Briefing reporters Tuesday, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs suggested that the opposition is being organized by a small group seeking to create "manufactured anger."Leveling these accusations, that those opposing health care "reform", are nothing more than an "anti-reform mob" or "astro-turf" protesters organized and funded by the insurance lobby, has become the M.O. for leftist supporters of socialized medicine. The protests, the left claims, are designed to intimidate the American people into opposing the Dear Leader:
"I hope people will take a jaundiced eye to what is clearly the AstroTurf nature of so-called grass-roots lobbying," Mr. Gibbs said.
Braced for a fight he never got, President Barack Obama went on the offensive in support of his health care plan Tuesday, urging a town hall audience not to listen to those who seek to "scare and mislead the American people."Paul Krugman even had the temerity to accuse the protesters of racism! Says Krugman:
...they're probably reacting less to what Mr. Obama is doing, or even to what they've heard about what he's doing, than to who he is.
Ironically, in this instance, the Left is posing as calm, rational expositors of the Truth while dismissing the protesters as an uninformed, irrational mob. Yet, the reality is precisely the opposite. This typical leftist tactic, i.e., castigating their enemies with ad hominem attacks, smears, and even violence, is an approach I have discussed before in detail [1,2], and I believe it has a deeper philosophical explanation that goes to the essence of the debate over freedom and dictatorship. If one wishes to advocate freedom rationally, it is important to be aware of the causes and use of this tactic in order to defeat it.Fear is "an emotion experienced in anticipation of some specific pain or danger". If someone knows something to be dangerous, it is entirely rational and practical to experience fear. The angst and passion demonstrated by the protesters is hardly "manufactured." Rather, it is a real and rational response to an anticipated danger: the potentially deadly consequences of Obama's socialist health care plan. These protesters have not been misled. On the contrary, the intensity of the protests has increased in direct proportion to increased knowledge of its frightening provisions, which even liberal Camillie Paglia rightly fears will lead to a "nightmare of red tape and mammoth screw-ups."
A conceptual approach to the problem would require Obama to argue for his plan and explain exactly how it will “work” using facts and logic. All he has to do to convince the protesters is to show them - stand up and explain exactly how this plan will work. I would not fear living in a home that was built according to the laws of physics and mechanics. Similarly, I would not fear a rational government policy . Of course, he can not do this, because, logically, his plan must fail, and consequently, examples of a conceptual approach to health care can only be found in the work of opponents of socialized medicine. See, for example, John Lewis' excellent executive summary of the bill, Lin Zinser and Paul Hsieh essay on the history of socialized medicine, Moral Health Care Versus Universal Health Care, this recent WSJ article on the economics of socialized medicine, or Dr. Reisman's essay, The Real Right to Medical Care Versus Socialized Medicine. These essays demonstrate, unequivocally, that socialized medicine is immoral and impractical.
On the other hand, consider a non-conceptual approach to health care, i.e., an approach that does not rely on facts, logic, or principles. If you abandon reason, how can you demonstrate that you are right? Logically, if you abandon a conceptual approach there is only one path left, faith, i.e. you must urge a belief in the absence of evidence. You must urge that others accept your idea on the basis of some non-cognitive method such as emotion or some form of mysticism. You must urge others to believe your idea, not because you are right, but because it feels good to them.
As I have argued countless times [1, 2, 3], Obama does not take a conceptual approach to any problem. He is a philosophical pragmatist who rejects reason as an absolute. As he once said, "as a manager of the economy you should base your decisions on facts not ideology". In other words, he does not want to hear debates about freedom, individual rights, or economics. His goal is to act and make things "work". What is his definition of "work"? Every pragmatist has a default philosophy absorbed from others. In Obama's case, his default philosophy is liberation theology or Christian Marxism which he absorbed from his mentor, Pastor Wright [see also "black liberation theology"]. To Obama, "to work" means to achieve an egalitarian society based upon the religious morality of self-sacrifice fused with the economic precepts of Marxism. This wholesale rejection of reason forms the guiding non-philosophy of modern academics, which is to say, the Left.
One implication of a non-conceptual approach, such as pragmatism, is that Obama must appeal to people in some non-cognitive fashion such as appeals to emotion. This is vividly demonstrated in the above quotes. Their entire approach consists of demonizing the protesters as a racist, uneducated, mob, motivated, ironically, by emotion! In fact, their whole conception of the problem is one of warring mobs as it has to be under this doctrine. If faith is our only means of cognition, then logically, man's only choice is to join a gang with no means of persuading its opponents except physical violence. In this type of world, since nothing is true (except that nothing is true), and nothing can be proved absolutely, Obama's only recourse is to seek "consensus" (as opposed to a solution), and if that doesn't work, the point of gun.
This is why, rather than elucidate his reasoning, he seeks to forge a consensus, which, in practice, means getting others to “feel” good about his ideas. To get people who are scared to feel good about his plan, he must paint his critics as the cause of the fear rather than face the flawed logic of the plan. Further, he and his supporters must suggest that anyone who disagrees with them is immoral. Ayn Rand identified this fallacy as the "argument from intimidation":
Note, this is exactly the tactic employed by Krugman when he declares, in essence, that anyone who disagrees with Obama is a racist. Quoting Rand:
[It] consists of threatening to impeach an opponent’s character by means of his argument, thus impeaching the argument without debate.
The essential characteristic of the Argument from Intimidation is its appeal to moral self-doubt and its reliance on the fear, guilt or ignorance of the victim. It is used in the form of an ultimatum demanding that the victim renounce a given idea without discussion, under threat of being considered morally unworthy. The pattern is always: “Only those who are evil (dishonest, heartless, insensitive, ignorant, etc.) can hold such an idea.”
How does one resist that Argument? There is only one weapon against it: moral certainty.One might argue that the cause of these tactics is some form of elitism, i.e., the intellectuals on the Left see themselves as Philosopher Kings anointed to grasp and convey Truth to the illiterate "red state" Americans. This philosophy is essentially Platonism, which I discussed in detail in this post as it relates to Cass Sunstein. I consider both pragmatism and Platonism to be different forms of the same essential problem, i.e., the rejection of reason and objectivity. One form (pragmatism) tends to lead more to skepticism, cowardice, and consensus seeking while the other form (Platonism) leads to elitism and power lust. Of course, most Leftists exemplify mixtures of both forms.
When one enters any intellectual battle, big or small, public or private, one cannot seek, desire or expect the enemy’s sanction. Truth or falsehood must be one’s sole concern and sole criterion of judgment—not anyone’s approval or disapproval; and, above all, not the approval of those whose standards are the opposite of one’s own.
There is a further more ominous implication to the non-conceptual approach to knowledge - the relationship of faith and force. Quoting Ayn Rand:
I have said that faith and force are corollaries, and that mysticism will always lead to the rule of brutality. The cause of it is contained in the very nature of mysticism. Reason is the only objective means of communication and of understanding among men; when men deal with one another by means of reason, reality is their objective standard and frame of reference. But when men claim to possess supernatural means of knowledge, no persuasion, communication or understanding are possible...Anyone who resorts to the formula: “It’s so, because I say so,” will have to reach for a gun, sooner or later.Whether it be the Byzantine health care bill, taxation, cap and trade, the Fairness Doctrine, "Choice Architecture", collectivized farms, state run media, gulags or concentration camps, this is precisely why the Left, as does any movement based on faith and not reason, always reaches for a gun.