A moderate Warmist?
They are rather thin on the ground but Times/Guardian journalist Tom Whipple seems to be one. The original title of his article below was rather immodestly titled "The fact and fiction of climate change" but he does in fact look at both sides of the question to some extent. He IS a Warmist, however, so he has to do big stretches to make his points.
His assertions about the recent Philippines cyclone are a bit amusing for instance. Warmists normally date the start of all the badness to the second half of the 20th century. Not so, our Tom. He takes us back to "before the industrial revolution" -- i.e 1750 or thereabouts. That's called "shifting the goalposts" -- and on a spectacular scale.
He also has a coat-trailing reference to the laws of thermodyamics -- an unexplained reference and a most dubious one
As usual, he explains the "pause" as heat hiding in the oceans. But how come the heat started hiding there only 18 years ago? Why was it not hiding in the oceans during the glory-days of global warming in the "80s and '90s?
And he speaks of sea-level rise as if that proved something. Tiny rises in average sea level are however very hard to measure and are very much open to dispute. And on some accounts sea level rise has slowed down rather than speeded up. And sea level expert Nils-Axel Mörner points out that the raw satellite data shows barely any rise. So Tom asserts as known that which is in fact contentious.
And he refers to the recent claims that 2015 will show a non-negligible global temperature rise. Even Warmists at NOAA and such places, however, admit that the higher readings are at least in part el Nino at work, a cyclic influence of ocean currents.
And Tom is quite simply wrong when he said that "human civilisation developed in a period with a temperature range that we have just breached". The truth is the opposite. At least two of the great flowerings of ancient civilization took place during periods warmer than ours: The Minoan warm period and the Roman warm period. And our own medieval warm period saw great advances too.
And in his final paragraph he gives the goalposts a hell of a kick back in time. He makes comparisons with the geological past. And the past he talks about was in fact a time of cooling! He tells us what cooling does, not what warming does. Poor Tom. He knows that Warmism is all bollocks but cannot allow himself to see it
Last year, amid the ordinarily genteel corridors of the Royal Society, a meeting of ice scientists became unexpectedly heated. At issue was a talk by a respected professor who expected the summer collapse of Arctic ice before 2020. The problem, for those listening, was that this same professor had previously given different dates — 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2016.
Like a millenarian expecting the apocalypse he kept shifting the criteria and, they argued, made them all look stupid in the process. The arctic is warming fast, and sea ice is declining fast, but the September minimum still covers an area bigger than India. This does not mean we should not worry. The people predicting its eventual disappearance are not just left wing environmentalists, they are oil companies and shipping companies, looking to exploit an ice-free arctic. The best-accepted models predict that time will come at some point before 2050.
Extreme weather is going to get worse
In one sense, the science could not be simpler. Really big storms are caused by hot seas, so if you make the sea hotter you will get more big storms. Even so, climate scientists are wary of making bold predictions about something as uncertain as weather systems.
The problem is the complexities of atmospheric science. Tropical storms may be caused by warmer seas, but they are also disrupted by windier conditions higher in the atmosphere, caused by climate change. Equally, heavier bursts of rain due to hotter air holding more moisture may cause some flooding in some places, but less snow on mountains may also make flooding less likely in spring in others. Some risk factors are undeniable though: among these, sea level rise.
In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines — less because of the strength of its winds, than its storm surge. Before the industrial revolution a storm of precisely the same scale as Haiyan would have hit with the same speed, but that surge would have been 20cm lower.
There is a “pause” in climate change
The masthead on the web page of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, the climate sceptic think tank, shows one simple graphic: a graph of the global surface temperature since 2000.
Their point is that it appears to have slowed dramatically. For those who argue that climate change is not happening, or is not worth worrying about, the apparent slowdown in temperature rises this century — as the actual data has slowly crept off the bottom of the computer models’ predictions — has become an increasingly powerful weapon. Among climate scientists — who point out that if temperature rises had actually stopped there might well be problems with the laws of thermodynamics — it has been puzzling.
One possible explanation is that reliable temperature records only exist for the planet’s surface, which compared with the sea stores a tiny proportion of the sun’s energy. And there has indeed been some evidence of the oceans warming, not least their continual rise. In any case though, it may well be moot: 2015 is set, by some distance, to be the hottest year on record. More than one environmentalist is waiting to see what the Global Warming Policy Foundation will do with its masthead.
Climate change will be good for us
CO2, so the argument (or, at least, the more extreme end of it) goes, has been unfairly demonised as a pollutant. So much so that we have forgotten the essential truth about it: it is plant food. With climate change will come better growing conditions, useful land opened up in the Arctic, and — at least at moderate levels — a more productive world.
On the one hand, there are plenty of arguments against this, such as, to give just one example, those who point to the possible effects of extreme weather. On the other hand it is hard to argue against, precisely because of all the uncertainties that remain. What we do know, is that human civilisation developed in a period with a temperature range that we have just breached. What we also know is that ostensibly small changes, of just a few degrees, can have huge long-term effects.
The difference between us today and a Britain that in the geological past had London underwater is a rise of less than two degrees. The difference between Britain today and a Britain beneath a kilometre of ice, meanwhile, is a fall of four degrees. In that context, betting on a positive outcome is quite a high-stakes gamble.
Yet another claim that somebody is "behind" climate skeptics or has "bought" them
Like all the skeptics I know, I am still waiting for my cheque!
Warmists very commonly ascribe disagreement with their ideas to their opponent being "in the pay" of someone else, usually "Big Oil", without troubling themselves to provide any proof of that assertion. They are so certain that they are right that that seems to be the only reasonable explanation for opposition to them. They thus reveal themselves as classic bigots -- people with fixed and rigid ideas.
The guy below however was apparently aware of how unsubstantiated are the usual assertions about skeptics being "bought" so has tried to provide evidence of it. He claims to have data on ALL the skeptics in the USA. But he says that only some of them have corporate funding. But those who DO have corportate funding are more likely to have issued anti-warming statements. And he has done no similar study of climate alarmists.
One wonders where he got his information about funding. It would be pretty normal for ANY organization to be cagey about that. Let me assume that his data on that are right, however. So what do we have from his study:
1). Some skeptics and skeptical organizations receive NO corporate funding. That is a rather damaging admission. Warmists normally talk as if ALL skepticism was "paid for".
2). The skeptics who received funding write more.
Such trivial findings! OF COURSE people who received funding wrote more. Time is money and money is time. If you are funded to write on some topic you will be able to divert some of your time onto writing about that topic. And you will write more on that topic if you have more time. Money can buy time. That money can buy time is in fact the only real conclusions of the study. But who did not know that already?
A very uninformative study
What Warmists MUST close their eyes to is that any intelligent person can see huge holes in the Warmist story if he cares to think about it. You don't need funding to be skeptical. You just need to know some very basic stuff.
For instance, the scare started with Al Gore and others warning us of a huge rise in the oceans as the polar ice melted. And if all the polar ice melted, that would indeed cause a large sea-level rise. But will it? 91% of the earth's glacial ice is in Antarctica so Antarctica is where the game will play out.
Temperatures of the Antarctic vary with time and place but they are all WAY below zero -- averaging around -49 degrees at the pole in winter -- so you would have to bring those temperatures up by a LOT to melt any ice. You would have to bring them up to above zero. Yet even in their wildest dreams, Warmists predict a temperature rise of only 6 degrees. And what would that do? Nothing. It might change the temperature of some Antarctic ice from -30 degrees to -24 degrees but -24 degrees is still way too cold for anything to melt. The surrounding sea ice (floating ice) might melt a bit but, as Archimedes discovered about 3,000 years ago, that doesn't raise the water level anyhow.
I have of course not gone into detail but that is the ballpark story.
So Warmism is patent nonsense and nobody needs to pay you to see that. You do however have to have a vested interest to believe in it -- and the scientists who promote it do. The scare gets them a golden shower of research grant money. They live high on the hog as long as the scare lasts
Corporate funding and ideological polarization about climate change
Drawing on large-scale computational data and methods, this research demonstrates how polarization efforts are influenced by a patterned network of political and financial actors. These dynamics, which have been notoriously difficult to quantify, are illustrated here with a computational analysis of climate change politics in the United States. The comprehensive data include all individual and organizational actors in the climate change countermovement (164 organizations), as well as all written and verbal texts produced by this network between 1993–2013 (40,785 texts, more than 39 million words).
Two main findings emerge. First, that organizations with corporate funding were more likely to have written and disseminated texts meant to polarize the climate change issue. Second, and more importantly, that corporate funding influences the actual thematic content of these polarization efforts, and the discursive prevalence of that thematic content over time.
