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It sure makes a noticeable difference to wake up in the morning when you know that from now on, you are going to be a good person, and all that cynicism and biting sarcasm and automatically fixating into finding weaknesses in things is gone. This feeling is probably the secular version of what the religious people feel like after their conversion. ~Ilkka Kokkarinen, Sixteen Volts
I had earlier noticed this part of Dr. Kokkarinen’s final post, but had wanted to say something about another aspect of his explanation for giving up blogging. On behalf of sarcastic cynics and critics everywhere, I have to say: give me a break! Sarcasm, especially bitter sarcasm, is sometimes just the needed antidote for the pretensions of public intellectuals–such people thrive on the air of seriousness and self-importance they bring to their work, and nothing punctures that overinflated balloon faster than a shot of sarcastic wit. Who are we bloggers to puncture that balloon? Well, if not us, who? Who will hold up the claims of these people to scrutiny? The regular media? That’s a good one. Their colleagues? Unlikely.
Critique serves a vital function in any discussion, and must perforce be rather negative, though that does not have to make it purely destructive. There is something rather tiresome in the assumption that by giving up writing blog entries in a sarcastic, cynical vein you have thereby become a better person. If you were a bad person for doing these things before, you have not significantly reformed–you have simply stopped broadcasting your views to the world–and if you were not a bad person for doing these things there is no sudden “conversion” from being a bad, cynical blogger to a good, positive non-blogger. Some people are more prone to see flaws than others; you cannot turn this off with a snap of the fingers. If you have a knack for withering criticism, it is part of who you are and not something that you can simply shut off; it will simply be expressed in a new form.
Dr. Kokkarinen is, of course, free to do as he pleases and doesn’t need to justify ending his blog with some appeal to moral reform–he could simply say that he wants to focus all his energies on teaching, which would be admirable enough and would have exposed him to less scorn from those sarcastic cynics who remain. But it doesn’t say much in his favour that he has chosen silence and the least path of resistance when he came in for some heavy criticism because of things he wrote; even if he was wrong in what he said or how he said it, there is a certain principle that ought to make him insist that his writing does not hinge on the approval of the people he criticises.
It says even less that he thinks that by shutting down his blog and silencing himself he has therefore become a better person. If an academic wants to be done with polemic, criticism and even sarcastic negativity, he may as well go into another line of work–these things are part and parcel of the competitive atmosphere of the academic world, as it should be in a world that ought to thrive on vigorous, serious and, yes, respectful debate. These aspects of academia can sometimes become excessive and degenerate into fruitless vendettas between scholars and researchers, but this kind of rivalry has existed for a very long time. Anyone engaged in inquiry and active in “the life of the mind,” whether in a professional capacity or in his free time, will sooner or later find himself confronted with critics and those who would just as soon see him silenced. The odds are that if they wrap themselves up in the mantle of the injured victim, the less merit their objections have. How mistaken it is, then, to yield to the complaints of such people, who, in all likelihood, have no good retorts to his criticisms and have had to resort to this kind of PC harrassment.
The flight of Kokkarinen has prompted many comments across a great many blogs, most of which touch on similar points: 1) freedom of speech in Canada seems rather weak when something like this happens; 2) PC-mania is out of control; 3) Kokkarinen was wrong to capitulate and scuttle his blog. But no post I have seen expresses all of this with the contempt that Mr. Ellila musters up here:
This “apology”, which is a thinly veiled parody, is a pathetic attempt by Ilkka to lick the jackboots of feminazi thugs in order to keep his job at the Soviet university by making the thoughpolice believe he genuinely repents his thoughtcrime.
Ilkka reminds me of the ghetto Jews who cooperated with the SS in the false hope that they would save their own asses.
In stark contrast, when Hans-Hermann Hoppe, professor of economics at the University of Nevada, was attacked by the thoughtpolice for saying homosexuals are less interested on the average in planning for the future as heterosexuals because the former generally don’t have children and the latter do, he refused to surrender, and successfully sued the university for breach of job contract, and managed to get a lot of positive public attention, thereby humiliating the Soviet-style inquisitors who wanted him to give up his Goldsteinism. ~Mikko Ellila
Over the top? In some ways, possibly, but Mr. Ellila hits on this as an aspect of what I have been calling the inquisitio nova–the dedicated persecution of the thought crimes of various kinds of prejudice in an attempt to maintain a sense of ideologically defined moral purity and control over the definitions of what is and is not acceptable thought.
