Activists: Modern Day Propagandists

We live in a time when many people seem to be proud of being “an activist.”  They think it a good thing.  There are professors who think incorporating activism into the course is a good thing. I am different.  I think critical thinking  and education is a good thing.  And I have found that in the vast majority of cases, activism and critical thinking are incompatible.  Let’s look at the definitions.

Critical Thinking: the objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.

Activism: the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change.

The activist is not someone engaged in an objective analysis.  The activist is campaigning.  The activist is not evaluating.  They are imposing.  The activist is not trying to form a judgment.  The activist is trying to turn their judgment into political and social change.

Some activists might insist that they began as critical thinkers and having reached their judgment, they seek to act on it.  But in making this distinction, the activist is admitting the incompatibility of critical thinking and activism.  What’s more, a true critical thinker will hold to judgments tentatively, being aware that new information can arise which will call for modification, or even abandonment, of a previous judgment.  But an activist cuts himself off from this dynamic.  The activist becomes deeply invested in their judgment.  Such  deep investment can come in many forms: psychological (my cause gives me meaning); moral (my cause shows how good I am); financial (my cause earns my income); and social (my cause allows me to network with likeminded people).  These investments result in the activist becoming closed minded such that the only satisfactory end point for them is the success of their campaign.  And closed-mindedness is incompatible with critical thinking.

Activism is not merely incompatible with critical thinking; it is comfortably compatible with propaganda.  It easily exists in a symbiotic union with propaganda.  So much so that it is typically accurate to think of an activist as a propagandist.

Bruce Lannes Smith is Emeritus Professor of Political Science, Michigan State University, East Lansing and coauthor of Propaganda, Communication and Public Opinion. In his article on Propganda, he explains:

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Understanding Why New Atheists Rely On Ridicule

As we have seen, ridicule and mockery of the religious are key components of the New Atheist Movement. According to John Loftus, “It’s not just the so-called “new atheists” like Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, and PZ Myers who advocate ridicule. I do too (see below). So does Richard Carrier, as does Stephen Law.” The ridicule not only come from the writings of the New Atheists, but they also engage in such tactics with their memes and their YouTube videos.

As they have told us, the mockery and ridicule is part of a socio-political plan, meaning that it is propaganda. Wiki defines propaganda as follows:

Propaganda is information that is not impartial and used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda, often by presenting facts selectively (perhaps lying by omission) to encourage a particular synthesis, or using loaded messages to produce an emotional rather than a rational response to the information presented.

Clearly, the ridicule/mockery is “used primarily to influence an audience and further an agenda” and to “produce an emotional rather than a rational response.” Thus, a movement that postures as if it champions reason is actually relying on propaganda, demonstrating the so-called committment to reason is a sham.

Yet there is another aspect to the ridicule/mockery – it represents aggression.

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The Friendly Atheist Thinks Atheism is a Religion

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Scott Golden released a public statement a few days ago entitled, TNGOP CALLS FOR DEAN AND FITZHUGH TO REJECT TNDP CANDIDATE’S EXTREME, ANTI-CHRISTIAN PLATFORM.

It reads:

Gayle Jordan, darling of the Tennessee Democratic Party and their nominee for State Senate District 14, is what she herself calls a “firebrand atheist.” She isn’t simply non-religious, but actively works to lead people away from their faith. It’s her life’s work as the Executive Director of an organization called Recovering From Religion.

Saying Gayle Jordan’s radical atheist views don’t represent the values of Tennesseans across this state or in District 14 is a gross understatement. She flat out attacks and rejects the fundamental social, moral, and religious beliefs of millions of Tennesseans. This type of extremism is being celebrated by the Tennessee Democratic Party and it is very concerning. Today I am asking if Democratic candidates for Governor, Karl Dean and Craig Fitzhugh, support Gayle Jordan and a Democratic Party that proudly espouse extreme views; candidates that shamelessly make statements such as “doing my part to destroy the fabric of America.”

