Friday, January 21, 2022

Fear and Hatred in Zarahemla


Nationalist Chinese WW2 Propaganda Poster 

    Kendal Anderson is a libertarian writer (I originally put thinker, but as you’ll see, I think that is too generous,) with a new blog called Book of Mormon Perspectives. I wasn’t expecting to find much, but I was curious about what he had to say and found an amazing series of poor arguments that turned out to be right in my wheelhouse. What follows is a brief review of his ideas and supporting evidence that shows how an author can use a string of faulty or vague statements to build an argument that appears compelling but falls apart upon cursory examination.

    The review begins in the section called “Fear and Hatred.” (That section plus the famous movie inspired the title of this post.) There is so much wrong is so little space my rebuttal goes mostly line by line, but I suggest you read a few paragraphs to get a gist of his argument and then read my breakdown.

    We don’t start out too bad. He starts by quoting Alma 48:1-2 and the use of towers by Lamanite leaders to disseminate anger inducing sermons that will eventually inspire the Lamanites to war. Those scriptures are important. Though propaganda is more easily disseminated in modern age so using a modern term without the distinction between ancient and modern isn’t the best foundation.  Moreover, as I was checking past writings about the use of modern concepts in an ancient book, I found a paragraph I wrote that is frighteningly like the argument Anderson is about to build:

He [builds his argument about propaganda] by quoting a modern writer [discussing] the use of modern mediums in a modern society.… He then advanced his conspiracy theories with an uncited quote from Ezra Benson [and] he admittedly ‘imagines’ what Amalickiah says. Unsurprisingly, it sounds like George W. Bush’s rationale for his foreign policy. 

    Using modern concepts and inventing quotes are tactics you will see Anderson commit as you read below. I don’t discuss it here, but Anderson also used a book from a close associate of Ezra Benson so my description of their playbook holds up well. All quotes are from his section on fear and hatred unless otherwise cited.

Group hate, based upon fear of a foreign enemy, can make murderers out of average citizens, who can be easily persuaded to support an unjust war when a ‘strong leader’ declares it.  

    Group hate can make people do those things, but the author mentions hatred as the only assumed reason for war. He ignores the long Christian tradition that war can be based in love. A long line of historic thinkers from Augustine all the way to the modern Catholic theologian Paul Ramsey talked about love and the latter used the story of the Good Samaritan as a justification for warfare that is directly opposed to hatred. Anderson also misquotes the term strong man and says strong leader. That may not seem like a big deal, but when a person is building an argument out of a house of cards it matters.  

We all saw this happen in 2003 when Bush declared an unconstitutional war on Iraq with no evidence of WMDs.

    There is no indication, primary source, or statement that shows hatred inspired the Iraq war. The United States was attacked on 9/11 and as a result they responded to Taliban that sponsored the terrorists, and Bush preemptively attacked a long-standing source of terror. People can debate the soundness of those reasons, especially in Iraq, but neither are necessarily derived from hatred. To support his contention Anderson needed to provide evidence.

    Also, it’s popular to complain that there was no declaration of war, but the authorization of force from congress was functionally the same. This ranks up there with “we’re a republic and not a democracy,” and “the civil war didn’t end at Appomattox” that are annoying, pettifogged facts people use to sound smart but don’t really mean anything. Finally, that congressional resolution which authorized the war listed many valid reasons beyond WMDs, though that was the one most focused on by the Bush administration. 

Even the supposed prophet of God, Gordon Hinckley, capitulated to government propaganda in a talk called War and Peace.   

    I highlighted the bold word and members of the church can assess if that is the proper way to speak about prophets. Propaganda is also a loaded term. I talk a great deal in my first book, and elsewhere, that many terms are used for their emotional value and not for their descriptive value. So, when I see an emotionally charged word it’s a clear signal that his argument is based upon emotion and not facts, which is supremely ironic considering the author’s main argument is that governments use fear inducing propaganda to inspire war. In my review of Anderson’ book I relied upon Richard Hofstader’s famous description of the Paranoid Style in American politics, and part of that style is becoming what you oppose. It shouldn’t surprise me that Anderson uses fear and hatred in building a case about how evil governments use fear and hatred.

