Rebirth of Reason

War for Men's Minds

Of Orion, Islam ... and the Contest of Ideas
by Lindsay Perigo

With respect to my reluctance to ban Orion Reasoner from SOLOHQ because of his apparent advocacy of the proactive extermination of all Muslims, Barbara Branden wrote:

"If Orion had advocated killing all blacks, or killing all homosexuals, would you still say that the issue is freedom of speech, or would you say that you would not give him a platform on which to advocate such a monstrosity?"

The question drops the context in which Orion did this (or appeared to do it). If blacks or gays had attacked the Twin Towers, & if certain of their spokesman had gloated about it & threatened more, & if that threat were being daily made good in *other* countries, & someone who in most other respects had an unimpeachable record on this forum suddenly started saying, "Don't you see?! They're *all* in on it, & if we don't eliminate *all* of them they'll eliminate us," I'd say the person was paranoid & delusional & I'd try to make him see sense, rather than condemn & ban him. I don't think Orion is bad; I think he's grossly over-wrought. I'd like to lead him to understand that he's *not* alone in his contempt for Islam, nor in his exhortations to the West to hunt down & destroy the vermin terrorists as aggressively as possible (as well as fighting an unabashed propaganda war that refused to countenance the lethal fiction that any part of Islam is benign). I'd like to have the opportunity to persuade him that *there* we must stop, that the fact that the religion is vicious doesn't mean that every Muslim is vicious, that most are like the majority of people of all religions (all of which are also vicious), who really just want to live their lives in peace. I would remind him that at minimum, Objectivism requires that we do not initiate force against people because of their ideas.

Our ultimate battle is in the field of ideas. Truth to tell, we have to fight some of Bush's ideas just as vehemently as Islamic ones. My support for him in the recent election was contextual. Now that he's safely back, & can do all the things James mentions in his article here tonight, those of us who value reason & freedom must focus on precisely those things that stopped many of us from supporting him *at all*. The most important thing, contextually, this election was not to surrender the White House to a Saddamite. Kerry *was* a Saddamite - "wrong war, wrong place, wrong time." He was/is a piece of putrid excrement. To contemplate him rouses me to heights of loathing that would make even Orion blush. Thankfully, Kerry lost. Bush won. Not just the White House, but Congress. He can get on & do the good part of his agenda unimpeded. *We* must support him in that, while trying to stop him doing the bad part. This is not a tangent; its relevance to this discussion is - if Dubya were on this Forum pushing the bad part, we wouldn't say, "You're evil, begone!" since we recognise him as good, but misguided on those matters. We'd try to win him over. At this point, I'm still prepared to treat Orion the same way. (Moot, of course, since he's removed himself.)

This is separate from the issue Mr. Bisno addresses on this thread, at least implicitly, which is the case of someone quite consciously, conscientiously evil. Even in those cases, I think I'd be prepared to hear the person out & let a contest ensue ... to the point where it was clear that he'd lost. Then I'd boot his ass to the moon. The closest to this that has actually occurred was the case of Stolyarov, whose appalling totalitarian agenda kinda crept up on us, then got well & truly trounced. Even then, we merely placed him under moderation, & he finally skulked away of his own accord.

The long & the short of this is that I have no perfect answer - but I'm always going to err on the side of the open exchange of ideas, even though I'm under no obligation to. We've all always known that upholding freedom of expression means upholding that freedom for its least attractive practitioners, as Ayn Rand once put it. Occasionally one of these might show up on SOLOHQ. It won't kill us to engage him, for as long as it suits our selfish purposes.

And I don't put Orion in that category.


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