NRA: Winners and losers

NRA: Winners and losers January 18, 2013

Nicolae: The Rise of Antichrist; pp. 113-116

The Antichrist’s personal plane is making good time, as Rayford Steele enjoys the sleep of the just, “snoring, according to McCullum, for several hours.”

Well, if not the sleep of the just, the deep sleep of one who just doesn’t care that he just stood by and did nothing to prevent the slaughter of millions.

About an hour outside Baghdad, Leon Fortunato entered the cockpit and knelt next to Rayford. “We’re not entirely sure of security in New Babylon,” he said. “No one expects us to land in Baghdad. Let’s keep maintaining with the New Babylon tower that we’re on the way directly there. When we pick up our other three ambassadors, we may just stay on the ground for a few hours until the security forces have had a chance to clear New Babylon.”

“Will that affect your meetings?” Rayford said, trying to sound casual.

“I don’t see how it concerns you one way or the other. We can easily meet on the plane. …”

You get the idea. Just in case you don’t, Jerry Jenkins spells it out in excruciating repetitive detail in the following pages. It’s a semi-plausible way of arranging to have Nicolae Carpathia’s strategy meeting with his top lieutenants take place on the plane — and thus to allow Rayford, and readers, to eavesdrop.

This chapter, then, spends three pages contriving a situation in which Rayford can listen in on a meeting that eventually takes about 10 pages to unfold. That makes this one of Jenkins’ most efficient chapters — throughout most of this series of books it’s more like a 1-to-1 ratio of positioning to narrative, spending just as many pages maneuvering his characters into a position to observe what happens next as he does allowing them to observe it.

Buck Williams, for example, is headed to Israel to meet with Tsion Ben-Judah. That’s the next actual bit of story he’ll be involved in, but rather than just telling us the story parts of the story, Jenkins keeps us apprised of every phone call and airport stop along the way.

Buck checked in with Donny Moore, who said he had found some incredible deals on individual components and was putting together the five mega-laptops himself. “That’ll save you a little money,” he said. “Just a little over $20,000 a piece, I figure.”

Maybe Donny is a good and trustworthy guy and he’s putting together some really amazing computers. Or maybe he just couldn’t resist when he found a customer who was willing to pay $100,000 for five really “special” laptops.

Buck told key people at Global Community Weekly his new universal cell phone number and asked that they keep it confidential …

I imagine those “key people” at the news organization were surprised to learn that Buck hadn’t been killed when World War III began a few days ago. This ongoing story is the biggest news since The Event itself, so when the boss never bothered to check in with his top editors and reporters, they had to assume he was either dead or trapped under something heavy.

Think of it: You’re the managing editor of a major news outlet. New York, London and Washington are all destroyed and you never hear from the boss. Chicago and Dallas and San Francisco are destroyed and the boss is still AWOL. And then, the following day, he calls — not to give orders or ask questions about how this huge story should be covered, and not to ask if everyone survived the series of nuclear attacks. No, he’s just calling to let you know he got a new cell phone, and to give you the number so you can call him if anything comes up.

Meanwhile, Rayford lands at the airport in Baghdad and Jenkins begins a laborious explanation of security ruses and arrangements for the meeting Nicolae will have with his lieutenants there on the airplane. This description is interspersed with a testy conversation between Rayford and Leon Fortunato. Fortunato tells Rayford they’ll be flying again in four hours.

“International aviation rules prohibit me from flying again for 24 hours.”

“Nonsense,” Fortunato said. “How do you feel?”


“Nevertheless, you’re the only one qualified to fly this plane, and you’ll be flying it when we say you’ll be flying it.”

This goes on for another half-page or so, the two men posturing and asserting competing claims for dominance. Rayford makes a point of calling the man by his first name.

“I would appreciate it if you would refer to me as Mr. Fortunato.”

“That means a lot to you, does it, Leon?”

“Don’t push me, Steele.”

As they entered the terminal, Rayford said, “As I am the only one who can fly that plane, I would appreciate it if you would call me Captain Steele.”

Fortunato here seems like kind of a jerk, but then he’s supposed to be the chief assistant to the Antichrist — the No. 2 guy and the right-hand man of the all-time epitome of evil. Just being kind of a jerk doesn’t quite seem evil enough.

