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Dennis Prager’s False Dichotomy

Dennis Prager fancies himself an intellectual, as do most of his followers. In reality, he’s at about the Rush Limbaugh level, a purveyor of little more than bland catchphrases and platitudes in the service of his right wing ideology. And he’s completely oblivious to his own internal contradictions. Like this one:

You cannot understand the left if you do not understand that Leftism is a religion. It is not God-based (some left-wing Christians’ and Jews’ claims notwithstanding), but otherwise it has every characteristic of a religion. The most blatant of those characteristics is dogma. People who believe in Leftism have as many dogmas as the most fundamentalist Christian.

Is there anything more ridiculous than when religious people accuse others of being religious? Or when they throw around blanket accusations at a particular belief that actually apply to any belief? Every system of thought has “dogmas,” at least in the sense of having strongly held positions that they are unlikely to change. Prager makes this accusation as though he were exempt from it himself, as though he didn’t have his own set of dogmas and ideologies.

One of them is material equality as the pre-eminent moral goal. Another is the villainy of corporations. The bigger the corporation, the greater the villainy. Thus, instead of the devil, the left has Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, Big Oil, the “military-industrial complex” and the like. Meanwhile, Big Labor, Big Trial Lawyers, and, of course, Big Government are left-wing angels. And why is that? Why, to be specific, does the left fear big corporations but not big government? The answer is dogma – a belief system that transcends reason. No rational person can deny that big governments have caused almost all the great evils of the last century, arguably the bloodiest in history. Who killed the 20-30 million Soviet citizens in the Gulag Archipelago – big government or big business? Hint: There were no private businesses in the Soviet Union. Who deliberately caused 75 million Chinese to starve to death – big government or big business? Hint: See previous hint. Did Coca Cola kill 5 million Ukrainians? Did Big Oil slaughter a quarter of the Cambodian population? Would there have been a Holocaust without the huge Nazi state?

Whatever bad big corporations have done is dwarfed by the monstrous crimes – the mass enslavement of people, the deprivation of the most basic human rights, not to mention the mass murder and torture and genocide – committed by big governments.

How can anyone who thinks rationally believe that big corporations rather than big governments pose the greatest threat to humanity? The answer is that it takes a mind distorted by leftist dogma. If there is another explanation, I do not know what it is.

It’s really a lovely false dichotomy, don’t you think? Not to mention the complete lack of irony. His argument could easily be flipped around, of course. Who does the right insist that nearly all government action is evil — except when it puts someone to death, goes to war against an enemy that does not threaten or harm us, tortures people or violates their rights in the name of stopping terrorism, of course — but that it is “socialism” to advocate preventing corporations from violating the rights of workers, squandering the hard-earned money of investors and depositors, or destroying the environment?

Of course giving any government too much power is dangerous, but so is giving a corporation too much power. It wasn’t the government that polluted hundreds of square miles of the state I live in with dioxin, or created more than 1200 Superfund sites in the US, or was so negligent that they caused a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It wasn’t the government that created the Bhopal disaster or that used hired thugs to kill union organizers. Unchecked corporate power may be less dangerous on a global scale because they don’t command armies, but that hardly justifies letting them do whatever they want to do.

This false dichotomy obscures what should be obvious to any thinking person, which is that the most dangerous situation is when corporate power and government power are wedded, when the government is virtually a subsidiary of big business. That’s when you get inadequate regulation that creates the housing crisis. That’s when you get agencies bought off by corporate interests to look the other way rather than protect innocent people.

Religious Christians and Jews also have some irrational beliefs, but their irrationality is overwhelmingly confined to theological matters; and these theological irrationalities have no deleterious impact on religious Jews’ and Christians’ ability to see the world rationally and morally. Few religious Jews or Christians believe that big corporations are in any way analogous to big government in terms of evil done. And the few who do are leftists.

