Free Speech and Religion: Interview with Philosopher Onkar Ghate

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The Undercurrent has an excellent interview with Onkar Ghate on Free Speech vs. Religion:

Dr. Onkar Ghate is a senior fellow and the Chief Content Officer at the Ayn Rand Institute. He has written and lectured extensively on philosophy and serves as Dean for the Institute’s Objectivist Academic Center in Irvine, CA. The Undercurrent’s Jon Glatfelter had the privilege of interviewing Dr. Ghate regarding the recent shooting at the “Draw Muhammad” cartoon contest in Garland, Texas, as well as religion and free speech more broadly.

The Undercurrent: Many of the major U.S. media players, including CNN and FOX, still have not published the cartoon contest’s winning piece. Why do you think that is?

Dr. Ghate: I haven’t kept tabs on which outlets have and have not published that cartoon, but there were similar responses in regard to the Charlie Hebdo cartoons and, before that, the Danish cartoons in 2005-2006. Sometimes a media outlet would try to explain why it is not showing its audience a crucial element of the news story, and I think these explanations have revealed a mixture of motives at work.

Here’s a non-exhaustive list: fear, cowardice, appeasement, sympathy. Let me say a word on each. Some media outlets are afraid of violent reprisals and of the ongoing security costs that would be necessary to protect staff. And because the U.S. government refuses to take an unequivocal stand in defense of the right to free speech, the totalitarians are emboldened, which makes violent reprisals more likely. So that’s one reason. But despite this legitimate fear, I do think there is often an element of cowardice. The likelihood of an attack can be overstated, and of course if more news outlets publish the cartoons, it is more and more difficult to intimidate and attack them all, and less and less likely that a particular organization will be singled out. Here there is strength in numbers. A third motive is the appeaser’s false hope that if he gives in and doesn’t publish the cartoons, he will have satisfied the attackers and no further threats or demands will follow. Finally, many are sympathetic: out of deference to the non-rational, faith-based emotions of Muslims, they don’t publish the cartoons, even though those cartoons are news. They view the cartoonists and publishers as the troublemakers and villains. (The roots of this sympathy I think are complex and often ugly.)

The Undercurrent: Some have condemned the contest’s organizer, Pamela Geller, and the winning artist, Bosch Fawstin. They say there’s a world of difference between good-natured free expression and malicious speech intended solely to antagonize. What do you think?

Dr. Ghate: I disagree with many things that I’ve heard Pamela Gellar say but I refuse to discuss her real or alleged flaws when totalitarians are trying to kill her, as though those flaws, even if real, justify or mitigate the actions of the aspiring killers. The New York Times editorial to which you link is a disgrace. After a sanctimonious paragraph saying that we all have the right to publish offensive material and that no matter how offensive that material may be, it does not justify murder, the rest of the editorial goes on to criticize the victim of attempted murder. As my colleague and others have noted, this is like denouncing a rape victim instead of her rapists.

And notice what the editorial glosses over: in the first paragraph stating that offensive material does not justify murder, it concludes with the seemingly innocuous point that “it is incumbent on leaders of all religious faiths to make this clear to their followers.”

This is the actual issue. Why don’t you similarly have to tell a group of biochemists or historians, when they disagree about a theory, that their disagreements don’t justify murdering each other? The answers lies in the difference between reason and faith, as I’m sure we’ll discuss, a difference the editorial dares not discuss.

But contra the editorial, the Garland event had a serious purpose. Look at the winning cartoon: it makes a serious point.

Read the rest of Free Speech vs. Religion: An Interview with Onkar Ghate – The Undercurrent:

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund Shuns Actual Cartoonist Under Fire

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From Bosch Fawstin: CBLDF Writes About “Cartoonists Under Fire” while ignoring This Cartoonist who was Literally Under Fire:

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, which I’ve been a supporter of until now, just released the second issue of “Defender” which focuses on “Cartoonists UnderFire”, and they completely ignore the Mohammad cartoon contest & Garland jihadist attack where this cartoonist was Literally Under Fire.
Comments Mitchell Berger on Fawstin’s blog on his view of CBDLF’s position:
I was a founding board member of the CBDLF, but I speak only for myself here. Let me start off by saying that I liked your cartoon. It expresses the political cartoonist’s credo perfectly. But it is impossible to separate it from the context of it’s creation. Pamela Geller, the President of the American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) sponsored the contest.

