Unfortunately, some Western academics and intellectuals also embrace the vestiges of Western supremacy, providing “rational” justifications for the policies of the powerful throughout the world (Savage). The infestation and ruin of the intellectual class is not new. In an essay for The Guardian, political philosopher John Gray, who authored False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism, illustrated how Queen Elizabeth I employed Dr. John Dee as her “philosopher,” and illustrated Dee’s purpose.
Certainly the figures used by Pinker and others are murky, leaving a vast range of casualties of violence unaccounted for. But the value of these numbers for such thinkers comes from their very opacity. Like the obsidian mirrors made by the Aztecs for purposes of divination, these rows of graphs and numbers contain nebulous images of the future – visions that by their very indistinctness can give comfort to believers in human improvement… Plundered and brought to Europe after the Aztecs were conquered and destroyed by the Spaniards, one of these mirrors was used as a “scrying-glass” by the mathematician, navigator, magician and intelligence gatherer Dr. John Dee… Dee acted as a court adviser on the basis of his reputed possession of occult powers… Commanding Dee to record what he was about to see, the angel produced some elaborate tables, which together constituted a revelation of a coming global order based on godly principles… Offering a vision of the future in their tables of figures, the “angels” confirmed that humans still had a central position in the cosmos (Gray).
There is no reason to think that some of these “advanced thinkers” spurn the rewards that follow from justifying oppression. At one point, the “thinkers” gave their all to justify white supremacy, as West demonstrated. They also served the Third Reich by conjuring up justifications for the eradication of Jews, socialists, leftists, anarchists, communists, homosexuals, and the mentally ill, among other minorities (Hale). In the West, advanced thinkers persist, peddling support for Western supremacy and more.
No current political movement is more illustrative of this predisposition than “the New Atheist threat” (Werleman). The New Atheist movement is reminiscent of the “golden age” of positivism – the post-American Civil War through the very early twentieth century – a philosophy that “assumed that science was also the only sure guide to morality, and the only firm basis for civilization” (Lears).
Neuroscientist Sam Harris, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, philosopher Daniel Dennett, and the late socialist writer Christopher Hitchens; are among the figureheads of the New Atheism. Unfortunately, most of their critics, such as Dr. Nassim Nicholas Taleb of New York University, offer nonsensical rebuttals (Cheadle). The paucity of cogent critique in part results from a disregard for how Western supremacy operates outside of the liberal bourgeois narrative of “identity politics” (Real Time), and a crude categorical characterization of the philosophy of New Atheism as purely racist. In contrast, this paper argues that the New Atheism encompasses a Western cultural supremacy that embodies elements of white supremacy, but is not a purely race-based.
Moreover, critics portray New Atheists as non-consequential white, privileged Western elites; who simply engage in evangelical fanaticism over Islam. Critics warn that New Atheists are beginning to occupy greater roles within and around the supposedly objective halls of American higher education (Hoelscher). They characterize the ideology that proliferates the work of New Atheist think tanks and other like-minded advocacy groups of privilege metaphorically as a type of “manifest destiny,” not unlike the expanding US global hegemon that filled the international power vacuum following the Second World War (Zinn). Opponents view New Atheist academics as intellectual revisionists (LeDrew) throughout the ranks of academia (Hedges). If there were anything to the notion of “regimes of truth,” as postulated by the post-modern philosopher Michel Foucault, it would be empirically probable by way of studying the empowerment and post-9/11 legitimization of the New Atheist intellectuals (Chaput).
The Western cultural bias of the New Atheism is reflected in Sam Harris’ assertion that, “We cannot let our qualms over collateral damage paralyze us [the West]” from eviscerating the “enemy” (Harris 203). Such disregard for the fundamental human rights of “collateral” victims enables Harris to advocate for a pre-emptive nuclear attack, if our intelligence community suggests that a Muslim nation-state, such as Iran, obtains nuclear weapons. The prudence of Harris’s advocacy for pre-emptive nuclear strikes conjecture crumbles in the face of history. Did not the intelligence community of the West falsely claim that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (Stein)? Did not the “war on terrorism” kill around one million people in Iraq? (International Physicians) How many more millions need to perish for the leading figures of the New Atheist movement to recognize how warmly welcomed they are by the world’s most powerful forces? Harris’s assertion that a pre-emptive strike might be justifiable demonstrates the inhumanity that some New Atheist intellectuals continue to entertain in the face of global suffering.
This paper, while in no way exhaustive, offers a glimpse into the current nature of supremacy. Its analysis suggests that new forms of supremacy can rise from the ashes of previous modes. The preeminence of white supremacy as a tool of oppression has diminished in the face of post-War neoliberalism and the changing dynamics of international relations. As Cornel West explains, “the odor of this bowel [supremacy]…pollute[s] the air of our post-modern times.” However, the odor has taken on a new and alternative stench.
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