Archives For Ideology

There’s a thin line between governments waging a war against a crisis, and governments waging a war against people caught up in that crisis.

It’s the crossing of this line; the potential, and perhaps eventual, overreaction through disproportionate measures, that have sparked an increasing number of centrist and conservative thinkers to question these heavy-handed measures, along with anything, and everything, labelled “the new normal”.

The more we learn about the coronavirus, the more important it is to question whether the heavy-handed measures being taken against the coronavirus are proportionate to the fight against it.

Peter Hitchens was the first to defiantly sink his feet into the ground. Hitchens agreed with the general reasoning behind an increased focus on hygiene, protecting the vulnerable, and social distancing, but drew the line at the surrender of civil liberties, telling talkRADIO that he ‘can’t see any logical connection between crashing the economy and restricting civil liberties in trying to prevent the spread of the disease.’ Adding that ‘crashing the economy is not necessary, you could easily rely on the civility and good sense of people to keep the necessary distance while continuing the run a functioning economy.’

There is a distinction between taking action because of fears about the coronavirus, and taking action because of the coronavirus. The former is reactionary, motivated by hysteria. The latter involves a carefully measured, compassionate, and rational response, drenched in hope. It’s the stark contrast between Samuel Barber’s melancholic despondency in Adagio for Strings, and Harry Gregson-Williams’ cautious, but defiant, ‘To Aslan’s Camp!

As of the 27th March, Australia had 3,166 confirmed cases of the coronavirus, with 13 tragic deaths attributed to it. While we do have information about the local source and epicentre of outbreaks, we still don’t appear to be getting all the specific facts. For example, there is no easily accessible data which separates people hospitalised because of the virus, and people with the virus who’ve been quarantined at home.

In the same interview for talkRADIO, Hitchens further illustrated this by pointing to the lack of any clear information that distinguishes between those who’ve died because of the virus, and those who had the virus, but died of other causes. Without everyone on the planet being tested, it’s even harder to pin down exact numbers.

As Mark Levin has pointed out, the facts we’re being sold about the coronavirus are all over the place. There’s confusion and uncertainty about the severity of it around every corner. Most mainstream media news reports are often repetitive, dubious and sensationalised. Some social media hasn’t helped either. Just as some Australian Universities, who actively undermined Scott Morrison’s January travel ban on China, some in the media, and on social media, are putting profit before people by capitalising on the crisis to sell a concocted tale of apocalyptic horror.

For instance, Michael Bay warned people to not take everything in the media or on social media as fact. The executive producer of the post-apocalyptic TV series, The Last Ship, and director of Transformers (among others), said in a brief Instagram video that he’d been receiving a ton of footage showing the movement of tanks, and armaments, but it’s all an act, made up by foreign powers who hate the U.S. Don’t believe it. His video caption read: “All the fake ARCHIVAL FOOTAGE that people are posting saying from a friend of a friend to instill fear. Stop sending out. It’s BS.”

Attacking the hype head-on, Levin cited a New York Times article from David Katz, president of True Health Initiative and the founding of the Yale-Griffin research Center, who credited South Korea with being the most reliable, when it comes to information about the coronavirus, because their widespread testing.  The New York Times article joins a co-written piece in the Wall Street Journal by Eran Bendavid and  Jay Bhattacharya, who claimed ‘there’s little evidence to confirm that [oppressive totalitarian measures] are justified.’

According to Katz, the ‘data indicates that at least 99% of active cases in the general population are mild, and do not require specific medical treatment. The small percentage of cases that do require such services are highly concentrated among those aged 60 and older – and further so the older people are.’

This leads to a justification of sorts for questioning whether oppressive totalitarian measures are necessary in order to fight the coronavirus. If we’re to use the problematic, “this is war” rhetoric, it’s fair to say that Governments waging “total war” against the virus, are making important strategic decisions based on sketchy intel. Their actions are initially based on the smoke and mirror diplomacy coming from the secretive Communist Chinese regime, who’s loose with the truth at the best of times, and it’s based on limited intel our governments have been able to gather on the ground or learn from other countries.

On one side we can agree that most Western Governments are wounding in order to heal. On the other hand, because the consequential impact of their actions is being felt around the world, and may do so for many years to come, we need to ask, as we would of any surgeon: how will this preserve freedom, and how will our healers be doing their very best to safeguard it?

Augusto Zimmermann, Professor of Law at Sheridan College in Western Australia, also addressed these concerns. In one of two fiery responses, (the first being an open letter to the Prime Minister), Zimmermann acknowledged the difficult circumstance facing world leaders, but argued for an alternative to the heavy-handed measures being copied by governments around the world. Zimmerman citing Dr John Lonnidis, (a professor of medicine, of epidemiology and population health, of biomedical data science, and of statistics at Stanford University in California), noted that

“reported case fatality rates, like the official 3.4 per cent rate from the World Health Organisation (“WHO”), cause horror and are meaningless. The real rate, adjusted from wide age range, could be as low as 0.05 per cent and as high as one per cent. The 3.4 per cent mortality rate reported by the WHO only tells us about how many who died had been confirmed to have contracted Covid-19.”

Zimmerman advocated a surgical response which doesn’t involve throwing the baby out with the bath water. In his second response, Zimmerman echoed Hitchens, who is questioning the fall in, line up, salute, or else, approach, rightly stating:

“While emergency powers are sometimes needed, we are seeing examples of draconian measures that dramatically increase the arbitrary power of the state, thus allowing government to exercise mass surveillance powers over citizens and alarming restriction of civil liberties.”

