Sunday, March 26, 2006

Historical Facts
Articles Of Faith:
In Our War

One of the best blogs on the internet is Anti-Chomsky, by Benjamin Kerstein. Here, Mr. Kerstein points us to an article by French Philsopher Andre Glucksman, a leader in the 1968 Socialist movement in France, who later broke with his colleaguesover the issue of Soviet Totalitarianism.

Here Mr. Glucksman discusses the new totalitarianism and its stace on Mohammed Cartoons, and Holocaust denial:

[N]ow [radical Islam] has all of Europe in its sights, which it accuses of having a double standard. The European Union allows the Prophet to be denigrated with impunity, but it forbids and condemns other "opinions" like Nazism and denial of the Holocaust. Why are jokes about Muhammad permitted, but not those about the genocide of the Jews? This was the rallying call of fundamentalists before they initiated a competition for Auschwitz cartoons.

Fair's fair: either everything should be allowed in the name of the freedom of expression, or we should censor that which shocks both parties. Many people who defend the right to caricature feel trapped. Will they publish drawings about the gas chambers in the name of freedom of expression? Offence for offence? Infringement for infringement? Can the negation of Auschwitz be put on a par with the desecration of Muhammad?

This is where two philosophies clash.

The one says yes, these are equivalent "beliefs" which have been equally scorned. There is no difference between factual truth and professed faith; the conviction that the genocide took place and the certitude that Muhammad was illuminated by Archangel Gabriel are on a par.

The others say no, the reality of the death camps is a matter of historical fact, whereas the sacredness of the prophets is a matter of personal belief.(…)

When the Islamist fanatic affirms that Europeans practise the "religion of the Shoah" while he practises that of Muhammad, he abolishes the distinction between fact and belief. For him there are only beliefs, and so it follows that Europe will favour its own.

Civilised discourse analyses and defines scientific truths, historic truths and matters of fact relating to knowledge, not to faith. And it does this irrespective of race or confession. We may believe these facts are profane or undignified, yet they remain distinct from religious truths.

Our planet is not in the grips of a clash of civilisations or cultures. It is the battleground of a decisive struggle between two ways of thinking. There are those who declare that there are no facts, but only interpretations - so many acts of faith. These either tend toward fanaticism ("I am the truth") or they fall into nihilism ("nothing is true, nothing is false"). Opposing them are those who advocate free discussion with a view to distinguishing between true and false, those for whom political and scientific matters – or simple judgement – can be settled on the basis of worldly facts, independently of arbitrary pre-established opinions.

Refusing to face the cruellest historical facts, on the other hand, heralds the return of cruelty. Whether the Islamists - who are far from representing all Muslims – like it or not, there is no common measure between negating known facts and criticising any one of the beliefs which every European has the right to practice or poke fun at.(…)

What is at stake here is not only the freedom of the press, but also the permission to call a spade a spade and a gas chamber an abomination, regardless of our beliefs. What is at stake is the basis of all morality: here on earth the respect due to each individual starts with the recognition and rejection of the most flagrant examples of inhumanity.

Benjamin Kerstein says this reminds him of Noam Chomsky's technique of obliterating distinctions and turning the whole world into one big conflated totem of totalitarian idiocy:

This extraordinary essay cuts to the essence of one of the issues which caused me to start this blog: the absolute importance of distinctions. The Chomskyite phenomenon is most horrifying in its negation of distinctions, its annihilation of the possibility of thought. No utterance of the good professor represents this better than this one on the subject of Holocaust Denial, which represents precisely the horror of which Glucksmann speaks:

"I'm saying that if you believe in freedom of speech then you believe in freedom of speech for views you don't like, I mean Goebbels was in favour of freedom of speech for views he liked, right, so was Stalin. If you're in favour of freedom of speech that means you're in favour of freedom of speech precisely for views you despise, otherwise you're not in favour of freedom of speech."

This is an obliteration of distinction, because Chomsky fails to see the difference between an article of faith and a fact of history.

As an American I would say that a person has the right to deny the Holocaust, and even to publish books doing such, but there is no right for such ideas to be taught in public schools, or on public airwaves, because there the Holocaust is a historical event, and we can not as a society permit lies to be taught as truth.

Jason Pappas, of Liberty and Culture, has some thoughts in an excellent essay comparing the Enlightenment vs. the Judeo-Christian critiques of Islam.

Here's a money quote:

Islam requires extreme blind faith and obedience because of the extent that its teachings are at odds with living a full life in a free society. If Islam is to be practiced in full, and not merely perfunctory or selectively practiced, it will lead to continued impoverishment, oppression, war, and death. It is interesting that the post-modern left, to retain its dream of socialism after all the evidence of its failure and capitalism’s success, needs to maintain the epistemologically nihilistic doctrine of postmodernism that denounces the very concept of truth. Both flee from reality to hold on to cherish dogma. And they are united by a common enemy: America.

Chomsky, the Postmodernists, and the Islamofascists are all interested in destroying the tenets of Western Culture. However, the Islamofascists, unlike the other two, do believe in absolute truth. They simply use our nihilistic philosophies as a weapon against us. It's interesting ponder whether the postmodernists do, in fact, believe there is objective truth, or whether, perhaps, they have invented the idea as a way to destroy the West.