Lars Vilks, Gay Muhammad and Freedom of Expression

Sunday, May 16, AD 2010

This past week brings news of yet another fracas involving Swedish cartoon artist Lars Vilks (CNN.com):

When Vilks entered a classroom where he was to deliver a lecture to about 250 people — all of whom had passed through a security checkpoint to gain admission — about five people started protesting loudly, Eronen said.

After Uppsala uniformed and non-uniformed police calmed the protesters, the lecture got under way at about 5:15 p.m. (11:15 a.m. ET), Eronen said.

But as Vilks was showing audiovisual material, 15 to 20 audience members became loud and tried to attack Vilks, he said.

As police stepped in, a commotion started and Vilks was taken to a nearby room; police used pepper spray and batons to fend off the protesters, Eronen said. Vilks did not return to the lecture. [Video footage of the event].

Last March, an American woman who called herself “Jihad Jane,” Colleen LaRose, was indicted in the United States for allegedly conspiring to support terrorists and kill Vilks.

In a 2007 interview with CNN he had drawn the cartoon of Mohammed with a dog’s body in order to take a stand.

“I don’t think it should not be a problem to insult a religion, because it should be possible to insult all religions in a democratic way, “ says Vilks from his home in rural Sweden.

“If you insult one, then you should insult the other ones.”

His crude, sketched caricature shows the head of Prophet Mohammed on the body of a dog. Dogs are considered unclean by conservative Muslims, and any depiction of the prophet is strictly forbidden.

Vilks, who has been a controversial artist for more than three decades in Sweden, says his drawing was a calculated move, and he wanted it to elicit a reaction.

“That’s a way of expressing things. If you don’t like it, don’t look at it. And if you look at it, don’t take it too seriously. No harm done, really,” he says.

When it’s suggested that might prove an arrogant — if not insulting — way to engage Muslims, he is unrelenting, even defiant.

“No one actually loves the truth, but someone has to say it,” he says.

Vilks, a self-described atheist, points out he’s an equal opportunity offender who in the past sketched a depiction of Jesus as a pedophile.

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19 Responses to Lars Vilks, Gay Muhammad and Freedom of Expression

  • This “artist” will learn the limits of free speech – the hard way.

  • Why should some peoples belief supercede the beliefs, or lack of belifs, of others?

    Why should I, or anyone else be forced to abide by the rules of THEIR faith?

    What right does religions have to put themselves above everyone else? Is it a godgiven right? Thats what they believe isnt it?

    Religions mock the entire world with their existance alone. Grown men and women believing in old fairytales make a mockery of humanity as a whole.

    Yet we shouldnt be allowed to point out the glaring flaws, the insecurities, and the barbarism their faith entails?

    The very thought is disgusting. The very reason religions are mocked is because they demand respect for their belief, while having no respect at all for those of us who do not believe in any god.

    If one imposed limits on the freedom of expression it would cease to exist.

    Freedom: the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action.

  • I really am disgusted by the abasement of religion in this manner.

    Showing a gay Mohammed is almost as repugnant to me as it is to a Muslim, and is a deliberate act of provocation.

    Things were bad enough with Comedy Central. But the reason I defended the creators of South Park is that, first of all, they already SHOWED Mohammed in an earlier episode before the Danish cartoon scandal and no one cared.

    It wasn’t a particularly vulgar depiction either. What happened this time around was absurd – they only wanted to “show” Mohammed as they do other religious figures, they’d done it before, and saw the proscription of this time around as arbitrary and irrational, which it was.

    In this case, though, I’d say we’re way outside the scope of the Danish cartoon scandal or South Park. To depict is one thing; to associate a revered prophet with sexual immorality in such a blunt way is another. This isn’t about expression because no one believes Mohammed was gay. It is about pissing off Muslims and doing a thing simply because it can be done.

    Maybe the distinction I’m making is wrong, maybe it doesn’t exist. But I do see a difference.

  • Joe, I’m not aware of the South Park depictions of Muhammad before the Danish cartoon scandal. Do you have a source?

    I think censorship, whether religious or otherwise, should be based on community standards. In America, we’re not sufficiently outraged over irreverent depictions of religion to warrant legal censorship.

    Should material of academic value that offend community standards be protected speech? Would Islamic states be justified in completely censoring (as opposed to hide behind a “spoiler warning”) drawings of Muhammad from Wikipedia?

  • Well that kind of begs the question – what academic value does this really have? That Nathan quote could be re-worded only slightly and it would apply to the artists tehmselves – living off the fruits of Christianity, they can only mock it because they do not have the talent to meet or exceed Christianity’s greatest accomplishments. Where’s our contemporary Sistine Chapel? Our Mona Lisa? Our Pieta? Our art is ugly because our society is ugly.

    Largely we are not outraged because most of this “art” is ignored, at least by the unwashed masses.

  • Art ought to be all about aesthetics and edifying the beholder. Soap boxes/op-ed pages/letters to Congressmen are venues for free speech.

    I’m a charter member (from birth) of the unwashed masses.

    Here’s the reason I ignore art that scandalizes Christ: “Forgive all injuries. Bear wrongs patiently.”

    Our Lord will come again in glory and He probably will foresake those that made fun of His Redemptive Life and Salvific Sacrifice.

    Finally, it’s not my job to bring justice to poor benighted elites.

    Er, I don’t frequently shave, either.

    OTOH, muslims must defend Muhammed. That mass murderer is not getting out of Hell.

  • Couldnt help but notice that my original comment has “Your comment is awaiting moderation” stamped on it and is hidden from view of other visitors to this page.

    Since my post contained no links, no swearwords, no racism etc the only reason I can think of is because I do not agree with the viewpoints in the article.

    The viewpoints in this article must be fragile indeed if only comments of agreement are allowed.

    Here, there is no freedom of expression, there is only the freedom to agree.

  • Couldnt help but notice that my original comment has “Your comment is awaiting moderation” stamped on it and is hidden from view of other visitors to this page.

    Imagine that.

    Since my post contained no links, no swearwords, no racism etc the only reason I can think of is because I do not agree with the viewpoints in the article. The viewpoints in this article must be fragile indeed if only comments of agreement are allowed.

    Or, it could possibly mean I’m currently dealing with a newborn and a two year old, and — operating on about 2-3 hours sleep a night — don’t have time to moderate comments with as much punctuality as you desire.

    In fact I have no idea why it was stuck in moderation, but go ahead and assume the worst of my motives if it suits you. I can understand the guilty pleasure of such conspiracy theorizing. =)

    Why should some peoples belief supercede the beliefs, or lack of belifs, of others?

    Certainly I think nobody ought to be forced to accept the tenants of Islam or Christianity or any other religion, for that matter. Faith born of coercion is no genuine faith at all. I’m actually very much in favor of non-coercion in this respect.

    However, I’d say defining freedom solely in negative terms as “the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action” offers a rather pathetic understanding of freedom. It also poses a challenge to our ability to reside together in some kind of civil community (surely you’re in favor of such?).

    Even as a self-proclaimed atheist, I’d venture that you probably find yourself upholding certain laws or norms of moral conduct — prohibitions against theft, taking the life of another, treating each other with basic respect etc. Are these simply “beliefs imposed” upon you? Do they spring from something deeper?

    John Paul II spoke of “a false notion of individual freedom at work in our culture” —

    “… as if one could be free only when rejecting every objective norm of conduct, refusing to assume responsibility or even refusing to put curbs on instincts and passions! Instead, true freedom implies that we are capable of choosing a good without constraint. This is the truly human way of proceeding in the choices–big and small–which life puts before us. The fact that we are also able to choose not to act as we see we should is a necessary condition of our moral freedom. But in that case we must account for the good that we fail to do and for the evil that we commit. This sense of moral accountability needs to be reawakened if society is to survive as a civilization of justice and solidarity.”

    What do you think about that?

    Religions mock the entire world with their existance alone. Grown men and women believing in old fairytales make a mockery of humanity as a whole.

    Spoken like a true Stalinist. But surely we can progress beyond this kind of intolerance? 😉

    Yet we shouldn’t be allowed to point out the glaring flaws, the insecurities, and the barbarism their faith entails?

    Perhaps. But if your purpose is to enlighten and educate, you might do better than simply lash out and taunt them with the artistic equivalent of a cudgel.

  • First of all, I find it hard to believe that you “had no idea why it was stuck in moderation”. Its your blog after all, even if its an automated process registering on key words, you should have some idea how it works.

    Secondly, how long it takes for you to moderate a post was not an issue at all. I reacted to the fact that it was marked for moderation in the first place.

    I used the definition of freedom together with the term “freedom of expression” spesifically because I suspected that you might try to use the definition of freedom in the way you just did.

    The concept of freedom of expression should be free of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action. Just like the definition.

    I didnt, like you imply, include concepts like “freedom of murdering people”, “freedom to steal” or “freedom to set oneself above the law” when I put down the definition of freedom.

    As for your thoughts about moral conduct:

    Laws and norms of human conduct is a result of the society one lives in.

    If you some day take a good look at the world around you, I think you will realise that in socities in parts of the world that do not have the luxuries and/or traditions of western culture, the defintions of right and wrong are vastly different.

    Surely,if “upholding certain laws or norms of moral conduct” springs from something deeper, as you say, shouldnt people in all corners of the world share the same sense of morality?

    Yet they do not.

    I also note that you are labeling me a “stalinist”.

    Indeed, atheism and stalinism are required to go hand in hand arent they? There is no way that anyone can be opposed to religion without being some sort of communist.

    Labeling any opposition communist or stalinist regardless of which issues are being discussed seem to be popular in america.

    And then you preach about intolerance. Or spesifically “this kind of intolerance”, implying “intolerance against religions”.

    Which is appropriate, since religious groups, including catholics, traditionally have a large number of things they have zero tolerance for.

    It sure is good to know that believers have the right and knowledge to define what kinds of intolerance are acceptable or not.

    The purpose with which lars vilks lash out and taunt the muslim fundementalist is obvious: Its to teach people that they cannot have their way by resorting to violence. Many religious groups, including your own, realised this a long time ago by themselves.

    But before that, catholics and other christians were just as quick to resort to violence as these muslims are now.

    Unfortunatly, with the way things are, its impractical to wait the hundreds of years it could take for muslims to reach the same level of peaceful conduct as the major christian factions.

    Lastly, from a western moral perspective, who do you think have the moral high ground? The guy who is making pictures and drawings, or the people who are trying to beat him up, kill him and burn his house down?

  • I put your comment in moderation Moozorz. If it had been in one of my threads I would have deleted it since you merely regurgitate the “I hate religion” meme and have nothing fresh to offer to the debate. Since it was Christopher’s thread I left the ultimate decision as to what to do with your diatribe up to him when he looked over the thread. He duly approved it since he has much more patience than I do for people who repeat tired cliches as a substitute for substantive argument, and is one of the most fair-minded individuals I have encountered on the internet.

  • First of all, I find it hard to believe that you “had no idea why it was stuck in moderation”. Its your blog after all, even if its an automated process registering on key words, you should have some idea how it works. […]

    See Don’s comment as to why you were in moderation.

    The concept of freedom of expression should be free of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action. Just like the definition. I didnt, like you imply, include concepts like “freedom of murdering people”, “freedom to steal” or “freedom to set oneself above the law” when I put down the definition of freedom.

    Unrestrained freedom, absent force of law, can lead to precisely that.

    I’m curious what you might say with respect to a women’s “freedom” with respect to the life of her unborn child?

    Laws and norms of human conduct is a result of the society one lives in.

    If you some day take a good look at the world around you, I think you will realise that in socities in parts of the world that do not have the luxuries and/or traditions of western culture, the defintions of right and wrong are vastly different. Surely,if “upholding certain laws or norms of moral conduct” springs from something deeper, as you say, shouldnt people in all corners of the world share the same sense of morality? Yet they do not.

    Diverse, but now wholly different. I think if you examine different parts of the world, cultures share remarkably similar moral-cultural norms. Show me a culture that specifically endorsed theft, lying, deception, murder, injustice, etc. in direct inversion to what we think of as morality?

    For example, C.S. Lewis in examining various traditions around the world pointed out how they share similar behaviors with respect to the prohibition of murder; the doing of good towards children, parents, kinfolk and neighbors; prohibitions against adultery, etc. I think history has shown as well what happens when cultures or societies abandon or deliberately ignore such ‘laws’:

    http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/lewis/abolition4.htm

    I also note that you are labeling me a “stalinist”.Indeed, atheism and stalinism are required to go hand in hand arent they? There is no way that anyone can be opposed to religion without being some sort of communist. Labeling any opposition communist or stalinist regardless of which issues are being discussed seem to be popular in america.

    While atheism and stalinism aren’t necessarily identical, one can point to a number of historical examples (the french revolution, the bolshevik reovlution, national socialism, etc.) where atheism and totalitarian violence have gone hand in hand. And the nature of your comment — “Religions mock the entire world with their existance [sic] alone” — wasn’t far off from that kind of thinking. What do you propose then, since the mere presence of religion itself is an abomination?

    And then you preach about intolerance. Or spesifically “this kind of intolerance”, implying “intolerance against religions”. Which is appropriate, since religious groups, including catholics, traditionally have a large number of things they have zero tolerance for.

    I’m not necessarily opposed to intolerance. I happen to think “tolerance” and “non-judgementalism” are highly overrated. As Chesterton said, “The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid.”

    It sure is good to know that believers have the right and knowledge to define what kinds of intolerance are acceptable or not.

    But there you go again — having just indicated by your example that we should all be intolerant of religion.

    The purpose with which lars vilks lash out and taunt the muslim fundementalist is obvious: Its to teach people that they cannot have their way by resorting to violence. Many religious groups, including your own, realised this a long time ago by themselves.

    As I’ve said, there is little question that many Muslim’s response to Vilks is disproportionate and extreme — at the same time, Vilks does not help the matter with his direct provocation to violence by taking what Muslims hold dear — the prophet Muhammad — and violating it.

    Unfortunatly, with the way things are, its impractical to wait the hundreds of years it could take for muslims to reach the same level of peaceful conduct as the major christian factions.

    Muslims have a ways to go, yes. But they might get there a lot faster if we didn’t resort to such tactics as Vilks. You teach toleration and respect for others by practicing it. Vilks’s desire to deliberately invoke violence by blaspheming what they hold dear is merely an echo of Muslim intolerance.

    Lastly, from a western moral perspective, who do you think have the moral high ground? The guy who is making pictures and drawings, or the people who are trying to beat him up, kill him and burn his house down?

    In this case, neither — if the guy who is “making pictures and drawings” does so with the specific intent of inciting people to violence. Come now, it’s not as if Vilks was showing photos of the Mona Lisa or Michaelangelo’s David.

  • @Donald R. McClarey

    I dont hate religion, I just oppose it :3

    Especially when some people in the various religions are attempting to put belief in god above all else, not just for themselves but for others as well.

    @Christopher Blosser

    As I was reading through your latest post, I noticed several things.

    You took my paragraph about freedom of expression and somehow try to twist it into a pro-choice/pro-life issue.

    Undoubtedly because you couldnt, at the time, think of a counter-argument that related to the actual issue that was being discussed, i.e. freedom of expression (other than groundless speculation that having freedom of expression will somehow, in a nondescript fashion, lead to a society where one can freely steal, murder, and put oneself above the law.)

    Next, funny you should mention a connection between atheism and national socialism.

    Let me quote from the The National Socialist Party program from 1920, proclaimed by Adolf Hitler, point 24:

    “We demand freedom of religion for all religious denominations within the state so long as they do not endanger its existence or oppose the moral senses of the Germanic race. The Party as such advocates the standpoint of a positive Christianity without binding itself confessionally to any one denomination. It combats the Jewish-materialistic spirit within and around us, and is convinced that a lasting recovery of our nation can only succeed from within on the framework: The good of the state before the good of the individual.¨”

    Restrictive, perhaps, but hardly atheistic.

    Your other examples are more accurate at least.

    Furthermore, in your previous post, you said “But surely we can progress beyond this kind of intolerance?” when I said that religions are old fairytales.

    Yet in your latest post, you say you arent neccesarily opposed to intolerance.

    Thanks, I guess, for demonstrating with such perfect detail that what I said previously about your brand of “tolerance” is absolutely true.

    You have the exact same mindset as the muslim fundamentalists, that your beliefs must be tolerated above all else while the religions themselves should be free to judge and comdemn and generally be intolerant towards anything they wish.

    Be honest: it is because you believe that god is on your side.

    Is it not so? What other reason could you have to justify the difference between religious intolerance against people and peoples intolerance against religion?

    Anyways, your paragraph about Lars Vilks state that he is making pictures and drawings “with spesific intent of inciting people to violence”.

    That something you made up completely on your own.

    You are basically saying he is asking for it, even though nothing has ever indicated that Lars Vilks is trying spesifically to create violence.

    In fact, saying so is an insult to the islamic people, since it implies that we should expect them to react in a violent and barbaric fashion.

    A comparable anology is to say that a woman who wear sexy clothing is asking to be raped, after all, everyone knows that men are primitive and lack the self-control neccesary to stop themselves from assaulting women who arent “properly” dressed.

    While in reality, men do in fact have the potential to control their own behaviour, and many choose to do just that.

    Similarly, I think todays muslims have the potential to control their anger and violent reactions and instead react in a modern and civilized fashion when faced with such displays.

    Unfortunatly, some of them choose not to.

  • Religions should be insulted democratically.

    Why?

