A Colorful Plastic Blow-up Parrot is Not a Pencil Sharpener

by Robert Gear (April 2019)

Woman with Bird in Cage, Shakir Ali, 1968


What distinguishes leftwingism and its magical offshoots from a more constrained and logical view of the world? This question often arises in diagnosing socialist-style mental illnesses. Below are some strange failures of elementary logic that I have discerned peeping out from behind a curtain of certainty. True, some folly is an expression of the hyperbole issuing from the keyboards of the witless. But bear with me. A case can be made that some adults with high-status qualifications are incapable of grasping very basic logic. In rejecting the Law of Identity elaborated upon by the ancient Greeks, some of our over-credentialed babblers lack the discernment of five year olds. I think most of us know that a thing is not the same as another different thing. For an object to have one identity means that it cannot have a different identity. For example, a dog is not a kangaroo, and a toothbrush is not a can of tuna fish. Violations of this law involve the logical fallacy of equivocation, which fallacy no doubt few among us are guiltless of occasionally craftingin subtle ways at least. Equivocation, though, is a useful tool of sedition; it is a practiced rule for radicals, honored more in the observance than the breach.
For example, and anecdotally, a Professor of English and American Literature recently offered me his opinion about the barrier that Israel had constructed to keep out terrorists and various other promoters of the religion of peace. He was “deeply offended” by that sovereign nation’s attempts to keep out such lovable practitioners of charitable causes. No doubt, this position was symptomatic of garden-variety anti-Semitism. This is par for the course among many who have spent too much time at institutes of higher learning. But what astonished me more was that he compared the Israeli barrier to, yes, the Berlin Wall. I would hazard, that most young children can spot the difference between a wall that keeps people out and a wall that keeps them in. This is not difficult. What part of this professor’s mental space was taken up with similar forms of idiocy? Probably, at least several of the equivocations mentioned below.
For example, a recent addition to the growing list of specimens of cognitive arrest propounded by the professoriate is the belief that a very Caucasian looking female is also a Cherokee Native American with “high cheek bones.” These are different things. They are not the same thing. Those who postulate such intriguing ideas may have the soundtrack from Dumb and Dumber rumbling on some permanent loop across their corpora callosa.
Here is another example of a curious failure of logic. Eco drivelists exhale gobbets of carbon dioxide claiming that skepticism about something they call “Anthropogenic Global Warming” is tantamount to Holocaust Denial. This argument is so specious that a school child could easily see through their game since it is simpler than the Sesame Street chant “one of these things is not like the other.” These two things are not the same! While highly insulting to real victims of Nazi genocide, alive or dead, this gambit allows such sophisticates to show off their virtue doubly. They derive much joy from this spreading of self-righteous mumbo jumbo about the rapidly approaching end of the world. At the same time, they can extract for themselves a small portion of treasured victimhood from HaShoah, while snuggling up to those of a jihadist mindset who deny it occurred and yet celebrate its attempted destruction of Jewry.
Here, the famous quip variously attributed to JBS Haldane and Werner Heisenberg seems pertinent. “Not only is the Universe stranger than we think, it is stranger than we can think.” Perhaps a new variant can be put forward, “Not only are many credentialed academics and political hacks more fatuous than we think, they are more fatuous than we can think.”
Some of our betters have maintained that President Trump is literally Hitler. True, their frustration at having their socialist mendacity stymied, for the time being at least, gives rise to hyperbole. But such is the level of education of some of these stalwarts of stupidity that perhaps they only have a vague idea of the Nazi program of ethnic genocide and lebensraum, let alone the vast background of history implied. They have conjured up a new meaning for “literally.” I contend that it is not an abuse of the dictionary definition of “literally” to point out that those who believe this canard are literally cortically challenged. Those who snort like blue-ribbon hogs at a county fair should be wary of using language that their intractably bad schooling has denied them access to..