Like Nicolae himself, Fortunato seems like an unpleasant person to be around, but unpleasant doesn’t really cut it when you’re supposed to be superlatively wicked.

The portrayal of villains is another place where storytelling and theology inevitably intersect. What is evil? What is sin? What is wickedness? Is it the opposite of good, or the absence of good? Could it be an excess of good? Does it lie more in its ends or in its means? Your ideas about all of those questions will shape how you portray your uber-villains.

Think of the movie Serenity, Joss Whedon’s delightful big-screen curtain call for his abruptly cancelled scifi TV series Firefly. Serenity gives us “Reavers” — sub-human, bestial nightmares of pure savagery and violent carnage. From one theological or philosophical perspective, Reavers might seem to be strong candidates for the epitome of evil — soulless monsters bent on mindless destruction.

But Whedon has always been more interested in soulful monsters and mindful destruction. The Reavers are terrifying, but — SPOILER ALERT — they’re not the true villains of Serenity. The real villains are those who created the Reavers, and who did so with the best of intentions. And therein lies a whole other philosophy or theology and a very different set of answers to those questions about the nature of evil.

The Left Behind series ought to have richly meaningful villains. Just look at that title — “Antichrist” — and consider all the myriad ways Nicolae Carpathia’s villainy might have been used to explore the nature and meaning of Christ by portraying his antithesis.

Nicolae could have been shown to epitomize power instead of love. He could have been shown as the kind of man who would say “Yes” to all the temptations Jesus is said to have rejected in the wilderness. He could have been portrayed as the one who chooses to take rather than to give, to harm rather than to heal, to kill rather than to die.

But we never see anything in these books about the Antichrist as the antithesis of the Christ of the Gospels. That part is already taken in this series by Jesus himself, the Jesus of Tim LaHaye’s imagined second coming who will arrive at the “Glorious Appearing” to correct all of his earlier mistakes by embodying the opposite of everything he taught and lived in his first coming. The Antichrist cannot be shown to be the opposite of this Christ because the Antichrist is exactly like this Christ.

This also means that Fortunato — the Antichrist’s chief disciple — cannot be portrayed as the antithesis of what it means to be a disciple of Christ. Indeed, what we just saw in his conversation with such a disciple, Rayford Steele, is that Leon Fortunato is exactly like his Christian counterpart. He’s kind of a jerk in that conversation, but then so is Rayford. He’s arrogant and full of himself, but then so is Rayford.

The only difference between the two men is the same as the one thing that makes the Antichrist different from the vengeful Christ of LaHaye’s imagination: Fortunato is on the wrong side.

This seems to be the only thing the authors have to say about the nature of evil. It’s the wrong side. It’s the losing side.

So how, then, can we avoid evil? Easy — by always doing whatever we have to do to make sure our side wins.

That’s the author’s definition of good. For many other authors — including some of those in the Christian canon — that’s the definition of evil.


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  • That’s kind of cute, but what about if they had named their boy “Mike”?

  • Perhaps Jenny Islander should find a relative of hers for Treasure to marry (if she’s going to take spouse’s last name).

  • I asked about “teasing” because that’s the verb IN used. I’m well aware that bullying happens in American schools. For that matter, so does aggravated assault and homicide.

    I agree that there are reasonable positions that are less all-or-nothing than the position I asked about. That’s why I asked about the position I asked about, to establish what side of that line IN had intended to stake their claim on.

    To be clearer: I don’t have a problem with the idea that subjecting my kids to social harm just to save a few bucks that I’m willing to spend for my own gratification is bad parenting.

    I do have a problem with the idea that raising kids in a way that exposes them to social harm is in and of itself bad parenting.

    And I have a huge problem with the idea that the proper way to allocate responsibility for social harm is to blame the victims of that harm for not fitting in properly (or blame their parents for allowing them not to fit in properly) rather than to blame their attackers for attacking them (or blame their parents for allowing them to attack).


    Sadly, the rant fails to include the oh-so-yoonique name for a girl: Nevaeh.

