Last year, Open Doors, a non-denominational organization, revealed that individuals murdered 4300 Christians for religious reasons in 2018. After the report though, governments and individuals across the world took relatively little action. This year has proven otherwise, as Christian murder rates are only increasing.
By Craig Axford | United States
It shouldn’t be that hard to separate the people that are just trying to deflect or stifle debate from those seriously grappling with important questions. But in a democracy that is experiencing a rapid decline in critical thinking skills, it’s the deflectors and stiflers that are currently ascendant.
I’m not a fan of political correctness either as a phrase or in practice. Correctness and politics ideally intersect only when we translate sound ideas into policy. Originally the term referred specifically to the strict adherence to a particular political view or ideology — one was either correctly or incorrectly towing the party line as it were. Assuming Wikipedia’s history of political correctness is accurate, its contemporary usage didn’t begin to emerge until the early 1970s.
Conservatives, in particular, have turned political correctness into a rhetorical bludgeon. Sadly, their opponents have often been willing to oblige them by providing examples of the practice that range from silly or annoying to loud and occasionally violent. Plain old correctness got lost in the increasingly odious political fog produced in our democracy. Being respectful and polite shouldn’t require us to avoid controversy. Nor should being rude and vulgar be construed as refreshing authenticity.
That ad hominem attacks are not merely fallacious, but a sign of weakness and insecurity in the individual substituting them for sound argumentation is no longer widely understood. By labeling those with differing points of view as everything from fascist to snowflake, the person sticking the label on their opponent is attempting to shut down the debate rather than engage in good faith. Having dehumanized the opposition with a label, they have rendered the other’s views unworthy of consideration. Case closed. Thinking, to say nothing of listening, is no longer required.
Another pernicious form of silencing in democracy is practiced by those adopting the intellectually lazy and ultimately relativist stance that they are “entitled to their opinion.” It would seem at first glance that these individuals must also recognize that others are entitled to theirs. However, what they really mean is that having developed an opinion of their own, there’s really no need to listen to anyone else’s. Furthermore, because having an opinion is something they are “entitled to,” having one is also rather conveniently its own justification.
The problem with “I’m entitled to my opinion” is that, all too often, it’s used to shelter beliefs that should have been abandoned. It becomes shorthand for “I can say or think whatever I like” — and by extension, continuing to argue is somehow disrespectful. And this attitude feeds, I suggest, into the false equivalence between experts and non-experts that is an increasingly pernicious feature of our public discourse. ~ Patrick Stokes, professor of philosophy at Deakin University in Australia
No matter where we might fall on the political spectrum, the attempt to silence others by any means is a betrayal of classical liberalism’s most essential principle: freedom of speech. When our attention is upon identity (our own or another’s) or upon our own right to hold an opinion, the ideas that should be the focus of our conversations with one another are minimized and tossed aside. There is no room in a democracy for the practice of citizenship in personalized debates that drive individuals into tribal corners or defensive crouches.
In his book The Age of Anger: A History of the Present, Pankaj Mishra writes, “Survival in the crowd seems guaranteed by conformity to the views and opinions of whichever sectarian group one belongs to. The elites,” Mishra continues, “engage meanwhile in their own factional battles and presume to think on behalf of everyone else. The general moral law is one of obedience and conformity to the rules of the rich and powerful.” In the end, “Such a society where social bonds are defined by a dependence on other people’s opinion and competitive private ambition is a place devoid of any possibility of individual freedom.”
But we need not end up in such a society. Some of us are still old enough to remember a time when most disagreements were not taken personally, or at least did not seem to be. We can remember discussions between Republicans and Democrats, and others too, that ended with everyone leaving as friends and wanting to come back for more. Indeed, we can still find examples of such civility between those with different points of view. The friendly back and forth between the conservative David Brooks and the more liberal-minded Mark Shields each Friday night on the PBS Newshour comes to mind as an example.
