Saturday, March 07, 2009

New #1 favorite wingnut: Gagdad Bob

Finally, I present my new favorite right-wing lunatic. My criteria for this coveted spot is someone who hates everything I stand for, but isn't a complete moron, and has something reasonably fresh to say. Not too easy to find. Mencius Moldbug has occupied that slot for awhile, but he's gotten rather repetitive. So the new dude is "Gagdad Bob", a logorrheic devotee of Tarot and James Joyce, apparently some kind of psychotherapist(!) who projects projection, among other nifty mental feats:
It is the unrepentant spiritual terrorism of the left that frightens us.... Progressivism is the expression of thanatos the "death instinct." It is perverse, sadistic, and authoritarian. Which is why, of course, they project these things into conservatives.
To which this is the only proper response.

Before descending into the abyss of antagonism, let me mention the stuff on his blog that I sort of like: the larger portion of it is devoted to a kind of whacked-out metaphysical speculation, for which he has invented his own system of metaphors, symbols, and puns. This is the sort of thing, like continental philosophy, that I can sometimes enjoy, because despite it being foreign to my own way of thinking it almost makes sense; I enjoy the mental exercise of trying to understand what the hell it's all about. And there are occasional resonances with my own fumbling attempts at spiritual thinking, even though I'm coming at it from a very different starting point.

So half the contents of his blog is this somewhat amusing foray into amateur theocomedy, and the rest is hate-filled rants against people like me -- "the psycho-spiritual left". Some examples:

Here he spews rabid, mostly groundless fulminations against Obama:
You will see the false love -- the hate -- behind the Obama phenomenon should he lose the election, for in every denizen of Blue Meanies, police are making plans for violence. In fact, they are also planning for violence should he prevail. But that violence is only a prelude to the violence to come.
If there's been an apology or retraction for this failed prediction, I've missed it. Of course there has been threats of violence since the election, but it's all from the lunatic right.
Back to the Emperor. Among other things, the Emperor is the symbol of divine authority on earth. He is not a replacement of divine authority, but its horizontal prolongation. And along these lines, perhaps the most important point is that, as UF writes, "God governs the world by authority, and not by force. If this were not so, there would be neither freedom nor law in the world."

This automatically excludes Obama from being a legitimate ruler, in that the left is all about governing by force. He will not "lure" you toward the good by his intrinsic authority, but compel you to "share" and "spread around" the fruits of your labor with his purely earthly power. And that's all it is. His profound lack of understanding of Christian doctrine is too well documented to discuss here.
I like that bit about how "the left is all about governing by force". Uh-huh, and the right is all about governing by -- what exactly? pure love? This is nothing more than another attempt to delegitimize Obama's election on no grounds whatsoever, an effort which permeates the wingnutosphere. Obama by definition can't be legitimate, can't have any authentic spiritual power, because he lacks understanding of Christian doctrine. (I wonder where the idea that "spreading wealth around" is un-Christian -- seems to me Jesus was quite in favor of it, ie in Matthew 25:34-43 and many other passages. But no doubt my understanding of Christian doctrine is even more deficient than Obama's).

