Go, thou, and edit

I was looking up the entry on the Methodenstreit, started poking around as you do, and discovered that the Wikipedia article about The Irrational Atheist describes a book that is barely recognizable to me. Among other things, neither Dinesh D’Souza nor his book had anything whatsoever to do with TIA; I purposefully refrained from reading What’s So Great About Christianity? or any similar books until after completing my own book. According to the Wikipedia rules, I’m not allowed to edit the entry myself, but perhaps some of you – either critics or fans, I don’t really care which so long as you’re capable of writing reasonably accurate summaries – might be willing to do so. I suppose it would be fitting to use either The End of Faith page or the one for The God Delusion as an acceptable model.

Among other things, I think the wikipage on the Euthyphro Dilemma would benefit from my critique of it, since it’s a more fundamental reduction of Socrates’s construction than the obvious arbitrary angle. I suggest that it serves as a good example in why it’s beneficial to read the argument you are looking to criticize in its entirety rather than simply accepting the common summation of it. (In case you haven’t read the appendices, the salient point is that Socrates had to cheat in order to construct the logic required to support the dilemma, and he even admits that he is doing so in the text. So, the so-called Euthyphro Dilemma is a non-starter in its original polytheistic terms, as well as being inapplicable to a monotheistic scenario.)

And don’t forget, according to those examples, any criticisms should be directed to me for responses to be added to the wikipage later. I think that’s an incredibly stupid Wikipedia policy, but we don’t make the rules, we just play by them. I think one mistake that conservatives and libertarians have made is to simply concede the online encyclopedic ground rather than fighting for it by utilizing the techniques that are explictly deemed permissible by the Wikipedia editors. For example, if Richard Dawkins is permitted to deny the public charge that he is an atheist fundamentalist, then every other target of public criticism has to be permitted similar denials… it’s interesting to note how the “criticism” sections of several wikipages contain more text that can be best described as “response to criticism” than they do actual criticism.

So, my response to the charge of Nazihood in the section entitled “Feminism, multiculturalism and equality” is as follows: I reject the label on what should be the embarrassingly obvious grounds that libertarians are damn near the cardinal opposite of Nazis.

A few thoughts on LF section one

1. It’s always surprising how much harder even the simplest fill-in-the-blanks are than what would otherwise appear to be difficult multiple choice questions. If questions three and six were reversed, I wonder if even one in ten of those who got it right on the multiple choice would have still done so. On a tangential note, a surprising number of people who scored 80 or more answered “Roosevelt” on question six. I didn’t expect to see that.

2. I was pleased to see how many people understood that Goldberg is making a connection between religion and fascism. I was somewhat less pleased to see how many people misunderstood the nature of that relationship. Just to be clear, fascism!=theocracy. An important element of fascism is the sacralization of secular politics, which is not at all the same thing as the politicization of a religion.

3. I found it very amusing that one quiz-taker who called himself JonahGoldbergIsALying$*%! or something to that effect only scored 30, which is one correct answer above the monkey score. As a rule, if you want to set yourself up as a critic – and especially if you’re going to assume a position of intellectual superiority – it tends to help to be able to demonstrate you possess at least some evidence of a clue regarding the subject. Of course, as we saw in the Blumenthal video, no one is so certain that he “knows his shit” as a complete ignoramus with a college degree.

NB: the correct answer to Question Six was not, in fact, “Benjamin Yahoo”.

4. A note to the superficially pedantic. Given that literally everyone who has read Liberal Fascism is perfectly aware that Fascism began with Benito Mussolini – the fact that this week’s reading is entitled “Mussolini: the Father of Fascism” would be your first clue – it is really not necessary to repeatedly point this out as if you are saying something meaningful when people are discussing pre-20th century governments and ideologies. In such context, “fascism” is understood to mean “proto-fascism”. Ideas seldom appear ex nihilo, so discussing the potential intellectual roots of an ideology is a perfectly reasonable thing to do for those who are interested in the matter.

5. I was impressed at how well people retained most of the more important facts in the introduction. It’s fallen back to 64 percent since Jonah posted the link at The Corner, but at one point, after several hundred people had taken the quiz, the AVERAGE score was 72 percent. That’s quite good, especially compared to the average 59 percent on the introduction to the last book. Give yourselves a self-congratulatory pat on your collective back, if that’s not too fascistic. You know, given the alliteration and supreme flexibility of the word, I’m a little surprised no budding young sci-fi author has adopted it as a euphemism. Doesn’t “motherfascist” sound less contrived and more expressive than the lame Battlestar Galactic “frack”?

Anyhow, I hope you enjoyed the quiz and invite you to take a crack at the one that will be posted next weekend. A ten-question quiz will be posted each Saturday, followed by a 25-question final covering the entire text at the end. But, the quizzes will stay up, so if you happen to be busy or fall behind in your reading, you can always take them later.