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Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week August 6, 2017

Posted by Garibaldy in Sunday Independent Stupid Statement of the Week.
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Not much online yet (not even the editorial), but there is Some rhetoric straight from the Tories in the 1945 General Election, when Churchill said Labour would need its own Gestapo if it won.

Frankly, when you look at the likes of Corbyn and Livingstone and plenty of their acolytes in this country, you get the impression that they wouldn’t mind having their own little secret police force.

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1. EWI - August 6, 2017

Meanwhile, in the real world, British military intelligence and police were up to all kinds of tricks in the past seventy years.

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WorldbyStorm - August 6, 2017

True indeed. The glibness of the quote above is something isn’t it. There’s no analysis behind it at all. It’s just a jibe to get at Corby et al.

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Ed - August 7, 2017

Politicians from the Blairite wing of the British Labour Party actively collaborated with Colombian death squads, to the point of posing for photos with a Colombian general known simply as ‘the butcher’ (no prizes for guessing why) and smearing his critics as terrorist sympathizers:

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2008/mar/17/foreignpolicy.tradeunions

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/mar/28/colombia-arrest-army-general-henry-torres-false-positives

https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/12/20/colombia-new-evidence-against-ex-army-chief

And when the ‘Colombia 3’ were put on trial, I remember very well that the Provo-bashing wing of the Irish media were falling over themselves to express approval for Colombia’s government and legal system, including its military courts (more commonly used to protect soldiers from prosecution for their crimes).

There were greater human rights abuses in Colombia in a single month under Alvaro Uribe than there were in the whole time Chávez was president of Venezuela. I haven’t seen a single article by a media commentator, whether in Ireland or in Britain or in the US, asking what lessons need to be drawn by the centre and the right after years of fawning, uncritical support for Uribe. It wasn’t just Fox News or the Daily Telegraph: right-liberal publications like the Economist and left-liberal ones like the Guardian held him up as a beacon to the rest of Latin America (the New York Times was still holding Colombia up as a model last autumn, despite all the evidence of mass killings by the state: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/23/opinion/the-left-on-the-run-in-latin-america.html).

If you asked any of the commentators now bleating about the iniquities of Chavismo to explain what the terms ‘para-politics’ or ‘false positives’ meant, they’d look at you as if you were speaking Esperanto. There’s plenty to criticize in Maduro’s record in power, but these bozos are the very last people entitled to make those criticisms. Their hypocrisy is always irritating but in this case it makes me want to puke; they’ll dance on the graves of Uribe’s victims while posing as the guardians of morality.

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2. Dermot O Connor - August 6, 2017

God, O Doherty; a third rate version of Kevin Myers – but probably cunning enough to avoid attacking the Jews (he’ll do what his sort usually do, and attack their Abrahamic cousins instead).

Here’s another idiocy from his column:

QUOTE: One of the many reasons I’m not religious is because the idea of blind faith seems both absurd and dangerous.
UNQUOTE

So he’s not just ignorant of politics, he’s ignorant about Catholicism too. Not to mention other religious / metaphysical positions, e.g., ancient Greece (y’know, the western civilisation that reactionaries like him never stop banging on about, but never seem to actually read about).

He also implies that an atomist/materialist philosphy isn’t itself dangerous. I think the H-Bomb and total wars of the 20th century suggest otherwise, not to mention the eroding biosphere and increasingly odious climate.

Whilst Faith is seen by the RCC as a path to God, the existence of God can be inferred from metaphysical principles (though Aristotle believed in the Eternity of the World, he nevertheless argues for a Prime Mover / unmoved mover, which Aquinas picks up and uses in the Summa Theologica).

Aquinas argues that science (natural philosophy) and religion are compatible, and that God can be known through mind/reason; this wasn’t liked by Franciscans like William of Ockham, who believed in Faith (Ockham liked natural philosophy, but wanted it separate from theology). This was a major fault line in Catholic theology for many years. Ironically, it was the faith-based approach of Ockham that would, eventually, lead down the path to the modern scientific method, nominalism, etc. (but don’t tell new atheists like Dawkins, because theology, like the arabs and africa, has “given us nothing”, blah blah blah blah blah fucking blah).

Note that Thomism (aquinas) is the dominant theological current in the RCC since ~14 or ~15th century.