Holy crap, what universe does Prager live in? On this planet, religious people have all sorts of irrational beliefs that far too often does have a hugely deleterious impact on their ability to see the world rationally. Just look at their utterly irrational objection to equality for LGBT people and their support for many other theocratic policies. Dennis Prager is not an intellectual, he’s a poser. He’s Rush Limbaugh with a thesaurus.

Comments

  1. Rasmus Odinga Gambolputty de von Ausfern....of Ulm says

    Jebus H, why is everything a religion with these tools? I’d write more, but the Church of Major League Baseball is about to start, and I expect a fantastic sermon from the Home Plate Preacher concerning the Dogmatic Validity of Balls & Strikes.

    Steeeerike one!

    Preach it, brother, preach it.

    OT- Was there no Culture Wars Radio episode this week?

  2. DiscordianStooge says

    I listen to about 10 minutes of Prager almost every morning, and he always manages to say one thing that is completely divorced from reality. He is very good at giving descriptions of “liberals” that no liberal I have ever met would meet. Now that I think of it, the same can be said of his descriptions of atheists. It’s almost as if he just makes up things about people he doesn’t like so he can make them look bad.

  3. says

    I keep saying (and people keep not listening) that business needs to push against government, government needs to push against business, and voters need to push against both. Ideally it’s another system of checks and balances. Unfortunately at the moment government and business are too closely dependent on each other and screwing over voters (and everyone else not in government or big business).

  4. jjgdenisrobert says

    Well, the problem is Big Corporation *is* Big Government… That’s what the righties don’t get. Government works for the Corporations, not the other way around. And the Corporations are full on Internationalists (“Debout, les Damnés de la Terre…”). They form Trade Unions, and are planning a Revolution. If Corporations are People, then they are Communists…

  5. abb3w says

    Hm. Looking at it from Dale Cannon’s “Six Ways” framework….

    Liberalism does seem to involve the Way Of Right Action.
    Maybe involve Way of Reasoned Inquiry — much more than conservatism seems to.
    Way of Devotion? of Sacred Rite? of Shamanic Mediation? of Mystical Quest? Not seeing it.

    NFL football comes a heck of a lot closer to being a religion.

    I don’t suppose there’s any point to noting that “there were no private businesses in the Soviet Union” ignores the ways in which the Soviet Union could be treated as a single corporate entity to a person like him.

  6. badandfierce says

    Oh, “Big Government,” you totally meaningless phrase, you.

    I keep seeing simplistic political cartoons and infographics about how the Tea Party wants to end Big Government and Occupy wants to end Big Business and how the two are, in fact, intertwined. Clever clever. Generally these come from the kind of mind that also put out those little lists of politicians’ salaries and comparisons of national to household budgets, accompanied by smug comments about how common sense would fix everything. The muddy, pointless middle you occupy when you insist both sides are equally stupid. Same dichotomy from a different vantage point.

    Both ignoring the fact that progressives, as a rule, have disentangling government and business as a major goal, replacing unfettered campaign donations and lobbying dollars with reasonable, impersonal regulation. Yes, a democratic and just government should have power over corporations, which are semi-imaginary entities. Before we get one of those we have to pull the two apart, while ignoring the random stupid pronouncements of the great false-equivocators.

  7. d cwilson says

    Unchecked corporate power may be less dangerous on a global scale because they don’t command armies,

    Blackwater.

  8. Ben P says

    Leftism is an electronica album.

    In run into this frequently because I post at Volokh.

    “Leftism” and “Leftist” is the word du jour used to refer to democrats, liberals, progressives et al. I’m quite sure it originated in a focus group somewhere as to whatever carried the strongest negative cannotation, but it also brings an argument with it, at least at volokh.

    The people there argue that they’re taking back the term “liberal” because that means “classical liberal” i.e. libertarian, and they’re not going to allow “leftists” to misuse the word any more.

