Category Archives: Current events

I Stand With Maajid Nawaz

On 23 September 2017, I posted the following short video on Twitter (@AidanXCoughlan):

So, who is Maajid Nawaz, what is the SPLC, and why does any of this matter?

The Southern Poverty Law Centre describes itself as ‘combating hate, intolerance, and discrimination through education and litigation’. There is no question that the SPLC has been responsible for a number of admirable successes in tackling intolerance, but it has sadly now gone completely off course. The SPLC incomprehensibly included Maajid Nawaz on a list of dangerous extremists in October 2016. Indeed, by adding Nawaz to a list of persons it alleges exploit terrorist attacks to demonize the Islamic faith, the left has struck a new low of inexplicable moral confusion.

Nawaz now operates a counter-radicalization group called Quilliam. Nawaz, a former Islamist, who served a prison sentence in Egypt, speaks with insight about Islam, and makes clear the distinctions between Muslims, Islamists and Jihadists. A distinction all too often confused by the real Islamaphobes, who address all groups as one. Unfortunately, to his enemies on the left, Nawaz – in true regressive fashion – is labelled as Islamophobic, while his opponents on the right infer that he is a secret Islamist on a mission of infiltration. What a sorry state of affairs.

The poverty of progress could not be more pronounced than with this embarrassing own goal by the SPLC. What chance, I ask, does the left have in winning the moral and progressive arguments when its own best assets of informed reason are themselves attacked as extremists?

It is not only the right which has moved to post-truth, the left is at it as well.

Aidan

A section of this article originally appeared as part of a podcast companion piece, ‘Challenging Bad Ideas‘.

Further information

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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]

 

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]

 

Trumped By Incompetence

“We must be clear. White supremacy is repulsive. This bigotry is counter to all this country stands for. There can be no moral ambiguity.”

Paul Ryan
Speaker of the United States House of Representatives
15 August 2017

We all knew Trump would be a bad President.

We expected mistakes on, say, complicated policy issues.

I expected unrivalled incompetence, but even this has proven to be far too optimistic. I never imagined that he would be so unfit for office as to be unable to express without reservation that he despises far-right groups. This is not simply about his limited ability with words.

He spoke out, eventually, via a teleprompter speech that was obviously not his own. But even this belated move could not hide his lack of sincerity. And then there was yesterday’s press conference/war, which left me feeling dirty after I watched it.

This President is poisoning America.

Aidan

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

Extraordinarily Bad Ideas

python

A scene from the religious satire, Monty Python’s Life of Brian, 1979, directed by Terry Jones.

My latest podcast, Notes on Belief, in which I argue that beliefs matter and are open to reasonable scrutiny.

The phrase, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” was famously offered by Carl Sagan as a response to beliefs formed despite a lack of tangible certification. Christopher Hitchens, likewise, stated that, “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

These quotes typify my approach to unsubstantiated claims and superstitious beliefs. I released a podcast on June 15, Notes on Belief, which was well-received by the majority of those who heard it (and listened to the argument carefully). As I was so grateful to receive such positive feedback, I have decided – in case you missed them – to point out a selection of other Aidan Project podcasts in which irrational religious beliefs are rightly challenged. I am quite sure that more such episodes will follow, as there are no shortage of theocratic outrages deserving criticism, in the past, in the present and, inevitably, in the future.

It is imperative that society tackles the issues surrounding belief honestly. No free pass for religion, ever. My mission is to speak candidly and to challenge abhorrent ideas.

Liberalism does not mean rolling over for fear of causing offence. Liberalism means standing up for decency and veracity in pursuit of a just world, not apologising for the obscenities of others. I want to do something during my fleeting existence that, even in the most minute way, pushes society towards a brighter future. It is a rather modest, microscopic, contribution amongst such a vast array of discourse, but it is my own.

Thank you for your support,
Aidan

t: @theaidanproject
f: facebook.com/theaidanprojectblog
e: theaidanprojectblog@gmail.com

All of the following show links open in a new web browser tab, or you can find all of my previous episodes on iTunes or YouTube.

Notes on Manchester – My thoughts on militant Islam.

Western Downfall: Why Trump Won – In a wide-ranging episode, the issue of belief – both secular and religious – is addressed.

The Art of Terror – How do you win a battle against a theocratic enemy that values death more than the West values life?

Left to Die: Whilst Liberals Slept – The regrettable issue of liberals apologising for obscene religious beliefs and turning on would-be reformers.

Defiance and Acceptance

‪This Sadiq Kahn bashing is rather interesting. 

The motives to deliberately take previous comments out of context are rather obvious. Furthermore, do we not demand honesty from our politicians? Was he not correct, in context? 

Defiance and acceptance are not mutually exclusive.‬

Finding Peace

I have – as do so many others – mixed feelings about Martin McGuinness, who died today aged 66. We must not forget what he did in anger nor what he did for peace.

As an Anglo-Irishman, a United Ireland is likewise something which presents itself to me with a number of firm contradictions.

In any case, I hope for a permanent peace for the people of the island as a whole.