331 Heather Mac Donald

During the past several decades no journalist, said George Will, “has produced a body of work matching that of Heather Mac Donald.”  With degrees in literature from Yale and Cambridge universities, plus a law degree from Stanford, she brings unique credentials and scholarly depth to her essays (generally dealing with poverty and education) published in New York’s City Journal.  She also has a rare quality in today’s journalists—courage!  She seeks to uncover and disclose truths in America the ruling elite find unpalatable.  Thus, when she published The War on Cops:  How the New Attack on Law and Order Makes Everyone Less Safe (New York:  Encounter Books, c. 2016; Kindle), she became a regular target for leftist anger.  Reading her treatise in the light of riots and destruction in the summer of 2020, moreover, reveals how presciently she read the signs of the times, for she looked at crime in the streets as more than a simple criminal matter.  Murders and mayhem certainly do much harm and take thousands of lives, but “it is not, in itself, the greatest danger in today’s war on cops.  The greatest danger lies, rather, in the delegitimization of law and order itself” (#120).

For 20 years, following 1994, city mayors and police would generally follow New York City Mayor Rudolph Guiliani’s prescriptions and “crime would fall 50 percent nationwide, revitalizing cities across the country” (#81).   Cops actively engaged in “Broken  Windows” policing—stopping criminals engaged in misdemeanors before they moved on to felonies.  But by 2016 things had changed and crime was “shooting up in cities across the United States.  Homicides in the country’s 50 largest cities rose nearly 17 percent in 2015, the greatest surge in fatal violence in a quarter-century” (#57).  Under President Barack Obama—who campaigned promising “change” and “repeatedly charged that the criminal-justice system treats blacks differently from whites” (#93)—one of the most dramatic changes was in crime.  “Fueling the rise in crime in places like Baltimore and Milwaukee is a multi-pronged attack on law enforcement.  Since late summer 2014, a protest movement known as Black Lives Matter (a fraudulent, thuggish organization in Mac Donald’s judgment) has convulsed the nation.  Triggered by a series of highly publicized deaths of black males at the hands of the police, the Black Lives Matter movement holds that police officers are the greatest threat facing young black men today.  That belief has spawned riots, ‘die-ins,’ and the assassination of police officers.  The movement’s targets include Broken Windows policing and the practice of stopping and questioning suspicious individuals, both of which are said to harass blacks” (#89).

Sensitive to media-fueled criticism, inner-city police understandably did less policing.  Arrests plummeted.  And as darkness follows dusk “a bloodbath ensued, and its victims were virtually all black. When the cops back off, blacks pay the greatest price.  That truth would have come as no surprise to the legions of inner-city residents who fervently support the police and whose voices are almost never heard in the media” (#106).  The virulent anti-cop movement gained impetus from the August 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.  A white police officer, Darren Wilson, shot an 18-year-old black man—a “gentle giant” who supposedly had his hands raised saying “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and was shot in cold blood.  Soon thereafter, rioters burned and looted Ferguson businesses.  When a grand jury exonerated the policeman, more riots erupted, and “Black Lives Matter protests grew ever more virulent as a second myth took hold:  that the American criminal-justice system is rigged against blacks” (#137).

Promoting this myth—and while while looters were ravaging Ferguson—President Obama “betrayed the nation” by condemning the grand jury’s failure to indict Darren Wilson.  “Obama had one job and one job only in his address that day:  to defend the workings of the criminal-justice system and the rule of law.  Instead, he turned his talk into a primer on police racism and criminal-justice bias.  In so doing, he perverted his role as the leader of all Americans and as the country’s most visible symbol of the primacy of the law” (#154).  The president “left no doubt that he believed the narrative of the mainstream media and race activists about Ferguson.  That narrative held that the shooting of Brown was a symbol of nationwide police misbehavior and that the August riots were an ‘understandable’ reaction to widespread societal injustice” (#178).  He and his Attorney General Eric Holder toured the country reciting this incendiary litany.  This narrative has absolutely no factual basis, but that deterred neither the president nor the press.  

Soon after Obama spoke, the New York Times pontificated on the Ferguson riots:  “A more perfect example of what the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan called ‘defining deviancy down’ would be hard to find.” Revealingly:  “The Times could not bring itself to say one word of condemnation against the savages who self-indulgently destroyed the livelihoods of struggling entrepreneurs and their employees in Ferguson, Missouri” (#260).  Blaming the grand jury for failing to indict the policeman, the Times proceeded to assert “that ‘the killing of young black men by police is a common feature of African-American life and a source of dread for black parents from coast to coast.’  A ‘common feature’?” Mac Donald asks.  In fact:  “This is pure hysteria” promoted by “the media frenzy that follows every such police killing, rare as they are, compared with the silence that greets the daily homicides committed by blacks against other blacks” (#305).  In fact, only a handful of unarmed blacks are annually killed by police—about half the number of whites!  “Blacks made up 60.5 percent of all murder arrests in Missouri in 2012 and 58 percent of all robbery arrests, though they are less than 12 percent of the state’s population.  Such vast disparities are found in every city and state in the country” (#485).   Unfortunately for this nation’s well being, “America’s elites have talked feverishly about police racism in order to avoid talking about black crime” (#532).

In time the Justice Department issued an official report on the Ferguson killing, “eviscerating virtually every aspect of the pro-Brown, anti-Wilson narrative,” and demolishing “the incendiary story that had fueled the riots in Ferguson, Missouri— that a teenaged “gentle giant” was gunned down by a trigger-happy cop who feared black people— and made it clear why the department would not be bringing civil rights charges against Officer Darren Wilson” (#378).  The report also explained that Brown’s body was left one the site for four hours because the police wanted to carefully examine the evidence and were hindered by protesters chanting “Kill the police.”  (This became a theme song for Black Lives Matter, chanting while marching in protests:  “What do we want?  Dead cops.”)  But the report was largely ignored by our politicians and journalists, who were determined to push the anti-police narrative, a “lie” that flooded much of “the country and grew into a kind of mass hysteria.  That lie holds that the police pose a mortal threat to black Americans—indeed, that the police are the greatest threat facing black Americans today.  Several subsidiary untruths buttress that central myth:  that the criminal-justice system is biased against blacks; that there is no such thing as a black underclass; and that crime rates are comparable between blacks and whites, so that disproportionate police action in minority neighborhoods cannot be explained without reference to racism” (#628).

The riots in Ferguson were followed by riots in Baltimore and other cities.  The pattern was set.  And as a result, Mac Donald believes, our legal system has begun to “fray.”  Police officers—illustrating the “Ferguson effect”—are less willing to confront lawbreakers lest they be accused of “racial profiling.”  The twenty-year decline in crime has been reversed as violent crimes have surged.  “There are signs that the legal order itself is breaking down in urban areas.  ‘There’s a total lack of respect out there for the police,’ says a female sergeant in New York.  ‘The perps feel more empowered to carry guns because they know that we are running scared.’  The lawful use of police power is being met by hostility and violence, which is often ignored by the press” (#1033).  When then FBI Director Jim Comey admitted the evidence substantiated this, President Obama charged him with “shoddy, biased analysis.  ‘We do have to stick with the facts,’” Obama said, but:  ‘What we can’t do is cherry-pick data or use anecdotal evidence to drive policy or to feed political agendas.’  The idea that Obama knows more about crime patterns and policing than the FBI director is ludicrous; the one with a “political agenda” is Obama, who has spent the last two years disseminating the dangerous lie that the criminal-justice system is racially biased” (1092).

In the book’s final section, Mac Donald turns to analyzing some of the fundamental realities fomenting crime.  Unsurprisingly:  “A straight line can be drawn between family breakdown and youth violence.  In Chicago’s poor black neighborhoods, criminal activity among the young has reached epidemic proportions.  It’s a problem that no one, including the Chicago Police Department, seems able to solve.  About 80 percent of black children in Chicago are born to single mothers.  They grow up in a world where marriage is virtually unheard of and where no one expects a man to stick around and help raise a child” (#1896).  For four years Barack Obama worked as a “community organizer” in South Side Chicago, promoting Saul Alinsky’s agenda of “change” and creating “mass organizations to seize power and give it to the people.”  As president, Obama routinely mouthed “Alinskyite bromides about school spending, preschool programs, visiting nurses, global warming, sexism, racial division, and income inequality” (#2177).  Throughout his years as an organizer, Obama ignored “the disappearance of the black two-parent family,”  illustrating a “myopia” that “continues today, guaranteeing that the response to Chicago’s current youth violence will prove as useless as Obama’s activities were a generation ago” (#1911).  Various governmental initiatives have sought to deal with Chicago’s children, spending billions of dollars without demonstrable effect.  If these programs could have compensated “for the absence of fathers,” Mac Donald thinks, “the black violence problem would have ended years ago” (#2057).  Yet:  “The official silence about illegitimacy and its relation to youth violence remains as carefully preserved in today’s Chicago as it was during Obama’s organizing time there” (#2144).  

Though published four years ago, The War on Cops could easily have been published in 2020.  Urban details have changed—Minneapolis instead of Ferguson, LA instead of Baltimore—but the issues remain much the same.  

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For an explanation of the anti-cop rioting in American cities, an examination of American universities provides plenteous clues.  In The Diversity Delusion:  How Race and Gender Pandering Corrupt the Universities and Undermine Our Culture (New York:  St Martins Press, c. 2018).  Heather Mac Donald begins by noting that English majors in our universities no longer study Chaucer, Spenser, Shakespeare and Milton because they might offend “students of color.”  The dismantling of the traditional canon gained currency, in a dramatic fashion, when Jesse Jackson led Stanford Students chanting “Hey, he, ho, ho, Western Civ has got to go.”  And it is largely gone!   Zealously seeking victim-status, students now demand “safe spaces”where they will suffer no racial or sexual micro-aggressions.  They reveal the changing face of higher education, wherein “human beings are defined by their skin color, sex, and sexual preference; that discrimination based on those characteristics has been the driving force in Western civilization; and that America remains a profoundly bigoted place, where heterosexual white males continue to deny opportunity to everyone else” (p. 2).  UCLA English majors no longer study classic writers, but are required to take courses in “Gender, Race, Ethnicity, Disability, and Sexuality Studies; Imperial, Transnational, and Postcolonial Studies; genre studies, interdisciplinary studies, and critical theory; or creative writing.  In other words, the UCLA faculty was now officially indifferent as to whether an English major had ever read a word of Chaucer, Milton, or Shakespeare, but was determined to expose students, according to the course catalog, to ‘alternative rubrics of gender, sexuality, race, and class’” (p. 211).  

A primary plank in this endeavor is “affirmative action,” eminently evident in California.  Though a 1996 initiative supposedly made it illegal, the state’s elites found clever ways to circumvent it under the umbrella of “diversity,” an ideology which routinely trumps the law.  Admitting blacks and Hispanics to the state’s elite universities, despite their poor qualifications, demonstrates how administrators reveal a bigotry of low expectations as pernicious as that of Southerners before the civil rights movement.  They “relied on wildly unequal double standards to achieve its smattering of ‘underrepresented minorities,’ especially at Berkeley and UCLA, the most competitive campuses.  The median SAT score of blacks and Hispanics in Berkeley’s liberal arts programs was 250 points lower (on a 1600-point scale) than that of whites and Asians.  This test-score gap was hard to miss in the classroom.  Renowned Berkeley philosophy professor John Searle, who judges affirmative action ‘a disaster,’ recounted that ‘they admitted people who could barely read’” (p. 38).  In 2002 UC Berkeley admitted 374 applicants “with SATs under 1000—almost all of them “students of color”—while rejecting 3,218 applicants with scores above 1400” (p. 45).  Such admitted students, as one would imagine, rarely survived the rigors of the university and routinely dropped out.  But the elites in the system cared not for graduation rates—only “diversity” in admissions counts! 

Equally harmful is the “micro-aggression farce” making university life fearful.  Casual comments in class discussions easily lead to accusations of racism or sexism or whatever “ism” you fancy.  Even demanding that students write grammatical English may elicit protests.  One Teaching Assistant said:  “‘Asking for better grammar is inflammatory in the school.  You have to give an A or you’re a racist’” (p. 66).  A UCLA law professor arranged a softball game for his students, who decided to get T-shirts with whimsical lettering.  Minority students, however, discerned a covert “white privilege” racial message and claimed to feel “triggered” by the shirts as well as traumatized by some “‘racist/classist/sexist comments made inside and outside of the classroom’” (p. 72).  Rather than defend the eminently defensible professor, administrators equivocated and appeased the protestors, making life miserable for a highly esteemed scholar.  And it is not only UCLA!  Mac Donald provides persuasive examples from a variety of places to show how micro-aggressions harm university education.  

Turning from race to gender, Mac Donald shows the great harm being done to universities by radical feminist ideology.  For example, contrary to the “rape-culture” atmosphere feminists lament, actual interviews revealed that when asked if they’d been raped “very few women” assented.  In one notorious incident at Columbia University, the “victim” took “six months to decide that she had been raped” (p. 145).  Few campus “rapes” are reported to the local police, “because the accuser and her counselors know that most cases wouldn’t have a chance in court” (p. 146).  What’s actually harming women, unfortunately, is the “hook-up” culture spawned by feminists themselves.  “While there are thankfully few actual rape victims on college campuses, there are thousands of girls feeling taken advantage of by partners who walk away from casual sex with no apparent sense of thwarted attachment” (p. 145).  Yet the “rape culture” has migrated from the university to the workplace, styling itself as the “Me Too” movement, egregiously evident in the Justice Brett Kavanaugh hearings.  

After looking at the devastation demonstrably evident on university campuses, Mac Donald concludes by recommending alternative forms of education, such as the phenomenally successful “Great Courses.”  She pleads for a return to traditional liberal arts studies and responsible campus behavior.  Given all the evidence she presents in her essays, however, the university (or at least the elite universities) is almost ruined beyond redemption.  

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Twenty years ago Heather Mac Donald collected a series of essays in The Burden of Bad Ideas:  How Modern Intellectuals Misshape Our Society (Chicago:  Ivan R. Dee, c. 2000).  Therein she documented the harm done to the recipients of social engineering.   “These essays record,” Mac Donald said, “my travels through institutions that have been perverted by today’s elite intellectual orthodoxy, from an inner city high school that teaches graffiti-writing for academic credit . . . to the Smithsonian Institution, now in thrall to a crude academic multiculturalism; from New York’s Dantean foster care system to Ivy League law schools that produce ‘scholarship’ urging blacks to view shoplifting, and pilfering from an employer, as political expression” (p. xi).  

In “The Billions of Dollars That Made Things Worse” Mac Donald explored the impact of philanthropic foundations such as Carnegie and Ford which long ago abandoned their founders’ aspirations (e.g. Carnegie libraries) and now see themselves as agents of social change, funding radical “community activists” around the country, seeking to transform “a deeply flawed American society” (p. 4).  “When,” for example, “McGeorge Bundy, former White House national security advisor, became Ford’s president in 1966, the foundation’s activism switched into high gear.  Bundy reallocated Ford’s resources from education to minority rights” and “created a host of new advocacy groups, such as the Mexican-American Legal Defense and Educational Fund” and “the Native American Rights Fund, that still wreak havoc on public policy today” (p. 9).  These foundations have routinely provided the funds to establish social justice centers on university campuses devoted to race, class, and gender.  They also have subsidized public interest litigation, enabling legions of lawyers to push for bilingual education, voter rights, racial quotas, sexual equality, prisoners’ rights, etc., all designed to  “establish in court rights that democratically elected legislatures have rejected” (p. 20).   No one should be surprised that the Ford Foundation recently gave $100 million to Black Lives Matter, giving it ample funds whereby to destabilize our republic.  

Paralleling the changes in powerful foundations have come similar changes in powerful media, preeminently evident in the New York Times.  Whereas the paper Adolph Ochs bought in 1896 was devoted to sound money, low taxes, and “‘no more government than is absolutely necessary to protect society, maintain individual and vested rights, and assure the free exercise of a sound conscience’” (p. 39), a century later it championed precisely the opposite positions.  Charting the ways poverty has been portrayed in the Times, Mac Donald shows how appeals for individual charity early in the 20th century shifted to demands for an ever-expanding welfare state.  With the passing decades, “elite opinion came to see the cause of poverty not in individual character and behavior but in vast, impersonal social and economic forces that supposedly determined individual fate” (p. 26).  No longer were individuals (including the poor) held accountable to moral standards, which were discarded in favor of a psychoanalytic model.  Distinctions between the “undeserving” and “deserving” poor disappeared from the Time’s pages.  Bad luck rather than bad character explained the plight of the city’s burgeoning welfare recipients. 

The varied titles of the essays indicate the scope of Mac Donald’s authorial lens, and she successfully pillories many of the conventional liberal ideas that so shape public policy not only in New York but throughout the country.  Refuting the “bad ideas” of the intelligentsia are the realities of a world wherein three things seem clear.  “First was the depth of the dysfunction that I often saw—the self-destruction wrought by drugs and alcohol and promiscuity, the damage inflicted on children by a world from which the traditional family had largely disappeared (though throughout the most troubled neighborhoods I found individuals of extraordinary moral strength fighting for order).  Second was the extent to which government programs shaped life in the ghetto, influencing the choices that individuals made and distorting the forms the social interaction took.  Finally, I was continually amazed by the trenchancy with which those I interviewed could judge their situations and the policies that had gone into making them.  If you want to know how well social policies are working, I learned, ask the poor—when their advocates weren’t around” (pp. vii-viii).

330 Reclaiming Common Sense

Dr. Ben Carson, the distinguished Secretary of the Housing and Urban Development department, recently sought to calmly assess the COVID-19 pandemic and the equally virulent panic paralyzing the nation.  Concluding his remarks he said we really need some “common sense” to deal with the crisis.  In the light of his Christian faith, he probably shares the view of G.K. Chesterton, who (in one of his Father Brown stories, “The Oracle of the Dog”) said:  “the first effect of not believing in God is that you lose your common sense.”  The need for such common sense is urged in Reclaiming Common Sense:  Finding Truth in a Post-Truth World (New York:  Encounter Books, c. 2019), by Robert Curry, who seeks to follow the example of George Orwell, of whom Lionel Trilling said:  “The medium of his thought is common sense, and his commitment to intellect is fortified by an old-fashioned faith that the truth can be got at, that we can, if we actually want to, see the object as it really is.”  Curry wants to introduce Americans to a way of thinking that was quite common a century ago, for it was “the coin of the realm in American thought.”  

Unfortunately, such common sense realism has been largely supplanted by ideologies (e.g. Romanticism or Progressivism or Freudianism or Postmodernism or Transgenderism) of various sorts.   For example, powerful elites in America deny the self-evident differences between men and women.  “Today, academic and cultural elites as well as government officials insist that ‘gender identity’ is more real than biology” (p. 23).  Thus they claim to discern 63 or more “genders,” and we’re asked to embrace the dogma that “marriage” can describe unions of alternative sorts.  As Bruce Fleming says:  “‘The dogma of the intellectual upper classes today is a bedrock belief in what I call “linguistic realism”  . . . .  If I say I am a woman, I am a woman, whatever others think.  If I say I feel myself to be oppressed, I am.  If I say that I was the victim of what we call sexual assault, I am—even if a court later decides there was no assault and hence no victim’” (p. 95).  To have asked a farmer in Kansas in 1890 about such “genders” or “assaults” would have elicited from him, most probably, sheer speechlessness!  One could not even imagine such silliness.  This farmer’s reaction would be simple common sense!  

The Kansas farmer would not likely have attended school very long, but such schooling would have been rooted in a common sense philosophy then widely embraced by the schools.   Common sense was, the historian Arthur Hermon said, “virtually the official creed of the American Republic.”  This faculty, he says, “‘belongs to everyone, rich or poor, educated or uneducated; indeed, we exercise it every day in hundreds of ways.’”  It’s not infallible, of course, but many things are simply self-evident—“‘the existence of the real world and basic moral truths’” that “‘are no sooner understood than they are believed’” because they “‘carry the light of truth itself’” (p. 27).  In leading universities, such as Princeton, this “common sense realism” held sway for much of the 19th century.  It was deeply shaped by an important 18th century Scottish philosopher, Thomas Reid, a Professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow, who said:  “‘If there are certain principles, as I think there are, which the constitution of our nature leads us to believe, and which we are under a necessity to take for granted in the common concerns of life, without being able to give a reason for them; these are what we call the principles of common sense; and what is manifestly contrary to them, is what we call absurd’”  (p. 29).

Curry seeks, in this treatise, to simply explain and defend the thought of Thomas Reid.  So doing he rejects many modern philosophers, starting with Rene Descartes, who doubted everything other than their own subjective selves.  Descartes, the “father of modern philosophy,” famously declared “Cogito ergo sum—I think, therefore I am.”  He began with with himself and erected a philosophical system, setting forth an approach largely followed by hundreds of other less astute thinkers.  But Reid and his epigones thought we are equally if indeed not more certain that the world and other people really exist.   “There is no need to prove that the world and other people exist, just as there is no need to prove that tables can’t sing arias or that carafes cannot at the same time be women.  Stated, put into language, they are self-evident truths, which cannot and need not be proved.”  And these are the truths we must assert.

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The United States was founded, Robert Curry believes, by thoughtful men who took their bearings from the Scottish Common Sense tradition (“one of the most remarkable developments in the history of the world”), and he defends this thesis in Common Sense Nation: Unlocking the Forgotten Power of the American Idea (New York:   Encounter Books, c. 2015; Kindle Edition).  Bearing witness to this position he cites Alexander Hamilton, who said:  “The sacred rights of mankind are . . . written, as with a sunbeam, in the whole volume of human nature, by the hand of Divinity itself, and can never be erased or obscured by mortal power.”  His frequent adversary, Thomas Jefferson, put the same truth more famously:  “We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”  Trusting the perspicacity of such Founders, Curry dedicates his book “to the proposition that we need to understand the language of the Founders if we want to understand the ideas of the Founders.  It will also tell the story of the systematic effort to bury the ideas of the Founders ” (p. xvii).