These findings provide new, and comprehensive, confirmation of dynamics long thought to be at the root of climate change politics and discourse. Beyond the specifics of climate change, this paper has important implications for understanding ideological polarization more generally, and the increasing role of private funding in determining why certain polarizing themes are created and amplified. Lastly, the paper suggests that future studies build on the novel approach taken here that integrates large-scale textual analysis with social networks.
PNAS November 23, 2015, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1509433112
A popularized version of the paper here.
Another Leftist attempt to deny the obvious
They do a lot of that. They need to
That liberals are the ones who find society all wrong and want to change it is definitional of liberalism. So that suggests that liberals are the unhappy people. Would you want to change the world about you if you were happy with it? And that little bit of logic gets repeatedly confirmed by the survey data. Republican voters (for instance) always report greater levels of happiness than do Democrat voters
But that has begun to get under the skin of some Leftist psychologists. In their wisdom they think conservatives are the misfits and liberals are the regular guys. So how can misfits be happier? There are several possible answers to that and some Leftist pychologists have tested some of the answers. Their preferred hypothesis is that conservatives are not telling the truth about how happy they are. And they have research evidence to prove it. But do they?
There is a much reprinted article by Tom Jacobs which summarizes some of that research. It's longish so I am not going to reproduce it but I do want to look at the detail behind it. Have they in fact proved anything? We will see.
I will take the "evidence" for Tom's claims one by one.
The first study quoted by Tom was by Cara MacInnis and Michael Busseri of Brock University. It actually concludes that "Extreme Right Wingers" were happier than others. So how it supports Tom's claims is puzzling. Whether it does or not, however, hardly matters. It was based on two totally invalid questionnaires. The RWA scale gets roughly the same level of endorsement among voters of the Left and Right. Right-wing Leftists? If that were not odd enough, the high scorers in Russia tend to be Communists. Right wing Communists?? So scores on that set of questions tell you nothing certain that I can think of. It is just a bit of academic nonsense.
They also used another invalid scale called the SDO, but I have said enough about that piece of junk elsewhere. In short, the research was so ill-conceived that it proved nothing
The second study by Sean P. Wojcik et al. seems to be the main one for Tom.
Their Study 1: Even Wojcik et al agree that the results of that study are ambiguous but that is the least of their problems. The main problem is the tiny size of the effects observed. A correlation of .1 explains .01% percent of the common variance between the two variables. Combine that with the fact that the sample was of visitors to an internet site and you have a big problem indeed. You have to have really strong correlations among such an unrepresentative sample for it to be of interest. So again, the study proved nothing. The tiny correlation was statistically significant but that just reflects the large sample size -- N = 1433.
Their Study II was of greater interest. They did a content analysis of speeches by Congresscritters. But again they found little. I quote:
"Greater conservatism was associated with a small but significant decrease in positive affect word use (b = –0.16, P <0.001). Conservatism was not significantly associated with the use of negative affect words, joviality-related words, or sadness-related words".
So of the 4 relationships they examined only one was significant and it was again very low. But again, that may not be the big problem of the study. Content analysis can very easily be biased and strong precautions have to be taken against that. Wojcik et al list no such precautions. So again no firm conclusions can be drawn from the work.
But they include another highly inferential piece of research in their Study II. They analysed the smiles of Congresscritters! Again, however, the correlations were tiny. I quote:
"We observed only marginally significant differences in the intensity of smiling behavior in the muscles lifting the corners of the mouth (AU12: b= –0.10, P=0.096), but conservatism predicted significantly less intense facial action in the muscles around the eyes that indicate genuine happiness"
So again, their findings were negligible. And, in the circumstances, we have to ask whether inferences drawn from eye muscle movement tell us much anyway. Eye muscle movements might tell us something in a gross sort of way but where the differences are very slight, do they tell us anything at all? Thinking in terms of Venn diagrams, the tiny overlap indicated by a .10 correlation could be entirely outside the overlap between eye-movements and happiness -- and thus tell you nothing about happiness.
And I liked this bit of modesty about their results:
"Of course, elected political leaders are not representative of liberal and conservative individuals more generally, and it is unclear how well speech and facial expressions occurring within the confines of Capitol Hill reflect similar happiness-related behaviors in less overtly political contexts"
Their Study III also raises questions. I quote:
"We analyzed the statuses of individuals who subscribed to (“followed”) the official Twitter pages of either the Democratic or Republican Party, excluding those following both, under the assumption that users who followed one party exclusively were likely to share that party’s political views"
I suppose I can pass that as a reasonable assumption but it again raises sampling problems. I don't think we have yet got to the point where the man in the street uses Twitter -- so the representativeness of the sample would appear to be deficient, thus limiting or even vitiating generalizations from it.
But leave that aside. They found:
"Republican Party subscribers’ updates were significantly less likely to contain positive emotion words, joviality words, and happy emoticons, and significantly more likely to contain negative emotion words"
This time they reported their statistics in terms of odds ratios rather than correlations. But again the findings were utterly trivial. An odds-ratio has to be of 2.0 or above to be taken seriously and none of theirs were. Most were in fact below .1. In other words, their findings basically indicated "No effect".
Is my view of what is required of odds ratios just my opinion? Not at all. The Federal Reference Manual on Scientific Evidence, Second Edition says (p. 384): "the threshold for concluding that an agent was more likely than not the cause of an individual's disease is a relative risk greater than 2.0." Odds ratios and relative risk are not exactly the same but with weak effects such as we have here they are much the same.
Their Study IV was another study of photographs. They found that:
"smiles were marginally more intense among employees at ideologically liberal organizations"
And "marginally" was the word again.
And that's it! There's your proof that liberals really are happier. Generalizations based on extremely weak effects and highly indirect measures of happiness.
And none of the studies examined general population samples. There was no sampling at all, in fact. There was no attempt at representative sampling of conservatives or liberals at any point. And without representative sampling of a group, you cannot make generalizations about that group. So the study proves nothing. Its reliance on crinkles in the corner of people's eyes is rather hilarious in fact. You couldn't make it up
Tom Jacobs does quote one extra study but gives no name for it, no authors for it nor any link or journal citation for it. My Google searches for it were in vain. Did he just make it up? Who knows? We have seen that Liberals do get desperate for confirmation of their beliefs.
I think Thanksgiving is becoming an occasion mainly for conservatives. Being grateful for our blessings is normal for conservatives (See here and here and here and here) whereas Leftists focus on problems. And extreme Leftists of course say that the occasion celebrates a takeover of the territory of others by invaders and is therefore nothing to be celebrated.
"For years, the major Thanksgiving stressors have been set: politics and religion. But as a growing number of Americans go vegan, vegetarian, organic, local, grass-fed, free-range, wheat-free, or Paleo, a third flash point has been added — the divide between those who favor comfortable Thanksgiving fare and, well, food snobs."
And they go on to give examples of the real tensions that can cause. So once again conservatives are blessed. They may often have their own food beliefs but their appreciation of tradition would usually come to the fore -- so they would be very unlikely to make an issue of food disciplines on such a happy day.
Unscientific ecofascist, Alan Betts, just KNOWS the truth
Elderly British-born and NOAA funded Vermonter, Dr. Alan Betts, has scientific credentials but a real scientist is always open to new evidence and argument. We see below however that Betts regards the global warming theory as beyond question and is unrepentant of his wish to use all methods to suppress scientific discussion of it. He is an ideological descendant of the Nazi book burners. He regards it as corruption to fund research that does not lead to Warmist conclusions. He just KNOWS the truth, indicating that it is he who is the dogmatist, not skeptics. And everything he himself says below is unsupported assertion and selective use of evidence. That oil companies give far more to Greenies than to skeptics is unmentioned, for instance. Skeptics of course have nothing to fear from a RICO investigation -- but such an investigation would create the impression that they have. It would be amusing to hear what Betts thinks of the First Amendment
A couple of months ago, I was one of 20 climate scientists who signed a letter to the United States attorney general requesting a RICO investigation of the companies that have poured millions into campaigns against climate science. This law, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, was signed by President Richard Nixon in 1970, and it was used to expose the way the tobacco industry knowingly deceived the public for decades at the cost of many lives.
But when we suggested that this kind of deliberate fraud should be exposed, since this obstruction of political action will lead to staggering loss of life on Earth this century, the hate mail poured in — targeting us for challenging the gospel of money and power. Fellow scientists at public universities were attacked with demands for all their emails for the past five years, driven by the fantasy that we are a scientific conspiracy, threatening the noble fossil fuel industry with false climate analyses. Really! When there is over $100 billion in annual profits at stake, it is not hard to guess where the conspiracy lies.
