Response to a Conspiracy Theorist
This has nothing to do with the Peace Symbol...
C.R. Grizzle writes a blog and I don't know him from Adam's house cat, but he seems to believe he knows me. Or, at least, is familiar enough with me to attack me in public and acquainted enough with my writing to attack my ideas.
None of that really bothers me. I write in public; it comes with the territory. What does bother me is when someone directly addresses me and my character, yet fails to issue notification so that I may respond should I wish.
In order to read the following essay, you may find it helpful to look at two pages on Mr. Grizzle's blog, "Reality Check on 21st Century Life":
These are short reads, easy to digest. What follows is my response to these pages, which I just found by accident doing Google searches for something else, two months after the fact. My essay here involves not only Mr. Grizzle, but some basic thoughts on the creation and interpretation of symbols.
My Response to C.R. Grizzle
Mr. Grizzle: We have a difficulty. We have several between us, but one in particular here. Effectively, you saw fit to call me out and dress me down, insult my intelligence, lay a black mark across my reputation, assert I hold beliefs I may not hold at all, and categorize me in such a way that anyone who gives me a fair hearing is to be deemed a fool. And all of this without, I presume, reading anything of any depth I have authored on any subject either on the Net or in a book.
All of this by reading no more than a handful of sentences on Facebook aimed at someone other than yourself. And all of this here without bothering to let me know you’ve responded to me in a public forum, allowing me to respond in a timely fashion should I have desired. Were you saving my feelings in doing so? I am the artistic, sensitive type; perhaps you intuited that also.
Perhaps your intelligence is far more acute than my own, and I am seriously willing to grant it is: I have no capacity to read just a few sentences from anyone’s casual conversation and gather a few tid-bits from someone’s formal educational background – all on Facebook, mind you – and make anything more than a sloppy guess at that person’s motivations and deepest convictions. But I am lacking your genius as displayed here and your capacity to diagnose my hidden antichristian leanings and my occult repulsion with Western Civilization and Culture and my ever so sly attempts to mislead the innocent into the Snares of Satan. Or Unitarianism (one is unsure). And you ascertained all of that from a mere 17 sentences of my off-hand comments to someone else . . . on Facebook.
Staggering. Indeed, of the two of us, you ought to be the philosopher, not myself for whom interpretation and judgment are always and sincerely difficulties.
Allow me to add a bit of detail to the history of our conflict. As this history is not being written by a brainwashed leftist academic in a college textbook, there is an offhand chance you may attend to it. It will also be on the Internet, so it must be true.
1. The second post you quoted, the one in which I apologized for drawing out the lunatics by daring to speak my mind, was not removed by the owner of the Facebook page I posted it to; rather, I removed it, voluntarily, fairly quickly after posting it in the middle of the night. I wrote it in haste, with a lack of patience, and thought better of it. I also thought better of turning a friend’s Facebook page into a platform for my own ego. So far as I know, no one ever saw it – except you; Facebook’s helpful notification feature made sure of that and then you decided to make it public here on your website and take offence. Without telling me so.
2. Instead of the offensive post which I removed, I decided to write a satire which I posted on one of the places that carry my public essays and which you have obviously read – you obliquely refer to it and also take offense . . . but fail to give your audience a link to it should they desire to see the full extent of my depravity. You were able to find it because I posted the link on my friend’s Facebook page instead of the earlier obnoxious post I erased. In the interest of completeness, honesty, and symmetry (all good Western Values), here is the link: http://hubpages.com/hub/He_Isnt_One_Of_Us .
3. I made apology for my behavior on my friend’s Facebook page to her, privately. Not because I said anything wrong, but because I said it on her page and gave you an opening to use it as a lectern – and I am sure she did not need a lecture at that time given the circumstances. Sometimes friends just need support, not a staggering demonstration of one’s capacity to crib from a page on the Net.
Where the hypocrisy is in this, I don’t know. Stupidity on my part, maybe; hypocrisy, no. I made a good faith effort to get you to take the combat elsewhere – which I guess you did, but failed to invite me to the war.
