Friday, May 16, 2008

Why Blog?

Different people blog for different reasons. Some blog because they have some genuine knowledge to contribute to society. Some blog because they want to have a forum for the discussion of ideas they are interested in. Some do because they like the idea of having a pulpit to preach from. Such is the case of The Constructive Curmudgeon, a blog run by Dr. Groothuis, a professor of philosophy at Denver Seminary. Its "mission statement" reads:
This is a forum for reflection on culture, ethics, philosophy, and theology. The views posted by me here are my own, and do not represent any institution with which I may be affiliated. Being a curmudgeon has nothing to do with rudeness or incivility, but means the willingness to sniff out the truth and expose lies and spin as best one can in humility.

Considering that Dr. Groothuis's stated aim is "to sniff out the truth and expose lies and spin as best one can in humility", it is hard to understand both why he chooses to disable comments on a growing number of his posts (up to and including deleting whole threads), and also why he insists on levelling baseless accusations against those he disagrees with (one might say despises). Take, as an example, Dr. Groothuis's list of ten reasons against voting for Sen. Obama in the November election (IF Obama is the candidate):

1. Far more abortions, and your tax dollars paying for it.
2. Defeat in Iraq and Afganistan [sic].
3. Coddling terrorists.
4. "Talking" to dictators.
5. Race based politics at every level.
6. Another 9/11 attack in the US.
7. Further legitimation of homosexual "unions."
8. More state spending and bigger national debt.
9. Unlimited support for embryonic stem cell research.
10. No securing of the national borders.

(You can find this list, if the post has not been deleted, here.)*
Keep in mind that the above list was posted by Dr. Groothuis in a thread he opened, which ended with the following quote:
America, wake up! Romantic and irrational idealism is not the stuff of American politics in a post-9/11 world. Don't take a leap of political faith. Think through all the issues rationally. Pursue political knowledge.

How ironic, eh?

This was my reply to the list:

1, 2, 3, 5, 6, 10 are baseless accusations, an example of reptilian logic. You either know it and are willfully misleading readers who are predisposed to take anything you say as "law", or don't know it and are inexcusably misinformed. Or maybe they are based on biblical prophecy, in which case you might want to illuminate your claims with examples.

4. Why the quotes on "Talking"? Reagan, Bush father and Bush son all talked to dictators. In foreign policy, you don't only talk to those who share your world view.

7. If you truly believe that gay marriages are going to bring down society as we know it, go to Holland, Belgium or Canada, then report back. I won't even dignify the thought of the slippery slope argument, because it is a ridiculous one.

8. a) In the wake of a president who has given us the biggest national debt in history, that is some accusation! b) In a time of financial crisis one might actually need to expand the national debt, to invest money and revive a floundering economy. Think New Deal.

So, expanding the national debt is not necessarily evil. It depends on whom it benefits (the nation at large or your cronies), and why you do it.

9. I can think of much worse uses of public money (for example, faith-based initiatives).

P.S. McCain WOULD actually speak to terrorists.

I post my reply to Dr. Groothuis's list here because, you guessed it, Dr. Groothuis saw it fit to delete it, and it alone among the responses to the original thread. Perhaps he did so because he objected to my use of the word reptilian (defined by Merriam Webster as "cold-bloodedly treacherous"), or perhaps it was my suggestion that Dr. Groothuis is either willfully deceiving his readers or that he is guiltily misinformed. Either way, it seems pretty thin-skinned to delete a response just because it highlights the baselessness of statements one made previously.

Some, no doubt, will defend Dr. Groothuis's decision, holding that my response was of the ad hominem kind or perhaps that I have crossed some line of respect or decency. In that case, I would like to ask them what standard of decency they are upholding when they fail to challenge Dr. Groothuis for saying that voting for Obama will lead to "another 9/11 attack in the US." I think reptilian is a more accurate description than decent for that kind of statement.

So, people blog for different reasons. The Constructive Curmudgeon looks more and more like a pulpit. The Daily Fuel is a forum. I will publish anything, short of spamming and obscenities, and I will respond to as much as I possibly can.

Perhaps I will be banned from The Constructive Curmudgeon. If so, I wouldn't be the first. But I do have one question for evangelical Christians like Dr. Groothuis: what specific teachings of Jesus are they promoting to the world when they censor or delete the speech of those who disagree with them?

* By the way, if you are interested in finding out what Obama actually thinks on some of the topics that Dr. Groothuis accuses him about, follow the links below. (I reserve the right to add to the list as time allows).

Obama on gay marriage
Obama on Iraq
Obama's fiscal policy (Contrast this with Republican fiscal policy, which has given us the largest deficits in U.S. history. The best "deficit" years since 1980? Under the lone Democratic president: Bill Clinton. See another interesting chart here.)
Obama on race
Obama on border security/immigration
And while it is impossible to judge Obama's performance on abortion until after he becomes President (one would hope), abortions have steadily declined in the United States since peaking in 1989 (under the other President Bush), including under President Clinton. While it is not clear how, Dr. Groothuis's truth sniffing nose, as is often the case, seems to have malfunctioned in service of the preconceived Rushdoonyist/Norquistian view of how society should work that he peddles on his blog.


Jeff Burton said...

One who lives in a glass house should not throw stones. You have turned on moderated comments on your blog. There are several comments I have posted which have disappeared under mysterious circumstances. You claim you have no knowledge of them. Perhaps that's true, but given your the apsects of your personality on display here, I have my doubts. The more open thing to do would be to turn off moderation and then delete the offensive ones. At least then everyone would know what happened to them.

Sirfab said...

Hi Jeff.

Not surprisingly, you have returned with an inappropriate comparison. I have turned on moderated comments because right after I allowed comments, people started using the comments function to spam. So far, I have rejected two non-spam comments: one from you, and one that was a vitriolic personal attack on Dr. Groothuis (it was on the mark, but vitriolic, which is why I did not publish it). So I am not sure what you are talking about when you say several of your comments have disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
Moderation works fine for me, and it is better than deleting all threads just because "it is my ball".

Jeff Burton said...

Thanks for giving me an excuse to stop reading and commenting on your blog. You may now resume blogging into a mirror.

Don Emmerich said...

Good for you, Sirfab! Groothuis, though a good man and gifted philosopher, often fails to back up his political claims with any substantial evidence. You made some good points in your response to his blog. I'm very disappointed that he censored you. Keep at it!

Sirfab said...

Thank you, Don, for the encouragement. It is much appreciated.

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