The attempted terrorist attack in Portland was thwarted by the FBI. Ironically, in 2005 the Portland city council voted (by 4 to 1) to withdraw their city’s police officers from participation in the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force.
Now, Portland’s mayor says he might ask the council to reconsider the decision about participation in this task force. Is it because he realizes that the threat of terrorism is real, and that anti-terrorism efforts like those being conducted by the Joint Task Force were indeed justified?…ie, that Portland was wrong in its initial decision? Not at all:
“[Adams] stressed that he has much more faith in the Obama administration and the leadership of the U.S. Attorney’s office now than he did in 2005”
I was reminded of something Arthur Koestler wrote about closed systems and the people who believe in them.
A closed sysem has three peculiarities. Firstly, it claims to represent a truth of universal validity, capable of explaining all phenomena, and to have a cure for all that ails man. In the second place, it is a system which cannot be refuted by evidence, because all potentially damaging data are automatically processed and reinterpreted to make them fit the expected pattern. The processing is done by sophisticated methods of causistry, centered on axioms of great emotive power, and indifferent to the rules of common logic; it is a kind of Wonderland croquet, played with mobile hoops. In the third place, it is a system which invalidates criticism by shifting the argument to the subjective motivation of the critic, and deducing his motivation from the axioms of the system itself. The orthodox Freudian school in its early stages approximated a closed system; if you argued that for such and such reasons you doubted the existence of the so-called castration complex, the Freudian’s prompt answer was that your argument betrayed an unconscious resistance indicating that you ourself have a castration complex; you were caught in a vicious circle. Similarly, if you argued with a Stalinist that to make a pact with Hitler was not a nice thing to do he would explain that your bourgeois class-consciousness made you unable to understand the dialectics of history…In short, the closed system excludes the possibility of objective argument by two related proceedings: (a) facts are deprived of their value as evidence by scholastic processing; (b) objections are invalidated by shifting the argument to the personal motive behind the objection. This procedure is legitimate according to the closed system’s rules of the game which, however absurd they seem to the outsider, have a great coherence and inner consistency.
The atmosphere inside the closed system is highly charged; it is an emoional hothouse…The trained, “closed-minded” theologian, psychoanalyst, or Marxist can at any time make mincemeat of his “open-minded” adversary and thus prove the superiority of his system to the world and to himself.
Himself a former Communist, Koestler had considerable experience with closed-system thinking. The quote is from the essay Woe to the Shepherds in the collection Bricks to Babel.
Related post at Neptunus Lex.