    You also see the same sort of opinions from commenters at Volokh (usually not the bloggers themselves) about the purported opinions of “leftists” and about how beliefs like this are somehow moral goals. You get weird comments like “how can leftists be against Eminent domain abuse when they support exactly the same power for governments to tax corporations who make too much money.”

  9. addiepray says

    What drives me batty about prager is his repetitive and idiotic way of seeing EVERYTHING as being between leftists who believe x y and z, and the righteous conservatives who stand for self evidently good a, b, c. And while a, b, and c may lead to some bad things, those bad things pale in comparison to Pol Pot and Stalin, who are the logical extensions of whatever x, y, and z may be today.

    It’s the “yes, my ideology may be linked to someone who killed 1000 people, but your ideology is linked to someone who killed a million, so clearly your ideology is 1000 times worse” view. It’s such facile, idiotic, and reductive thinking, both in terms of compressing everything to “conservative vs sliding scale to Stalin” and in terms of using # of people killed by extreme adherents of an ideology as a metric for evaluating the validity of any particular belief.

  10. Hercules Grytpype-Thynne says

    IIRC, the Big Government of the Nazis was defeated by the Big Government of the U.S., not by by Big Oil or Big Pharma.

  11. says

    He needs to do more research. Big Pharma and Big Medicine are common sources of paranoia on the right. Health crankery crosses the spectrum. Big Oil can sometimes do that as well, with right wingers believing in conspiracy theories that claim the oil companies are supressing this or that energy technology that will make oil obsolete.

  12. Ichthyic says

    Prager makes this accusation as though he were exempt from it himself, as though he didn’t have his own set of dogmas and ideologies.

    …as though he weren’t simply just projecting.

  13. Ichthyic says

    right wingers believing in conspiracy theories

    don’t forget the birthers (Obama’s birth cert).

    that might be the most inane conspiracy theory ever.

    certainly ranks right up there in my top ten notable idiotic conspiracy theories for the last 30 years.

  14. Ichthyic says

    the Big Government of the Nazis was defeated by the Big Government of the U.S.

    *ahem*

    and the Big Governments of Russia, the UK, France, Australia, New Zealand, and a long list of others.

  15. Ichthyic says

    Unchecked corporate power may be less dangerous on a global scale because they don’t command armies,

    Blackwater.

    good point, but it doesn’t go far enough. Corporations DO in fact command armies, defacto, by controlling the strings of government itself.

    Money talks louder than just about anything.

  16. Ichthyic says

    NFL football comes a heck of a lot closer to being a religion.

    +1

    …+2, even.

    here in Hobbitton, it’s rugby.

  17. escuerd says

    Ichthyic:

    the Big Government of the Nazis was defeated by the Big Government of the U.S.

    *ahem*

    and the Big Governments of Russia, the UK, France, Australia, New Zealand, and a long list of others.

    Hell, the Big Government of Russia easily deserves the lion’s share of the credit for that one.

  18. slc1 says

    Re Ichthyic @ #15

    I don’t think that France, which was eliminated from the war in 1940 deserves much credit.

    With respect to the former Soviet Union, thanks to Stalin’s incompetence, it came perilously close to being eliminated in 1941. Had the Germans constructed a fleet of heavy 4 engine bombers capable of reaching the factories that had been relocated behind the Urals, they might have greatly reduced Soviet production of the T34 tank, which was the difference in the battles in late 1941 and 1942.

  19. No One says

    Unchecked corporate power may be less dangerous on a global scale because they don’t command armies, but that hardly justifies letting them do whatever they want to do.

    Armies are less dangerous than global environmental degradation. as in acidification of the oceans for example.

  20. laurentweppe says

    but that it is “socialism” to advocate preventing corporations from violating the rights of workers, squandering the hard-earned money of investors and depositors, or destroying the environment?

    Why: yes it is: look how many labor unions were built by socialists, look in countries where one can openly call oneself a socialist which parties are in favor of strengthened fiscal and environmental regulations.

