Beliefnet
At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

Time constraints preclude the thorough analysis of “The Big Con,” the so-called “conservative movement,” that this subject deserves.  For now, however, suffice it to say that the conservative movement is largely a fiction constructed by the merchants of Big Conservative media—to whom, from this point onward, I refer simply as Big Cons.

As long as those of the Big Cons remain the faces of the official right, the left will continue to do what it has been doing for the last so many decades: It will continue cleaning house in the “cultural wars.”

Of course, the Big Cons could never so much as remotely concede this as a possibility, much less an actuality.  Such an admission would, after all, be bad for business.  Yet it is true all the same.

Simply put, Big Cons have neither the will nor even the imagination necessary to fight the left on the terms that the left has established.

To put it even more bluntly, Big Cons fear the left.

In fact, even this manner of speaking understates the case: Big Cons are terrified of the left.

So as to avoid misunderstanding, the referent here isn’t limited to the fear of professional ruination and/or the loss of social status, i.e. all of those invitations to Manhattan and D.C. cocktail parties that so many Big Cons crave. The fear to which I refer is more primal than this:

Big Cons fear for their physical safety lest they get on the bad side of the left’s more rabid faction.

Leftists make noise, issue uncompromising demands, organize in massive numbers, clog streets, and use abrasive, even outrageous, language—tactics designed to intimidate others.  Yet leftists do more than just intimidate.  They attempt to slander and ruin reputations and livelihoods. They are also known for destroying property and engaging in acts of violence, even murderous violence, in some instances, against those who they regard as their enemies.

All of the while, the “respectable” voices of the left in government, academia, Hollywood, and the media either ignore the thug antics of their street soldiers or try to rationalize them away.  Neither course of action is particularly difficult, for Big Cons are all too eager to allow the Democratic left to distance itself from the barbarism of its base.

Big Cons can be counted upon to do one or more of three things, and they tend to engage in these moves in tandem.

First, they react to the left’s more obvious excesses by calling attention to them.

Then, they go on the defensive, bending over backwards to assure the world that just because they are critical of the left for this or that position doesn’t mean that they aren’t “sensitive” to the subjects at hand.  In other words, Big Cons spare no occasion to advertise to the world their abhorrence of just those moral transgressions of which the left accuses them—“racism,” “sexism,” “homophobia,” “xenophobia,” “fascism,” and so forth.

Finally, toward this last end, Big Cons launch an offensive—only it’s an offensive against those on their own side, or to their right.

This three-fold prong is the standing operating procedure of Big Cons.

The cooked Confederate monument controversy is a textbook illustration of this Big Con pattern.

(1)Big Con commentators focused their audiences’ attention on, say, the scene of a mob of zealot leftists trying to tear down a statue of a Confederate hero—a scene that any American with a scintilla of sanity and civility will have no problems recognizing for the ugliness that it is.

(2)Then they condemned the hysteria, irrationality, and destructiveness of the “protesters” (yes, Big Cons never fail to accept whatever terms the left selects for its positions and activities).

(3)However, Big Cons were quick to qualify their condemnatory remarks with assurances that they understood and empathized with those people, particularly black people, who purported to be traumatized by the sight of statues of long-dead Southerners.  In doing so, they distanced themselves from Southerners (and others) who defended the monuments, and in many instances, Big Cons joined the call for the removal of the monuments and even went so far as to accuse some monument supporters of being “racist.”

Big Cons are partisans, for sure.  They are partisans of appeasement, appeasement of the left.

This three-point strategy of Big Cons is, unequivocally, a losing strategy against an enemy as aggressive and resolute as the left.

While talking and writing are important, for sure, Big Cons never do more than this.  For instance, they never use any of their vast resources to call for boycotts of leftist enterprises. Big Cons could quite easily organize demonstrations rivaling, and possibly exceeding, in size those that George Soros and other leftist millionaires and billionaires fund.

Big Cons have refused to form marches on Washington D.C. and, for that matter, around the country, pro-Second Amendment marches, say, or One Million Deplorables rallies intended to register the disgust of millions of Americans with the Russian-Collusion/Trump witch hunt.

