Monday, December 12, 2011

Rick Perry and the Power of the Internet in the Marketplace of Ideas

Rick Perry's latest campaign video has gone viral. Over the last week or so it has generated an astonishing six million views. However, I'm not so sure his marketing team anticipated the negative exposure it would generate for their campaign. The video currently has 654,114 dislikes versus 20, 549 likes. If you're at all familiar with YouTube then you already know that the like/dislike ratio is a fairly telling barometer for how that video is being received by the public. First I want to talk about the video and then I want to talk for a bit about the power of the internet in the marketplace of ideas. Here is the video if you haven't seen it. I want to briefly address his main points.

1. "I'm not ashamed to admit that I'm a Christian."

First of all, admitting that you are a Christian puts you in company with every president in American history including Barack Obama. In fact, it's pretty well established that in a country with an evangelical majority you must at least superficially subscribe to Christianity to become the president. There is no shame in this. To the contrary, a presidential hopeful would incur the shame of the pubic for stating the exact opposite. In other words, Perry's opening line is self-refuting nonsense.

2. "You don't need to be in the pew every Sunday to know that there's something wrong in the country when gays can serve openly in the military..."

It really doesn't take a genius of moral philosophy to see that serving in the military should have nothing to do with sexual orientation. I've discussed the civil rights of homosexuals elsewhere but for now it should suffice to say that anyone who wants to risk his or her life defending the country they love should have equal opportunity to do so. Believing that homosexuality is evil does not make you a bigot. In my opinion this just makes you pathetically ignorant. However when you seek to strip away basic civil rights because of those beliefs, that's when you become a bigot. The fact is that homosexual bigotry has simply lost in the marketplace of ideas. It is currently being relegated into the heap of human failure alongside slavery and the subjugation of women. Rick Perry not only shows the world that he is an inhumane and evil bigot, but also that he considers this to be a pillar of his dearly held Christian beliefs. I hope my Christian friends are appalled and embarrassed by this.

3. "...or our kids can't openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school."

This is a direct lie. There is no law stating that kids cannot celebrate Christmas or pray in school. When I was in high-school there were several Christian organizations that met on campus. One met every morning before class at the school flag and offered coffee and donuts to students in addition to tracts, prayer and sermons. In the lobby of my high-school Gideons passed out copies of the New Testament. During lunch a college student representing Campus Crusade had free reign over the lunch room praying with students and inviting them to weekly bible studies. It was considered an honor to be a part of the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes). I also clearly remember a group of students wanting to start a group for atheism and being prohibited by the staff. These are my personal experiences and they are not very different than many in my generation across the country.

Here is the deal. The United States is a pluralistic country. This means that we recognize all
religions equally and that we do not endorse one as a national sectarian religion. That means that schools (government funded institutions) are not allowed to show favoritism to a certain religion. Students may pray in school, in fact we were always encouraged to do so. However, the teachers were never to mandate or lead their own prayers. The reasoning is self-evident.

The truth about most evangelicals is that they do not want religious freedom. They want Christian freedom. Many evangelical parents would be horrified if school sanctioned adults were handing out copies of the Koran to students before school. Many parents would scream their throats raw if their precious Christian children were being forced to pray to Allah or Odin or Ishtar. Rick Perry's message is intentionally dishonest and meant to emotionally stir what he obviously considers to be an impressionable and gullible public. Thankfully, we are proving him wrong.

4. "As president, I will end Obama's war on religion..."

I found this one most interesting. First of all Obama has repeatedly and explicitly stated that he is an evangelical Christian. You can read some of his statements where he talks about coming to Christian faith by choice later in life because he understood that Jesus died for his sins. Praying every day, he says that public service is just one of the ways he can express his Christian faith. Rick Warren, one of America's most prominent evangelicals, was the "spiritual leader" chosen by Obama to launch his inauguration with an invocational prayer. Secondly, haven't a lot of conservative pundits (34% roughly 1/3 according to a 2010 pew poll) spent countless hours and wasted energy attempting to perpetuate the rumor that Obama is a Muslim? How can he be a Muslim and be waging a war on religion? Idiots.

5. "...and I will fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage."

The founding fathers and the documents that make up the bedrock of American policy are intentionally and explicitly secular. Sure some of the founding fathers were religious (mostly Deists) but they recognized that the only way to truly be free from the religious oppression they were running from was to keep church and state separated. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment specifically prohibits the establishment of a national religion and the favor of one religion over another by the government. This is quite obviously NOT what Rick Perry wants. Rick Perry seems to think that our "religious heritage" is a specifically Christian heritage. This is clearly not true if any of you have ever truly investigated the making of America.

