Postmodern Liberalism Comment Problems

Bizarre behavior on my last post, which generates an Apache error when comments are submitted–but no error on comment submissions from any of my other posts. Upgraded WordPress to 2.02, which hasn’t fixed the problem (but fortunately went without a glitch so far).

My hunch is that there is a spam or adult content filter on my hosting ISP’s web server, and it doesn’t like the title, which includes the dreaded “P” word, so is blocking it.

I’m going to use this post for comments to the prior one, and hope that works.

Sorry about the inconvenience.

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9 thoughts on “Postmodern Liberalism Comment Problems

  1. If it were a problem with censorship, the above trackback would not have happened, I don’t think.

    That said – again, an excellent article. I’ve sent several people over, and all have been immensely impressed.

    Please don’t stop blogging.

  2. “One is left to ponder how so many people can be so passionately–even religiously–convicted of that which is so easily disproved, continuing to use such false premises on a repeated basis until they become de facto truth.”

    I doubt you really wonder about that, but I understand the rhetorical question. Listening to them does effect a side-to-side movement of my head, quite involuntarily, by now, because I just can’t believe the hatred, hyprocrisy (yes, I know you wrote about that, but it fits) and hubris they display.

    I might have been in high school when we were told that “If you say something loudly enough and often enough, people will believe it.” I don’t doubt for a minute that many of the “leaders” of the Left know full well that they are lying, and when they flip their flop; but many others who now spout the same garbage probably believe that it really is true. The second group is more pathetic than the first, but no less closed-minded.

  3. But Doc! Every idea is welcome in the US … well … as long as it agrees with the majority …. anyone else’s just doesn’t count.


  4. I have read your comments. I am trying to give you a fair hearing, but I totally disagree with you.

    What I would like to know is who this titular liberal you are talking about? I know plenty of liberals. None of them think the way you say they do.

    You say liberals have forgotten history. No, you have. Who won the world wars? WWI was waged by Woodrow Wilson, a liberal democrat. WWII was waged by FDR, the arch-liberal of all times. Do you think FDR was un-American? Or Harry Truman, who constantly called himself a liberal, and created the blueprint for Communist containment that Ronald Reagan followed to the letter? Perhaps you think Martin Luther King was unAmerican. Or Jimmy Carter. I suppose you think Daniel Patrick Moynahan spent his entire career plotting to surrender Washington to the Chinese.

    Liberals believe two things. One, that the government should NOT interfere with private life. We believe in freedom of religion, speech, and the press. Second, that the government should take an activist role in championing individual rights over organized political power. This does not necessarily have anything to do with communism. Certainly, you are not so silly as to think that a liberal and a communist are indistinguishable, and yet that is exactly what I am getting out of your essay.

    The most peculiar thing about your essay is that you confuse liberalism with Islamic extremeism. Islamic extremists are CONSERVATIVES. They take a literal interpretation of the Koran, and strongly defend traditional social values. That puts them closer to the Christian Right than the Far Left. Let’s face it. You don’t object to Fundamentalist Islam because it defends traditional values. You object because it is not YOUR values. You don’t attack their logic, just their starting point (the Bible vs. the Koran). That has nothing to do with liberalism. That is two conservative sects arguing over religious dogma.

    And yes, some of us liberals are religious. I know who C.K Chesterson is, and C.S. Lewis, and Ignatius Loyola, and Reinhold Niebuhr, and I am reading St. Augustine right this very moment. My faith in no way conflicts with my politics. Jesus commanded no one to be a Republican.

    It is one thing to say, I disagree with your argument, and here is the reason why. It is another to say, you are wrong to think what you think, and you are a bad person for thinking so.

    C.S. Lewis, and Chesterson, believed that the most serious and dangerous moral mistake is the error of Pride. Pride is when you not only think you are right, but you are self-satisfied for being so.

    Go read C.S. Lewis again. I admire him because Lewis always gently tried to explain why he was right, without trying to make anyone feel bad for being wrong. I can’t give you the same credit, I am afraid.

  5. Dr Herbert,

    Thanks so much for your comment — I find your passion and reason very admirable, and enjoyed reading it. I must say, though, that I genuinely believe you misunderstood the point of the post. Allow me to make a few remarks using your comment as a framework.

    First of all, the “titular liberal” of whom you speak actually made the assertions in the first part of the post in an e-mail comment to me. This fellow, who lives in the Puget Sound area, basically made these assertions:

    1. That I was a racist because I had concerns about the behavior and beliefs of Islam and their connection to Islamic violence;

    2. There is no such thing as Islamofascism;

    3. There was no such thing as communism;

    4. That he founded it embarrassing and I lived in the same state as him, and suggested I move to Nebraska where I belong.