If only they had the will to do so, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Mark Levin, Michael Savage, and the lot of the Big Cons, given their combined fortunes and influence, could have effortlessly arranged for several of these immense demonstrations of loud, militant, and enraged Americans.

But they do not have the will.

Perhaps those Big Cons with television programs could reserve a daily segment on self-defense training for Americans who want to avoid being pummeled by leftist vermin simply for wearing a MAGA hat or an American flag decal.  These segments could include tips on how to physically fight offensively, or maybe even showcase an gun expert who could familiarize viewers with different sorts of weapons.

The point is this: Short of secession (which, ideally, is the most morally proper option), there can’t be any peaceful co-existence between those who want to win by whichever means necessary and those who live in fear of offending the sensibilities of those who want to win by whichever means necessary.

There can be no peaceful co-existence between people as long as one of these two groups lives in fear of the other.

If a tentative peace can be had, it can be had only when both groups have fear.

This, though, is the problem.  The left, for all of its hysteria, doesn’t genuinely fear their enemies. That is, they don’t have that raw fear of being physically harmed.  While violence is something to be avoided and used only as a final resort, violent leftist bullies and terrorists must know that if they proceed to lay a finger on the hair of the head of anyone who they would demonize as a “racist” or “fascist,” it could mean their very lives.

This is a message at which Big Cons will never so much as hint, lest they be accused of advocating violence.

Interestingly, Big Cons never tire of rejecting pacifism and appeasement as responses to Islamic terror, and they are the first to lambast the “feminization” of boys and men.  Yet in the face of the ongoing violence to which non-leftist Americans are being subjected right here at home by leftist thugs, the Big Cons won’t dare suggest that perhaps those on their side of the political divide prepare to physically fight in defense of themselves and other innocents.

As long as the Big Cons remain in charge of the official right, the left will continue to advance, for the left has no reason to fear the Big Con.

 

As always happens in the wake of a mass shooting, last week when Nikolas Cruz murdered 17 people at his former Florida high school, commentators spared not a moment to take to the airwaves to bemoan the government’s alleged inattentiveness to the issue of “mental health” or “mental illness.”

And Republicans, i.e. self-described conservatives, were at least as prone as their liberal Democratic counterparts to offer this response.

Few people think through the implications of this line—yet there are many.

First, it is telling that the proponents of “limited government” and “personal accountability” should lament what they evidently think is a failure on the part of the federal government to be sufficiently aggressive in tampering with the minds of its citizens.

Second, the federal government has already spent, and continues to spend, billions of dollars—all taxpayers’ monies, bear in mind—on “mental health” services.  Yet “conservative” Republicans don’t think that the Therapeutic State is expansive enough.

Third, those who insist upon identifying “mental health” as the cause, or at least a cause, of mass shootings, usually do so only with respect to: (a) a certain class of mass shootings—school shootings; and (b) a certain class of shooters—young, predominantly white, school shooters.

When suspected Islamic terrorists drive a truck into a crowd, fly jets into skyscrapers, or shoot up a military installation, there is remarkably little said about the “mental health” challenges of the perpetrators.  When non-white gangbangers, irrespectively of their ages, or organized criminals of any ethnicity or age commit atrocities, no one talks about “mental health.”

This is telling, for what it suggests is that like, say, “climate change” and “gun-control,” the elasticity of the term “mental health” may very well be the product of design, providing as it does a justification for the potentially limitless centralization of government authority and equally limitless consolidation of government power over every facet of the lives of its citizens.

For the social engineer who aches to fundamentally transform society, the concept of “mental health” is indispensable. Yet it’s also invaluable inasmuch as its immense broadness permits the engineer to exploit it as selectively as the political circumstances demand: Since public sensibilities (at least at present) promise to be offended by the suggestion that the 9/11 hijackers, ISIS, Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and mob hitmen are “mentally ill,” the engineer can simply cast his net elsewhere, toward the Adam Lanzas and Nikolas Cruzes of the world.

There are still yet other disturbing implications of the concept of “mental health” or “mental illness.”