Tennesseans deserve to know if the potential Democratic nominee for Governor supports these radical views and will work to elect anti-Christian extremists to the state legislature. This is not about being a Republican or a Democrat, rather an acknowledgement that her public attacks on Christianity and outward anger towards those that believe in God are a far cry from the views of Tennessean families across this state and in District 14.

Now, play close attention to how fulltime atheist activist Hemant Mehta portrays this statement*:

Tennessee Republican Party Chairman Scott Golden specifically called on the Democrats running for governor to distance themselves from Jordan because of her “extreme” religious views. (emphasis added)

Huh?  Golden noted that she is an “anti-Christian extremist” who “isn’t simply non-religious.”  Can someone point out where  where he called on the Democrats running for governor to distance themselves from Jordan because of her “extreme” religious views?

It would seem clear that Mehta believes Gale Jordan’s atheism is indeed a “religious view.”  He simply disagrees that it’s “extreme.”

If that’s not clear enough, let’s provide another quote:

There are so many things wrong with that statement (besides the audacity of attacking a political candidate for her religious views, something that would be unacceptable if they did it to a Jew or Muslim). (emphasis added)

Thar she blows!  According to Mehta, Gayle Jordan is being attacked “for her religious views.”  So what are her “religious views?”  Atheism.  Mehta describes her as “an open atheist.”

If she is being attacked for “her religious views” and she adheres to atheism, it would seem clear they Mehta thinks of her atheism as a religion.

Yet the whole “atheism is a religion” charge is supposed to be a myth.  So which atheists are lying?  Those who insist atheism is not a religion?  Or Mehta, who thinks Jordan’s atheism – her religious views – are being attacked?

*I normally don’t link to Mehta’s blog because it’s a click-bait blog, but thought some of you might want to see with your own eyes how drawing attention to Jordan’s anti-Christian extremism is supposed to be attacking Jordan’s “religious views.”

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The New Atheist Show

The New Atheists took their show on the road in Chicago and activist Jerry Coyne offers up his friendly observations.  So let’s have a look.

Coyne writes:

 Nevertheless, one guy asked the speakers how, given the absence of free will, they could advise him how to cure his addiction to alcohol. That was a good question, because Sam and Lawrence are hard determinists (Matt is a compatibilist but still a determinist.) Answering that question without getting balled up in an infinite regress is quite difficult. If, for instance, you tell someone that they can choose to put themselves in a milieu where there is no alcohol and also surround themselves with supportive people (yes, that’s how it could be done), you risk making people think that you can make such a choice freely, instantiating dualism. I suppose a good answer is that one’s brain is a computer that weighs various inputs before giving the output (a decision), and that the advice Sam gave—which could of course influence the actions of the addict—was also adaptive, in the sense that he was giving strategies that his brain calculated had a higher probability of being useful. Further, we all try to be helpful to cement relationships and get a good reputation—that’s part of the evolved and learned program of our brains. But of course Sam had no “free” choice about his advice, and this shows the difficulty of discussing free will with those who haven’t thought about it.

I find it rather amusing to watch how determinists go through all these intellectual contortions to rationalize their unlivable philosophy.  And in the end, it doesn’t seem like they actually answered the question.  When it comes to addictions like alcoholism, it surely helps “to put themselves in a milieu where there is no alcohol and also surround themselves with supportive people,” but to make such a choice and to stick with it, one has to resist the strongest of compelling biological urges.  As an addict, every part of your biology is screaming at you to seek out and consume the source of your addiction.  To resist the addictive urges, one has to reach inside themselves and continue to choose over and over again to resist your biology.  This place they go to is the same place that we all go to when making a free choice.  The ability to break free of an addiction doesn’t match up well with determinism.

Moving on…..

Another question was from someone who wanted to improve their lives through meditation. What, the guy asked, is the best way to do this? Should he go to India, as Sam did, and join a meditation ashram?