    Moreover, he is on poor factual ground as well. My mentor when I was an undergraduate wrote a book about war time intelligence and his take, published shortly after the Iraq war, was that the administration presented the worst case, least likely scenario about WMDs, but that isn’t necessarily lying or propaganda.

[Hinckley] was wrong; the intelligence was faulty. He should've quoted the Book of Mormon and spoke out against unjust war.

    I again bolded his sustainment of the prophet. I would like to know which verses Hinckley should have quoted. In addition to Anderson being vague, President Hinckley did quote Alma 43:45-47 along with numerous other scriptures. I suspect Anderson wanted something more to his liking, but he should have been more specific.  As you’ll read in my review of a recent book on Mormon pacifism, there are verses in restoration scripture and the Bible that can be used to support both just war and nonviolence. (Mormon thought is so preliminary on the matter that many discuss and argue about the topic as though they alone have the answers or they’re the first ones to notice the tension between peace and war.) A vague denunciation of the prophet for not quoting “the Book of Mormon” is useless.

The Nephites were nationalists just like we Americans are. It is easy to hate the idea of a foreign people that you've been taught is an enemy.

    This is a broad statement that needs support, especially because there are verses that directly contradict this idea. Alma 48:23 says the Nephites were sorry to take up arms and send so many unprepared souls to meet God. That is the opposite of hatred and suggests a loving heart that wanted to avoid war. This is before we consider Ammon, the former crown prince who was so concerned about Lamanite salvation he evangelized to them. If this isn’t an ethno-centric exaggeration, it was the Lamanites that taught their children to hate (Mosiah 10:17). As I described at the beginning of this piece, nationalism, like large scale propaganda, is a modern concept. Thus, the author must provide specifics to show a premodern form of nationalistic propaganda that equals modern America.

This is why very few Americans care when drones kill foreign women and children; they are part of the abstraction, the collateral damage.

    Again, this follows the playbook I described at the top. Anderson provides pure fiction about the average American. If he relied on facts and not creative fiction to support his arguments he would know that Americans generally support drone strikes against terror targets, but that support drops a great deal if it causes civilian casualties. While any death is tragic, there is a robust body of thought that governs the morality of double effect, and this body of thought guides policy makers. The argument that Americans hate the world so much that they condone the indiscriminate killing of civilians is a lazy and wrong argument.

[Quoting Alma 25:26] Let us take up arms against them, that we destroy them and their iniquity out of the land, lest they overrun us and destroy us.

    This is a very important verse but not for the reasons the author thinks. First, let us consider that he ignores the Christ like love that Ammon had for the Lamanites which inspired his mission, but then he selectively uses Ammon’s words when they seem to support his theory that Nephites were hateful. Second, Ammon’s mission inspired a series of events that caused the death of innocent Nephites. A short summary of that post includes how Ammon’s mission was successful because of his martial skill. It caused the death of many of his converts, resulted in the Lamanite attack on Ammonihah (which was seen as God’s punishment of that wicked city), caused innocent civilians around Noah to be captured. And required a massive battle to recover them. That battle resulted in God’s punishment of the Amalekites, but also resulted in the death of many innocent soldiers.  All of which supports the idea that maybe Nephite policy makers that wanted to “take up arms…and destroy them” had some merit to their preemptive war.

Kill the abstraction before they kill us. We are better than them; they are savages and terrorists. We should just nuke the entire Middle East. They are little more than animals. They won't stop until we are all dead so we should kill them first. Don't let them practice their religion here. Every Mosque is a terrorist cell. Throw them all in Guantanamo and torture em. Go Murica!

