Rex Murphy: Irrational Columnist

I don’t know who Rex Murphy is. I’d never heard of him until I saw his column in the National Post about the “angry atheist.” I do know that he’s fixated on an almost cartoonish straw man version of non-believers plucked from his own imagination. (I also know that the National Post doesn’t think much of fair use. They make it impossible to cut and paste from their site even to comment on it, so I’m posting images of it instead)

RexMurphy1

RexMurphy2

Well, non-believers are, in fact, more numerous than Muslims or Jews in the military. And as has been explained many times, there are very good reasons why an atheist soldier would wish to seek counsel from a humanist chaplain rather than a Christian one. That in his zeal to portray atheist soldiers as petulant children, Murphy does not even mention those reasons, expressed eloquently by atheist soldiers themselves (who might know just a bit better what the reality is for them in the military), much less engage them, speaks volumes.

Many, probably most, chaplains are capable of counseling soldiers from any religious background without pushing their religious views on them. But some are not. Chaplains like Gordon Klingenschmitt and those endorsed by the Chaplaincy of Full Gospel Churches and some other conservative churches think their job is to proselytize, to convert, to constantly push soldiers to become Christians. Imagine being an atheist soldier in a unit with such a chaplain, troubled by something you have done or witnessed, struggling with the often brutal and disturbing realities of war. Imagine going to them to talk about marital problems, substance abuse of any other routine problems and, instead of getting useful counsel on how to handle the situation, being told that they have to turn their lives over to a god they don’t believe in.

The only alternative to visiting the fundamentalist, proselytizing chaplain in your unit is to request to see a military psychologist instead. But that goes on your permanent record and can impede your ability to get promoted. So what are they to do? There are no good options for a non-believing soldier. But Murphy doesn’t bother to imagine such situations because that would mean actually having to consider and engage reality, which would interfere with his ability to create a cartoonishly simplistic straw man that he can bravely knock down and declare himself the winner. That way he can simply declare the idea “ludicrous” and then puff himself up as having defeated his opponent.

He seems to care more about the ability to posture and preen, which is appropriate since he is far better at those things than he is about thinking rationally.

20 comments on this post.
  1. VeritasKnight:

    Rex Murphy is a decently well-known pundit to Canadians. He’s usually seen on a panel at either CTV or CBC during an election night, usually trumpeting the chances of the Conservatives. He is also, as you have just noted, a complete moron. So pretty much all the criticism you’d hit someone like, say, Sean Hannity with also apply to him.

    He’s talking about the Canadian Forces rather than the US Army, but the numbers hold true – in fact, I’d be willing to bet there are more atheists/nones as a percentage in the Canadian Forces than there are in the US military. My father is one of them.

  2. John Pieret:

    They try to make it hard to cut and paste but it can be done. Here’s the above, in case someone wants to quote it:

    Evidence of this prickly, acutely self-regarding perspective comes from the U.S., where a group of forlorn and (by their measure) much put-upon atheists are making angry demands that atheists in the military be granted their own chaplain.

    Other than the whiny schoolyard temper-tantrum logic of “He’s got one, so I want one too,” what has this silly demand got going for it? How can a system of thought built on the not believing of/in something, on the non-existence of any god, require the services of a chaplain, a — need the qualifier be emphasized? — spiritual counsellor. Chaplains offer mediation on the supernatural, the afterlife, the individual’s relation with the/a creator.

    Very odd, to say the least. But, as usual, the professional non-believers see themselves as much put-upon and ignored. They claim, in fact, to be (within the Army) more numerous than “Jews or Hindus or Buddhists or Muslims.”

  3. Synfandel:

    Rex Murphy is a well-known commentator and columnist in Canada. He’s best known for having an enormous vocabulary and an artful way with words. He’s highly opinionated and, when he’s on the right track, he makes pretty forceful arguments. Unfortunately, when he derails, he blows up spectacularly.

    I usually enjoy hearing his prepared commentaries on CBC television news and his impromptu remarks on political panels. Even when his position is ridiculous—and usually it’s not—his command of language is impressive and entertaining. I read a book of his commentaries a while ago and was particularly flabbergasted that he—apparently seriously—believed that Don Cherry would make a good choice for Governor General. Imagine the draperies in Rideau Hall!

  4. sigurd jorsalfar:

    Rex Murphy, aka Wreck Smurfy, is a Canadian National Treasure, right up there with Don Cherry, Conrad Black, David Frum and Mark Steyn.

  5. erk12:

    He is a good speaker, but he puts his talents to use for some fairly bad, poorly-backed positions. I’ve nearly ruptured something several times when my eyes began rolling past their limits during some of his spots on The National. I think his primary use now is as an object of parody for Mark Critch.

    I got the opposite impression of VeritasKnight however. When he mentioned the army at all in that column it seemed to be the recent controversy about the US army chaplains. Which makes the whole thing about chaplains seem like nothing more than an excuse for him to finally take his anti-atheist hobby horse out for a ride. The poor chap, with religion often being a private thing in Canada, he probably doesn’t get to complain about atheists much.