Adding his voice to the growing number concerned about the direction Western governments are leading us, Cory Bernadi, in his recently rebooted ‘Weekly Dose of Common Sense’, condemned the heavy-handed measures, writing,

‘At this time, the alarmism and catastrophic predictions aren’t aligning with the facts but then again they rarely do. Yes, there are many people infected with the virus and people are dying but the headline figures don’t paint the full picture…To paraphrase US President Donald Trump, the supposed cure could be worse than the disease…This is the real contagion attached to this virus…I have said before, no government gets re-elected for avoiding a crisis. They only benefit from over-stating the danger, responding to it and claiming credit for the better than expected solution. So when you hear that 200k people or more could die from this virus in Australia, you can be pretty confident that the actual number will be a fraction of that. Then, the government can claim to have saved so many lives through their draconian response.’ (‘This is Killing Us!’ 25th March, 2020)

My own point about Morrison losing the home-front battle for national morale stands as a real and present danger for the P.M. He needs new speech writers. Either that or the current ones need a new approach.

Case in point, one of latest press conferences basically translates: “Thank you for being good little boys and girls this week, Australia. We know it’s hard, but mum and dad are real proud of you.” Plus there was zero mention or reassurance – yet again – about how freedoms are being safeguarded (or even if they are).

Instead we’re told that the military will be backing up civil authorities “with boots on the ground” to “enforce compliance” of inbound traveller quarantine.

To the Prime Ministers’ credit, Morrison did warn against wishing for a total lock-down, saying he hopes to avoid it because Australian life would change dramatically, and may never be the same again. Given the tone of Donald Trump’s daily briefings, and his desire to “re-open America”, it’d be right to say the U.S. President feels the same.

However, Hitchens, Levin, Augusto and Bernadi are right. We, the people, are not the virus. Question the new normal. There’s a very thin line between governments waging a war against the Wuhan COVID-19 coronavirus, and governments waging a war against their own people. Be vigilant about fighting the virus, but remain cautiously defiant.

In the words of the imperfect, formidable British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher:

‘Winston Churchill’s warning is just as true now as when he said it many, many years ago. “Once you take a position of not being able in any circumstances to defend your rights against aggression, there is no end to the demands that will be made nor to the humiliations that must be accepted.’ He knew, and we must heed his warning.” [i]

References (not otherwise linked):

[i] Thatcher, M. 1984. Speech to Conservatives (The day after the IRA’s assassination attempt in the Brighton Bombing).

* Heavy-handed measures include business closures, school closures, some military on the streets, as is being put into motion by Australia and Israel.

First published on Caldron Pool, 28th March, 2020

Photo by Martin Sanchez on Unsplash

© Rod Lampard, 2020

It doesn’t get any more viciously Leftist than abortion, euthanasia, identity politics dividing people by ethnicity under the Darwinian myth of race, and Victorian Labor refusing to build new dams, under the “advisement” that we’re all doomed because of ‘apocalyptic Climate Change’, so what’s the point, dams won’t work anyway.

This surrender to the ‘apocalyptic climate change’ narrative is epitomized by Victorian Water Minister, Lisa Neville, who used climate change as a reason to stand by the decade long Victorian Labor ban on building more dams. Ean Higgins from The Australian wrote that the minister claimed, ‘climate change means not enough water would flow into them to make them worthwhile.’

Neville tried to back up her point, by stating that the ‘last dam to be built in Victoria was in 1996, the Thomas Dam, originally built to drought proof Melbourne, but has only filled three times in its history – the last in 1996.’

Using an un-sourced forecast the minister then explained that, ‘climate change would lead to less rainfall and the state’s rivers being halved by 2065. Instead they would rely on Victoria’s high electricity-consuming desalination plant and would happily take funds for new dams to expand the 3.5bn plant’s production.’

Although, the plant is said to ‘operate on 100% renewable energy’ [i], according to the Victorian Government website, the desalination plant ‘uses about 90 Megawatts of power from the grid to operate the plant and the water transfer.’

Neville’s warm embrace of potential federal funds raises questions. If ‘apocalyptic climate change’ means that drastic measures are necessary, why is a Labor minister advocating using a primarily coal dependent system that will require more coal to run? (Note: Victoria currently has three coal power stations. The desalination plant is connected to one of them via Cranbourne.)

Neville’s “no” to dams makes very little practical sense. In essence her argument goes like this: defend using fossil fuels to power a desalination plant, while claiming that fossil fuels are the reason for having to rely on fossil fuels, in order to power a desalination plant.

If this sounds illogical, that’s because it is. Her defense amounts to circular reasoning. Like much of the fear and hype surrounding versions of apocalyptic climate change, the argument against building dams is based on a scientific hypothesis, which has been turned into an apocalyptic prophesy. I.e.: rains won’t fall ever again, so dams are useless.

One would think that if climate change is the dire apocalypse that the Greens and Australian Labor tell us it is, the decision to uphold a ban on new dams, by Victorian Labor, is not only hypocritical, but counter-productive.

If, as advocated by Australian Labor during the last election, imposing drastic measures on Australian citizens is necessary, shouldn’t Victoria’s Minister for Water be looking at preserving the water when it does fall, not pushing to fund a system, which is still connected a grid dependent on coal?

This is on par with what The ABC asked in 2008, when it published an article from then president of the Victorian Farmers Federation, LNP M.P. Simon Ramsay, who said if we accept Climate Change the Victorian government should be building more dams, not banning the construction of them.

Ramsay argued:

“The no dams policy is a bad policy. In accepting climate change and the reality that the world will become even drier, we must also accept that there will be a greater number of extreme weather events, including floods. If last year’s floods in Gippsland, this year’s floods in Queensland and recent rainfall across Victoria have taught us anything it’s that, in spite of the drought, the clouds are not broken, and rain will still fall. New dams, positioned in appropriate areas, should be a sensible element of Victoria’s long-term water solution.”

