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Conservative Political Commentary

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Lady Liberty

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden door.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

A Little Oppo Research
posted by Bathus

In a recent Weekly Standard article, Dean Barnett examined the pernicious influence liberal blogs have wrought upon the Democrat Party:
While conservative blogs remain for the most part virtual op-ed columns (with the notable exception of Charles Johnson's Little Green Footballs), the Daily Kos has become a virtual family which allows readers to write their own blogs-within-the-blog (called diaries) and to engage in limitless amounts of commenting. . . .

. . . .

[T]he Democratic party seems to be under the impression that [liberal] bloggers are an enormous, important constituency--and that it must go to whatever lengths necessary to win the hearts and minds of this virtual community.

This seems like a major miscalculation, because the politics of the left-wing blogs are far out of the American mainstream. Where most of the 120 million Americans who voted in the last election bear a benign indifference to political matters, the left half of the blogosphere seethes with hatred for George W. Bush and his supporters. What's more, the blogs take numerous positions that would strike all but the most passionate Democratic partisans as patently preposterous. . . .

Also, the level of discourse on the Daily Kos and other prominent liberal blogs is not something that would be attractive to the majority of the American public. The writings are often obscene and usually relentlessly hostile and negative. Crude personal attacks, whether aimed at right-wing bloggers or politicians, are the order of the day.
A few minutes scanning any of the more popular liberal blogs will confirm Barnett's thesis. Take for example this comment thread, excerpted from the most popular left-wing blog, Daily Kos, on Bush's nomination of John Roberts to the Supreme Court:
Did You Catch His Wife. When Roberts thanked his family, he mentioned his son, Jack...Roberts' wife's face fell. It was like a poker tell. I think we should research Jack.
by mayan on Tue Jul 19th, 2005 at 13:13:01 PDT

interesting observation, wonder if anything will come of it...
by storme on Tue Jul 19th, 2005 at 13:19:01 PDT

He's probably gay. Of course, this is how ridiculous rumors get started, but extreme conservatives seem to have a lot of homosexual children...
by Geotpf on Tue Jul 19th, 2005 at 13:19:08 PDT

Worse - he's a lesbian
by moltar on Tue Jul 19th, 2005 at 13:41:10 PDT

A Trangendered One at that. And an alcoholic and drug addict...That's how Karl starts the smearing process, isn't it???
by Volvo Liberal on Tue Jul 19th, 2005 at 13:50:14 PDT
Robert's son, Jack, is four years old.

posted by Bathus | 7/20/2005 11:36:00 AM
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Friday, July 15, 2005

Like Rabbits
posted by Bathus

From: Bathus
To: Victor Davis Hanson
Sent: Friday, July 15, 2005 1:30 PM
Subject: Why Do We Hate Us

Dear Mr. Hanson,

Thanks for another excellent analysis, which I would refine to this extent:

All three phenomena--moral equivalence, utopian pacifism, and multiculturalism--which you identify as the cause of the left's "false narrative" can be traced to a single origin: relativism. That origin seems to me to be obvious as to the first and the last of the three, and less directly, but no less completely to account for utopian pacifism as well. (I've explored this topic in my usual clunky and round-about way in a recent blog post titled The Final Paradox.)

The question (I ask rhetorically) is, What is it that seems to make contemporary Western culture so especially susceptible to the seductions of relativism?

I think the source of that susceptibility can be located in the predominate passion of a democratic people, the passion Tocqueville catalogued so well: the love of equality. Relativism appears to allow one to hold all things equal, which is the first instinct of the democratic soul.

Add to that instinct the Western intellectual heritage of self-examination and self-doubt (e.g., Socrates and Descartes), a heritage grotesquely corrupted by relativism; and then add to that relativism's false promise to free us from the weight of moral judgment, thereby allowing all of us to do (with a clear conscience and mutual "tolerance") whatever our desires suggest, and relativism's seduction is, for us good democrats, almost irresistible.

The left's "false narrative" you recount is merely a particular manifestation of the intellectual confusion and moral self-loathing that relativism finally engenders.

So then the question becomes: What: can we do about it? What sort of thing can help democracy resist this dangerous inclination toward relativism?

