A number of bloggers who I read once in a while have been discussing a book called Lebor Feasa Runda. The possessor of this book, Stephen Akins, claims it is an ancient Celtic manuscript which describes Druidic ideas from before the rise of Christianity. He has recently published an English translation. It has never been offered to a reputable university for authentication; moreover, its content is characterised by neo-Nazi white supremacy.
I don’t need to say more about it than what has already been said by The Wild Hunt blog and others. What I’m curious about, however, is why people fall for this sort of thing.
In a conversation about a similar diatribe of dogmatic dung which somehow inexplicably got published, someone said to me:
“I know there are some historical inaccuracies, but the author has some good ideas.”
That is to say, the author pulled some philosophical concepts from out of his hat, mixed them into a poetic series of wise sounding pronouncements, and claims about facts from history or language that may or may not be verifiable. This will be done without systematic argument or close analysis of hidden presuppositions. However, it is often done in the mode of a confident assertion: the author appears certain and committed to his beliefs: he claims they are real and true, and he does not waffle with expressions of relativism. People are impressed by that kind of confidence, even if they are not otherwise inclined to be gullible. I suspect that this is the strategy which enables Akins and the like to be successful.
So, how do we fight it?
One way to fight it is to not talk about it: for blog entries about his stuff (including this one) only increase the amount of exposure and publicity he gets. Remember your Oscar Wilde: “Speak of me well, but speak of me poorly – but speak of me.”
Another way is to write better books. This is my own preferred strategy.
Those not in a position to write their own (better!) book can talk about better books, and do what they can to increase their publicity. So, the next time someone mentions Akins’ stuff, or Monroe’s 21 Lessons, or the like, try countering with: “But have you read Myers? Or Erynn Laurie? Or Greer? Or Philip Carr-Gomm? What about Emma Restall Orr? What about Isaac Bonewits? Those writers have interesting ideas too. And they have much more professional research habits. They want to inform and inspire people, just like the writer you mentioned. But they don’t want to just placate readers with seemingly interesting ideas. They also want to pose the deepest questions, the most serious problems. They want to engage the world in a real conversation, so that their readers will be better people, and our shared world will be a better place to live. For example, in one of my favourite books, the author said something really amazing that made me change my beliefs for the better. Here, let me show you…”
This may well be the case not only for one short book published by one person. This may well work for any noble and socially just cause. I think the effort to quell Akins’ book should be seen as just one part of a larger effort to resist racism everywhere. And for that larger effort, good people should not just ignore it and hope it goes away by itself. Good people should be prepared to act.
I’m convinced that what good people need to do is not simply, nor only, denounce the falsehoods. They must also uphold the truth. For “falsehood yields to truth”, as a wise man once said. But this only happens when the truth is respected: “let him care for the truth, it will care for him”. The meaning of the Druidic motto, “The Truth Against the World”, is that it is the Druidic task to assert the truth when ‘the world’ is about to succumb to ignorance. If history teaches anything, it is that knowledge is stronger than ignorance and truth is stronger than lies, but lies and ignorance always win when those who stand for truth and knowledge do nothing.