  • Lori

    Sadly, no. His wife was either still really out of it from the birth or is the most clueless creature on earth because she apparently didn’t get it until other people were all WTH?

    And apparently there is actually more than on Espn and I need to go find a wall to bang my head against.

    Some people need a good smack.

  • Mrs Grimble


    Next up is the $1.1M Luvaglio.  It has everything you want.  Incredible
    security, a diamond as the power button, self-cleaning screen, all the
    gizmos and gadgets a tech nut would want, and all the exclusivity a
    ridiculously wealthy person would want.

    And it never actually existed.  The company didn’t even produce a prototype let alone a working machine, and the solid-state drive specifications were apparently technically impossible at that time (2007).  The website is still there, with lots of pictures of some frankly ugly laptops, but no information; it’s never even been updated.
    Sounds just the thing for Buck and the Tribbles!

  • Lori

    I never have been able to figure out why it’s supposedly so very Christian to name your kid the opposite of heaven. If someone named their kid Hell or no one would take it as a sign of their clever devotion to The Lord, so why does Nevaeh seem like a good idea.

  • EllieMurasaki

    Lleh looks like a bizarre spelling of Leah, though, so I’m surprised I’ve never heard of a kid named Lleh.

  •  I don’t think that’s at all what Lliira was suggesting. Rather, I think there’s a powerful tendency for parents to trivialize the importance of social harm to their children.

  • Kiba

    Have you seen this?

    Seems people just love giving kids really shitty names regardless of the time period. 

  • Newystats

    someone’s been reading Peter Martin

  •  Sure. I’m not claiming that Lliira was suggesting anything in particular. And I agree that it’s tempting to trivialize the social status of children.

  • That was really what I was trying to get at – that adults tend to forget what it’s like when kids, who don’t yet have the social training to keep their adverse opinions to themselves*, pile on to the person who becomes the nail-that-sticks-up-from-the-wood.

    Yes, a good parent can console their child and try to explain why a decision the parent made is considered good in the long run, but young people are particularly disposed to being group-social and as such this really doesn’t lean much against the winds of 6 hours of relentless barbed teasing per day.

    * While this trait sometimes leads adults astray as in when they become yes-people to CEOs and so on, it serves the socially valuable function of being able to articulate in an appropriate setting to someone else why they are being regarded less well than they would otherwise be.

  • Fair enough.

    For my own part, I am more comfortable with a social model that explicitly includes forms of moral authority that supersede peer pressure, at any age.

    But I certainly agree that simply dismissing and trivializing peer pressure (as distinct from acknowledging that it’s not the sole or even primary source of authority) is a bad idea.

  • Lori

    The thing is, this is never going to be just an issue of recognizing moral authority that supersedes peer pressure. Even if the child does recognize the underlying truth that what the other kids say isn’t the be all and end all of life, it still sucks to be the kid that gets picked on. I think that if you’re going to subject your child to that when it could be avoided it needs to be for a way better reason that saving a couple bucks you can afford to spend (and which you do spend on yourself) or wanting to teach them an Important Life Lesson. It’s not necessarily true that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Sometimes what doesn’t kill you just wears you down so that the next thing kills you. There are enough things that can get a kid picked on that can’t or shouldn’t be changed. Making a kid fight a daily battle over something that could easily be different just seems cruel to me.

    Circling back to the dumb name issue—if some nominally adult uber sports fan wants to head on down to the courthouse and change his/her name to Espn I will think that person is a moron, but other than rolling my eyes really hard I’ll stay out of it because it’s none of my nevermind. Same goes for an adult who wants to have an unusual hairdo or atypical body modifications or whatever. If the person is complaining about not being about to get a job or a promotion, depending on their field I’ll probably point out that there may be a connection between their chosen personal presentation and their career issues.  Beyond that, it’s that person’s decision and balancing competing desires (unusual hair vs better job) is up to them.

    Kids (with good reason) don’t have the same freedom to make their own decisions. Because of that I think it’s important for parents to be really careful what burdens they decide to make their child carry, even if it is supposedly trivial or for their own good. You as the adult get to make the decisions, but you’re not the one living with the consequences and it’s not fair to forget or minimize that.