Remember the famous story of the old woman who hears an atheist astronomer give a lecture about the big bang? She tells him that the world is flat, and rests on the back of a turtle. “What’s the turtle resting on?” she’s asked. Reply: “It’s turtles, turtles, turtles, all the way down”. It’s a cute little story, designed to make those who question logical positivist orthodoxy look like idiots. Small problem: in metaphysics, this can be applied to the causality that leads to the big bang: the series of cause/effects that lead to the big bang can be thought of a turtles. we get to the big bang, the creation of the cosmos ex nihilo. It’s an effect without a cause. If something caused the big bang, then what caused that? And what caused that? And what caused that? So a big-banger has two options:

1. Causal turtles, all the way down.
2. Big Bang (uncaused cause, or the “one free miracle” of Terrence McKenna).

That’s it: Turtles, or an uncaused cause. And not a Bible or a Qu’ran in sight.

And McKenna is right: if science gets one free miracle, then EVERYONE gets one free miracle. PS: the Big Bang was discovered by a Belgian Catholic priest, George Lemaitre, not Hubble. Wouldn’t expect Ian to know that, in any case.

The question of Causal turtles, or an infinite series of cause/effects, was taken up by one of the early Islamic philosophers, al-kindi. He thought it impossible to traverse an infinity, arguing against the Aristotelian Eternity of the World doctrine. I don’t think the issue is settled…but this shows that the metaphysical questions were alive and kicking in the Islamic world also. They’re alive an kicking today, whether Neil DeGrasse Tyson likes them or not, and whether he thinks about them or not.

Plato is another major figure who argues for a supernatural realm of forms / universals, based on first principles. No holy book needed. Ditto Pythagoras, who saw numbers as the true Gods (and he wasn’t being metaphorical). Modern physics is heavily Platonic / Pythagorean, however, it’s an unconscious Pythagoreanism – an unexamined philosophy, and therefore incoherent.

None of this even touches on religious currents that deal with direct experience, gnosis, and other forms of occult practice (many of which were used by, and critical in the world of major figures in the history of science, Kepler, Newton, Paracelsus, etc). Then we have the devout Christians Faraday and Maxwell, who saw their christianity as essential to their work as scientists.

Suffice to say, O Doherty’s throwaway line is a nonsense.

How long does it take O’Doherty to vomit out one of his screeds? It can’t be more than an hour or two. That leaves him plenty of time to crack open a book or two.

Thatcher hagiographies don’t count.

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WorldbyStorm - August 7, 2017

Very interesting thoughts DOC. I’ve read some arguments about how the universe could come into being spontaneously but it does strike me as a stretch, or perhaps not a stretch, but a further effort to kick the can down the road – not least because some argue that the universe appeared as noted here in Scientific American in a metastable false vacuum which although close to nothing isn’t actually nothing and therefore again just pushes the question down the line. https://blogs.scientificamerican.com/guest-blog/is-all-the-universe-from-nothing/

In a way absolute certainty is the problem isn’t it? I’ve gone from theism to atheism to a sort of theist agnosticism (on cosmological scales though not so much on shall we say smaller levels of actual religions and religious practice) precisely because it seems to me absolute determination on this is near enough impossible to achieve.

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Liberius - August 7, 2017

In a way absolute certainty is the problem isn’t it? I’ve gone from theism to atheism to a sort of theist agnosticism (on cosmological scales though not so much on shall we say smaller levels of actual religions and religious practice) precisely because it seems to me absolute determination on this is near enough impossible to achieve.

Doesn’t it raise a complicate question though about comparison with other ideas which exist in a state of ambiguity? Most people, hardcore religious types included, don’t take cryptozoological ideas like the bigfoot seriously, and yet it can’t be disproved, precisely because it exists in a void where proof either way cannot be found. While you can’t prove that the bigfoot doesn’t exist you can argue based on a history of vivid human imagination (evident in abundance with works of fiction) that probability is that is doesn’t and is a work of that human imagination; to me that logic also applies to theism, god might exist in the voids of information gathered by science, but on the balance of probability is likely a work of human imagination.

Personally I don’t think any of this really matters, as soon as religions cede the material ground they’ve fundamentally undermined their own power as the technical possibility of an aloof deity acting at the remove of fundamental physics is a lot less relevant to people’s lives than either a benevolent deity, or a malevolent one.

