The Genesis Supremacy: A Comparison of Genesis with the Mesopotamian Epics (Part 1.)

An examination of the Mesopotamian corpus of epics, specifically their creation and flood mythologies, and the textual and narrative relationships between these and the Hebrew Book of Genesis.

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SCHOLARSHIP FROM THE 19TH CENTURY TO THE 21ST

It is now commonplace within secular history and among sceptics to claim that the Book of Genesis is derivative from a regional corpus of Mesopotamian religious epics. This corpus includes the well-known Epic of Gilgamesh (c. 1800 BC), the Enuma Elish (c. 700 BC), the Eridu Genesis (c. 1600 BC), and the Epic of Atrahasis (c. 1600 BC), and others (but see section on historical challenges for more details regarding dating).

The Mesopotamian texts are properly considered to form a family on the basis that they:

    1. Arose from within the same geographical region
    2. Reflect the influence of the Sumerian culture
    3. Either directly quote from each other, or share similar narrative material
    4. Are written in one of the two major languages of the region, Sumerian or Akkadian

Secular historians and sceptics argue that (1.) the Book of Genesis has a late origin, (2) the Book of Genesis is derivative from this collection of Mesopotamian literature and not in an independent narrative category of its own, and (3.) aspects of these foundation stories arise as literary products designed to address politico-cultural pressures.

As an example of (2), Neil deGrasse Tyson claims in one episode of the 2014 documentary series Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey that the story of the flood in the Book of Genesis was a “rewrite” of the Mesopotamian stories about Gilgamesh. An example of (3) can be found in the argument made by the translator and Assyriologist Thorkild Jacobsen that the Enuma Elish might reflect a Babylonian consciousness of being a upstart, parvenu state whose success came at the expense of its Sumerian cultural progenitor. Since the Enuma Elish features younger gods slaying their progenitors, Jacobsen suggests this may reflect a Babylonian national psychology in which the new empire was all too aware that its advancement was in a sense patricidal.

From a secularist point of view the historical logic that sees the Book of Genesis as a Hebrew appendage of the Mesopotamian corpus is impeccable. Logically, any text that originates later in time must be dependent on those that came earlier rather than the other way about; the first writings of the Book of Genesis are considerably younger than the earliest Sumerian poems, ergo, it is concluded that the Book of Genesis derives from Sumerian poetry.

Moreover, the secularist historian usually assesses cultural power on the basis of military power. Thus, a popular story or text from a militarily powerful region of the ancient world were likely to be exported to less powerful regions beyond its borders, whereas the reverse was more unlikely. Weaker states in the ancient world did not typically exert strong cultural influence upon stronger states (though it is not unheard of, as in the case of Greek influence on Rome). Since the Assyrian and Babylonian empires were strong military and cultural powers, the sceptic or secularist maintains that they must have perpetuated their culture well beyond their immediate borders, and this is why their stories influenced their weaker, neighbour Israel.

Given these arguments, it is hardly a mystery to discover in the interpretations and conjectures (for that is what they are) of both ancient historians and sceptics the claim being repeatedly made that Hebrew scribes plagerised from Mesopotamian scribes. It is claimed that the Hebrew scribes borrowed from already-extant Mesopotamian material, radically rewrote it, and cobbled together their own version of the myth.

The second article in this series will look at these claims in more depth but it is sufficient to say that this claim does not hang from evidence. Any confident declaration that the Book of Genesis is microwaved Mesopotamian mythology is built solely on one thing: that is, there is a narrative resemblance between some accounts in the Book of Genesis and some Mesopotamian myths. We may term this approach to historiography to be “parallelism”, which amounts to the argument that if x resembles y, then y must be dependent on x. No other evidence exists for dependence outside of this argument.

Obviously the Christian historian strongly rejects this conclusion for reasons that will be further explained in the second part of this series.

Nonetheless, Christian historians must take care not to dismiss the secular historian’s conclusions outright. Most of the secular historian’s conclusions are reasonable and sensible (in the domains that do not touch the historicity of the Book of Genesis, at least), and a good many of his assumptions were indeed pioneered by Christian Assyriologists. Most of the conclusions held by the secularist are rational and proper deductions that any properly trained Christian historian would also conclude for himself.

Therefore, the orthodox Christian historian can agree with the secular historian that inter-dependence exists between the Mesopotamian epics. In other words, a Mesopotamian story like Gilgamesh in the Standard Babylonian version clearly evolved from the earlier Sumerian poems that mention Gilgamesh’s adventures, and we can trace this evolution through the cuneiform tablets.

The Christian historian has no need to reject the clear evidence of the development of these epics as if the fact that the Mesopotamian epics grew over time somehow means that the Book of Genesis is just another developmental branch on the tree. While sceptics certainly make this claim (and on this basis), we can cleave that argument apart by simply demonstrating that the conclusion is not even remotely logically inevitable. Again, this will be explored more in part two of this series.

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Thus, we must (and do) recognise that the Mesopotamian epics evolved and expanded over time from a common Sumerian source. This evolution saw the stories split into different versions and grow with the telling.

The case of the flood story found in the Standard Babylonian version of Gilgamesh is a textbook case. The story unquestionably began in an oral tradition and then was converted into Sumerian poetry. During the second millennium BC the story experienced change, until it settled into a fixed and final form in the first millennium BC.

Tracing the cuneiform evidence, we see how earlier iterations of the story are far simpler and shorter. The flood story in Atrahasis is less than 70 lines long, even accounting for the lacunae. On the other hand, the final version of Gilgamesh is between 300 – 400 lines long and tells the story in florid, fanciful and extended detail with extra material about capricious gods and goddesses and their excessively emotional reactions to the flood they themselves unleashed. On the other hand, the earlier versions of Gilgamesh (the fragmentary “Old Babylonian” tablets) do not include the flood story at all to the best of archaeological knowledge.

The differences in detail between the stories across various works are substantial. The differences include so basic a detail as the name of the hero himself (was he called Atrahasis, Ziusudra, or Utanapishtim?). Moreover, these changes appear to be have been deliberate scribal decisions given that Gilgamesh quotes several lines verbatim from Atrahasis – which indicates the scribe had access to the earlier text – but yet gives quite a different account, even contradicting the earlier account in regards to the role of the principle deity, Ea \ Enki.

We can deduce from this evidence without any threat to the Book of Genesis or our intellectual integrity that an original flood story expanded over time within the Mesopotamian culture. Both the Christian and the secular historian agree here!

Where the Christian and secular historian disagree, however, is on the status of the Book of Genesis and how it relates to the Mesopotamian narrative family. The secular historian claims the Hebrew text is derivative because it is a later composition and contains narrative similarities to a range of Mesopotamian texts, not just of the flood, but of creation, and the confusion of the tongues and so on. The Christian historian rejects this conclusion for reasons explained in part two of this series.

The secular historian and Christian can agree, nonetheless, that a distinct genre of myth arose in Mesopotamia centred around a “sacred origins” story. Christians can also agree with the secularist that this story was probably transmitted from an exceedingly ancient oral tradition. Its appearance in numerous forms and in multiple sources in the area (and even outside of the area, such as Egypt) indicate that the story had a widespread currency and significance. There is further evidence of competition to “claim” the story, and stamp upon it a particular city’s deity.

Nonetheless, the Christian historian must insist on fairness for the Book of Genesis. Although the Book of Genesis was probably written at least two hundred years later than the earliest Mesopotamian tablets, this does not logically dictate that the Hebrew scribes sourced their material directly from the earlier Mesopotamian cuneiform texts as sceptics are wont to claim.

The fact that the Book of Genesis contains a tremendous volume of narrative and discursive detail found in none of the Mesopotamian epics; has a radically different cultural outlook; a radically different moral emphasis; a different narrative setting; and its narrative is firmly tethered within the recognisably natural world, all indicates originality and not mere derivation, a conclusion an honest handler of the sources would have to agree with. Indeed, the bulk of the material in the Book of Genesis is entirely novel. Moreover, the Book of Genesis actually violently disagrees with the Mesopotamian epics upon far more than that with which it agrees, to such an extent that the Book of Genesis may be fairly and properly said to present entirely new stories to those found in the Mesopotamian epics.

A Christian historian would argue therefore that the Book of Genesis does not belong in the Mesopotamian corpus of epics on the flimsy basis of some narrative similarities, any more than one should argue that the Islamic account of Noah belongs in the Mesopotamian corpus, or that legends of Robin Hood – the so-called “good thief” – is derivative from the New Testament that records a thief’s confession of Jesus.

Neither should we assume Hebrew dependence upon Mesopotamian tablets. That is an assumption without warrant. Certainly, if oral stories in traditional societies can be transmitted for thousands of years, and can even continue to be transmitted despite the freezing winter of an alphabetic culture that continually longs to standardise stories, so too could oral transmission provide a source for the Hebrew scribes, as we will see in part two of this series.

As is usual within sceptical, secular history, texts of the Old Testament are generally pulled forward in time to make them less ancient (in the same manner that secular historians usually push the texts of the New Testament forward in order to move them further from the time of the events they narrate). By massaging the dates of the texts, the overall effort is to try to make them seem less historically reliable and safe. The Book of Genesis has most definitely been subject to this sort of process.

Since the late 1700’s, and particularly during the sceptical and turbulent scholastic upheavals in the 1800’s, critical scholarship has come to claim that the Book of Genesis contains composite sources within the text, the so-called J, E, and P sources. Since the 1970’s, a great deal of debate has circulated around this documentary hypothesis with some scholars challenging the dating of the three supposed sources, and others seriously challenging whether the sub-sources even exist. Certainly, there is no external textual evidence for these sources, and so these critical claims rest atop successive accretions of assumptions, assertions, conjectures and projections.

In any case, critical source analysis allows secular ancient historians to shave many centuries from some material in the Book of Genesis. Following the textual critics, some historians date some aspects of the Book of Genesis as late as the 5th century BC, and other aspects only as early as the 10th century BC. In contradistinction, the nearly-universal and ancient attestation of the Church and of the rabbinical scribes is that the Book of Genesis was written by Moses sometime around 1400 BC.

It does not help that secular historians frequently display a distinct and peculiar prejudice against the Book of Genesis, especially in regard to its relationship with the Mesopotamian epics. This bias is uncovered by assumptions that are appear to be rooted in a desire to flatten the Book of Genesis into the general blend of Mesopotamian myth.

For example, in his commentary on the Atrahasis, Professor Mark asserts that the hero of the epic, Atrahasis, was directed by the gods to take “two of every kind of animal on the ark” in order to preserve life. Yet neither the existent tablets of Atrahasis nor its older progenitor Sumerian text (the Eridu Genesis) say anything about the number of animals taken on the boat. If anything, the Eridu Genesis suggests that only a sub-set of animals were taken on the boat since it refers several times to “small animals”.

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Both the Atrahasis and the Eridu Genesis (above) are fragmentary tablets with sizeable lacunae spaced throughout their narrative – that is, missing lines or gaps in the text. Lacunae appear at precisely the points where the heroes board the boat. In notes on these lacunae the translators have sought to supply probable narrative content, but oddly enough in some cases have relied upon the biblical Book of Genesis to do so. This is strange because it is interpolating details from a supposedly less ancient text that has also supposedly been subject to centuries of Hebrew revision, back into a more ancient one. The overall effect of these editorial notations in the gaps of the tablets, of course, is to suggest similarities between the biblical text and the Mesopotamian epics for which there is no evidence outside of translator whimsy and conjecture.

In any case, not once but twice Professor Joshua J Mark asserts in his commentary on the Atrahasis that two of every animal was loaded on the boat, when this is most definitely untrue. He makes this error, it would seem, in his rush to exaggerate the similarities between the deluge accounts and thereby minimise any originality of the account found in the Book of Genesis. This bias is more fully developed later in his article where he devotes a considerable amount of space to claiming that traditional Christian historiography has been overturned on the basis of “irrefutable evidence”, though he provides no hint of what that irrefutable evidence might be.

CONTEXT, ORIGINS AND CHALLENGES

Mesopotamia is a diagonal territory that extends from the north-eastern corner of the Mediterranean sea in southern Turkey all the way down to the top of the Persian Gulf on the eastern side of Saudi Arabia – roughly following the rivers Tigris and Euphrates which flow through the area.