  •  It’s like making a movie set in a town called “Nilbog” and calling it “Troll 2”

  • Skewed Slightly to the Left, we last saw Rayford under armed guard in one of the lavish sleeping rooms aboard GC-1 curling up into a ball and wishing oblivion would take him.

    “Wake up fuckface,” I voice said more loudly than Rayford would have liked and full of more disdain than he was accustomed to.

    Rayford had to blink twice to get his eyes to focus but when he did he saw the speaker and tried to respond as cheerfully as he could because he figured that was more likely to annoy than confrontation, “Leon!”

    “Mr. Fortunato,” the man corrected sharply.

    “What brings you to grace me with your most excellent company?”

    “Do you honestly think that being chipper is going to somehow give you the upper hand?”

    Rayford dropped any hint of his fake mood and said, “So spit it out asshole.”

    “This plane will be touching down in Baghdad soon to pick up some guests, then we’ll make the last leg of our journey to New Babylon once we are certain of the security there.

    “You will be flying at that time.”

    Rayford looked at the four armed guards, the ones he had hoped would kill him in his sleep, then back to Leon Fortunato.  Silence filled the room as the two men looked at each other, “Yeah, because that makes so much sense.”

    “You think you’ll be able to defy Carpathia?”

    “Put me back in the cockpit.  I dare you.”

    “He said you’d say that.  That’s why I’m here.  To let you get your hopes high before He explains to you exactly why you will carry out every order He ever gives.  Let them soar, convince yourself that you can resist, but when you realize your wings are made of wax and you come crashing down into the surf, when what’s left of them becomes soaked and pulls you under no matter how hard you try to keep your head above water, remember this:

    “I told you so.”

    Mr. Leon Fortunato left Rayford with the four armed guards, and in spite of his words Rayford was was convinced that if he were put at the plane’s controls it would mean death for all on board.  This time he wouldn’t wait.  This time he would do what he should have done.  No matter the cost.  He’d sell his soul to get the blood already on his hands off of them, he’d die before he took part in anything to add to that blood with more innocents he could have saved.  That was what he told himself.

    Then, Carpathia came.

    “Our friend Mr. Fortunato has explained the situation to you?”

    “Yes and I’m completely ready to be your faithful lapdog yet again.”  Carpathia was good at reading people, he’d know if Rayford were playing along so he could crash the plane, so Rayford saw no need to make his lies compelling or his contempt anything other than transparent.

    “Oh, but you are.”

    “If you think that I’m going to work for you-”

    “You will.”


    “Tell me, what do you think about your son,” Nicolae let a pause rest there just long enough for Rayford to experience grief for his only son, taken in the Rapture, “in law?”

    “I… uh… what?!”

    “Do you think he’d place principle first?  Do you think he’d refuse to work for me no matter what?  Because if he would then you have every reason to turn me down.

    “You see I plan to make him the same offer I’m about to make you, and if he doesn’t take it… well… I’m sure you can work it out for yourself.

    “You can come back to work for me, and be completely loyal in word and deed.  Or I can rip everything that you love out of your life, right in front of you.  Your daughter, assuming she’s still alive, dead.  Your church will be burned to the ground, and then have all of the underground portions burned, with the entire congregation inside of it.  Any who manage to escape will be executed by machine guns.

    “Your friends from work, your old work, will be tracked down and executed.  Your friends from this job too, and you know I know who they are because you know about my surveillance archives.  I know because you erased the part where your wife let you in on the cities to be bombed* and you warned your son in law.

    “Hattie as well, even if she does please me from time to time.

    “And your wife will naturally be shot in the head.  Not at first, you understand.  We’ll probably shoot her in one foot, then the other, chop off her left hand, then the right, poke out her eyes, then take her nose-”

    “And then her tongue, I suppose,” Rayford said morbidly.

    “Exactly!” Nicolae said excitedly.  “To the pain, but she will not live a long life wallowing in freakish misery because then you would have hope that, somehow, you might comfort her.  And that we can’t have.  So once we’ve extracted as much pain as we can from her, we shoot her.

    “In front of you, of course.

