“Expertise”: Ideology’s Contemporary Battering Ram

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As I recall now with an effort, my very first attempt at submitting a scholarly article involved an interpretation of a few words in Book 2 of Virgil’s Aeneid (line 749).  The hero is narrating his frantic return to the flaming ruins of Troy in search of his wife Creusa.  He uses the phrase, cingor fulgentibus armis, to describe… what, exactly?  A scholarly tradition has evolved which holds that the poet simply whiffed on this one.  Aeneas, so runs the wisdom, has already “girded myself with bright arms” several verses earlier.  My objections to the collective wisdom were multiple.  I argued that a) it’s too late in the narration for Aeneas to arm himself—he has left the rendezvous of refugees well behind, as the verse’s first half declares in the present-tense words, “I return to the city”; b) the style of the full verse (ipse urbem repeto et cingor fulgentibus armis) would be perfectly Virgilian if the latter half were reiterating the former (i.e., “I myself return to the city and am hemmed about by glistening arms”); c) Aeneas is indeed being figuratively “girded” by arms as he creeps among the pillaging Greeks—the scoffers are missing the drama; and d) the verb cingere is used both of girding oneself, as when buckling a belt, and of encircling a city with defensive walls.  There’s a bit of a connotative strain created, perhaps, by having a human figure girded with the contents of a city.  But we’re talking about poetry, right?  About a poetic genius, in fact… right?

Wrong.  We’re talking about “scholarly consensus”.  It’s more acceptable to condemn Rome’s Shakespeare of not describing his scenes with pettifogging precision or of not purging his scribbles of daringly figurative language than it is to call into question the collaborative nods of a hundred academic jackdaws on a clothes-line.  If the poet (as I was informed by the rejection letter) had employed the verb cingere in this novel fashion, it would be the only instance of its being used with such intent in the entire epic (what classicists call a hapax legomenon—a “once read”).  Actually, that’s not true.  “Gird or surround” remains the verb’s meaning, here as elsewhere.  The collective result is called a figure—as in poetry!

But since something done once is a suspicious oddity to the pettifogger (even if a glorious discovery to the poet), any unique instance is likely a mistake.  Therefore… therefore, nothing unique is ever plausibly said or written, and consigning the “apparently unique” to the much larger body of things already said and written is the “sensible” course.  Naturally, that bit of high-handedness makes the body things already said and written grow yet larger, and… and tendency becomes inflexible rule.  Creativity becomes impossible.

That was my professional introduction to “expert opinion”.

Now, it also happened that I came of age in a time when all conventional wisdom was being trashed as irrelevant or hopelessly corrupted by special interest; and there’s no question in my mind that literary studies proceeded to collapse during the Seventies and Eighties under the toxic influence of various slovenly, self-serving “reader response” approaches.  My own loyalties, then, were torn between my almost religious regard for artistic inspiration (a truly religious regard: read my Literary Decline and the Death of the Soul) and a profound disgust with the politicization of art to serve trendy crusades.  I say “between”, yet what I’ve just written doesn’t support those polarities.  The Old Guard was not my ally at the spiritual end of the tug-of-war.  The ”scholarly consensus” had rigidified our literary heritage to “gird in shining armor” its patented theories and its long, long baggage train of publications; the New Guard had dumped that heritage (along with the baggage parasitically attached to it) in the nearest bin and was now celebrating Simone de Beauvoir and Rigoberta Menchu as the superiors of Sappho and Marie de France—just to keep it female.  Different politics… same politicized motivation.  Careers, egos, authority: the Tower of Babel.

And so it is, alas, in the sciences—or so it has become.  I and the very few of my colleagues who somehow smuggled an appreciation for the spiritual into closely guarded ivory corridors would occasionally look with longing across the quadrant at Chemistry or Engineering and dream about what it must be like to work in an objective discipline.  Pipe-dreams… mere pipe-dreams.  For as scientific research became funded more and more by grant money, the assumptions of that research acquired more and more of a parti pris.  Why would a pharmaceutical company underwrite a study of a new cure for insomnia if a dozen harmful side-effects were to be unearthed and published?  Oh, but surely government grants wouldn’t import such sordid pressures into the lab… surely not!  No one in government has an agenda that requires a particular worldview to be validated!