Ancient Mesopotamia gave birth to a number of cultures, powerful city states, and “superstate” empires. The earliest was the Sumerian civilisation located in the south of Mesopotamia. It was the Sumerians who developed a method of imprinting symbols on wet clay tablets called cuneiform. A wedge-shaped reed would be used by a scribe to make impressions on the clay, and the final product would then be baked. Unlike perishable materials like papyrus or vellum, fired clay is hardy. It is not vulnerable to mould or fungus, does not quickly decay outside of a narrow band of humidity, for example, neither is it subject to mechanical fatigue like a roll of vellum that is repeatedly handled.

The Sumerian civilisation is considered to be one of the oldest in the world if not the oldest, even more ancient than that of the Egyptian or Chinese civilisations. Certainly, the Sumerians themselves were conscious of their own antiquity and claimed for themselves the oldest city in the world, Eridu, possibly founded as early as 5400 BC. Significant city states emerged in Sumer, some recognisable to a reader of scripture, such as Ur.

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Around 2300 – 2400 BC, the Sumerian civilisation was subsumed into the Akkadian Empire by its first ruler and conqueror, Sargon of Akkad who defeated the Sumerian city states and welded them into what is sometimes considered the world’s first empire. Peculiarly, this empire united both speakers of two languages, Sumerian and Akkadian, making it quite possibly one of the first bilingual societies.

Eventually the upstart Akkadian language displaced its Sumerian rival, and Sumerian became the language of scholars and priests in a similar way to which the Latin language has functioned until recently.

Inevitably, the Akkadian Empire crumbled and divided into the Assyrian Empire to the north and the short-lived Babylonian Empire to the south. Both empires spoke Akkadian, although differences evolved within the language. But in time, with the rise and fall of the states in the region, the Akkadian language too suffered the same fate as its Sumerian predecessor, and became the language of scholars and religion until it was absorbed by the Aramaic language that would later be spoken by our Lord.

The transitions between these periods are marked with countless upheavals. There are numerous wars, the rises and falls of powerful and semi-autonomous city states, competition between rival rulers and dynasties, and climactic change (the city-state of Ur, for instance, was at one time situated on the edge of the Euphrates whereas its ruins today are nearly 20 km from the river). Empires expanded and contracted, and there were sudden reversals of national fortune. There are records of periods of extreme mismanagement leading to famine, as well as some periods of relative stability. Eventually, the region was invaded by powerful outsiders in the form of Greeks and Romans.

During this time, the Mesopotamian culture produced large repositories of cuneiform texts which have been unearthed from “libraries” in the ruins of ancient cities. These texts cover everything from law to medicine to religion. Primarily they cover administrative and legal matters, but a sizeable minority address sacred matters. Some of these religious texts are the earliest written material known to history.

The oldest, predictably, are written in Sumerian while later texts are written in Akkadian. Some, like the Enuma Elish are focused on Babylonian culture and supremacy, while others, like the Epic of Gilgamesh lionise actual historical rulers such as King Gilgamesh who once ruled the Sumerian city state of Uruk.

The interplay between this crackle of variables – or, perhaps better, a regional cauldron of pressures and forces – presents all of the linguistic and interpretive challenges usual to the study of ancient history, with an additional set of difficulties that arise from exploring ancient sources that contain elements of the narrative material sacred to the orthodoxies of the world’s monotheistic faiths. For a sceptical secularist, the opportunity to cast doubt on those orthodox certainties is often irresistible.

The task of the scholar, then, involves:

  1. Properly dating the physical texts
  2. Working out the inter-textual relationships between the sources
  3. Understanding the relationship between the text and its society or culture
  4. Properly translating the texts
  5. Piecing together and interpreting fragmentary texts
  6. Properly placing variants of the texts into a larger sequence

Despite ringing declarations of “irrefutable proof” by Professor Mark (who is not, it appears, trained in history but rather in philosophy) and sceptics for whom the primary motive of their writing is often to do a simplistic demolition job on the Book of Genesis rather than really engage in complex and meaningful history, none of these tasks can be completed easily or in full. Conjecture is always the constant companion of the ancient historian. Beware anyone who speaks in triumphal tones about history far distant!

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The complexity of the work is substantial.

For instance, task one (1), though it is the most basic task of the historian, is not at all straightforward when it is considered that the physical remains – in our case, the cuneiform tablets – are not the same thing as the content. Or, put another way, just because a historian can date the tablets themselves does not mean they have also dated the stories told by the tablets although this mistake is frequently made by the layperson or the sceptic. It is important to recognise these two elements are not congruent and hot debate surrounds the age of the various Mesopotamian epics.

To use a modern example, if future historians were to unearth a black and white movie on DVD in the rubble of our civilisation they might readily date the movie to the late 20th century or the early 21st century on the basis that it was distributed on a plastic disc. They would not, however, be able to date the content so easily. Many complications present themselves even in so brief a span of time as cinematography has existed.

For example, the movie might have been filmed in black and white for effect by modern arts students, or it might be a restored copy of a wartime cinema flick. It might be in black and white because it is a pirated copy of a colour edition, or it might be a composite production using material separated in time by a hundred years (e.g. 1920’s material enhanced with special effects from the year 2020).

Even without supposing these elaborate possibilities, the future historian would still have to wrestle with the fact that black and white movies were commonplace for at least thirty years, and so the movie could fit into a wide scope of time.

The same complexities are not just present but all the greater for the Mesopotamian epics. It is a substantial challenge to date the physical cuneiform tablets on the basis of clues in their language, or references to lists of kings, or the strata in which they were found, or the dialect in which they were written, or their location relative to other tablets, or distinctive scribal flourishes and colophons. The result is that to even speak of singular dates for the physical material is either misleading or flatly ridiculous. This has not, however, stopped many sceptics and websites giving definitive dates for this or that clay tablet and assuming that its content is as old.

One of the world’s foremost experts in the Gilgamesh epic, Professor Andrew R. George, spent 16 years collecting all extant sources into a two volume critical edition. This seminal work includes George’s first hand study of all of the cuneiform tablets and the creation of reliable pen and ink copies of the cuneiform script. This definitive work, published in 2003, describes the explosive trend of the previous 70 years since the last academic edition by archaeologist R. Campbell Thompson who excavated Ur and later Nineveh in 1931. New discoveries have greatly multiplied the numbers of sources for the Gilgamesh epic. For example George points out that in 1930 just four fragments older than 1000 BC was known to Thompson and other scholars, whereas by 2003 archaeological effort had uncovered 33. In 1930, 108 first millennium BC fragments were known, whereas by 2003 this had nearly doubled to 184.

The Standard Babylonian Version compiled by George Smith in the late 1860’s, which is still the most common model of Gilgamesh for scholars since, was pieced together from between 15,000 fragments to 30,000 fragments (this latter figure supplied by Morris Jastrow and Albert Clay in 1920, both experts in their era). The avalanche of new discoveries of fragments of Gilgamesh from all over Mesopotamia, with wide differences in their dates, has led to an increasingly complete version of the epic. Nonetheless, it is constituted from a Frankenstein assemblage of tablets from a range of places, dates, and in varying conditions.

Certainly, as Professor Andrew George points out, the second millennium BC tablets are fragmentary and even the first millennium tablets are far from complete, but enough text survives to allow a provisional outline of its evolution. It is clear that the very fragmentary Old Babylonian tablets differ markedly from the earliest references to the character of Gilgamesh that appear in the most ancient texts, these being the five Sumerian poems that feature “episodes” of Gilgamesh’s adventures.

Thus, in some ways the crude dating of the tablets is the easiest task that faces the secular historian or archaeologist, for it is a far more complex matter to date the stories themselves and trace their evolution. The transmission of the stories from the five Sumerian poems, into the disparate and composite Old Babylonian set of fragments with numerous differences, into the standardised imprints of the epic that now comprise the Standard Babylonian Version shows numerous changes. Of course, why the epic changed is open to conjecture, as is the question as to where the expanded material came from.

It is agreed that the older works bear the unmistakable features of an exceedingly ancient oral source, but even so, by the time they were imprinted onto cuneiform tablets the very medium itself bears witness to the fact that a scribal school had emerged. The Sumerian scribes undoubtedly would have modified the oral form of the text – perhaps polished it, or added their own personal touches, or enhanced it with more drama, or refined it to make it more suited to high-class consumption than it might have been in its minstrel or popular origins. Andrew George suggests that the oldest Sumerian poems featuring Gilgamesh were probably forms of court entertainment whereas by the first millennium the extended form of Gilgamesh was a standard copy-book.

Once we reach the frontier of the cuneiform texts, what lies before the historian are the uncertain oral mists of time. At this point, tracing the story is impossible. The origins of the flood and creation accounts are all but impossible to pinpoint or explain in the absence of any evidence, and in the face of the notorious difficulties of accessing oral traditions. We may say that the stories arose from the region, but we cannot say much more than that. Nonetheless, it is agreed – both the Christian and secular historian can say together – that a deep, pervasive, and culturally-significant oral tradition existed which must originally have featured a flood story (or stories), and a creation account.

Task five (5) is a permanent challenge. Many of the cuneiform tablets are cracked or splintered; some exist in a slurry of shards with the texts assembled from different copies; and lines of text are missing – sometimes many lines of text – from even the most complete tablets (e.g. the Enuma Elish, though largely pieced together from multiple fragmentary copies, still has large numbers of lacunae sprinkled throughout its seven tablets, and substantial lacunae obliterating much of Tablet V).

As mentioned already, tasks two (2), five (5) and six (6) are necessarily given that there are several versions of some of the stories. The flood narrative, for example, greatly expanded over time by the time we get to Tablet XI of Gilgamesh in the Standard Babylonian Version. The same narrative appears only in a far briefer form in older Sumerian poetry.

Task four (4) is a perennial problem that will last as long as time itself. As with the translation of any long disused language, difficulties exist when identifying the meaning of ambiguous terms and words. A really full and perfect understanding of some ancient texts may well be impossible to ever attain. It is one thing to decipher words themselves, it is quite another to grasp shades of meaning, contextual allusions, subtleties, word play, literary images, jokes, and the rest of the panoply of meaning conveyed by text. All texts, after all, assume a reader who is thoroughly immersed in the cultural context. Outside of that cultural bubble, meaning starts to be lost. Anyone who has ever casually used a native idiom in another country will be familiar with the shedding of meaning, even when both speakers share the same language!

This is sometimes evident in translations of Gilgamesh, which are subject to correction by later improvements in understanding of Akkadian. Translators are sometimes swayed by their own points of reference in their translation choices. For instance, it is clear that more than a few translators of Gilgamesh were heavily influenced by the Bible – whether from pure motives or perverse is irrelevant – and therefore sometimes translated phrases from the Gilgamesh tablets to resemble the narrative they knew in the Book of Genesis.

For example part of the flood narrative of Gilgamesh tells how his boat at lasts comes to rest. Most translators speak of it alighting on “Mount Nimush” (modern Mount Nasir) in similitude of the “Mount Ararat” mentioned in the Book of Genesis.

Yet the underlying Akkadian word is more directly rendered “hill” (possibly “mound”), not mountain. In the Sumerian language although the word is directly translated “mountains”, it is well understood that this was intended to convey the meaning of “foreign country” since the Sumerian civilisation was bordered by a mountainous region. An alternative translation, therefore, is that the boat settled in the “country of Nimush”, not on the mountain of Nimush.

Translators have likewise adopted linguistic license when translating the text where Gilgamesh leaves the boat and makes an offering. Most older translators of the text have written it in such a way that it refers to Gilgamesh making a sacrifice/offering/pouring out a libation “on the peak of the mountain”. But the original text unquestionably contains the word ziggurat which older translators have simply deleted from the text.

Ziggurats were the religious temple towers or elevated platforms commonly constructed in Mesopotamian cities. They had the rough appearance of a flat-topped mountain.

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There is no good reason to discard the word ziggurat from any English translation. Older translations have deleted the word on no greater authority than merely following the precedent set by previous translations. They have argued that the word “ziggurat” is mere a textual redundancy or scribal flourish that refers to mountains, and since the Book of Genesis refers to Mount Ararat, they interpolate it into their translation.

But what kind of argument is this? It is the mere assertion of parallels; the assumption of a metaphor that is not at all apparent; and with zero evidence a claim that the original writer used the word ziggurat in a disposable manner.

