Beliefnet
At the Intersection of Faith and Culture

It is becoming painfully clear to me that, while there is doubtless no short supply of reasonably intelligent pundits on the political horizon, very few of them know how to think.  Or, if they do know how to think, they refuse to bring that knowledge to bear upon their craft.

Indeed, reasoning is as lost an art upon the average commentator as ballet is lost upon an elephant.

During just this past week alone I encountered two glaring instances of this misology (hatred of reason) on the part of veteran journalists.

First, Nicholas Stix accused me of “ripping off” his work.  This is the conclusion that he arrived at based solely on three considerations: (1) I wrote an article in which I relayed the ghastly fate visited upon a young white couple from Tennessee back in 2007 by four black men and one black woman; (2) Stix had been writing about this same case for years; and (3) I misspelled the name of the reporter, Jamie Satterfield (I wrote “Sutterfield”) who I quoted in my article.

As I made clear in my response, Stix’s reasoning on this score was embarrassingly, even scandalously, poor.   I wrote the following:

“Upon googling the names of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, no fewer than 136,000 results are listed.  And the very first result is a link to the Knoxville-Sentinel’s archive on this case.  The second result is a link to a Wikipedia entry on the latter.  To his eternal credit, Michael Savage, the third most listened to nationally syndicated radio talk show host in the country, a man with probably 10 to 12 million listeners, has talked about the fate of Christian and Newsom since 2007.

“In other words, this story has been in the public domain since the time that it first broke—and Stix was not the person to have first broken it.  It is preposterous to imply that any discussion of this case that doesn’t give a tip of the hat to Stix is disreputable.

“As for my own piece, there isn’t a single argument, turn of phrase, idea, or detail in it that can in any way be construed as having been lifted from Stix’s work.  It merely recapitulates the bare bones of the ‘Knoxville Horror,’ as Stix quite appropriately refers to it (Now, had I not credited him as having coined this term, then I would indeed be guilty of ‘ripping’ him ‘off.’).  To lend authority to my summation, I turned to the Knoxville-Sentinel archive and quoted Satterfield, the local reporter who, I discovered, had been all over this story, as well as the medical examiner who she in turn quoted.”

So, Stix’s argument boiled down to this: Either Kerwick was familiar with Satterfield’s work or he “ripped off” Stix.  He was not familiar with Satterfield’s work.  Therefore, he “ripped off” Stix.

Moving right along, we come to Washington Post writer Michael Gerson.  The latter wrote a piece in which he blasted Rand Paul and his supporters. Paul, Gerson maintained, could never become a “mainstream Republican” because his supporters are both “neo-confederates” and the enemies of almost all war and federal coercion.

I noted that this argument is incoherent: it makes no sense.

“But Gerson would have us think that these libertarians are at once consumed by an inordinate passion for liberty as well as an equally inordinate passion for ‘a regime founded on slavery,’ a burning hatred for war, the penultimate emblem of coercion, and a comparably intense affection for the coercion required by ‘state-sanctioned’ racism.

Paul and his supporters love liberty and they hate liberty. They love coercion and they hate coercion.  They are statists and anti-statists.”

It should go without saying that there are plenty of other exhibits that I could supply of the illogic that pervades the work of your average commentator.  In the future, more such exhibits will be supplied.

For now, though, let these displays serve as textbook cases of the misology of the punditry class.

 

 

 

 

If the George Zimmerman/Trayvon Martin case demonstrated anything, it is the gross, and grotesque, double standards in race relations that exist in America.

A few weeks ago, I published a piece at Front Page Magazine, “Paula Deen and the Fundamental Transformation of America,” in which I relayed the unimaginably brutal fate that a young white couple, Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, met six years ago in Knoxville, Tennessee at the hands of four black men and one black woman.  I noted that the usual suspects in the Racism-Industrial-Complex who demanded Deen’s head on a platter for having used a notorious racial epithet some 30 years ago or so have been utterly silent with respect to this atrocity.

