The Burning Blade

Fireaxe Newsletter - edition 7.2

Jan 30, 2004

"I appeal to you and the people of Pakistan to wage a
jihad against extremism."
- - Pervez Musharraf, addressing the
assembly and senate of Pakistan with
a potent mixture of irony and bullshit.

Our world is built out of bullshit. Although lies, the intentional telling of a known falsehood, are somewhat rare, the propagation of erroneous thoughts, wrong assumptions, profound misperceptions, and implausible theories fill the mainstream discourse so completely that facts are like diamonds in the rough. Worse still, actual truths are invariably twisted and spun to support the agenda of the person speaking them. Although bullshit is often refuted by facts, the most successful forms of bullshit can swallow facts whole, mutating into even more contorted piles of rhetoric in their quest to become capable of explaining anything.

Of course I'm talking about more than just religion, and I am also talking about more than ideology, politics, and the nonsense spread by anyone trying to get you to do something. Bullshit is everywhere. It is almost standard operating procedure in our world to force fit facts into existing theories instead of adopting a new way of understanding things. We do this automatically, and often unconsciously, letting our perceptions be tainted by what we believe to be true. We do so for good reason. Much of who we are and what we do is contingent upon a consistent world view, and changes to that world view force us to change along with it. We hate to be wrong, even about little things, and being wrong about big things is stressful, embarrassing, and potentially very harmful depending on how much you've invested in being perceived as right. There is also the danger of being bamboozled by things that only appear to be facts, and most of us have learned to wait until a preponderance of evidence exists to support something before we embrace it as correct. Bullshit is comforting, and it is also a great defense against rival bullshit.

Truth in reality is objective, but truth in the mind is very much subjective. The sum total of reality cannot fit inside our minds and so we make assumptions about the world to make it easier for us to understand. When you think about it, most of what you know about reality is based on assumptions and hearsay with precious little learned by direct experience. This allows us to operate at a high level without having to go through all the steps needed to learn things completely, but it also leaves us with great gaps in our knowledge. This makes us very vulnerable to bullshit, for we become very used to accepting things without verification. We are dependent upon "reliable sources", "authority figures", and "gut feelings" to sort out what is the truth. And what is worse is that even when we are determined to figure the truth out for ourselves we have no idea of how to go about doing so. It certainly doesn't help that many of the ways people tell you about how to find the truth are themselves deeply infused with bullshit.

It's enough to make you throw up your arms and give up. Indeed some of us do, and not just when politicians are telling us anything they need to say to win our support. It is not unusual for people to dismiss all words, ideas, theories, and beliefs as merely being someone's opinion, holding truth to be something that they feel deep inside. That is a form of Solipsism, but most people see no problem in basing their beliefs upon a set of conditioned bio-chemical processes, nor do they ask why it is that they feel the way they do. And when we stop questioning what is held to be true, especially what we ourselves hold to be true, and see no need to support what we believe with facts, we allow ourselves to be controlled by others and used against our wishes. Of course, we can always claim that we are not being manipulated, but can we prove it? In a world run by ideologies, we need to know.

The bullshit surrounding the release of "Food for the Gods" has been washed away. The printer finally delivered the booklets and tray cards and finished copies of the 3 CD set have been making their way around the world. Also, I will not just rant about all the bullshit in the world, I will give you methods for detecting and debunking it.

A big ĎHelloí to anyone receiving the Burning Blade for the first time. This is the Fireaxe newsletter.

"Food for the Gods" is released to rave reviews

The last obstacle in the path of the release of "Food for the Gods" was removed late last year and sales have been swift by Fireaxe standards. Of course, it has not gone platinum or anything remotely close, but I am a quarter of the way through the first print run and I will run out by the end of this year at that rate. But sales numbers mean nothing compared to how well the CD set is being received, which is the true measure of success, for me at least.

