By Johanne Brownrigg |

In her Washington Post piece, The Rom-Com Is Dead, Emily Yahr opines that “romantic comedies are fueled by an idealized version of love, while modern sensibilities about gender roles and romance have increasingly caused audiences to see these films through a much different lens.” “An idealized version of love” indeed.

Back in 2012, the movie Laurence Anyways won the Best Canadian Feature Film prize at the Toronto International Film Festival. Laurence Anyways is a boy-meets-girl movie that becomes a boy-IS-girl who likes girl-who-still-likes-boy/girl, movie. Such a story is certainly today’s fodder for romance, but it makes me wonder if the romantic comedy storytellers will get things wrong, again.

In the previous century, we had stereotypical depictions of men as cool cats and women as domestic sirens while seeing surreal family bliss, until it was time for cynical family bliss. Yahr puts it rather bluntly. The generation gap led to a new awakening regarding rom-coms. “Mostly, I think we just got tired of living the baby boomer fantasy of ideal romantic love, propagated in large party by the society’s unprogressive cultural expectations regarding gender roles.” True. The fact remains that when movies and television were sending rom-com messages about what love should look like when dating, marrying, and raising a family, many of us who dated, married and raised a family in real life realized that this fantasy life was completely wrong.

Sadly, pure romantic fantasy still fuelled expectations about romance and led many to re-create their lives, thinking that the fluid, subjective desire of fantasy “romance” was the glue missing in their marriages. So their marriages became unglued, much like the baby boomers themselves, who are now depicted in movies like The Way, Way Back. Sadly, not much fantasy in that movie.

Culturally though do we ever get any smarter? At some point, we all have to get real. So you have to wonder at the purpose the movie industry had in creating a false version of marital bliss, only to tear it down for its fakeness, let alone flakiness.

Rom-coms were fun fantasy that left us pining for rainbow coloured unicorn kittens so to speak. As a twenty-something in the 80s looking for love, I can tell you no man had a chance. But neither did I, because what I was really looking for had more grit, more compromise and more forgiveness in a love with staying power.

Enter today’s new scripts: love in the gay, lesbian, transgendered, transsexual, inter-sexed, questioning, etc. lifestyles. More of these movies have come out since 2012, and more to come. Will these stories challenge us because they are real, or because they are not? I suspect the only thing that won’t change is that depictions of their lives, dating and marriages will be wrong too.

They use velvet ropes at film festivals. They use them to hang the culture too.
By Lea Z. Singh |

Each of us wants to believe that we would have had the courage to stand up against the worst evils of historical times, like Hitler or slavery. But would we? Brunhilde Pomsel, former personal secretary to Hitler’s Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, scoffed at the idea, saying “Those people nowadays who say they would have stood up against the Nazis – I believe they are sincere in meaning that, but believe me, most of them wouldn’t have.” She explained that during Hitler’s reign, “the whole country was as if under a kind of a spell.” And what’s more, “the idealism of youth might easily have led to you having your neck broken.”

Our own times are marked not by fascism or Communism, but by the Sexual Revolution. That movement, which began in the 1960s and continues today, has ravaged our core institutions, including marriage and the family, and has left untold broken lives in its wake. It has also resulted in millions of deaths through abortion. The newest phase of the revolution is demanding shocking concessions from our society under the banner of a radical gender ideology. This ideology is getting more aggressive and intolerant by the day. It is now pushing for legislation and policies that would sacrifice our long-cherished freedoms of speech, expression and religion at the altar of newly minted gender identities.

And how much opposition is rising up against it? Here in Canada, there is barely a whimper. Just like Germany under Hitler, our society appears to be under a spell, and many of us stand frozen in the headlights. We may not like what is happening, but as Pomsel predicted, we are choosing not to stick out our necks. Going against the tide and witnessing to the truth would threaten our reputations, careers, and friendships. It is never a good time to become a sacrificial lamb. Even the federal Conservatives caved in last May, choosing electability over principles and declaring that they will no longer fight to protect the family by opposing same-sex marriage.

All the more surprising then that from the most unlikely of places, a battle cry has risen up. From the left-leaning ivory tower, from a profession dominated almost exclusively by liberals, there has arisen a voice crying out from the wilderness.

Protest out of left field

Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, Clinical Psychology Professor at the University of Toronto, is tenured, accomplished, and well respected. In other words, he has a lot to lose. Nevertheless, on September 27, he took to YouTube and published the first of a three-part series of lectures where he unleashes a fury of logic and rational argument against the politically correct activism which has been spreading through universities and other institutions, and seeping into our laws.

With this act, Dr. Peterson has placed himself among the foolish souls whose devotion to truth and justice outweighs their fear of the consequences. Historians call such people heroes. Their ranks include the Soviet dissident Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, whose famous essay "“Live Not By Lies” calls upon the resigned hostages of a drab collectivism to embrace a life of moral courage. Each person, said Solzhenitsyn, has at least one way of resisting the regime and reclaiming his dignity through "personal non-participation in lies". He says: "in our timidity, let each of us make a choice: Whether consciously, to remain a servant of falsehood...or to shrug off the lies and become an honest man worthy of respect both by one's children and contemporaries."

Dr. Peterson is engaging in exactly this kind of moral resistance, and perhaps it is no accident that Dr. Peterson mentions Solzhenitsyn in one of his lectures. He was clearly affected by Solzhenitsyn’s seminal work The Gulag Archipelago, which he says “eradicated any shreds of intellectual respectability that the [Marxist] doctrine...still had after its decades of unbelievable murderous existence.”

“Marxism and neo-Marxism is no better than Fascism and neo-Fascism. I think the historical evidence for that is absolutely clear," says Dr. Peterson. How then, he asks, is it all right for 20% of social scientists to identify as Marxist? "I can’t understand why we think it’s acceptable for academics and their followers to call themselves Marxist and neo-Marxist but we would not for a second countenance the same thing from the Fascists and the neo-Fascists.”

Indeed, the neo-Marxist revival on university campuses is not innocuous. It is responsible for today's politically correct activists, says Dr. Peterson. Many of the social science disciplines, including women’s studies departments and others, intentionally train such "PC game players". Dr. Peterson estimates that these faculties have produced anywhere between 300,000 and 3 million activists over the last 30 years.

“The PC game players have infiltrated our institutions at many, many levels of the hierarchy," says Dr. Peterson. "And they’re also now writing legislation at the top, and now we’ve got a positive feedback loop going between the legislative activities at the top and the people who are acting as essentially insurgents for this movement at all the levels of the social hierarchy.”

This "increasingly rigidifying positive feedback loop" has enabled a swift advance of political correctness, and it has gotten out of hand. “I’m a clinical psychologist. This is starting to affect my clients. I’ve had three clients in the last two years who have been driven near the point of insanity by politically correct occurrences at work.” Dr. Peterson is also noticing that his colleagues in academia are being scared into self-censorship and silence, and even leaving the profession. They are afraid of losing their jobs, of “being pilloried online by social justice warriors and so on, and having their reputations savaged and demolished.”

