Monday, April 23, 2007

Dinesh D’Souza: Hate Peddling

It was my intention not to write on Dinesh D’Souza’s recent postings (which PZ Myers covers here), mostly because there are more important things in the world to write about. D’Souza is a hate-peddler. Sometime back in his life he discovered that he can acquire fame and fortune by manufacturing hate and selling it in the press. Or maybe he just discovered that he enjoyed hate-peddling. The virtues of truth and fairness are far beyond his grasp.

Yet, unfortunately, we live in a culture that cherishes the products of the hate-peddler, so D’Souza has indeed found a route to at least some measure of notoriety and wealth.

It is because our society pays hate-peddlers so well, in terms of cash, honor, and respect, that we have so many of them. If one were to think that a society would be better off without hate-peddlers – if one were to think that their contribution to society has more in common with that of the thief or arsonist than that of the honest laborer or scholar – then one would treat the hate-peddler the same way that we treat members of these other groups.

D’Souza would probably claim that I complain about his writings and call him names because I am angry at God for some offense.

No, Mr. D’Souza. I complain about your writings because I believe that hate-peddlers are like thieves and arsonists. You make this world a worse place to live, for everybody.

There are those who might think that D’Souza only makes the world a worse place for atheists (and the other target of his hatred). However, he does not. In being a hate-peddler, he promotes hate-peddling itself. This inspires other people to go into the business, and they will not all choose the same target. In fact, once people like D’Souza capture the market for hate against one group, the wise competitor has reason to pick a different target. They spread the hate around, so everybody can have some.

It is ironic that D’Souza argues that an atheist suffers from an inability to make moral judgments, when D’Souza himself is unable to perceive the immorality of his own actions. He does not understand that goodness and evil is found by making universal the principles of one’s actions – the idea that one should ‘do unto others what one would have others do unto you’.

I am certain that D’Souza would condemn anybody who make unfounded denigrating generalizations about any number of groups and call it wrong. I am certain that D’Souza would condemn the hate-mongers who pick any of a long list of targets. Yet, he does unto others exactly what he would condemn others for doing. He knows that this type of behavior is immoral, but he engages in it anyway.

Scope

The careful reader will notice that I am only writing about D’Souza himself. I do not generalize my remarks to make broad-brush claims about ‘Christians’ or ‘Theists’. D’Souza’s fault is not that he is a Christian or a theist. His fault that he is a hate-peddler. He happens to be a Christian hate-peddler. However, it is the quality of being a hate-peddler that makes him evil, not his quality of being a theist.

(I do know of some atheists who need to pay a bit closer attention to this type of distinction.)

The hate-peddler, in a sense, lets immoral people off of the hook, as it were, by transferring the guilty person’s guilt to some group – to whomever he is in the market of peddling hate against.

So, we hear that the murders at Virginia Tech are not really Cho’s moral responsibility. Cho was the unwitting victim of liberals who took prayer out of the schools. Or who argue that the real killers were liberals who refuse to allow college campuses to be modern versions of the old west, where everybody walks around with a gun on his or her hip ready to draw down on the first transgressor. Or is it the video-game manufacturers who are at fault? Or the movie industry? Or parents who spank their children?

Or was it perhaps Cho himself who murdered those students?

A look at the empirical evidence might actually uncover some statistical relationship between these other items and the disposition to murder. They might be able to uncover a relationship that says, “If we do X, then we can decrease each individual’s risk of being murdered – or of having somebody they care about from being murdered – by Y percent.” Then we can make informed decisions about which policy to pursue.

However, the hate-peddler is notoriously unconcerned about these types of relationships. The hate-peddler is only concerned about channeling the public’s pain, suffering, anguish, and desire for revenge against its target hate-group; motivated, not by a genuine interest in saving lives, but by an interest in profiting from the manufacture and sale of hate.

Truth

D’Souza’s accusation is that the atheist has no words of comfort to offer to those who suffered the loss of a loved one at Virginia Tech. When it comes to comforting those who are in grief, the atheist must remain silent.

Of course, D’Souza’s comfort comes in the form of a lie.