Formerly, the main answer was religious instruction, but that doesn't seem to be working out so well these days. Perhaps our saving grace might be the painful yet fortuitous reception of external forces, which by creating a clear and immediate threat to our very survival would cause us, as a matter of self-preservation, to abandon the self-indulgent luxury of self-doubt. However, that "solution" works only so long as the external threat has a certain intensity and immediacy. In other words, if the Islamists are smart, they will treat us somewhat like the proverbial frog in the pot of boiling water: more 7/7s but no more 9/11s. (Don't you think bin Laden would admit in hind-sight that 9/11 was a too spectacular to serve his ends?)

One is rescued more often by one's enemies' vices than by one's own virtues. In that regard, I would add another animal analogy: If we aren't going to fight this war aggressively (an uncertain matter after the expiration of GWB's term of office), perhaps our best hope is that the "chase instinct" of our adversaries will divert them from the more patient and cerebral tactic of boiling the Western frog slowly, i.e., that the jihadists' vicious passions will tempt them to close in for the kill prematurely, or at least to kill too many too soon. Indeed, one could say that the jihadists' animal instinct to kill what they see as weak and contemptuous (i.e., us!) is almost the only explanation for their resort to terrorism because, without setting off a single bomb, the jihadists could more easily defeat us demographically and culturally, as they are now defeating the French and the Germans. How strange it would be if it turned out that the better course of action for us, rather than sitting idle like frogs in the pot, might be to run like rabbits--enticing our enemies to chase and to corner us while we still retain some latent capacity to resist. (Salamis!)

That's all very interesting, to me at least, but perhaps the best solution to our confounded moral, military, demographic problem is a lot more straightforward over the long haul: Marry and have babies!

Thanks again for all your fine writing.


posted by Bathus | 7/15/2005 01:49:00 PM
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Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Manufactured in West Yorkshire, U.K., under Exclusive License Granted by the Government of Her Majesty the Queen
posted by Bathus

It appears that the London bombers differ from the 9/11 terrorists in one crucial respect.

If the breaking press reports turn out to be true, the London terrorists, just like the 9/11 hijackers, were young Muslim men of middle-eastern heritage. [Correction: One was a Jamaica-born convert to Islam.]

But unlike the 9/11 hijackers, all of whom had been recently exported to the United States specifically to carry out their attacks, the young Muslim men who killed themselves and their fellow passengers in London were British citizens or long-time residents, reared, educated, and indoctrinated within burgeoning Muslim communities of West Yorkshire, just a quick train ride from London.

Blair's government will certainly do all it can to overlook the disturbing fact that the London transit bombers were "home grown" terrorists. To the extent that Blair does acknowledge that fact, the emphasis will be on alleged "root causes," such as "poverty" and "social alienation."

In what will surely be a Herculean demonstration of studied ignorance, Blair will seek and no doubt receive the moral assistance of men such as Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams. At the very moment when bodies living and dead still smoldered unfound in dark and burned out tunnels beneath London's streets, the Archbishop was enjoying morning tea with his "Muslim colleagues and friends in West Yorkshire," whence he emerged to mumble placatory pieties about how "faith communities will have to continue to stand and work together for the well being of our nation." Yes, Blair will seek to ally himself in studied ignorance with men like Rowan, even though the most reverend doctor had previously implied that Blair's "regime" was a "threat to its citizens and others" and had "jeopardise[d] its claim to obedience."

Were these Muslim youths from West Yorkshire listening closely when Rowan preached that Blair's government was such a threat to them that they owed it no obedience?

For additional support, Blair can also count on a man whose visage cannot fail to inspire confidence, West Yorkshire Chief Constable Colin Cramphorn, the chief local law enforcement official in the area the London bombers called home. Perhaps to avoid distracting the citizenry's attention toward the danger of terrorist clubs expanding their ranks among Muslims within his jurisdiction, Cramphorn had counseled those terrorists' future victims that they must never use "the misleading terms 'Islamic' or 'Muslim' to describe supporters of violence against the west" because those appellations "risked alienating a significant community which had no sympathy with violence." (Historical note on the West Yorkshire Muslim community's sympathies: A quarter century ago, when Khomeini issued his fatwa condemning Salman Rushdie for writing The Satanic Verses, Muslims in Bradford, West Yorkshire, famously rioted to display their support--for the fatwa--and burned a few copies of Rushdie's book for good measure.) To drive home Cramphorn's point, late last year West Yorkshire police, working with Blair's Home Office and the Crown Prosecution Service, arrested British National Party Leader Nick Griffin along with several other BNP members on suspicion of inciting racial hatred.

