Transcript of Dr. Peikoff’s NYC Mosque Podcast
Note: Dr. Peikoff, Ayn Rand’s intellectual and literary heir, finally made a statement on the impassioned Ground Zero Mosque debate.
A question I’ve been asked a number of times: What do you think of the plan for a mosque in New York City near
Ground Zero? Isn’t it private property and therefore protected by individual rights and no one has a right to interfere?
Now, I don’t take concrete political issues like this, but in this case it is an issue of such ramifications that I just can’t ignore it. I also am going to lie to or deceive you in this way: not in the content of what I say, but in the manner. left to my own devises, I would be enraged and spout off all the way through my answer on the wickedness of the people who believe this or the non-knowledge of the people who agree with them. But I asked for questions and therefore if I take it, well, nobody forced me, I gotta be calm, just as if it was any other question. So, do not let my manner deceive you as to my opinion, my evaluation.
Let’s start with property rights. Property rights are limited and they are contextual. You cannot do anything you want with property even though it is yours, not if its ramifications objectively entail a threat to the rights of others. You can’t build a bomb in your home. You can’t even build a big bonfire in your backyard legitimately because the principle of rights is that property rights are a derivative of life as the standard and there can be no right to threaten anyone’s life nor indeed to threaten anyone’s property. Second, rights are contextual. In any situation where metaphysical survival is at stake all property rights are out. You have no obligation to respect property rights. The obvious, classic example of this is, which I’ve been asked a hundred times, you swim to a desert island — you know, you had a shipwreck — and when you get to the shore, the guy comes to you and says, “I’ve got a fence all around this island. I found it. It’s legitimately mine. You can’t step onto the beach.” Now, in that situation you are in a literal position of being metaphysically helpless. Since life is the standard of rights, if you no longer can survive this way, rights are out. And it becomes dog-eat-dog or force-against force. Now, don’t assume that any unsatisfied need therefore puts you in this metaphysical category. For instance, you are very poor and you are hungry. Well, you need feed. But in a capitalist society, even in a mixed economy, that is not a metaphysical deprivation. There’s always all sorts of choices and ways in a free society for you to gain food. Always.
Now, let’s apply apply this to the foreign relations issue. The context today is that we are at war and not a cold one. A real one. We are facing widespread terrorism sponsored by a number of governments with tremendous popular backing in virtually every Mid-East Islamic country. Even Turkey, the one priding itself on its secularism, has now gone Islamic. Now, the United States’ response, the western response to this is a continuation of the appeasement that was started back in the ’50s with Eisenhower when Iran seized western oil companies. The Americans, the British, and the Israelis, as I remember, launched an attack to try to reclaim it and — or at least the British and the Israelis did and Eisenhower vetoed it. Since that point there’s more and more and more craven appeasement by the west and across 50 year the audacity and scope of outrage of the Islamic world — I mean by that, the activists, the militants, the terrorists, and their countless followers — the have continually upped the deaths, the assaults, the horror, while the US has continually upped its appeasement — of course, the appeasement includes the pretense of a war which consists of bombing empty fields and letting innocent American soldiers be slaughtered because we mustn’t harm the lampposts or the people down the street. The government under this present individual is not even allowed to use the word “terrorist” anymore, let alone suggest that Muslims are involved. He’s just continuing Bush’s policy. Bush’s first speech after 9/11 was that “of course, Islam and Islamics and people who believe in Islam have nothing whatever to do with it It’s just a tiny lunatic fringe.” And so Bush had a non-policy in the same way Obama does and since there’s no enemy — it’s correct that “terrorist” is a stupid word because terror is a tactic. It’s not an idea. So we have no identified enemy and no war, nothing except – and you notice if anything happens, anything at all that would suggest — some kind of violent act — the first thing the authorities say is that, “It’s not terrorism. It’s not a foreign policy incident.” And when they finally discover, they say, “Well, it’s an exceptional case. We have to investigate. And we have to have a special trial in New York City which will take 13 years. And we have to give him lawyers…” It’s just historically unbelievable that the worse the enemy becomes, the weaker the United States becomes. Now, it should be obvious that there is no end to this, no final result, and not to far from now in time before there will be Islamic devastation or even take over of a paralyzed United States. Now, I know that seems fantastic and it’s still fantastic today, but ask yourself, in 1990, if you would, what people thought the reaction would be to 9/11 and then what it actually was. You just project by degrees what’s gonna happen.
