The Charlotte News

Wednesday, January 24, 1940


Site Ed. Note: "Confession" points up something of which we should be regularly mindful in our society: that such groups as the Christian Front are anything but fronts for Christian principle.

They are, we think, at best political organizations, at worst, as in the case of the Ku Klux Klan, also regularly proclaiming itself a Christian organization, brandishing about Biblical verses out of context in a most anti-Christian fashion, a hate mongering, divisive group of the lowest order.

These organizations do one thing: they organize people of limited education or intelligence, limited or non-existent reading skills and thinking skills, and limited means therefore with which to voice their concerns in any manner but the most ineffective means by which they normally express themselves individually, into a concerted group flying under some banner, usually led by some half-wit, albeit one with an acceptable persona, sometimes even a college degree or better, some media pull somewhere, a business suit, always obligatory these days, and a few randomly scattered facts in mind, neatly memorized, to toss about to support an easy premise on which to build an illusory platform of existence. (We heard one, for instance, back around 2000, a well-known one, speaking authoritatively about the "landslide" of Richard Nixon in 1968 being the bell weather-cock to suggest the conservative majority of the country since--indicating in one full, open-mouthed swath this person's absence of all political and historical acumen, per the usual course of such organization leaders of this ilk.)

Today, their main voice coalesces around such issues as abortion, the teaching of intelligent design, and other such "moral concerns" feeding their fanciful minds. We know them well, these minds which do not, maybe cannot, think in any organized manner but only emote and parrot what they hear someone of like notions say. They work in stealth most usually; too cowardly to step forward and argue their unarguable positions, as, at base, they know society rejects those positions, that they are ninety percent emotional reactions, five percent rejected science, and another dose of factual premises from which several demonstrable conclusions are possible, but which lead only to one inescapably in the minds of these half-wits. To argue with them in the least is to be deemed harassing of them and worthy of court orders. And, that is because they are half-wits who think argument is a form of rejection of their obligatory world view, one required to belong to their club, the one which replaces thought with sentiment, debate with autocracy and demagoguery, compounded societally to manifold local oligarchies. Their "church" is no more than a political rally where they plan their next strategy antithetical to the concept of a free and democratic and open society.

We feel a little sorry for them sometimes, as they are always going to lose in the end. At least we feel sorry for them until their frustration with inevitable loss and rejection of their irrational notions leads them to begin to destroy lives, as they are also sometimes wont to do, even actually murdering people on occasion. For, as they do not think to reach their rationalized premises on which their "religion" is based, they need not be accountable to any conscience or higher rationale, as they become one and the same ultimately with their "god" and thus can do whatever that god can do, whatever the rules of the religion permit that god to do, ultimately allowing them to judge others, and, if need be by the rules, kill them. That is ultimately the irrational end to which any of these unprincipled, emotive groups' gestalt can and will lead.

For they are basically, however educable in the premises, simply uneducated half-wits, lazy minds seeking easy solutions to complex manifestations, one simple answer to manifold and ultimately unanswerable questions, the ultimate questions with which we must grapple, as in such matters as religion and existence, not being designed for an answer but rather only posed to encourage a thought process to approximate a better understanding in order to understand better what the problem is in professing to know anything beyond certain basic points of agreement as to time and place and other such generally agreed upon existential data on which the world commonly operates. That is to say, to think through things rationally, not devoid of feeling, but not governed by irrational emotion and prejudice.

These are people who wish to try to have something someone else has and are content to steal it if they have to, rationalizing their thuggery in the process on some normative platform, their culled version of "Christianity" being only one of many rubrics under which they may try to subsume themselves, finally to sublimate their own painful individual identities, whatever scant identity they may have cultivated for themselves, giving up that pain, for awhile, by forming a sort of alloy with a group identity. The final issue being not what they don't have materially, for the group will provide that, but the recognition finally that they are half-wits unable to think for themselves because they view thinking as only some practical chore by which one must plot to earn a living, not merely to understand the world better to be better informed and to make better, more sensible choices. The mind itself, the individual mind, will finally rebel against this sublimated individual identity. Then the trouble starts.