    The distinction which I was making–which no doubt was not made clearly enough–is that between classical liberalism and the postmodern variation which is becoming increasingly vocal and dominant on the left in America and the West. The liberals you mentioned — Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Harry Truman, Martin Luther King, and Pat Moynihan–in each case represent the best of classic liberalism. You may be surprised to know that I have a great deal of respect for each of these men, and consider their patriotism and commitment to their country and its people to be their highest priority. As you can imagine, I do not agree with all of their political stances or policies, but have great respect for each man’s integrity and desire to do the best for his fellow man and his country. These men represent classical liberalism at its very best.

    What I would refer to as the postmodern liberal–of whom my post commenter was an example, but many like-minded folks can be found on liberal discussion boards such as Daily Kos or Democratic Underground — is rather a different animal from the classical liberals whom you cite, or folks like yourself and your friends. Although generalization is dangerous, these individuals are commonly very parochial, and often very anti-American. Many are the product of the current university system, which typically depicts Western civilization, the white man, Christianity, and Western tradition as being fundamentally oppressive and the root of most evil in the world. I was not by any means condemning everyone of liberal beliefs as being “pornographers” or morally vacuous — but it is my sense that many of these products of postmodern education and culture indeed are highly nihilistic, fungible in their principles, and often strikingly at odds with their purported convictions and principles when dealing with those of different political or moral mindset.

    I must say I am a bit confused about your points on Islamic extremism, and I believe your interpretation of my position is incorrect. Do I believe that Islam is incorrect from a standpoint of truth or theology? Yes, I do. But that is not the point that I’m making in any of my earlier posts on Islam. Briefly put, I also disagree with the theology of a number of other religions — but none of these religions are trying to kill me, blow me up, or force me into submission to their beliefs. My point about Islam is simply this: at the core of Islam, in its theology and in its holy book, are teachings which are entirely consistent with the practices of suicide bombing, murder of innocent people (including Muslims) beheading, slavery, and the subjugation of nonbelievers. To conflate Islamic extremism with Western conservatism, in my opinion, displays either superficial thinking or misunderstanding of both entities. Western conservatism strongly believes in the integrity of the individual, the importance of personal freedom and rights, the importance of individual religious expression and belief, among many other things; radical Islam denies all of these things–and to call Islamic values “traditional social values” certainly twists the meaning of the term–unless you consider murder of innocents, subjugation of women, execution of homosexuals, honor killings, and host of other Islamic “social values” to be traditional and equivalent to Western or Christian social values.

    Your definition of what liberals believe is consistent with classic liberalism (although I’m not entirely convinced that even classic liberalism believes government should not interfere in private life). Postmodern liberalism, on the contrary, is more than happy to have government intrude on private life. Here in Washington State, the Legislature is currently considering legislation which would revoke the license of any pharmacist who refuses to dispense the “morning after” pill on personal moral grounds. So if you believe the morning after pill to be an abortion agent, and if you believe abortion is the taking of innocent human life, and are opposed to being a part of such activity on moral grounds, postmodern liberalism is more than happy to force you to either go against your moral convictions or take away your license. This is mere coercion, using the power of government to very much intrude into the private life and moral beliefs of the individual. It is not my interest to debate this particular issue, but rather to use it as an example. The so-called avoidance of interference in private life by the government on the left is quite selective, applying primarily to abortion, gay marriage, and similar issues (where they don’t want any government restrictions), but not to any activity which the postmodern left considers intolerant or objectionable–usually conservative ideas and morals stances.
    It is interesting that you mention Chesterton and C.S. Lewis. I am a great fan of both, and have been reading a number of books by Chesterton recently. I certainly would not disagree at all that Christian writers of such calliber and brilliance pinpoint pride as a fundamental and profound human flaw. However, I do not believe either man–nor any of the other Christian scholars you mentioned–would have any problem speaking out against the illogical, divisive, hate-driven postmodern philosophy which is becoming increasingly prominent today.

    I rather doubt that Chesterton’s book Heretics (which I am now reading) would be highly popular in your average Seattle bookstore. He is quite scathing of those who think in a manner similar to today’s postmodern left.

    Sorry to bloviate at such great length in response to comment, and once again I appreciate your thoughtfulness in willingness to contribute to the discussion.

  6. I have no reason to believe that you are anything but an honorable man, so I will take you at your word that you are not generalizing about liberals.

    I also understand that Islam presents a problem in theology that few other religions do. Islam specifically defines the jihad in its theology, and this can be seen as a problem. But I know many Muslims personally, and overall I find them to be kind and God-fearing people who would never dream of planning a 9/11. Most of them are offended by a common impression — that they need to apologize for terrorism. The average, peaceful Muslim has no more business apologizing for terrorism than I have, as a white Southerner, apologizing for slavery. I have never owned a slave. They have never bombed a building.