In recognition of the weakness of this older view, newer translations have restored the word ziggurat and now speak of Gilgamesh making his offering “in front of a mountain ziggurat”. One translation uses the phrase “on top of a hilly ziggurat”. Both translations at least do a more credible job of presenting the underlying language without the assumptions and biases made by older translators, who, when faced with a linguistic ambiguity or oddity, seemed to err on the side of making Gilgamesh more closely resemble the narrative in the Book of Genesis.

The above tasks of the ancient historian are never done, which means that we can never achieve absolute certainty about aspects of these texts. Assumptions always have to be made. Ancient history invariably involves making assumptions.

Some of the resulting conclusions from these assumptions are decidedly sensible and there are points upon which both secularist and theist would agree. Other conclusions, however, are reasonable and rational only if one has a secular worldview prior to working with the historiography. Thus, demands to accept the products of such secularism is essentially tantamount to demanding a person should also accept the secularism that gave rise to the conclusion.

For Christians whose worldview is fundamentally supernatural such assumptions and conclusions must rejected from the outset. A believing, orthodox Christian can survey the world of these tablets and stories, of ziggurats and dysfunctional families of deities,  and come to very divergent conclusions that are also historically reasonable. We are not doomed to disbelief, or chained to scepticism, or must lapse into intellectual dishonesty as the only outcome of investigating the ancient past, which sadly is the presumption of too many secular historians, irrational though it actually is.

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The New Breed of Politician

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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gets a lot of air time in the media. In the progressive press she is lionised for her authenticity (she speaks to supporters on live stream while preparing dinner in her kitchen), and for the rags-to-riches story that she has made part of her political narrative. She seamlessly markets her personal life as part of her brand so that in addition to lifestyle coffee, we now have the lifestyle politician.

In the conservative press, however, Ocasio-Cortez is routinely disparaged for her ludicrous policy ideas that are unhinged from the real world of economics. When challenged she tries to overturn questions on the financial and technical details of her “Green New Deal” by assuming the costume of moral superiority. Anyone who wants anything more specific than blue sky vision statements has simply failed to grasp the scale of environmental apocalypse.

Predictably, Ocasio-Cortez is often pilloried for her preference of style over substance and her symbolic feel-goodism over nuts and bolts happenings. A classic example of this behaviour was seen her bizarre speech made to an audience of African Americans earlier this year in which she used an accent she does not normally use. With great indignation, she responded to critics that this was “code-switching”. She hinted that her critics did not understand why a person might use a completely different accent because they were not from the Bronx as she is.

The millennial generation is getting older and now starting to ascent to positions of power. Ocasio-Cortez is an example of the kind of politician that is emerging from the 1980’s and 1990’s era. These are reared on amoral TV shows like Friends and Buffy, and their values are shaped by their gender studies professors rather than religion.  So, if we want to get an early snapshot of our future politicians, Ocasio-Cortez is a petri-dish specimen of what is soon to come. This is not a comforting thought for the believer who already has cold shivers from seeing the sheer lack of intellectual engagement that new politicians exhibit.

Nonetheless, for the time being Ocasio-Cortez is easily disregarded by Christians because she is so evidently naive and intellectually ill-suited to leadership. Her petulant outbursts, the abundant self-esteem the gallops heedlessly past her mediocrity, her conviction that no valid criticism of her positions exist, and her regular retreat into the cocoon of identity politics is, if anything, an irritation. For the moment, she seems to pose no threat. She can be dismissed as a hapless cartoon character whose ludicrous schemes always hilariously unravel. She can sprinkle some ACME GO-SLO pellets along roadrunner’s path, or try to excite a roadrunner revolution by planting ACME dynamite at key locations, but in the end her wily schemes will go haywire and she will end up lodged in a cactus. Cue general laughter and merriment.

I think this sentiment is dangerous and misleading. We would be unwise to imagine that the upcoming generation of politicians are just comic relief who can do no lasting damage and do not imperil the Christian Church. The millennial politicians coming down the pipeline combine Ocasio-Cortez’s hostility to the foundation stones of Western civilisation with a ruthless willingness to bully and persecute anyone who dares to dissent.

This brings us to Brian Sims. A homosexual Democrat politician sitting in the Pennsylvania House of Representatives who hectors and abuses old ladies and teenage girls who disagree with him about abortion.

A few weeks ago, Sims spotted an older lady silently praying her rosary near an abortion clinic. Note that well, silently. This lady was not speaking. She was not waving placards. She was not even wearing clothing with slogans or logos. All she did was silently pray. It is about as inoffensive as you can get, and in a healthy pluralistic democracy, she should have been able to do so without being accosted.

Brian Sims could not bear the sight of this. He berated, insulted, and harassed her for about nine minutes:

During the course of Sim’s nearly nine minute video in which he stalks, taunts, harasses and accuses the unnamed woman, the state representative repeatedly attempts to shove his smartphone camera in the woman’s face. She quietly walked up and down the sidewalk during Sim’s outburst, seemingly unperturbed as she prayed a rosary.

By the end of his video, Sims had hurled the words “Shame,” “Shameful,” or “Shame on you!” at the woman at least 18 times; He said what she was doing was “Disgusting,” or “Grotesque” more than a half dozen times; He accused her of being “racist,” and repeatedly attacked Christianity.

Sims then makes a truly bizarre statement:

Sims said to the woman that although she has a Constitutional right to protest, “that doesn’t  mean you have a moral right to be out here.”

Morality is very important to Mr Sims. Or rather, his morality is very important to him because it apparently confers upon him the right to bully, harass, and attempt to intimidate women on the streets whom he has judged have errant religious views. One cannot help but conclude that Brian Sims rather enjoyed bulling this woman. Bullies pick their targets carefully. In this case, the lady was hardly likely to turn around and pop him one, and her apparently meekness served only to galvanise the brave Mr Sims. He captured the whole exchange on camera and personally uploaded the video. He seemed to think that it made him look like a hero.

During his big moment, Sims repeatedly attacked Christianity. It is here that his comments reveal the real issue. Sim cannot stand Christianity and its moral teaching. He does not like Christianity that holds an unbending resolve in the face of hostility; a concern for doing what is right in the sight of God at all costs. It is this sort of muscular, manly Christianity that people like Brian Sims both fear and despise. His reaction to it is exactly what we witness in the New Testament in opposition to our Lord.

As the Western world sinks deeper into a terminal paralysis of sin out of which no person or movement can rescue it, we should expect to see this hated for the Church and for Christians to increasingly manifest in politicians. An unchurched and uncatechised generation will have no regard for Christ and no respect for his teachings. They will do what rebel sinners always do when elevated to power over Christians: they will persecute. The only restraint that prevents these politicians from doing more harm to the Christian community, at least for the present, is the decaying restraint of law.

At one point Sims insists, without the slightest hint of irony:

There’s no faith that tells you ‘you are right’ and everybody else is wrong.  There’s no faith that tells you it’s your job to stand out here and shame people for something they have a right to do.

It’s self-referential satire. Brian Sims is a parody of himself. He is the Spanish inquisitor who sets out to roast other supposed inquisitors for their crime of supposedly roasting inquisitors. He is blithely ignorant of the fact that he is acting in precisely the way he describes this woman of doing.

Although Sims acknowledges that this woman had a right to be on the streets praying her rosary, he still appointed himself to the task of shaming her for it. Apparently in his world, his totalitarian, take-no-prisoners moral code allows him to believe he is right and anyone who disagrees with him is wrong. But nobody else may have such absolutist convictions.

It is amazing how entitled, self-regarding these uber-progressive warriors have. Their self-awareness is minuscule because they are not evidently in the habit of robust scrutinising themselves. Over and over again, they blast away at other people while demonstrating the same poor behaviour they claim to repudiate.

Christians should look carefully at Brian Sims behaving like a goon. We should listen to his sinister ranting on the streets and see in this the face of the coming generation of politicians. It is a generation of politicians that will think nothing of standing on the streets arrogantly haranguing folk about what Christianity supposedly is. They will not hesitate to directly target our faith. For millennial politicians know what Christianity is and woe betide any Christian who prefers the teachings of… well, the actual risen and ascended Christ to their warmed up puree of authoritarian progressivism in faux virtue.

“Iniquity,” the psalmist tells us, “surely abounds when the vilest men are exalted”. We must sadly live in the certainty that more of this sort of politician is on the way.

Yes, Christmas Is Culturally Degraded: What Do You Expect From the World?

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In the hands of secularists and unbelievers, the austere Christian observance of Christmas has mutated into a vivid expression of spiritual decay. It proves that while Western civilisation may have prosperity to the rafters and an extraordinary quality of life, it has obtained these things in a truly Faustian bargain. To get them, it has sold away eternal meaning, temporal purpose, moral significance, and existential depth.

Christmas is a season for frantic gift purchases, drunken office parties, quaint Victorian tropes (like stockings), gluttony, and schmaltzy movies about saving Christmas and Santa Claus. In fact, this jolly deliveryman from the North Pole has become a cause célèbre in his own right. The extraordinary lengths that parents go to in order to convince their children of Santa’s reality range from cookie crumbs on the mantelpiece to the planting of elaborate evidence (footprints, torn pieces of red cloth, and so on).

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Indeed, an aggressive debate now rages over telling children the truth about Santa. Each year, some child somewhere is told that Santa is fictional and their anguished tears are reported in the tabloids, dripping with pathos. My favourite story happened a few years ago. During his annual Christmastide talk to a group of primary school children in his parish, a Church of England vicar let slip that Santa was not real.

No doubt astonished that any clergyman of the Church of England would say anything that was not vague and wishy-washy, the children ran home to tell their parents. Rather than accepting the reality that eventually someone, somewhere will tell little Chanel or London Jr. that it was a bit of make-believe, the parents responded with extreme anger. How dare someone disabuse their child of the falsehoods so painstakingly inculcated into them! They were far more upset about Santa, one suspects, than they would ever be about the promotion of disbelief in Christ.

The most amusing part of the story was the response by the church. The Church of England, in its ceaseless quest to offend nobody and thus enter total irrelevance, was put in the unenviable position of needing to defend the nativity of Christ as the actual historical Christmas account, while concurrently appearing not to condemn the fantasy character that had supplanted the Lord in the affections of the parents.

Fictitious stories are serious business to a lot of people it seems. This nonsense has been taken so seriously that The Atlantic put together an article some time ago that featured professional-looking graphs depicting the age when people lost their faith in Santa.

Of course, this is what happens when unbelievers want to inject a transcendent vibe into an annual celebration. They either must seek it in extreme consumption – for what could be more transcendent in a materialistic culture than stuff – or they must seek it through a saccharine sentimentality related to childhood. Transcendence is found in the merry eyes of a child, sitting in front of the TV, watching a Christmas movie, gobbling M&M’s, whilst excitedly waiting for an imaginary fat man to deliver parcels of DVD’s, video game consoles, and remote-controlled drones down the chimney. Only this can truly capture that special emotion known “the spirit of Christmas”.

As silly and sad as it may be, we can hardly blame unbelievers for their parasitic simulacrum of Christian joy. Not for them the indescribable wonder of the birth of God in the flesh, and the lowly manner in which he was born that he might seek and to save the lost. Not for them the joy of confessing the Messiah as Lord and Master. Not for them the overwhelming gratitude at being chosen by God – though unworthy – and the grateful ecstasy at having value and significance in the eyes of God. “God sent the Messiah into the world for me – a rebel who has given God nothing – and yet he still came for me!” Not for the unbeliever the relief and release of sins forgiven, of a cosmic sense of belonging to the household of faith, to the family of God.

Thus, let us put aside the now-traditional lamentations from Christians about the loss of the meaning of Christmas. What else do we expect from unbelievers? Why is anyone surprised when unbelievers act like unbelievers?

The mourning over the loss of a religious Christmas season really amounts to tiresome and redundant hand-wringing. In the process of this emotional bloodletting, Christians get caught up on a mere tradition. They become evangelical about divisions between the world and the Church that are inevitable and healthy. There should be a vast and stark difference between a Christian Christmas and the celebrations of the pagans.

For Christians, Christmas ought be a sombre reminder above all that Jesus Christ is the centrepiece of Time. While the unbelieving world thinks they need not reckon with him and can safely erase him from history or reduce him to a footnote, the birth of the Lord is an annual reminder that the human story is God’s story. He is in control of it. And events are marching forward in complete accord with God’s eternal plan and timetable. We can rejoice because we have passed a key milestone. The Messiah has come, and just as the Prophets taught, the everlasting gospel has flowed out of Israel – the rivers of salvation – as the news is spread throughout the earth. Christ really walked on the earth, drank the water, breathed the air, performed miraculous signs, and taught living truth. His one perfect life has left a mark that will never, never fade.

