Thursday, September 25, 2008

Intellectual Thugs and Those Who Fight Against Them

Diana Hsieh offers some thoughtful analysis of my appearance as a guest on the Laura Ingraham show this Monday and I recommend it to our readers here. As Objectivist ideas percolate more and more throughout our culture, there will be times when those who oppose the philosophy push back--and even push back hard. These times won't be pretty; in fact, they may be outright horrific. For example, there will come a day when an Objectivist is murdered for his or her views and that day is going to be shocking. Yet such is the nature of our enemies.

And now there have been two experiences in my life where some of my countrymen have revealed themselves to be borderline savages. The first was when John Lewis spoke at George Mason University in an event I helped to organize. There Lewis stood firm as Islamists and their leftist sympathizers screamed at him with seething rage for his having the audacity to say that those who seek to impose their creed by force are a threat to the good and must be defeated. In the absence of the 20-plus police officers sent there to guard Lewis as he spoke, I am all but certain that he would have been strung up from the nearest tree, yet Lewis never so much as winced. And now I have my own recent experiences to draw upon.

Of all the reasons my blog post garnered the attention it did, I think the first and foremost was that I expressed my position with moral confidence. When I argued that it was moral for a woman to abort a fetus with Down syndrome and place her own interests and happiness above that of the unborn, I attacked our enemies where they are most sensitive. They believe that their mystic creed makes them good and they responded to me as anyone who relies upon blind faith as a method must. That is the nature of the beast we must grapple. We have seen this before, we will see this ever again, and we should be ready to deal with it.

And in this endeavor, the support of our allies in reason is deeply appreciated. If you agree with our efforts, if you think that we fought well, I ask that you stand alongside us by offering a financial contribution to help further our activities. Our goal is to fight for freedom and win. We will never stop in this effort, we will never quit, but we can do so much more if you help us. Just follow the this link to make a donation; it's quick, easy (and hopefully painless), and by doing so, will help this organization all the better stand for our common values of reason, egoism, and capitalism.


Adam Gurri said...

I promise this will be the last time that I bother you, sir.

I'd simply like to extend the offer for one final time: would you or would you not like to engage in a debate concerning our respective moral philosophies? I am always on the lookout for sharp individuals with different perspectives from my own.

You may e-mail me or reply here; if I do not hear from you I won't waste any more space in your comments section.

Jason said...

I don't think we should assume that an Objectivist will be murdered anytime soon. We still have decent police (like those who defended John Lewis).

Also, unlike the pacifist left, many Objectivists own and know how to use guns. So anyone considering any kind of harm to an Objectivist should think twice.

Burgess Laughlin said...


Are you aware that your Blogger "profile" is a dead-end? It provides no information about you and no contact information.

Adam Gurri said...

Whoops! Thanks for that. Fixed now.

Kyle Haight said...

I just kicked five hundred bucks into the kitty. You earned it. Keep fighting.

Aestus said...

It just so happens that I was already physically attacked simply for not sanctioning forced entry onto private property, and that instance from about 2 years ago was but one of similar situations.

I mindfully called the police (actually "peace officers"..) instead of fighting, and they all but took the thug's side. Based on _my first-hand experiences_, the officers of my area have no more respect for property than the criminals do unless they are instructed otherwise. much for this talk about what could happen in the future...

Rob said...

Nick - Daniel Pipes spoke about Islam at Tulsa University on Tuesday - apparently without any problems, in contrast to some other venues he's spoken at. The event was reportedly well attended and 4 Tulsa police officers were present. There's a report on a Tulsa conservative blog - including video, for anyone who's interested -

Adam Reed said...

Shouldn't the title start, "Anti-Intellectual Thugs ..."?

Renee Katz said...

kyle - What did that kitten ever do to deserve that?!

(That's a weird saying.)

Jim May said...

For example, there will come a day when an Objectivist is murdered for his or her views and that day is going to be shocking.

Two words: concealed carry.

Burgess Laughlin said...

What good will owning or even carrying a pistol do, if the killers are sitting a block away with a sniper scope? Or someone plants a bomb under your car? Or rogue police officers "arrest" you and "disappear" you?

Jim May said...


Concealed carry is a sufficient defense for "rogue elements" so long as they remain rogue. These consist mainly of reactionary crimes, e.g. getting mugged or threatened by a mob after a conference because your ideas pissed some idiots off.

If our enemies are as concerted and organized as snipers, car bombs, and the equivalent of the Stasi, they are no longer "rogue" -- they are actively militant. It should be clear that if a handgun is not sufficient to defend you -- and the police do not protect you, having have joined the other side -- the battle of ideas will be over by then. It will be a battle for survival. I won't be in any city if it comes to that, no matter what I'm packing.

If you have concern that such things could happen where you are, but the problems appear local -- then relocate to a healthier city or state. If and when I get to the point of doing what Nick does, I shall not begin until I was living in a city and state where self-defense is legally respected.

Burgess Laughlin said...

As I have seen the term used, "rogue" refers to formal members of an organization who are acting outside their command structure and presumably without their commanders' approval.

Rogue police officers are those who operate outside the intentions of the police brass. Rogue police officers are nothing new in the USA.

Also, on another point: One does not need to be organized to be a sniper. The killing of an abortion doctor--in his home-- years ago showed that.

Jim May said...


That is certainly true. I ment "rogue" here to refer to individuals acting out on emotion, as opposed to someone executing a premeditated plan, be it their own or on orders from elsewhere.

It does not alter the fact that concealed carry is a certain level of defense, and is ideally only part of an overall program of self-defense. That it might be insufficient in the situations you described does not alter the fact that a man with a gun and the skills to use it is a much harder target than one who is unarmed.

Burgess Laughlin said...