To assign “mental illness” as the “cause” of criminality, whether the crime in question is theft, arson, assault, or murder, is to divest the act of all moral value, positive and negative.  In short, if we’re going to insist that a person was “caused” by his “mental illness” to, for example, go on a shooting spree at a school, then it is no longer possible for us to condemn that person and his acts as immoral, much less as evil.

The realms of “mental health/illness” and morality are mutually incommensurable: The language of the one cannot be translated into that of the other.

When the world is considered under the aspect of “mental health/illness,” people are regarded as patients whose behaviors are caused by sicknesses that can and should be treated.

In glaring contrast, when the world is considered morally, people are viewed as agents whose conduct is self-initiated based on the agent’s reasons, conduct that deserves to be praised or blamed, rewarded or punished, depending upon whether the conduct is good or bad, right or wrong.

Crucially, the universe of “mental health/illness” is, ultimately, not a world comprised of persons at all.  It is a universe inhabited by objects that behave according to quantifiable regularities, objects that can be studied and measured according to the same scientific principles and laws used to study and measure all other objects of non-human types.

In this universe, human beings become addicted to substances. Purely material beings, “substances,” causally determine other material beings, humans, by “hooking” or enslaving them.

The moral sphere, though, is inhabited by persons, by subjects—not objects. It is precisely by virtue of their standing as subjects that it’s meaningful to regard persons as beings uniquely entitled to dignified treatment. Persons or subjects can no more be causally determined then a bachelor can be married or a square circular; if persons can be spoken of at all as being determined, then it is only in the sense of being self-determined, for unlike the human objects that occupy the realm of “mental health,” the occupants of the moral realm are selves.

There are no addictions or addicts on the moral plane of existence. Rather, people develop habits, some of which are good, some of which are bad.  The former are virtues.  The latter are vices.  People are habit-forming beings, for it is by way of repetition, by repeatedly doing, that learning is made possible.

And the kinds of things to which they become habituated are not dead, material “substances,” entities possessed of a set of trans-cultural, trans-historical properties guaranteed to have one and the same effect on all who partake of them.  People become habituated, rather, to activities that, being socially and culturally-constituted, are open-ended and, thus, underdetermined.

To put it simply, whether a person will become strongly habituated to using, say, cocaine will depend upon that person’s own proclivities, interests, aspirations, motivation, history, cultural-setting—comprehensively, a broad spectrum of contingencies and relativities that cannot be forecasted in advance.

The bottom line is this: If Nikolas Cruz was “sick;” if he suffered from a “mental illness” that “caused” him to do what he did, then Cruz was not evil. Neither were his acts of murdering 17 people and shooting many more evil acts.  This in turn means that Cruz not only doesn’t deserve punishment; he doesn’t deserve so much as to be criticized.  After all, sick people are entitled to our compassion.  They deserve to be treated.

So, we must choose: Either Nikolas Cruz was evil or he was sick.

He cannot be both.

 

 

 

 

Earlier this week, as everyone now knows, Nikolas Cruz, 19, shot up Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, killing 17 members of that community while injuring several others.

Unsurprisingly, the bodies of the victims weren’t even cold before the usual suspects among the political left began calling for more “sensible” or “common sense gun legislation.”

As any reader of this column knows well, I’m anything but an admirer of leftist ideology.  Still, there are characteristically leftist positions on some issues that, while I reject them, I recognize as bearing at least some semblance of plausibility.  And there are some arguments for some of these positions that I can respect, even though I find them neither compelling nor persuasive.

This being said, both the “gun-control” position and the argument(s) for it are about as manifestly nonsensical as any of which I’m aware.  And because those on the left continue to endorse this position while refusing to so much as entertain the possibility that the time and energy they invest in clamoring for “gun control” could be better spent devising adult responses to mass murder that are of infinitely greater potential for saving lives than their stance of choice, their appeals to “gun control” are also morally offensive.

In fact, “gun control,” as its proponents conceive it, is so silly that one can be tempted to ignore it altogether, fearful that by responding to it one risks lending it just an air of legitimacy. Consider:

Whether it is Nikolas Cruz or any other mass shooter, what the Gun-Controllers would have us believe is that while the literally tens of thousands of existing gun laws at the federal and state levels were not sufficient to deter these killers, if only there was that one heretofore non-existent law, or maybe a set of laws, that magic legislation, then shootings of this kind (of any kind?) would be no more.