I’m trying to tread warily and tastefully into a subject that bears an incalculable amount of significance for our future as a society: the reliability of “expert opinion” in the medical field.  In all of the sciences, as life grows ever more riddled with high-tech, strict integrity becomes more important; for we laymen must be able to rely on recognized experts as critical facts drift farther and farther from the reach of our intellectual competency.  How do we know, drawing purely from our own resources, whether a huge solar flare will toast the continental power grid or not?  How do we know whether GMO’s are safe, or whether a light coating of Roundup threatens the health of Third World nations more than an unimpeded swarm of locusts?  How do we know whether Extremely Low-Frequency Waves are still being directed into the stratosphere, whether their activity might cause the Earth’s magnetosphere to reverse its polarities, or whether the effects of such reversal might settle down harmlessly in an instant or end all terrestrial life over a period of months?

In the particular case of medicine, the stakes rise (or appear to).  Somehow, solar flares and locust swarms and the magnetosphere seem awfully distant to us.  They’re not distant at all, and maybe, indeed, they’re seeming less so every day.  The susceptibility of many average Americans to outright panic about the weather should prove that the paranoia stirred in us by our own cluelessness sits very near the surface, ready to erupt (like the supervolcano under Yellowstone that may or may not kill us all) at the slightest provocation.  Still, when you can’t even breathe the air with confidence… when you dare not even leave the house without a mask, and when you’re reluctant even to leave the house… then a face perching on a white coat and stethoscope becomes the Voice of God.  That’s understandable.

But it’s also understandable—only too much so—that those who want minute control over our behavior would enlist (or dragoon) the support of the medical community in their authoritarian project.  And, as with all other academic disciplines, the more government has become involved in medicine, the better it’s been able to enlist (or dragoon) support.  Grant money, yes; also board reviews and licensures, federal mandates, control over the means of payment, awards of access to resources funded by the “inexhaustible” flow of tax revenue… policy-makers can finesse intimate decisions reached between doctor and patient in dozens of ways.  You may remember the controversy Obamacare kindled about a medical exam’s resulting, perhaps, in the confiscation of the patient’s personal firearms.

Such concerns have diminished only to the degree that we’ve now surrendered the principles underlying them.  Peter Helmes published a piece at his Die Deutschen Konservativen site a few weeks ago about an interview between Gert Scobel and psychologist Thomas Metzinger.  Primarily, the exchange concerned the future use of hallucinogens like LSD to treat depression.  The “medical man” expressed eagerness and optimism about the potential of mind-altering drugs to promote a “universal consciousness” highly amenable to the Green Movement’s radical political objectives.  The scenario is more Orwellian than Orwell: a populace fed delusion-inducing substances to sway it toward the vision of a world that doesn’t exist and can’t exist.

Okay, yes: that’s Europe, this is America.  But our supreme medical expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, publicly foresees the day—without the least indication of personal alarm—when citizens will be required to have a battery of injections and to produce on demand documented proof of compliance.  On the bankrolling side of this “expertise”, Bill Gates proposes further that the “document” might take the form of a microchip injected (with or without the citizen’s knowledge) during the mandatory inoculation.  That an astroturf initiative to “debunk” Gates’s connection to such authoritarian fantasies is raging on Twitter and Facebook should not soothe inquiring minds.  (Diana West informed Frank Gaffney on Secure Freedom Radio [4/15/20] that explicitly incriminating comments had been scrubbed from a Gates TED Talk.)

I don’t like Anthony Fauci.  I don’t like Bill Gates, either.  I don’t like either one of them at all, at all.  I wouldn’t break bread with them; and, were hand-shaking still permitted by the Faucian hygienic protocol, I wouldn’t shake his hand or his one-time patron’s.  Not either hand of either one of them.  I intensely dislike them, as American citizens and as human beings.

Their level of expertise has nothing to do with my dislike.  It is the traitorous American and the corrupt human in them that I loathe.  Anyone who would seriously consider, even for a moment, tagging you and me the way Marlon Perkins used to tag zebra from a Jeep has renounced his membership in the family of decent, responsible adults.  No one gets to tag me.  No one gets to stamp your profile on (or in) your forehead.  People who have notions like this are monsters.  I don’t care how well they understand viruses—and Mr. Gates, for that matter, understands them no better than I do.  I personally am not a virus in a vial, or a white rat in a cage.  I’m a man.  I am your equal under God, Dr. Fauci; and if you were my age (I’d even give you ten years), I think I might bust you in the chops—after which I would carefully sterilize my knuckles.

Let us please clarify the nature of expertise.  The expert on Virgil is restrained by a humble veneration for poetic genius and artistic mystery: he isn’t a mandarin on a throne who gets to gird up a classic text tightly within verbal statistical analysis and historical minutiae.  The expert on human health respects the spiritual mystery of the human being: he isn’t a master technician for whom the behavior of viruses in a sack of guts is no different from their behavior in a Petri Dish.  To hear such a supposed expert descanting about how future societies should be organized is equivalent to hearing the New Age scholar interpret the Aeneid as a mere work of militaristic propaganda.  That is, a “literary scholar” who can do no better than say, “The people’s Will was held in check by these creaky old epics that exhorted them to die for the patriarchy”… that person is no better than a “medical expert” who says, “We could avoid pandemics in the future if people would just move in designated zones, eat designated foods, and touch each other in designated ways at designated times.”  Damn.

