Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Beware of of the Steyn's of this world....

I seldom read editorials, opinion pieces or commentary on people and events these days and my argument and indeed suggestion is for you to do the same! I realised some time ago that to passively do so is to allow others to implicitly and explicitly influence how I think. Go ahead and ask yourselves these questions; Do I want to be another consumer, a vessel, a mouthpiece for other peoples ideas? Do I want to choose what I read to legitimise and reinforce what I think? Do I lazily want others to crystalise for me what I can already know and thus stunt my own capacity for thought? Do I wish to display information about everything but possess knowledge and wisdom of nothing; as I read the thoughts of others with little knowledge of the contexts from which they've arisen or the assumptions and values laden in their words? It seems that for many in the masses; current affairs and politics has become a competitive sport, a pastime for some and for others an expression of their character; it may be ingrained in their identity from early on or it may be a manifestation of their wants (to be more than they are etc.), their insecurities (the need for peer acceptance), and their pathologies ('intellectual narcissim' etc.) Granted that 'yes', as democratic citizens and as individuals who wish their reality to align with the masses; keeping in touch with the issues that affect your life is vital, for a healthy democracy and for an individuals capacity for action. Analysis and opinion are vital for many to gain 'perspectives' and diversity of viewpoints, so as to make decisions for themselves. What I am arguing here is to become acutely aware of those who go beyond giving you the 'facts', who go beyond giving a perspective, that is to say, be very beware of the Steyn's of this world. Be very aware of those who effectively offer-up how and what you should think, be aware of the messages, the preferences, the assumptions or even the agenda's underlying many societal commentators. To demonstrate what I am getting at, below I've provided a brief analysis of just one of Mark Steyn's 'opinion' pieces:

Post 'Post-Racial Candidate'
Things get out-of-his-tree flown-the-coop nuts on the
campaign trail.

By Mark Steyn

  1. 'I'm sure," said Barack Obama in that
    sonorous baritone that makes his drive-thru order for a Big Mac,
    fries, and strawberry shake sound profound, "many of you have
    heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you
    strongly disagreed."

    Well, yes. But not many of us
    have heard remarks from our pastors, priests, or rabbis that are
    stark, staring, out-of-his-tree flown-the-coop nuts.
    all religion is a leap of faith which atheists as well as
    alternative religions would cast as nuts!)
    Unlike Bill
    Clinton, whose legions of "spiritual advisers" at the
    height of his Monica troubles outnumbered the U.S. diplomatic corps,
    Senator Obama has had just one spiritual adviser his entire adult
    life: the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, two-decade pastor to the
    president presumptive.
    (Here he is over
    exaggerating Clinton's use of 'spiritual advisor's' and
    under-estimating Obamas for dramatic effect.)
    Reverend Wright believes that AIDs was created by the government of
    the United States — and not as a cure for the common cold that
    went tragically awry and had to be covered up by Karl Rove, but for
    the explicit purpose of killing millions of its own citizens. The
    government has never come clean about this, but the Reverend Wright
    knows the truth. "The government lied," he told his flock,
    "about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genocide against
    people of color. The government lied."

    Does he really
    this? If
    so, he's crazy, and no sane person would sit through his gibberish,
    certainly not for 20 years.
    (Here Mark
    (in few words) appears to use a rhetorical question (where the
    answer is now common knowledge) for the purpose of brushing off the
    Reverend as
    'Crazy' over one
    of his beliefs as well as
    casting off the thousands of his followers as insane and inferring
    that Obama sat through 20 years of what Mark has brushed off as a
    crazy person . The reality is that Obama claims never to have been
    aware of the HIV conspiracy and upon hearing it has described it as
    "off the wall". None the less, many people have 'crazy
    ideas' but to brush a person off based on one could be considered
    morally, socially and politically dangerous. Obama doesn't have to
    agree with every persons ideas in order to be in their company or
    listen to what they have to say. Does buying into one conspiracy
    leave a man out of touch with reality in all other respects? (The
    same could be said for buying into a particular religion)
    Furthermore, should sane people avoid contact with 'insane' people?
    Could it not be argued that by listening to diversity of opinion and
    such 'insane ideas, one can cement or perhaps crystallise one's own
    sane opinions and crucially maintain ones open-mindedness. Should
    Mark not instead be trying to assess fairly the Reverend Wright
    (avoiding casting outright
    of 'crazy person' etc.) and perhaps
    then begging the question of whether Obama has merit in retaining
    his pastor of 20 years given that he holds a conspiracy theory which
    Obama describes as downright 'off the wall'. The debate could then
    move to asking whether Obama has legitimate reasoning in retaining
    the pastor and if not 'Why?')