There is, though, another scandalously underreported instance of black-on-white cruelty that, with shocking clarity, illustrates the hypocrisy and cowardice of contemporary racial discourse.  It occurred in Wichita, Kansas 13 years ago.  It is with good reason that it has since been dubbed “the Wichita Massacre” or “the Wichita Horror.” 

On December 14, 2000, two black brothers, Reginald and Jonathan Carr broke into the home of three white men, Jason Befort, Bradley Heyka, and Aaron Sandler.  Also at the home were two white women, Heather Muller and a woman who, for the purpose of her own privacy and protection, is now known only as “H.G.” The latter is the sole survivor of the evil to which the Carr brothers subjected her and her friends.

Over a span of hours, the brothers Carr forced their victims to get naked and have sex with one another. According to an Accuracy in Media report, when Sander “failed to perform” sexually, he “was beaten with a golf club [.]”

Yet the Carrs also forced the two women to have sex with them. Repeatedly, Muller and H.G. were raped, both vaginally and orally.

The rapes, though, were interspersed with multiple robberies. At different times, Reginald Carr drove Heyka, Befort, and H.G., individually, to the bank where they were made to use their ATM cards to withdraw funds. The temperature that evening was at least 15 degrees below freezing, and yet the Carrs permitted H.G. to wear nothing but a sweater during her excursion to the bank.

But it wasn’t only the bank accounts of their victims that the Carr brothers depleted.  According to the AIM report, the Carrs “ransacked the house looking for money and valuables.” Sadly, they “found the engagement ring that Befort had planned to give H.G. a week later.”

At around 2 A.M. the Carrs took their captives—three of whom had been stuffed into the trunk of Sander’s Honda Accord—to a deserted field covered in snow. The men were stark naked while the women wore nothing other than a shirt.  All five were made to kneel down. The Carrs then shot each one of them, execution-style, in the backs of their heads. Then, they rode over the bodies in one of the vehicles that they stole before leaving their victims to rot.

The Carrs failed to realize that not all of their prey had died.  AIM states that H.G. took off her sweater to stop Jason Befort’s bleeding. “‘Blood was squirting everywhere,’” she later testified in court.  It was even “’coming out of his eyes.’” Naked, raped, shot and left for dead, H.G. walked one mile to a home where she implored strangers to help. Most tellingly, she would not let them call 911 until after she had told them all that happened that night.  Thinking that she too would die, H.G. wanted to make sure that her grisly story was known. AIM reports that “the couple listened in amazement at her courage and determination.”

H.G. is indeed courageous and determined. Thanks to her virtues the Carr brothers were convicted and sentenced to death (though, unfortunately, they haven’t yet been executed).

Had H.G. been black and her attackers been white, there isn’t anyone in America who wouldn’t know her name.  More than one Lifetime movie would’ve been made about her and her friends.  Oprah Winfrey would have interviewed her several times over.  Along with that of Heather Muller, her name would already be in the annals of “Women’s History.” She would be a feminist’s icon.  The President, and most certainly the First Lady, would have given speeches singing her praises and reminding Americans that “racism” is still very much alive, etc.

And the Carr brothers (deservingly) would be the most vilified men in the country.

But H.G. and her four late friends were white and their assailants black.  Thus, if they were ever noticed at all, they have long since been forgotten.

In the spirit of that “honest discussion of race” that Eric Holder claims to want, we should acquaint and reacquaint ourselves with them.

While we’re at it, it is high time that we decry the outrageous racial double-standards on which the Racism-Industrial-Complex feeds.

In his July 18 article, “Rand Paul can never be a mainstream Republican,” former George W. Bush speechwriter and Washington Post writer Michael Gerson can barely contain his glee over what he perceives to be the Kentucky Senator’s fall from grace.  “For a while,” Gerson writes, Paul “succeeded in a difficult maneuver: accepting the inheritance of his father’s movement while distancing himself from the loonier aspects of his father’s ideology.”  But given recent revelations regarding the “neo-confederate” background of one his senior staff members, Paul “has fallen spectacularly off the tightrope.”