These half-wits have a perfect right to espouse their views, to voice them, to write them out, and speak them to whomever will listen, of course, as long as they do not advocate the immediate overthrow of the government--which many of them nevertheless do and with impunity usually for their political connections--or advocate imminent violence, which many of them also do, explicitly or implicitly, without penalty. We have still not forgotten a well-known politically active evangelist's exhortation over the air one night, immediately after the 1992 election, that the "wages of sin is death", saying it in immediate connection to the election of President Clinton; or this same evangelical hellion's more recent proclamatory fit to the wishful effect that some of the "liberal Supreme Court" might die to make room for more conservative--that is to say half-wit like himself--judges. But the FCC is more concerned of course about other things, such as terribly disturbing talk over the radio about female anatomical features or such things as that--as long as the speaker is not one of the shills for the Christian Front in their other guises, that is. Then, of course, they can say about what they want.

We don't pretend to have any ready solution for these people who are given to follow these half-wits. But we might suggest a start by reading more and thinking beneath the superficial plane more, speaking far less, especially on the airwaves.

Start maybe with old poetry from the 18th or 19th century; read it, and read it three or four times over a period of days, each time understanding the words somewhat differently to understand that the words are often susceptible to more than one interpretation. Then, go back to the Bible, and perform the same exercise. Voila! No more group-think, none even necessary.

The philosophers of the past, freely available online, such as Descartes, Spinoza, Hume, Berkeley, Locke, Aristotle, Plato, offer a good and reasonable start, too--not to read all of their work necessarily, not even recommended, but to take one topic of interest, and explore it via several philosophers across time, one small point, not necessarily the grander ones. Just a point requiring a few pages of reading, probably, but a few pages stimulative of many hours thereafter of contemplation as to what the author was saying about the nature of the particularly contemplated aspect of being. And, by that process, understanding the different conceptions of reality itself which abound within reason, as well as the variety of views on reality's many separate facets. Then, perhaps, the grander questions will appear more rationally, less emotively, and it will at once become plain that the grander questions are not to be taken quite so seriously that reaching single answers, such that anyone should be willing to kill over the differences in those inevitably manifold answers or steal over them or destroy reputations over them, is any longer so important. That it is the process by which the answer, if there be one, came to you, not the answer per se, which is important.

We were re-reading a little of this little book we once spent a whole semester in college reading slowly and studying within a philosophy course in spring, 1974. It is simply entitled Thought. It was written by Gilbert Harman, a Princeton philosophy professor, and published in 1973 by the Princeton Press. Professor Harman began his book this way:

My concept of a person takes him to be a functional system of states and processes that possess representational characteristics by virtue of their role in the functional system. People differ from other animals in having language; that means that we can think in language, which gives us an advantage over the animals that cannot. On the other hand, not all human thought is in words. Our conception of ourselves in the world is more like a map than a story; and in perception our view of the world is more like a picture.

To the extent that thought is a matter of inference and reasoning, it is a matter of trying to increase the coherence of our total view. Coherence is a matter of explanation; that is why inference can involve deduction--not because there is such a thing as deductive inference, but because there is such a thing as deductive explanation.

Knowledge is acquired by inference that does not essentially involve anything false. Perceptual knowledge is thus based on actual inference; and knowledge retained in memory is continually reinferred.

These ideas emerge when skepticism is turned on its head and judgments about when we know are used to discover what inference is and when it occurs.

Then for 190 pages, the professor explains to us his rational view of the thought process, the nature of how we perceive objects within our thought process, as opposed to the physiological or psychological processes--one we carefully studied and enjoyed for a whole semester in that spring of 1974; how the thought process can be used for better explanation to ourselves of perceptions, ours and others', of the world about us. It is not to say that this is the only such valid notion of the thought process, that framed within this little book by Professor Harman, but rather that it is a fit vehicle by which to study the thought process generally, a mirror by which to ask some fundamental questions about it and thus become more fully engaged as an individual capable of rational thought.

If in reading the paragraphs quoted above from this book one starts with the observation that, after all, some say and contend by replicatable experiment that certain chimps and dolphins reveal rudimentary aspects of communication by repetitive symbolic language, and that thus the professor must be uninformed and therefore unworthy of further reading, then one is already missing the point entirely.

