Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Metapost

Another really busy week. I have some stuff I really want to post about, but it's going to have to wait until the weekend, probably. see you then.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Statist Fallacy

While preparing for my next column about the Clean Air Manhattan campaign (CAM), a campaign circulating a petition to ban smoking in private establishments (which, disingenuously, they constantly refer to as "public"), I came across this argument, from the Q and A section of the CAM page:

Shouldn't restaurants be allowed to decide for themselves whether or not to allow smoking inside?

Restaurants, bars and other places that serve food or drink are heavily regulated by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA). For instance temperatures at which food must be stored are regulated. Raw food can't be stored next to other food. Sprinkler systems are required in case of fire. The list goes on. This is all to protect these establishments' workers and patrons, just as a smoking ban requiring smoke-free air would do.


What a perverse form of reasoning! They use the fact that there are already existing restrictions on liberty to justify further restrictions! It's like if your car were to get a flat tire, would you then say, "Well, might as well give it another"?

For libertarian reasons, I think the FDA should be abolished (Cafe Hayek has written a lot on that), but one doesn't even have to agree with this admittedly extreme position to see why sanitation and fire regulations are different than the proposed smoking regulations.

Sanitation and fire regulations can be justified because a person doesn't have knowledge of a private establishments sanitation and fire safety conditions, and so can't be said to have tacitly agreed to accept whatever harm might come to them as a result of these conditions. However, a person knows immediately whether or not people are smoking when they enter, and so if they still decide to patronize that store, then they have entered into a tacit agreement to accept the risks of inhaling that smoke.

But, back to my first point, using the fact of existing regulations as the justification for more--that is what I call the "Statist Fallacy." This fallacy also takes the form of "Well, the government already does this for you, so why not this other thing?" But this is a road with no end, save that of serfdom. For if previous restrictions on freedom can justify more restrictions on freedom, then what is to stop this snowball from pulverizing all the freedoms we hold dear? Remember, as shown above, all regulations need to be justified separately, and rigorously, to preserve our free society, and the fact of previous regulation can NEVER justify further regulation.

The Statist Fallacy justifies an enthusiastic Slip 'n Slide down the slippery slope to fascism. Be on the lookout.

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Diversity, intent and KU--a fisking

Recently, KU had a diversity mini-fracas about representation of minorities in a University Daily Kansan annual special feature, Sex on the Hill. I don’t know what “Sex on the Hill” is, and in lieu of actually finding out, I’ll just note, with a condescending Manhattan shrug, that it sounds like something that would happen in Lawrence.

I guess there’s nothing wrong with “Sex on the Hill” qua subversion of traditional morality, but if enough of those sexing on the hill aren’t DIVERSITY! enough for the dainty liberal sensitivities of the self-proclaimed enlightened, then bring out the fainting couch.

Anyways, enough prelude. Here is the column that started it.

"Picture this: more diversity"


Impudent, belligerent, callow and undermining. Courageous, empowered, impassioned and defiant. These words describe how I responded to the cover and content of last week’s Sex on the Hill, an annual special section of The University Daily Kansan.
Okay, she’s obviously working toward some rhetorical paradox in the first two sentences, possibly juxtaposing her initial reaction with her more considered, proactive secondary reaction.

Nevertheless, let’s just note that she admitted that she found this special feature “empower[ing].” So whatever complaint she has with the cover and content of Sex on the Hill, she has already admitted that she was “empowered” by it. A stunning admission, and not just rhetorical excess, but a Freudian slip that reveals more than she might have wanted to. I’ll explore this at the end.*

I incited a classroom of students to rip up their copy of the Kansan last Wednesday. I presented the refuse to the newsroom; and I wrote a mass e-mail, eliciting assistance to do another Sex on the Hill, which would span the broad spectrum of diversity at the University of Kansas. [emphasis added]
Why, she’s incited a modern book burning! How open-minded, destroying that with which you disagree. Don’t fear the unknown, Oborny [whoops, sorry for that spoiler, but that’s her name].