And specious explanations of politics:
As we just witnessed with President Bush, a leader who fails to resonate in this unconscious manner simply will not be perceived as effective, no matter how competent he is. From even before day one of his presidency, Bush was unable to use language in such a way as to bind up the anxiety and hatred of liberals. First, just as it is difficult for the non-evil to understand the evil, it's also difficult (at least without training) for the non-crazy to truly understand the crazy. On top of that, Bush never appreciated the level of liberal bitterness and resentment over Al Gore's unsuccessful attempt to exploit the judicial system to steal the presidency to which liberals were entitled.
Yes, Bush's failure was an inability to communicate, so his effectiveness and competence was not appreciated. There is actually someone on the planet who believes this! And please note that this alleged psychologist is perfectly willing to diagnose the liberal half of the country as crazy. Here's another half-baked psychological diagnoses of "the left":
leftism is by definition a perpetual rebellion against these principles -- against the Real. Thus, it is de facto the maninfestation of a spiritual illness, often rooted in a psychological one.
His hatred of the left is paired with an equally virulent hatred of materialism and science:
Here again, this is why the materialist can neither know reality nor love, since he does not recognize the absolute reality of subjects. Rather, the subject is simply a side effect of matter, and matter is obviously "one," which is an inverted doctrine of spiritual oneness. This material oneness is the false unity that inspires the left. It is why "what's yours is mine," and why Obama's conscience (such as it is) is untroubled by taking what belongs to you and and Joe and "spreading it around." Yes, Obama loves us. But like nature, he loves us ruthlessly.
Another major element is anti-Darwinism supported by age-old bad arguments, laced with of half-digested trendy notions like catastrophe theory and autpoesis:
Let's not kid ourselves. We really only have two choices. Either this cosmos is in fact grand -- not to mention, beautiful, awesome, sacred and numinous -- or our genes, for reasons we cannot know, randomly mutated in such a way that we imagine that such entirely chimerical things as grandeur and beauty exist...Obviously, on any strict Darwinian view, "beauty" cannot objectively exist.
And FTW, how Obama is...the Antichrist! Well, no, Bob is not that literal-minded a religious whackjob, so he's going to cutesy it up when he accuses Obama of being in league with Satan:
First of all, let's get this out of the way at the outset. Are we calling Obama the antichrist?

Yes, of course.

No, wait -- let's not engage in ad obomanem. Let's just say an embodiment of the antichristic principle. Please, let's discuss this in terms of abstract cosmic principles, without getting personal. No need to demonize someone just because he's an instrument of satan. Besides, he's just the vehicle, not the driver. The surfer, not the wave.

Now, what do we mean by "antichrist?" I would say that, as Christ is Word-made-flesh, the realm of the antichristic would analogously represent the "lower principle" made flesh -- the instantiation, as it were, of the energies of the Fall.
I'm trying to figure out the horrid fascination this site exerts on me...it's not like the normal wingnuts, who for the most part are just hateful cretins. This guy is a smart, funny, occasionally insightful, hateful non-cretin. That's not a combination you see everyday. We share some likes (Joyce, Rahsaan Roland Kirk) and dislikes (Deepak Chopra, Bill Maher). In some respects he's the worst kind of douchebag: the kind who doesn't realize he's a douchebag, but instead believes he has some kind of privileged line to the almighty (actually, it's not so surprising that he's a psychotherapist). Yet I kind of like his stuff. I may have to order his book.

The Internet was invented for me to get access to this kind of weirdo.

24 comments:

TGGP said...

Thus, it is de facto the maninfestation of a spiritual illness, often rooted in a psychological one.
I'd like to see Szasz give him a beatdown. And then demolish his arguments (ZING!).

mtraven said...

Yes, I've argued with you about Szasz before, but his stock is going up in my view due to this widespread and blatant effort to pathologize political differences. There is a whole network of wingnut therapists that does this, and of course you can find examples that go in the other political direction.

TGGP said...

I think the left was doing it long before the right, if only because they're more interested in being hip. The question is: how can you distinguish between genuine and phony diagnoses of "disorders"? There's a reason Popper pointed to Freud & Adler as poster-boys of unfalsifiable pseudoscience.

Gagdad Bob said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gagdad Bob said...

If you are sincerely curious about the book, I'd be happy to send you a copy. Just email me an address. It's basically devoid of politics -- although if one doesn't adhere to the narrow dictates of political or academic correctness, I suppose one is pretty much a wingnut by default.

Also, please bear in mind that my blog is primarily about traditional metaphysics and esoterism, not politics. Furthermore, the political posts are certainly not intended to change anyone's mind, but are addressed to an audience that shares my assumptions and already understands the deeper structure of my arguments (and how they are of a piece with the metaphysics).

