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Rubin Reports

How Western Intellectual Values Have Gone Haywire

August 14th, 2013 - 2:13 pm
“First make sure you’re right, then go ahead.” –Davy Crockett, 1836
For almost two months I  have been talking and traveling through America trying to understand the country. Soon I will begin a dozen-part series called “Lost” about the  reminder of the Obama term in the term in the Middle East and how friendly countries and national interests can survive.
Meanwhile , though, it is adding insult to injury for defenders of the U.S. policy to claim that I or someone else would have more credibility if I didn’t write for a “right-wing site.” This is an extraordinarily important way that the debate is being narrowed and dummied up.
First, of course, I would never make a parallel argument. What matters is whether the claims have credibility. Does it make sense? Is it internally consistent? Does it correspond with otherwise known information? This is the path of logic, of the Enlightenment. Reputation of the author might be a useful factor, too.
An argument from al-Qaida can be quite correct regardless of where it comes from. Thus, this approach is part of the de-rationality of Western thought today. It is a weapon: disregard everything that comes from a source that disagrees with you on other issues.
Incidentally, while some have told me that my language is too intemperate at times in criticizing Obama, I note that they have not been any more successful in changing views or even–whenever they speak out clearly–getting their ideas (as opposed to technical expertise) to the public.
Second, if I wanted to write about the so-called demographic threat (which I can prove in five minutes is nonsense) or write that Israel must make peace right away I can publish it in the NY Times.
So first they bar certain arguments from the mass media and then they say that if you persist in making certain arguments this proves bias because of the few remaining and smaller places you are allowed to appear. In other words, first you bar people and arguments; then you say that the fact that they are barred proves that they—not you—is the biased one.
Let me tell you a story. In 1991 Senator Charles Percy, a man who was then highly regarded and considered himself something of an expert on the Middle East, said he didn’t understand why the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein didn’t withdraw from Kuwait. After all, said Percy, wouldn’t some intelligence chief or general tell him that he was going to be defeated?
This was abject ignorance. If someone had done so—told Saddam he was wrong—the man would be lucky if he were only fired, and still pretty lucky if he wasn’t thrown into prison, tortured, and had his family punished or executed.
The supposed advantage of democracy is that the media, academia, and others speak—where did I hear this before?—truth to power. If you know you are not just going to be ignored, not just that you are going to be punished, but that nobody is going to hear you that is a disincentive to doing so.
But this goes far beyond liberal or conservative, it sabotages the whole advantage of democracy. You can’t be an anti-fascist or anti-Communist in the 1930s until the elite officially accepts that? Maybe it would have been better to voice these concerns and have them heeded before December 7, 1941 or before September 11, 2001. Maybe it would have been better to have done something about it before tens of thousands of lives had been snuffed out internationally, blighted domestically, resources wasted, and society set back by decades.
Is this really the best we can do in 2013?
Personally I am a social democrat/liberal/centrist/conservative, reading from left to right. What works works; what is true is true; what is wrong is wrong. Forgetting that rather basic fact has been very bad for the West. It’s called honest pragmatism.

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Top Rated Comments   
The left hates rationallity.
Wishful thinking and fantasy is what drives the left mind. When we says "he's not in his right mind" it means he's in his "left mind" or that he's left his mind.
A leftist scientist is an oxymoron.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
" I don’t think there has ever been a country like ours, where our elites are deliberately taught – in our best schools – to hate and despise everything that we are, everything that makes us unique. I don’t think there has ever been another country where our elites are taught to be ashamed to call themselves by our national name."

~Sarah A. Hoyt~
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I don't agree that "[Barry Rubin's] language is too intemperate at times in criticizing Obama".

Considering that the mainstream media regularly and systematically lies, misleads, and distorts facts about Israel, this criticism (of B.R.) is utterly hypocritical.

The recent "prisoner releases" is just the latest example of systematic and deliberate falsification of facts by the media.

http://www.algemeiner.com/2013/08/13/list-of-26-freed-palestinian-terrorists-and-their-victims/

I completely agree that there is an anti-rationalism in Western thought today concerning political issues. Our living in the most technologically and scientifically advanced time in history (every future year will be this way, unless there is a general apocalypse) does not change that fact. This is more proof in the modularity of human intelligence. Rationality in mathematics, science, and engineering does not imply rationality in all things.

But let's not forget that the vast majority of journalists have no scientific or mathematical training. Nor, for the most part, do they have training as professional historians.

They slap together a narrative according to the approved intellectual climate, and if they do not submit to this, they are relegated to less mainstream outlets.