If Dr. Kokkarinen really believes that his blog was nothing but an exercise in nattering negativism and cynical hostility, it is strange that he should have started commenting on matters of controversy at all. Any blog that touches on cultural and political topics, if it is not to become an echo chamber for the partisans of the state or the ruling party, has to be contrarian, oppositionist and frequently dissident. A certain degree of cynicism is unavoidable when confronted with the endless waves of half-truths and deceptions that flow from the official sources of information, the pretentious theories of academics and the governments of the world.
Frankly, I think cynicism, like pessimism, has received a bad name from people who benefit from ignoring its criticisms, mostly because these people frequently confuse it with nihilism–a belief in nothing–when it has been at its best a kind of humanist critique of the pretensions and idols of this world. A Cynic motto was: Deface the coin (which had clear associations with ruining counterfeit currency–”deface the coin” was a call to cut through the webs of fraud and deception). The Cynics themselves were often personally quite objectionable people, and their contempt for all convention was excessive and unbalanced, but in this they also possessed a keen eye for recognising cant and denouncing frauds when they were put in places of honour. It seems to me that this could contain perils for the person who assumes the Cynic pose, and certainly contemptus mundi without the love of God can become nothing but a purely vicious resentment, but in their detachment from the glories of this world the Cynics (exemplified by Diogenes meeting Alexander while seated in his bathtub) possess the first half of the wisdom of the later ascetics. The second half of wisdom was, of course, to leaven the bitter bread of criticism with the fullness of the Truth. The obvious corollary of defacing the (counterfeit) coin is to respect the legitimate coin. There is nothing wrong with naysaying as such; it is when there is never anything to which one would say yea that a habit of criticism can become soul-destroying. Yet, in my experience, those who object to paper schemes, ready-made answers and the armed doctrines of this world have strong commitments to an affirmative vision of order that they are trying to protect against the sophists and schemers. I would much rather be among those calling it as we see it, who pull at the loose threads of ideological tapestries, who mock those who have position but not authority, than to be one of the legion of excuse-makers and apologists for the powerful of this world, who, I’m sorry to say, make up a surprisingly large proportion of the allegedly independent media of blogs. In the end, it is far better to speak the truth mixed with some bitterness than to speak deceitful words smoother than oil and sweet to hear.
Harris ignited a furor with her Witness interview. She sounded a fervent evangelical tone, saying that God “chooses our rulers,” that voters needed to send Christians to political office and that God did not intend for the United States to be a “nation of secular laws.”
Speaking to Witness editors, Harris said:
“If you are not electing Christians, tried and true, under public scrutiny and pressure, if you’re not electing Christians, then in essence you are going to legislate sin.”
“If we are the ones not actively involved in electing those godly men and women,” then “we’re going to have a nation of secular laws. That’s not what our founding fathers intended and that’s (sic) certainly isn’t what God intended.”
On Friday, Jews, Muslims, Christians, Democrats and Republicans blasted the comments, saying Harris was suggesting non-Christians were less suited to govern or should be excluded altogether.
Monroe took particular aim at this Harris comment from the Witness interview: “Whenever we legislate sin, and say abortion is permissible and we say gay unions are permissible, then average citizens who are not Christians, because they don’t know better, we are leading them astray and it’s wrong.
Though Harris directly addressed her remarks about church and state, she was less clear explaining her comments about God not intending for the United States to be “a nation of secular laws.”
Asked if the U.S. should be a secular country, Harris said: “I think that our laws, I mean, I look at how the law originated, even from Moses, the 10 Commandments. And I don’t believe, that uh . . . That’s how all of our laws originated in the United States, period. I think that’s the basis of our rule of law.” ~The Orlando Sentinel (via Kentucky.com)
The interview, the public outcry and the campaign’s “clarification” are all a mess, as should be the case with anything associated with Ms. Harris’ ongoing disaster of a campaign. Let me start at the end. In the “clarification,” the remarkable Ms. Harris went out of her way to bow and scrape before the cult of inclusion, declaring her commitment to “Judeo-Christian” values, her support for Israel (!) and, apparently, even had her campaign manager (who is, incidentally, her fourth campaign manager) use the ultimate rhetorical cudgel, Holocaust memory, to curry favour:
Bryan Rudnick of Boca Raton, Harris’ campaign manager, said in a statement, “I joined this campaign because Congresswoman Harris is a passionate supporter of Israel, the Jewish people and always has the best interests of all Floridians at heart.
“As the grandson of Holocaust survivors,” Rudnick continued, “I know that she encourages people of all faiths to engage in government, so that our country can continue to thrive on the principles set forth by our Founding Fathers, without malice towards anyone.”
