|<< ARI Watch||< Part I Part II · Part IV >|
Harry Binswanger, in his article “Vote for President Bush” (Capitalism Magazine, October 21, 2004) echoes the theme first presented by Andrew Bernstein:
“On a symbolic or sense-of-life level, Bush evokes the cowboy. The cowboy ethos is something that anti-Americans hate and fear. As Andrew Bernstein stated ... ‘What we honor about the cowboy of the Old West is his willingness to stand up to evil and to do it alone, if necessary. The cowboy is a symbol of the crucial virtues of courage and independence.’ ”Mr. Binswanger goes on to quote something Bush said during his first acceptance speech:
“ ‘Some people say I swagger, but in Texas we call it walking.’ [Mr. Binswanger continues:] This was a wry way of saying, ‘I’m not going to apologize for the firm, decisive attitude that people call my “arrogance” but which is something natural to me, and I’m proud of it.’ ”
Leonard Peikoff, however, holds a different opinion. Despite his endorsement, through ARI, of Bush in 2000, he declares that Objectivists should now vote for his opponent, Kerry. Is it because the Neocons control the Bush administration? Is it because the Bush administration promotes bill after bill setting up the apparatus of a police state? Is it because of government institutionalized torture? Is it because of billions in U.S. foreign aid to Israel? No, none of these things seem to worry Mr. Peikoff. He opposes Bush because, he says, Bush will set up a Christian theocracy.
He first raises this astonishing alarm during a philosophy course he gives over conference telephone, in the 15th and last lecture held June 3, 2004. The course is about how ideas shape society, specifically a hypothesis he calls “DIM,” which stands for Disintegration-Integration-Misintegration. Early August 2004 he posts a twenty minute audio excerpt of that lecture on his website, saying it explains his view of the upcoming presidential election, “why he intends to vote for Kerry, and why he condemns not only Bush, but also those who abstain from voting on the grounds that both candidates are no good.”
First a word about Mr. Peikoff’s terminology. A thinker, he says, can approach any subject, including politics, in three ways: by considering only concrete cases one by one, which remain dis-integrated (that is not integrated); or he can approach the subject conceptually, trying to properly integrate facts into a valid system; or, finally, by positing an integrated system divorced from reality, a mis-integrated system.
... I want some popcorn.
(pause) Froggy, you don’t belong here, now be quiet. Where was I? Mr. Peikoff uses a letter shorthand for each of these methods: D, I and M – Disintegrated (pragmatic), Integrated (conceptual), Misintegrated (mystical). The middle one, I, is the only correct method of thinking: D is bad, I good, M abysmal. Mr. Peikoff claims that in the long run it is the system builders, whether their system is valid or not, who are more attractive to the public than the concrete-bound. That is, either an I or an M will defeat a D.
Mr. Peikoff recognizes gradations of consistency in the bad cases D and M (consistent means unalloyed with I, the conceptual mentality). The most consistent extremes he calls D2 and M2. The less consistent – D or M alloyed with I – he calls D1 and M1.
(Considering that people are frequently D in this, I in that, M in the other thing – even within one subject – one might question the usefulness of Mr. Peikoff’s D, I and M or even that they are well defined, that is, that they are concepts themselves. In any case this brief explanation of what he calls his DIM hypothesis is given here so you can understand the jargon he uses.)
Mr. Peikoff applies DIM to the coming election of 2004 in the excerpt he chose and showcased from his lecture. We consider this excerpt in detail so you can see how disconnected this man is from American life. 
He begins by recalling from a previous lecture that the current M2 (the really bad element of society) is religious, but not all religious people are M2 – only those he calls “fundamentalists,” a term he uses for “everyone who takes a literal interpretation of Scripture as their religious foundation.” Some are the usual fundamentalists, others come from among Evangelicals, Pentecostals, Roman Catholics, etc. (We leave off our external quote marks when indenting Mr. Peikoff’s words below.)