It would seem to me that a true science discussion would raise the question as to whether people “improve their lives” through meditation.  As I just blogged about, a recent scientific study just showed there is no evidence to think meditation has such effects.  So how did Harris answer?

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Feminist vs. Trans

If you have not seen this video before, you should check it out as if nicely encapsulates the level of thought that dominates the postmodern activists.  You’ll watch a trans activist berate feminist Rose McGowan for not being supportive enough of the trans people.  McGowan starts yelling at the trans activist and the activist starts chanting out slogans when removed.  McGowan then almost has a meltdown and begins ranting.

Clearly, what triggered McGowan is that she -being cis and white – was being portrayed as an eevil Oppressor.  Among the postmodernists, victimhood = power and thus they all try to position themselves as the most victimized.  Of course, to do this, they have to portray another group of postmodernists as among the Oppressor Class and this short-circuits their brains.

I am still convinced that the Freudian notions of the Id, Ego, and Superego nicely explain the thinking of postmodernists (even if just as a metaphor).  These are people who are  not merely enslaved to their Id and all its demands and expressions.  But their Id has even enslaved their Ego, such that their notions of morality are rooted in emotion and an infantile  outlook on the world.

 

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Sam Harris, Meditation, and Science

Atheist activists promote Sam Harris as one “of the world’s most respected scientists” who “celebrates science” by discussing “How do we become more scientifically literate?” and “How can we better educate society to value skepticism over faith?”

The notion that activist Sam Harris has some special ability or authority to teach others about scientific literacy or valuing skepticism over faith is laughable.  That other atheists view Harris like this is even more laughable.  After all, Harris is the man who makes a significant chunk of money peddling New Age wooHe is the man who wrote:

Although the insights we can have in meditation tell us nothing about the origins of the universe, they do confirm some well-established truths about the human mind: Our conventional sense of self is an illusion; positive emotions, such as compassion and patience, are teachable skills; and the way we think directly influences our experience of the world.

It has always been obvious to me that Harris is simply expressing his own religious faith here.  After all, Harris is someone who has a lot of free time that gets spent meditating and yet is someone who is obsessed with his sense of self and how others view him.  What’s more, I see no evidence that Harris has superior abilities when it comes to compassion and patience.  The only thing he has going for him is the ability to employ the meditation teacher’s sleepy tone when he is making his apologetic points.

What’s even better is that a recent scientific study supports my skepticism.

Let me quote from Meditation does not make you a better person, study finds

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How Reliable is The Political Compass?

Jerry Coyne took one of those internet surveys put out by The Political Compass.

It scored Coyne as a “Leftist Libertarian.”   Coyne writes:

Well, I’m pretty Left, where is where I thought I’d be, and I’m glad to see I’m more libertarian than authoritarian; in fact, I’m just as libertarian as I am Leftist. 

Not surprisingly, most of Coyne’s fans scored similarly.

The problem is that when it comes to the topic of religion, Coyne is much more of an Authoritarian than a Libertarian.

For example, when Coyne lashed out at Tom McLeish’s article about science and religion, Coyne actually wrote:

Why on earth does the magazine Physics Today want to publish a piece trying to reconcile science and religion

and

Given that most physicists are atheists, why does Physics Today publish this nonsense?

Coyne is clearly arguing for censorship and is upset by the mere fact that McLeish’s article was even allowed to be published.  This is the position of a hardcore authoritarian, not a libertarian.  A true libertarian would raise their own counter-arguments, but never try to imply that some argument should not have been published.

Of course, this is not the first time Coyne has expressed his authoritarian nature.

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Should Darwin Day Instead Be George Washington Carver Day?

This is the time of the year when American politicians want the American government to officially designate February 12th as “Darwin Day.”

Rep. James Himes [D-CT-4] has proposed this in House Resolution 699:

Supports the designation of Darwin Day.