So far I've heard nothing but good things about the music, the art, and the entirety of the production. I've put few of the e-mailed comments in the review section of the Fireaxe website for all to read and I expect more to be coming. I like to hear that I've "come a long way", and that the musicianship on the new CDs is exceptional, but better yet are the comments made by listeners who tell me how much they are enjoying the new project. I like to hear that people have been playing their Fireaxe CDs non-stop since they've received them, or had been anxiously awaiting the new project and are now 110% satisfied with it. Sales and critical acclaim are just window dressing around the big prize, that people are enjoying my music. Fireaxe is a studio project, not a live act, so the only true feedback I get is from e-mail and face-to- face interaction. I'd like to perform the material live and play before a hall full of lunatics pumping their fists to the rhythms of heavy Fireaxe riffs, but for now that is a distant goal and I'll take what feedback I can get.

I know that people are not likely to make comments critical of Fireaxe to my face or in e-mail, and so criticisms will begin to filter in as the music reaches people who write reviews for magazines and internet sites. I'm prepared for the usual round of knocks: that the production quality is a cut below the industry standard, that the music is more reminiscent of "old fashioned 80's style metal" than the modern trends, and that the lead singer should consider other employment. Yes, everything could be better and more in tune with current styles. The instruments could all be played by the best studio musicians and produced by the best engineers. The art could have been crafted by professional graphic artists. The CDs could be promoted by the best firms and concerts could be played by the best performers. All these things are feasible, but are they at all realistic? Not at all. No band has ever received such exceptional support, and most bands receive little support from their labels until CD sales shoot upwards. By demanding that Fireaxe CDs be high quality, or lamenting the shortcomings in the production, critics become shills for the music industry and assign merit according to sales figures, further homogenizing the musical landscape. Do not lament "What could have been", but instead wonder "What is not that should be".

But I wonder how popular Fireaxe would be if it had the support of a major label. I wonder how well received "Food for the Gods" would be if it was the latest release from System of a Down. All I can do is wonder, because something like that will never happen. A label's selling price for "Food for the Gods" would probably be around $40 for the 3 CD set, there's no smash single that can be forced down people's throats, and the bulk of it wouldn't play well to ears used to the current metal styles. The recording industry is insanely profit driven and the maximum profits come from taking a new band with a catchy sound that appeals to the most profitable demographic, signing them to a highly exploitative contract, promoting them like crazy - preferably through the domination of media outlets, working the band members like dogs, and spending as little as possible on everything from the production to the merchandizing. Most of what I put into "Food for the Gods" would be seen as an unnecessary deviation from that basic formula, so the support of a major label would have greatly altered the final product. And although there are probably some producers who would like to try their hand at crafting the Fireaxe sound into something marketable, I would never stand to see that happen.

I don't work in the music industry and so I don't have first hand experience with how it operates, but I do work in an industry which can only stay alive by keeping up with a constantly shifting marketplace, so I have a good idea of how it all works. At the both the upper and lower levels there is always a great deal of ambition, creativity, and a desire to break new ground and try new things. But whenever threats from competitors are seen by those in the upper levels, and especially the sales department, warning sirens blare and panicked executives shout orders down the chain of command as if the survival of the company depended upon keeping pace. Often it does. In today's economy, sales do not have to bottom out to put a company under. A fast drop in stock prices coupled with a year or two of record losses is enough to make a company the target of a merger or takeover with the top brass more than willing to sell out their company for a generous severance package. Thus most creative and innovative ideas are being constantly set aside as the company's direction is controlled by somewhat whimsical market forces. It is hard to predict what will be popular, but it is easy to see what is currently popular, and so mimicry is the name of the game. When a new up and coming band is discovered somewhere, music industry scouts will descend upon that band's home city and sign up any band that looks and sounds similar in the hopes of riding the wave. When a new style becomes popular, all bands, both new and established, alter their sounds to fit the new paradigm in the pursuit of either increased sales or maintaining the sales that they have. No band wants to be on their way out, and pressures to conform come from both the top and the market. Now, new ideas aren't ignored altogether, all industries want to be leading edge, but there is only so much deviation from the norm that is deemed an acceptable risk. And so the general rule is conformity, ironically sold as rebellious music.

