Journalism and the vice of curiosity

Heretofore, my criticisms of journalism have concerned its global effects. To summarize (see, e.g. here and here)

  • By controlling the public’s perceptions of the wider world, the mass media constitutes an unaccountable ideological tyranny. The incentive structure of democracy makes the consolidation of an information monopoly almost inevitable.
  • Its scandalmongering and hit pieces against nonconforming groups undermines competing, traditional authorities and demoralize their leadership, producing a social desert of atomized individuals, suspicious of all their neighbors, cut off from God and their ancestors, utterly helpless before the media’s mind-control machine.

Nevertheless, some will object that the public’s desire for the sort of knowledge provided by the press is, in itself, morally neutral or even positive, so some way should be found to provide it. Many thinking thus proceed to seek the chimera of a not-evil, not-anti-Christian press. Is there a way to understand the evil of journalism at the personal level, how consumption of news is bad for the viewer?

Well, obviously consuming Satanic propaganda is bad for your soul. However, what shall we say to people who don’t recognize news as propaganda, or think that they are immune to propaganda, or think that the information gain outweighs the spiritual damage?

Knowledge is good, but in certain cases its pursuit can be accidentally bad, as Thomas Aquinas explains in describing the vice of curiosity.

Continue reading

Because we cannot trust the media

The proposition that the entire media constitutes a coordinated single cabal of misinformation is apt to be dismissed as a conspiracy theory. However, the usual epistemic argument against conspiracy theories, that by casting all sources of information into doubt they render themselves unfalsifiable, does not apply. We do have independent sources of information, of at least two types. We each have local information, unmediated by the mass media, about our own neighborhood and city, our own business or employing company, and any groups to which we may belong that espouse non-mainstream views (e.g. a church or political group). Thus, we can know, when an incident in our locale gains national attention, that the national media has distorted the story (suppressing details here, emphasizing irrelevancies there) to fit it into one of their standard templates (e.g. “police and schools pick on blacks for no reason”). We can know for certain that when they report on our own credal minority group, not only is the reporting unremittingly hostile, but it fails even to accurately state what our group’s beliefs and their reasons are. Secondly, we each have knowledge that, while not local in the above sense, is not widely accessible. That is, we each have expertise, e.g. extensive knowledge of a natural science or a foreign culture, that takes time and effort to acquire and is thus not widely shared. We each find that when the news media reports on a topic in our own area of expertise, they are confused and inept. Finally, while it is not knowledge per se, we each have logical and mathematical reasoning skills and can notice when the media narrative doesn’t even make sense. For example, the supposed actions of the supposed villains don’t match their supposed motives, or they seem to have no motive at all.

We each have independent sources of information to check that the media is dishonest and unreliable, but your evidences will not be the same as mine. The media does have a monopoly on global, accessible information. Since your proof will be different than mine, I will just assume that, like me, you have already come to this conclusion yourself. Let us then examine the consequences of that conclusion.

Continue reading

Corollary for apologetics

People don’t choose to believe or not to believe; they choose between beliefs. Thus, the apologist’s task is in some ways easier, and in some ways more difficult, than it would be if people chose between belief and pure agnosticism. The Christian is not obliged always to be on the defensive; he can go on the attack. We imagine when defending one dogma after another that there is some natural, unproblematic fallback (“not believing”) to which anyone can default if our arguments fail. In fact, the rival–at this time, there is really only one–involves its own questionable metaphysical and ethical commitments. The rival is itself incarnate in flawed human beings and has its own history of crime and corruption. For someone confronting a choice between the two belief systems, an argument against the rival system is ipso facto an argument for the plausibility of Christianity, and an argument for Christianity is ipso facto an argument against the rival. Conversely, all the propaganda he imbibes from news, entertainment, and academia in favor of establishment Leftism inclines him against Christianity, which it identifies as the oppressor civilization.

The best works of apologetics (such as those of Pascal, C. S. Lewis, and Chesterton) usually have a very definite rival belief system in mind. Confronted with a different rival (e.g. Islam) their arguments would have little relevance or force. C. S. Lewis, for example, assumed that the rival is metaphysical materialism coupled with moral relativism/nihilism. His arguments today are neither better nor worse than they ever were, but they are less effective now that the rival, while still atheistic and inconsistently materialistic, has embraced moral puritanism and scapegoating. Indeed, today any nonmoral perspective on racial or Christian-Jewish relations (e.g. explaining conflicts in terms of divergences of interests or competition for scarce resources rather than to white, Christian malevolence) provokes outrage. An argument for the existence of objective morals no longer strikes at the heart of the enemy, not the way an argument against the idea that the world is divided into oppressor and victim classes would.