“Don’t grieve, Ms. Smith. Your daughter is not really dead. No, she hopped onto a plane with 31 of her friends and flew off to Tahiti. Sure, she’s having the time of her life – all expenses paid. Yes, she’s safe. She is well chaperoned and nothing bad can happen to her there. No, I’m afraid that you can’t contact her. Tahiti does not have phone service. No, I’m afraid it doesn’t have internet service either. Yes, you’ll see her again. We’re making arrangements to send you to Tahiti as well – all expenses paid.”

Yes, when reality proves to be particularly harsh, a lie can be comforting. It is fitting that those with no love for the truth would be the ones who are in the best position to lie.

However, one of the problems with this comforting lie is it downplays the magnitude of what happened in Virginia. These students are not enjoying an all-expense paid life under a perfectly benevolent chaperone in Tahiti. They are dead. Dead and gone. When they died, everything they were, and everything they wanted to become, died as well.

Is this too harsh? Is this difficult to accept?

This type of killing should be difficult to accept, because it clearly is unacceptable. The less people accept it, the more they are inclined to do something about it. Something useful. One of them, perhaps, might be motivated to grab D’Souza by the lapel and shout into his face loud enough to penetrate his thick skull, “YOU . . . ARE . . . NOT . . . HELPING!”

He is not helping. Ironically, D’Souza peddles hate for the very people whose capacity for empirical research and theory formation are in the best position to discover how to explain events. That which can be explained can be predicted. That which can be predicted can be avoided. Anybody who has an interest in explaining, predicting, and avoiding events such as this has an interest in rejecting and even condemning the hate that D’Souza loves to sell. Anybody who is in the market for D’Souza’s hate can’t be all that concerned with being able to explain, predict, and avoid events such as Virginia Tech.

It was my intention not to write about D’Souza’s postings because there are more important things to write about. Then I noticed, through D’Souza’s postings, that our abilities to explain, predict, and avoid events such as those in Virginia Tech are being threatened. I noticed how D’Souza trivializes the death of these people with a make-belief story in which they are all healthy and happy in a far-away land still enjoying themselves.

I noticed that there is something important to talk about here – the saving of innocent lives, and those who would rather peddle hate than save lives.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

This isn't regarding the main point of your essay, but I actually don't know if the murders were Cho's fault. He was on prozac, which has been linked with bizarre flip outs.

Eneasz said...

A question from the studio audience:

Where is the line between condemnation and hate-peddling drawn?

I suppose that's a badly worded question. I can't in fairness say I'm asking for a direct line that you can point to, but rather a guide for how one can normally identify such a line?

Also, I'd like to side-step the issue of accuracy for the moment. Obviously even minor condemnation is wrong if it is condemning something which should not be condemned.

But if someone were to harshly critisize and direct anger and condemnation at (for example) an individual who uses lies and deciet to build dictator-like powers for himself, and uses lies to send thousands of innocent men to their deaths.... wouldn't this sort of hate-peddling be justified? In fact, shouldn't the promotion of hatred towards such a person be considered a virtue?

So is there a distinction between condemnation and hate-peddling that goes beyond the accuracy of the claims?

Vincent said...

That's a good question.
From the post I'd guess there's a difference in the target (hatred of a group v. hatred of an individual) but that feels superficial.

Alonzo Fyfe said...

Eneasz

That is a good question.

I used the term 'hate peddling' (wrongfully promoting hate) in the same moral sense that one would use the term 'murder' (wrongful killing) or theft (wrongful transfer of property).

The difference between hate-peddling and condemnation is not based on the accuracy of the claims. Condemnation can be inaccurate. However, if the condemner had good reason to believe that the condemnation was deserved, he is not guilty of any wrongdoing. If every piece of evidence suggests that Person A committed rape, condemning Person A for rape is not 'wrongful hate-peddling'.

Rather than 'accuracy', the difference between hate-peddling and condemnation is 'reasonable belief'. Did the agent acquire his belief that the target may be condemned through a reasonable and responsible process.

