Attack Watch as Case Study of How Force Stops Thinking


There’s been a lot of spirited online rebellion in the last couple of days in reaction to Obama for America’s “Attack Watch” campaign. In typical American fashion, people are reacting to Obama’s announcement of a new criticism watchdog, replete with web site, by going out of their way to criticize and make fun of our President.

I am glad to see this, because it shows that the American sense of life–which has found expression in the Tea Party movement and is aptly symbolized in the classic “Don’t Tread On Me” flag–is alive and well. (Republican wins in the recent special elections are also a great sign.) I must admit I’m somewhat torn about discussing Attack Watch, however. This is because, as much as I want to join in on the frequent Obama-heckling tweet-fests (they’re fun and cathartic), I don’t want to increase the amount of resources squandered by Attack Watch. But maybe I should just get over that, because it’s all for a good cause: showing that Americans won’t stand for censorship of their criticism of their elected officials.

The reason I’m posting about this (in addition to trying to come up with at least one really clever tweet heckling the President) is because it occurred to me that Obama’s institution of Attack Watch is a case study in the application of Ayn Rand’s observation that force stops thinking. In Chapter 8 of his book, Objectivism: The Philosophy of Ayn Rand, Leonard Peikoff writes, “[I]f and to the extent that someone’s gun becomes a man’s epistemological court of final appeal, replacing the law of identity [A is A], then the man cannot think.”

So, to those who frequently criticize the President, let me ask you: When you first heard of Attack Watch, did you say to yourself, even for a millisecond, that you would now have to be more careful when criticizing the President publicly? Never mind that, if you’re reading this blog, you’re probably the kind of person who would go ahead and act as you had before anyway. That’s not the point. People decide to resist the institution of government controls all the time, but that does not mean that those controls, if and to the extent that they are imposed, do not stop thinking.

Some might argue that Attack Watch doesn’t threaten the use of force of any kind, nor the imposition of any penalties, so this is in fact not an example coming under the principle. (The site is apparently run by a non-government organization, Obama for America.) But if you think about it, the only reason that people even care about the existence of Attack Watch, the only reason they feel like they must rebel against it, is because they know that, even if there has not yet been a threat of penalties of any kind, such penalties might not be far behind. This is why phrases like “enemies list” and “political prisoner” keep appearing in discussions of Attack Watch. If you feel the slightest bit intimidated by the creation of Attack Watch–even if you tell yourself you will not be affected by it, that you will continue on, as before–then you have experienced a small taste of what Ayn Rand meant. (As have, for example, businessmen who were called to Washington and “urged” to run their businesses in a way more pleasing to the President, even though there was not, at that point, any legislation compelling them to do so.)

The initiation of force, or threatening to use force, is evil. This is why even a fairly heavily veiled threat of force by our government is cause for concern.

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25 Comments

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25 responses to “Attack Watch as Case Study of How Force Stops Thinking

  1. anon

    I don’t get it, how is this force? Politicians have to run for office, and part of that is rebutting criticisms and such.

  2. “I am glad to see this, because it shows that the American sense of life–which has found expression in the Tea Party movement and is aptly symbolized in the classic ‘Don’t Tread On Me’ flag–is alive and well.”

    This is what is important about the response on Twitter (and I can only imagine what reports they’ve received on the actual website — they certainly heard from me.) Action is required in these instances — required philosophically and psychologically — and I think you’ve addressed both here. Philosophically it is important to identify logically the fundamental issues — to prove in reality why efforts such as AttackWatch are immoral. Psychologically it is important to take action, to rebel, to show that they can’t tread on us. It is cathartic and fun and healthy!

    Nice job.

  3. @anon: AttackWatch is more than responding to criticisms. Responding to criticisms is obviously proper for politicians — and human beings. AttackWatch is a lame attempt at intimidation (yeah, and fund-raising). Obama and his team know what their opponents are saying. They don’t need people reporting smears. They know what’s going on out there. It is pathetic, but worthy of swatting down.

  4. Deborah

    Well, this AttackWatch website may be nominally privately funded and operated, but it is operated on behalf of and sanctioned by a sitting president, and that does carry with it a certain suggestion of force.

