Monday, September 18, 2017

Manjaws: A Rant by Rashad the Cackler

Rashad, also known as the Cackler, is an old homeless man who has wandered North America for decades and is notorious for his stream of diatribes on a wide range of subjects. He appears in my novel God Decays. This is the first in a series of his collected works of dark prose poetry, which his acolytes across the continent record for posterity.
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The other day I was watching TV through a store window and I saw another female news anchor with manjaws. Do you know what those are? They’re square jaws. Lantern jaws. The kind you would have seen on William Wallace as he sliced off the limbs of the English. Or the kind that were clenched by a marauding Neanderthal, sweaty, hairy and bloodied from carnage on the plains of Africa, way back in the mists of time. Maybe he’d singlehandedly slain a Saber-toothed tiger but then he was magically transported to our era and he decides not to hunt us down but to read us the evening news that there was another stabbing or a car pileup—only, surprise! The macho champion of men whose jawline is so square you’d drop everything just to follow him into battle—because all men with weak jawlines are cowards who would double-cross you at the first opportunity—anyway, surprise: the dude is a chick. You were anticipating the face of the News Corporation to be the quintessence of masculinity, to reassure you that men still rule, so your country is stable and there’s nothing to fear, no confusing realignment of power on the horizon. But they’ve replaced that face with a woman’s, and just to rub it in they’ve picked the one-in-a-million Wonder Woman who boasts the manjaws of Richard the Lionheart or Genghis Khan. They sent out ads saying, “We at the TV News Monopoly are looking for a female news reader with a masculine jawline to infuriate our male viewers, to signal to them that yes, the old rules still apply, everyone still associates strength and gravitas with that archetypal symbol of masculinity—only, women can be man-like. If you have such anomalous manjaws, call us right away and we’ll hire you on the spot.” It’s all a sham, though, because women aren’t really taking over and most women can’t be man-like, no matter how hard they try. Almost all the world’s multimillionaires and billionaires are men, and it’s the same with the corporate titans and political leaders. Men still rule the world and do you want to know why? It’s because someone’s got to run the place right into the ground, and it’s certainly not going to be women. You think women are sociopathic enough to make the hard choice of picking our bloodthirsty, barbaric species above all others? Are women going to disgrace themselves like the wealthy douchebags who spend their money on golden toilets and sprawling palaces—which no one has ever worked hard enough in all of human history to have actually earned—and then to look at themselves in the mirror and smile, knowing that a billion people are starving? No, only men can rule, because leaders have to be assholes. Running your corporation, your country, your species into the ground, never taking responsibility, and bringing everyone else down with you—that’s a man’s job! But now it’s fashionable to flatter women that they can be as monstrous as men, because everything has to be equal, right? Well, where are all the female movie villains? Which evil vixen was ever as bad-ass as Darth flipping Vader? Last time I checked, Dracula, the mummy, the werewolf, and Frankenstein and his monster were all men. Which little lady was ever as straight-up demonic as Hitler or Stalin? Get the hell out of here with your right to equality! No one’s as cruel or as clueless as human males. We’ve earned that title and the right to rule after our thousands of years of slaughtering in the names of fictitious gods. We males have done the legwork of enslaving or exterminating almost all the animal species on land—thank you very much! So we don’t need women’s backseat driving on how to let power go to our heads. Least of all do we need them pretending they can do all this dirty work with no disastrous input from men. Let’s just see what happens, shall we? After only a few decades of feminist rulers, I’d wager the ecosystem might even be saved from ruin—and they’d call that “leadership”! So watch Ms. Manjaws sitting there with her porn starlet’s hairdo and her caked-on makeup and those huge honking manly jaws! Just watch her attempt to be as vapid and perfunctory at her job as the male news readers of old. Watch her take down that seven-figure salary for a monkey’s labour, and just see if she can squander it as rapidly as a man would. We should all be curious to learn if she can shamelessly carry around a trophy boy toy in her middle age, like an alpha male would. That’s the problem with late modernity: our symbols no longer mean anything and no one can trust in our myths anymore. She may have the jawline of a killer, but her heart’s not in it. No one’s fooling me! I’d follow her into battle only if I knew for certain she’d lead us right smack into the maw of crushing defeat, albeit with great, sanctimonious speeches, tall tales of derring-do, and bullshit mythic symbols of our noble enterprise. Until women can prove they can destroy the planet with the best of them, the only women I want to see on TV should be content with baby-weak jawlines. Manjaws are for the brutes whose thankless task is to destroy the planet, the brutes women love best. 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Is Donald Trump Mentally Ill?