Remember Heinrich Heine’s famous admonishment "Where they have burned books, they will end in burning human beings.” This has a corollary, “Where they have torn up newspapers, they will end in really pissing off the janitor.”

Consequently, I earned an audience with a broad spectrum of opinions. Confused? The e-mail contained my analysis of both the front cover of SotH and some of its content, which I found lacked the diversity that befits a college newspaper.
I could write a book on that last sentence (well, someone more knowledgable than me could, anyways). Indeed, a book needs to be written on that last sentence, about the ethics of journalism. Since when has DIVERSITY! become the purpose of a college newspaper? What of objectivity, reporting the world as it is rather than an idealized projection of what the world should be? The pursuit of DIVERSITY! in newspaper coverage is usually achieved only by glossing over the real racial problems of society. Contrived DIVERSITY! in newspaper coverage is an artificial, demeaning thing, like a Special Olympics of news coverage. Much more needs to be said here. But, meh, not feeling it now, dog.

From talking to co-workers, classmates and friends, I have been told that one of my more extremist statements was likening the representation of the female on the cover to the image of the virgin whore, which is to say that she is supposed to appear innocent and vulnerable, while exhibiting an unconscionable [I think she means “unconscious”--ed] sexuality.

Also, upon further inquiry, I discovered that the model was part-Korean and part-Caucasian. As a result, my initial reason for wanting to know why another white, heterosexual-looking couple was the main photo illustration had been short-sighted. However, to me, representing a minority (I know people will take issue with that label, and I encourage you to do so) in that way, with the Caucasian male holding her, facilitates her position as the weaker individual.

I must admit that I find such deep psychoanalysis of a picture to be more projection than anything, an indication of Ms. Oborny’s own feminist sensibilities rather than of some patriarchal newspaper conspiracy. It simply is the case that men traditionally hold the women in pictures. You can read whatever subtext into this you want, but if it were the other way around, if women traditionally held the men, then you can bet that Ms. Oborny would be screaming about how the picture symbolized the subjugation of men before women, an indication of female submission to testosterone-fueled male dominance.

There are several other comments with which readers took issue.

The main opposition to the proceeding argument was that everyone else, both readers and staff, did not see what I saw. I have been reminded repeatedly that the staff never meant to intentionally offend anyone; and I recognize that several of the photographs and content were presented in a humorous light. However, that does not make it right.

Intent doesn’t matter. That’s what Oborny is getting at. Intent is irrelevant to her. In the future I hope to write more about this—the death of intent at the hands of postmodernist and deconstructionist hermeneutics and what it means for society—but let me just say, for now, without intent there can be no meaning.

Intentionality defines human actions, and so without intentionality an action is not human—it is natural. If an action, or a picture in this case, has not been imbued with intent by its creator, then it has no meaning. It is like a face that appears in a plume of smoke. That is the difference between intentional actions (actions with a human agent) and natural occurences.

So, for Oborny to say that intent doesn’t matter for her, is for her to say that this picture is just a couple of faces in a plume of smoke. As such, Oborny is free to imbue in this picture whatever meaning she wants. When there is no intent, then meaning can be declared freely by the interpreter. In essence, she has made herself the photographer here, and so can declare what the meaning of the pictures are. Also, by saying that intent doesn't matter, Oborny has indicated that a random coalescing of letters in her Alphbits soup into an offensive word is enough to offend her. Which, maybe that isn't so far off.


I am a 21-year-old, middle class, non-religious, heterosexual, white, female college student. It takes work for me to see racism because I am white. I can see misogyny and the patriarchy because I was not born a male. I have trouble seeing poverty because I have never known financial discomfort.

We are so often barraged with images and words perpetuating the status quo that we never think to question them, especially if one is placed higher on the societal scale.

