How’s this for perfect timing? The day after I wrote a post about weenies, Politico.com posted a news item that demonstrates the weenie mentality in action:
In a sign that the nutrition space is as defensive as ever, Nina Teicholz, an author who has publicly criticized the science behind the government’s low-fat dietary advice, was recently bumped from a nutrition science panel after being confirmed by the National Food Policy Conference. The panel instead will include Maureen Storey, president and CEO of the Alliance for Potato Research and Education. The event is set to take place in Washington next month.
Teicholz, of course, is the author of the terrific book The Big Fat Surprise, which presents a detailed history of how we ended up with our current dietary advice. So why the heck would she be disinvited from a panel on food policy?
Teicholz said she was disinvited after other panelists said they wouldn’t participate with her.
I see. And who are the other panelists?
Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, will speak on the panel, along with Barbara Millen, the former chairwoman of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and Angie Tagtow, executive director of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Wootan said that “concerns were raised about Teicholz’s credibility, given the significant inaccuracies in her work.”
Um … as opposed to CSPI’s dead-on-accurate description of trans fats as safe and coconut oil as dangerous back when they were harassing restaurants and movie theaters into switching to trans fats? Or the USDA’s dead-on-accurate description of cholesterol in eggs as a contributor to heart disease? (Maybe my memory is getting faulty in my old age … didn’t both organizations have to reverse those positions?)
If Teicholz doesn’t present credible arguments, then the non-weenie approach would be to welcome her onto the panel and point out where she’s wrong. But of course, this isn’t about credibility. It’s about avoiding a debate against a woman who would kick their asses all over the stage.
But hey, that’s part of the weenie mentality: they hate having to debate people who don’t agree with them. That’s why they demand “safe spaces” where they can’t be challenged. That’s why they accuse people who disagree with them of creating a “hostile environment” as a strategy for stifling dissent. That’s why they’d rather attack the messenger than debate what the messenger has to say.
The Big Question is: if they’re convinced they’re right, why are they so afraid of debate? Why don’t they just stand up and vigorously argue in favor of their positions instead of trying to silence the opposition?
That’s the topic of this post. We’ll be venturing into the political/cultural realm again, so consider this your trigger warning. If you haven’t retreated to your safe space by the beginning of the next paragraph, don’t complain to me if you read something here that annoys you.
Still here? Okay, then.
The brief answer to the “why do weenies hate debates?” question is: their beliefs aren’t based on facts or logic, so they’re scared @#$%less of being challenged by logical people armed with facts … not because we might change their minds (we won’t) but because we might change the minds of other people listening.
Now for the expanded answer.
You may have heard the saying you cannot reason people out of a position they did not reason themselves into. Sooner or later, logical people discover that for themselves – because they end up in debates with illogical people and are stunned to see indisputable facts bounce harmlessly off their brains like little rubber bullets. Apparently it’s always been that way. Even Aristotle explained that some people form their beliefs based on logic and facts, while others form their beliefs based on emotions. Logic and facts have no effect on the emotional thinkers, Aristotle explained.
In a lovely little book titled Explaining Postmodernism, philosophy professor Stephen Hicks wrote about the intellectual heritage of objectivists vs. subjectivists — that is, logical types vs. emotional types.
Objectivism traces its modern roots to the Enlightenment thinkers, most of whom were British: Francis Bacon, Isaac Newton, Rene Descartes (not British), John Locke and Adam Smith. Their works emphasized rationalism, the scientific method and individual freedom. Thomas Jefferson, to name one stellar example, was deeply influenced by Locke. To quote professor Hicks:
Individualism and science are thus consequences of an epistemology of reason. Individualism applied to politics yields liberal democracy … individualism applied to economics yields free markets and capitalism.
Subjectivism, by contrast, began as reaction against the Enlightenment thinkers — ironically, in part to save religious faith from the onslaught of rationality. Its proponents were mostly German: Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Nietzsche, Georg W.F. Hegel, Jean-Jacques Rousseau (not German), Martin Heidegger, and of course Karl Marx. They specifically rejected reason and logic in favor of subjectivism.
Simply put, an objectivist thinks like this: If it’s true, I’ll believe it. A subjectivist, however, thinks like this: If I believe it, it’s true. Or the flipside: If I don’t believe it, it’s not true. If you’ve ever debated a nitwit subjectivist, you may have had the experience of offering some objectively true fact, only to be treated to a reply of “Well, I just don’t believe that.” Oh, okay, that settles it, then.