You might have thought that Donald Trump, the current president of the United States, is mentally ill and obviously so. You might even have thought you had the medical name of his affliction handy: “malignant narcissism,” the name of the disorder that combines psychopathy with narcissism. But Allen Frances, the psychiatrist who wrote the definition of “narcissism” in the DSM, the Bible of American psychiatry, wants you to know you’d be wrong. As he writes in his book, Twilight of American Sanity: A Psychiatrist Analyzes the Age of Trump, Frances thinks it’s clear that while Trump may be a horrendous person, he doesn’t have any mental illness. This is why Frances says he declined a TV producer’s invitation to provide a psychiatric diagnosis of Trump’s mental condition, during the 2016 presidential campaign. Frances declined because he “saw no evidence that Trump had a mental disorder.” Plus, he was barred from conjecturing in that manner by the “useful ethics policy” of the American Psychiatric Association’s Goldwater rule. Psychiatrists, he says, have “no right to use professional credentials to medicalize their political beef” with a politician.  

I’ll return to the Goldwater rule at the end. Why, though, does Frances think Trump has no mental illness? Here’s his answer:
Trump’s amateur diagnosticians have all made the same fundamental error. They correctly note that the disorder’s defining features [of narcissism] fit him like a glove…But they fail to recognize that being a world-class narcissist doesn’t make Trump mentally ill. Crucial to the diagnosis of Narcissistic Personality Disorder is the requirement that the behaviors cause clinically significant distress or impairment. Otherwise, many, if not most, politicians (and almost all celebrities) might qualify. Trump is a man who causes great distress in others but shows no signs himself of experiencing great distress. His behaviors, however outrageous and objectionable, consistently reap him fame, fortune, women, and now political power—he has been generously rewarded for his Trumpism, not impaired by it.
That answer should astonish you. Nearly every line of it must be dissected to grasp the extent of Frances’ audacity.

Allen Frances
It’s true that a mental condition should negatively impact the prospective patient before it can be called a disorder. Doctors still take something like the Hippocratic Oath to heart; they want to first do no harm to the patient. Thus, if a person shows no signs of distress, the doctor has no overriding reason to intervene, since doing so might cause more harm than good. Only if the patient is clearly suffering can the doctor feel assured that even if the treatment should fail or cause some additional discomfort, as it frequently does, the risk is worth it to have the chance of relieving the initial suffering. Moreover, impairment is considered a precondition of having a mental disorder, because psychiatry is scientistic and so the psychiatrist would prefer not to descend to the free-for-all level of dabbling in normative reflections on what should count as mental health, that being a mere philosophical question. Thus, the psychiatrist borrows her professional values from society at large and so she defines “disorder” in terms of dysfunction. A disorder causes impairment which prevents the individual from functioning normally in society. That’s what society cares about—the extent to which members fit in and don’t interfere with its norms—and so that’s how the psychiatrist skirts the philosophical questions about the ideals of human excellence.

Note that both of these factors have to do with the profession of psychiatry, not with the potential patient’s inherent mental condition. The psychiatrist sees herself as heroic and her profession as scientific, and that’s why she thinks of mental disorders partly in consequentialist terms. Frances concedes that Trump’s mental condition appears to be narcissistic. That is, Trump has all the disorder’s inherent defining features; moreover, it’s obvious that he has them, because his is a severe, putrefied case. But those features have the wrong effects, says Frances. This means merely that there’s no cause for medical alarm in Trump’s case. Trump is flourishing, so medically intervening in his life would violate the doctor’s oath to do no harm, and Trump functions well in society, so society wouldn’t take the brunt of the normative assessment, given that the psychiatrist sees herself as dealing only with hardnosed, quantitative matters.

Granting all of this, then, it’s still misleading to say, with Frances, that Trump hasn’t any mental disorder, when what Frances really means is that Trump’s palpable narcissism has anomalous results which don’t happen to call for medical remedy. To say that Trump isn’t mentally disordered, for the above reasons, is to speak about psychiatry not Trump. As soon as we turn to what’s intrinsic to Trump, to a study of how his mind operates, regardless of how society happens to receive him, we’re led to conclude that Trump walks and quacks like a duck. If having all the internal components of malignant narcissism doesn’t make for a mental disorder, because psychiatry refuses to get involved if there’s no distress or impairment, and mental disorders go only where psychiatrists have no fear to tread, that amounts to a mere semantic difference. Just say that Trump has a grotesque mental condition, equivalent to the set of all the intrinsic features of malignant narcissism, but not that he has a mental disorder (because psychiatrists don’t want to get involved in Trump’s particular case).

Monday, September 11, 2017

Evil Industries Imitates Scientology at Trial over Fraud

Dateline: NEW YORK CITY—Unveiling his legal team’s strategy at NY State Supreme Court, Lance Hyrdgun, lead defense lawyer for the retail firm Evil Industries, which is being sued by the Justice Department for fraud, said that the defendant “operates well within the boundaries established in the name of evil by Scientology, a malevolent cult which is evidently just fine and dandy in America.” 

