In this edition of the Aidan Project, Aidan discusses a potential hint of progress in the battle against leftist confusion. The case of Maajid Nawaz and the Southern Poverty Law Centre has been discussed several times previously on the podcast; the case is an important one for the struggle it represents. The SPLC, to the horror of those who support the notion that cultural relativism is the death knell of honest discourse, labelled Nawaz an anti-Muslim extremist in October 2016. Nawaz is suing this organisation for libel. Aidan summarises the case for new listeners and provides an update that demonstrates a glimmer of hope and, tellingly, further demonstrates the fantastic degree to which the SPLC is irrefutably mistaken. Aidan also addresses why the terms ‘leftists’ and ‘liberals’ are unreliable synonyms. Indeed, leftists and liberals are often very different in terms of their outlook. Aidan explains why liberals should care about Nawaz’s case, and why liberals must be proactive in tackling the moral confusion espoused by manic leftists. Aidan also explains legal exceptions to free speech in the United States of America under the First Amendment. Related tweets
In the previous episode, Aidan talked about the British reverence for Monarchy. In this edition, Aidan moves across the pond to explore the US national identity. In recent weeks, we have been reminded of the importance of the US flag and national anthem to Americans, with Donald Trump on the offensive against sportsmen who have protested racial inequality and other related grievances by taking a knee for the US national anthem.
Protesting can carry a political cost and can give ammunition to your opponent. David Frum wrote in Atlantic magazine, “Colin Kaepernick has better right to that flag and anthem than Donald Trump. Why concede that right? Assert it.” This is an interesting debate. Aidan gives his take, and explains why he would refuse to sing the British national anthem. Aidan also addresses recent comments made by Trump about press freedom. These comments follow those made in February, when – lest we forget – Trump outrageously stated that the press were “the enemy of the people.” Further reading (in show order) ‘NFL protests: Why did players kneel or link arms?’, BBC News, 25 September 2017, www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-41392433
Christopher Hitchens asked in The Monarchy: A Critique of Britain’s Favourite Fetish, “Why, when the subject of royalty or monarchy is mentioned, do the British bid adieu to every vestige of proportion, modesty, humour and restraint?” This podcast episode seeks to explore this, and related, questions.
Why, after executing a King, did the British almost immediately experience a distinct feeling of buyer’s remorse? What purpose do the British think the Royal Family serves? And how intrinsic is the yearning for monarchy within the British identity? In Rights of Man, Thomas Paine, wrote stridently that he thought the British monarchical system absurd. Indeed, he helped establish the United States of America in opposition to monarchy. Christopher Hitchens said the British have a ‘fetish’ for all-things Royal. George Orwell, a man who experienced, wrote and was fearful of autocracy, explained that the British see their monarchy as a safety-valve against tyranny. Orwell pointed to the dictatorships, in stark contrast to British constitutional monarchy, which had suffocated democracy in Germany and Italy in the prelude to World War 2. These questions of national identity are, of course, subjective. But by looking at past events (such as the Civil War and its regicidal aftermath), analysing the various arguments made over time (Paine, Orwell, Hitchens and others), and seeking to understand the continued reverence for monarchy, we can gain an insight into the British identity and its apparent obsession with Royalty.
“Remember, I am your King, your lawful King, and what sins you bring upon your heads, and the Judgment of God upon this Land, think well upon it, I say, think well upon it, before you go further from one sin to a greater; therefore let me know by what lawful Authority I am seated here, and I shall not be unwilling to answer, in the meantime I shall not betray my Trust: I have a Trust committed to me by God, by old and lawful descent, I will not betray it to answer a new unlawful Authority, therefore resolve me that, and you shall hear more of me.” So said Charles I at his trial for treason in 1649. History tells us that those conducting his trial would have been well advised to have listened to these words of defiance. Indeed, republicanism in the UK is about as able to face down the monarchy today as Oliver Cromwell was when, already dead, he was exhumed after the Restoration, and beheaded. Such memories, such ghastly memories, are as much a part of the British identity as pomp and circumstance is.