The Founders’ ideas were grounded in those self-evident truths they considered foundational.  They thereby embraced the Scottish common sense philosophy shaped by eminent thinkers such as Thomas Reid and Adam Smith.  It came to America via emigrating scholars (preeminently clergymen such as John Witherspoon) and young Americans such as Benjamin Rush who studied in Scotland—major figures in the “American Enlightenment,” which was something quite different from the French Enlightenment.   Consequently, historian Allen Guelzo, says:  “‘Before the Civil War, every major [American] collegiate intellectual was a disciple of Scottish common sense realism’” (p. 7).  The Founders certainly cited Montesquieu and John Locke, but it was the Scots who showed them ways “to fashion government along unprecedented lines—and to find a hitherto undreamed of way to realize Locke’s revolutionary claim that the supreme political power in every commonwealth is the people.  When it came time to lay the foundation for the new nation and its government, the Founders went to work thoroughly grounded in the philosophical arguments the Scots advanced.  It was those arguments that showed the Founders a way forward. It enabled them to go beyond the idea of a monarchy with its power somewhat limited by a Bill of Rights, and to make the American experiment in government by, for, and of the people” (p. 14).

They did so, in part, because the Founders were largely educated by Scots such as William Small, “by far the most brilliant member of the faculty at William and Mary,” who taught Jefferson.  At Princeton Madison was quite influenced by President John Witherspoon, who had studied with Adam Smith and Thomas Reid in Scotland.  Witherspoon himself would sign the Declaration of Independence, and his influence was prodigious, for his “students by one count included, among many others, five delegates to the Constitutional Convention, twenty-eight U.S. senators, forty-nine U.S. representatives, twelve governors, three Supreme Court Justices, eight U.S. district judges, three attorneys general, and many members of state constitutional conventions and state ratifying conventions.  Is it any wonder that the ideas and arguments of Reid and Smith and their Scottish colleagues are everywhere in the writings of the Founders?  Witherspoon’s course in moral philosophy, which he dictated year after year in largely unchanging form and which his students copied down faithfully, is almost certainly the most influential single college course in America’s history” (p. 19).  Hamilton was tutored at King’s College (now Columbia), by Robert Harpur, who had also studied at Glasgow, absorbing the Scottish Common Sense perspective.  “The ideas of the Scottish Enlightenment were studied and hotly debated just about everywhere in colonial America.”  Throughout the land, in all the colonial colleges, says Douglass Adair, “‘the young men who rode off to war in 1776 had been trained in the texts of Scottish social science’” (pp. 16-18).  

Importantly, Common Sense thinkers believed we have an innate “moral sense” providing important ethical precepts.  There are some things we can’t not know!  Recently advocating this perspective, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn said: “We are born with a sense of justice in our souls; we can’t and don’t want to live without it!”  Similarly, in 1787, writing to his nephew, Thomas Jefferson said:  “Man was destined for society . . . He was endowed with a sense of right and wrong merely relative to this.  This sense is as much a part of his nature as the sense of hearing, seeing, feeling; it is the true foundation of morality . . . The moral sense, or conscience, is as much a part of a man as his leg or arm.  It is given to all human beings in a stronger or weaker degree . . . It may be strengthened by exercise, as may any particular limb of the body. “  Twenty-eight years later he said virtually the same thing in a letter to John Adams.  These words clearly reflect the views of Francis Hutcheson, the leading spokesman for Scottish moral sense philosophy. 

Textbook treatments of the Declaration of Independence routinely credit John Locke for the views set forth by Jefferson.  Curry, however, wants us to see it in the light of Scottish thinkers who constantly critiqued Locke.  Consider the famous “self-evident truths” Jefferson cited.  In an 1825 letter to Henry Lee,  he said that while writing the Declaration he sought:  “Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of . . . but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject . . . it was intended to be an expression of the American mind.”  This is not a Lockean notion!  Rather, it was Thomas Reid who had “made self-evident truths the foundation of his philosophy, the philosophy of common sense realism.  Reidian common sense is the human faculty by means of which we can grasp self-evident truths. It is a power like Hutcheson’s moral sense or the sense of sight or of hearing.  Therefore,  common sense is the power that makes human understanding possible” (p. 55).  Reid at times equated “self-evident truths” with “first principles,” which are “‘propositions which are no sooner understood than they are believed . . . [having] the light of truth in itself.”  Similarly, Alexander Hamilton said, in Federalist 31, that “there are certain primary truths, or first principles, upon which all subsequent reasonings must depend.  These contain an internal evidence which, antecedent to all reflection or combination, commands the assent of the mind.”  Saying so, Hamilton could easily have been quoting Reid!

After analyzing the Declaration of Independence Curry turns to the Constitution, and its defense in the Federalist Papers, which obviously leads to citing their primary authors, James Madison and Alexander Hamilton.  Unlike the utopian romantics, such as Rousseau, who helped shape the French Revolution, American revolutionaries took a realistic approach to human nature and politics.  In important ways their views resembled Scottish Presbyterianism; indeed King George III called the Americans’ revolt “a Presbyterian Rebellion.”  The church in Scotland, with its uniquely representative form of government, illustrated the popular sovereignty invoked by the Founders.  At the Constitutional Convention, Madison’s “Virginia Plan” closely resembled the Presbyterian system.  And so did Madison’s understanding of human nature.  Thus:  “Madison was fighting for a radical re-conception of the relationship of mankind and the state” based upon natural rights, given by God and not the state, nor by any “contract” established by earlier generations.  “‘The rights were there all along.’  That is to say, our rights are inherent, part of our nature as human beings, unalienable.  In order to understand the Founders, we need to recognize their intent:  to design America’s government guided by this new understanding of the nature of our rights, and, insofar as possible, to design government so as to protect and preserve those rights” (p. 85).  

The Founders’ common sense philosophy, however, was abandoned by the Progressives who gained power at the beginning of the 20th century.  Emblematic of this change is Woodrow Wilson, who embraced an evolutionary worldview that justified replacing the written Constitution with constantly changing edicts and laws designed to meet current demands.   He scoffed at any notions of “self-evident” truths or “inalienable rights” as fantasies of earlier times.  Wilson embraced the philosophy of G. W. F. Hegel which was in vogue when he went to graduate school at Johns Hopkins, where virtually all the professors had secured their Ph.D.s in Germany.  Hegel celebrated the powerful state rather than personal freedom.  “For Hegel, the movement of the state through time was the ‘march of God on earth” (p. 164).  Successive progressive presidents, including Teddy Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, followed Wilson and rejected “the Constitutional safeguards of individual liberty in favor of the government’s ability to bring about social change, favors an ever expanding and activist role for government in society, such as government control of health care, government intervention in the economy and so on” (p. 150).

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In my many years teaching introductory philosophy classes I never discussed Thomas Reid.  And I’d never read any of his books.  Recently prompted by Robert Curry’s discussion of common sense philosophy I secured and read Reid’s An Inquiry into the Human Mind, on the Principles of Common Sense (Kindle Edition).  He begins with a simple declaration:  “Wise men now agree, or ought to agree, in this, that there is but one way to the knowledge of nature’s works—the way of observation and experiment” (#65).  Throughout history man has reasoned from observable events to their explanations, employing “the same method by which Newton discovered the law of gravitation and the properties of light.  His regulæ philosophandi are maxims of common sense, and are practiced every day in common life; and he who philosophizes by other rules, either concerning the material system or concerning the mind, mistakes his aim.  Conjectures and theories are the creatures of men, and will always be found very unlike the creatures of God.  If we would know the works of God, we must consult themselves with attention and humility, without daring to add anything of ours to what they declare.”   

Descartes, uttering his famous Cogito ergo sum, “resolved not to believe his own existence till he should be able to give a good reason for it.”   If, in fact, he could actually doubt his own existence, Reid thought, “his case would have been deplorable,” for anyone who “disbelieves his own existence” is as deranged as one who “believes he is made of glass.”  Nevertheless Descartes sought to move from certain internal truths to then “prove the existence of a material world:  and with very bad success.”  He (along with John Locke and William Berkeley and David Hume in different ways) invoked “philosophy to furnish them with reasons for the belief of those things which all mankind have believed, without being able to give any reason for it” (#174).  Without intending to, they all espoused positions that would inevitably lead to an “abyss of skepticism” as was demonstrably evident in the works of David Hume.   To refute the skeptics Reid devoted successive chapters to describing and analyzing the five physical senses—smelling; tasting; hearing; touching; seeing.  When we smell the scent of a rose, we simply testify to the undeniability of an existing reality.  We can do no more than observe that something smells.  Likewise we have memories of scents in the past.  “Sensation and memory, therefore, are simple, original, and perfectly distinct operations of the mind, and both of them are original principles of belief.  . . . . Sensation implies the present existence of its object; memory its past existence” (#362).  From our sensations we can infer that we have a mind capable of knowing the world around us.  We know the things we sense—not simply the ideas in our minds concerning these things.  But the “wisdom of philosophy” sought to demonstrate the primacy of sensations or ideas in the mind rather than assume the reality of the material world.  Implausibly, to Reid, “wisdom” philosophers such as Descartes and Locke “maintained, that colour, sound, and heat, are not any thing in bodies, but sensations of the mind.”  Denying color resides in things, Reid contends, is “nothing else but an abuse of words,” capriciously changing the “meaning of a common word” (#1342).  He sided with ordinary folks who simply assume that colors and sounds reside in things independent of the mind. 

If Descartes and Locke are “wise men,” Reid declared,“let me be deluded with the vulgar.”  To him, “Common sense and reason have both one Author, —that Almighty Author, in all whose other works we observe a consistency, uniformity, and beauty, which charm and delight the understanding:  there must therefore be some order and consistency in the human faculties, as well as in other parts of his workmanship.”  Obviously the “belief of a material world is older, and of more authority, than any principles of philosophy.”  So too is our awareness of “first principles” given us by the Author of our being, our human nature.  “Such principles are parts of our constitution, no less than the power of thinking: reason can neither make nor destroy them; nor can it do any thing without them . . .  A mathematician cannot prove the truth of his axioms, nor can he prove any thing, unless he takes them for granted.  We cannot prove the existence of our minds, nor even of our thoughts and sensations.  A historian, or a witness, can prove nothing, unless it is taken for granted that the memory and senses may be trusted.  A natural philosopher can prove nothing, unless it is taken for granted that the course of nature is steady and uniform.  How or when I got such first principles, upon which I build all my reasoning, I know not; for I had them before I can remember: but I am sure they are parts of my constitution, and that I cannot throw them off” (#1060).

Concluding his essay, Reid explains, with compelling clarity:  “when I feel the pain of the gout in my toe, I have not only a notion of pain, but a belief of its existence, and a belief of some disorder in my toe which occasions it; and this belief is not produced by comparing ideas, and perceiving their agreements and disagreements; it is included in the very nature of the sensation.  When I perceive a tree before me, my faculty of seeing gives me not only a notion or simple apprehension of the tree, but a belief of its existence, and of its figure, distance, and magnitude; and this judgment or belief is not got by comparing ideas, it is included in the very nature of the perception.”  Such “original and natural judgments are therefore a part of that furniture which nature hath given to the human understanding.  They are the inspiration of the Almighty, no less than our notions or simple apprehensions.  They serve to direct us in the common affairs of life, where our reasoning faculty would leave us in the dark.  They are a part of our constitution, and all the discoveries of our reason are grounded upon them.  They make up what is called the common sense of mankind, and what is manifestly contrary to any of those first principles, is what we call absurd.  The strength of them is good sense, which is often found in those who are not acute in reasoning.  A remarkable deviation from them, arising from a disorder in the constitution, is what we call lunacy; as when a man believes that he is made of glass. When a man suffers himself to be reasoned out of the principles of common sense by metaphysical arguments, we may call this metaphysical lunacy; which differs from the other species of the distemper in this, that it is not continued, but intermittent: it is apt to seize the patient in solitary and speculative moments; but when he enters into society, common sense recovers her authority.  A clear explication and enumeration of the principles of common sense, is one of the chief desiderata in logic” (#3841).  

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Paul A. Boer, Sr. has edited a helpful book:  Selections from the Scottish Philosophy of Common Sense, (Veritatis Splendor Publications, c. 2002; Kindle Ed) and included writings by Thomas Reid, Adam Ferguson, James Beattie, and Duncan Stewart, who were all alarmed by the skepticism of David Hume.  Reading them reminds one of the perduring wisdom of the philosophical realism variously espoused by Aristotle and Aquinas and of the fact that “the Philosophy of Common Sense was the dominant philosophy in the American Universities,” and left its imprint on this nation, both theologically (in the Princeton school) and politically (in the thought of the Founders). 

329 Humanitarian Woes

During the past two centuries, Man has replaced God in various quarters (including many “modernist” churches).  Consequently humanitarianism—the abstract love for mankind—has increasingly replaced charity as the ultimate mark of righteousness.  The course was set in the 19th century when the highly influential bible critic David Strauss called for “the carrying forward of the Religion of Christ to the Religion of Humanity.”    Yet, as Feodor Dostoevsky insightfully noted in The Idiot:  “In abstract love of humanity one almost always only loves himself.”  Thus it is not surprising that folks who have given their lives in purely humanitarian endeavors end up disillusioned if not deeply jaundiced.  With that in mind one can learn much from Travesty in Haiti:  A true account of Christian missions, orphanages, fraud, food aid, and drug trafficking (Smashwords, c. 2012; Kindle) by Timothy T. Schwartz.  In 1995 Schwartz went to Haiti to finish his Ph.D. in cultural anthropology by doing “field work” in a clearly needy place.  He had no religious bent, but he did hope to make a difference by studying and understanding the country.  And he “was enthusiastic.  My enthusiasm and belief that I could make a contribution kept me returning despite the hardships, the violence, the coups, and the embargoes.  But ten years later I was a different person.  Perhaps I was simply burned out” (p. 228).  He illustrates rather nicely the downside of humanitarianism all over the world—without a transcendent perspective trying to help hurting people drives one to despair.  So while reading his books one must always remember Schwartz sees his world through rather jaundiced glasses!   His is animus doubtlessly distorts his presentation, but his woeful data still deserve consideration.

Schwartz says he “was supposed to do what is called participant observation, meaning that I was to live in the community, take part in the lives of the people there, live as they live, interfering as little as possible so that I could learn about their culture and how impoverished Haitians deal with problems of daily survival.”  Thereafter, he hoped “to join the ranks of foreign aid experts who work for charitable organizations such as CARE International, experts who design and carry out farm, commerce, and health projects meant to help the poor in their struggle to overcome hunger and disease” (p. 6).  For a year he lived in a rather remote fishing “hamlet” wherein his naive presuppositions and aspirations quickly vanished—in part because he “made the mistake that so many blan [whites] make in Haiti:  I started giving” (p. 19).  Regardless of their status, his neighbors incessantly begged, asking him to part with virtually everything he owned.  And when they didn’t beg they stole.  In time Schwartz simply left his personal property locked away with a missionary family some distance from the hamlet.  

After successfully completing his Ph.D., Schwartz found employment with a number of NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) that had begun arriving in Haiti in the 1950s.  This included CARE (the Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere), the most prestigious of them all.  He mainly conducted surveys to document educational, economic, and medical conditions in the country.  But as he looked at the data and  roamed about seeking to better understand Haiti, he found, to his dismay, that many of the humanitarian “aid” programs harmed the very people they were designed to help.  This was due primarily to their lack of accountability for the distribution of massive amounts of money collected from sincere donors who want to do something to “help” the needy.  Food aid, dumped in great quantities, inevitably harmed Haiti’s farmers and encouraged widespread theft and graft.   Easily stolen from the distribution sites and sold in the markets, aid parcels brought a tidy profit for the thieves.  A country that was exporting food in 1950 had become impoverished as “food aid” from rich countries overwhelmed it.

Technological assistance, often in the form of machinery (generators, tractors, etc.) sent to impoverished rural areas, did little good simply because Haitians could not effectively use it.  And, since it was designed for advanced economies, it was fundamentally unsuited for the country.  Illustrative of the problem, Schwartz points to five wind generators looming high on a hill near Baie-de-Sol, a provincial capital.  They were put there in the 1990s by the German embassy at the cost of several million dollars.  Each generator could produce 50,000 kilowatts of electricity, but within six months they were all destroyed by vandals tearing out their electrical wiring.  Copper brings cash in the market!  No one on the site knew anything about them, much less had the ability to get them working.  To Schwartz, “it is the typical story regarding development all over Haiti:  ‘It is broken, can’t be fixed, and nobody knows anything else about it.’  And that was the whole point.  To me the wind generators epitomized foreign aid.  Their guts ripped out, never having functioned for longer than a blan sat watching and caring for them, they are a summary statement of international development efforts in Haiti” (p. 66). 

The “missions” in the book’s subtitle refer not to the churches established to preach the Gospel.  Though emphatically not a Christian, Schwartz has no criticism for these evangelistic endeavors, frequently led by native preachers.  What he finds appalling are the many humanitarian ventures, almost always focused on helping Haitian children, under Christian auspices.  Virtually all of these are “orphanages” featuring impoverished children that collect enormous sums from sincere supporters in the United States.  In fact, many of the “orphans” have at least one parent.   And they are mainly in the facility to receive a quality education unavailable elsewhere.  Still more:  most “orphans,” have several sponsors in America sending monthly checks to support them, enabling entrepreneurs to nicely profit thereby.  In all the establishments Schwartz investigated, operators were spending “only a fraction of the money they raised for the children and pocketing the rest.  Orphanages in the area were a business” (p. 134).  After visiting “every single orphanage” one province, he concluded:  “They all look like scams to me” (p. 148).

Sadly enough this indictment ultimately held for the mission he had most trusted, run by an American family that portrayed itself as altruistic Christians devoted to the Haitians.  Visitors were inevitably impressed by their piety and charitable work.  To Schwartz, initially, they were bona fide good folks.  He “respected them, admired their honesty, their good works, the closeness of their family.  I had gone to their church services, stood with them holding an open bible in my hand as the Reverend read the words” (p. 215).  But then he learned the truth.  The Reverend was sleeping with the servants!  And the funds they raised supported a lavish lifestyle.  In the end:  “It was like CARE, a perversion of American charitable ideals, with its false claims to be aiding the “poorest of the poor” when what it was really doing was throwing exquisite banquets at plush hotels while carrying out U.S. political policy in the interest of international venture capitalists and agro-industrialists”  (p. 216). 

Summing up his book Schwartz says:  “This is the inside story of those projects and the impact on the people they were meant to help.  It is largely a story of fraud, greed, corruption, apathy, and political agendas that permeate the industry of foreign aid.  It is a story of failed agricultural, health, and credit projects; violent struggles for control over aid money; corrupt orphanage owners, pastors, and missionaries; the nepotistic manipulation of research funds; economically counterproductive food relief programs that undermine the Haitian agricultural economy; and the disastrous effects of economic engineering by foreign governments and international aid organizations such as the World Bank and USAID and the multinational corporate charities that have sprung up in their service, specifically, CARE International, Catholic Relief Services, World Vision, and the dozens of other massive charities that have programs spread across the globe, moving in response not only to disasters and need, but political agendas and economic opportunity.  It is also the story of the political disillusionment and desperation that has led many Haitians to use whatever means possible to better their living standards, most recently drug trafficking; and how in the service of international narcotraffickers and money launderers, Haiti has become a failed State” (p. 2).

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In The Great Haiti Humanitarian Aid Swindle (n.p., Kindle, 2017), Timothy T.  Schwartz extends the expose he began in Travesty in Haiti.  He dedicates the book “to the millions of people who have donated money to help impoverished Haitians,” to the “tens of thousands of rescue workers and sincere aid employees who have gone to Haiti to help,” and “to the impoverished Haitians who are meant to benefit from aid, but the many, if not most, who do not benefit.”  Importantly, all these folks “deserve explanations for the wasted aid and they deserve explanations for the exaggerations, misrepresentations and outright lies about the Haitian people that came both after the 2010 earthquake and for decades before it” (frontpiece).  

Lest the reader suspect differently, Schwartz fully endorses charities of all sorts.  Loving others and giving them aid is a fully admirable thing.  But too many “charities,” however well-intended, ultimately do much harm and become sophisticated forms of stealing.  “Millions of people are engaged in ripping off the neediest people on the planet.  They participate in duplicity, exaggeration, and outright lying.   . . . they publish images of what they claim are enslaved children and raped women.  They invent or exaggerate statistics.  They seek out the most horrid stories of abuse.  They insinuate themselves into the stories or the statistics as saviors who are rescuing those in dire need.  And then, of course, they ask us for money” (p. 3).  

Yet they often do little to actually help needy people!  “Instead they spend the bulk of the money, not on the needs of the desperately poor or wretched and distressed, but on themselves.  They use the money to pay for their own homes, to pay school tuitions for their own privileged children, to pay their pension plans and vacations” (p. 3).  Even worse, Schwartz thinks, they are aided and abetted by a compliant media which get us to “believe the stories, the radically inflated numbers, and the twisted statistics.”  Anyone reading Schwartz quickly realizes how “fake news” oozes from to “those bastions of supposedly credible news, such as The New York Times, London’s The Guardian, wire services such as the Associated Press and United Press International, Agence France-Presse and prime time news shows such as CBS’s 60 Minutes and CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360°” (p. 3).  