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But if Christmas is the story of the Lord’s first advent on that starlit night so long ago, if it tells us the glorious message of the arrival of the King through a quiet birth to an unremarkable couple in the lonely countryside of Israel – it also is designed to underline his second advent. The return of the King with the fullness of his majesty.

Christmas is a time to acknowledge that the Messiah has come, and this same Messiah is going to come again. The purpose of his first advent was to begin the defeat of Satan, and to redeem for himself a new human race from under the curse of sin. The process of building his new creation started; the Second Adam is the progenitor and head of this race, as St. Paul so clearly taught us.

But, his second advent will be even more glorious than the first. Christ will come again to usher in the fullness of his Kingdom of which there shall be no end.

The nativity scene reminds us that we are living in the valley between two advents. Behind us lies the land of Egypt out of which the Church has had its exodus. We have journeyed together from the darkness of paganism, slavery, sin, and the unmerciful rule of Pharaoh. In front of us lies the Promised Land, and we are marching toward it. But St. Paul  tells us that we are not there yet: “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me” (Phil 3:12).  We have not yet obtained the promised blessing, though it will certainly be ours in the grace and power of Christ.

Christmas is not just about looking back but also looking forward. If there was one advent, there will certainly be another. This is joyous news! The Messiah has come, and he is also coming again. He is shortly to appear. And on that day he will destroy the works of Satan; judge the living and the dead; redeem his people; and the praise of his glory shall never end.

Could Hitler Get Published in Modern Academia?

MK

INTRODUCTION

Most people assume that Hitler’s theories could never again get a foothold in modern academia. It is a comfortable Western conceit that is built on the idea that humanities departments in universities inoculate the West against totalitarian ideas. It is inconceivable to most people that tyrannical or near-tyrannical nostrums could ever find a home in the humanities departments of modern Western universities.

After all, don’t Antifa activists bravely oppose “fascism”? Aren’t students quick to detect any instance of oppression? Don’t professors build their careers on an effort to create a new world of choice and freedom?

It would be logical to think that the disciplines that focus most on human experience would be the most richly informed by the lessons taught bloodily by the 20th century and thus most immune to any totalitarian, radical ideology that would seek to assert itself with muscular fanaticism upon the world.

But this is not so.

Within the modern academy, humanities departments are Petri dishes that spout radical theories. Ideology has been seamlessly woven into knowledge production such that the latter is now governed by the former (and is thus, not knowledge production at all).

Humanities scholars seldom any longer seek to discover and describe reality. Rather, they attempt to refashion reality as if it were play dough so that it suits their ideas. In the process they have not only dissolved much of the meaning of the study of humanities, but they have fired up their students to control and dominate campus life. Their students learn the fine arts of bullying, intimidation, and harassing others in the name of justice.

For many years, black students at Evergreen State University have held a “Day of Absence” in which they do not attend their campus for a day. They meet to discuss issues relevant to them. Last year, however, minority students and faculty at Evergreen State University decided they would like to invert their strategy. They demanded that white students and staff should stay away from the campus on the “Day of Absence” and that only minority students should attend.

Professor Brett Weinstein (in the hard sciences, naturally) resisted this demand on the entirely reasonable grounds that it constituted an attempt to intimidate  and control the campus environment which is inimical to freedom, but congruent with oppression. He wrote:

There is a huge difference between a group or coalition deciding to voluntarily absent themselves from a shared space in order to highlight their vital and underappreciated roles… and a group encouraging another group to go away. The first is a forceful call to consciousness, which is, of course, crippling to the logic of oppression. The second is a show of force, and an act of oppression in and of itself.

Professor Weinstein said that he would be attending campus on the nominated date and encouraged other white students to do the same.

The firestorm that broke against him and his wife was a demonstration of intimidation that will be familiar to anyone who has seen the dark inner workings of a dictatorship where mobs are enlisted to “do their worst” against any outspoken non-conformist. Brett Weinstein received death threats. Concerted efforts were made to get him fired, including organised marches across the campus, impromptu searches for the professor by vigilante students, and “fire Brett” graffiti which appeared on campus. Efforts were later made to get campus police fired as well.

The campus police advised Weinstein that he should absent himself from work for a few days because they could not guarantee his safety. From the moment he made his stand, Weinstein was accused of racism by students and activists on social media. His effort to explain and defend his were also considered racist. Students drew a line between his stance and the fatal attack of some unrelated men in Portland, Oregon who had tried to break up an anti-Muslim rant. This, they argued, showed how much imminent danger existed for minorities in American society and why Weinstein’s stance was actually dangerous and unreasonable.

Ultimately, Professor Weinstein and his wife left Evergreen State University and successfully sued it. The university president George Bridges said:

We may disagree with each other. However, disagreement is one thing; dehumanization is another. Over the week, a few members of the Evergreen community have used traditional and social media to malign, mock or misrepresent those with whom they disagree. While the majority of students, faculty and staff are fully engaged in the teaching and learning work of the college, a few are on a destructive course of action that hurts themselves and gives a distorted and false impression of our community.

But Brett Weinstein told the media:

The president’s carefully crafted statement is clearly intended to support a false narrative about the present state of our campus, and the extraordinary events of this past week. No one at the college has yet acknowledged that I and my students were specifically followed, harassed and doxed. If it is now safe to return, it is only because the intimidation campaign against us backfired so spectacularly and has now been called off as a matter of PR damage control.

The harassment and intimidation at Evergreen State is a mere demonstration of how frightening universities have become for free thinkers, and how hostage they are held to the shibboleths and grievance theories of their humanities departments. Worse, these students and their professors often believe they have been given the mandate of revolution to try and break down the matrix of imaginary grievances and hurts they claim to see around them. They take their intolerant, blinkered, bulldozer approach into the wider society where it causes real harm.

They thus justify the introduction of new unscientific social ideas into psychology, education, religion, and history. These students rise to positions of influence HR departments, in media newsrooms, in corporations, and in government agencies where they continue their social crusade. Through intimidation these social theories and ideas then become the institutional culture of the broader society. The theories are applied to the real world with often bizarre, expensive, harmful, or unjust results for families, individuals and children. Nonetheless, these radical principles are not permitted to be questioned or dissented from. Those who would do so are often relentlessly bullied and abused in the manner so sadly exemplified by Professor Weinstein.

HOW BAD IS IT?

The rot of humanities in modern universities seriously imperils the future of the academy. Over a year ago three (left-leaning) scholars – James Lindsey, Peter Boghossian, and Helen Pluckrose – decided they were unable to ignore the dysfunction that now plagues the social sciences. They decided to begin a project in which they would visibly and publicly demonstrate how intellectually moribund and bankrupt the humanities had become by writing a series of spoof papers and getting them published in prestigious and reputable peer-reviewed journals.

Publication of a paper in a peer-reviewed journal is the Holy Grail of scholarship. Not only is it a way for an academic to gain notoriety and influence – since scholarly journals are regarded as high-quality source material for citations – but it is also a standard condition of tenure in most universities. To get a paper published in a peer-reviewed journal means that you have made a worthy scholarly contribution that has passed a process of being checked, vetted and approved by peer experts  for accuracy and value.

Publication means that the paper is adding to the specialised knowledge contained within the field and is consistent with the knowledge that already exists. Peer-review is a means by which scholars testify that a methodology is sound and a work is reliable.

Lindsey, Boghossian and Pluckrose successfully published seven spoof papers that ranged from the absurd to the outright dangerous. In one case, they demonstrated they could publish Hitler’s theorems of grievance, modified with a little grease and spanner-work to suit contemporary feminist ideology, with high praise from the reviewers. In the name of a fictitious Ph.D holder, they were able to get a paper published that utilised Hitler’s multi-point plan in Chapter 12 of Mein Kampf as a basic template for feminist struggle.

In another peer-reviewed paper they argued that astrology was a more feminist “science” than astronomy and thus and deserved a role within astronomy. They also successfully published an utterly meaningless paper about “feminist artificial intelligence” which was written in dense, impenetrable prose. Absurder examples included a highly-commended paper in which they argued that dog parks perpetuate a canine rape culture with systematic oppression against “the oppressed dog”.

Perhaps the most ridiculous paper of all was written by James Lindsey featuring poetry derived from an online teenage-angst poetry generator merged with a long, rambling anecdote about an imaginary feminist “moon meeting” at which women rub wooden carvings of their genitals.

Each paper was intended to demonstrate a different ideological defect within the field of humanities. For example, they argue that the publication of their dog park paper showed that, “Journals will accept arguments which should be clearly ludicrous and unethical if they provide (an unfalsifiable) way to perpetuate notions of toxic masculinity, heteronormativity, and implicit bias“.

Certainly, the idea that dogs could be oppressed by rape culture is absurd and it defies belief that anyone could take this seriously. But ideology tends to have the effect of corroding critical faculty in those who fanatically hold to it, until the grotesquely nonsensical is advanced as proof of the ideology. Indeed, the dog park paper has eerie parallels to the story that circulated in German schools in the 1930’s in which students were taught about the discovery of a remarkable talking dog, unlike anything seen before, that had been successfully able to tell scientists that he had undying faith in his Fuhrer, Adolf Hitler.

Another spoof paper argued that heterosexual men rarely anally stimulate themselves with sex toys because of a deep-seated homophobia and bigotry against transgender people. This paper was described as “rich and exciting” by one reviewer who apologised for being so enthused but explained she could not help it because the article was so “marvellous”. The reviewer described the piece as an “interesting contribution to knowledge”. Yet, once again, the premise of the article is blatantly unfair, cannot be proved on the basis of objective data, and is exclusively grounded on the idea that something is innately wrong with heterosexual male sexual desire.

Lindsey, Boghossian and Pluckrose concluded that: “journals will accept ludicrous arguments if they support (unfalsifiable) claims that common (and harmless) sexual choices made by straight men are actually homophobic, transphobic, and anti-feminist.

It is hard to come to any other conclusion given that the article was purposefully written so that it amounted to little more than a sophisticated attack on normal male desire. Yet though its premise is clearly discriminatory and biased, it was sufficiently dressed up in the garb of supposed academic writing to allow it to gain a respectable receptivity within the suffocating ideological confines of humanities scholarship.

Only ideology could explain why such a paper could be deemed a serious academic effort given its unhinged nature. For example, at one point the article strongly hinted that there was something bigoted, defective, or sinister (“transhysteria”) at work when heterosexual men were interviewed and said they did not wish to be anally penetrated by another man or by a transgender woman with a penis. The article posited that this was demonstrable proof of the existence of a masculine construct that opposes and oppresses homosexual and transgender people. In other words, the paper was essentially arguing that heterosexual men must engage in homosexual sex to some degree in order for them to cease participating in an alleged hegemonic oppressive structure.

The conclusions made by this article were, of course, supported by no empirical data. Instead, like many social science articles it used “qualitative data”. It referenced personal anecdotes, interviews conducted with very small numbers of people, and citations from books such as “The Ultimate Guide to Prostate Pleasure“, a text purporting to teach men how to engage in “anal play”. This is the basis, it seems, for making a “serious contribution” to a scientific understanding of human sexuality.

No wonder ideologies of sexuality are among the most intolerant on university campuses – taking no prisoners as they hack their way across the intellectual landscape – for the substance upon which they are based add up to self-affirming fantasy. But this fantasy has such a thin membrane that it is not be able to withstand the most basic questions or elementary scrutiny, just as an over-inflated balloon bursts when it makes contact with anything angular. The only solution, therefore, is to silence the would-be questioners and shout down any effort at dissent or scrutiny.

The Atlantic magazine rightly observed that such papers do not only:

…expose the low standards of the journals that publish this kind of dreck… It also demonstrates the extent to which many of them are willing to license discrimination if it serves ostensibly progressive goals.

This was most vividly seen in a paper arguing that students of “privilege” should be made to give “experiential reparations” by sitting in chains on the floor, being spoken over, and treated with serious inhumanity. This paper was not published by the journal it was submitted to on the basis that the privileged students making the reparations were being treated with too much compassion. Nonetheless the authors were invited to rewrite and resubmit.