I have no breakdown between these various sects of fundamentalists, but as far as I can tell the figures I have are accurate for the sum of ardent biblical Christians, and if I err I’m giving you too low a figure.He then considers how many fundamentalists exist and how vocal they are. Are they really becoming a mass base of evil? To answer this question he marshals the following facts. Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of the Christ, has grossed 400 million dollars so far, the top earner in all film history, 60 million people have paid to see it. Mr. Peikoff insinuates that it is “taking over the culture.” The existence of popular novels such as the Left Behind books each one of which went to the top of the New York Times bestseller list, in all 42 million copies sold.  Evangelical booklets sell in the millions. More religious records are sold in the U.S. than jazz and classical combined. (He fails to note how small the latter is.) There are Christian pop music stars and bands. He claims something called “Praise and Worship” music is now popular among college students, where the musicians play, and attendees sing, directly to God – my God. Religious colleges have a record number of students (he neglects to say what percentage of college students that is). Then there are religious magazines for teenagers called Biblezines, which he says are “very popular” – insinuating among all teenagers not just churchgoers. Mr. Peikoff concludes:
I could go on and on. I’ll just give you one more ... . The fact that the Christian Tattoo Association not only exists but has over one hundred member shops across the country. Did you know that ?... AUGH ! No I didn’t ! Oh my God, we’re all gonna die ! AUGH !!! AH—
Please, Froggy, control yourself; calm down. Things are not as bad as they appear. First, note that Mr. Peikoff neglects to say how many tattoo parlors of all kinds there are so we could compute the percentage belonging to the Association. After all America is a big country.  Note also that Mr. Peikoff doesn’t tell us just what the Christian Tattoo Association stands for. Is the existence of the YMCA – Young Men’s Christian Association – a harbinger of doom?
And anyway, do you much care what the people think who get a boat tattooed across their chest?
Mr. Peikoff continues:
U.S. News and World Report recently estimated that the total size of white evangelicals, covering all walks of life, was one quarter of the United States population – over sixty million people – and the criterion [is that] these are people who state that they are born again, that Scripture is literally true, and that they have a daily personal relationship with God. And this number is growing all the time, and does not include the huge number of sympathetic fellow travelers.Maybe we move in the wrong circles but Mr. Peikoff’s percentage – obtained from a vulgar magazine  – is incredible. The subject of religious fundamentalism was a journalistic cause of the day around this time, and the pollster may have asked questions that, intentionally or not, only revealed what the pollster was looking for. (A sort of Christian-Pantheist hybrid like Victor Hugo might translate one of those questions as: “Do you have a daily personal relationship with existence?” Others might think: “Born again?” – became a Christian? As for: “Scripture literally true?” – if a Christian were to answer No, what would he think he’d be communicating to the questioner?)
Furthermore, Mr. Peikoff conveniently leaves out the following text immediately preceding his quote:
“... a new poll by U.S. News and PBS’s Religion & Ethics Newsweekly reveals that evangelicals—their distinctive faith aside—are acting more and more like the rest of us. They are both influencing and being influenced by the society around them. While they harbor deep concerns about the moral health of the nation, they are more tolerant than they’re often given credit for, pay far more attention to family matters than to politics, and worry about jobs and the economy just about as much as everyone else.”Elsewhere the author of this article writes about interviewing an evangelical family:
“... evangelicals aren’t always the aggressive conservative force they’re made out to be. The Clausens vote but otherwise are not politically active. Neither is their church. Their pastor, Jim Nicodem, says he never talks about politics in the pulpit.”And here’s more on that poll of evangelicals:
“... only about a third have ever given time or money to political candidates or causes—roughly the same percentage as nonevangelicals. ‘I suppose we should be more involved,’ says [one member of the family]. ‘But frankly, we don’t see politics and government as the solution. ...’ ”She goes on to say that they are involved in the local community, making a difference. You have to wonder if the difference is always or even predominately so very M2 bad.
Peikoff then claims to quote the magazine article (his second and third sentences in fact aren’t there, but they paraphrase a part of the article distant from the first sentence): “These people have broken out of the Christian ghetto. They are no longer content to be a cultural backwater. They are out to spread the word and change the world.” Yet is this so very remarkable? Many Christians have always sought to spread the “good news.” Now they are Nazis, wait and see.
