expedient for the DNC." It's relatively easy to learn who Khan is, yet few have availed themselves of the opportunity a minimum of probing would have offered.
A third instance involves the Canadian scandal surrounding an article written by "neomasculinist" Roosh V, titled "How to Stop Rape," which goes back to February 16, 2015, but which came to mind as I was helping my wife proof a video script on the subject she was preparing for her Fiamengo File series. Roosh's article, in which he proposed making rape legal on private property, was intended as a "satirical thought experiment," in the vein of Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" and Daniel Defoe's "The Shortest Way with the Dissenters," that is, employing the standard satirical technique in which the writer says what he palpably doesn't mean or clones the style and rhetoric of his target in order to illustrate the folly of current policies and beliefs. Roosh's point was that women should take responsibility for their actions, refrain from drinking themselves blotto and going home with strangers, as had become increasingly common. If they knew that rape under these circumstances would not be a prosecutable offence, they might think twice about indulging their free-floating, alcohol-fueled libidos. And of course -- though Roosh does not explicitly treat of this issue -- afterward redeeming their error of judgment and assuaging their "bad feeling" by insisting they had not given consent, thereby likely ensuring a prison sentence for their hapless partners and public sympathy for themselves.
But the virtue-signallers could not resist the occasion for vilification Roosh presented. "Roosh V plans 'rape should be legal' meetup in Toronto" misleadingly blared the headline in the Toronto Sun. The mayor of Toronto huffed "Roosh V and his hate speech have no place in our city and should have no platform here either." Six months earlier, when Roosh himself had visited Canada, a petition to "Deny Roosh V Accommodation in Canada for the Purposes of Disseminating Hate" had garnered thousands of signatures and again saw the mayors of various Canadian cities quick to tweet their refusal to welcome him. The vast majority of these vigilantes probably hadn't read the article in question, but they couldn't resist the opportunity to denounce a man who was supposedly pro rape. And even if they had read the article, they would likely have been too mentally comatose to pick up the satire. But however one appraises the situation, one thing is clear: none of Roosh's sanctimonious critics took the time to do their homework, to read closely and reflect objectively; in other words, they behaved like intellectual sloths hanging upside down from the tree of knowledge.
People increasingly tend to believe what they see, hear and read in the media without scrupling to perform any fact-checking on their own initiative, in this way contributing to a culture perhaps best described as an amalgam of frivolity and delirium. Intellectual and political "treason," à la Julien Benda, combined with the lazy stupefaction and outright ignorance of a significant and growing portion of the electorate, spells the imminent end of the Republic. One thinks of those prescient lines from W.B. Yeats' poem "The Second Coming": "The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity." And those who are neither the best nor the worst but the fair to middling have surrendered their independence of judgment and the natural desire to know to the superficial custodians of deception. Obviously, this form of vacuous renunciation is nothing new, but with the advent of social media, instantaneous means of communication, "progressive" education and the perverse evangelism of a politicized entertainment industry -- Antonio Gramsci's "long march through the institutions," as formulated by leftist student leader Rudy Dutschke -- it is now becoming epidemic.
The shallow argumentation of my colleague, the manufactured rumpus over the Trump-Khan affair, and the polemical convenience for slander furnished by the ginned-up Roosh V affair, all based on misreporting, hearsay and especially cerebral inertia and credulity, are merely representative instances of a now ubiquitous phenomenon. This sort of thing is going to keep happening and, what is worse, will become customary, if not universal. It is made possible by the plague of ignorance and intellectual torpidity that has descended like a cloud of locusts on the mental horizon of a once privileged but now vassal culture that no longer wants to think for itself or to work for the truth. Who wants to work when you can get free stuff, whether cell phones or gratuitous pseudo-knowledge?
The future looks increasingly grim -- and deserved.