    This is in quotes, but I’ve never heard any person or policy maker say anything remotely like this. It figures that the only direct quote from this author is a fictional straw man to show the platonic ideal of a fearful and hateful American. Once again it matches my description of libertarian arguments at the beginning of this piece. The author is vague or silent when it comes to citing scriptures and data to support his claims but suddenly verbose when inventing fictional American hatred.

The human mind is more powerful than the world's most advanced quantum computer. There are no limits to the amount of knowledge and data it can hold. Our potential to learn new concepts and store them in our brains is limitless.

    This is the merciful and massively ironic conclusion to his piece. The human mind is amazing, but significantly less so when filled with ideological blinders and lazy thinking.

    The author’s piece isn’t as revelatory as he would like us to believe. His piece shows how conspiracy theorists and posers can sound convincing without knowing or showing much. They take a bunch of vaguely familiar ideas without supporting evidence, mash them up, start stacking, and after a paragraph or two the argument starts to sound authoritative. But that’s only an illusion. When you take the time to examine each idea, as I did above, and then provide evidence for those rejoinders, the reader finds that strong man was incorrectly transposed as strong leader, the hatred of Americans and Nephites were invented, basic ideas of just war like the loving heart and doctrine of double effect ignored, the Iraq war was authorized by congress, President Hinckley did quote clear verses in the Book of Mormon that support just war, the author’s scriptural support is nonexistent or selectively used and so on. Truly, this author has an appearance of scholarship, but without the logical command of details to have the power of scholarship (2 Tim 3:5).

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Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Ten Years Later: Antics and Insight


    I was enjoying my dead week, the weird time between Christmas and New Years, and I found a link to a post from ten years ago!!! Since it has been ten years (!) I thought I should make those thoughts more permanent and broadly available than some comments buried a decade ago. Moreover, they have some good insights that reinforce my good instincts about the heart of just warfare.  

Irony About Geoff:

    This was supposedly a grand breakthrough in Bloggernacle relations by having the Millennial Star blogger post at By Common Consent. Turns out it was a one off that didn’t change anything. In fact, just a few months ago the M* has been delisted, a decision likely made by those at BCC. My opinion is that’s a good call. The M* might have been the rare conservative blog, but they took a hard right turn into crazy town. I’m friends with several of the former perma bloggers there and they plainly admit, Geoff is just crazy. He regularly edited their posts before suddenly locking them out. This post was a mirage that seems even more strange looking back at it ten years ago.

    Specifically, this post is where I started to really dislike Geoff because of his antics. He mentioned directly to me in this thread that he already knows about various authors and discounts them. The problem was, I only posted those authors because his posts in this thread clearly indicated that he didn’t know them. Like many libertarians, he’s pretty good at parroting libertarian philosophers, and proof texting those ideas with Mormon scripture, but he is not very good at knowing or doing anything else like considering alternative interpretations.

    To compensate for that thin veneer of knowledge he and so many libertarians must rely on tactics. One of Geoff’s favorite tactics is to say he is widely read. You can read a few others here.  But his arguments don’t display that supposed knowledge, which tells me this is simply a sophistic and sophomoric tactic. I regularly encounter things like this that I wrote an article about punks and posers.

    One of the most annoying tactics is that I spend more time quoting and explicating scriptures in support of my argument then the people who attack me for being wrong!! I first noticed this trend when reviewing a prominent and nutty isolationist. Geoff does it here too when he starts with a grand assertation that provides no specifics: “after I read the Book of Mormon it was clear [its] message was one of peace, non-aggression and avoiding offensive wars.”

    Really? I know I’m in the minority about offense wars, but the scriptures are so clear I wrote a seven-part series on it and I can’t unsee the points they contain. When Geoff doesn’t provide any scriptures, clearly provides ideas that show he doesn’t understand key concepts, and then claims he knows the subject well he is praised. I provide detailed scriptures, a good explanation of them, and then I’m called a “sophist.”