We are reaching the point where politically correct activism is directly threatening our democracy. “I know something about the way that totalitarian authoritarian political states develop, and I can’t help but think that I’m seeing a fair bit of that right now.” For instance, says Dr. Peterson, “I’m nervous about doing this lecture, and I’ve also become nervous about some of the things that I’m teaching...I think that some of the things that I say in my lectures now might be illegal, I think they might even be sufficient for me to be brought before the Ontario Human Rights Commission under their amended Hate Speech Laws.”

Dr. Peterson is quick to point out that “What’s happening in Canada is happening throughout the West….This is certainly not only a Canadian problem.” And he is under no illusions as to the possible consequences of his public stance. Still more admirable, then, is his resolve to expose the lies and logical inconsistencies of gender ideology. Speaking of the gender-related definitions in Ontario's human rights legislation, he says: “[I]f someone should be put in jail for questioning that, then I guess I should be put in jail, because I’m going to question it.”

The gender ideology has no clothes

And question he does. His first lecture is a devastating and detailed critical analysis that undeniably succeeds in showing the deep flaws of Bill C-16 and other Canadian legislation and human rights codes which contain the terms “gender identity” and “gender expression”.

As an example, at one point Dr. Peterson addresses the Ontario Human Rights Commission's statement that “A person’s gender identity is fundamentally different from and not related to their sexual orientation”. His response:
“Well, that’s rubbish, fundamentally. Because if you ran a correlation analysis between gender identity and sexual orientation, the correlation is going to be something like 0.95, which indicates an almost perfect correlation. For the vast majority of people, gender identity and sexual orientation are the same thing. And so it is not ‘fundamentally different from’ and ‘not related to’ their sexual orientation. That’s just a misstatement of fact. Perhaps for a minority of people, sometimes they’re dissociable. But that doesn’t mean that a gender identity is ‘fundamentally different from and not related to’ sexual orientation....If there’s a correlation of any magnitude between two things, then one is related to another. And when the correlation is just about perfect, well then they are fundamentally related. So that’s another policy that’s based actually on a lie, a misstatement, an untruth.”
Another example is Dr. Peterson's perceptive call-out of an irreconcilable contradiction at the heart of gender ideology:
"Here’s one of the things I find very confusing. It seems to me that the leftist activists have made the claim, with regard to transsexual individuals for example, that you can be a man in a woman’s body, and that that’s a biological reality, or that you can be a woman in a man’s body, and that’s a biological reality. So as long as your gender identity is opposite to that of your cardinal biological sexual attributes, then that’s biologically determined. But if your gender identity is in sync with your biological attributes, then that’s a free-floating cultural construct... And I cannot see how both of those things can possibly be true. But I don’t think that coherence is one of the hallmarks of radical politically correct thinking.”
Dr. Peterson's criticism of 'hate speech' legislation is also interesting because it shows the distinct concern of a psychologist:
"It’s not obvious when speech is motivated by hate. Angry speech can feel like it’s motivated by hate. But angry speech is the only kind of speech in some sense that is indicative of real disagreement….If there is real disagreement, anger is often the evidence for the existence of real disagreement. And if there’s disagreement, angry people have to talk it out, because if they don’t, then, well, then a bunch of terrible things happen....First of all, you start losing track of who the angry people are. Second, they don’t get to say what’s on their mind...They don’t get to modify their viewpoints, because talking is thinking....We even tell two-year-olds who are angry ‘use your words’. And the reason we tell two-years olds that is because the alternative to using your words is using your fists. And so if we don’t let angry people talk, then they only have two alternatives...they either pull it in and get resentful...or they get violent or start agitating for violence."
Following up, Dr. Peterson’s second lecture intellectually demolishes a recent University of Toronto Human Resources Initiative which sought to mandate politically correct training for all university staff. "[T]here is increasing administrative buy-in" of political correctness, says Dr. Peterson, "and a lot of this seems to be driven by human resources departments, which I think are generally the most pathological elements of large organisations…HR training is very politically correct."

The counterattacks

If Dr. Peterson expected that his lectures would result in a vicious reprisal, he was right. Almost instantly, he was mocked and derided on Twitter, where activists summarily judged him guilty of hate speech. Within mere days, two protest “teach-in” rallies were organised at the University of Toronto, one by students and another by faculty. On the Facebook page of the student rally, one student accused Dr. Peterson of "transphobia, transmisogyny, dyadism/intersexism, cissexism, racism/anti-blackness, ableism, sexism". The faculty rally was presented as an official event of The Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, and so carried the imprimatur of the University of Toronto itself.

On October 5th, Dr. Peterson was asked in an interview whether his job was in danger. "Hard to tell," he responded "It could be in danger. I don't actually think it is". He said that the University of Toronto had sent him a letter the previous day, in which "the university reminded me...that I'm to adhere to the university polices and also to the relevant legislation". In addition, "they also commented about what I said, and did a very bad job of that in the letter they sent me. They misrepresented what I said quite terribly, which I also thought was careless."

Many of the activists and mainstream media have seized on a remark made by Dr. Peterson in his first lecture, where he stated: “I can envision a student or a colleague insisting that I call them using gender-neutral pronouns, 'zhe'. I’m not doing that...I think it’s manipulative. And I don’t recognise another person’s right to determine what pronouns I use to address them. I won’t do it. Now, again I think that because of these new laws, that my decision might be illegal, and maybe it’s even a decision of 'hate'. But I’m not doing it.”

Dr. Peterson's refusal to "accommodate" the gender ideologues by adopting their language seems to have convinced the liberal media that he is a bigot. Renowned CBC journalist Carol Off, who ironically serves as the vice president of Canadian Journalists for Free Expression, could hardly contain herself when she interviewed Dr. Peterson. She was preoccupied with the idea that society must make trans people “feel included”, and asked: “Do you not see that society might be evolving in a way that might be leaving you behind?”

Orff also reminded Dr. Peterson that his refusal to use gender-neutral pronouns “may become a criminal offense”. “I’m not going to mouth words that I believe put me in the position of an ideological puppet," he responded. "I won’t do that. And if it turns out that that’s a hate crime in Ontario, well...bring it on.”

The power of the powerless

Despite the seriousness of the situation, Dr. Peterson has responded with ingenious wit and humor. In his third lecture, he proposes a light-hearted yet hopeful method by which ordinary citizens can engage in a type of peaceful guerrila warfare which undermines the victory of political correctness. He calls it “Pokemon PC”, and it consists in stealthily placing anti-PC stickers on posters and other advertising of politically correct events or messages.

It’s a brilliant idea. While Pokemon PC will not result in any immediate political changes, it reminds me of the dark sense of humor that carried the disheartened citizens of Communist countries through their longest hours.

Dr. Peterson encourages people to "always pay careful attention" when looking for PC posters. He declares the open-eyed Egyptian god Horus as the "patron saint" of Pokemon PC, because "Egyptians worshipped Attention as their highest deity. They regarded the careful attention that individuals paid as the antidote to the corruption and stagnation of the state.”

Once a poster is found, says Dr. Peterson, “strike like Mono, the Air Cobra”, a Canadian comic superhero. He encourages people to place the stickers at the bottom right of the poster: "Be a little subtle” he says, rather than sticking them “bone-headedly” in the middle. The message of the poster should still be visible, but the organisers will see that an insurgent was paying attention. After placing the sticker, people are instructed to take a photo of the stickered poster, and upload it to his upcoming app, where such photos are to be shared among all participants. Then, "disappear stealthily into the night, like Zorro."