The focus of this book is the 2010 earthquake which devastated Haiti and ignited an incredible humanitarian response.  Schwartz was living in the Dominican Republic when the earthquake occurred and drove immediately to Port-au-Prince, hoping to help as an interpreter as well as observe humanitarian endeavors.  Though highly-trained and well-equipped, the rescue teams generally arrived too late to really help and then failed to enter the areas most devastated by the quake.  They failed, it seems, because they feared the violent, knife-wielding rioters featured by the media!  Indeed, he says:  “Anyone who read the headlines would have been afraid.  The disgrace was the press; those professionals we count on to tell us what’s happening.  They were fomenting the fear” (p. 31).  But the fears were utterly groundless.  In fact, even the most devastated areas in Port-au-Prince were much safer than usual.  Most (90 percent or more) of the folks actually rescued were saved within eight hours by friends and neighbors and even looters, digging through the rubble with their hands and simple tools in the hours immediately following the quake.  “In the years since the earthquake, dozens of people have told me how looters dug them out.  I have never met anyone saved by an official rescuer” (p. 27).  A total of 67 search and rescue teams managed to rescue only 137 people—a number widely celebrated by the press.  “And it cost a fortune.  The total cost was 243 million U.S. dollars, about 1.84 million dollars for each of the 137 to 147 rescues that were, fairly or unfairly, attributed to international rescue teams” (p. 65).  Meanwhile, hundreds of seriously-injured Haitians were desperately needing medical attention.  Rescue teams (flush with skilled paramedics) drove by hotels and shelters housing hundreds of injured Haitians in order to dig through rubble vainly seeking survivors.  “If, instead of devoting their time to the rescue efforts . . . the 1,918 paramedics and doctors assigned to the rescue squads had been treating just ten people per day per paramedic, they would have treated 134,260 people in the first week” (p. 67).  But dramatic rescues make better TV!  And raise more money!

Money, as well as rescue teams, began almost immediately flowing into the country.  Corporations and individuals sent $3.1 billion and foreign governments would give another $10 billion.  The Red Cross made an “emergency flash appeal” for $10 million, but when funds began arriving the amount was raised to $100 million and ultimately reached $1.2 billion.   Save the Children first asked for $9.8 million and quickly raised $20 million.  By the year’s end the amount was $87 million.   “World Vision asked for $3.8 million.  But they then kept asking for more, and more, and more, until they had collected a total of $191 million.  UNICEF originally called for $120 million.  When they brought in $229 million in six months—almost double what they requested—they decided they needed another $127 million.  . . . .   The NGOs and UN agencies were as a rule insatiable.  In all post-earthquake Haiti, only Doctors Without Borders told donors they had enough money, and that was after bringing in a whopping $138 million” (p. 9).   Then the  “squandering and waste began almost immediately” (p. 5).  “The stories go on and on.  . . . Food for the Poor was building permanent houses in Haiti before the earthquake for $2,000 per home.  After the earthquake, the U.S. government partnered with Food for the Poor to build 750 of what were essentially the same houses, but at a cost of $38,000 per house, 19 times the pre-earthquake costs.   Red Cross CEO Gail McGovern said that $100 million of the $500 million given to the Red Cross would go to ‘provide tens of thousands of people with permanent homes.’  Five years later NPR would report that the charity had built six permanent homes” (p. 7). 

Ever the conscientious scholar, Schwartz meticulously documents his assertions with extensive notes and appendices, though this was made difficult by the charities’ failures to disclose their finances.   Of the 196 organizations the Disaster Accountability Project examined, only six provided up-to-date accounting.  “Only one provided what DAP considered ‘complete and factual information.’  The majority—128—did not have factual situation reports available on their websites, relying instead upon anecdotal descriptions of activities or emotional appeals.  Many claimed to provide details of their activities on their blogs, but the blogs were almost entirely ‘appeals to emotion, pictures of children, and purely anecdotal accounts about touching moments during a particular delivery of relief’” (p. 8).  They told anecdotes because they had little data demonstrating how they helped respond to the “disaster.”  Numbers were inflated as well as difficult to discern.  Take Cassandra Nelson, who worked for Mercy Corps.   She flew into Haiti and said:  “‘it is like opening a window on unprecedented levels of ruin . . . by far the worst devastation that I’ve ever seen.’”  Flying home 16 days later, she declared:  “‘Literally everything is destroyed.’”  On the contrary, Schwartz, who actually knows the country quite well, says there were remarkably few scenes such as Nelson described.  Yet, “wherever you were in the world, you could have turned on the television, logged on to the internet, or opened a newspaper and found pictures that made you think that Port-au-Prince was like that.  But if you were actually in Port-au-Prince at the time, to see those scenes you would have had to search them out” (p. 83).  In short, things were not nearly so bad in Haiti following the earthquake as we were led to believe!  Many buildings collapsed, but over 90 percent of them did not!  Journalists lamented the lack of electricity and running water but never checked to learn that such was the daily reality Haitians faced long before the earthquake!  They also aired astronomical figures for the lives lost, untruths given them by humanitarian aid agencies who knew they would increase their revenues thereby. 

Schwartz was employed by USAID (the United Nations International Childrens Emergency Fund) to document how many people returned to their homes following the earthquake.  This necessarily involved ascertaining how many people actually died.  When he presented his report, however, a USAID official unleashed a tirade against him since he didn’t accept the official Haitian government’s number of 316,000—the number cited by most NGOs soliciting donations around the world.  “Where the figures were coming from nobody knew” (p. 92).  In fact, Schwartz believes, only around 60,000 people died.  But neither the government nor the press nor the NGOs were interested in the truth.  They just wanted inflated figures.  “The disturbing thing about all this, and what really suggests that regarding the number of people killed there was indeed a type of Great Haiti Humanitarian Aid Swindle complete with falsified data at the highest levels of the government and cover-ups at the highest level of the press, is that the press knew from the beginning that the government was inflating the figures.  And by corollary, U.S. government bureaucrats knew” (p. 94).  It took Schwartz five years to fully figure it out, but he concluded that “the executives at humanitarian agencies, such as Steve McAndrew of the Red Cross or Sophie Perez of CARE International” demanded high numbers.  “The more people dead, the more the good-hearted people of the world would be inclined to give donations.  It’s a no-brainer.  For the press it was obvious too.  The bigger the tragedy, the more horrific the scenes and the more harrowing the tales, the more people would buy newspapers, log onto their internet sites or turn on their televisions and watch the news” (p. 111).

Beyond exaggerating death statistics, child protection workers and orphanage owners cleverly massaged the images of homeless Haitian children.  “With UNICEF and Save the Children leading, orphanages fanning the flames, and the press publishing almost anything anyone said—no matter how scant the facts—the scramble to save Haiti’s children took on apocalyptic dimensions.  They told us that there were over 1 million lost, separated or abandoned children, conjuring up images of little children aimlessly wandering through the ruins of Port-au-Prince.  As time went on the experts added images of sexual predators and slave hunters prowling the rubble in search of the children.  They told us that people were selling children for $50.  It came to be known around the world as the ‘Haiti Orphan Crisis.’  Almost none of it was true.  As will be seen, the number of orphaned, lost or separated children was inflated by factors that ran into the hundreds and perhaps thousands.  No network of slave hunters or perverts was ever verified.  Nor was there ever a confirmed case of someone selling a child” (p. 129).  It was all a scam!  Certainly less than 1,000 children were separated from their parents—and the number was probably around 100.  Yet UNICEF celebrated its work of reuniting families and collected some $100 million from donors.  Precisely how many families were reunited?  Twenty! 

“Whatever their intentions, it was a massive swindle. The world’s largest child protection agencies, UNICEF, Save the Children, World Vision, Compassion International and others, together with the orphanages and the world’s three largest news services, Agence France-Press, Reuters and the Associated Press, used untruths and exaggerations about children to precipitate a media hysteria that sustained an avalanche of donations from concerned citizens in almost every country on earth.  The success of that swindle is not only in the money they brought in.  Nor is the success of the swindle limited to the fact that more than 90 percent of the money went to internal expenses, including pension plans, salaries, school tuitions for the children of UNICEF staff and the staff of those organizations to which UNICEF distributed money” (p. 170).  Sadly enough:  “The most outstanding mark of swindle is that when it was all over, after having never apologized or even publicly acknowledged the duplicity, UNICEF officials were still looking into cameras, gushing with heartfelt sincerity, and asking for more money to help the Haitian children.  And they were getting it” (p.172).

For his efforts to rightly report such facts, Schwartz was roundly assailed.  He was called “a spiteful piece of garbage,” a “criminal,” a “liar,” a “despicable vampire” responsible for Haitian woes!  He was, for sure, a threat to highly-paid employees of humanitarian agencies.  “USAID-Washington would go on to blacklist me,” though he’s one of the best informed Haitian scholars (p. 96).   (The fact that Schwartz has self-published these works may very well indicate how he violates the modern humanitarian credo!)  

328 Post-WWII America

 Few of us, having lived through the last half of the 20th century, would discount the massive cultural changes that have transpired during our lifetimes.  But understanding these phenomena, digging into the real causes of the transformation, proves rather daunting.  Given the nature of historiography, no one has the capacity to fully describe, much less to fully understand the past.  Every thoughtful historical monograph, as Alfred North Whitehead said, in his Adventures in Ideas, is “a sort of searchlight elucidating some of the facts, and retreating the remainder into an omitted background.”  A highly-readable, descriptive narrative of important developments during one decade (from the mid‘60s to the mid-‘70s) is provided by Amity Shlaes in Great Society:   A New History (New York:  Harper, Kindle ed., c. 2019).  The “great society” was a phrase appropriated by Lyndon Baines Johnson to represent his aspirations as president, and it became one of the most ambitious social engineering endeavors in American history.  

Shlaes begins with a telling vignette of Michael Harrington, the author of The Other America:  Poverty in the United States—a 1962 treatise widely discussed in the final year of the John F. Kennedy administration.  Semi-humorously, Martin Luther King quipped:  “You know, we didn’t know we were poor until we read your book’” (p. 73).  Harrington was a self-identified socialist who had been briefly involved in the formation of Students for a Democratic Society.  When Lyndon B. Johnson became president in 1963 he and many in his administration (most especially Sarge Shriver, JFK’s brother-in-law and LBJ’s poverty czar) were quite taken by Harrington’s ideas.  Given an office in the White House, Harrington noted:  “‘the abolition of poverty would require a basic change in how resources are allocated.’”  Shriver mentioned this to LBJ, an aspiring Franklin D. Roosevelt, who “told him that if serious economic redistribution was necessary to realize the long-delayed completion of the New Deal, then redistribution might be worth it” (p. 3).  

Whether or not LBJ’s endeavors would bring about the “great society”—great because it is good—Amity Shlaes seeks to show.  So she begins with JFK’s “New Frontier,” brought into being by the election of 1960.  The nation was then prospering, amply illustrating The Affluent Society described by Harvard economist John Kenneth Gailbraith.  Businesses such as GE and GM were fiscally sound and most working men made good money.  The president himself was notably pro-business, sending “his progressive advisor” Galbraith off to India as an ambassador rather than embracing his socialist ideals.  But he also made clear overtures to labor unions, issuing an executive order enabling federal employees to unionize.  However, when he gave a speech indicating his admiration for Britain’s National Health Service the stock market plunged and he quickly retreated into the security of the status quo.  JFK was no FDR, seeking to engineer societal change.  There were, to be sure, pockets of poverty, but by-and-large the Ozzie and Harriet world of the ‘50s gave much impetus to considerable optimism for the coming years.  

Cynically discounting such optimism, however, a group of students met in 1962 near Port Huron, Michigan, in a camp developed by Walter Reuther, the president of the United Auto Workers and named “Four Freedoms”—the items listed by FDR in his last inaugural address.  Styling themselves the “New Left” and led by the likes of Tom Hayden, they felt “it was like God was sending us a message.”  Many of the youngsters imagined they were attending something of a “participatory democracy,” but in fact their input was unimportant, for the real message had been carefully crafted months before by Hayden, Harrington, and operatives funded by the UAW.  Harrington and Hayden were “Catholic activists” and were also “drinking buddies” (p. 77).  One of Reuther’s union officials considered the students were “our kind of youngsters,” and his brother Victor provided ample funding for the group’s endeavors by helping distribute the “Port Huron Statement,” substituting the word “statement” was for “manifesto” in order to distance it from the Communist Manifesto!  Much of the “Statement” had been earlier incubated in Reuther’s UAW “propaganda mills” which constantly decried income inequality and the fact that “‘the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans own more than 80 percent of all personal shares of stock’” (p. 78).  Indeed, Walter Reuther was determined to distribute the wealth by nudging the nation toward a “social democracy.”  And for that he needed “an American president to lead his redistribution revolution” (p. 62). 

FDR, of course, had earlier moved “the country toward socialism while sustaining democracy” (p. 63).   So Walter Reuther needed another FDR.  But he knew JFK’s New Frontier would not update the New Deal.   When John Kennedy was killed, however, Lyndon Baines Johnson proved more amenable to the Reuther agenda.  Indeed, one of the first persons LBJ called was Walter Reuther.  “‘I’ll need your friendship more than I ever did in my life,’ Johnson said.  Reuther promised ‘every possible help I can offer’” (p. 87).  Within a few months Johnson declared “unconditional war on poverty” in his State of the Union address, and a new national tilt toward “social democracy” was underway.  This was evident in a 1964 speech at the University of Michigan, wherein LBJ set forth “a vision as fantastic as the vision of Port Huron, as transformative as that of Reuther” (p. 97).  Poverty must end, civil rights must be insured, and a “Great Society” must be brought into being. 

Thenceforth came a cascade of legislation and federal programs, launched without concern for financial accountability, justified simply as what “ought” to be done by compassionate Americans! The list is almost interminable—medicare; medicaid; civil rights injunctions; minimum wage edicts.  LBJ was on a roll and his triumph in the election of 1964 apparently illustrated the people’s support for his programs;  the “Great Society” was an effective expansion of the New Deal.  But implementing the agenda proved far more difficult than passing legislation!  Take, for example, a rather simple prescription, the minimum wage.  Designed to reduce unemployment, it in fact increased it!  “Black and white youth unemployment had run about the same until the middle of the 1950s, 8 to 11 percent.  But when Congress raised the federal minimum wage by a third in 1956, unemployment rose far higher among black teenagers than among whites, to 25 percent” (p. 183).  The War on Poverty flooded communities with money that counterproductively encouraged irresponsibility, enabling men avoid work.  When you could get $200 a month from welfare, why work hard to earn the same amount!     

Equally vain were the Great Society’s housing programs.  Facing depressed sections in the nation’s great cities, progressives pressed for federally-funded housing projects.  After all, Walter Reuther had declared:  “The choice before the people of every major urban center is simple and clear.  It is build or burn.”  Government housing for the needy had long been a progressive ideal, and their projects revealed an architectural aesthetic.  Consider what was erected in Washington, D.C. to house the newly-created Department of Housing and Urban Development.  It was was, architecturally, a monument to “Brutalism,” a movement celebrating massive, concrete, featureless, geometric structures.  But to most Americans it signified a “brutalist” bureaucratic obsession.  No matter what experts said, “brutalist” had to mean what it sounded and looked like, possessing brute power” (p. 230).  To deal effectively with city slums, old neighborhoods were razed and replaced with soaring, sterile concrete structures—“projects” designed improve living conditions for the impoverished.  Yet with a rapidity impossible to imagine these “projects” in St. Louis, Chicago, and elsewhere became cages of squalor and crime.  They would be, in a rather short time, simply demolished. 

But unlike the brutalist housing projects, Great Society programs persisted.  President Nixon tinkered a bit with some of them but dared not seek to reverse them.  Indeed, he pursued policies, such as wage and price controls in 1971, that were flagrantly socialistic!  Ronald Reagan, both as Governor of California and President of the United States, spoke frequently and passionately against some of them, but Democrats successfully obstructed most all of his proposals.  Half-a-century later, Shlaes says, with trillions of dollars expended, one can only look back at the Great Society and lament its many failures.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In The Age of Entitlement:  America Since the Sixties (New York:. Simon & Schuster, c. 2020; Kindle Edition), Christopher Caldwell provides a helpful lens with which to understand current developments in America.  He begins by noting how deeply the ‘60s shaped subsequent decades.  Indeed:  “For two generations, ‘the sixties’ has given order to every aspect of the national life of the United States—its partisan politics, its public etiquette, its official morality.  This is a book about the crises out of which the 1960s order arose, the means by which it was maintained, and the contradictions at its heart that, by the time of the presidential election of 2016, had led a working majority of Americans to view it not as a gift but as an oppression” (p. 3).  This was because many of the “reforms” pushed through in that decade “came with costs that proved staggeringly high—in money, freedom, rights, and social stability” (p. 6).

Caldwell’s disillusionment provides a stark contrast to the ‘60s utopian optimism.  Following the traumatic assassination of John F. Kennedy, the welfare state rapidly expanded—Medicare, Medicaid, Civil Rights and Voting Rights acts—and was expected to fulfill the aspirations of the “best and the brightest” who engineered it.  Most importantly, Caldwell argues:  “Civil rights ideology, especially when it hardened into a body of legislation, became, most unexpectedly, the model for an entire new system of constantly churning political reform” (p. 5).  Here the law of unexpected consequences held true, for the “changes of the 1960s, with civil rights at their core, were not just a major new element in the Constitution.  They were a rival constitution, with which the original one was frequently incompatible,” and we are in the midst of a titanic struggle which will determine which will prevail:  “the de jure constitution of 1788, with all the traditional forms of jurisprudential legitimacy and centuries of American culture behind it; or the de facto constitution of 1964, which lacks this traditional kind of legitimacy but commands the near-unanimous endorsement of judicial elites and civic educators and the passionate allegiance of those who received it as a liberation.  The increasing necessity that citizens choose between these two orders, and the poisonous conflict into which it ultimately drove the country, is what this book describes” (p. 6).

In particular, the march toward desegregation, launched by the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. Topeka Board of Education ruling in 1954, inevitably eroded the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of association.  Equality, rather than freedom, became imperative!  Inevitably, the “sanctity of private property” was softened whenever racial discrimination called for correction.  Though some legislators, debating the civil rights laws, feared unanticipated consequences (e.g. mandated school busing, lowering school admission standards, hiring quotas, etc.), they were dismissed as devotees of an antiquated social system.  Nevertheless, many of their fears materialized, and lawmakers “who opposed the legislation proved wiser about its consequences than those who sponsored it” (p. 22).  Rather quickly civil rights leaders and federal bureaucrats moved from eliminating segregation to calling for widespread social and economic changes.  Then, only two months after LBJ signed the Voting Rights Act, the Watts neighborhood in Los Angeles exploded in a deadly race riot, revealing that more than “civil rights” was at stake.  

In fact, more than delivering justice to the black population was envisioned by the progressives now governing the nation.  “Not just excluded and exploited Southern blacks but all aggrieved minorities now sought to press their claims under this new model of progressive governance.  The civil rights model of executive orders, litigation, and court-ordered redress eventually became the basis for resolving every question pitting a newly emergent idea of fairness against old traditions:  the persistence of different roles for men and women, the moral standing of homosexuality, the welcome that is due to immigrants, the consideration befitting wheelchair-bound people.  Civil rights gradually turned into a license for government to do what the Constitution would not previously have permitted. It moved beyond the context of Jim Crow laws almost immediately, winning what its apostles saw as liberation after liberation” (p. 34).  So “women’s liberation” hitched its wagon to the civil rights movement, demanding “equality” for the sexes.  Consequently, while in 1960 married and unmarried women shared similar attitudes regarding most everything today they differ in most all things!  Feminists vigorously promoted contraception, abortion, and full equality in the marketplace.  But they also unleashed “irresistible demands for further sexual freedoms.  Just as Americans were getting comfortable with the things feminism had meant to Betty Friedan and her followers (liberation from household drudgery and loneliness, a fair shake in the workplace, equal dignity elsewhere), feminism began showing signs of what it would blossom into half a century later (gender studies, queer theory, a questioning of all rules about sex)” (p. 56).  Such “freedoms” deeply changed the culture.  

Another culture-changer was the war in Vietnam, beginning with “an act of presidential deceit,” the Tonkin resolution.  But within four years the war had proved so unpopular that everyone running for president in 1968 promised to extricate the country from what seemed to be a quagmire.  Militarily the war might have been won, but politically it was lost—particularly among the younger elites.  Thus a Harvard anti-war student said:  “On the one hand we were angry about the war, about racism, about the countless vicious acts we saw around us.  But on the other hand, we viewed America as one great wasteland, a big, monstrous, mechanized, air-conditioned desert, a place without roots or feeling.  We saw the main problem, really, as:  THE PEOPLE—the ways they thought and acted towards each other.  We imagined a great American desert, populated by millions of similar, crass, beer-drinking grains of sand, living in a waste of identical suburban no-places. What did this imagined ‘great pig-sty of TV watchers’ correspond to in real life?  As ‘middle-class’ students we learned that this was the working class—the ‘racist, insensitive people.’  Things already going on at the time of the Vietnam War inclined privileged people to look on ‘average’ Americans as the country’s problem” (p. 78).  

The counterculture evident in this student’s lament asserted itself and would spread its tentacles throughout every crack in America.  An alienated elite would ultimately dominate virtually all important institutions (schools, media, churches) and demand societal transformation funded by the taxpayer.  Endless funding of proliferating anti-poverty, anti-racist, anti-sexist bureaucracies continued, and not even Ronald Reagan could arrest it.  “Having promised for years that he would undo affirmative action ‘with the stroke of a pen,’ lop the payments that LBJ’s Great Society lavished on ‘welfare queens,’ and abolish Jimmy Carter’s Department of Education, he discovered, once he became president, that to do any of those things would have struck at the very foundations of desegregation. So he didn’t” (p. 110).  Reagan tacitly complied with the “second constitution created by the civil rights movement which led, by the end of the century, to increasingly strident racial politics.  