And war with one of tremendous intellect and insight is not my idea of a good time or wise expenditure of moments. I am defeated before I begin. As you say, “If you don’t want rebuttals, then don’t open the can of worms. As far as debating you one-on-one, what would be the point? If you almost have a PhD in philosophy, and (apparently) associate with Unitarian Universalist [sic], then you probably have too much vested in your viewpoint to honestly consider another point of view. My interest is not in changing your mind, it is in showing anyone who is reading your bankrupt views that there is another valid point of view… a point of view that, in my estimation, does a lot better job of explaining the way the world is.”
And, “I could go on and on about how your study and research is suspect because you have probably been brainwashed by the educational establishment. I could dwell out how you didn’t have a problem when [someone else] used the internet as a source…when her viewpoint agreed with yours… but suddenly when I point out an opposing viewpoint from an internet source, that the internet is somehow “inferior” to your “real history books”. I could question at length your blind trust in “historians” (after all, as the old saw goes, history is just his-story). But I won’t. There is really no reason for you and I or anybody else to go tit for tat about all of these superfluous details.”
Ah, but as evil old Voltaire used to say, “The superfluous is a very necessary thing.” Points of view are constructed of how many and how well these superfluities and details are not only explained – anyone can do an excellent job explaining everything away with a very few beliefs, whether they make any sense or not; the real problem is to wonder whether all these apparent paradoxes and inconsistencies both in myself and in reality itself are, in fact, contradictory in themselves or merely contradictory TO ME from my point of view, limited as it always is by my beliefs, history, and experience. Or, in this case, senseless to you for similar reasons.
One wonders whether anyone polluted by a formal education – even an autodidact such as myself – is really and truly disqualified from asking and answering intellectual questions, even ones as weighty as “what is the origin and history of the peace symbol.” That seems a very odd thing to say coming from a gentleman who keeps attempting to distance himself from the charge of being a conspiracy theorist. You say things like: “Again, this isn’t any kind of deep, dark, “conspiracy”. It’s just business as usual. It happens all the time.”
You say this sort of thing with a straight face while failing to catch the unintended irony that conspiracy theorists are precisely those who think the sorts of things you keep saying – “it happens all the time” that cabals of super-secretive anti-Western antichrstians are continuously hijacking otherwise well-meaning blindly stupid movements of sheep and perverting their symbols. You believe this is “just business as usual.” Conspiracies of ill-intentioned evil people are attempting to run the world and speak in codes and pervert the minds of the uninformed and moronic (such as myself).
As you point out, “ I have found that far too many textbooks are carefully chosen to promote a politically correct point of view, and far too many classrooms are taught by professors who are ideologically driven. Both result in a censure of competing viewpoints and revisionist history.”
“Ideologically driven” seems to be your own code for “part of the conspiracy to wreck the West and destroy Christianity.” The irony runs deep and bitter for me in that you have no idea of what my education consisted in – outside math (where the instructors indeed used texts with politically correct algebra) and logic, argumentative and symbolic (which used textbooks that were also full of such politically correct stuff as logical fallacies to avoid, syllogisms, inductions, and weird symbolic alphabets for analyzing sentence structures), none of my classes used text books per se. I took courses where I read original sources, i.e. the actual books that text books are written about, and when I had books that only presented selections from a more complete work, 9 times out of 10 I went and acquired the full text from the library or used bookstore and read the whole thing in context. I’m weird that way. I actually went to school to learn and to learn what I did not know and to learn how to learn more on my own – and I’m far too contrary to be propagandized by anyone in a position of authority.
Moreover, between the two of us – me, who went to university for 10 years and taught university philosophy courses for about 4 or 5 years or you, who hasn’t seen fit to reveal much – I wonder who has seen more text books, been in more actual classes with more real professors, and who has not gotten most of his information second or fifteenth hand off the almighty internet?
As for the Internet and my differing attitude towards the other person and you: a) she gave a link; b) you did too – but I honestly didn’t notice at the time; c) the material she cited made sense when compared to other off-line actual real books; d) the material you presented sounded as if it came straight out of a Jack T. Chick comic; e) all things presented on the Internet are not true or of equal value, thus are not going to get equal treatment from me, nor should they from you or anyone else. But f), in order to do that – make judgments, one has to have an education gleaned from years of study from other sources outside the Internet – and some experience with what’s being talked about.