Ramsay also criticized the Andrews Government in 2016. He went after them for looking after their own self-interest, instead of the interest of the public. He claimed that Victorian Labor used a climate crisis narrative, and the desalination plant, to establish political credibility during an election year.

In his criticism Ramsay provides reasons for why Lisa Neville’s affection for the desalination plant, takes preference over building better infrastructure, to capture, and preserve rain when it does fall.

Ramsey explained that Lisa Neville “was one of the Brumby ministers who decided to build the desalination plant in the first place.” Ramsay then accused the Andrews government of ‘looking for a reason to vindicate the former (Labor) Brumby government’s decision to build the desalination plant more than six years ago.’ [ii]

Not all the glitters is gold. As for whether this shows that Neville seems more concerned about protecting a costly Labor Party project, than serving the Victorian people, you join the dots.

Higgin’s article in The Australian also noted that Lisa Neville ‘dismissed’ the Federal LNP minister for Water Resources, David Littleproud’s warning that without new dams population growth Victoria would be at risk of ‘sizeable reductions in available water per person by 2030.’

The policy against building dams suggests that Labor needs a climate crisis in order to stay electable in the eyes of voters. Create a crisis. Encourage a watered down version of open borders to increase the population. Then don’t build responsible infrastructure to meet the growing needs of a growing population. Follow that up by blaming a water shortage on political opponents and “climate change”, followed by a fresh push for laws and taxes which increase government control and dependency.

Keeping infrastructure back helps to magnify the urgency of the ‘apocalyptic climate change’ narrative. As a result, the fear of a climate crisis and the government taking the role of messiah in fixing it generates votes.

This use and control of the narrative surrounding apocalyptic climate change theory is reminiscent of the 1930s.

The historical parallel is best illustrated by Thomas Doherty in his book Hollywood & Hitler.

‘The HANL propagandists (Hollywood anti-Nazi league – who by this time were had largely been overtaken by Communists), ironically, embraced the same ‘’hypodermic needle’’ theory of mass communications propounded by Joseph Goebbels, which injected the message into mass consciousness through repetition, simplicity and emotion.’

The first approach of this method was to ‘gain the individual’s sympathy for what he is about to learn, and second, to present the material in a way which reaches his or her personal interest and at the same time supplies the necessary facts to sustain the first emotional reaction.’  (p.106)

The word “denier” attached to those who question the apocalyptic climate change narrative is evidence of this kind of psychological warfare. “Denier” is a whip statement; a shaming control device. It’s a dehumanising word used as part of argument which erroneously claim that “deniers” are dangerous. The real danger, however, lies in the fact that those who use this term flippantly, either forget or aren’t aware, that this technique is tragically in line with Nazi propaganda which dehumanised Jews in much the same way.

For an example of how effective this has been in Australian politics look no further than Tony Abbott. His government was demonized because they refused to join the chorus of hysterics regarding apocalyptic climate change. Even though the Abbott Government met climate change theory with strong, reasoned, and practical workable policies, all of which took a proactive stance towards improving the environment, Abbott was still labelled a “denier”.

The feeling of urgency and impending doom was carried into the mass consciousness by opportunists. This gave Abbott’s political opponents fuel to fire broadside after broadside, winning for them the sympathy of the Australian public by only releasing the necessary facts needed to sustain the first emotion. Proving that the false dawn of apocalyptic climate change is the perfect political firestorm.

It’s for these reasons that Victorian Labor choice not to build dams to combat what they believe is a crisis, should be questioned by the discerning public. Otherwise political parties will continue to capitalize on irrational fear. They will keep holding necessary infrastructure hostage so as to use it as a tool to win over a concerned public. The same public who has been convinced by those very same politicians, that if they want to avert apocalyptic climate change, they have to vote a certain way.


References:

[i] Wonthaggi Desalination Plant, Victoria, Water-Technology.net Sourced 19th Sept. 2019

[ii] Ramsay, S. 2016. State responsible for Barwon Water waste Sourced 19th Sept. 2019

First published on Caldron Pool, 20th September 2019.

©Rod Lampard, 2019

 

Examine some older texts on philosophy, some Freudian psychology, even some theology, and you’ll come across the term proton-pseudos.

Proton-pseudos is described by the International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis as ‘the link between false premises and false conclusions.’ Sigmund Freud borrowed the term from Aristotle and applied to it to the category of hysteria.

In short, the Proton-pseudos is the ‘original error’. The proton-pseudos sits behind and within the lies we tell ourselves, or the lies we’ve been taught to believe about ourselves, society, politics, theology and a whole range of other areas. The proton-pseudos is the outworking of a negative self-belief caused by exposure to trauma, abuse, and agitation, manipulative or sociological propaganda.

The proton-pseudos is a false idea or belief based on limited or distorted knowledge. It’s an assumption lived out as fact, even though it’s a conclusion derived from a broken reality, one re-pieced together, without a relevant tangible factual basis. In other words, the proton-pseudos is a broken lens. It imagines oppression where no oppression exists, created by a negative self-belief long ago triggered by a genuine traumatic event.

The Freudian understanding of the proton-pseudos is exemplified by ‘Emma, who at the age of thirteen fled the laughter of the sales staff in a shop, consciously believing that they were laughing at her clothes. However, Emma’s reaction in the shop was triggered by a repressed first event from years before, a grocer who had sexually touched her when she was eight.’

French intellectual Jacques Ellul’s aggressive critique of helpful and harmful propaganda, from 1965, assists in providing a framework to explain how propaganda relates to the proton-pseudos as an ‘inner control over the individual by a social force.’ Manipulative, agitation and sociological propaganda preys on the collective social consciousness of a society in an ‘age of anxiety’. Fear is used to control, mobilize and permit.

