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Saturday, July 03, 2010

Forked Things

Just received this FASCINATING news item from a friend:

Why is ultra-libertarian billionaire Peter Thiel (see also here) sitting on the First Things finance committee (along with George Weigel, Robert P. George, Frederic Clark, and William Burleigh)?

Named one of the 10 Most Powerful Gays by Out magazine, Thiel is a transhumanist who supports technology to "save" human beings by turning them into robots. (See MercatorNet's op-ed on this.) His Thiel Foundation also supports utopian "seasteading" and human embryonic stem cell research. He has written that democracy and freedom are incompatible.

Could Thiel's involvement have anything to do with FT's recent shift away from articles that support marriage?

One more note about Thiel: He's created a group called Imitatio to promote the "mimetic theory" of Rene Girard. FT once published an article (by Servais Pinckaers, I think) critical of Girard, but it's gone whole hog on him during the past year--check its archives.

Here are some notes on Thiel and Girard from The Guardian:

What about his philosophy? I listened to a podcast of an address Thiel gave about his ideas for the future. His philosophy, briefly, is this: since the 17th century, certain enlightened thinkers have been taking the world away from the old-fashioned nature-bound life, and here he quotes Thomas Hobbes' famous characterisation of life as "nasty, brutish and short", and towards a new virtual world where we have conquered nature. Value now exists in imaginary things. Thiel says that PayPal was motivated by this belief: that you can find value not in real manufactured objects, but in the relations between human beings. PayPal was a way of moving money around the world with no restriction. Bloomberg Markets puts it like this: "For Thiel, PayPal was all about freedom: it would enable people to skirt currency controls and move money around the globe."

Clearly, Facebook is another uber-capitalist experiment: can you make money out of friendship? Can you create communities free of national boundaries - and then sell Coca-Cola to them? Facebook is profoundly uncreative. It makes nothing at all. It simply mediates in relationships that were happening anyway.

Thiel's philosophical mentor is one René Girard of Stanford University, proponent of a theory of human behaviour called mimetic desire. Girard reckons that people are essentially sheep-like and will copy one another without much reflection. The theory would also seem to be proved correct in the case of Thiel's virtual worlds: the desired object is irrelevant; all you need to know is that human beings will tend to move in flocks. Hence financial bubbles. Hence the enormous popularity of Facebook. Girard is a regular at Thiel's intellectual soirees. What you don't hear about in Thiel's philosophy, by the way, are old-fashioned real-world concepts such as art, beauty, love, pleasure and truth.

I've said before that George Weigel is a sycophant.
I am of the personal opinion that he is a spineless snake.

Now we find him sitting in a cozy relationship with one of the major underminers of Catholic Faith in the United States.

UPDATE:
Several people have asked why I dislike George Weigel so much.

I heard him speak once in Peoria, Il, where he mentioned that pro-abort politicians got voted into office because Catholics voted them in. Thus, it was really the fault of Catholic laity that such politicians were so prominent. We were to blame. Mea culpa, mea culpa, etc. Everyone in the audience was ashamed of themselves.

Except I wasn't buying that crap.

During the Q & A, I publicly asked him how he could maintain that position, given that:
  1. the bishops had put pro-aborts on their own national review board following the sex abuse scandal (the board was only a year or so old at that point, and this was fresh then),
  2. the bishops had REFUSED to act in solidarity to refuse communion to pro-abort politicians (you couldn't receive on your knees in some diocese, but you could certainly receive if you supported killing babies - we have to show liturgical solidarity, after all),
  3. many bishops used public language that could easily be interpreted by Catholic laity to mean that we should have no qualms with voting for pro-abort politicians as long as they were "good on other issues."
I pointed out that a Catholic was only as good as his leader, and asked him to explain what a Catholic in the pew was supposed to think, given the honors, accolades and language of the American Catholic bishops. How were Catholic laity culpable for voting badly given how badly the bishops led? Wasn't it the job of the bishop to teach, preach, lead by example, help us understand these issues? When he says "it's the fault of the laity" isn't he really saying, "It's the fault of the bishops."?

