Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Once again moving beyond parody ...

Realizing that Akin's argument seems to be more or less diametrically at odds with his own, Papa Mark attempts to engage in some real-time revisionism:
Some background: My involvement in the whole torture discussion began with my being disturbed over two thoroughly dishonest apologias for murder and torture in the mainstream right wing press. The apologia for murder was written by Michael Ledeen and constituted a literally Machiavellian appeal to shoot unarmed wounded combatants (because you never know, one of them might grow up to be Hitler). The apologia for torture was an equally slick piece of rhetoric by Linda Chavez which began by saying we needed to define torture and ended by saying we needed to accept torture. My response to their snake oil is here. I found this phenomenon disturbing and was further disturbed as the right wing media continued (and still continues) to urge, excuse, justify, plead for, and satirize opponents of, torture.

For one thing, the fact that he once again labels (and mischaracterizes) Ledeen as a torture apologist for writing a column that has nothing to do with the torture is probably once again an indication that he doesn't know what he's talking about.
In short, my involvement in the torture question (and the involvement of my interlocutors in my comboxes) has been in the context of a real world situation: the use of torture by our government and the extraordinary lengths some of my readers have gone to in order to urge, excuse, justify, plead for, and satirize opponents of, torture. What bothered me from the outset of the conversation has been the spirit of... what? "resistance", I suppose might be a good word, to the simple proposition "Torture is wrong and you shouldn't do it. Our government is doing it now and it's wrong." Virtually ever word of that proposition has been resisted, explained away, and fought, often by multiple people at once, in my comboxes over the past year. Masochists can read over the archives if they don't believe me.

In the course of these discussions I have, more than once, lost my temper and, more than once, apologized. But a sort of urban legend has arisen (which some torture apologists have happily encouraged) that I cannot bear even to discuss the abstract question "What is torture?" This is somewhat ironic because, in fact, it is those who are making the case for fog who have been the most insistent that torture is essentially undefinable and therefore cannot, in any practical sense, be prohibited or condemned. Endless electrons perished in my repeated attempts to answer the question for people who were strangely uninterested in answering the question themselves. I suggested dictionaries. I suggested Army and police regs for interrogation. I suggested the Interrogator's Golden Rule. All these were summarily dismissed by people who truly did not want an answer to the question "What is torture?" because, if accepted, they would immediately show that "aggressive methods" which the Bushies had approved were, in fact, torture. And the goal, for many (though not all) of my interlocutors was to keep that shrouded in fog.

Here again, Mark ignores a number of points that were raised by his critics, namely that his entire response to the question of torture has been to appeal first the Catechism and when he discovered that this was not to his liking, the Gaudium et Spes citation contained in Veritas Splendor. That was his entire argument and any disagreement or questioning of it led to him attempting to establish a false equivalence between those who question his interpretation of the relevant papal documents and abortion supporters. Note that as he writes this, Mark believes, as he has routinely alleged, that the only reason that anyone could possibly argue with him on this is because of an all-subordinating political allegiance to the Bush administration.

He then writes:
However, I will add this: while there may be, in some other world, a way to get to something that looks an awful lot like torture but is not intrinsically immoral and therefore not necessarily condemned by Veritatis Splendor, I can't help but think that this is mighty far removed from reality. Moreover, in *this* world where torture is being conducted by the State and its apologists and advocates in the real world are not much troubled by such fine-tuned arguments and typically operate on the basis of pure consequentialism, I can't help but wonder if "What is torture" is still a profoundly wrong-headed question.

To which one might counter that by the definition Mark has just supplied above that Akin should now be counted as an apologist and advocate of torture for writing the following:
Take waterboarding as an example. I would say that waterboarding is torture if it is being used to get a person to confess to a crime (it is not proportionate to that end since it will promote false confessions). I would also say that it is torture if it is being used to get information out of a terrorist that could be gotten through traditional, less painful interrogation means (it is not proportionate to the end since there are better means available). I would not say that it is torture if it is being used in a ticking time bomb scenario and there is no other, less painful way to save lives (it is proportionate since there is not a better solution). And I would not say that it is torture if it is being used to train our own people how to resist waterboarding if it is used on them (this is apparently something we do, and it is proportionate on the understanding that there is no better way to help people learn to resist waterboarding).

I find it hard to think of particular physical acts that automatically count as torture irregardless of the circumstances. Even cutting off parts of a person's body is not torture if you're doing it to prevent them from dying of gangrene and there is no anesthetic available. But if the pain involved in that physical act is not automatically torture then I don't know what would be. Indeed, I don't know how to establish a maximum amount of pain that can be inflicted, even if it is for purposes of saving someone's life.