The manipulative use of fear engineers a desensitizing of sensitivities and objections to an idea, in order to implement it.

As Ellul explains, ‘propaganda will permit what so far was prohibited, such as hatred…propaganda offers him an object of hatred for all propaganda is aimed at an enemy. This hatred is not shameful, evil hatred that must be hidden, but justified because propaganda has pointed out enemies that must be slain, transforming crime into a praiseworthy act.’

Propaganda utilizes proton-pseudos to create conformity. According to Ellul this conformity is the consequence of integration propaganda – political reeducation. This means that any ‘statement whatever, no matter how stupid, any “tall tale” will be believed once it enters into the current of hatred’ perpetuated by the prevailing proton-pseudos; the false doctrine, half-truth, outright harmful or blasphemous lie or deception. The collective social consciousness of society can then be controlled through ‘key words of magical import, which are believed without question.’

The proton-pseudos becomes authoritative through an ongoing maintenance of propaganda. Questioning of the proton-pseudos is viewed as irrational. Even though the proton-pseudos is, itself an irrational conclusion held captive by the ‘original error’.

To borrow further from Jacques Ellul, propaganda instills in the person held captive to the proton-pseudos ‘a system of opinions and tendencies which may not be subjected to criticism…the individual has received irrational certainties from propaganda and feels personally attacked when these certainties are attacked’.

Agitation, manipulative and sociological propaganda reinforces the proton-pseudos by way of affirming its grip on the person held captive by it.

Consequently, ‘ironically, the man or woman who has been successfully subjected to a vigorous propaganda will declare that all new ideas are propaganda.’

This comes back to Freud’s story of Emma.  The proton-pseudos sees oppression where there is none. It confuses a past event with current circumstances, magnifying fear and stopping Emma from distinguishing fiction from real thing. Emma’s negative self-belief affects her interpretation of the intentions of the people who surrounded her in the shop. There may have been good reasons for her to be suspicious and feel uncomfortable, but Emma’s consciousness was governed by a lie based on past abuse; the proton-pseudos which she believes and projects onto others, despite her current context clearly saying otherwise.

Ellul and Freud don’t just give us legitimate reasons for a constructive self-critique, they provide a diagnosis for the current malady affecting the socio-political make-up of Western Civilization.

One example is the proton-pseudos which dominates the Left. The proton-pseudos at work here imagines Nazis in every opponent, or behind every politician or journalist not Left of centre.

There’s no doubt that Nazism is evil, but like Freud’s story of Emma, context matters.

As Dennis Prager recently said, “fighting Nazis in World War two makes you a hero. Fighting Nazis today, in the United States, doesn’t”. Why? Because today’s Nazis are largely phantoms created by the Left. Imagined into existence, but based on an historical event, in order to promote fear, take control and justify an inability (or worse, lack of desire) to engage in reasoned debate. The proton-pseudos provoked by propagandist slogans permits all sorts of viciousness and violence against their political opponents.

Take as examples the propagandists perpetuating the proton-pseudos. They create an oppressor, where one doesn’t exist, with terms such as, toxic masculinity, heteronormativity, cultural appropriation, white privilege, islamophobia, Jesus was a socialist, homophobia and mansplaining, unborn babies are a bunch of cells/a parasite, all men are dogs, and all white people are racist, et.al.

All of these and others, as asinine as “love is love”, are designed to incite ‘conditioned reflexes’ (Elull). To ensnare, trap and control the argument through an appeal of the social consciousness of the West which has long embraced the truth of love your neighbor as you love yourself, and long since rejected the evils of racism/fascism.

Anyone who questions the slogan, questions the propaganda, threatening the power of the propagandist and their ability to use the proton-pseudos to feed their own self-interest.

Ellul and Freud share a strong relevance to the current practice in psychology called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The practice of identifying the proton-pseudos, of replacing lies with truth.

They join with Paul of Tarsus in challenging us to discern between the lies we’re told, the lies we tell ourselves and the truth.

For the Christian, and those who heed Paul’s instruction, this will mean wholeheartedly owning the theological truth that ‘the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds; destroying arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.’ (2 Corinthians 10:4-5, ESV)

Beware the auctioneers: outsmart the propagandists. Challenge the proton-pseudos both without and from within. Be a factivist, a liberator, one who see the lies for what they are and where they originate, and then replaces them with the truth.

As Paul teaches: ‘don’t be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind’ , not the emptying of it. (Romans 12:2)


References:

Ellul, J. 1965 Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, Vintage Press (pp.87 & 152)

Photo by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash

First published on Caldron Pool, 5th September, 2019

©Rod Lampard, 2019

Israel Folau isn’t alone in his struggle against the Leftist establishment and its newspeak. British Philosopher, and Leftist turned conservative, Sir Roger Scruton lost his U.K Government role as Housing Adviser, after criticizing George Soros and asserting that

“Islamophobia was an attempt to control conversation by making any and all criticism of Islam or Muslims a social pathology. (The same is true with all these absurd, politicized -phobias.)”

There have also been calls for Scruton’s knighthood to be revoked.

As Scruton and Muslim writer, Ismail Royer point out.

“[In the minds of the Muslim Brotherhood it’s] impossible for anyone to write critically about Islam, or the deeds of Muslims, in good faith. The only acceptable angle was flattery” (Scruton)

“The Scruton affair illustrates a mindset afflicting many modern Muslims. As @ScholarsInk points out, this is a man who has engaged in substantive dialogue with Islamic scholars. It’s a problem that many Muslims find anything other than flattery to be absolutely intolerable.” (Royer)

While the Leftist establishment’s contempt for Scruton remains high, support for Scruton continues to not only remain consistent, but is on the increase.