What will be the outcome of this activity? Dr. Peterson acknowledges that “This is a long-haul process, and this is only the starting place”. A sticker campaign will not change legislation. But Dr. Peterson is cautiously optimistic: “I don’t think the people who are playing these games are particularly brave. And so I think if proper attention is called to what they are doing, they might wander back into the darkness that initially spawned them.”

In my view, the cleverness of this idea resides in its potential to bring people together in solidarity, and to help germinate an underground community of resistance. It allows ordinary people to manifest their dissent, and so it is an embodiment of Czech dissident Vaclav Havel's idea of the power of the powerless. Even when humor is all one has, it is still something, and it can carry our hope through to a genuine political opportunity for change, such as when anti-Communist demonstrations finally felled the Iron Curtain in 1989.

A dissident in the West

Vaclav Havel once wrote: “The dissident does not operate in the realm of genuine power at all. He is not seeking power. He has no desire for office and does not gather votes. He does not attempt to charm the public, he offers nothing and promises nothing. He can offer, if anything, only his own skin--and he offers it solely because he has no other way of affirming the truth he stands for. His actions simply articulate his dignity as a citizen, regardless of the cost. ...The innermost foundation of his ‘political’ undertaking is moral and existential.”

By that definition, Dr. Peterson has emerged as a true dissident, here in the West, where dissidents from the East formerly fled for freedom. He is offering “his own skin”, so to speak, by placing his career and reputation on the line in an act of following his moral conscience. The fate that awaits him will surely be a litmus test, showing us the depth to which our freedoms have deteriorated.

And as was the case with the dissidents from the East, such daring defiance will have reverberations for years to come. One man can indeed make a difference. Dr. Peterson's principled refusal to submit to the lies of a logically incoherent, neo-Marxist ideology is a bright light that will serve to motivate us and gird our loins for the long road ahead.

photo credit: yoshiffles 366 - 350: You can't shut me up via photopin (license)
By Paul Malvern |

In recent months, an alliance of business and cultural Left journalists has warned of a new and dangerous threat to democracy. That is, the phenomenon of ‘post-truth politics’ in which right-wing politicos are supposedly abandoning logic and facts in favour of emotional appeals that pander to the worst instincts of citizens. This misuse of public discourse, we are told, divides society and fosters racism, sexism, and a dozen other ‘isms’. It makes rational debate well-nigh impossible. And it causes those simple souls that make up the electorate to jump to rash conclusions and stray from the heretofore solid consensus on such issues as immigration, crime, trade and climate change. According to these modern-day Cassandras, this misuse of public discourse, if left unchecked, will ultimately destroy democracy and damage civil society.

Strong words to be sure! But are they right? Are we witnessing a new low in political discourse? And do recent trends reflect a growing irrationality on the part of the public?

To address these questions we need to first look at what is meant by post-truth politics, how politics has been waged in the past, and whether or not current political discourse does in fact indicate a sharp decline in political morality and voter IQs.

Politics as a Form of Warfare

The famous late 18th/early 19th century military theorist, Carl von Clausewitz, famously noted that, "War is the continuation of politics by other means."1 While bowing to his greater knowledge of warfare, I would modify this particular adage by adding that, “Politics is war waged by other means.”

For politics has never been a particularly moral or honorable pursuit – often more closely resembling a blood sport than a meeting of minds. Nor have many of those engaged in public affairs ever been strongly attached to the truth. For while facts, well thought out ideas, and solid policy proposals do occasionally find their way into election campaigns, their importance is almost always secondary. Like it or not, elections are usually won using emotional appeals that either play on the heartstrings of voters or scare the pants off them. Once in power, governments continue to practice emotional manipulation, realizing that it is the royal road to staying in power. It may not be pretty. But that’s how the system works – and all of the players in this great game know it to be true.

That being the case, the recent tut-tutting by left-wing and establishment spokespersons about the rise of post-truth politics seems more than a little odd. Especially since they themselves have long been doing all of the things they now loudly condemn in their conservative rivals. For while the term may be new, the activities it describes are as old as humanity itself.

Take, for example, the word ‘demagogue’ – a term of disdain leveled at populist politicians. It comes to us from the ancients Greeks, who knew a thing or two about how to manipulate others through the skillful use of rhetoric. As did the Roman lawyers and rhetoricians who followed them, which included such notables as Cicero and the man who would later become Saint Augustine. More recently, totalitarians of all political stripes have made their own special contribution to the science of lying and deception – excellent examples being Hitler’s use of ‘the big lie’ and the Russian doctrine of Maskirovka, which uses lies and deceit to achieve military and political objectives. Not wishing to be left behind, our supposedly democratic West has made its own special contribution to the art of deception and manipulation – drawing heavily on insights gleaned from social psychology, advertising and mass-marketing.

In short, that’s the way the game is played and the way it has always been. The Left does it. The Right does it. And even those not usually thought of as political use these techniques to get their point across – a good example being the dreaded airplane press conferences Pope Francis holds to discuss such matters as the evil character of air conditioners and the sin of failing to recycle.

So if that’s true – namely, that relying on emotional manipulation rather than hard facts is the way of the world - why have left wing journalists and those toiling for elite publications such as The Economist2 and The New York Times3 suddenly decided that the use of these communications ‘black arts’ is a new phenomenon that threatens the very soul of democracy?

The answer to that riddle can be found in two words – ‘Trump’ and ‘Brexit’ – words which send a chill though the hearts of corporatists and borderless society advocates everywhere. For up to now, globalization, crony capitalism, social engineering, and big, bureaucratic government have had a relatively easy go of it - at the governmental level, internationally and at the hands of those journalists driven by ideology or a desire to be on the winning side. So it’s not surprising Brexit and Trump are seen as illogical and dangerous by those who have benefited up to now from the silence of their fellow citizens. And while these two movements may be troubling on their own, they appear even more threatening to elites when seen as portents of even more powerful push-back in the future. For such movements, if not nipped in the bud, have the potential to dramatically change the way wealth and power are held – which is why some sort of ideological counterthrust by “our betters” was to be expected.

What is Post-Truth Politics?

As with most social phenomena, post-truth politics has many moving parts – involving a number of techniques and approaches critics find worrisome.

One criticism is that post-truth politics jettisons facts in favor of a crass emotionalism that panders to and inflames the worst instincts of the electorate. Another is that it divides society by encouraging anger and bigotry. And perhaps most telling – if only because of what it says about those leveling the charge – is the accusation that the media mislead the public through the use of a false balance in which the views of ignorant and marginal individuals are given equal weight to those of true experts in their respective fields.

Let’s look at each of these accusations to see if they do in fact hold water.

Increased Emotionalism and the Abandonment of Facts

Contrary to what critics may believe, using powerful emotional appeals to get your way while at the same throwing truth out the window is hardly a new phenomenon. We all do it at one time or another – mainly because it works so well as a technique of persuasion. So it should come as no surprise that politicians and public figures throughout history have used these underhanded rhetorical tricks to seize power and control others. And history is replete with examples of how otherwise decent individuals have succumbed to the temptation to manipulate other people’s emotions while at the same time suppressing inconvenient facts.

