Thursday, 13 January 2011

Against Bruno Walther

Today, instead of publishing my letter to them on their imported coverage of the Gabriel Giffords shooting, the Taipei Times have published this piece of petti-totalitarian rot by Bruno Walther, against whom I have written several times already. To my knowledge the Taipei Times has never once published anything critical of him and his rotten opinions. Let's see if I can get them to change that this time...


Contrary to the claim of Bruno Walther published in your pages today, the appalling shooting of Gabriel Giffords and innocent bystanders was not "the result of political hate-mongering"; it was the result of the actions of a lunatic who had apparently taken a dislike to Ms Giffords back in 2007, long before Sarah Palin had become a national figure in the U.S. and long before the Tea Party had been formed. Therefore Walther's claim that the shootings justify further encroachments on freedom of speech demonstrates both his abject and likely deliberate ignorance as well as his cynical opportunism.

Walther's "central question" of "how far should the fundamental right to freedom of expression go?" is transparently oxymoronic to anyone not suffering from the confusion of "freedom-from", with "freedom-to" (i.e. power). The "freedom" Walther understands is what Isaiah Berlin politely termed the "positive" conception of liberty in contradistinction to the "negative" conception, i.e. the freedom to achieve a particular social outcome as opposed to the freedom from being coerced by other men. This is why Walther fixates upon "the freedom to express wrong and stupid opinions"; he cannot see that in asking his question "how far should the fundamental right to freedom of expression go?", he is corrupting the very meaning of words like "fundamental", "right" and "freedom" by putting them on par with desirable, but ultimately frivolous privileges granted to the little people by the State.

If a right is "fundamental" then our attempts to uphold that right can admit of no compromise whatever, since it is the basis of other, derivative political rights - to compromise the integrity of the right to free speech is to open the door to further State encroachment upon this right and, moreover, an encroachment which can no longer be limited and held in check by any rational principle, but only the uncertain sufferance of political parties.

To further embolden the absurd nature of Walther's assertion that he is in favour of freedom, it is worth pointing out that in a comments thread to an article in the Guardian on August 20th last year, the journalist Leo Hickman rejected Walther's call to remove comments with which he disagreed, citing Voltaire's famous invective against just such suppression of free speech:
"I do not agree with what you have to say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it."
Walther complains of having been likened to "excrement" by bloggers, and though I am not guilty of that myself, I have never hesitated to brand his views as “fascist”, often with the modifying prefix of "eco-" and the reason for that is to convey the general sense of "bully" as identified by George Orwell in his 1944 essay, “What Is Fascism?" That is precisely what this man Walther is - he is nothing but a bully trying to silence people who do not agree with him and who do not agree with him for entirely liberal and well articulable reasons.

Yours freely,
Michael Fagan.

(Sent: Thursday January 13th 2011.)


  1. Hi Mike,

    I don't agree with everything you have to say, and I usually get irritated by your use of the word "eco-fascist" (for which you've finally provided an adequate and apt definition), but I think you've got some great points here which are unfortunately damaged by what effectively are personal attacks on Walther. It's one thing to disagree, but you're barely stopping short of flat-out calling him a total wanker (which he may well be...).

    I'd love to see you rewrite this and submit it again (either as a letter or as an article), eliminating the ad hominen while expounding upon your very relevant points. They might even publish it.


  2. Steve,

    Thanks for the comment. You might disagree with this, but I think there is a valuable distinction between the gratuitous ad hominem and the ad hominem backed by argument. The distinction is that the latter form of ad hominem derives reasonably from what the person has said after the objections to this have been made clear, whereas the former kind of ad hominem is thrown by mere force of presumption. I stipulate to the principle that the rational ad hominem can legitimately discredit an opponent, by for example revealing philosophical premises, as well as hypocrisy or other relevant vices, whereas the gratuitous ad hominem, though it may be fun, cannot do so. My "personal attacks" against Walther are, I feel, fully justified because after all, the reason why I write against him is to discredit not only his argument but the premises from which those arguments derive. I believe that sometimes requires sharp words against the man himself - my claim that he is an "eco-fascist" is not simply an epithet, it is a literal (though I admit vague) description of the philosophical premises from which his arguments derive.

    Now although Walther is always careful (or perhaps 'cowardly' is more accurate?) to avoid naming names (though on at least two occassions I am quite sure he has had yours truly in mind), you might take note of the sort of language which is a regular feature of Walther's letters, and which is often gratuitously applied (i.e. with very little, if any at all, argumentation), to wit: "hate-mongering", "excrement", "monstrously stupid", "hate-mongering ejaculating", "obvious scientific lies" etc - and all of those examples are taken just from yesterday's letter, there are plenty more like that to be found in his previous published letters, let alone any letters he may have written which have gone unpublished...

    That the Taipei Times publishes his letters, with the kind of vitriolic and gratuitous language they regularly feature, but refuse to publish my reasonably argued peices against him smacks of double standards. As I said above - to my knowledge, they have never allowed a word against this fellow.


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