    Or is
    he just saying it?
    In which case, he's profoundly wicked.
    (Again, the question is used as a
    prop and a sensationalist one at that)

    If you understand that AIDs is spread by sexual promiscuity
    and drug use, you'll know that it's within your power to protect
    yourself from the disease. If you're told
    that it's just whitey's latest cunning plot to stick it to you,
    well, hey, it's out of your hands, nothing to do with you or your
    (Off the cauf remarks
    like this even for commentary seem extremely unwise. Again he's
    opened up a whole line of detailed argumentation without addressing
    any of it in any meaningful way)

    Before the
    speech, Slate's Mickey Kaus advised Senator Obama (???)
    to give us a Sister Souljah moment: "There are plenty of
    potential Souljahs still around: Race preferences. Out-of-wedlock
    births," he wrote. "But most of all the victim mentality
    that tells African Americans (in the fashion of Rev. Wright's most
    infamous sermons) that the important forces shaping their lives are
    the evil actions of others, of other races."
    (no reference given to specific
    Indeed. It makes no difference to white folks
    when a black pastor inflicts kook genocide theories on his
    congregation: The victims (the use
    of the word victim seems ill suited. Does the 'mistake' of believing
    something considered by most as "ludicrous" make you a
    victim? Is the Reverend committing some kind of crime? In holding
    and preaching his ideas?)
    are those in his audience who
    make the mistake of believing him. The Reverend Wright has a hugely
    popular church with over 8,000 members, and Senator Obama assures us
    that his pastor does good work by "reaching out to those
    suffering from HIV/AIDs." But maybe he wouldn't
    have to quite so much
    "reaching out" to do and maybe there
    wouldn't be quite so many black Americans "suffering from
    HIV/AIDs" if the likes of Wright weren't peddling lunatic
    conspiracy theories to his own community.
    that the Reverend could be inadvertently contributing to a higher
    percentage of AID's sufferers in his community without referring to
    any kind of research or evidence that shows a direct link in this
    case or any other, seems extremely unwise. It could be argued from
    his line of thinking that those with less critical minds become
    victims to his style of writing where numerous explicit and implicit
    opinions and assumptions are conveyed throughout his

    Nonetheless, last week, Barack
    Obama told America: "I can no more disown him than I can disown
    the black community."

    What is the plain meaning of
    that sentence?
    (It is unwise to try and
    separate a sentence from the specific context and passages from
    which it is given. Senator Obama was trying to convey his value
    preference for a more holistic way of viewing people (that been
    accepting and encompassing), perceived flaws and all. Thus, should
    Mark be asking such a question? He goes on to use the question to
    propel the second question:)
    the paranoid racist ravings of Jeremiah Wright are now part of the
    established cultural discourse in African-American life and thus
    must command our respect? (
    verges on a
    rhetorical question
    ) Let us take the senator at
    his word
    (The sentence carries the
    connotation that there may be times when he shouldn't be taken at
    his word)
    when he says he chanced (???)
    not to be present on AIDs Conspiracy Sunday, or God Damn America
    Sunday, or U.S. of KKKA Sunday, or the Post-9/11
    America-Had-It-Coming Memorial Service. A conventional pol would
    have said he was shocked, shocked to discover Afrocentric black
    liberation theology going on at his church
    . (It's
    also a case that Senator Obama would not have had the choice of
    distancing himself from it)
    But Obama did something far
    more audacious (the use of the word
    which is defined from daring to reckless is presumptuous and is a
    detailed line of inquiry in itself)
    : Instead of
    distancing himself from his pastor, he attempted to close the gap
    between Wright and the rest of the country, arguing, in effect, that
    the guy is not just his crazy uncle
    (has the effect of drawing close
    connection between Obama and Wright)
    but America's,

    To do this, he promoted a false equivalence. (He
    doesn't appear to have proven a false equivalence)
    can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother," he
    continued. "A woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed
    again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves
    anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of
    black men who passed by her on the street." Well, according to
    the way he tells it in his book, it was one specific black man on
    her bus, and he wasn't merely "passing by." When the
    British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan dumped some of his closest
    cabinet colleagues to extricate himself from a political crisis, the
    Liberal leader Jeremy Thorpe responded: "Greater love hath no
    man than to lay down his friends for his life." In
    Philadelphia, Senator Obama topped that: Greater love hath no man
    than to lay down his gran'ma for his life
    . (good
    point and well delivered)
    In the days that followed,
    Obama's interviewers seemed grateful for the introduction of a less
    complicated villain: Unlike the Reverend Wright, she doesn't want
    God to damn America for being no better than al-Qaeda, but on the
    other hand she did once express her apprehension about a black man
    on the bus. It's surely only a matter of days before Keith Olbermann
    on MSNBC names her his "Worst Person In The World." Asked
    about the sin of racism beating within Gran'ma's breast, Obama said
    on TV
    (what exactly was asked? A
    quotation would be helpful here!!)
    that "she's a
    typical white person."

    Which doesn't sound like the sort
    of thing the supposed "post-racial" candidate ought to be
    saying, (
    good point) but
    let that pass. How "typically white" is Obama's
    grandmother? She is the woman who raised him — that's to say,
    she brought up a black grandchild and loved him unconditionally.
    Burning deep down inside, she may nurse a secret desire to be Simon
    Legree or Bull Connor, but it doesn't seem very likely. She does
    then, in her own flawed way, represent a post-racial America.

    (more accurately, she may represent
    the transition period to a post-racial America)
    But what
    of her equivalent (as Obama's speech had it)? Is Jeremiah Wright a
    "typical black person"? One would hope not. A century
    and a half after the Civil War, two generations after the Civil
    Rights Act,
    the Reverend Wright promotes victimization
    theses more insane than anything promulgated at the height of
    (again, this
    opens up a whole line of detailed enquiry to ascertain a conclusion)

    or the Jim Crow era
    . You can understand why Obama is so anxious
    to meet with President Ahmadinejad, a man who denies the last
    Holocaust even as he plans the next one. Such a summit would be easy
    listening after the more robust sermons of Jeremiah Wright.

    America is not Ahmadinejad's Iran. Free societies live in truth
    (infers that there is absolute and not
    relative truth and assumes there is such thing as a 'free society')
    not in the fever swamps of Jeremiah Wright. The pastor is a
    fraud, a crock, a mountebank — for,
    if this truly
    were a country whose government invented a virus to kill black
    people, why would they leave him walking around to expose the truth?

    (Again he pitches his propaganda that
    Jeremiah Wright's preaching increases the contraction of HIV in his
    community. He does this in a rather cruel way and at this stage in
    the article has effectively gone beyond the bounds of public
    character defamation).
    It is Barack Obama's choice to
    entrust his daughters to the spiritual care of such a man for their
    entire lives, but in Philadelphia the
    senator attempted to
    universalize his
    peculiar (personal
    judment that the judgement is peculiar)

    judgment to
    claim that, given America's history, it would be unreasonable to
    expect black men of Jeremiah Wright's generation not to peddle
    hateful and damaging lunacies. Isn't that — what's the word? —
    racist? So much for the post-racial candidate.
    could be counter-propositioned that Obama was placing men like
    Jeremiah Wright in historical context by highlighting how the
    cultural and political climate in which they grew up had a pervasive
    influence on the ideas which such men hold (however flawed they
    appear to us today). His pitch is that it would be divisive to
    disown such men at a time when we need unity. This appears a
    pragmatic judgement but it could also be an idealist assertion about
    human values etc., etc.

    © 2008 Mark Steyn

Copyright © 2006-2008 Shane McLoughlin. This article may not be resold or redistributed without prior written permission.

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