    Because if you’re going to insult one, you have to insult them all.

    Oh, OK, very reasonable. Now, run by me why we just, don’t tell really unfunny jokes to “insult” religions again.

    I feel like I’m in that episode of Seinfeld, where he tells a priest that one of his former congregants starts making a lot of anti-semitic jokes, and he asks him if it offends him as a Jew, but he responds, “No, it offends me as a comedian.” That’s just not funny, and therefore, beyond the realm of cartoonists.
    I get that the Jihadists are worse, but come on, are we really going to say, “we’re OK, so long as we’re not terrorists!”?

  • By the way, Moorzorz, you sound so smart. I think you sound so convincing, as though you’re not writing generalized emotional ejaculations (funny word right?); you sound as if you’re not just some pasty white atheist teenager to mid twenty year old, “trolling” (as the “kids” say) on a Conservative Catholic blog saying nothing remotely cerebral, desparately seeking attention, even if it’s only from angry papysts over the internet- that’d be like a neglected child turning form his parents to people he’ll never meet for attention.
    Oh, and also, if you could get me a copy of Dan Brown’s latest work of history, and a t-shirt depicting our hero Che, that’d be great.

    Hipsters 4 Life!

  • You took my paragraph about freedom of expression and somehow try to twist it into a pro-choice/pro-life issue.

    I was basically operating on the assumption that if you define “freedom” as “the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action”, your definition is not merely limited to “self-expression” but freedom of action per se. Hence the question: where does such freedom from coercion begin and end with respect to the unborn?

    Undoubtedly because you couldnt, at the time, think of a counter-argument that related to the actual issue that was being discussed, i.e. freedom of expression (other than groundless speculation that having freedom of expression will somehow, in a nondescript fashion, lead to a society where one can freely steal, murder, and put oneself above the law.)

    Well, I thought we were talking about the nature of freedom per se. If only self expression, then may I assume you would define freedom otherwise — and that there are justifiable limits to freedom when living in society?

    Next, funny you should mention a connection between atheism and national socialism. [Insert quote from the Nazis]. Restrictive, perhaps, but hardly atheistic.

    National socialism was accomodating of religion only insofar as they found it expedient to do so. Ultimately it became a kind of religion of its own, elevating the ‘superman’ (ditto or the Communists). Case in point — Christians who went along with the Third Reich were tolerated; those who didn’t went to the camps along with the gypsies and the Jews. For a firsthand account from one priest, see Priestblock 25487: A Memoir of Dachau. For a broader view, I recommend Michael Burleigh’s The Third Reich: A New History.

    Furthermore, in your previous post, you said “But surely we can progress beyond this kind of intolerance?” when I said that religions are old fairytales. Yet in your latest post, you say you arent neccesarily opposed to intolerance.

    You’re getting the picture. I think it would be difficult indeed to go through life without being discriminating. Moral judgement is as elementary to existence as eating or breathing. And there are things we should quite justifiably be intolerant about.

    On the other hand, when you arrive at a sweeping judgement that religion in toto is an evil and a mockery of human existence, I think such a sweeping condemnation such as your own is a choice example of intolerance born of ignorance. I know of other atheists or agnostics who are quite capable of studying the breadth of human history and discerning positive elements in religion. An attitude that simply mocks and condemns religion strikes me as a rather stunted perspective.

    Anyways, your paragraph about Lars Vilks state that he is making pictures and drawings “with spesific intent of inciting people to violence”. That something you made up completely on your own.

    No need to impute motives here. I need only quote Lars: “It should be possible to insult all religions in a democratic way … If you insult one, then you should insult the other ones.” In the past he depicted Jesus as a paedophile. Don’t tell me he wasn’t hoping to get a reaction. In no way does it justify violence on the part of the protesters, but he certainly wasn’t seeking applause on their part.

    […] Similarly, I think todays muslims have the potential to control their anger and violent reactions and instead react in a modern and civilized fashion when faced with such displays. Unfortunatly, some of them choose not to.

    I think you and I agree on this point — our hope is that Muslims, when they find what they hold most dear insulted in this manner, should be able to restrain themselves from violence.

    That said, I don’t think Lars Vilks necessarily has the right to provocate Muslims in this manner.

  • Lars Vilks has every right to provocate Muslims if that is his wish under Swedish norms as long as he is prepared to pay the price. By what right do the crazed Muslims given residence, asylum and baksheesh in the West under the same suicidal liberal norms, now claim that their Jim Jones is above caricature? The liberal order is unwinding, some honest men Lars Vilks among them, have taken it upon themselves to bring the whole house of lies down.

  • @Clay

    I am dreadfully sorry to come all the way here to this catholic site when I was searching for news about Lars Vilks, I know that people disagreeing with your views must be terribly frightening.

    See? I can use sarcasm to apply attributes to other people too. Thank you for bringing your insight into this discussion.

    In all seriousness though, I am a norwegian, I live in norway, and up here in the north there are no “unwritten rules” that its distasteful internet behaviour to display ones views on a site where people have different views.

    If there is some kind of american unwritten rule about this, please inform me about it and I`ll stop posting.

    Also, if being norwegian somehow invalidates all my views, please inform me and I`ll stop posting.

    @Christoffer Blosser

    I am not just now “getting the picture”, you have read my previous posts, so it should be pretty obvious that I was, unfortunatly, completely right about your views on tolerance from the start.

    I was actually hoping you would disprove my preconceptions on that spesific issue.

    You choose not to address several parts of my paragraph, which is fine, you are free to address the parts you feel neccesary, but I still would like you to tell me how you justify the difference between religious intolerance against people and peoples intolerance against religion, like I asked before.

    I think its because, as I said, you believe your god gives you the right to do so, but I like to think thats not your only reason.

    Furthermore, I have never said religion is evil. Religion is regressive to society, often intolerant and I would even call it irrational.

    But I do not think religious people do what they do and say what they say just for the sake of making other people suffer. If they did, they would be evil.

    By the way, if there is no need to impute motives here, as you say, then perhaps you shouldnt impute motives onto Lars Vilks either?

    Sure, Lars Vilks was hoping to get a reaction. But you said he was spesifically trying to incite a _violent_ reaction.

    Was he trying to incite violence by displaying jesus as a pedophile? Did he except christians to physically attack him and issue death threats when he did?

    I think not.

    Your misconception about Lars Vilks seeking a violent reaction to his displays are only based in your preconcieved judgments against the muslim people.

    You expect them to answer with violence, so to you its obvious that everyone else thinks so too.

    There are several other things I suppose I could, and should, have addressed, but right now I`m out of time, Ì have to head to work.

    I will say this though, Christoffer Blosser, even though we disagree on a great many things, its refreshing to talk with a christian who is willing to argue, rather than the ones who prefer to “answer” only with moderation or bland sarcasm.

  • NOTE: This will be quick, because I think Moozorz and I have discussed this long enough and are conversation is heading into other topics not related to the actual post.

    I still would like you to tell me how you justify the difference between religious intolerance against people and peoples intolerance against religion, like I asked before.

    When speaking of “intolerance”, I think you really need to go into specific detail about what it is you are criticizing. To merely condemn religion in toto as a mockery of humanity — such a sweeping condemnation speaks rather badly and comes across as intolerant. Religions, like anything else, are a mixed bag. If you study Christianity you will find that it, like any other religion, has made positive contributions to society. (Certainly as a Christian I believe it has done more than that; I also recognize that there are many instances where Christians have not behaved in a Christlike manner). At any rate, I think there are positive goods which the religions of the world have to offer which any atheist can recognize if they tried.

    Likewise when you speak of “religion’s intolerance against people”, it may help to be specific.

    I think its because, as I said, you believe your god gives you the right to do so, but I like to think thats not your only reason.

    If you subscribe to a revealed religion, I suppose it’s natural that you will make distinctions between believers and non-believers and to be “intolerant” of certain kinds of actions. But as I’ve pointed out, you don’t have to be religious to make moral distinctions, to condemn certain kinds of behavior, to place limits on human freedom.

    By the way, if there is no need to impute motives here, as you say, then perhaps you shouldnt impute motives onto Lars Vilks either?

    There is no need, because Vilk already gave the reason. He wanted to insult Muslims. He was undoubtedly hoping to get a reaction. A necessarily violent reaction? — Perhaps he wasn’t expecting to get his house firebombed (although in light of past examples, such as the violent reaction of many Muslims to the Pope’s Regensburg address — he might have anticipated such). I do think he would have been sorely disappointed if he didn’t cause offense to Muslims.

    Your misconception about Lars Vilks seeking a violent reaction to his displays are only based in your preconcieved judgments against the muslim people.

    Oh, please. Read what I’ve written about the “Muslim people”, and then decide. (I’m far closer to Muslims than you imagine).

    I certainly don’t think all Muslims respond in the way that Vilks’ critics have done — but let’s face it, there is a subset of Muslims, those who tend to occupy the headlines, who have a propensity to react with threats or actual violence when their religion is mocked. It happens. So I don’t think the possibility of such happening was remote from Vilks’ mind when he decided to ridicule the Prophet Muhammad in the fashion that he did.

    You expect them to answer with violence, so to you its obvious that everyone else thinks so too.

    Actually, no.

    I will say this though, Christoffer Blosser, even though we disagree on a great many things, its refreshing to talk with a christian who is willing to argue, rather than the ones who prefer to “answer” only with moderation or bland sarcasm.

    Feel free to email me if you wish to talk further. blostopher @ gmail.com.

South Park, Fear and Self-Censorship

Friday, April 23, AD 2010

I confess that I have never watched South Park.  From what I have read about it, the show holds nothing sacred and has had cruel attacks on Christ and other religious figures.  Some people have given it a thumbs up for not being politically correct.  I guess the latter is true, because in an episode that aired Wednesday the South Park crew went after the ultimate sacred cow in today’s America, the founder of Islam, Mohammed.

Or rather they attempted to.  Comedy Central, obviously caving to death threats from Islamic extremists, bleeped out the portions of the broadcast aimed at Mohammed:

Comedy Central bleeped out all references to the Prophet Muhammad in Wednesday night’s episode of the animated show “South Park.”

The episode was a continuation of last week’s episode which depicted the Prophet Muhammad in a bear suit.

A radical Muslim website threatened the show’s creators following that episode.

Comedy Central confirmed to FoxNews.com that it had censored the show, and that the episode was not available on its website.

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50 Responses to South Park, Fear and Self-Censorship

  • Matt Stone and Trey Parker are part of the problem.

    Look at their depiction of Muhammad. They were scared enough not to portray him, so they opted for a bear costume.

  • They were scared enough not to portray him, so they opted for a bear costume.

    This was a reference to an earlier episode of South Park where Comedy Central censored an image of Muhammad. Trey and Matt were basically mocking the network for their actions and making a point about the completely absurd double standard, and Comedy Central not only validated their point, but upped the ante as well. Truly remarkable.

  • I have seen South Park on occasion. It’s often hilarious, but too vulgar for me to watch in good conscience. At the same time, I don’t really get the criticism offered in the post. Sure, there’s a double standard; Comedy Central doesn’t receive many death threats from Scientologists (one of the few episodes I’ve seen), Mormons, Catholics, or many other groups. They do receive death threats with a nonzero plausibility from various Muslim groups. And so they have censored some inflammatory comments aimed at people who are threatening their employees.

    Why, exactly, does a tv network devoted to comedy have a moral obligation to stand up to Muslim extremists? Isn’t it just good business practice to take reasonable steps to protect your employees? Also, I can see why you’d object if you thought the show was a valuable contribution to society; but as you don’t, why would you care one way or the other whether it is edited to be less offensive?

  • John Henry,

    It’s my impression of the cowardice of Hollywood and their constant attacks on non-violent Christians is what Don was getting at.

    It’s to highlight how morally deprived and without standards Hollywood has… and to continue to remind the culture of these biases.

    Paul,

    Thanks for clearing that up. It makes much more sense that way.

  • “Why, exactly, does a tv network devoted to comedy have a moral obligation to stand up to Muslim extremists? Isn’t it just good business practice to take reasonable steps to protect your employees? Also, I can see why you’d object if you thought the show was a valuable contribution to society; but as you don’t, why would you care one way or the other whether it is edited to be less offensive?”

    We all have a moral duty in a democracy John Henry to stand up to those who choose to use murder and threats of murder to get their way. Weimar Germany is a prime example of what happens when most people decide to simply keep their heads low and not speak out against those who use violence to intimidate. I dislike what little I know of South Park intensely. I dislike far more those who use threats of homicide getting their way.

    Comedy Central is guilty of cowardice. The cowardice is more contemptible due to their pose of being courageous in giving a forum to a show like South Park which regularly butchers sacred cows. At the first hint of trouble the pose drops in an instant and they stand revealed as cowardly school yard bullies who are shocked that there are consequences to puerile insults.

  • It’s to highlight how morally deprived and without standards Hollywood has… and to continue to remind the culture of these biases.

    Again, why is it morally depraved for a comedy television channel to censor a program – making it less offensive – out of concern for the safety of its employees?

  • Again, why is it morally depraved for a comedy television channel to censor a program – making it less offensive – out of concern for the safety of its employees?

    I double down on your again and will repeat myself to clear my point.

    It is to remind people, again and again, of the moral depravity around us. Once we stop speaking out, like Don says, evil will triumph.

    Or you can continue to live in your relative lap of peace and luxury and continue slinging non-sequiturs at those of us trying to change the culture from your peanut gallery and let it slide.

  • Weimar Germany is a prime example of what happens when most people decide to simply keep their heads low

    Don, you are too well read and sensible to make this type of analogy. Censoring a vulgar comedy show that mocks Muslims in the U.S. in 2010 is not remotely analogous to the rise of the Nazi’s in 1920’s and early 1930’s Germany.

    At the first hint of trouble the pose drops in an instant and they stand revealed as cowardly school yard bullies who are shocked that there are consequences to puerile insults.

    Not really. They still ran the episode, and they have responded to countless legal threats over the years from offended parties. They are willing to accept legal risks, but not physical threats to their employees; that doesn’t seem crazy for a comedy tv channel to me. I don’t understand the content of the moral obligation you are imposing on comedy tv channels. You agree that there is little value to the programming, but state that they should ignore threats to their employees lives in order to broadcast it.

  • Maybe it’s important to point out the hypocrisy of a network that likes to pass itself off as “edgy” with all its attacks on non-violent Christians and suggestions to employees of other “less noble” networks to go fornicate with themselves.

    What Comedy Central should have done is made clear why they are engaging in a double standard by issuing a disclaimer that spelled out that the reason they don’t censor blasphemous things such as Jesus watching pornography is because Christians, despite the rhetoric of Hollywood, don’t actually turn out to be very violent when they have their Faith mocked, whereas practitioners of Islam have shown themselves to be quite violent when their faith is questioned in the arts and the media.

    The fact is that “edgy” Comedy Central is really just a bunch of cowards and bullies striking out at those who don’t fight back while shrinking from those most deserving of having their beliefs (or at least how those beliefs are often put into practice) called into question.

  • It is to remind people, again and again, of the moral depravity around us.

    But aren’t you making the case for broadcasting ‘depravity’?

    Look, this isn’t a big deal. I don’t care whether or how Comedy Central censors their programs. I’m sympathetic to the idea that Western culture needs to defend its values; I just don’t think this is the best example to make that case. It seems to me we could pick our battles better.

  • I generally disapprove of skewering religion for laughs, and maybe it isn’t Comedy Central’s job to draw the line in the sand. But if any show were going to get away with something like this, it’d be South Park. It’s disappointing that no one stands up to this kind of crap:

    “It’s not a threat, but it really is a likely outcome,” al Amrikee said, referring to the possibility that Parker and Stone could be murdered for mocking Muhammad. “They’re going to be basically on a list in the back of the minds of a large number of Muslims. It’s just the reality.”

    That kind of stuff is just crying out for ridicule. When South Park does those “Jesus and Pals” TV, they’re probably blasphemous (and sometimes funny, I’ll admit). I never issued a mafioso-sounding statement like that guy, though.

  • I think the obvious source of frustration here is not that people want to see Islam insulted, but rather the feeling that Islam is being rewarded with more respect because of the small minority of its followers who are ready and eager to behead or otherwise attack those who offend them, while Christianity is being punished because it lacks a true violent minority.

    And this is made the more galling because Christians are often scolded for allegedly being violent and oppressive.

  • but rather the feeling that Islam is being rewarded with more respect because of the small minority of its followers who are ready and eager to behead or otherwise attack those who offend them, while Christianity is being punished because it lacks a true violent minority.

    Well, but it’s not just Christianity. South Park takes on all comers – from Jews, to Mormons, to Scientologists, to politicians; it’s basically anybody in the country that doesn’t happen to have a sizable minority that issues official death threats. And even then, they ran the episode. I don’t think that really amounts to more respect for Islam; just an acknowledgment that some of its adherents are prone to violence. If anything, that results in less respect for Islam as a religion. People wouldn’t respect Catholicism more if Catholics issued death threats every time they were mocked, although it might lead to a reduction in mockery. In the end, this is not a flattering message about Islam; quite the opposite.

    And this is made the more galling because Christians are often scolded for allegedly being violent and oppressive.