As Hicks explains, objectivists and subjectivists also have very different ideas when it comes to the function of language. Objectivists view words, ideas, logic, debates, etc., as tools we use to discover the truth. But subjectivists (a.k.a. post-modernists) view language as a weapon to be wielded in the battle for dominance. Therefore, what you say doesn’t have to be true. It merely has to be effective in battle. (There is no “true” after all, except what you believe.) Or as Hicks summarizes the subjectivist strategy when it comes to words, if you can’t debate your opponent on the facts, change the argument by calling him a racist instead.
Hicks explains these differences in the two mindsets to answer a question he poses near the beginning of the book:
A related puzzle is explaining why postmodernists — particularly among those postmodernists most involved with the practical applications of postmodernist ideas, or putting postmodernist ideas into actual practice in their classrooms and in faculty meetings — are the most likely to be hostile to dissent and debate, the most likely to engage in ad hominem argument and name-calling, the most likely to enact politically-correct authoritarian measures, and the most likely to use anger and rage as argumentative tactics.
Whether it is Stanley Fish calling all opponents of affirmative action bigots and lumping them in with the Ku Klux Klan, or whether it is Andrea Dworkin’s male-bashing in the form of calling all heterosexual males rapists, the rhetoric is very often harsh and bitter. So the puzzling question is: Why is it that among the far Left — which has traditionally promoted itself as the only true champion of civility, tolerance, and fair play — that we find those habits least practiced and even denounced?
Hmmm, doesn’t that sound just like college administrators promoting the weenification of students by demanding triggers warnings, safe spaces and speech codes?
Hicks doesn’t claim subjectivists never attempt to cite facts or offer what they consider persuasive arguments. Of course they will. Those are verbal weapons they’re happy to wield in battle. The difference is that they’re just as happy to ignore facts and logic when it suits them. That’s why they cherry-pick their evidence. They’re not interested in weighing the evidence to reach a conclusion; they’re only interested in selecting the weapons that support their cause.
Look at the vegan zealots who show up here now and then. They’ll happily post a link to some weak study showing an association between meat and this-or-that disease. But if I reply with links to studies where the association is exactly the opposite, or point out all the confounding variables, facts and logic become little rubber bullets bouncing off their brains. Then they’ll yell “murderer!” and (if we’re lucky) go away.
Another lovely little book I’d recommend to anyone who wants to understand the weenie mindset is Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer. (Sadly, it’s just as relevant now as when it was written in 1951.) In a nutshell, here’s how Hoffer describes what he calls true believers:
- They often have low self-esteem and are typically frustrated with their own lives or the world in general.
- Fanaticism appeals to them because it provides a sense of idealism, identity and certainty.
- They value the collective more than the individual and believe individuals should be willing to sacrifice themselves for the collective good.
- They believe that by imposing their beliefs, they can bring about a better future.
- They can ignore or rationalize away all contrary evidence, as well as logical inconsistencies in their own beliefs.
- They consider anyone who doesn’t share their beliefs an enemy and want to silence those who disagree.
Here are some direct quotes from Hoffer:
They can feel free only by diminishing the freedom of others, self-confident only by spreading fear and dependence among others, and rich only by making others poor.
It is the true believer’s ability to shut his eyes and stop his ears to facts which in his own mind deserve never to be seen nor heard which is the source of his unequaled fortitude and constancy.
The explosive component in the contemporary scene is not the clamor of the masses but the self-righteous claims of a multitude of graduates from schools and universities. This army of scribes is clamoring for a society in which planning, regulation, and supervision are paramount and the prerogative of the educated.
Sounds just like The Anointed, doesn’t it? It also sounds eerily like the loony-left fringe on college campuses.
So of course the weenies want to stifle debate. In their weenified minds, words are not tools we use to discover the truth. Words are weapons, and if other people are allowed to wield those weapons freely, by gosh, the wrong side might win. People in the audience might be swayed to abandon the “correct” position. They might decide The Anointed got it all wrong about saturated fat and cholesterol and salt and red meat and whole grains. Heck, they might decide The Anointed were wrong about all kinds of things.
That’s why Teicholz was disinvited. It’s also why so many colleges – the supposed centers of free and open inquiry — have become such a joke.
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