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WorldbyStorm - August 7, 2017

Fair point. I guess my answer would be that the existence or not of Bigfoot is really not that important, whereas that of God *might* be. But then again it’s likely unknowable. Another possible/unfeasible example would be UFOs as alien intelligences. I think it’s vanishingly small as a possibility (as possible intrusions from parallel universes might be fractionally greater as a possibility). That seems more important (and consequently of greater potential utility as a field of study, even or perhaps entirely as sceptical study).

But I think that simply because a probability isn’t perhaps great doesn’t mean one can dismiss it out of hand. In fairness to Dawkin’s he’s always acknowledged that there is a faint possibility of God. However he then ignores that that faint possibility is such that many many will find some purchase for belief and (tricky word) hope in that and seems almost indifferent to the emotional power that has.

But if there’s a faint possibility, even if it is more probable that God does not exist, then to me logically belief in God isn’t irrational. And if cosmology doesn’t provide evidence that it is irrational then that seems to me to be not unimportant.

On the other hand I don’t think that this impacts on actual religions too greatly in terms of solidifying their self-progressed rationales. They seem to me to be largely uninterested with questions as to the potential uncertainty around a deity or even the uncertainty as to whether a deity would have any great interest in humans. I think those latter questions are much more interesting, again even if there are no actual answers.

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Liberius - August 7, 2017

Fair point. I guess my answer would be that the existence or not of Bigfoot is really not that important, whereas that of God *might* be.

I don’t think importance comes into it. Put it this way, theoretical physicists come up with theories to explain the way things are but don’t consider these to be concretely the truth unless repeatable tests verify that the observed universe matches the predictions a theory makes (and even then these theories are liable to be overturned if new data emerges to cast doubt on them). This contrasts with the religious angle in this where the notion of god is wedge into a void with the mere existence of that void as the sole evidence. I don’t think you can stop people trying to use voids for their own purposes, but I don’t think it has much intellectual weight, and strongly object to the notion that this is less deserving of ridicule than cryptozoology, alien abduction claims, or any other evidence-free idea be it theological, technological or government policy.

However he then ignores that that faint possibility is such that many many will find some purchase for belief and (tricky word) hope in that and seems almost indifferent to the emotional power that has.

Is hope and emotion relevant when considering the logic of the issue? It might be relevant downstream, but shouldn’t be used as an excuse to bat away criticism of theism at the intellectual level. By the by, Dawkins is overused in these arguments, he doesn’t have a monopoly on atheism.

But if there’s a faint possibility, even if it is more probable that God does not exist, then to me logically belief in God isn’t irrational. And if cosmology doesn’t provide evidence that it is irrational then that seems to me to be not unimportant.

I’m not convinced by that logic as while there is a faint possibility it comes below other more plausible options (like theism being a creation of human imagination), so it would be irrational to order those options in a way that puts the less evidenced assertion above the more evidenced one, even if it isn’t concretely ruled out.

They seem to me to be largely uninterested with questions as to the potential uncertainty around a deity or even the uncertainty as to whether a deity would have any great interest in humans.

That doesn’t stop these arguments erupting.

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WorldbyStorm - August 7, 2017

The point (to me) isn’t whether God is an actuality, it is whether it is possible. And I don’t think that if there is space for it to be possible that opens it up to ridicule – or at least not in the way you seem to mean. I also think, and here we’re going back into religion which is something I’m trying to avoid, that ridicule might not be the best way forward with undermining it – thought tastes will differ on that.

My point re hope and emotion is If one says, as he does, that actually there is a possibility that God exists then that means that belief in God, or at least openess to the possibility of a God existing is not irrational and that it doesn’t really assist given the emotional and other aspects of religion to treat of them as if they are purely irrational (though often and in many aspects they seem to me to be). It may be less rather than more probable but that is a different matter. As for others than Dawkins that is fine but I think in this instance where he allows for the possibility of a God he is being logical.

I’m not sure that when we’re discussing God in a cosmological sense that we really are getting to more or less likely. Is a God creating the circumstances of a universe actually less probable than it arising spontaneously? It could be that that is so, but both seem unlikely events to me. And both in a sense have the same problem behind them. What gives rise to them?

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FergusD - August 8, 2017

But unless “God” is interventionist, and we can influence “his” intervention in our lives what point does a God theory serve? You might as well start with some kind of proposition of theoretical physics, call “it” god if you wish, but so what?