The thing which we ask after reading the paragraphs is rather how does one come to understand whether the inferences one makes to obtain a conclusion of one sort or another do not involve false assumptions. And in being willing then to make that basic inquiry, regularly, in all fields of inquiry, one is less apt then to make a mistake in one's reasoning, we think, and more likely to achieve a result, based on reasoning, which is more closely approximating accuracy and truth than were one to assume dolphins and chimps also have language, because you read that somewhere or heard it one night on the news or some program somewhere, and thus would view it more reasonable, for the conclusion that dolphins and chimps think fit your pre-existing emotive concerns over animal rights, to dismiss the philosophy professor as an uninformed zoogynist, you see, than to accord him your attention for his thoughts on thought.

For, the professor starts with certain assumptions and is speaking about human beings, as few animals we have ever encountered truly are capable of having much of a rational discussion with us regarding philosophical concerns. But then, perhaps there would be some who might radically differ with us on the point.

Then again, as we have previously pointed out, we confess that Cretin often poses to us many interesting questions in need of deep and thorough-going philosophical inquiry and analysis. So yet, sometimes, on some issues, such as that set forth in "Cautious", we defer to him for our conclusions about reality, and leave the thinking to you, our reader.

"Weather Notes" makes many points which cry out for attention today as well as in 1940. Our winter this year in many parts is not unlike that of 1940, and, as then, we are still told that our climate is in a warming trend, as it obviously is, or should be so understood to anyone these days with a brain with which to think and perceive data, both read and observed in your midst. So, is it the war? Or, is it, more generally perhaps, based on inferences gleaned across large segments of time, the industrial age in which we live, these modern times? Which way doth the wind blow?

Ah well, now the half-wits will likely label us one of the weather men, no doubt...

But, then, don't forget what the Joker does.

The radical skeptic, deferring back a moment to Professor Harman's suggestions about him or her and their questions, might ask us the question regarding how we come to know that these things we read are real, actually written in the time they are labeled, by someone, at least most of the time, named W. J. Cash. How do we know someone hasn't invaded the microfilm, written it all out sometime later just to fit with later political or philosophical ideas, just to fool us into believing certain things which never were in fact? How do we know that, once even copied from the microfilm, the copies are not then later substituted with false copies by someone, some nefarious creature, who silently wafts their essence into our study when all is quiet in the nocturne and replaces, with the print they choose, the original copies, bounds away, laughing the while at our continuing gullibility for accepting the commonplace assumption that they are real? Especially so, as we never read the copy as it comes off the microfilm? How do we know we didn't die in that car crash back there somewhere, twenty-five, thirty years ago or so, when we thought it to be but a fender-bender from which we walked away unscratched, unscathed, in this plane of reality?

Well, more questions for Cretin to answer with his paws, jowls, and wild eyne, not for us on which to worry our silly little heads today. We are where we are until we find ourselves elsewhere, either physically or by dint of imagination, occasioned by mere thinking, reading, listening, viewing, or some combination thereof. There is little else we can do other than to think ourselves out of it or into it.

Speaking of which, that is thinking, we saw yesterday where the President has decided to shift his thinking some from just a week or so ago and sit down to talk with Iran and Syria. We think that a splendid notion. Why didn't we think of it? After all, someone, maybe G. K. Chesterton, or one of those British thinkers, once said, when accused of being unduly vacillating, something to the effect that he would not allow himself to be more ignorant today than he was yesterday. And so, we compliment the President on his being more, that is less--how should we address this?--less given to not being quite so certain of things as they appeared to him they were yesterday, today.

But, for the sake of fairness, we do at least think it altogether fit for the gander that we suggest that changing one's mind within a week's time does warrant an echo at least of phraseology we heard resounding about a convention hall in August, 2004. We believe it went, "Drip-drop, drip-drop," obviously referring to the many hurricanes occurring then in Florida and how their Party was solidly behind the issue of channeling major resources into addressing the overriding problem causing them, that being global warming.

Yet, we may have misheard. We shall have to check into that someday.

Meanwhile, we truly hope that the discussions proceed well and evince fit and rational conclusions based on thought and principles of fairness with regard to the nature of reality.