    Also, recall the email address, flag@whitehouse.gov? Just a quick refresher: this email address was set up *by the White House staff* in Summer 2009. Its official purpose was to collect reports of “disinformation” about Obamacare. The message at the White House website asked people to report incidents of “disinformation” from friends, family members, neighboors, co-workers, etc. I recall sending many, many emails to that address, telling them to go to hell in various creative ways, before it was finally taken down due to public outrage.

    The point is that even though this most recent tattle-tale website is nominally private, precedent indicates that this Obama regime has no problem with using the apparatus of government for similar purposes to the extent that they are able ot get away with it.

    And, the O-regime has been so consistently thuggish, dishonest and brazenly power seeking, that it is very reasonable for so many people to see it as suggestive of censorship. Sometimes I wonder if there is anything at all Obama would not do to retain his power, if he could only get away with it. Or to put it another way, what would America look like if Obama could completely re-make our system of government in any way he wished? It’s chilling to think about.

  5. Amy asked (among other things): “When you first heard of Attack Watch, did you say to yourself, even for a millisecond, that you would now have to be more careful when criticizing the President publicly?”
    I agree that “even a fairly heavily veiled threat of force by our government is cause for concern.”

    My first reaction to learning about Attach Watch was: Come and get me. That was a purely emotional response, a revulsion for any threat of force to obviate my right to think and say what I wish, and a willingness to “duke it out” with whatever thugs Obama would send to my front door.
    But the fact is that I know I’m already on whatever “hit list” the administration has compiled of minds and mouths and pens to silence, come the next real or manufactured “crisis.” As far back as 2008, before he was elected, I wrote a four-part critique of the man and his policies, “The Year of the Long Knives.”

    http://ruleofreason.blogspot.com/2008/06/year-of-long-knives-part-i.htm

    And I’ve penned a hundred thousand more words about Obama since then. So, from a professional writer’s standpoint, it’s a moot point whether or not I would ever hesitate to criticize Obama and his policies, which were already a cause of concern for me. I wouldn’t hesitate, no more than did Victor Laslow (Paul Henreid) in “Casablanca” who chose to urge the band to play “La Marseillaise” in the presence of Nazi officers. The “veiled threat” was present in Obama’s enunciated policies from the first day. And he wouldn’t need to send SWAT teams to anyone’s front door. There are numerous ways of initiating force, such as freezing or seizing one’s bank accounts, expropriating one’s real and personal property, and so on. To me, all that is a possible and foregone conclusion – if he chooses to order the initiation of force to impose censorship. I’ve always been willing to face such consequences, because I do not choose to live other than as a free man.

  6. I agree with the principles outlined in the posting and the replies. — we must be on watch against any attempt to silence us in any manner, including intimidation.The implied threat of force will eventually weigh on people’s minds, if it goes on long enough and a few good examples being made of criticisms of anyone in the government. As someone mentioned, this is Obama’s second attempt to have his critics outed in a very public manner. I’m am heartened to hear about the rebellion going on, since free speech is one of our top priorities if we are to avoid a dictatorship in this country. That he is trying intimidation tactics first is also a good sing, because he couldn’t get away with more at this time, though one can be assured that he would try to get away with more if he could.

    Thanks for posting as I heard about this from my parents, but I thought they were talking about his previous White House attempt to silence us about ObamaCare.

  7. The implication of this website is that the Obama administration is the moral administration; that altruism is proper and that anyone who challenges the administration is challenging its ability to do its work. People who speak their minds are considered enemies of the collective and of the state. This is the position taken by any totalitarian regime. Each regime uses a number of sources to discover who the enemies are; but remember, those methods are also intended to control the friends and put them on record as supporters. You can get a friend to do a lot more than just report enemies. But the reporter can also become part of the street mob necessary for the coming totalitarian state; more than just a willing stormtrooper sacrificing his time but a source of income and rocks through shop windows. Not only are they seeking to quash freedom of speech but they are also trying to find out who is still loyal so they can get them to the polls.

  8. Richard

    “Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.” –George Washington

  9. A commercial for attack watch? (LOL)

  10. M.Stern

    This shows just how despotic the Left has become. Any Objectivists making the argument that there is symmetry between the evil of the Left and the Conservatives (I’m looking at you Adam Reed) are just plain wrong. Obama has shown that the Left is on the verge of open totalitarianism. The are fu**ing EVIL. I hope this gets Objectivists off of their “imminent Christian theocracy” foolishness (I’m looking at you ARI.) The greatest enemy we face right now is NOT Islam. It is the Left.