    “After that we’ll probably go have people you just randomly happened to meet.  How does your entire second grade class sound?  Bet you don’t even know their names, but we’ll make sure you get to watch their deaths.

    “And you, you’ll get to live.  A rich and happy life.  At least that’s how it will look from the outside, every need taken care of, every amenity provided for, and so much leisure time you won’t be able to help but think about all of the deaths we’ve made you watch.

    “And when I do run out of people with some connection to you, I’ll start making things up.  Say people who have the same name as your daughter.  I’ll bring one in, introduce you to her, let you know about her life, her hopes and dreams, her loves and likes, the people she cares about and the people who care about her, and then I’ll kill her in front of you.

    “Once I run out of people with that name it’ll be your second-born, Raymie I believe his name was.  Not the most common name, I think.  So I’ll find people the same age he would be, or as close as I can manage, with the same interests, introduce you to the young men, let you get a good feel for them, and then kill them, slowly, in front of you.

    “Every day.  Day after day.  Forever.”

    There was silence.

    “And lest you think that you can avoid this fate by coming back to work for me and then crashing the plane, rest assured that the orders have already been given out.  If anything should happen to this plane, everyone and everything you ever cared about dies.

    “Slow, agonizing deaths.

    “So make sure to do your pre-flight checks completely right every time.  And if you should ever have any doubts about the plane’s maintenance you get the problem solved, because the life of everyone you ever cared about hangs in the balance.”

    Rayford hadn’t moved a single muscle, save his heart which was beating erratically, since Nicolae got to the part where he mentioned second grade.  Even if he could move it was unclear what he might do.  His eyes couldn’t open any wider, the look of horror on his face couldn’t be any more pronounced.

    Breathing might be nice, but he’d forgotten about that though his lungs were beginning to burn.

    “I expect you to be in the cockpit by the time our guests from Baghdad board.”

    Nicolae turned and walked toward the door.  He opened it, then he turned back to Rayford.  “Mr. Fortunato asked me to remind you: he told you so.”  Nicolae addressed the guards, “You’re no longer needed here.  Can I interest you in drinks in the lounge?”

    Nicolae held the door open for the four guards, then closed it, leaving Rayford in the room alone.

    At that point Rayford’s oxygen deprived lungs finally overrode his brain, and his horror along with it, and forced a sharp intake of breath.  More gasping followed.

    Rayford didn’t know what the asking price would be on his soul, but he knew that Nicolae had bought it.  He would be the Antichrist’s lapdog.  He would make sure the plane never crashed.

    And he would pray that someone would shoot the bastard, provided they did it on the ground.

    * Actually, he erased the part where Amanda tried to let him in on it and he told her he already knew.  Nicolae is well aware that the plane is bugged, he ordered it to be, but his lack of mind reading means that he doesn’t know Rayford has access to it beyond being able to break it.  (The files are encrypted, deleting them is much easier than listening to them.  Also I’m assuming Rayford did it in a way to make it look like an accident, power surge took out the hard drives or whatever.)

  • Carstonio

    Peer pressure treats all difference or nonconformity as objectionable. It doesn’t distinguish between differences that are harmful to the group and differences that aren’t. That’s a distinction that even many adults don’t grasp. Although there are instances where peer pressure serves a social good, such as disapproval of bullying or prejudice, what supersedes it is the principle that difference or nonconformity itself is morally neutral. Offhand I don’t know the best way of teaching that lesson.

  • aunursa

    Wow!  Now that’s a villain.

  • I agree that it’s important for parents to be careful what burdens they allow and encourage their children to carry, and that forgetting or minimizing the consequences of those choices is a bad thing. But attending to the consequences of encouraging my child to stand against peer pressure does not mean never encouraging my child to stand against peer pressure.

    I agree, as I said before, that subjecting my kids to social harm just to save a few bucks that I’m willing to spend for my own gratification is bad parenting. I also agree that subjecting my kids to social harm just to give them a dumb name for no good reason is bad parenting.

    But when the rhetoric starts to approach the line between “subjecting kids to social harm in exchange for this is bad parenting” to “subjecting kids to social harm is bad parenting,” I think it’s important to push back on that, because the latter just ain’t so.