Sadly, some examples even involve otherwise noble institutions that should have known better. Take, for example, that treasure of human civilization - the Christian Church – which for two thousand years has brought the saving message of Jesus of Nazareth to a world sorely in need of having its rough edges filed off. While even its harshest critics would have to agree it has done a great deal of good, it nevertheless has from time to time fallen off the wagon, so to speak, and got down in the mud with everyone else. One particularly notable example of this is that 16th and 17th century theological bar-fight called the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, in which Catholics and Protestants went toe to toe with a violence that seems odd, given that both sides claimed to love their enemies. Rather than addressing issues calmly and rationally, as befits scholars and saintly clerics, both sides instead employed particularly toxic forms of rhetoric, which, when combined with large armies, power-drunk rulers, and money-hungry generals, produced the pan-European holocaust we now call the Thirty Years War.

Of course, this recourse to emotionalism and violent speech is not just a Christian failing as seen by the French Revolution which broke out a century and a bit later – an event which showed that atheists can also speak harshly and act badly, given half a chance. For the inflammatory rhetoric of the French Revolution led to a vast reign of terror in which many quite literally lost their heads when suspected of being less than enthusiastic about the violent overthrow of everything they had known and loved. Nor does the 20th century give many examples of moderate language being employed to calm tense situations. And not to be left behind, 21st century politicians and activists continue to show a less than strong attachment to calm, rational political discourse – as demonstrated by their rapid recourse to charges of racism, sexism, homophobia and islamophobia when faced with a contrary point of view.

In light of this long history of rhetorical violence by otherwise sane human beings, one would have to conclude that the blunt speech of Trump and Brexit supporters is far from a new phenomenon. Rather it is simply a continuation of behaviour that has been with us from day one of human civilization. Big business and left-wing critics may complain, but they have only themselves to blame if populists are now taking a leaf or two out of the Saul Alinsky playbook – given that they themselves have been only too willing to use emotion in place of facts when it worked to their advantage. Take, for example, the recent political history of Canada where a stodgy – and admittedly difficult-to-like – policy wonk was replaced by a former high school drama teacher who as Prime Minister now uses feel-good rhetoric and bare-chested selfies to push a policy agenda that is long on sentiment and short on hard, fact-based analysis.

Nor do the mainstream media in the U.S. and Canada fare much better as seen by their performance during the current U.S. Presidential Election cycle where the appearance of bias has further damaged the public confidence in the Fourth Estate.

While political partisans frequently claim media bias against their candidate, the 2016 Presidential Election is unique in that it may actually be true. For there is a growing sense among journalists on both side of the political divide that the U.S. Main Street Media is indeed out to get the Republican candidate, Donald Trump. Such a claim could be dismissed if it were just the Right levelling the charge. But in this election journalists on the Left are also claiming to see bias against Trump. And many see that as a very good thing indeed.

A good example is the interview of left-wing investigative journalist, Glenn Greenwald, in which he stated, “The U.S. media is essentially 100 percent united, vehemently, against Trump, and preventing him from being elected president. I don’t have an actual problem with that because I share the premises on which it is based about why he poses such extreme dangers.”4 A similar point of view was expressed by New York Times media reporter, Jim Rutenberg, who stated that, “Balance has been on vacation since Mr. Trump stepped onto his golden Trump Tower escalator last year to announce his candidacy.5 Helpfully, Rutenberg explains the source of this flight from objectivity – which is fear pure and simple, and in particular fear of what a Trump Presidency might look like. And acting on this fear many journalists are skewing coverage – a practice which is certain to damage the integrity of the electoral contest and journalism itself. For, as Rutenberg sees it, “Covering Mr. Trump as an abnormal and potentially dangerous candidate is more than just a shock to the journalistic system. It threatens to throw the advantage to his news conference-averse opponent, Hillary Clinton, who should draw plenty more tough-minded coverage herself.”6

All of which sounds very much like the post-truth politics these same journalists decry in others.

Dividing Society and Encouraging Anger and Bigotry

Another accusation is that populists such as Trump, the AfD in Germany, Marine Le Pen in France, and Brexit advocates in the UK are dividing society and encouraging anger and bigotry.

To my mind this charge also falls flat upon closer study since all of these countries have been badly divided for many years – long before the supposed rise of post-truth politics. These divisions, while always quite serious, were not as obvious in the past as they are now in part because a spotlight was never turned on them and dissident voices and calls for action were largely suppressed by elites and their media allies.

And contrary to what post-truth politics critics might wish to believe, anger and bigotry are not new – and definitely not confined to the Right or populist movements. Rather they are a more or less permanent feature of humanity flowing from Original Sin – that hard-to-accept concept which asserts that human beings are flawed in a way that only God can fix. Post-truth critics may not believe this. But the reality is there for all to see – if only we are honest with ourselves. Accepting this sad reality inevitably leads one to conclude that the only real solution to anger and bigotry this side of the Apocalypse is for each of us to take a long, hard look at ourselves and tackle our own brokenness rather than try to fix those with whom we disagree.

False Balance

Finally, there is the matter of what elite opinion-leaders call false balance or false equivalency.

The idea here is that the media, by seeking out all points of view, are doing the public a disservice by giving credibility to people who don’t know what they are talking about. According to such critics, the public needs to be protected from bad or false ideas – and they, the critics, are just the people to do that. Canadians are, of course, used to such soft censorship – being frequently treated to the spectacle of mainstream media people totally unable to find any credible socially conservative spokespersons for input when dealing with hot-button issues. While this list of opinions that dare not speak their name has traditionally included socially conservative views on abortion, feminism and sexuality, this intellectual no-go zone has now expanded to include climate change, trade policy and immigration - with other countries now getting in on the fun. A good example of this internationalization of thought-crime suppression includes one of my former favorites, Deutsche Welle, the German state media, which increasingly seems little more than a mouthpiece for Angela Merkel and German elite opinion. And even that great old lady of journalism, the BBC, has found itself falling victim to elite groupthink – having recently announced that it will no longer give equal time to climate change skeptics.7 In explaining its decision, the BBC Trust cited “the need to avoid giving ‘undue attention to marginal opinion”.8 (Translation: those views not currently approved of by the British establishment.)

To their credit not everyone in the establishment press has been fooled by this veiled attempt at censorship. A good example was an excellent piece by Liz Spayd, the Public Editor for The New York Times. Addressing reader demands for softer coverage of Hillary Clinton’s faults and a tougher line on Trump, she notes that, “The problem with false balance doctrine is that it masquerades as rational thinking. What the critics really want is for journalists to apply their own moral and ideological judgments to the candidates.”9 And she ends her piece with the damning conclusion that, “Fear of false balance is a creeping threat to the role of the media because it encourages journalists to pull back from their responsibility to hold power accountable. All power, not just certain individuals, however vile they might seem.10

Unfortunately for Ms. Spayd, few of her colleagues in the establishment media agree with her, as seen by highly critical articles that appeared in response to her piece – a good example being the New York Magazine writer who called her comments ‘disastrous’.11 All of which suggests that using charges of false balance to suppress views contrary to elite opinion is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.