Recognizing that he will need to find some way to refrain from condemning Akin here while simultaneously holding all of us over at the Coalition completely beyond the pale and on par with dissenters of Humanae Vitae. He does so through the following rhetorical trick:
If Jimmy had been writing for a year, making every conceivable excuse for torture, starting up blogs devoted almost exclusively to attacking those who oppose torture, and endlessly expressing hopeless confusion over what is torture (while resolutely refusing to acknowledge any positive definition of torture) it would be a different story. I think he's making a first stab at trying to respond to a question he has not addressed a lot of thought to. He's welcome to give it a whack. I wish more people were trying to do it. It certainly beats pondering the meaning of the works of Eminem. And by the same token, I think Zippy has done a pretty good job of pointing out the weakenesses in the comboxes.

I'm sorry, but given that Akin's view is more or less identical to our own, I would be very interested in hearing why Mark regards him holding to it as acceptable and all of us here holding to the same damned thing as being so sick and depraved. Is it through the same telepathy that allows him to peer into our minds and learn that our only motivation for writing this is to shill for the Bush administration?


Actually it's even worse than that. "Others have been pulling this crap for a year," by definition, cannot be the reason for anything he said or did a year ago. Or two years ago. Like ... um, his libels against Ledeen.

Do understand, I have no desire to start a conflict between Akin and Mark, no more than I did to be in conflict with Mark to begin with. I do, however, have an obligation to call attention to what I view as moral hypocrisy (let alone fundamentalist readings of Church documents) on the part of a fellow Catholic. So my challenge to Papa Mark is this: if you are going to continue heaping scorn our way, please explain where Akin's position (or Dave Armstrong's for that matter) differs from our own beyond your telepathic insight into our true intentions.

Completing his rhetorical dance, Mark goes to the following:
Our task as Catholics is not to probe the bare minimum of what is ethically necessary and hug it like a limpet. Our task is not to try to get as close to torture as possible without crossing a line. Jimmy himself recognizes this, I think, in his Big Red Disclaimer. But I think the tidal pull of the "What is torture?" question in the context of current events makes it hard for a lot of people to make the paradigm shift.

The paradigm shift is this: "Do not torture and abuse prisoners" is not the only thing the Church says about our obligation in wartime. There is a positive command as well: Treat prisoners humanely and with respect for their human dignity. If we are seriously obeying that, we will not be asking whether there are things we can do to them that look like torture but are not intrinsically immoral. That, at the end of the day, is not the real issue. Therefore, the question "What is torture?" while interesting in an abstract way, is a question that has, for far too long, derailed the real discussion. For the real question is, "How do we conduct interrogations while being sure to treat prisoners humanely?" Until we start asking that, we are barking up the wrong tree.

This is possibly the beginning of a realization by Mark that he is losing the argument on torture among fellow apologists and hence needs to shift his strategy if he is going to continue to claim Magisterial fiat for his stated views on the evils of the administration. The fact that Akin, like a number of others, explicitly rejected Mark's fundamentalist view of Veritas Splendor is IMO a pretty definitive smackdown even if he didn't single Mark out directly for rebuke. I'll be interested in seeing where Mark goes from here, but I don't plan on holding my breath waiting for an apology for all the abuse he has hurled at myself, Victor, and others these last several years.


Christopher said...

It should be blindingly clear by now that Mark will twist his own words as well as those of anyone else to any end he sees fit.

He has obviously gone the way of Andrew Sullivan by letting his "Bush Derangement Syndrome" get the better of him based almost completely on the War in Iraq and the accompanying tactics.

He completely fails when it comes to interpretting others' comments without prejudice. He places people in tidy little pigeonholes of "With me" or "Against me" and fails to address substantive points. On more than one occasion I have corrected him where he misrepresented my position and asked him to simply acknowledge that I do not subscribe to the opinion he attributed to me. He utterly ignored each one. Then I was banned for suggesting that he was not interested in dialogue. Is that an insult punishable by banishment or does the banishment prove the assertion?

He insults without hesitation, takes offense at the slightest rebuke and when finally backed into a corner he makes a false apology in which he claims that he is simply misunderstood and that people are misrepresenting his true motives.

He would of course, if he read this, deny every bit and not even consider that any of it might be remotely true. But his rhetoric speaks for itself and a denial is not proof.

I just wonder how long before even those who are 100% behind him realize that his style has done more to foster ill-will than can be imagined.

Mark may speak in human and angelic tongues. He may have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge. He may have faith so as to move mountains. But from where I stand, he is a resounding gong.

Piraeus said...

Great post Torq. You can really see that it is beginning to dawn on him in parts of his brain that he is trying desperately to ignore that he may be wrong. Sadly he so completely invested himself in one particular interpretation of a papal document from the outset that there is no possibility of him retreating now.

Piraeus said...

Oh my goodness! Talk about hubris. Here is Shea's comment:

If Jimmy is still laboring over the same blunders a year from now with no acknowledgement of error, starting blogs where he can team up with others to insult and vilify opponents and indulgng in mutual backslapping over same, then he will be indistinguishable from the Foggies. The fact that he's made some blunders in his first attempt at tackling a puzzling issue is not a hanging offense. Mistakes of the intellect (and I think Zippy has pointed out what they are in Jimmy's argument) are not the same as sins of the will.