Good grief. I am not sure how using the Holocaust to spin bad press works, but I should think that it would be offensive whenever anyone trots out the travails and suffering of his grandparents as some sort of basis for political credibility–that goes for everybody. Of course, there are professional Holocaust-users who make this guy look like an amateur, but it is particularly pathetic to try to hide a candidate, who is trying to burnish her evangelical credentials with folks in the Panhandle, behind the impenetrable forcefield of Holocaust rhetoric. Mr. Rudnick had a nice touch with the Lincolnian flourish. In fact, I believe he scored the modern rhetorical hat trick: getting right with Israel, invoking the Holocaust and getting right with Lincoln all in the same paragraph. If only he could have worked in the “war on terror,” he could have gotten some kind of spin award or perhaps a talk show on FoxNews.
Ms. Harris and her manager should be embarrassed, but we should be more embarrassed that this tactic might actually work in our society, because we should already be embarrassed that Ms. Harris should have to resort to such a tactic to defend herself against the raving hordes of the Tolerance Brigades. The inquisitio nova rides again. The only person who can be pleased by this fracas is George Allen, who has suddenly dropped off the radar of the national media as they have found a new sacrificial victim to offer to the gods of anti-prejudice. Maybe the NRSC told Harris to say something really provocative to try to save Allen’s hide and she, ever loyal partisan, went along. No, that sounds all together too clever for this outfit.
But before anyone gets too excited about Ms. Harris and rushes to defend her to the last, let us consider her response. Her “clarification” suggests one of two things: either she really believes all the things she said to the Witness and does not have the stomach or courage to defend them publicly, which doesn’t say much for her convictions, or she was simply trotting out time-honoured phrases designed to win over evangelical voters come the September primary and the November general election and has no more conviction that Christian truth and revelation are extremely relevant to public life than the people who are now savaging her for her supposed intolerance. If the latter is true, it makes her just another Republican hack opportunist trying to wheedle believers into supporting the Red Republican menace. Florida Baptists, take note: she either won’t fight for what she said she believes, or she doesn’t believe it. For Ms. Harris’ sake, I hope she is sincere but weak-willed. Read the rest of this entry »
At VDare, Steve Sailer says all of the Things That Must Not Be Said about the recent Andrew Young flap. Here he has some good remarks on something that is well-known to even the occasional viewer of Mind of Mencia:
That’s because there is a major disjunction in American public discourse between the relatively wide latitude you are allowed if you claim to be engaged in ”observational comedy” and the much more limited set of facts you are permitted to use when seriously analyzing how the world works. That’s a big reason America has better comedy than public policy.
Where Young went wrong was in acknowledging black resentment against the small store owners prevalent in the community. This is, as we are ritually required to declare to one another, terrible racism, which tends to reinforce my impression that when someone says “racism” he means “talking about ethnicity and race as if they existed and mattered.”
If he talked about the exact same reality and cast it in terms of improved efficiency, higher quality and better service–deeply important principles that all Americans will understand and embrace–rather than community resentment at the ethnic merchants who are seen as profiting somehow unfairly at the expense of the community, the partisans of Wal-Martification (or is that Wal-Mortification?) would sing the man’s praises. Of course, he was talking about Wal-Mart’s relative service and quality while he referred to this resentment, but he made the mistake of expressing that resentment in terms of ethnicity–had he simply talked about greedy storeowners, exploitative businessmen, quite a few people would have nodded their heads approvingly. Instead of receiving the hosannas that libertarians routinely offer up to the ones whom Scott Richert calls “The Lords of Bentonville,” he has received mostly calumny for saying things that seem to be substantially true.
Certainly, as a corporate rep he should have learned to use the weasel language that professional sports management has mastered when it comes to talking about race; local Chicago sportswriters could give him a lesson in how to feign mock outrage at the slightest inappropriate slip of the tongue related to such sensitive topics; the anti-prejudice brigades, once they have finished disembowling Mel Gibson, will be along shortly to straighten out Mr. Young. The maintenance of anti-prejudice does bear some considerable resemblance to religious purification laws, and the verbal assault on Mr. Young is a sort of rhetorical stoning. Someone rather famous said something about who should cast stones, and something else about judging, but when it comes to the ritual public show trial and punishment of a deviationist these teachings seem to fade into the background.
The rest of Mr. Sailer’s article happens to point to two important things about Wal-Mart: Wal-Mart is most beneficial to and most welcome in those areas that have no strong sense of community and, arguably, it benefits from the social fragmentation and ethnic resentments encouraged by mass immigration. It is thus an ideal company for the world of the atomised Open Borders man.