Our spineless snake just kept repeating, "I cannot explain the actions of the bishops" until his friend, the priest who had brought him in for the talk (perhaps stung by the direction of that last question, given that George's thesis was precisely that it wasn't the fault of the bishops), suddenly stood up and said, "The time for questions is now closed."

Now, George knew damn well why the bishops acted the way they did.
The vast majority of them are freaking heretics.

But George didn't want to urinate in his rice bowl by saying it aloud.
So, he took the boot-licker's way out and punted.
He's a sycophant. The man has no spine, no guts.

You've got to remember that George was nothing but another ignorant journalist when he got tapped to write JP II's biography. He got in not because of his depth of theological knowledge, but because he happened to have the right friends and he hit it off with the Pope on a personal level, in much the same way Maciel did.

We've treated him like some kind of deeply insightful Catholic saint since then, but he's never really advanced beyond his ignorant journalist stage. He just has access to some bishops who give him inside scoops (much as Amy Welborn built her blog reputation on the inside scoops her ex-priest husband's contacts gave her), so he seems like a man who can be trusted.

For my money, there isn't any real evidence that George is more than a mouthpiece for bishops who want to get their opinions out but don't want their fingerprints on the essays. If he loses that access, he won't have any more grist for his books. Loss of income is a terrible thing, especially in this economy. Maybe that's why the man is on the finance board at FT.

As for Rene Girard, I don't know anything about him, but I did find these couple of gems:

See this.

And this rather interesting review of Girard.

12 comments:

Matheus F. Ticiani said...

Wow!

It's no news that these modern self-made billionaires (George Soros et. al.)are all cookie-cutter minions of the now trendy nihilistic globalist worldview, and it's indeed mindboggling that First Things could have any relations with such types, but I was surprised to see René girard's name involved in the mess, since he's quite well regarded in respectable Catholic circles.

Sheeeeeeesh...

joe said...

Steve,

You are so refreshing. I'm so tired of us putting our faith in men instead of God. I am tired of seeing so many of these people on EWTN. I really was surprised that Fr Benedict likes Alinsky and that Maritain liked him also. This all does give one pause. You're right, however, only the Pope is infalible and only in faith and morals.
Keep up the great work.

joe

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Hey, Jacques Maritain was good friends with the satanic atheist Saul Alinsky. And Fr. Benedict Groeschel thinks Alinsky is great because Maritain liked him.

Amy Welborn got married to her favorite parish priest after he abandoned his initial vocation in exchange, ultimately, for her.

The only infallible person is the Pope, and that's only on matters of faith and morals. Remember that even JP II let Maciel get away with murder because Maciel had the right friends.

When it comes to today's creme de la creme of Catholic commentators and visionaries, I think I'm over my high school crushes with all of them.

Anonymous said...

Mr. Kellmyer,
I don’t see Weigel, or any prominent catholic author/commentator as “infallible”. You speak as if you are the only brilliant catholic lay person that has broken some spell that has everyone bound like teenagers at a Bieber concert. Now I’ve read your writings and heard some of your lectures and its great stuff; but I test your material with the Church’s infallible teachings just the same with any other speaker like Weigel, West, or Welborn. (Hey, they would make a good law firm name). And come to think of it, I like most of those authors; (don’t know much about Welborn). But does that mean I believe every single word that comes out of their mouths or approve of any short comings they have? – no. Because I know they are human like everyone else as you and I are.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that we should not bring to their attention any errors in letter or action that are contrary to our faith, but your tone is almost exclusively driven by resentment and malice. Now that may not be the case, as I have learned myself that emotional tones don’t come through the internet all that well, but I will give you the benefit of the doubt.

Just keep to heart what Peter had said when defending the truth, to do it with gentleness and reverence. If your blog is going to be pointing out pitfalls in the so called crème de la crème visionaries, at least attempt to dialogue with the elite and have them provide clarifications in their positions. This would be more enjoyable to read on your blog, anything less just starts sounding like a cheap smear campaign.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Anonymous,

I agree - it would make a GREAT law firm name.

Glad you're reading things with a critical eye.

You call 'em the way you see 'em, I'll call 'em the way I see 'em.