When I ask myself why I am a Christian, the first thing that comes to mind (not the most logically demonstrative but the closest to my heart) is not an argument or a piece of evidence, but a sense of revulsion, revulsion at the idea that loyalty to fathers and kings is for suckers, and that reverence toward ancestors and sacred objects is for fools. This is the vulgar and insensible attitude I see at the heart of the rival Leftist system. Rejecting it wouldn’t help one decide between Christianity and Confucianism, but at the moment Confucianism is (perhaps unfortunately) not one of the live choices facing Western man.

Why is Christianity in rapid decline?

Because of Leftism. In particular because men come to recognize the moral authority of the Leftist establishment.

People don’t lose their faith; they switch their faith. Christianity is disappearing because it faces a confident, aggressive, proselytizing rival. Changes in material conditions, personal shortcomings of Christians or their clergy, failures to adequately appeal to this or that faculty (the intellect, the imagination, the intuition,…)–these are at most secondary and negative causes. That is, they did not cause the downfall of Christianity, but at most may partially explain why Christians were not strong enough to resist the Leftist counter-faith that actually accomplished the destruction.

Imagine someone trying to explain the decline of paganism in fourth-century Rome invoking only intrinsic weaknesses of the pagan cults and not mentioning Christianity.

Continue reading

Notes on Newman’s Grammar of Assent

It is a bit of a mystery that people are able to truly believe anything, since logic itself gives only conditional conclusions (“if A, then B”), and often reason fails even to go this far, but only that, given a number of premises, a certain fact is probable. The point is not that we can be mistaken in our reasoning and imagine that we have proven more than we really have, but that we can believe something while recognizing that we lack absolute proof. Some philosophers call this an error, or even a sort of moral fault, but how is it even psychologically possible? And yet, as Cardinal Newman points out, we have many such beliefs. There are common truths, such as (to take his examples) that England is an island and that I will die someday, for which I can produce strong arguments but would be impatient with a demand for absolute proof though I nonetheless assert absolute certainty. There is (another of his examples) our certitude of the law of inertia from converging probabilities: we can never find a body with absolutely zero force on it, but this is to be expected, and the better we are able to isolate a body, the better the law is found to hold, and it explains so much about our world. Newman’s goal is less to justify this sort of certitude than to describe it.

Continue reading

Zippy Catholic on voting

There are many arguments why voting is wrong. Let’s focus on one. Zippy Catholic emphasized that your intention to help a particular less-evil candidate is always less significant than the ritual affirmation of liberalism you thereby perform.

Voting in mass market democratic elections is not rational if it is viewed as a procedure by which we rank public preferences for candidates and choose candidates according to that ranking.

And it is not rational as a means to oppose evil in politics through a willingness to compromise, either as an individual or as part of a group effort.

But voting is perfectly rational from the point of view of our ruling class and their ruling ideology of liberalism. Because voting is a public liturgy in which a large portion of the populace personally endorses the legitimacy of our ruling class and their ruling ideology of liberalism.

Voting is perfectly rational as ritual act of doffing your hat to the king.


Participation in mass market elections in a modern liberal democracy involves asserting your own personal influence in pursuit of some specific outcome, given the options on a preselected ballot.

Your individual influence is negligible: you can only assert meaningful influence as part of a group effort. The more influence you hope to have on an election outcome, the more you must first ignore, and then embrace and affirm, liberalism.  The objective potency of your affirmation of liberalism always vastly outweighs your objective potency in terms of determining the outcome.

So here is the iron law:

Your personal influence over modern election outcomes is proportional to, and always infinitesimal in comparison to, your personal affirmation of liberalism.

Why so worried?

Few Orthosphere readers have accused me of being overly optimistic, but I think I can relieve the anxiety of some on the Right who fear that, with the Democrats in full control of the federal government, the Left will be emboldened and significantly accelerate their crackdowns. My fellow reactionaries only have to remember what they already believe and have often said. All real power is held by some combination of the mass media, large corporations, the “permanent government” (civil service), and elite universities. Leadership in these institutions definitely has not changed hands. They can be emboldened only to the extent that they were previously restrained.

I hear that they are stepping up the expulsion of conservatives from social media. I’ve been hearing that for a long time, and I suppose it’s always true, but these media are only appropriate for short messages, which can only repeat common opinion. We reject the entire established worldview, and this cannot be fit into a tweet. A Conservative are now being expelled might actually be better off, since without Twitter and Facebook records it will be much more work for strangers to put together the case to have him or her punished in more serious ways.

It will certainly be a shame if we lose longer-form internet publications like this one. I also hear that the Left now has a more powerful justification for censorship in the need to crush “insurrection”, but this excuse seems to be of narrower potential application than the others the Left already has in its arsenal. For example, it would be much easier to make the case that the Orthosphere should be shut down and its writers lose our jobs because we are committing hate speech, creating a hostile environment, perpetuating “whiteness”, than trying to make an argument that we are plotting to overthrow the government.

I do have a strong bias toward assuming things will remain the same. It often serves me well but sometimes fails spectacularly. Still this is my guess. Things will keep getting worse for dissidents at about the same rate they have been for the past year, which unfortunately is pretty fast.