Friday, November 03, 2006

A Great Divide

Dr. Leonard Peikoff's announced position on the fall Congressional elections this coming November 7th has inaugurated a debate on various discussion lists and blogs between Objectivists. Some individuals have sided with Dr. Peikoff and agree with him that, in terms of ensuring the country's survival, and taking into account the expenditure of the Left's Marxist credibility, voting the straight Democratic ticket will serve to repudiate the Republican establishment and help to block its more perilous theocratic agenda. There is some substance to justify this fear. Virtually ever news item over the past two weeks has focused on the role of the evangelical bloc of voters, and President Bush solicits that bloc's support.

Others discount the religious threat and counter that helping the Democrats regain their hegemony in Congress will only encourage them to accelerate the pursuit of their Marxist, nihilist ends, such as a total welfare state, environmentalism and multiculturalism.

In reality, the triumph of either party, now or in the 2008 presidential race, will move the country closer to undiluted statism or dictatorship.

Ayn Rand, delineating modern politics in terms of fundamentals governed by philosophy, would probably interpret the conflict in what she characterized as one between Attila and the witch doctor, between the mystics of muscle and the mystics of the spirit. Dr. Peikoff asserted, quite rightly, that we are faced with a decision on which gang will do us the least harm in the short run. And, there is another gang of murderous witch doctors he neglected to account for in his projection, which are Islam and its jihadists.

During all this discussion, someone had the foresight to point out that there is a crucial link between the spread of Islam and environmentalism, e.g., that the Democrats especially, when they oppose off-shore drilling, advocate the expropriation of oil company profits, or block the construction of nuclear power plants, simply render the U.S. more dependent on oil supplies coming from countries mostly hostile to the U.S., such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. The Saudis especially have as much a vested interest in the perpetuation and expansion of American environmental law as Prohibition Era gangsters had in the perpetuation of the Eighteenth Amendment.

Other blogs, such as Jihad Watch and Infidel Bloggers Alliance, have documented which persons in Congress, Republicans and Democrats, are in thrall to Saudi petro-dollars or susceptible to the lobbying of such Islamist organizations as CAIR and the Muslim Council of America.

But, this particular peril has been discussed before, and I do not believe any thinking Objectivist (or is that a redundancy in terms?) can question or dismiss the seriousness of the Islamist threat, especially when he is certain that President Bush will do nothing to stop Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons or to stop North Korea from selling its nuclear weapons and delivery systems to Islamist terrorists. If the Republicans will not defend the country, how can we expect the Democrats to, when it is obvious that they hate it?

However, what I have not heard anyone mention yet is the prospect of censorship. Either party is capable of imposing it. In fact, both parties have held hands over the decades in passing legislation that violates the First Amendment, and the Supreme Court has done little or nothing to declare such stealthily incremental legislation unconstitutional.

"Censorship," wrote Rand in "Have Gun, Will Nudge" in The Objectivist Newsletter in 1962, "in its old-fashioned meaning, is a government edict that forbids the discussion of some specific subjects or ideas - such, for instance, as sex, religion or criticism of government officials - an edict enforced by the government's scrutiny of all forms of communication prior to their public release."

We are approaching that level of censorship; that is, some officials and bureaucrats have proposed that the government have the power to make such an edict. Neither party, however, has the brazenness yet to move in that direction; they know they would not yet get away with it. Rand could not have predicted it, of course, but the Internet, which did not exist in 1962, is certainly scrutinized by the CIA, NSA and other federal agencies, not exclusively on the track of Islamist terrorists residing in this country.

Certainly if one sent an email letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice calling her (justifiably) delusional, anti-Semitic, and an appeasing enabler of Islamic terrorism, one could expect a knock on one's door, or at least strange things begin to happen to one's bank account or employment status. One cannot count on the demonstrable incompetence of the "security" agencies charged with defending this country, and be certain that nothing would happen.

That being said, Rand did forecast the possibility of de facto censorship. In that same article, she wrote:

"But for stifling the freedom of men's minds the modern method is much more potent; it rests on the power of non-objective law; it neither forbids nor permits anything; it never defines or specifies; it merely delivers men's lives, fortunes, careers, ambitions into the arbitrary power of a bureaucrat who can reward or punish at whim...."
One can count the ways in which such de facto censorship has been implemented in the U.S.: the PAC law; the Federal Election Committee; the ban on tobacco advertising over the airwaves, not to mention the regulation of print advertising of tobacco and other products, such as food; the Telecommunications Act of 1996; and so on, all of which, with more certainly to come whichever party dominates Congress, prove the pernicious effect of non-objective law on the freedom of men's minds.

What we are witnessing in the U.S. today is the indivertible implosion of over a century of irrationality in domestic and foreign policies. The irrational cannot make reality work; reality will not tolerate unreason. Most people with a nominal fealty to reason know that doing the Hokey Pokey or praying to Wantonka the Automotive God in front of one's car will not start it or fill it with gas. Too many of them, however, believe that going "back to God" or "back to nature" (and Rand dramatized both false alternatives in Atlas Shrugged), which are much the same things, will make all things right. Dr. Peikoff himself stressed this point years ago in a course, that ours is an age of pre-reason.

The country is coasting on the vestiges of the commitment to reason which founded this country, but which vestiges both Republicans and Democrats are working diligently in their special ways to eradicate. Reason is lost in a masking deluge of inconsequential and irrelevant issues. No one in public life - not in government, not in the press or news media, not in academia - is advocating a return to reason, or even its rediscovery (or, as someone pointed out, its discovery). Advocates of reason can be likened to some of the survivors of the Titanic, struggling desperately to avoid being sucked into the swirling vortex of a sinking giant.

It is difficult for an advocate of reason not to succumb to pessimism and doom-saying in these times. But, I, for one, am confident that in the end, reason and truth will out, if only enough of us will invest the effort to promote them. I have been doing my "bit" for decades, culminating in the epic of Sparrowhawk, and that has been at cost to me and with very little reward, pecuniary or otherwise, except in the volume of my fan mail. That particular reward is to have been proven right, that readers are receptive to ideas presented in the series, and that it is helping to point them in the right direction.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am a long time Objectivist living in Calgary, Alberta. Obviously I don't get to vote in the United States elections but do have a great interest in the coming election and the well being of America.

I have read Dr. Peikoff's position and many of the articles concerning his view. I wanted to understand his position.

In Canada we have a province (Saskatchewan) that is and has been run by dedicated socialists for decades. The company I work for has oil and gas properties in this province.

So - I asked myself this question: Would it be better to live in socialist Saskatchewan or under a Taliban Christian equivalent.

The answer is obvious. Live in socialist Saskatchewan.

Vote for the Democrats.

Ron Stuckert
Calgary, Alberta

Dare Balogun said...

That was a very moving last paragraph, Mr. Cline.

Thank you for your talents and your efforts.

Gus Van Horn said...

Thought-provoking post.

I am glad you are considering the matter of censorship, but you are not the first. Both Myrhaf and myself have considered this problem, which I view as the most important issue in any election we will have for the forseeable future. You may or may not disagree with me, but I regard the left as far more dangerous in this respect, at least for this round of voting. (This City Journal article is worth reading on that score.)

This -- and perhaps my ignorance of the DIM hypothesis -- is the main reason I will not be voting for the Democrats in this election.

Ed Cline said...

Hi, Gus:

Well, I never said I had read everything, but in all that I have read in the discussion, I didn't notice anyone else raising the censorship issue. So, if you were first, more credit to you.

Ed Cline