My purpose here is neither to advocate nor to defend Griffin's politics or his positions. My point instead concerns the juxtaposition of his story and that of Omar Bakri Mohammed:

It appears that Griffin, who was running for Parliament from a West Yorkshire district, had gone on record stating that Islam is an "evil and vicious religion." According to this report, "in a statement following the arrests, West Yorkshire police proudly announced that it had deployed a team of officers on the case 'five days a week, ten hours a day'" for at least six months, presumably to further establish the case against Griffin and his fellow party members. When Nick Griffin announced that Islam was an evil religion, the West Yorkshire police, under the leadership of their aforementioned Chief Constable Colin Cramphorn, diverted against him substantial resources that might have been used to monitor terrorist rumblings in a region within their jurisdiction that had "become known for the growth of radical Islam."

In the days immediately following the 9/11 attacks, and even before the war in Afghanistan was launched, a Muslim cleric, Omar Bakri Mohammed, went to West Yorkshire to lead protests against the United States' actions against the Taliban. Bakri,"suspected of having links with Abu Qatada, the alleged Al-Qaeda leader in Europe," is the founder of the radical Muslim group, al-Muhajiroun ("the immigrants"), which is "known to recruit among young British Muslims." But the West Yorkshire police declared that they were "powerless to stop" Bakri from leading protests in Bradford "despite a Government ban on political rallies." One month later Muslim youths from Luton were the very first Brits to die in Afghanistan, where they were fighting on the Taliban side. All signs indicate that they were recruited through Bakri's organization. More recently, two of Bakri's "students" matriculated from his tutelage to take up "advanced studies" as suicide bombers for Hamas in Israel. A yet more chilling "coincidence": right after the Madrid bombings, Bakri warned in a published interview that it was "'inevitable' that London would be hit by a large attack 'because they are being prepared by various groups'" that were on "the verge of launching a big operation." Bakri is said to have recently "disbanded" al-Muhajiroun, but, at last report, the man himself still walks free in Britain.

A prediction: I have no idea whether the London bombers (whose names have just now been released) were in any way connected with Bakri. But it seems likely that these young men received an indoctrination and were recruited domestically. After bloggers and the MSM have a little time to scrutinize the bombers' backgrounds and "connect the dots" between them and their handlers, or even if it turns out that these four young men were acting entirely on their own initiative, the Blair government's embarrassment will increase a hundred-fold as the British public begins to learn the extent to which the resources of Her Majesty's Government have been deployed in ways that failed to prevent, enabled, and even encouraged an "education in terror" for specifically these four young Muslim men from West Yorkshire.

UPDATE (07/14/05) This is no surprise:
LEEDS -- The transformation of four young British men into terrorists appears to have taken place at a government-funded storefront youth centre in Leeds that, according to youth workers, was a hub of radical Islamist activity.

The centre was sealed off and searched by police yesterday after three of its workers said in an interview on the street outside that at least two of the suicide bombers had been "very regular" visitors at all hours to the Hamara Youth Access Point, and a third had been seen there occasionally.

"It had become so radical and so hateful that I asked if I could stop working there," said one of the workers, who along with two others described the storefront drop-in centre as a hub of radical Muslim politics and a hotbed of Islamic organizing, routinely hosting mysterious figures to speak about extremist politics.

. . . .

"It's fair to say that there was some kind of recruiting going on here," one of the workers said. "Some of the youth workers were really involved with it, and it got to the point where they were acting really hostile to anyone who wasn't their kind of Muslim."

As the interview was taking place on the street, police cordoned off the building, expelled people from neighbouring buildings and began a detailed search of the youth centre.

