Klavan On The Culture

Must We Talk Nonsense?

The New York Times editorial board — a motley collection of knuckleheads — is wrestling mightily with the fact that everything they believe just happens to be untrue. Most especially, all that end-the-war-in-Iraq stuff hasn’t turned out as well as they hoped and their militant-Islam-is-no-worse-than-any-other-religion meme is beginning to seem a bit shaky and, oh yeah, even though there’s no such thing as evil, these ISIS guys look suspiciously like what evil would look like if it were, you know, evil.

What’s a Times knucklehead to do?

In an editorial last week titled “The Fundamental Horror of Isis the Timesmen set out to correct their formerly errant course and try to become wrong in a whole new way. Speaking of the misbehaviors of those naughty ISIS folks, the editorial board declared:

To claim that this savagery is rooted in a certain people or a certain religion is to forget that the great atrocities of our age have been perpetrated on different continents by people professing different ideologies and different religions. Before the Islamic State there was Rwanda, and the Lord’s Resistance Army and the killing fields of Cambodia, and before that, in Europe, the Holocaust.

Comparisons are meaningless at this level of evil, as are attempts to explain the horror by delving into the psychology or rationale of the perpetrators.

Really? Must we talk such crap?


First of all, to state my own position clearly. I believe that militant Islam is indeed evil and, given how widespread it is and the depth of agreement with its basic ideals throughout the Islamic world, I can’t help but wonder if that evil is in any way related to the precepts of Islam proper. It does no good to say most Muslims are not killing infidels. Most Christians don’t love their neighbors! But I agree with the principle of neighbor-loving and strongly oppose that of infidel-killing, whether those principles are seen to fruition or not. I’ve read the Koran and it seems to me pretty violent in intent (as opposed to the Old Testament, which contains violence but is exploratory in intent) but I’m not a Koranic scholar. I’m more than willing to be convinced that there is some Koran-based religion that is inherently friendly to freedom and tolerance and love and I’m waiting to hear about it and learn how it relates to core Islamic beliefs.

Now to the idiocy of the New York Times…  but perhaps I repeat myself.

To say that a philosophy is conducive to evil or that evil is expressed in a philosophy is not to say that it is the only philosophy conducive to or expressive of evil. So the fact that Rwandan tribalism or the bizarre pseudo-Christianity of the Lord’s Resistance or the Communism of Pol Pot or the National Socialism of Hitler are also bad ideas doesn’t excuse or negate the Islamism of Islamists in the least. It’s a really stupid — not to say really desperate — argument.

And to say that “comparisons are meaningless at this level of evil,” is simply to shut down your reasoning faculty for fear of what you may find. There are plenty of comparisons among these evil groups that are quite meaningful and even revelatory.

Here’s just one: none of the murderous groups mentioned by the Times maintained the principle of individual liberty as a core good.

Which raises two useful questions:  1) Does the Times editorial board maintain the principle of individual liberty as a core good? And 2) in light of this meaningful comparison with other evil groups, would the Times editorial board perhaps like to consider changing its collective mind?

Because the thing is: If you must talk nonsense to defend your view of life, there’s a good chance your view of life is nonsense itself. This matters. The longer I live, the more I think intellectual dishonesty is worse than evil, because it’s the moral fissure through which evil repeatedly escapes into the world.

The Times board is wrong again and needs to regroup and think again. Or for the first time. Whatever.


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