Much material on the Net, such as the writing and images concerning the peace symbol nonsense, is a closed loop – people reference one another’s articles and cut and paste things from one article to another or paraphrase without adding one shred of documentation to support what they’re saying: but since it’s all over the Net, to a superficial user, it looks as if this is the prevailing opinion; it must be true – but it isn’t. It’s just gossip, endlessly repeated from one mouth to the next and becomes no more true for the repetition. (Such as when you attack formal education’s alleged biases without offering one shred of documentation to back up what you’re saying.) In the bad old days, we’d have called this close-mindedness. Now, it seems to be what passes for knowledge.
In the university system I taught in, we did not even accept Wikipedia as a valid source in writing papers – one could use it as long as one could also verify the information in an outside source. Why? It’s loaded with prejudices, opinions, propaganda all mixed in with things that are more true and less “motivated,” more disinterested. When I went to school, of course, there was no Internet to speak of and no Wikipedia; I grew up with a wicked prejudice in favor of books with actual documentation.
If that is some sort of support of “the near monopoly that the education establishment had on information” on my part, what with its standards for scholarship, rules for evidence, style, presentation, I plead guilty. If this means I have a sort of skepticism concerning anything that may simply be gossip or heavily tainted with such, guilty again. But what it is I am guilty of is nothing shameful.
As for all history being “his-story”: Baloney. All histories are not equal. Some people tell better (as in “higher quality”) stories than others and some people are more conscientious in scholarship than others. All histories are written from a point of view, but the best ones tend to make the attempt to transfer one’s point of view into the past in various ways so that one may see the world in the strange ways our ancestors did. It is never a perfect process, but some writers and researchers do it well, others poorly, and some just make up things and have no grasp of historiography. Some histories are histories of the people, beliefs, and ideas at play in a given period and some are quite subtle. Others aren’t. Some know this. Some don’t.
On to this “the peace symbol is evil” business. I will only use documentation from the Net as, by this point, I am too lazy to go looking through my books and type passages, and because you seem to state repeatedly the Net is the font of all that is worthwhile:
1. The Peace Symbol is not the same as the rune used by the Wehrmacht or Nazi SS.
Yes, you provide a link (http://www.germandressdaggers.com/Panzer%20Section%20Divisional%20markings%201%20to%203.htm) showing a symbol for the 3rd Pz Division that looks exactly like a peace symbol. I’ve never seen one exactly like that before – which does not prove any of my previous statements wrong or misleading, in that all I claimed was “I’d never seen such before.” Even so, there are still problems.
A) I cannot locate any further corroboration on the Net that this symbol is actually associated with the 3rd Pz Div. or any other. All other sites that show the symbol are, in fact, just cutting and pasting the image from this dagger site – or have constructed the symbol on a graphics program. None provide any documentation and I cannot find any pictures of the symbol on a tank or uniform – or actual dagger. I had a friend well-versed in military insignia from WWII double check me so I’d be sure I’m not missing something.
This does not mean it did not exist, just that I can’t locate it other than on this one page – which seems odd given the fairly thorough visual documentation of German insignia. Perhaps you could locate such and share it.
What I do find are a couple of things: In the lower left corner of the dagger page is a unit symbol, also for 3rd Pz, and it is also the division symbol – for some reason your site claims it was only used in Summer ’43 (“Sommer”). But when we look up 3rd Pz on Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/3rd_Panzer_Division), we only get the alleged summer ’43 symbol and not the peace symbol-esque one. Further, makers of detailed war models also list this as the symbol for the unit – not the “peace symbol” – for example: http://www.militarymodelling.com/sites/1/images/member_albums/35467/Image1.jpg . And if we look further at the serious modelers boards, we find this: http://www.network54.com/Forum/47207/thread/1279861068/3rd+Panzer+Division+Panzer+IV+H – about three posts down on the board, we locate a lebensrune that may have been in use in the 3rd Pz Unit – notice how the three points are up, not down, as on the dagger site . . . which makes me wonder if the picture on the dagger site is not upside down.