Thanking supporters, he took to Twitter writing:

“Thank you to the many people from around the world, who have sent messages of support in this time of persecution. And apologies to the mob for having survived it.”

Scruton is well acquainted with the ‘Leftist vision’, commenting about his time writing with the ‘underground networks of communist Europe’ in his book, ‘Fools, Frauds & Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left’ (2015)[1],

[“My involvement] had brought me face to face with destruction, and it was obvious to most people who troubled to expose themselves to this destruction that leftist ways of thinking were the ultimate cause of it […] We should not be surprised that, when the communists seized power in Eastern Europe, their first task was to decapitate the little platoons – so that Kádár, when Minister of the Interior in the 1948 government in Hungary, managed to destroy five thousand in a single year.
Newspeak[2], which sees the world in terms of power and struggle, encourages the view that all associations not controlled by the righteous leaders are a danger to the state. And by acting on this view you make it true. When the seminar, the troop or the choir can meet only with the permission of the Party, the Party automatically becomes their enemy. In this way, it seems to me, it is not an accident that the triumph of leftist ways of thinking has so often led to totalitarian government.”

Scruton’s argument is confirmed by the Tienanmen Square massacre, which happened, but “officially” never happened. The Hungarian revolt of 1956, and the violent suppression of it by the Soviet Union, and its puppet Socialist Hungarian administration. The violence was downplayed by French Communists, such as Jean Sartre, and was largely ignored or dismissed by the Left in the West.

In response to the violent Communist suppression of the Hungarian people, French existentialist and philosopher, Albert Camus, himself once a golden boy of the French Leftist establishment, wrote,

‘We must admit that today conformity is on the Left.
To be sure, the Right is not brilliant. But the Left is in complete decadence, a prisoner of words, caught in its own vocabulary, capable merely of stereo-typed replies, constantly at a loss when faced with the truth, from which it nevertheless claimed to derive its laws.
The Left is schizophrenic and needs doctoring through pitiless self-criticism, exercise of the heart, close reasoning, and a little modesty. Until such an effort at re-examination is well under way, any rallying will be useless even harmful. None of the evils of totalitarianism (defined by the single party and the suppression of all opposition) claims to remedy is worse than totalitarianism itself.’[3]

Roger Scruton and Israel Folau are high profile examples who should garner support from every quarter, because if they are allowed to be thrown under blade of the guillotine, by the mob and it’s “people’s court”, we all lose.


References:

[1] Scruton, Roger. 2015. Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left Bloomsbury Publishing

[2] ‘The purpose of communist Newspeak, in Thom’s ironical words, has been ‘to protect ideology from the malicious attacks of real things – fortified the communist conviction that you could change reality by changing words.’ (ibid, 2015)

[3] Camus, A. 1961 Resistance, Rebellion and Death: Essays; ‘Hungary: Socialism of the Gallows’, Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1960 First Vintage International Edition

Photo by Jake Noren on Unsplash

(Also posted on The Caldron Pool, 8th May 2019)

©Rod Lampard, 2019

My interest in Gene Edward Veith Jnr’s work began in 2012 after reading ‘Modern Fascism (1993).

In it Veith shows himself to be a fearless, sharp, forward thinking academic[1] who isn’t afraid to stick his neck out when presenting sensitive facts. For a scholar, this isn’t just risky, it often means standing alone, on uncomfortable truths, that have either been conveniently buried or ignored. Taking a stand can end in ostracism or excommunication.

One potent example is Veith’s thunderous proclamation that ‘fascism is back in academia’.[2] This rides on the coat tails of a discussion about the defence (and for some, the denial) of German existentialist philosopher, Martin Heidegger’s[3] ‘extensive involvement in the Nazi Party.’

All the evidence suggests that Heidegger ‘was an activist in the Nazi party’. The most damning, according to Vieth, was Heidegger’s  alignment with the Sturmabteilung (Stormtroopers) of Ernst Röhm (‘a radical [Nazi] faction’, ‘rife with homosexuality’), which led to Heidegger being ‘considered too extreme, even for Hitler’[4].

Another example of Veith’s tenacity, and lack of fear, despite the current culture of silence, and suppression in academia, of anything that doesn’t fit a particular political narrative, is found in his unpacking of the relationship between fascism and academia. Veith unpacks how the culture produced by revisionist deconstructionism, contributed to the rise of fascism; and how this culture opened a door to the National Socialists (Nazis), allowing them take total control of the German (Weimar) parliament through a democratic process.

The straight-talking tone of his 2003 revised edition of ‘Loving God with All Your Mind’, remains consistent with ‘Modern Fascism’. The text is a manifesto on how Christians, in an era of subjective relativism, can participate in that culture, without becoming one with that culture.

By looking to relevant Biblical examples Veith describes a way forward. He states (rightly),

‘the intellectual resources of Christianity are vast and rich […] The tolerance for paradox, [within Biblical Christianity] with its combination of openness and scepticism, means that the Christian life and the biblical worldview not only can withstand critical inquiry, but they can inspire critical inquiry […]‘ (pp. 146 & 97).

Beginning with the Babylonian exile of Daniel (and Israel), Veith argues that the Bible already sets the bar for exiled Christians in a postmodern; post-Christian world.

Daniel’s example is one of steadfastness, submission to authority, ‘respect and courtesy towards his enemy’ (p.103). Added to this is the importance of prayer and community. For the Christian in exile, the ‘application of Daniel 2:17-19 seems to be that Christians in a hostile environment need to seek out other Christians in that hostile environment to support each other in fellowship and prayer’ (p.104)

Vieth notes that the two popular responses of Christians in this kind of environment is often ‘withdrawal[5] or compromise’ (p.11). Both are toxic because both acts reject the vocation and intellectual inheritance handed down to Christians. The act of withdrawal contracts Christianity leading to apathy, or esoteric elitism[6].

