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Ed Driscoll

Responding to CNN firing Octavia Nasr for her pro-Hezbollah tweet, former CNN anchor Daryn Kagan writes:

The work obit could read, “Octavia Nasr, CNN’s Senior Editor for Mideast Affairs was the victim Wednesday of a social media drive-by shooting.”

Gee, might want to come-up with a better analogy there, Daryn! Let’s flashback to Nasar’s tweet, which read:

Sad to hear of the passing of Sayyed Mohammad Hussein Fadlallah.. One of Hezbollah’s giants I respect a lot..#Lebanon

As Daniel Halper noted at the Weekly Standard:

Fadlallah “famously justified suicide bombings,” as the New York Times recalls in its obituary for him:

In a 2002 interview with the British newspaper The Telegraph, he was quoted as saying of the Palestinians: “They have had their land stolen, their families killed, their homes destroyed, and the Israelis are using weapons, such as the F16 aircraft, which are meant only for major wars. There is no other way for the Palestinians to push back those mountains, apart from martyrdom operations.”

The Times also reports in its obit that Fadlallah is believed to be responsible for the killing of 241 U.S. Marines during the 1983 Beirut barracks bombings:

Western intelligence services, however, held the ayatollah responsible for attacks against Western targets, including the 1983 bombings of two barracks in Beirut in which 241 United States Marines and 58 French paratroopers were killed….The administration of President Bill Clinton froze the ayatollah’s assets in 1995 because of his suspected involvement with terrorists. And in 2006, Israel bombed his house in south Beirut, but he was not there at the time.

In 2008, Fadlallah said on Palestinian TV that “Zionism has inflated the number of victims in this Holocaust beyond imagination.”

Back in 1962, Nathaniel Brandon wrote an essay titled, “The Stolen Concept,” which began:

The distinguishing characteristic of twentieth-century philosophy is a resurgence or irrationalism—a revolt against reason.

Students in colleges today are assailed with pronouncements to the effect that factual certainty is impossible, that the contents of man’s mind need bear no necessary relationship to the facts of reality, that the concept of “facts of reality” is an old-fashioned superstition, that reality is “mere appearance,” that man can know nothing. It is with such intellectual equipment that their teachers arm them to deal with the problems of life.

In the prevalence of these claims, primordial mysticism is winning its ultimate triumph and (for the moment) is enjoying the last laugh—because men are now taught to accept as the voice of science, the conclusion that man’s reason is impotent to know the “real” world, and that the world knowable to reason is not “real.”

In this article, I shall confine myself to the analysis of a single principle—a single fallacy—which is rampant in the writings of the neo-mystics and without which their doctrines could not be propagated.

We call it “the fallacy of the stolen concept.”

To understand this fallacy, consider an example of it in the realm of politics: Proudhon’s famous declaration that “All property is theft.”

“Theft” is a concept that logically and genetically depends on the antecedent concept of “rightfully owned property”—and refers to the act of taking that property without the owner’s consent. If no property is rightfully owned, that is, if nothing is property, there can be no such concept as “theft.” Thus, the statement “All property is theft” has an internal contradiction: to use the concept “theft” while denying the validity of the concept of “property,” is to use “theft” as a concept to which one has no logical right—that is, as a stolen concept.

All of man’s knowledge and all of his concepts have a hierarchical structure. The foundation or ultimate base of this structure is man’s sensory perceptions; these are the starting points of his thinking. From these, man forms his first concepts and (ostensive) definitions—then goes on building the edifice of his knowledge by identifying and integrating new concepts on a wider and wider scale. It is a process of building one identification upon another—of deriving wider abstractions from previously known abstractions, or of breaking down wider abstractions into narrower classifications. Man’s concepts are derived from and depend on earlier, more basic concepts, which serve as their genetic roots. For example, the concept “parent” is presupposed by the concept “orphan”; if one had not grasped the former, one could not arrive at the latter, nor could the latter be meaningful.

The hierarchical nature of man’s knowledge implies an important principle that must guide man’s reasoning: When one uses concepts, one must recognize their genetic roots, one must recognize that which they logically depend on and presuppose.

Failure to observe this principle—as in “All property is theft”—constitutes the fallacy of the stolen concept.

As does using the phrase “a social media drive-by shooting,” to describe a decision by CNN’s management (note that nobody was stopping them from circling the wagon behind Nasr) to dismiss an “objective” journalist professing admiration for a Middle East terrorist who employed such violence — and worse — in real life, not on Twitter.

Or as Jennifer Rubin quips, responding to an even worse meltdown over Nasr’s firing by the publisher of the Arab American News, “How Dare You Fire the Hezbollah Cheerleader!”

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