Finding Truth in Today’s World
Shadia Drury made some highly valid points regarding the U.S. media in “Celebrating the Post-Truth World” (FI, April/May 2017), but she was completely off the mark in portraying the Russia investigation as “partisan.” Not only is the U.S. intelligence community as a whole investigating Russia’s possible interference in our electoral process, but a bipartisan committee is as well. Russia has also been implicated in attempting to upset European political systems.
Why is it so hard to believe that the anti-NATO Putin would support, and try to influence the elections in favor of, a presidential candidate who has been so critical of NATO?
Reacting to New President Trump
Re: “Panic and Emptiness,” by Ophelia Benson (FI, April/May 2017). I fear Benson has resorted to grabbing for the low-hanging fruit. The fact that #45 is a lying, narcissistic simpleton unable to humble himself even to the history of his new position is not news to anyone, least of all Free Inquiry subscribers who may have felt marginalized enough to actually vote for him. Intellectuals need to embrace their responsibility to lead this nation, not lick their wounds and complain about how unfair it all is. Many of us are tired of panicking and are actively searching for mutual solutions and ways to open a fact-fueled dialogue. We must step down from our moral high horse and listen to what others actually have to say if we’re ever going to move forward.
Silver Spring, Maryland
Be on the Right Side of History
The insight of Greta Christina (“We Need to Say ‘No!’” FI, April/May 2017) cannot be overstated. The hosts of President Trump are attempting to build a political monolith across the country much the way that Franklin Delano Roosevelt tried to do by “stacking” the U.S. Supreme Court. Trump has most of the state legislatures, he has both houses of Congress, and he just may have the majority of justices on the High Court in just a year or two. He is also trying to intimidate the media. This is all that is needed to create a virtual fascist state. For in such a cornered situation, who could resist his agenda, even though it would mean rolling back many of our hard-won civil rights since the 1960s.
Adding insult to injury, Governor Abbott of Texas is calling for a constitutional convention to amend the federal Constitution. This is very serious. With the incessant pressure from the religious Right and the promise of many votes, this at the very worst could result in the loss of abortion rights, the loss of same-sex marriage rights, the loss of separation of church and state, censorship in the name of national security, and a quick balancing of the federal budget that could result in the curtailment of many social services, possibly including entitlement programs.
There is also the issue of public education. We know what Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos wants. She is trying to end public education by instituting school vouchers to help parents pay for private schools. Should she succeed, we know that most of the private schools in view will be religiously affiliated. The hard Right will jump at the opportunity to reinstate racism, sexism, and religious instruction in the classroom all at state expense. I am a Baby Boomer. During the 1950s, I attended a Baptist elementary school in Houston, Texas. I remember what it was like. The classes were all white, upper middle class if not financially well-to-do. The principal openly told the parents that they would not admit a nonwhite child. I need not mention what they taught us about sex, sexuality, and politics.
I would not want to afflict a contemporary child with such undemocratic horrors. But having lived through many of them, I can attest that they can become a reality again should we not fight diligently against the Trump administration. Greta Christina is very farsighted and just as right as rain.
John L. Indo
Ideas for Rational Muslim Immigration
I agree with the opinion of Faisal Saeed Al Mutar (“Toward a Rational Muslim Immigration Policy,” FI, April/May 2017), but with the following reservations. How are you going to tell the category that potential immigrants belong to? This would entail extreme vetting to ensure they belong to category 4 to 0. It seems to me that the majority of Muslims belong to categories 10 to 5, and I offer the following evidence. Egypt, which is regarded as a moderate Muslim country, overthrew the dictator Hosni Mubarak and had the opportunity to elect leaders who would install something like a democracy. Who did they elect? The Muslim Brotherhood (category 8 to 7) who shortly after taking control tried to institute Sharia law and put restrictions on women. The army threw out the Brotherhood, and now they have military rule, which may be worse than Mubarak’s reign. We must be very careful about whom to accept into this country.