Leaving aside the attacks on the Coalition, I love the whole, "Let us give young, foolish Jimmy time to see the error of his ways" tone. Once again, this is b/c he knows he can't acknowledge that Jimmy's argument has merit but he also wants to avoid having to be consistent and say the same foul things about Jimmy that he has attributed to people who hold the same opinion as Jimmy.

frank sales said...

It will be interesting to see how Mark reacts to fellow apologists who dissent from his teachings. This first stage is a condescending smile at Jimmy's first steps. However, as he sees more and more of it, I predict Sullivan-like hysteria and denial. Even more of a blow would be a Vatican document that points out some of the same ambiguities and difficulties that Jimmy did. Zippy and Mark would go into a closed circuit logic loop like the robot that Kirk confused --Vger, I think.

Christopher Fotos said...

Mark, to use a phrase, is a proven liar, so it is extra-creamy rich to hear him preach about "sins of the will."

The post is remarkable, like the collapse of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge was remarkable:

She was already known to move up in down in the wind, but in 1940, she began to oscillate due to resonance and would eventually collapse.

Victor said...

My starting this site was a response to Shea's demagoguing. Which began at the very beginning, on this topic -- two years ago. No question whatever; the timelines are in order. So therefore again, this site cannot be the cause of Shea's behavior.

Christopher said...

Jimmy comes back for another round. He's one cool cucumber.

frank sales said...

check out Jimmy's latest and Zippy's ad hominem attack in the comments. Will it be sinful to watch the Zippy/Shea meltdown with glee?

Victor said...

Has Zippy called for torturing Mr. Akin's family yet? Called him a CINO? Called him something philosophically impossible?

If not ... then he hasn't even warmed up.

doubting thomas said...


If Zippy did not act as Mark's alter ego, his rudeness and contemptible comments would have resulted in his being banned.

The fact that Mark won't ban him is unfortunately one sign of his insincerity in this debate.

Christopher said...

Unbelievable! Mark again uses his superpowers of verbal twisting.

He first says:
I think he's making a first stab at trying to respond to a question he has not addressed a lot of thought to.

Then when called he says:
I didn't say he hadn't put much thought into it. My point is that he is a newcomer to the discussion and, as Zippy has pointed out, has not had a year to hash over stuff as others have. Consequently, in some of his arguments he is making mistakes others made months ago, because it's a relatively new topic for him.

Apparently, according to Mark one's "Bona Fides" are confirmed by the amount of time that one has been pounding the table on the issue and nothing else.

Victor said...

Actually Thomas, Mark did ban Zippy once, before the torture imbroglio, over something else. I don't remember the topic.

Victor said...

Christopher, those two quotes are priceless -- belong in The Official List of Shea Lies.

doubting thomas said...

Thanks. Just find that Zippy hoping for a family to be tortured would have automatically bought bannishment. Just seems to point to a double standard.

Anonymous said...

AnonymousIV sez...

Zippy was banned over Greg Popcak's book, "Beyond the Birds and the Bees". I think he was saying it was bad to teach 14-year-olds boys and girls the basics of sympto-thermal NFP. Greg eventually got a nihil obstat and imprimatur on the book to settle that one.

I want those days back.

Victor said...

Hmmm ...

At the risk of agreeing with a subhuman I despise ... what could possibly be the point of teaching THAT to a 14-year-old, at least as long as we're a culture where the legal marriage age, in most circumstances, is several years away, and the customary marriage age yet farther away.

Christopher said...

"At the risk of agreeing with a subhuman I despise"

C'mon now. Zippy is an Insufferably Sophistic Bore, but subhuman he is certainly not.

Anonymous said...

AnonymousIV sez...

It wasn't as much about the subject at hand. It was the fact that he seemed to be trying to destroy Greg Popcak's reputation over the issue.

doubting thomas said...

Seems like he's trying a little of that with Jimmy Akin.

Anonymous said...

AnonymousIV sez...

Those were the days, Zippy. Those were the days.

Christopher said...

It does seem to beg the question does in not, Zippy?

Did you swear undying allegiance to all Mark's pet causes and swear to fight for him whenever he called on you in exchange for amnesty from your exile ?

Anonymous said...

Out of curiousity, I was given to understand that certain posters here used to comment on Mark Shea's blog but were banned from doing so. What exactly were the circumstances? I've seen Mark ban people before on highly questionable grounds, but it would be good if I could have a better sense of exactly what we're talking about here.


Victor said...


Please don't ecourage unwanted elements.


Neither I nor Torq are banned; we banned ourselves in response to Shea's repeated lying and demagoguery. Why put yourself at his mercy?

I actually HAVE been banned once, but ironically not for "Torture Pharisee," anything similar or even something I really did. Shea misinterpreted something I said as meaning "Shea is an anti-Semite." Fine ... if anyone wants me to take back what I never said and don't believe ... no problemo.

Christopher Fotos said...

