Knowing Thy Enemys Tactics of Deception Obfuscation Intimidation and Censorship by Li-ann Thio

Knowing Thy Enemys Tactics of Deception Obfuscation Intimidation and Censorship by Li-ann Thio

          All the passages below are taken from Dr Li-ann Thio’s book, “Mind the Gap–Contending for Righteousness in an Age of Lawlessness,” published in 2009.

Radical liberals are not interested in truth but in imposing their own substantive view of the world. They manifest their zealotry in adopting brow-beating militant tactics to accomplish their propagandist objectives, by intimidating their detractors into silence.

The tactics of radical liberals, the agents of contemporary lawlessness, may be divided into three strategies. First, the attempt to preclude or gag voices which oppose the radical liberal agenda, such as the promotion of the homosexualism agenda. This is usually accomplished by spurious invocations of ‘Church-State relations’ designed to oust citizens with religious convictions from speaking to public debate in the name of a militant secularism.

Second, they seek to chill or squelch speech which dissent from their views through tactics of intimidation and name-calling. This cheap ploy is designed to distract attentionfrom the merits of an argument by the use of rhetoric and bare assertion masquerading as `objective’, ‘logical’ and `neutral’ perspectives. These are merely red herrings, smoke and mirrors. A strong gust of wind will clear the air. 

Third, radical liberals in seeking to gain partisan political ground at any cost often stoop to misrepresenting or obfuscating issues in order to bewitch the undiscerning to win their support. The issue of abortion is reduced to a quick sound bite, where a woman’s choice and control over her body is presented as the only or key issue, disregarding the competing interest in protecting the life of the unborn.

The purpose of this section is to provide a quick-start guide to the type of countervailing measures that can be applied against the minions of the spirit of lawlessness.

For you, gentle reader, I provide my own list of the top ten rhetorical tricks to silence or distort truth, which many restrainers of lawlessness have encountered, and a possible rejoinder. There must be others, and I am sure that you can compile your own list of lawless projectiles.

The exposure of these rhetorical tricks and the need to parry them is just the precursor to assessing the deeper moral issues at stake in a law and policy debate. By revealing the vacuity of rhetorical flourishes, the hope is that this will help clear the decks for engagement. This is necessary as these guileful tricks clutter and confuse, spewing forth the fog of the culture war, littering the landscape with the slippery carcasses of red herrings and forlorn shark hunters.

The key point to remember of your radical liberal / militant secularist / lover of lawlessness opponent is this: liberals are guilty of everything they accuse their detractors of. Every argument they raise may boomerang on them; they fall into the pit they dig for others.

Remind them of the truth, and who knows, they might be set free if they have ears to hear. However, men do tend to love the darkness rather than the light, as their deeds are evil and their hearts are darkened. Nonetheless, there is no one whom God cannot reach with the Truth that sets free.

The Top Ten Rhetorical Tricks to Silence or Distort Truth

1. Thou shalt not impose thy (religious) morality.      

2. Thou shalt not legislate morality.    

3. A secular state requires the separation of church and state so keep thy views to thyself. 

4. Thou shalt be ‘objective’ and ‘neutral’ in public debate and leave thy personal (religious) views at home.            

5. Thou shalt not judge the behavior of another; thou shalt be more `tolerant’ and `inclusive’, celebrating ‘diversity’ and ‘pluralism.’ 

6. Judge not that ye not be judged.

7. Thou shalt be ‘open-minded’ and refrain from advocating ‘old-fashioned’, ‘Victorian’, Christian values and traditional morality from the `dark age.’

8. Thou shalt show compassion and not criticize the lifestyles of those you disagree with; ‘love’ is supportive and judges not.