“Nothing in this nation is currently more evil than Scientology,” said Mr. Hyrdgun in his opening statement. “Just as some comedians push the envelope for free speech, Scientology shows all profit-maximizing businesspeople how to scam the public and get away scot-free. So watch us do the same.”

According to the defense team, Evil Industries has imitated Scientology’s corporate structure and brand, which allow Scientology to get away with murder.

“Scientologists are allowed to rampage across the face of the earth like a pack of demons straight out of hell,” said Evil Industries VP Brenda Heartless on the witness stand. “This is because that corporation calls itself a religion. They thus pay no taxes and hide behind both the modern deference to science and America’s lame taboo against criticizing religion. It’s brilliant what that heinous organization has done.”

Ms. Heartless added, “Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard ripped off Sumerian astrotheology, Gnosticism, and the Jain interpretation of karma, put a sci-fi spin on them and pretended his plain-as-day cult of personality is actually a science to rival psychiatry, complete with technology that can solve all your personal problems and even give you superpowers.

“Meanwhile, you’ve given over the cult hundreds of thousands of your dollars, had your access to the internet removed, and been physically abused at the Sea Org or denied access to your parents and siblings because the cult has condemned them as heretics. Maybe you even end up killing yourself when you realize you’ve wasted decades of your life on Scientologist nonsense. But it’s all perfectly legal, thanks to the genius of that con.”

The defense team contends that Evil Industries likewise operates as a religion: the religion of Business.

“If Scientology can make a religion out of using bogus technology to make you happy,” said Mr. Hyrdgun, “Evil Industries can make one out of selling schlock to satisfy ignorant consumers’ weakness for impulse purchases. The blueprint laid out by Scientology is ingenious: you just pick your wide-as-can-be aspect of human life and make a religion that corners the market on it, by inventing some nonsensical jargon, pseudo-theological balderdash, and creepy religious branding. Then you’re legally entitled in the freedom-loving USA to set up a tyrannical business empire that funnels millions of dollars from the desperate and exploited masses to the grossly-cynical managers.”

Roderick Moustache-Twiddler, CEO of Evil Industries and Chairman of the Board of the Evil Business Center, took the witness stand to counter the prosecutor’s case for fraud, saying, “The government has no case. Does the Justice Department think fraud is always illegal? It isn’t, not if it’s done in the name of a religion. Sure, we at Evil Industries sell insect goo as fancy cheese, and goat piss as white wine. So what?

“In 1993 the IRS bowed to pressure, saving Scientology from bankruptcy by allowing that malevolent organization to call itself a religion. Any old business now can follow suit just by dressing up its nefarious activities in the trappings of a church. Again, fraud is okay in the USA if it’s done in the guise of a religion! But religions are a dime a dozen now, so you all can kiss my Texan ass!”

Asked why his organization is called “Evil Industries,” Mr. Moustache-Twiddler said, “We call ourselves evil, because that’s what’s at the heart of capitalism. We’re as selfish as can be to make a quick buck. We don’t exchange goods that are equally valuable, as in bartering. No, we maximize profit, which is possible only by lying and conning, by committing fraud. So fraud is essential to sales and thus to capitalism, but it’s illegal in business because of feel-good foolishness about how if everyone’s as selfish and ruthless as possible, an invisible hand will make everything alright in the end. Competition will make everyone happy even as the wickedness that’s unleashed destroys the planet.

“We admit we’re evil, but we follow the lead of the demons over at the Church of Scientology, so we’re all good.”

At a press conference, the American president commented on the trial. “Businesses don’t have to be evil and religions don’t have to be villainous cults,” said the president.

When asked why Scientology is allowed to operate within the United States, without being leveled to the ground by a hydrogen bomb blast, the president said, “We can’t be expected to annihilate every form of evil that takes root. You take the good with the bad.”  

Legal insiders expect Evil Industries to prevail at trial.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

The Creature of American Democracy Battered and Hunted under President Trump

Dateline: WASHINGTON, D.C.—American democracy has been badly injured and is in hiding as a result of Donald Trump’s being elected president of the United States.

There have since been scattered sightings of Democracy across the country. At midnight in Pasadena, an elderly woman reported seeing a battered, hunched figure with a mangled face, crawling in the alley behind her small house. The creature claimed to be none other than Democracy itself, the very creature that had formerly appeared angelic to the nation.

The humanoid begged for water and to be sung the national anthem, “to keep my spirits up,” as it croaked, but instead of obliging, the woman kicked Democracy in the groin and spat on its blistered head.

“You’re American Democracy and you have the gall to show your face in public, even in a filthy back alley like this?” she said. “When you’re responsible for inflicting us with Trump? Trump?! You were supposed to be meritocratic!”

Democracy slinked away, avoiding further blows, but not before the woman had her daughter take a picture of the creature. The photograph made headlines when she sent it to the local newspaper.