Ms. Oborny doesn’t really mean this, despite herself. If the higher a person is placed on the social scale is indicative of their propensity to question the status quo, then why do Hollywood movie stars adopt any number of radical-chic stances (which I’m sure Oborny would classify as “questioning the status quo”) whereas people in rural areas , lower down on the status scale, are more likely to vote conservative and hew to traditional conceptions of morality?

And Oborny can’t just mean that those that benefit from the status quo are more likely to want to perpetuate it, because this would be a “thinking” commitment, rather than an unthinking one.

Honestly, I wondered why only why only [sic] Christian sources were consulted in the virginity piece, because, in addition to Christianity, there are other religions that support celibacy. Also, there are non-religious people out there who have chosen to wait.
And sometimes I wonder why only minorities are asked about oppression when whites experience it, too. That's what happens when you use labels to define people, as DIVERSITY! does.

A teacher reminded me the other day that big revolutions begin with small ones. I am not a journalist, an outstanding civic leader or even the foremost authority on these issues; but I recognized a symptom of the over arching disease of discrimination.
You’re not the “foremost authority on these issues”? Such humility!

And, actually, by her own admission, Oborny DOESN’T recognize “a symptom of the over arching disease of discrimination.” Oborny admitted that this isn’t about intent, but rather about her interpretation of a picture. But, if it isn’t about intent, then how can there be “discrimination”? Intent is at the heart of discrimination. Discrimination is the conscious discernment between alternatives, the ability to make fine distinctions. It is not even possible to conceive how one can make “fine distinctions” (in this case based on race, class and gender) without intent. Is one unconsciously making fine distinctions? If so, then how are they fine, how are they even distinctions?

Discrimination presupposes intent. Oborny has indicated that there was no intent. Oborny has nowhere to stand on claims of discrimination. She could bring up the something like “unconscious discrimination” but that is immediately self-contradictory, like saying something is “black white” or, more to the point “intentionally unintentional.” Discrimination is, by definition, intentional and conscious (but I repeat myself).

You might agree with my viewpoint. You might disagree. You might feel somewhere in-between.
Agreement is irrelevant if you can’t put forward an internally consistent viewpoint. You are simply being irrational, in the formal sense of the word. Your argument contradicts itself.

I just hope you engage yourself. Think about what you see, hear and experience; and act on it. Whether it’s staging a march, buying a CD or book, writing a column (they will publish it even if you do plenty to alienate them beforehand), just talking to someone or choosing to remain passive; it’s participating. The outcome will be as multifaceted and multi layered as society; but that’s how dissatisfaction becomes change.
Okay, this is cruel, excessive snark, but how, exactly, is “choosing to remain passive” a form of “engage[ing] yourself” or “participating”?

*As I mentioned earlier, Oborny's seemingly paradoxical admission that she found the cover and content (which she found to be lacking in diversity) to be "empower[ing]" is a very revealing Freudian slip. Leftists hold empowerment to be one of the highest goods available to a person (or, rather, in their estimation, to a race, or some either identity-group demographic). To be empowered is to be self-actualized. To be empowered is to transcend your mundane, quotidian existence, to break free from the imposed conformity and degredation of the capitalist system, to a higher existence.

Oborny experiences empowerment by finding phantasms of discrimination everywhere. She experiences empowerment through discrimination--another seeming paradox, that actually explains a great deal. Oborny's happiness (as defined through her empowerment) is intimately connected with discrimination. If there were no more discrimination, say, because the intent of the alleged discriminators was obviously benign, what would she do? Invent some? Deny intent? Claim interpretive primacy over the photographer and imbue new meaning through a creative, feminist interpretation, from which she can then feel empowered?

The only intent is her own. She is the discriminator**.

[h/t Lisa K. You can read another response (one printed in the University Daily Kansan) at Cool Blue Reason, and also an entertaining fisking of the response to that response.

update: **not really, but, like, metaphorically, y'know?

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Metapost

Real busy week. I'll try to post tomorrow/weekend.