Agreed. Between us, I think we covered the bases.

Best to everyone in exciting times!

Mark Mayhugh said...

Since you seem to not yet have figured this out, the primary problem with your Palin post is NOT that you stated an opinion that it is "moral for a woman to abort a fetus with Down syndrome and place her own interests and happiness above that of the unborn".

The problem is that you implied that that Palin's choice to keep a disabled child was immoral; likewise, anyone else who makes the same choice. You essentially implied that they should not have a choice; that such fetuses should be aborted by force of law. THIS is what the public is reacting to.

This is not a position consistent with Objectivist philosophy, and does disservice to Objectivists everywhere as the public assumes that all objectivists share the same view.

A true objectivist would have voiced support for Palin's choice as a moral choice, from the standpoint that she should do whatever she pleases as long as her choices do not burden others. And since Palin easily has the resources to pay for her choice, there is nothing immoral about it.

By being critical of Palin's choice instead of supporting her as befitting Objectivist philosophy, you have brought a needless firestorm of criticism against yourself, and against Objectivism.

Burgess Laughlin said...

Mark Mayhugh: "The problem is that you implied that that Palin's choice to keep a disabled child was immoral; . . . . You essentially implied that they should not have a choice; that such fetuses should be aborted by force of law."

Can you prove your claims of implication? If so, what are your proofs?

Mark Mayhugh said...

To burgress laughlin, with respect to proof of implication for the 9/16 Palin article:

Proof is always a tricky thing, even with pure math, and absolute proof is impossible with language. It becomes even more difficult when the writer writes by implication rather than direct statement. So this will necessarily be a long defense.

The opening statement was: "I am troubled by the implications of Alaska governor and Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin's decision to knowingly give birth to a child disabled with Down syndrome." If he affirms her right to choose, why should he be troubled by the implications of her decision? If the author said he was troubled by those who took her decision and used it to champion their cause, this would be more understandable. But there is a strong implication here that the author does not support her decision.

This is followed by a paragraph on the potential cost to others for bringing a disabled child into the world. The author does not acknowledge that this does not really apply to Palin since she has the means to provide for the child. The author implies that Palin's child will be a burden to others.

The article concludes with "Diana Hsieh condemns such a stand as "the worship of retardation." Given that Palin had complete foreknowledge of her child's severe disability yet nevertheless chose to have it, it is hard not to see her choice as anything less."

This clearly implies that the author is accusing Palin of 'worshiping retardation'. In fact, that the only justification anyone could possibly have for not aborting such a pregnancy would be some irrational 'worship of retardation'.

This is demeaning of a woman's right to choose. It is much more likely that the pregnancy was kept in spite of the disability rather than because of it.

My sister had a cat that she had raised from a kitten. When the cat was quite old, his kidneys started to fail, and the cat would urinate on the floor, furniture, important papers, etc. Though the vet was unable to help, my sister refused to have the cat put to sleep, choosing to put up with the problem until her cat died a natural death. At first I tried to argue with her about her position. But then my objectivist reasoning kicked in. The cost of her decision was being borne solely by herself, she had no husband or children, so what business was it of mine to comment on her choice?

Likewise, though I understand the issue the author was raising about various groups using Palin's decision to advance their agenda, he would have been better served to focus on those groups, rather than questioning Palin's decision and motives.

The author points out that over 90% of disabled pregnancies are already aborted, but apparently this is not enough to satisfy the author. The accusation that those keeping a disabled pregnancy must 'worship retardation' is absurd, and this kind of false labeling makes the reader wonder if the author would not be happier if all women were legally forced to abort disabled pregnancies, thus the strong backlash against the article.

Finally, the author could have easily stated in the article that he supported Palin's right to make her decision if this was his opinion. But the absence of such support, and the presence of these other statements, lead to the implications I stated earlier.

The author may not have intended the article to be taken in this way, but the fact is the article was taken this way by many, and as I have pointed out, for valid reasons.

Absolute proof of implications is impossible to provide. But evidence and reasoning strongly supports my position.

Kyle Haight said...

Mark Mayhugh wrote of Nick's original article that "The problem is that you implied that that Palin's choice to keep a disabled child was immoral; likewise, anyone else who makes the same choice. You essentially implied that they should not have a choice; that such fetuses should be aborted by force of law."

That slide from "X is immoral" to "X should be illegal" is most emphatically not part of Objectivist philosophy. It is not the task of government to enforce morality; rather, its purpose is to preserve the necessary precondition of morality, viz. the freedom to exercise one's mind and act accordingly. There is no contradiction in saying "You have a right to do X, but it would be immoral of you to actually do X." An obvious non-abortion-related example would be drug use. I think people have the right to smoke crack cocaine. I also think people who do so are making an immoral choice.

This business of equating the moral with the legal infests both the left and the right. The left typically takes the view that anything legal is ipso facto moral; the right, the view that anything immoral should be illegal. Both sides are making the same error.

Mark Mayhugh said...

Kyle, many people reading these columns are not objectivists, and will draw the conclusion that if someone thinks something is immoral, then they will take action to try to prevent the immoral activity.

The key here is the support of Palin's right to make her decision, just as you affirmed the right of people who smoking crack. If you wrote that smoking crack was immoral, with no further statement, would you expect a reader to think that you support the current drug laws, or that you think people should have the right to choose to smoke crack? If you do not write that you support the right of people to choose to smoke crack, most people would conclude that you support the current laws criminalizing drug use. Sorry if you don't think they should have drawn that conclusion, but that is the logical conclusion in the absence of any other statement.

If Palin's right to her choice had been affirmed, then no one would have drawn the conclusion that the author was advocating forced abortion of pregnancies with disabilities. But in the absence of any such statement, this is the logical conclusion.