This was manifestly evident in the metastasizing power of  “affirmative action” and “political correctness”—important planks in the nation’s new constitution, largely shaped by judicial decrees.  It is now clear that by passing the 1964 civil rights laws Americans “had inadvertently voted themselves a second constitution without explicitly repealing the one they had” (p. 172).  In fact:  “Affirmative action was deduced judicially from the curtailments on freedom of association that the Civil Rights Act itself had put in place.  Political correctness rested on a right to collective dignity extended by sympathetic judges who saw that, without such a right, forcing the races together would more likely occasion humiliation than emancipation.  As long as Americans were frightened of speaking against civil rights legislation or, later, of being assailed as racists, sexists, homophobes, or xenophobes, their political representatives could resist nothing that presented itself in the name of ‘civil rights.’ This meant that conflict, when it eventually came, would be constitutional conflict, with all the gravity that the adjective ‘constitutional’ implies” (p. 172).

One of the ultimately disastrous consequences of this shift surfaced in 1992 when President George H.W. Bush, following race riots in Los Angeles, signed a Housing and Community Development Act.  “It inaugurated the process we have seen at many junctures in this book:  the sudden irruption of civil rights law and diversity promotion into an area from which it had been mostly absent, in this case mortgage finance” (p. 178).  This act opened the gates to “the financial crisis that, in the following century, would nearly destroy the world economy under the presidency of Bush’s even more reckless son” (p. 179).  Sandwiched between the two presidents Bush, Bill Clinton manipulated the mortgage finance system, denouncing “the dearth of private housing credit in poor, black, urban neighborhoods” fomented by racist white bankers, and demanding low mortgage rates for blacks buying homes.  In Caldwell’s judgment:  “Sometime between the passage of Lyndon Johnson’s civil rights laws and the long Bush-Clinton march through the country’s financial institutions, the victims’ perspective had won. Now any inequality was an injustice, and one did not need a clear account of what had caused it to demand redress from the system” (p. 180).

Another realm dramatically unexpectedly changed was the institution of marriage.  Other than a few gay activists, no one imagined it possible that same-sex marriage would ever be legally imposed on the nation by a Supreme Court mandate (Obergefell v. Hodges) in 1916.  But homosexuals adroitly fused their “liberation” agenda with the “radical feminist cause of delegitimizing” traditional, heterosexual marriage “and the traditional idea of masculinity” it implied (p. 216).  Gay activists wanted “not just tolerance but a conferral of dignity.  . . . .  Civil rights was always this way:  dignity was an integral and non-negotiable part of what was demanded, and a government interested in civil rights must secure it, no matter what the cost in rights to those who would deny it” (p. 217).  “As Rosa Luxemburg had written of the Russian Revolution, ‘The real dialectic of revolution stands the parliamentary cliché on its head:  The road leads not through majorities to revolutionary tactics, but through revolutionary tactics to majorities’” (p. 225).

Justice Antonin Scalia saw this clearly, dissenting from Obergefell, declaring it to be undemocratic.  “‘A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers,’ Scalia wrote, ‘does not deserve to be called a democracy.’  He called the decision an upper-class ‘putsch,’ noting that every single member of the Supreme Court had gone to either Harvard Law School or Yale Law School, and concluded:  ‘The strikingly unrepresentative character of the body voting on today’s social upheaval would be irrelevant if they were functioning as judges, answering the legal question whether the American people had ever ratified a constitutional provision that was understood to proscribe the traditional definition of marriage.  But of course the Justices in today’s majority are not voting on that basis; they say they are not’” (p. 229).  Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy had “explicitly repudiated certain conceptions of democracy that had until recently been sacrosanct.  ‘It is of no moment whether advocates of same-sex marriage now enjoy or lack momentum in the democratic process,’ he wrote.  Unless someone was expecting the Court to apologize for Brown v. Board of Education, this thwarting of majority rule in the name of civil rights was what the Supreme Court was for” (p. 229).  Kennedy, of course, was enforcing the “second constitution”—the living constitution of Al Gore, not the original constitution of Antonin Scalia.  

With amazing rapidity the practical ramifications of Obergefell became evident.  Bakers were brought to trial for refusing to bake cakes for gay weddings.  Transgender students insisted they should use restrooms of their choice or compete as athletes in accord with their self-definition.  “A terrible irony of civil rights, obvious from the very outset but never, ever spoken of, was making itself manifest . . . .  The civil rights approach to politics meant using lawsuits, shaming, and street power to overrule democratic politics.  It encouraged—no, it required—groups of similarly situated people to organize against the wider society to defend their interests.  Now it became clear that the members of any group that felt itself despised and degraded could defend its interests this way” (p. 232).  

327 Re-Writing American History

When we talk about “culture wars” we rarely think about historians as armed and significant partisans!  But they frequently are!  This is patently evident in the “1619 Project” recently launched by the New York Times, which promises to “reframe American history” and examine this nation’s history through the singular prism of slavery.  This, says Princeton historian Allen Guelzo, “is not history; it is conspiracy theory.  The 1619 Project is not history; it is ignorance.”  The Times editorial staff is, however, replicating the scenario portrayed in George Orwell’s 1984, wherein history was routinely rewritten and “every record has been destroyed or falsified, every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed, every date has been altered.”  It’s bad enough that Americans know little history—three fourths of the people in one study could not name the three branches of our constitutional system and one-fourth couldn’t name even one!  But, even worse, they’re being deliberately misinformed by schools and books and media committed to fundamentally transforming the nation by destroying its memory.    

For nearly 20 years I routinely taught survey courses in American History.  Then the university changed its core requirements, excluding these courses, so I rarely did so thereafter and rather lost track of texts being used in them.  But I did, now and then, hear of a textbook widely used in many high schools and universities—Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States:  1492 to the Present (New York:  HarperCollins, c. 1980).  I secured and read a copy, dismissing it as an egregious propaganda polemic disguised as history.  On the very first page I noted Zinn’s dishonest deletions from a Christopher Columbus quotation.  Equally evident was his undisguised Marxism.  Turning to his chapter on Indian Removal—a topic I know quite well—I was astounded by his repeated errors—placing the Chickasaws in North Carolina, the Creeks in Mississippi, calling eastern Oklahoma an “arid land, land too barren for white settlers,” and labeling Sequoyah a Cherokee chief!  My negative appraisal was widely shared by many distinguished historians, some of whom wrote scathing reviews of the book, denouncing it for its biased polemics, selective quotations, and pervasive misleading assertions.  He was denounced for selective quotations, factual errors, and overt bias.  Even a Marxist-oriented historian, Eugene Genovese, found it so flawed he refused to review it!  Another noted historian, Arthur Schlesinger, called Zinn “a polemicist, not a historian.”  Then Harvard’s Oscar Handlin reviewed the book in the American Scholar and called it a “fairy tale” with “biased selections” that “falsify events.”  He said the book “conveniently omits whatever does not fit its overriding thesis.”  

Nevertheless, ignoring the warnings of such eminent historians, many high school (especially) and college teachers have used the book as a basic text, and its theses rather quickly entered the minds of radicalized youngsters (some of whom—e.g. Bernie Sanders and  Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes—now serve in Congress).   Rather revealingly, in 2006 Zinn praised the Vermont senator for giving us an “accurate picture” of the problems this nation faces, primarily the gap separating the rich and poor.  So it’s good to have a thorough analysis of  A People’s History of the United States—Mary Graber’s Debunking Howard Zinn: Exposing the Fake History That Turned a Generation against America (Washington:  Regency History, c. 2019; Kindle Edition).  She writes because she believes Zinn has deeply damaged this nation by “convincing a generation of Americans that the nation Abraham Lincoln rightly called ‘the last best hope of Earth’ is essentially a racist criminal enterprise built on murdering Indians, exploiting slaves, and oppressing the working man.  It obviously needs to be replaced by something better.  And of course, Zinn has the answer:  a classless, egalitarian society.  Yes, what Zinn is selling is the very same communist utopian fantasy that killed more than a hundred million human beings in the twentieth century” (#81).  

Zinn’s influence in popular culture was evident in a film staring Matt Damon titled “Good Will Hunting.”  In one conversation he says:  “If you want to read a real history book, read Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States.”  Interestingly enough, while in elementary school Matt Damon was a Zinn’s neighbor.  And Damon was reared by a single mother, an education professor deeply committed to “social justice.”  As a ten-year-old Damon “took the family copy of the newly published People’s History to school and read from it to his class for Columbus Day” (p. 122).  Damon’s endorsement has been duplicated by luminaries such as Alice Walker, Marian Wright Edelman, Mumia Abu-Jamal, Bill Moyers, and Jane Fonda; by mainstream newspapers (the New York Times, the Boston Globe, the Nation, and the Washington Post); by TV outlets (The Daily Show, NPR); and even by the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians!  The book’s widely used a text in many schools, and if students don’t read Zinn’s book they frequently him quoted in other materials written for their age group.  Even the prestigious College Board, designing questions for the Advanced Placement U.S. History exam, now “promotes Zinn’s version of history by including his books in AP teacher-training seminars” (#140). 

One of the few public officials daring to oppose Zinn’s version is former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, now president of Purdue University, who “questioned the use of Howard Zinn’s book to teach children in Indiana public schools.”   The governor proposed denying credit for any course using Zinn’s text and wondered “‘how do we get rid of it before any more young people are force-fed a totally false version of our history?’  He called A People’s History ‘a truly execrable, anti-factual piece of disinformation that misstates American history on every page.’”  In response:  “Ninety outraged Purdue professors signed onto an open letter” defending Zinn and claiming to use his text in their syllabi and scholarly writings (# 4800).  Though Daniels was supported by the National Association of Scholars’ President Peter Wood and some prominent journalists, both the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians sided with Zinn.  Ultimately, Daniels had to acknowledge he was out-gunned and backed away from his efforts. 

Zinn’s influence is dramatically evident in the nation’s celebration of Columbus Day.  He portrayed the “Admiral of the Ocean Sea” as a brutal, genocidal conquerer, unworthy of the respect he enjoyed for 500 years.  Consequently, the radical, violent group Antifa calls for a “Deface Columbus Day” and street gangs threw red paint on his statues.   “In New York City, the large bronze statue in Columbus Circle at the corner of Central Park has had ‘hate will not be tolerated’ scrawled on the base and Columbus’s hands painted red.  And the transformation in Americans’ attitudes toward the man who discovered America wasn’t limited to a few vandals.  Besides the physical attacks, there were continual demands for the government to take down the statue.  Zinn is the acknowledged inspiration behind the current campaign to abolish Columbus Day and replace it with ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Day.’  High school teachers cite his book in making the case for the renaming to their local communities” (#527).  Some sixty major cities (including Columbus, Ohio) and six states have obsequiously followed the leader and replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous Peoples’ Day.  Graber demonstrates how maliciously and mendaciously Zinn depicts Columbus—especially emphasizing the ellipses in his Columbus quotations, deviously designed to delete sections disproving his assertions.  You need no Ph.D. to know how a person’s position can be utterly misrepresented by simply linking together phrases taken out of context.  Yet this is Zinn’s modus operandi!  There’s also little evidence that Zinn actually read primary, eyewitness sources, including Columbus’s journals or the works of Bartolome de Las Casas (the great defender of the Indians who condemned much the Spanish did in the New World but also said many positive things about Columbus).  Doing some careful sleuthing, Graber contends that Zinn simply lifted his account of Columbus from a book written for high school students by Hans Koning, one of his friends (and a fellow anti-Vietnam War activist).  

Koning was novelist who occasionally worked as a journalist, but he was not a historian.  He was, however, a doctrinaire socialist who had helped (along with Noam Chomsky and Zinn) found the War Resist organization to oppose the America’s presence  in Vietnam.  The book viciously smeared the explorer, and it “is the source for Zinn’s indictment of Columbus, which is the opening gambit of A People’s History.  The first five-and-a-half pages of A People’s History of the United States are little more than slightly altered passages from Columbus:  His Enterprise.  Graber points out the passages in Zinn that duplicate passages from Koning.  “Zinn lifts wholesale from Koning the very same quotations of Columbus.  He also includes an attack on the historian Samuel Eliot Morison, just like Koning—complete with references to the Vietnam War.  That’s a rather odd coincidence, given that both Zinn and Koning were purportedly recounting the fifteenth-century discovery of America” (#604).  Adding to his many sins, Zinn was clearly a plagiarist!

But his take on Columbus bore fruit.  Illuminating this, Graber describes how differently recent presidents have portrayed him.  In his final Columbus Day proclamation, George H.W. Bush praised the “‘one man who dared to defy the pessimists and naysayers of his day [and] made an epic journey that changed the course of history.’”  A year later  Bill Clinton praised not of Columbus but “‘the mutual discovery of Europeans and Native Americans and the transformations, through toil and pain, that gave birth to brave new hopes for a better future.’”  Then Barack Obama, in 2009, lamented the fact that “‘European immigrants joined the ‘thriving indigenous communities who suffered great hardships as a result of the changes to the land they inhabited’ ” (#1548).  Whether or not any of the presidents had read him, Zinn’s views percolated through the schools and popular media to significantly alter presidential pronouncements.  To understand Zinn and his biases, Graber gives us some biographical details, emphasizing his deep immersion in the Communist Party following WWII.  While studying at Columbia University, he taught part-time at several nearby colleges and also “taught a class in Marxism at the Communist Party headquarters in Brooklyn.   That’s according to his FBI file.  Zinn’s Communist activities came to the attention of the FBI beginning in 1948 when an informant reported that Zinn had told him that he was a member of the Communist Party and attended meetings five nights a week” (#1150).  The FBI also noted he worked for the Henry Wallace presidential campaign in 1948 and was “a member of the CPUSA (Communist Party USA) from at least 1949 to mid-1953” (#1157).  Though he subsequently denied being a Party member much evidence indicated he surely was.  

In 1956, still working on his PhD, Zinn landed his first full-time teaching position at Spelman College, a Christian school which served as a “finishing school” for black women in Atlanta.  But rather than work to advance the college’s mission, which was strongly Christian, Zinn determined to change it!  He scoffed at the school’s mandatory chapel requirement, labeling it a “pompous and empty ritual,” and  Marian Wright Edelman, a Spelman student at the time,  remembers her “shock” when Zinn declared he didn’t believe in Jesus Christ.  As the civil rights movement gained momentum he worked to involve his students in it.  Though fellow professors tended to see him as a “rabble rouser,” many of his students found him inspiring and energetically engaged in off-campus protests of various sorts.   Rather than giving tests in his courses he granted credit for off-campus protests, leading to brief jail stints for some of his students.  He easily found impressionable youngsters willing to follow someone who nurtured their adolescent rebelliousness and hostility to administrative authority.  Consequently, in 1963 he was fired.  

Moving north to Boston, he found a teaching position at Boston University (once a paragon of Methodist orthodoxy) and promptly promoted radical anti-war and civil rights protests.  Though he did virtually no seriously scholarly work he proved to be extremely popular with students.  One of his famous Spelman students, Alice Walker, recalled how her peers “swooned” over him, and at BU “his rhetoric inspired tears in draft resisters and in young women reading Black Boy for class.  Zinn’s classes routinely filled up and had students waiting on overflow,” and “one of his students was so inspired that he would go on to commit a portion of the fortune he earned later to establishing the Zinn Education Project” (#1413).  His students took no tests nor wrote research papers, nor did any of them fail.  Instead they were credited for working in community organizations and interviewing members of various oppressed minorities.   Whatever course he taught, he used the lectern as a pulpit to promote his vision of social justice and engage his students to pursue it.  He had little contact (personal or written) with his peers in the academic world, preferring to regale young people in classes, rallies, and teach-ins.  

He especially delighted in denouncing America as a “racist” nation.  This is quite evident whenever he treats American Indians—always portraying them as “noble savages” brutalized by invading Europeans or westward-moving American pioneers.  And, iff possible, the African slaves were even more mistreated—evidence that “‘there is not a country in world history in which racism has been more important, for so long a time, as the United States’” (#2002).  To dramatize his thesis Zinn dealt cavalierly with the facts, misrepresenting “the slaves’ truly horrific suffering for his own purposes.  For example, he claims that ‘perhaps one of every three blacks transported overseas died’” when, if fact, “according to the best quantitative evidence, 12 to 13 percent of slaves died in transit from Africa to the Americas during the history of the Middle Passage.  Sometimes a larger percentage of the slave ship’s crew died on the voyage.  In the Dutch slave trade, one in five crewmen died at sea.  But it suits Zinn’s purpose to exaggerate the true numbers and to ignore the historical context of a time and place when life was more perilous for all” (2018).  He grants the reality of African slavery, but just as he romanticized the “noble savage” Indians he also waxed nostalgic about the “communal,” “gentle” African tribal cultures.  He grants that Africans enslaved Africans in Africa, but he insisted it was “a kinder, gentler kind of slavery”—rather like feudal serfs in Medieval Europe!  It was in the New World, Zinn declares, with its capitalistic structures, that slavery became truly odious!  And the Civil War, he says, was fought “to perpetuate a racist capitalist state,” not to free the slaves!  The “great liberator,” Abraham Lincoln, was basically a “cowardly racist political beholden to powerful money interests,” and little he did merits commendation (#2263).  To Zinn, it was the radical abolitionists such as John Brown, not the statesmen such as Lincoln, who merit praise.    

Amazingly, neither the Yankees in the Civil War nor the GIs in World War II garner Zinn’s endorsement.  “Through a series of four long, leading questions about ‘imperialism, racism, totalitarianism, and militarism,’ Zinn insinuates that the ‘enemy of unspeakable evil,’ ‘Hitler’s Germany,’ was no worse than the United States and her allies.  Imperial Japan, too, was a victim of American aggression” (#2401).  Americans fought not to defeat the Axis powers but to escalate American imperialism,  As with Lincoln, Zinn disparages Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Interning Japanese-Americans during the war is equated with Hitler’s concentration camps.  Indeed, he portrays most all American presidents negatively.   They’re all “irredeemable, greedy, capitalist war-mongers.  Zinn’s project is to destroy the credibility of the American presidency—and of America, itself” (#2513). 

Zinn’s treatment of the Cold War was as misleading and biased as his treatment of other wars.  He consistently defended Soviet policies and disregarded any evidence of front groups or communist infiltration in America.  The House Committee on Un-American Activities was purely paranoid, guilty of “‘interrogating Americans about their Communist connections, holding them in contempt if they refused to answer, distributing millions of pamphlets’ that claimed that Communists could be found  ‘everywhere—in factories, offices, butcher shops, on street corners, in private business’” (#3145).  But in fact, Graber reminds us, “they were there.  And, we would add, in classrooms” (#3149).  We now know, thanks to the Venona Papers, that the Communist Party USA was “a fifth column” seeking to destroy this country and that all-too-many government officials, such as Alger Hiss, were secretly working to advance it.  It’s abundantly clear that the Ethel and Julian Rosenberg were guilty of espionage, eminently deserving their execution.  But Zinn stoutly defends them, insisting they were victims of a frame-up.  

His slant on the Vietnam War further reveals Zinn’s ideology, for he vehemently sided with the communists doing battle with an evil, capitalist, imperialistic America—repeating in print the speeches he made as an anti-war agitator in the midst of the war.  He portrays Ho Chi Minh as a “reformer” and touted his righteous role as the leader of North Vietnam, conveniently ignoring the fact that in “redistributing” the nation’s wealth he killed tens of thousands of landlords and funneled peasants into collective farms.  (It should be noted that Zinn was intimately involved in the leaking of the “Pentagon Papers” in 1971, personally hiding for a time the documents stolen by Daniel Ellsberg.  Doing so seriously harmed America’s war effort, for they persuaded the public {by obscuring the actual progress made between 1968 and 1971} that the war could not be won.  As usual, relying on clever ellipses, Zinn cited sources he misrepresented.  Thus the valuable work Douglas Pike, accusing the Viet Cong of “genocide,” is twisted to suggest they were in fact heroic social reformers.  Pike warned that a Communist victory would doom “‘thousands of Vietnamese, many of them of course my friends, to death, prison, or permanent exile,’” warning that if America ever abandoned the South Vietnamese people she would “betray her own heritage.”  Zinn, however, cited Pike’s “book to justify that betrayal, distorting Pike’s analysis to make it appear to support the opposite case” (#4233).  

In her final chapter, Graber says:  “No assessment of Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States would be complete without some consideration of his perverse take on the founding of our nation.”  To him the American Revolution was not really revolutionary!  It failed to achieve what the Bolsheviks did in Russia!  A real people’s revolution would have “smashed the capitalist system and toppled the ‘elite’ to whom he refers” (#4578).  Even worse, as Charles Beard had argued, the Constitutional Convention secured the elite’s control of the country.  Written by the likes of John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, it subjected the people to the rule of the upper class.  Though Beard’s An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution has been thoroughly discredited by historians interested in actuality rather than ideology, Zinn considers it authoritative.  In constructing his “people’s history,” he works “by lying, distorting and misusing evidence, hijacking other historians’ work, and falsifying the facts, as we have seen again and again.  The problem is not that, as Zinn liked to pretend in his own defense, he wrote a “people’s” history, telling the bottom-up story of neglected and forgotten men and women.  The problem is that he falsified American history to promote Communist revolution” (#4731).

Both Zinn’s  autobiography, You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train, and Original Zinn:  Conversations on History and Politics, co-written with David Barsamian, reveal his approach to writing history.  As a “radical,” he wanted to focus on the poor and oppressed.  So he sought to tell us the untold story, the story of the world’s poor, the world’s workers, the world’s homeless, the world’s oppressed, the people who don’t really qualify as real people in official histories.  In his mind, he shared the “radical vision” of Franklin D. Roosevelt, who in 1944 proposed an Economic Bill of Rights, including the right to a good job, a good income, a “decent” home, easy access to medical care, comfort in old age, and a good education.  So Zinn hungers for a world without national boundaries wherein everyone shares equally in the “riches of the planet” and works only a “few hours a day.”  In other words, Marx’s utopian vision can be secured by socialists such as Zinn, and to promote this agenda he wrote his one-sided “people’s history.” 