I was banned after repeatedly pointing out he was lying about Michael Ledeen's latest (months-old now) post about how to treat enemy prisoners on the battlefield. This was during a long exchange, now deleted, in which among other things he called Ledeen "evil" and some other very strange stuff (For months afterwards, Mark would say, when challenged, that he never called Ledeen evil, but rather his arguments. I and others pointed out that wasn't true, either, and although I don't think he has ever fessed up to that slur, he did apologize for calling Ledeen "scum." Thus is the sophisticated and inspiring style of our prominent Catholic apologist, and as far as I know, unrebuked by anyone in a position that would force him to pay attention.)

Anyway, around that time, I received a bullying email from Mark informing me that if I ever again called him a liar, he'd ban me. I informed Mark that we was a liar and a bully. Ever since then, I've had the honor of being banned from the top Catholic Demagogue site on the internets.

Also, Victor will correct me if I'm wrong, but IIRC another reason prompting the creation of COF was that Mark determined that people who argued the Church didn't teach torture was intrinsically evil were on par with others who said abortion wasn't evil, and, similarly, no one would be allowed to argue the former on his blog. It hadn't occured to me until now, but this would mean Jimmy Akin, Mark's superior at Catholic Answers, can't do so on Mark's blog. Guess that's why he's doing it on his own!

And, of course, "Coalition of Fog" was Mark's invective, adopted mischievously by Victor, and a constant reminder of how Mark approaches people who challenge his arguments. Much of that style is evident in today's post, and really most of his torture posts, with an additional comic element today in which he chastises people for trying to "shout down" Mark's position and resorting to name-calling. Yes, the man who repeatedly uses terms including Torture Apologist, Rubber Hose Right, the Warmonger Party, and dozens of others, is objecting to Torture Pharisee.

I, too, was banned during the round that concerned anti-Semitism, though I was unbanned when I explained that I did not intend to imply, nor believe, that Mark is anti-Semitic.

The man has some serious reading-comprehension problems, which is one explanation for many instances in which most people would think he's just lying. Perhaps it's another product of a man just going too fast. And as christopher said in the very first comment of this thread, he insults without hesitation, takes offense at the slightest rebuke and when finally backed into a corner he makes a false apology in which he claims he is simply misunderstood and that people are misrepresenting his true motives. All of which is doubly amusing considering the daily bile that spews from that blog of his. I am particularly amused by his occasional references to the calamity of a blog being founded to criticize him. Well, when you're a prominent Catholic blogger and you ban from your site any Catholic rebuttal of your position, that's what's going to happen, Einstein.

I apologize for that outburst. If indeed I ever said it.

I see, from his latest post, Mark Shea still believes "the last encyclical wins." We can only hope along with Mark that Jimmy Akin will come to understand his blunders.

Gotta love Mark's retort to Akins's deeply persuasive discussion of V.S. in the original Latin. If I had someone who knew Latin, I'm sure I could prove him wrong... That's the method alright. First the verdict, then the evidence.

Dave Armstrong said...

Don't feel bad, guys. As one of the "fellow apologists," I ain't treated much better. My arguments are systematically ignored. My pleas for documentation about what you guys said that was so atrocious are repeatedly and absolutely ignored by zippy and Mark. In the last go-around he admitted that he wasn't even reading what I wrote.

The latest thing was a well-deserved sarcastic remark of mine directed against Richard Comerford, taken out of context and blasted in a post.

zippy WILL NOT document anything; not even one citation. I gave him considerable misery for that but he won't back down.

So let me ask y'all about the comments he said that you made. I have this strange characteristic of desiring to hear both sides of a story before making up my mind.

Here's a collection of some of the remarks I made at CAEI about y'all (Zippy's replies will be in italics):

I see little difference between Jimmy Akin's latest comments (or my overall argument, for that matter) and the positions of the Coalition for Fog or others of generally like mind who have often been lambasted on this blog or over at Against the Grain. The vast difference in tone and substance of treatment accorded both parties remains baffling and inexplicable, to say the least.


There was an infamous thread nearly a year ago in which Victor Morton claimed that the word "torture" didn't really mean anything: that it was nothing but an insult (a Randian "anticoncept" is the term he actually used). There was another where Victor defended the morality of the use of impalement as a method of execution. I don't have either the time or the energy to go back and plumb for them in the archives. But for you to equate what Jimmy Akin has said on his blog - while I do indeed disagree with his (tentative) position in substance - with what Victor Morton has said is a grave insult to Jimmy. Though of course you may not realize it. Victor and his cohorts will, to all appearances, defend the Administration's acts of torture - and the Administration is indeed guilty of intentionally torturing prisoners and rendering prisoners to torture - at all costs.

Again, Dave, you are simply ignorant of what has transpired. Mark is completely in the right on this, with his temper concessions duly acknowledged. Victor Morton at least is peddling evil to shill for an Administration which has clearly engaged in wicked acts of torture, he isn't engaged in a legitimate discussion. For you to equate that to what Jimmy has done -- again, even though I think Jimmy is wrong in substance, and even though there is an extent to which he is materially cooperating with Victor and his pals - is simply ignorant.

