Seek And Ye Shall Find

 

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Today is Samuel Johnson’s 308th birthday

Today is the distinguished Samuel Johnson’s 308th birthday. Born in Lichfield, Staffordshire, England on 18 September 1709, Johnson is described by the Oxford Dictionary of National Biography as “arguably the most distinguished man of letters in English history”. He is undoubtedly a key figure in the Enlightenment and the development of the modern English language.

When I was pondering the remarkable work of Johnson, I recalled a story within an oration by Christopher Hitchens. Addressing the issue of free speech, Hitchens describes a curious exchange shortly after the publication of Johnson’s first dictionary. The following short passage is from a transcript of Hitchens’ speech, made at Toronto’s Hart House Debating Club in November 2006.

When it was complete, Dr. Johnson was waited upon by various delegations of people to congratulate him, of the nobility, of the quality, of the Commons, of the Lords — and also by a delegation of respectable ladies of London, who tended on him at his Fleet Street lodgings, and congratulated him.

“Dr. Johnson,” they said, “we are delighted to find that you have not included any indecent or obscene words in your dictionary.”

“Ladies,” said Dr. Johnson, “I congratulate you on being able to look them up.”

To be clear, we undoubtedly live in a world in which there is great injustice, hatred and bigotry. But we spend far too much time arguing about trivialities, rather than focusing on what really matters. If you actively seek offence, then you shall surely find it.

Aidan

Related podcast

#16 – On Liberty and Free Speech

Further reading

‘The Skeptical Libertarian’, Christopher Hitchens: “Freedom of speech means freedom to hate.”, https://blog.skepticallibertarian.com/2014/09/30/christopher-hitchens-freedom-of-speech-means-freedom-to-hate/ [accessed 18 September 2017]

‘Who was Samuel Johnson? The father of the modern dictionary’s funniest entries’, The Telegraph, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/0/samuel-johnson-father-modern-dictionary-funniest-entries/ [accessed 18 September 2017]

 

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#52 – Project Extra: Whitewashing Revisited

Is there a real problem in Hollywood with casting agents hiring white actors for roles for which the source material rather seems to necessitate a non-white actor? On this bonus edition of the Aidan Project, Aidan and special guest Jared Miracle, who holds a PhD. in anthropology from Texas A&M University, revisit a subject from a previous episode – episode 27, ‘Project Extra: Whitewashing’ –  and explore the latest controversy surrounding Hollywood’s casting culture. Furthermore, delving into yesteryear, Jared explains the prejudicial challenges faced by Bruce Lee, and also gives his take on the precarious nature of silver screen gender politics. You can follow Jared on Facebook (facebook.com/jaredmiraclewriter) and Twitter (@DocKungFu).

Related Tweets

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#51 – Betrayal: The Rotherham Abuse Scandal

The Rotherham child sexual exploitation scandal is arguably the worst child safeguarding failure in British history. In August 2014 an inquiry led by Professor Alexis Jay concluded that at least 1,400 children, the majority of whom were white girls aged 11–15, had been sexually abused in the English town of Rotherham between 1997 and 2013. This abuse had been committed predominantly by British-Pakistani men. As shocking as the scale of the abuse was, what made the events even more unbelievable was the sheer incompetence of the authorities and their subsequent attempts to suppress the truth of what had been really happening. The abuse was an open secret in the town and further afield. What was not known was that the authorities were failing to produce a meaningful, transparent response of any kind. In this edition of the podcast, Aidan talks to solicitor, David Greenwood, also Chairman of Stop Church Child Abuse, to discuss this real-life horror story.  David and his team of solicitors represented – and continue to represent – several of the young girls who were subjected to sexual abuse by gangs of men in Rotherham over an astonishing 16 year period. This is not a classic far-right conspiracy yarn nor is it a grisly fiction novel, though it appears as far-fetched as anything you could ever read about. Sadly it is a true story of what happens when a society and its institutions abrogate their moral responsibilities. Aidan previously spoke to David for episode 37, ‘Dogmatic Silence: Abuse in the Church’, which examined the failures of the Catholic and Anglican Churches in dealing with child sex abuse.

Additional notes regarding items discussed on this episode:

In the United Kingdom, you can report criminal offences to CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111.

For listeners in the United States, see the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. Visit https://www.rainn.org/ for more information.

Sarah Wilson’s book is called ‘Violated: A Shocking and Harrowing Survival Story from the Notorious Rotherham Abuse Scandal’ and is widely available, including via Amazon.

For more ways to listen, to subscribe to the podcast or to sign-up for e-mail updates when new content is available, please click here.

#50 – Notes on Antifa: What’s in a Name?