  6. Raging Bee:

    So any demand for equal rights, equal obligations, equal treatment, equal protection of the laws and the like, can now be brushed aside as a schoolyard temper-tantrum? Epic fail right there. No wonder the National Post doesn’t want you quoting their articles.

    This guy is just another ignorant asshole writing only to put people down.

  7. Modusoperandi:

    Without Rex Murphy there would be no Max Pointy (played by both Colin Mochrie and Mark Critch), and that’s not a world I would want to live in.

    Most importantly, it gives me an excuse to post this picture of Rex Murphy. Feel better now, don’t you?

  8. CaitieCat:

    I knew more people who, like me, had NRE on their CF dogtags than people who didn’t. I said, at the time, that if someone’s going to kill me with an artillery shell or a rifle bullet, I don’t want my last moments to include being annoyed my some hedge-wizard shaking beads and oil at me. I want to look up at the sky, and in a loud voice, say, “FUCK. I really didn’t wanna-”

  9. Synfandel:

    I’m clearly older than you, CaitieCat. In my CF service days, the lack of a religious designation was simply not acceptable for the purposes of id tags and there was no “none” category. I went around that tree many times with regimental administration before some exasperate file clerk intercepted my form and arbitrarily assigned me code “CS”, which apparently stood for generic Christian. A friend got himself designated Druid (which he wasn’t) on the first try. Seems you could pick pretty much any religion you could dream up, but you had to pick one. “None” didn’t compute.

  10. Olav:

    Ed:

    They make it impossible to cut and paste from their site even to comment on it,

    I was curious how that would be possible. Because really, it isn’t. They are just doing a JavaScript thing. Easy to disallow in your browser, which is a good precaution anyway.

  11. CaitieCat:

    Wow. I started with a militia unit in Toronto, before shifting to the regs in 1984, then kicked out in early 86 for 119*, after talking them out of the DD for queerness by threatening publicity. Maybe it was a Sigs thing? Or a Toronto thing? I dunno. I know our little platoon was one that refused to go to church parade at the end of Milcon at Pet, so they put us on garbage duty instead (bastards), but we were all singing as we did it, just to piss off the chaplain.

    Yeah, it wasn’t my first 119 by any stretch. :D

    * Conduct to the Prejudice of Good Order and Discipline in Her Majesty’s Canadian Forces.

  12. Curt Cameron:

    They make it impossible to cut and paste from their site…

    Like Olav said, that’s only possible via Javascript. If you’re using Chrome, right-click on the page, select View Page Info, and tell it to block Javascript for that site.

  13. exdrone:

    Synfandel @3 sums up my thoughts perfectly. When Rex is on, I enjoy his poetry. I have never noticed that espouses any particular ideology. I would not call him irrational, but he did really miss the point this time. I just visited the National Post site and saw that there are now over 2,000 comments dressing him down. Too bad he missed it this time, but I wouldn’t write him off.

  14. marcus:

    MO @ 7 You know, you’re right, I suddenly feel so much better about myself. (Though I may have nightmares later tonight.)

  15. keresthanatos:

    TrendingEdward Snowden | Sammy Yatim | Bradley Manning | Pope Francis | Spain crash | Peace talks | Lotto 6/49 numbers | Justin Trudeau | Royal baby | Lac-Mégantic | Cory Monteith | Rob Ford
    Kelly McParland: Block Verizon or Moncton gets it, Big Wireless warns

    Kelly McParland | 13/08/01 | Last Updated: 13/08/01 3:44 PM ET
    More from Kelly McParland | @KellyMcParland
    The U.S. firm Verizon is believed to be considering the acquisition of one or more of Canada’s smaller wireless firms. Canada’s big three telecommunication companies, Bell, Rogers and Telus, are determined to block it.

    Terence Corcoran: Canadian wireless regulatory confusion for years to come

    In the wake of the Bell-Rogers-Telus campaign against Ottawa’s effort to lure U.S. giant Verizon into Canada, the federal government’s wireless policy debate is taking off in all directions, not all of them useful in clarifying the issues. One indicator of confusion was the headline on a Canadian Press story Monday: “Union, big CEO group line up to oppose special treatment of big carrier Verizon.” Then along came the Toronto Star, with an editorial that seemed to back the Bell-Rogers-Telus position. “Ottawa shouldn’t rig wireless rules,” it said. “The Big Three may not make very sympathetic victims. But they make a good point.”

    When Big Labour, Big Business and the Toronto Star are suddenly on the same side of a contentious Canadian economic policy issue, no good can be expected. In fact, they are not all on the same side, which is why the issues need to be kept high and clear through the debate. Otherwise, next thing you know the dogs of Canadian nationalism are back in control and the prospect of opening up the Canadian market to new and significant foreign players will be lost.

