Thursday, April 3, 2008

WWWtW-Watch #8: Pharisees - Which Kind Are You?

Dedicated to the proposition that it can happen here.

This installment of WWWtW-Watch is not going to direct you to any particular posting on that site, but rather will ask you to contemplate the following excerpt from Thomas Merton’s book, The Ascent to Truth, from which I also quoted in my previous post. I find that what Merton has to say here is particularly applicable to the attitudes towards dissenting “outsiders” who have been unfortunate enough to stumble into the doctrinaire realm of What's Wrong With the World. Here, then, is Merton:

Just as there is a Pharisaism of knowledge, so also there is a Pharisaism of studied ignorance, for one perverse instinct can feed on everything under the sun. The man who is proud of an abstruse and technical doctrine, difficult to acquire and acquired by few, may be proud in the same way as another man who is pleased with a sweet religious ignorance that makes him feel complacently superior to all learning. Each of these two men is proud of the same thing. Each thinks he has reached a peak of secret wisdom which is closed to all but a few. But the ignorant Pharisee is perhaps more obnoxious than the other, since he is proud of what he conceives to be his humility, and this is a great perversion.

It seems to me that it is precisely because the WWWtW crew is comprised of individuals who are “proud of an abstruse and technical doctrine” – a doctrine which they would, given power, establish as a “public orthodoxy” – that they are so belittling, contemptuous, derisive, and dismissive of any person who disagrees with their point of view. I have in previous installments of WWWtW-Watch provided examples of this mode of “argument” and so will refrain from repeating those here. Suffice it to say that it is highly unlikely that any person finding his way to WWWtW is going to be of the “Aw, shucks-Just regular folks-Gimme that old time religion, it’s good enough for me” type of Pharisee who is characterized by Merton as the most obnoxious. I, for instance, was led to WWWtW by Zippy Catholic, whose personal site I had been visiting for years, and whom I considered to be a friend until he took to labeling me a “troll” for the benefit of his WWWtW cronies.

But, it’s not about me, or my hurt feelings; rather, it’s about the attitude displayed at WWWtW for any and all thought that can’t, or won’t, be brought into conformity to the party line. It’s about the subtextual agenda at WWWtW to subvert the Constitution by outlawing dissent. It's about intellectual totalitarianism.