We now know that the Exxon team of research scientists examined the evidence that greenhouse gases were warming the global climate back in 1978. Their assessment agreed with the 1979 National Academy of Science report that said doubling carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would warm the planet by 5 to 8 degrees F. But Exxon management decided they should suppress their own scientific assessment and instead fund groups to undermine climate science, because they could see that climate science was an obvious threat to oil industry profits. Two weeks ago, the New York attorney general began a RICO investigation of Exxon Mobil to determine whether the company lied to the public and investors about the risks of climate change.
But it is hard to deny reality forever. Last month the Canadian government that had silenced their own government scientists on climate change to protect the tar sands industry, was thrown out of office. I recall back in 1980, around the time Exxon decided to suppress its own science, meeting with a group of brilliant young Soviet scientists. We were part of an international science team for an Atlantic Ocean tropical experiment. After hours, they explained that the Soviet Union was on the path to collapse because of the irreconcilable conflict between ideology and reality. They were prophetic.
For two centuries the United States government respected scientific evidence and prospered. Now it faces collapse, because the merge of web technology with the infamous principle of the “big lie” has undermined the integrity of so many politicians.
So we, the people, must speak up, elect leaders who stand for the truth, start to work with the Earth, and build communities that are sustainable for generations to come.
Nazi Music: One of the engines of Nazism
A brief historical introduction
This is a difficult subject to broach both because of its political sensitivity and because musical tastes differ so much from person to person. While there is some music that has near-universal appeal (some of the arias from "Carmen", for instance), it also seems to be true that no two persons have exactly the same musical preferences and that must obviously influence how Nazi music is perceived and evaluated.
It is also a field that is bound up with emotion so it is both difficult and dangerous to attempt the sort of objective comments that should characterize any discussion of history. I think however that we need to take a stab at it. And I submit that it is a grave omission to neglect music as an element in the historical appeal of Nazism to Germans. Wherever they marched, Nazi formations sang -- be they Hitler Youth, brownshirts or the armed forces. And being German, their music was very good. Germany is the home of good music. German-speaking people are responsible for something like two thirds of the classical repertoire -- from Bach and Handel to Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Brahms, Wagner, Schumann etc.
As a libertarian, any form of Fascism is anathema to me but I think it was William Booth (founder of the Salvation Army) who noted that the Devil had all the good songs. And the Nazis, just because they were German DID have many good songs. There were many Fascist movements worldwide in the first half of the 20th century but none of them were remotely as musical as the Nazis.
So good music had great power to move a musical people and it seems clear to me that music was one of the things that made Germans march for Hitler. Music is however a form of communication that transcends time and space so it seems to me that there is one way that I can support my contention about the importance of music to the appeal of Nazism: I can actually play you some of the music and you can judge it for yourself. I start with the Badenweiler march. This is actually a First World War march but Hitler made it his own. It was normally played only in his presence. It announced his arrival at rallies etc.
The famous song of the S.A. (Brownshirts) was of course the Horst Wessel Lied. It refers to prewar street fighting with the "Reds". There is no rivalry like sibling rivalry, though after Hitler came to power, many of the Reds simply joined the Nazis.
The English translation is a poor thing but I give it below for those who understand no German.
The flag high! The ranks tightly closed!
SA march with calm, firm steps.
Comrades shot by the Red Front and reactionaries
March in spirit in our ranks.
Clear the streets for the brown battalions,
Clear the streets for the stormtroopers!
Already millions look with hope to the swastika
The day of freedom and bread is dawning!
Roll call has sounded for the last time
We are all already prepared for the fight!
Soon Hitler's flag will fly over all streets.
Our servitude will soon end!
The flag high! The ranks tightly closed!
SA marches with a calm, firm pace.
Comrades shot by the Red Front and reactionaries
March in spirit in our ranks.
The original is much more moving:
Die Fahne hoch! Die Reihen fest geschlossen!
SA marschiert mit ruhig, festem Schritt.
Kam'raden, die Rotfront und Reaktion erschossen,
Marschier'n im Geist in unser'n Reihen mit.
Die Strasse frei den braunen Batallionen.
Die Strasse frei dem Sturmabteilungsmann!
Es schau'n aufs Hakenkreuz voll Hoffnung schon Millionen.
Der Tag fuer Freiheit und fuer Brot bricht an!
Zum letzten Mal wird schon Appell geblasen!
Zum Kampfe steh'n wir alle schon bereit!
Bald flattern Hitlerfahnen ueber alle Strassen.
Die Knechtschaft dauert nur mehr kurze Zeit!
Die Fahne hoch! Die Reihen fest geschlossen!
SA marschiert mit ruhig-festem Schritt.
Kameraden, die Rotfront und Reaktion erschossen,
Marschieren im Geist in unseren Reihen mit.
Then there is Vorwaerts, Vorwaerts -- the very inspirational song of the Hitler Youth. It absolutely EXUDES dedication and heroism. The power of it may perhaps be judged from the fact that it is still illegal to play or sing it in Germany today. The words are actually quite simple and that may be the reason why some commenters describe them as banal -- but those who sang it certainly did not see it that way. They lived it during the closing stages of the war -- displaying great heroism in defending their country. The idealism is probably one of the reasons why those survivors of the Hitler Youth who are still alive today often have warm memories of their time in the Hitler Youth.
There is actually a better rendition of the song here but it lacks subtitles
For those who wish to study the song, I also give the words below with my translation.
Uns're Fahne flattert uns voran. Our flag flutters before us
In die Zukunft ziehen wir Mann fuer Mann We trek into the future as man for man
Wir marschieren fuer Hitler We march for Hitler
Durch Nacht und durch Not Through night and hardship
Mit der Fahne der Jugend With the flag of youth
Fuer Freiheit und Brot. For freedom and bread
Uns're Fahne flattert uns voran, Our flag flutters before us
Uns're Fahne ist die neue Zeit. Our flag is the new time
Und die Fahne fuehrt uns in die Ewigkeit! And the flag leads us into eternity
Ja die Fahne ist mehr als der Tod! Yes the flag is more to us than death
Vorwaerts! Vorwaerts! Forwards, forwards
Schmettern die hellen Fanfaren, Blare the bright fanfares
Vorwaerts! Vorwaerts! Forwards, forwards
Jugend kennt keine Gefahren. Youth knows no danger
Deutschland, du wirst leuchtend stehn Germany, you will brightly stand
Moegen wir auch untergehn. Even if we have to die
Vorwaerts! Vorwaerts! Forwards, forwards
Schmettern die hellen Fanfaren, Blare the bright fanfares
Vorwaerts! Vorwaerts! Forwards, forwards
Jugend kennt keine Gefahren. Youth knows no danger
Ist das Ziel auch noch so hoch, No matter how high the goal
Jugend zwingt es doch. Youth will force it through
2.) Jugend! Jugend! Youth, Youth
Wir sind der Zukunft Soldaten. We are the soldiers of the future
Jugend! Jugend! Youth, Youth
Traeger der kommenden Taten. Bearers of coming deeds
Ja, durch unsre Faeuste faellt Yes, through our fists fall
Wer sich uns entgegenstellt Anyone who opposes us
Jugend! Jugend! Youth, Youth
Wir sind der Zukunft Soldaten. We are the soldiers of the future
Jugend! Jugend! Youth, Youth
Traeger der kommenden Taten. Bearers of coming deeds
Fuehrer, wir gehoeren dir, Leader, we belong to you
Wir Kameraden, dir! We are your comrades
Hitler youths using their fanfare trumpets
For more on the HJ (Hitler Youth) see here
There is of course much more Nazi music but the above will hopefully give you the idea. My apologies to any Jewish readers who may be offended by this article but Wagner is performed in Israel these days so I think the time has come when music can be judged as music, regardless of its appalling associations.
And Hitler himself loved his music. The photo below shows him in white tie and tails attending the Wagner opera festival at Bayreuth in 1939. There is no doubt of his real devotion to opera -- and indeed to classical music generally.
Why Islamic violence? "New Matilda" has no answers
Megan Giles, who wrote the article I excerpt below, has a significant academic background. It is however a solidly Leftist one, so we cannot expect much in the way of balance or academic rigour from her. She mainly seems to be a do-gooder. Anyway, she knows a bit about history. And she parades that history as if it excuses or at least explains the current epidemic of Muslim violence. She spells out the tired old comment that Christians and Christian countries have been violent in the past too. As if nobody knew that!
There she is. Isn't she gorgeous?