We include from the day's page also the following piece by editorial page regular of the time, syndicated potpourrist Christopher Billopp. It regards that much-maligned, if often unduly dry, winter treat, which, while we admit to having not had any in quite some time, nor going out of our way to obtain it, is nevertheless a thing which we think has its occasional place for the palate and not to be excluded simply because of late night talk show hosts' jokes about it, inevitably because, no doubt, the talk show hosts themselves were much maligned while growing up as perhaps being one.

Mr. Billopp:

Fruit Cake

When at a tea reception or other festive occasion your hostess offers you rich, dark brown fruit cake, if you were honest you might respond in this manner:

Madam, so far as I'm concerned, you might as well offer me a combination of carbolic acid, potassium, strychnine and other subtle and deadly poisons.

Judging from your kindly and compassionate expression, you do not realize that once this cake has entered my system I will almost immediately suffer a loss of appetite. This will be followed by an uneasy feeling in the neighborhood of my midriff.

I will retire to my bed, but sleep will be fitful, accompanied by unpleasant dreams in which I will be chased by bandits and wake myself and my wife by crying out for help. I will then get up and make a brew of hot water and bicarbonate of soda--a remedy I detest above all others--and gulp it down.

I will arise tomorrow morning feeling that I have lost my dearest friend. One look at the spareribs at breakfast will bring distress and I will inquire of the cook if it will be too much trouble to prepare a soft-boiled egg and a cup of tea.

I will drag myself to the office, skimp on my work, confine my lunch to consomme and a cracker, all the while bemoaning the fact that I have been so foolish as to have partaken of a food that invariably plays havoc with the delicate mechanism of my digestive system.

Nevertheless and notwithstanding, dear Madam, I accept your offer with pleasure. First, because I like you and appreciate your well-intentioned hospitality; secondly, because, in spite of the dreadful things it does to me, I just love fruit cake!



Our Finance Chief Leaves Us Only A Puzzle

Mr. Morgenthau was exceedingly cautious. Excessively cautious, in fact.

His proposal for increasing the debt limit from $45,000,000,000 to $50,000,000,000 was merely what everybody with any realism in him already foresaw, what had to be said pretty soon in any case. Even Mr. Taft does not propose to balance the budget before a period of two years has elapsed. And with the debt already standing at forty billions, the necessary borrowing would carry it well beyond $45,000,000,000 in that period, even if expenditures were held to the proposed Taft figure of $7,000,000,000 annually.

For the rest, why, certainly Mr. Morgenthau was in favor of balancing the budget. His Chief has always said that he, too, was in favor of balancing it. And, of course, he thought that meant more taxes. It is not precisely a profound observation that unbalanced budgets can be balanced only by fetching in more revenue, which in lean times can only mean more taxes.

There, however Mr. Morgenthau shut up like a clam.

"But if you say, 'Morgenthau, what kind of taxes should there be?' I cannot answer that because I do not know."

But it seems a little unfair to the rest of us. If the Secretary of the Treasury doesn't know, how shall we hope to know?


Coughlin Put Dies On A Spot With This Stand

Papa Coughlin has come right out and admitted it, and Mr. Martin Dies is going to be highly uncomfortable.

When the seventeen Christian Front plotters were arrested in New York for planning a half-witted attempt at revolution, Papa Coughlin hastily assured the world that he had nothing to do with them. Unfortunately, the pages of Papa's journal "Social Justice," showed all too plainly that that just couldn't be true. And so now Papa has repented him.

He is, he says, not a member of any Christian Front organization. But he will "not dissociate" himself from them. Instead, he will stand by the plotters through their trial. As for Mr. J. Edgar Hoover, of the FBI, he is just a conscious or unconscious instrument who is lending himself to the effort to discredit "the fight against Communism," which is definitely--says Papa--at stake in this trial. A few crackpots may get into the Christian Front, but it is a great bulwark against Communism.

Which seems to bring Papa a little more clearly into the open than has been the case in the past. How the Christian Front proposes to battle the hypothetical Red Menace in the United States is well-known: It proposes to do it quite simply by setting up Fascism in the United States, kicking the Bill of Rights out the window and replacing it with the Hitler doctrine of racial hatred and summary brutality for all dissenters to Fascism. That is what Papa now confesses that he will not dissociate himself from.