Summing Up

So is the phenomenon of post-truth politics real? And does it represent something we should be concerned about?

My own sense is that it is indeed a problem – but not in the way corporate and media elites understand it. Let’s start with the part that isn’t a problem – that is, the outbreak of blunt speech by folks on the Right (e.g. Brexit and Donald Trump) and on the Left (e.g. Bernie Sanders and the formerly powerful Occupy Wall Street movement).

For many in global and national elites, these movements are troubling and need to be suppressed or canalized in a harmless direction. But are they really so negative? Or are they simply the early signs of a democratic revival in which large segments of the population formerly shut out of public debate are about to finally get their day in the sun. My money is on the second explanation since it seems clear that democracy can only work properly if everyone has a chance to be heard. For if large swaths of our citizenry are denied free expression of their point of view, the resulting sense of grievance can only fester and grow – and ultimately be expressed in ways that most of us would find extremely unpleasant.

A good statement of this truth comes from one of the least likely proponents of democratic theory, former Chinese leader, Mao Tse-tung, who famously declared, "Let a thousand flowers bloom, a hundred schools of thought contend".12 While it is true that Mao never put this adage into practice – quite the contrary in fact – he nevertheless was on to something. For it is only by opening up important issues to freewheeling public debate that we can ever hope to come up with policies and programs that make sense.

One obvious roadblock to this, however, is the view elites have of themselves and those they govern. According to this elite view of the world, they themselves are totally rational people who rely on facts and empirical data in making decisions, while we – the great unwashed – are narrow-minded bigots easily swayed by emotional manipulation. Were such a sharp dichotomy true, it might well make sense to restrict decision-making to a small number of well-educated people capable of dealing rationally with public policy. The problem is that we - the people - are neither stupid nor irrational. And they - the elites - are far from totally rational beings who make decisions solely on the basis of facts. This is a truth borne out by a significant body of social psychological research which shows that the most highly educated people in society are often more resistant to changing their minds when presented with new information, in part due to their greater reliance on ideology.13

That takes care of those accusations which are simply partisan fluff and elite snobbery. Now let’s look at the part that is real – namely, the low level of political discourse generally and the lack of any real participation by ordinary citizens in the governmental process.

To begin with, it is important to emphasize that manipulation, spin and the rejection of facts in favour of emotionalism are neither new nor something restricted to the Right or populist movements. Rather they are as old as humanity itself – with all sides of the political spectrum seemingly unable to resist the temptation to cut corners in order to gain power.

Even so, it is distressing to see what passes for rational debate on a wide range of vitally important issues. It is maddening to observe the constant spin and blatant propaganda that oozes from many of our most influential sources of information – such as government, the media and the educational system, to name just a few. And it is troubling to see large segments of the population demonized and marginalized (such as those who hold traditional views on the sanctity of life, morality and marriage) simply because their point of view is currently out of sync with elite opinion.

This is clearly something that cannot continue. And the recent rise of populist movements, the decline in trust in the media and public institutions, and the rise of the Internet as an important news source all suggest that help is on the way.

Perhaps more importantly, history and the way things work in the universe are also on our side. For, as the Greek philosopher Heraclitus said back in the 5th Century BC,” Everything gives way and nothing stays fixed.”14 Times change – and so do opinions about morality, important social institutions such as marriage and family and the sacredness of life. Just now the elite consensus favors a social liberal – at times even nihilistic – vision of humanity and society. In 30 or 40 years it will be something quite different. So those of us who have a more positive vision of human beings and society need to use this period in which the tide of popular opinion is against us to prepare for better times. For the one thing that doesn’t change is the Truth. And ultimately the Truth does win out - even though it may take some time for that to happen.

[1] “Carl von Clausewitz”. Wikipedia. Retrieved from:

[2] “Post-truth politics: Art of the lie”. The Economist. September 10, 2016. Retrieved from:

[3] William Davies. “The Age of Post-Truth Politics”. The New York Times. August 24, 2016. Retrieved from:

[4] Isaac Chotiner. “Is the Elite Media Failing to Reach Trump Voters?” Slate. July 28, 2016. Retrieved from:

[5] Jim Rutenberg. “Trump Is Testing the Norms of Objectivity in Journalism”. The New York Times. Aug. 7, 2016. Retrieved from:

[6] Ibid.

[7] Jenna Iacurci. “Climate Change Skeptics Dumped by BBC to Create ‘Balance’”. Nature World News. July 9, 2014. Retrieved from:

[8] BBC Trust. Trust Conclusions on the Executive Report on Science Impartiality Review Actions. July 2014. Retrieved from:

[9] Liz Spayd. “The Truth About ‘False Balance’”. The New York Times. September 10, 2016. Retrieved from:

[10] Ibid.

[11] Jonathan Chait. “New York Times Public Editor Liz Spayd Writes Disastrous Defense of False Equivalence”. New York Magazine. September 12, 2016. Retrieved from:

[12] “Mao Says: ‘Let a Thousand Flowers Bloom...’" HISTORYCENTRAL.COM. Retrieved from:

[13] Toby Young. “The truth about ‘post-truth politics’”. The Spectator. Jul 16, 2016. Retrieved from :

[14] “Heraclitus”. Wikiquote. Retrieved from:

Photo credit: Michael Vadon Donald J. Trump at Marriott Marquis NYC September 7th 2016 via photopin (license) 

Article copyright: Paul Malvern, all rights reserved. Please contact author for rights to republish or translate.
By Lea Z. Singh |

It's open season on Christian universities in Canada. First the legal eagles of three provinces attacked with a triple left hook, declaring that their ranks would stay closed to graduates of Trinity Western University Law School. The reason: many top lawyers (yes, the same people tasked with defending our religious freedom) can’t handle the fact that Evangelical Christians do not approve of same-sex marriage.

Following up, Universities Canada is now headed for a knockout punch, hoping to pin down all faith-based universities until they either squirm away from their faith or die a quiet death. This latest move displays a disturbing intolerance, now morphing into aggressive hostility, towards Canada’s Christians.

Let’s take a close look at this new attack by Universities Canada. Many Canadians may not be familiar with this pseudo-governmental organization, which functions on a bureaucratic level above universities. But UC is very similar to a law society or a physicians’ college, because UC membership is synonymous with accreditation. Nearly all Canadian universities are members of UC, and naturally, membership opens many doors.

For one thing, UC members get access to millions of government dollars in grants and scholarships, which can be used to recruit top talent, including athletes. Nonmembers have to cough up their own scholarship funding, but it’s hard to match the deep pockets of Universities Canada.

Second, the degrees granted by UC members are presumed legitimate by other universities, so their graduates can fluidly move from school to school without any trouble. Nonmembers may have a tougher time convincing other universities that their degrees pass muster. So if you graduate from a school that is not a UC member, it may be more challenging to get into masters and doctorate programs elsewhere.

Like the Godfather, Universities Canada has the power. And like the Godfather, UC is starting to misuse it. Their new attack is not a sudden move. Rather, UC has apparently been chewing on its strategy for a very long time, trying to find just the right way to deliver that below-the-belt punch. It had to be subtle enough to seem completely innocent, yet powerful enough to knock Christian universities clear out of the ring.