The centre receives funding from the British government and the European Union, as well as charitable funds, and as such is officially secular and non-political. But in practice, it was neither. On its walls were posters from the Respect Party, an extremist pro-Islamic party founded by MP George Galloway, that showed Israeli soldiers pointing rifles at Palestinian children. When some workers complained about these, they were harassed by other staffers.

posted by Bathus | 7/12/2005 10:14:00 PM
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Friday, July 08, 2005

The Final Paradox
posted by Bathus

"The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Though Roosevelt spoke not of violent conflict but of economic collapse, his famous paradox has become the line most often quoted both by those on the political right and by those on the political left to justify their prescriptions in the West's present confrontation with Islamist terrorism.

Those on the pacific left quote Roosevelt to legitimize their accusation that right-wing warmongers and profiteers have incited and exploited irrational fear to coerce a sheep-like public to accept an overly-militarist and misdirected response, to the detriment of implementation of a more peaceful solution and preservation of individual rights. Those on the right quote the same words, calling into question the courage of the anti-war left, with the charge that their fear of retaliation makes them grovel toward an irrational and ultimately self-defeating appeasement.

There is, potentially, a grain of truth in the charges both the right and the left bring against the other: a reaction to fearful circumstances could be excessive in either direction. And so, it seems that Roosevelt's rhetorical flourish, while heightening our consciousness of the dangers at either extreme, gives us no guidance as to how closely our present course adheres to the virtuous mean.

Notwithstanding its grains of tautological truth, in our day Roosevelt's stirring paradox not only fails to reveal the truth about our present condition, but actually veils and nurtures a deeper and more dangerous paradox. These days Roosevelt's words hardly inspire confidence and are rarely used with an intention to inspire confidence. Instead, the intent and the effect nowadays of almost every use of Roosevelt's words is to inspire us to wonder, "Are we fearing the right kind of fear?"

But the real danger for us is neither a paralyzing fear nor an irrational rage. Those who oppose a forceful response to terrorism are anything but paralyzed. To the contrary, they are among the most active, with their movies, their protests, and their endless litigations. They do not seek to appease our enemies. What most of them seek, let us speak the obvious truth, is to incite and inflame our enemies' anger toward us, and, more than that, to incite a self-hatred among our own people. As much as those activists would have us believe otherwise, the real danger for us is not that we could be misled by our own purportedly irrational rage. A nation that tortures itself on the minuscule details of an accusation, ridiculous even if true, that its warriors have "mishandled" a few Korans, cannot colorably be accused of excessive rage. The real danger for us is not "fear itself," but self-criticism transformed into self-doubt, transformed into self-loathing, and finally into self-negation.

If he were speaking in the latter half of the twentieth century, and especially if he were speaking to the post-9/11 Western world, Roosevelt would have more aptly said, "We have nothing to fear but self-doubt."

Yes, fear can be paralyzing to some, but in the event rarely is so. The instinctive human response to the fear of grave and immediate danger is not to stand still but "to fight or to flee." If there is nowhere to flee, to fight becomes the only possible response. Thus, in the months immediately after 9/11, while we remained as it were in the grip of fear, when it seemed there was no place of safety from attackers who crashed civilian jets into our tallest buildings in our largest city, to flee was not an option. As a people, we seemed resolved to fight. Self-doubts were, if not extinguished altogether, submerged in the moment of existential fear.

It is only as fear abates that self-doubt can begin to re-emerge.

The terrorists understand this. They understand that, for all but a very few extremely weak-willed or horribly corrupted souls, the immediate instinctive reaction to their brutal attacks will be rage. Indeed, if the terrorists still fear anything about us, it is our rational rage, that healthy life-affirming emotion for which we yet retain a latent capacity. They understand that, so long as we retain that capacity, after each attack they must expect to absorb or avoid the blows of our rage for some time. But they are confident that as our immediate fear abates, our rage will dissipate also. For the French and the Germans, that rage can be measured in days. For the Spanish, it can be measured in hours. For the Americans, the clock is still ticking. For the British people, with the bombings in London yesterday the clock was reset, and no one knows this time how long it will run. But the terrorists are confident that eventually we will lose even the instinctive capacity for rage, and the clock will stop altogether.