* * *

"Peddling evil," huh?

I may be ignorant of this and a lot of things (guilty as charged!), but all I know is that when I inquired straightforwardly on the "Fog" blog what they thought, I didn't see much difference between their views or mine, or Jimmy's. I'm not saying there are none; I didn't do a doctoral dissertation on the possible or actual differences, but I saw little difference, when I asked them bluntly about several things.

. . . I'm not saying that these guys at the dreaded "coalition" are saints or sublime moral theologians. Indeed, I don't know a whole lot about them and never claimed to. All I know is what I asked about myself, and I didn't see that their expressed views were remotely like (again, by appearances, anyway) how they are being described and pilloried here.

It's obvious that Victor is quite acerbic and pointed at times in his rhetoric (a bit excessive for my taste as well), but Mark is no stranger to that, so mere tone and style ought not be held against him anymore than against Mark (or it's a wash in that regard). "Torquemada" keeps saying he sees little difference between his views and my own, and I have no reason to doubt him.

. . . if you are so well-informed, it seems that the least you could do is document your strong accusations when you make them, instead of essentially gossiping and running people down with none and complaining that it's too difficult to look things up in the archives (wow; maybe 20 minutes wasted doing so, if that much). Is that too much to ask?

Dave: if you feel like spending the time to search Mark's archives for Victor "torture means nothing except to express pharisaical distaste" The Impaler's comments - I would suggest november of last year through about march of this year, IIRC, and you really have to read all of the discussions to get the whole context - then have a ball. But don't expect those of us who were there to change our opinions and understandings based on your request for a time machine to go back and recount it all. I expect the reason you are inclined to do so is because it is possible to do so in principle, whereas we generally can't return to ancient-history spoken conversations. That Victor polished the apple and wore a tie for you when you approached him is no surprise, since his apparent goal is to discredit Mark Shea - pretty much the lone conservative Catholic voice out here in blogland unequivocally against the torture which has been inexplicably embraced on the political Right. You either trust what Mark tells you, or you don't, or you go digging to satisfy yourself. You want to to embrace the Victor Morton Joe D'Hippolito programme, go around saying what stand up guys they are and how Mark has been mean to the poor fellows and everyone ought to give them a fair hearing, go have a ball. Some day both you and I will answer for every single word. I hope you are ready for it. And I hope I am too.

I find this absolutely amazing. I'm supposed to assume that Victor and Joe D'Hippolito (whoever he is) and who knows who else are liars and "peddlers of evil" simply because you say so, and say it is documented for one and all to see.

If indeed they are that, any rational person would not conclude so based on the approach to personal ethics in discussion that you have been taking.

. . . I said nothing about "all." What I have consistently asked for is ANY, repeat ANY documentation of your serious accusations.

They may very well be true. I don't know (which kind of explains why I keep asking for proof, doesn't it?). I've never dogmatically proclaimed that the "fogsters" always offer only Gospel Truth. I have no incentive to either defend them or reject them (not nearly like your obvious need to defend Mark at every turn; if anyone has an "agenda" here it is you, not I).

All I'm calling for is the most basic ethical, normative procedure: if making a serious charge against someone, document it.


Got that? It's elementary ethics. The burden is on you: the one making the charge, not on me. Why should I have to spend time trying to document the charges that YOU have made? That's your responsibility. It seems utterly absurd that, in a discussion precisely devoted to ethics, such a simple requirement of same is continually overlooked. Mark didn't produce any documentation when I asked him. You haven't either.

. . . There might be considerations of context, or someone having a bad day, or losing a temper due to provocation (just as Mark has often admitted, and we all allow for that), or subsequent retractions in part or in whole, based on further reflection. Lots of stuff may be brought to bear.

But for some reason you refuse to grant the benefit of the doubt to your opponents in this debate to any appreciable degree at all.

Also Dave, my obligation to you isn't to document everything I claim as fact to your personal satisfaction. If we had that obligation to everyone we encounter, most of our lives would be spent searching blog archives for prior discussions. My obligation to you is just that what I tell you is a fact is, actually, a fact. And it is a fact that Victor Morton, in the comments of this blog, said that torture was just a meaningless term of opprobrium and that impalement isn't immoral as a form of execution. You are welcome not to believe it: to think I have the facts wrong, that I've misinterpreted something somewhere, or even that I am a liar. You are even welcome to be irritated by my pseudonym. But I don't owe you, a total stranger to me, whatever level of documentation you would find satisfactory. I just owe you the truth. And I've given it to you.

* * *

It isn't about owing me anything at all. It is about what you owe to yourself as a self-respecting thinker and Christian ethicist. If you care little for these guys at Coalition for Fog, then simply ignore them. But Mark keeps bringing them up and bashing them, so the character assassination will continue, no doubt. It's almost reached the proportion of an obsession; so it seems.

YOU guys make it a continuing live issue by insisting on talking about them behind their backs. Then you squeal and complain when you are simply called on it.