    • M Stern,

      I think the greatest enemy we face is irrationality. It has to be called out where and when it’s found, I don’t get that there can be a strategy of picking and choosing when and what irrational ideas we call out, and which we ignore. One day, the religionists are co-opting the tea parties, the next day, attack-watch hits the web. The next day, conservatives are slipping in altruism into a political debate, the next, leftists are voting for tax hikes. Who says there is an “imminent christian theocracy”? Please link.
      I would disagree. It is the greater long term threat than socialism however. A socialist will debate and provide evidence (much of it misleading), a religionist cannot debate (honestly) because reason is thrown to the wind for faith. That shuts down free speech much faster. To the left, tommorrow is always “better”, to the religionists DEATH is always “better”. The bigger long term threat is faith, not altruism. We will fight altruism more today, but if we lose that fight, we will be fighting faith in the future, and more will be on the line then. We might all hang together. So we should fight both -when they rear their ugly heads.
      Unless theres a better plan?

    • Talal

      anyone pretending that the conservatives are better than the left or that the USA would be better with them in charge is delusional

  11. Zuryan

    Attack watch legitimizes the notion that criticism on Obama is equal to radicalism. Obama criticism has already been compared with racism, terrorism and other ridiculous notions in the past, which not only seem to find acceptance in media, but also amongst his most fanatic supporters. Unlike then the left, the rightwing does not have the channels to turn the “outlawing” of their views into a positive. The “young, obstinate student rebelling against authority” stereotype of the left has found plenty of outlets and acceptance.But when a rightwing young man does the same, he is seen as perpetuating outdated concepts of governing and authority.

    So unless a cultural change will occur in the US, i do believe Attack Watch will erode the “anti-Obama” movement. I have already seen so many Obama supporters speaking in favor of Attack Watch, its disturbing to see.

    • I would publically shun anyone trying to seriously promote the attack watch website in my vicinity. I don’t care with whom, or where I am, a brown shirt is a brown shirt. If this (website) makes some on the right “cower” than tell them to put an Obama bumper sticker on their car so that they can feel safe again, if they are that bad off, to he## with them, they cannot be allies, just as jello cubes cant make good sandbags in a foxhole.

      • Zuryan

        To do so would mean political isolation. You need to be able to involve people who have the intellect or instinct to see what is wrong, but lack the courage to keep getting smacked around with ridiculous accusations of racism or ignorance. The left has been quite successful at arming its less then intellectually honest followers with clichés and rhetoric which makes them feel elitist and gives them the ability to shutdown debates with accusatory arguments and “facts” leftwing websites store ready for use. What other reason might there be the left has its young followers so engaged in (shutting down) political debate?

        I agree with your attitude on the matter, but its time the conservatives get out of this political isolation the left has been able to push them in. Next to this problem and to return to the topic:”force stops thinking”, it definitely puts people on the defensive, and it drives a wedge between potential entrants in conservative ideology and conservatives.

  12. Amen Amy… and those commenting. MY THANKS for your vigilance!

    AttackWatch(?)… this is how totalitarianism CREEPS in.

    Germany never knew what hit them with the ELECTION of Hitler either!

    Whether you believe that the left or the religious right is the most pressing problem, we must move,… AND MOVE NOW!

  13. Andrew

    Has anybody followed the situation Mark Steyn and Ezra Levant faced in Canada regarding free speech? Thanks to their courage and outspokenness, the “human rights commissions” that sought to prosecute them for “hate crimes” have been exposed

    • Zuryan

      I did, and i advise anyone to watch it on youtube as they nail every little detail of whats wrong with our society. Its both shocking and entertaining to see these two rip down the HRC.Search on youtube: “Mark Steyn ezra levant in Ottawa”

  14. Andrew

    What I found fascinating about the Steyn/Levant affair was how disarming the real face of evil can appear. Rather than some muscular thug with a weapon, evil manifests as some Pre-menopausal, early-middle-aged woman-bureaucrat carrying a clipboard and “just doing her job”.

  15. Andrew

    I must add that Rand did a good job of portraying the true nature and characteristics of evil in her novels. It is also riveting to watch Levant et.al. not become mushy, but stick it to the statists, and leave the kid gloves at home.

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