If the intellectual elites in the universities and the N.Y. Times are creating a false reality by deliberately distorting and omitting facts and reality, they are guilty of intellectual crimes. The consequence of those crimes is, as Barry Rubin says, "[that] tens of thousands of lives had been snuffed out internationally, blighted domestically, resources wasted, and society set back by decades".
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (24)
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I must say Barry that you have always struck me as someone who was not simply on the ideological right. I have felt at times that you seemed to be overly severe on Obama, but events kept bearing you out. Most conspicuously in Egypt where you said that the worst outcome for US and Israeli interests would be a MB government and that the military taking over would be preferable. You were not even slightly taken in by the idea that the crowds in Tahrir heralded an outbreak of democracy in the ME. Or that the MB were moderate. More recently I think you have been less irritated with Obama and instead begun to really work out what you think he is trying to do. Specifically his apparently seeing the MB as the wave of the future in the ME and trying to get ahead of it so that it does not attack the US. I think you are onto him - better than anyone else I read. Bush at times waxed so delusional about democracy as the universal solution to the ME's problems that I found myself blushing. Unfortunately, Obama actually gets much further into the democracy delusion than his predecessor. Thank you for making sense of it all.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Enlightenment is over, replaced by [scientific] Socialism.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I used to call this phenomenon "The sky is blue, even though George Bush says it is."
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Well Barry, I would encourage you and your readers to research the work of Eric Voegelin. The publication "New Science of Politics" offers trenchant analysis of the current intellectual climate. Thomas Bertonneau over at the Brussels Journal has several excellent articles on his works.

Voegelin identified the ruling elites and academics as suffering from political gnosticism. Their fundamental misinterpretation of reality, mistaking our current order as a cosmic fact instead of a temporary arrangement in the stream of time. Along with an immanent vision of being able to impose heaven on earth, our elites process every world event as though nothing is really at risk.

This is exactly why they get everything backwards, as Voegelin stated "the non-recognition of reality as principle", just as ancient gnostics resented the manifest order of existence and revolted against it with their second immanent reality. Just a you remarked on Barry, the forbidding of questions, the prohibition on the clarification historical cause and effect were described by him 1952.

It really is a remarkable read, how else could someone have predicted sixty years ago: "Dangers will not be met with the appropriate response, but rather with magical operations such as declarations, condemnation." and "Wisdom and prudence are not valuable in the dream world. Morality and immorality may be reversed. Some enemy will be blamed for the failures of the dream conception of cause and effect. Clarification of the problems will be seen as an immoral enterprise."

My personal favourite: "Propaganda for moral insanity" is the hallmark for our current order.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Thanks for the suggestion Cdnby - I've added Brussels Journal and bought Voegelin's Science, Politics, and Gnosticism. As it happens I have a fair few idea that Gnosticism - even though remote in time, has far more influence than most people realize. Even if it proves unrelated its a lead I want to follow up. Thanks.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Freedom for all people seems to be the ultimate equalizer. I don't understand why those on the right are not fighting for freedom for everyone in the world, most especially the egyptians. I agree with your premise but would rather fight than talk it to death. Thinking has been shaped by 50 years of ABC, NBC, the New York Times and 60 minutes in addition to the academics.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The problem as I see it is that the Ideology of Political Correctness is now so pervasive - through the education system and the mainstream media - that people accept its narrative as reality.

In fact it is an ideology of power through which those who invest themselves with victim status make a power grab under the aegis of fighting for social justice.

Until the power relations of this sham and smokescreen have been laid bare, nothing will change and those of us who are critical of its policies will continue to be marginalized.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Correct. The right must learn to play the deconstruction game, and to dismantle leftist ideology at its root. This should not be difficult. The future of the right is with the Nietzscheans, nihilists and racialists. The old right that played nice, appealed to grandiose principles like universalism, the Enlightenment and Judeo-Christianity and resisted race power politics is simply too weak to win now. The Enlightenment has failed, but the Endarkenment is just beginning. It clearly is all about power now, and this is a game the right should be able to win. In any case, it's going to be a beautiful war on all fronts. A storm is coming!
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The Saddam story has some truth to it. The actual story is the the American ambassador made an error. At a dinner party he was asked what the position of the US was on Kuwait. He responded the US did not have one. That was related back to Saddam who thought he had a green light.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Just try to get even a conservative paper like the Boston Herald to publish that Abbas insists on the "right of return" and refuses to accept Israel as a Jewish state, and ask what Abbas means by "2 state solution" - two Arab states? They will publish the rest of the letter but edit that out.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Anti-rationalism is an armchair word for horseshit.
The average academic, when pressed outside the faculty lounge, shuffles around waffling about the subjective, relative nature of it all, maybe tossing in the name of a French deconstruction dude, which to the rest of us is the equivalent of dropping a curry'n'beer fart in church. Right, whatever, just as long as the cash flows free.

Can't help feeling D. Crocket, Esq., would simply lock, load and blast away.

He'd be correct: academics pose well but fall hard, die easy, and aren't known for courage. American patriots of a more peaceful dispositiion (cowardly? morally superior? mere procrastinators?) might start by cutting funding and publishing clear lists that name the horses' asses responsible.

Taxpayer money matters, and few colleges would welcome a future where they spend only their own money.
They prefer to spend yours.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
The source matters. Once you catch someone lying once, he should lose your trust.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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