    For example, I’m not sure what the difference is between an “Important Life Lesson” and an important life lesson. Depending on the difference, I might agree that subjecting my kids to social harm for the sake of an “Important Life Lesson” is necessarily bad parenting. But I certainly wouldn’t agree that subjecting my kids to social harm for the sake of an important life lesson is necessarily bad parenting.

    So I guess the question I want to ask here is, on your view, what is worth subjecting children to social harm for, if anything? And how do we make that determination?

  • D: holy craaaaaaaaap.


    what supersedes [peer pressure] is the principle that difference or nonconformity
    itself is morally neutral. Offhand I don’t know the best way of teaching
    that lesson.

    I’m on board with this. I’m not sure it’s the only relevant principle, but it’s a good one. And I’m not sure what the best way to teach it either, but it’s worth teaching.

  • Lori

      So I guess the question I want to ask here is, on your view, what is worth subjecting children to social harm for, if anything? And how do we make that determination? 

    I think this is one of those issues where it’s easier to talk about specific examples than generalities, but I’d say that in general if it’s a deeply held principle it’s one thing, and if it’s trivial, or you just not getting or agreeing with “kids these days” then you probably ought to rethink it.

    Raising your kid vegetarian because you really think it’s wrong to kill animals for food and therefore sending “odd” foods in the kid’s lunch—-you talk to the child about why it’s important to you and why they may just have to learn to shrug off the kids who say stupid shit about tofu.

    Refusing to let your kid have some harmless trendy item that they want, you can afford and to which you have aesthetic, but not moral objections? You probably just need to open your wallet and save the kid getting hassled for not having it. Save teaching them the value of individualism for something where the child’s genuine wants are at odds with the trend and the dangers of materialism for something that costs more.

  • banancat

     Well it’s a good thing that your slight discomfort doesn’t trump their access to life-saving healthcare then.

    Also, they all have as much right to be at a bakery or Kinko’s as you do, babies included.

    For all the railing that conservatives do about the “entitlement mindset” where people think they should be entitled to food and healthcare, they sure are quick to overlook all the people who feel entitled to be treated like royalty everywhere they go so long as they have enough money to be the more important customer.

  • banancat


    And it’s not even Buck’s money. It’s the Antichrist’s money.

    It sounds a lot like rich teenagers bragging about how much they can spend on their parents’ credit cards.  I guess that fits well into the authoritarian mindset though.  The whole thing actually makes quite a lot of sense if you view Buck and Rayford as petulant teenagers who desperately wish to rebel against Big Daddy AntiChrist but are dependent on him for luxury and are unwilling to risk actually give all that up so the most they can do is throw tantrums and roll their eyes.  Actually, it’s even worse than that because teenagers are generally dependent on their parents for actual survival and also the rebellion is sort of a normal part of development, whereas Buck and Rayford are allegedly adults and more capable of actually rebelling.

  • Buck throwing away all that money on techno-gadgetry sounds like a teenager wasting his or her allowance on expensive things mainly to show off and annoy the parental units. :P

  • I don’t mind specific examples.
    I agree that subjecting people to social harm for trivial reasons is a bad idea.
    I agree that subjecting my kids to social harm solely for the sake of my aesthetic opinions is poor parenting.

  • Matri

    holy craaaaaaaaap.

    That was exactly what was going through my head. Now THAT is a villain who has been taking Evil Overlord lessons!

  • Whoa, that’s a little hyperbolic, isn’t it? Chill out!

  • Ima Pseudonym

     Aaaaaaand, THAT’S how the most evil human being in the history of mankind should be written. 

    I wish I could  grab the Chuckle Brothers by the scruff of their necks and shove their faces into the monitor while saying, “See?  See?  THIS IS WHAT GENUINE PURE EVIL REALLY LOOKS LIKE.”

  • I am more comfortable with a social model that explicitly includes forms of moral authority that supersede peer pressure, at any age.

    And it would be great if schools were like that. They are not.

    I have experience with this. Direct experience. The only time I’ve been seriously suicidal in my life was in elementary school. I was bullied horrible — why? Because I did not wear the right clothes. When I think about the things I went through, I still get upset. I will never, ever, ever get over it. 