    It wasn’t the government that polluted hundreds of square miles of the state I live in with dioxin, or created more than 1200 Superfund sites in the US, or was so negligent that they caused a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. It wasn’t the government that created the Bhopal disaster or that used hired thugs to kill union organizers

    the most dangerous situation is when corporate power and government power are wedded, when the government is virtually a subsidiary of big business. That’s when you get inadequate regulation that creates the housing crisis. That’s when you get agencies bought off by corporate interests to look the other way rather than protect innocent people.

    Sorry to bring you the news, but, like a majority of US citizens, you’re a closeted socialist.
    You’ll get used to it, Tovarisch Brayton

  21. Trebuchet says

    Thus, instead of the devil, the left has Big Pharma, Big Tobacco, Big Oil, the “military-industrial complex” and the like.

    Who was that radical leftist who warned us about the “military-industrial complex” anyhow? Oh, right, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

    I’d write more, but the Church of Major League Baseball is about to start, and I expect a fantastic sermon from the Home Plate Preacher concerning the Dogmatic Validity of Balls & Strikes.

    Don’t forget the Church of the New York Yankees (PBUT), a high priest of which blogs on this very site!

  22. footface says

    This guy’s right on the money. Us left-wingers are just crazy about Pol Pot, Stalin, and Hitler. And it’s policies just like theirs we want our government to undertake.

  23. Pinky says

    When the religulous really want to insult something they call it a religion. Is it because of some weird twisted projection?

  24. Crudely Wrott says

    It’s a very curious thing, Pinky.
    The one side demonizes the other by insistently shouting, “Your just as (insert pejorative here) as I am!”
    Must have something to do with dogma, methinks. I recall there is an ancient fable that insists that everyone is a Crabby Appleton, rotten to the core.

  25. says

    Yes, it’s very true. You can tell from the portentous and deliberate way that Prager “explains” things that he fancies himself quite a thinker. People with actual intellectual attainments, however, quickly peg Prager’s “profundities” as vapid platitudes.

  26. naturalcynic says

    The corporate entities don’t need an army. A fifth column bivouacked along K Street does the job.

  27. Tyrant of Skepsis says

    It wasn’t the government that polluted hundreds of square miles of the state I live in with dioxin, or created more than 1200 Superfund sites in the US, or was so negligent that they caused a massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico

    well well, looks like someone here hates America and everything that made it great…

    /schnark

  28. says

    Is there anything more ridiculous than when religious people accuse others of being religious?

    It’s because they know religious is stupid – so they’re calling the others “stupid too!” It’s the ultimate “I’m with stupid!” kind of argument, and it works, if you’re stupid.

  29. StevoR says

    @14. Ichthyic :

    right wingers believing in conspiracy theories
    don’t forget the birthers (Obama’s birth cert).
    that might be the most inane conspiracy theory ever.
    certainly ranks right up there in my top ten notable idiotic conspiracy theories for the last 30 years.

    So .. What is your top ten inane conspiracy theories then, please?

    Mine would be :

    10) The Birther nonsense – yeah it just scrapes in at #10. Also the CT that “the” Trump’s hair is real.

    9) 2012, the whole Mayan armageddon rubbish – the CT being that the Govt knows is is secretly preparing for this. Because everyone is supposed to accpet science from a group that thought our Sun needed human hearts -freshlyremoved -torise each day. Roll on 2013 already!

    8) UFOs being aliens who flown hundreds of lightyears even millions to mutilate cows and abduct rednecks and teh govt of course si hiding this. Riiii-iight.

    &
    7) The anti=-Semitic Historical “revisionists” who claim the Shioah (Nazi Holocaust against Jews) was a hoax. Ad thsoe that try to balem isreal for everything that’s happened ever since (That you Mel Gibson? Wait, no, its just Chomsky & friends.)

