by Tim Widowfield
An argument to end all arguments
David Hillman recently commented:
In real intellectual arguments the accusation of denialism does not help at all. In the argument for example over the philosophical foundations of quantum mechanics, was Einstein a dice denier, Bohr a reality denier. Such accusations would not have advanced the argument.
I do actually suspect that McGrath’s use of the term is an immoral smear to avoid addressing the arguments, and if I could ever work out what Hoffmann is attempting to communicate I might suspect the same of him.
Of course, advancing the argument is not the aim, is it? They charge mythicsts with denialism in order to terminate the argument. “There is nothing to argue about,” they mean to say. “Talk to the hand.”
Being lumped in with conspiracy theorists, climate-change hoaxers, birthers, and Holocaust-deniers isn’t some unfortunate afterthought or an unintended consequence; it’s the main reason they do it.
As far as what Hoffmann is attempting to communicate — well, it’s essentially this: He doesn’t like “Mythtics.” His tirade from 8 February makes it clear. His dislike seems to have gone well beyond any rational explanation. It has certainly dissolved all norms of polite social behavior. I, for one, would forgive his departure from normal, sane human discourse — if any of what he was saying were true.
A Godfrey of his own creation
Hoffmann has created his own mythical Godfrey who lives in the enchanted land of Vridar. Hoffy doesn’t like this Pseudo-Godrey.
He does not like his posts on Paul.
He does not like them, not at all.
Hoffy tells us all day long,
Pseudo-Godfrey is quite wrong.
He does not like his exegesis.
He does like his take on Jesus.
Even quoting Shelby Spong,
Pseudo-Godfrey’s very wrong.
He hates his manner, so uncouth.
He hates how he distorts the truth.
Hoffy ever sings this song,
Pseudo-Godfrey’s always wrong.
(He would forgive them all, you know,
If only they’d agree with Joe.)
However, you can’t blame Pseudo-Godfrey; he’s just like every other mythicist. They are all:
. . . belligerent yahoos who behave like sophomores at an all-city debating contest.
Yes, all mythicists are like this. To Hoffy, they are ill-informed fools. He hates them all because, they:
. . . are fighting for a cause they don’t fully understand, based on evidence they can’t cipher for an objective they can’t reach.
But, he would explain, even if they could understand the things that only someone of Hoffy’s cranial capacity could understand, it wouldn’t matter. They don’t want to understand. They purposely ignore evidence. In short, they are not straight shooters. They obfuscate with malicious intent.
The mythtics [sic] don’t want history, they want a victory. They don’t want serious discussion or best interpretation, they want to score points.
I said earlier that his fantasies about mythicists seem to have gone beyond rational explanation. However, there is a simple, psychological reason for Hoffmann’s behavior, and that’s cognitive dissonance.
Justifying behavior by reinventing your opponent
Gather ’round, now, and listen closely, because I’m about to say something nice about Doc Hoffmann. He is not a bad person. Anyone who isn’t a sociopath (and I don’t think Joe’s a sociopath) naturally feels some guilt when he or she engages in bad conduct. Confronting one’s own churlishness creates a state of tension known as cognitive dissonance. The greater the gap between what we have done and what be believe we should have done, the greater the dissonance. Dissonance causes anxiety, which often drives us to find some way to justify our behavior.
Creating Pseudo-Godfrey is Hoffmann’s way of dealing with cognitive dissonance. Consider the following:
What are the objects and intentions of the mythicists? Why do they regard what they are doing as important? Is it out of some desire for truth—to get to the bottom of a case and see historical justice done. That would qualify as idealism. Or is it simply to make their opponents look mean-spirited and wrong by pursuing immoderate ends in the rashest way. That wouldn’t.
Hoffmann is unhappy with his mean-spirited behavior, but cannot accept responsibility. He must deflect the accusation and place the blame on Pseudo-Godfrey for his pursuit of “immoderate ends in the rashest way.”
Unfortunately, I don’t expect things to improve here. The Godfrey that exists only in Hoffmann’s head will continue to become more nefarious in order to keep up with the escalating insults. So you should expect things to get worse before they get even worse.
The descending spiral
How will things get worse? How could they get worse? Well, right now Hoffmann is torn between excusing Pseudo-Godfrey — by citing his fictional biography (i.e., his conservative Christian roots), his pathetic credentials (i.e., just a simple librarian), and his low intelligence — and accusing him. I fully expect in the future that all will shift to the latter: to Pseudo-Godfrey’s malicious behavior, his willful intent. You can see that shift already occurring when he claims that mythicists need Jesus to be a myth, no doubt as a result of their corrupt nature.
At this point in an essay, the writer is supposed to present a solution to the problem. Unfortunately, I have none.
Fasten your seatbelts.