(Even the modelers seem to be having some sort of dispute about accuracy here, though – whether the symbol applies to 3. Pz.)
It may not be, however, as the Germans used runes both with three points up (lebensrune – life rune) and points down (totenrune – death rune). If you put a circle around the totenrune, voila, “peace symbol.” Except it isn’t. It’s still the death rune in a circle.
The runes have their origin in Norse (Scandinavian, not German) culture and are pre-Christian. They were a sort of alphabet (“Futhark”) and were held to have magical powers to protect one or to curse enemies and to tell the future as oracles. Their original meanings were often quite different than the latter uses the Nazis put to them after hijacking the symbols. For example, the so-called totenrune, was originally called Yr, or “yew” as in “yew branch” or bow. In Proto-German, it was called “Algiz” and meant “elk” as in the horns of an elk. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Algiz;
It was Guido von List (known for things such as making up a non-existent aristocratic lineage by illegitimately adding a “von” to his name) who, in the 20th c., claiming to have a “mystical vision revealing the real, Germanic meanings of the runes” invented (out of whole cloth) new mystical meanings for these symbols. He called his new system the Armanen runes associated with a whole mythology of a fictitious Aryan race in Germany who, once upon a time, were ruled by Sun Worshipping magical kings descended from the equally mythical, Atlantis-like lost island of Ultima Thule. List’s runes were later adopted by the NSADP (Nazis) as nifty symbols for racist advertising and military insignia. Out of this we get the upright lebensrune and the downturned totenrune. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Armanen_Runes; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guido_von_List; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazi_symbolism)
Later, in 1958, we get Gerald Holtom, a graphic designer, who makes a symbol for the nuclear disarmament campaign based on the semaphore flag positions for N (nuclear) and D (disarmament). This symbol has nothing to do with the runes – it does not derive from it in any way other than it looks the same. http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/435/what-is-the-origin-of-the-peace-symbol; http://www.teachpeace.com/peacesymbolhistory.htm; http://www.answers.com/topic/peace-symbol#cite_note-14; http://www.seiyaku.com/customs/crosses/broken.html
This is unsurprising, at least to me. For one thing, it is in the nature of symbols, especially those invented by humans – that is, symbols drawn from geometrical patterns, for example. Such symbols, in and of themselves, have no inherent meaning – a vertical line with two leaning, angled lines at bottom means nothing on its own until we assign it meanings. Such images are like empty bags awaiting any and all meanings we decide to place in them. It is the nature of a symbol to point away from itself to something else – to stand in place for other ideas and beliefs. When one reads a symbol has a “real” meaning or only “one real meaning,” one is reading a naïve opinion; a symbol means any and all meanings that have been assigned to it. One can ascertain the meaning(s) intended by a symbol only through its use in a given context – and even then, decoding the symbol can lead to ambiguities and confusion.
A symbol takes on a history as it is used and reused, invented and reinvented. All meanings that it takes on are not necessarily connected, nor do they grow out of one another. One set of users may mean one thing by the symbol and another set may mean something entirely different, even to the point of contradiction – yet the image and shape of the symbol do not change.
Moreover, especially with geometrical forms, there are only so many ways to draw them. It is no mystery when two separate groups, with no influence on one another, might make up or take up the same or a similar geometrical form, one unknown to the other, and mean two different things by it. We commonly see this with the pentalpha, also known as a pentagram or a five pointed star, which many Christian Fundamentalists believe can only REALLY mean Satanism. In fact, the history of the pentagram is long and complex, ranging, for example, from the Pythagorean philosophers, who used it to symbolize Hygeia, or health and wholeness, their secret sign of recognition used as a greeting and wish for goodness all the way to the use of the star in the State Flag of Texas to mean “Texas, One and Indivisible,” to the Nautical Star in Naval tattoos meaning the guiding star to see one home, to the hermetic use of the star to stand for man, to the use in Freemasonry to stand for many things including the soul and God, to, yes, modern “Satanic” groups who use it to mean Satan, etc.