The creature was sighted next by a father and his young son, in New York City. “It was just lying on its back on the side of the road,” said the man. “It looked like a cross between a big lizard and some sort of demon, with twisted, ragged bat wings, a bulbous head and a hunched back. Its scaly hide was bruised all over and blood was flowing from its ears and its gaping maw.”

The boy ran up to Democracy and offered it a sip from his juice box, but his father pulled him aside and said, “Not so fast, son. That there’s Democracy—not a functioning government’s version, mind you, but the made-in-the-US kind. It’s dead to us now.”

“But why can’t we help the poor monster?” asked his son. “It’s bleeding and gasping for air. It should be on life support in the hospital.”

“This is what it deserves for lying to us for centuries! We were supposed to have the best political system in the world, devised by the genius framers of our Constitution. Some geniuses they were! The Electoral College was designed to prevent a demagogic buffoon from becoming president, but it did just the opposite, denying the moderate Hillary Clinton victory even though she won the popular vote by millions.

“No, steer clear of the traitorous freak, son. We’ll have nothing more to do with American-style democracy. But you can kick its belly if you want.”

Some months later, in Youngstown, Ohio, a trio of middle-aged white men who supported Mr. Trump came upon the hobbling and wheezing figure of Democracy.

Clapping the creature on the back, one of the men said, “See, you’re just wounded now, but don’t worry: Trump and the alt right will finish you off for good before his first term’s up. Serves you right for all your related platitudes about the glories of free trade and globalization! Trump proved the centrist, neoliberal pundits and pollsters and your other guardians knew nothing and were phonies all along—just like the dream of American democracy itself, since our government is effectively a plutocracy that serves only the richest ten percent.

“No more lies out of you, infernal beast!” The man slammed Democracy against a brick wall, shouting, “You’ve shown us your true, hideous form. We can’t wait for patriotic fascists to take American power from the bureaucrats and bankers and give it back to hard-working real Americans, like how Putin saved Russia from the outbreak of liberty and the rise of corrupt oligarchs under Yeltsin.”

Briella Lamonte, lecturer at the Machiavelli Institute, in Lick Skillet, Tennessee, isn’t surprised that Democracy is on the run. “The myth of Democracy needs to be fed like the gods of old,” she said. “A myth dies when it has few if any to worship what it stands for. For decades, America has had the lowest voter turnout among developed nations. We have gerrymandering, voter suppression, and a revolving door between the public and private sectors, as well as hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into the political system and only two measly, pro-establishment parties that ever have a chance of winning.

“And despite what the myth promised, that maximum personal freedom would benefit the majority, few Americans believe it anymore because they’ve seen their towns crumble and their wages stagnate, even while the military tried to rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq, of all places, or while Obama gave the Wall Street bankers a green light to keep holding the economy hostage.

“American democracy isn’t what we thought it was,” she added. “It’s actually a terrifying disgrace and the public have a right to shun it. They don’t vote anymore, or if they do they hold their nose or send the power elites a self-destructive protest in the form of a psychopathic ignoramus like Donald Trump. So yeah, maybe we’ll catch sight of Democracy now and again, like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness monster. But I don’t think American freedom can survive much longer, not after it’s spoiled the illusion by giving us the Bush and Trump fiascos.” 

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

A Critique of Presuppositional Apologetics

If you’ve participated in the so-called Great Debate in the West, wading through chat rooms and discussion forums hosting smug, sanctimonious Christians, on the one hand, and smug, chauvinistic new atheists on the other, you may have encountered the Christian ploy of arguing that Christianity, or at least theism, is the only viable worldview, all others being incoherent. Reason and morality presuppose God, and science, naturalism, and the secular way of life endure only by borrowing principles from the Christian’s worldview. This transcendental argument for Christian theism, called presuppositionalism, is comically misplaced. But it can spur the secularist to realize that the popular, exoteric formulation of the naturalist’s worldview, called liberal secular humanism, is indeed incoherent. If Christianity were to fall, it would likely take optimistic, progressive humanism down with it. The hunt should be on, then, for the content of the enlightened humanist’s esoteric beliefs.

The Paper Tiger of Presuppositionalism

Presuppositional apologetics is a totalitarian defense of Christianity which denies that there’s a neutral starting point of inquiry which could allow for Christians and non-Christians to build their opposing cases from the same pool of evidence and to evaluate their arguments without decisive bias. According to an evidentialist, by contrast, Christians and atheists can both turn with sufficient neutrality to the same world for evidence to support their respective positions, and the winning argument can be decided on empirical grounds. The rules of inference and evidence would be settled prior to evaluating the first-order arguments, so that Christians and atheistic naturalists will have agreed on what counts epistemically as a superior argument. But according to the presuppositionalist, we’re all locked within our presuppositions and so we can’t reason empathically or philosophically, by imagining an alternative viewpoint or improving your opponent’s counterargument in a cooperative effort to discover the truth in good-faith dialogue. Instead, according to Cornelius Van Til, the founder of this ruse, the Christian presupposes the Bible as a set of axioms, whereas the non-Christian presupposes some other grounds for first-order beliefs, such as scientific theories and the laws of logic, and the only question is which self-contained belief system is more coherent. Of course, Van Til says that Christianity is the only coherent belief system, and all others fall apart. The presuppositionalist, therefore, deconstructs, say, philosophical naturalism, showing its presuppositions are no threat to Christianity because those presuppositions serve as no preconditions for any coherent non-Christian belief system. Christianity triumphs by default, because there is no coherent alternative. As Van Til said, “the only proof for the existence of God is that without God you couldn't prove anything.” The non-Christian only appears to have an alternative, because she borrows principles from Christianity.

