Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Ah, the perils of understanding one's actual positions

I'm going to ignore the whole "Richard Comerford threatening to sue us" thing for now, anyone interested in the particulars of that little meltdown can check out the comboxes of the entry on Pinochet two below this one. It'll be interesting to see what response, if any, Mark is going to have over this, given that his previous condemnation of "our star chamber justice" regarding Comerford given that the basic thrust of his response appears to have been to threaten us with a libel suit. (Minor edit in italics by VJM to correct inadvertant mistake created by a time-stamping issue)

Oh and before moving on, Zippy finds it hard to reconcile our own position with Jimmy Akin's. It really isn't that hard, just go back and read the posts where we question Mark's view of Veritas Splendor and compare it Jimmy's own take on the subject. Then go read the answers that both of us gave Dave Armstrong when he asked us point-blank on the subject and I think you'll see where we agree. The only difference, near as I can tell, is that Mark thinks that Jimmy Akin and Dave Armstrong argue from a position that he considers legitimate or at least stemming from good motives whereas we argue from bad motives and slavish adherence to the Bush administration. I think that the latter charge is particularly laughable and has not aged terribly well given what I've written here, but that's me.

Also, as to the issue of "if you don't like Mark Shea, don't read him," I would note that this particular pearl of advice cuts both ways, Zippy. The thrust of the problem is that other people read Mark and apparently respect his opinion despite him advancing positions that I believe contain both theological error as well as exceedingly bad prudential judgements. As such, we think we have an interest in correcting these positions while highlighting some of Mark's loopier leaps in logic. If you don't like it, then you don't have to read it, but for now Mark's called the tune and we're more than happy to pay the piper.

Speaking of which, near as I can tell Mark seems to be of the opinion that the only reason that one could ever oppose his reasoning on torture (other than to defend the Bush administration, of course) is because we want to torture and abuse prisoners. In a word, no. And to make an argument by way of analogy that I think is fair from how he keeps comparing us to abortion supporters, his style of understanding our position is quite similar to the way many supporters of gay marriage argue, not understanding how anyone could possibly oppose their view except due to rank hatred of homosexuals. In both cases, this is a category mistake, though that hasn't stopped Mark or Andrew Sullivan from embracing it fully when it comes to their pet issue. It is quite easy to note that the flaws in Mark or Sullivan's arguments without wanting to torture someone or hating homosexuals.

The relevant post that brought out that revelation was this thread in which he asserts (without actually demonstrating) that Pope Benedict's recent message justifies his position on torture and that only reason that we would disagree with him would be because we seek to justify prisoner abuse. Here again we don't (read our replies to Dave Armstrong or agreements to both his and Jimmy Akin's positions on the matter), and Mark's attempt to caricature us might work a lot better if he actually learned to read and comprehend what is posted here rather than "skim."

Concerning the Pope Benedict's statement, having read the full text of it, I really don't see how it can be understood as referring exclusively to the US, regardless of whatever the Daily Mail's anonymous Vatican sources told them. I think that the Vatican conception of a strong international authority to safeguard both peace and human rights is probably correct, though I would argue that I think the Vatican is extremely wrong-headed to look for it in the impotency United Nations. If a legitimate international order (by which I am referring to in a Pax Romana, Christendom, or a Holy Alliance sense of the term, not the New World Order or an international version of the EU) is to arise that can actually protect and ensure international peace, it is probably going to be from America and its allies rather than from the Davos Crowd. Or maybe Putin is going to pull it all together after he's done assassinating people and it'll come from Russia and be of a more authoritarian vein (international orders can be just as like nasty as nice, as the Soviet Bloc demonstrated) or perhaps the Chinese. I actually have a theory that the UN could have worked had Britain and France stayed relatively strong post-colonialism and China not fallen under Soviet domination, but that's an idea for another time.

Moving back to Mark Shea, Christopher Blosser and others noted that perhaps, just perhaps, the entire conservative movement doesn't want to torture and abuse prisoners. In response, Mark first linked to to a reprinted article from the American Conservative that contains the most alarmist interpretation possible of the Military Commissions Act, implies that the administration is actively ordering detainees to be tortured to death, claims that the administration is keeping the information from the public (though you can apparently read all about it in The New Yorker and the American Conservative) and hopes for a Nixon-like fate for the Bush administration. The latter may well occur depending on just how crazy the Democrats are willing to go, but I wasn't aware that Mark was actively hoping for such an outcome. Judging from my own "skimming" of the blog, the author has also bought into the Kool Aid that our media outlets and think tanks are all controlled by evil corporate money and I guess they also support torture for whatever reason.*

* I am aware that even a stopped clock is right twice a day, but the author's interpretation of the Military Commissions Act didn't exactly do much for me to regard him as a calm, rational individual on the topic. And if Mark believes what it said and Democrats support the relevant law (or do not attempt to repeal it), doesn't that make both parties supporters of torture rather than just the GOP? If nothing else, this would strongly suggest that there is a more complex rationale for such support rather than loyalty to President Bush.


Anonymous said...


Remember, guys, don't forget to boycott Shea this week! Tell your friends!

Sorry, Victor, but maybe this will get the thread going, even if it's only somebody who says, "Shut up, Joe!"

Andy Nowicki said...

All right Joe-- I'll throw in my support. Don't anybody give money to Shea! There. I think that'll do the trick..."Mischief, thou are afoot."