The star means all of these and none of these at the same time. None of these uses were influenced by the others necessarily – is one to believe that Texas was founded by Satanists? Or that a sheriff’s badge is “Satanic”? Or that the stars on the American flag are Satanic? Hardly. If one studies or writes a history of the pentagram, one would compile all of the uses the geometrical image has been put to and all of its contexts and all of the ways these meanings did and did not influence on another. It is only in the minds of Fundamentalists that symbols have one and only one REAL meaning – because Fundamentalists are literalists and have difficulty with any reality that cannot be taken literally but must be interpreted. Fundamentalists, in fact, never wish to admit they are performing acts of interpretation – pulling out one set of meanings over another possible reading – at all times; they wish everyone to admit that they are giving the “only” possible genuine reading of symbols and texts . . . when they are not.
And many people, especially those with conspiratorial leanings, are, in fact what could be called hermeneutical fundamentalists even if they are not religiously Fundamentalists. These people look for a root meaning or an arcane or hidden meaning behind all symbols or words or texts and define that as the “real” or “sole true” meaning of the text or image or word – and this real meaning is allegedly known by and used by a secretive cabal of those in the know – the hidden masters of the masses. No matter if a symbol such as the Peace Symbol just means “peace” to millions, that is not good enough; no, it has a real meaning known by the minority who “controls” the idiot masses – it is really the death rune used by the Nazis or it is the so-called “Cross of Nero” who was, historically, a genuine anti-Christ . . . although most of the lore on the Internet about the “Neronic Cross” seems gossip and speculation without much foundation – the upside-down cross is actually a Christian symbol, the Cross of St. Peter, traditionally crucified by Nero upside-down by his own request as he did not feel worthy to have the same death as the Messiah. This cross is often on the vestments worn by priests at the altar during the Eucharist to bring to mind the humility, suffering, and triumph of the saints.
This upside-down cross, a holy symbol, is sometimes shown with bent arms as well as straight, like a peace symbol – and it has nothing to do with Peace Signs, Nazi Germanic runes, Norse runes, or anything else other than superficial appearance. But one would not know it to read all of the self-referencing myths spread across the net:
( http://www.nazarite.net/evil-symbols.html; http://christian.families.com/blog/the-cross-of-nero;http://2012patriot.wordpress.com/2010/01/31/neros-cross-peace-symbol-death-rune-man-rune-witchs-foot-broken-cross/;http://www.barr-family.com/godsword/cache/exposingsatanism.org-signsymbols/signsymbols.htm)
There are no “surface” meanings and “deep” meanings in symbols. There are meanings that are more widely understood and some that are more obscure, but a symbol is capable of carrying all of these meanings simultaneously and equally – and the appropriate meaning(s) only come to light in the appropriate context. If I wear a shiny metal star on my breast it does not have the same meaning as when the sheriff wears a shiny metal star on hers. If Nero meant one thing by an upside-down crucifix, St. Peter and the Church meant something else, and neither have anything to do with Norse runes; and the Norse runes are not the same as the Armanen runes used by the Nazis; and none of this has anything to do with the Peace Symbol.
As for the leadership of the Peace Movement that commissioned the Peace symbol, they were neither anti-Western nor anti-Christian. This includes Bertrand Russell. Lord Russell was hardly a Nazi sympathizer, nor did he have warm feelings for the Soviet Union. The following is from Bertrand Russell’s entry on Wikipedia:
“Bertrand Arthur William Russell, 3rd Earl Russell, OM, FRS (18 May 1872 – 2 February 1970), was a Britishphilosopher, logician,mathematician, historian, and social critic. At various points in his life, he imagined himself in turn a liberal, a socialist, and a pacifist, but he also admitted that he had never been any of these things, in any profound sense. Though he spent most of his life in England, he was born in Wales, and died there at the age of 97.
“Russell was a prominent anti-war activist; he championed free trade and anti-imperialism. Russell went to prison for his pacifist activism during World War I. Later, he campaigned against Adolf Hitler, then criticised Stalinist totalitarianism, attacked the United States of America's involvement in the Vietnam War, and was an outspoken proponent of nuclear disarmament.