I call presuppositionalism “totalitarian” because it projects onto the non-Christian the Christian’s cultist mindset, according to which Christianity is effectively a self-reinforcing delusion. Van Til goes as far as to remind the flock of the alleged “noetic effects of sin,” which are that the non-Christian is in no position to recognize the truth, because she’s blinded by satanic pride. Thus, the Christian’s duty isn’t to persuade non-Christians of the truth, but only to prove Christianity in a way that will likely satisfy only Christians, because Christians alone have been liberated and mentally reconfigured by their faith in Christ. Psychologically, non-Christians are supposed to be lost in a fog of arrogance and ignorance, as though a sovereign God, whose control over his creation is absolute, would allow for even a speck of godless life, that is, for life that could proceed without divine sustenance at every level, including the epistemic one. Thus, the Christian god’s absolute control over every particle in the universe transfers to the presuppositional Christian’s smugness in presuming, in effect, that if the Christian is forced, by secular progress in the Age of Reason, to think like a terrified cultist, locked in her self-reinforcing delusion, so must everyone else. That is, God reigns over Creation and since we’re supposedly made in God’s image, we reign over our belief systems. But since God reigns over us too (instead of supplying us with freewill), God ensures that the only viable belief system is Christian theism, the self-sustainability of all others being illusory.

I say that presuppositional Christianity amounts to a ruse and a presumption rather than a respectable defense of the religion, because it’s a howler and an embarrassing excuse for the underlying cultist thought-mechanisms needed to protect what is now the stark anachronism of Christianity. To begin with, notice that the presuppositionalist is forced to turn to Christian scripture as her starting point, to avoid the familiar parody of her defense, which would allow members of other religions to reason in the same fashion, in which case presuppositionalism would entail theism, at best, or else would implode from the contradictions of entailing dozens of religions, all of which would be incompatible with each other. Far from being a shining advantage, though, the Bible is an albatross around the presuppositionalist’s neck. The Bible was written and edited by many human authors over a period of centuries, and each of those individuals had different interests to suit his peculiar historical circumstances. Thus, the Bible naturally contains hundreds of contradictions. (See McKinsey’s Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy.) Therefore, the Christian should be the last one to appeal to a coherence theory of truth. Any belief system built on the Bible, taken as an axiom set, will obviously be incoherent if the Bible itself is rife with contradictions. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

Taking Fictions Seriously: Why the Late-Modern Show Goes On

The suspension of disbelief in fictions has become paradoxical. We find we must ignore our doubts to entertain ourselves not just when we’re reading novels or watching movies, but when we engage with ideology or adhere to the narrative we’re constantly telling ourselves to dignify our life with purpose. In prehistoric times, there was no need to suspend disbelief in the telling of myths, because facts weren’t divorced from values and so there was no such thing generally as the kind of hyper-rational skepticism that can spoil a narrative. For the opposite reason, in what we call the modern Age of Reason, taking fiction seriously is likewise almost impossible: the science-centered doubts become overbearing, we become cynical and nihilistic, and yet most of us choose to act as though the myths still matter.

Fact, Value, and the Mythopoeic Dreamworld

The poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge coined the phrase “willing suspension of disbelief,” when he defended his reference to supernatural elements in his poetry even in the nineteenth century at which time educated readers were taken with the science-centered, naturalistic view of the world. Coleridge said that not only could an author “transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith,” but the reverse could be achieved, “to give the charm of novelty to things of every day, and to excite a feeling analogous to the supernatural, by awakening the mind's attention from the lethargy of custom, and directing it to the loveliness and the wonders of the world before us” (Biographia Literaria). In other words, if a reader can be led to identify with the story’s characters and offered enough verisimilitude in the details, the reader could overlook the story’s unreality for the sake of enjoying the experience of reading the narrative. Moreover, in the case of Romanticism, magical realism or some such genre, a reader can be shown that the so-called mundane, material reality of everyday objects belies a strangeness which we’re no longer predisposed to perceive. For Coleridge and Wordsworth, who co-wrote the poems that prompted Coleridge’s coining of the phrase, poetry thus could address science’s disenchantment of the world, that is, the rise of skepticism and objectivity which had severed fact from value in our understanding of our experience. Either the supernatural could be portrayed as normal and realistic or nature could be presented as bizarre and magical. Either way, poetry and art in general could rejoin fact and value.