# # # 

326 Wonders of Light, Water, Fire

In the beginning—at a primordial stage of the creative process making heaven and earth—“the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.”  Planet Earth is rightly called the “watery planet,” for  nothing is more evident in all of life than the miraculous properties of water.  So, writing a short treatise as part of his “Privileged Species Series,” Australian biologist Michael Denton treats The Wonder of Water:  Water’s Profound Fitness for Life on Earth and Mankind (Seattle:  Discovery Institute, c. 2017; Kindle Edition).  He rightly employs the word wonder to indicate his thesis, for this is much more than a descriptive text.  He is (as Socrates noted about Theaetetus) by nature “a philosopher; for wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder.”  Similarly, Plato’s more scientifically-oriented student, Aristotle, said:  “In all things of nature there is something of the marvelous.”

And there are indeed many wonderful aspects to water!  Now and then we’re painfully aware of it.  Especially when desiccated by a drought—or battling flood waters—we know something of its enormous  power.   More positively, we know that the slow erosion of rocks makes soil and moist soil incubates organic life.  Yet there is “another unseen and very different magic” working “inside our bodies.  The same wonder substance that is eroding those rocks and providing life with essential nutrients and minerals is doing something else!”  It’s sustaining our circulatory system.  “With each beat of our heart, water carries to our tissues oxygen and many of those very same nutrients leached from the rocks in the fall.  Water also ferries away the waste products of respiration—carbon dioxide to the lungs, other waste products to the kidneys, and excess heat to the skin, where it is vented from the body.  Our vital dependence on those beautiful tumbling waters for the life-giving minerals she draws from the rocks and our equally vital dependence on the water coursing through our arteries carrying many of those same elements around the body brings us face to face with a revelation as extraordinary as any other in any domain of science.  The one substance, water, is uniquely fit to serve two utterly different vital ends—ends as different as can be conceived: the erosion of rock and the circulation of the blood.  Both are absolutely vital to our existence.  No other substance in nature comes close to having the essential set of properties needed to do these two jobs” (p. 12).

More deeply, the wonders of water indicate that our world—and we ourselves—are no cosmic accidents.  “Through its magic, water sings a universal song of life, and in its special fitness for human physiology it sings a special song of man.  The properties of water show that beings with our biology do indeed occupy a special central place in the order of nature, and that the blueprint for life was present in the properties of matter from the moment of creation” (p. 14).   Uniquely, water exists in three forms—solid, liquid, gas.  Rocks remain rocks and oxygen and helium remain gasses.  But water, uniquely, takes various forms on the planet’s surface, and:  “Of all known substances, only water is fit for the hydrological cycle, the delivery system of water to land-based life” (p. 18).  Going into fascinating detail, Denton shows how this cycle works, saysing:  “There is a beautiful and elegant teleology in all this.  The same process which draws from rocks the minerals and essential elements for life generates at the same time—in the clays and sands and silts that together form soil with organic debris—an ideal water- and mineral-retaining matrix that provides the means by which the mineral-enriched water can be used by plants” (p. 28).  It also lubricates the movement of the tectonic plates, shifting continents and casting aloft mountains. 

“The notion that the tectonic system is the result of design rises unbidden from the evidence.  How could such an elegant system of integrated elements of unique fitness, which has fashioned the world for life over billions of years, and which transcends in its reciprocal self-formative abilities any artifact created to date, have arisen out of blind collisions of atoms?  And how could the manifold fitness of water, which conveys every impression of having been fine-tuned to turn the wheels, be mere happenstance?” (p. 58).  Indeed:   “The design of such systems, in which the parts are reciprocally self-formative, transcends the design of any artifact or machine ever created” (p. 58).  Illustrating this is the temperature regulation provided by earth’s oceans, which serve as a hemostat, regulating temperatures and conserving water, providing us with a mechanism “without any parallel in human engineering” (p. 75).  Water’s thermal properties sustain and regulate the earth’s climate, “transporting and redistributing heat around the globe.  If either of these two properties did not have the values they do, the entire climate machine would grind to a halt, permanent ice might cover the region where New York currently stands, and all tropical regions would be hellishly hot.  So the thermal properties of water help produce the atmospheric currents . . .  that contribute to ocean currents, which also use water’s thermal properties to better redistribute heat” (p. 103).

There are also currents circulating within living organisms.  “Steven Vogel, in The Life of a Leaf, describes the way water manages to get to the top of tall trees as a phenomenon mirabile dictu (“wonderful to relate”)” (p. 107).  Two of water’s unique properties are its high surface tension and tensile strength, which enable it to soar 100 feet or so to the tops of trees.  As water evaporates from the tree through its leaves, suction lifts fresh water from the tree’s roots.  “It is a basic law of hydraulics that pressure in one part of an enclosed hydraulic system is transmitted to all other parts.  As water molecules are lost from the leaves at the top of the tree, others must enter the roots to take their place” (p. 109).  Vogel “waxes lyrical in contemplating the way it’s done:  ‘The pumping system has no moving parts, costs the plant no metabolic energy, moves more water than all the circulatory systems of animals combined, does so against far higher resistance, and depends on a mechanism with no close analogy in human technology” (p. 110). 

After celebrating water’s role in human physiology and cellular life, Denton concludes his treatise by asking:  “Is there a tale like the tale of water?  Can one conceive of a substance as profoundly purposeful, serving such a diversity of vital ends?  Has any substance remotely like water been described even in the most outré annals of science fiction?  Who might have guessed or imagined in even the most unrestrained flight of fancy that in this simple substance, one of the simplest of nature’s creations, composed of only three atoms—two of hydrogen and one of oxygen—and only a ten-millionth of a millimeter across, there would be so much design?  There are more ends served in these three magic atoms than in any other natural form, and far, far more, and far more marvelous, than in any artifact created by or conceived of by man.  No words can express the wonder of such manifold purpose, so many vital ends, compressed in such a tiny piece of matter.  Water is the matrix of the cell, the blood of the Earth, the maker of mountains, the sustainer of life” (pp. 179-180).  Still more:  “In these extraordinary features, water’s design for life is transcendent!  Nothing in the artificial realm of our own limited designs comes close.  Reason recoils at the notion that such designs could be the result of blind, unseeing processes.  There is no domain in which astronomer Fred Hoyle’s celebrated confession is more appropriate:  ‘A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests… that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature’” (p. 183).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In addition to the Spirit moving upon the face of the waters, God said:  “Let there be light, and there was light.”  So began the creative process, fueled from its inception by the wondrous power of light.  In Einstein’s world, the sole constant throughout the universe is the speed of light.  So it is fitting, when Michael Denton crafted another treatise in the “Privileged Species Series” (celebrating the wonders of the world) he would write about Children of Light: The Astonishing Properties of Sunlight that Make Us Possible (Seattle:  Discovery Institute, c. 2018; Kindle Edition).  As with water, sunshine is such a daily reality in our world that we rarely pause to ponder its splendor.  Though at one time or another we probably studied and appreciated the importance of photosynthesis, whereby plants miraculously transform light into biological beings, we’re doubtlessly less aware of the importance of the sun’s invisible electromagnetic radiation that’s needed for an amazing variety of necessary ingredients for earth’s intricate workings.  

  Still more:  earth’s intricacies seem perfectly designed for us, her residents, living in a truly “Goldilocks region” that is just right, indeed a perfectly designed, place for us.  We get just enough illuminating light and just enough heat to make this a truly “privileged planet.”  Thus Denton says:  “In addition to being perfectly fit for photosynthesis and hence for our kind of oxygen-utilizing advanced life, sunlight is also just right for high-acuity vision, which depends on another set of extraordinary coincidences in the characteristics of visual light.  And sunlight is just right not only for any type of high-acuity visual device or eye, but just right in terms of its wavelength for beings of our size and upright android design.  What is so significant about the fitness of the Sun’s light for photosynthesis and for high-acuity vision is that these are elements of natural fitness exclusively for our type of life—for beings possessing the gift of sight, breathing oxygen (aerobic), and inhabiting the terrestrial surface of a planet like the Earth” (#147).

The rightness of light for our world is facilitated by a remarkable blend of atmospheric gasses (oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, water vapor and ozone), for the “life-giving light of the Sun must penetrate the atmosphere right down to the ground to work its magic, and a proportion of the Sun’s IR radiation (heat radiation) must be absorbed by and held in the atmosphere to warm the Earth above the freezing point of water and animate the atoms of life for chemistry.  Amazingly, the atmosphere obliges us in this critical task.  But as we shall see, its capacity to let through the right light and absorb the right proportion of heat depends on an additional suite of hugely improbable coincidences in the combined absorption characteristics of the atmospheric gases” (#629).  Indeed, Denton says:  “If I can be excused for expressing the coincidence in animist terms, it is as if the atmosphere were intelligently colluding with the Sun to ensure that only the right light for photochemistry . . . reached the Earth’s surface and that only the ‘right’ proportion of the IR was absorbed to warm the Earth into the ambient temperature range” (#669).  The three most important gasses—CO₂, H₂O, and O₂—effectively “ensure—by their collective absorption properties in the atmosphere—the availability of the vital light energy necessary to drive the reaction to completion.  It is as if these three gases were colluding intelligently together to promote their incorporation into the substance of living matter.  Altogether these coincidences convey an overwhelming impression of design.  The improbability that they are the outcome of the blind concourse of atoms is equivalent to the improbability of drawing the same card twice from a stack of 1025 cards stretching from Earth beyond the Andromeda Galaxy.  How else can we describe these coincidences except as miracles of fortuity?” (#903). 

Though we see only a tiny bit of the EM spectrum, we are blessed with visual capacities, and our high-acuity eyes are themselves wondrous to behold!  [Many years ago, while teaching at Point Loma Nazarene University, I attended a lecture by Francis Crick, the co-discoverer of DNA.  He gave a fascinating lecture on the eye, acknowledging that scientists were still quite puzzled by its complexity, though he was confident they would figure it all out.  I was also struck by his dogmatic declamations regarding the origin of the universe while admitting his mystification at the eye!]  As did Crick, Denton describes the eye and explains its functions.  But unlike Crick he acknowledges its improbability of emerging through purely materialistic developments.  That we have eyes to see—and that there is light illuminating our world for us to behold—is little short of miraculous, for it requires “the same tiny magic band that has just the right energy levels for photochemistry and detection by bio-matter.”  The probability that it all “just happened” means we have “had to select the same playing card from the stack that stretches that inconceivable distance beyond our nearest neighboring galaxy” (#1555).  Denton notes that most scientists, like Crick, reject his position, for the current naturalistic Zeitgeist hardly allows for any anthropocentric interpretations of our place in the cosmos.  But:  “No matter how unfashionable the notion may be in many intellectual circles, the evidence is unequivocal:  Ours is a cosmos in which the laws of nature appear to be specially fine-tuned for our type of life—for advanced, carbon-based ‘light eaters’ who possess the technologically enabling miracle of sight!  I do admit that the claim—that our existence depends on a profound fitness in nature for our specific form of being—is among the most outrageously ambitious claims in the history of thought.  Could the cosmic dance have really been arranged primarily for beings like us?” (#1745).  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Before publishing his works on water and light, Micheal Denton wrote the first of his Privileged Species books, titling it Fire-Maker: How Humans Were Designed to Harness Fire and Transform Our Planet (Seattle:  Discovery Institute Press, c. 2016; Kindle Eduction).  “Of all the discoveries made in the course of mankind’s long march to civilization,” he says, “there was one primal discovery that made the realization of all this possible.  It’s a discovery we use every day and take completely for granted. But this discovery changed everything.  Humankind discovered how to make and tame fire.  Darwin rightly saw it as ‘Probably the greatest [discovery], excepting language, ever made by man’” (p. 10). 

Building fires for heat and cooking were important for early man, and simple camp fires sufficed.  But in order to smelt metals—copper, iron, etc.—something that burned hotter was needed.  And it was discovered:  charcoal!  By burning charcoal in vented kilns you can smelt copper to make bronze and iron (thus the “Bronze Age” and “Iron Age” we study in history).  “Given the range of temperatures in the cosmos and the fantastic diversity of the properties of matter, it beggars belief that the smelting temperatures of metal ores are in reach of the temperatures that can be generated in wood or charcoal fires—a coincidence upon which the whole subsequent development of technology depended” (p. 16).  The elements of earth are just right for us—and we’re rightly designed to use them!  Only humans—conscious, rational, creative creatures with dexterous hands—“could ever have exploited the wonderful fitness of nature for fire and for metallurgy” (p. 17).  We alone are “capable of maintaining and controlling fire, of building kilns, of mining for ores, of felling trees and manufacturing charcoal, and so on” (p. 47). 

Fortunately for us, planet earth is wondrously endowed with fire-friendly ingredients!  It’s just the right size with just the right mass possessing just the right gravity “to retain permanently the heavier gaseous elements such as nitrogen, oxygen, and carbon dioxide, but weak enough to permit the initial loss of the lighter volatile elements such as hydrogen and helium.  Only on planets of similar mass and size to the Earth’s could there exist an atmosphere containing sufficient quantities of oxygen to sustain fire” (p. 27).  Ours for sure is a Goldilocks planet!  And it contains precious ores!  As Alfred Russel Wallace said:  “‘The seven ancient metals are gold, silver, copper, iron, tin, lead, and mercury.  All of these are widely distributed in the rocks.  They are most of them found occasionally in a pure state, and are also obtained from their ores without much difficulty, which has led to their being utilised from very early times… Each of the seven metals (and a few others now in common use) has very special qualities which renders it useful for certain purposes, and these have so entered into our daily life that it is difficult to conceive how we should do without them’” (p. 32).  To smelt these metals required the right fuel—and we have it:  wood.  In various forms—firewood, charcoal, coal, oil—wood has fueled civilization. 

In conclusion:  “Overall, the evidence suggests that the cosmos is uniquely fit for beings of our biology to thrive on a planet like the Earth and to master fire and develop complex advanced technologies.  Surely there could not be an equivalent ensemble of fitness in nature for some other type of life.  Lawrence Henderson made the same point in his classic Fitness of the Environment when he argued that the sorts of ensembles of fitness which make carbon-based life possible are so absurdly improbable that they are almost certainly unique, without any analogue in any other area of chemistry or physics” (p. 66).  “Whatever the ultimate causation may eventually prove to be, as it stands, the evidence of fitness is at least consistent with the notion that the fine-tuning for life as it exists on Earth is the result of design” (p. 67).  “Although the current Zeitgeist would have us believe that humanity is little more than a cosmic accident, one of a million different possible outcomes that happened to arrive and survive on an unexceptional planet, the evidence examined in this short book suggests otherwise—that whatever the causation of the fine tuning, we are no accident of deep time and chance.  On the contrary, as Freeman Dyson famously proclaimed, from the moment of creation ‘the universe in some sense must have known that we were coming’” (p. 69).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In 1985 Micheal Denton published Evolution:  A Theory in Crisis, seriously questioning the Darwinian theory of evolution through natural selection.  Reading that work helped embolden the late Philip Johnson to write The Case Against Darwin and help launch what is frequently called the “Intelligent Design” movement.  Though Johnson and others were theists, Denton (an Australian academic) writes purely from a biologist’s standpoint, leaving theological issues in others’ hands.  Just recently he revised and upgraded his position in Evolution: Still a Theory in Crisis (Seattle:  Discovery Institute Press, c. 2016; Kindle Edition.)   “My major goal in this new book,” he says, “is to review the challenge to Darwinian orthodoxy and the support for typology provided by the novelty and extraordinary invariance of the homologs [i.e. primal patterns]” (p. 13).  There are, he argues, perduring “types” of biological structures embedded in and best explaining the natural world.  

Taking this position leads him to align himself with leading 19th century biologists, most especially Richard Owen, who believed in quite specific “laws of biological form” which set limits to the development of species, providing “a few basic designs or Types, just as the laws of chemical form or crystal form limit chemicals and crystals to finite sets of lawful forms.  This view implies that many of life’s basic forms arise in the same way as do other natural forms—ultimately from the self-organization of matter—and are genuine universals.  Structuralism—at least in the form it took in the nineteenth century, and in the version I am defending here—implies that the basic Types of life, and indeed the whole evolutionary progression of life on earth, are built into nature.  Thus, life is no artifact of ‘time and chance,’ as it came to be seen after Darwin, but a predictable and necessary part of the cosmic whole” (p. 15).

Scientists such as Owen were structuralists, while Darwin was a functionalist.  “Where functionalism suggests that function is prior and determines structure, structuralism suggests that structure is prior and constrains function” (p. 19).  When, in 1985, Denton advanced an essentially structuralist view he was very much alone is his advocacy.  But he now says times have changed!  The evidence for a structuralist approach has mounted to almost to a cascade supporting “Owen’s distinction between homolog [the melody] and adaptive mask [tuning the piano]):  ‘We think of natural selection as tuning the piano, not as composing the melodies.  That’s our story, and we think it’s the story that modern biology tells when it’s properly construed’” (p.  29).  Denton believes:  “along with Owen and many other nineteenth-century biologists, that life is an integral and lawful part of nature and that the basic forms of life are in some sense built into nature.  I see this notion massively reinforced by the evidence of twentieth-century cosmology that the laws of nature are uniquely fine-tuned for life.  Inevitably, therefore, this book is a defense of the typological world-view similar to that subscribed to by many nineteenth-century biologists:  that the taxa-defining homologs represent a special set of natural forms which constitute the immutable building blocks of the biological world.  If the Types (or, more specifically, the homologs which define them) are indeed natural forms, their origin can never be explained by cumulative selection.  Thus, Darwinism is bound to fail as a comprehensive explanation of life” (p. 29).

# # # 

325 Impeachment and the Plot to Remove a President

As the Trump impeachment process gained steam during the past year I perused  two scholarly works devoted to explaining precisely what the Constitution provides should Congress should decide to impeach and then remove a President from office.   Years ago I’d read and reviewed Raul Berger’s Government by Judiciary: The Transformation of the Fourteenth Amendment and commended the depth and perspicuity of its analysis.  Knowing he’d written Impeachment:  The Constitutional Problems (Cambridge:  Harvard University Press, c. 1973), I acquired a copy and found it to be, in the words of Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., “an admirable and powerful work  . . . reliable and illuminating.”  After devoting many pages to English legal history, demonstrating why the British Parliament had developed the process of impeachment, Berger (a Harvard Law School professor) showed how America’s Founders incorporated the process into the Constitution.  Committed to an originalist position, Berger sought to follow the Founders’ injunction and primarily understand the Constitution by considering the explanations of those who actually wrote it.  He especially sought to show what “treason, bribery, and other high crimes and misdemeanors” meant in 1787.  These terms did not necessarily mean criminal behavior, for as Justice Joseph Story (an associate of Chief Justice John Marshall) said, three decades later, impeachment is:  “‘a proceeding purely of a political nature.  It is not so much designed to punish an offender as to secure the state against gross official misdemeanors.  It touches neither his person nor his property, but simply divests him of his political capacity’” (p. 84).  However, the Founders were determined to preserve the balance of powers they deemed essential for the republic and were especially concerned that the legislative branch might become dictatorial.   “Nothing is clearer than the intention of the Founders to repudiate and reject ‘legislative omnipotence’” (p. 273).  

Though impeachment is surely a political recourse, the Founders said it should be rarely used and then only for demonstrably egregious offenses.  Thus, though the House of Representatives could draft articles of impeachment, it was left to the Senate to decide whether or not to remove a President.  As Alexander Hamilton explained, this was ‘because what other body would be likely . . . to preserve, unwed and uninfluenced, the necessary impartiality between an individual accused, and the representatives of the people, his accuser.’  The senate was made judge, not in order to lessen the guarantees, but to insure that the accused would not be crushed by the  oppressive weight of the House of Representatives.  The President, no less than the lowliest citizen, is entitled to the protection of due process, and the essence of due process is fair play’” (p. 277).  In accord with the English tradition, rooted in the Magna Carta, due process and fair play were due everyone.

When Berger wrote his book, only once in American history had a president been impeached—Andrew Johnson, who had defied a law he considered unconstitutional.  Devoting considerable attention to that event, Berger declared the effort by Radical Republicans to remove a President with whom they disagreed overtly spurious.  It serves as a historical reminder of “a gross abuse of the impeachment process, an attempt to punish the President for differing with and obstructing the policy of Congress.  . . . . It undermined the separation of powers and constituted a long stride toward the very ‘legislative tyranny’ feared and fenced in by the Founders” (p. 308-309).  

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Cass Sunstein is a Harvard Law School professor who recently published Impeachment:  A Citizen’s Guide  (New York:  Penguin Publishing Group, c. 2019, Kindle Edition).  Though issued amidst the clamor for President Trump’s impeachment, the book is “designed to answer more enduring questions, including:  Why does the U.S. Constitution include an impeachment mechanism?  What’s a ‘high crime or misdemeanor’?  How does impeachment work?  Is impeachment a question of law or politics?” (p. xiv).   As a young man Sunstein had studied the impeachment endeavors targeting President Richard Nixon.  Two  decades later, he was brought to Washington as a distinguished professor to testify before Congress during the Bill Clinton hearings, trying to explain the “high crimes and misdemeanors” phrase in the Constitution.  He also worked within the Clinton White House, preparing to defend the president when he was brought to trial before the Senate.  Sunstein now seeks to take an impartial stance, intent on celebrating “the majesty, and the mystery, of impeachment under the U.S. Constitution” (p. 15).