But it is not history we have to deal with. It is the present. So why is the present-day world's flood of political violence coming from Muslims?
She seems to think that it is Muslims "getting even" with the West for colonialism. But de-colonization took place around 50 years ago. And, after some initial eruptions, the decolonized world was mostly peaceful. What has suddenly caused it to erupt? And why are Indo-China and other non-Muslim ex-colonies not erupting? And why are the people being killed at the moment overwhelmingly Muslim, rather than the wicked colonists?
Megan has not apparently thought of those questions. Her conventional Leftist hates are all she has to explain anything, whether they fit or not. She is a procrustean.
I and many others point to the way in which ISIS and other violent Muslims are just doing what the Koran says. Megan thinks that cannot be the explanation as Christians have been similarly vicious at times too. But that is a non-sequitur. A particular type of behaviour can arise from many causes. And that normal human selfishness has caused Christians to GO AGAINST New Testament teachings proves nothing. But Muslims don't have to do that. The Jihadis are not going against ANYTHING in their religion. Their deeds and faith are in harmony. So we at least need to note that.
And that makes a difference to what adherents of the two religions hear. Both Mullahs and priests tell their adherents to do as their holy books say. So Christian priests overwhelmingly preach peace and kindness while the Mullahs overwhelmingly preach conquest. And preaching can be influential. Why do it otherwise? For most people -- Christian or Muslim -- it goes in one ear and out the other. They usually accept the wisdom of it but don't act on it. But some do. So on the one hand we have the provision of Christian hospitals and schools while on the other we have gruesome violence.
So what the Koran says is indeed central to the Muslim problem -- because it is what most of the Mullahs preach -- and what the Mullahs preach is influential.
But why is it that we have the upsurge of violence now? Megan does not even attempt to tell us. She had no answers about the causes of Muslim violence at all.
But I think the cause is pretty clear. It is in that history that Megan thinks she knows about. It is a product of ham-fisted European intervention. A skeletal outline:
It all started with the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Afghanistan had been a reasonably secular State up until then. But it was part of the Ummah, part of the Muslim world. So it was devout Muslims who chased the Soviets out. The invasion aroused the devout Muslims and eventually made them the only effective force in the land. And they used that power to transform Afghanistan into a Koranic State, a centre of Islamic righteousness and virtue.
And it might have stopped there except for the fact that the Afghan upheavals had attracted a very rich Saudi who became instrumental in defeating the Soviets: Osama bin Laden.
And Koranic virtue does preach attack on the infidel, the kuffar. So after helping to defeat the Soviets, Osama bin Laden was "feeling his oats" and sought new fields to conquer -- and consequently organized the attack on the exceedingly un-Muslim USA, with results we all know about.
And since then it has been push and counter-push. An Afghanistan-enmeshed organization -- Al Qaeda -- attacked the USA so the USA attacked Afghanistan in an attempt to root them out. And once the USA under George Bush was mobilized, they thought that the sabre-rattling coming from Iraq sounded dangerous too so decided that a pre-emptive war there was needed to avoid another "9/11".
But in both Afghanistan and Iraq, the Americans had no reasonable idea of an end-game. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, they assumed that destroying the hostile regime would enable them to give the grateful natives the blessings of democracy. But there is no history of democracy in the Middle East and no hankering for it. Instead there is a 4,000 year history of tyrannies. So the semi-democratic regimes set up by the Americans had no legitimacy in the eyes of the people and consequently had little control over anybody or anything. Instead we have had chaos.
But nobody likes chaos and many influential Muslims of the Middle East have put their hands up as the new tough-guy leader who will restore peace and unity -- and maybe even become the new Caliph. And that is what has been going on. Can it have escaped anyone's notice that 98% of the people dying are Muslims? Much of the the Middle East and North Africa is in the midst of a civil war to determine who the next tyrant will be. The people there want a strong tyrant not a wishy-washy democracy.
And amid those struggles aspiring leaders will do everything they can to acquire legitimacy. And attacks on the West are a good way of doing that. It enables the aspiring tyrants to claim Islamic righteousness. So what constitutes Islamic righteousness does matter. And we find that in the Koran.
And all the excitement of the struggle does catch the attention of people in the Western world whose ancestry is in Muslim lands. And a tiny minority decide that they want a part of the action.
So some of those go to Syria, while others attack individuals in their country of residence.
So is it reasonable to target the whole Muslim minority of a Western country in some way? I think it is. But no half measures will do. Tentative measures will just exacerbate the problem. The small minority of radicalized Muslims can do a lot of damage and cause a lot of disruption, social and otherwise. And the populations of Western countries are becoming increasingly intolerant of that, as they should. We wouldn't accept such disruption from anyone else so why should we accept it from young Muslims?
But how can we get violent young Muslims out of our countries? How do we detect in advance who they are? We cannot. So the only way of getting the violent young Muslims out of our countries is to get ALL Muslims out of our countries. I believe it will come to that. Muslim populations ARE a breeding-ground for terrorists and that undisputable fact endangers their continued long-term acceptance in Western countries.
Now listen to Megan. I have omitted her more sulphuric comments about Pauline Hanson:
Hanson states that the New Testament, unlike the Qur’an, is devoid of any violence, as if the relative peace and prosperity enjoyed by the Western world is somehow solely attributed to the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Hanson and many others fail to recognise the context of time, place and circumstance that permits the usurping of Quranic verses for such violence.
They fail to scrutinise what it is that separates the millions of Muslims, and millions of others of faith, who can read their sacred scriptures in their historical contexts, from those that totalise and literalise religious doctrine and wrongly champion it as the impetus for their savagery.
In the late 20th century, regimes across the Arab world shaped and utilised Islamic ideologies to solidify and mobilise support against Western liberalism. And so it goes, on and on through history. Past contexts magically transforming to suit present and future contexts.
When we place blame we go directly to the original source, without acknowledging how that source has been manipulated to accommodate contemporary political objectives.
Though all of this, in our current debate, is near-irrelevant. Focusing on the details of religious texts will lead us nowhere since we have, right in front of us, countless examples that help us understand the rise of Islamic State and specific historical, albeit complex and multi-faceted, justifications for North African and Middle Eastern violence.
Indeed what is missing from mainstream debates about contemporary terrorism is the very heavy historical baggage it carries.
Tony Blair has apologised for “mistakes” made during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The US government’s hasty state-building policies after the disbanding of the Iraqi army left thousands of young men angry, armed and unemployed.
Unfortunately, only few commentators will reach back far enough into history to examine the brutal, incendiary and utterly destructive legacy of colonialism in the Middle East to understand contemporary violence.
While ‘we’ in the West have moved on from colonialism and want everyone else to just ‘get over it’, post-colonial states were never given space to – they live its continuity in the neocolonial economic policies of the Washington Consensus and the ubiquity of a militarised national consciousness where violence pervades and reproduces.
The late Algerian psychiatrist Franz Fanon has written passionately on the impact of colonialism on the colonised individual’s psyche, and its propensity for creating violent separatist and regionalist factions, long after independence.
“At the individual level, violence is a cleansing force. It rids the colonized of their inferiority complex, of their passive and despairing attitude… Violence hoists the people up to the level of the leader.”
Despite the horrors of history committed on every continent, our right to anger and grieve over the bloodshed in Paris is doubtless. It must be denounced with the loudest possible voice and responded to with the strongest possible deliberation and vigilance.
Good people lost their lives because they represented the freedom we all hold dear, no matter our race, nationality or religion. Though we must fall short of dismay that Middle Eastern wars have somehow spilled over onto a bystanding Europe caught up in the crossfire.
These wars belong to the Great Powers and they always have. As Gordon Adams has noted, “France has been a central arena for the confrontation between Islam and political-religious Christian Europe for 1,300 years.”
The proceeding centuries were characterised by a vicious brand of colonialism under the guise of exporting a concept of citizenship that was highly exclusionary at home, and anti-Islamic domestic policies leaving hostility an omnipresence weaved through France’s social and political fabric.
Adams states, “France needs to undergo a deep self-examination, and a fundamental revision of the current practice of sidelining its large Muslim population, leaving them disaffected, poorly educated, underemployed, and ripe for recruitment to terrorism.”
All religious texts have the capacity to unite or divide humanity. Our conversation must start centering on the dark, ugly side of human nature and the contexts that breed violent extremists of which our own states are often complicit in.
Bible study resources
Challenging around 17 centuries of Christian scholarship requires not only boldness but also a lot of resources. So I thought I might make a brief note of the resources I currently hold and have found useful. With the demise of the Bagster publishing house a lot of Bible-study aids are no longer available but I have been studying the Bible for nearly 60 years so what I have reflects the past as well as the present.