Recognizes Charles Darwin as a worthy symbol on which to celebrate the achievements of reason, science, and the advancement of human knowledge.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal [D-CT] has proposed a similar Senate Resolution 374.

But there is a huge problem here.

February is Black History Month and it is remarkably insensitive for both Himes and Blumenthal to interrupt this by proposing a celebration of a white scientist who was not even an American.  If we are to celebrate a scientist as a “symbol of science” during Black History Month, why not instead celebrate George Washington Carver?

So let me  me propose that to celebrate science, instead of having a Darwin Day, we should have a George Washington Carver Day.  Hear me out.

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More Propaganda from Atheist Blogs

Let me clearly demonstrate the propagandistic nature of so many internet atheist blogs.  If you’ll recall, a few weeks ago a freaky, eccentric couple were arrested for seriously abusing their children.  This story was blogged about on The Friendly Atheist and PZ Myer’s blog.  Neither of those blogs regularly discuss child abuse, but brought up the topic, one would reasonably assume, because the couple were apparently religious, at least at some point in their lives,  .

The Friendly Atheist blog wrote:

13 Siblings Tortured and Held Captive By “Good Christian Family”….It turns out that all this torture took place in the name of God…….Let’s hope they get the punishment they deserve and finally get the message that religion never gives you a license to hurt your kids.

Atheist activist PZ Myers wrote:

Six kids and seven young adults, all abused for their entire life and trapped in a dysfunctional home. What could drive the parents to commit such unforgivable neglect and torture of their kids? Take a guess…..Of course they were good Christians. It takes religion to foster that degree of fanaticism and ignorance.

And, of course, in both cases, the blog entries trigger all kinds of anti-Christian hate in the comments section. That was the intent.  Myers and the Friendly Atheist blog did not write about this story because of some compassionate concern for the children.  They cherry picked it only because of its religious angle and incorporated it into their anti-religious propaganda.  Remember, activists need to generate hate and anger among their followers.  That gets them attention and fuels their precious movement.

How can you tell I am right?  Well, not too long after the Turpin case became public, another example of similar child abuse surfaced:

Charging documents against two Mardela Springs women show a pattern of abuse against three children, including forcing one of them to eat dog feces.

One of the children, age 8, told police his mother threatened “to cut their throats and bury them in the backyard” if he told anyone of their “business,” police stated in the report.

Amanda Rachelle Wright, 29, the mother of the children, and her live-in girlfriend, Besline Joseph, 25, were arrested Wednesday and charged with multiple counts of child abuse, assault, neglect of a minor, false imprisonment and stalking, according to documents filed in District Court.

The children told police that they had endured beatings with a stick, extension cord and belt and that a Taser was used on them. Documents state that they were punished for a variety of reasons, such as being accused of stealing snacks.

The records state two of the children, ages 8 and 10, were locked in a living room closet for four months last summer. A witness to the abuse told investigators that the pair were told they’d have to eat “prison food” during that time.

There are three things we can learn from this story.

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Jerry Coyne: Mighty Slayer of Straw Men

Another scientist, this time physicist Tom McLeish, has argued against the notion that science and religion are incompatible.  And sure enough, activist Jerry Coyne is again unnerved and feels the need to fire off a rapid response.

But before looking at his arguments, take a moment to consider the larger context.  Coyne is a well-respected scientist who has given so much thought to this issue that he actually wrote a book arguing for the incompatibility of science and religion. While the book itself was something of a flop that never gained any traction in the wider scientific or academic community, this does tell us that Coyne can be viewed as one of New Atheism’s experts on this topic.  In other words, what Coyne offers is among the best of the best when it comes to arguments insisting that science and religion are incompatible.  Yet if this is the case, ponder why it is that such elite arguments have such a powerful tendency to rely on straw man positions.

Let me now demonstrate, clearly, the many ways in which Coyne argues against straw men.

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