I doubt that market forces will ever make Fireaxe music economically viable, so take a good look and a long listen to "Food for the Gods", you will probably never see its like again.

Bullshit - how we are deceived

Truth. The word itself is controversial. Everyone seems to know what the truth is but universal agreement is in short supply. Of course there are things that we can all agree on, such as if you drop something it will fall towards the ground, or if you cut off a person's head they will die. You don't need faith in gravity for it to work on you, and disembodied heads have not miraculously sprouted new bodies. But as things get harder to understand, theories harder to prove, and evidence harder to come by, the truth about such things becomes more and more uncertain. Which makes it all the more odd that things which are either highly unlikely, or simply impossible to prove, are accepted by some as gospel truth. In a logical world, the more evidence supporting a theory, the more likely that theory is to being true, and thus the more confidence a person should invest in that theory. Likewise, theories with little or no solid supporting evidence should be viewed as weak and should inspire little confidence. But we do not live in a logical world.

The mind learns through conditioning, and any belief no matter how absurd can be accepted by a mind that is properly conditioned. Continual reinforcement is one method. If you are told something over and over again, with little or no exposure to opposing points of view, you will come to believe it. If you are told something over and over again and it is accompanied by some sort of reward you will come to believe it faster. This is all well understood. The ritual of saying grace before dinner is almost identical to the method Pavlov used to condition his dogs, but instead of salivating when a bell is rung, believers are conditioned to feel blessed when they are penitent. Through ritual, the abstract concept of a god is conditioned to be associated with all things that are good. Out of nothing, the word "God" gains meaning.

A single dramatic and deeply moving event is another method of conditioning. Often these events are brought about by extreme stress which puts the mind into an extremely vulnerable state. Things which relieve such stress bring about a powerful form of conditioning. A person who prays and prays for deliverance will have his faith reinforced when the dilemma causing them stress is removed or simply goes away, and the more miraculous appearing the deliverance, the stronger the resultant conditioning. Non- believers who are suffering from trying times often break down and embrace a deity, an act which in itself can relieve stress by simply letting go of worries and concerns. The feeling of relief is very real and becomes associated with the belief in a deity, and thus the conditioning creates a link between salvation and submission to a deity. Furthermore extreme stress can often result in a powerful psychological release, which combines extreme emotions, visions, hearing voices, and other psychical oddities as the stress breaks through its containment and forges new pathways in the mind. To the faithful these are known as religious experiences. To the neurologist they are known as temporal lobe seizures. These mechanisms have nothing to do with the truth, but they can serve to reinforce a belief within the mind of such strength that removal of that belief is impossible, even under extreme torture. Many believers have been put to death for refusing to give up their beloved bullshit.

But "truths" that are less well conditioned can be questioned, doubted, and removed from one's mental faculties. It would be best if all "truths" could be removed if enough facts to the contrary were discovered, but sometimes the mind allows for beliefs to be grafted permanently into its neural pathways. For all other beliefs, it would be best to organize them using a logical, methodical, and reasonable approach. But few things in this world are presented in ways which are logical, methodical, and reasonable, and so it is always good to understand the ways in which bullshit is sold as truth, given how commonplace these ways have become. For the following examination I will borrow heavily from Carl Sagan's excellent book "The Demon Haunted World - Science as a Candle in the Dark", in particular the chapter on "The Fine Art of Baloney Detection". This should be required reading for everyone wishing to engage in critical thinking.

The following are fallacies that are often used to support untenable positions:

Argument from authority. We all respect the opinions of learned or powerful people, but we should never let them get away with convincing us of something without proving it. This is common sense but too often we give authority figures the benefit of the doubt. The biggest danger of believing authority figures without questioning them is that a cult of personality can gather about those figures. Asking questions is a necessary part of holding someone's power in check, and no leader should be permitted to wield unchecked power. Religion plays a dual role in supporting this fallacy, first by conditioning people to put complete trust in an all powerful figure (a god or a messenger or instrument of a god), and second by conditioning people to champion the cause of martyrs. When the authority figure is shown to be right, he is seen as righteous and he is supported. When the authority figure is under attack, he is seen as a martyr and he is defended. Battles between rival authority figures exacerbate these tendencies and drive people to support their leaders unquestioningly, surrendering their power to their leader in order to combat the growing power of the other.