Meanwhile, heh. I always thought Caufield just needed a good slap across the face. Poseur.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Diversty as relativistic conservatism

I found an excellent article, via Political Theory Daily Review, which makes some points that I’ve been meaning to make, and which have been swishing around in my head for the past week.

The Poverty of Multiculturalism
Today, to criticise multiculturalism, one is invariably derided as 'right wing' or 'reactionary'. Conversely, to champion multiculturalism, one is invariably perceived as 'progressive' or 'of the left'. But it should be, and historically it has been, the other way around. Multiculturalism represents the antithesis of the Enlightenment principle of colour-blindness and the notion of the universality of humankind - while the fetishisation of ethnic particularism is a quintessentially Tory ideal. The liberal-left's love affair with multiculturalism today is a betrayal of what it used to stand for.

From Edmund Burke to Roger Scruton, traditional conservatives have attached greater importance to place, tradition and culture, while those on the Left had a far greater affinity with the tenets of the Enlightenment and the idea of the brotherhood of humanity.
Multiculturalism, or to use the common parlance, ‘diversity’ is an ultraconservative concept. It sees progress as bad; indeed, it denies the very concept of progress. Progress requires that one can conceive of a better society, and that steady reform is possible to move society closer to this concept of the good society. Multiculturalists, under the sway of an enervating relativism and bolstered by the sophistic thought of postmodernists, deny that there is a “better” society possible. There is no Archimedes lever upon which one can set one’s feet and move the world, no objective standards by which societies can be judged, and by which positive social change can be made—instead, all is a descent into a relativistic tar pit of cultural contingency.

It’s not difficult to see how “diversity” is ultraconservative and antithetical to liberalism and, indeed, progress in general. Diversity is based on the belief (it can be no more than a belief, by its own admission, because it denies the possibility of knowledge) that all values arise and are relevant only within the context of a culture, and so the values of one culture cannot be used to evaluate the values of another cultural. They deny that there can be a metavalue system to referee between all the different competing value systems. This is a postmodernist notion: Jean-Francois Lyotard, in his seminal book, “The Postmodern Condition,” defined postmodernism as an “incredulity towards metanarratives.”

To see how even modern Liberalism is undermined by the ultraconservatism of diversity, take the issue of gay marriage. According to diversity, gay marriage advocates have no ground to stand on in their attempts to change the traditional marriage culture. Their talk of metanarratives like “liberty” and “equality” are ethnocentric views which cannot be forced on Christians, Muslims, or anyone that thinks gay marriage is undesirable, for whatever reason.

Back to the article:


[…]

Multiculturalism in subsequent years has acted only to divide the population into groupsicles of competing ethnicities who feel they have nothing in common with each other. What is more, redistributive politics are not accepted when people feel they have to share with strangers, who are 'not like us'. In an article in the liberal monthly, Prospect, in December 2000, Alan Wolfe and Jytte Klausen argued: 'Solidarity and diversity are both desirable objectives. Unfortunately, they can also conflict. A sense of solidarity creates a readiness to share with strangers, which in turn underpins a thriving welfare state. But it is easier to feel solidarity with those who broadly share your values and way of life. Modern progressives committed to diversity often fail to acknowledge this.' Diversity and solidarity, both sound bites of the Left, can be mutually antagonistic.

That “diversity” is opposed to “solidarity” is obvious. If differences brought us together, then there would be no reason to encourage diversity—we would naturally be brought together into groups with those radically different to us, encouraged to do so by the cohesive effects of diversity. As it is, we tend to associate with people we can identify with. That is an uncontroversial truth.

Nevertheless, it is held as self-evident by diversiphiles that highlighting our differences will make us more united. It is impossible to argue with a diversiphile on this, because they simply assume it as a premise, effectively begging the question. They have been so successful in this practice, that they have successfully redefined diversity to include unity—an Orwellian sleight-of-hand which creates a false linguistic façade over the stark reality of homogeneity as solidarity and heterogeneity as a source of conflict.