Yes, the scholar who knows the history of the Augustan age inside-out is certainly superior in some manner to the quasi-literate Ph.D. who rates every art work ever created by how well women and minorities make out in it.  The researcher who has actually logged decades of experience before a microscope is also superior to a Bill Gates who fantasizes about vaccinating all humanity with whatever he deems good for the race.  But a genuine expert is neither of these.  A genuine expert would say, “This is odd with respect to available linguistic data… but it’s also poetry”; or, “This risk could be reduced if people would do less of thus-and-so… but life is complex, and the choice among possible behaviors isn’t mine to make except for me personally.”

One could say that playing God is above the expert’s pay grade; but when New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy volunteered this flippant excuse for ignoring the Constitution, he was de facto putting himself in the position of God Almighty.  Part of being an expert is understanding the limitations of your expertise.  To claim authority over the destiny of humanity because you have a rare knowledge of human diseases is like labeling a hundred deaths a calamity without identifying the number of lives that survived the specific threat.  Knowledge without context is magnified ignorance.

Why We Must Push Back Against “Climate Change” Hysteria

The other day I filmed a short video catalogued in my website archive (semperluxmundi.org) under “A Culture of Slanders and Slurs”.  The library of about two dozen videos now addresses topics related to religious faith in a straightforward manner: no virtue-signaling allowed.  I thought it was time in this particular series to call out the unscrupulous among us who abuse language in such a way as to sequester defenders of certain views from consideration as human beings.  Of course, “racist” is now such a slur, and I am about to dedicate another video to the word “Nazi”.  “Climate-change denier” has never really caught on, thanks to being quite unwieldy—but the notion behind the phrase is the same: those who “deny” climate change deserve whatever mistreatment comes their way.  Not only must we not give them a hearing; we should entertain giving them jail time, or maybe shooting them like dogs.

I placed the word “deny” in quotations above because denial isn’t even what’s properly at issue (any more than is “climate change” per se; the mandatory article of faith is really that global climate is rapidly, radically changing due to manmade influences).  My talk—and you can do just so much in fifteen minutes, alas—began by stressing that, as a lifelong enemy of the automobile and of our congested urban environments, I have left considerably lighter carbon footprints behind me than most people.  I then spent several minutes emphasizing that mere measurement of relevant climatic data is an enormously complex task.  Readings must be obtained at uniform geographical and chronological intervals from around the world, a requirement which undermines confident conclusions at our point in history right out of the gate.  Perceived changes in weather during one human lifetime qualify as evidence neither by the spatial nor the temporal standard; for none of us spends an hour per month at a hundred locations equally spaced around Earth’s sphere, and none of us lives the many centuries necessary to uncover a meaningful pattern.

This doesn’t make me a “denier”; it makes me a voice of restraint before those who insist upon rushing to unjustified conclusions.  I wish I’d had time to handle more adequately the dubious motives of many at the “movement’s” fore who busy themselves stirring the rush into a stampede.  Peter Helmes has often offered analyses of that caliber through his site, Die Deutsche Konservativen. One of his posts a couple of weeks ago noted that Greta Thunberg’s father has grown rather wealthy off of two concerns dedicated to marketing his eerily wooden and humorless “Green Joan of Arc” daughter; and the post concludes, all in boldface, Um es nochmals klar zu sagen: Dahinter stehen keine Idealisten, sondern knallharte Großkapitalisten. Wo deren Interesse liegt, dürfte jedem normal denkenden Menschen klar sein. Translation: “To say it plainly, there are no idealists standing behind [climate change hysteria], but hard-boiled capitalist tycoons.  Every competently thoughtful person should be clear about where the interests of such types lie.”

When I still possessed a small soapbox in academe from which to prod freshmen, I tended to proceed very cautiously into the realms of chemistry and atmospheric science.  Those weren’t my field.  Some of my students could have diagrammed complex molecules while I was still trying to figure out how carbon dioxide can poison plants.  (Can it?  An intrepid investigator probing a volcanic lake on the History Channel made that claim within my hearing… but the minute rise in global CO2 seems to be feeding plants handsomely in locations that aren’t fuming with sulfur.)  Behind my rostrum, then, I always contented myself with making a few very basic, even “dummy” observations.  1) Carbon dioxide is less than one half of one hundredth of one percent of the earth’s atmosphere; it’s hard to see how fluctuations in thousandths of a percentage point spell Armageddon.  2) Of that tiny amount, only about two percent arises from manmade sources.  3) Of those manmade sources, India and China are by far the most prolific contributors—and neither of those nations is in the least interested in curbing its industrial growth.