Lindsey, Boghossian and Pluckrose comment:

This paper insists that the most privileged students shouldn’t be allowed to speak in class at all and should just listen and learn in silence throughout the term. Even more, it insists that students with high privilege could benefit from adding on “experiential reparations,” such as sitting in the floor, wearing chains, or intentionally being spoken over, as an educational “opportunity” within the class.

The reviewers’ only concerns with these points so far have been that (1) we approach the topic with too much compassion for the students who are being subjected to this, and (2) we risk exploiting underprivileged students by burdening them with an expectation to teach about privilege.

To correct for this, the reviewers urged us to make sure we avoid “recentering the needs of the privileged.” They asked us to incorporate Megan Boler’s approach called “pedagogy of discomfort” and Barbara Applebaum’s insistence that the privileged learn from this discomfort rather than being coddled or having their own experiences (suffering) “recentered.” It also utilizes Robin DiAngelo’s now-famous concept of “white fragility” to explain why students subjected to this treatment will object to it, and uses that to justify the more cruel treatment suggested by the reviewers. The reviewers acknowledged that they believe this “fragility” is the correct interpretation for student pushback against being told to stay silent and sit in the floor, possibly in chains, throughout the semester.

They go on to observe that the enthusiastic reception by reviewers and the invitation to resubmit by the journal demonstrates:

Patently unfair, inhumane, and abusive treatments of students will be acceptable in educational theory if it is framed as an opportunity to teach them about the problems of privilege.

In rebutting left-wing defences of the journals, The Atlantic commented:

…it is nonsensical to insist that nonsense scholarship doesn’t matter because you don’t like the motives of the people who exposed it, or because some other forms of scholarship may also contain nonsense. If certain fields of study cannot reliably differentiate between real scholarship and noxious bloviating, they become deeply suspect. And if they are so invested in overcoming injustice that they are willing to embrace rank cruelty as long as it is presented in the right kind of progressive jargon, they are worsening the problems they purport to address.

It demonstrates how rotten the timbers have become within the field of humanities and perhaps goes some way to explaining why the discipline is so often held in derision. For instead of being a machine to create knowledge about the true human condition, humanities departments – especially those dealing with gender and sexuality – now manufacture a worldview that is largely immune to knowledge or the tools of reason.

The escalating authoritarianism of this no-holds-barred, grievance-detecting, bullying social fascism would make a natural transplant into the fascism of yesteryear. This is what is flowing from politicised humanities departments and journals that are sunk in ideological decay. It embraces a wide swathe of fields like gender studies, anthropology, sociology, psychology, education, and others which are all complicit in packaging such grotesque and preposterous ideas in the name of remedying “oppression”.

WHAT HAS GONE WRONG?

Lindsey and Pluckrose (2018) argue in their essay that the excesses of students and the circus sideshow of radicalism on campuses merely represent the symptoms of a longer-term malaise within the humanities. An intellectual virus is at work. It is characterised by a number of features, including a binary, good-vs-bad mode thinking in which students memorise matrices that purport to show dialectics of oppression; something termed “intersectionality” which is the fashionable theoretical engine driving much of the harm.

Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt of New York University writes:

But what happens when young people study intersectionality? In some majors, it’s woven into many courses. Students memorize diagrams showing matrices of privilege and oppression. It’s not just white privilege causing black oppression, and male privilege causing female oppression; its heterosexual vs. LGBTQ, able-bodied vs. disabled; young vs. old, attractive vs. unattractive, even fertile vs. infertile…. A funny thing happens when you take young human beings, whose minds evolved for tribal warfare and us/them thinking, and you fill those minds full of binary dimensions. You tell them that one side of each binary is good and the other is bad. You turn on their ancient tribal circuits, preparing them for battle. Many students find it thrilling; it floods them with a sense of meaning and purpose.

And here’s the strategically brilliant move made by intersectionality: all of the binary dimensions of oppression are said to be interlocking and overlapping. America is said to be one giant matrix of oppression, and its victims cannot fight their battles separately. They must all come together to fight their common enemy, the group that sits at the top of the pyramid of oppression: the straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied Christian or Jewish or possibly atheist male. This is why a perceived slight against one victim group calls forth protest from all victim groups. This is why so many campus groups now align against Israel. Intersectionality is like NATO for social-justice activists.

The intellectual virus is also characterised by low-quality research which suffers from a “replication crisis” – a term coined by Cofnas, Carl, and Woodley (2015) in a paper that questioned the scientific foundations of much of what passes for research within the humanities.

Replication refers to the ability of other researchers to duplicate the results of an experiment or a study. This constitutes a cornerstone of the scientific method. Since the scientific method is concerned with discovering objective truths about how the world works, multiple researchers in different places and contexts performing the same experiments should get the same results if the experiment truly addresses an objective reality. In this way, the results are shown to be independent of the researcher.

For instance, a researcher using an Ohmmeter to gauge the electrical resistance of different metals – perhaps copper, iron, and gold – will get the same results no matter how many times the experiment is repeated. Providing the variables of the experiment remain the same (e.g. amount of metal, the length of the metal pieces, amount of voltage etc.) the results will be identical.

Or, suppose a researcher drops some weights from a fixed height and measures their impact velocity. The results of this experiment will be the same when it is repeated in London, Johannesburg, or Timbuktu. It will be the same because gravitation and its effects are the same. Furthermore, the results of these experiments will be able to be  duplicated by multiple researchers with all kinds of personal beliefs.

It will not matter whether the researcher votes for conservatives or liberals, or is a fanatical vegetarian. It will not matter if the researcher is a Christian or a pagan. It will not matter if they cavort in Bacchanalian parties and slosh enough alcohol down their gullet to stun a whale, or if they adhere to godly morality and self-restraint as revealed in scripture. None of this will matter.

It will not matter because if the researchers follow the same method the experiment’s results will be successfully replicated, thus proving that the experiment is built around an objective principle or law that is true. It further proves that the researcher himself has not brought an uncertain variable or a personal bias to the experiment and has influenced the results.

There has been a breakdown of this principle within the humanities, especially in regards to experiments that utilise “qualitative research” rather than the quantitative research of the hard sciences. Thus, social scientists often perform experiments and treat the results as solid even when those results cannot be replicated by other researchers. This has been a problem for decades and the lack of scrutiny and scientific rigour has allowed the findings of these experiments to become virtually unchallenged lore.

Some of the most celebrated social experiments have been unethical, like the infamous (and unethical) Robbers Cave experiment led by Muzafer Sherif:

Sherif’s cover story was that he was running a summer camp in Middle Grove. His plan was to bring a group of boys together, allow them to make friends, then separate them into two factions to compete for a prize. At this point, he believed, they would forget their friendships and start demonising one another. The pièce de résistance was to come at the end: Sherif planned to set a forest fire in the vicinity of the camp. Facing a shared threat, they would be forced to work as one team again.

….

In 50s Middle Grove, things didn’t go according to plan either, though the surprise was of a different nature. Despite his pretence of leaving the 11-year-olds to their own devices, Sherif and his research staff, posing as camp counsellors and caretakers, interfered to engineer the result they wanted. He believed he could make the two groups, called the Pythons and the Panthers, sworn enemies via a series of well-timed “frustration exercises”. These included his assistants stealing items of clothing from the boys’ tents and cutting the rope that held up the Panthers’ homemade flag, in the hope they would blame the Pythons. One of the researchers crushed the Panthers’ tent, flung their suitcases into the bushes and broke a boy’s beloved ukulele. To Sherif’s dismay, however, the children just couldn’t be persuaded to hate each other.

After losing a tug-of-war, the Pythons declared that the Panthers were in fact the better team and deserved to win. The boys concluded that the missing clothes were the result of a mix-up at the laundry. And, after each of the Pythons swore on a Bible that they didn’t cut down the Panthers’ flag, any conflict “fizzled”. By the time of the incident with the suitcases and the ukulele, the boys had worked out that they were being manipulated. Instead of turning on each other, they helped put the tent back up and eyed their “camp counsellors” with suspicion. “Maybe you just wanted to see what our reactions would be,” one of them said.

The robustness of the boy’s “civilised” values came as a blow to Sherif, making him angry enough to want to punch one of his young academic helpers. It turned out that the strong bonds forged at the beginning of the camp weren’t easily broken. Thankfully, he never did start the forest fire – he aborted the experiment when he realised it wasn’t going to support his hypothesis.

Lindsey and Pluckrose point out that the lack of objectivity in research has allowed quack studies to gain legitimacy. One need not be a fortune teller to see how dangerous this is not only for the mission of the university, but also for wider society.

They write:

The difficulty of measuring the rigor of research in the humanities and the relative ease of producing humanities research (say, as compared to studies in the hard sciences) make it particularly prone to ideological bias and proliferate poor scholarship.

This, unfortunately, is a problem shared by the social sciences. A 2012 study by researchers Yoel Inbar and Joris Lammers, cited in Cofnas et al, found that while conservative and liberal social scientists were equally likely to discriminate against each others’ papers in review, liberals are so over-represented in the field that they face a only a 5% chance of having their paper reviewed by someone who might politically discriminate against them.

Conservatives, by contrast, face an 80% chance of the same. The departments which traffic in fashionable nonsense therefore have natural advantages in producing reams of low-quality or outright bad scholarship: High levels of political motivation to agitate the system in their favor, relative ease of producing scholarship, and a high likelihood of sympathetic reviewers biased in their favor. This has led to administrative architectures that now unjustly support them and prejudicial control over key sectors of the academy — like educational theory, which creates a self-strengthening feedback loop for them — which enable them to push their agenda into the university system. The result is increased legitimacy for certain criticisms of the academy that are not judiciously applied, are being politically weaponized, and are likely to explode into radioactive political warfare.

In other words, the humanities departments of many universities have been turned into think tanks for liberal politics. They produce the theory and churn out the students that are amenable to supporting the assumptions and worldview of the left. It is not that these students are better educated and that their superior education turns them toward the left, as the popular conceit among liberals would have it.

Rather, it is that these students are intellectually docile, cowed by an unchallenged stream of propaganda that sounds sophisticated, and are never exposed to rival ideas or viewpoints. This produces students who cannot defend their views in debate against a knowledgeable opponent, and when challenged may even go so far as to call for the campus police.

These students and their identity ideology – what could be properly termed social fascism – are going to be moving into the wider world. They are intolerant of dissent. They are utterly certain they are correct. And they will bully and intimidate not only people who disagree with them, but will wreck institutions, rewrite laws and processes, and even demand the suppression of objective facts for the sake of their politics of grievance. Even language itself must be forcibly changed. A vivid example of this was seen recently when an LGBTQ activist demanded the removal of a billboard that featured nothing but the dictionary definition of “woman”. This was deemed a “hate campaign” and “transphobic”.

The strategies, techniques, theories, and continuous psychological projection is nearly indistinguishable from those employed by fascists in the 1920’s and 1930’s. In the name of justice they do injustice. They claim to be guardians of victims yet they victimise and terrorise their opponents. Their aim is also the same as those of classical fascists. True, they are not trying to install a fascist government, but they are certainly trying to obtain social power through a framework advocating an inversion of community values. Like the fascists of the past, they seek to force others to submit to the rules they have decided to impose.

The intellectual groundwork behind this movement is a recipe for the decline of democracy and an ever-expanding attack on Christianity. Which brings us back to the question in the title. Could Hitler get published in the modern academy? Most assuredly he could. In fact, thanks to Lindsey, Boghossian and Pluckrose, he already has.

What are the long-term implications for a society in which Hitler’s politics of grievance are indistinguishable from other scholarship within their highest institutions of learning?

The Revenge of the New Thinkers: Joining The Cultural Revolution

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More than ten years ago liberal views seemed to be making galloping progress.

Back then, the orthodoxy was virtually unchallenged. Identity politics was the incontestable ideology that had made giant strides across the moral landscape. In nearly all of the cultural institutions in the West – from museums, to libraries, to parliaments, to entertainment – the secular liberal worldview not only seemed riveted in place, but appeared to be in a state of cancerous expansion.

It was a different world fifteen years ago.

On one hand, the institutions of power largely dictated to the people. To have cultural influence you needed to invest in hard infrastructure like a TV studio or a publishing house. Or you needed to rise through the ranks of an institution. Every once in a while, like Martin Luther, someone might make a tilt at reforming an institution from the inside, but, as Luther himself discovered, this is not usually a winning strategy when the institution does not want to take its medicine. Besides, it was hard to make change when the deck appeared to be heavily stacked against anyone who held to a worldview centered on continuity and moral consistency.