Whereas compromise, ‘reinterprets Christian doctrine according to the ways of thinking currently in vogue. This is the way of theological liberalism […] in doing so [Christianity] is changed into something else’ (p.12).

Withdrawal and compromise are inconsistent with Biblical Christian living (Rev.3). Withdrawal denies that the ‘Christian life is to be lived out in our vocations’ (p.104); lived out in the world, not of the world or separated from it. Compromise denies Christ. Is synchronistic and leads to a ‘Christless Christianity’ (p.47).

Daniel prayed, put his trust in God and negotiated with authority. He didn’t withdraw. Neither did Daniel compromise.

Daniel is, therefore, a primary example for how Christians, not only should, but can, live out Mark 12:29-31[7].

 ‘It’s important for Christianity to maintain its inherent radicalism. Christianity is not simply another cultural institution (p.70) […] Christians must be  informed by a ‘thermostatic’[8] education, maintaining heat through both a traditionalist and progressive function, in a profound way, without slipping into idolatry; daring not to make anything made by sinful human beings into a sacred absolute’ (pp.71-74)[9].

So that God’s Word is not, and cannot easily be replaced with the reason and words of the creature, ‘Christians must subject any human creation and institution to the most skeptical and critical scrutiny.’ (p.74)[10]

Through the biblical example set by Daniel, Veith rejects the withdrawal and compromise, either/or. He is confident that ‘it’s possible for Christians to engage the contemporary intellectual world without weakening or compromising the faith […] In order to do this, Christians need to be aware of the contours of contemporary thought’ (p.12).

One of the most effective ways ‘Christians can witness to people today, both to the active enemies and to the far greater number of the ignorant and indifferent, is simply to inform them objectively of what it is that Christians believe’ (p.51)[11]

Written by a seasoned Christian in the academic world, ‘Loving God with All Your Mind’ is a manifesto for Christians. Veith offers directions for how Christians can still live out the Gospel; live out their vocation, without apology, in love and service, knowing that they are very much in the world, but because of Jesus Christ, are no longer of it. Even in the pagan plurality of postmodernism and the quagmire of morality, fear, insecurity, and indecision, attached to it.

Through vocation, and the deep intellectual heritage, inherited by Christians, withdrawal and compromise are negated.

Veith is right,

‘This tradition of active thought and practical problem solving is a vital ally for Christians fighting against the intellectual trends of the contemporary world…we can and thus be freed from the tyranny of the present, the assumption that the way people think  today is the only possible way to think.’ (p.109)

In other words, Christians have every reason to stand firm. Therefore, speak truth in love. Be consistent. Be real. Be humble. Be present. Be like Daniel. Live like Jesus.

For the greatest commandment is this ‘hear oh Israel, the Lord you God is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all you heart, with all your soul and all your mind, and all your strength. The second greatest commandment is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ (Mark 12:29-30, ESV)


References:

[1] Vieth is a Lutheran and professor of English.

[2] This is of special interest given the 1993 publication date. Veith’s well informed argument draws a connection between the fascism of the 1920s and 30s, and where real fascism resides today.

[3] Farias, V. 1987. Heidegger And Nazism, Temple University Press, 1989.

[4] Modern Fascism

[5] An option suggested by Rod Dreher et.al.

[6] Veith, p.106

[7] ‘And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.’ – Jesus.

[8] See Veith’s discussion on Blasé Pascal and Neil Postman, p.145

[9] ‘God’s Word has a caustic, corrosive effect on idols of all kinds’ (Veith, p.75)

[10] ‘The moral and religious beliefs of a Christian need to be shaped by the Word of God, not by the world. Christians need to be critical thinkers and to use discernment, forging their own ideology based on Scripture, not the social class that they aspire to. Christians should not be so easily labeled.’ (Veith, p.100)

[11] In applying a solid grasp of what our early Christian forebears meant by the words: faith seeks understanding (fides quaerens intellectum) ; I believe in order to understand (credo ut intelligam) (p.146), Christians can navigate through the fog of postmodernism, and be a guiding light to others.

©Rod Lampard, 2019

Also published @ The Caldron Pool, 17th February 2019

If you’re not really into Information Technology and are not aware of what the Golden Shield project is, you’re forgiven. The majority of Chinese people either don’t care or aren’t aware of its existence either.

The Golden Shield Project is Communist China’s massive firewall. It’s designed to keep a lid on dissent and ward off foreign influence on Chairman Mao’s, carefully constructed Communist culture, which was largely forced on the Chinese people during the Marxist/Maoist Cultural Revolution[1].

Some basic history: ‘The Golden Shield project has been in development since the 1990s’[i]. According to a Tom McDonald field study published by the University College of London (UCL) in 2016, ‘The Golden Shield Project is the best-known mechanism of Chinese state control over the internet…though most Chinese people are unaware of its existence, those who are, are largely unconcerned about it.’ (ibid)[2]

Both the UCL study (p.147) and Stanford’s Torfox, state that the ‘self-censorship[3] by Chinese internet users, is essentially the byproduct of both Government censorship’ and an unspoken social media etiquette within China, which views ‘posts regarding news, politics and current affairs as inappropriate’ (p.148).