9. Thou shalt not employ ‘backwards’ and ‘regressive’ arguments.

10. Thou art ‘stupid’, a ‘bigot’, ‘fundamentalist’ (a secular plague upon thy house!) etc.. .  .

And a Brief Counter-Measure

1. Do not impose your (religious) morality

To which I would reply, do not impose your irreligious (a)morality on me. All citizens may ‘propose’ what morality is best for the community, whether from `religious’ or `secular’ convictions; in a democracy, citizens have an equal right to engage in law and policy debates. However, only the government has the power to ‘impose’ laws and policies; and in a democracy, the government is held to account at the ballot box. Should your detractor suggest that religious morality is a manifestation of the `tyranny of the majority’, you can point out that forcing the views of an elite minority constitutes a `tyranny of the minority’. Fundamental moral issues cannot be settled by mathematics. There are fundamental values beyond fashion and expedient politics which buttress the common good. Religious morality is an important source of our common morality, because there are citizens with religious beliefs who are entitled to participate in defining our common moral ecology.

2. You should not legislate morality

      To which I might vouchsafe this response: if the legislature cannot legislate morality, what immorality can it legislate? Since all laws and public policy are based on moral values, as law cannot be devoid of content, and since secular neutrality is a myth, the correct question to ask is: what morality should we legislate to uphold individual welfare and the public good?

3. A secular state requires the separation of church and state, so keep your religious views to yourself

      A useful way of unpacking the issues is to point out that `secularism’ means a variety of things, and that there are degrees of secularism; that it is appropriate in some instances for religion and state to be kept separate, and in other instances to interact. In relation to the role of religion in public debate, while religion and politics may be separated (insofar as we elect leaders by voting rather than by divine injunction), religious views and public culture/policy need not be separated but may converse. This is appropriate to a democracy where the views of all citizens, whether sacred or secular, are heard and debated. To require religious views to be kept ‘private’ to oneself is to trivialize religious views, to silence critics through a form of undemocratic censorship. Intellectual pluralism is surely the lifeblood of democratic life; censorship is a tool of the liberal totalitarian. The irony is apparent.

4. In debating, be `objective’ and `neutral’; leave your personal (religious) views at home. 

      When a militant secularist accuses you of dragging your religious baggage into the debate, of polluting the air with your narrow-minded religious prejudices and dogma, politely remind the said person that he is equally guilty of dragging his secular baggage into the debate, of polluting the air with his narrow-minded secular prejudices and rigid dogma, and that double standards are somewhat unbecoming. Does your opponent claim to be objective and the judge of objectivity? Is he claiming the right to state absolutes, while insisting all is relative (therefore religious person, leave your relative views at home)? In all things, recall that your opponent is somewhat deluded in acting under a false neutrality. There is no neutral ground to be taken on fundamental moral questions. Not to take a position is to take a position by default; ambivalence is not a real option. You would do him a great service if you are able to provoke clear thinking and facilitate his continuing education. Indeed, if all views are relative, including the liberal’s views that all is relative, then relatively speaking, why should we believe anything a militant secularist has to say on this score? His views carry no weight beyond being his preferred opinion. Indeed, the opinion that “all views are relative, there is no such thing as an absolute principle” is, in fact, an absolute principle. The liberal assumes a privilege in declaring absolutes while denying this to others. The vapor of hubris and hypocrisy hangs rank in the air. One should at least live consistently with what one espouses. 

5. You should not judge the behavior of another but be more `tolerant’ and `inclusive; and learn to celebrate `diversity’ and `pluralism’; it is wrong to discriminate. 