Fawstin, therefore, is guilty by association with a “right-wing” organization.

Apparently, CBLDF only defends speech they agree with — and not freedom of speech on principle. The latter which is best expressed by a quote from Beatrice Evelyn Hall’s line attributed to Voltaire: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Unless you are the so-called Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.

 

BOOKS: Is Sexual Orientation a Choice?

Capitalism Magazine contributor Ron Pisaturo has released a new book called “Masculine Power, Feminine Beauty: The Volitional, Objective Basis for Heterosexuality in Romantic Love and Marriage.”

According to the book description:

This book presents a theory of heterosexual romantic love. The book argues that heterosexuality enables romantic love in a way that integrates with all aspects of a man and woman, including masculine power and feminine beauty. Author Ronald Pisaturo identifies differences between men and women while recognizing the utmost intellectual ability, rationality, and resultant moral virtue possible in equal measure to each sex. He argues that sexual orientation is the result of volition in the same way that other values pertaining to romantic love are volitional: although we do not directly choose our sexual orientation, as we do not directly choose what personality traits will attract us, we do make more basic choices that cause our sexual orientation.

Pisaturo debunks the mainstream theories that “affirm” non-heterosexual orientations, and argues that objective cognition—in particular, the holding of concepts that clearly identify and emphasize sex-specific romantic values—requires that the concept of marriage refer only to man-woman relationships. Moreover, the proper role of government in marriage is as protector of individual rights—of the husband, wife, and their children—not as social engineer for the ‘public good’.

This book offers an objective alternative to the mysticism of religion and the subjectivism of much of modern philosophy, science, and culture.

An overarching theme of the book is that every individual should understand the personal, chosen values that are consistent with his own sexual orientation. The author offers, in good will, this challenge to all readers: “I can explain my sexual orientation. Can you explain yours?”

The book makes many arguments — some we are not sure we agree with — but it looks interesting enough that it deserves a read.

Why We Love Taylor Swift

From Taylor Swift – To Apple, Love Taylor:

To Apple, Love Taylor

I write this to explain why I’ll be holding back my album, 1989, from the new streaming service, Apple Music. I feel this deserves an explanation because Apple has been and will continue to be one of my best partners in selling music and creating ways for me to connect with my fans. I respect the company and the truly ingenious minds that have created a legacy based on innovation and pushing the right boundaries.

I’m sure you are aware that Apple Music will be offering a free 3 month trial to anyone who signs up for the service. I’m not sure you know that Apple Music will not be paying writers, producers, or artists for those three months. I find it to be shocking, disappointing, and completely unlike this historically progressive and generous company.

This is not about me. Thankfully I am on my fifth album and can support myself, my band, crew, and entire management team by playing live shows. This is about the new artist or band that has just released their first single and will not be paid for its success. This is about the young songwriter who just got his or her first cut and thought that the royalties from that would get them out of debt. This is about the producer who works tirelessly to innovate and create, just like the innovators and creators at Apple are pioneering in their field…but will not get paid for a quarter of a year’s worth of plays on his or her songs.

These are not the complaints of a spoiled, petulant child. These are the echoed sentiments of every artist, writer and producer in my social circles who are afraid to speak up publicly because we admire and respect Apple so much. We simply do not respect this particular call.

I realize that Apple is working towards a goal of paid streaming. I think that is beautiful progress. We know how astronomically successful Apple has been and we know that this incredible company has the money to pay artists, writers and producers for the 3 month trial period… even if it is free for the fans trying it out.

Three months is a long time to go unpaid, and it is unfair to ask anyone to work for nothing. I say this with love, reverence, and admiration for everything else Apple has done. I hope that soon I can join them in the progression towards a streaming model that seems fair to those who create this music. I think this could be the platform that gets it right.

But I say to Apple with all due respect, it’s not too late to change this policy and change the minds of those in the music industry who will be deeply and gravely affected by this. We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.

Taylor

CROSS: No Justice for Gibson Guitars

Bill Frezza revives the Gibson Guitars case in a piece published in Forbes.   The whole affair stands as an appalling example of the law run amok.  The owners believe they suffered heavy-handed treatment from the feds due to the “protectionist” interests of labor unions and environmentalists.  But when the law can be warped to satisfy the whim of any bureaucrat or power-holder, that’s not protectionism, that’s tyranny.  More specifically, the Gibson Guitars case epitomizes the tyranny of non-objective law.