Or, to put it another way, there is nothing I say on the blog that I wouldn't say differently if I were trying to convert someone to my point of view, which I never do. The last thing I want to do is try to help people who don't want my help. But I can see how it would be somewhat mesmerizing for someone whose hostility to spirit is just an expression of disappointment.

mtraven said...

Thanks for the offer, I will probably take you up on that.

And thanks for the polite tone. I am starting to regret some of the language I used in the original post, justified though it might be by the things you say on a regular basis about leftists. Perhaps you are speaking to the converted, but the nature of the Internet is such that non-converts will overhear. Excuse us for being somewhat alarmed/amused/mesmerized by such unremitting and absolute hostility. These are human beings you are talking about, you know, and if their spiritual state is not as advanced as yours it's probably not from lack of trying.

I don't know why you would think I have "hostility to spirit". If you read any of my own (admittedly feeble) philosophical speculation on this blog (ie this and this), you would see that my goal is to try to fashion some notion of the spiritual that makes sense to me, given my background assumptions. So I might have hostility to your notion of spirit, but not to spirit in general. Don't confuse me with Richard Dawkins.

Gagdad Bob said...

You would have no way of knowing this, but I always draw a sharp distinction between leftist ideas and the people who hold them.

As to your hostility to spirit, anyone who could insist that the Catholic Church is the moral equivalent of the Joker is beyond perverse, when they are precisely standing up for the principle that life is precious and that they will not be forced by the state to murder:

"In the last Batman movie, the Joker blew up a hospital to prove some kind of demented point, but he was supposed to be the embodiment of sociopathic evil. I hadn’t realized that the Catholic hierarchy had descended to the same level. Yet they are threating to close all Catholic hospitals if the FOCA bill passes. They are even unwilling to sell the facilities to other healthcare providers, preferring to shutter them. This would deprive millions of people of health care, and almost certainly causing some to die much earlier than they otherwise would have. Yet we are supposed to consider these people “pro-life”.

mtraven said...

I always draw a sharp distinction between leftist ideas and the people who hold them.
Your blog belies this, but whatever.

Since when is hostility to the Catholic Church the same as hostility to spirit? I have no idea what if any official denomination you profess, but most of them are going to have some degree of hostility towards the Catholic Church, if only for the Church's claim to have a monopoly on authentic spiritual truth. If you believe the only path to spiritual truth runs through the Church, we may as well shut this down right now.

To a non-believer, the Catholic Church is a human institution which may embody the spiritual for a great many people but also exhibits the manifest failings of a large and old bureaucracy. It is hardly above reproach. Forget the hospitals, did you get a load of this revolting story? Good luck on locating the actions of spirit anywhere there.

I don't know if you want to start an argument about abortion which is almost guaranteed to be unproductive and boring, but I must point out that the Catholic Church's own position on whether aborting an embryo is murder has changed over time, so why assume that they have it right, right now?

Brazentide said...

Previous thoughts on ensoulment where based on incomplete scientific knowledge and assumptions about it at the time (i.e. the quickening). The theological debate on the animated state of a fetus ran its course for a nearly a millenium and was for the most part resolved in the 16th century and then solidified in the 1800s. In light of today's scientific knowledge it has become even more enshrined.

The Catholic Church will not revert to previous inaccurate assumptions about the life issue any more than it would revert to previous inaccurate assumptions about the position of the Earth in the solar system.

mtraven said...

Right, the Catholic Church is all about the science.

As far as I can see, they have gone backwards. For something to be ensouled, it would seem to minimally require a functioning nervous system. So the criterion of quickening makes a lot more sense than holding that a 16-cell blastula has a soul.

Also, about half of fertilized zygotes fail to implant are flushed out with the menses. According to Catholic doctrine, this means that millions of souls a day are being flushed down the toilet without so much as a prayer to mark their passing.

TGGP said...

For something to be ensouled, it would seem to minimally require a functioning nervous system
No, because there are no such things as souls and one may as easily ascribe them to rocks and trees (as many primitive religions do) as an adult human.