Note that even unreasonable but accurate condemnation is 'hate peddling'. For example, if you are a radio talk show host accusing me of corruption, and I am in fact corrupt, yet you had no way of knowing of my corruption, that would be hate-peddling.

The same distinctions apply to killing. Assume A kills B and claims self-defense. The test is whether A had a reasonable belief that B was about to kill him. A reasonable belief, even if wrong, is enough to avoid wrongdoing. An unreasonable belief (A had know way of knowing that B was really planning to kill him) still leaves A guilty of murder.

This standard of reasonable belief can be found all over morality. If I take your luggage at the airport, the difference between 'theft' and 'an accident' depends on whether I had a reasonable belief that the luggage I took was mine. If my luggage was black and yours was read, we would have reason to charge theft. But, if our bags look the same, then the act may be classified as an accident.

This standard of 'reasonableness' over 'accuracy' is why I spoke of unfounded generalizations, rather than false generalizations. It is also consistent with my statements about the lack of empirical evidence. Empirical evidence does not guarantee that one's conclusions were true, but it does suggest that the agent was careful and had an interest in avoiding error.

Hume's Ghost said...

I consider D'Souza to be a hate-nonger on par with Henry Ford when he published and promoted the Protocols of Zion.

In his latest book, Enemies at Home, he essentially says "the cultural left" (aka anyone who isn't as "conservative" as he is) are responbile for 9/11.

Among others, he says that if you're a member of the ACLU you're a member of an organization that is at least as dangerous as bin Laden's sleeper cells.

Then throughout out the book there is all kinds of historical revision to fit the blame for all kinds of American ills on the left ... you know the kind of revision that Holocaust deniers engage in to justify their hate.

But the most disgusting thing about D'Souza is that he says that the terrorists have a legitimate grievance against the United States and human rights groups like Amnesty International or Human Rights watch for trying to interfere with their conservative patriachal society's. He says that conservative Christian Americans should be reaching out to conservative Muslims to let them know they have a common enemy in the decadence of the "left". In this regard he sounds like radical Islamic theorist Qutb.

I wish I had a link handy but not long after his book came out a case in Pakistan happened where a woman was raped and then sentenced to die or some such under sharia law. That's the sort of "patriarchal" society that D'Souza claims has a right to be angry when human rights groups advocate that these nations bring themselves up to the human rights standards enshrined in the Universal declaration of human rights.

Also, I would direct everyone's attention to the blog Orcinus. Mr. Neiwert has several posts up about the VaTech shooting, including one about a Muslim hero who attempted to stop the killer. Not surprisingly the Islamophobe hate-mongering blogosphere made no mention of this hero, as they were to busy demonizing various groups.

Vincent said...

"But the most disgusting thing about D'Souza is that he says that the terrorists have a legitimate grievance against the United States..."

HG,
Well, they do have a legitimate grievance against the United States. The US invade the sovereignty of Iraq and Afghanistan. It supports Israel, which is currently illegally occupying portions of Syria and if I'm not mistaken, Egypt.

Of course, they have absolutely no right to conduct terrorist acts against the US or any ally. Their methods are not proper, but their grievance is legitimate.

Hume's Ghost said...

Vincent,

You truncated my statement and then argued against a point that I did not make. The specific problem I have with D'souza is that he both denies or downplays the things you list as being motivations for the terrorists while instead saying that human rights groups, Jimmy Carter, and Britney Spears (seriously, that's in his book) are the cause of terrorism.

He has written a book blaming "the left" for 9/11 but will not acknowledge that US military bases in Saudia Arabia are one of the primary grievances of al Qaeda.

That's why he is a despicable rotten hate-monger.

See here for more on this scoundrel.

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2007/01/20/d_souza/index_np.html

Hume's Ghost said...

http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2007/01/dsouza-dliar.html

I'm in a rush but I also have a link saved where Mark Noonan of Blogs for Bush approvingly reads from D'Souza's book and then decides that after the "Islamofascists" are defeated conservative Christian Republicans will have to turn their attention towards the "the left" and the Democrat "cockroaches" and force them out of power and influence. Now where does that kind of rhetoric sound familiar?