Conservative State Worship 8

No matter how pissed off I get at liberals and leftists (a very frequent occurrence, I assure you), I have never been able to bring myself to start calling myself a “conservative.” Some of this is no doubt a reflexive reaction to being raised among right-wing Know-Nothings. But just when I am sometimes starting to think that philosophical conservatives are the ones who really have their act together, I come across something like this post from conservative Catholic philosopher Edward Feser.

Feser was once associated with libertarianism, at least on the periphery, and is now some kind of ultra-reactionary Catholic traditionalist. Predictably, he takes a position on abortion that equates abortion doctors with serial killers like Jeffrey Dahmer. I’ve known a number of other people who took such positions (mostly Christian fundamentalists of one type or another), and I really don’t find such views to be interesting enough to bother discussing them. Suffice to say that in an anarchic social order different kinds of communities would likely have different rules and standards concerning enormously controversial issues like abortion. As for my own preference, I’m for legal abortion, at least in the early stages of pregnancy. I’m probably for the legality of late-term abortion also, though I am less sure of this position and would be more accepting of compromise on the question. I don’t know that I really approve of peripheral regulations on abortion either, like parental consent and waiting periods. So, obviously, I’m in the “liberal” camp on this question. But what I find interesting about Feser’s post are comments like this:

On November 28, 1994, notorious serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer was murdered in prison by a fellow inmate. Unspeakably heinous though Dahmer’s crimes were, his murder can only be condemned. To be sure, by committing his crimes, Dahmer had forfeited his right to life. By no means can it be said that the injustice he suffered was as grave as what he inflicted upon his victims. But the state alone had the moral authority to execute him, and no private individual can usurp that authority. Vigilantism is itself a grave offense against the moral and social order, and Dahmer’s murderer merited severe punishment.
The recent murder of another notorious serial killer – the late-term abortionist George Tiller – is in most morally relevant respects parallel to the Dahmer case. It is true that Tiller, unlike Dahmer, was not punished by our legal system for his crimes; indeed, most of those crimes, though clearly against the natural moral law, are not against the positive law of either the state or the country in which Tiller resided. That is testimony only to the extreme depravity of contemporary American society, and does not excuse Tiller one iota. Still, as in the Dahmer case, no private citizen has the right to take justice into his own hands, and Tiller’s murderer ought to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.
 
One can understand how someone can criticize the killing of Jeffrey Dahmer by another prison inmate. Dahmer had already been arrested, tried, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. But by the logic of Feser, Dr. George Tiller was a serial killer who was even more evil than Dahmer himself, a mass murderer of innocent children, and the state and the law were allowing him to commit his crimes. Let’s think about this for a minute: Suppose the Manson Family started a political lobby, and through the usual process of procuring legislative favors, pushed Congress or the states to enact a law exempting the Manson Family from the laws against mass murder. The Mansonites begin using their new-found freedom to kill other people with legal immunity. So some sensible person or group of persons grab their Glocks and start picking off the Mansonites one by one. Who would criticize them? Not me. I might even join in. At the very least, if the state subsequently arrested the anti-Mansonites for taking out the Mansonites, I might lead civil disobedience at the court house where the anti-Mansonites were being tried for “murder.”

So what’s Feser’s problem? If he really thinks abortion is the mass murder of innocent children that a corrupt state allows to legally take place, then why does he not praise the heroism of someone who places himself in grave danger in order to eliminate the killer and prevent him from killing more children in the future? Would Feser object to the killing of a wild animal that repeatedly attacked and killed human beings but could not be killed legally because of “animal rights” laws? Maybe, but I’d be surprised if he did.

Frequently, I have heard hard-core pro-lifers refer to abortionists as serial killers but then object to those who assassinate an abortion doctor. I suspect there are two reasons for this. One, whatever they think they believe outwardly, they really do not believe inwardly that abortion is the equivalent of mass murder. This is reflected in the fact that many pro-lifers do not believe there should be criminal penalties for women who obtain illegal abortions, only for the doctor. But whoever heard of the idea that being an accomplice to the murder of a child is not a crime? This perspective makes no sense at all. Many cult members and adherents of fanatical religions will betray their supposed beliefs in private moments and unguarded moments, often without the realization that they are doing so. In their heart of hearts, they really don’t believe in all the bullshit they claim to believe in.