The new Christians possess the asset of pride. Mr. Peikoff quotes from another article, which he doesn’t mention but is from the New York Times,  (we restore in brackets text he silently omitted): “This generation has a desire to be more extreme in its faith. Going to church is not enough [to survive on earth]. They need to be in a living, breathing conversation with God.” He comments:
In other words they have no concern with reason in regard to their views, and not the slightest interest ... that religion should help to sustain a rational way of life, as in the old M1 [mysticism mixed with reason].We interrupt. Benjamin Franklin (a deist) wrote about America in a 1782 pamphlet for distribution in England called “Information to Those Who Would Remove to America,” as follows:
As one girl put it, she wants “something more spiritually meaty” than the religion of old. And here is absolutely the best line ever ... and summarizes everything. ... This is what the girl said ... : “People don’t want Christian Lite” ... that to me is the most eloquent statement I’ve ever heard, of exactly what’s going on in the culture today.This is a bit misleading. A reading of the original New York Times article reveals:
Mr. Peikoff then considers how far these people actually go in adopting their proclaimed M2 (pure mystical) values. He begins by quoting a professor of religion who criticizes them and their Christian music: “The dominant word in these songs is ‘I.’ ... the focus is not on God but how I experience God.” Mr. Peikoff continues: 
And one man, in full agreement [with that criticism – A.W.], spoke to a Praise and Worship crowd, and prayed as follows ... : “Death to me and my story and life to something so much bigger.” There was huge applause. Now, if you know any German: “Du bist nichts, dein Volk-Gott ist alles.” Gott instead of Volk, but it’s exactly, exactly the Nazi slogan, interchangeably.... AUGH ! The Nazis are here ! We’re all gonna die ! AUGH !!! AH—
Americans are famous for compartmentalizing when it comes to religion. What miniscule percent of Christians, even fundamentalists, would take the prayer’s nihilism seriously? As for these Christians taking over the U.S., would the rest of the American public today, Christian or non-Christians, put up with being forced to make such a prayer?
Again, Mr. Peikoff’s account of what happened at this particular Praise and Worship gathering (organized by a group called “Passion”) is misleading:
... politically the entire fundamentalist movement is overwhelmingly Republican and overwhelmingly supports Bush. ... the president of [the Christian Coalition] stated the simple truth: “We have a president who basically speaks for us.” And that’s absolutely true, because Bush is not a politician pretending piety. When he said before, during the [first] campaign ... that his favorite political philosopher was Jesus Christ, he was telling the truth. It’s his favorite philosopher let alone political philosopher. And he has the popular following he does in very significant part because of the vicious Christian measures that he champions, which are key parts of his religious viewpoint, and that is what he is trying to ram into our laws and national values or to entrench into the U.S. government.Mr. Peikoff then presents a few examples of things Bush has done based on his Christianity:
A major war against a religious entity, Islamic Fundamentalism, was fought against a secular nation, meanwhile stressing our duty to sacrifice to the enemy.Oh, maybe Bush mouthed something to that effect, but blowing Iraqis, their homes, water supply, bridges, hospitals and schools, to smithereens is more in the nature of sacrificing Iraqis – and the American public forced to pay for it, and possibly later to reap what they sow – to Mr. Bush and his Neocon associates.
And where does Mr. Peikoff get off pretending he didn’t support that war? (See Relentless Propaganda on this website.)
In other venues Mr. Peikoff has made it clear that he wants the U.S. to invade Iran, yet in his lecture he fails to note that the Bush administration also wants to invade Iran and only political expediency prevents him from doing it.
Mr. Peikoff goes on to give examples of what Bush favors, such as government funding of religious groups (“faith-based initiatives”) and judges who bring religion into the courtroom (Mr. Peikoff isn’t specific); and what Bush opposes, such as abortion choice. But, we point out, the faith-based initiatives didn’t amount to much and were made for bribery rather than Christianity. Abortion choice is as legal as ever.
Mr. Peikoff next considers Bush’s treatment of business:
He is a Christian, and he has unleashed government persecution on Christian grounds, persecution of big business, that is much worse than under the Democrats. ... He is a real anti-business Christian as against the Democrats who just do it as political policy.And evidently that is supposed to make a difference. As another example of what Bush supports, Mr. Peikoff notes that Bush selected a fundamentalist to head an FDA committee. Finally, he attributes the following words to Bush’s political advisor, Karl Rove: “People who attended church regularly voted for Bush disproportionately and the campaign now has made that group a top priority.”  – and remarks with alarm that the Republicans know where their support is coming from and whom they should recruit.
