After the gay nightclub massacre in Orlando last year, Roger Jimenez, pastor of a small Baptist church in California, gave a sermon proclaiming that he’s “upset” the gunman “didn’t finish the job,” and that the government should have all the “sodomites” lined up against the wall and “blow their brains out.” In the ensuing backlash, Jimenez complained that his words were “taken out of context.”
The preacher’s protestations constitute what I’d term “pulling a Harris,” in honor of the noted kitchen philosopher and neuroscientist.
To call Sam Harris a troll would be an understatement; with his honey-voiced musings on the ethical necessity of occasionally torturing Muslims, he’s the fucking Erlkönig of imperial court philosophers. But the minute you call him out, he simply refuses to stick to his guns. Same with his followers, who are often described as cultish — which I don’t think is hyperbole. As any cult leader worth his salt knows, self-contradiction can make a mythological narrative all the more potent. The cognitive gymnastics Harris’s disciples perform just to convince you and themselves that their guru’s reasoning is coherent could be fascinating, if they weren’t such unbelievable bores.
Incidentally, Harris — the prominent skeptic who is into “extra-sensory perception,” “xenoglossy,” and various other types of supernatural woo-woo — has recorded his own guided-meditation-for-atheists audio files. Om harris harris, rama rama.
The so-called New Atheists — most notably Richard Dawkins, Bill Maher, and Harris — have spent years contributing to a zeitgeist that has now culminated in the disastrous presidency of Donald Trump. It is, as they say, not a good look. All three of these neo-conmen want to maintain their bonafides as liberals, which is crucial for a career providing intellectual cover for the most vile US policies. What else is there to do but to “pull a collective Harris”?
To parse Sam Harris’s doublethink in his recent blog post, A Few Thoughts on the “Muslim Ban”, I helped the pre-2017 Harris annotate it for us on Genius. With links, of course, to provide full context — not that I think Harris or any of his fans share the same definition of “context” as the rest of the species.