    (There are several hundred comments in that link, but you can find it by hitting control F. If you’d like to see why I think libertarians are awful you will get a kick out of those comments. Though, it was such a cesspool filled with insults and lame posturing I found it unworthy of my time back then. Reading it now, it’s tough to pick the most ridiculous part. Me continuing to say best wishes even as those people were truly awful. Irven Hill, now “unknown,” admitting he was a total dick even as he called me a prick and the others claiming there was no ad hominem. Me telling them I wouldn’t participate, and them insulting me for another month, wondering if I was going to participate. All their disquiet after I told them their insults were beneath me and unworthy of my time, only for them to turn their antics up to 11. If I were a psychologist, I could write a paper on all their dysfunction, but you might just want to skip it.)  

Just War:

    But enough of visiting the asylum and on to the important material. Most of this post from ten years ago impressed me with my appreciation of basic tenets of just warfare on an intuitive level. In contrast to Geoff who claims he read material and then indicated he didn’t know them well or at all. I hadn’t read much about them (and never claimed to) but apparently knew their arguments instinctively.  So, I must give a shout out to my logical mind, natural ability, and good gut.

    After researching for a new book on just war I found that I had the right ideas a decade ago. Here is my comment about love based on research into Just War:

Yet once this pattern [of the focus on having the right heart] is recognized it permeates the Book of Mormon including many scriptures that weren’t considered pertinent to warfare. Just a few examples include Nephi’s culminating sermon which referenced those who have an unearned sense of ease in Zion (2 Nephi 28:24), and he commanded people to press forward with a perfect brightness of hope (2 Nephi 31:20). Both refer to a blessed heart and state of mind from which our actions flow.

In Mosiah the people of Limhi were in bondage due to iniquity not strategy (Mosiah 23:12) In the multiple descriptions of Captain Moroni, not delighting in bloodshed was more important than strategy (Alma 48:14, Alma 55:19, Mormon 7:4). The idealistic church set up around the Waters of Mormon stressed that their “hearts were knit together in unity” (Moaih 18:21) The war chapters repeatedly set up a dichotomy between the Nephites and Lamanites that center on war goals extending from attitudes. We might compare that attitude with the how the Lamanites are recorded as “rejoicing over the blood of the Nephites” (Alma 48:25). This could also be another ethno centric account of “barbarous cruelty” of the other side (Alma 48:24).

In Alma 43:7-8 the Lamanite are inspired by hatred and anger vs. Alma 43:9 where the Nephites fight to preserve their rights even unto bloodshed (v.14). The Nephites fight to prevent extermination (v. 11-13) of the Anti-Nephi Lehis. In the chapter the contrasts continue with the Nephite desire to defend verses the Lamanite desire to destroy and put people in bondage, again repeated in the next chapter (Alma 43:26, 29-30; 44: 2,) The text plainly states the Nephites fought for a better cause in Alma 43:45. Despite the multitude of verses cited above, this is still just the beginning of ways that the heart of the people turned out to be the most important factor in the health and protection of the realm (not to mention their souls.) Most importantly, when Christ performed his personal ministry the people lived in peace because the love of God dwelled in their hearts (4th Nephi 15).

Here is the quote ten years ago. I start by rebutting an argument that the war was over by 1943 and then use that destruction to pivot to matters of the heart:

The German army seemed spent in 1944-45 because of the significant cost spent by the allies in their strategic bombing campaign and by the Russian army winning the battles of Kursk and Stalingrad. The United States didn’t fight in Europe until 1943 and against North Western Europe until 1944 but still had 300,000 casualties. And Russia lost an estimated 8 million soldiers fighting Germany (up to 23 million deaths if you include civilians), a significant number of that was lost capturing Germany territory and Berlin in 1944 and 45. After the allies supposedly had the war in hand during the winter of 1944 the Germans still waged the Battle of the Bulge causing 100,000 American causalities. These casualties could have been avoided if Britain, France, and America were a bit more “warlike” in opposing Hitler in 1936-38. But according to some here this kind of carnage (not to mention material and monetary cost) was the better moral choice because the U.S. waited until after Pearl Harbor to fight.