But I do have one question: the evidence linked to in the article demonstrates that Thiel is an active homosexual transhumanist. The evidence about Weigel is my own eyewitness account.

"Cheap smear campaign" is laying an accusation without providing evidence.

So, when you said I engaged in it, in order for YOU to avoid being accurately described as being engaged in a "cheap smear campaign" against ME, you have to provide evidence that my charge is false.

Where's your evidence, my friend?

Anonymous said...

Let me clarify. I’m not saying that you’re actually engaging in a type of “smear campaign”; it’s just that it could be mistaken as such if all you’re just doing is a hit-and-run commentary about how popular catholic speakers/writers are really not so good people socially or intellectually. If this is a legitimate concern, as a catholic speaker yourself, you should engaged them in dialogue and encourage change of heart and make that part of the blog too. Who knows, maybe you have done so already; after all I have not read every blog entry or articles you have written. But as I mentioned, I’ll give you benefit of the doubt.

Steve Kellmeyer said...

If I had such conversations, they wouldn't generally be fodder for a blog entry.

My experience in such conversations is that they don't generally go well. I almost always blog what I see in a public setting, what others standing next to me would have seen were they there.

In regards to the Weigel event, for instance, I had people come up to me afterwards and thank me for posing the questions. They, too, found Weigel's attitude overbearing and sycophantic. No one came up to me afterwards and told me I was out of line.

Now, maybe the people who saw this and spoke to me were just as besotted and ignorant cads as myself. But maybe they weren't.

Anonymous said...

You would be surprised what such dialogues can bring about, with the help of the Holy Spirit of course. Just go into it with the idea of winning hearts and not arguments and let God do the rest. It can be hard, yes. I’ve always had more zeal than brains and am not smart enough to think on-the-fly, so having face to face discussions never went well with me. I usually stick to writing where I can provide well thought out responses and keep calm. May God bless you Mr. Kellmeyer and your apostolate.

Matheus F. Ticiani said...

Well-intentioned anonymous above clearly hasn't had any contact with Catholic Celebrities, otherwise he would know that they usually don't take attempts at dialogue very happily.

Anonymous said...

"I pointed out that a Catholic was only as good as his leader."

You are so wrong. I am very happy that St Margaret Clitherow wasn't influenced by your rhetoric. She wasn't at all discouraged by the fact that only ONE bishop in England (John Fisher) refused to bow before Henry VIII. She went right ahead & offered her home for Catholic Masses, sheltered priests and, eventually, was crushed to death for her efforts.

You see, she understood the truth that, when she stood alone before the Lord, she wouldn't be able to point fingers at her bishops. She'd be responsible for her own actions. Period.

You are leading people astray by posts such as these.

Anonymous said...

I think “well intentioned anonymous” Matheus was talking about has the right idea and I respect very much where his heart is at. This is a very “Saint Francis” type of way of looking at things, and much less a “Martin Luther” attitude towards reform. So what if catholic celebrities don’t take too lightly to discussions about their own faults, should this discourage one to aim at conversion? If so this would not be a very Christ way of approaching this situation, much less a catholic one.

The idea is to build up the body of Christ by helping others take the correct path. It’s like the saying goes, “It’s always better to light one candle, than to curse the darkness”.

-Thomas

Steve Kellmeyer said...

Anonymous,

Yes, Margaret Clitherow and dozens of other lay people accepted martyrdom despite the fact that only one bishop joined them while all the others were raging heretics.

But, England didn't remain Catholic despite the loss of her bishops. She went Protestant and persecuted Catholics precisely BECAUSE of the loss of her bishops.

After all, who put Margaret to death, except the royal soldiers? Could they not have risen in rebellion against the queen? The queen has no magic powers - her power comes only from the obedience of her subjects, who freely choose to obey.

If England's bishops had exhorted the people to revolt, that would have ended it. They didn't.

I have not been pressed to death under rocks (obviously), but my chastisement of Weigel won me no friends, nor has my chastisement of West, nor that of other figures.

Yes, it's possible to stand up for the Faith despite the lack of bishop's examples and leadership.

But, no, not many people do it without being led.