Further, these people lack the ability to distinguish between figurative or commonplace exaggeration and literal speech: in other words common locutionary practice. At what age do children start to disentangle irony and verbal humor from more literal speech? I’m guessing that the average eight-year old can appreciate the difference. So, for example, when the President recently claimed that the hamburgers he delivered to a sports team at the White House were piled up a mile high, an influential opinion paper in the nation’s capital actually fact checked his claim. What do they teach to the youth in Journalism “School?” As the prince in Dostoyevski’s The Idiot says to a fellow character who has failed to make an elementary distinction about criminal behavior, “And recollectit was a youth, at the particular age which is most helplessly susceptible to the distortion of ideas!” But apparently, not only youths.
A favorite practice of our poorly- informed betters is to elide the difference between equality of opportunity and equality of outcome. Seriously? This one is hardly worth mentioning except that the failure to distinguish these usages is a staple of left-wing talking points. The word “equality” is tossed around like junk mail at a postal service sorting center. It is perhaps debatable which word, “racism” or “equality,” has more purchase on the cognitive output of the radical left.
At the risk of cataloging the obvious, here is a tiresome example of the attempt to make two very dissimilar things equivalent. Feminazis and their enablers are fond of lumping together as moral equivalents abortion (especially so called “late-term” abortion) and the execution of those found guilty of murder with malice aforethought. Regardless of one’s viewpoint about the ethical “utility” of the death penalty or abortion, these two things are patently not moral equivalents. The “thought process” of these people seems to be something like; “Ok, you say it is acceptable to, like, legally kill someone who is, like, guilty of a dreadful malicious murder or series thereof not letting someone else live), well we think it is acceptable to, like, kill an innocent helpless unborn baby who, like, hasn’t committed – oh I lost my train of thought since, uhh like, uhhm I, and because shut up.”
If you dare to mention that the holy books of the religion of peace are full of bloodcurdling threats and demands for violence and killing of the kafir, the retort of the uninformed will inevitably be something along the lines of “Well that kind of violence is in the Bible too, pssst, especially the Jewish bits.” Here, the failure of logic is in part at least a failure of knowledge. The utterer is displaying the fact that he is unfamiliar with both Judeo-Christian scripture and the Tales of Mahound. Clearly, the concepts of description, prescription and exegesis are beyond his or her grasp. This was brought home to me recently when an individual who had fallen for fantasy Islam became virtue-exercised about the story of Abraham and Isaac. Not exactly an embryonic Kierkegaard, then.
This list keeps on growing. Surely it is as obvious as meat on a plate that there is more than a subtle difference between legal and illegal immigration. When radical loons use this sleight of speak, they surely recognize that they are obfuscating. Do any normals fall for this? Somehow I doubt it. But out there in the wilds of news- consumer land, exist dupes whose logic is weak to nonexistent. They tend to have been subjected to a tertiary level education, of course, although this is neither a necessary nor sufficient condition for believing nonsense. Again, elementary logic is absent. Schiller is often quoted as remarking, “Against stupidity the very gods themselves contend in vain.” This quote deserves to be better known in the face of the idiocies of today’s leftism.
There is also a difference, not difficult to detect, between the behavior of criminals using guns and law abiding gun owners. But, those who would undermine our second amendment rights think that guns cause crimes. Oh, I get it; just like spoons and forks cause people to eat. In which case, the current obesity epidemic is a function of eating utensils being permitted to the food-consuming public without the need for a background check.
Someone once cautioned that we should never ascribe malice to that which can be ascribed to stupidity. So Occam’s Razor can be posited to argue that mostly stupidity is to blame. While Occam is a useful tool in disentangling the weeds of thought, more likely is it that stupidity and malice are intertwined like the snakes coiling around the staff of Caduceus. Perhaps the tails of the snakes are embedded in stupidity, but the heads are spitting the venom of malice. So, when O’Brien holds up four fingers and tortures Winston Smith into seeing five fingers, this is malice pure and simple. Orwell would have been despondent to realize that his prescient writings would be excavated by elites as blueprints for their utopian ideas. The fantastical and deluded prattlings of newly-minted people’s representatives may be gaining traction one creepy step at a time.