The quality of life for humans in the Paleolithic Age was likely mythopoeic, meaning that the prehistoric hunter-gatherers didn’t perceive facts as being separable from values. This isn’t to say they had no accurate beliefs, since they could hardly have survived a day in the teeming wilderness if none of their concepts had been practical or attuned to nature. Indeed, if they personified natural processes in their animistic dramatizations, that supernaturalism may itself have been crucial to their survival. An objective understanding of nature’s impersonality had better wait for an epoch in which the population has the technoscientific control to reassure itself with luxuries, just as an adult’s jadedness isn’t fit for a child. Had the hunter-gatherers been forced to conceive of nature as having no redemptive purpose or moral value, the savagery and carnage all around them in the wild would likely have overwhelmed them and driven them to suicide or madness. Only a society that’s equipped itself with a buffer of protective artificiality could indulge in skeptical meditations on the world’s godlessness and on its ultimate indifference to all creatures. Without cities and civilizations, and supported only by small bands of kith and kin who stood against predators, diseases, and natural disasters, Paleolithic humans could at least fall back on their mental armor, as it were, on their na├»ve, comforting humanization of alien reality, that is, on their projecting of social categories onto inhuman forces and mechanisms. 

Monday, August 28, 2017

President Trump Murders Alt Right Conservatives, their Ghosts still Support him

Dateline: TRUMPLAND—After President Trump ordered that all of his alt right supporters be systematically murdered, their ghosts said that they still support the president.

Mr. Trump tweeted he was grateful for their continuing support.

The president had tweeted before the killing spree that the reason for the mass murders was to test his supporters’ loyalty.

“Are the alt right conservatives loyal to Trump?” tweeted the President. “Maybe while they’re alive, but what about when they’re dead? Would they still support me then?”

The president dispatched the army and a team of reporters to summarily execute millions of American citizens and to conduct last-minute interviews with the Trump loyalists.

Before being shot, Trump supporter Sammy Whataninny told the reporter that even though Trump was ordering his death, he didn’t regret voting for him.

“Am I sorry I voted for Trump just because he’s literally killing me? Never! He’s going to build the wall and lock her up and make America great again. Or don’t you think America will be all the greater once Trump’s most die-hard fans are all slaughtered? You see? He’s already setting his plan in motion…Uh, wait a minute! Does that make sense?”

Mr. Whataninny was shot before he could pursue that line of inquiry.

Thanks to the efforts of the Mad Science Institute, which discovered that ghostly human life continues after the physical body’s death, the alt right ghosts were able to register their continuing support for the president.

Sammy Whataninny had apparently overcome his worry, signaling to the ghost-sensing machine that President Trump could still count on his support and that the president was indeed making America great again, by unleashing an army of ghosts who are free to wreak havoc on Democrats from beyond the grave.

Sociologist Laura Flora explained the persistence of the alt right’s approval of President Trump, by positing that Mr. Trump is at the center of a cult of personality.

“We’ve seen this before,” she said. “Think of Jim Jones whose followers drank poisoned Kool-Aid to serve him. Many cult leaders have tapped into people’s primitive fears or other primal motivators, psychologically enslaving their followers.

“Like most animals, we instinctively prefer to live in hierarchical societies, with dominant individuals at the top who command the loyalty of everyone lower down in the pecking order. Charismatic individuals can evidently exploit that animal part of our brain.”

Some have questioned the president’s obsession with loyalty. “Politically, it doesn’t make much sense,” said one leading Democrat. “It turns out the ghosts can’t so easily affect the physical world. All they can do is knock over a paper cup or two. So Trump has just lost his political base. His approval ratings with everyone else in America are abysmal, so who’s going to vote for him now to give him a second term?”

The president issued a signing statement that voting ballots be designed so as not to discriminate against “my dear friends, the ghosts of the alt right.”

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Consumer Protection Law Humbles American Politicians and Mass Media

Dateline: WASHINGTON, D.C.—After Congress passed a law mandating that large American organizations report the average of their polled approval rating in their public statements, the White House, Congress, and the mainstream media stumbled in attempting to conduct their business.

The bill was in response to lobbying by several consumer advocacy groups, which argued that just as a food company should include the nutritional values on its food packages, any large organization should tell the individual consumer what the public in general thinks of that organization, in its public statements such as its advertisements or speeches.

The new requirement has hit certain industries the hardest, because of the gulf between their highly favourable self-image and their abysmal rating by the majority of Americans.

Democrats and Republicans, and President Trump and Congress in particular suffer from “lamentably low grades” as determined by an average of polls and by other indicators, including a decades-long pattern of low voter turnout in elections.