Rightly interpreting the Constitution, of course, means different things to different folks!  Justices such as the late Thurgood Marshall looked at it as a “living document” endlessly malleable in the hands of judges who install such things as abortion and same-sex marriage as constitutional rights.  Others, such as Antonin Scalia, took an “originalist” view and tried to come to conclusions based upon what the Founders intended and take history as our surest guide.  On most issues, Sunstein supports the “living document” approach, but when it comes to impeachment he actually thinks an “originalist” stance is best.  In part this is because only two American presidents had been impeached and there are few judicial precedents to give the on-going tradition needed for a “living document” approach.  Still more:  the two actual impeachments (presidents Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton) provide little guidance, for they both “were unconstitutional, even farcical—case studies in what the United States should avoid” (p. 86).  

Sunstein concludes his treatise noting that Trump adversaries were calling for his impeachment as soon as he was elected.  They were determined to do so and went looking for a reasons, ranging from tweets to insulting athletes to denying climate change.  Whatever!  “They did so not because they could point to impeachable offenses, but because they disliked him and they strongly opposed his policies.”  Though Sunstein differs with the President on many issues, he finds him guilty of no impeachable offenses.  So:  “One of the original motivations for this book—not the driving force, but still—was to counteract what seemed to me to be reckless and irresponsible arguments for the impeachment of President Trump before his presidency even got started.  My much larger goals were to correct some recurring misunderstandings of the impeachment clause, which have played a significant role in debates over impeachment at least since the 1990s” (p. 177).  

And my guess is he would find the latest House of Representatives impeachment action sadly misguided—an offense to the majesty of the Constitution he reveres.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

During the past two years I’ve read a number of books devoted to the Democrats’ efforts to impeach and remove President Trump from office.  These include:  Compromised:  How Money and Politics Drive FBI Corruption, by Seamus Bruner; The Russia Hoax:  The Illicit Scheme to Clear Hillary Clinton and Frame Donald Trump, and its sequel, Witch Hunt:  The Story of the Greatest Mass Delusion in American History, by Gregg Jarrett; The United States of Trump:  How the President Really Sees America, by Bill O’Reiley; Resistance (At All Costs):  How Trump Haters are Breaking America, by Kimberly Strassell; Ball of Collusion:  The Plot to Rig an Election and Destroy a President, by Andrew McCarthy; Unmasked:  Big Media’s War Against Trump, by Brent Bozell; Unfreedom of the Press, by Mark Levin; The Red Thread:  A Search for Ideological Drivers Inside the Anti-Trump Conspiracy, by Diana West; and Spygate:  The Attempted Sabotage of Donald Trump, by Dan Bongino.  The authors include lawyers, journalists, and former federal prosecutors.  They all tell essentially the same story, presenting evidence recently and almost totally confirmed in detail by the DOJ’s Inspector General’s report and by the FISA’s rebuke of the FBI’s duplicitous behavior.  They critique the effort to remove President Trump from office, though they do so with considerable variety.  Some authors—Andrew McCarthy, Gregg Barrett, and Mark Levin—provide meticulous documentation; others, such Kimberly Strassell are more journalistic in their approach.  Some are Trump supporters; others mainly find the efforts to destroy him unfair and reprehensible.  All together, however, they reveal an alarming event:  a malicious effort to nullify a presidential election.  

Rather than try to sum up these various treatises, I’ll examine in some detail one of the most recent and readable books:  Lee Smith’s The Plot Against the President:  The True Story of How Congressman Devin Nunes Uncovered the Biggest Political Scandal in U.S. History (New York:  Center Street, c. 2019).  Nunes, as chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, knows as much as any American could regarding the machinations of the intelligence community, for he was charged with their oversight.  Smith, an experienced journalist who has worked for The Village Voice and The Weekly Standard,  seeks “to present the known, as well as previously unreported, details in the anti-Trump operation.  The basic outline of the story, however, is shockingly simple.  Hillary Clinton’s campaign used political operatives and dirty cops to frame her opponent.  When she lost, Obama officials employed the resources of the federal government to try to topple President Trump.”  This endeavor was widely supported by the media, who “weren’t simply partisan or lazy or complicit” but were “an integral component” of the endeavor.  “All in all, it is a tragic story about criminality, corruption, and a conspiracy of lies at the highest levels of important US institutions that were designed to keep the public safe, such as the FBI, and free, such as the press.  But there is another story running parallel to that account, and that is a story about a small handful of Americans, public servants, who stood up, assumed responsibility, and did the right thing at a crucial time” (pp. 13-14). 

The handful of heroes who did the right thing were Congressman Devin Nunes and the investigative staff he assembled which “uncovered the biggest political scandal in American history” (p. 14).  (Contributing significantly to their work was Iowa’s Senator Chuck Grassley, Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee).  Leading the investigation was Cash Patal, who had worked as a terrorism prosecutor at the Department of Justice (DOJ).  He’d been outraged by FBI Director James Comey’s exoneration of Hillary Clinton.  “‘He hijacked the Clinton investigation,’ he says.  ‘That was not his call to make.  You don’t go on TV and say, “I, the FBI director, am deciding what is a prosecutor’s decision.”   And by the way, all my colleagues in the national security division, all truly apolitical, every one of us would have taken the Clinton case to a grand jury’” (p. 179).  Patal had also became acquainted with some of the folks he would later investigate—Glenn Simpson, a journalist who had founded Fusion GPS, a firm known for doing “opposition research” (working for the 2012 Obama campaign looking for dirt on Mit Romney) that was hired by the Clinton campaign to find damaging information on Trump;  Christopher Steele, a former British intelligence officer with some past Russian connections who often worked for the FBI; Bruce Ohr, a senior Justice Department official, and his wife Nellie, who did research for Simpson.  These folks fed information to the FBI team (including deputy director Andrew McCabe, deputy assistant director for counterintelligence, agent Peter Strzok, and Lisa Page, McCabe’s special counsel) which orchestrated the “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation of the Trump campaign.  

Early in 2016 they took aim at influential Trump advisors, including retired Lieutenant General Michael Flynn.  He had gained renown for his significant work in military intelligence and was appointed by President Obama to head the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) in 2012.  As a devoted reformer and outspoken critic, however, he quickly alienated establishment bureaucrats and offended Obama by challenging both the president’s refusal to release the documents captured in the Osama bin Laden raid and the Iran nuclear deal.  Thus Flynn’s work for the White House ended within two years and he launched a consulting firm.  He then became involved in the 2016 presidential campaign, advising Republican hopefuls such as Ben Carson, Carly Fiorena, and Donald Trump, because he “was willing to talk to anyone if it would help keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House” (p. 20).  

Two days after the election, President Obama spent significant time defaming Flynn while talking with president-elect Trump.  “Obama had allies throughout the intelligence community, hundreds of them.  And they had their own reasons to go after Flynn.  ‘Flynn was talking about remaking the NSC staff and getting rid of the Obama holdovers to put Trump’s people in there,’ says Nunes. ‘He was going to cut the NSC staff down to a third of its size under Obama.’  Even more significantly, Flynn was going to address the problems with the intelligence community as a whole.  ‘He wanted to remake the entire IC,’ says Nunes.  He had Trump’s ear.  They were going to drain the Swamp” (p. 136).  Flynn’s adversaries then launched a vicious and dishonest campaign to discredit and defame him, “erasing facts” and doctoring photographs in order to suggest the Trump team was aligned with the Kremlin.  He would be the first of Trump’s appointees to be fired—within a few weeks of the inauguration.  Trump thought this would end the Russia controversy, but:  “‘He was getting bad advice from some of his advisers,’” says Nunes.  ‘He didn’t understand that after they got Flynn, they’d have momentum.  After Flynn went down, they believed they could get the president, too’” (p. 147).  

Central to the plot against the president was what came to be known as the “Steele Dossier.”  In April 2016, Hillary Clinton and the DNC “hired Fusion GPS to build a Trump-Russia echo chamber.  Fusion GPS garnered more than $1 million to compile information about Trump’s ties to Russia and distribute it to the press.  By the end of the spring, every major US media organization was involved in pushing the big story about the Republican candidate:  Trump and his associates were tied to Russian and other former Soviet Bloc business interests.  Fusion GPS was the Clinton campaign’s shadow war room—and subsequently became its dirty tricks operations center” (p. 42).  Christopher Steele was recruited (and paid $168,000) to gather information on Trump’s Russian ties and proceeded to pen a number of unsubstantiated allegations and rumors.  “What had started as an opposition research project that had turned up little of substance had transformed into a smear campaign” (p. 74).  Thus the “Steele Dossier” became the main basis for the FBI’s appeal to the FISA court for permission to surveil suspected members of the Trump team.  “But the dossier is not an ‘intelligence’ product.  It’s a fiction, a literary forgery, populated with real characters, but who did not do or say the things attributed to them.  And the dossier’s authors are not intelligence officers but journalists and academics accustomed to running smear campaigns and dirty tricks operations and lying” (p. 286).

The dossier mentioned Carter Page, a volunteer consultant on the periphery of the Trump campaign staff.  A graduate of the Naval Academy with considerable knowledge of and contacts in Russia, Page had frequently worked with the CIA, providing information gained on some of his trips abroad.  Though the Crossfire Hurricane group claimed he was a foreign agent, he’d actually helped the FBI locate Russian agents working in New York.  (We now know the FBI actually altered a CIA document indicating Page had worked with the agency to say he had not worked for it!)  The evidence cited by the FBI was little more than the Steele Dossier, as well as newspaper articles which were based upon Fusion GPS claims.  Page had earlier left the Trump campaign, but the FBI wanted to uncover his past emails and find incriminating evidence.  The claimed Page was paid involved in a deal which involved hundreds of millions of dollars.  But he obviously didn’t have that kind of money and it could have easily been disproved had the FBI wanted to do so.  “It was clear the story in the dossier was nonsense” (p. 183).  What  Crossfire Hurricane actually wanted was permission to surveil Page in order to get at Trump and, as Nunes says, “‘They were sure they were going to find something, the golden ticket’” (p. 98).  But they found nothing!  And they virtually destroyed an honorable man.  

All of this took place before the 2016 presidential election, when Crossfire Hurricane assumed Hillary Clinton would be elected and their activities safely ignored.  But when Trump was elected “the operation designed to undermine his campaign transformed.  It became an instrument to bring down the commander in chief.  The coup started almost immediately after the polls closed” (p. 103).  On December 6, 2016, President Obama directed CIA director John Brennan to “review of all intelligence relating to Russia and the 2016 elections” (p. 106).   Brennan almost immediately reported that the Russians had helped Trump win the election—and then leaked that information to a variety of friendly media outlets.  Congressman Nunez immediately saw what was transpiring—an effort to destroy Trump.  “‘I couldn’t have dreamed they’d be that dirty,’ says Nunes. ‘As soon as we saw they’d abused the FISA process, we opened up the investigation right away because the FISA issues bled into other matters, like how they started the whole investigation.  It was all a setup.’  It was then he realized he’d come across the biggest political scandal in US history.  ‘They used the intelligence services and surveillance programs against American citizens,’ he says.  ‘They spied on a presidential campaign and put it under a counterintelligence investigation so they could close it off and no one else would see what they were doing.  They leaked classified intelligence again and again to prosecute a campaign against a sitting president.  Ninety percent of the press was with them, and the attorney general was out of the picture.’  That meant it was up to Nunes and his team to expose the hoax, get out the truth, and uphold the rule of law” (p. 172).

They found that when President Trump fired Director Comey, the acting director, Andrew McCabe, urged deputy attorney-general Rod Rosenstein to name a special counsel.   Comey then leaked a story to a friend which was printed in the New York Times claiming Trump had urged him to “drop the Flynn investigation.”  That story, said Rosenstein, justified the appointment of a special counsel—former FBI director Robert Mueller III.  He assembled a dozen of anti-Trump prosecutors who did everything possible in the next two years to show how Russia supported Trump and enabled him to win the 2016 election.   “‘It was a team of dirty cops,’ says Nunes.  ‘Andrew Weissmann was the worst. He already had a history as a hard-core anti-Trump partisan.’” (p. 205).  For these upper-echelon bureaucrats, “Trump wasn’t their president.  And the America that had elected him was beneath contempt” (p. 199).  

The Crossfire Hurricane group imagined themselves to be replicating the work of the heroic FBI “deep throat” agent who helped spark the resignation of Nixon.  “‘They all wanted to become the next Deep Throat,’” says Nunes.  And they benefited from “elite teams” of journalists ensconced in the Washington Post and New York Times whose articles largely shaped the media frenzy calling for Trump’s removal from office.  The two papers’ staffs were awarded a joint Pulitzer Prize for “‘deeply sourced, relentlessly reported coverage in the public interest that dramatically furthered the nation’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and its connections to the Trump campaign, the President-elect’s transition team and his eventual administration’” (p. 274).  These bureaucrats and journalists envisioned a paper coup d’etat and knew, as Edward Luttwak says in Coup d’État: A Practical Handbook, that the media are essential:  “‘Control over the mass media emanating from the political center will still be our most important weapon in establishing our authority after the coup’” (p. 193).  “‘The anti-Trump operation,’ says Luttwak today, ‘was a very American coup, with TV denunciations by seemingly authoritative figures as a key instrument.’  The plot against Trump was a bureaucratic insurgency waged almost entirely through the printed word.  It was the ‘Paper Coup’” (p. 193).

But after two years of investigating every lead, the Mueller Commission failed to establish any “Russian collusion” with the Trump campaign.  There was a fully fraudulent endeavor to remove a president, and it failed.  So, almost immediately the Democrats found another cause celebre—Trump’s phone call to UkraineThus the beat of the impeachment drums goes on! 

324 Untethered Minds

As a  prototypical, optimistic “progressive,” believing the world was getting better and better, and after devoting his life to celebrating biological and societal evolution, H.G Wells in 1945 wrote a final, deeply pessimistic book, entitled A Mind at the End of Its Tether, sorrowing that everything seemed to be flying apart and nothing made sense.  A few years earlier the great Irish poet, E.B. Yeats had written an equally doleful poem, “The Second Coming,” lamenting the shape of things to come:  

 Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loose upon the world;
The blood-limned hoard is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity. 

Such passionate intensity is routinely visible in today’s campus protests, fueled by angry, profanity-spouting youngsters determined to prohibit controversial speakers from speaking.  Sure enough:  “Mere anarchy is loose upon the world”!  Their adolescent incoherence is thoughtfully analyzed by Mary Eberstadt in Primal Screams:  How the Sexual Revolution Created Identity Politics (West Conchohocken, PA:  Templeton Press, c. 2019).  Screaming youngsters, she insists, are indirectly asking a deeply personal and unanswered if perennial question:  Who Am I?  In the past, living in families and surrounded by stable communities, answering that question was relatively simple.  (For example, I could say I am my father’s son, reared on the high plains, and immersed in the life of a local Church of the Nazarene.)  Today, however, increasing numbers of folks cannot really find roots in such communities and turn to various groups wherein they seek to anchor their identities.  When this turn takes on political dimensions, they embrace “the desires and agendas” of aggrieved factions, providing a base whereby “human beings outside those chosen factions are treated ore and more not as fellow citizens, but as enemies to be eliminated by shame, intimidation, and, where possible, legal punishment” (p. 7). 

Allen Bloom had earlier discerned this development in his widely-discussed The Closing of the American Mind, wherein he described students as reared in accord with Rousseau’s prescriptions in Emile, “in the absence of any organic relation between husbands and wives and parents and children.”  Consequently, Bloom said:  “That is it.  Everyone has ‘his own little separate system.’  The aptest description I can find for the state of student’s souls is the psychology of separateness.”  Bloom blamed divorce as the primary reason for such separateness.  Now, thirty years later we must factor in the astonishing increase of out-of-wedlock births, all together resulting in what Eberstadt calls “The Great Scattering.”  Fractured families frequently mean not only missing fathers but fewer (if any) siblings and cousins and grandparents who are part of one’s life.  Still more (a point made in Eberstadt’s How the West Really Lost God):  youngsters without stable families have difficulty believing in and worshipping God.  Without family or faith to tether them to abiding realities, growing numbers of people seek to find their identity in self-selected groups.

Thus we witness the emergence of “identity politics.”  To answer the question “Who Am I” when traditional ways have collapsed, millions of moderns have relapsed into “one of the most revealing features of identity:  its infantilized expression and vernacular” (p. 64).  To speak personally, I have been utterly perplexed while witnessing utterly irrational behavior on university campuses as well as committee meetings in Congress!  Allegedly educated persons are, in fact, screaming rather than speaking coherently.  There are now “safe spaces” as well as “tiny ersatz treehouse stuffed with candy, coloring books, and Care Bears” on the campuses of the nation’s most prestigious universities (p. 66).  Apparently taking their clues from university professors, thousands of alienated youngsters take solace in identity groups, including feminism, androgyny, the #MeToo movement, etc., etc.

“‘Destroying the family life of highly social, intelligent animals leads inevitably to misery among individual survivors and pathological misbehavior among the group.’ J. M. Coetzee, recipient of the Nobel Prize for Literature has explained.  He was speaking of elephants, of course” (p. 103).  But it’s also true of humans.  Consequently:  “Identity politics is not so much politics as a primal scream.  It’s the result of the Great Scattering—our species’ unprecedented collective retreat from our very selves.”  Indeed:  “Anyone who has ever heard a coyote in the desert, separated at night from its pack, knows the sound.  The otherwise unexplained hysteria of today’s identity politics is nothing more, or less, that just that:  the collective human howl of our time, sent up by inescapably communal creatures trying desperately to identify their own” (p. 109).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

An important aspect of our current culture is diagnosed by Douglas Murray in The Madness of Crowds:  Race, Gender, Identity (London:  Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition, c. 2019), explaining that “we have been living through a period of more than a quarter of a century in which all our grand narratives have collapsed” (#36).   Consequently, “We are going through a great crowd derangement.  In public and in private, both online and off, people are behaving in ways that are increasingly irrational, feverish, herd-like and simply unpleasant” (#31).  As Yeats lamented, “Things fall apart, the center cannot hold; / Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”  For many centuries the West was nourished by some “grand narratives,” including the heritage of the classical world of Greece and Rome as well as the religious traditions of Judaism and Christianity.  For half-a-century now that story has been shunted aside in favor of a “new religion” best evident in various versions of “‘social justice’, ‘identity group politics’ and ‘intersectionalism’” (#60).  Consequently:  “identity politics” provides “the place where social justice finds its caucuses.  It atomizes society into different interest groups according to sex (or gender), race, sexual preference and more” (#66).  The identity groups Murray describes are gays, women, non-white races, and transsexuals.  Much of the book is devoted to detailing illustrations of these four groups, and anyone wanting a very up-to-date journalistic accounting of what’s taking places throughout our world can glean ample information from perusing its pages. 

But the real worth of The Madness of Crowds is the philosophical analysis Murray provides.  All these identity groups share common intellectual roots are manifestly Marxist (updated by fashionable, academic postmodernists such as Foucault and Gramsci) and feel they are engaged in a great class struggle.  There are the haves and the have-nots, but today’s exploiters are not so much capitalists as patriarchs.  So:  “At the top of the hierarchy are people who are white, male and heterosexual.  They do not need to be rich, but matters are made worse if they are.  Beneath these tyrannical male overlords are all the minorities: most noticeably the gays, anyone who isn’t white, people who are women and also people who are trans.  These individuals are kept down, oppressed, sidelined and otherwise made insignificant by the white, patriarchal, heterosexual, ‘cis’ system.  Just as Marxism was meant to free the labourer and share the wealth around, so in this new version of an old claim, the power of the patriarchal white males must be taken away and shared around more fairly with the relevant minority groups” #975).   Thus when we hear about “toxic masculinity” or “white privilege” or “rape culture” we need to remember such slogans are all lethal weapons in our  cultural war. 

Many of these phrases are manifestly nothing more than phrases or slogans which frequently contradict each other.  But “Marxists have always rushed towards contradiction. The Hegelian dialectic only advances by means of contradiction and therefore all the complexities – one might say absurdities – met along the way are welcomed and almost embraced as though they were helpful, rather than troubling, to the cause” (p. 1099).  To those of us perplexed by declarations of men claiming they are women—as irrational as any statement could possibly be—the cultural Marxists simply dismiss us a “logocentric” (e.e. thinking logically).  This, as Stephen Pinker (a Harvard psychologist) “wrote in 2002, ‘Many writers are so desperate to discredit any suggestion of an innate human constitution that they have thrown logic and civility out the window . . . The analysis of ideas is commonly replaced by political smears and personal attacks . . . The denial of human nature has spread beyond the academy and has led to a disconnect between intellectual life and common sense.’  Of course it had.  . . . . The purpose had instead become the creation, nurture and propagandization of a particular, and peculiar, brand of politics. The purpose was not academia, but activism” (#1119).

This essentially Marxist narrative has been recently amplified, Murray argues, by the social media.  In literally the blink of the eye the world has been transformed by “a communications revolution so huge that it may yet make the invention of the printing press look like a footnote in history” (#2030).  Thoughtful books and wisely-edited newspapers have smaller audiences today, for “twitter” and “facebook” postings have superseded them.  “It is there that assumptions are embedded.  It is there that attempts to weigh up facts can be repackaged as moral transgressions or even acts of violence” and enables anyone “to address everything, including every grievance.  And it does so while encouraging people to focus almost limitlessly upon themselves – something which users of social media do not always need to be encouraged to do” (#2056). 