For a start, the Lexicons. I have a 1956 printing of Abbott-Smith for Biblical Greek and the 1888 version of Liddell & Scott for classical Greek. Both are good for extensive examples of the word discussed. Abbott Smith is in fact pretty close to a concordance of the NT in Greek.
And I have three recensions of the Greek New Testament text: The early Griesbach one, the still popular 19th century Westcott & Hort one and a Nestle version. The Nestle version I have is not by Eberhard Nestle but by Erwin Nestle of the Privilegierte Württembergische Bibelanstalt, son of Eberhard (with G.D. Kilpatrick) so has had the advantage of drawing on more early manuscripts than the original Nestle recension. It was published by the BFBS and is dated 1958. I see that I paid 12/6 for it -- if anybody still understands that notation..
Of the three recensions that I have, only the Nestle has been printed complete with the original marginal notes and footnotes, but I have had some advantage from marginal notes elsewhere: The redoubtable Companion Bible, where the notes are sometimes more voluminous than the text. And the notes are from the viewpoint of committed Christians so are probably a useful thing for all serious Bible-students. And another such set of notes come from my copy of the Geneva version of the Bible. I have a recent printing of it but the notes from 1599 have been preserved. They can be a bit combative but the underlying scholarship is surprisingly good for the times.
And, as far as cross-references are concerned, "The treasury of scripture knowledge" from Bagster is a huge resource. It gives related citations for almost every word of the NT. My copy is not dated but announces that it is the 27th edition -- so was obviously wildly popular among serious Bible students once.
And something I have which is now not available after the demise of Bagster is a twin-text (Greek and English) version of the Septuagint, which is handy for those of us who are familiar only with New Testament Greek. The Septuagint is of course the Bible version that Christ and the apostles usually quoted -- at least as far as the New Testament writers tell us. My copy was printed in 1879 so Bagster obviously held it in stock for a long time. I wonder were there any remaining when they closed down?
I have three concordances, a very old (1828) printing of Cruden, probably taken off the original plates, and a Strong's Exhaustive, both of which, of course index the KJV. To trace more modern text I use the "Comprehensive Concordance" put out by the Watchtower Bible & Tract society for their "New World" translation, which, being very literal, is a useful resource in its own right. I would like a Young's Analytical concordance too but I had to call a halt somewhere and I felt that three concordances should be enough.
And I also have a couple of Bible dictionaries, a big 1963 version of Hastings as revised by Grant & Rowley plus the very comprehensive Watchtower one, called "Insight on the Scriptures". Both of course are written from a particular viewpoint but that does not vitiate them
And I have of course a considerable range of Bible translations. I have just counted them: 8. I have had more but every time I move house I give half my books away so a few of the less-used translations have gone in that way. I rather regret giving away my copy of the Luther Bible in German, nicely printed in Gothic script.
Because it is very popular, I often consult the NIV but it is clearly the servant of Protestant theology so is not to be trusted. I say more about that here. For ease of reading I prefer the RSV or the "New English Bible". My copy of the latter is a BFBS printing of 1974.
Finally, I have many volumes of commentary, mostly written from an Anglican viewpoint, but despite their extensiveness, I have yet to find anything useful in them so will not enlarge on exactly which publications they are. I will probably give them away soon.
In my previous comments on Bible topics, I have rarely given much detail of the resources I was using so I hope this post will clear up any uncertainty about my exact sources. I also hope that the links and comments I have given above will point others to useful study aids
I reproduce below the introduction to a long article in the Left-leaning "New Scientist" which is reasonably scholarly but which ignores what Jihadis say, and, indeed, what the Koran says.
It looks at the functioning of brain regions and finds only very equivocal evidence for the view that Jihadis have different brains. So they then resort to discussing Jihadis in a group dynamics context. In an academic way they draw the familiar conclusion that the Jihadis "just got in with a bad crowd". And they firmly reject the conclusion that Jihadis are evil. And they do eventually conclude that Jihadis are not psychologically abnormal.
But is getting in with a bad crowd sufficient to explain the extraordinarily evil behaviour that we get from (say) ISIS? Their behavior is a long way away from the civilized norms in which most of the Jihadis have grown up, so surely needs detailed explanation. And similar behaviour by the Nazis also needs to be explained. But what does explain it? The article below offers next to nothing towards such an explanation.
But the explanation is no mystery at all. Nazis, Jihadis and their ilk have in fact been keen to explain themselves to us. Given their assumptions, what they do is perfectly rational. What they do, they do in expectation of a great reward. It is very similar to what happens in a field we know well: capitalism. If the expected reward is great, some people will take all sorts of risks to get it. Why does anybody start up a business when he knows (or should know) that around 90% of new businesses go broke within a year? Because he expects to make a "killing". Note the parallelism. The businessman's "killing" simply means a lot of money. Great profits are expected.
So Nazis and Jihadis do what they do because they expect a large reward from it. Normal rules can be disregarded because of the magnitude of the reward. So what is that reward? The article below puts it well when it notes that "Young people need a dream. Appeals for moderation will never be attractive to youth, yearning for adventure, for glory, for significance”. Not all Nazis and Jihadis have of course been young but it does seem to be mainly young people who have flocked to such movements.
And Islam in fact offers rewards of that sort to young and old. The aim of Jihad is to subjugate the world to Islam. So that offers adventure, glory and significance to anyone who participates.
Nazism offered similar heroic visions. Nazis fought for Führer, Volk (race) and Vaterland (homeland). Their ideals were Courage, Honor, and Loyalty. The "Nazizeit" was a immensely exciting era for Germany. The song of the Hitler youth below may give you some sense of it. The translations are good but do not match the power of the original German
Music is very powerful emotionally and Nazis had the unparalleled German talent for music at their disposal. The German lands are home to the timeless music of Bach, Handel, Mozart and Beethoven. And that does matter.
And for Jihadis too there are many rewards. As well as the worldly rewards mentioned above, there is religion. It is easy for us to mock it but don't forget that most of the world is religious. Jihadis really believe what the Koran tells them: That if they die in battle fighting the infidel they will pop off straight to heaven and be waited on there forever after by seventy beautiful women. And, given the puritanical nature of Islam, that may be the only sort of woman many of them will ever get. So, at the risk of putting it too frivolously, Islam has great sex appeal!
And one thing that Jihadis and Nazis have in common is that both have taught adherents that they are special and superior by virtue of their beliefs. Being a member of a master race or master religion obviously feels good. The Nazis were not however looking to an afterlife. They thought that once they had conquered the vast lands to their East, each German could become a gentleman farmer with serfs to do his bidding. Most of Europe was once organized on feudal lines like that so it was not an unrealistic dream. That was not the whole of the Nazi incentive system but I have written about that in much detail elsewhere.
So where does that leave us with the Jihadis? It leaves us where we are with the Nazis. You cannot appease them, you cannot change them, you cannot buy them off, you cannot deter them, you cannot talk them out of it. The rewards that lure them are too great for any of that. You can only destroy them.
And destroying them will be unlikely to be possible without destroying much of their support system, which is the whole Muslim world. To adapt a saying by Mao Tse Tung, the Jihadis are fish who swim in the sea of their people so the sea may have to be drained to eradicate them. Many Muslims may have to die from bombing etc. if a serious attempt to eradicate the Jihadis is made. And, if that seems too harsh, do note that exactly that is happening right now in the lands occupied by ISIS. Does anybody seriously think that it is only Jihadis who are dying in the bombing campaigns? Most of the dead will simply be people from the sea in which the Jihadis swim.
So if a nuclear device were dropped on the ISIS headquarters of Raqqa, it would just do at once what is already happening gradually -- but would also be an unambiguous sign to the Jihadis that their Jihad cannot succeed. In 1945, nukes tore the heart out of the Bushido warriors of Japan, real tough guys. They should have a similar impact on the slime of ISIS, or what remains of them
And President Trump might just do it.
Now to look at what "New Statesman says
WHY would an apparently normal young adult drop out of college and turn up some time later in a video performing a cold-blooded execution in the name of jihad? It’s a conundrum we have been forced to ponder ever since a group calling itself ISIS declared war on infidels. But 70 years ago we were asking something similar of guards in Nazi concentration camps – and, sadly, there have been plenty of opportunities to ponder the matter in between.
What turns an ordinary person into a killer? The idea that a civilised human being might be capable of barbaric acts is so alien that we often blame our animal instincts – the older, “primitive” areas of the brain taking over and subverting their more rational counterparts. But fresh thinking turns this long-standing explanation on its head. It suggests that people perform brutal acts because the “higher”, more evolved, brain overreaches. The set of brain changes involved has been dubbed Syndrome E – with E standing for evil.