There is a quote, often attributed to Winston Churchill, which predicts, “The fascists of the future will call themselves anti-fascists.” Churchill probably did not say this, but the idea certainly has prowess. We all too often see well-meaning organizations come to represent the very behaviours they had set out to destroy. Is Antifa an example of this? There is evident confusion on the left surrounding the name, ‘Antifa’. Antifa is an abbreviation of ‘anti-fascist’ or ‘anti-fascist action’. Unfortunately, there is a branch of leftists who are using the explanation of the name as the only required justification for all the organisation does. In this edition of the podcast, Aidan looks at Antifa and asks, “What’s in a name?” You can tweet the show @TheAidanProject. For further information on other groups discussed on this show, see www.sourcewatch.org.

For more ways to listen, to subscribe to the podcast or to sign-up for e-mail updates when new content is available, please click here.

Donald Trump: Man of Letters

[This is a podcast companion article for episode 38 – ‘Notes on Making America Great Again‘.]

Listen to #38 – Making America Great Again

Many of Donald Trump’s tweets have not aged well. And some tweets have certainly aged worse than others.

It seems apparent that neither Trump nor his supporters are affected by the shame or embarrassment of what have proven to be ridiculous statements. Meanwhile, the rest of the world experiences astonishment at the rich irony to be found from such broken proclamations. Indeed, even the pariah of the international community, North Korea, has been critical of Trump’s Twitter outbursts, noting that Trump posts “ego-driven thoughts” and “rubbish” (Independent, 23 August 2017).

Here is my countdown, from 10 down to one, of the most, in hindsight, embarrassing tweets that the current United States President has bestowed upon the world. This is not a list of the most egregious attacks on individuals nor the most troubling anti-democratic statements, but a look back at utterances which, for a morally conscious human, would be the most cringe-worthy to reflect on in terms of their later inaccuracy or hypocrisy.

Before we begin the countdown, there is a bonus tweet which I could not quite justify including in the top ten, though it may perhaps find its way there in the future. This potential promotion depends on the outcome of the ongoing investigation regarding alleged collusion between Trump and the Russian government.

The bonus tweet:

Hold on tight, here is the top ten:

Do you agree or disagree on the top ten? Please do tweet me and let me know. In any case, we can be sure there are numerous more tweets which will look utterly horrendous in the dark days yet to come.

[Further commentary: All Aidan Project Podcasts and Articles on Donald Trump]

 

#49 – Notes on Atheism, Hitler and Nazism

The faithful are playing with reference to a different set of rules when arguing for the merits of religion based on faith alone. Faith, by definition, requires no tangible evidence. But claims from the faithful about human history can be countered by the inquisitive atheist. We all have access to a plethora of terrestrial historical accounts which were not gleaned from divine revelation. In this edition of the podcast, Aidan explores the classic argument of the faithful against atheism when discussing human history. This argument – especially prevalent whenever the issue of violence or hatred is discussed – is that Adolf Hitler was an atheist. The inferred claim is that this godlessness demonstrates the danger of turning away from the moral teachings of the church. Another aspect of the argument which is often thrown in as an addendum is a charge that the Third Reich was a secular movement. How much merit is there in these claims? Did Hitler reject God, and if he did, did this make a difference to human history? And how secular was Hitler’s Nazi regime? Aidan delves into the argument to provide grounded insight and analysis. Indeed, as with the claims of the holy books, the introduction of earthly evidence is crucial when one desires to separate fact from fiction.

Selected bibliography:

J. Cornwell, Hitler’s Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII
A. Hitler (ed. N. Baynes), The Speeches of Adolf Hitler
A. Hitler, Mein Kampf
C. Hitchens, God Is Not Great
G. Orwell, Literature and Totalitarianism

Additional Aidan Project content on related persons:

Adolf Hitler (podcast)
Christopher Hitchens (article)
George Orwell (podcast)

For more ways to listen, to subscribe to the podcast or to sign-up for e-mail updates when new content is available, please click here.

#48 – Project Extra: Atlantis Reimagined

On this bonus edition of the Aidan Project, Christopher Hale, freelance executive producer, producer/director and writer, explains the curious 19th century reimagining of the story of Atlantis. This revival of the idea of a lost advanced civilization owed less to an interest in folklore or the works of Plato, but was instead inspired by something altogether less innocent, as Christopher explains. For Aidan’s full-length episode with Christopher, check out episode 46, ‘The Emergency: Empire, Massacre, Duterte’. For more information on Christopher and to check out his work, visit http://www.christopherhalemedia.org/. You can find Christopher on Twitter at https://twitter.com/chalemedia.

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