And not only can one say anything about anything—everything he he has ever sent into cyberspace is forever there.  Using words or espousing positions which were once quite acceptable may be used to assail folks.  Something one may have tweeted a decade ago as an adolescent can be uncovered and weaponized to destroy him through excoriation and “public shaming.”  Social media “appears able to cause catastrophes but not to heal them, to wound but not to remedy” (#3280).   Especially absent is any possibility of forgiveness.  We face “the question that the internet age has still not begun to contend with:  how, if ever, is our age able to forgive?  Since everybody errs in the course of their life there must be – in any healthy person or society – some capacity to be forgiven.  Part of forgiveness is the ability to forget.  And yet the internet will never forget” (#3320).  Even the words of one’s father may be resurrected to punish a person, as the British race car driver Conor Daly found out when he lost a sponsorship when it was discovered that 10 years before he was born his father gave a radio interview and used a racially inappropriate word.

To cope with the madness of crowds, more common sense reasoning,  such as Murray provides, must be recovered in all segments of our society.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

A significant and largely unintended consequence of the sexual revolution is elucidated in Warren Farrell and John Gray in The Boy Crisis:  Why Our Boys Are Struggling and What We Can Do About It (Dallas, TX:  BenBella Books, Inc., c. 2018; Kindle Edition.)  Older men, such as myself, grew up in a time when “masculinity came with a built-in sense of purpose of being the provider-protector (e.g., warrior; sole breadwinner)” (p. 10).  As boys we wanted to grow up and assume the responsibilities of mature adults.  We had good reason to be.  But young men today frequently fail to find it.

To prove there is in fact a crisis Farrell considers boys’ mental, physical and economic health as well as their educational success.   Men kill other men and themselves far more frequently than do their female counterparts.  Indeed, the data are depressing!  Though “only 6 percent of the overall population, black males make up 43 percent of murder victims.   More black boys between ten and twenty are killed by homicide than by the next nine leading causes of death combined” (p. 16).  As many white men have killed themselves as have died of AIDS.  As soon as they enter puberty, boys turn suicidal:  “between ten and fourteen, boys commit suicide at almost twice the rate of girls.  Between fifteen and nineteen, boys commit suicide at four times the rate of girls; and between twenty and twenty-four, the rate of male suicide is between five and six times that of females” (p. 16).  Indeed, “the male-female suicide gap in the United States has tripled since the Great Depression” (p. 273).  “Women cry, men die!”  Men also go to jail in alarming numbers and “93 percent are male and are disproportionately young” (p. 18).

Though women were in the distant past called the “weaker” sex, that is certainly not true if one considers longevity as a marker of physical well-being, for men and boys are twice as likely to die as their female counterparts of the same age, making for “a greater life-expectancy gap than at any time since World War II” (p. 20).  Indeed:  “Being male is now the single largest demographic factor for early death,” says Randolph Nesse, Director of the Center for Evolution and Medicine at Arizona State University (p. 20).  Young men are alarmingly overweight and unfit.  As another indicator of physical well-being, an alarming decline of sperm count has been tracked by researchers.  “Boys today have sperm counts less than half of what their grandfathers had at the same age” (p. 20). Economically, the picture is equally drear, especially for men who don’t go to college.  “Over the last forty years, the median annual earnings of a boy with just a high school diploma dropped 26 percent.”  He is 20 percent more likely to be unemployed for significant times.  And if a young man lives “in an urban area, he’ll likely live in one of the 147 US cities in which young women under thirty haven’t just caught up to their male peers, but now outearn them (by an average of 8 percent)” (p. 26).  If he had a university degree things would be different, of course, but many men are failing to pursue higher education. 

“Worldwide, reading and writing skills are the two biggest predictors of success. These are also the two areas in which boys fall the most behind girls.  In the United States, by eighth grade, 41 percent of girls are at least ‘proficient’ in writing, while only 20 percent of boys are.  Many boys used to ‘turn around’ in about their junior or senior year of high school.  Anticipating the need to become sole breadwinner, and therefore gain familial pride, peer respect, and female love, they got their act together.  The expectation of becoming sole breadwinner became his purpose.  No longer.  In one generation, young men have gone from 61 percent of college degree recipients to a projected 39 percent; young women, from 39 percent to a projected 61 percent” (p. 28).  And these well-educated young women almost always refuse to consider lesser educated men as potential husbands!

Digging more deeply into the boy crisis, Farrell identifies a lack of purpose as one of its primary reasons.  “The Japanese call it ikigai, or ‘a reason for being.’  Japanese men with ikigai are less likely to die of heart disease.  And both sexes with ikigai live longer.   Whether we call it ikigai or sense of purpose, when we pursue what we believe gives life meaning, it gives us life.  Historically, a boy’s journey to prove himself is what gave him that sense of purpose” (p. 46).  To protect and provide for his wife and family have, throughout human history, given men ikigai.  But today, in Japan as well as much of the modern world, boys struggle to find it.  Much of this results from men being less and less needed to provide food and shelter for their families.  They also have far fewer heroes to emulate.  “What is a hero?  The word hero derives from the root ser, from which we also get the word “servant” (think “public servant”), as well as slave, and protector.  In Japan and China, the word samurai also derives from the word for servant, saburai.  Billions of boys throughout history have embraced the opportunity to serve and to protect in the hope of being labeled a hero or samurai.  Though the fiercer the enemy, the greater their chance of death, boys were willing to exchange their lives for the label.  They were, in a sense, slaves to the potential honor they might receive if they served and protected their families, villages, or countries” (p. 62).  Occasionally our youngsters see such heroes in action.  Consider the first responders on 9/11—99% were males!  In fact 76% of the firefighters in the country are volunteers, virtually 100% men!  So there are heroes in our midst, but too often young boys are fed anti-hero messages in feminist-run schools and popular culture. 

Thus parents need to strategically prepare their sons for adulthood, and that requires preparing them for employment in our digital age.  If they do well in school, opportunities abound for them if they persevere and find a well-paying slot in the economy.  If they’re not academically-inclined, it’s important to help them train for well-paying blue collar jobs—welders, plumbers, etc.  Participating in athletics is often crucial in helping boys become men.  Farrell provides lots of practical tips for parents (and grandparents) wanting to help their boys mature.  Above all, in a culture celebrating instant gratification and victimization:  “The discipline of postponing gratification is the single most important discipline your son needs” (p. 98).   But practical advice may mean little unless we face “the most important single crisis in developed countries:  dad-deprived children, and especially dad-deprived boys” (p. 102).  Boys reared without an attentive father are inevitably harmed.  If their dads dies, boys do OK, for they have memories of good men.  But when they lose their dads through divorce or never even know them because they were born out-of-wedlock, their stories frequently end poorly.  For those concerned, Farrell provides an appendix listing “some seventy ways that children benefit from significant father involvement—or put another way, seventy-plus ways in which dad-deprived children are more likely to suffer” (p. 117).  They are more likely to fail in school, to join gangs, to go to prison, to lapse into various addictions, to fail in marriage.  To cite only one painful fact:  “Prisons are the United States’ men’s centers (93 percent male).  A staggering 85 percent of youths in prison grew up in a fatherless home.  More precisely, prisons are centers for dad-deprived males—boys who never became men” (p. 120).  In short:  boys without dads do poorly!

But Farrell does more than alert us to problems.  He sets forth quite detailed ways in which dads can help rear healthy boys.  Simply being present in a boy’s life is hugely significant.  Merely interacting with a father boosts a boy’s IQ, strengthens his ability to trust others, reduces aggressive behavior, and enables him to rightly develop.  Stepfathers, unfortunately, have less (if any) positive influence.  Nor do same-sex parents!  Only biological fathers can do the crucial role of fathering.  Added to being present, good dads should preside over routine family dinners—a remarkably important ritual for children.  They can also enforce behavioral boundaries, whereas moms often set but fail to enforce them.  “One boy half-joked, ‘My mom warns and warns; it’s like she ‘cries wolf.’  My dad gives us one warning, and then he becomes the wolf” (p. 136).  Still another illustration:  women are more likely than men to give underage teenagers alcohol, admitting “that their desire to please trumped what they knew was right” (p. 140).  Dads normally roughhouse with and tease their kids—teaching them important lessons never derived from a woman.  They can lead them on wilderness excursions, camping trips, adventures of various sorts demonstrably valuable for youngsters.  They challenge their kids to accomplish things (whether in sports or school) and allow them to deal with defeats.

Farrell devotes many pages to the problem of divorce—and to ways to cope with it.  He also suggests legal changes to better enable men to be better fathers.  But the main message of The Boy Crisis is just that:  it’s a crisis and it’s devastating our culture.  Though wildly overstating the case, Jed Diamond claims:  “The Boy Crisis is the most important book of the 21st century.  Farrell and Gray are absolutely brilliant,” showing “why our sons are failing.”  Indeed:  ‘If you care about the very survival of humankind, you must read this book.”

323 “Social Justice” Casualties

In Why Meadow Died: The People and Policies That Created The Parkland Shooter and Endanger America’s Students (Post Hill Press, c. 2019, Kindle Edition), Andrew Pollack maintains that his daughter, Meadow, died not because of guns or NRA deviousness but because permissive school district policies enabled the killer (Nikolas Cruz) to escape proper treatment and unleash his fury on the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, located in Parkland, Florida.  According to Meadow’s brother, Hunter:  “If one single adult in the Broward County school district had made one responsible decision about the Parkland shooter, then my sister would still be alive.  But every bad decision they made makes total sense once you understand the district’s politically correct policies, which started here in Broward and have spread to thousands of schools across America” (#111).

This is not, of course, to diminish the responsibility of Nikolas Cruz!  He was, as is detailed in three lengthy chapters, a troubled young man.  Indeed:  “There was something profoundly dark and disturbed at the core of Nikolas Cruz’s soul.  Even his mother, Lynda, described her son as ‘evil’” (#1816).  His kindergarten teachers worried about his aggressiveness and fantasies.   He was known to enjoy torturing animals as well as threatening other students, and wherever he went he misbehaved and “wrecked havoc.”  In and out of special schools designed to help disturbed youngsters, he was frequently identified as a threat to both himself and others.  His teachers and counselors feared him.  “They knew about his obsession with guns and dreams about killing people.  They were so frightened that they took the extremely rare step of contacting his private psychiatrist. Yet not only did they return him to a traditional high school at an unprecedented speed, they also enrolled him in JROTC, a course in which he would learn to shoot using an air gun that resembled an AR-15” (#2187).  While the killings were taking place many staff and students suspected Cruz was the killer.  Sheriff’s officers had over the years responded to calls at Cruz’s home a total of 45 times.  But nothing was done to deal effectively with him.  They were all committed to following “the philosophy of the Broward school district, as expressed by Superintendent Runcie: ‘We are not going to continue to arrest our kids’ and give them a criminal record” (#2554).  

Following the Parkland shooting, many Americans demanded action, and politicians quickly began posturing, promising, and endlessly pontificating.  Responding to the outrage President Trump set up a “listening session” and invited Parkland parents, including Andy Pollack, to attend.  He spoke briefly and urged practical steps be taken to prevent further tragedies.   Subsequently the president talked with him and his son, discussing how to make the nation’s schools safer.  Returning to Florida, Pollack determined to memorialize his daughter by establishing a playground in her memory (Princess Meadow’s Playground) and establishing a nonprofit, Americans for Children’s Lives and School Safety (CLASS).  Yet his efforts were barely noticed amidst the massive national publicity generated by a group of Parkland students who organized a “March For Our Lives” to singularly focus on gun control. 

But Pollack knew guns were not the real problem.  So he began an intensive investigation, determined to understand why his daughter had died and he concluded the main culprit was a pernicious political correctness that pervaded Broward County bureaucracies:  school district officials, mental health providers, and law enforcement officers all failed.  “The only man who could have stopped him, School Resource Officer Scot Peterson, refused to enter the building and actively prevented other officers from entering” (#839).  He drew his gun—and stood still, safely hiding for 50 minutes!  “Ever since Columbine, police have been trained to immediately confront a school shooter” but Peterson stayed safe!  Five other deputies arrived, donned bulletproof vests, and listened (from safe distances, hiding behind cars or trees) to the gunfire killing kids.   Eleven long minutes passed before some of the deputies dared enter the building, long after the shooter had fled the scene.  Two courageous teachers died trying to protect the students, but law enforcement officers lacked their resolve. 

Especially culpable, in Pollack’s view, was the school superintendent, Robert Runcie, who meticulously followed federal guidelines issued by Barak Obama’s Secretary of Education, Arnie Duncan.  He hewed carefully to the agenda promoted by “social justice activist groups” which insisted schools serve “as laboratories for social justice engineering and force politically correct policies into our schools based on the assumption that teachers are too prejudiced to be trusted do the right things.  One policy is known as ‘discipline reform’ or ‘restorative justice.’  Activists and bureaucrats worried that minority students were being disciplined at higher rates than white students, and rather than recognize that misbehavior might reflect bigger problems and inequities outside of school, they blamed teachers for the disparity.  They essentially accused teachers of racism and sought to prevent teachers from enforcing consequences for bad behavior.  They thought that if students didn’t get disciplined at school, if instead teachers did ‘healing circles’ with them or something, then students wouldn’t get in trouble in the real world.  Superintendents then started pressuring principals to lower the number of suspensions, expulsions, and school-based arrests.  All that actually happened was that everyone looked the other way or swept disturbing behavior under the rug, making our schools more dangerous” (#227). 

To personalize his presentation Pollack portrays a number of folks intimately involved in the event.  There’s a math teacher, Kimberly Krawczyk, who was almost killed and became quickly disillusioned with the school district’s cover-up endeavors.  And there’s an immigrant father, Royer Borges, who “moved his family from Venezuela to America in 2014 to keep them safe” (#756).  His son was shot and seriously injured, so he hired an attorney to represent him.  Doing research, the attorney found an essay that linked the shooting with Parkland’s progressive educational policies, especially the district’s PROMISE program, which had been heavily funded by wealthy leftists such as Goerge Soros.  PROMISE was proposed and implemented to help “the victims of institutional racism” by refusing to arrest and punish public school students.  When Royer Borges learned about PROMISE’s permissive prescriptions, he “was furious.  He couldn’t believe that public officials had decided that the law shouldn’t apply in schools.  And he couldn’t believe that no one was going after Broward’s leaders for rolling the dice with children’s lives. It made no sense to Royer why instead of going after these local officials, everyone was marching on Washington, D.C. for gun control.  Venezuela had total gun control.  That’s how the government and the colectivos were able to terrorize the citizens” (#831).

Adding scholarly heft to the book is its co-author, Max Eden, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research, who had long researched and written about education and its needed reforms, concluding that a “‘social justice industrial complex’ had taken hold of American education” (#1010).  Using money from Obama’s 2009 stimulus bill, Arne Duncan had used money “to incentivize (some might say bribe) states to follow DCPS’s policy lead on test-based teacher evaluations and the new (and much-hated) Common Core academic standards.”   Educrats from across the country, attending ‘“woke’ conferences and training programs, . . . learned that the fastest path to career advancement is to fake statistical progress for minority students while passionately decrying privilege and institutional racism” (#1015).  Florida’s “Broward County was the standard-bearer for the new approach to school discipline: an aggressive push for leniency on the grounds that racially biased teachers were unfairly punishing minority students” (#1017).  Eden was also deeply distressed by the conduct of the Broward County Sheriff’s Department, which was determined to end “the school to mass murder pipeline” pattern evident throughout the region.  To do so the sheriff joined the school district and its PROMISE program by refusing to arrest adolescents.  Despite multiple calls to Cruz’s house and repeated warnings regarding his conduct, he was given a “free pass” that ultimately enabled him to launch his killing spree.

An unexpected hero in Why Meadow Died is a 19 year-old home-schooler named Kenny Preston, who proved to be the most tenacious and perceptive “journalist” writing about the shootings.  When he recognized two of the students killed by the shooter Preston began studying the incident and was early appalled by the reactions of Broward County authorities.  He spotted Superintendent Runcie’s instant concern to deflect attention from himself rather than mourn the victims’ deaths and was distressed by Sheriff Israel’s calloused response to questions.   “That’s when something inside of Kenny flipped.  The bodies of children who had been murdered under Runcie’s leadership were still lying on the schoolhouse floor directly behind him, and he had already started politicking” (#1315).  So Kenny Preston dug into the documents he could access on-line and interviewed a number of persons, including “Robert Martinez, a recently retired school resource officer, who told him, ‘We all knew some sort of tragedy like this was going to happen in Broward.  You can’t just stop arresting kids without expecting something like this.  As officers, our hands were tied.’  More alarming still, Martinez told Kenny that district officials had explicitly told school resource officers not to arrest students for felonies, in addition to the official PROMISE misdemeanors” (#1419).  Kenny’s on-line articles proved more perceptive than the mainstream media, which could do little more than repeat anti-NRA bromides.  In fairness, some of the local Florida papers did more honest work, but the story detailing Why Meadow Died remained largely for her father to tell! 

Concluding that the Broward County school board needed to change, Andy Pollack and a group of activists motivated by the Parkland shootings decided to challenge its entrenched power structures.  So they  ran candidates who mounted a vigorous campaign.  But all was naught!  Brossard County reelected the seasoned politicians aligned with Robert Runcie, and little was done to address the real problems in the district.  Though he was non-political (never even voting) before the shootings, Pollack finally realized:  “This happened in a Democrat county with a Democrat sheriff, a Democrat superintendent, and a Democrat school board, implementing Democrat ideas on criminal justice, Democrat ideas on special education, and Democrat ideas on school discipline.  And after Democrat voters gave all these Democrats a resounding vote of confidence in the school board election, the Democrat teachers union president, Anna Fusco, wrote in a Facebook group about our campaign for accountability:  ‘Now you can all shut up!’  Meanwhile, at the national level, Democrat organizers swooped in and weaponized my daughter’s murder for their Democrat agenda and to fund-raise to elect more Democrats” (#6220).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

In Stand Down: How Social Justice Warriors Are Sabotaging America’s Military (Washington:  Regnery Gateway Editions, Kindle Edition, c. 2019), James Hasson explains:  “The Army that I entered as a second lieutenant during President Obama’s initial years in office was nothing like the Army I left [as a captain] in late 2015” (#7) because of an “eight-year social engineering campaign against our armed forces” (#15) waged by “hard-left ideologues” such as Ray Mabus, Brad Carson, Deborah Lee James and Eric Fanning, who occupied “some of the most influential national security positions” (#23).  They were all committed to radical feminist and LGBT ideologies and implemented “gender equality” programs, following President Obama’s orders.  He had famously promised to fundamentally transform the country, and Hasson believes he certainly did so in the one realm “over which he would exercise nearly complete control,” the military.   Illustrating such changes, a 2012 article in Stars and Stripes described how, in one Washington state post:  “The Army is ordering its hardened combat veterans to wear fake breasts and empathy bellies so they can better understand how pregnant soldiers feel during physical training” (#2182).   Then, in “2015, Army ROTC cadets at multiple universities participated in ‘Walk a Mile in Her Shoes’ events on campuses.  The events—‘designed to raise awareness about sexual violence against women’—had male Army cadets replace their combat boots with bright red high-heeled shoes” (#2183).  So Stand Down “is the story of what will be President Obama’s enduring legacy:  the sacrifice of the combat readiness of our armed forces to the golden calves of identity politics and progressive ideology” (#94) shaped and driven by homosexual and radical feminist activists. 

Such golden calves were installed in the nation’s military academies, which have substantially changed during the past 25 years as increased numbers of civilian professors have been hired.  Indeed, Hassan “interviewed academy graduates of all ranks who raised serious concerns about the cultural changes imposed upon the academies from above” (#490), all of whom were alarmed by the incursions of political correctness in these schools.  Symptomatic of the problem is a letter written by Robert Heffington, a retired Army lieutenant colonel who had taught at West Point.  He said:  “‘I firmly believe West Point is a national treasure and that it can and should remain a vitally important source of well trained, highly educated Army officers and civilian leaders.  However, during my time on the West Point faculty . . . I personally witnessed a series of fundamental changes at West Point that have eroded it to the point where I question whether the institution should even remain open.”  He charged that “standards at West Point are nonexistent” and lamented “the academy’s failure to enforce the honor code and its lax enforcement of conduct and disciplinary standards.”  Changes in West Point’s curriculum particularly distressed Huffington:  “‘The plebe American History course has been revamped to focus solely on race and on the narrative that America is founded solely on a history of racial oppression.  Cadets derisively call it the ‘I Hate America Course.’  Simultaneously, the plebe International History course now focuses on gender to the exclusion of many other important themes.  On the other hand, an entire semester of military history was recently deleted from the curriculum . . . at West Point!” (#502).

Turning to the other academies Hassan finds equally disturbing phenomena, even extending to concerns for “microaggressions”!  Training warriors by worrying about microaggressions seems at best counterproductive, but one finds “safe space” placards adorning office doors of both military and civilian professors at the United States Naval Academy.   “If the signs were stripped of identifying features, you would be hard pressed to distinguish them from those marking the offices of Yale gender studies professors” (#645). There’s even a “Safe Spaces Faculty Rep” entrusted with making sure no midshipman might be offended by offensive words.  At the Air Force Academy, a visiting psychology professor taught a course on “Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Men and Masculinity.”  The professor styles himself as a feminist and once wrote an article saying, “I challenge you to tell me one way in which the sexes are opposite” (#670).  The academy also deleted the phrase “so help me God” from the oath of enlistment in its cadet handbook as well as the cadet Honor Oath.