. . . I love how you use this silly technique of exaggerating things to the nth degree, to avoid making even the slightest effort at doing anything at all along the same lines. Nice try at sophistry and obfuscation, but it hardly succeeds.

To listen to you, the simple, universally-understood obligation to document a serious charge against someone would have us all searching night and day; perhaps paying a reader to look up stuff to fulfill our tedious obligations, etc. LOL

Whether Victor actually said what you claim is irrelevant to this duty that you have. I haven't taken an absolute position on these guys, as I've said over and over. I simply reported what they told me when I inquired. Then you quickly concluded that they were simply lying through their teeth.

I haven't even seen ONE single, fully-documented citation of anything these guys have said that you frown upon. I asked Mark. He refused. I asked you; you refused. You pretend like that will put you out. Are you seriously telling me with a straight face that you can't go into the archives of this blog and find ONE cotton-pickin' citation that will prove what you are saying? I find that flat-out astonishing.

* * *

spending several hours going through old blog comments

It would take you that long to find the "ONE" comment I requested of you (see my words that you cited)?

Wow. Words fail me.

I *think* I *might* be able to figure out in rough terms when some old comments I remember were made

And I think you might (just maybe) be capable of scrounging up one little old compelling, damning remark to bolster your case.

Perhaps not, though. If your searching capabilities are as poor as (sometimes) your logic and your hair-trigger willingness to accuse other Catholics of disobedience to the Church, then I could see that you would be unable to burden yourself with such an overwhelming, almost unimaginably difficult task.

Then I could scan through hundreds or thousands of posts looking for ones that might be on topic

Yes, of course. Everyone knows that is what I am demanding of you: scanning hundreds of [I mistakenly put "of" instead of "or"] thousands of posts for hundreds of proofs of the horrendous nature of "coalition for fog" ethics and sub-Catholic theology.

But of course, all I am asking is for you to exert a few of your hundreds of thousands of brain cells and come up with ONE such proof.

Richard Comerford insists that he is utterly ignorant about stuff like, oh, what apologetics is. You seem to think that your readers are clueless idiots: to misrepresent and play games with such a simple request, in such a sophistical manner. Either that, or you don't read English very well.

And for what? To satisfy you? To convince you that I'm not a liar?

What are you, paranoid now? I never said you were a liar. It never crossed my mind. Even if you were, it would be irrelevant to the question at hand. And who is calling who a liar? I never said nor remotely implied this of you. But you said it regarding Victor Morton. According to you, when I asked him what his beliefs on this issue were, he flatly lied to me.

Sorry; I don't approach people that way. In your curious ethical system, I am supposed to conclude that a fellow Catholic is a liar, simply because you told me that he is. When pressed as to why you think this, and for some hard evidence, you play games and say you have no time to search through "hundreds of thousands of posts."

But your mere recollection is supposedly determinative for me to regard a brother in Christ as a liar. And Mark Shea continually says so too, so that definitely proves it! Who could doubt it? Now it is beyond a reasonable doubt.

Your personal opinion of me, Dave, is far less valuable than you seem to think that it is.

What opinion? How could I have an opinion of a mere disembodied nickname? The only particular opinion I have (admittedly based on limited experience) is that you are poor in Internet searching ability (or else quite stubborn for some incomprehensible reason); come to unwarranted conclusions, and are quick to accuse your fellow Catholic brethren of serious lapses in Catholic obedience and ethics (such as lying).

If you want to pay my consulting rate for me to do this project for you, send me a deposit.

I see. Now the rudimentary ethical demands of substantiating serious charges requires a consulting rate fee, when someone is reminded of what is already clearly their duty.

Nice touch.

* * *

This is what you wrote above:

"That Victor polished the apple and wore a tie for you when you approached him is no surprise, since his apparent goal is to discredit Mark Shea - pretty much the lone conservative Catholic voice out here in blogland unequivocally against the torture which has been inexplicably embraced on the political Right. You either trust what Mark tells you, or you don't, or you go digging to satisfy yourself. You want to to embrace the Victor Morton Joe D'Hippolito programme, . . ."

You also wrote:

"Victor Morton at least is peddling evil to shill for an Administration which has clearly engaged in wicked acts of torture, he isn't engaged in a legitimate discussion."

(both on 11-29-06)

Now you say:

"If you had asked me 'are you saying Victor is a liar' instead of spending a vast number of words lecturing me about what you think my moral duties are in blog conversations, I could have answered with a simple 'no'."


"There are a lot of things I think about Victor, but I don't accuse him of lying."

Okay; lessee: you say that when I asked Victor about the issue, he "polished the apple and wore a tie" because "his apparent goal is to discredit Mark Shea." That is at least a fudging of the truth, or equivocation.

You can play the lawyer's game and spin this in a sense that you aren't saying he is a liar. But of course "liar" implies habitual deliberate falsehood. Did he utter a falsehood in this case, then? Did he misrepresent his own opinions? That was certainly your implication. If not, then please explain it otherwise.

