Friday, September 30, 2022

Civil War 2.0: A Biden when we need a Lincoln


The Twitter Kids running the Biden Regency keep ratcheting up the divisive and eliminationist rhetoric.

WH adviser Keisha Lance Bottoms says 'MAGA Republicans' want to 'destroy the United States of America'

Bottoms continued the Biden administration's warning that Trump supporters are a threat to the nation
They keeps doing it because all too many in the media cheer them on.

So much of left-wing thought is a kind of playing with fire by people who don’t even know that fire is hot.
 George Orwell, Inside the Whale
The Solemn Keepers of the Sacred Norms are strangely silent even when the rhetoric results in real world harm.

Democrats need to stop urging political violence

The media forget themselves on political violence

Pro-life volunteer recovering after being shot while passing out pamphlets in Ionia Co.
None dare call it stochastic terrorism.

Quite a contrast with how Lincoln confronted the possibility of civil war on the day he was inaugurated in 1861:

I am loath to close. We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
"We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies." Those are the words of a statesman eager to preserve unity and peace in a time of crisis. What we are getting from the current White House is something decidedly different.

Mediated democracy and the temptations of Leninism

Friday, September 09, 2022

The past isn't really past


Stalin: his own avatar by Gary Saul Morson

Like other liberal and radical leaders of tsarist Russia, Stalin grew up in an ideologically charged milieu. Ideas mattered, and one’s attitude to literature and “science” defined one. According to Lenin and Bolshevik theory, Marxist scientific socialism had proven that maximum violence against one’s enemies was not a regrettable necessity but a moral imperative. To spare a class enemy was to commit treason to the workers. Any tendency to compassion or pity (vices in Soviet thinking) indicated that one still clung to outmoded religious ideas about the sacredness of human life, which explains why, when Stalin ordered the arrest of thousands by quota, local party bosses demanded to arrest even more. The term “merciless” was one of the supreme words of praise in the Soviet lexicon.
It is easy to dismiss these local party bosses as craven cowards who were desperately trying to appease the crocodile. But that is simplistic and misses the fundamental nature of the Stalinist mindset.

Dostoevsky understood the appeal of ideology to the mediocre and morally weak: "causes' are attractive for another reason, because they provide an excuse for behaving badly."

If it were only ignorance and the fear of the NKVD which fueled Stalin's cheerleaders, then we would expect intellectuals outside of the USSR to be early and vocal critics of the Soviet Union. The opposite was true.

Tony Judt:

Western intellectual enthusiasm for communism peaked not in the time of 'goulash communism' or 'socialism with a human face,' but rather at the moments of the regime's worst cruelties: 1935-1939 and 1944-1956. Writers and professors and teachers and trade unionists admired and loved Stalin not in spite of his faults, but because of them. It was when he was murdering people on an industrial scale, when the show trials were displaying Communism at its most theatrically macabre, that men and women were most seduced by the man and his cult. Likewise the cult of Mao in the West.
The Soviet Union may have lost the Cold War, but the Stalinist mindset is alive and thriving in the West.

Related:

Mediated democracy and the temptations of Leninism

The birth of the hive mind

Tuesday, September 06, 2022

Christians and journalism in light of James 4:11


Brothers and sisters, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against a brother or sister or judges them speaks against the law and judges it.
William Barclay's commentary on this passage brought me up short:

The word James uses for "to speak harshly of" or "to slander" is "katalalein" .... "Katalalia" is the sin of those who meed in corners and gather in small groups and pass on confidential tidbits of information which destroy the good name of those who are not there to defend themselves. The same sin is condemned by Peter.

(Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. I Peter 2:1)

This is a much needed warning. People are slow to appreciate that are few sins which the Bible so unsparingl condemns as the sin of irresponsible and malicious gossip.

As any carful reader of the news will recognize, a great deal of modern journalism qualifies as gossip by this standard: "pass[ing] on confidential tidbits of information which destroy the good name of those who are not there to defend themselves."

Edward Jay Epstein noted the close connection between gossip and journalism decades ago:

Only two forms of knowledge cross this principle: gossip and journalism. The gossip purposely obscures his sources, saying in effect, 'Don't ask who I heard it from,' to make the story more titillating. The journalist obscures his sources out of self-interest, claiming that unless he hides their identities, they will not provide him with further information. This claim assumes the sources are acting out of altruistic motives. If, however, they are providing the information out of self-interest-- and much information comes from publicists and other paid agents-- then their motive is part of the story.

I've never understood the journalistic argument for concealing sources except that it is self-serving. While a source might talk more freely if he need take no responsibility for what he says, he also has far less incentive to be completely truthful. The only check on the source's license to commit hyperbole, if not slander, under these rules is the journalist himself. But the very premise of concealing sources is that the journalist needs the cooperation of the source in the future. This makes the journalist himself an interested party.

Related: The problem with sources

Where does that leave us as Christians? When we engage with these stories, especially when we accept the substance of the unsourced revelations, are we not guilty of Katalalia?