Argument from adverse consequences. This is also known as fear mongering. A nightmare scenario is given for any deviation from a given plan of action. For example, electing Bush to a second term will result in a nuclear war. Fear is a powerful tool and can make people more emotional and thus more vulnerable to bullshit. The fallacy of adverse consequences is very close to the fallacy ofÖ

The excluded middle. This is where you take two extreme positions and present them as the only alternatives, generally presenting the extreme that you are arguing against as being potentially disastrous or extremely stupid. For instance, a politician can say that either spending must be cut or else the budget will rage out of control. Of course there are other possibilities, but if you only focus on two and force someone to pick one, they will inevitably pick the idea that is presented as more favorable. For example, "Do you support gun control or do you want all criminals to have guns?", is a question which completely obscures the many complexities and possibilities within the issue. The excluded middle argument goes hand in hand withÖ

The straw man argument. This is where you build up a caricature of the opposition and attack that caricature in order to support your side. Some talk show hosts have based their entire careers on attacking one or more straw men. Whether you call someone a Feminazi, a Limousine Liberal, a Jack-Boot Thug, or a Fascist Wannabe, you can always find someone who loosely fits your description and who holds an absurd position which you can use to make your position sound reasonable by comparison. For instance, you can argue against animal rights by bringing up the absurd view of one radical animal rights activist who said that all animals should be made to wear clothes. Then you can argue that all animal rights activists are people that cannot be reasoned with and should be ignored.

Note that the previous three fallacies are often found together in a single argument. A straw man is marched out who supports an extreme position which will bring disaster if it becomes public policy. Any compromise in the middle ground is excluded from the discussion and whatever alternative is being presented becomes the only right way of doing things. Note that the "only right way" may be every bit as extreme as the position being attacked, but a good presentation can make it seem mainstream.

The slippery slope. This fallacy is assuming that if one concession is given up for a particular issue, all manner of extremes in the same vein will soon be conceded. For instance, a slippery slope argument would go as thus: if we allow gay marriage, the next thing you know we will be allowing incestuous marriage, polygamy, bestiality, and sexual abuse of children by allowing adults to marry them. This is a fallacy because people have always been able to set limits on things and enforce those limits. Allowing killing in self defense has not led to legalizing all forms of murder.

The confusion of causation and correlation. This is where two factors which are unrelated or linked to a third factor, are seen as one causing the other. For instance, believing that your favorite sports team plays worse when you are watching them on television, or believing that dogs howling causes the tide to come in (when both are caused by a full moon rising). A lot of superstitions come from people confusing unrelated events as being causes and effects and omens such as "If a fox runs into a public square, that town will be devastated", or "If a town is set on a hill, it will not be good for the dweller in that town", follow a similar illogic and make no sense whatsoever. Confusing causation and correlation becomes an easier mistake to make the more complex a system becomes. The human body is an extremely complex system and thus sorting out causes and effects can be extremely difficult. All too often symptoms are treated rather than their underlying causes. Similarly, things such as the economy, the ecosystem, and the interpretation of history are fraught with complications. It is easy to make a quick study of any of these subjects and draw erroneous conclusions.

Half truths. This is telling the truth only up to the point where it supports your position and not telling the rest. This is not a fallacy per se, and one can always claim ignorance when confronted, but it is a common way to abuse one's authority by appearing to have studied an issue while presenting a one-sided case. Omitting known evidence can be a surprisingly effective way of controlling people's beliefs, even in an open society, as the news media demonstrate on a daily basis. An equal fallacy, but not intentional, is drawing a conclusion without knowing all the facts. It's difficult to know everything about a subject, but a lack of knowledge doesn't stop a great many people from pretending to be an authority on a given matter.