In a world where ideological killings are rife, new insights into this problem are sorely needed. But reframing evil as a disease is controversial. Some believe it could provide justification for heinous acts or hand extreme organisations a recipe for radicalising more young people. Others argue that it denies the reality that we all have the potential for evil within us. Proponents, however, say that if evil really is a pathology, then society ought to try to diagnose susceptible individuals and reduce contagion. And if we can do that, perhaps we can put radicalisation into reverse, too.
Following the second world war, the behaviour of guards in Nazi concentration camps became the subject of study, with some researchers seeing them as willing, ideologically driven executioners, others as mindlessly obeying orders. The debate was reignited in the mid-1990s in the wake of the Rwandan genocide and the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia. In 1996, The Lancet carried an editorial pointing out that no one was addressing evil from a biological point of view. Neurosurgeon Itzhak Fried, at the University of California, Los Angeles, decided to rise to the challenge.
In a paper published in 1997, he argued that the transformation of non-violent individuals into repetitive killers is characterised by a set of symptoms that suggests a common condition, which he called Syndrome E (see “Seven symptoms of evil“). He suggested that this is the result of “cognitive fracture”, which occurs when a higher brain region, the prefrontal cortex (PFC) – involved in rational thought and decision-making – stops paying attention to signals from more primitive brain regions and goes into overdrive.
“The set of brain changes has been dubbed Syndrome E – with E standing for evil”
The idea captured people’s imaginations, says Fried, because it suggested that you could start to define and describe this basic flaw in the human condition. “Just as a constellation of symptoms such as fever and a cough may signify pneumonia, defining the constellation of symptoms that signify this syndrome may mean that you could recognise it in the early stages.” But it was a theory in search of evidence. Neuroscience has come a long way since then, so Fried organised a conference in Paris earlier this year to revisit the concept.
At the most fundamental level, understanding why people kill is about understanding decision-making, and neuroscientists at the conference homed in on this. Fried’s theory starts with the assumption that people normally have a natural aversion to harming others. If he is correct, the higher brain overrides this instinct in people with Syndrome E. How might that occur?
Trump Reveals Plan to Defeat ISIS
In a new radio ad, Donald Trump outlines his plan to defeat ISIS:
"The tragic attacks in Paris prove once again that America needs to get tough on radical Islamic terrorism. President Obama and other politicans have consistantly failed us. Just hours before the attacks in Paris, President Obama said ISIS had been contained. It is amazing that the United States could have a president who is so out of touch. It is also dangerous.
Obama has no strategy to defeat ISIS and now he is preparing to let hundreds of thousands of refugees from Syria into the United States. I will stop illegal immigration. We will build a wall on the southern border, and yes, I will also quickly and decisively bomb the hell out of ISIS.
We'll make the military so strong, no one and I mean no one, will mess with us. If I win, we will not have to listen to the politicans who are losing the war on terrorism, we will make America safe, and we will make America great again.
Unlike President Obama, Trump makes no bones about calling the problem- radical Islam- out by name. It's this plain spoken certitude that has made him the favorite of GOP voters.
"If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live."
Greenies love that quote because it gives a veneer of profundity to their totally ignorant scares about fluctuating bee populations. They even attribute the quote to Einsten, even though it in fact comes from the writings of Maurice Maeterlinck, who was a Belgian poet. And Maeterlinck was wrong if honey bees were what he was talking about, which he probably was and which Greenies clearly are. Honey Bees Are Not Native to North America so how did the Indians get on before the white man introduced them? Did they starve? Hardly. Background article on that below. More on the 20,000 species of bees here. Something I didn't know but which seems obvious when you know it, is that bees are descended from wasps
Honey bees are among the most recognizable and beneficial of the insects that live in North America. But these insects are not even native to the Americas. Like most of the livestock associated with American farms, honey bees were imported by European settlers.
Prior to the arrival of the Old World settlers, honey bees were unknown to Native Americans. In fact, several early American writers, including Thomas Jefferson, reported that honey bees were called “white man's flies.” The name was recognition that the appearance of honey bees in America was associated with the arrival of the Europeans.
There was a close association between the westward migration of Europeans and the establishment of wild colonies of honey bees. Native Americans were said to have noticed that shortly after colonies of honey bees were discovered, white settlers would not be far behind.
So when did the first colonies of honey bees arrive in the New World? These bees probably came from England and arrived in Virginia in 1622. By 1639 colonies of honey bees were found throughout the woods in Massachusetts. Some of the colonists who arrived at Plymouth likely brought bees, as well as sheep, cows and chickens on the trip across the Atlantic.
Once the bees were introduced, they, like other insects, were able to increase their range by moving into new territory. Honey bees increase colony numbers by swarming. Swarms are able to fly several miles to establish a new colony.
Such migrating swarms brought honey bees to Connecticut and Pennsylvania by the mid 1650s. Honey bees had swarmed their way into Michigan by 1776 and Missouri, Indiana, Iowa and Illinois by 1800. In the next 20 years or so, bees had made their way to Arkansas, Oklahoma and Texas, as well as Wisconsin.
Further westward migration of the honey bee was slow. In 1843 it was reported that there were no honey bees beyond Kansas. However, Mormons arrived in Utah, and the first bees were taken there on the back of a wagon in 1848. So successful was this introduction, it was reported that a considerable amount of honey was being made in the southern counties of Utah. By 1852 the swarms had reached Nevada.
Bees were finally introduced into the Pacific Coast states by using a sea route along the East Coast and crossing Panama, before using the Pacific Ocean for the final part of the journey. It was in 1853 that botanist C. A. Shelton used this route to introduce the first honey bees into California. Only enough bees from 12 colonies survived to establish one colony, but it was enough to allow history to credit him with starting the honey bee industry in the golden state.
Transporting colonies of bees either by sea or land in the 1700s and 1800s was not easy. The sea voyage from England lasted six to eight weeks, and it was not easy to keep bees alive for that length of time while confined. Many of the attempts to transport bees were unsuccessful as many stories relate.
For once in our history, the introduction of a foreign insect has a happy ending. After all, honey bees are a very important part of agriculture in this country, and we really can't do without them. Even if they do sting us once in a while!
'Whitesplaining': what it is and how it works
Leftists usually run away from any contact with conservative discourse because the factual points made by conservatives are toxic to Leftist beliefs. As a conservative, however, I have no fears about Leftist discourse and am always ready to learn so I read quite a lot of Leftist writing, even though I am often disappointed by its vacuity.
So I read with interest the attempt below by Catriona Elder (an associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney) to explain some very fashionable Leftist tropes.
There she is, complete with feminist haircut
Sadly, however, amid her long ramble below I have found nothing but opinion. I would have thought that a social science professor might have brought some facts and data to bear but she has not done so.
And even her reasoning is just a ramble. I have read the article carefully, with particular attention to her view that being "colour-blind" is somehow wrong. Why is it wrong? She does not say -- but simply asserts that we are not in fact colour blind. Our behaviour does not match our beliefs. That is no new point, however; psychologists have been saying that since the 1930s.
But surely being color blind is a worthy goal? Perhaps not. It is difficult to get a grip on what she is saying but she seems to think that we should become MORE race-conscious. She wants us to SEE racial differences rather than ignore them.
That is very naive. The whole motivation behind the colour-blind people is to avoid us seeing too much. There ARE real race differences in educational attainmemnt, occupational attainment, crime-rates, IQ and much else. In one way I could be seen as her ideal person. I DO look at and report race differences. I have many published academic journal articles on race-related topics. And, as a psychometrician, I always feel free to mention black IQ if it is relevant.
Is that what she wants? I doubt it. She wants some ideal world where people see only those things that she wants them to see.
And her comments on privilege are frankly Marxist. Marx said that what you see depends on where you are. While that is trivially true in some ways, Marx meant that there was no objective truth and that what you see as truth will depend on your social class position. Catriona thinks the same, except that she sees your race as the important influence on your perceptions.
The nature of truth is a very large philosophical topic so, despite my interest in such matters I will forgo any attempt to address it fully here. Suffice it to say that those who deploy the "no absolute truth" weapon aim a gun at their own heads.
For example, if there is no absolute truth, why should I believe anything that Catriona says? She might simply be seeing the world from her own privileged viewpoint (I think she does) and all her resultant conclusions from that might simply be wrong and worthy only of being disregarded. She evidently wants to say that nothing is right excerpt what she says. Which is roughly what Mussolini said. She is a neo-Fascist.