Yet his staffer’s “disdain for Lincoln is not a quirk or coincidence,” Gerson is quick to note. What he calls “Paulism” demands “more than the repeal of Obamacare.  It is a form of libertarianism that categorically objects to 150 years of expanding federal power,” the “main domestic justification” of which “has been opposition to slavery and segregation.” From this perspective, “Lincoln…exercised tyrannical powers to pursue an unnecessary war,” and the 1964 Civil Rights Act “violates both states’ rights and individual property rights [.]”

None of this means that the “Paulites” are “racists,” Gerson assures us.  However, it does mean that they are “opponents of the legal methods that ended state-sanctioned racism.”

Gerson is not yet finished. Paul and his supporters “tend to hate war and federal coercion in any form, even in causes generally regarded as good. They opposed the Cold War and nearly every post-World War II American exercise of power. They equate the war on terror with militarism, imperialism and empire. And they remain unhappy with the War of Northern Aggression.”

Gerson’s verdict is unambiguous: It is “impossible for Rand Paul to join the Republican mainstream.”

Let’s simplify Gerson’s argument.  It goes like this:

  1. Rand Paul’s supporters “tend to hate war and federal coercion in any form [.]”
  2. They also tend toward “neo-confederacy” inasmuch as they are “opponents of the legal methods that ended state-sanctioned racism.”
  3. Therefore, Rand Paul can never “join the Republican mainstream.”

Considered individually, the inaccuracy of Gerson’s claims can easily be exposed.  The largest problem with his argument, though, isn’t the substance of its parts, but its incoherence.

If Paul’s supporters were the “neo-confederate” quasi-racists who Gerson says they are, defenders of “a regime founded on slavery” and de facto defenders of “state-sanctioned racism,” then we would surely have to consider carefully Gerson’s admonishment regarding Paul.

And if Paul’s supporters really did “hate war and federal coercion” under and any and all circumstances, then, again, the wise would have to take to heart Gerson’s counsel against backing Paul.

But Gerson would have us think that these libertarians are at once consumed by an inordinate passion for liberty as well as an equally inordinate passion for “a regime founded on slavery,” a burning hatred for war, the penultimate emblem of coercion, and a comparably intense affection for the coercion required by “state-sanctioned” racism.

Paul and his supporters love liberty and they hate liberty. They love coercion and they hate coercion.  They are statists and anti-statists.

Gerson’s position is what we may call an “argument from the Kitchen Sink,” an argument in which the arguer tries to throw everything and the proverbial kitchen sink against his target in the hopes that, eventually, something will stick.

It is also what logicians have long recognized as an argument against the person, the old ad hominem attack.

Whatever name we choose to give to it, Gerson’s argument is bad, even pathetic.  We should, unfortunately, get used to it, for Rand Paul’s rivals—the Gersonians of the Republican Party—promise to haunt us with it in one form or another until Paul has been discredited.

 

 

 

 

A journalist by trade, Nicholas Stix is as prolific as he is courageous a writer.  For years, he has waged a relentless campaign to draw his readers’ attention to a phenomenon that, however ubiquitous, neither the “mainstream” nor the “conservative” media dare to touch: black-on-white violence.  Many writers claim to write on behalf of truth and justice.  All too few of them actually do so.  Stix is one of these few.

Given my obvious admiration for this veteran beacon of truth, one can imagine my surprise and disappointment upon discovering that Stix recently accused me of being among those of his “sons” who have “ripped off [his] work.”

In “While Reading about the Knoxville Horror, Journalist Finds Son He Didn’t Know He Had,” Stix remarks: “I just discovered a new son, and his name is Jack Kerwick!”