“Russell opposed rearmament against Nazi Germany, but in 1940 changed his view that avoiding a full scale world war was more important than defeating Hitler. He concluded that Adolf Hitler taking over all of Europe would be a permanent threat to democracy. In 1943, he adopted a stance toward large-scale warfare, "Relative Political Pacifism": War was always a great evil, but in some particularly extreme circumstances, it may be the lesser of two evils.
‘In a speech in 1948, Russell said that if the USSR's aggression continued, it would be morally worse to go to war after the USSR possessed an atomic bomb than before they possessed one, because if the USSR had no bomb the West's victory would come more swiftly and with fewer casualties than if there were atom bombs on both sides. At that time, only the USA possessed an atomic bomb, and the USSR was pursuing an extremely aggressive policy towards the countries in Eastern Europe which it was absorbing into its sphere of influence. Many understood Russell's comments to mean that Russell approved of a first strike in a war with the USSR, including Lawson, who was present when Russell spoke. Others, including Griffin who obtained a transcript of the speech, have argued that he was merely explaining the usefulness of America's atomic arsenal in deterring the USSR from continuing its domination of Eastern Europe.
“Russell spent the 1950s and 1960s engaged in various political causes, primarily related to nuclear disarmament and opposing the Vietnam war (see also Russell Vietnam War Crimes Tribunal). The 1955 Russell–Einstein Manifesto was a document calling for nuclear disarmament and was signed by 11 of the most prominent nuclear physicists and intellectuals of the time. He wrote a great many letters to world leaders during this period. He was in contact with Lionel Rogosin while the latter was filming his anti-war film Good Times, Wonderful Times in the 1960s. He also became a hero to many of the youthful members of the New Left. In early 1963, in particular, Russell became increasingly vocal about his disapproval of what he felt to be the US government's near-genocidal policies in South Vietnam. In 1963 he became the inaugural recipient of the Jerusalem Prize, an award for writers concerned with the freedom of the individual in society. In October 1965 he tore up his Labour Party card because he feared the party was going to send soldiers to support the USA in the Vietnam War.”
And so forth.
As for Russell’s views on religion, his essay “Why I am not a Christian” about sums his position up. He defends his atheism – but, at the same time, has much that is good to say about some aspects of the morality the Christianity supports:
I don’t see anything in any of this that suggests Russell was a closet Communist or Hell-bent on destroying the West, and so on, such as you misrepresented in your original post blindly cribbed from a random website (http://www.teachpeace.com/peacesymbolhistory.htm which, itself, is a hodge-podge of material cribbed from other, contradictory websites, some true, some false). Quite the contrary, Russell was firmly part of Western culture – his approach to philosophy has antecedents going back to Ancient Greece and his pacifism was shared by the early Christians who were hardly the most war-like bunch. And they were socialistic, on top of that, selling all they had, supporting widows, orphans, the poor, and sharing all things in common. The Letter (Epistle) of St. James in the New Testament will give one an overview of their beliefs about money and status, and while, now, it is generally ignored by large segments of Christianity, the teachings have never disappeared nor have the influence on society ceased.
Yes, Western Civilization and culture, including America, is influenced by various strains of Christianity. But it was also, at the time of the founding of our country, strongly influenced by The Enlightenment, the French philosophes, Deism, a revival of Greek notions of democracy and Roman ideas of republicanism and Stoic virtue. Martin Luther is an important figure, but so are Thomas Hobbes and John Locke and Voltaire and Montesquieu, and Tom Paine and Tom Jefferson and Ben Franklin -- philosophers, not theologians. Yes, the lifespan of people in some places have been raised, but not mainly because of capitalism and religion, but because of democracy and technology and mutual tolerance and peace and an improvement in morality – applications of God-given reason as much or more than faith alone.
Much of what you say here I have written a book about. I feel no need to belabor the point further; anyone who wishes to know my ideas in greater depth can find my essays and works on the Internet.
I am no enemy of Western culture or religion. I am an enemy of willful ignorance, superstition, and fanaticism, and intolerance. I am an enemy of ideology and politicization of ethics.
Richard Van Ingram 4-5 April 2011
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