    I can understand why that suggestion is galling. But this is much better understood as the idea that there are different rules for Islamic terrorists than for everyone else, than as a contrast with Christians, or Jews, or whomever. If South Park only picked on Christians this would make more sense to me. As it is, it appears like a comedy channel is being criticized for not confronting terrorists more forthrightly…I’ve never thought that was in the job description of a comedy channel, nor do I think on the merits that there is that much value to insulting religious traditions. I understand the hypocrisy objection Jay raises – and I understand the artistic expression objections no one here has raised – but it’s only hypocrisy if there’s inconsistency. The threats of Islamic extremists are different in kind than the other threats, so I see that type of inconsistency as sensible rather than hypocritical. At least, while I might want to run the episode unedited just to be contrary, I don’t blame people actually responsible for the decision for choosing otherwise.

  • But of course comedy central had no issue leaving in the parts of the same episode where Jesus was watching porn and buddha snortng coke.

  • Interesting discussion- I like John Henry’s out-of-the-box thinking on this- my first reaction is to lash out at the cowardice of Comedy Central- but really the reality is that the threat of violence is a real one and one has to be prudent. The real solution to the double-standard is for Catholics and all Christians to find a non-violent means of conveying the same kind of “threat” not to the lives but to the livelihoods of South Park’s personnel and Comedy Central as well. This is a whole lot harder than having a little violent mafia that can be summoned to break some arms and legs to get our way. But it shouldn’t surprise us that since Christ’s Way is the Truth, He wouldn’t allow us to take immoral shortcuts. And so, we resume the battle for souls in an often hostile world- My own contribution has been to stop watching larry david’s show after the “piss christ” episode even though I really really wanted to see the Seinfeld reunion bits, and I stopped watching South Park a year or two ago and even Colbert is something that I am rarely taking in anymore- I suppose it is something of a boycott, and boycott are only effective if they are huge- these things are tough to organize, but we start with ourselves and our little sphere’s of influence to get people to consider just taking a powder of such offensive programs.

  • If anything, that results in less respect for Islam as a religion. People wouldn’t respect Catholicism more if Catholics issued death threats every time they were mocked, although it might lead to a reduction in mockery. In the end, this is not a flattering message about Islam; quite the opposite.

    That’s actually precisely one of the takeaways I had to this kerfuffle. I don’t think it justifies Comedy Central’s decision, but what does it say that even a veiled threat is taken so seriously?

  • You own a business with many employees under your care. A couple employees want to stage some public spectacle sponsored by the company that you have no objection to except that protesters promise to retaliate with lethal force. What do you do?

  • “Don, you are too well read and sensible to make this type of analogy. Censoring a vulgar comedy show that mocks Muslims in the U.S. in 2010 is not remotely analogous to the rise of the Nazi’s in 1920’s and early 1930’s Germany.”

    Actually John Henry I think that Islamic Jihadists and the Nazis have quite a bit in common in regard to their use of violence and the threat of violence to achieve their ends. I also think many of the elites in our society are every bit as decadent and cowardly as the elites who ran Weimar Germany.

  • “They still ran the episode, and they have responded to countless legal threats over the years from offended parties.”

    They ran a censored episode John Henry as a sign of their capitulation. They were unafraid of legal challenges, because, as you and I as attorneys both know, they had nothing to fear from the legal challenges and much to gain from the free publicity. They gave the Jihadists a victory and gave way to death threats because they are craven cowards.

  • John Henry, we commonly come up short in various ways. We should not. We need to understand that we come up short. Lacking in physical courage and cojones is coming up short. Offering apologetics for this sort of behavior works toward breeding more of it in the coming generation, which is not to be desired.

  • AD, I believe the phenomenon you’re describing is referred to as ‘projection’ in the psychological literature. Not everyone evaluates arguments primarily through the prism of adolescent chest-thumping. Not that there is anything wrong with being an adolescent, of course. It’s a question of the proper time and place.

  • I also think many of the elites in our society are every bit as decadent and cowardly as the elites who ran Weimar Germany.

    And so…what? Comedy channels should run programs offensive to Muslims to prevent radical Islamists from over-taking our government like the Nazi’s seized power in Germany? As I said, I don’t really care one way or the other what Comedy Central does. I’d probably rather see the episode unedited; but I don’t think the arguments you’ve offered are very compelling.

  • They gave the Jihadists a victory and gave way to death threats because they are craven cowards.

    Again, what is ‘craven’ about this? It may be cowardly – most precautionary measures can be so described – but what is craven about it?

  • If Catholic programmers had bowed to threats made by Islamic extremists who did not like the orthodox Catholic perception of Islam or some key component of Islamic religious practice- like the problem of reciprocity in giving religious liberty to non-Islamic religions- then I would be upset. Catholics should not bow down to unjust demands- but Comedy Central is probably staffed by moral relativists who represent the secularist mindset well- hold to certain ideals until they become inconvenient- and switch back when they the storm has passed. The South Park approach of skewering all sacred cows will be revised according to the level of “threat” to either physical lives of the show’s creative staff or to the economic damage that a planned or spontaneous boycott would create.

  • AD, I believe the phenomenon you’re describing is referred to as ‘projection’ in the psychological literature. I would advise you not to showcase certain insecurities, intellectual or otherwise, so openly.

    I look forward to john Henry’s next blog post about how conservatives commentators need to be more reasoned, and how we should avoid ad homimem argumentation. Leading by example, as always.

  • Paul, I don’t know why you felt the need to comment there. I mean, honestly. What are you trying to accomplish? Granted, I shouldn’t have responded with an ad hominem to AD”s ad hominem. It’s bad practice. I don’t really see why you decided to get involved, though. I certainly wasn’t talking to you, and there is no need for you to be so nasty.

  • So, basically you acted like a tool, and your reaction is to admonish me.

  • I apologize, again, for responding to AD’s ad hominem in kind. There is not much else I can do. I am not going to hi-jack Don’s thread any further responding to your unnecessarily hostile remarks.

  • When someone is attacked via ad hominem or otherwise it is acceptable in my view, and in fact can be noble, for a third party to defend the person attacked.

  • Mike,

    I agree. I thought what happened was that Art Deco attacked me with an ad hominem and I responded, wrongly, in kind. Then Paul jumped in ostensibly to scold me for responding with an ad hominem, while throwing another into the mix. Was I wrong to interpret Art Deco’s remark as a childish ad hominem? If so, then I apologize both for misinterpreting and for responding as I did. As it is, I just apologize for the response.

  • John, I dunno. I suspect that all of us just allowed our passions to momentarily get the better of us, me included.

  • John Henry,

    Why are you bending over backwards to defend cowardice?

    You say you really don’t care about this issue, yet here you are a dozen posts or so into defending your view on it.

    Your attitude, if I may say so, is precisely the wrong one to take. You are distorting the comparisons others in order to continually justify a position that most of the people here rightly and instinctively know is wrong – servility and groveling in the face of a relentless and brutal enemy.

    You say,

    “Look, this isn’t a big deal. I don’t care whether or how Comedy Central censors their programs. I’m sympathetic to the idea that Western culture needs to defend its values; I just don’t think this is the best example to make that case. It seems to me we could pick our battles better.”

    We don’t get to pick our battles, John. Our battles come to us. They “pick” us.

    If we can’t stand up for ourselves over “small” things, then I question our ability to stand up over large ones.

    When dealing with an aggressive foe, boundaries must be drawn, they must be made to know that they can NEVER get away with death threats against American citizens.

    I don’t give a rats about the content of South Park. The show has its great political moments, it has also terribly insulted the Church and Christ on numerous occasions. The show’s writers are still too childish and naive to understand that the Church is the best thing that ever happened to Western civilization and is worth promoting, and not attacking; so be it.

    They’re still American citizens and they still deserve to be able to exercise their first amendment rights without fear of death threats from a group of fanatics who use violence to show how angry they are that people portray them as violent in the ultimate act of psychopathy.

    What if the Muslims threatened to blow up the studio where South Park is made unless Matt and Trey convert to Islam? Should they do it? Where do you draw the line? At what point does “safety” take a backseat to human dignity and honor?

    I would like to know.

  • I view this whole thing as a sad commentary on free speech today. The 1st amendment at its finest is meant to protect the thoughts and speech that people would die for; yet it has become merely interpreted by our society as the right to say whatever disgusting and offensive thing they can think of.

    While the creators of South Park & Comedy Central would no doubt believe themselves to be advocates of free speech (as shown by the show’s frequent attempts to push the limits of the FCC), it is telling that what they backed off as soon as any consequences were hinted at.

    That’s not to say the made the wrong decision. I don’t think unnecessary blasphemy is funny nor do I think it’s worth dying to protect the right to unnecessarily blaspheme. I just wish that they would take the same time & effort they have put into this into saying something worth saying and worth dying for.

  • John Henry, I do not think the term ad hominem means what you think it does.

    That aside, my personal biography is obscure to you, as are my insecurities and what not.

  • What if the Muslims threatened to blow up the studio where South Park is made unless Matt and Trey convert to Islam? Should they do it? Where do you draw the line? At what point does “safety” take a backseat to human dignity and honor?

    Since you’ve specifically requested that I respond, I will, but I think my shift as volunteer pinata on this thread will be over after that. I am not sure that running vulgar, self-satisfied cartoons that insult various religious traditions is a matter of ‘human dignity’ and ‘honor’. And so I’m fine leaving the decision of whether to offend Muslims in that way up to Comedy Central and the writers to work out among themselves. It’s not like we’re talking about high art or a great contribution to culture here. South Park is probably the crudest show on cable – and that’s a difficult category to win these days. Notice, most of the criticisms above are about a double standard – South Park goes after anyone else with abandon, but not Muslims. I explained above that there seems to me to be a reasonable distinction there given the threats of violence, or at least there is room for reasonable disagreement.

    Is this a type of ‘surrender’ to violence; maybe, but I would not be surrendering anything I view as particularly valuable here. A private company that runs a Comedy Channel self-censoring to make its program less offensive doesn’t bother me. When something that I value is at stake, that’s where I’ll draw the line. For instance, if the FCC or some other government group tried to coerce a private company to self censor in this manner, I’d absolutely oppose that type of government action. Or if the program in question was a debate among scholars about the Koran or Islam & violence, I’d have a problem. But, as it is, the terrorists are damaging themselves more than anyone else – and more than any episode of South Park could.

  • John Henry, I do not think the term ad hominem means what you think it does.

    That aside, my personal biography is obscure to you, as are my insecurities and what not.

    AD, now, that you’ve re-appeared, I apologize again. I am well aware of what an ad hominem is; apologies for the misinterpretation (assuming you were not intending to insult me) and response (regardless of whether you intended to insult me or not).

  • ” I am not sure that running vulgar, self-satisfied cartoons that insult various religious traditions is a matter of ‘human dignity’ and ‘honor’.”

    Way to twist the argument. It is a matter of dignity and honor to not cower before threats of violence, regardless of what one is doing.

    For their part, Matt & Trey are challenging the double standard as applied to Islam. As a point of logic, they are absolutely correct – it is inconsistent and cowardly for CC to allow them to mock Christ and other religious figures but not Mohammed. It is a clear sign and signal that Islam’s violent threats have “worked”, that they have acquired a special immunity. This is unacceptable.

    “It’s not like we’re talking about high art or a great contribution to culture here.”

    It doesn’t matter.

    “South Park is probably the crudest show on cable – and that’s a difficult category to win these days.”

    You haven’t seen Drawn Together, then… At any rate, while it is slightly off-topic, South Park may be crude but it often approaches political issues from a more mature standpoint than most cable news commentary. Sometimes I think the creators add as much vulgarity as they do as a test – if you “see through it” and watch the show for the message, you learn something. I could be wrong.

    “Notice, most of the criticisms above are about a double standard – South Park goes after anyone else with abandon, but not Muslims. ”

    Though this isn’t your point, I will say here that Matt and Trey WOULD “go after Muslims” – it is the network execs. at CC that censor them.

    The first part of the episode (it was a two parter) highlighted the fact that BEFORE the controversy in Denmark, South Park prominently featured a Mohammed in the original “Super Best Friends” episode and there was NO PROBLEM.

    Then a group of fanatics in Denmark arbitrarily decided that it was the time to start getting violent over print depictions of Mohammed, and everything changed. Frankly, as a Christian I am as disgusted as any civil libertarian at this servility. These people are bullies, and you stand up to bullies, you don’t back down.

    “When something that I value is at stake, that’s where I’ll draw the line.”

    Ok. I think that strategy is pointless, since the thing to be valued is our freedom not to be threatened by violent extremists, but whatever.

  • Why expect the Comedy Central execs to be any braver than the newspaper editors who refused to publish the Mohammed cartoons, or Western leaders who rush to preemptively denounce “hate crimes” against Muslims the second after any Muslim commits a hate crime?

    The merits and faults of South Park are secondary compared to the larger context, which is that Western governments and media (the same media which pride themselves on “speaking truth to power”) are utterly cowed by Muslim. The MSM caved on the Mohammed cartoons; Mark Steyn was hauled before the modern day equivalent of the Star Chamber in Canada for “hate crimes” (his “crime” was actually quoting a Muslim iman accurately); the French media reports on “youths” holding their nightly carbeques in the Paris suburbs without mentioning that the Renault-torching youths all belong to a certain religion; Geert Wilders is on trial for hate crimes against Muslims, although he is the one who needs police protection; Theo van Gogh was carved up in an Amsterdam street in broad daylight and none of his fellow filmmakers saw fit to mention his brutal slaying at that year’s Academy Awards. I could go on – and on. The more they bully and threaten, the more the West kowtows to their demands, to their inviolate right never to be offended, no matter how mild or unintentional the offense is. A few years ago, some company in the UK banned coffee cups depicting Porky the Pig because Muslim employees were offended by them. The Jews traditionally have never had much use for pork, but I’ll wager it never crossed the minds of even orthodox Jews to call for a ban on cups with pictures of cartoon pigs.

    The Muslim grievance society is perpetually aggrieved. They demand and demand and demand, and the West gives in and apologizes and capitulates endlessly. And the same people who do give in to the Muslims because of the very real fact of Islamic extremism fret about imaginary “tea party violence” and congratulate themselves for being daring when they insult Christians.

  • “And the same people who do give in to the Muslims because of the very real fact of Islamic extremism fret about imaginary “tea party violence” and congratulate themselves for being daring when they insult Christians.”

    That they do – and they sicken me.

  • Very interesting thread. My first instinct was to side with the snot-nosed religion-bashers over the violent psychopaths and the cowards, but really there are no role models in this story.

    I think it is the obligation of anyone in the field of communications to risk his life for human rights. We typically don’t think of it that way, but Vaclav Havel would. If you’re lucky enough to go a few decades without risking your life for something, you’re in a historical lull, but those don’t last long. The whole point of life is to pick a side.

  • Is Obama a coward for refusing to release the prisoner abuse photos?

    It’s one thing to put your own life on the line, but when you’re responsible for the lives of others, sometimes you should bite your tongue. Besides, it’s not like Comedy Central was protecting the Holy Grail. It was a cartoon. The right of Comedy Central to air a cartoon on one side and real lives on the other. I think they did the right thing.

  • Giving into a threat of murder restrainedradical merely encourages those who make the threats. It is cowardly and simply doesn’t work in the long run.

  • Some of you may be getting caught up in the vulgarity of southpark but it actually touches a lot on social and political issues. By the mere fact that they are willing to accept death threats because they believe in free speech actually says a lot about their character.

    Lets set aside the problems you have with southpark and at least acknowledge that.

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  • Of course catholics would defend the muslims because just like them they are responsible for far worse evils than ANYONE in the history of hollywood. Im glad its finally coming to light just how corrupt the holier than thou are.

  • Right. People killed in just wars waged by the Catholic Church (the “Crusades”) = a few thousand.

    People killed by atheist communists for a demented ideology that doesn’t even work = somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 million.

    No, you non-believers have us beat.

  • MR, who can possibly argue with someone who has such a keen grasp of history? For future reference I am going to exercise my prerogative of blog censorship and state that I find your assumed name offensive and any further comments under that name will go to the spam file and you will be banned from this blog. I defend the right of the South Park creators to be jerks in the face of Jihadist death threats. That does not mean that I wish to see their style of ignorant jerkiness emulated in my threads.

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A Perfect Post

Wednesday, December 9, AD 2009

Occasionally one runs across a post that’s particularly nicely done. I think Matthew Boudway’s recent reflections on a column by Clifford Longley on the new atheists comes dangerously close to perfect. It’s brief, highlights an interesting article, and adds a thoughtful perspective that provides more depth to the article it cites. Here’s a snippet:

[In response to Richard Dawkins’s claim that it is wrong to “indoctrinate tiny children in the religion of their parents, and to slap religious labels on them,”]

“There is no such thing as value-free parenting,” Longley writes…Longley proposes this as an argument about parenting, but it is hard to see why it wouldn’t also apply to education. If the argument doesn’t apply to education, why doesn’t it? If it does — and if it is a good argument — then people of faith have a compelling reason not to send their children to schools where the subject of religion qua religion is carefully avoided. One could, I suppose, argue that the tacit message of such schools is that religion is too important to get mixed up with the tedious but necessary stuff of primary education, but of course public schools approach important matters all the time, and cannot avoid doing so.

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The Obama Administration and Freedom of Speech

Wednesday, October 7, AD 2009

George Washington-Freedom of Speech

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The Founding Fathers left no doubt which freedoms they held most important.  They inserted them into the First Amendment to the Constitution.  Freedom of speech and of the press come right after freedom of religion.  These freedoms, and all the others set forth in the Constitution, are the birthright of all Americans and a precious example to the rest of the world.  That is why I am bemused by the manner in which the Obama administration appears to be indifferent to attempts to undermine freedom of speech and of the press at the UN.

Hattip to Instapundit.  In an article here at the The Weekly Standard, Anne Bayefsky, writes about the Obama administration signing on to a freedom of expression resolution.

“The new resolution, championed by the Obama administration, has a number of disturbing elements. It emphasizes that “the exercise of the right to freedom of expression carries with it special duties and responsibilities . . .” which include taking action against anything meeting the description of “negative racial and religious stereotyping.” It also purports to “recognize . . . the moral and social responsibilities of the media” and supports “the media’s elaboration of voluntary codes of professional ethical conduct” in relation to “combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.”

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One Response to The Obama Administration and Freedom of Speech

  • Two thoughts

    1. I find it interesting that the same resolution that contains “Stresses that condemning and addressing,. . . any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, . . . .” also contains ” Recognizes that the open public debate of ideas can be among the best protections against racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, and related intolerance, and can play a positive role in combating national, racial, or religious hatred”

    2. Given our national heritage and values, how many of us shout “there oughta be a law!” when the “Piss-Christ” is displayed? I do not include in that group people who simply point out the tasteless, offensive, sacrilegious and intolerant nature of the “work of art.”

Tortured Credibility

Friday, May 22, AD 2009

It has become an oft repeated trope of Catholics who are on the left or the self-consciously-unclassifiable portions of the American political spectrum that the pro-life movement has suffered a catastrophic loss of credibility because of its association with the Republican Party, and thence with the Iraq War and the use of torture on Al Qaeda detainees. Until the pro-life movement distances itself from the Republican Party and all of the pro-life leadership who have defended the Iraq War and/or the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” on detainees, the argument goes, the pro-life movement will have no moral authority and will be the laughing stock of enlightened Catholics everywhere.

Regardless of what one thinks about the Iraq War and torture (myself, I continue to support the former but oppose the latter) I’m not sure that this claim works very well. Further, I think that those who make it often fail to recognize the extent to which it cuts both ways.

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42 Responses to Tortured Credibility

  • I don’t think being “pro-life” will lose credibility because the position is True, but “pro-lifers” who associate with other violations against human dignity might.

    Personally, I do not understand how a thoughtful Catholic can support the Iraq War. I’ve yet to really hear air tight moral justifications for it, and if memory serves the entire run up to the invasion reeked of jumping the gun while post 9/11 emotions still ran high. Not exactly conditions for sober decision-making.

    The decision was not only an act of aggression, it was unconstitutional and a strategic blunder. It put us on the road to bankruptcy and rather than secure our safety I believe it to be contributing to an environment for further violent conflict. The truth is, almost a decade out from 9/11 and we were given Saddam Hussein on a platter instead of Osama bin Laden.

    The fact of this occurring under a Republican administration is rather irrelevant. If party actually mattered the war funds would have been taken away by the Democratic congress at any time after 2006. Now, half a year into Obama’s tenure and the line on withdraw is “give us three years”.

    The fact that this messy war has tainted other Republican “values” is not surprising. Look at everyone suddenly crying out that capitalism has failed!

    I would expect that if Obama does not end the war in a satisfactory way by the next election, or if there is a new conflict in Pakistan or Africa… leftist values too will begin to be dragged down. Voters will become sick of everything he says, just like Bush. The anti-war left would likely be as deflated and the pro-life right.

    If you ask me its the insanity of tribalism at work. If you take the “us vs. them” two party system and combine it with the general ignorance… well what do you expect? And besides, its not as if people on the genuine left and the genuine right really make it into power, is it?

    The war was never about securing the American people. It was however, about securing the American federal government; it dominance and control. Thats something both center-left and center-right can agree on. Ironically, they are losing both bit by bit, British-style.

    To this day I believe that the path to regain power is within Republican hands: all they have to do is repudiate the war. Maybe change their name, too. 🙂

    As far as the pro-Life movement is concerned… I do indeed think it is in their best interest to grow beyond the party. I think they have to if they are looking to build majorities that can withstand the back-and-forth of American politics.

    Most libertarians seem to be pro-choice, which is mind-boggling. There’s room there to grow a little bit.

    Pro-lifers do not need a majority of Democrats on their side. Just enough to make the larger party think twice when it comes to abortion legislation. They have to consider which piper they are going to pay. If abortion were more often argued in terms of the civil rights movement, perhaps left-leaning politicians could be persuaded.

    I guess, Darwin, my broader point is – none of it matters. Its tit-for-tat politics and none of the influential players are interested in moral consistency, just majority-building. By defending the Republican alignment of values or that the pro-life movement is perfectly at home where it is, you’re playing into the hands of pollsters and politicians.

    Or, perhaps I made no sense, even to myself.

  • Personally, I do not understand how a thoughtful Catholic can support the Iraq War. I’ve yet to really hear air tight moral justifications for it, and if memory serves the entire run up to the invasion reeked of jumping the gun while post 9/11 emotions still ran high. Not exactly conditions for sober decision-making.

    Well, I think I can at least claim to have been sober, in that I’d supported forcibly removing Hussein from power ever since 1991. I considered it profoundly immoral for Bush Sr. to have called on the people of Iraq to rise up against their dictator, with the implicit promise that the US would support them, and then leave them to die in the hundreds of thousands instead. I would have supported an invasion at any time since then, and I considered it to be justified, given that Iraq had never satisfactorily obeyed the 1991 cease fire anyway. If Clinton had been willing to get rid of Hussein at any point during his term, I would have supported that.

    I do think that the WMD justification was poor at best. Yes, there was a general belief (even among Iraq’s military) that they had chemical weapons. But they were not a great threat to us. However, given that I’d been in support of deposing Hussein for over ten years already, I didn’t consider the punitive justification a major obstacle to what seemed long overdue already.

    But, I can certainly understand why other Catholics would believe differently.

    By defending the Republican alignment of values or that the pro-life movement is perfectly at home where it is, you’re playing into the hands of pollsters and politicians.

    I don’t know that I’m so much defending the status who as pointing out that it’s hardly surprising to anyone. There are parts of the GOP platform that I absolutely disagree with (I’d support open borders) but I don’t think anyone does himself any favor by getting all worked up over where the current alignments are. It’s ludicrous to claim that the pro-life movement has lost credibility as a result of being associated with the GOP in a way that immigration reform and opposition to the death penalty haven’t as a result of being associated with the Democrats. All are known to be highly partisan agendas with established bases of support, and pretending that’s news to anyone does not strike me as doing one credit. Even if one would appreciate realignment.

  • “It’s ludicrous to claim that the pro-life movement has lost credibility as a result of being associated with the GOP in a way that immigration reform and opposition to the death penalty haven’t as a result of being associated with the Democrats. ”

    I suppose it would depend on how you see credibility. The movement is philosophically credible by being moral and constitutionally correct. But politically I can see how some would say they’ve lost credibility in terms of their ability to win elections, win court cases and influence legislation. If a movement is going to cast its lot with one party, then its goals are inevitably tied to the success or failure of unrelated issues. Only the thick-headed would exclusively equate political success to intellectual legitimacy.

  • Anthony,

    If a movement is going to cast its lot with one party, then its goals are inevitably tied to the success or failure of unrelated issues

    the movement has no choice but to cast it’s lot with one party since the other party is diametrically opposed to it’s principles and has rejected it outright.

    You’re not proposing some ridiculous third-party option, are you?

    The suggestion that some sort of post facto repudiation of the Iraq war will make even the slightest difference in the next election is living in the past, open your eyes and look forward. Whatever the key issue of 2010 and 2012, it will not be Iraq 2003-2008.

  • The suggestion that some sort of post facto repudiation of the Iraq war will make even the slightest difference in the next election is living in the past, open your eyes and look forward. Whatever the key issue of 2010 and 2012, it will not be Iraq 2003-2008.

    This is due to american historical amnesia, of course.

  • Rather a reaction to the coming Obama Crash. Unless there is a major terrorist attack, and I wouldn’t rule that out, the economy will be the overriding issue in 2010 and 2012 and the signs are not good currently for Obamanomics.

  • Michael I,

    what Donald said. But also, the American people realize that right or wrong the Iraq invasion was a bipartisan decision that most of the people agreed with as well. Their disatisfaction was almost entirely due to the poor state of affairs until it was rectified by the surge which President Bush (R) ordered at the recommendation of General Petreus (R?), and the urging of Senator McCain (R), and the majority of the Republican party. The main thing people will think about with regard to Iraq will be that it was won by the Republicans before Obama took over, or that Obama snapped defeat from the jaws of victory, very unlikely since he kept on the Robert Gates(R) to ensure that it wouldn’t happen.

    Donald is exactly right, the issue of 2010 and 2012 will not be Iraq 2003-2008. If I had to predict, sadly, it will be economic malaise, inflation, crushing federal deficits, massive tax increases, and quite possibly devastating terrorist attacks or other security issues (Russia, Iran, North Korea, take your pick).

  • “the movement has no choice but to cast it’s lot with one party since the other party is diametrically opposed to it’s principles and has rejected it outright.”

    I think the point is not whether or not the choices, in the short-term, of what seemed best for the survival of the movement is correct. After Roe v. Wade, the Democrats became increasingly dominated by pro-choice politicians, supported by the abortion-minded groups, etc. The GOP was very welcoming.

    I think the point of the criticism (right or wrong) is that possibly unforeseen affects are what we’re experiencing now.

    I think he is saying that the pro-life movement by making itself dependent solely on the success of a single party has made its own success contingent on that party. If positions predominantly accepted by that party are, largely down-the-list, against one’s best judgments of what better achieves justice then despite their pro-life convictions, some will feel disenfranchised and/or uncomfortable or even alienated by the rest of pro-lifers, some, not all, of which give a blind stamp of approval to the platform because of the party’s stance on life issues.

    And because this issue has divided itself across party lines, it appears to be a partisan issue when it really should not be.

    I posted a link from a story in the Human Life Review a while back talking about trouble pro-life Democratic candidates had in receiving funds, despite their records, from pro-life groups; other problems included Republican candidates being endorsed over pro-life Democrats with untainted abortion records — though, as far as I know, this hasn’t happened so much on the federal, rather than, state level. It’s why people — rightly or wrongly — say that some pro-life groups might as well be Republican PACs.

    Another problematic case is the fact that pro-life Democrats are so “diaspora” and not collectively organized at the local levels that it makes it rather difficult, even for principled, pro-life Democrats to actually launch a campaign. They don’t have the resources, even for those who are unequivocally pro-life. Some settle and work in the trenches for pro-life groups or other justice causes. Others simply — and I imagine this happened during the Reagan years — became Republicans.

    As a result, it is very very difficult for the pro-life movement to enter the realm of the Left because fellow pro-lifers are suspicious, perhaps with valid reason, to suspect “double talk” or false pro-life credentials.

    However, this very reality, I think makes the pro-life movement a house divided against itself while the pro-choice movements is moving in lock-step and that’s the source of their temporal victories.

    Now, I’m sure no one is saying that a one-party pro-life party is the way to go to. Some are hesitant, I’m sure for valid reasons, that it is difficult, or even counter-productive, to support self-described “pro-life Democrats.” Perhaps they’re right.

    However, here are my criticisms — some valid, perhaps some not. Everyone will have to judge for themselves.

    When Reagan was the president, the pro-life movement gained quite a bit of ground. Yet, the Clinton Administration quickly turned the direction of abortion and bioethical policies the other way. The Bush Administration was eight years of undoing the damage done by the Clinton Administration and restoring and adding new pro-life policies. Now we’re in another reversal.

    This tit-for-tat can keep going, or the other party can be infiltrated from within. There has not been much ground on this made, necessarily, but the organization Republicans for Choice (http://www.republicansforchoice.com/) are all but invisible. After the election, I’ve read a many articles and seen many people claiming that it was the “values-sector” of the party driving out moderates with their alleged extremism and litmus tests. I’m not making their argument; I am simply stating their assertions. The GOP, as seen, has no problem recruiting pro-choice Republicans to run for office (more than likely in liberal districts) to win office. I suppose the thinking is that it’s better to have someone with you 90% of the time then 0%.

    This reality tried to manifest itself in the 2008 GOP presidential primaries. The pro-life movement responded forcefully — not for the best candidate in my view — but responded nonetheless. Yet, I cannot help but wonder: what if?

    What would happen if the GOP with its new RNC Chair, Mr. Steele, so committed to “inclusion” and diversity and non-application of litmus tests went in a different direction? What if, God forbid, at some point, the pro-life movement split between viable candidates and all pro-choice and socially moderate Republicans concerned with fiscal conservatism, not cultural values, line up behind a single, less-than-pro-life candidate?

    I think that’s the bind. What is a pro-life person to do in this situation? Surely, a hypothetical, cynical GOP strategist might ask: would they really go to the other party? If this did occur: what would you do? Some I imagine would put a protest vote and not vote at all. Others would vote for the GOP, take what they can, and work to change the case next time. But it would surely be a source of division and debate: a house divided against itself. It seems that if voting is a moral obligation, then, one can’t simply sit at home and let good pro-life Republicans lose their seats and more pro-choice seats be taken in Congress by the Democratic party. What about pro-life Governors? What about the Presidency? The latter of two who appoint judges (depending on the State) and can realistically set a judicial seat in the pro-choice camp for perhaps a generation. Right now, that’s the scare with Obama’s SC nominee coming. Surely it would be better — and on this no one disagrees — that power can exchange between the parties and there would be little concern over nominee’s abortion positions.

    It seems that the success of the pro-life movement rises and falls with the GOP. I think it’s problematic.

    I don’t think it’s nonsense per se to envision Republican strategists, pure pragmatists, to realize that abortion is a potent electoral tool and not so much a human rights issue. This isn’t to say that there are several candid and sincere pro-life Republicans serving in public office.

    In the last 40 years, there have been only 2 Democratic appointments to the Supreme Court. Reagan chose two nominees that ended up being pro-choice and so did Bush I. Seven of the nine Justices since Roe have been made by Republicans and the pro-life movement has not garnered the votes needed by the court in order to get a 5-4 majority.

    This goes back to the question of pro-life Democrats. I think many Democrats who are pro-life cannot garner the resources or support to make it to office. The Democratic party won’t fund pro-life candidates, but rather would search for pro-choice candidates — anyone — to run in opposition to such candidates in primaries. That’s the key. A pro-life Democrat might do fine in a general elections against a Republican. In recent decades, they usually win. But rather it is the Democratic primary is an incredible challenge because of a lack of resources to compete against their fellow party-members who are singling them out surely over abortion. The GOP doesn’t hesitate to fund it’s pro-choice candidates: primaries are fair game. Let the voters decide.

    The list of pro-life Democrats who had high political ambitions who realized this reality is growing. Bill Clinton, Al Gore, Jesse Jackson, Joe Biden, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Dennis Kucinich, and many more were all at one point pro-life.

    Now certainly there change of conviction is morally incorrect and a reflection of poor character and courage. Many of such candidates do so for political expediency; others remain “pro-life,” but compromise their position and “moderate themselves” to win some base votes that they otherwise cannot win office without. Some later become explicitly pro-choice; others try to uphold the pro-life facade. Surely, the cooperation in evil doesn’t justify such actions. However, I think the fact that this occurs reflects a support that is not there, not just for cowards who will compromise, but for those who genuinely will seek office and never win it because they aren’t willing to sell out their principles.

    Yet, it just makes me wonder, if a pro-life Democrat launched an exploratory committee to seek the presidency and actually made it onto the ballot for the Democratic primary, how many pro-life groups or pro-life Americans, might actually extend help in resources for such a candidate to survive the assaults of NARAL, Emily’s List, and Planned Parenthood which is without a doubt the most organized, financed political movement in the U.S.? I’m skeptical of the number of people who would cross over from the GOP and cast their vote to ensure the pro-life candidate wins. I’m sure they have their reasons for it as well.

    I’m not sure anything I’ve said is valid or just my jumbled, ramblings.

    Perhaps, my most controversial thought is this…

    I won’t say it is a double standard.

    I just will say I dislike the reality. It seems that to be authentically a pro-life Democrat you must support Republican candidates, even with the most strident conviction that these candidates will not work fervently, or even with passion, to curtail the horror of abortion — but are rather giving you lip service. Right or wrong, I believe this to be the case. Yet, if you vote for or support pro-life Democratic candidates, some, again, not all, will see this as a moral compromise and support for “pseudo-pro-life” candidates. To such candidates, much scrutiny is given; but this same critical eye is not extended to the pro-life politicians in the GOP; it seems to me, perhaps, I’m wrong, they get quite a bypass. Nor do such individuals see any sort of necessity in helping such candidates win and defeat pro-choice candidates in a party direly in need of pro-life presence.

    Pro-life Democrats can never achieve leaders seats on committees and roles of leadership if they aren’t greater in number to be a force not to be thrown around.

    So, at the end of the day, pro-life Democrats seem to have a responsibility to ensure that Republican candidates beat pro-choice Democrats; yet, the issue of pushing their party in a more pro-life direction, seems to be an issue that is sort of “their problem” — and I cannot see how this current reality doesn’t lend itself to helping the Republican party politically. It maintains its hold on a crucial voting bloc.

    So, not so surprisingly, I agree, at least, in part with critics that the pro-life movement in some respects behaves like a Republican PAC.

    As it so happens, two parties that are pro-life forces competition, competition produces results. It seems then that pro-life Democrats are a potent tool for pro-life success. Even from 2000 to 2006, not a piece of pro-life legislation could pass through Congress without the remaining pro-life Democrats to neutralize and overcome pro-choice Republican votes.

  • But also, the American people realize that right or wrong the Iraq invasion was a bipartisan decision that most of the people agreed with as well.

    Not true, and also irrelevant.

  • “the movement has no choice but to cast it’s lot with one party since the other party is diametrically opposed to it’s principles and has rejected it outright.

    You’re not proposing some ridiculous third-party option, are you?”

    No, I’m proposing that we patiently persuade… a lost art in the United States.

    There has to also be a way that makes the pro-life cause and Democratic political interests better partners. Recall that after 2004, some Democrats began to wonder aloud (perhaps not seriously, but still) of becoming more friendly to the pro-life side of things. I had hoped the “Blue Dog” Democrats might be a moderating force, but not so it seems..

    Though, a third party would always be welcome in my view, however unlikely. It will never happen until enough disillusioned but still caring individuals decided to organize and work to breakdown election rules.

    “The main thing people will think about with regard to Iraq will be that it was won by the Republicans before Obama took over”

    I don’t agree. I think people will see it as an expensive mess (fiscally and morally) by Republicans that had to be cleaned up with more expenses by Republicans.

    And in the not-to-distant future they will see that Obama is carrying on that proud tradition, just in a lefty, Oprah-y way with nice posters and logos. Whether they have the courage to see past it remains to be seen.

    “The suggestion that some sort of post facto repudiation of the Iraq war will make even the slightest difference in the next election is living in the past, open your eyes and look forward. Whatever the key issue of 2010 and 2012, it will not be Iraq 2003-2008.”

    You’re joking right? If they don’t repudiate it then why would those of us who can remember past last week believe them ever again? I used to be fairly Republican 8 years ago. I’ll never vote for either major party again unless there is fundamental changes in attitude. I don’t care how naive or idealistic it is. We’re Catholic, for pete’s sake. We’re supposed to be better than this.

    The Republicans either lied, were incompetent or made bad judgement. All are good reasons to be kept from power as long as possible. “The Surge” no matter how militarily successful is irrelevant to the underlying issues that got us into the situation in the first place. If “winning” in Iraq looks the same as our perpetual “victories” in Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Germany, etc. then… no thanks.

    Don’t get me wrong… the Democrats are guilty of all that too!

    “Donald is exactly right, the issue of 2010 and 2012 will not be Iraq 2003-2008. If I had to predict, sadly, it will be economic malaise, inflation, crushing federal deficits, massive tax increases, and quite possibly devastating terrorist attacks or other security issues (Russia, Iran, North Korea, take your pick).”

    The Iraq war is not over, so it is not “2003-2008”, its “2003-present”. Its Obama’s War now, just like Afghanistan and his little games in Pakistan.

    I agree that economic issues are going to be the issue. But gee, I wonder what contributed to this mess… perhaps our ludicrously expensive foreign policy based on principled values like bribery or blowing things up.

    Will inflation be the issue? Of course, thanks to the billions spent, borrowed or created at the start of Bush’s term and exponentially increased under Obama.

    If a “security issue” (real, imagined or just for fun) does come up, you can bet that they’ll sell it as beneficial to our economic woes. Which is like saying WWII ended the Great Depression (it didn’t). Or perhaps they’ll say that this war (presuming its Iran) will be cheaper because the troops are already there! The cannons can be adjusted just a few degrees further east!

    I must say… if there is another “devastating” terrorist attack and the U.S. goes into another post-9/11 funk of spending and shooting…I’m not certain the “Republic” can survive in anyway thats worth describing as free.

  • Anthony, I agree. Despite my own previous assumptions, I’m not so sure I’ll be crossing over and helping the GOP in 2010; maybe not in 2012.

    I might have a straight down the line Pope Benedict XVI ballot.

  • “I might have a straight down the line Pope Benedict XVI ballot.”

    My mind is being tragically torn into a million pieces that the very thought of Pope Benedict XVI, Vicar of Christ, Bishop of Rome… and POTUS!

    Thomas Jefferson would be very, VERY disappointed!

  • If you say you won’t support pro-life Republicans in 2010 or 2012 for office against pro-abortion Democrats… what’s the logical conclusion?

    If you say you don’t want the Republicans back in power any time soon, and you’re not insane enough to think that somehow a magical third party will take sweep the congress in 2010 and the presidency in 2012, then the only conclusion is you prefer the RADICALLY pro-abortion Democrats.

    If you don’t see the strategy of supporting the Republican party straight ticket, then vote your conscience on each legitimate candidate on his own merits. That’s the ONLY moral option.

  • I said I’d write in candidates.

  • Michael J. Iafrate,

    Not true, and also irrelevant.

    Of course it’s true, 70% of the population supported the invasion, and both parties with a very few exceptions.

    Relevence? It’s relevent to the point of what will happen in 2010/2012.

    Anthony,

    No, I’m proposing that we patiently persuade… a lost art in the United States.

    I agree, we should patiently pursuade the luke-warm to be on fire for pro-life, and for the pro-abortion to be pro-life or at least luke-warm. THis applies to either party of course. Franly though, you can have a much greater influence on Republican platforms that you like or don’t like than you will on dropping abortion from the Democrat platform. THere is just a lot more tolerence for dissenting views in the Republican party.

    “The main thing people will think about with regard to Iraq will be that it was won by the Republicans before Obama took over”

    I don’t agree. I think people will see it as an expensive mess (fiscally and morally) by Republicans that had to be cleaned up with more expenses by Republicans.

    I don’t think most people really have as short a memory as you do about the invasion (bipartisan and popular support), if their memory is short they’ll probably only remember that we won (unless Obama snatches defeat from the jaws of victory, and that they’ll REALLY remember. Expensive? In 2003-2008 terms perhaps, but it is so small compared to Obama’s spending sprees it will not really factor on the decision.

    You’re joking right? If they don’t repudiate it then why would those of us who can remember past last week believe them ever again? I used to be fairly Republican 8 years ago. I’ll never vote for either major party again unless there is fundamental changes in attitude. I don’t care how naive or idealistic it is. We’re Catholic, for pete’s sake. We’re supposed to be better than this.

    Actually you may not be aware but there are bigger things at stake than a popularly supported invasion in 2003, the Church is pretty clear on this, abortion is a much more serious issue. 40 million murdered innocents and counting… no comparison.

    The Republicans either lied, were incompetent or made bad judgement. All are good reasons to be kept from power as long as possible. “The Surge” no matter how militarily successful is irrelevant to the underlying issues that got us into the situation in the first place. If “winning” in Iraq looks the same as our perpetual “victories” in Korea, Vietnam, Japan, Germany, etc. then… no thanks.

    Shame on you.

    The Iraq war is not over, so it is not “2003-2008?, its “2003-present”. Its Obama’s War now, just like Afghanistan and his little games in Pakistan.

    That’s my point, Iraq war, initiated under popular support, waged by the Republicans (poorly at times, but later brilliantly and successfully) from 2003-2008. The wrap-up is Obama’s to screw-up, it will not help him if he lets the job be finished properly, but it will devastate him if he screws it up.

    I agree that economic issues are going to be the issue. But gee, I wonder what contributed to this mess… perhaps our ludicrously expensive foreign policy based on principled values like bribery or blowing things up.

    Have you actually looked at military spending as % of federal spending or GDP? It’s tiny. Other “foreign policy” spending is money that’s been wasted for decades, nothing new here, I’d drop most of it immediately.

    If a “security issue” (real, imagined or just for fun) does come up, you can bet that they’ll sell it as beneficial to our economic woes. Which is like saying WWII ended the Great Depression (it didn’t). Or perhaps they’ll say that this war (presuming its Iran) will be cheaper because the troops are already there! The cannons can be adjusted just a few degrees further east!

    I must say… if there is another “devastating” terrorist attack and the U.S. goes into another post-9/11 funk of spending and shooting…I’m not certain the “Republic” can survive in anyway thats worth describing as free.

    are you a pacifist? I’m wondering, because you seem to make no distinction between just and unjust wars, ie. real = just, imagined, or just for fun = unjust.

  • Eric Brown,

    I said I’d write in candidates.

    let me get this straight. You consider your objections to the Republican platform to be on such a morally equal level to abortion, even when balanced against the alternative’s incredibly immoral policies… that you would vote AGAINST a viable and authentically pro-life candidate in your congressional district, or for president?

    Think about your position here, it’s untennable. If there is a viable and authentically pro-life candidate you have a moral obligation to support him. In the case of two less than authentically pro-life candidates the Church leaves your conscience to measure the best course, but not when one of them is authentically pro-life.

  • Well, I voted for quite a few Republicans in 2008 and not without a lot of hesitation.

    However, the problem is, that I don’t take at face value that the GOP and Republicans are “authentically” pro-life. Better on abortion than Democrats by far, but not per se…

    And I am not sure if it is a Catholic moral obligation to vote straight ticket Republican.

    I might have reservations to cooperate in the scheme, but I’m not opposed to doing it.

    Read my earlier post.

  • “Actually you may not be aware but there are bigger things at stake than a popularly supported invasion in 2003, the Church is pretty clear on this, abortion is a much more serious issue.”

    Killing is killing. Maybe you’re capable of making value distinctions between innocent, unborn children and innocent Iraqi lives (unless you’re convinced none are innocent), but I’m not.

    The “bigger picture” you refer to is only a numbers game. But the result is the same: death, unintended consequences and damage to human dignity.

    “Shame on you.”

    I’m going to explain myself rather than take that personally. This is the internet after all.

    Our intervention in Japan and Germany is not over. We’re still there, in one capacity or another. And we shouldn’t be, regardless of whether the Germans or the Japanese wish us to be. Here it is 60 years after a terrible and bloody war and American treasure is still being sent abroad to places in which the native peoples are more than capable of taking responsibility for themselves.

    Oh yeah, and dropping two atomic bombs? Morally reprehensible. Nothing to be proud of about that. I can’t imagine Christ doing anything other than weeping.

    So sorry, I’m not going to take The History Channel view of American “victory”.

    “Have you actually looked at military spending as % of federal spending or GDP? It’s tiny. Other “foreign policy” spending is money that’s been wasted for decades, nothing new here, I’d drop most of it immediately.”

    Its a trillion dollar war now, Matt. Plus untold losses on the Iraqi side and an incalculable amount lost in terms of productivity. Who cares about percentages at that point?

    If that money had to be spent, it would have been better but towards meeting our burdensome domestic obligations. The bills are adding up…

    By other “foreign policy” spending… do you mean wasted things like… diplomats?! Linguists?! Negotiators?! You know, the guys that try to resolve problems without killing someone. 🙂

    I’ll give you one thing, if you’d get us out of the U.N. I’d back you up. Thats some prime property here in Manhattan I’d love to see sold off.

    “are you a pacifist? I’m wondering, because you seem to make no distinction between just and unjust wars, ie. real = just, imagined, or just for fun = unjust.”

    I don’t consider myself a pacifist. I do however, believe that the threshold for a just war is extremely high and rarely reached. Additionally, in cases where it is justly reached rarely is it justly executed. I have the same attitude towards the death penalty.

    The American Revolution and The Southern War for Independence to my mind were justified. (I also want to include The Texas Revolution, but my memory is a bit faded on it) Our involvement in WWII was justified, but I think we should have no delusions about the politics that lead up to our entering the war. I also believe portions of how WWII was executed were unjust.

    The Spanish-American War, WWI (a special shout-out here), the Korean War, Vietnam, Gulf War I and II etc. are unjust wars in my view.

    The current war in Afghanistan should have been formally declared after 9-11, with victory clearly defined. My opinion has been that it should have been declared specifically against Al-Qaeda, since they did the same to us in the late 90s. War against the state of Afghanistan should only have been declared if they chose to continue material support to Al-Qaeda.

  • I think the issue is less guilt by association than it is the fact that association can draw you into defending things that really shouldn’t be defended. Over the past month, for example, folks at EWTN, First Things, Inside Catholic and the American Life League have defended the use of torture (or enhanced interrogation, or whatever they’re calling it these days). They didn’t have to do that, and I suspect that if the sides had been reversed (with Dems largely supporting these methods and Repubs opposed) that they wouldn’t have done so. But there’s something about politics that makes people feel that they need to “defend their team” regardless of the system.

    To some extent this may be inherent in the nature of politics (if it weren’t for this political ‘team spirit’ I doubt you could get very many people to participate in the political process or even vote). And it certainly applies on the left as well as on the right. But the danger is real.

  • Blackadder is correct.

  • In the last 40 years, there have been only 2 Democratic appointments to the Supreme Court. Reagan chose two nominees that ended up being pro-choice and so did Bush I. Seven of the nine Justices since Roe have been made by Republicans and the pro-life movement has not garnered the votes needed by the court in order to get a 5-4 majority.

    In the interests of precision it should be that George Bush – pere made just two appointments to the Court, one of which worked out badly. Please also note that Republican presidents have had to maneuver eight of their last 12 court appointments past a legislature controlled by the political opposition. This reality has been salient with regard to the tenure of Anthony Kennedy and David Souter. One might also note the list of registered Democrats who have sat on the Court since 1969 (one of which was nominated by Gen. Eisenhower):

    1. William O. Douglas
    2. William J. Brennan, Jr.
    3. Byron White
    4. Thurgood Marshall
    5. Ruth Bader Ginsburg
    6. Steven Breyer

    Not one of them had to run an obstacle course erected by a Republican Senate. Only one of these (White) ever showed much resistance to enactment by judicial ukase of whatever the prevailing ethos was in Georgetown (and it is doubtful that Mr. Justice White’s most controversial acts of refusal would have been regarded as remarkable either in the legal professoriate or among politicians at the time he was appointed in 1962). Seven of the twelve Republican appointments have been failures, in part because of negligence (Gerald Ford’s and George Bush-pere’s), incompetence (that of Richard Nixon, John Mitchell, and John Dean), and in part because (it is reasonable to surmise) of successful deception by the candidate in question (Sandra Day O’Connor).

    What is a more interesting question is why Mr. Brown would have more than a laconic interest in the competition between the two parties with regard to any other nexus of issues. Both parties are promoters of some version of the mixed economy. The Democratic Party is a reliable ally (the Republicans merely acquiescent) in the promotion of the designs of the social work industry, the organized appetite of academia, the teacher’s colleges, and the public employee unions. Certain subcultures within the population appear to be tribal Democrats). Why should these distinctions excite Mr. Brown’s loyalty?

  • Anthony, I think a lot of it depends on whose ox is being gored. Being partly of Cuban ancestry, I would take issue with your statement that the Spanish American war was unjustified–or at least, that element within it that consisted of Cuban citizens fighting to rout their foreign rulers. And while my Southern creds are impeccable, I confess that I remain deeply divided about the legitimacy of the Wah of Nawthun Agression–particularly the nasty little bit of Confederate adventuring in Charleston Harbor that set off the whole powder keg.

    I am glad to see, however, that you have no false illusions about WWII. Though there is no doubt in my mind that it was justified, I have often reflected recently that the brutality inflicted by all sides–Allies included–in that conflict, makes the sturm und drang about the Iraq War seem doubly ridiculous.

  • Art,

    Then it seems then that more careful vetting would be something GOP presidents should work on and pro-life advocates should strongly affirm that they desire anti-Roe judges and won’t settle for compromises.

    Even in the 1980s, the Democratic party was markedly pro-choice, but there were still a few pro-life Democratic votes in the Senate and I don’t think it was filibuster proof. I’d have to look into that; I’m not so sure if compromise and “moderate” candidates was so necessary.

    Agreed, however, that O’Connor was successful. I must say that I’ve been disappointed with the most recent women firsts — Supreme Court Justice, Secretary of State, Speaker of the House, to be particular. They were all pro-choice…so sad.

    On another note —

    I am a Democrat because I agree predominantly with the party’s platform. And I feel that I simply wouldn’t fit in with the GOP. I practically diverge away on every issue.

    In regard to competition, my only point was that if the Democratic Party had a pro-life plank, the GOP couldn’t half-ass deliver on its promises or fail to give abortion the priority it deserves because pro-life advocates could find a home and place in the Democratic Party. Therefore, competition would increase and the party’s would try to out do each other — but the effect of that is real progress in stopping abortion.

    In other words, the tit-for-tat of pro-choice vs. pro-life means one Administration puts in place pro-abortion policies, another Administration rolls it back, then again, and again. Progress is very slow; if this were not the case, then progress would quicken.

    My feeling on this is that the pro-life movement because of the grave evil of legalized murder doesn’t have the luxury to make up strategy as it goes. I happen to think our current strategy is too tied up in one party. People can disagree; but I think my reasons are valid. Thanks.

  • cminor – Wars for political independence usually to my mind are justified. Or perhaps I just have soft spot for people who wish to be left alone and chart their own course. As I’ve argued over in the past – I believe there is great value behind the principle of secession.

    What I object to in my list of unjust wars is the element of military intervention. Its one thing to philosophically support foreigners, or offer them peaceful-oriented material support (food, medical aide, etc. – mostly for civilians). Violent intervention is a bridge too far. I’m one of those guys who think neutrality is a legitimate and respectable response to foreign wars, especially ones at great geographical distance.

    Eric –

    I’m of the personal view that if the Democrats did have a pro-life bench they would be wildly successful and almost impossible to defeat.

    Granted I’m not a Democrat and never will be. The concerns that their platform addresses I might have heart for, but their solutions more often than not have unintended or misunderstood consequences. LBJ’s Great Society, for example, was anything but. FDR’s social security has contributed ironically to making us less financially secure. These policies, sold to the American public as being in line with liberty, over time make the population dependent – and I would even say pawns or slaves – to the state.

    The Democrats are in essence the party of social and economic intervention. The Republicans are a party of moral intervention and militarism. When politically convenient or necessary, both parties will swap philosophies.

  • Wars for political independence usually to my mind are justified. Or perhaps I just have soft spot for people who wish to be left alone and chart their own course. As I’ve argued over in the past – I believe there is great value behind the principle of secession.

    Interesting. In most ways, I think I would tend to say the exact opposite.

    Indeed, one of the American wars I have more difficulty justifying is the Revolution. And my sympathies in the Civil War are definitely with the North.

  • The Republicans are a party of moral intervention and militarism.

    that’s the talking points anyway. In reality, the Republicans as a policy advocate for intervention in the cause of justice, to protect the lives and rights of the citizens. As to militarism, look again, far more military interventions under Clinton than under Bush or Reagan. Regime change in Iraq was a Democrat policy also.

    Eric,

    I am a Democrat because I agree predominantly with the party’s platform.

    Wow. That’s quite a statement since many of their platform items are contrary to Catholic teaching.

    – abortion
    – contraception
    – secularism
    – limiting the rights of parents to educate their children

  • Matt,

    Last time I checked, party platforms are quite long lists.

    National security policies (which covers an array of issues), foreign policy (again an array of issues), health care, public funding of education, energy, taxes, fighting poverty through private and public sector solutions, and the list goes on.

    If you consider the whole of the platform, I agree with the vast majority of the points.

    Lastly, I don’t think anywhere in the party platform does it state we support “secularism.”

    I’m not saying that many Democrats have a wonderful understanding of the idea of separation of Church and State, but that’s flat out not in the platform.

    I didn’t say I agree with every point of the platform.

    If we had a point list and went down the party platform of each party and I had to respond ‘agree’ or ‘disagree’ — the Democrats would win. Ask me to vote between candidates and probably not.

    Matt, could you really work on not being so overly aggressive and condescending as a commenter? Seriously. It’s not really in this post, but there are more charitable and engaging ways to address people.

    You could have said quoted my comment and asked:

    “Eric, could you clarify what you mean here? A few tenets of the Democratic platform contradict Catholic teaching.”

    That’s very charitable and not so assuming.

    I’m sure we’re all guilty, but we argue on this blog so much about “good” Catholics and “bad” Catholics, let’s strive to actually imitate Jesus.

  • Darwin –

    Perhaps living in Texas will influence your outlook. Certainly myself having been born and raised in Houston I experienced a subculture in America that took pride in its republican sovereignty as a historical footnote. However, Texas by and large is mostly just ‘bark and no bite’ when it comes to independence. Post-Civil War they’ve been properly beaten into submission and made to feel guilty (like the rest of the South) for ever daring to give Washington the screw.

    In the case of both The American Revolution and The Civil War the ultimate goal was not destruction of the enemy but merely her expulsion. If the South succeeded in gaining independence, perhaps the war would have been known as ‘The Southern Revolution’ or ‘The Second American Revolution’. Had both the above conflicts been genuine ‘civil wars’ I would think the endgame would involve usurping power in London and Washington D.C.

    Thats all I’ll say… I’m already too far off topic.

  • The American Revolution and The Civil War the ultimate goal was not destruction of the enemy

    The ‘enemy’ in the first case was the legitimate central government.

    As for the second, I think one can argue that secession was permissible as a matter of positive law. The thing is, both the continued subjection of the slaves and the effort necessary to discontinue that involved the use of force.

  • ****
    that’s the talking points anyway. In reality, the Republicans as a policy advocate for intervention in the cause of justice, to protect the lives and rights of the citizens. As to militarism, look again, far more military interventions under Clinton than under Bush or Reagan. Regime change in Iraq was a Democrat policy also.
    ****

    Matt,

    Maybe I’m being dimwitted, but I think you just responded to my ‘talking points’ with your own set.

    The Republican record is atrocious, especially when it comes to the litmus test of a strict reading of the Constitution and following what I can only presume are Jeffersonian principles. On matters of free speech, spending, declarations of war, states rights and social/government programs they have not lived up to their speeches. They pick and choose which rights and which liberties and which kind of justice just as much as Democrats.

    Our politicians are ‘Cafeteria Constitutionalists’ if I can paraphrase.

    Clinton might indeed have more military interventions (Somalia, Kosovo, Iraq immediately spring to mind), but the cost was no where near that of Bush II. My ‘militarism’ reference is more geared toward the current state of the party and the cultural attitudes attracted to it.

    Like I said above, those described philosophies are also quickly swapped depending on the political weather. Right now, for instance, the Republicans have become much better on a variety of issues. The problem is they have zero credibility.

  • *****
    The ‘enemy’ in the first case was the legitimate central government.

    As for the second, I think one can argue that secession was permissible as a matter of positive law. The thing is, both the continued subjection of the slaves and the effort necessary to discontinue that involved the use of force.
    *****

    I’d love to debate all these points, but it is another topic thread. Unless we have permission to go free-for-all. 🙂

  • Anthony,

    Following the self-indulgent principle of “it’s my thread so I’ll take if off topic if I feel like it”, because this strikes me as an interesting topic:

    I guess the hang-up for me is that as a conservative (and also looking at Church just war teaching) that regional independence (or national self determination, or call it what you will) is not an absolute good. In the case of the American Revolution, it strikes me that the injustices being imposed by the British were arguably very small compared to the evils of a drawn out war. Though the political philosophy of the American founding fathers strikes me as sufficiently far superior to that of the British empire that I an strongly tempted to say it was worth it anyway.

    In the case of the Civil War, I’m mildly sympathetic to states rights, but the stand was only being taken over states rights in order to insist on slavery. In that regard, I would happily have carried a rifle for the Union.

    Still, interesting conversation. I hope you’ll be around next week when I post my review (possibly multi part) of Empires of Trust. That should generate some interesting conversation.

    Blackadder,

    I think you’re right on tribalism. The temptation seems to have been too strong for some pro-life advocates to defend what they should not. Though at the same time — I don’t necessarily see the mistakes of those people as discrediting the movement as a whole. Or at least, it should not do so in the eyes of people who have long been used to swallowing the bitter pill of abortion support in the leaders they look up to on various “social justice” issues.

  • *****
    The ‘enemy’ in the first case was the legitimate central government.
    *****

    I don’t think I’ve heard anyone argue that the British crown was illegitimate, just tyrannical. The grievance, as I remember, was basically that a.) the crown’s actions were unjust and economically destructive, and b.) there was not sufficient representation in Parliament for the American colonies to voluntarily submit if they wanted to.

    Had those matters been better negotiated I would not have seen much cause for political separation. But they weren’t, so in my view it was justifiable to expel the threat to life, liberty and property and replace it with a better suited form of governance. It was time, as they say, to ‘appeal to heaven’.

    With regard to the war between the states its messier and more complicated, but similar to the situation with Britain.

    Let me first say that slavery is as reprehensible as abortion, contrary to any conception of liberty and should be rejected at all times and by all peoples. Were I living in America circa the 1850s, 1860s I would have been anti-slavery, but at peace with Southern secession.

    I often wonder if perhaps by allowing the South to secede, in time slavery could still have been done away with; particularly if Southern states sought to rejoin the Union at a later date. That way we could avoid the half million American deaths and a century of racial and and cultural resentment that is the Civil War’s sad legacy.

    I do not believe that slavery was the exclusive issue at stake in the Civil War. Not every individual fought for the same reason. If truly the war was one of liberation and not one of radically changing our Union’s understanding simultaneously, then permitting secession followed by an invasive mission to free slaves would have made more sense. Abolishing slavery in those states that did not secede would also have been more consistent on the part of the Union. Buying slaves and freeing them would also have made more sense. But both sides dug in… there had to be more to it than the lone moral debate over slavery.

    The South, in my view had a natural and popular desire to dissolve a political arrangement; no matter how imperfect or disgusting their own house could be. (Slavery, if I recall rightly, was enshrined in the CSA Constitution).

    Also I believe there to be legitimate historical and philosophical arguments over Lincoln’s goals at the war’s outset and the role tariffs and taxation played in further aggravating the conflict. Pro-Union historians who concede certain points about Lincoln usually argue that the president grew into being ‘The Great Emancipator’ over the course of the war thus legitimizing the “it was all about slavery” view. But if that is to be allowed then it could also be allowed that for the South what began as a wrong-headed defense of slavery grew into a larger and legitimate cause for political liberty.

    Its a real historical shame that the principle of ‘state’s rights’ – or rather a deference to local government – is tainted by the stench of slavery. Perhaps its only fitting that large, federal government is duly being connected to the stink of abortion, euthanasia, war and economic foolishness.

    *****
    I guess the hang-up for me is that as a conservative (and also looking at Church just war teaching) that regional independence (or national self determination, or call it what you will) is not an absolute good.
    *****

    I’m not certain there is much to say from the Church’s perspective and I only have a few, sketchy thoughts here.

    For one, after life, liberty is a natural and necessary condition in order for mankind to pursue good. I tend to think that if liberty is abridged (either by a state or individual) it further complicates pursuing a moral good via moral means. An individual or a people placed in a desperate situation they’re likely going to react desperately I’d imagine. The slave is legitimate in his revolt against the master, just as the South had legitimacy in its desire to no longer be under Washington’s growing power.

    Second, and perhaps more telling, concerns the general attitude towards ‘the State’. Where as I see the Church as a ‘higher’ form of institution that teaches and loves (however imperfectly some times), the State is considerably lower or lowest in my estimation. Indeed, I find it positively parasitical and unproductive.

    I would note that this does not mean I am not patriotic. I love my country. I love its peoples, my family, my friends, its lands, its culture and even its intellectual traditions. I cannot transfer that love to the State, indeed I find love of state to be dangerous and inescapably competitive with the things I ought to love (my neighbor, my God, etc.).

    Were I to run for office, my platform would likely be to tie the federal government’s hands as much as possible and follow the Constitution to the letter – even when inconvenient.

  • As has been remarked, parliamentary representation in Britain prior to 1832 was quite haphazard – – rotten boroughs, pocket boroughs, dominacy of Lords over Commons, &c. The lack of assignment of representation to the colonies was an aspect of that. (To this day, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, and the residuum of overseas colonies do not have such representation). Why a series of excise taxes should spark a territorial revolt is an interesting question, from a sociological standpoint. Excises on paint and paper and tea may be good or bad policy. Such does not ‘tyranny’ make.

    Lincoln’s original motivations are an historical question. My purpose was to make a rough and ready statement as to why I would conceive of the use of force in that circumstance as legitimate.

    Personally, I think the U.S. Constitution is manifestly defective and should be scrapped.

  • I did not know about the sketchy representation in Parliament. Huh… the more you know!

  • Anthony

    As to Lincoln and the Civil War

    As a Southern one hears that often the Victors write hisotry. However as to the Civil War I often find the losers(we southerners) have often wrote it or “rewrote it” with amazing success. This was whiched one of its climaxes when Woodrow Wilson was elected and suddenly that horrid film he screened became the offical line

    First there is no evidence that Slavery would have gone away. It seemed to be growing by leaps and bounds in Texas. That was once a Catholic NO SLAVE STATE. It is without a doubt that SOuthern Leadership wanted a slave empire. Their constant designs on Cuba and Central America a prime example. In fact a slave Manifest Destiny with desgins on California. I suspect if things had gone differently if DC had been captured and even Philly I am not so sure that areas like New Mexico and Arizona to say the least would have been given back. There was consideravle Confederate action in New Mexico for example and the COnfederate recognized a Arizona Seccesionist Govt

    As to the “growing Federal Power” if you look at the Seccession Declarations of the States SLAVERY was the issue. While a few threw in talk of light houses and the occasional tariff this was the prime concern

    Southerners had used Federal Power quite a bit. They imposed a gag rule on Slavery in Congress, the mails could be censured of anti slavery things. Also what they wanted in the end was a Federal Slave Code. That would have been the largest exapnsion of Federal Power ever. In fact it was largely on this that the SOutherners broke with the Democrat party on that fateful day in Charleston at the Democrat Convention

  • First there is no evidence that Slavery would have gone away.

    Counter-factual speculation is somewhat idle. However, it ought be noted that the abolition of slavery in the United States was appended to the abolition of hereditary subjection all over Europe and Russia over the period running from 1789 through 1864. (Admittedly, serfdom is a qualitatively different institution). Also, I believe that the abolition of slavery in Brazil was enacted just a few years after the close of the American Civil War.

  • Well, the boll weevil would have done in the cotton industry one way or another, so retaining large quantities of slave labor would have become considerably less profitable for one major export at least. Importing new slave labor would also have become increasingly difficult and unprofitable, considering that standard practice on the big plantations in immediately antebellum Georgia and the deep South was to work slaves more or less to death over several years and then replace them. Slave escapes would likely have largely emptied border states (maybe we’d have a wall down the middle of the continent!) There might still be slavery, but not to the same extent as before; likely the system would have gotten extremely draconian before finally starting to fizzle, however.

    Currently I live in a South that, all things considered, is in pretty good shape. If a war (that we started) is what it took to bring the abomination that was slavery to an earlier close and my Confederate forefathers had to lose it so that this corner of the country wouldn’t degenerate into a demagogue-ridden third world state, though they haunt me for saying it, it’s just as well.

    For the record, I got the full Southern version of history in grade school. The victors didn’t write it all.

  • BTW Anthony, what other issues governed the decision to secede to anywhere near the degree of slavery? Please.

  • My favorite history of the Civil War was written by Shelby Foote, and the best study of command in the Civil War, Lee’s Lieutenants, was written by Douglas Southall Freeman. When it comes to the Civil War, the Southern viewpoint has produced myriad first class histories.

  • “BTW Anthony, what other issues governed the decision to secede to anywhere near the degree of slavery? Please.”

    I never said slavery was not part of it. My view has always been that the debate over slavery poured into a lager crisis over the meaning of the Union.

    I merely reject the argument that the Civil War was exclusively over that acute issue. The question of both liberty for slaves, political liberty for the Southern States and the Union’s meaning under the Constitution.

    You can’t disconnect the slave issue from its Constitutional aspects, its economic aspects any more than you can its moral ones. I’d also add that as one who leans rather libertarian the lens through which I’m viewing things is liberty itself. Questions of authority are antithetical. Why can’t one believe that slaves should be free and Southern states free? It seems rather “American” to me.

Political Intimidation and Persecution

Monday, October 27, AD 2008

The recent personal attacks and invasive investigation of Joe the Plumbers personal life is a scary thing.  Joe the plumber represents the everyday American, striving to better his lot in society.  By sheer coincidence Joe the Plumber was able to ask an innocent question to the Democratic candidate for president that seemed to put Senator Obama on the spot.  Then all hell broke loose.

I can understand if the far left goes far in their vitriol when their candidate was put in an unsavory position, but when the mainstream media began to jump all over Joe the Plumber I actually got a bit concerned.  I’m all for the vetting of candidates and hard-nose journalism, but the vitriol and aggressive journalism being exerted upon the McCain campaign and their supporters is practically non-existent on the Obama camp.

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56 Responses to Political Intimidation and Persecution

  • “I can understand if the Daily Kos, Vox Nova, and the nutroots community going ballistic that their candidate was put in an unsavory position…”

    “Brothers of Cain…”

    “With these thuggish Daley machine tactics being applied on a national scale are priests going to be investigated and prosecuted for preaching the sacrament of marriage is only between a man and a woman?’

    Tito,

    How long before your worthy contibrutors run away, with this type of stuff coming from their site’s founder?

    If you keep it up, I imagine a mass exodus soon….

  • Mark,

    Thanks for your prognostications.

    Where did I type, “Brothers of Cain…”?

  • Just a side note,

    Another TV station has been banned by Obama/ Biden

    http://www.breitbart.tv/html/206633.html

  • I agree that Sen. Obama’s campaign has not exactly been tolerant of dissent, and the treatment of Joe the Plumber by the media, more than the netroots, was disgraceful.

    That said, I think we need stronger evidence before we hit the panic button about Obama and our rights to free expression. The media and many of his supporters would quickly fall out of love with him if he began a ‘persecution of Christians.’

  • Mark,

    Thanks for the fraternal correction. Two out of three isn’t to bad for you.

  • “I call these folks crypto-Cain’s.”

    Sorry for my lack of precision in quoting. But did you cahange your original post? I seem to remember “brothers”…

  • Mark,

    That was from the “Catholics Switching to McCain” post I believe.

    Nope no brothers.

    But the other two were updated.

    Good eye.

  • I do think we are headed for a strong poersecution of Christians, most especially faithful Catholics who follow the teachings of the Church. Its the small things like the media’s unfiltered adoration of him, the attacks on Joe the plumber, the words of Biden about how we “won’t like what Obama does” after a crisis but that his supporters must stand by him, the folks who influenced his political thought, the messianic love by his followers, all little things that I think add up to something dark in our future.

  • Unbelievable that Tito would compare the “intimidation” of Joe the Plumber with the persecution of Christians. He is obviously clueless about real contemporary Christian persecution. Especially the kind actively promoted by the Republican party, especially Ronald Reagan and Bush I, throughout Latin America. His absolutely stupid comparison simply laughs in the face of the of the victims of REAL Christian persecution. Oscar Romero, pray for us.

  • Michael,

    Your one of the “Useful Idiots” that Lenin described.

    Are you talking about the “christian jesuits” that supported the Liberation Theology and the violent Sandistas Government? Which the current Holy Father condemned and his Great predecessor shook his figure at… aka Father Ernesto Cardinal.

  • Michael,

    Thank you for your charitable and constructive criticism.

    Especially asking for a non-canonized saint Osar Romero to pray for you.

    St. Maximillian Kolbe, pray for us.

  • Well, I disagree with Walter that something worthy of the term “persecution” will be officially inflicted on Christians by the US government at any point in the near future. I understand why people worry about it, but I think that the national belief in freedom of expression and religion is stronger than it is sometimes given credit for. (That, and I remember the unfulfilled prophesies of persecution under the Clinton administration.)

    However, Michael, you should get your facts straight. There’s no way that Romero could in any way have been killed with the support, tacit or otherwise of the Reagan administration, because he was assassinated in March 1980, eight months before Reagan was elected.

    So it would seem that his killing was the result of the REAL persecution of Christians supported by Carter — if that’s the argument you want to make.

  • Bret – No, I am primarily talking about the millions of innocent civilians, peasants, etc. who were killed by U.S.-backed governments. But I would include the many priests and religious who were killed by the same U.S.-backed policies, sure.

    If you think for one moment that these people deserved to die, whatever their political opinions were, you are no Christian. You can go to hell.

  • There’s no way that Romero could in any way have been killed with the support, tacit or otherwise of the Reagan administration, because he was assassinated in March 1980, eight months before Reagan was elected.

    I stated no such thing about Romero and Reagan. But if you want to sanitize the record of the Reagan and Bush presidencies with regard to Central America, good f–king luck.

  • Carter did support the same policies in Latin America. You are absolutely right about that. Romero was in touch with Carter repeatedly and Carter ignored him. Reagan and Bush continued and intensified those policies.

  • I don’t have any particular interest in sanitizing the Latin American policies of Bush, Reagan, Carter, Nixon, LBJ or JFK — but unlike you I don’t have an interest in overly demonizing them either. Much of the last fifty years of Latin American history is a succession of fascist thugs fighting communist thugs — with each side being thoroughly nasty people.

    US policy throughout the entire period was generally been one of trying to keep communists from gaining power (and thus supporting whoever opposed them) because of the way in which the USSR was using communist Cuba and communist militias in other countries to destablize the region.

    I’m not necessarily pleased with the people that US chose to support, but I see why it was judged to be the best of a bad lot at the time.

    Calling it religious persecution rather than a series of civil wars between fascists and communists is a real stretch, though. Generally attempted by those for whom passion serves as a substitute for thought. Speaking of which — I assure you that I can swear just as well as you can, but it adds little to conversation and if you can’t find more normal ways to express yourself I suspect that Tito will (quite rightly) delete your offending comments.

  • Calling it religious persecution rather than a series of civil wars between fascists and communists is a real stretch, though.

    Only if you ignore the fact that the U.S. gov’t explicitly targeted Catholic church leaders and liberation theology. Flyers in the streets of El Salvador reading “Be a patriot, kill a priest.” Romero, the N. American church women and the Jesuit martyrs were not mere “collateral damage” in a civil war. It was directly religious persecution.

    I could care less about whatever puritan language hangups you have.

  • I highly doubt that the U.S. government targeted Catholics to exterminate Catholics. Central America is 99% Catholic (give or take a couple of percentage points). So to claim that Catholics were targeted is a gross error in analysis.

    Your hyperbole to justify leftist positions painted in the blood of ancient martyrs does a disservice to their memory. It is unbelievably hebephrenic of you to do such a thing. No practicing Catholic would blaspheme the names of our ancient martyrs to promote your socialistic positions.

    Shame on you Michael I.

  • Pope John Paul II had a very clear idea of who he supported in Nicaragua.

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9906E4D61439F93BA35751C0A960958260

    As for language, of course you are foul mouthed Catholic Anarchist. That goes with your whole anarchist shtick right?

  • puritan language hangups????

    I suppose I could swear with the best of them… did once upon a time.

    Just don’t find it to be a very credible mode of discourse or argumentation anymore.

    I.e. it has nothing to do with puritanism, but rather with charity, Michael.

  • -I could care less about whatever puritan language hangups you have.-

    Nice. Multiple times contributors made attempts to speak rationally with you and you responded with profanity and disregard for their input. I think an apology is in order.

  • Michael,

    That someone in El Salvador (at least according to you) thought it to the benefit of his cause to kill priests does not mean that the US was actively supporting persecution. And frankly, those liberation theology exponents who deliberately aligned themselves with communist militias bear some blame in what happened as well.

    Surely your worldview can handle the “nuance” of real world cause and effect?

    As for my “puritan language hangups”, I don’t think that David Mamet fans can generally be accused of having a puritanical approach to language. But the fact is that God gave us the power of language for a reason. Why misuse it? Unless your points are so weak that you cannot make them with ordinary language.

  • So Michael,

    “I am primarily talking about the millions of innocent civilians, peasants, etc. who were killed by U.S.-backed governments.”

    You must be refering to the abortion policy of the Democratic Party and the one proposed by Obama where millions die each year.

    I never said priests who supported Liberation Theology deserved to die, but they worshipped a false religion and need to be corrected. Even the movie “Romero” pointed that out; and our Holy Fathers did do that.

    Just because I don’t argue with the revolutionary methods, does not make Christian… it is not I who ignore the cry of the innocent when they are butchered and it is called choice.

    By the way, I surprise you believe in Hell; I thought it was empty or did not exist?

  • I.e. it has nothing to do with puritanism, but rather with charity, Michael.

    Good point, Chris. And one that gives me a needed twinge of conscience since I frequently use words which are not profane in the plain sense, but are uncharitable in that they are intentionally derisive.

    Which isn’t very good either…

  • I highly doubt that the U.S. government targeted Catholics to exterminate Catholics. Central America is 99% Catholic (give or take a couple of percentage points). So to claim that Catholics were targeted is a gross error in analysis.

    […]

    That someone in El Salvador (at least according to you) thought it to the benefit of his cause to kill priests does not mean that the US was actively supporting persecution.

    You simply don’t know the history. U.S. involvement in supporting the killing of Catholic clergy, religious and laity is documented. Many of the killers involved were trained in the United States at Ft. Benning. It’s undeniable.

    Tito, it has nothing to do with justifying “leftist” ideology. It’s a matter of being honest about history. Even mainstream Catholics own up to the fact that the U.S. government was behind the killing of countless Latin American clergy, religious, and laity. You are are you one who is blinded by ideology such that you refuse to come to grips with the history of your political party and your government.

    And frankly, those liberation theology exponents who deliberately aligned themselves with communist militias bear some blame in what happened as well.

    Liberation theologians did not align with any militias.

    it is not I who ignore the cry of the innocent when they are butchered and it is called choice.

    Nor is it I. I am not pro-choice. Been to the “March for Life” twice.

    By the way, I surprise you believe in Hell; I thought it was empty or did not exist?

    Hell clearly exists. You are living proof.

    I.e. it has nothing to do with puritanism, but rather with charity, Michael.

    The real profanity is all of you making excuses for the slaughter of millions of Latin American people by your own government. Shame on you.

  • -Hell clearly exists. You are living proof.-

    Hail and well met, good fellow! The day is yours!

  • “The real profanity is all of you making excuses for the slaughter of millions of Latin American people by your own government. Shame on you.”

    What you are really ticked about Catholic Anarchist is that your side lost. Politics in Central America has been a deadly business since the nineteenth century. In the 20 the century the internecine warfare took on the coloration of the great struggle between Communism and the West. Blaming the US primarily for political violence in Central America is to betray an astonishing ignorance of the history of the various nations. Without the intervention of the US there would still have been great violence within El Salavador, Nicaragua and Guatemala, with the additional atrocity of the establishment of tyrannical communist regimes modeled on Cuba. I think it is a very good thing that the US prevented that.

  • Dear Michael,

    It is you who are making the excuses… not realizing that the U.S. was at war with one the major threats to Christianity… Communism. And to sit there and say, that American Foreign Policy under the Reagan and Bush Administration was evil is ridiculous. It was under Reagan and Bush that the U.S. defeated one of the greatest evils of man.

    There are many calamities in war… and many innocent people die, and I am not excusing the killing of the innocent, but you are ignoring what was at stake. World domination by the Communist party. Our goal was to stop the evil of Communism; you could see it in the Soviet Union under Stalin; you could see it in China under Mao; you could see in Vietnam under Ho; you could see it in Cambodia under Pol Pot; you could see in Cuba under Castro; you could see it in Nicaragua under Noreiga…

    We were fighting a war for the very survivial of Western Civilization, and you want to play these games of moral equivalence or worse… we were evil…

    There were many mistakes in our foreign policies dealing with Communist, but most of those were under Democratic Administrations… aka Kennedy the execution of Diem; Johnson letting the Media run the Vietnam war; Nixon (Republican) who went to China and his silly policy of Detente; Carter who was just a plain disgrace.

    You can say what you want, but the plain fact is the Liberation Theologian aligned themselves with the Marxist… and there have been records of Jesuits stashing machine guns for the “People” aka Communists.

    As a side note, am I hell or in hell or both – I am going to go with neither. 🙂

  • Bret – Stop making excuses for U.S.-backed slaughter of Latin American Catholics.

    Blaming the US primarily for political violence in Central America is to betray an astonishing ignorance of the history of the various nations.

    I am aware of the various histories and the u.s.’s relationship to them. The u.s. sided with right wing military governments throughout Latin America in order to stamp out “communism.” The u.s.’s targets explicitly included Catholics throughout Latin America who took sides with the poor.

    To the rest of you who do not believe that the u.s. would deliberately encourage the slaughter of Latin American Catholics, look up the “Santa Fe document.” See also Penny Lernoux’s book Cry of the People.

  • You simply don’t know the history. U.S. involvement in supporting the killing of Catholic clergy, religious and laity is documented. Many of the killers involved were trained in the United States at Ft. Benning. It’s undeniable.

    Some members of right wing militias who committed horrible atrocities were trained, earlier in their careers, in the United States, but that hardly means that it was actively the policy of the US to kill Catholics for being Catholic. The US policy was pretty clearly one of opposing the Latin American communists, and I don’t think it’s any more accurate to say that the US aim was persecution of Latin American Catholics than it would be to say that FDR’s aim in allying with Russia during WWII was the persecution of Cossacks and Poles.

    You of all people should understand that one can consider a particular party to be the best one to win control of a party without endorsing some of the immoral actions of that party — after all, you say that you prefer Obama to be the next president of the US despite his support for the mass killing of the unborn.

    Liberation theologians did not align with any militias.

    I actually chose my words rather carefully when I said “those liberation theology exponents who deliberately aligned themselves” because although the people you consider to be legitimate liberation theologians may not have aligned themselves with political violence, there were certainly those priests who claimed to preach liberation who did align themselves with violent parties. Going from what I can recall off the top of my head: several priests were involved in the Sandanista government, despite express disapproval from the Vatican; Haitian Fr. Aristide (eventually defrocked) repeatedly celebrated the “necklacing” of his opponents: tying their arms, putting a gas-soaked tire around their necks, and lighting them on fire.

    In short, as Donald pointed out: Latin American politics have been soaked in blood for a long time. I in no way defend the actions taken by the anti-communist forces in the various countries down there, nor do I think that the US government’s choice to support some of the more extreme right wing militias was wise or right, but to claim that the US was engaged in persecuting or supporting the persecution of Catholics for religious reasons is hyperbolic, and to claim that the communist forces were in any way deserving of admiration (or support) would be equally if not more wrong.

  • Incidentally, for an added level of irony, one of the positions of the much despised “neo-conservatives” which I found and continue to find myself much in sympathy with is that it is not an acceptable position for the US to simply support the existing local faction most in keeping with US interests, even if that faction has a bad habit of imprisoning and torturing its opponents, but that the US should instead seek to promote liberal democracy throughout the world.

  • “By the way, I surprise you believe in Hell; I thought it was empty or did not exist?”

    So American Catholic officially condemns those who dare to hope that all human beings be saved….?

    Is Von Balthasar a scapegoat around here?

    Unbelievable.

  • So American Catholic officially condemns those who dare to hope that all human beings be saved….?

    Bret is not one of our writers, and to be honest I couldn’t tell what he was getting at with that sentence anyway — I think there might be a typo in it.

    But though I’m in no position to condemn anyone, nor do I seek to be, I do think that Dante had a much more accurate appraisal of hell than Von Balthasar — for what it’s worth.

    Looking around the world, it is incomprehensible to me that hell should be empty — my great aim is simply to assure that I don’t myself make it any more full.

  • Our friends on the left are so devoid of hope and joy, it is no wonder the seminaries are full of conservatives and bereft of liberals. The only liberals in the Church are some aging radical priests who have no following. In reading some of the liberal’s posts here, I can’t tell if it is your own words or Bill Ayres’ talking points. Your rants about Latin America are truly troubling. Some of the most conservative people I know are Latinos along with Africans and Asians. They don’t own anything. However, they would like to, but you guys know better than them. Talk about elitist. They want to succeed and achieve but you guys are so caught up on Marx & Engels, you aren’t allowing these folks to live their dreams. I would also refer you to the many statements of Eduardo Versategui. Talk about being poles apart and that guy came from real poverty. My friends on the left, the McCain-Palin ticket is hardly that conservative. Senator McCain is frequently under attack from talk radio for not being conservative enough. I will leave you with a couple of thoughts how would the mainstream media react if John McCain said, “the poor you will always have among you.” (Mark 14:7) What would the mainstream media say if John McCain or Sarah Palin retold the Parable of the Talents and told the one who wasn’t producing that he would be thrown in hell for not measuring up? (Matthew 25:14-30) What about Saint Paul’s words concerning one must work before one can eat? (2 Thessalonians 3:10.) I am curious as to your thoughts.

  • Mark,

    So I disagree with Von Balthasar on one issue, and all of sudden “he is a scapegoat around here.” Goodness gracious.

    Darwin,

    Michael told me to go to hell, so I was trying to be funny. I guess I was not successful. 🙂

  • Michael told me to go to hell, so I was trying to be funny. I guess I was not successful.

    That was my basic impression — but some people take everything in the world so seriously that you have to address them on their own humorless terms at times. 😉

  • Bret,

    Who is it that you deem so incapable of (accepting) forgiveness?

    Your mother-in-law? 😉

  • I wonder how we can deny that persecution is coming when it’s already arrived in Europe and Canada. And we always seem to be just a few years behind those post-Christian nations in our rejection of God.

  • Michael,

    Thanks for your articulate response, it’s greatly appreciated.

    What Donald McClarey, Bret Ramsey, & Darwin said.

    🙂

    Mark,

    What Darwin said.

    🙂

  • Dave “Catholic Report” Hartline is rarely worth a reply, but here are a few points:

    Our friends on the left are so devoid of hope and joy, it is no wonder the seminaries are full of conservatives and bereft of liberals.

    1) Oh, I have as much hope and joy as I do hatred for the anti-Kingdom of death that you are pushing.

    2) I go to school with tons of seminarians. You characterization is wrong.

    The only liberals in the Church are some aging radical priests who have no following.

    Our of touch, obviously. Do you go to Mass? Are you a fallen away Catholic or something?

    Some of the most conservative people I know are Latinos along with Africans and Asians. They don’t own anything. However, they would like to, but you guys know better than them. Talk about elitist.

    Depends what you mean by “conservative.” If you mean “traditional,” sure. If you mean politically conservative, you’re quite wrong. Are you seriously saying that all Latinos, Asians, and Africans “don’t own anything”? It’s certainly elitist to lump them all together like that. Look, I live in one of the most diverse cities in the world. My colleagues here are from all over the world. I don’t need an education from you on how ‘they” feel or act.

    They want to succeed and achieve but you guys are so caught up on Marx & Engels, you aren’t allowing these folks to live their dreams.

    It’s funny that you think I sit around reading Marx all day. Truly funny.

  • Michael thank you for stating the true liberal agenda of keeping the poor down, that’s where the liberal elites would like to keep them, always have always will. I see you didn’t respond to Eduardo Verastegui’s comments did you? You should check out my interview with him. You guys are poles apart. Even Senator Obama hadnie things to say about President Reagan and yet you trash him. Talk about lbeing far left wing. Is it that funny to think you read Marx & Engels a lot? You state their ideals so often, I would have thought you read their works quite often. I need to get out in the world more, you say? My friend I have been to Latin America and Europe, I have relatives there. I am quite familiar with their views. As for my ecomonic status, I am the first to go to college in my family, actually only one of my four grandparents went past the 8th grade. My father is from Appalachia and I was a principal in a Catholic school there. I would love to see you spout your Socialist views to those folks, they would give you an earful and then some. My friend you need to get out of your latte liberal elite environment and see the real world, it might do you a world of good.

  • Michael thank you for stating the true liberal agenda of keeping the poor down, that’s where the liberal elites would like to keep them, always have always will.

    I agree with you about liberal elites. The key word, though, is ELITES.

    Is it that funny to think you read Marx & Engels a lot? You state their ideals so often, I would have thought you read their works quite often.

    Could you name some of them for me?

    I need to get out in the world more, you say?

    No, actually I didn’t say that at all.