Thus, they employ fear merely as a catalyst, administered judiciously with varying intensity in cycles of various lengths. Within each cycle, as our fear is absorbed and metabolized in the collective psyche, the fear refines and crystallizes the prevailing sentiments. In the presence of a dissipating fear, pre-existing sentiments of self-doubt transform and harden into self-loathing and a will to self-negation. Pre-existing sentiments of self-respect and self-confidence transform and stiffen into the calm resolution of a will to prevail against enemies who are so obviously our moral inferiors.

The doubt I speak of is not a Rooseveltian concern about whether we fear too much or fear too little or fear the wrong things, but rather the more fundamental doubt about whether we--we the United States and we the West--deserve morally to prevail in our confrontation with Islamic fundamentalism.

We in the West must balance ourselves forever in a precariously paradoxical position, one that requires an equilibrium that it would be unimaginable to sustain for long had not the culture of the West been performing that magical act with generally increasing success for the last several hundred years. For self-questioning is itself a vital principle of Western values. With an honest irony that eludes contemporary self-doubters, Socrates could brag that his superior wisdom consisted in his knowledge that he knew nothing. In self-doubt, Descartes managed to confirm the palpable truth of his own existence. His "I doubt, therefore I am," expresses perfectly the paradox of Western culture. To us in the West, self-examination has rightly been understood as, if not virtue itself, a pre-condition of virtue. Yet in our present struggle against Islamofascism, more so even than in our struggle against communism, this impulse to self-criticism, this pre-condition of Western virtue, has been corrupted in a way that could finally be our moral and mortal undoing. We are losing our balance.

For this loss of balance, we can blame the ascendancy of the moral and cultural relativists, who assert that all purported "truths" espoused anywhere at any time are in reality merely the preferences of a particular culture in a particular place in time. In other words, all "truths" are "culturally relative" and "historically relative." The "truths" an Islamist terrorist holds dear are as valid from his point of view as the "truths" we hold dear are valid from our point of view. One man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. There is no genuine basis to distinguish between them. The relativisists teach that the "truths" we hold to be "self-evident" are not truths at all, but are merely the preferences of some long-dead white guys (who really didn't believe those so-called truths themselves, but were only mouthing those fancy words to distract the masses from their power grab).

Furthermore, even aside from the non-existence of moral truth, the relativists explain that, because we are all blinded by the value system in which we were acculturated, we have no capacity to judge the goodness or evil of any culture of which we are not a part. Inasmuch as we have no grounds to judge the goodness or evil of the acts and practices of other cultures, we have no moral standing to judge ourselves superior to them, and we certainly have no moral standing to go to war against them, even when they attack us, because we simply cannot make a valid judgment about whether their attacks were just or unjust. Sure we didn't like it when they killed thousands of our innocent civilians, but they didn't like it when we started selling Coca Cola in Saudi Arabia. Who's to judge which was the worse offense? Besides, you can't properly discuss these things using words like "justice" and "innocent" because such terms are laden with impermissible value judgments.

Yet, even though we cannot, according to the relativists, justify our wrath on moral grounds, can we not--aside from any moral question--appeal to a basic instinct of self-preservation of which the impulse to rage in the presence of danger is the most obvious natural manifestation? But then arises the question, "Do we even deserve to survive?" In making that judgment we are not permitted to compare the goodness of our culture with that of one that seeks to exterminate us. No, the relativists remind us that all we can rightly assess is our own culture, the extent to which we adhere to the moral principles we purport to uphold. We cannot make moral use of the comparative fact that our enemies slaughter children for their parents' religion, while we, albeit imperfectly, uphold a principle of freedom of religion for all faiths.