Robert Gear is a Contributing Editor to New English Review who now lives in the American Southwest. He is a retired English teacher and has co-authored with his wife several texts in the field of ESL.

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10 Apr 2019
Send an emailKirby Olson
You should take on the logic of the current incarnation of the Stygian Witches in the form of Omar, Tlaib and AOC. They are perhaps instead Cerberus. I like The Stygian witches for them, though, as those witches all share the one eyeball. Marx. Thinking alike. A hole generation. Trained to think about identity and each dumber than the next. Education can turn one into a gibbering gibbon or into Gibbon. Thank you for this and sorry for the puns.

3 Jul 2019
Send an emailJulien
I really enjoyed reading this article because I could personally relate to it, this is why I would like to share the two following anecdotes, as well as some ramblings about Occam and Hanlon. If you think I am diverting from the subject, I offer my apologies in anticipation….One of my former colleagues, an American professor in a Muslim Gulf country I used to work in, came back from a Christian pilgrimage to Jerusalem, in Israel, with a huge cross on a chain hanging from his neck and dangling above his shirt and tie, parading it, like a dog with an oversized bone, around the staff room and the corridors of the College we both used to teach in, advertising loud and clear his pilgrimage. I smiled and remarked quietly that it was maybe a little provocative to be doing this in this very conservative Islamic institution and country where we are accepted as temporary guests. He hit the roof and in a loud voice mentioned the Geneva Convention about freedom of religious practice, etc. I also remarked in the same breath, looking disappointed, that I thought he was too intelligent for this “God” non-sense, having known him for some time as a rather sensitive person, a poetry writer and reader whom I used to have interesting discussions with. This was the wrong thing to say, obviously, as he hit the roof even more, if that was possible, by shouting that “Yes!”, he was very intelligent, because he was a full professor, etc., to which I calmly replied that being educated, even highly so, doesn’t make one intelligent, automatically. Needless to say that was the end of the story and the end of a burgeoning friendship…. The next day I could not resist lecturing my students on the subject of intelligence vs. education, mentioning in passing that I personally knew some very un-intelligent professors among the faculty of our College, yet some rather intelligent cleaners and photocopy machine attendants, trying to de-mystify some very strong myths that persist to this day among educated people, be they intelligent or not. My students really enjoyed that lecture and I hope the concept will stay with them for life. It also gave hope to the less successful amongst them when I mentioned the many different types of intelligence. To go along the lines of another example mentioned in the article, I also knew of another (American) colleague who had confided in me (I do not know why) that he had secretly “fallen for fantasy Islam” (as you correctly stated, but he didn’t use that expression of course). When I asked him for a reason, the excuse he uttered was that, being a history buff, he wanted to have access to the secret libraries of the Sufis! I next asked him why he wanted to keep it a secret, to which he replied that he liked to drink, party and womanize, and that would not be acceptable if he was officially a Muslim. Furthermore, he added with a smirk, that it gave him a serious advantage with the judge when he decided to divorce his Christian wife while in a Muslim country. The hypocrisy of it all, I couldn’t wait to tell as many of our colleagues about his conversion, knowing perfectly well he never tried to gain access to any so-called “Sufi library”! Now all this was while Jihadist terrorists were blowing themselves up all over Europe, so I asked him, in passing, if he had any problems with that, to which he instantly replied, as if rehearsed, that the Christians did the same 500 years ago, so it was just a role reversal now and he had no problem with this. Finally, to finish the story of this miserable colleague of mine, when asked if he was going to vote (in the last US election), he replied that he was going to vote for Trump for one, and only one reason, that when he returned to the US he wanted to be able to own a gun and didn’t want other politicians to temper with that right…Scary thought, a deranged American Muslim convert (educated, but obviously not intelligent) wanting to own a gun… Also, maybe Occam’s Razor is responsible for the pope’s comments when he stipulated that science was good, but that one should not look too far into it….(for fear of discovering the non-existence of God and the failed hypothesis the whole Christian system is based on maybe?). Islam says the same, although it might be more Hanlon’s Razor than Occam’s! That you should not torture yourself seeking answers on Earth as they will all be answered in Heaven (when it is too late and you were re-born as a rat on Earth instead of in a bordello in Heaven with 72 virgins, probably lesbians or warty nuns, having died as virgins on Earth?) That is a thought Muslims could put in their pipe and smoke! Now who would you rather have a shave by Occam or by Hanlon?

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