Over the summer, UC finally unveiled its genius strategy. It boils down to just a little proposal, which starts with a tweak in a bylaw about membership criteria. This seems innocuous, and just to make doubly sure, the bylaw is veiled in legalese two feet thick, so that ordinary people will either fail to understand its significance or glaze over if they give it more thought.

Lost in a 50-word draft sentence, the bomb is hidden in a tiny phrase: “religious beliefs”. With that phrase, Universities Canada is trying to shrink the religious freedom of Christian universities so that they won’t be able to practice their faith.

Here’s how they’re doing it. In Canada, human rights legislation protects the rights of individuals and communities to both believe a religion and also practice it. After all, real freedom would seem to include not just thinking religious thoughts, but also acting them out. To this end, human rights law uses the blanket term “religion” to include both our faith and its exercise.

But UC has chosen not to use the accepted term “religion”. This is totally intentional. They are narrowing it to “religious beliefs”, because this kicks out the whole idea of faith-based conduct. UC members must now promise to treat all staff and students equally based on their “religious beliefs”, without regard for whether they actually put their faith into practice.

Then, in a brilliant but evil check mate, a second new UC policy prevents member universities from taking advantage of their actual legal rights.

Under our laws, faith-based universities can hire and fire employees in a way that maintains and protects their identity. This is because our elected leaders have made a special exemption to human rights laws, specifically for universities (and cultural groups). So for example, a private Catholic university can refuse to hire someone who is nominally Catholic, but who is living his or her life in flagrant violation of the Catholic Church’s central teachings. This makes sense, because otherwise the university would easily be overrun by teachers who don’t practice the faith that they are supposed to teach. The whole mission of the university would be jeopardized.

But UC’s new policy requires all members to give up their legal right to use this exemption in hiring. It wants members to promise that they: "will not use any exemptions for bona fide occupational requirements in an employment relationship to discriminate based on Protected Grounds, whether or not such exemptions would otherwise be permitted under Applicable Human Rights law."

To put it bluntly, UC would like to lock up religious universities in their own heads - not prevented from believing whatever they want, but not able to act on it by hiring in accordance with their beliefs.

The wry joke in all this is that UC presents its new policy as “anti-discriminatory” and “inclusive”, when all the time, UC is launching a starvation campaign against private faith-based universities. The Godfather will deny them recognition and financial support until they either cave in or shrivel up.

Why is all this happening? In the case of the law societies, the answer is clear: in Ontario, British Columbia and Nova Scotia, the lawyers have effectively declared that TWU’s opposition to same-sex marriage is equivalent to racism. In their view, graduates from such a school do not belong in the community of licensed lawyers. The question is headed to the Supreme Court, which will have its say about the law societies' version of ‘tolerance’.

So much for the law societies, but why is Universities Canada also turning into a bully against faith-based institutions? UC is not forthcoming about its specific motivations, and cloaks its new policy in the language of love and inclusion: "the proposed new criterion aligns with the views of Canadians generally and of the majority of university leaders with respect to diversity and inclusion."

But it may be no coincidence that UC's move comes at the same time as the lawyers are shouting “bigot” and hater” at TWU. As the largest private Christian university in Canada, and one with a covenant which includes the community’s sexual morality, TWU would be directly affected by UC’s new policy. It won’t matter that TWU has long been rated as one of Canada’s best universities. It won’t matter that TWU has the legal right to hire in accordance with its faith. If it dares to exercise its faith beliefs, TWU would be thrown out into the cold.

In the larger context, the new gender ideology is cornering Christian schools at all levels, both in Canada and elsewhere. In Alberta, the provincial government has just launched an investigation of private Christian schools that have refused to establish gay clubs, threatening a loss of government funding unless the schools give in. In California, faith-based universities are fighting hard for their religious freedom against an “anti-discrimination” bill which would expose them to crippling lawsuits from students who may feel ‘offended’ if, for instance, these schools restrict the use of restrooms by transgender students.

The present attack by Universities Canada is extremely serious. It is both secretive in execution and possibly lethal in outcome. If UC’s policy is adopted as worded, then faith-based universities may lose their seats at the table. Without de facto accreditation and lacking access to scholarship money, they will be forced to operate in the shadow margins of the educational system. Over time, such an existence might prove unsustainable, leading to a loss of educational choices for Canadians. Is this what most Canadians want?

I don’t think they do. And Universities Canada seems to share that belief, otherwise it wouldn’t be so sneaky. But thinking is no longer enough. The ball will continue to roll unless we do something. It’s time to let UC know that they’ve overstepped their place, by trying to jump over human rights legislation and restrict the rights of faith-based schools. Canadian society is proud of its robust commitment to religious freedom. We must not let faceless bureaucrats steal it away.

Photo: courtesy of R. Orville Lyttle at Flickr Creative Commons, some rights reserved.

Article copyright: Lea Z. Singh, all rights reserved. Please contact author for rights to republish or translate.
By Elishama |

The following was originally a homily by a Catholic priest under the pseudonym of Elishama:

The doubt of Thomas has always fascinated me and I have long wondered about its cause. Today I will present an interpretation. It is my own. I think it has an insight but I hope it is not falsifying the memory of a great saint.

In John 20 we read: "But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." He wills not to believe! In other word he has made a choice, and that choice is to disbelieve.

Why the grave doubts? Is it just natural unbelief at being told such an incredible thing? Maybe, but it may also include something more. Thomas may be choosing not to just doubt the Resurrection but to doubt Christ Himself. Maybe Thomas was starting to become more than just a simple doubter (a skeptic), becoming a cynic. What could cause this? It could be disappointment with Jesus – He did not do what Thomas and the others had expected Him to do (become the messianic King of Israel and make them leaders in His court). But I do not think that is enough. I think it was not just disappointment with Jesus but disappointment with himself. Thomas did not live up to his own expectations. Let’s look.

The first time that we hear Thomas speak is when Jesus was going to raise Lazarus from the dead. Lazarus was sick and Martha and Mary had sent a message to our Lord about him. When Christ indicated they should go to Bethany, which is not too far from Jerusalem, the apostles objected: "Teacher," they said, "only a few days ago the Jewish leaders in Judea were trying to kill you. Are you going there again?" "Lazarus is dead" responds Christ, "Come, let’s go see him." Thomas then steps up to the plate: "Thomas, nicknamed the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let’s go, too—and die with Him.’"

The apostles had a good point here. There were people in Jerusalem that wanted Christ dead so why put Himself and all of them in harm’s way? Let’s not go! But Thomas makes a bold statement in front of all. In effect he says, "I am willing to follow with You even if it means death!" Thomas thought he was courageous and true – willing to risk his life to follow the Lord. But what happened when the opportunity actually arose; when Jesus was arrested, tried and crucified? Thomas fled like the rest.

Thomas did not know himself. When he discovered he did not live up to his own ideals or vision of himself, that he had a dark, weak and cowardly side, he became profoundly disappointed. Filled with a new and ugly revelation about himself he was thrown into an existential crisis. His self-doubt and disappointment with himself was probably leading to anger – anger at himself, anger at Christ, even anger at life. Thomas was at risk of becoming a cynic.