Whilst the UCL study and Stanford’s Torfox online articles don’t talk in an outright manner, about the role fear plays in self-censorship, with what has happened to China’s Uighurs (Muslim community), and the continued harassment of churches, and house churches, along with the imprisonment of Christians, it’s fair to assume that fear of the Socialist State, plays a sizeable role. Heavy Government restrictions[4] on internet use, means online dissent against the Communist Regime is rare. (As a side note to reasons for how fear plays a role in self-censorship, Communist Chinese authorities also silently encourage doxing. It’s labeled, ‘online vigilante justice’, called “Human Flesh Search Engines“.)

Of the two reports, only Torfox makes the suggestion that self-censorship is the result of compliance with totalitarian Government:

‘What makes the Great Firewall of China so effective (and controversial) is not only its complex technology but also the culture that the system engenders – a culture of self-censorship.  The Chinese government mandates that companies be responsible for their public content.  In other words, it is the job of these companies to make sure that their online portals do not contain any prohibited topics or obscenities.  Leading online news media in China, such as Xinhuanet.com, Chinadaily.com.cn, Chinanews, and Baidu.com obediently follow the government’s decree, pledging that they “will make the Internet a vital publisher of scientific theories… maintain social stability, and promote the building of a socialist harmonious society” (Torfox, Stanford).

Tom McDonald’s field study published by UCL also hints at this reasoning:

‘limiting users access to social media platforms, and certain types of content appearing within them, in order to promote  a social media aligned to both the state and family interests,  was only one aspect of state control. Another method was by populating these platforms with content – propaganda and ‘patriotism’ (p.151) […] ‘Most social media posts about politics are nationalistic. There were very few posts that directly criticized the central government, or policies and attitudes of the state’ (p.161).

There are three good reasons why you should be aware of The Golden Shield Project. First, the project is “supported” by Big Tech (Silicon Valley) Companies. Second, it’s a Communist tool used not just to suppress free speech[5], but create and police, a culture of total compliance with Government approved thought, speech and content. What makes this second point even more alarming is that the technology used for The Golden Shield Project is now being exported. Third, the Golden Shield Project is promoted as being something that upholds family values, while underneath this the Government enforces the socialist state, through total surveillance, and sleight of hand, statist propaganda[6].

Although I use the word, “supported” cautiously, it may not come as a complete surprise that the Golden Shield Project is supported by Big Tech (Silicon Valley) Companies.

According to Torfox, ‘transnational Internet corporations such as Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft are also subjected to self-censorship regulations.  Although censorship is very much against Western ideology, the size of the Chinese market is too profitable for the companies to bypass these opportunities.’ (Torfox, Stanford)

This raises the question, does participating in active censorship, and complying with China’s Golden Shield Project, make these Western, and largely Leftist companies, hypocrites? Further, does this active compliance mean that participating companies are profiteering from an oppressive regime?

Put another way, does the active compliance of Google, Facebook, Yahoo, Cisco, Microsoft, Motorola, and Nortel Networks, with China’s Golden Shield Project (which is designed to abolish, punish, and silence dissent, ‘and promote the building of a socialist harmonious society’) mean that these big tech companies, are profiteering from oppression?

Or, as Grant Clark from Bloomberg suggests, are these companies to be viewed also as victims of China’s Communist heavy restrictions?

Simple examples of this compliance include, when Winnie the Pooh, was temporarily banned in  2017.

More complex data shows Google actively blocking the use of its search engine to look up words unapproved by the Chinese Communist Government.

As highlighted by Harvard’s 2002 comprehensive list of searches blocked by Google in China, by request of the Chinese Communist Government. (Complete Chart) Top Ten:

1. Tibet
2. Taiwan
3. equality
4. dissident China
5. revolution
6. dissident
7. freedom China
8. justice China
9. counter-revolution China
10. news China/Democracy China

With this evidence, and these examples in mind, Western concerns about Big Tech companies, which are often ridiculed as fanatical, and fear mongering, are justified.

When these same companies choose to block dissent or a different opinion on their servers/social media platforms in the West, they are importing the same political lockout system that they (at least, in the case of Google, as shown above) apply to Chinese citizens, under the satisfied and watchful gaze of the unelected Chinese bureaucratic caste.  When these companies block dissent or a different opinion, they are choosing to restrict freedom of speech. They are picking a side, and imposing their favored form of ideology on those who may have no choice, but to use their technology or social media platforms.

This should be of concern to Westerners, because the technology used in the Golden Shield Project is now being exported[7].

According to the McDonald field study for UCL, ‘in China, while propaganda frequently ends up forming the basis of news, not all news comes from, or is, propaganda […] [However] 80 to 90% of China’s news is fake news’ (McDonald 2016, pp.151 & 155). Since ‘the Chinese government controls all of the national authority name servers’ (source), it has total control over social media and social media companies.

Evidence of propaganda is seen in the defense of the GSP. Advocates say that Golden Shield Project is only a tool for protecting family values.  The GSP, however, was designed to protect the Communist state, not families. Its primary purpose is to guard the state against the ‘use of the Internet by domestic or foreign groups to coordinate anti-regime activity.’ (China Golden Shield, 2001)

Stanford’s Torfox confirms this, stating that ‘the government initially envisioned the Golden Shield Project to be a comprehensive database-driven surveillance system that could access every citizen’s record as well as link national, regional, and local security together.’

Ergo, even if upholding family values is now a small part of the usefulness of the GSP, it was not part of the Golden Shield Project’s original intent.

In conclusion, it’s reasonable to have governance of the internet based on a nation’s laws and boundaries, but that governance should be small, effective, and preferably have at its core classical liberal ethos, anchored by the Judeo-Christian moral compass. It’s important to remember, that ‘human beings do not have to serve causes, causes have to serve human beings’ (Karl Barth, Against the Steam p.35).