My own position is that, like animals, the very young are not parties to any sort of contractual arrangement and can do nothing to resist us so we are free to disregard their well-being.

CrypticLife said...

I always draw a sharp distinction between leftist ideas and the people who hold them.

As an occasional but regular follower of GB's blog (though not a subscriber to his opinions), this is the most surprising thing I've ever seen flow from his keyboard.

Gagdad Bob said...

You shouldn't be surprised. As I have written many times, the majority of my friends, relatives, and coworkers are leftists.

mtraven said...

tggp: how do you know? If a soul is immaterial, how do you know if it exists or doesn't or how one would go about determining it experimentally?

I got bored with mere materialism some time ago. I find it much more interesting to try to stretch my brain and imagine what a soul could be. There are a many fields of discourse that require one to suspend disbelief, and assume that the authors are trying to describe something coherent, rather than dismissing the whole thing as nonesense. Theology and continental philosophy both fall into this category for me. Whether it's worth the effort to try to understand is debatable, I suppose, but I like visiting foreign continents of thought even if I wouldn't want to live there.

TGGP said...

If a soul is immaterial
What does that even mean? If something exists things would be otherwise than if it didn't. I didn't introduce this concept of a "soul" and the burden is on its proponents to indicate why we should even consider the possibility of its existence. If I went around talking about "asdp;lgkhq" you would scoff and say I just mashed some characters on my keyboard (I did) and you would rightly scoff at my insistence that you disprove its existence.

I got bored with mere materialism some time ago
Yes, evolutionary psychology is boring while Freudianism is interesting.

mtraven said...

tggp: What does that even mean?
I've been over this stuff before, see the links above (like this one(; you have to familiarize yourself with the tenets of Omniorthogonal thought if you are going to keep up.

my insistence that you disprove its existence.
I'm not insisting you disprove or prove anything. I'm suggesting that the concept of a soul is not meaningless, that it is useful and real in some difficult-to-pin-down sense.

I think you (and most of the world) makes the mistake of thinking of souls as made out of some immaterial material. That clearly doesn't make sense. But what if souls are more like emergent patterns, grounded in the material world but not quite of it? For example, the story of Hamlet is not a material object even though any instance of it is going to be made up of ink or sound or neurons.

evolutionary psychology is boring while Freudianism is interesting
I don't think it's analogous; Sulloway is saying that Freudianism is interesting because it is counterintuitive, but souls are very intuitive; it is difficult to convince people they don't have them.

Actually I think he's just wrong, Darwinism is quite counterintuitive, which is why people have so much trouble with it. Most people can't manage thinking about the integration of tiny changes over massive amounts of time * population.

mtraven said...

tggp: What does that even mean?
I've been over this stuff before, see the links above (like this one(; you have to familiarize yourself with the tenets of Omniorthogonal thought if you are going to keep up.

my insistence that you disprove its existence.
I'm not insisting you disprove or prove anything. I'm suggesting that the concept of a soul is not meaningless, that it is useful and real in some difficult-to-pin-down sense.

I think you (and most of the world) makes the mistake of thinking of souls as made out of some immaterial material. That clearly doesn't make sense. But what if souls are more like emergent patterns, grounded in the material world but not quite of it? For example, the story of Hamlet is not a material object even though any instance of it is going to be made up of ink or sound or neurons.

evolutionary psychology is boring while Freudianism is interesting
I don't think it's analogous; Sulloway is saying that Freudianism is interesting because it is counterintuitive, but souls are very intuitive; it is difficult to convince people they don't have them.

Actually I think he's just wrong, Darwinism is quite counterintuitive, which is why people have so much trouble with it. Most people can't manage thinking about the integration of tiny changes over massive amounts of time * population.

TGGP said...

I actually disagreed with Eliezer on "adding up to normality". It was sparked by morality, but I used quantum mechanics and evolution as examples. Freudianism was interesting to many people and attracted a large following despite its baselessness. Religion as well. Being interesting is an entirely different matter from being accurate.