      Do not be beguiled by these fine sounding ideas and sweet generalities, for these are as solid as a fine snuffle. Do not be disarmed into panic by the mere invocation of the word ‘discrimination’. Instead, hearken to mind that these are but empty concepts apart from an external normative standard or moral compass by which we measure what is permissible, what may and may not be tolerated, what to include and exclude, which forms of diversity and pluralism to celebrate and what to reject. Is it right to tolerate what is wrong? Clearly, we must address the question of what is right/wrong and desirable/ repugnant before figuring out what we may be permitted to tolerate, and what we must resist. There is a need to avoid abstractions and to speak to specifics, because generalities are designed to gloss over or obscure the moral issue at stake. Discrimination can be wrongful but differentiation to draw distinctions is not necessarily wrong. It depends on what is being discriminated against and the basis for finding distinguishing traits. For example, it is immoral to discriminate on the basis of race and sex (Gal 3:28-29) but God Himself considers homosexuality an abomination. Race and sex are traits we are born with, but homosexuality is a form of sinful behavior, which God can heal and redeem, for those willing to seek His deliverance. Homosexuality violates the sacred quality of sexuality, as racism violates the sacred quality of race. Therefore, we may embrace racial and religious diversity but not `sexual preference diversity’ as ‘sexual orientation’ may cover a wide range of sexual behavior, including heterosexuality, homosexuality, pederasty, incest, bestiality, pedophilia and sado-masochism. We must judge each behavior on its merits and avoid lumping these things together. If harmful behavior goes uncorrected in the name of tolerant inclusivity, what greater harm is caused? If a spoilt brat is never corrected in his youth, what monster will he grow up to be? He who lumps things together seeks to obscure the finer details at stake. While we must not lose sight of the wood for the trees, neither must we lose the skill of identifying the strengths and flaws of individual trees.

6. Judge not that ye may not be judged; do not be judgmental. 

      The devil can always cite and misquote scripture for his purposes. First off, when you opponent bids you not to be judgmental (Thou shalt not judge), that is itself a judgment. He is sinning even as he bids you not to sin and is not following his own rule which he proudly declares to you. More double standards. Furthermore, God does not instruct us to entirely avoid judgment; he instructs us to make a righteous judgment. Furthermore, ‘not to judge’ suggests adopting a `neutral’ stance. However, there is no neutral ground when it comes to moral judgments as part of believing in a system of morality is the need to make moral judgments. We are to be morally discriminating or discerning, and we cannot do this without judging or assessing whether an act or behavior is consistent with or flouts the law of God. When morality is at stake, it may be argued that it is fundamentally immoral not to draw moral distinctions between the right and the wrong. While criminal law may draw a distinction between an intentional and an unpremeditated killing, with both acts falling within the general category of ‘homicide’, the law does draw distinctions in terms of sentencing when it examines the facts and delves into the particular. Murder receives a more onerous penalty than manslaughter for good reason, because intent carries greater culpability than an accidental killing. The end result may be a dead body, but we judge between the actors, by assigning different degrees of blameworthiness.

7. Your arguments which draw on Christian values and traditional morality are old-fashioned, archaic, `Victorian; come from the `dark ages; are `benighted’ and puritanical’. You should be more open-minded and catch up with the times; stop espousing your biased views and prejudices; we have moved beyond good and evil. 

      In engaging upon this ageist vituperation, your opponent is once against hurling insult and bare assertion, and avoiding reasoned argument. To say something is `archaic’ is merely an instance of chronological snobbery as age is irrelevant to the strength or weakness of an argument. Such insults distract attention from the real issue; it asserts a conclusion without any justified reasoning. Furthermore, it displays both a lack of respect for intellectual diversity and the totalitarian traits of the insulter. To assert that someone else’s view smacks of prejudice and bias is to brazenly assume that no reasonable alternative exists, which is a technique for avoiding debate. Your opponent would be well-advised to examine the merits of the argument, and cease the childish and vulgar practice of name-calling, to avoid a descent into imbecility. Precisely what is wrong with ‘Victorian’ values? Which dark age are you speaking of, our current morally dark age? Morality is not meant to reflect fact; morality always has an aspirational aspect because it is designed to constrain our baser passions. Why should one assume that modernity has anything to do with morality? Morality in the modern state may be degenerating instead of improving, and law may seek to restrain lawlessness instead of facilitating it. Lastly, it is well to be open-minded and consider all viewpoints. However, as GK Chesterton quipped, an open mind, like an open mouth, must eventually close on something. Or should you wish to be more facetious, if you are too open-minded, your brains might fall out. There is a difference between believing a moral absolute, a fundamental unchanging principle, and being absolutist in mindset, entirely closed to discussion with your interlocutors. Many liberals have illiberal absolutist mindsets and become shrill when their opinions are questioned and not deferred to as dogma. Grace listens, does not compromise, and seeks to persuade. John Stuart Mill, the great English liberal thinker, said one of the virtues of debate was to allow the debater to exchange error for truth, or to fortify his own conviction as to the veracity of his view. However, one needs to be intellectually honest to do so and that is a rare commodity today.