If when talking about the GSP, our focus is on protecting family values, than the GSP is an easy sell. Protections that include internet safety for Children and adults with addictions are plain common sense. For true freedom to exist, it has to have a certain degree of parameters to ensure and uphold its existence. Otherwise, we become enslaved to the machine, and land somewhere in the Matrix.

However, if the goal of governance over the internet, such as the GSP, is the protection of an ideology, an unelected bureaucratic caste, the invasion and suppression of citizen’s rights, and that control is masked by propaganda about protecting family values, then instead of being controlled by the Matrix, we enter a land controlled by those who own the Matrix, which is as equally horrifying.


References:

[1] For a full explanation of this, see Jacques Ellul’s, 1965 publication, ‘Propaganda’.

[2] For a deeper reading of the history, see Bloomberg’s article called, Quicktake: The Great Firewall of China by Grant Clark

[3] McDonald, author of the UCL field study further claims that ‘such reactions can be understood as ways that townsfolk form a strategy for coping with inflexible  controls that they are  otherwise unable to influence’ (p.148). However, ‘the controls which receive the greatest attention outside China – the Great Firewall and deletion of social media posts – are the ones that typically concern local people the least […] Other systems of control – such as checking users’ ages and restricting access for young people – that act at a local level are immediately visible and very important to townsfolk. Some of these measures come from people’s own convictions about the appropriate use of social media, rather than just from state- imposed restrictions’ (p.150)

[4] Bloomberg: ‘Critics say China’s Great Firewall reflects its paranoia over the internet’s potential to spread opposition to one-party rule. As well as impeding freedom of speech, China’s approach constrains it economically, they say, by stifling innovation, preventing the exchange of important ideas and cutting access to services used by businesses like Google Cloud.’

[5] Greg Walton: ‘Many people in China have been arrested for Internet-related “crimes,” ranging from supplying e-mail addresses to Internet publications to circulating pro-democratic information or articles that are critical of the Chinese government, in blatant contradiction of international human rights law guaranteeing freedom of speech.’ (China Golden Shield, 2001)

[6] Greg Walton: ‘China’s Internet regulations and legislation are guided by the principle of “guarded openness” – seeking to preserve the economic benefits of openness to global information, while guarding against foreign economic domination and the use of the Internet by domestic or foreign groups to coordinate anti-regime activity.’ (China Golden Shield, 2001)

[7]  Stanford: ‘China even exports its technology to other countries such as Cuba, Zimbabwe, and Belarus.’ (The Great Firewall of China: Background. Sourced, 23rd January 2019)

[i] McDonald, T. 2016 Social Media In Rural China, ULC Press, U.K. Link to a free copy of the PDF  (p.146)

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2019

(Also published at The Caldron Pool, 24th January, 2019.)

78 year old, actorvist, James Cromwell, has predicted that “if we don’t stop Trump now, there will be blood in the streets.”

The actor and activist, most famous for his role as farmer, Arthur Hoggett in the 1995 movie ‘Babe’ (et.al), inferred that Trump was a fascist dictator, and that America was dangerously close to losing its democracy.

Variety reported that Cromwell made the “candid comments” during a quick Q & A, while walking up the red carpet. He was attending an award ceremony where he was also “honored for his work as a character actor.

According to Variety, Cromwell said,

“This is nascent fascism. We always had a turnkey, totalitarian state — all we needed was an excuse, and all the institutions were in place to turn this into pure fascism […] If we don’t stop [President Trump] now, then we will have a revolution for real. Then there will be blood in the streets.”
“We’re living in very curious times, and something is coming up which is desperately important to this country and to this planet, and that is an election, in which hopefully in some measure we are going to take back our democracy.
We will have a government that represents us and not the donor class. We will cut through the corruption, [and] we won’t have to do what comes next, which is either a non-violent revolution or a violent one, because this has got to end.”

If Cromwell is right, and America is heading for totalitarian rule, it’s difficult to see how Cromwell was able to freely speak his mind in public. Let alone be free to give a speech. All while moving without hindrance into an award ceremony where he was honoured for his work. This was all achieved without a special security detail to ward off any potential harassment from the alleged fascist dictator and his totalitarian minions.

Cromwell gave his speech in relative safety, was celebrated by his peers, and spoke his mind in public without fear of harassment; inferring that a bloody revolution needs to take place, in order to restore America to democracy.

It’s a pity that the same cannot be said for Conservatives like Ben Shapiro, who, when giving a speech at UC Berkley in 2017, saw the “Campus pay an approximate $600,000 for security, in order to anticipate violent protests” from the allegedly anti-Fascist, Leftist movement, Antifa.

If we add onto this, examples of people being assaulted for wearing MAGA hats, public personalities advocating for the assassination of Donald Trump, or the calls for people to harass Trump supporters and Trump administration officials, perhaps Cromwell is looking in the wrong direction.

If the fires of fascism are being stocked, Trump isn’t stoking the fire.

Exhibit A): 15 Stars Who Imagined Violence Against Donald Trump.

Exhibit B): 12,000 Assasination tweets: Trump’s Social Media Presence is a new challenge for the Secret Service

Exhibit C): Two Years of Democrats Calling for Assassinations & Hate

And who can forget the September 13, 2016, Washington Post article by Shalom Auslander, headlined:

‘Don’t Compare Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. It belittles Hitler.’

Or more recently, Democrat, Maxine Waters calling for the public harassment of men and women in the Trump administration:

“Tell them they’re not welcome.”

If James Cromwell is right, the “nascent fascism” isn’t coming from opponents of the Left, it’s coming from those on the Left.


Originally published, 1st November, 2018 on The Caldron Pool, under ‘Hollywood actor-vist warns: “There will be blood on the streets” if Democrats lose.’ 

©Rod Lampard, 2018

Photo by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash