Defense of Stupidity
Down with Thinking
month in Time, Charles Krauthammer told the world
that he has had enough of people who have doubt. Apparently
outraged that Senator Chuck Schumer would suggest that a
judge’s religious conviction might interfere with his ability
to uphold the law, Krauthammer wrote a poorly reasoned,
poorly written column titled “A Defense of Certainty.”
it is not a ‘good’ column, it may go down in the annals
of history as the most logically flawed statement of his
long and dubious career. His very first assertion of fact
is patently, lamentably untrue:
new wave is fashionable doubt. Doubt is in. Certainty is
exactly was Krauthammer when he wrote this, and how much
is the rent? Because I’m interested in moving there, since
the country I live in has never been so pissed off at doubters,
not in my lifetime. Since the 9/11 attacks, expressions
of doubt regarding the righteousness of America’s policies
are subject to irrational allegations of “America-hating”
or even allegiance with terrorists. Even the simple reportage
of facts that reflect poorly on the Bush administration
is considered suspicious, even treasonous by right wingers
dare you have any "deeply held views"--a transparent
euphemism for religiously grounded views--especially regarding
abortion, watch out for Schumer and other Democrats on the
Judiciary Committee. They might well declare you disqualified
for the bench.
is true. When Schumer says “deeply held views,” we all know
what he’s talking about. The thing is, if your beliefs are
based on an inherently irrational premise—the existence
of a god who not only created everything, but has specific
instructions for our daily behavior—without any supporting
evidence, then your duty as a Supreme Court justice to treat
the constitution as sacred, especially when it comes
into conflict with your interpretation of your god’s word,
would seem to be compromised. It is not necessary that you
be religious to think abortion is wrong, but if you base
any judicial decision on the belief that “that’s what God
would want,” you shouldn’t be a Supreme Court Justice.
Krauthammer thinks I’m out of my mind:
Op-Ed pages are filled with jeremiads about believers--principally
evangelical Christians and traditional Catholics--bent on
turning the U.S. into a theocracy. Now I am not much of
a believer, but there is something deeply wrong--indeed,
deeply un-American--about fearing people simply because
don’t fear them because they believe, Charles; we fear them
because they actually are bent on turning the U.S.
into a theocracy. Antonin Scalia, our probable next Chief
Justice, says our government derives its authority and its
laws from God, and he is not alone by a long shot. But this
is demonstrably untrue. Only 2 of 10 commandments even parallel
current law, and these are the easy ones, killing and stealing,
which have always been illegal everywhere.
the Bible is the ultimate source of truth, why not just
get rid of the constitution, which doesn’t even mention
God, and enforce biblical law? If you were a true believer,
of course this would seem like a good idea. So fearing people,
simply because they believe, is perfectly logical for those
Krauthammer unwittingly displays the gaping flaw in the
view he is presenting, which is shared by so many:
seems perfectly O.K. for secularists to impose
their secular views on America, such as, say, legalized
abortion or gay marriage. But when someone takes the contrary
view, all of a sudden he is trying to impose his view on you. [Emphasis added]
This is really kind of hilarious. Without even realizing it, Krauthammer
displays his own prodigious bias by unironically accusing
secularists of “imposing” their views, while decrying secularists
who accuse Christians of doing the same thing—in a single
sentence. Since he is clearly equating these acts, it must
work one way or the other: Either we are imposing on them
and vice versa, or neither are doing so. But Krauthammer
has his cake and eats it too with this sentence; we are
imposing on them, while the suggestion that they are imposing
on us is just knee-jerk liberal silliness. The other possibility
is that he is just a bad writer, and doesn’t get that you
can’t use “impose” to mean two different things in parallel
clauses a single sentence.
But he is even wrong if we forgive his poor diction, and read his sentence
as he probably meant it—that both secular and Christian
advocates are essentially doing the same thing. Here’s the
difference: When liberals push for legal abortion, assisted
suicide, and gay marriage, they are not imposing
their views upon any individual; they are, in fact, encouraging
every individual to make his or her own decision.
Nobody has ever suggested that anyone should be forced to
have an abortion, or to die because they’re ill. Nobody
is pushing for same-sex marriage to be mandatory. However,
when Christians push for banning abortion, or assisted
suicide, or gay marriage, they are indeed imposing their
views upon specific individuals, telling them how to live,
making moral and ethical choices for them.
It is an indisputable and extremely significant difference. Fundamentalist
Christians equate liberal advocacy with their own efforts,
but a real liberal equivalent would be protesting outside
churches, or demanding that religious programming be banned
from the airwaves because it might infect innocent secular
children. This might be a good idea, but it isn’t on anybody’s
agenda. But Krauthammer thinks he knows the secular agenda
better than secularist themselves:
What nonsense. The campaign against certainty is merely the philosophical
veneer for an attempt to politically marginalize and intellectually
disenfranchise believers. Instead of arguing the merits
of any issue, secularists are trying to win the argument
by default on the grounds that the other side displays unhealthy
certainty or, even worse, unseemly religiosity.
Actually, people who believe, doubtlessly, in things like angels, heaven,
Noah’s ark, talking snakes, and giants, with no rational
basis, no evidence, and a palpable disdain for empirical
data marginalize themselves. Remember the “Heaven’s Gate”
cult, the ones with the Air Jordans who all castrated and
killed themselves because they thought they were going to
wake up on a comet? When people made fun of them, were they
being unfairly marginalized? No. They were just plain silly,
because there was no logic or reason behind their beliefs.
They’d just been talked into it, and anyone that gullible
deserves to be ridiculed, or at least ignored. Well, the
same is true of Christians, however many of them there are.
“That’s what they told me” is simply not a respectable justification
to believe something so strongly that you think others should
be made to conform.
Absolute certainty is indeed unhealthy. This bit of wisdom can be traced
back to Socrates, at least 500 years before the bible. Socrates
determined that he was wiser than his fellow citizens because
he at least knew how ignorant he was, whereas they did not.
“Socratic ignorance” is essential to mental evolution, and
anathema to rigid, closed minds. The wise person never
closes the book on right and wrong, because he always keeps
in mind that he could be, even probably is, wrong about
something. This ‘relativism’ is unacceptable to true believers,
who need things to be simple, and instinctively resent science
and academia for showing the world to be the incredibly
complex place that it is.
Krauthammer may not be ‘much of a believer,’ as he puts it, but he certainly
resents we who would question those who are:
Why this panic about certainty and people who display it? It is not
just, as conventional wisdom has it, that liberals think
the last election was lost because of a bloc of benighted
Evangelicals. It is because we are almost four years from
9/11 and four years of moral certainty, and firm belief
is about all that secular liberalism can tolerate.
Do you remember 9/11? How you felt? The moral clarity of that day
and the days thereafter?
What an ass. Of course we remember 9/11, but moral clarity? I don’t know—maybe
I missed it, but did anyone else notice “4 years of moral
certainty?” Where the hell was that going on? What I saw
was four years of division, deception, protest, and fear.
And I haven’t noticed any reduction in any of those lately.
But Krauthammer is fucking nostalgic for 9/11, as
many of his beloved “certain” folk are—it was their shining
moment, when most Americans were so freaked out that they
would have grabbed onto the pant leg of any moron
who claimed he could protect us. The situation would have
made Joey Buttafuoco look like a hero: “President Buttafuoco
didn’t piss his pants today, reinforcing bipartisan confidence
in his leadership and spurring his approval ratings to a
new record high…”
Even then, many had the presence of mind to realize that Bush wasn’t
handling the crisis well at all. But that’s an inconvenient
detail to Krauthammer, because it gets in the way of his
theme. So he just dispenses with the many millions
of people who weren’t cheering on the prospect of endless
war, indefinite detention without charge of legal representation,
and a whole new federal department devoted to reading their
e-mail. That’s the thing about loving certainty; those who
disagree simply disappear in service to Krauthammer’s need
for clean lines. They don’t exist, because their existence
invalidates his argument that doubt and complex, dualistic
thinking are a recent trend. They interfere with
his certainty, which is just the problem:
A few years of that near papal certainty is more than any self-respecting
intelligentsia can take. The overwhelmingly secular intellectuals
are embarrassed that they once nodded in assent to Morrow-like
certainty, an affront to their self-flattering pose as skeptics.
It just keeps getting worse. “Near papal” is an obvious, nauseating kiss
blown directly at Bush, but Krauthammer really shoots himself
in the foot with “overwhelmingly secular intellectuals.”
Here, this Harvard M.D. explicitly acknowledges that the
vast majority of educated, thinking people reject religion,
all the while arguing for the “moral clarity” of dumb shits.
Often liberals are described this way—“over-educated,” “intellectual,”
“academic,” “elite.” For religious conservatives, these
are epithets, but seen objectively they are clearly compliments.
Only a person who clings to ignorance could think otherwise,
and they do cling, desperately. But Krauthammer really has
no excuse. His class of anti-intellectualism has a much
more craven motivation—the fear that people might figure
out what the Neocons are really up to.
And by the way, if anything’s “self-flattering,” it’s the belief that
you know exactly how the world is supposed to be, to the
point that you feel comfortable dictating to others how
they must behave and what rules they must abide. How is
doubt self-flattering? Think about it; it makes no sense.
Krauthammer thinks he knows everything—that is self-flattering.
He then attempts to channel the thoughts of the secular:
Enough. A new day, a new wave. Time again for nuance, doubt and the
comforts of relativism.
“Comforts of relativism?” Krauthammer is so unfamiliar with what it’s
like to be open-minded that he mischaracterizes it completely.
What would be comforting is absolute, black-and-white, moral
certitude, which is exactly why so many embrace it. What
Krauthammer calls “moral clarity” is nothing more than a
pacifier for the mind that refuses to grow up.
This column misses its mark completely. All Krauthammer has done is to
show that he has no idea how liberals think at all. He thinks
they want to tell the religious what to do, when really
they just want them to get the hell off their backs. He
thinks we all loved how Bush handled his term after 9/11,
when it couldn’t be more obvious that many were totally
disgusted with him. He thinks people are comforted
by the fact that the world is a giant, complex mess of moral
ambiguities. He just doesn’t get it at all.
And, to underscore his utter lack of understanding or intuition, he gives
Nothing has more aroused and infuriated the sophisticates than the
foreign policy of a religiously inclined President, based
on the notion of a universal aspiration to freedom and of
America's need and duty to advance it around the world.
Yeah, that’s it, fuckwad; we hate freedom. “You know, it’s not the corruption,
dirty tricks, selling out the people or outright lying that
bothers me, it’s all that damn freedom! Who does Bush think
he is, anyway, spreading liberty around the globe like that?
This isn’t just stupid; it’s intentionally blind. Charles Krauthammer
has been haunting the political opinion ghettos of America
for a long time now, and he knows, or should, that people
are pissed off at Bush for real reasons: obvious favor-trading,
obsessive secrecy, a complete disregard for the environment,
the poor, human rights, and a seeming inability to tell
the truth, and on and on. The idea that his foreign policy
is “based on the notion of a universal aspiration to freedom”
is totally ridiculous, not even worth arguing about,
and even Krauthammer knows it. “Spreading freedom” is the
PR pitch, the girl in the bikini, and the Iraq war is the
crappy, overpriced aftershave you can’t believe you bought
once you bring it home.
Ultimately, Krauthammer has no point, because there is no way in hell
an atheist or an agnostic could ever be nominated, let alone
confirmed, to the Supreme Court or any federal appeals court
for that matter. In fact, I’m pretty sure they’re all
Christians or Jews. So really, what the hell
is he talking about? Doubt reigns supreme? Please.
Far-right Republicans have managed to gain power over the entire federal
government by lamenting their persecution at the hands of
the all-powerful “liberal media,” and “Hollywood liberals”
and “liberal academia.” But now that they’re in power, they
can’t manage to shed their victim mentality. They have almost
total control, but they’re still bitching about how liberals
think they’re so smart. Well, liberals really aren’t
that smart, but some at least are smart enough to examine
their own convictions. If that makes you mad, it’s only
because you aren’t.