    Islam is almost at theologically near to Christianity as Judism is. It accepts the entire Bible as inspired literature, but like Judism, does not accept the divinity of Jesus. I don’t think there are many people who realize that Muslims accept Christmas as a holy day. Not on par with Ramadan, but nonetheless.

    In my opinion, this terrorist problem is temporary, but could become permanent if we Westerners paint it into a corner. Certainly you have realized that most Islamic terrorism and violence has been directed at other Muslims. Iran and Iraq have been tearing each other apart for decades. There have been bombings in Syria and Lebanon and Jordan, as well as Indonesia, which most people don’t realize has the world’s largest Muslim population.

    There are a number of positive thinkers (myself included) who think that if we adapt a passive defensive stance towards Islam (protect our backsides, but don’t get too deeply in the fray) that this terrorist phase will burn itself out. (Remember that the Western world went through a very violent phase from 1914 to 1945.) In a modern world as miraculous as ours, senible people won’t put up with living without running water forever. During the Middle Ages, Islam was a more progressive environment than Christendom. That could return. If you would like references, check out the Abbasid empire of Persia and the great Moghul empire of India.

    I am not willing to write off Islam. I studied it at length in college and came to appreciate it (though I was never tempted into conversion). Islam is a fact of life and I do not think we can squeeze it out of existence, as we have been able to do with Communism. Religion is a different cup of tea from politics.

  7. Oh, one other thing. Since I come from New Orleans and now live in Mississippi, I also am quite sensitive to the invective “racist.” Racism is a very serious threat and should never be made without objective proof. I do not consider an attack on Islam to rise to that level, so I agree that the charge against conservatives of racism is unfair.

    Since racism as a term is no more than a four letter word I don’t think it should be used in a debate. So we agree there, at least.

  8. RE: The Pornography of Ideas
    (If you publish this, could you put me in as “BJ”?

    Dear Doc,

    Finding a way through this thicket of ideas challenges mind and emotion. It seems endless. But, I’d like to add some ideas to the debate which may add some small new dimensions, but clearly will not clean out the briar patch.

    I think there is another element in the ways of thinking you describe which can be defined as “habits of mind”. One is the inductive, scientific, rational way of life where questions are met with the test of evidence and the proof of concept; the other is deductive where “truth” to the believer is already a given and thus beyond question; faith and the authority it commands is the guide to truth and leads to the conviction that such “given truth” is “self evident” and hence unchallengeable. Western civilization was created with the first habit of mind – the rational and scientific one – the one of questions and tests. The second habit of mind seems to describe the medieval habit of mind – the inductive habit of mind of the disciple. The follower seems to become intolerant of questions, dismissive of facts or contradictions, dogmatic about the issues and answers, uncompromising in their assumptions and conclusions, and unreasonable in face of alternatives which are not consistent with what they already believe. They sound a lot like Eric Hoffer’s True Believer.

    Over the last few decades, it seems to me that large elements of our university faculty seem to be teaching history, literature, political science, etc. from within the second habit of mind – the “relatively absolute” position that all answers are relative and only the intellectuals know which ones are true. Their assertions need not be subjected to the criteria of “facts.” For them “facts” are irrelevant and unnecessary. They see no validity in the “test” of behavior from outcomes or consequences. The answers are “given” and those who can see, see and follow. Those who do not see are “blind” and must be made to conform for they cannot choose to disagree for that would be “immoral.” One does not disagree with “Given Truth.” It does not seem possible that these two habits of mind can ever really be “reconciled.”

    If this habit of mind prevails in our intellectual community we will, of course, find fewer and fewer young people capable of maintaining and growing our vast technical civilization where the answer to the problem has to be “correct” and to 10 decimals. Fuzzy thinking will not get you to the Moon, nor will it fix your car, nor will it replace your ravaged heart. People living in a complex technological society need to be technically efficient. They need to think in terms of proof coming from the test by behavior. They need to be able to ask questions and entertain answers based on facts. They need to ask questions without fear and be open to unexpected answers. If we loose that habit of mind, we may be facing a life far worse than one we could ever imagine.

    Jacob Bronowski wrote a wonderful little book that makes this distinction about the “habits of mind” clearly and concisely – it is Science and the Art of Human Values, and is still in print. I certainly recommend it to those of your readers interested in this issue.

  9. Dear Doc,
    I’d like to add that the “inductive” habit of mind seems to have seeped into the media mentality and the liberal political thought processes of our tiem. They sound like the Islamists in their obsession with “winning” the battle at all costs, and stamping out the rationalist dialogue or attempts to lay out the facts involved in very complex situations. Content is not at issue. Islam is not the problem — the habit of mind which is based on the rejection of reasons and fact is what scares me! — The Dubai Port detate, Katrina, the Iraq war, Supreme Court Judges — name it. That is another factor in how our civilization can lose.

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