»  Taki's Magazine

December 22nd, 2011

  Ron Paul Drops the H-Bomb

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My dream of a Bachmann-Paul Republican ticket in the 2012 presidential election is fading fast. Vain are the hopes of man! My notion was that Ron would educate Michele in the futility of foreign aid and the virtues of minding our own national business, while Michele would enlighten Ron about the fact that a country without well-defended borders and rational criteria for immigration is not a country but merely a place, and not a place in which libertarian ideals are likely to flourish.

Alas, it is not to be. Ron's dislike of foreign entanglements seems rather easily to slop over into animosity towards Israel per se, and correspondingly into fond feelings towards Arabs, and then by extension towards Muslims. Michele's evangelicanism, meanwhile, has infused her with such zeal for the Zionist cause that, as Jon Stewart pointed out the other day, this doughty conservative lady boasts of having enjoyed her spell working in a socialist collective.

Politics proverbially makes for strange bedfellows, but I acknowledge sadly that there is no bed wide enough to accommodate these two. Ron's difference of opinion with Michele over matters in the bottom right-hand corner of the Mediterranean has in fact affected him so deeply it has driven him into left-liberal speech mode. Asked by Jay Leno on The Tonight Show what he thought of Michele, Ron replied: "She doesn't like Muslims. She hates Muslims. She hates them. She wants to go get them."

As sad as the lost hope of a Bachmann-Paul ticket is, it is sadder yet to hear Ron lapse into leftist duckspeak. The cant against "hate" is a low and dishonest kind of moralistic bullying based, as such things always are, on a deliberate perversion of the meaning of words. It allows the speaker to allege that opinions contrary to his own (or unorthodox, or unpopular) are inspired by base emotions, and are therefore false.

Any kind of opinion might of course be inspired by base emotions. It might also be inspired by lofty emotions; or by emotions considered base by some but lofty by others (nationalism, for instance); or it might be the end result of a chain of reasoning in which emotion played little part; or it might be the dumb repetition of something heard from an authority figure, without either emotion or reason having much to do with it.

To decide which is the case, some actual evidence needs to be brought forth. In the case of a passion as hot as the one being alleged, evidence shouldn't be hard to come by. However, "I disagree with what he said," or "What he said is unpopular," are not statements with any evidentiary content.

(And, of course, even an opinion inspired by base emotions might accidentally be true, so the dishonesty here is twofold.)

For the proper scope of the word "hate," see any decent dictionary. The one Becky Sharp threw from her carriage window will do. Modern lexicographers have added essentially nothing to Johnson's definition: "Malignity; detestation; the contrary to love."

The capacity to hate is a normal component of human nature. It served our ancestors well.

In Book 20 of The Iliad, when mighty Achilles re-enters the battle in his dazzling new armor, the Trojans are at first "taken every man in the knees with trembling and terror" at the sight of him. At this point, however, the gods come down from Olympus, some to help one side in the battle, some to help the other, according to their inclinations. Says Homer: "After the Olympians merged in the men's company, strong Hatred, defender of peoples, burst out …"

Hate continues to flourish on the private level. See, for example, Chapter 8 of Steven Pinker's new book: "Between 70 and 90 percent of the men [in separate studies dated 1994, 2005] and between 50 and 80 percent of the women, admitted to having at least one homicidal fantasy in the preceding year." (And these were university students!)

The sort of generalized group hatred that inspired Homer's heroes, and which is usually what's being alleged in remarks like Ron Paul's, has, however, been largely tamed, corralled into a small number of socially-acceptable areas. The definition of "socially acceptable" might depend on whom you're talking to — an Occupy demonstrator hates bankers, a social conservative hates abortionists, etc. — but generalized mass hatred is not a significant feature of modern Western society.

Accusing people of it sure is, though, as Ron Paul's remarks illustrate. The power of the accusation derives from lexicographical distortion — using a word to mean things it never formerly meant, thereby diminishing the net amount of correspondence between language and reality.

Here, for example, is an honest statement of opinion about Muslims in the generality. It's mine, but is probably widespread among thoughtful Americans. Whether it's Rep. Bachmann's opinion, I don't know. Perhaps she could tell us.

Islam is an ancient and respectable religion which has provided consolation to innumerable persons for hundreds of years, and served as an ordering principle for several notable civilizations. Its tenets are no more or less preposterous than those of any other system of thought embracing the supernatural. It has inspired much fine art, architecture, and literature (and for all I know, music: my ignorance here is total). I am happy to share the planet with Muslims. I wish them well, or at least no harm; and I would not try to dissuade them from their faith.

However, many past and present examples show that large cohorts of Muslims living among non-Muslims generate problems for the host society, problems that governments would be wise to avoid. Mass immigration of Muslims into non-Muslim nations is a bad idea. There is in any case no reason for it. Muslims have 57 nations of their own to wander among. May they do so in liberty and peace!

Large-scale settlement of Muslims in Western nations should not be allowed. Where foolish policies have allowed it, those policies should be discontinued. Muslim immigrants and native converts willing to leave our countries and settle in the Muslim homelands should be encouraged to do so, for example with bribes from the public fisc.

A great many people (including these, I am sure) would say that this opinion is "hateful," and that a person who harbors it "hates" Muslims.

I don't see this; and I think, again, that someone who deploys the h-bomb here is just abusing words. I'm not aware of hating Muslims. I don't actually know any, unless you count Razib Khan, which you surely shouldn't. For my opinion of Muslims in the generality, see above.

Personally, I'm a low-hate guy; as I should be, having lived an easy and comfortable life bereft of the kind of episodes that ignite Homeric-level hatred. No tribe of Others ever sacked my hometown, raped my wife, enslaved my kids, killed my best friend, seized my property, abducted my queen, or stepped on my blue suede shoes. There are a couple of individual people I hate, and have occasionally indulged myself in homicidal revenge fantasies about, because they wronged me in some way not accessible to legal remedy; but that's quite normal — see the Pinker quote above.

There are also things I hate, mainly different kinds of dishonesty, willful ignorance, bullying, cowardice, snobbery, arrogance, and cruelty — again, surely pretty normal. I'll allow that towards individual persons who perpetrate such things I do nurse a dislike that sometimes borders on hatred, though at well below the Homeric level. I can't recall ever having worked up a homicidal revenge fantasy about any such person.

Alleging an emotion as strong as hate in someone you merely have a difference of opinion with, is just cheap. Worse yet, it is cheapness with a leftist coloration, with a sneer of moral one-upmanship on its face. Still worse yet, we're hearing it from a guy who has himself been accused of "hate" numberless times by political enemies.

Ron Paul should be able to defend his arguments and principles without borrowing rhetorical figures from PC cant-mongers like Eric Holder and John McCain. For shame, Ron.