8. You as a Christian should show compassion and not criticize and attack others whose lifestyles you do not agree with. Learn to live and let live. Love is supportive and does not judge. How can you be loving when you criticize someone? What a hypocrite and poor witness you are! 

          When so attacked, it is well to remember that the term `compassion’ means to `come alongside those who are suffering’. Jesus Christ loves us and commands us to repent of our sins and sinful lifestyles. He confronts sin and gives the sinner the opportunity to turn aside and leave that lifestyle, in order to be reconciled in relationship with Him. Love always speaks Truth which may hurt us, but is the precursor to our healing and redemption. You cannot fix a problem unless you first acknowledge one; you cannot repent of sin unless you first are aware you are a sinner. God disciplines those whom He loves, showing His Fatherhood. As ambassadors of reconciliation, we need to gently hold out the hope of the gospel, being as gentle as a lamb to the wounded and broken. In the face of evil and unrighteousness, we are to be like the Lion of Judah, aggressive and unflinching in calling a spade a spade; we are to love the sinner and pray for their salvation, but to hate the sin which causes pain and suffering. It is not love to let someone continue on a course of personal and socially destructive behavior. It is moral cowardice not to speak up against wickedness; to learn to live and let live in the face of evil is a call to indifference, not community. It is a refusal to stand in the gap. When Nineveh repented in response to Jonah’s warning, God had mercy and did not inflict destruction on an entire city.

9. Your arguments are backwards and regressive. 

    This statement makes no sense unless we first identify what our ultimate goal is; then only can we ascertain whether we are closer or further away from that goal. Your opponent needs to be instructed to avoid bare assertions and to stop bathing in the acidic waters of anti-intellectualism. Assertion without reason is the refuge of one who has no good reason, though naked assertions have the power to deceive the undiscerning and to fortify the biases of the unthinking. We need a suitable compass to measure progress towards our objective and it is the objective that needs to be justified in public argument. Borrowing from Chesterton again, “Progress is a comparative by which we have not settled the superlative.” If we seek to degrade women (and men), we should repeal laws that ban or restrict pornography to progress towards that vision of degradation. Where things are deteriorating and we are on the wrong path, it would be progressive to change direction, turn back and return to the right path. The onus is on those seeking radical change, to show that such change is beneficial and not harmful. Don’t take down a fence, unless you first recall and re-evaluate the reason why you put it up, or else the wolves might find free access into the sheep pen and make a hearty stew of it.

10. You are a`homophobe’, `stupid’, `bigot, `fundamentalist’. 

    This is the classic `argument by insult’ which avoids the merits of the debate by attacking the personal character of the speaker. This is designed not to promote debate but to terminate it by gagging the speaker through intimidation and by discrediting the speaker so he will not be heard. Mind you, in fair debate, one is entitled to discredit the content of the speech, but to attack the speaker is underhanded. It is tantamount to a childish tantrum and your opponent should be advised to stick to the issue and to stop pouting. There is also a misuse of these terms — the epithet ‘fundamentalist’ is hurled at those who faithfully adhere to their convictions without compromise; things which are fundamental are not lightly changed. The insult ‘bigot’ is hurled at anyone who holds a contrary opinion or opposing viewpoint from the insulter. In which case, anyone who has a point of view is therefore a `bigot’ with a `phobia’. If I oppose incest, I am thus an incestophobe; if I dislike alcohol I become a winophobe; if I believe bestiality is morally abhorrent, I am a zoophobe. There are then an infinite variety of phobias (imaginary diseases) and your detractor should be asked: what is your phobia? If he has a phobia against Christ and all things Christian, perhaps he needs to deal with his Christophobia, unless he revels in being called a Christophobe, as some undoubtedly do. Particularly those belonging to the faction of the anti-Christ and we know which spirit they are intoxicated with. [321-332]

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