If only there was a law preventing the sale of guns to people like Nikolas Cruz, then this person would not have shot anyone, let alone shoot as many people as he in fact did shoot.

The absurdity of this claim is self-evident.  Implicit in it is a larger, underlying principle, the principle that if we want to stop people from engaging in destructive or otherwise undesirable activities, we need only criminalize those activities.

Anyone willing to slow down the three seconds necessary to think about it will find the absurdity of the principle to be even more glaring than the original claim regarding “gun control.”

Any number of examples will highlight the lunacy:

If we want to prevent people from consuming alcohol, we should just criminalize the consumption of alcohol.

If we want to prevent people from using drugs for recreational purposes, we should criminalize the use of drugs for recreational purposes.

If we want to prevent people from engaging in prostitution, we should criminalize prostitution.

If we want to prevent people from gambling, we should criminalize gambling.

If we want to prevent people from robbing, raping, pillaging, and murdering, we should criminalize robbing, raping, pillaging, and murdering.

And if we want to prevent people from shooting up schools, we should criminalize school shootings.

In reality, we know that when activities like drinking, drug usage, prostitution, and the like are criminalized, this only serves to create a black market which in turn exacerbates the very problems to which the criminalization was ostensibly intended as an antidote—to say nothing of creating a new battery of problems (like organized crime).

To this line of criticism, the Gun-Controller could respond that I have misconstrued his view. He may argue that while he has no illusions about being able to prevent all future mass shootings, “tougher” laws, i.e. laws that will make it more difficult for citizens to purchase firearms—laws that will potentially deter them from purchasing firearms—promise to at least reduce the likelihood of mass shootings.

This counter-response fails utterly to relieve his position of the idiocy with which the Gun-Controller has burdened it.

To the activities of raping, murdering, and the like, we attach the harshest of penalties.  Yet still, people continue to rape and murder.  The Gun-Controller would have us think that a person, like Nikolas Cruz, who resolved months in advance to become a “professional school shooter,” as he revealed on social media, would have been deterred from mowing down innocents if only, somehow, there was that one law that prevented him from legally obtaining a firearm.

That is, the Gun-Controller maintains that though Cruz was not deterred by the threat of either serving the remainder of his natural existence in a prison cell or being executed for the crime of mass murder, he would have been deterred from following through with his plans if only it was illegal for him to purchase the weaponry that he wanted to use.

Now, if you still don’t see the imbecility in this logic, or if you pretend not to see it, then you must be among those who shout for more “gun-control” whenever a mass shooting assumes center-stage in the news cycle.

 

 

 

It’s “Black History Month” again.

And this means that it is an occasion to attend to matters that have become impossible to discuss in polite society.

For example, odds are that relatively few people are aware of the name of George S. Schuyler.

Born in upstate New York in 1895, Schuyler was a black American writer, once associated with “the Harlem Renaissance,” who was perhaps one of the twentieth century’s most perceptive and wittiest observers.  The famed iconoclast H.L. Mencken, of whom Schuyler was a protégé of sorts, seconds this estimation.  Mencken described Schuyler as perhaps the ablest writer, black or white, of his generation.

Schuyler’s career was as extensive as it was illustrious.  For over four decades, Schuyler wrote for and edited The Pittsburgh Courier, one of the largest black newspaper publications in the country.  Yet during this time and well into the 70’s, the decade in which Schuyler would meet his death, publications from across the ideological and racial spectrums eagerly sought to conscript Schuyler’s talents.

He authored what had become recognized as the first racially-oriented science fiction novel, Black No More, and his 1966 autobiography, Black and Conservative, has been credited by no less a figure than the black Ivy League left-wing scholar Cornel West as a “‘minor classic’ in African-American letters.”

While in the earlier decades of his career he leaned left politically, Schuyler, particularly as the Civil Rights era began to take off, began gravitating rightward.  He even became a member of the John Birch Society at one point.  His political conversion aside, two things about Schuyler remained constant: His passion for racial equality and his equally intense passion for anti-Communism.