But there’s another issue involved here as well, and that’s the state worship found among many conservatives. While many other conservatives are anti-statists with varying degrees of consistency or sincerity, “moralist” conservatives often express views not unlike Feser’s. Let’s look at Feser’s words once again. This is the key passage:

“But the state alone had the moral authority to execute him, and no private individual can usurp that authority. Vigilantism is itself a grave offense against the moral and social order, and Dahmer’s murderer merited severe punishment.”

And this:

“Still, as in the Dahmer case, no private citizen has the right to take justice into his own hands, and Tiller’s murderer ought to be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

What the hell is this crap about “the moral authority” of the state? What’s so special about the state? Would this be the same institution that killed two hundred million subjects during the 20th century alone? And how exactly is “vigilantism” such a “grave offense against the moral and social order”? The arguments against vigilantism are these:

1) Protection of the innocent. The accused should not be subject to the arbitrary accusations and retaliation of others. Instead, there needs to be a process of determining innocence or guilt according to objectives rules of evidence judged by neutral third parties.

2) Proportionality. One should not be able to arbitrarily execute someone they feel has wronged them. Instead, the punishment should “fit the crime” and be imposed by a neutral third party.

3) Civil order. If everyone “took the law into his own hands,” would this not lead to a breakdown of civil society and the emergence of a free-for-all?

These arguments might make sense in a functional society with a functional legal system, even one that performs erratically much of the time. But that would not seem to apply in a society that has formally legalized mass murder, which is what Feser thinks America has done with legalized abortion. Would a sensible person condemn Cambodian persons who armed themselves circa 1976 and starting taking out Khmer Rouge operatives? A Russian circa 1935 who did the same to Stalinist agents? A German who engaged in such actions against Gestapo agents in 1943? Of course not.

Aside from the fact that Feser does not really believe in his Catholic fundamentalist anti-abortion ideology beyond the surface, conscious level, he also exhibits the emotional and intellectual cowardice that comes with an inability to reject the state. If Feser had been born in North Korea, he would have been one of the North Korean soldiers I saw in television footage after Kim Il-Sung’s death hugging a statue of the Great Leader and weeping: “He took care of me since I was a baby!”

I’ve undergone de-conversion from three cults in my own lifetime: Christianity, statism, and egalitarianism. So maybe there’s still hope for Edward Feser. This brings me to another issue. The owner of the “Debunking Christianity” blog, John W. Loftus, has called for Feser to be fired from his teaching post at a community college because of his statements comparing the assassinated abortion doctor to Jeffrey Dahmer. Says Loftus:

“We’ve heard about the murder of George Tiller, an abortionist doctor. But did you know that in this blog post Edward Feser compares Tiller to Jeffrey Dahmer who killed, dismembered and ate 17 men and boys. Feser claims that “Tiller was almost certainly a more evil man than Dahmer was.” No wonder I won’t bother reading his book length diatribe against the new atheists, “The Last Superstition: A Refutation of the New Atheism.””

Feser teaches for Pasadena City College in Pasadena, California which is a community college. I call upon that college to fire him for this highly inflamed rhetoric which will probably bring on more murders of abortion doctors. And I ask others to do likewise. No professor should use such inflammatory rhetoric or be so ignorant about some crucial distinctions.

 Umm, excuse me, but didn’t Feser condemn the shooting of the abortion doctor and say the perpetrator should be “punished to the full extent of the law”? So it’s not like Feser is advocating the actual killing of abortion doctors. In fact, he’s criticizing such actions. What does Loftus expect? That no professor should ever express moral revulsion concerning abortion or those who practice it, even if they don’t engage in or advocate violence in retaliation against abortionists? That no one should ever insult abortion doctors? Sounds a little wacky to me.