There are those who are disappointed by others and those who are disappointed by themselves. The more profound effect is caused by self-disappointment: a shattered image of oneself. Those hurt by others can fall into sorrow and fearfulness (of being hurt again) but rarely into cynicism. Cynics are often made out of those who have betrayed their own ideals, been the culprit in hurting or betraying others, and discovered that they are not the persons they liked to think themselves. Cynics are self-made men.

What to do with this negative self-revelation? They go into a kind of denial. It’s not just me who fails to live up to my own principles and ideals, they rationalize, it’s everyone. Everyone secretly is out for himself. Everyone has his or her own price at which they can be bought.

The cynic rarely recognizes himself as a cynic. Rather he likes to see himself as a realist. One who sees the world, people and life as they really are. As David Wolf puts it, "Idealism is what precedes experience, cynicism is what follows." The cynic thinks himself as simply a person who goes through life with his eyes wide open. At most he may think himself a skeptic. But a skeptic may doubt what people say as factual or true, a cynic doubts people and their motives.

The Oxford English Dictionary describes a cynic as a person "disposed to rail or find fault" and as one who "shows a disposition to disbelieve in the sincerity or goodness of human motives and actions, and is wont to express this by sneers and sarcasm."

There are those who have been cynical most of their lives. They populate the criminal class and the inveterate liars and manipulators one can find in all walks of life. But many the cynic started off assuming the best about himself and maybe about others, but when he did something that profoundly disappointed himself – betraying his own ideals – he became scandalized and disillusioned. This lost faith in oneself can lead to self-recrimination and from there to doubting the good in others. He starts to see the benevolence or good in others as either a sign of their Pollyanna naivete or a fa├žade for self-serving motives. Having found corruption where he least expected to find it – in himself – he projects his disillusionment onto all. He despairs of there being any goodness or hope in the world, having found unexpected evil within himself.

We meet a full-fledged cynic in the Gospel. No, it is not Thomas. His name is Pontius Pilate.

Pontius Pilate was probably a careerist and self-promoter in the Roman government. It had led him up the bureaucratic ranks and now he was Procurator of Judea and Syria, appointed by the Emperor Tiberius in the year AD 26. It was not a great posting but a beginning...or maybe an end? He would retain his position for ten years. The first portion of his rule was characterized by a complete contempt for Jewish religious scruples and customs. At the beginning of his term, the historian Josephus tells us, Pilate set up Roman Standards at night in Jerusalem. This broke with previous practice and inflaming Jewish feelings (it was seen as sacrilegious since the Romans treated their emperor as a god). It was only when riots were going to break out that he had them removed.

Soon afterward, he stole money from the Temple to pay for an aqueduct from the Bethlehem area to Jerusalem. A large crowd appeared outside his fortress at Caesaria to protest. Pilate ordered his soldiers to disguise themselves as Jews and when infiltrated into the crowd, pull out clubs from beneath their robes and beat the protesters. They killed many. In Luke 13:1 it mentions another occasion when Pilate mixed the blood of the Temple sacrifices with that of Galileans he had murdered.

About six years later after the trial of our Lord, Pilate made his final outrage. He ordered the massacre of a group of Samaritans on Mount Gerizim. The Governor then had him recalled and sent to Rome to explain his actions to the emperor. He was stripped of his rank and, in disgrace, exiled to Gaul where Eusebius says he ended his own life in AD 37.

Christ was brought to Pilate by the Sanhedrin to be condemned to death. They were setting up an innocent man and Pilate probably knew it. Pilate could be unjust himself but maybe his pride did not like it when others were trying to pull his strings, and so he resisted. His wife also had a dream and warned him "to have nothing to do" with Jesus. He tried to avoid the decision being forced upon him but in the end gave in.

When the crowd was being agitated into calling for Christ’s crucifixion Pilate summoned Jesus and asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" Christ responded, "My kingdom is not of this world." "You are a king, then!" exclaimed Pilate. Jesus answered, "…For this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me."

"What is truth?" Pilate retorted. (John 18:33-38) He wasn’t seeking an answer, it was a rhetorical question. He no longer believed in truth even when its personification was standing right in front of Him.

Now we come back to the famous episode with doubting Thomas. Thomas may have been disappointed with himself, with his failure to stand by Christ at the crucial hour, and it was turning into disappointment with Christ. He was beginning to separate himself from the other apostles. It was starting to undermine his very faith in Christ. But then something happens:
A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!"
Seeing the Resurrected Lord Thomas professes his belief in Jesus Christ as "My Lord and my God." He had discovered the alternative to cynicism. Rather than focusing on his own failure and disappointment, he began focusing on Christ, Who He is and what He has done."It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man" (Psalm 118:8) – even if that man is oneself.

Thomas was now beginning to believe in Christ again, but in a new way, and with that comes seeing himself in a new light too. Thomas failed because he was weak, lacked faith, and was a sinner. We all are. But he is also a forgiven sinner, a redeemed man, and Christ is now offering him a new life, a new beginning, a new hope, a new mission. So stop trusting in himself and his own strength and trust instead in Christ.

Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."

With a new focus and graced with newfound conviction and strength Thomas would now be able to fulfill his earlier claim: To be willing to die for Christ. Tradition holds he became a missionary to Parthia, Persia and India. He may have arrived at the Malabar coast of India around AD 58. After 15 years of preaching and having established the Church there he was martyred in about AD 72. The Church in southern India claims him their own and holds that he is buried in Madras at the Church of Saint Thomas.

Thomas shows us the way to overcome disappointment with ourselves. He shows us the way to avoid cynicism. Stop looking at yourself! Do not let past failure define you. Put your faith not in yourself but in God. Trust in Christ. Keep your eyes on Him. In the Apostles Creed we profess, "I believe in Jesus Christ," not "I believe in [insert own name]." It is Christ who is our hope, our life, and our salvation. He who can change death into life can ultimately change you too. He can make us a new creation if we let Him. What is impossible for man is possible for God.

But the struggle within us continues. It does not completely end this side of the grave. Saint Paul warned us that the "old man," our fallen nature, still exists. But we are not discouraged for we are already putting on the new man in Christ, and we know He has won the final victory.

Easter is the celebration of the dawning of a new hope. Death is overcome, sin is forgiven, a new life is given. Let us live in the light of that hope. Christ is risen! May He change your darkness into a new and wonderful light.

Article copyright: Elishama, all rights reserved. Please contact author for rights to republish or translate.
By Richard Weikart |

If Michel Foucault had been a brilliant physicist whose theories revolutionized our views about nature, then perhaps it would be irrelevant—and even churlish—to question his status as an intellectual icon based on his moral character. However, Foucault was probably the most influential philosopher of the late twentieth century, and what many intellectuals today find so exhilarating about his philosophy is that it provides moral guidance. His views have profound political, social, and ethical implications.

As I demonstrate in my new book, The Death of Humanity: And the Case for Life, Foucault was one of many prophets of the death of humanity. Indeed, he argued forthrightly that the Nietzschean death of God—in which he gloried—entailed the death of humanity. He wrote, “Was not the death of God, in fact, revealed in a doubly murderous act that, at the same time that it put an end to the absolute, assassinated man himself? Because man, in his finitude, is inseparable from the infinite, which he both negates and heralds. The death of God is accomplished through the death of man.”