So as far as I can see, what she says is an expression of muddled and poorly-founded opinion that expresses a diffuse sense of rage but achieves nothing more. I certainly fail to see from her writing that "race-blind" people are doing anything unworthy. Given that there are real and not always congenial differences between the races, I think that they are in fact rather heroic people. Ignoring race differences may be the best most people can do when it comes to fostering harmonious race relations
I am not entirely sure that I am spending my time wisely in commenting on the addled lucubration of an airhead like Catriona but her position in a senior university post is significant. The feebleness of her "explanations" should help to confirm in the minds of my fellow conservatives that even the smarter end of Leftism is intellectually incompetent. Had her screed been presented to me as a student essay in my time teaching sociology at Uni NSW, I would have failed it on the grounds of its incoherence.
Have you ever had an experience where someone is explaining to you, maybe in a lot of detail, something you actually already know quite a lot about? Possibly about your own life?
It’s frustrating. But it’s not a random occurrence, and it’s often about power. There’s a word for it: “whitesplaining”.
It’s a term that’s been in high rotation over the past couple of weeks, thanks to Hollywood film star Matt Damon and Australian radio and TV personality Kyle Sandilands, whose comments around issues of racial diversity and sexuality have sparked debate around issues of white privilege and “colour-blindness”.
Let’s reexamine their comments:
While appearing on Project Greenlight two weeks ago, Matt Damon - in the midst of a discussion about forming a directorial team for a reality show - argued the decision to appoint a director should be based on merit rather than diversity.
His comments suggest diversity is only an issue when casting actors, not behind-the-scenes crew such as directors.
A short while later, Damon gave an interview to The Observer where he argued gay actors should remain private about their sexuality:
"But in terms of actors, I think you’re a better actor the less people know about you period. And sexuality is a huge part of that. Whether you’re straight or gay, people shouldn’t know anything about your sexuality because that’s one of the mysteries that you should be able to play."
As Nigel Smith pointed out in The Guardian, Damon’s point negated the interview he then gave, which spanned such personal topics as how he met his wife, their children and family life, his childhood and his political views.
Closer to home, Kyle Sandilands last week explained to the Australia television viewing public that the lack of non-white contestants on a new season of The Bachelorette is irrelevant:
"I think a lot of young people don’t think like that. They don’t think 'Oh we better have a black, we better have a brown'."
Being ‘colour-blind’ and why it’s a problem
Let’s begin by unpacking Sandilands' comments. His perspective is one that suggests “people are people”.
About 20 years ago academic Ruth Frankenberg studied the phenomenon of white people explaining away race and difference by declaring “people are people”. Her book White Women, Race Matters: The Social Construction of Whiteness (1993), explores the unspoken racial hierarchies around us.
In her terms, Sandilands self-identifies as “colour-blind”. It means you say you don’t see racial difference. Often making reference to Dr Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous quote about being judged not “by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character,” proponents argue that drawing any attention to race is, in fact, more racist.
An extreme form of a colour-blind attitude to race can be seen in the US movement Unhyphenate America, which argues terms such as African-American are divisive:
"Cultural cohesion and connectedness are more important than having a 'diversity' of skin colour. Anyone can choose to be a part of this culture, because the principles aren’t ethnically exclusive."
Sandilands made his on-air comments in response to his guest Sam Frost’s defence that The Bachelorette producers didn’t even think about race when casting the show.
But in a “colour-blind” world, they should have thought about it - because all the contestants for The Bachelorette are the same colour. In fact, Australian television in general fails to reflect our diverse population. So what’s happening here?
The selection process for who ends up on our screens is not neutral because, like it or not, we do notice difference, including race or ethnic differences, and we act on this awareness in subtle ways.
Ways that end up suggesting that the bachelors of Australia are white.
This is where the episode of Damon “whitesplaining” the world of race to an African-American woman is useful to explore. Richard Dyer, another scholar of race and culture, describes these situations in terms of white invisibility and white privilege:
"White people create the dominant images of the world and don’t quite see that they thus construct the world in their image."
White people move through the world in a way that is made to suit a particular worldview. Damon, in explaining away any need for affirmative action, or awareness of race in film and TV, is only saying: I, personally, did not need it. He does not see his whiteness and all the privileges that come along with it.
Whitesplaining - derived from “mansplaining” - is a new, zietgeisty, word, but it’s essentially an expression of privilege: the unconscious, unearned and largely un-examined benefits of prejudice.
The concept of “privilege” was fully articulated in its modern form by Peggy McIntosh in her 1988 essay,White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack.
In it, McIntosh lists specific and personal examples of her white privilege. Point number thirty is particularly relevant here:
"If I declare there is a racial issue at hand, or there isn’t a racial issue at hand, my race will lend me more credibility for either position than a person of colour will have."
Sandilands and Damon are white, famous, middle-aged men. They used their platforms to make statements about the nonexistence of social issues that actively benefit them.
All of this is not to say Damon or Sandilands are necessarily racist. Their comments, however, are examples of how easy it is for those with privilege to assume their experiences are universal. Because our media, our government and our cultural institutions constantly reflect whiteness back at us, it is easy act as if is the default.
Privilege is insidious because benefiting generally involves little to no effort. It is often the result of other people’s actions towards you, and requires simply that you look a certain way. Conversely, perpetuating privilege means acting on invisibly socialised patterns of behaviour.
Calling out whitesplaining is not about saying white people can’t talk about race: it means prioritising the voices of those with experience, not those with the loudest megaphone.
The Jehovah's witness version of John 1:1 is not mine
My translation is actually rather orthodox in scholarly circles. But I have found some new fun later on in John 1!
A reader has sent me a link to an exegesis which refutes the translation of John 1:1 preferred by Jehovah's witnesses. She evidently did not see any difference between that and my account.
I could cavil about the exegesis concerned -- its apparent reliance on the Septuagint, which is itself a translation, for instance, their apparent reliance on the textus receptus when much better recensions are now available, and their apparent failure to grasp that "ho theos" was the normal pagan Greek word for any local god -- which gave the NT writers something of a dilemma that they did not always resolve consistently, but I will leave such points aside as I think they get there in the end. I in fact agree with their final conclusion. I quote:
"Hence, the Word belongs to the category of theos (“God”) as to His essence or nature—not His personal identity".
Or as they put it more succinctly in their Conclusions: "θεος in John 1:1c is qualitative, not indefinite"
Anarthrous theos indicates a quality not a person. So it does NOT say that Jesus was God in the way that we would normally understand it. It does not identify Jesus as God, which is what the trinitarians want it to do.
I did point out that anarthrous theos could be translated as "a God" -- which is what the JWs do -- but I myself saw the meaning as referring to divine attributes in line with the "morphe theos" of Philippians.
My correspondent also sent me another exegesis which allegedly addressed the meaning of "morphe theou" in Philippians but it did not address my points. It was concerned with the particular usage of "theos" rather than "morphe". I could in fact have taken issue with the theos usage in that passage but I had already grumbled about the translation of three other words in that short passage so I called a halt at that point. I think I had already shown that the passage indicated that Christ was LIKE God but not God. It was a simple statement that had been overinterpreted by theologians.
But I am always learning so in reading the second exegesis I came across something that is great fun indeed: The usage of "monogenēs theos" in John 1:18. A begotten god! Is that not clear enough that Jesus was created, despite having divine attributes?
I could not believe I had missed that point before. I guess I still use the KJV too much, which has "begotten son". And the Griesbach recension has that usage too "monogenes huios", begotten son. So I was unaware that both Westcott & Hort and Nestle give "monogenēs theos". "theos" must be better attested than "huios" in the early MSS.
Huge fun however is the way most modern translations render "monogenēs theos". They either miss out "monogenes" entirely or say simply "only". And some stick with "son", despite that not being in the best renderings of the original Greek text. Though the NIV has the grace to put "son" in brackets! It is obviously a hugely embarrassing passage to them. Embarrassing enough for them to mistranslate it deliberately. They are just incapable of saying that Christ was both "genes", "born", "conceived" (perhaps "generated" in modern terms) but also a "theos", a god! "A born God". Let those words sink in.
I suppose trinitarians will waffle their way around that, as they usually do, but there is nothing unclear or mysterious in the original text. If the text had said a born son, it could have meant Christ's incarnation. But it does not. It was not a man that was born. It was a God.
Needless to say, the theologians and exegetes have gone wild trying to tell us that the text does not mean what it says. They say that μονογενὴς (monogenes) just refers to a particular person etc. And they then give a pile of excerpts from classical and Biblical Greek in support of that. They also quote Liddell & Scott's definitions in support of their claims. But all the examples they give are in fact of naturally born people and people identified by their particular birth. Putting it another way, Greeks would on occasions refer to people as "borns", for various reasons. But born still meant born.