The postmodern obsession with language as constituting reality (a variation on the socialist belief that our reality is socially constructed, rather than constructed by natural forces—for example, say, the common feminist belief that there are no inherent differences between men and women, and that all observable differences can be explained by social conditioning rather than biology) makes this dangerous semantic game more common.

If there is no objective reality, reality instead being contingent upon the language we use to describe this reality, then control of the language itself becomes a means of controlling reality. Speech codes, political correctness, rampant accusations of sexism and racism, intent-disregarding hermeneutics such as Derridean deconstruction—these are the linguistic tools by which the postmodern left hopes to modify our perception of the world, or, in their view, modify the world itself. Double-plus ungood, that.

Back to the article:


[…]

Edmund Burke, Benjamin Disraeli and Michael Oakeshott are paleoconservative heroes, and detractors of the Enlightenment. Since Hayek and Popper, however, many on the Right have come to embrace the universalist aspects of the Enlightenment. Simultaneously, many on the Left have moved in the other direction.

I find this interesting, because Hayek and Popper are my favorite philosophers. However, one could question Hayek’s inclusion here as embracing universalist aspects of the Enlightenment. Indeed, Hayek was a vicious critic of the caustic hyper-rationality of many leftists, which I think Hayek even traced back to the Enlightenment, that ate through traditions and institutions, leaving the flimsy tenements of rational, centralized planning in their place. Hayek’s view’s on the evolution of traditions as a reason for accepting them, which I have wrote on before, also does come dangerously close to embracing a form of naturalistic relativism (believing something is good, simply because it exists), a possible consequence of his views that I do find somewhat disturbing, and that I’m still contemplating. Hayek’s evolutionist views notwithstanding, he was a strong believer in the universality of the liberal tradition. Popper fits the universalist mold perfectly, although I think someone could take his epistemological views and twist them into an endorsement of relativism (he believed that we can never know that we know the truth—not that there is no truth, just that we can never be sure that we currently know it and so should be open to new views).

The article, again:

[...]

Another to put his head above the parapet is the gay rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who rebutted accusations that his effort to ban homophobic reggae singers is racist. 'Some defend violently anti-gay reggae music on the grounds that homophobia is "part of Jamaican culture". Racism was part of Afrikaaner culture in apartheid South Africa, but that did not make it right', Tatchell wrote in the Guardian in August 2004. 'The real racism is not our campaign against murder music, but most people's indifference to the persecution of gay Jamaicans. No one would tolerate such abuses against white people in Britain; it is racist to allow them to happen to black people in another country.'

[…]

The sociologist and philosopher Zygmunt Bauman, a tenacious socialist, agrees: 'If insecurity and the paralysing feeling of powerlessness are the two major spectres haunting the poor, "multiculturalism" and "moral relativism" must be two of the least topical worries of poorer people'. It has come to a bizarre predicament when, in July 2004, the left-wing Ken Livingstone saw no objection to welcoming to City Hall an Islamic extremist Muslim cleric who asserted that women who are raped are partly to blame; that husbands should be permitted to hit their wives; and that homosexuality should be punished by burning or stoning to death.

The celebration of ethnic particularism is a betrayal of the socialist ideal that the best way to create a more equal society is to perceive oneself, above anything else, along class lines. Celebrating diversity is an unwitting way of implementing a policy of divide and rule. In the words of the left-wing sociologist Brian Barry: 'There is no better way of heading off the nightmare of political action by the economically disadvantaged that might issue in common demands than to set different groups of the disadvantaged against one another.'

Diversity sets economically disadvantaged groups against each other, by emphasizing their differences. If diversity is opposed to solidarity, as it self-evidently is, then it is also opposed to Marxism, which relies on the solidarity of the proletariat to cast off the chains of the bourgeoisie. Marxism, after all, is just another metanarrative. Diversity cannot countenance any such claims at ultimate truth (well, besides for its own claim to truth, of course).