A sample size of one. This is not necessarily a fallacy, but conclusions drawn from a small set of data, or just one example, will often be completely wrong. It is important to eliminate luck, spurious relationships, and random fluctuations in any study of cause and effect and using a large number of samples helps to minimize these things. But it is common for people to select one or a few examples of unusual occurrences and characterize them as being indicative of the whole. Discrimination of all kinds is often the result of the bad behavior of a single individual creating a stereotype in the minds of others. The most common usage of a sample size of one comes from people believing that their personal experiences are closer to reality than what anyone else claims is true. This fallacy is closely related to the half-truth fallacy in that a person who has seen very little of the world does not know enough to draw conclusions about it, but ego-centric people have no problems holding up their beliefs as being the truth and are often described as being "off in their own little world". If people talk about you in that way, it's time to reexamine your positions and why you hold them.

False analogy. This is simply making an analogy between two things that are not very similar. For instance, saying that our economy is like a train and that tax cuts are like fuel for the fire that makes it go faster. Analogies make things easier to understand but they can be abused to the point where they are completely irrelevant or just plain wrong. Be cautious when people try to dumb things down for you by using analogies. Analogies can easily obscure the truth.

Begging the question. This is also known as assuming the answer, where you ask a question in such a way that there only seems to be one answer. The classic example is "Who created the universe if it wasn't God?" It is already assumed in the question that someone created the universe, which inevitably leads to the answer: God did. Who else could it have been? But excluded from the question are any other possibilities for the existence of the universe. A good retort is to ask, "Who created God?", and then to use whatever answer is given, such as "God has always existed" as the answer to how the universe exists.

Ad hominem. This is attacking the person who presents an argument rather than the argument itself. Personal attacks should never be a part of any debate, but regrettably they are common. Generally these attacks are obvious, but more clever are the attacks on a person's credibility by bringing up their past arguments. While it is true that a person who has been wrong a lot in the past is more likely to be wrong now than a person who has been right a lot, past performance is not good enough by itself to decide an issue. A dumb guy might actually have the smartest idea once in a while. Also, personal attacks are often used to incite anger in one's opponent. Angry people tend not to think clearly and often make emotionally charged remarks which may be wrong or inconsistent. A clever debater can incite a person to make such comments and then disparage them for making those comments. It may appear as if the person who makes personal attacks on another is winning an argument, but in reality little is happening. When you hear personal attacks, it is best to simply ignore them, especially if they are directed at you.

Appeal to ignorance. This is to claim that something is true because it has not been proven false. You will often hear appeals to ignorance supported with the phrase "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence". While true, the fallacy which tends to follow is a shifting of the burden of proof. Can you prove that alien abductions do not happen? Can you prove that God does not exist? Can you prove that Santa Claus doesn't have a secret toy shop buried deep in the ice at the north pole? Of course you can't. You cannot prove a negative. But pointing towards a complete absence of credible evidence does little to discourage true believers. Conspiracy theories often fall into this category, where facts which seem to refute the conspiracy become evidence of a larger conspiracy. Theories which can always be modified so that no evidence ever produced can refute them fall into the final categoryÖ

Non-falsifiability. Non-falsifiable theories are like viruses of the mind. They are true castles in the sky: beautiful, defensible structures that are held aloft by no conclusive evidence whatsoever. Instead they are attached to an idea, like a belief in a god, or the notion that humans have souls, and around those ideas an elaborate web of explanations are woven which make every piece of data gathered seem to support the idea and which allow no data to contradict it. While it is true that a proven theory is one that has never been contradicted, a theory that cannot be refuted by any conceivable data is a fallacy. This is what sets scientific theories, which are by definition falsifiable, apart from others. Scientific theories, such as evolution, can be disproved by finding data which contradict that theory, such finding fossils from one epoch within layers of rock formed at a time that the animals could not have existed. There can be no such find which refutes the idea that a god simply designed everything, or any other non-falsifiable theory. In the case of the existence of a god, any evidence that can be found that seems to be contradictory or irrational can be explained away as being part a divine plan that humans are not intelligent enough to understand. But a good non-falsifiable theory has more than one explanation for things that seem out of place, and age-old religions have no shortage of explanations, arguments, and pieces of inconclusive evidence which are used to deflect refutations. One classic tool is a retreat into Solipsism where one can claim that there is no objective reality and that believing in something is enough to make it true. Due to the way the mind works, simply believing in a non-falsifiable theory is enough to make it seem true to the believer. As I previously wrote, non-falsifiable theories are like viruses of the mind. Once they are inside they are constantly reinforcing themselves since everything can be made to support the basic thesis. And since nothing can refute the thesis, the virus cannot be easily removed. Once a person is well versed in all the explanations that make a non-falsifiable theory feel well grounded, that person is infected for life, and can spread the affliction to others not yet inoculated.

