Friday, August 13, 2010

You Have no Choice

Echoing a common ploy of the left, the Chronicle opines that opposition to the mosque to be built near Ground Zero in New York City is founded primarily on bigotry. The mosque, the paper concludes, will stand as a symbol of America's diversity and tolerance.

Reflecting its own inability to think in principles, the paper refuses to acknowledge that there are principled arguments against the mosque. Instead, the editorial cites two local examples of allegedly anti-Muslim sentiments:
Late last year, news broke that a West Houston mosque and school was one of several properties to be seized by the federal government in a large counter-terrorism sweep. (The mosque merely rents the space from the targeted organization.) Protesters gathered and media swarmed, frightening members, many of whom were already fearful of a backlash from the Fort Hood shootings two weeks earlier, in which a Muslim soldier was charged with killing 13 and injuring 30. 

And in May, local talk show host Michael Berry, in a heated conversation with a caller on KTRH radio, expressed the hope that if the New York center were built, someone would blow it up. The combative Berry later apologized for his outburst, but not for his opinion that the mosque should not be built.
To oppose the mosque, the paper implies, is to be a bigoted red-neck who opposes anyone who is "different."

I don't doubt that some opponents to the mosque fit this portrayal. But to imply that opponents of the mosque are monolithic is an evasion of the facts. It is a refusal to consider the fact that opponents of the mosque have diverse reasons for their opposition. To the Chronicle, those reasons are irrelevant.Why someone opposes the mosque does not matter, because ultimately those reasons are a mere rationalization.

Consider the two examples cited above. The paper implies that the protest outside of the seized mosque was an over-reaction--the mosque only rents space from suspected terrorists. The "combative" Berry apologized for his "outburst"--that is, the emotion-driven talk show host simply couldn't control himself. In neither instance, the paper would have us believe, did individuals act on the basis of a rational evaluation of the facts. Without the intellectual honesty to say so, the paper wants us to conclude that the same is true of all opponents of the mosque.

To the Chronicle's editorial staff, individuals really don't have any choice in the ideas that they accept and hold to be true. The ideas we hold are the result of something outside of our control, such as our emotions (Berry) or our gender. As an example of the latter, in Thursday's editorial, the paper tells us that the confirmation of Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court is a good thing because it will strengthen the "woman's point of view" on the Court. In short, Kagan's "point of view" is not shaped by her own choices, but by her gender. The paper's implicit endorsement of determinism isn't surprising.

Fundamentally, the paper rejects the fact that human beings are autonomous, independent beings. Time after time the paper calls for government restrictions on the moral right of individuals to act according to their own judgment. Time after time the paper calls for individuals to put aside their own conclusions and values in deference to the "public good" or "common welfare." For years the paper has endorsed the use of government coercion to eliminate your right to choose. For the past two days it has told us why.


Steve D said...

"woman's point of view"

I wonder if the paper would answer the question: Which woman? I can think of several who would certainly not apply.

Reflecting its own inability to think in principles, the paper refuses to acknowledge that there are principled arguments against the mosque.

I'm pretty sure that the paper wouldn't recognize them if it saw them. That said, there are principled arguments for the mosque as well. I don’t have enough information to decide conclusively but based on what I know I would say the principle of property rights puts the responsibility on those who would deny their right to build the mosque to prove their case.

“Fundamentally, the paper rejects the fact that human beings are autonomous, independent beings.”

Of course if this was really the case the Chronicle would not exist. Even bigoted red-necks are autonomous, independent beings. I live in St. Louis and the Post-Dispatch is unfortunately just as bad. Almost every newspaper is the same - there is a pattern here and I wonder why?

Brian Phillips said...

Actually, a long string of philosophers have rejected the view than human beings are independent and autonomous. Every variant of determinism rejects this view, holding that the content of our consciousness is the result of forces outside of our control.

Like many irrational ideas, determinism is self-refuting, but that doesn't stop people from clinging to it.

Mr. Moderate said...

The truth probably lies closer to a combination of determinism and autonomy. We are all autonomous (at least if we aren't in prison or the military, and those are generally the result of choices) with respect to the choices we make. The available choices are often outside our control, which brings in an aspect of determinism. And, sometimes, the choices others make for themselves result in consequences for us that we cannot control.

As for the mosque, until such time as the Constitution of the United States is repealed, or is determined not to apply to the States, there's little that can be done to prevent any religious organization from building a place of worship in just about any desired location. In a scene out of the surreal, NYC"s best option for preventing the mosque from locating at the desired site would be to change the zoning classification of the block in question.

Brian Phillips said...

That the choices of others may have an impact on the choices available to us does not make it determinism. Determinism holds that we have no choice.

If Ford chooses to offer a particular model in red and silver, I have a choice. I can choose one or the other, or purchase a vehicle from someone else.