Now, the proper reply to the whole evil of terrorism, Islamic Fundmentalism if you want to call it that, would be to state the right morality firmly — the morality of the founding fathers — declare war on the appropriate state — now that’s a different topic but I would say you have to start with Iran. Give notice and bomb Tehran as a beginning — but, we can’t do that. But right now the question is: What should we do in this case?
Now, my view in this context, any objective sign — not what could be subjectively taken one way or the other, but any objective sign sign of our weakness, it is immoral and catastrophic for Americans to permit it insofar as they could stop or weaken the effort to it. And the mosque is absolutely a textbook example of this. There is only one objective message.
Now, let me give you an analogy if it’s not self-evident. Japanese strike pearl Harbor. We declare war. Japan, the Japanese, are then given a large spread of land in Pearl Harbor to build a temple celebrating — I don’t care what. The Japanese superiority or Shinto peacefulness or — I don’t care what. Now, if you can even conceive of that as justified because of “property rights,” then I say you haven’t a clue what property rights, or individualism, or Objectivism is saying. Because what permitting that amounts to is “Roll over. Kick me. Kill me. I have nothing to say.”
If someone down the street lobbied grenades into your harm which you were renting. And the police wouldn’t do a thing. And you fled. And he buys the property and builds the Church of Home Bombing on your land. Would you say, “Oh! Well, it’s his. It’s his property.” And don’t think that’s a false analogy.
Now some of you are going to ask, “Well but this is unfair to the Muslims that are innocent. You’re talking about how we should deal with the terrorists.” And I say that’s irrelevant. Even if there were innocent Muslims involved in this mosque, the alternative we have is their right to property versus our right to survive as the only property defender left in the west. And there can be no question about what the proper choice is here.
I don’t, by the way, believe that the great majority of Muslims are innocent. I think they are passive because it is very rare to hear any anti-terrorist voice. There are some, but very rare to hear… There’s nothing to suggest a “schism” within the Islamic movement, so I don’t even consider that. Plus, I add that what I’ve said in the past shows here we have to go by probability which is not collective judgment. I’ve talked, in the past, shows why it is legitimate for New York taxi drivers, black and white, to hesitate and refuse to accept fairs going into Harlem, so you can check that out.
Now, I can’t resist taking a second with regard to this issue of the Ground Zero mosque. I want to read you two quotes without comment from the New York Post of when? June 19th. This year.
The imam behind plans to build a controversial Ground Zero mosque yesterday refused to describe Hamas as a terrorist organisation. “The issue of terrorism is a very complex question,” he told our interviewer.
I have no more to say about “what about the innocent muslims.”
Now if you ask me, in conclusion, “Well, what, then should properly be done?” Obviously war, but I mean in regard to this issue I would say: Any way possible permission should be refuse and if they go ahead and build it, the government should bomb it out of existence, evacuating it first, with no compensation to any of the property owners involved in this monstrosity. You know, a nice little example would be Howard Roark is relevant here.
I want to just conclude by saying that I’m doing these podcasts for nothing but the enjoyment of talking to young people about important issues. I am not here to have a heart attack, so please don’t send me any more questions like this. I will not answer them. Thank you.
OTHER PERSON: Dr. Peikoff has asked me to state, in case anyone misinterpreted, that the blowing up of a building mentioned near the end is an action, which like all foreign policy issues, can properly be taken by a government. He in no way suggests or condones private action in this issue.