Schuyler recognized that the communist left aimed to weaponize American blacks in its assault against America and, by implication, the “capitalist” and “democratic” West.  He spared no occasion to fight this effort.

In 1950, Schuyler was invited to be a United States delegate to the Congress of Cultural Freedom in Berlin.  While delivering his speech, “The Negro Question without Propaganda,” Schuyler took to task those “totalitarian slave states” that have waged “a vicious propaganda campaign of lies and distortions” regarding America’s treatment of  its “Negro citizens [.]”  These communist propagandists “have presented a picture of Negro existence in America so fantastic, so false, so contrary to the facts of his everyday life in the 48 states as to be unrecognizable by anyone familiar with the Nation.”

Schuyler was adamant, insisting that “the stereotype is so grotesque as to be at once amusing and deplorable.”  Thus, those who “so readily believe it” must be lacking in “intelligence and integrity.”

He proceeded to provide an ample supply of numbers that forcefully substantiates his contention that “the progressive improvement of interracial relations in the United States is the most flattering of the many examples of the superiority of the free American civilization over the soul-shackling reactionism of totalitarian regimes.”

Indeed, Schuyler decisively made the case that courtesy of “the system of individual initiative and decentralized authority,” as well as the good will of many a white philanthropist—including white Southern philanthropists—American “Negroes” have experienced “unprecedented economic, social, and educational progress” in the United States.

This “amazing” progress in every area, including, importantly, the area of health and life expectancy, “would not have been possible had race hatred been as prevalent as reported.”  Schuyler reiterated: “Such well-being could scarcely obtain in an atmosphere of terror.”

In 1963, Schuyler argued against the Civil Rights bill that would become law the following year.  He made at least three arguments against it, but his “principal case” against it pertained to “the dangerous purpose it may serve.”

Namely, the proposed legislation promised to undermine “the federalized structure of our society” by allocating to the “central government,” in the name of “improve[ing] the lot of a tenth of the population,” the power to “enslave the rest of” it.  Schuyler denied that he was being hyperbolic:

“Under such a law the individual everywhere is told what he must do and what he cannot do, regardless of the laws and ordinances of his state or community.”

The Civil Rights bill, Schuyler maintained, struck “a blow at the very basis of American society,” a society “founded on state sovereignty and individual liberty and preference.”

It may shock contemporary audiences to discover that Schuyler recognized in the Civil Rights movement communist control.  It will doubtless shock more to learn that he had little regard for the Civil Rights leaders of the day, including Martin Luther King, Jr.

When King received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, Schuyler wrote that “though accustomed to seeing” this award bestowed upon “a succession of pious frauds for the purposes of political propaganda,” he shared the “shock” of the Norwegian media in learning that King would be its next recipient.

In “King: No Help to Peace,” Schuyler wrote that “neither directly nor indirectly has Dr. King made a contribution to the world (or even domestic) peace.”  Alluding to King’s Communist Party “mentors,” Schuyler added: “Methinks the Lenin Prize would have been more appropriate [than the Nobel Prize] for him, for it is no mean feat for one so young to acquire sixty Communist-front citations [.]”

According to Schuyler, King’s “principal contribution to world peace has been to roam the country like some sable typhoid-Mary, infecting the mentally disturbed with the perversion of Christian doctrine, and grabbing lecture fees from the shallow-pated.”

King’s “incitement,” he charged, “packed jails with Negroes and some whites, getting them beaten, bitten and firehosed, thereby bankrupting communities, raising bail and fines, to the vast enrichment of Southern Law and order.”

King “persistently entered cities… after local Negro leadership had begged” him and his entourage “to get lost.”  “In none of them [these cities] was anything gained.”

Even the Montgomery bus strike, which Schuyler reluctantly acknowledges may be King’s singular “meritorious service,” was ultimately “won by the much-derided NAACP legalism which ended Jim Crow bus service everywhere by federal court order.” That is, it was not won by boycotts.

There is much more that can be said about George S. Schuyler.