Issues in Technology nd Ethics
Patrick Lin in his article “Autopia: The Robot Car of Tomorrow May Just Be Programmed to Hit You” (FI, April/May 2017) presents the ethical dilemma of a driverless car (or better, its programmers) being forced to choose between swerving left and hitting a Volvo SUV or right and hitting a Mini Cooper. His discussion considers only the risks to the occupants of the other cars, concluding that hitting the Volvo, with its presumably superior crash protection, is the better choice. But in doing so, he ignores another, perhaps more serious ethical dilemma, namely should the car favor protecting its own occupants over others? If the answer is “yes,” the car should aim for the Mini Cooper, since the driverless car’s occupants will likely suffer less harm by hitting the lighter vehicle. As Lin asks, “Does that sound fair?”
Ann Arbor, Michigan
When the Abhorrent Becomes Commonplace
In the April/May 2017 issue of FI, Peter Boghossian and James A. Lindsay (“Is the Unthinkable the New Acceptable?”) discuss how subjects that were once considered beyond the pale have now become acceptable parlance, if not in the general community but certainly in select communities whose members communicate with like-minded individuals and the general public through social media.
Readers of FI might expect that great emphasis and blame would be attributed to the political Right: to the authors’ credit, they alluded to the Left but went back to the twentieth-century Hitler/Stalin years, with barely mentioning what the Left is doing today.
True, at least in the last two centuries (some of which was related by the authors) and especially since the late 1960s, the Left cracked the Overton Window with its relentless war against Israel and the Jewish people—a war in which they engage in some of the most heinous behavior ever demonstrated by presumably intelligent and sentient human beings who, though decrying Hitler, have adopted some of his same uncivilized tactics, including irrationality, deliberate lies, distortion, photo editing, etc., just to placate the primitive aspects of its ideology.
Today, on college/university campuses there is the fascism of the Left as they deny people the right to hear social-political views different from their own. Weak and cowardly administrators, some of whom are Left sympathizers and others, irrespective of their political views who should know better, abnegate their responsibilities as their Left-oriented academics, primarily in the arts and social sciences, indoctrinate students into their ideology rather than inculcate them with important subject matter and, along with their student acolytes, foment violence in the name of their heinous ideology. And, inevitably, they justify these actions by blaming the Israelis (the modern acceptable synonym for Jews), the Christian and Muslim worlds’ universal scapegoat.
The modern Left, with its role in the destruction of the Overton Window, prove Harry Golden’s poignant observation that anti-Semitism (Maurice Samuel’s “Great Hate”) is the one constant in Western civilization.
The rise and growth of the alt-right also could be considered from the Newtonian perspective as a reaction to the irrational components and endemic hate of modern leftist progressivism—an abuse of what had been an honored, Left-oriented historical and political concept, the disrespect shown in their need for and understanding of religion, and their unpatriotic disrespect for the nation.
The authors started and ended their essay with the topic of slavery. Yet I was surprised that they missed the opportunity to discuss important factors that are functioning to reverse the trend to righteousness, justice, and greater freedom and favor aspects of slavery. One such factor is the rise of fundamentalism, especially militant Islam and Sharia law with its primitive views of the relationship between men and women and of world domination. Another factor is the American economy and political system: one could make the case that the trend toward a two-tiered society—the disappearing middle class—aided and abetted by the role of great wealth and corporate influence is leading to a growing disparity in income between the rich and poor. How long will it be before the poor will be serving the needs and wants of the rich?
Sheldon F. Gottlieb
Boynton Beach, Florida
The question “Should slavery have ended?” and the position of Boghossian and Lindsay that avers the question itself surpasses being shocking, unfortunately demonstrates an example of the ignorance that festers in this country as it relates to the overwhelming need of our citizens to degrade, abuse, and punish other human beings.
When asked if slavery is acceptable, the vast majority of people would say of course not, until they actually read the Thirteenth Amendment that specifically abolished slavery except for people that have been convicted of a crime, and been duly convicted (emphasis added). This Amendment codified slavery in this country for a group of human beings that some people single out as the people they want categorized as slaves. At last count, we have approximately 2.3 million people designated as slaves.
The writers suggest “slavery is a morally reprehensible practice.” I suggest the rise and flourishing of the alt-right has some roots in the nurturing of slavery that continues today. I like to think someday we will evolve morally beyond the need to punish/harm/abuse people, and prisons will be looked back on like we look back on the buggy whip and inquisitions that we have inflicted on others in the past.