While 30 men in SWAT attire dispatched from Homeland Security and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service cart away about half a million dollars of wood and guitars, seven armed agents interrogate an employee without benefit of a lawyer. The next day Juszkiewicz receives a letter warning that he cannot touch any guitar left in the plant, under threat of being charged with a separate federal offense for each “violation,” punishable by a jail term.

Up until that point Gibson had not received so much as a postcard telling the company it might be doing something wrong. Thus began a five-year saga, extensively covered by the press, with reputation-destroying leaks and shady allegations that Gibson was illegally importing wood from endangered tree species. In the end, formal charges were never filed, but the disruption to Gibson’s business and the mounting legal fees and threat of imprisonment induced Juszkiewicz to settle for $250,000—with an additional $50,000 “donation” piled on to pay off an environmental activist group.

You can read the rest here.

DOLLAR: Google’s Larry Page Says I Would Rather Give My Billions To Tesla Founder Than Charity

From Larry Page Lays Out His Plan for Your Future | Wired Business | Wired.com

Running through [Larry] Page’s plans for Google was theme picked up on by Rose: a faith that business is the best way to build his version of a better future. Rose asked him about a sentiment that Page had apparently voiced before that rather than leave his fortune to a cause, that he might just give it to Elon Musk [founder of Tesla, SpaceX and Solar City]. Page agreed, calling Musk’s aspiration to send humans to Mars “to back up humanity” a worthy goal. “That’s a company, and that’s philanthropical,” he said.

DOLLAR: Petition to Split California Into Six States Gets Green Light

Tim Draper insists ‘Six Californias’ ballot measure is for real – San Jose Mercury News:

“What I’m proposing here is to bring us closer to our government,” he said. “We are all better off with more local government — local government is more efficient, it’s more effective, it represents us better.”

In areas from schools to prisons to public infrastructure, “we spend the most and we get the least” in California, said Draper, 55, of Atherton. “Leaving California the way it is, the status quo, is a crime.”

His proposed measure would split California into six states, each with its own government; much of the Bay Area, plus Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, would become the state of Silicon Valley.

The northernmost parts of the state would become the state of Jefferson, as some counties up there have wanted for years; some North Bay counties would become part of North California; Stockton, Fresno and Bakersfield would be among Central California’s largest cities; Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara would wind up in West California; and San Diego would anchor South California.

Each new state would determine its own type of government; dividing California’s existing debt either would be negotiated among them or divided among them according to population. (Sorry, L.A.)

If California voters approve the measure, splitting the state still would require action by Congress. “But once it gets passed, I believe there will be some strong momentum,” Draper said Monday, adding perhaps New York, Florida and Illinois might decide to split, too.

“I have worked on this for years,” he said, adding he has taken time off from his global venture capital firm, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, to make a contribution to society — and this is it. “This is something I just have to do, I just feel it.”

Writes Joe Mathews in Steal Tim Draper’s Initiative :: Fox&Hounds:

California is, as Draper and other would-be splitters and secessionists have pointed out, far too big, both in number of people and size. Government is at once too big and too small. Too much power (albeit badly hamstrung power) is centralized in the state government in Sacramento. Other power is scattered among thousands of local governments – there are far too many – that don’t have enough power and scope to do much of anything at all except spend money (and, in too many cases, steal from the public).

But California life is actually lived at the regional level. Our major regions have the size and character of U.S. states – far more than California itself, which is more like a country than a state. But we don’t have all that much in the way of regional government – and we should. Indeed, we need to strip power from the state government and devolve it to the regions – while at the same time consolidating local governments into broader, more powerful regional bodies.

This isn’t on the agenda of any powerful player in California. But it should be. So why not take Draper’s measure and build a Draper-less campaign around it along the following lines: We don’t want to split the state, but we want you to vote for this as a way of saying that we need regional government – and need less centralized state government, and less spending-heavy, corrupt local government. A vote for this measure would be a vote for regional power.

Hijack Mr. Draper’s initiative. It’s the right thing to do.