    Continue reading…

    In the early days of the wireless industry, when pretty much all you could do with a cellphone was actually phone someone, the industry relied heavily on fear as a selling point. TV ads depicted a woman alone in a car on a deserted stretch of a road. Suddenly, trouble strikes: the engine fails, the tire goes flat, the tank runs dry! What to do? Not to worry: she simply whips out her cellphone and help is on the way. Message: You need a cellphone to protect your loved ones.

    Now they’re back at it, but with a new slant: fearmongering mixed with a healthy dose of cheap anti-Americanism. In their determination to head off Verizon before it can enter their cozy market, Canada’s big wireless firms are running full-page newspaper advertisements warning that opening the door to the U.S. giant could threaten Canadian communities, and the way of life we hold dear.

    “I doubt Americans will bother with cities like mine,” worries “Amanda”, reputedly a call centre trainer in Moncton.

    no problems with cut and past in Ubuntu 13.04

  16. keresthanatos:

    TrendingEdward Snowden | Sammy Yatim | Bradley Manning | Pope Francis | Spain crash | Peace talks | Lotto 6/49 numbers | Justin Trudeau | Royal baby | Lac-Mégantic | Cory Monteith | Rob Ford
    Kelly McParland: Block Verizon or Moncton gets it, Big Wireless warns

    Kelly McParland | 13/08/01 | Last Updated: 13/08/01 3:44 PM ET
    More from Kelly McParland | @KellyMcParland
    The U.S. firm Verizon is believed to be considering the acquisition of one or more of Canada’s smaller wireless firms. Canada’s big three telecommunication companies, Bell, Rogers and Telus, are determined to block it.

    Terence Corcoran: Canadian wireless regulatory confusion for years to come

    In the wake of the Bell-Rogers-Telus campaign against Ottawa’s effort to lure U.S. giant Verizon into Canada, the federal government’s wireless policy debate is taking off in all directions, not all of them useful in clarifying the issues. One indicator of confusion was the headline on a Canadian Press story Monday: “Union, big CEO group line up to oppose special treatment of big carrier Verizon.” Then along came the Toronto Star, with an editorial that seemed to back the Bell-Rogers-Telus position. “Ottawa shouldn’t rig wireless rules,” it said. “The Big Three may not make very sympathetic victims. But they make a good point.”

    When Big Labour, Big Business and the Toronto Star are suddenly on the same side of a contentious Canadian economic policy issue, no good can be expected. In fact, they are not all on the same side, which is why the issues need to be kept high and clear through the debate. Otherwise, next thing you know the dogs of Canadian nationalism are back in control and the prospect of opening up the Canadian market to new and significant foreign players will be lost.

    Continue reading…

    In the early days of the wireless industry, when pretty much all you could do with a cellphone was actually phone someone, the industry relied heavily on fear as a selling point. TV ads depicted a woman alone in a car on a deserted stretch of a road. Suddenly, trouble strikes: the engine fails, the tire goes flat, the tank runs dry! What to do? Not to worry: she simply whips out her cellphone and help is on the way. Message: You need a cellphone to protect your loved ones.

    Now they’re back at it, but with a new slant: fearmongering mixed with a healthy dose of cheap anti-Americanism. In their determination to head off Verizon before it can enter their cozy market, Canada’s big wireless firms are running full-page newspaper advertisements warning that opening the door to the U.S. giant could threaten Canadian communities, and the way of life we hold dear.

    “I doubt Americans will bother with cities like mine,” worries “Amanda”, reputedly a call centre trainer in Moncton.

    no problems with cut and paste in Ubuntu 13.04

  17. congenital cynic:

    Rex Murphy tries to play the jocular, self-effacing, fair and balanced type, and to a limited extent he often succeeds. But when the issue is a controversial one (like religion), he shows his true colours, sometimes demonstrating a barely suppressed hostility to those who disagree with him (this is on the national phone-in show he hosts on CBC radio). He’s most definitely a right wing conservative type, and in spite of his expansive vocabulary, I quickly tire of him. His quirky style has become annoying to listen to. Everyone in my family is thrilled when he is absent and some stand-in is hosting his radio show.

    I don’t “hate” Rex, I just wish he would get a new job that took him of the air. He’s an apologist for Stephen Harper, and that’s never going to be good.

  18. Doug Little:

    Can’t we just call them counsellors and be done with it? They seem to have a hard on for the particular title with lilt regard to what duties they actually perform

  19. pianoman, Heathen & Torontophile:

    Yeah, I see him on CBC sometimes. Kind of reminds me of Donald Sutherland after sticking a fork in a toaster.

  20. quidam:

    Rex Murphy is a pretentious twonk who obscures his lack of erudition by over use of bombastic, turgid and pompous prose.

    But I suppose it helps distract his listeners from his unfortunate visual similarity to a used toilet brush

Leave a comment

You must be