He sums up all this as follows:
Bush is to the religious state what FDR was to the welfare state.At this point Mr. Peikoff recommends an article by John Lewis if you want to learn more about Bush (we consider this article later). Regarding Bush’s opponent, John Kerry – a D1, or inconsistent pragmatist – Mr. Peikoff says that two generations ago he would have believed someone like Kerry was dangerous and must be defeated, but not today:
... because there is no longer a mass base or any crusade for big government. There are no ethical or political ideals in the country except among the religious people. ... Kerry can’t even think of anything to say in this campaign, they simply have no ideas, period. Now of course Kerry is bad in everything, ... you name a standard liberal evil he’s bad at it. But none of these types is a threat. ... not even Hillary Clinton as President would be a threat at this juncture, not a threat to the very foundations and even existence of the United States.We comment briefly. There never was a mass base for big government among the general public until Third World immigrants and those receiving government grants, contracts, and employment became a significant percentage of the citizenry. Before that only among intellectuals was there such a (comparative) mass base, and they used three wars, the Civil War and World War I and World War II, to get the public to accept the expansion, just as they use the War on Terrorism (or whatever the current name is) today.
As for Bush vs. Kerry, Mr. Peikoff notes that issue by issue they are pretty much the same. But what matters is that
... Bush is working to achieve a massive entrenchment of fundamentalism into our government and political system. Kerry has no such agenda.On that ironically Old Testament note – spoken crescendo – Mr. Peikoff’s excerpt abruptly ends. One can more or less agree with his conclusion disconnected from his argument. Bush was a very bad choice, though there were far more important reasons for it than those given by Mr. Peikoff, and Kerry had the potential to be not as bad. But Mr. Peikoff’s reason for supporting Kerry – that George W. Bush, backed by Christians itching to take over the United States, could and would set up a theocratic state – is truly absurd.
Now in any choice between a D1 [inconsistent pragmatist, here Kerry – A.W.] and an M2 [pure mystic, here Bush] with a mass base, it is obvious ... that the D1 must be supported.
Up to now for decades our elections have been between D1s. ... now for the very first time we have a serious M2 president and candidate, with all the essentials in place: God, faith, sacrifice, statism – in other words the equivalent of a Puritan theocracy, the aggregate of it. ... if this goes on for even four more years, how long do you think intellectual freedom and freedom of speech can last?
... I don’t think there’s the least moral justification for sitting the election out on the grounds that, well, both of them are no good. ... That is a total ... immoral evasion. ... people who say they’re not going to vote for anybody because both men are bad, happen to ignore one crucial element: one is normally, disgustingly bad, and the other is apocalyptic [sic] bad.
Bush the man was a cipher, a zero, a dummy. He had not the makings of any kind of Pope or Führer. Mr. Peikoff’s concern should have been directed at his advisors, the men who work the dummy. And they are not Christian.
They use the Christian fundamentalists. They use them politically while despising them, and will discard them when they no longer serve their purpose, details in a moment.
Two years later come the 2006 congressional elections (state senators and local representatives). Now Mr. Peikoff’s concern is over more than just Bush. The Republicans, any Republican, he says, will help set up a Christian theocracy – a dictatorship by men whom the public regards as guided by God, while they force Christianity on us all – and he urges his readers to vote a straight Democratic ticket. From his website (October 19, 2006):
“... the Republicans stand for religion, particularly evangelical Christianity, and are taking ambitious strides to give it political power.Why Mr. Peikoff boosted Bush in 2000 thus again becomes a puzzle. Anyway, with few exceptions Republican politicians are as sincere in their Christianity as was the fictional character Elmer Gantry. And “Left versus Right” is eyewash. 
“anyone who votes Republican or abstains from voting in this election has no understanding of the practical role of philosophy in man’s actual life ... he does not understand the philosophy of Objectivism ... .
“If [compared to the Left] ... you feel more comfortable with the Right, you are unwittingly helping to push the U.S. toward disaster, i.e., theocracy, not in 50 years, but, frighteningly, much sooner.”