Even if you know the common fallacies it is not easy to detect them. Most people take a passive role when they take in information, their brains falling into an alpha state where critical thinking takes place rarely if at all. So you must always be vigilant when you are exposed to information, especially information which you tend to agree with. Too often we let our prejudices color the information we see without thinking about it. We are too critical of what we do not like and not critical enough with what we do. This can often lead to hypocrisy as we can hold information to different standards depending on content.

I invite you to become familiar with these and other fallacies and encourage you to use them to examine your own beliefs and statements. If you are like me you will probably find that you use them more than you desire. Purging yourself of the need to use them is a positive step, and admitting when your knowledge is lacking is another good thing. Ask yourself how facts are supported, seek possible flaws and possibilities that are overlooked, and do not surrender your objectivity to anyone who seems to know what they're talking about, me included.

Once you become proficient at spotting fallacies, watching news and commercials will be a much different experience. You'll be surprised at the number of fallacies which are presented without any indication that something is wrong. Spokespeople are the worst, and "experts" used by the media to give insights are often so severely slanted that everything they say is a fallacy. A world full of bullshit will appear before your eyes, but don't blame me, I didn't create it. I only woke you up.

Finally, you should have been taking notes, since there is a test at the end of the lecture. Spot the fallacies in the following statements. The answers are after the commercial.

1. You are either with us, or you are with the terrorists.

2. Don't trust the French, they are "surrender-monkeys".

3. Don't let the smoking gun be a mushroom cloud.

4. The WMDs exist, but they are so easy to hide that they can never be found.

5. Is the world a better place without Saddam Hussein?

6. Saddam Hussein is evil and thus would not hesitate to use WMDs against the US if he had them.

7. Saddam Hussein is like the Arab version of Hitler, thus we must stop him.

8. Iraqi's have welcomed US troops with open arms.

9. If we let Iraq be run by Muslim extremists then the whole middle east will end up as Islamic fundamentalist states.

10. As your president I have top secret information that Iraq has WMDs.

11. Reagan proved that deficits don't matter.

12. Libya's Muammar Gaddafi is cooperating because of the war in Iraq

13. God is on our side.

How to order Fireaxe CDs

Ordering Fireaxe CD's is an informal process as I am selling them personally out of my apartment. Simply mail me a letter which contains the following:

  • 1. The names of the CDs that you want to buy.
  • 2. The address where you want the CDs sent.
  • 3. Cash, a check, or a money order for the total cost.

Here is a price list. The first number is the cost for U.S. based customers, the second is for outside the U.S. The prices include shipping and handling.

Food for the Gods: $12 / $14
Victory or Death: $5 / $7
Lovecraftian Nightmares: $5 / $7
A Dream of Death: $5 / $7

Send everything to:

Brian Voth
1301 Medical Center Dr. #415
Chula Vista, CA, 91911 USA

If you review CDs on a website or in a magazine, any one of the single CDs (Not "Food for the Gods") is free of charge in exchange for the review. In this case all I need is a request by e-mail. Please send me the URL of your review site or copy of your magazine with the review in it when it is done. If you want to exchange CDs, tapes, or stuff of equivalent value, make these requests via e-mail and we'll arrange a trade.

The CDs come with a booklet filled with awesome art, a letter about the project, and some information about the CD which can also be found on the Fireaxe site.