If the West, and the U.S. in particular, were to fragment its industrial/technological foundation for the very doubtful purpose of reducing CO2 emissions by .00003%, the following disastrous environmental consequence would therefore follow.  The “People’s Republic” of China would have a path free and clear to dominate utterly the world’s economy, and hence to determine in large measure the social and political organization of every individual society. In other words, the single greatest environmental poisoner in our planet’s history (with the possible exception of the post-Chernobyl Soviet Union) would be calling all the tunes globally.

Is this what we want?  Is this what any person sincerely concerned about life on Earth would want?  For several decades, we have seen (if we have eyes to see) how much the Chinese oligarchy cares about its own citizens.  I’ve noticed in reading the testimonies of Chinese citizens who speak out too daringly and are “invited for a cup of tea” at police headquarters that practically all detainees, when they know they’re not going home for several weeks, worry about not having their meds.  Everyone in urban China is on meds!  That’s because the air is poison to breathe.  (Remember a few years back when a massive effort was made to cleanse to skies temporarily over Beijing for the opening Olympic ceremony?)  We’re getting a refresher course right now, if we need one, on just how highly the PRC elite value the lives of ordinary people.  To the Party’s chosen few, handling the Coronavirus is primarily an exercise in public-relations damage control.  If the disease isn’t diagnosed, then ensuing death cannot be attributed to it… and only about one patient in ten was being tested for infection even in the early days of the outbreak, before resources gave out.

These are the people to whom we will surrender the planet’s health, should we throttle all fossil-fuel consumption, refuse to build nuclear power plants, and wait for the wind to turn blades on the high plains.  This is the “green” plan to save us all!

I also used to stress to my students, as I stress in the video and continue to underscore, that pointing all solutions in the direction of a more intrusive government smells very, very fishy.  It is especially so inasmuch as big government created most of the problem, to begin with.  After World War II, our federal government, favoring certain players in the transportation sector over others, pumped millions into producing a national car- and airline-dependency among us while leaving our substantial railways to languish.  (Trains move loads about fifteen times more cost-effectively, by the way, than trucks… but the Teamsters’ Union had a louder voice.)  On a local level, municipalities of the Fifties rigorously began to zone out your corner drugstore, your handy barber shop, your neighborhood school and pediatrician—which, of course, created real estate and building booms as well as forcing Middle America to invest heavily in cars, in gas and oil, in insurance, and so forth.  Meanwhile, lawyers, lawsuits, regulations, and inspectors converged upon Plainville, USA, the way vultures compete for a carcass.  Federal bureaucracies like OSHA hounded small-business owners even after they had duly shifted their shingle from Laurel Lane to Main Street.  Many of these hard-working people surrendered, dissolving their business and entering the daily rush-hour file of traffic to get to a corporation’s megalopolitan plant or office tower.

If we simply eradicated these zoning restrictions and micro-managing bureaucracies, we would preserve immense amounts of oil, reduce incalculable volumes of traffic-related stress and injury, almost nullify the crime endemic to periodically emptied neighborhoods, foster an environment where citizens were much happier thanks to a much more human level of contact with each other… but no.  No.  More government, more regimentation—that’s worked so well for us in the past! Let’s just amp it up.

Meanwhile, merely for raising your hand and daring to ask a question about any aspect of the “climate change agenda”, you make yourself a target for doxing, canceling, incarcerating… you’re a public spittoon.  This is your reward for suggesting that, if the emperor’s new clothes are invisible, maybe it’s because they don’t exist rather than because you’re blind.  This is our current level of insanity.  This is how well we’ve been groomed for rule by the idiot-producing ideologues controlling our classrooms, and by marketplace and political despots ranging from George Soros to Xi Jinping (who both turn out to be financing much of what happens in our classrooms).

Indeed, my ultimate question of our “social conscience” warriors—far down the list, and not an item that I would ask in a townhall meeting—nags at me more than any uncertainty I have about science.  How many of these self-declared moral beacons, I should like to know, who lead the chanting chorus of, “Climate-change denier!” as the mob gathers, are being remunerated rather directly by Soros, Xi, Robert Fink, or the Rothschilds’ Bank of England?  Conspiracy theory?  Why, hell yes, it’s conspiracy theory!  Have you not yet awakened to the fact that all truth in these “post-fact” times is suffocating under the bedsheets of conspiracy-theory quarantine?