    It’s not victim-blaming to say you should try what you can to make your kid’s life easier in school. Acting like we’re in a perfect world is not going to create that perfect world.

    You’re using a slippery slope argument, by the way. No one ever suggested you shouldn’t teach your kids to stand up to peer pressure, or that you should shape your entire childrearing philosophy around avoiding them having social problems. Life is not all or nothing.

  • Wait… was Ross’s “Nilbog” example not a purely rhetorical one? *facepalm*

  • Yes, I agree that it would be great if schools could communicate some sort of notion of right and wrong that was more significant than peer pressure. And I agree that they don’t. 

    I agree that it is not victim-blaming to say you should try what you can to make your kid’s life easier in school. That said, as I’ve said before, some things are more important than that, and I think it’s important to say so.

    I agree that life is not all or nothing.

    And as far as slippery slope arguments go… well, OK, if you’re going to explicitly judge my reasoning, then I will explicitly defend it.

    At no time did I ever say, or believe, that life is all-or-nothing. Or that saying you should make your kid’s life easier in school is victim-blaming. Or that acting like we’re in a perfect world is going to create that perfect world. Or that bulllying (and, for that matter, assault and homicide) don’t happen in schools. Or that schools effectively teach a moral authority that supersedes peer pressure.

    I started out by asking InvisibleNeutrino to clarify their position, because what they’d initially said could easily be taken to mean that it’s necessarily bad parenting to subject kids to social harm for the sake of a moral principle, and I thought that was importantly false. They have since done so, which is great.

    In the meantime, a bunch of people weighed in by raising various related issues in response to me. Which is fine; this is a public forum, and they are free to do so.

    I responded in turn by explicitly agreeing with some things, explicitly disagreeing with other things, and clarifying my own position where it seems appropriate. I will continue to do so. I endorse all of that, and I don’t agree that it constitutes any sort of slippery slope argument.

  • Münchner Kindl

     Awesome. That’s how you write an evil villain, an effective villain and a way to get loyalty the old-fashioned way without supernatural mind whammys.

  • By the way, in case it wasn’t clear enough, I was trying to draw an analogy between parental discretion wrt their children by referring to naming them.

    Explicitly stated:

    Just as you wouldn’t name a child something that could get them obviously teased (e.g. “Mike Hunt”), because the effort involved is relatively minor compared to dealing with the tears and upset years later, laying out the three times a year times eight bucks for a good haircut is relative chump change to dealing with the resentments and anger childhood teasing (and I mean of the nasty kind) can cause.

    As counterintuitive as it sounds to say this, sometimes just going along with basic norms of social conformity can lubricate the path to an easier time for your child.

  • Splitting Image

    Terrific! As everyone else has said, “THAT is how you write a villain.”

    Also, props for the “To the Pain” reference. People have listed a lot of fictional characters who made better villains than Nicolae Carpathia, but it’s disconcerting to realize that Dread Pirate Westley is one of them.

  • esmerelda_ogg

    As counterintuitive as it sounds to say this, sometimes just going along
    with basic norms of social conformity can lubricate the path to an
    easier time for your child. – Invisible Neutrino

    I don’t know that it’s counterintuitive at all, for children or adults. If the group can easily categorize someone as “weird abnormal outsider” on superficial criteria, they’ll dismiss any substantive disagreements that the designated outsider has with local custom – they probably won’t even really hear the outsider’s arguments. But someone who has enough social credit to pass, superficially, as a “normal person” has at least a chance of being listened to when they explain why they won’t eat meat (to use an example from somewhere upthread); and being listened to is the first step in persuading other people to change their own habits.

  • Homo Economicus is the perfect miser – someone who has $$$$$ and does nothing to distinguish their lifestyle from the poorest person that ever lived.
    For all that such behavior is the proper utility-maximizing thing to do, I think even right-wing economists would be willing to concede that upon meeting such a person, they would meet such a crabbed and miserable spirit as to wonder at whether there were any humanity in them at all.

    The thing is, we’ve all already met such a person, in literature. His name is Ebenezer Scrooge.