In the early 2000’s traditional boundaries, like marriage, did still exist. In fact, it was even still possible for a Democratic president opposed to same-sex marriage to come to power in the United States. But though the boundaries remained, it was a foregone conclusion by nearly everyone (especially despondent Christians) that these structures were doomed.

Many concluded that the march of liberalism was unstoppable, and some of us sunk into a pervading sense of hopelessness. Like ill-equipped defenders in the trenches, it sometimes felt that the best we could do was set up flimsy wooden barricades only to stand back and watch as the enemy tanks smashed their way through. It often seemed as if nothing Christians or conservatives did worked.

The Proposition 8 ballot in California was a classic example. Organised by defenders of marriage in 2008, California voted narrowly to eliminate provisions for same-sex marriage. Despite winning the popular vote, the proposition was overturned by courts after a convoluted legal process. Thus, even when a majority of the electorate expressed a preference for conservative social policy, their wishes were trampled over by a handful of judges. In such an atmosphere, what hope remained?

Near-nihilistic despair was palpable within Christian circles. Even a cursory reading of apologetic materials from the time will attest to the general sense of gloom. Piles of articles were published by Christian scholars lamenting the apparent decay of the Church. Other Christians sighed and declared that the moral condition was due to the decline of prayer in schools. Still others were worried by the lack of Christian and conservative influence within academic circles, fueled (in part) by David Horowitz, the editor of FrontPage Magazine, who published evidence suggesting that the ratio of liberal academics to conservative ones ran at about 10 to 1. Other Christian scholars referred to the sense of “post-Christian” torpor.

And on it went. In a way, the early 2000’s was a period of protracted mourning for the death of a short-lived era of cultural Christian supremacy – a supremacy that actually did the Church no favours. It was accompanied by tremendous pessimism. It seemed everyone wanted to go back the halcyon days when children prayed at school and most people in communities trotted along to church – and try as they might to offer solutions, most of these were focused on trying to rehabilitate the golden past.

Thus the Christian attitude of those years was often far removed from the unbridled optimism and cheerfulness of the Apostles as they set out into a far bleaker world dominated by the dark sophisticated totalitarianism of the Roman Empire.

This pessimism produced crooked fruit. Ten years ago, the discussion among believers was sometimes tragically silly (and naive) perhaps reflecting a theological or spiritual paralysis; a nearly existential shock at the suddenness of the moral collapse. At the time, a lot of Christian discussion centered around the need to inoculate Christians – especially the young – against the ravages of the culture. We will lose quite a few along the way, went the attitude, since the society is doomed and our heyday is past, but hopefully we can salvage something.

This ecclesiastical salvage operation did not involve a proclamation of the glories and certainties of the Most High Jesus Christ with thundering apostolic confidence from pulpits. Rather, the preferred methodology was programmes and techniques that focused more on behaviour, improving critical statistics (like teenage pregnancy rates among children of Christians), and other measurable criteria.

The late 1990’s and early 2000’s are pockmarked with religious fads. For example, one idea that did the rounds was that young Christian men should be trained and disciplined to think of themselves as medieval knights. Robert Lewis’ (1997) book Raising A Modern-Day Knight, was particularly instrumental in the explosion of knight-themed discipleship. One website introduces the technique in this way:

Christian youth listen closely when knighthood themes are used to convey Christian truth. We have seen rooms of hundreds of youth in today’s churches instantly quieted when a knight dressed in full armor comes to teach a lesson. Sword play, stories, and skits surrounding the knight theme have proven to be a highly effective way of conveying God’s truth to young audiences.

Another idea that flourished ten years ago was that young people should have chaperones when they date, or that dating should be abolished altogether among Christians and replaced by “courtship”. This was spearheaded by a book published by Joshua Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye (1997), as if the method by which young people met each other and got to know their partner was a guarantee of future marital success. Then there was the strange “purity ring” movement in which young people would wear rings to keep them in mind of a hypothetical spouse, coupled with the very odd “virginity pledges” that young people were urged to sign by some churches.

And on it went. These silver bullets have not aged well.

But today, things are different. Winds of change are blowing through the stale air. Not just in the Church but in the wider society as well. There is a newness of thought (although really, it is the rediscovery of the brilliance of the Christian worldview) that is starting to make its presence known. These “New Thinkers” are combating the acidic triad of political correctness, secular liberalism, and identity politics. If Christians want to make inroads for the gospel unquestionably they need to set their sails to catch this new wind and ride it so that they can have a serious impact.

This is because insightful and sceptical thinkers in the New Media have finally reached a critical mass. A new intellectual spirit is emerging – one that is bold, that rebels against the cultural orthodoxy, and champions the human birthright to be free to think and speak. The New Media is dominated by these New Thinkers and they actively threaten the empires of the Old Media. They do this through the power of their material, but also because they have adopted some of the timeless tools of the Church. The New Thinkers, for example, engage in street debate, in old-school lectures, and utilise the spirit of free speech respectfully yet intelligently, just as it was intended to be used. The New Thinkers are not generally dogmatic. They purposefully contrast ideas and let their audience make up their minds about the strength of them.

Above all, the New Thinkers are saying interesting things because they are saying things that have long needed to be said. The ideas they are tackling have been considered to be politically taboo, suppressed by the rigid orthodoxies of the elites. But they are also examining issues from an interesting angle, such as applying real world data sets to interpreting problems and arriving at novel solutions. This is very threatening to an ideologically-based worldview like secular liberalism which requires certain data to be ignored, or suppressed, or explained away.

In the process, the New Thinkers are deconstructing the cherished shibboleths of the left. This is being done logically, scientifically, medically, and morally, and their arguments are irresistible. This is the direction the battle is moving. Bad ideas are being exploded, but not with sophisticated word play and emotional sob stories, but by simply pointing to the real world. Reality itself, as expressed by hard scientific fact and by living experience, is proving to be a devastating weapon against many of the tenets of identity politics.

Increasingly, Christians are in the forefront of this intellectual wave, although non-Christians are perhaps still better represented on this coming crest. Nonetheless, it is a wave that is strengthening the Church’s collective intellectual and philosophical thought. We are being sharpened. We are being shaped for God’s purpose.

And it is not before time.

Our culture urgently needs antibiotics, since it is now clear that secular liberalism and identity politics are beyond cure or correction. They cannot be safely harnessed for anyone’s good, and both social philosophies are rocketing downward into bizarre and freakish radicalism with the pedal firmly planted to the floor.

Secular liberalism has become a grotesque circus of ideas; a festival of insanity, where, for example, mental disorders are normalised and the mentally healthy are pressured to behave in dysfunctional ways. Identity politics has become the realm where unhealthy lifestyles are celebrated as if they were healthy; death is celebrated as an individual right; and the whole of society is upbraided unless it follows the madness. A vivid example of this is the Size Acceptance Movement (sometimes called “Size Diversity”) with its manifestly false slogan “health at any size“.

Then there are the sinister thugs of the Antifa movement which do represent a serious threat to citizen freedoms. These are tacitly aided by the liberal media. For while the liberal media has no problem excoriating Neo-Nazis even though their members are cartoon characters and their numbers are minuscule, it has a much harder time even mentioning the crimes of Antifa. Indeed, the liberal press seldom condemns or even mentions Antifa, despite their numbers being much higher and despite their blatant, criminal, and well-documented efforts to shut down legitimate public speeches and lectures they happen to dislike.

These radicals dress in black, cover their faces in masks, intimidate people with the “wrong” beliefs, and engage in violent and destructive behaviour. They bluster and roar that their opponents are fascists. And yet their behaviour is indistinguishable from the bully tactics of the Brownshirts in Wiemar Germany or the Blackshirts in fascist Italy. It seems you can get away with mirroring evil if you just shout loud enough that you hate the evil you are imitating. The liberal media will certainly give you a free pass.

The more the lunacy flows out of the ungodly worldview of liberalism, the greater the pillory it receives. There are now hundreds of Youtube channels that are dedicated to compiling the shrieking, sanctimonious, melodramatic and even violent outbursts of identarians. (Just a few examples can be found here, here, and here). These are presented as forms of comedic entertainment and they are wildly popular. People operating these channels are clocking up views and money from doing nothing other than sticking video segments together, without even the whisper of commentary. This is because the insane behaviour and complete lack of reason speaks for itself.

Whether it is college students introducing themselves with the prissy phrase “My name is Shaynalah and my pronouns are…“, or the well-documented arrest of a young man for calling a police horse “gay”, or videos of police smashing the stuffing out of protesters (to the applause of all onlookers) for holding up traffic on a busy road, liberalism has become a movement of comedy. Ridicule. And contempt. People either find it amusing in its lunacy, or they find it horrific in its intellectual violence and mutant thought. Others have such antipathy toward it that this expresses itself in interesting ways. For example, there are channels dedicated to showing protesters being beaten up by police or getting injured by angry bystanders. These videos are popular.

It has become very obvious that liberal social ideology is not based on meaningful thought, but an internal contest for virtue, and this is why it is dangerous. The animating impulse behind most of its ideas is the sheer force of emotion – self-righteousness coupled to melodrama. These emotions always race to the edge. Always try to get a peg or two higher. You have to continually jack up to ever-escalating levels of sanctimony in order to be always more virtuous. The melodrama then becomes more juvenile, shrill, and self-indulgent until the melodrama gets to the point where mere words are seen as murderous bullets that cripple a person’s entire life if they are heard, or even if they are anticipated but not heard (e.g. trigger warnings!). This never-ending climb up an emotional Mount Fuji is exhausting. No society can sustain such faux virtue forever.

Liberal social ideology is predicated on “guiltifying” people into silence with magic mantras like “that’s extremely offensive“. It is built on harnessing the power of the state, whether by criminalising certain beliefs or criminalising certain words. Most chillingly of all, liberalism has harnessed censorship, speech codes, and the social media pitchfork brigade – the “unintellgensia” – who set out to get people sacked if they do not like their opinions. Unable to engage on the level of rational discourse, all that is left is force.

Above all, liberal social ideology is built on massive contradictions. It is these contradictions that the New Thinkers in the New Media are diligently exposing. This work may seem insubstantial but it is actually producing a quiet revolution deep in the currents of the culture, far from the surface waters of TV and Hollywood. Most significantly, it is making inroads among young people, particularly young men.

It is within these realms that Christians must work. When we can, preaching the gospel. When that is not possible, Christians must preach a worldview based on the gospel. A worldview of integrity, moral sanity, of freedom and liberty for the human mind and soul. A worldview of personal responsibility. A worldview that confronts error with reality. Such an approach will destabilise identity politics and liberalism because it is already doing so. This very hour. In fact, the increasing intolerance of elites and the demands for censorship by the Old Media is proof that the edifice is crumbling.

Far from quitting social media, Christians need to be more busy on Facebook, personal blogs, in online public discussions, on Instagram, and on Youtube. They need to engage regularly, intelligently, and with an attractive confidence and poise.

For social media is the cultural point where the New Thought and the New Media are ushering in a generation of change. This is where we must be at work, and have the greatest opportunities to be fishers of men, and make disciples, or at least build sympathy and admiration for the robustly Christian view. It is at this nexus of people and technology – this welded seam – where the liberal empire is weakest and most susceptible to defeat. This is where Christians can unquestionably make a cultural impact and advance Christ’s Kingdom.

It is time for every Christian, great and small, to be at work in this realm, emboldened to say with St. Paul: “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of salvation unto all who believe“.

Newspaper Cartels: When the Media Combine

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Last Thursday, led by the Boston Globe, about 350 newspapers ran coordinated editorials to criticise Donald Trump.

Despite the breathless, celebratory reporting by the liberal media who tried to make it sound like a tsunami wave of dissent was washing across the American landscape, this campaign did not involve the majority of newspapers in the United States. According to Wikipedia – whose lists are usually credible – the United States has more than 1,300 newspapers. This means that only around a quarter of the United State’s print media participated in this protest.

For the most part, the participants and their shtick were predictable. The Guardian, for instance, reported it as a “defence of press freedom”, despite there being absolutely zero legislative effort to curtail the freedom of the press. In amongst its story, it added:

The Guardian has also joined the effort and has published an editorial alongside outlets around the United States.

Which is laughably redundant. Was there ever any doubt? Just as a manure seller goes in search of dung, and a jackal is drawn to rancid carrion, so the Guardian is irresistibly drawn to any fashionable liberal shibboleth and any anti-Trump crusade.