So, why would anyone look to a death-obsessed, sado-masochistic, suicidal, drug addict for moral guidance? The most radical Foucauldians may have such deadened consciences that they see nothing wrong with Foucault’s lifestyle. Indeed, they may exult in the free-wheeling, anything-goes, in-your- face amorality that Foucault epitomized. However, I suspect that not all of Foucault’s admirers are comfortable with his penchant for death, sado-masochism, suicide, and drug addiction, so why would they pay him homage?

Some might object that Foucault’s moral failings have nothing to do with his philosophy. This is the same approach some disciples of the famous German philosopher Martin Heidegger have taken toward his enthusiasm for Hitler and Nazism. They argue that Heidegger’s political commitments were completely independent of his philosophy. However, in Foucault’s case, this would be completely mistaken, because his philosophy was a way of coming to terms with his moral choices, and he often discussed sado-masochism, suicide, and drug use. They were not deep, dark, hidden secrets that plagued him and that he struggled against; rather he gloried in them, and they informed his philosophy.

These issues were not tangential, either. One of Foucault’s biographers, James Miller, argues that Foucault “had long placed death—and the preparation for suicide—at the heart of his concerns.” Not only did Foucault attempt suicide multiple times as a young man, but he discussed suicide in many of his writings, always glamorizing it. Near the close of his life he stated that we must “teach people that there is not a piece of conduct more beautiful or, consequently, more worthy of careful thought than suicide. One should work on one’s suicide throughout one’s life.” In a 1979 essay he proposed holding “suicide-festivals” and “suicide-orgies,” and another time he told an interviewer that if he won a huge lottery, he would set up an institution for anyone (not just the terminally ill) to come commit suicide, perhaps after seeking pleasure in drug use.

If suicide and death profoundly shaped his thinking, so did his sado-masochism. Foucault was a zealous disciple of the Marquis de Sade (from whom the word “sadism” derived), scorning anyone who was not conversant with Sade’s brutal perspective. Sade was so important to Foucault’s philosophy that Miller calls Foucault’s worldview “Sado-Nietzschean.” In search of intense pleasure, Foucault exulted in sado-masochistic sexual encounters.

Foucault admitted that his goal in life was to seek extreme pleasure, and he hoped that he would die from an especially intense episode of euphoria. In search of this pleasure, he regularly used mind-altering drugs, such as pot, hashish, opium, LSD, and cocaine. He described his first LSD trip in 1975 as the greatest experience of his life. In 1983 he stated, “Some drugs are really important for me because they are the mediation to those incredibly intense joys that I am looking for.”

Foucault’s claim that truth, including moral truth, is created, not discovered, was an attempt to normalize his own transgressions. His insistence that knowledge, such as what constitutes insanity, was socially constructed and fluid, justified his use of mind-altering drugs and his infatuation with suicide. (But alas, he found out too late that AIDS was not socially constructed). He defined his own psychological problems as non-problems, even turning the tables by accusing those who defended present social and moral norms as being power-hungry elitists bent on dominating everyone else.

Yet ironically, it was Foucault who promoted domination and violence, as long as it was directed against the hated status quo. When the progressive intellectual Noam Chomsky debated Foucault in 1971, he was shocked, stating afterward, “I felt like I was talking to someone who didn’t inhabit the same moral universe.” In that interview Foucault agreed with Chomsky about the necessity for revolutionary violence, but he went much further than Chomsky, stating, “When the proletariat takes power, it may be quite possible that the proletariat will exert towards the classes over which it has just triumphed, a violent, dictatorial, and even bloody power. I can’t see what objection one could make to this.” Contra Foucault, I can think of many reasons to reject violence, dictatorship, and bloodshed.

This was not just a slip of the tongue, either, for when debating Maoists, whom he thought were not radical enough, Foucault objected to their desire for revolutionary tribunals, because he did not want anything restraining the violence of the mob. When the Ayatollah Khomeini revolted against the shah of Iran, Foucault was excited. He met with Khomeini,travelled to Iran, and enthusiastically supported the Iranian Revolution (until it became the oppressor).

The key to understanding Foucault, I think, is that he was motivated more by hatred for bourgeois society and its norms than by love for the oppressed. Gary Gutting, editor of The Cambridge Companion to Foucault, claims that Foucault’s hatred for bourgeois society “gives power and intensity to his prose,” but also leads him to serious misunderstandings about its institutions.

However, it seems likely that Foucault himself is badly misunderstood by some of his supporters, many of whom probably don’t exult in mob violence, dictatorship, sado-masochism, suicide, and drug addiction. At the end of his biography, Miller claims that many academics mistakenly view Foucault as the patron saint of their progressive political and moral views. Many American progressives, however, want a society committed to compassion, and this is not what Foucault preached. Miller concludes, “Unfortunately, Foucault’s lifework, as I have come to understand it, is far more unconventional—and far more discomfiting—than some of his ‘progressive’ admirers seem ready to admit. Unless I am badly mistaken, Foucault issued a brave and basic challenge to nearly everything that passes for ‘right’ in Western culture—including nearly everything that passes for ‘right’ among a great many of America’s left-wing academics.”

Surely many progressives delight in Foucault, because he is an ally in their rejection of Judeo-Christian sexual mores, in their hatred for authority, and in their opposition to the political and economic elites. However, how many of them would want their children to become sado-masochistic, suicidal drug addicts?

Richard Weikart is professor of history at California State University, Stanislaus, and author of The Death of Humanity: And the Case for Life; and a forthcoming book, Hitler’s Religion.

Recently published by Richard Weikart:

What is this world coming to? Some zoos around the world have put humans on display. A University of Texas evolutionary biologist received a standing ovation after telling his audience he hopes that ninety percent of the human population will perish through ebola. Physicians in Switzerland are killing “suicide tourists,” even when they are neither sick nor in pain. Some bioethicists are promoting “after-birth abortions.” These are just a few shocking examples of the dehumanizing tendencies that permeate Western culture today.

In this book Weikart explains how secular ideologies have undermined the Judeo-Christian sanctity-of-life ethic. He shows the harmful consequences of this and demonstrates the poverty of secular alternatives to the Christian vision of humanity. Finally, he defends the sanctity of human life, addressing suicide, abortion, euthanasia, eugenics, and transhumanism.

Upcoming: November 2016. For a man whom history can never forget, Adolf Hitler remains a persistent mystery on one front—his religious faith. Atheists tend to insist Hitler was a devout Christian. Christians counter that he was an atheist. And still others suggest that he was a practicing member of the occult.

None of these theories are true, says historian Richard Weikart. Delving more deeply into the question of Hitler's religious faith than any researcher to date, Weikart reveals the startling and fascinating truth about the most hated man of the 20th century: Adolf Hitler was a pantheist who believed nature was God. InHitler's Religion, Weikart explains how the laws of nature became Hitler's only moral guide—how he became convinced he would serve God by annihilating supposedly "inferior" human beings and promoting the welfare and reproduction of the allegedly superior Aryans in accordance with racist forms of Darwinism prevalent at the time.

photo credit: 20/52 via photopin (license)

Article copyright: Richard Weikart, all rights reserved. Please contact author for rights to republish or translate.