    My friend I have been to Latin America and Europe, I have relatives there. I am quite familiar with their views.

    “Their” views? As if all people from Latin America or Europe think the same?

    My father is from Appalachia and I was a principal in a Catholic school there. I would love to see you spout your Socialist views to those folks, they would give you an earful and then some.

    Perhaps you are unfamiliar with the radical political history of Appalachia. Believe it or not — GASP! — there are socialists in Appalachia! Even in West Virginia, where I am from!

    My friend you need to get out of your latte liberal elite environment and see the real world, it might do you a world of good.

    Uhhh hhuhh.

  • Michael, I hope we can keep this civil. As for Socialists in West Virginia? Maybe a passing college lecturer who overstayed his welcome in Morgantown. Michael, the most liberal Democrat in West Virginia would fit into the mainstream of the Massachusetts GOP. As for the labor history of these radicals you mentioned, you left out the part about the folks from Appalachia throwing out the “Godless” radicals as they called them. As for the works of Marx & Engels, I did not take any Economics courses in Graduate School, but we did touch on Das Kapital in my Political Science courses. I understand the rudimentary parts of their thesis, but I am not an expert. I really don’t think you need to be to understand their theories and beliefs on human history, the acuumulation of wealth and the redistribution of wealth. I do not agree with their views that religion was devised to make us feel good. I also do not agree with their views that the poor need the elites to help them because they can’t do it for themselves. I am an optimist by nature and faith and I believe God gave everyone certain talents and abilities.

  • As for Socialists in West Virginia? Maybe a passing college lecturer who overstayed his welcome in Morgantown.

    Um, no, they’re everywhere in WV. Also remember that until the first (s)election of George W. Bush, WV was firmly a democrat state. There are even socialists in Super-republican Wheeling.

    I really don’t think you need to be to understand their theories and beliefs on human history, the acuumulation of wealth and the redistribution of wealth.

    If you don’t need to be an expert, then you should be able to talk about their view of human history and their theories regarding capitalist accumulation. I’m all ears.

    I do not agree with their views that religion was devised to make us feel good.

    That’s not quite what Marx said about religion. Try again.

    I also do not agree with their views that the poor need the elites to help them because they can’t do it for themselves.

    You got that right, at least. And that’s great. I don’t agree with them on that either. Nor do any of the so-called “Marxist” liberation theologians you love to hate. This is why I am an anarchist, not a marxist.

  • Michael I.,

    Watch that pride of yours buddy. Be kind and charitable.

    Your brother in Christ.

    🙂

  • Michael, you seem to be questioning me on my comments that Karl Marx didn’t say religion was made up to make us feel good. Are you saying that Marx didn’t say, “Religion is the opiate of the people?” Now I am much better in basic conversational German than I am at reading academic texts, but I can dig that quote out to see if it is the right translation. Something tells me it is.

  • “Religious distress is at the same time the expression of real distress and the protest against real distress. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of a spiritless situation. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is required for their real happiness. The demand to give up the illusion about its condition is the demand to give up a condition which needs illusions.”
    Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

  • My point is that Marx did not simply believe religion was invented to make us “feel good.” His critique of religion is that it often functions as an ideological cover for and justification of injustice and that it is used in order to help people cope with their own oppression. And his critique is absolutely right. Religion often IS used that way. I’d have to look it up, but I believe he also talks about the revolutionary potential of religion to expose injustice.

  • Marx of course was absolutely blind to anything beyond the material world. One of the many fatal flaws in his philosophy is that true human happiness and contentment really has little to do with material possessions. That of course is the great truth that Jesus taught in his lillies of the field sermon. That is also why high priced shrinks catering to the wealthy do so well. Marx was a good stylist but his philosophy is a dead end.

  • One of the many fatal flaws in his philosophy is that true human happiness and contentment really has little to do with material possessions.

    If you think that Marx’s philosophy includes something about material possessions being the key to human happiness, then you have seriously misread Marx.

    There are obvious problems with Marx’s philosophy, and obvious ways that it is incompatible with the Christian worldview. But as a critique of capitalism, it is dead on. It’s important, I think, to understand what he is saying and what he is not saying before writing him off completely.

  • This reminds me of something a Mr. Ilyich Ulyanov delivered in a speech to advocates of the MORCPB on December 6, 1920.

    I can’t remember whom Mr. Ulyanov was referring to but it is apropos here.

  • “If you think that Marx’s philosophy includes something about material possessions being the key to human happiness, then you have seriously misread Marx. ”

    Marx was a complete materialist Catholic Anarchist. He believed there was simply nothing beyond the material. As his right hand Engels put it:
    ” The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production of the means to support human life and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or orders is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view, the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men’s brains, not in men’s better insights into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange.”

    Once the working class had the means of production in their hands to satisfy their material needs, the dictatorship of the proletariat would reign and the classless society would result. That Marx was wrong about this, as he was wrong about most of his predictions regarding capitalism, history amply demostrates. I enjoy reading Marx for much the same reason I enjoy reading Freud: both men could write with style and verve, but as world views both philosophies have less to do with reality than a Bugs Bunny marathon.

  • But marxist materialism does not mean the same thing as the word materialism as we use it in conversation. It does not mean valuing possessions as the key to human happiness. That is, in fact, to get his economics completely backwards. His materialism has to do with his denial of the transcendent, not how he views possessions.

  • M.I.

    Correct

    Marx more or less posited a natural human telos, in which the human being is to become himself, in which his activity would beyond the enslavement in servile labour, hitherto historically necessary in order to subdue and tame external and internal nature, and virtually invariably exploited by the powerful or ‘haves’.

    This end, however, is not just to take pleasure in a crass ‘materialism’ as we commonly call it, but to actualize himself in the liberal–albeit immanent, not transcendent–employment of his creative energies in a world made (as much as practically possible) free of scarcity and serviilty.

  • I actually agree that there’s *some* validity to Marx’s critique of capitalism, but we shouldn’t be surprised that he’s own proposal was a failure… apart from its obvious faults as described (in part) here, it shares the same lineage with capitalism (Enlightenment liberalism/humanism). (Cf., e.g., Benedict Ashley, _Choosing a Worldview and Value-System, ch. 2)

  • …it shares the same lineage with capitalism (Enlightenment liberalism/humanism)

    Yes Marx’s own thought does.

    It’s important, though, to recognize the revisions and rethinking that marxism, neo-marxism, etc. has gone through. There is no one “marxism,” and marxists disagree about all sorts of things.

A President Obama Will Silence Catholics

Friday, October 10, AD 2008

Senator Obama has stated that he wants the Internet to be regulated. CNET had this exchange of a MoveOn.org member asking Senator Obama this very question:

He asked Obama: “Would you make it a priority in your first year of office to reinstate Net neutrality as the law of the land? And would you pledge to only appoint FCC commissioners that support open Internet principles like Net neutrality?”

The answer is yes,” Obama replied. “I am a strong supporter of Net neutrality.”

This “Net Neutrality” law would be something along the lines of the Fairness Doctrine. Conservapedia states that the Fairness Doctrine required broadcasters who aired material on controversial issues to provide “equal time” for the expression of opposing views.  The end result was censorship, broadcasters simply refrained from airing public affairs programing.

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17 Responses to A President Obama Will Silence Catholics

  • Tito,

    I think you (or perhaps the author you’re citing) is misunderstanding what “net neutrality” means here — it is largely a technical term in favor of free speech and no restrictions on content:

    Put simply, Net Neutrality means no discrimination. Net Neutrality prevents Internet providers from blocking, speeding up or slowing down Web content based on its source, ownership or destination.

    Net Neutrality is the reason why the Internet has driven economic innovation, democratic participation, and free speech online. It protects the consumer’s right to use any equipment, content, application or service on a non-discriminatory basis without interference from the network provider. With Net Neutrality, the network’s only job is to move data — not choose which data to privilege with higher quality service.

    The counter-position is also chiefly economic — to quote from your own ‘Conservapedia’ source:

    Broadband providers want to manage more actively — and thus profitably — those information bits. They’d like to offer, for instance, new superfast delivery for sites or users willing to pay more (not unlike how FedEx speeds delivery of packages for a fee), or other new services such as online video or telephony.

    Network neutrality would render all that illegal. But why, then, should broadband investors keep building the Web infrastructure needed to keep pace with surging use? Where’s their financial incentive?

    It could be argued that if “net neutrality” were not enforced, internet content providers could effectively slow down or impede access to religious and public-service websites because they were not deemed commercially profitable.

    This is why the USCCB currently situates itself in favor of this principle:

    Bishop Kicanas urged that such protections, termed “net neutrality requirements,” be included in the Communications Opportunity, Promotion and Enhancement Act (“COPE Act”). As approved by the House Subcommittee, the COPE bill lacks net neutrality protections.

    “Those protections have particular importance for religious organizations which must rely on the Internet to convey information on matters of faith and on the services they provide to the public,” Bishop Kicanas said. “The Internet is an indispensable medium for distributing USCCB’s views on matters of public concern and on its religious teachings. The Internet was constructed as a unique medium without the editorial control functions of broadcast television, radio or cable television. The Internet is open to any speaker, commercial or noncommercial, whether or not the speech is connected financially to the company providing Internet access, whether it is popular or prophetic,” he said. “Those characteristics make the Internet critical to noncommercial religious speakers,” Bishop Kicanas said. …

    “That open environment, however, is threatened by a lack of response by Congress to the recent decision by the FCC to end the decades-old regulatory regime which fostered the unique freedom and openness of the Internet,” he continued. “When the FCC classified cable broadband service (and later telephone broadband) as an ‘information’ service, it ended more than thirty years of regulation which prohibited the companies which control the infrastructure connecting people to the Internet from interfering with the content distributed on the Internet. Unless Congress requires telephone and cable companies to act as neutral providers of Internet access, as they had been required to do since the birth and through the spectacular growth of the Internet, those companies will use their control over internet access to speed up or down connections to Web sites to benefit themselves financially.”

    At the present time, radio, broadcast television and cable television are largely closed to religious messages, Bishop Kicanas noted. “Years of deregulation and growing consolidation of the media industry have inevitably led to a hostile environment for noncommercial religious voices in broadcasting, whether in the form of short Public Service Announcements, programs on religious themes, news coverage of religious events, or local public affairs programs featuring representatives of local religious organizations. If the Internet becomes, as it inevitably will without strong protections for net neutrality, a medium where speakers must pay to deliver their messages, religious speech will be effectively barred from the Internet,” Bishop Kicanas said.

    So I’m having some difficulty seeing how an advocacy of ‘net neutrality’ actually translates into “a fairness doctrine” which mandates government censorship of all content the Obama administration presumably wouldn’t like. In fact, you couldn’t have that happen without violating the very principle under which people are supporting net neutrality as a concept.

  • Obama’s campaign has demonstrated on several occasions that they like attempting to silence and intimidate critics. If he is elected, I expect a full court press against all groups who stand in his way.

  • What would be stopping people from using servers abroad? Unless US regulations suddenly are enforced all over the planet, this wouldn’t be the end of free speech on the Internet — just on American servers.

  • Which is not to say that any such regulation doesn’t totally suck, but that it wouldn’t be as universal as is presented in the above post.

  • Donald:

    Obama’s campaign has demonstrated on several occasions that they like attempting to silence and intimidate critics. If he is elected, I expect a full court press against all groups who stand in his way.

    This would be true and is already happening (pressure from the Obama campaign to silence criticism they don’t particularly like) — but this isn’t the same thing and shouldn’t be identified with the principle of “net neutrality” — I think there’s some degree of confusion or misrepresentation of what we’re talking about here.

  • Christopher my comment was directed in general in regard to Obama and freedom of expression and not directed towards the net neutrality issue itself. A good overview of the issue is here at the Popular Mechanics Webite.

    http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/industry/4286547.html

  • Honestly, I’m not overly concerned about blogs being shut down; while I accept Jonah Goldberg’s thesis regarding liberal fascism, I think we’re a long way from that in this country, even under an Obama presidency.

  • That’s a great presentation of the issue — thanks, Don.

  • Christopher Blosser,

    Like the Internet, this legislative/regulatory concept is new and difficult to grasp. I can see where confusion can reign, especially in our day and age where technology is moving at such a fast pace, congressional reaction/oversight may seem confusing and misinterpreted to say the least.

    I’ll take a wait-and-see attitude while the dust settles down on this. I hope you’re right on the misconception of Net Neutrality.

  • Irrespective of the legal nuances & technicalites, the reality is that Barack Hussein Obama, Jr., & his goose stepping minions has shown both in the US and abroad (see Kenya & Corsi being kicked out) a predeliction for silencing and attempting to legally destroy their opponents.

    See Missouri, see Chicago, etc.

  • I may be overly optimistic, but I think any kind of serious regulation of TV, radio, print publications or blogs would never get passed — because it would so clearly be a double-edged sword and because it’s the sort of thing that would unite the civil libertarian wing of the left with nearly the entirity of the right.

  • Carlos,

    While I think that the Obama campaign has shown a mildly disturbing tendency to try to have criticism shut down (based, I think, on a worldview that holds that those opposing them are necessarily morally and intellectually bankrupt, and a conviction that Democrats have lost in the past through not being “tough” enough) — as an editor here I need to ask you to avoid throwing around Senator Obama’s middle name (Hussein) as a pejorative and that you avoid loaded terms like “goose stepping minions”.

    It’s hard to keep a site focused on politics civil, and in order to do so we believe it will be necessary to avoid this kind of inflammatory terminology. Believe me, I don’t want to see Obama elected president at all — but we can express that without getting enflammatory.

  • Christopher’s first comment is right: “net neutrality” has absolutely nothing to do with forcing content providers (e.g., bloggers, newspapers) to be neutral. All it means is that the internet service providers (such as AT&T or Comcast) shouldn’t block or slow down certain types of traffic. Net neutrality would mean, for example, that Comcast couldn’t block an independent VOIP (voice over internet) service like Vonage from letting people make phone calls over their internet connection. Instead, Comcast should be “neutral” towards however people are using their internet connection. That’s the basic idea.

  • Just post outrageous claims, in non-inflamatory language….

    Example: this post.

  • I think Christopher Blosser is a 100% correct on this matter. Sen. Obama has expressed support for Net Netruality for many of the same reasons that the American Bishops have. Net Netruality would have little effect on the internet as it currently is. In fact, opposition to net neutrality would change the internet as we know it.

    Who is advocating Net Neutrality? “The nation’s largest telephone and cable companies — including AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner — want to be Internet gatekeepers, deciding which Web sites go fast or slow and which won’t load at all. They want to tax content providers to guarantee speedy delivery of their data. They want to discriminate in favor of their own search engines, Internet phone services, and streaming video — while slowing down or blocking their competitors.”

    Essentially big corporations advocate net neutrality, not most people. It affects us. So in this regard, I think you’re mistaken on what you believe that a potential President Obama would do.

  • To be a computer scientist and not know much about net neutrality is somewhat shaming, but then I’m a theorist. We only like to touch the real world with a long stick, and then only justify the existence of a new complexity class with a natural example.

    That aside, having spoken a little with our Systems Administrator here at the University of Wyoming Department of Computer Science, it would seem that the issue of net neutrality is almost of reverse nature to the issue of the Fairness Doctrine. Fairness is involved in both cases, but in terms of the Fairness Doctrine, we’re speaking essentially of being forced to provide products, whereas with net neutrality, we’re speaking of being forced to avoid throttling products.

    The concern is that ISP’s will grant easier access to big companies, like Google or Microsoft, and make other companies lower priority. Or perhaps that ISP’s will block certain sites, certain blocks of IP addresses. Net neutrality wants to pose limitations on how ISPs can limit customers to accessing certain sites.

    The analogy our SysAdmin used is the following: suppose we have Wal Mart, K Mart, and Target right next to each other along a strip, but the designer of the parking lot makes K Mart readily accessible, but Wal Mart and Target nearly impossible to access. That will funnel customers to K Mart and choke off business to Wal Mart and Target. Net neutrality wants to make the parking lot have equal access to Target, K Mart, and Wal Mart.

    The concerns about net neutrality are more along the following lines:

    1) Without careful crafting of law, net neutrality would make it impossible for ISP’s to block sites with illegal material, like child porn

    2) Smaller ISP’s would face a financial burden of giving equal access to low traffic sites and high traffic sites. With concerns about bandwidth and the huge amount of online games and media streaming, ISP’s would prefer to throttle access to those sites so that customers who are frequenting low-bandwidth sites don’t have to wait forever to connect.

    3) Conversely, ISP’s can get a financial edge by giving preference to certain groups, like Google, Microsoft, and other corporations. While this means slower download times on competitors like Yahoo! and Apple, it also means the ISP’s are able to provide services for less money to the customers.

    4) ISP’s would not be able to make prudent calls by throttling IP’s known to make DoS attacks, carry viruses, or contain objectionable material. This is especially true in terms of pornography in general.

    So from what I understand–and granted, there are a huge number of legal details that have been discussed, and it would probably take a year of study to understand them all–we potentially stand more to lose without net neutrality, because ISP’s could decide that, for example, it would be better business to throttle or block all IP’s associated with Catholic sites.

    On the other hand, things seem to be working fine as is, and I read that net neutrality is a “solution looking for a problem”. But remember the government motto: If it ain’t broke, fix it ’til it is.

  • If obama, when asked a direct question, gives a straight answer… I immediatly must begin to investigate WHY he is for it, cause it can’t be a good thing.

    it deservs to be scrutinized to the fullest extent.