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I suppose criticism of the “progressive establishment” (sic) comes best from an insider like CBC opinion columnist Neil Macdonald. Though he is like a fish in the progressive aquariaum, he is beginning to notice what non-partisans (outsiders?) are more likely to see in this age of anger where human rights and human dignity are merely ideas in flux. Macdonald writes:

… the left has developed a prissy, hectoring self-righteousness, which is what happens when a bunch of people who think the same way get into the same room and congratulate one another endlessly on being right. (“Herds of independent thinkers,” as columnist and author Nat Hentoff so beautifully puts it).

Not only do they block out any opposing viewpoint, they begin to shout it down and censor it (because, you know, it’s wrong), and ultimately try to regulate it, writing rules and laws prohibiting its expression…

To many social activists, free speech (except when it protects their speech) is just another tool of patriarchal suppression. All debate is just false equivalence.

And because any other viewpoint is patently valueless, perhaps even dangerous, they almost immediately go ad hominem, rather than engaging on the issue…

The Problem with being “Offended all the Time”:

Bill Maher, who plies his living on the bombastic and provocative, speaks to the problem of being “offended all the time” when he pokes his finger in the eye of political correctness:

You know that whole controversy about the name Washington Redskins; they did a survey – nine out of ten actual Indians don’t give a s#*t.

… What matters is that while you self-involved fools were busy policing the language at the Kids Choice Awards, a madman talked his way into the White House.

Reaching Pre-ordained Conclusions

Modern day dogmatic thinkers have had their open-mindedness scrutinized by Social Psychologist and atheist Jonathan Haidt. He created quite a stir with his analysis of how atheists overstate their beliefs. Though many atheists would like to believe their beliefs are the result of (pure) reason, Haidt asks:

What kind of reasoning should we expect from people who hate religion and love reason? Open-minded, scientific thinking that tries to weigh the evidence on all sides? Or standard lawyerly reasoning that strives to reach a pre-ordained conclusion?

When I was doing the research for The Righteous Mind, I read the New Atheist books carefully, and I noticed that several of them sounded angry. I also noticed that they used rhetorical structures suggesting certainty far more often than I was used to in scientific writing – words such as “always” and “never,” as well as phrases such as “there is no doubt that…” and “clearly we must”…

To check my hunch, I took the full text of the three most important New Atheist books… and I ran the files through a widely used text analysis program that counts words that have been shown to indicate certainty, including “always,” “never,” “certainly,” “every,” and “undeniable.”

[He also did this textual analysis with his own book, and with those written by three of the most popular rightwing, but unscientific authors]

It appears that the herds of independent thinkers are prone to forcefully “reason” (sic) toward preordained conclusions irrespective of contrary evidence, or independent of any evidence at all, thus leaving little room for any other position than their own. Such is the nature of the modern “open mind”; this dogmatism is as unsavoury as any other.


The Far Side, Gary Larson

For more, see Sofo Archon’s “How to Become a Free Thinker: A Practical Guide.” Even “free thinkers” feel the force of the herd.

To What Herd of Independent Thinkers do you belong?

Far be it from me to suggest that I alone am an independent thinker – only to betray my arrogance. My meagre defence is that I am (at least?) enthralled by that which is more enigma than dogma.

In the mean time: what dogmas have you subscribed to without question? No use casting aspersions on anyone else. Look in the mirror.

For more, read Alastair’s Adversaria: “The Failing Dam of Liberal Society.”