My previous entry, a catalog of excerpts from Christopher Hitchens’ Letters to a Young Contrarian (2005), has provoked some interesting discussion - some from within the walls of the Kirk (although, I particularly enjoyed the discussion with James Leroy Wilson). The discussion was largely spawned from the fact that I published these excerpts. Moving forward, then, I will focus on the content of just one excerpt in what follows:
. . . One is sometimes asked “by what right” one presumes to offer judgment. Quo warranto? is a very old and very justified question. But the right and warrant of an individual critic does not need to be demonstrated in the same way as that of a holder of power. It is in most ways its own justification. That is why so many irritating dissidents have been described by their enemies as “self-appointed” . . . I am happy in the ranks of the self-employed. If I am stupid or on poor form, nobody suffers but me. To the question, Who do you think you are? I can return the calm response: Who wants to know?
This is one pregnant paragraph. The Quo warranto? question is the launching pad for the Moral Argument, and the “self-appointed” description reminds me of one of the more defining moments of the Wood’s early development. But my reason for focusing on this paragraph is Hitchens’ use of the word ‘self-employed’. I will get to this, as well as the topic of academic tenure. But for the moment, I feel compelled to wander a bit off my chosen path. My imagination is now at the mercy of the phrase “self-appointed” – still priming my episodic memory as I write.
Oh, yes, the early days. Sweet reminiscence. The creepy, nasty, bitter self-appointed pooh bear. What it was like to be me back then. I recall in particular that time when, still a member in good standing in Wilson’s church, I decided to start a blog, and before long, provide a link to some primary documents posted to the internet by a man Wilson was then publicly attacking. Needless to say, these primary, historical documents did not make Wilson look all that spirit filled. I will refer to the man Wilson was attacking as the ‘X-elder’, since he used to be an elder in the Kirk (replaced by Jones in the early 90s) and his picture now hangs in Wilson’s War Room, marked with a big fat X.
After providing a link to the evidence, I went further and dared to ask a question about the evidence. In response to this, Doug Jones and Douglas Wilson crawled into the comment section of my blog and began pelting me with questions of a slightly different kind. Just now counting, it looks like they had thrown at least 41 of these questions at me by the time I had a chance to begin answering the very first one (yes, forty one, as in four sets of ten and then add one). Here is a pertinent sampling:
What are your qualifications to be making the assertions you are making? Are you a witness? Are you an investigator? Are you an investigator who has assembled all the facts? If you answer our questions, giving the basis for your affirmation of the truthfulness of the answers, this should establish your competence or lack of it in this matter. In short, on what basis have you been making your claims? And if you investigated these allegations [sic], could you tell us how many statements you received from anonymous sources? . . .we are asking about your qualifications to put yourself forward the way you have. . . we are asking you to demonstrate that you have the capacity and standing to prove them. . . . Michael . . . Our questions concern your standing and competence . . . And why should we believe that you are credentialed to be among the special three?
Wilson had failed to link to the evidence himself (until forced) and he never honestly described the nature of the evidence this X-elder had presented. And so, my curiosity, which had already been building for months, finally expressed itself by a preliminary inquiry into the evidence Wilson himself had been indirectly referencing. This alone was enough for my pastor and another elder (both friends and past formal instructors) to begin a campaign of harassment. Seven of the forty-one questions they blasted my humble little layman’s blog with pertained to my qualifications, my investigative license, competence, capacity, standing, and credentials. In sum, they were claiming – with a commendable weight of vocabulary – that I was wrongly self-appointed. Who did I think I was? I do not deny it. I was self-appointed – self-appointed as a free-thinking free-born American citizen presuming the right to ask a question. (more…)