6. "Faith made America strong and it can make her strong again."

Okay, this is obviously pandering nonsense but he can have that. Yeah, Rick. "Faith" made America strong and "faith" can make her strong again. I'm happy to receive a lesson on faith from bloated millionaires who can't even remember their own policies for presidential debates and who preach intolerant, homophobic bigotry. Classic.

The Power of the Internet in the Marketplace of Ideas

I'm so thankful for the Enlightenment and the exponential technological boom we have been experiencing ever since. From the printing press to antibiotics to clean water systems to doubling life expectancy to central heating and air to cures for disease to space travel to velcro to birth control to iPods to bifocals to particle colliders we are currently experiencing the most exciting time to be a human being.

I'm particularly thankful today for the internet. Science works
because it must survive it's own rigid self-correcting process of peer review. Scientists don't just win Nobel Prizes for coming up with ideas. These ideas must WORK and we find out if they do or do not work because these ideas get independently tested and verified over and over before they are accepted. Science works. Maybe there is a god and maybe that god is Rick Perry's god (uh oh) and maybe that god works miracles in the natural world. MAYBE. In the meantime, science WORKS. Think about that as you're reading this blog post in a well lit, well conditioned room. Think of the thousands of songs on your iPod or those nice running shoes you just wore to the gym. Think about the glass of clean water you are drinking and the 911 speed dial on your phone in case your spouse has another epileptic seizure. Science. It works.

Now, the marketplace of ideas is not very different. However, for centuries, the marketplace has been controlled by bureaucrats who have sought to stifle the free thought of the masses. Why? Because they're evil fucks who want to control everything, that's why. These are the people who wish to control information to keep you and I towing their line. These are the people who put Galileo on trial for suggesting the now commonly accepted idea of heliocentrism. These are the people who imprisoned Socrates and fed him hemlock for asking questions. These are the people who burned atheists and "heretics" at the stake. For far too long these people controlled the marketplace of ideas to the detriment and retardation of human progress.

Not any more, folks. When someone like Rick Perry claims that children can't pray in schools or that Obama isn't a Christian or that America was founded on Christian principles we can all very easily and quickly google those claims and find them erroneous. We are no longer an easily disregarded minority in our small towns. We are a voice that must be heard. We are now unified the world over and can now strongly hold to account those who used their power to subdue us with bad and non-information.

The intellectual war is over because it just got a lot harder to be full of shit. Rick Perry's laughable campaign is over and the YouTube response to his latest video is proof. Goodbye Rick Perry. I will miss enjoying every bit of your public stupidity. And for whoever is next, we'll be waiting and hoping you aren't as evil and pathetic because if you are, you will not survive in the (finally) free marketplace of ideas. Thanks to the internet. Thanks to science. Thanks to the courage of everyone like me. And like you.

In reason,

Clint Wells


Ollie said...

Clint: you rock. In every way. When we meet again, in the market place of ideas, I want to buy you lunch.

Robert said...


Rick Perry no more represents Christianity and it's values that elephant dung represents the circus and the price of admission. Perry's god does exist, it's not Yahweh though. This guy's a plutocrat and a charlatan through and through. In the past, evangelicals have been getting hoodwinked by his Pietist rhetoric. Deborah Medina should be the governor of Texas. It took every bit of RP's money and influence in the media (see Glenn Beck) to bring her down. She was the one with Christian values. Ron Paul is the one in the GOP. But alas, the evangelical culture of anti-intellectualism wins again, and we are left to judge a candidate based on how he makes us feel about ourselves. So, preach on. Footnote: Newt and Romney are just as bad.

How does science alone solve the problems of social theory and economics? Who decides what is working: the bourgeoisie, the proletariat, the intelligentsia, the free market? Which is more important, the unity of humanity or the diversity of human ideas? Further, how do you devise a system to prevent greedy, self-serving, evil men and bureaucrats (the modern zombie) from trying to consolidate power? Obviously, the first "fully rational social experiment", Bolshevism, has failed under the a priori position: society is a machine. Science alone falls short unless you have predictability, repeatability and finite systems of variables (ie a laboratory).

The marketplace of ideas analogy has its problems. It attempts to apply free market physical principals to metaphysical things. Namely, it lacks an objective price mechanism (a metaphysical system of weights and measures). Two, ideas cannot truly be owned in the sense of physical private property. They do not emerge ex nihilio.

melodyb said...

Once again, well reasoned, stated and written. Oh, and right on the money.