By this time ARI writers had heard the new dispensation from Mr. Peikoff, and those who had disagreed earlier either clammed up or nominally changed their support to the Democrats, while continuing to write like Neocons.
As for the outcome of the congressional elections, the American public, fed up with the Bush administration, changed the majority in Congress from Republican to Democrat – naively thinking the latter would reign in Bush.
Jumping ahead to the presidential election of 2016, among Evangelical voters 81% chose Donald Trump, not exactly theocratic state material.
Mr. Peikoff takes the spate of news articles engendered by the success of Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ and chooses quotes that support his fear that religion is taking over America. But the overall impression these articles give is not so much that religion is taking over America as that America is taking over religion, that is, that religion is adapting itself in vulgar forms. Most Protestant Christians in fact want the government out of our lives.
In so far as there is a genuine religious fundamentalist revival today, why would it be more self-sustaining than the periodic ones of yesteryear? The question is not rhetorical. These people are organized to a degree and they are a political influence, even if Mr. Peikoff exaggerates it. Some of them are nuts, though they number far less than what Mr. Peikoff claims and only in his hysterical imaginings would they attempt a civil war.
To help answer the question how today’s fundamentalists differ from those of, say, the Second Great Awakening of the 1800s, note the glaring omission in Mr. Peikoff’s lecture. Many, indeed most, of his Fundamentalists – also known as Fundamentalist Evangelicals or simply Evangelicals – are Christian Zionists. And they not only unstintingly support, for bizarre rapturous reasons, Israel, they owe their ideas to Zionist influence and to some extent their organization to surreptitious Zionist funding. 
Here is one example of Christian Zionist propaganda that Mr. Peikoff never mentions, from the website of Christians United for Israel: 
Mr. Peikoff’s failure to mention the Zionist connection is no innocent mistake. Anyone who had sincerely looked into the subject of contemporary religious fundamentalism would know about it. The reason for his silence? Undoubtedly because he too unquestioningly supports Israel, if not for the Rapture – no, not for the Rapture – then for reasons just as irrational and in the broad sense just as religious-like. (To begin to see how much ARI writers worship Israel see This Is Our Ally? on this website.)
Thus we have the spectacle of Mr. Peikoff railing against Evangelicals, most of them Christian Zionists, without identifying a crucial element that motivates them, and which distinguishes them from the harmless revivalists of earlier years.
In his book The DIM Hypothesis, now published, Mr. Peikoff doesn’t address the fact that Evangelicals support Israel. He simply does not allow himself to see it. When finishing the book he answered the following loaded question on his podcast of May 9, 2011: “Why is every person who is anti-Israel also anti-American?” not by pointing out that it’s a loaded question, that in fact some critics of Israel are pro-American, but by saying “Because both stand for the same thing. It [Israel] is hated by all fundamentalist religionists; and hated by all egalitarian nihilists.” You have to wonder how ignorant he thinks we are, or if he himself could be that ignorant.
In his book Mr. Peikoff again predicts that the U.S. will become a theocratic state, now within two generations. It is next to a sure thing:
|The Threat of a Faith-Based Defense of America by John Lewis, Capitalism Magazine, June 6, 2004.|
Mr. Lewis observes that Bush promoted “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, and a marriage amendment to the Constitution. Because of these and other acts:
There is, Mr. Lewis writes, “only one issue in the 2004 election: the war with militant Islam,” and he complains that:
Twice in his article Mr. Lewis promotes invading Iran. This is standard fare from ARI these days, see Relentless Propaganda: Redux for Iran, elsewhere on this website, for further promoting by Mr. Lewis and other ARI associates. Like Mr. Peikoff, Mr. Lewis doesn’t tell you that Bush wanted to invade Iran and only political expediency prevented him from doing it.
Mr. Lewis expresses his approval of one of Bush’s more ominous pronouncements, if only Bush had really meant it:
Of John Kerry Mr. Lewis writes:
Mr. Lewis ends: “... in the war with militant fundamentalist Islam, Bush is pro-religion, all the way to the core of his soul.” Fortunately Kerry’s religion is more superficial – confined to the rind of his soul you might say – and he “will not sympathize with fundamentalism.” Mr. Lewis leaves us to conclude which to support.