And that in turn seems to put it up to Mr. Martin Dies. So far, he has assiduously failed to observe Papa Coughlin in his investigations--so assiduously that his critics have sometimes accused him of having a soft spot for both Papa and the Christian Front idea. A lot of people may begin to suspect that there is truth in it if he ignores this development.


But Long Machine Will Put Up Terrific Fight

The chances for the defeat of the Long machine in Louisiana's run-off election for the Democratic nomination to the Governorship now appear fairly bright.

Senator James A. Noe, who ran third in the first primary, has cast his support to Sam Jones, who will be Earl Long's opponent in the run-off. And what is more significant, he seems to have done this in response to demand on the part of his followers. At a mass meeting of 200 of his precinct workers, held before he announced his decision, the whole body of them rose up, apparently spontaneously, and shouted over and over: "We don't want Earl Long, we don't want Earl Long!"

And if the bulk of the Noe vote can be successfully delivered to Jones, then there is not much doubt about the outcome.

Nevertheless, it is to be remembered that, if the machine is beaten, Louisiana promises to have to build several new penitentiaries to house the rascals--who naturally do not want to go to jail. The Long machine will certainly move heaven and earth to keep itself in power and out of the hoosegow and it still has enormous powers at its command and is perfectly ruthless in its methods.

Earl Long is now engaged in trying to befuddle the electorate by having the Legislature enact "reforms." The ghost of old Huey will be trotted out and worked to a fare-you-well. And the wholesale intimidation and corruption already revealed as having been practiced in the first primary will probably not be a drop in the bucket to what the run-off will see.

It promises to be an interesting test of state government in the United States, as between the forces of decency and those of scoundrelism.

Weather Notes

Some Random Observations On A Snow In The City

"Oh, yeah?" they chuckled on Monday when the sun was shining brilliantly, "that weather man is a joker!"

Yesterday they quit chuckling. Today they can go back. He said that it would snow all day today. At nine o'clock this morning, the sunlight was golden over the city and Charlotte was beautiful. Still, the weather man perhaps had the best of the argument. Not since 1917 has the city seen quite such blizzardy weather as it had yesterday afternoon. And quite all the snow the weather man promised fell. Merely, it fell a little faster than he had foreseen.

Blizzardy and sleepy yesterday afternoon, it was only lovely last night. The icy wind died away and blew around corners at you only now and then. The snow came heavily down against the red glare under the clouds. And young boys and girls, pretending they were the Dead End Kids, shouted happily in the streets, their shouts ringing oddly in the great void left by the absence of automobiles and their everlasting din. It might have been a Yankee town, and you caught yourself listening unconsciously for sleigh bells.

Lovely, we said. That is, for the warmly clad who occasionally dared to walk abroad, for those who sat warmly in their warm houses or lay in the warm beds enjoying the curious silken stillness outside that one knows to mean the stealthy falling of the snow. Perhaps not very lovely for the dwellers in Ape Yard and Blue Heaven and all those slums black and white, in the city about which Nathan Straus was talking yesterday. Nor for the overcoatless who passed so swiftly in the streets.

One thing that was notable this morning is that transportation was available much as usual. In the old days of the street cars, it probably would have begun to break down yesterday afternoon as the blizzard struck its stride, would have been rudimentary by this morning. But the busses, having rolled over their road all night long, were running very much on schedule today.

A curious thought struck us. Not since 1917, as we have said, had the city seen quite such a blizzard. But cold and snow, then, go along with war in some mysterious companionship, as the Apocalyptic horsemen of death ride together? In Russia it was the worst Winter in a hundred years, they said. And in Finland. And in Germany and France and England. And hadn't the papers said yesterday that in South China also the Japanese and the Chinese were battling a great snowstorm? All over the earth, save in the tropical regions, men were falling in the snow from small wounds, to the great agony and then the warm comfort of freezing swiftly to death.

Alas for such speculations, however. The meteorologists were agreed that, in fact, we were living in a cycle of increasing warmth. And remembering last Summer and last Fall, it seemed to us to be true. A mere flurry of cold, that was all.

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