Cable news channels eagerly reported the infighting between those political groups, but the public’s estimation of those channels’ own value to society is “Hair-Raisingly Close to being Akin to a Flat-Line in an Emergency Room,” according to the technical assessment in an official analysis of the polls’ average.

Johnny Whatacretin, Arch-Amoralist at the Machiavelli Institute, explained the results:

“So you’ll have a news anchor like Don Limey at CNN say, ‘Trump is an insane buffoon, he’s unfit for office, and he’s an embarrassment to the nation,’ as he said on his news program in response to President Trump’s recent press conference.

“Ordinarily, before the new consumer protection law was passed, Limey could have left it at that, with the implied dichotomy between the evil Republicans and the holy Democrats and noble mass media. But now Limey was forced to add, ‘Having said that, Trump is publicly awarded a grade of being Execrable, while CNN is ranked as being Abominable, both of which, I’m obligated to report, fall well within the zone of being judged Flat-out Evil as well as Existential Threats to the Nation.’

“Limey then coughed and fidgeted with his papers, trying to change the subject, but you see how awkward it now is for him. ‘Sort of takes the wind out of our sails,’ said one of the CNN pundits who were there ostensibly to heap scorn on Trump as though the difference between the president and the mass media were as obvious as that between black and white.”

Trump himself bristled at the new requirements at a televised campaign rally, lambasting “the fake news media” for being “dishonest, bad people and enemies of the nation,” before he rolled his eyes at the troublesome consumer protection law which compelled him to reveal in his very next sentence, “Mind you, my administration is publicly ranked as being Only Slightly Less Evil than the Mainstream News Outlets.

“Still,” the president ad-libbed to lift his spirits, “the lesser of two evils is nothing to sneeze at, am I right?” He looked out at the audience, perhaps expecting raucous applause at his witticism, but crickets could distinctly be heard from all four corners of the stadium. 

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Clash of Worldviews: The War for Social Justice

MODERATOR: Good evening and welcome to another Clash of Worldviews. Tonight we have with us to discuss the topic of social justice warriors: Adam Garnett, noted secular humanist author; Heather Fogarty, hypermodern gadfly and cynic; Frank Gulpa, popular alt right blogger; and Queeneta Woods, feminist author and activist.

Queeneta, would you like to start us off by telling us about the war for social justice? Who are these warriors and what is their goal?

QUEENETA: Thank you, Mr. Whitey Moderator, for your biased introduction. Progressives don’t call themselves SJWs. That’s a pejorative label applied by the hillbillies and troglodytes who oppose progressive views, including feminism, multiculturalism, and civil rights for minorities. Our enemies mean to use that label ironically, to contrast leftists with the fascist superheroes who figure so prominently in the comic books that constitute the sole reading materials for these basement-dwelling right-wingers. So we feminists, for example, are supposed to be “warriors” fighting for “justice,” even though we don’t wear capes or leap tall buildings. Instead, we’re just ordinary people who welcome what the modern world has to teach us. We don’t retreat from the lessons of science and rationality or accept traditional rationalizations of oppression and social inequality, including the white supremacist myths you find in the reactionary alt right. But we do have the courage to stand up publicly to oppressors instead of tolerating their bigotry.

FRANK: The moderator’s white, so he must be oppressing you, right Queeneta? Watch out or he’ll blow away this little snowflake just by breathing heavy! Oh no, I just committed the felony of a microaggression against her by saying a few unkind words! Call the police, someone! I just verbally harassed Little Miss Snowflake. Heaven forbid this Millennial child should feel the least bit uncomfortable anytime during her whole life. After all, she’s entitled to everything she could ever want because her African ancestors were conquered and enslaved by Europeans a few centuries ago. And somehow Reason is supposed to license her slave morality? I don’t think so.

QUEENETA: Excuse me, fascist troll, did you just call me a slave? [Queeneta rises from her chair and wags her finger in Frank’s face.] I won’t sit idly by while this pig means to insult me for being a descendent of slaves. Yes, slaves have morality because they were the victims of a systemic evil, which still benefits all white men in America, because racism hasn’t gone away. It’s still with us every moment, so I’m not going to let this Trumpist hillbilly spread his degenerate rhetoric. No, not on my watch! I’m here and I’m queer and I’m proud of it. What are you going to do, Fascist Frankie? Are you going to call upon the ghost of Hitler to save you? Too bad for you, the real Americans put the Nazis in the ground where they belong.

ADAM: Actually, I think Frank was just alluding to Nietzsche.

FRANK: But look at that: she betrays the weakness of her gender too, by revealing her hysteria. She boasts about progress from science and rationality, but she can’t keep her emotions in check. You push a button or two and out flows the chaotic fervor that should have been harnessed by a strong male presence. Of course, she lacks that because she’s a lesbian feminazi. What a shame.