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Liberius - August 8, 2017

And I don’t think that if there is space for it to be possible that opens it up to ridicule

Ridicule wasn’t the correct word to use, I meant it more in the sense of not being deserving of weight as an argument given the lack of evidence and the unwillingness to follow a hierarchy of possibility. Although theists aren’t unknown to ridicule believers in other far-fetched ideas.

…at least openess to the possibility of a God existing is not irrational and that it doesn’t really assist given the emotional and other aspects of religion to treat of them as if they are purely irrational…

Does it really assist though to not subject that possibility to a hierarchical analysis, surely that’s the basic definition of rationality, to subject topics to reasoned thought. I think the problem here is that not critiquing that possibility is holding theism to a lower level of scrutiny for what seems to me to a functional irrelevance as believers aren’t going to be swayed by anything, which makes the emotional component irrelevant.

Is a God creating the circumstances of a universe actually less probable than it arising spontaneously? It could be that that is so, but both seem unlikely events to me. And both in a sense have the same problem behind them. What gives rise to them?

I’m not sure you can separate the cosmological from the sociological, in this case we know enough about human imagination and history to be able to critique theism from that angle which puts its position compared to cosmological theory under more strain when you consider that scientific theory has to match known facts which have been acquired over the centuries (even if in the unknown areas there is a certain amount of ‘blue skies thinking’). I think the rational thing to do under those circumstances is to down-weight theism as it is not operating with the same level of intellectual rigour; but that doesn’t mean that cosmology hasn’t got questions to answer, just that the absence of verified answers isn’t a sound reason for shoehorning gods into the void.

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GW - August 8, 2017

Entirely different orders of discourse and practice – theology and scientific cosmology.

Applying the standards of one to the other is a fool’s game. Not that many people don’t seem to enjoy playing it.

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WorldbyStorm - August 8, 2017

FergusD, that’s how I often feel about it to be honest, that a God seems to me to be largely unknowable – even if extant – and therefore its direct impact would be limited if at all. If I were religious I imagine that would be a problem for me. But I’m not certain that it follows that a theory of God is empty or pointless, any more than the concept of the Big Bang is pointless. It just may be something that is very much detached from our reality in immediate terms or entirely.

Ridicule wasn’t the correct word to use, I meant it more in the sense of not being deserving of weight as an argument given the lack of evidence and the unwillingness to follow a hierarchy of possibility. Although theists aren’t unknown to ridicule believers in other far-fetched ideas.
That’s fair enough. But I wonder about the hierarchy of possibility. To me it seems that at this point that there are no clear means of determining those hierarchies. But even if one does list a above b above c etc, with God close to z my point is that the concept isn’t per se irrational even if unlikely.
Does it really assist though to not subject that possibility to a hierarchical analysis, surely that’s the basic definition of rationality, to subject topics to reasoned thought. I think the problem here is that not critiquing that possibility is holding theism to a lower level of scrutiny for what seems to me to a functional irrelevance as believers aren’t going to be swayed by anything, which makes the emotional component irrelevant.

I think this is a special circumstance – precisely because what occurs prior to the Big Bang is unknowable through science (at this point – an important caveat). In (I would argue) near enough all circumstances we can dismiss the idea of the intervention of a God in this universe full stop.

To be honest it’s one of the few areas where I would feel comfortable with the idea that God is a rational option. Not a high possibility one, but one that I think can’t be dismissed out of hand.

What I find very telling is how broadly uninterested believers are in cosmology. Because – I’d tentatively hazard – their faith tends to lean heavily on religion rather than the concept of God (though a shout out to the Vatican which has long supported funding into astronomy etc).

Of course to my mind even if they did lean on cosmology they’d still be in trouble because as a weapon to deploy it is insufficient and the concept of God runs into other problems.

And I’m very aware that this is a position that is arguably a retreat as has been the history of such things for many centuries now as God as an explanatory force has been removed from one area after another.

I’m not sure you can separate the cosmological from the sociological, in this case we know enough about human imagination and history to be able to critique theism from that angle which puts its position compared to cosmological theory under more strain when you consider that scientific theory has to match known facts which have been acquired over the centuries (even if in the unknown areas there is a certain amount of ‘blue skies thinking’). I think the rational thing to do under those circumstances is to down-weight theism as it is not operating with the same level of intellectual rigour; but that doesn’t mean that cosmology hasn’t got questions to answer, just that the absence of verified answers isn’t a sound reason for shoehorning gods into the void.