Abstracted from any trans-historical or trans-cultural context (i.e., abstracted from the practical and imperfect world as it is, as it was, and as it is likely to be), self-examination becomes an unbalanced process, a spirit-draining one-sided game we play against ourselves and are guaranteed to lose, a game in which we measure ourselves against an absolute scale of our own highly developed standards of civilized behavior, while granting our implacable enemies complete immunity from all moral judgment. We inevitably discover that we fall short of the principles we espouse. To the relativists, the fact that our enemies slaughter children for their parents' religion is irrelevant, while the "mishandling" of a few Korans is highly revelatory. Indeed, insofar as adherence to their principles is concerned, our enemies are superior to us in that they adhere more consistently to their principle that children of infidels can be slaughtered to advance the jihad, while we do not perfectly uphold our principle of respect for all religions. The relativists believe that there is no truth worth dying for, yet believe at the same time that our enemies' apparently endless willingness to sacrifice themselves and numberless innocents somehow lends credence to their bloody cause. Unlike the philosophy of a Socrates or a Descartes, for whom self-doubt was the impetus for deeper moral inquiry, in the contemporary thought dominated by relativists, self-doubt is a moral dead end--not exactly an absolute dead end, but a dead end with a trap door opening into an empty abyss of self-negation.

Relativism, is of course, utter nonsense, manifestly self-contradictory in its fundamental claim: "There is no truth!" a contradiction rendered only slightly more obvious when fully restated as, "The truth is there is no truth!" It is all too easy to understand why generations of academicians would have become enraptured, and still are enraptured, by such foolishness. What is slightly more difficult to understand is why the nonsense assertion that "the truth is there is no truth" could have gained currency in popular (small d) democratic political thought.

To some extent the emergence of popular relativism is attributable to the elite relativists' having in the last century secured a virtual monopoly in the social institutions--the arts, academia, the press, and to a lesser extent religion--that have historically served as anchors of moderation and counter-weights to extremes in popular political opinion. But a more complete explanation of the ascendancy of relativism in popular political thought can be traced to the innate and powerful inclination of democratic peoples to want to hold all things equal.

In democracies, with our love of equality, we are overly fond of believing that no one's opinion is superior to any other's. In the face of conflicting truth claims, we seem forced to choose one as superior to the other, and we are uncomfortable making such a choice because it would seem to violate the democratic principle that every man (and his opinion) is the equal of any other man (and his opinion). Relativism saves us from the distressing choice. It allows us to say with a straight face that both opinions are equally true for the persons who hold them. Everything becomes a matter of personal preference, and it all seems so affable and tolerant. As the relativists mouth their pernicious pseudo-philosophy, they can congratulate themselves for their intellectual subtlety. One of the subsidiary paradoxes of relativism is that each of its proponents considers himself an intellectual superior. But the relativist is intellectually the laziest and most self-deceiving of human types, for he believes he vanquishes every opponent with just one triumphant rejoinder: "That's just your opinion, and who are you to judge!" Whenever someone deploys that non-sequitur, you can be sure that he is a relativist, even if he would not recognize himself as one. And if you ever make use of that line yourself, you should consider the possibility that insidious relativism has taken hold of your own soul as well.

Just as relativism relieves its adherents from the discomfort of expressing moral judgments about others, which every democratic spirit by nature wishes mightily to avoid, it also seems to relieve them from the awful weight of moral judgments about themselves. The great seduction, and the great deception, of relativism is that it promises to free its adherents from self-doubt, because it allows them to assert confidently without examination or argument that whatever moral values they settle upon are as good as any others. What once appeared to be dubious moral values are now all merely "alternative lifestyle choices." Any argument against them can be easily dismissed: "That's just your opinion, and who are you to judge!" When one's lifestyle choices are challenged, one need not defend them with rational arguments about the better and the worse. There is no better and worse. In the relativist world, even "opinion" becomes too strong a word because an "opinion" implies underlying reasons, but for the relativist there can be no valid reasons. Eventually all that remain are "preferences." It's enough to say, "This is my choice based on my preferences, and it is as good as any other." To suggest that some choices are better than others is to commit the only relativist sin--the sin of intolerance.

So how does one exist as a relativist? Well, the truth is one can't actually operate in the world as a practicing relativist. The relativists, being human, make moral judgments. They tell us that it is "wrong to be judgmental," but the command not to be judgmental entails, of course, a moral judgment. We humans are, by nature, judging creatures. Our psychic life requires moral judgment as much as our physical life requires air to breathe. And so the moral self-doubt reappears when relativism, which seemed so comfortably attached to democratic values of freedom of thought and tolerance, pronounces as it must that those very democratic values are in fact no better than any others. This marks the beginning of relativist self-doubt among democratic peoples. For one cannot live without self-doubt under a theory that judges that the devotion one feels to Western values has no rational moral basis and is merely a "preference," no more worthy to persist on this earth than the Islamofascist preferences of its attackers.