To get back to civility we must regain faith in the process. Freedom of expression and of the press are necessary to a functioning democracy, not because we have the right view and others need to hear it, but because having all the views openly debated enables the best solutions to emerge from the debate. Only when each of us is able to smooth the rough edges off our position through friction with other perspectives can the best ideas develop and gain popular support.
Single-party states and authoritarian regimes may be more efficient, but they provide limited space for individuals and groups alike to truly flourish. Pluralistic societies necessarily make us uncomfortable with regularity, but they develop in their citizens a greater tolerance for uncertainty that requires faith in the process to take precedence over faith in an ideology. Personal attacks on those with views we don’t share are an indication it’s an ideology or particular leader rather than the process to which we have begun to devote ourselves.
President Trump’s attacks on the press, his insistence upon personal loyalty, and his affinity for authoritarian leaders represent an assault on a process that has served us well, even if it hasn’t served us perfectly. Similarly, the idea that controversy represents an assault upon our personal feelings or group identity signals that we no longer believe the marketplace of ideas is capable of separating the wheat from the chaff, or that we have lost patience with the time it often takes for it to do so.
In both cases, the willingness to engage in the hard intellectual work of citizenship has been abandoned in favor of slogans and ad hominem attacks. I’m not sure how to persuade those that have given themselves over to the emotional comfort believing in a “strong leader” or embracing the simplicity of an ideology provides. Democracy is messy, which makes any argument for it unappetizing to those that haven’t developed a taste for it.
“To live in freedom, one must grow used to a life full of agitation, change and danger,” de Tocqueville stated after long and careful observation of America. We are now facing the very real possibility that enough Americans have failed to adapt to these conditions to sustain democracy in the United States. Time will tell, but it doesn’t appear we’ll have to wait long for the answer. We should have it by the end of 2020.
Other articles by Craig that you may enjoy:
Not much if the first 18 months of the Trump presidency are any indication.
“I am large, I contain multitudes”
Walt Whitman understood identity. We no longer do.
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By John Keller | United States
Since the presidential election of 2016, many have speculated that the Libertarian vice presidential candidate Bill Weld endorsed Hillary Clinton before the election. Is this true?
In an interview with MSNBC on 30 September 2016, Bill Weld is credited with endorsing Hillary Clinton for President of the United States. He made the following statement:
“I’m not sure anybody is more qualified than Hillary Clinton to be President of the United States.” – Bill Weld
The question must be raised: Was Bill Weld wrong? Let’s take a look at the numbers. Seventeen presidents were former governors, what Gary Johnson’s job was. On the other hand, thirty-four presidents were former lawyers or secretaries, what Hillary Clinton’s career was. Even looking at the vice presidential picks, the Clinton Campaign was more “qualified”, whereas twenty-four vice presidents had been senators, as Tim Kaine was, and only sixteen vice presidents were governors, like Bill Weld.
But it is the second statement that Bill Weld makes that is forgotten by the media. He continued:
“I mean that’s not the end of the inquiry though. I mean, we were two-time governors and I think Gary is very, very solid. You know, at this point, we overlapped as governors and I thought highly of him back when we served together, but having spent the last several months with the guy, I mean I don’t even just like the guy I love the guy, I think he is very solid and deep. I think his insight that it pays to have some restraint about military incursions for the purpose of regime change before we still American blood on foreign soil and put boots in the ground in countries where we just don’t like what the government in that country is doing. I think that’s a valuable insight. I’m not sure it’s characterized the foreign policy of either Bush, the most recent Bush, or the Obama Administration and I think that might be a refreshing change. I think he and I could bring a much more tranquil approach to Government in Washington because we wouldn’t be screaming at one of the two parties about how stupid they are. We would work with them both.” – Bill Weld
Furthermore, the rest of the interview seems to be his expression in favor of Gary Johnson and himself for the national ticket. The next question that must be raised: was it wrong of Weld to speak in favor of Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Trump? He spoke plainly on MSNBC on the 30th of September of 2016:
“I do not view those two candidates the same way. I think very highly of Mrs. Clinton, I think she is very well qualified, I think she did a great job in the debate the other night. She kept her game face on… I thought Mr. Trump by the end of the debate was out of control…” – Bill Weld
Bill Weld was looking at it from a realist perspective in an unreal election cycle. Businessman against a career policy maker in the debates when unspoken traditions of policy discussion were broke. Mr. Trump threatening to jail his opponent was, to the common politician, very unprofessional. Threatening to lock up opponents in an election is commonplace in shame democracies that are in essence dictatorships, and it is not commonplace in a constitutional republic.
The total length of the interview with MSNBC on September 30, 2016, was seven minutes and forty seconds (7:40). Throughout the interview he made a few statements in favor of Mrs. Clinton, totaling thirty-four seconds (0:34). Thirty of those seconds was made responding to a question about the debates in which he was expressing that he thought Hillary Clinton performed better than Trump. No harm in expressing who you think won a debate the libertarians were even in, right? But the four seconds that killed him was the statement mentioned formerly in this article in which Bill Weld said, “I’m not sure anybody is more qualified than Hillary Clinton to be President of the United States.” However, the statement he followed that up his remark about Hillary Clinton was a one minute and four second (1:04) praise of Gary Johnson on how experience was the end of the inquiring and that Gary Johnson would be a better president than Hillary Clinton, although he may not necessarily be more “qualified”. Throughout the whole interview, thirty four seconds (0:34), or 7%, of the interview was expressing approval of Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Trump, and seven minutes and six seconds (7:06), or 93%, of the interview expressing that Gary Johnson and himself were the right choices for America.
The other moment in which many thought Bill Weld endorsed Hillary Clinton was on 1 November 2016 in an interview with Rachel Maddow on MSNBC. Many think that Bill Weld gave up on the campaign, but after failing to get into the debates it was clear the campaign strategy had to be re-examined. That is why Bill Weld made the realistic statement:
“I think in the real world that’s [aiming for 5% of the vote] probably correct… we thought for the longest time we might have a chance to run the table because we’re such nice guys and centrist party and etc etc, but not getting into the debates really sort of foreclosed that option. So now it is the 5%, your right.” – Bill Weld
Bill Weld was looking realistically at the coming election. The Republicans and Democrats had just spent millions of dollars to keep Gary Johnson out of the presidential debates and himself out of the vice presidential debate, keeping them at 12% national and then pushing them back down towards 2%. In order to have a successful ticket in the future, the Libertarian ticket knew they had to reach 5% to get matched federal funds, guaranteed ballot access, and more of being recognized as a major party. Although the goal changed, the message did not. In the same interview he gave the following statement:
“Well, we are making our case that we are fiscally responsible and socially inclusive and welcoming and we think we got, on the merits, the best ticket of the three parties if you will and so we would like to get there. Having said that, as I think you’re aware, I see a big difference in the R candidate and the D candidate, and I’ve can in some pains to say that I fear for the country should Mr. Trump be elected. I think it’s a candidacy without any parallel that I can recall. It’s content-free and very much given up to stirring up envy and resentment and even hatred and I think it would be a threat to the conduct of our foreign policy and our position in the world at large.”
It is clear the message had not changed, but the goal of the campaign had. He wanted to see a Libertarian presidency but the current, realistic climate made it impossible, and so he expressed when asked about referring to Trump as “unstable” during the interview:
“Oh yeah, yeah I mean that psychologically.” – Bill Weld
In the research done in this article, I am of the opinion that Bill Weld did not endorse Hillary Clinton and that a study of what was actually said proves he supported the Libertarian message to the end of the campaign. Although the goal of the campaign may have changed in the end weeks, and he may have preferred one candidate over the other in terms of the duopoly, he stood by the libertarian message through the end of the campaign and even continues to fight for libertarian principles today.
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By Glenn Verasco | United States
I am the kind of person who is willing to discuss and debate anything, regardless of what norms and sacred cows the conversation winds up defying. I’ve been this way my entire life. I used to think it was badass to challenge religious institutions and traditional ways of living. But as I’ve grown older, I’ve come to find those sorts of contrarian thoughts to be more cowardly and corny than rebellious. It’s easy to make fun of Christians and the nuclear family. How often do the people who find those critiques offensive come after your livelihood or your head?
Standing up to the real sacred cows of today takes guts:
Is homosexuality a choice? Has suffrage been a net negative for women? Was 9/11 an inside job? Has the Holocaust been exaggerated? Can we cut $1.00 from the Social Security budget?
Just asking these questions and having these discussions is enough to make many people tune out or condemn you of thought crime. I would not be surprised if much of my (admittedly small) readership has x’d out of this window already.
Part of me wants to blame those who are too squeamish to question their firmly held beliefs. Why are they so close-minded?
But it’s more likely that I’m the weird one. I am able to discuss and ponder about the most sensitive subjects while simultaneously keeping it together. Like Christopher Boone, the autistic narrator and protagonist in The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, I am able to detach my mind from emotion and bias in order to solve problems and root out illogic (though I’m obviously not perfect at this and the shrewdness of my logic is up for debate).
I remember being in a staff meeting at my second school as a teacher. A coworker, who thought himself the department head, had questioned one of my teaching methods and asked me to make an adjustment. The actual department head agreed. I responded by saying that I disagreed with their assessment, but I will make the adjustment anyway.
My willingness to voice my dissent enraged my coworker. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, he was stood screaming at me from across the table in front of the entire staff. He admonished me for daring to express my disagreement and, I felt, wanted me to say something along the lines of you’re right; I’m sorry. If this is what he wanted, he never got it. I held my ground and stuck to my guns.
Later that day, I ran into another coworker who had been at the meeting. He shook his head and put his hand on my shoulder before conveying how amazed he was by my calm in the face of someone so unhinged. He said that he would have leaned across the table and punched our coworker had he been in my position.
At this moment, I should have realized how different I am from the average Joe. I am afflicted with the capacity for brute reason.
Kevin Williamson, who was recently fired after writing only one column (and a great column at that) for The Atlantic, has the curse of brute reason too, and it would ultimately be his undoing.
I originally intended to name the most frightening components of the Williamson saga 1) the left-wing mob that regularly sabotages Conservatives and Libertarians who are given mainstream platforms and 2) the gatekeepers of intellectual thought (in this case, Jeffery Goldberg, The Atlantic’s editor-in-chief) who placate said left-wing mob.
But what can be done about these antagonists of antagonism? Is the left-wing mob suddenly going to calm down and listen to the other side if we keep insisting to each other that they do? Will our ridicule slowly chip away at their sensitivity until they are hardened objectivists? Are the gatekeepers going to choose to offend the bulk of their audience for the benefit of a handful of free thinkers? All of this appears to be a fruitless endeavor.
What I now believe to be the most frightening component of the Williamson saga is playing the character capable of brute reason. Like Pandora’s Box, my open mind cannot be closed. And those who do not want to trudge through the darker alleyways of reality have agency, both ethically and factually, to cover their ears, close their eyes, and sprint the other way, leaving me and those with similar abilities alone with each other in the shadows.
There are only two things I’m sure brute reasoners can do about our isolated state. The first is to try our darndest to persuade the masses even though our success rate will be minimal. This is and will continue to be a major hurdle because good marketing often requires piles of bullshit, and bullshit is like kryptonite to a brute reasoner. We aren’t appealing to the masses, and one of few things that we find too repulsive to bear is misrepresentation. Like sardines in a shoal, encircled by predators, whose survival instinct to follow the darting of our neighbors is now leading to our doom, the bait ball our nature and circumstances have got us in is going to be difficult to escape from.
The second thing we can do is to stay inspired by admiring the beauty of the products of brute reason. Kevin Williamson’s thought experiment conclusion about hanging women who have had abortions is a great example of this.
Williamson’s conclusion rests upon several premises:
- Abortion is akin to murder
- Mothers are complicit in elective abortions; it’s not only the abortionist who is responsible
- The death penalty is a reasonable way to punish murderers
- The violence of the state should not be sugar-coated
Regardless of your or my or Kevin’s sincere agreement with any of these premises, let’s try to detach our minds and see if we can rationalize them.
Abortion as Murder
It is common knowledge that Conservatives (and many others) believe abortion is murder. They believe that life begins at conception, so terminating a pregnancy is terminating an innocent human life without its consent (which, like a child or unconscious adult, it does not have the ability to grant anyway).
Unless you do not value human life at all, it is probably the case that you would consider the killing of a mother’s developing child against her will to be akin to murder. If that is the case, the only way you would be unable to at least consider the possibility of abortion being akin to murder is to believe the value of a child’s life is determined solely the mother’s discretion. And even if you believe it is the mother’s choice exclusively, are you not somewhat persuaded by the reasoning of those who disagree?
Mothers are Responsible
Conservative thought-leaders rebuked then-candidate Trump when he suggested that women who have abortions should receive some form of punishment for their transgressions. It is the belief among the Conservative mainstream that abortionists, not mothers who have abortions, are the true guilty party.
But doesn’t that discount the mother’s agency? Isn’t she the one giving the okay and funding the operation? In what other circumstance does an adult approve and fund an action involving her or her child’s body and then assume zero culpability when they agreed upon action is carried out as planned? The case can certainly be made that mothers are partially, mostly, or completely responsible for the abortions they have.
The Death Penalty is Fair
The death penalty is a dangerous power to give to the state, and due to the possibility of wrongful conviction, can and does result in killings of those who did not deserve it. But let’s assume for a moment that we are privy to a case in which there is absolutely zero doubt that an individual accused of first-degree murder or another heinous crime is guilty. Under these conditions, is death a reasonable penalty?
You (and Kevin and I) may say it is not. Perhaps the potential to rehabilitate a criminal outweighs the need to inflict punishment. Perhaps a people who use violence to punish violence are becoming the thing that they claim to fight. But ruling that killing those who kill, as a means of justice, crime prevention, or something else, is not beyond the realms of sane policy. Can you at least see where they are coming from?
Exposing the Nature of the State
As Kevin Williamson has said, if you don’t pay your taxes, the government will sue you when they find out. If you fail to appear in court, they will get a warrant for your arrest. If you resist arrest, they will apprehend you and throw you in a cage or kill you if you put up a good enough fight. In other words, you will be killed or locked in a cage if you do not give the government the money it demands. This is the nature of government whether you like it or not.
If the government is essentially a monopoly on violence, why should we not be kept aware of this in our daily lives? Calls for transparency and authenticity are pervasive for all other things. Why should the government be any different? If we are going to use state-sanctioned violence to punish those who break the law, why not make it as obvious as possible? Graphic hangings of murderers, as opposed to bloodless lethal injections, are honest and straightforward. If you do not support the death penalty without sugar-coating, you do not support the death penalty.
The Sublimity of a Gruesome Conclusion
Now that each of Kevin’s four premises is rationalized, let’s create a few syllogisms:
- Premise IA: Abortion is murder
- Premise IIA: Mothers are responsible for their abortions
- Conclusion A: Mothers who have abortions are murderers
- Premise IB: The death penalty is a just form of punishment for murderers
- Premise IIB: The state should make its violent nature explicit
- Conclusion B: Explicitly violent use of the death penalty (such as hanging) is a just form of punishment for murderers
- Premise IC: Mothers who have abortions are murderers
- Premise IIC: Explicitly violent use of the death penalty (such as hanging) is a just form of punishment for murderers
- Conclusion C: Explicitly violent use of the death penalty (such as hanging) is a just form of punishment for mothers who have abortions
This conclusion is beautiful for many reasons. The most obvious is that it follows a clean line of reasoning. If one accepts all of Kevin’s premises, none of which are completely unreasonable, it is hard to avoid his conclusion.
The more discrete reason Kevin’s conclusion is beautiful is that it is more challenging to those who tend to accept Kevin’s premises than to those who do not.
Conservatives who deny the mother’s culpability in her abortion are denying her agency, which is great cannon fodder for Liberals who accuse Conservatives of misogyny.