I’m not entirely convinced that the framework is quite as robust as you suggest that we can say per se that the only rational conclusion is to down-weight theism so definitively. The problem for theists is that this isn’t enough for most of them as a potential (indeed they’re not interested in the idea of God as a potential or a possibility, for them God is a reality).

I’d also argue that one doesn’t have to say God is the only or even most logical possibility. To me again it’s about recognising that in this very limited circumstance God might be one possible option.

GW – broadly speaking agreed. I think there are overlapping but distinct issues. Religion is one. God another. The interaction of humans with a belief in God a third. The interactions of humans with religious belief a fourth and so on. 1 and 4 strike me as largely constructs (though perhaps religious belief has some evolutionary aspect to it). 3 and 4 are closer. 2 and 3 likewise closer but 2 and 4 less close. There’s also, naturally, 5 which is cosmology which doesn’t have any direct bearing on 1 or 4 and only tangentially with 3. It doesn’t have to have a bearing on 2 but it might.

As I say, I’m not really interested in this discussion as such in whether God does or does not exist. It’s more that the absolute certainty that God doesn’t exist strikes me as unfounded. Again, this seems to me to be different to the issue of religions being wrong (to put it at its bluntest). I think the likelihood of that being the case is near overwhelming. Nor am I suggesting that because there is a possibility that God does exist that has any great ramifications above and beyond the possibility that God does not exist – other than keeping in mind that that possibility isn’t in and of itself irrational in regard of the initiation of a universe even if it is unlikely.

Again, I’m not arguing for God as a reality. I’m arguing against blanket prohibitions on that possibility in this very limited context.

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Liberius - August 8, 2017

That’s fair enough. But I wonder about the hierarchy of possibility. To me it seems that at this point that there are no clear means of determining those hierarchies. But even if one does list a above b above c etc, with God close to z my point is that the concept isn’t per se irrational even if unlikely.

I think this is where the evidence/faith problem comes in as any hierarchy that would work is based on the acquisition of verifiable evidence, which is something theism is not known for taking much interest in. You see to me that lack of basis in evidence makes any assertion, theistic or otherwise, inherently irrational.

And I’m very aware that this is a position that is arguably a retreat as has been the history of such things for many centuries now as God as an explanatory force has been removed from one area after another.

There isn’t any real reason to suspect that that removal of explanatory forces won’t continue into the future in this area, which isn’t a problem for me but is for anyone seeking to use this gap in knowledge to justify theism.

I’m not entirely convinced that the framework is quite as robust as you suggest that we can say per se that the only rational conclusion is to down-weight theism so definitively. The problem for theists is that this isn’t enough for most of them as a potential (indeed they’re not interested in the idea of God as a potential or a possibility, for them God is a reality).

I don’t think it has to be enough for them, it only has to have greater integrity, beyond that there isn’t anything else to be done until conclusive proof (if ever found) eliminates the gaps.

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WorldbyStorm - August 8, 2017

Re your first point that’s true re theism, or at least most theisms. But I don’t think that those who are not theists or who are agnostic need be constrained by that. At the margins (if one can call the creation of a universe a margin) it seems to me one is faced by competing lacks of evidence. We do not know and cannot at present and possibly into the future indefinitely what the situation was that prevailed immediately prior to the creation of the universe. You may be right that at some point that will change but it may be that this is, perhaps like light speed, a fundamental limit in this universe. Again the point is that it isn’t irrational to posit as one possibility – and there aren’t that many possibilities out there that one need get hung up on which is more or less likely – as to this point that a deity may have been involved. None of this need have any bearing whatsoever on humanity or life in this universe.

In relation to the problem for theists point I was making it was a sort of similar to your point that theists aren’t interested in acquisition of knowledge or basing their position therein.

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GW - August 7, 2017

Nice to see a bit of metaphysics cropping up here. It’s certainly more interesting the K. Myers’ downfall.

The problem with the ‘free miracle’, uncaused cause and similar arguments, is that both miracles and causation have a before and after, i.e a temporal dimension. As I understand modern big bang cosmology, time did not exist before the big bang. Therefore to talk of causation or miracle in the context of the big bang itself is meaningless.