On July 3, I published an article in Front Page Magazine entitled, “Paula Deen and the Fundamental Transformation of America.”  The objective of the piece was to draw out the glaring contrast between, on the one hand, the media’s obsession with Deen’s use of “the N-word” decades ago and, on the other, its indifference toward black-on-white cruelty.  As an illustration of the latter, I selected the grisly ordeal of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, a young white couple from Tennessee who were carjacked, abducted, raped, tortured, and murdered by four black men and one black woman in Knoxville back in 2007.

And to show that this wasn’t just an event that was six years old, but a saga that continues to the present, I segued into a description of the circumstances in which the victims spent their remaining hours by way of mentioning that even while the brouhaha over Deen is all of the rage, one of the victimizers, George Thomas, had just been retried and convicted once more.

Admirably, gallantly, Stix had been writing about this topic from the time that it first occurred.  Yet because of this, and because I, admittedly, and carelessly, misspelled the name of the Knoxville Sentinel reporter, Jamie Satterfield (I wrote Sutterfield), to whom I alluded in my piece, Stix’s verdict is that I “ripped” him “off.”

“Kerwick and his defenders would surely respond that it was an innocent mistake, but that won’t wash.  He makes the same mistake twice, and never gets her name right.”  Stix confidently declares: “Nobody familiar with Jamie Satterfield’s work would do that.”

Of both the Orwellian concept of theft that Stix employs here, as well as the shoddiness of his reasoning, more will be said shortly.  First, though, it should be noted that Stix is correct about one thing: I am not “familiar with Jamie Satterfield’s work [.]” I thought to even glance at the name attached to the Knoxville-Sentinel’s article from which I quoted only because, well, I was quoting from it.  Stix, however, in a feat that would make a college freshman in a basic logic course blush, reasons from my carelessness to the conclusion that I “ripped” him “off.”

This is a vintage example of what logicians from the time of Aristotle have called “false dichotomy”: Either Jack is familiar with Satterfield’s work or all that he knows of the Knoxville case he stole from Stix. He is unfamiliar with Satterfield’s work. Therefore, he stole from Stix.

So much for Stix’s reasoning here.

But what exactly can it mean to be “ripped off” in this context?  Notice, Stix never accuses either me or any of his other “sons”—his not so affectionate term for those of us who also seek to bring the national scandal of media silence on black-on-white violence to more people’s attention—of plagiarism.  There is a very good reason for this: Stix has zero grounds upon which to root such a charge.

Upon googling the names of Channon Christian and Christopher Newsom, no fewer than 136,000 results are listed.  And the very first result is a link to the Knoxville-Sentinel’s archive on this case.  The second result is a link to a Wikipedia entry on the latter.  To his eternal credit, Michael Savage, the third most listened to nationally syndicated radio talk show host in the country, a man with probably 10 to 12 million listeners, has talked about the fate of Christian and Newsom since 2007.

In other words, this story has been in the public domain since the time that it first broke—and Stix was not the person to have first broken it.  It is preposterous to imply that any discussion of this case that doesn’t give a tip of the hat to Stix is disreputable.

As for my own piece, there isn’t a single argument, turn of phrase, idea, or detail in it that can in any way be construed as having been lifted from Stix’s work.  It merely recapitulates the bare bones of the “Knoxville Horror,” as Stix quite appropriately refers to it (Now, had I not credited him as having coined this term, then I would indeed be guilty of “ripping” him “off.”).  To lend authority to my summation, I turned to the Knoxville-Sentinel archive and quoted Satterfield, the local reporter who, I discovered, had been all over this story, as well as the medical examiner who she in turn quoted.

Perhaps more than most, writers, including yours truly, take themselves entirely too seriously. Yet as the great Catholic writer G.K. Chesterton said, seriousness “is no virtue.” Being that it is “the easiest things to do,” it is more of a vice, for it is nothing other than “a natural trend or lapse into taking one’s-self gravely [.]”

Stix should keep up his good work. While he is at it, he should brush up on his Chesterton.