Geoff correctly stated that war is full of bad choices. But nobody seemed to mention how allowing others to be raped, enslaved, or murdered by our inaction is also a lousy choice. Some here wag their finger at the “love” the U.S. doesn’t show through military action, but I contend that standing by as Serbians wage a massive campaign of rape against Bosnian women or hundreds of thousands of Africans are slaughtered by a rival tribe is a less loving choice than military action to stop it.

Here is my discussion of the importance of being sorry about taking up arms:

The mention of “unfortunate” in the previous sentence is important, as the Nephites were “sorry” to take up arms against their brethren because they didn’t want to shed blood, and send so many damned souls back to God before they could repent. (Alma 48:23) Both ideas are found and even prevalent in Christian thought. Augustine was just as worried about where the souls of dead soldiers would go as he was about warfare itself. The Medieval monk Gratian warned that force should be used for love of justice, not for love of inflicting punishment.

And my original idea ten years ago:

Hey Ron. By what basis do you define “renounce” they way you do in #57? I define it as Mormon does in Alma 48: 23-24 where the Nephites were “sorry” to take up arms but also couldn’t allow their wives and children to be “massacred by the barbarous cruelty” of those around them.

Too many people, including Mormon bloggers, have fierce debates about important topics, and many unimportant ones for that matter, and yet to borrow from Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, they only know the shadows or forms that are made on the cave wall and haven’t studied the topics in detail. This is especially true in matters of just warfare.

In short, it is important to engage popular mediums and common thought that Latter Day Saints have. So we must look at blog and social media posts and engage the ideas therein. Libertarian and pacifist ideas are popular but haven’t been seriously challenged. (My publication of the new book, Proclaim Peace, is forthcoming.)  In fact, many ideas regarding war, peace and Mormon thought are in their early stages. Plus, it’s nice to look back and see my intuitive grasp of the topic from over ten years ago. And I offered some remarks on the landscape of the bloggernacle. It is unimportant overall but it being ten years brought some additional perspective. I hope you enjoyed the post.

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Tuesday, December 14, 2021

New Book! Beyond Sun-Tzu: Classical Chinese Debates on War and Statecraft

    I'm proud to announce my new book, Beyond Sun-Tzu: Classical Chinese Debates on War and Statecraft is available for preorder. My research into Chinese military history supplies many of the great ideas found for free on this blog. I have unique insights into the nature of warfare, insurgency, military theory, just warfare and so much more. If you find value in this blog, please make sure and check out the book. I keep the prices low so it is a great stocking stuffer for you and your loved ones.

Here is the blurb:

Sun-Tzu (Sunzi) is one of the most popular and widely known military writers in all of history. His ideas have influenced statesmen, generals, and businessmen for hundreds of years in the West and thousands of years in China. But Sun-Tzu was only one of many competing voices in Warring States China, and many Chinese philosophers and leaders, as well as a few modern Western military historians have questioned the privileged status of his theories. Beyond Sun-Tzu: Classical Chinese Debates on War and Statecraft, is the first book to systematically examine the chaotic debates among philosophers in the pivotal Warring States Period.
Military historian Morgan Deane examines scores of texts from the philosophers of Legalism, Confucianism, Daoism, the Seven Military Classics, and many others to find the truly dominant ideas of Chinese thinkers, areas of disagreement, surprising points of agreement, and a sophisticated synthesis. The result forces us to fundamentally reexamine Chinese military theory and gives us the tools to understand contemporary matters. This "broad knowledge" of Chinese military theory becomes an invaluable tool to help readers better assess the strength of Communist China, the relative unimportance of super weapons, the primacy of winning the allegiance of the people to your government, the importance of timeless counter insurgency methods, and so much more.
    I'm looking for reviews so if you'd like a free copy and have a blog or significant social media following feel free to drop me a line. Thanks!

    I work as a freelance author. If you found value in this work please consider donating using the paypal button below, or you can buy one of my books.