Diversity is opposed to progress. It is opposed to both liberalism and Marxism, although compatible with a relativist version of conservatism.

Diversity is relativist conservatism--I should think some in the university might want to rethink their near-religious commitment to it.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Harriet Miers picked for Supreme Court nomination (updated)

Conservatives are not happy. The coalescing narrative seems to be that she's inexperienced (was never a judge), a Bush crony (was his personal lawyer), and a compromise pick (Harry Reid suggested her--that's right Harry Reid suggested her!).

Most importantly, however, is the fact that her judicial philosophy is an unknown quantity. So unknown, that the question at this point is, does she have one? Or is she going to be afflicted with the same enfuriating, arrogant, extra-constitutional pragmatism of a Sandra Day O'Connor?

Color me less than impressed. As someone that enjoys reading the latest court opinions, I was hoping for an intellectual strict constructionist, someone that would actually interpret the constitution instead of simply creating law according to subjective sentiments. I was hoping for a brilliant legal mind, someone befitting the highest court of the nation. That Bush would compromise and nominate a personal friend for such an important position is appalling and indicative of exactly what kind of man President Bush really is.

But maybe she will turn out to be a brilliant legal mind; I simply don't know that much about her right now--which is exactly my point. This position is too important to trust to someone that just happened to get on Bush's good side. The nation deserves better.

update: And here's Hugh Hewitt with the obscurantist defense, which boils down to "just trust Bush." Trust? This is the man that hasn't vetoed a single bill, and has presided over such expansion of the government it leaves one to wonder why we even have two parties. The only functional difference (and it is, admittedly, a big difference) is that one party realizes we're at war.

Anyways, here's Hubris' parody of such blind optimism.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Anti-War fever...Catch it!

I didn’t write anything about the great Moonbat convergence on D.C., but I found a Reuters headline that perfectly sums up all the anti-war protests:

US finds fever bacteria during war protest weekend


Yeah. That might explain this:



(found here, h/t Mudville Gazette. Click to enlarge--er, or, rather, don't.)

At first I was alarmed by this picture: Once we’ve lost the Wookie constituency, we’ve lost the war—that's the lesson of 'Nam. The popular support for any war can be measured by the support among bipedal, lupine inhabitants of Kashyyk.

Like I said, at first I was alarmed. But then I realized that this particular Wookie is just batshit insane. Oh. From the article:

Small amounts of a bacteria that causes "rabbit fever" were found on Washington's National Mall last weekend as thousands of protesters marched against the Iraq War, U.S. health authorities said on Saturday.

[…]

According to the CDC's Web site, people can get rabbit fever by:

* Being bitten by a infected tick, deerfly or other insect

* Handling infected animal carcasses

* Eating or drinking contaminated food or water

* Breathing in the bacteria

I’d say the infected deerfly and tick population in that Wookie's burlap sack britches alone exceeds the larval boom currently happening in the festering streets of a fece-filmed New Orleans. That, and isn't “infected animal carcass” just a perfect characterization of the anti-war movement to date? Like, metaphorically?

But I don’t want to speculate on whether or not any contaminated food or water has been consumed, because, frankly, the image of these communists (I mean that literally—International ANSWER was the sponsor, remember) feasting on their fermenting, socially-conscious victuals—tucked conveniently away into some sweaty crevasse during the march—makes my mind want to vomit.

What are some of the symptoms of rabbit fever (besides hairy nipples and disturbingly-deep maroon rashes)? The article states:

Symptoms of the disease, which an infected person would have begun experiencing no earlier than on Monday, include: sudden fever, chills, headaches, conjunctivitis, diarrhea, muscle aches, joint pain, dry cough and progressive weakness.
“Progressive weakness”? Wasn’t that Kerry’s foreign policy? Hey, maybe he wasn’t a “cheese-eating surrender monkey” after all—maybe he was just a “contaminated-food consuming feverous rabbit.” Posted by Picasa