A typical conception of the soul is that it is something retaining your essential identity which may separate from you so that it will haunt the earth, ascend to heaven or be reincarnated. I don't ssee credible evidence for such extraordinary claims, so I pronounce them false and judge the concept to be a flaw on peoples' maps which does not illuminate territory. I don't know what your different possible conception of a soul is, so perhaps you should introduce it (we could even come up with a neologism for it, like mtrevessence).

mtraven said...

I imagine my view of souls might not make standard-grade religious people very happy. That's OK with me, I think my position is designed to piss off atheists and the religious equally. I like your neologism though.

To back up to the original question: "ensoulment" was just shorthand for "when we consider this blob of protoplasm to be a person". Catholics claim they think it happens at conception (except they don't really act as if they believe that). Some early cultures didn't consider an infant fully human until a day or two after birth (Pinker writes about this).

To anticipate your reaction to this: just because something is a social construction doesn't mean it's not real, as I've argued before.

Mike O'Malley said...

MTRaven wrote: To back up to the original question: "ensoulment" was just shorthand for "when we consider this blob of protoplasm to be a person". Catholics claim they think it happens at conception (except they don't really act as if they believe that).

All fall short of the glory of G-d however I doubt you have sufficient basis for your assertion about Catholic, belief, behavior and practice. Moreover, Humanists, Orthodox and Buddhists, and many Protestants (1) consider a person to begin at conception. There is no need to invoke a Medieval concept such “Ensoulment”.

MTRaven wrote: a Some early cultures didn't consider an infant fully human until a day or two after birth (Pinker writes about this).

Actually all early middle, late and present day non-Judeao/Christian cultures consider some or all infants, children, women, alien sojourners, members of other tribes, nations, classes, religions and races to be not fully human often for the entire life of that individual. This de-humanization, this masking of the humanness of infants, children, women etc. provides the anthropological basis for oppression, human sacrifice, slavery, dhimmitude, homicide, warfare and abortion to this day.

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(1) also Orthodox Jews but there are some complications in this regard in the Tanaka.

Mike O'Malley said...

Mtraven wrote: (I wonder where the idea that "spreading wealth around" is un-Christian -- seems to me Jesus was quite in favor of it, ie in Matthew 25:34-43 and many other passages. But no doubt my understanding of Christian doctrine is even more deficient than Obama's)

That would seem to be the case from your citation Of Matt 25 above, although Pres. Obama's grasp of the basics of Christian doctrine and self sacrifice is quite deficient.

You and your readers would do well to consider Matt 25:14 through 33 which sets up the lesson in verses 34-43. Notice that this teaching has little if anything to do with government sponsored “charity” (patronage) financed with coerced confiscation of the property of wealth. One would fine ample support for that sort of theocratic brigandage in the Koran, Sunna and Hadith but not in the New Testament. Notice that the “man” in verse Matt 25:14 provides his own money to his servants. This money is not provided by the government by way of taxation. Moreover it is individual people who provided food, water, clothing health care and hospitality, not the local warlord (again as prescribed in the Koran, Sunna and Hadith).

Mike O'Malley said...

Mtraven wrote on April 5, 2009: I have relatives in Israel and have lived in Israel

Hmmm...


MTraven mockingly retorted above: Right, the Catholic Church is all about the science


Hmmm... Has Mtraven expressed ignorance or bigotry here above... or both?


There would be no modern science without The Catholic Church. Indeed it was Christianity that desacrilized - de-mythized the natural world providing a necessary condition for modern science to emerge. Moreover, it is Catholicism which continues to argue for reason and rationalism against the benighted anti-science anti-rationalist Post-Modernism.

Anonymous said...

Yes I have to agree with you, the man is one sick puppy.

And yet he sometimes comes in as one of the best "religious" blogs.

I used to read his rantings on a daily basis, and posted an occasional critical comment, but it became too depressing.

Why associate with such bad company, especially as nothing you could possibly say will make a jot of difference to the dag and his band of benighted ghouls

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