This is the deal. Loftus is a former fundamentalist Christian apologist and pastor who converted to atheism. His writings on atheism and debunking Christianity are some of the best on these topics around. But Loftus seems to have fallen into the trap of many former religious people who replace one form of moralistic zealotry with another. Loftus say he used to lead boycotts against video stores that sold adult videos during his time as a Christian. Now he wants to lead crusades against un-PC college professors. I for one would like to see more un-PC college professors, given left-liberal dominance in much of academia.

I’ve been there. Over twenty years ago, I used to do presentations for high school and college students on the dangers of “racism and fascism” using materials from groups like the $PLC and the Berletoids (I know, I know, but forgive me for I knew not what I was doing). I used to belong to all of the official anti-Christian sects like People for the American Way until I realized that liberals are just as authoritarian and moralistic as any of their religious counterparts. I learned better as I went along. Eventually, I realized that values are simply the subjective emotions and opinions of individuals, and that life is simply a brute struggle of each against all for survival of the fittest. The only thing that matters is how one chooses to wage the war of life. What a liberating realization! May others come to such enlightenment as well.

8 comments

  1. Pingback: Attack the System Blog Archive Conservative State Worship « « The Libertarian Alliance: BLOG

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  3. I agree, what currently passes as conservatism in America bares only the slightest differences from big government loving modern liberals.

    As a matter of fact, I’m so tired of hearing “right wing” and “left wing” when the only real difference between them is who gets to drive the massive behemoth.

    If you ask me, the terms right and left have been corrupted beyond their ability to correctly inform. In my opinion, the definition of left should be supremacy of the state over the individual, and right should be supremacy of the individual over the state.

    By supremacy, I don’t mean anarchy with no government, but rather, a small, severely restricted, federal government subservient to the will of We The People. Or in other words, what James Madison and the rest of the Founding Father’s envisioned.

    Using that definition, the current republican party is only slightly to the right of the democratic/liberal party, but still firmly far on the left of the scale.

    Instead, the current definitions, left wing means everything that makes liberals warm, fuzzy, happy is left, everything they hate is right wing.

    My definition firmly places democrats, republicans, most conservatives, liberals, socialists, communists, fascists, progressives, and any type of racial supremacy group firmly on the left. They all want an all powerful government, reigning supreme over the individual, the only difference is they want to control it.

    I don’t want anyone controlling me.

  4. “Frequently, I have heard hard-core pro-lifers refer to abortionists as serial killers but then object to those who assassinate an abortion doctor. I suspect there are two reasons for this. One, whatever they think they believe outwardly, they really do not believe inwardly that abortion is the equivalent of mass murder. This is reflected in the fact that many pro-lifers do not believe there should be criminal penalties for women who obtain illegal abortions, only for the doctor. But whoever heard of the idea that being an accomplice to the murder of a child is not a crime? This perspective makes no sense at all. Many cult members and adherents of fanatical religions will betray their supposed beliefs in private moments and unguarded moments, often without the realization that they are doing so. In their heart of hearts, they really don’t believe in all the bullshit they claim to believe in. ”

    You are committing a fallacy her, which will be shown by a reductio ad absurdum, the lack of action against a perceived injustice does not mean that someone is active disingenuously. There were many people in Germany, Occupied Europe, the USSR, Communist China etc who did nothing even though they believed their regimes were committing acts of mass murder. The number one reason is probably fear, this might make them cowards, but not necessarily people pretend to believe in what they do not.

    By you own reasoning you don’t believe in your own bullshit about anarchism and the totalitarian US state. If the US were really totalitarian why don’t you shoot cops or try to assassinate the president? If you really believed in anarchism why don’t you actively support those who shoot cops and federal officials. Maybe it is because you really don’t believe in anarchism or that the US is a totalitarian state. At least the 19th century anarchists killed McKinely they at least believed in what they preached, but by your own standards I can only conclude you really don’t believe in anarchism since you don’t engage in acts of violence to save the world from US aggression. You certainly give leftist rags who state the above approval in our articles.

    The problem with anarchism in general and american anarchism included (I include in this ATS) is that they are cowards.