If one rephrases the question to something like Heidegger’s ‘why is there something rather than nothing’ then you (possibly) escape these problems of the boundedness of time itself.

Don’t try thinking about that if you are suffering from a hangover 🙂

But I generally agree with Dermot’s point (despite being no great admirer of the Catholic Church as a social, moral or political force), to dismiss millennia of hard intellectual work with glib scientistic atheism is the sign of a small mind at best.

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3. NollaigO - August 7, 2017

I was waiting to see how Harris would handle the Myers outburst (A prejudice too far) and its consequences. Harris, as we know, shares much of Myers’ politics.
In contrast to Gene Kerrigan’s “Unfortunately we need to talk about Kevin”, we have the bold Eoghan stating that “Right now, there is too much heat in the debate for defenders of Myers to get a proper hearing.”

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WorldbyStorm - August 7, 2017

Hahah, a man who was never averse to raising the temperature says that… wow.

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Michael Carley - August 7, 2017

And here’s Ruth Dudley Edwards:

“The ‘witches’ of Salem were not persecuted by bad men or women; people then genuinely lived in fear of witchcraft, just as they did of communism in the 1950s.

“In the witch-hunt to remove it from public life in the US, innocent people’s lives were ruined, yet through often honourable motives.”

Mentioning that two of the best-paid female presenters, Claudia Winkleman and Vanessa Feltz, were Jewish, he had written: “Good for them. Jews are not generally noted for their insistence on selling their talent for the lowest possible price, which is the most useful measure there is of inveterate, lost-with-all-hands stupidity.”

Intended as a compliment to Jews for being good negotiators (which they famously often are), it was ill-phrased enough to make it easy to twist.

No one ever praised Kevin Myers for his tact.

I hope that when the hysteria dies down and the lynch mob — which shamefully included many commentators who personally dislike him and, indeed, the Taoiseach — disperses, possibly the greatest journalist Ireland ever produced will be allowed to write again.

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/opinion/columnists/ruth-dudley-edwards/how-a-lynch-mob-of-the-ignorant-and-prejudiced-may-have-killed-off-the-career-of-a-fine-journalist-36005423.html

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WorldbyStorm - August 7, 2017

You know what’s weird. Why is it that RDE et al can’t extend the same generosity of spirit that they do to Myers or to the ‘not so bad men and women of Salem’ to say Republicans or to Nationalists or whatever group is in their sights in any given weekend. Even just a little, to recognise that people in a given context may live under certain pressures etc…

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Aonrud ⚘ - August 7, 2017

Intended as a compliment to Jews…

The “it was a compliment” argument is tiresome. It’s the same nonsense that men who like patronising women deploy – masking sexism in ‘compliments’ and ‘chivalry’.

(Aside from the fact that she knows full well how back-handed a compliment saying ‘jews are good with money’ is.)

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WorldbyStorm - August 7, 2017

+1

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Ed - August 7, 2017

It gives me no small amusement, after years of ranting from RDE about the supposedly endemic anti-semitism of the Palestine solidarity movement and the left in general, to see her rush to offer a weasely defence of genuine anti-semitism when it’s one of her cronies.

Liked by 1 person

4. FergusD - August 7, 2017

“selling their talent for the lowest possible price, which is the most useful measure there is of inveterate, lost-with-all-hands stupidity.”

Would Myers and RDE use that argument about teachers and other public workers? Union members? I bet not.

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5. roddy - August 7, 2017

Up here we used to discuss “the big bang” all the time in “did you hear the big bang last night?” !

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Joe - August 8, 2017

Top stuff, Roddy. Has me smiling. Keep ’em coming.

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6. roddy - August 7, 2017

Ed ,the “Provo bashing wing of the Irish media” is at full tilt with regard to Venezuela this very day.The” Irish News” devotes half a page to a scurrilous article – “SF Venezuelar observer Brady denies complicity in poll vote rigging” (SF MP for Newry Armagh was an observer at last weeks election and stated he found them free and fair)

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Tomboktu - August 8, 2017

SF MP for Newry Armagh was an observer at last weeks election and stated he found them free and fair

Wary of that. I’ve done election observation a few times, and one thing you learn very early on is that observer does not a finding make.

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