There Are No Lines in the Sand During a Sandstorm

I continue to read a lot about the desperate situation in Germany.  Without any specific intent, I’ve blundered into adding both Thilo Sarrazin and Peter Helmes to my daily reading.  The former makes the very strong case that recent waves of (mostly Turkish) “refugees” are doomed to undermine German culture without profiting from the German educational system.  Their own cultural conditioning both denies to women any extended exposure to book-learning and disdains in men any preoccupation with it.  The latter, as a columnist, provides a more “on the ground” view of the decline.  For instance, I read a Helmes piece this past week that described how a courtroom in Mannheim was mobbed by dozens of young “guest workers” (during prime working hours on a weekday) who shouted down witnesses and threatened the testifying victim.  Such scenes are now a fixture in parts of Germany.

Something in me wants to join the chorus of voices insisting that Islam is irredeemable: that the Koran explicitly prescribes violence against infidels, that Muslims have always practiced aggression upon their neighbors, and that the innate human decency in many individual believers is overridden by a cultic conditioning that treats members of rival faiths as sub-human.  Perhaps Kipling was right: “East is East and West is West, and never the twain shall meet.”

At the same time… well, what exactly is the priceless German education system teaching these days?  Helmes has chronicled many a time the ascent of the “Green/Red” coalition to strangle-hold control over public-school curricula.  An initiative to indoctrinate elementary-school children into the “joys of sex”, with heavy brainwash in favor of the notion that gender is entirely fluid, clearly aims at undermining the nuclear family and paving the way for Big Brother to become everybody’s universal daddy.  One has to suppose that Germany’s Muslim community isn’t too happy about this.  If Muslim schoolboys are calling their teachers whores and punching on male instructors… can one say they’re utterly, one-hundred-percent unjustified?  The “teachers”, after all, are doing the work of pimps. Where is the invertebrate Christian community, in any of its denominational forms, during these troubled times that require people of principle to stand up?

You can draw analogies between Germany’s predicament and ours as you see fit.  The parallels are far from precise; Mexico’s Catholic “guest workers”, for instance, are scarcely as alienated from their host nation’s culture as Europe’s “refugee” horde.  The moral meltdown of Western civilization, on the other hand, hasn’t been cooled or stalled by the Atlantic’s waters.  The behavior of tens of thousands of “pink pussyhats” in public spaces last weekend inspired in me a disgust to which no words are adequate, and would simply not have been believed by our grandparents—by mine or yours, no matter who you are.  The epochal moment when human beings consider their genitalia to be the major determinant of their identity has always been a downward-turning indicator for a society’s survival, and no sane adult can suppose that it argues for a strong-willed, independent spirit. The self-governance of a mature will and subjugation to hormones are of two irreconcilable houses.

I honestly don’t know where to turn for truth or support any more, other than within; but as for political parties or religious denominations or educational cohorts… none of it seems to mean anything.  I wrote the other day in a different context that the greatest damage wrought upon us by the 9/11 attacks was what did NOT change the next day… or month, or year.  Our “culture wars” had come to a head as the millennial calendar turned over, and we were poised to “have it out” in some definitive fashion, I think.  Then we were all drawn together as one in defense of “our way of life”… and we failed to notice in time that we no longer shared a way of life.

Now half of us appear passionately to believe that something Donald Trump might have said or might have thought is an imminent threat to Earth’s preserving her orbit and must be punished with fire and sword.  The other half rightly identify the maniacal overreach of CNN/Pelosi-style charges—but respond reactively by embracing any proposition that the Oval Office decides to float on a given day.  I’m not suggesting that the two sides are equivalent.  Lunacy is lunacy, and barbarity is barbarity. You shouldn’t go spitting on your teacher even if she is encouraging your little sister to join “study groups” formed to finger themselves and one another.  Common sense exists, truth and right exist, and manners ought to exist.

We can’t orient ourselves to these morally magnetized polarities, however, if our exclusive attention is paid to those who have steered away from them.  You don’t necessarily put yourself on the right course just by avoiding the zigzags of the drunken pilot beside you.  This “Make America Great Again” stuff… just which America would that be?  The one that has given us Hollywood?  The one whose citizens never read a book because they’re too busy texting and “sexting”?  The one whose book-bred class will not allow Orthodox Jew Ben Shapiro to speak on campus because “he’s a Nazi”?!  Or maybe the one, Mr. Trump, that considers confiscation of private property through Eminent Domain a worthy notion if it “creates jobs”?

I don’t know.  I just don’t know.