Yet instead of abandoning their contradictions, which would require giving up a pleasant amorality, (actually an immorality that promises to permit the unquestioned satisfaction of all desires), the relativists--like all zealots--become more vehement in their fallacy, which they champion under the noble-sounding cause of tolerance. But at the core of their souls, the democratic relativists have those doubts, and those doubts are the fertile ground for the growth of self-loathing. As I have written previously in this space:
The shapers of opinion on the left embrace the contemporary moral laxity, which allows them openly and freely to pursue and enjoy the personal and financial fruits of debauchery while ridiculing their critics as "judgmental moralistic bigots." Yet at some deep level they feel ashamed of themselves and this shame manifests itself in self-loathing. Those on the left, lacking steadfastness of moral principles of their own, find something attractive in the steadfastness of the moral clarity the Islamofascists claim for themselves. Thus, twenty-five years ago the political and intellectual leaders of the Western left made their pilgrimages to Paris to sit cross-legged at the feet of Ayatollah Khomeni. In domestic economic matters, this phenomenon of leftist self-loathing has long been correctly identified as "limousine liberalism." They sense that, morally speaking, we are all going to hell in handcarts. But the ride is too pleasant to resist, so they assuage their guilt by fretting over whether the upholstery of some handcarts is too plush compared to some others.
Now consider all this in light of yesterday's terrorist attack in London. When terrorists attack a Western people, they know well that among its countrymen and allies will be many whom relativism has predisposed not only to equivocate the brutality, but to form a fifth column.

Yes, while fear prevails, we can expect to hear the usual statements of national and international solidarity against terrorism. While fear prevails, most of the relativists will remain confusedly silent, for among them are many of those thoroughly corrupted souls in whom fear engenders not rage, but a confused paralysis. While the fear prevails, some relativists, even those who had in the not too distant past openly embraced terrorist sympathizers, might now go so far as to vent what remains of their honest instinctual rage in an almost unequivocal condemnation of the attacks. But as the fear abates, the voices of the self-loathing critics will gain strength and multiply. As the fear subsides further, the relativists, even the ones who were initially (mildly) outraged, will be unable to bring themselves to condemn their attackers because that would require what is for them an impermissible trans-cultural value judgment.

And thus, as the fear abates, the relativists' critique can only turn inward. (How quickly this can happen!) But though the relativists make moral judgments as much as (even more than) anyone else, the intellectual flaccidly of their theory has left them bereft of the capacity for sensible and rigorous judgment, the kind of sense and rigor that is a pre-requisite to the most difficult, dangerous, and necessary critique: the moral examination of one's own self. And so the relativists will not aim their criticism directly against themselves, for the lazy habits of their theory ("That's just your opinion!") have cost them the moral strength that a such a precise self-criticism would require.

Instead, they will excuse themselves and deflect the ire of their self-loathing toward their own people, their own culture, their own values, their own leaders, their own soldiers, their own countries, which are no longer really their own, because--as the relativists themselves would assert--an attachment to their own people and culture and values depends entirely upon historical accident. As their fear subsides, the vehemence of the relativists' critique will exactly equal the vehemence of their self-loathing. They will try to teach others the bitter lessons of their angry self-doubt, the lesson that we are no better than our enemies, the lesson that we fail to uphold our own values, the lesson that it's all about blood for oil, the lesson that we have no right to impose our values on other peoples, the lesson that we have unjustly incited our attackers, and the ultimate lesson that we do not deserve to prevail in our death-struggle against the Islamists.

After the fear subsides, the terrorists will wait to give the relativists time to spread their teachings as far as possible. Then they will strike us again, and the cycle will begin anew. At the end of it all, if the terrorists have calculated correctly, we in the West will all have arrived at the ultimate paradox, the point at which one does not have to be a relativist to ask oneself, "Does a culture that can no longer locate the moral grounds from which to defend its own values deserve to survive?"

posted by Bathus | 7/08/2005 06:32:00 AM
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