Then you say "he isn't engaged in a legitimate discussion." That is unsavory and ethically questionable, whatever you mean by it. To accuse someone of being a mere shill carries with it, I think, the clear insinuation that he is prepared to twist the truth and lie for that cause.

It's time for a definition. The Free Dictionary suffices:

shill Pronunciation (shl) Slang

One who poses as a satisfied customer or an enthusiastic gambler to dupe bystanders into participating in a swindle.

v. shilled, shill·ing, shills
To act as a shill.
1. To act as a shill for (a deceitful enterprise).
2. To lure (a person) into a swindle.


So, as you say, to speak of "peddling evil to shill for an Administration which has clearly engaged in wicked acts of torture" would include within it, I think, some form of lying, to some extent. You say you don't think he is a "liar"; fine. What DO you think, then? What do the above statements mean, if not that he is being less than forthcoming with what he knows to be the truth?

* * *

They mean that when it started to become clear that the Administration was doing evil (for example, google Mark Swanner), Victor did his level best to shut down criticism of that evil in the comboxes here. Part of that effort included denying that the word "torture" signified anything at all other than the disapproval of the one uttering it.

Those statements of mine also mean that he has clearly learned at this point that those kinds of tactics didn't shut Mark Shea up, so his more recent tactics have involved attempts to discredit Mark.

As to what he really thinks: who knows?


Any clarification as to what you (Victor) may have said back then that he refers to; that he refuses to document, would be most helpful. Perhaps you have some documentation, or at least know where to locate it on Mark's blog?

Anonymous said...

What really sets off some red flags to me is Zippy's statement that "you really have to read all of the discussions to get the whole context." I mean, if Victor really did defend the use of impalement as a form of execution, or say that torture was a meaningless anti-concept, then you shouldn't have to read months of discussions in order to get that.

Victor said...


I found the "impalement" discussion in 10 seconds using an advanced tool called "Google," which allows me to type in words "impalement," "Victor" and "Mark Shea."

The Shea post is here (it's a link to a Satanist's account of his platform, which Shea says the "torture apologists" should appreciate):

The resulting Combox discussion is here.

I said there is nothing per se morally evil about impalement in itself, merely to point out that Shea was stealing bases by trying to make bedfellows of "torture apologists" and a Satanist by attributing philosophical consequentialism to someone else (a semi-sane halfwit, I noted also) based on HIS advocacy of impalement.

I acknowledged its grossness (and never excluded this as a nonmoral reason to prefer one execution method over another). While noting at the same time that I don't like "euphemism" methods of execution (like America's curious preference for lethal injection). If execution be moral, it is still an awful, awe-full act and should thus be done in an awful, awe-full way (an idea was taught me by DeMaistre).

People determined to lie about me (or who "just skim stuff") took those two ideas as "advocacy of impalement."

I used the term "pharisaical" in the same thread, but not apropos that point. It was in response to someone else's demand that I perform a public moral-cleansing ritual, which I refused.

People determined to lie about me (or who "just skim stuff") took that idea and concluded that I said "people who oppose impalement are pharisees."

There is a pattern here -- attributing ideas to others based on ill-willed skimming. Specifically, someone saying "X is not forbidden / your arguments for X being forbidden are crap" = "so you're saying X is good and great ... huh ... aren't you ... huh."

Victor said...

As for torture being an anticoncept, that also was easy to find here.

My entire post is here:
Mr. Shea ... seems to consider the very word 'torture' damning in itself, without regard to how or by whom it is applied.

In that narrow sense, Mr. Shea is in fact, correct, though in a way that completely undermines everything else he might wish to say.

The word "torture" is a classic example of what Ayn Rand called an "anticoncept"** -- meaning a term with no specific referent, except the speaker's disapproval. But such terms are of enormous rhetorical value and one used primarily as such, especially by Pharisees, since it short-circuits thought and prompts a response primarily based on proving one's moral worth to the audience. As in -- "I never thought I'd live to see the day when opposition to torture -- *torture*, for pete's sake -- was 'self-righteous'."

** "Stopped Clocks" metaphors and no end of rhetorical scorn will be heaped on those who claim I am some disciple of Ayn Rand.
Victor Morton | Homepage | 01.26.06 - 2:20 am | #

Y'know, reading it again, I see I was a little imprecise on one point. It is a slight exaggeration to say that torture has no referent other the user's disapproval. Clearly, it has to have some, otherwise we wouldn't have any idea what the speaker was disapproving of. I disapprove of Zippy, but I wouldn't call his existence "torture."

But still, I would say that "torture's" primary use is as a rhetorical anathematization. And reading my post and scrolling up the combox a bit, one can see that my primary concern was rhetoric, and I was writing in response to someone noting that Shea attempts to call every type of bad-shit "torture" and/or ridicule every effort to draw distinctions (we saw an example of it just yesterday in Shea's post ... "At this juncture, it is customary to complain about my unfairness and mischaracterization of the position of people like Jeff and the Coalition for Fog. 'We're *not* defending torture!' goes the protest. We are defending, er, aggressive interrogation. Totally different! Maybe, however, in this case what is being defended are acts which *would* be called torture if the circumstances were not desperate.")