This mass media protest appears to be the brainchild of the Deputy Editor of the Boston Globe, Marjorie Pritchard, who “put out the call” to other newspapers. Most newspaper ignored the campaign and a few reacted by strongly distancing themselves from the project. It seems likely that Pritchard hoped this would be a watershed moment of media solidarity.

As Geoff Caldwell of the Joplin Globe wryly observed:

I’m sure when she dreamed it up, she thought it one of those “Yes, that’ll show ’em!” moments.

In an interview with NPR, Marjorie Pritchard emblemised the problem with the modern media. Her remarks demonstrate an extreme narrowness of thought and a worldview that is built over the rubble of mere assumptions.

One gets the impression from listening to her comments that many modern journalists are not very bright and, as a profession, have experienced tragic decline from the trailblazers who went before them. Gone are the trenchcoat-wearing, fedora-capped stalwarts skulking around dark alleys armed only with a notebook and pencil. The sun has set on the days when telling the truth to the public – and properly informing them – was the high calling of the profession.

In the NPR interview, Marjorie Pritchard insisted:

This editorial project is not against the Trump administration’s agenda. It’s a response to put us into the public discourse and defend the First Amendment.

Pritchard simply assumes that the First Amendment is critically endangered in the United States but she never explains why. If an alien beamed down and heard this comment he might justly wonder, “Is there some law being proposed to squelch the freedom of expression?” The answer is no.

Despite the liberal media’s persistent demand for other people’s opinions to be criminalised or marginalised, neither the United States Congress nor the United States President has even hinted that they would yank on the levers of power to trammel the freedom of the press.

It seems in Pritchard’s ivory tower, scrutiny and criticism of the massed media is a form of unconstitutional attack. There is no other way to interpret her remark here.

She goes on:

He’s calling the press a domestic enemy. And we are fellow countrymen. And our profession is to hold the powerful accountable.

The self-indulgence is off-the-charts. Now that the liberal media has had a taste of public excoriation, it suddenly wants to be accorded respect as “fellow countrymen”. Pritchard argues that the media should not be subject to pillory and savage rhetoric because, after all, they are fellow citizens too. They are citizens who just happen to have a different view.

Hypocrisy rises from these words like dust clouds from a third world mining operation.

This is the same liberal media that through their poisonous writings have mercilessly persecuted Christian bakers, florists, teachers, CEOs, and marriage certificate issuers.

This is the same liberal media that fanned the flames of racial tension by uncritically supporting narratives that later proved to to be false.

This is the liberal media that has subjected both the President and his supporters to violent pillory from the moment he was elected. The Guardian, for example, commended the actions of the Red Hen restaurant that threw out Sarah Sanders.

This is the same liberal media that showed a Vaticanesque reluctance to publicly expose horrific instances of child abuse and predatory sexual harassment within their own profession, even when the perpetrators were widely known.

And on it goes.

The media have been a toxic influence on the culture for decades. To now tremulously hold out the hands that have bloodied others and plead for cordiality as “fellow countrymen” is to ask for the sort of civility that the liberal media has never accorded its victims. For all his faults (and they are numerous) Donald Trump represents a justifiable outpouring of disinfectant upon this whole cartel. He has opened it up to the sunshine of scrutiny, factual critique, and overdue scepticism. In other words, journalists are discovering they are not immune from being judged and weighed in the balances.

But the delusions of grandeur get even worse.

In the NPR interview, Pritchard tries to suggest that the media must “hold the powerful accountable” as if they were latter-day John the Baptists denouncing a modern Herod.

But Geoff Caldwell rightly points out that the reason the public is unimpressed with the liberal media is precisely because it does not tell the truth. Instead it lies in order to service its own narratives and agendas.

Neither does it hold all powerful people accountable. It only holds some of them accountable, those it does not like. A good many powerful people get a free ride in the press. Genuinely shocking evils are left hidden even when they would be easily discoverable, simply because liberal journalists have no desire to find them.

Caldwell writes:

It wasn’t Trump who spread the Michael Brown, “Hands up; don’t shoot,” lie around the world from Ferguson, Missouri.

It was The Washington Post, not Trump that falsely reported that Russian hackers had penetrated the nation’s electrical grid via a Vermont Utility.

In Charlottesville, Virginia, a week ago Saturday night, NBC News reporter Cal Perry and crew were attacked by radical left antifa protesters in an event Perry documented on Twitter as it happened.

Yet the next morning, on NBC’s own “Sunday Today” show, none of Perry’s footage of the attack was shown and reporter Garrett Haake referred to it as but “tense moments in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, with far-left protesters heckling the media and chanting anti-police slogans.”

He goes on to add:

Where was that accountability for eight years of a Barack Obama administration? Where was that “truth to power” as Hillary Clinton and staff erased servers, destroyed phones and refused to turn over information duly requested by investigators?

Where is that dedication at this very moment regarding the glaring amount of questionable activities by a multitude of FBI, Department of Justice and intelligence figures that let Clinton skate and brought a sledgehammer to the ice pond against Trump and crew?

Not surprisingly, many of the protesting newspapers looked faintly farcical in the end.

The Morehead News in Kentucky ran a piece that began with a quotation from Josef Goebbels, the minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda in Nazi Germany. It was all downhill from there with the editor invoking Hitler and Nazis left and centre.

At one point it was asserted:

We believe the Nazi tactic of “the big lie” is alive and well at the White House because of President Donald Trump’s continuing “fake news” claims since the 2016 presidential campaign.

It should be clear to most Americans that Trump is relying on another Goebbels’ principle of propaganda:

“A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.”

The glaring disanalogy seems to have passed over the top of the editor’s head.

In Nazi Germany the state tightly controlled the media. The example of Goebbels only has any relevance in a system where journalists are coerced by force to be complicit with the state. But this is 21st century America. In contrast to Goebbels, poor Donald Trump has no capacity to dictate to the media at all. If anyone needed proof of this, you need only look at this selfsame vanity project where editors pretend the President of the United States is a clear and present danger to the press freedom!

When Trump criticises the press, he is not angling to control it. So spouting off about Nazis and Goebbels is merely a crude editorial effort to manipulate its readers.

But, the editors at the Morehead News are not only illogical, they are also wrong.

The above statement – apparently written with a high school generalist level of historical knowledge and perhaps a Facebook meme as a source –  is a misquotation.

There is no record that Goebbels ever said what the Morehead News claims. The statement was first attributed to Goebbels in Publications Relating to Various Aspects of Communism (1946), by the United States Congress, House Committee on Un-American Activities, Issues 1-15, p. 19. But no reliable source has been found in which this attribution can be credibly said to have originated from Goebbels.

Furthermore, when Hitler wrote about “big lies” in the opening chapter of Mein Kampf, he did not recommend it as a political strategy but instead argued that this was the methodology of Jewish Marxists and their alleged 1918 “stab in the back” of the German army and General Ludendorff. The Jews, Hitler claimed, were widely believed because their lie about the weakness of the German army was so incredible nobody would ever dream it could possibly be false.

Goebbels also wrote about “big lies” but he directed his comments toward the English:

“The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, it should be a big lie, and one should stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.”

(Aus Churchills Lügenfabrik, published in Die Zeit ohne Beispiel on 12 January 1941.)

The Morehead News‘ historiography is flatly wrong. It may not be a big error, but it is a falsehood all the same. It also shows precious little fact checking. Five minutes of Googling would have yielded the above information. Moreover, the tormented application to an inverse modern situation makes for a dizzying display of irrationality.

This, then, is the quality of a journalistic rebuke in 2018 against the term “fake news”: a rebuke that includes demonstrable fakery. You really could not make it up.

Meanwhile, the Guardian adopted the standard liberal stratagem of arguing that viewpoints and opinions it detests are potentially dangerous to society. Not for the first time, the Guardian virtually suggests that Trump’s comments about the media is putting journalists at risk of being murdered:

The anti-media mood at some Trump rallies has been intimidating. Social media trolling, violent abuse and threats to journalists (especially sexual threats to women journalists) have reached unprecedented levels. The United Nations human rights commissioner warned this week that Mr Trump’s attacks on the press are “very close to incitement to violence”. In June, five staff members at the Capital Gazette in Maryland were shot dead by a local man with a local grievance. They may not be the last.

As the Prophet Hosea warned, “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7). And likewise St. Paul cautions, “Whatever a man sows, that shall he reap in return” (Galatians 6:7). If is true that the liberal media now feel the pressure of public opprobrium, they must examine themselves to find the cause. For it is the liberal media that have sown the wind.

It is the liberal media that have long published reams of material that can only be viewed as a calculated (and at times cynical) effort to create fear and division. They have sought to manipulate social outcomes by sacrificing truth. They have even tacitly tried to inflame segments of society and aim them against others.

They have emboldened violent and intimidating movements (like Antifa) with soft soap reporting. They have attacked law enforcement over one-sided BLM narratives. Many liberal media outlets have approvingly promoted every nonsensical, shrieking, finger-pointing movement that comes down the insane pipeline of the left wing. They attempt to silence or delegitimise people who speak against the liberal agenda (e.g. Dr. Jordan Peterson, Lauren Southern, or Stefan Molyneux). They support speech codes and advocate for censorship in the name of “tolerance” and “diversity”.

Now they are reaping a taste of the whirlwind.

It is simply stupid to imagine that Trump has created a resentment toward the media out of whole cloth. Of course he has not. But he is a convenient scapegoat for a profession that knows it is under siege. On the one hand it is frightened by declining circulation as the New Media displaces the Old (hence their desire to censor the social media space). On the other hand they are battling fresh outbreaks of public contempt.

Donald Trump has tapped into this existing wellspring of anger. He has given that attitude a voice. Even some of the dissenting newspapers recognise this to be true. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette opined:

Just as his lack of restraint has often been the president’s self-inflicted wound, the bias of some of the press has hurt journalism, at the very moment when it is most needed to save itself… It is time for a truce.

The Horn News was even more cutting in its analysis:

Polls show Republicans have grown more negative toward the news media in recent years: Pew Research Center said 85 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said in June 2017 that the news media has a negative effect on the country, up from 68 percent in 2010.

When is the “fake news” going to wake up to the damage their rhetoric is causing this country — and their own professional integrity?

One must ask some questions.

Who do these 350 newspapers think they are appealing to and what do they really hope to achieve? Certainly, there is an obvious profit motive. Many of the newspapers implored readers to subscribe to their papers in order to “defend a free press”. As a stunt, this does have the potential to give the bottom line of the account books a bit of a bounce.

But are these coordinated editorials going to persuade Trump supporters or even Trump-opposing conservatives? Highly unlikely. Conservatives of every sort have long decried the liberal media. That’s one of the reasons Fox News exists and survives. Is it going to appeal to the young to buy newspapers so as to fight the power? Hardly. Young people do not read newspapers, neither do they typically pay for their news. The media can channel the vibe of the French Revolution all they like, but it is not going to save their papers from the inevitable end.

Even critics of the current President think this gesture is a grand form of virtue signalling to fellow liberals that highlights the groupthink of the media class. Jack Shafer at Politico writes:

Another problem with a nationally coordinated pro-press catechism is that the audience likely to reap the greatest benefit from the haranguing—Trump and many in his base—tends not to read newspapers in the first place. While there’s always value in preaching to the choir—that’s why churches hold services every Sunday—the combined weight of 200 pro-press editorials is not likely to move the opinion needle or deter Trump from defaming and threatening reporters.

Most newspaper editorials are already a watered-down product of groupthink. It’s unlikely that expanding the size of the group and encouraging everybody to bake and serve a tuna-fish casserole on the same day will produce editorials that are more interesting and persuasive than the normal fare.

But maybe I’m wrong. If a single day of pro-press editorials is a good idea for a collective assignment, then maybe newspapers should set aside next Saturday for 200 editorials on tariffs and next Sunday for 200 editorials on global warming and next Monday for 200 editorials on Afghanistan. Surely these issues are as compelling and urgent as press freedom.

If anything, this stunt has proven that a large segment of the media really is an ideological cartel – a kind of informational mafioso – that is largely isolated from the grit of the wider society. It shows what a slanted view of the world they have; what disrespect they have for opposing viewpoints; and a chronic over-estimation of their own importance to democracy. It shows what microscopic interest they have in perspectives that differ from the liberal buzz. They have become propagandists.