Liberals can force Conservatives into one of three uncomfortable corners:
- Admit that they are misogynists
- Admit that mothers who have abortions should be treated like murderers (and a supermajority of Conservatives support the death penalty for murderers)
- Admit that abortion is not akin to murder
Williamson also confronts Conservatives, who provide constant reminders of the forceful and violent nature of government, by calling them liars for trying to cover up the fate they advocate for murderers.
Ironically, Williamson’s thorn in the Conservative side has wound up puncturing Liberal sensibilities far more than the Conservatives it should be bleeding.
If you are a brute reasoner like me, and you can see the beauty in all of this, it should inspire you to trudge on. We are fighting for something special.
Free speech just took a blow in the UK – sacrificed at the alter of political correctness.
This week, two leaders of the right-wing nationalist group, Britain First, were jailed at Folkstone Magistrates’ Court over alleged anti-Muslim hate crimes in connection to a gang-rape trial.
Paul Golding, 36, and Jayda Fransen, 31, we’re sentenced to 18 weeks and 36 weeks, respectively, for racially aggravated harassment. Golding received only one conviction, whereas Fransen was convicted on three counts.
The pair denied the seven counts total and three charges were dismissed by the magistrate, Judge Justin Barron.
The charges stem from the controversial duos distribution of anti-muslim leaflets and videos depicting the alleged harassment of people they, albeit incorrectly, believed were connected to a gang-rape trial.
The trial involved men of migrant backgrounds. Three Muslim men and a teenager were convicted.
No – this is not Sweden. This is the UK.
The incidents occurred in May of 2017 and the trial began in January.
In one of the incidents, Fransen, with Golding acting as her cameraman, banged on the windows of a shop and screamed “paedophile” and “foreigner” at the occupants of said building.
After this and the other cited instances the two Britain First leaders were involved in, the footage was then shared on the organizations social media sites, including their Facebook page.
Justice Barron told the court that the pair, as evidenced by their actions, were engaged in “… a campaign to draw attention to the race, religion and immigrant background of the defendants.”
He also claimed that the two were using the case to garner controversy and to push their own political agenda by manipulating the facts of the trial to suit their ends.
Fransen told the court during sentencing that “This is a very sad day for British justice. Everything I did was for the children of this country and they are worth it.”
It is certainly not the first time a gang-rape has occurred in Britain or in Europe as a whole at the hands of a Muslim migrant, especially since the start of the refugee crisis resulting from the turmoil of the Syrian Civil War.
Understandably, many people in Britain and Europe are lashing out against what they view as a cultural invasion of their homelands, and therefore it makes perfect sense that “far-right” parties and organizations that emphasize nationalism and anti-immigration policies are on the rise. Whether you agree with the Britain First’s political agenda or the morality of Fransen and Golding’s tactics or not, a mature mind can easily discern that such behavior, hateful or not, does not come out of a vacuum.
There had to be a catalyst.
Take Hungary, for instance. Their Prime Minister has a proven track record of not backing down to the EU in regards to refugees.
Poland refuses to march in goose-step with EU directives coming out of Brussels.
Most recently, the Northern League – another anti-immigrant party – seized the reins of power in Italy.
There is a wave of populist anger and resentment – directed at perceived globalist, establishment types – sweeping across Europe.
It is not relegated to Britain.
And this populist revolt is manifesting itself at the voting booths across a troubled, beleaguered continent.
Wherever one stands on the issue of immigration and nationalist movements developing in Europe, as lovers of liberty and defenders of free speech, it is clearly evident that 36 and 18 week convictions are excessive.
If anything, these and similar convictions for hate crime violations will engage and embolden the disenfranchised people of Europe.
If anything, these convictions will make martyrs of Golding and Fransen and cement an image of Europe in the minds of voters as an Orwellian dystopia where thought-crimes are direct threats to the states agenda.
As the Britain First supporters leaving the courtroom after the sentencing of Golding and Fransen cried:
“No surrender. “