But let's leave the μονο aside and just look at γενὴς. They won't like Liddell & Scott's first definition of "genea", which is "of the persons in a family". Not the mystical persons of the trinity but the individual persons of a normal family. And let us look at a word we all know: "Genesis". It's exactly the same word in Greek and English and it's a form of γενὴς. And we know what it refers to, don't we? A beginning. So Christ was a god who had a beginning, a birth. QED
I would have been burnt at the stake for saying that at times in the past
Australia is a nation of white privilege?
Despite the unceasing efforts of many Australian governments to improve the lot of Aborigines, we find a big whine from a part-Aboriginal man below. Clearly he feels saddened by some of his life experiences but he is that way because of a lack of perspective. He fails to factor in the great efforts to improve the health and well-being of Aboriginal that have been made by many Australian governments over the years. Those efforts have largely failed but it is Aboriginals who have failed to take advantage of what they have been offered. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make it drink.
Australia does have an informal version of America's "affirmative action" in that the standards expected of Aborigines are lower than what is expected of whites but that has still done little good. How is the rest of Australia to blame for that? The efforts have been made but Aborigines have failed to respond.
As well as that deficiency in perspective, the writer seems to suffer from something like delusions of reference. He attributes all his difficulties to the color of his skin. He seems to think that only Aborigines have problems. That society also gives whites problems appears to be quite beyond his ken. The problems whites and blacks have may be different but the problems whites have can be very severe. We often read of young white people suiciding but I have yet to hear of an Aborigine doing the same. Particularly in Britain there are stories of suicides among young white children and teenagers in the papers most days.
There is no doubt that children can be cruel to one-another and that seems mostly to be behind the suicides I have mentioned. Children will pick on almost any deviation from the norm and mock it. In my youth I was mocked for being unsporting but I just ignored it and the mockery ceased. That children also mock dark skin is therefore completely normal and unlikely to change. If the guy below did not have dark skin he might well have been picked on for some other attribute. Calling a society racist for what some children acting like children do is absurd.
In using the word "privilege", the writer is using an expression that often implies that a person is getting something undeserved. But the whole idea of privilege in the field of race-relations is just a leftist slur. It asserts that some people or classes of people were/are given certain things unfairly rather than working for them, earning them or deserving them
If a high IQ person makes a scientific breakthrough, is that privilege? I can't see it. He may be amply rewarded for his breakthrough but that reward is a reward for his work, not privilege.
Being born bright could be seen as a privilege but that is conferred by genetics not society -- and being bright of itself may mean little. I knew a very high IQ man who could only find work supervising garbage bins. It's the work you do using your brain that matters and which gives you any rewards. And the results of work are not "privilege". They are justly earned rewards
And a rejection of a job application by a black is also a justly earned reward, though the individual black himself might not have earned it. If Leftist privilege-critics can talk in terms of such broad categories as "whites", why can employers not think in terms of such broad categories as "blacks"? And the well-known poor performance of both Australian and American blacks in many ways will often give rise to a reasonable fear that any given black may perform poorly in tasks relevant to the job in question. If the task involved singing and dancing or running fast, an application from an American black could well be given priority. Who would be "privileged" then?
Any attempt at answering that question shows immediately that the whole idea of anchoring your analysis of wellbeing or success in such broad and diverse categories as "whites" or "blacks" is near brain-dead. It indicates an inability at detailed thought or a lack of fine-grained perception. It is just a typical Leftist overgeneralization. There all sorts of whites, rich, poor and in-between. Are they all equally "privileged" by being white? Only a Leftist would think so
An intelligent appraisal of various forms of success in society would require much, much more than such childish categories as "whites". Pre-schoolers can tell whites from blacks and Leftists would appear not to have got beyond that infantile stage in their thinking. Leftist politicians do talk of 'nuance' but they rarely display any of it
But nothing in Leftist "privilege" discourse is remotely intellectual. It is just an attempt at stirring up racial antagonisms. It is racism pure and simple.
The guy below should stop obsessing about past slights and get on with living. As an totally unsporting person, I manage to survive happily in a sports-mad nation so I can see no reason why an articulate part-Aboriginal man cannot survive happily in a mostly white nation. Wise people make the best of what they have instead of whining about what they have not
Chinese, Japanese and Indians look different and are different in some ways but they do well in Australia. The whiner below needs to ask himself why Aborigines fail to do likewise. Within living memory, Italians Greeks and other Southern Europeans were treated with suspicion by "old" Australians but their children are now well and truly in the mainstream. Why has that not happened with Aborigines? Minor discrimination clearly does not hold anyone back in Australia if they have the drive to get out and do something for themselves rather than sitting down on their behinds
I have just returned from Jamaica, where I gave a keynote address on Black Consciousness as part of the country’s Heritage Week Celebrations. I spent a week feeling “black, loud and proud”, embraced for my Aboriginality and acknowledged by my international peers as an authority in my field.
But I returned home to discover yet another storm of racial vilification brewing. This time it was targeted against actress Miranda Tapsell, whose only crime was to be honest and heartfelt when interviewed about racism in Australia.
And, once again, anger was being aimed at retired footballer Adam Goodes – now due to his role as a David Jones ambassador.
And, last week, a video showing a group of black African students being asked to leave an Apple store in Melbourne went viral. It clearly showed an Apple staff member telling the boys that they had to leave the store because staff were concerned they were going to shoplift. Apple later apologised.
The reality of white privilege
It doesn’t take long as an Indigenous Australian returning from overseas to be reminded that we are a nation of white privilege. Examples of such privilege include people being able to experience the following:
assume that most of the people you or your children study in history classes and textbooks will be of the same race, gender or sexual orientation as you are;
assume that your failures will not be attributed to your race or gender; and
not have to think about your race, gender, sexual orientation or disabilities on a daily basis.
For me, it starts before the flight home. My daughter is the youngest-ever graduate in the Australian Public Service traineeship program, black or white. She also celebrated her 18th birthday in Paris after negotiating a dollar-for-dollar deal with her mother and I.
But rather than reaffirm her identity, Maiala’s success denies her Aboriginality, with people often shocked when they hear how well she is doing.
If she was beaten, abandoned and on substance abuse she would fit her racial profile. This is white privilege in action: assume that your failures will not be attributed to your race or your gender. If Maiala fit her racial profile her failures would be attributed to her being Aboriginal – but no-one assumes this of her success.
Our failure is a consequence of being Aboriginal. But any success is clearly only due to our having white blood.
Being black in white Australia
Everywhere we travel overseas as a family we are asked our ethnicity. Whether in Europe, the US or elsewhere, people are generally shocked to find out we are Indigenous Australians. Why? Because they had no idea black people, let alone Indigenous black people, come from Australia.
Australia is known exclusively as a country of white people. Could you imagine thinking of New Zealand without any idea that Māori people existed, or the US without black people or Native Americans?
My wife and children are very Aboriginal in their appearance. The welcoming faces they receive from other Australians when overseas quickly turn to shock, and replaced by a look we Aboriginal people see all our lives. People look down as we pass them, or slide across in public seats so we can’t sit next to them. Yes, this happens. And we see it, we feel it – and yes it hurts.
The situation almost becomes surreal on the plane. Generally every staff member is white on every major Australian airline. So here we are as black people, jumping on an aircraft of white people being served by white people, immersed back into a world of whiteness.
Just look at these in-flight air safety videos from Australia, the US and New Zealand. If ever there was a demonstration of Australian white privilege this is it. The US and New Zealand videos clearly show black and Indigenous people not only existing, but as being essential to the culture, the company and the identity of the institution. The Australian video is a world of whiteness.
History repeats itself
Australia just isn’t progressive and our people continue to suffer. There’s no better example of this than the fact that we are losing more of our children today than during the Stolen Generation. Not having been reared by my own Aboriginal mother, it is a situation that raises feelings of anxiety within me every time I return home from overseas.
The greatest demonstration of white privilege is that Australia consistently ranks near the top in the annual United Nations Human Development Index – which measures health, economic well-being and life expectancy.
But if Australia’s Indigenous population were to be ranked separately, it would come 100th out of nearly 200 nations. In other words, Australia is one of the richest Western countries in the world built on an industry of mining from the lands of Aboriginal people who remain living in third-world poverty.
As with Tapsell, my daughter Maiala, Goodes, black kids denied access to Apple stores and many others, the atmosphere is toxic. It affects us all and we have to call it for what it is: white privilege.