But I digress ... back then, what would have been more precise to say would have been "Shea is rhetorically using 'torture" as a classic Randian anticoncept -- a term designed merely to express disapproval. And unless we're willing to distinguish torture from other bad shit (or what Shea mockingly calls 'torture-lite' or 'just a teeny bit of torture' or other Classic Bits™ designed to erase these distinctions), Shea is right to do so."

The point was subtle, and I could have expressed myself more precisely. But then this note came up:
[partial snip]
The word "torture" is a classic example of what Ayn Rand called an "anticoncept"** -- meaning a term with no specific referent, except the speaker's disapproval.

Thought experiment: whaddaya say we torture Victor's family until he admits that there reallio, trulio is such a thing as torture?
Zippy | Homepage | 01.26.06 - 7:03 am | #

I beg everyone's forgiveness (you can scroll down the combox to see my reaction) that I really wasn't interested in "polishing the turd" of the rhetorical use of anticoncepts, or anything else involving that subhuman cretin after that point.

Victor said...

The point of the first acerbic paragraph of my first note being: "Zippy's got real-low standards for demanding consulting fees."

Dave Armstrong said...

10 seconds!!! ROFL

Now that's the funniest thing I've seen all year online. Zippy was practically crapping his pants trying to excruciatingly assert / "prove" that it'd take him, oh, a year or two to find this post . . .


I haven't read your post yet. I'm just laughing my head off over this aspect . . .

Dave Armstrong said...

Very good. I will post large portions of this at CAEI. But most of what I post there is either ignored or mocked or misunderstood (or
co-opted as the target of a gnat-straining, obscurantist exercise in futility), so I don't expect much to come of it.

Yet pointing out truth has its own power, and it certainly can't hurt . . .

Dave Armstrong said...

Here is what I wrote over at CAEI, surrounding citations of most of your material here:


In the latest torture thread I posted Victor Morton's reply to zippy's numerous accusations. zippy moaned about finding even one quote, that would take "several hours." Victor Morton found it in ten seconds by typing in three things to Google.

Nice try, zip. You might wanna familiarize yourself with Google. I was unaware that you had either a) never heard of it, or b) don't have a clue as to how to use it. Perhaps you'll even be gracious enough to waive the consulting fee next time you are heavily burdened with such an excruciating needle-in-a-haystack search?

Folks who actually wanna read (I know it's a novel concept for some) the words and arguments of someone (even the Great Satan of CAEI), rather than rely on third-hand, warmed-over, cynically-slanted anecdotal "evidence" from a hostile party, can do so at my other post. Victor did all the work for you:

[then I gave the link to the most recent torture thread]

[URL for this post:



zippy wrote in another torture thread, two torture posts below, when pressed by yours truly to document his assertions about the arch-Satan, Vlad, er, Victor Morton:

1. I don't have either the time or the energy to go back and plumb for them in the archives.

2. If we had that obligation to everyone we encounter, most of our lives would be spent searching blog archives for prior discussions.

3. . . . spending several hours going through old blog comments . . .

4. . . . Then I could scan through hundreds or thousands of posts looking for ones that might be on topic . . .

5. If you want to pay my consulting rate for me to do this project for you, send me a deposit.


Well, oddly enough, it took Victor Morton about ten seconds to find this horrific post. . . .

It's amazing what a little computer savvy can do, ain't it? Ten seconds, compared to Zippy's "most of our lives" or, at any rate, at least "several hours."

Google, Zippy. G.O.O.G.L.E. Learn it, love it. Save yourself the labor of the majority of your time on earth, or hours (take your pick).

So what can we learn from this thread? Again, in Victor's own words (isn't documentation and hearing the other side a wonderful thing?):

[cites of your stuff]

. . . There you have it, folks. Don't take the word of someone almost a year later, who has a vested interest in distorting someone else's opinions, in the midst of a huge polemical firestorm (not deliberately, necessarily; semi-conscious bias can produce all the same distorted results); get it from the horse's mouth. Read both sides. Exercise elementary Christian charity.

Whatever you think of Victor Morton's opinions, at least UNDERSTAND them and don't misrepresent that which you are opposing (in which case you're not really opposing it itself, but a mere caricature or straw man).

[URLs for this post:

Part I:


Part II:


Victor said...

Zippy's response is priceless: he just declares himself right and walks out. But I doubt his judgement will improve for the experience.

doubting thomas said...

"Out of curiousity, I was given to understand that certain posters here used to comment on Mark Shea's blog but were banned from doing so. What exactly were the circumstances? I've seen Mark ban people before on highly questionable grounds, but it would be good if I could have a better sense of exactly what we're talking about here."


Josiah, if you're still out there, I was banned twice. Once for pointing out how broad the definitions for abuse being used by Mark and others were. The second time I was banned was for refusing to say that Bush was a liar. This in response to Mark's assertion that Bush knew the reasons for the War in Iraq given by the Administration were false.

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