    6) The CT of the whole “gay agenda” to turn heteros all non-hetero … Sigh. AS oppose dto the Movement to give non-heteronormative folks y’know equal civil righst and being acknowledged as human beings.

    5) The Chemtrails CT.

    4) The Moon landings were hoaxed in a stage in Califormia or wherever CT.

    3) The CT that Human Induced Rapid Global Overheating (HIRGO) as I call “Global Warming” was a hoax created by a group of left wing scientists led by Al Gore. Who apparently travelled waaa-y back into the past to direct Svante Arrhenius, Tyndall, Fourier and Gilbert Plass among others!*

    2) The CT that Zionists / isrealis /Jews own everything, controlthemedia and pullallthe political strings evah. Yeah, its not like Saudi Arabia is shortof lobbyists or that prominent anti-Semites don’t exist in political parties & media.

    1) The CT that Jews & Israel organised the 9-11 attack to create an excuse to steal oil from the Arabs esp. the Iraqis.

    —-

    See for instance here :

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sdALFnlwV_o&list=PL029130BFDC78FA33&index=37&feature=plpp_video

    for more on that or / & read Spencer R. Weart’s ‘The Discovery of Global Warming’ among other good sources.

  30. StevoR says

    D’oh! Typos. Sorry. Hope y’all get the gist anyhow.

    For clarity :

    CT = Conspiracy Theory.

    (Hmm.. Guess I should’a made that ‘ICT’ for Inane Conspiracy theory? Although all CT’s are pretty inane really.)

    9) 2012, the whole Mayan Armageddon rubbish – the CT being that the Govt knows and is secretly preparing for this. Because everyone is supposed to accept as accurate science from a group that thought our Sun was a god that needed human hearts – freshly removed – to rise each day. Roll on 2013 already!

    7) The anti-Semitic Historical “revisionists” (Nazi apologists) who claim the Shoah (Nazi Holocaust against Jews) was a hoax. Add those that try to blame Israel for everything that’s happened ever since it was created and sometimes before then. (That you speaking Mel Gibson? Wait, no, its just Chomsky & friends.)

    6) The CT of the whole “gay agenda” to turn heteros all non-hetero … Sigh. As opposed to being the movement to give non-heteronormative folks, y’know, equal civil rights and be acknowledged as human beings.

    2) The CT that Zionists / Israelis /Jews own everything, control the media and pull all the political strings evah. Yeah, its not like Saudi Arabia is short of lobbyists or that prominent anti-Semites don’t exist in political parties & media.

    Actually on reflection there is one other CT that has to make this list and replace birtherism at #10.

    That’s the whole Big Pharma is evil anti-vaxxer ribbish. The CT idea that vaccines give kids autism – multiply debunked so many places – is both tedious and incredibly harmful.

    Sorry Trump, your “Kenyan-born non-US Obama” monster load is fired from my top ten now.

  31. dingojack says

    Stevo – Aww, I thought “Ad thsoe that try to balem isreal…” had quite a nice ring to it.
    ;) Dingo
    ——–
    PS: thanks for the re-write. The quoted sentence fragment had me scratching my head a bit (in hindsight though, bleeding obvious).

  32. StevoR says

    @ ^ dingojack : No worries. Sorry I’m a terrible typer I know. Even when sober.(~ish.)

    I do preview but half the time I only see what I think I’ve typed rather than what’s actually there and the errors only become apparent *after* I’ve clicked submit. Sigh.

  33. jimmiraybob says

    “Another is the villainy of corporations. The bigger the corporation, the greater the villainy.”

    Kind of like the American colonists and the East India Company. Obviously a bunch of libtards fearing enslavement by the biggest corporation of their time. Silly moonbats. [sarcasm is not pretty]

  34. kermit. says

    Dr. X: Tables are really chairs; they’re just missing the backrest and the legs are longer.

    I don’t care how they’re categorized – I’m getting rid of this damn beanbag dining room table.

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