    Do you have the balls to live like this:

    “Tyrannical toward himself, he must be tyrannical toward others. All the gentle and enervating sentiments of kinship, love, friendship, gratitude, and even honor, must be suppressed in him and give place to the cold and single-minded passion for revolution. For him, there exists only one pleasure, on consolation, one reward, one satisfaction – the success of the revolution. Night and day he must have but one thought, one aim – merciless destruction. Striving cold-bloodedly and indefatigably toward this end, he must be prepared to destroy himself and to destroy with his own hands everything that stands in the path of the revolution.”

    “The revolutionary knows that in the very depths of his being, not only in words but also in deeds, he has broken all the bonds which tie him to the social order and the civilized world with all its laws, moralities, and customs, and with all its generally accepted conventions. He is their implacable enemy, and if he continues to live with them it is only in order to destroy them more speedily.”

    http://www.marxists.org/subject/anarchism/nechayev/catechism.htm

    ATS is a tea party for little girls compared to this stuff, no offense to little girls.

    So just remember that one who lives in a glass house should not throw stones.

  5. Well, don’t take it personally. 🙂

    I suppose one could argue that abortion is the mass murder of children and still oppose assassinating abortion doctors either on prudential grounds, or on the grounds that it is unacceptable to break a just law (laws against murder) in order to oppose unjust actions (abortion).

    “ATS is a tea party for little girls compared to this stuff, no offense to little girls.”

    That’s certainly true when compared to Nechayev or Durruti, I would have to agree.

  6. Notice that this was written five years ago. In more recent times, I’ve become less critical of the views of others that I may personally disagree with. I probably wouldn’t write something like this today, except perhaps as an exercise in abstract intellectualizing.

    I suspect one mistake I’ve made in the past is to allow my personal views on a variety of topics to become confused with the wider mission of ATS, which is to reform the anarchist movement itself along pan-anarchist/anarcho-pluralist lines, and to promote the wider anarcho-populist, ten core demographic, pan-secessionist, third way, and fourth generation strategies by doing outreach to dissenters all across the political and cultural spectrum.

    None of the above has anything to do with whatever personal views I may personally hold on abortion, religion, immigration, gay rights, ethics, or anything else beyond the stated purpose of ATS itself.

  7. If the US were really totalitarian why don’t you shoot cops or try to assassinate the president?

    There are great strategic reasons not to choose these methods. Think about it: in 1940, would you have suggested to a Soviet dissident or a German dissident that the way to end totalitarian institutions would be to kill a few human beings? Or would you encourage that person to build a strategy over the long run for dismantling not just the power of the government to realize totalitarianism but also address the society’s acquiescence to it?

    I know we’ve discussed the Revolutionary Catechism in the past, but I hope you can agree that there are more possibilities for revolution than merely that one.

  8. “There are great strategic reasons not to choose these methods. Think about it: in 1940, would you have suggested to a Soviet dissident or a German dissident that the way to end totalitarian institutions would be to kill a few human beings? Or would you encourage that person to build a strategy over the long run for dismantling not just the power of the government to realize totalitarianism but also address the society’s acquiescence to it?”

    Jeremy I agree, I said so above:

    “The number one reason is probably fear, this might make them cowards, but not necessarily people pretend to believe in what they do not.”

    I don’t advocate violence, but was using the logic of Keith’s own argument against him. This was less a proscription of action than a criticism of value judgments. If one is going to hold others to the standard of killing people whom you view as a threat then I was saying Mr. Preston does not meet his own standard of judgment.

    “In more recent times, I’ve become less critical of the views of others that I may personally disagree with. I probably wouldn’t write something like this today, except perhaps as an exercise in abstract intellectualizing.”

    Yeah, but this is classic:

    Supporting this retarded coven of cunts is P. Z. Myers, flatulent fuckface with a hard-on for fish, and, as far as I can understand, the rest of the bloggers at freethoughtblogs.com.A person called Greta Christina drafted a sort of temporary A+ manifesto that is well worth reading, if only to understand how boring these people are.

    https://attackthesystem.com/2012/09/06/atheists-of-the-world-divide/

    Thanks guys for being understanding, I get trigger happy sometimes.

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