QUEENETA: “Harnessed”?! So now I’m a horse that needs to be ridden by a strong male? Is that it? Is that the sexist fantasy that pops into your otherwise empty head, because you’ve been neck deep in porn flowing into the computer in your mother’s basement? Someone bring me a sword so I can slice this ogre in twain.

MODERATOR: Uh, I fear we’ve let the quality of the discussion slide a little into undignified personal attacks. I’d like to get us back on track. Frank, would you care to tell us what you meant by “slave morality”?

FRANK: Adam was right, of course. It means so-called progress is all about the weak and the oppressed channeling their resentments and obtaining power in an underhanded fashion. Women and inheritors of inferior cultures who are minorities in America can’t take power openly, because they’re not strong or clever or ambitious enough, so they try to guilt-trip white men into sharing the power that built modern America in the first place. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Fraud of Theology

In an interview with The Washington Post, one of Donald Trump’s advisors on theological matters, Robert Jeffress, supported Trump’s apocalyptic August bluster against North Korea, by citing Romans 13. At the beginning of that chapter of the epistle, Paul recommends that Christians obey their secular rulers, because “the authorities that exist have been established by God” (13:1). But in a NY Times article, Steven Paulikas, an Episcopal priest, contends that Jeffress tore that scriptural passage out of context and perverted Christian theology in Jeffress’s fetishizing “message of violence over the clarion call to love of Romans 13:8,” which speaks of love of others as the fulfillment of Jewish law. That latter idea of the Golden Rule seems to derive from Rabbi Hillel who lived a century before Jesus is supposed to have lived.

Paulikas’ point about context is that “Paul is telling Christians to obey the Roman authorities in temporal matters such as taxation, not justifying the authority of one ruler over another,” such as Trump over Kim Jong-un. But Paulikas seems to be forgetting Rom.13:4, which says the secular authorities “are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” Just because a ruler’s power derives from God doesn’t mean the ruler can’t misuse his power. For example, Jews considered Moses to be an instrument of God’s wrath against the Pharaoh. Instead of being commanded to obey the Egyptians, the Jewish slaves (who never historically existed) rebelled against Egypt to build their own society in Israel, according to Exodus. So if Christians can construe Kim Jong-un as a “wrongdoer,” they’re free to interpret Rom.13 as meaning that Trump might be “an agent of wrath” who will “bring punishment” upon North Korea.

Moreover, while Paulikas calls it a “clarion call,” meaning that the call for love of others trumps the advice to obey secular authorities, the context actually indicates that this allusion to the Golden Rule is just a digression and an extended figure of speech. It’s just a fancy way for Paul to make his point that his readers should “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law” (13:8, my emphasis). The rest (13:9-10) pursues the tangent about love as the fulfillment of Jewish law, a digression invited by that turn of phrase about the only “debt” that should be left standing (the obligation to love others). It’s like saying, “A woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle. And fish don’t need land transportation, because they live underwater. Did you know that fish come in a variety of sizes and colours? And fish taste differently too, especially if you choose to add a sauce. The best way to catch fish is with the special lures I sell at the local shop, which I’m pleased to announce is open six days a week.” The intended main point, of course, is that women don’t need men, the rest being a tangent that follows only from the rhetorical way of expressing that point. Likewise, the main point in the middle of Romans 13 is that Christians should pay all their secular debts, not that love is all-important.

Mind you, if secular authorities as well as their subjects can misbehave, as Jeffress would have to be assuming, there’s no longer an imperative to obey any particular secular ruler, since perhaps President Trump is as bad (as sociopathic, psychotic, and otherwise loathsome, etc.) as the North Korean leader, in which case Jeffress’s case falls to pieces, after all. Alas, this criticism is mooted by the rest of the context which Paulikas doesn’t address, in Rom.13:11-14, which begins, “And do this, understanding the present time: The hour has already come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.” So the overriding reason for Christians to obey their secular masters, to pay their taxes and avoid debts, besides the interest in avoiding secular punishment, is that the whole natural world was about to end in any case, so presumably there would be no time to make like Moses and rebel against society to establish a new earthly one. And of course, once this bit of context is entered into the hermeneutic ledger, both Jeffress’s and Paulikas’s arguments come to nothing, since obviously the Kingdom of Heaven didn’t arrive in the lifetime of those early Christians. The Jewish Temple fell in 70 CE, but the apocalyptic significance of that event was only subjective, since it mattered much more to Jews than to the Romans, for example. The secular world as a whole endured for two millennia and persists to this day despite Paul’s assurances that the contrary scenario would unfold. So this entire theological discussion of Trump and North Korea falls apart because Rom.13 itself implodes. 

Theology, Fiction, and Reason

In any case, Paulikas’s discussion raises a deeper, more interesting question, when he lays out an assumption that’s crucial to his article. According to Paulikas, “There is such a thing as incorrect theological and moral thinking, and the best way to neutralize it is with an intellectually and morally superior argument on the same terrain. Only good theology can debunk bad theology.”