  •  I think this is now the fourth time on this thread that I’ve agreed that subjecting children to social harm solely in order to save some money that I’m willing to spend on my own indulgences is bad parenting.

    If this wasn’t sufficiently clear, this includes, but not limited to, bad cheap haircuts when I can afford better ones.

    That said, I’m willing to keep agreeing to this as often as people feel inclined to insist that however hard it may be for me to believe, really, it is honest-to-gods actually  true.

  • The reason people keep saying this is because of your first post on the matter:

    Just to clarify: do you really mean to suggest that as a parent, I don’t have the right to make choices that might lead other children to tease my child? Or that I necessarily ought not do so, even if I have the right to?

    That wasn’t taking the kind of circumstances we were discussing into account. It was an all-or-nothing question. You’ve since said things that make me think it was not meant to be. That being the case, what were you meaning to ask? Because you seem to be growing frustrated with people answering the original question, and it feels like we’re now at that point of arguing even though we agree.

  • My original post, which you quote, was a request to IN to clarify their meaning.

    More precisely, they seemed to me to be suggesting something I disagreed with. So I articulated the thing they seemed to me to be suggesting, and asked them if they were in fact suggesting it. I find that’s a good way to avoid misunderstandings.

    And they replied to that question, quite a while ago, which gave me the clarification I wanted, which is great.

    I accept that in the process I somehow seemed to suggest that there are  no bad reasons to subject children to social harm, and that telling me that there really honest-to-god do exist bad reasons
    to subject children to social harm was therefore intended as an answer to my original question.

    I’m hoping that sooner or later I will manage to successfully express the fact that I agree with this and don’t need to be informed of it again, so we can move on.

    As for my being frustrated: well, sure, it’s frustrating to have people repeatedly assume that basic life lessons, like “social harm hurts” and “ignoring the hurtful consequences of my actions is a bad thing” and “stupid shit isn’t worth people getting hurt over,” are not only things I’ve somehow failed to learn in my life, but furthermore are things I need to be told repeatedly even after I’ve agreed with them the first two times I’ve been informed of them.  Being treated as a remedial student is bad enough, but being treated as a remedial student who is resistant to instruction is worse.

    That said, nobody is under any obligation to treat me differently; rather, it’s my obligation to respond civilly or bow out. That doesn’t stop me from feeling frustrated by it, though.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    The fact that they’re often better places to live for the average person is proof positive in the minds of many that they ARE horrible places.  It means that sinners and degenerates are being allowed to run amok.  It means that they’re not being punished in a visible way to serve as examples to everyone else.  Many people like Tony Perkins and Bryan Fischer believe that poverty, misfortune and social inequality are divine punishments for sin, and I’ve actually *met* people–both in meatspace and online–that believe that the reason why a country like Sweden, Canada or Germany might have a better standard of living is because God has essentially stopped caring what happens there and has given those countries over to their eventual destruction. 

    In other words, they actually live in a world where being a nice place to live is actually proof positive that that place is doomed, up is down and black is white.  See also:  my aunt.

  • auroramere

    A goal of maximal opposition to evil, rather than maximum good achieved. It explains a lot.

  • L. David Wheeler

    Somebody may have mentioned this since, but that’s the point of the Grand Inquisitor chapter at the heart of Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov.” 

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    I know this guy’s probably been raked over the coals plenty by now, but seeing people being Wrong On The Internet makes me itch.

      Gloating over a massive expansion of spending and government is no more
    appealing than gloating over a renewal of fiscal responsibility.

    Wait, wait wait.  Are you seriously trying to claim that George W. Bush and the rest of the Republicans (Bush being the last time the GOP got to do the ‘You LOST.  get over it’ schtick) were in any way shape or form fiscally responsible?


    Be assured that the LAST thing that most liberals want to do is ntellectually defend their arguments.

    You must be new here.  I suspect you won’t last long.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     The election went to Obama. We’ll have another one in four years.

    We have another election in TWO years.  And if we don’t want another crop of screaming Teabagger morons in Congress like we got in 2010, I hope the Democrats are getting organized NOW.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

     And nope, Geoffrey W. took off after everyone started dissecting his stupid posts.