DOLLAR: Matthew McConaughey on Selfishness

Matthew McConaughey – GQ Men of the Year 2013 – Leading Man

But a few years ago—about the time Ghosts of Girlfriends Past came out, in which the then 39-year-old deploys his considerable talents to persuade the chick from Party of Five to embrace love—McConaughey checked in with himself and decided it was time for a change. He doesn’t want to denigrate the movies that made him rich and famous. “I was enjoying myself,” he says. “My relationship with acting was fine. But like in any relationship, you need to shake things up. It didn’t mean what we’d been doing was less than. I just wanted a charge. Like, ‘Let’s throw a spark into this.’” There is a note on a crumpled piece of paper on the table here in his Airstream, something he scribbled down and only recently pulled out of some old pants, that speaks to his dissatisfaction. I wish, it says, I enjoyed watching my movies as much as I enjoyed making them.

He decided to “go in the shadows” for a while, saying no to things that wouldn’t “evolve” him as an actor. “I got much more selfish,” he says. “I’m a fan of the word selfish. Self. Ish,” he repeats, drawing it out. “When I say I have gotten a lot more self-ish, I mean I am less concerned with what people think of me. I’m not worried about how I’m perceived. Selfish has always gotten a bad rap. You should do for you. I wanted new experiences.”

And in Details:

“I’m just as thankful now as I ever was, but I’m choosing to be more selfish. I remember feeling not sure about what I wanted to do and feeling — I’m not sure despondent is the right word, but a feeling like things are plateauing. I wanted more evolution. I want to feel ascension in the grade. Because I was feeling a lot of ascension in my personal life, qualitative evolution. I wanted to close the gap between who I am and the life I’m living and my work life. So I think I got really selfish.”

Matthew McConaughey: ‘I have more of a selfish desire now’ – Features – Films – The Independent

“Part of it is just growing up and part of it is I’m very turned on and excited about all kind of things. Probably more things now than I used to be. I work hard to maintain the good things in my life that I’ve built – friendships, work, family, my own time. Sometimes you’ve got to go,’ah man, I haven’t seen my brother in three months’. But it feels really great when you can think:’Boy, all my relationships are good, people that I love are good, and my relationship with them is good. My career, I’m dialled, it feels good. Health is good.’ But to maintain that, when things change, you’ve got to be nimble at times.”

[…]

If his earliest career plan was to be a criminal defence lawyer, fighting for others, his eventual plan has come full circle to fighting for himself. “I’d say I have more of a selfish desire now when it comes to work,” he admits. It has been a long time coming.

DOLLAR: Trader Joe’s Shrugs Atlas Style in Orgeon

From an editorial in The Orange County Register:

The successful efforts of a community activist group to scuttle a planned Trader Joe’s development in an economically distressed neighborhood of Northeast Portland, Ore., illustrates the depths to which ideologues will go under the deceptive banners of racial justice and economic fairness.

On paper, it seemed to be a match made in heaven: the famously progressive city of Portland and Trader Joe’s, with its emphasis on organic, non-GMO food, locally sourced goods and animal- and environmentally-conscious sensibilities. But that was not enough for the Portland African American Leadership Forum.

The group’s reasoning for killing the development is as empty as the two-acre lot on which it was to be built. According to a strongly worded letter PAALF sent to the Portland Development Commission, “A new Trader Joe’s will increase the desirability of the neighborhood to nonoppressed populations, thereby increasing the economic pressures that are responsible for the displacement of low-income and black residents.”

In other words, they are concerned that economic development will make the neighborhood too successful and attractive, thus further oppressing the poor (in their minds).

Perhaps it has never occurred to PAALF that it is economic opportunity – not government mandates and handouts – that helps the poor improve their lot in life. And government dictates were central to their proposed “solutions.” The group demanded an affordable housing mandate (serving those earning up to 60 percent of median family income), a “legally binding community hiring agreement,” and “an independent, community-controlled body [that] can negotiate a legally binding community benefits agreement.”

So it is not enough that the $8 million development of four-to-10 retail businesses, with Trader Joe’s serving as the anchor tenant, would bring new jobs, quality food and other goods and services, and tax revenues, to a poor neighborhood. PAALF wanted to extract tribute from the developers and businesses in order to further advance its social and political agenda. It is almost like a scene from Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged,” where the unproductive members of society increasingly feed off of the productive members until the producers decide they have had enough.

And, just as in the novel, Trader Joe’s shrugged. [Editorial: Trader Joe’s shrugged]

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