Illustrating the harm political correctness has done the military is the “real” story of females graduating from the Army’s Ranger School—considered by many “the hardest combat course on the planet.”   “For the sixty-two days of the course, candidates train for up to twenty hours a day and subsist on little more than a thousand daily calories” (#1300).  Only a few wanna-be male Rangers actually make it.  But in 2016 the Army celebrated two women for completing the course.  Then a journalist, Susan Katz Keating, decided to investigate the story and found the women were granted special exemptions and treatment, getting special “individualized training” and granted additional time “in the ‘pre-Ranger’ screening course despite failing critical tests.  And the instructors felt intense pressure to make sure the women passed, pressure that led to sharp departures from normal Ranger School standards” (#1213).  For example, whereas men were given only 48 hours to recover from stage one of the training before moving on, the women were given two to three months “to regain lost sleep, allow taxed muscles to recuperate, and otherwise recover physically” (#1355).   On-site instructors (speaking anonymously for fear of retaliation) universally commended the women’s efforts but lamented “how systematic political pressure forced changes to the legendary Ranger course, damaging its integrity, just as political pressure forced detrimental changes at every level of the military during the eight years of the Obama administration” (#1454).

In 2013 the Obama administration determined to allow women to serve in ground combat units.  Asked to study the issue, the various services prepared reports.  The Marines devised a meticulous study designed to record “injury rates, the speed at which the companies evacuated causalities on the ground, marksmanship scores, and dozens of other measurements.”  They thought, if all-male units proved superior, the Administration would preserve their traditions.  A combat veteran of Afghanistan, former Marine Captain Jude Eden, “summarized what they found:  ‘[A]ll-male units outperformed coed units in 69 percent of the 134 combat tasks. . . . If the figure had been even a mere five percent difference it would have been ample reason to maintain women’s exemption, since five percent is easily and frequently the difference between life and death in offensive ground combat.  But in fact the figure was 69 percent!” (#1615).  

University of Pittsburg researchers “conducted a comparative analysis of all-male and mixed-sex infantry units’ performance in critical battle drills and corroborated the findings of other teams.  In a thorough analysis of the injury reports from each of the training exercises, the researchers also discovered that the injury rate for female Marines during weight-carrying exercises was more than twice that of their male counterparts” (#1675).  The issue was never whether or not women could fight and die but whether they  could “walk up to fifteen miles a day, carry eighty pounds of equipment, and often sleep and tend to bodily functions in austere environments with little to no privacy?”  (#1933).  In fact, virtually none can!  But the Obama administration cared little for facts.  Senior military officers soon learned “that the administration had no interest in military readiness or lethality.  Instead, it was waging an ideologically driven campaign with an end goal of creating an equal number of male and female generals and the first female chair of the joint chiefs” (#1988). 

All available evidence merely confirms common sense:  “there are real and substantial physiological differences between men and women” (#1629).  But who cares!  The Administration, imposing its agenda upon the Marine Corps, was determined to “crack the glass ceiling” by placing women in combat units, opening for them important opportunities for promotion.  Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus was especially determined to sexually integrate combat units because he was pursuing an  “ideologically driven quest for a ‘genderless’ Navy and Marine Corps.  He directed senior naval commanders to “ensure [that job titles] are gender-integrated . . . removing ‘man’ from their titles.  Traditional naval and Marine Corps job titles such as ‘yeoman’ and ‘rifleman’—titles that date to the founding of our republic—apparently needed to be changed to reflect a ‘gender-integrated’ force” (#1875).  Though the job titles were not actually changed, Mabus did manage to redesign uniforms to better fit women, and his broader agenda was enacted, fully in accord with radical feminist dogma.

Concluding his case, Hasson insists the United States still has the finest military in the world, but its strength is eroding.   Political correctness is “hurting our ability to retain talented officers and enlisted troops who entered the military for all the right reasons but find they spend their days acting as bureaucrats” implementing societal change” (#2727).  To rectify the problem the author thinks we must immediately reverse many of the Obama policies.  Doing so would enable us to follow the prescription of Revolutionary War hero “Light-Horse Harry” Lee, who “said he could not ‘withhold my denunciation of the wickedness and folly’ of a government that sent its soldiers ‘to the field uninformed and untaught.’  Such a government, he believed, was ‘the murderer of its citizens.’” (#2816).

322 The Myth of the Dying Church

Several weeks ago I began the Sunday school class I teach during the summer by referencing a recent article in First Things entitled “Belief Limbo,” by Ronald Dworkin, lamenting the growing number of folks in America “who are unsure, uninterested, undecided, or just too busy for religion, and who live in ‘belief limbo.’”  Since his concerns regarding the decline of religion had been widely diffused throughout by the religious media, I took his pessimism seriously, and we discussed how churches might better evangelize the nation.   Literally a few days later I read an article referencing a recent book that refutes many of these notions—Glen T. Stanton’s The Myth of the Dying Church:  How Christianity is Actually Thriving in America and the World (New York:  Worthy Publications, c. 2019)—so I acquired and rapidly read it.  Stanton is the director of Global Family Formation Studies at Focus on the Family, where he has worked since 1993, and he reminds us that Theodore Beza, John Calvin’s successor in Geneva, said:  “[ L] et it be your pleasure to remember that the Church is an anvil which has worn out many a hammer.” 

Stanton begins by acknowledging the influence of various “Chicken Littles” who have persuaded the public that Christianity is declining.  A headline in the Washington Post asserted:  “Christianity Faces Sharp Decline as Americans Are Becoming Even Less Affiliated with Religion.”  Similarly,  Newsmax declared:  “Christianity Declines Sharply in US, Agnostics Growing:  Pew.”   An article posted on BeliefNet lamented:  “Declining Christianity:  The Exodus of the Young and the Rise of Atheism.”  National Public Radio, in a celebratory note, said:  “Christians in U.S. on Decline as Number of ‘Nones’ Grows, Survey Finds.”  And that depository of all things properly liberal, the New York Times intoned:  “Big Drop in Share of Americans Calling Themselves Christian.”  And as if the secular doomsayers were not enough, trusted Christian sources often affirm the litany of woe.  One leading Christian author declared:  “Young people are leaving the church in droves,” reflected in “‘staggering numbers’” of those who say they no longer believe.”  An advertisement in a Christian magazine said:  “This generation of teens is the largest in history— and current trends show that only 4 percent will be evangelical believers by the time they become adults.  Compare this with 34 percent of adults today who are evangelicals.  We are on the verge of a catastrophe.”  Then a parachurch organization declared:   “Up to 90 percent or more of Christian kids will leave the church by the time they reach adulthood” and a youth ministry publication warned: “86% of evangelical youth drop out of church after graduation, never to return.”  Unfortunately, many of the folks circulating bad news are in organizations selling books or programs designed to address the problem!  Apologetics is an important discipline, but practitioners of the discipline frequently overstate the threats the church faces order to elicit support.

Given such a plethora of pessimism, many of us may have rather despaired at the prospects for the church!   But Stanton urges us to reconsider:  “I have good news for you:  IT’S SIMPLY NOT TRUE!” (p. xx).  There’s certainly little good news for mainline Protestant churches, for they have sustained significant losses.  “Pew’s America’s Changing Landscape states that between 2007 and 2014, mainline Protestant churches declined by 5 million adult members; taking into account margin of error, that number could be as high as 7.3 million lost members.  Regardless, the loss is massive.  But here is the part you didn’t hear.  Churches in Pew’s ‘evangelical’ category continued to grow in absolute numbers by about 2 million between 2007 and 2014” (p. 26).  Stanton finds this good news because he’s dived into serious scholarly literature—in-depth analyses by renowned professors, scholarly articles in trustworthy journals, and data-packed studies “from leading mainstream organizations that track church growth and decline numbers” (p. 12). 

The percentage of Protestants and Catholics who say their faith “is very important” to them has “increased two percentage points since 2007” (p. 37); they pray daily, join small groups for Bible study and fully believe it is God’s inspired Word.  Stressing the vitality of the faith in today’s America, Greg Smith, for example, “has long worked as the associate director of research for the Pew Research Center, one of the most trusted and respected institutions on this topic.  In an interview with Christianity Today a few years ago, Smith was asked by Dr. Ed Stetzer of Wheaton College if evangelicalism was dying.  He said simply, ‘Absolutely not,’ and went on to explain, ‘There’s nothing in these data to suggest that Christianity is dying.  That Evangelicalism is dying.  That Catholicism is dying.  That is not the case whatsoever’” (p. 13)  In fact, Evangelicalism is, “if anything, growing.”  It’s growth is substantiated by a Indiana/Harvard study that finds it increased from 18 percent of the population in 1972 to 28 percent in 2016.  Much of this growth in taking place in nondenominational, independent churches, many of them of the “megachurch” variety.

Turning to the oft-cited “nones” Stanton says it’s just a new name for an irreligious or nominally Christian group which has always been part of American culture.  “Let me put it directly,” he says:  “The rise in these much talked about and fretted-over nones are not people leaving their faith or the church.  They are not a new kind of unbeliever.  They are not actually a new group at all.  These are folks who are simply being more honest and accurate in their description of where they have always been in terms of their belief and practice.  This is who the nones are.  Their rise is not because of some great secularizing upheaval in American’s faith beliefs and practices.  They are simply reporting their actual faith practices in more candid ways, largely due to new ways in which polling questions have been asked in the last ten years or so.”  Wheaton’s Ed Stetzer, “has given one of the best clarifying explanations of this phenomenon that I’ve seen.  In USA Today, he wrote that ‘Christianity isn’t collapsing, it’s being clarified’” (pp. 53-54). 

Still more:  rather than multitudes of young people rejecting their parents’ faith “nearly 90 percent of kids coming from homes where they were taught a serious faith retain that faith into adulthood” (p. 56).   That collegians may for a time turn irreligious is an old, old story, for young people often demonstrate their independence by rejecting the faith of their fathers.  But, Rodney Stark says:  “‘That [young adults] haven’t defected from the church is obvious from the fact that a bit later in life, when they have married, especially after children arrive, they become more regular attenders. This happens every generation’” (p. 99).  Still more, Ed Steltzer says the University of Chicago’s universally respected General Social Survey (GSS) reveals that:  ‘If you look at young [evangelical] adults, eighteen to twenty-nine years old, we are at the highest reported levels since 1972 of regular church attendance among this group.  That’s a pretty big deal’” (p. 100).  And the reason these young people adhere to the faith is equally big:  parents!  Authentically devout parents enable their children to become devout adults. 

Professor Christian Smith, one of the nation’s finest sociologists, has for years overseen the National Study of Youth and Religion (NSYR), and he asserts that “‘parents are huge— absolutely huge— nearly a necessary condition’ for a child to adopt a living and lasting faith.  He concludes, ‘Without question, the most important pastor a child will ever have in their life is a parent’” (p. 113).  In fact, “fully 85 percent of teens raised by parents who took their faith very seriously, and lived in a home with consistent faith practices, became young adults who not only had a serious faith, but had the highest levels of religious belief and practice among their peers!” (p. 114).  The data show that effective parents:  1) “take their faith very seriously and live it out in meaningful ways;” 2) establish warm relationships with their kids; 3) encourage them to pray regularly and do so themselves;  4) engage them in and exemplify Bible reading; 5) routinely attend church and take part in its various ministries; 6) celebrate “miracles in their own lives and the lives of others;” 7) encourage children to deal honestly with their doubts and difficulties; 8) stand alongside them when teachers or classmates ridicule or persecute them for their faith; 9) enlist “satellite adults” to model and help them in living out the “family’s faith and convictions” (pp. 133-134).

Looking beyond the United States, the state of Christianity around the world is even more encouraging, particularly in the “Global South”—Latin America; Africa; and Asia.  “In terms of sheer numbers, Christianity is flowering around the world and doing so soundly, even dominantly” and probably will do so throughout this century.  . . . .  Specifically, the coming two decades will see the world’s population of Christians grow from today’s 2 billion to a remarkable 3 billion adherents, making Christianity the world’s largest faith for at least the next eighty years” (p. 74).  In stark contrast to Europe and the mainline churches in America, churches in the Global South are almost universally “strongly conservative in their theology, ecclesiology, and sexual teachings” (p. 80). 

And, most importantly, what’s evident in this world-wide church growth is the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, for He has empowered “Christ’s church across time and throughout the nations.  He is unstoppable, unquenchable, and inherently life-giving.  He is not nodding off, sickly, or on vacation.  The work of His heart and very character will not be thwarted.  He is God.  To believe the church is dying is to deny these truths and judge God either confused or a liar” (p. 191).  As was evident at Pentecost, “God’s Word will not return void.  What the Bible says of the church on its first day will also be true of these churches today:  ‘And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved’ (Acts 2: 47).  Church, be of good cheer.  God is true.  Aslan is on the move.  Chicken Little is mistaken.  God’s future is bright.  It cannot be otherwise” (p. 193).

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

For many years Rodney Stark, a professor at Baylor University,  has been trying to correct some pernicious errors regarding Church history.  In Bearing False Witness:  Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History (West Conshohocken, PA : Templeton Press, Kindle Edition, c. 2016), he sought to rectify the record—not to defend the Catholic Church (since he is a Protestant) but to defend history.  To do this he first addresses various “distinguished bigots” (such as Edward Gibbon) posing as scholars who have maliciously slandered Catholics.  “It all began with the European wars stemming from the Reformation that pitted Protestants versus Catholics and took millions of lives, during which Spain emerged as the major Catholic power.  In response, Britain and Holland fostered intense propaganda campaigns that depicted the Spanish as bloodthirsty and fanatical barbarians.  The distinguished medieval historian Jeffrey Burton Russell explained, ‘Innumerable books and pamphlets poured from northern presses accusing the Spanish Empire of inhuman depravity and horrible atrocities…. Spain was cast as a place of darkness, ignorance, and evil.  Informed modern scholars not only reject this malicious image, they even have given it a name: the ‘Black Legend.’ Nevertheless, this impression of Spain and of Spanish Catholics remains very much alive in our culture—mere mention of the “Spanish Inquisition” evokes disgust and outrage” (#68). 

Inasmuch as much of the “Black Legend” is patently untrue, so other allegations regarding the ignorance and crimes of Roman Catholics need to be disproved.  This includes rightly portraying the Spanish Inquisition, long a whipping boy for cynical critics.  For years Stark had believed the Inquisition illustrated the depravity of the Catholic Church, so “when I first encountered the claim that not only did the Spanish Inquisition spill very little blood but that it mainly was a major force in support of moderation and justice, I dismissed it as another exercise in outlandish, attention-seeking revisionism.  Upon further investigation, I was stunned to discover that in fact, among other things, it was the Inquisition that prevented the murderous witchcraft craze, which flourished in most of Europe during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, from spreading to Spain and Italy. Instead of burning witches, the inquisitors sent a few people to be hanged because they had burned witches” (#128).

Without question the “Spanish Inquisition” is routinely included in anti-Catholic polemics, generally written by zealous Protestants or cynical secularists.  Best-selling books by historians such as Will Durant, easily fueled prejudices by declaring that “‘we must rank the Inquisition … as among the darkest blots on the record of mankind, revealing a ferocity unknown in any beast’” (p. 110).  Shocking stories about Torquemada’s brutality, estimates of victims killed ranging from hundreds of thousands to millions (including 300,000 burned at the stake), contributed much to the “Black Legend” so beloved by many.  However, Stark says:  “The standard account of the Spanish Inquisition is mostly a pack of lies, invented and spread by English and Dutch propagandists in the sixteenth century during their wars with Spain and repeated ever after by the malicious or misled historians eager to sustain “‘an image of Spain as a nation of fanatical bigots’” (p. 111).  Contemporary scholars, scouring Spanish archives, have actually read the ”records made of each of the 44,674 cases heard by these two Inquisitions between 1540 and 1700” as well as diaries and letters written in those years.  During the first 50 years, perhaps 1500 people may have been executed, though the records are sparse.  But during “the fully recorded period, of the 44,674 cases, only 826 people were executed, which amounts to 1.8 percent of those brought to trial.  All told, then, during the entire period 1480 through 1700, only about ten deaths per year were meted out by the Inquisition all across Spain, a small fraction of the many thousands of Lutherans, Lollards, and Catholics (in addition to two of his wives) that Henry VIII is credited with having boiled, burned, beheaded, or hanged” (p. 114).

Dealing with the “Sins of Anti-Semitism,” Stark provides an important historical context, showing how Jews have frequently suffered in various historical epochs.  Long before Christianity flourished there were influential Romans, such as Cicero, Seneca, and Tacitus who manifested Anti-Semitism.  In fact:  “The Jews were expelled from Rome in 139 BCE by an edict that charged them with attempting ‘to introduce their own rites’ to the Romans and thereby ‘to infect Roman morals’” (p. 4).  Then, in 70 A.D., the Romans brutally suppressed a Jewish rebellion, destroyed the Temple, and inaugurated a massive Jewish diaspora throughout the Empire.  As the Early Church developed, Jews often played a major role in denouncing and persecuting it.  Thus we find, in both the NT and subsequent Christian writings, many anti-Jewish statements.  But as Christianity triumphed there was relatively little persecution of Jews.  Throughout the Early Middle Ages they enjoyed considerable toleration within Christian communities, but things changed rather dramatically in the 11th century when the Islamic threat precipitated attacks on Jews.

Unfortunately, in the 11th century many Christians became almost morbidly concerned with heresies of various sorts and Jews often suffered alongside them.  “Unlike Christian heretics such as the Cathars, Waldensians, Fraticelli, and similar groups,” however, “the Jews were the only sizeable, openly nonconformist religious group that survived in Europe until the Lutherans did so by force of arms” (p. 19).  Indeed, “no pope in the Middle Ages ever undertook a campaign to convert the Jews,” and the distinguished historian Steven T. Katz, “wrote:  ‘Though Christendom possessed the power, over the course of nearly fifteen hundred years, to destroy that segment of the Jewish people it dominated, it chose not to do so … because the physical extirpation of Jewry was never, at any time, the official policy of any church or of any Christian state” (p. 19).

One of the widespread myths was popularized by Edward Gibbon when he declared Christianity prevailed in the Roman Empire because emperors and prelates ruthlessly imposed the Faith by persecuting pagans.   Consequently, as Peter Brown said:  “‘From Gibbon and Burckhardt to the present day, it has been assumed that the end of paganism was inevitable, once confronted by the resolute intolerance of Christianity; that the interventions of the Christian emperors in its suppression were decisive.’  But it isn’t true. As Peter Brown continued, large, active pagan communities “continued to enjoy, for many generations, [a] relatively peaceable … existence.” All that really happened is that they “slipped out of history’” (p. 46).  Solid historical work now shows pagans peacefully coexisted with Christians following Constantine’s Edict of Toleration.  Indeed we read, in the Code of Justinian:  “‘We especially command those persons who are truly Christians, or who are said to be so, that they should not abuse the authority of religion and dare to lay violent hands on Jews and pagans, who are living quietly and attempting nothing disorderly or contrary to law’” (p. 47).  As one of the finest contemporary historians,  Ramsey MacMullen, emeritus professor of history at Yale University and cited by the American Historical as “the greatest historian of the Roman Empire alive today” put it: “‘The triumph of the church was not one of obliteration but of widening embrace and assimilation’” (p. 61).

Intermingled with misinformation regarding the Inquisition are charges of multitudes of witches being burned.  Feminist “historians” have been particularly aggressive in making such accusations, part and parcel of their assault on evil patriarchs!  “Perhaps no historical statistics have been so outrageously inflated as the numbers executed as witches during the craze that took place in Europe from about 1450 to 1700.  It is sometimes alleged that some nine million witches were burned, often at the hands of Catholic Inquisitors.  But it’s all “vicious nonsense,” for solid scholarship now shows that perhaps 60,000 witches were actually executed, and these were in Protestant rather than Catholic countries.  Indeed, Henry C. Lea (no friend of Catholics) “agreed that witch-hunting was ‘rendered comparatively harmless’ in Spain and that this ‘was due to the wisdom and firmness of the Inquisition’” (p. 116). 

As is evident in the New York Times’ recent determination to date America’s founding in 1619, when slaves first landed in Virginia, slavery provides formidable fodder with which to attack one’s cultural foes.  So too, various historians have asserted that the Catholic Church legitimated and supported slavery.  But in fact slavery had slowly disappeared in the Early Middle Ages as Christianity extended its influence.  Furthermore, the Church’s greatest theologian, Thomas Aquinas, said slavery is a sin, and his position “has guided papal policy ever since” (p. 162).   Thus Pope Paul III declared that American Indians “and all other peoples—even though they be outside the faith—… should not be deprived of their liberty or their other possessions … and are not to be reduced to slavery, and that whatever happens to the contrary is to be considered null and void’” (p. 164).  Unfortunately, other popes occasionally departed from this policy, and it had little influence in Spanish and Portuguese colonies, where monarchs defied the popes and slavery flourished for centuries.  “The problem wasn’t that the Church failed to condemn slavery; it was that few heard it and most did not listen” (p. 165).  Stark carefully examines the French Code Noir and Spain’s Código Negro Español, showing how historians have selectively quoted the documents to disparage the Catholic Church, when in fact the codes set forth much more humane practices than could be found in Protestant colonies.  In America, these two codes helped shape slave-treatment in Louisiana when France (and briefly Spain) controlled the colony, so in 1830 “a far higher percentage of blacks in Louisiana were free (13.2 percent) than in any other slave state” (p. 171).  In fact, in “New Orleans, 41.7 of the blacks were free in 1830,” whereas in Charleston, South Carolina only 6.4 percent were free” (p. 172). 

Stark’s approach to various “myths” stands forth in his chapter titles, setting forth the errors he endeavors to expose:  1. Sins of Antisemitism  2. The Suppressed Gospels  3. Persecuting the Tolerant Pagans  4. Imposing the Dark Ages  5. Crusading for Land, Loot, and Converts  6. Monsters of the Inquisition  7. Scientific Heresies  8. Blessed Be Slavery 9. Holy Authoritarianism  10. Protestant Modernity. 

What Stark helps us do is read history more carefully, remaining especially vigilant whenever historians deal with Catholicism—or Christianity for that matter.  Just as Jesus warned, our enemies will “utter all kinds of evil against you falsely” (Mt 5:11).  That such is done is eminently evident in history books!