Fortunately, newspapers are doomed to largely vanish within a generation. Liberal journalists already stand in the centre of the small shrinking islands of their readership. They wish to salvage their credibility without any material change to their stinking methodology. As a result, each time they attack they end up injuring themselves. Like a bumbling knight who falls in his armour and spears himself with his sword or an inept soldier who accidentally shoots his fingers off, the liberal media seem intent on ever-more grievously wounding themselves.

I can remember shortly after Trump’s election, the Guardian (and many other liberal media outlets) started to bitterly report on “fake news”. I could hardly believe that such a term was getting such circulation within the media. If an organisation of heart surgeons exists somewhere, I am very sure they would be careful never to popularise the concept of “fake heart surgeries”. They would avoid any such suggestion because the slightest doubt regarding the efficacy and value of surgery would do irreparable harm to their profession as a whole. Yet though it runs contrary to all common sense, the liberal media promoted such a concept and in the process, effectively undermined their own franchise.

The media confidently assumed that the “fake news” terminology could be safely quarantined. It would be a spear that would be thrown only at conservatives, social media news, or other sources of information that they disliked.

But the term would never remain static. Overnight, it was weaponised against the liberal media, and because of the super-abundance of double-standards and transparent agendas, has become irrevocably associated with the liberal media. They kicked a goal for the opposition.

It is not difficult to see that the Boston Globe and the 350 news outlets have done the same thing here. Again. They have lent fuel to Trump’s fire. He accuses the media of being in cahoots against him. They are the “opposition party”, says Trump, who are working together to destabilise the presidency, torpedo our agenda, and spread misinformation. Thanks to the Boston Globe, the liberal media have just handed him a perfect exhibit for his case. He will forever be able to point to the 350.

They have also just confirmed in the minds of sceptical people that large and disparate media companies will band together to forward a common agenda when they sense that their survival is at stake, or when their politics is threatened. Pritchard’s project will promote the popular anxiety that media groups are merely different branches that spring from the same root. Can any be trusted? For there are few things that so greatly arouses concern among the public than coordinated efforts by big industries, powerful people, influential institutions.

Lastly, the hyper-ventilating and hand-wringing from a profession that are not widely respected will only magnify the impression that the media are worried. They are weakened. They are fighting for survival. In the minds of many people, if the liberal media is worried it is surely because they have something to be worried about. Moreover, it will reinforce the view that whatever is going on with this presidency, it is significant, even historically unprecedented. Unlike anything in living memory. After all, you only get special denunciations from special events, from unparalleled developments, and personalities hitherto not seen before in high office.

Whatever happens, people will be able to point to the participating newspapers and say, “There’s the collusion. There’s the groupthink. There’s the fake news.”

Free Speech and Mr Jones: The Old Media Resorts to Censorship

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If you have not heard of Alex Jones by now, you certainly will before too long.

Articles about Jones have appeared seemingly everywhere over the last few days.

His name has appeared in every media outlet from the Daily Telegraph to Breitbart; from the Washington Post to the Weekly Standard. Even international outlets like the Jerusalem Post and Al Jazeera have referenced Jones.

He has been at the centre of countless opinion pieces published over the past few days. In the process, he has become a symbol of the precarious future of free speech. The Empire of the Old Media is striking back. They want to dictate your content choices.

But let’s start at the beginning: who is Alex Jones and why is he suddenly noteworthy?

Well, frankly, Alex Jones is a bit of a nutter. He is a conspiracy theorist who rides a white horse at the head of the pack of the international conspiracy sub-culture – now involving millions of people – that reject established historical and scientific facts.

Sociologically, he is grit in the machine for he reveals one of the great paradoxes of an unrighteous age: that just as mankind gets a super-abundance of easily accessible information, we also get bizarre conspiracy theories by the truckload. Our culture now pumps out spittle-flecked nuttiness faster than a bicycle factory in China. And within this irrational world, Mr Jones is a star in the firmament. An information-age Stakhanovite.

Alex Jones promotes so much paranoia he practically sweats.

He says that 9/11 was an inside job by the U.S. government. He maintains that a shadowy “new world order” is taking over the planet. He argues the moon landings were falsified. He criticises vaccinations. He has claimed that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) operates secret concentration camps. After the Sandy Hook massacre, he said the shooting was a false flag operation by supporters of gun control. The survivors of school shootings, he declared, were “crisis actors”.

Selecting a broadcast at random, and clicking to a random time index, immediately yielded the following quotation:

Do you understand the grave danger of the Jacobins? We are in grave danger of total Illuminati revolution. And what does the Illuminati call for in their own writings? That are in the Encyclopedia Britannica? Murder; death; mayhem; a boot stomping on the human face; human sacrifice; fires; burning cities; slaughter; death! Because that’s what they like. The journey is the destination for these people.

It seems there is scarcely a single anti-government, anti-authority, anti-science narrative in existence that Jones does not uncritically embrace. It is no wonder that Rolling Stone magazine titled him “the most paranoid man in America”.

One feels a bit sorry for the Mr Jones. It must be exhausting to live in a world so full of malevolent schemes. It must be terrifying to see the long hand of sinister people at work in every joint and fold of the social structure.

It’s tragic that any man’s life could end up in low orbit around such ideas. But this is where Jones has ended up. One wonders what life experiences led him to such a mental void, because Alex Jones gives himself mind and soul to this stuff. He lives and breathes conspiracy. Conspiracy is his life mission. Conspiracy is his consuming passion. He is inextricably deep in the sub-culture, like a miner buried under a hundred feet of rock. You get the impression that Alex Jones will not return to the land of the clear-headed any time soon. For Jones and his legion of disciples, conspiracies serve as substitute religions.

For those who tune into his radio show, he is regarded as a latter-day prophet from whom comes a steady trickle of truth. He commands a following in the hundreds of thousands. But despite his big fan club, Alex Jones has been booted off Facebook, Spotify and Youtube. He still has his website, radio show, and other means of communication so it is not quite the same thing as the smashing of Protestant printing presses by the counter-Reformation. Yet, there is a deeply unsettling dimension to this.

The silencing of Alex Jones on these platforms was greeted with thinly-disguised triumph by a range of commentators who work in Old Media outlets like the Guardian and CNN.  In fact, it has been quite remarkable to witness the degree of collusion among the Old Media against the operators of the New Media.

This is because the New Media is a threat to the Old. Its power is growing.

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Part of the attraction of the New Media is that anyone can be a journalist. If you have worthwhile and interesting things to say, you can get a loyal following that would be the envy of many newspapers. But even more disconcerting (from the viewpoint of the Old Media) is that the content produced by “amateur” journalists is mostly free. It is also mostly uncontrolled. People can say anything, and they do. There are no corporate bean counters; no bottom line; no CEO; no bosses; and no “party line” that needs to be followed. The New Media has remarkable independence.

As a result, the New Media reflects a true diversity of opinion – far more so than any of the Old Media organisations. In other words, thanks to tools like Facebook, Youtube and delivery systems like Spotify, what has emerged is an exercise in true democracy. It is the creation of an open marketplace of ideas where the best ideas gain traction, and the worst ideas are pilloried and ridiculed. It is wild and untamed land, but reflects the rational democratic ideal far better than any Old Media news organisation can possibly do with their rigid, simplistic, stuffy command-style approach.

The attacks on the stars of the New Media follow the failures of the Old Media to really tap into the online world and get a loyal following. Mind you, they tried once. A lot of news organisations built online websites, created new content streams, published apps, and tried to “buzzify” their news stories so they sounded hip, edgy, and too-cool-for-school. But this was always doomed to fail. The social environment has changed. At the rate things are going, Old Media influence will wane within a generation.

But worse than all of this – again, from the view of the Old Media – is the disintegration of their social power. These vast media empires once could break politicians. Like Pope Gregory VII who left the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV kneeling in the snow for three days in penance, the Old Media establishment could leave leaders sweating and grovelling too. They could ruin the lives of celebrities and commoners alike. They could break men like twigs. They could call the shots of social policy.

But those days are passing and the empires are collapsing. Increasingly, the Old Media is being heavily scrutinised, criticised, and at other times completely by-passed. The most powerful man in the world – Donald Trump – has identified the Old Media establishment as the “opposition party” and he goes for the jugular. Other Republican politicians have adopted the same tactics. Internationally, other politicians are using the same approach. A minister in the Hungarian government recently openly rebuked the BBC for their ideological interview methods.

Brilliant new thinkers appear on Old Media talk shows and make the journalists look wooden-headed and deeply unintelligent – one only needs to consider the fate of Cathy Newman and Patrick Gower whose names are forever linked to disastrous, self-righteous interviews that went very sour. Other media organisations are embattled from their own readership. The frequent rift between the readers and the opinion pieces in “quality newspapers” like the Guardian is striking.

As our Lord once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Mark 3:25). And a left-wing news organisation that cannot even count on the affirmation of its own left-wing readers cannot surely endure for long.

Throughout the world, media organisations continue to hemorrhage millions of dollars of advertising, and thousands of readers, fans, and consumers. Time and again, cash strapped news organisations announce rounds of job cuts, layoffs, hiring freezes, and efficiency shuffles. Each time they streamline they promise this will make their organisation “leaner” and better able to “meet needs going forward”. And yet, no organisational change seems to prevent the decline of circulation – the New York Times, for example, has seen a 50% decline in print circulation in the last 12 years. Readers may click onto the websites and even pay subscription for iconic boutique news, but digital subscribers are nowhere near as profitable as print news consumers. Furthermore, like other Old Media companies, the New York Times share price in 2018 is about half of what it was in 2002 which means the market does not consider the company to be anywhere near as worthwhile as it was at the turn of the millennium.

As for the Guardian, in April of this year it published a financial update in which it reported that its losses were less than expected. They only made a 19,000,000 pound loss in the year to the end of March. This is distinct from the 38,000,000 pound loss they made in the previous financial year.

At present, the Guardian is in the midst of a three year plan to reach their grand objective of “breaking even”. That is to say, to make a profit of exactly nothing, while at the same time adding nothing to their debt. “Breaking even” is usually only ever a goal for a business that is so derelict that the investors one forlorn hope is to be able to walk away without a loss. If “breaking even” is the operating goal of a media organisation, it suggests severe stagnation.

The Guardian is now principally supported by donations from its readership as if it were a charity. It trumpets that reader contributions now earn it more money than advertising, as if this is a good thing. What it really means is that advertisers know which way their bread is buttered. With additional costs, the Guardian will make a total loss of around 24,000,000 for the year. Another rousing success story for the Old Media.

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The Old Media – and the left-wing professional class that is allied to them – have responded to the ground-level revolution of the New Media by making the case for censorship. It is truly staggering to read articles in the Guardian and other liberal media outlets that use sophistry and pretended-rationality to argue, at basic, for a person to be unable to use social media platforms – although they try to re-badge this as “corporate responsibility”. In their view, social media corporations that host so much of the New Media have the responsibility to monitor and regulate the opinions that circulate so that nothing they find objectionable will ever be encountered in that social space.

They argue – usually without a shred of evidence – that people like Alex Jones produce “hate speech” and therefore ought to be de-platformed. This is a chilling precedent indeed, and can be understood as a protective measure by the Old Media in response to the fundamental shift that is occurring in regard to their social status.

It was heartening to read on the Guardian website this morning the sheer number of readers who were able to express disdain for Alex Jones and yet vehemently support his right to express his opinion untrammeled by politically-correct tyranny. Many recognise, (despite the fog of progressivism), that free speech should be a value enshrined in any democratic practice; and to the greatest extent possible in the arts, pursuits, and behaviours of a democratic people. It should be expanded and guarded. And the inverse – censorship – should not be celebrated and promoted.

But the Old Media is not a consistent beast. It will howl against the alleged censorship of bakers refusing to make cakes for same-sex couples, yet demand its use against people they dislike. And we may be certain it has not finished its assault yet. Some predators are most dangerous when they are wounded, and we can predict with some confidence that the Old Media establishment will champion censorship and the control of information more aggressively and zealously before their sun finally sinks below the horizon.

If Alex Jones has performed a service to the age, it is the demonstration of how fragile free speech is becoming. If a relatively harmless nutter cannot be allowed to broadcast his preposterous beliefs in peace; if a conspiracy theorist is referenced by a CNN journalist at a Facebook press conference as if this was a pressing concern, it will surely not be long before any one else with views that do not fit the cultural orthodoxy (like Christians!) will find themselves fighting for a voice too.