Monday, November 1, 2021

New Jobs, New Writing


    Hello everyone. Frequent readers probably noticed my posting pattern. I try to do at least one post towards the beginning of every month. Things were different last month for a few reasons. I started several new jobs. I had two free lance positions. One of them was very much an, ug I need this to pay the rent job. The other is with the Epoch Times. The latter sounds like a great free-lance position from a financial standpoint but from a career standpoint as well. Despite the mainstream media trying to claim they are not credible; they are one of the most popular news sites in the world. Please make sure to check it out. (It may be behind a pay wall, but I’m doing my part to make sure it’s worth the price of admission.) 

    The final piece allowed me to quit that first free lance job. I’m working for a tech start up called Banq. I know they spelled bank wrong, but it is a nice and steady historian position. I’m developing new hire training and that means I’m studying all sorts of things like block chain, non-fungible tokens, and today I studied initial coin offerings. It seemed very intimidating but as I study it is new terms, but old concepts. For example, when you were a child at Chuck E Cheese you understood tokens. Non-fungible simply means that instead of interchangeable currency it is unique and not interchangeable. Blockchain sounds mysterious, or like some bling a rapper would wear, but it is the code that makes a digital ledger and tracks changes. Each block is unique, has a digital fingerprint, and every change in the ledger creates a new block in the chain. If you try to change a past block it changes future blocks and thus is easily detectable and makes the block chain an immutable record.

    This has all sorts of applications ranging from concert tickets that can be digital tickets. Digital tickets are nothing new, but it can also be a unique piece of art or (non-fungible) token that includes album art, song playlist, a code that gives you unique access to physical items like merch or concerts, and its code can give artists royalties every time it is sold, or access to an online vault of bonus material. There are secure private keys matched with public keys (the security features to verify your access to currency or NFT in the blockchain) that prevents this from becoming another Napster. The immutable part of block chains will be appealing to real estate deeds among other items. You can even include code that lets investors sell, buy, and trade, their portion of ownership in the deed far more quickly than today’s technology.  I’m dropping tons of terms, but they are simply digital uses of technology we are familiar with like ledgers, tokens, banking records, and online purchases. There is a great deal to discuss, and my job is to organize it into easy training for new employees. It is supposedly the wave of the future, so you heard it here folks. 

    I’ve also done some writing on the Book of Mormon. I received an advanced copy of, Proclaim Peace, from the Maxwell Institute. I thought their timing was good since my research on just warfare in the Book of Mormon makes this book right up my alley. My review ended up being about 6,000 words. There are four sections that outline methodological problems I found. The first was the narrative spin they had to put on scriptures to make it fit a peace narrative. They ignore stronger readings plainly described in the text for far more speculative reading that fits their narrative and politics. I already noticed this problem in discussing Mason’s previous work. The second problem was sadly common to pacifists in that they that obliterate the tension in Christian ethics between pacifism and just war. The scriptures must be carefully reconciled, but pacifists militantly focus on Christ’s mortal ministry, and ignore the rest. Third problem was that they did not address any just war arguments. They had a perfunctory summary, dismissed it as neither broad nor comprehensive, denigrated military service as a resigned acknowledgement of telestial duties and generally ignored a rich body of robust just war literature. Collectively these writers influenced Western ideas regarding humanitarian intervention, human rights, international law, natural rights that influenced the American constitution, peace keeping and international bodies. Needless to say, I was incredibly disappointed with their dismissal of such a rich body of work. The final part consists of some personal notes. I can’t wait for the reaction to my piece because the people who talk about the power of assertive love don’t even seem to like their opponents in relatively low stakes academic discussions. But I’m supposed to believe that their love will transcend ethnic strife, political tension, and centuries of conflict.  

    I think it is a good rebuttal that is representative of the importance of understanding just warfare in general, and how it interacts with the Book of Mormon. I hope to bring you the review and the book on just war in the Book of Mormon soon.

I work as a freelance writer. I you found value in this work please consider donating using the paypal button at the bottom of the screen, or by purchasing one of my books on Amazon