At the beginning of the podcast, Aidan briefly comments on the high emotions surrounding the Catalonia referendum, and the awful Las Vegas shooting, which both occurred on 1 October 2017. Bibliography Walter Bagehot, The English Constitution (Oxford World’s Classics), (Oxford: Oxford Paperbacks, 2001). Linda Colley, Britons: Forging The Nation 1707-1837, (London: Vintage, 1992). Christopher Hitchens, The Monarchy: A Critique of Britain’s Favourite Fetish, (London: Vintage Publishing, 2012). ‘HM Queen Elizabeth II — Coronation Day Speech — 2 June 1953’, YouTube website, https://youtu.be/S2pgmKeGEZg, 2015, accessed 1 October 2017. Simon Jenkins, A Short History of England, (London: Profile, 2012). John Laughland, A History of Political Trials: From Charles I to Charles Taylor (Proquest eBook), (Bern: Peter Lang AG, 2015). George Orwell, The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell: Volume III, As I Please, 1943 – 1945, (London: Secker And Warburg, 1968). J.A. Sharpe, Early Modern England: A Social History 1550-1760, (London: Bloomsbury, 1997). Charles Spencer, Killers of the King: The Men Who Dared to Execute Charles I, (London: Bloomsbury, 2014). Thomas Paine, Rights of Man, (London: Penguin, 1985 [first edition 1781]) ‘The Monarchy: popular across society and ‘here to stay’’, YouGov website, https://yougov.co.uk/news/2015/09/08/monarchy-here-stay/, 8 September 2015, accessed 1 October 2017. ‘The Trial of Charles I’, BBC In Our Time website, http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00kpzd6, 2009, accessed 1 October 2017. Clips ‘Blackadder II’, BBC Television, 1986. ‘The Devil’s Whore’, Channel 4 Television, 2008. Images ‘Queen Elizabeth II’ at Madame Tussauds, Madame Tussauds web site, www.madametussauds.co.uk Queen Elizabeth I portrait, Royal Family web site, www.royal.uk Queen Elizabeth II by Andy Warhol, Guy Hepner web site, www.guyhepner.com
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Kristallnacht, or ‘Night of Broken Glass’, was a notorious pogrom against German Jews throughout Nazi Germany on 9–10 November 1938. In this edition of the podcast, Aidan expands on the arguments presented in episode 49, ‘Notes on Atheism, Hitler and Nazism’, to provide a comprehensive afterword. In the original podcast, Aidan explored 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. Aidan revisits these arguments, with particular attention to the Night of Broken Glass, to provide further insight and analysis. Aidan is on Twitter @AidanXCoughlan.
Christopher J. Probst, Demonizing the Jews: Luther and the Protestant Church in Nazi Germany, (Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2012).
Richard Steigmann-Gall, The Holy Reich: Nazi Conceptions of Christianity, 1919-1945, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).
John Toland, Adolf Hitler, (New York: Doubleday, 1976).
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.
In this edition of the podcast’s bonus audio series, ‘Project Extra’, Aidan again welcomes back special guest Jared Miracle, who holds a PhD. in anthropology from Texas A&M University. Aidan and Jared discuss the depressing lack of choice in UK and US politics in respect of viable ruling parties, Jared’s experiences on campus with social justice warriors, the fascinating politics of sport in different regions of the world, and more. As always, a conversation with Jared is well worth your time in listening to. You can find Jared’s web site at www.jaredmiracle.com, on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/dockungfu, and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/jaredmiraclewriter.
Clips on this episode Following the Brexit result, Peter Hitchens discusses two-party politics in the United Kingdom, BBC News 24, published 24 June 2016 A discussion on social justice warriors on university campuses, Real Time with Bill Maher, published 17 March 2017 A parody of the Presidential debates, Saturday Night Live, published 23 October 2016
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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