Lastly, if you want to print and distribute Fireaxe CDs I can send you an additional CD which contains tiff files for all the booklets, tray cards, and labels for each project. The tiff disk is free so just say the word.

Answers

1. You are either with us, or you are with the terrorists.
(Excluded middle)
Of course there are many ways of opposing terrorism without doing things the way the US wants and there are also many ways of fighting the US that doesn't make you a terrorist.

2. Don't trust the French, they are "surrender-monkeys".
(Ad hominem)
In case you don't live in the US, the French were hammered in the US for their anti-US stand. Anyone at all familiar with Verdun knows that the French do not need to prove their courage.

3. Don't let the smoking gun be a mushroom cloud.
(Argument for adverse consequences)
The US administration milked the "16 words" for all they were worth, presenting dire scenarios of what would happen if Iraq wasn't conquered immediately. Iraq was nowhere close to having the bomb, but fear and paranoia don't need much support to change people's minds.

4. The WMDs exist, but they are so easy to hide that they can never be found.
(Argument from ignorance)
You can't prove a negative, but that didn't stop Fox News from ceaselessly suggesting that Iraq's WMDs had been moved to Syria or buried somewhere in the vast Iraqi desert. Sure it's possible, but it's also possible that the Iraqis could have a built a device that can destroy the entire world and hid it somewhere in Baghdad. Of course, we're not going to let Saddam go just to be on the safe side. We'd want a little proof. Is that too much to ask?

5. Is the world a better place without Saddam Hussein?
(Begging the question)
What is ignored in this question is whether the process of removing him made the world worse. There is a strong argument that turning a contained threat into a quagmire, increasing the amount of terrorism in the world, running roughshod over international law, and alienating allies did not offset the gain from Saddam's capture. Yet supporters of the war love to put this question to their opponents to win an easy concession.

6. Saddam Hussein is evil and thus would not hesitate to use WMDs against the US if he had them.
(Straw man)
This argument is almost a given in the US, probably because we Americans have seen too many James Bond movies where the villains are unrepentantly evil and suicidal. In reality, world leaders enjoy living the good life and ruling their countries and are not prone to ending it all for one shot at martyrdom. Furthermore, if a nuclear power was menacing your country for years you may well be inclined to develop nukes for your country's self defense and not as a means of aggression. Of course, after Desert Storm and twelve years of severe sanctions and bombings I wouldn't have been too surprised if Saddam was willing to launch an ultimately suicidal attack against the US purely out of revenge.

7. Saddam Hussein is like the Arab version of Hitler, thus we must stop him.
(False analogy)
Hitler's Germany was the second most powerful industrialized nation in the world. Unless Saddam was suddenly elected the president of, say, Russia, the rest of the world could stop him long before he became a threat. After twelve years of sanctions and bombings, Iraq was no threat.

8. Iraqis have welcomed US troops with open arms.
(Half-truths)
It is true that some Iraqis are happy to see US troops. It is also true that some Iraqis are happy to see US troops getting injured and killed.

9. If we let Iraq be run by Muslim extremists then the whole middle east will end up as Islamic fundamentalist states.
(Slippery slope)
Not all Muslims are alike, and the Sunni/Shiite rift is not unlike the Catholic/Protestant rift. It is unlikely that radical Islam would sweep through the middle east and make it all religiously homogenous. On the other hand, continuous provocation of those in the region could easily cause Arab countries to put aside their differences and unite against the US.

10. As your president I have top secret information that Iraq has WMDs.
(Argument from authority)
The idea of keeping data secret in the interests of national security is the ultimate cover for the argument from authority fallacy.

11. Reagan proved that deficits don't matter.
(Sample size of one)
Actually the sample size is close to zero, as the effects of the national debt are still being felt. Americans should probably wait until their country has dug itself out of its colossal national debt before claiming that deficits don't matter. The US is currently in a situation that the world has never seen, at least on the current scale, and many uncertainties exist about the future and about the effects of such a large debt that the US seems both unwilling and unable to even begin to pay down.

12. Libya's Muammar Gaddafi is cooperating because of the war in Iraq.
(Confusing causation with correlation)
Gaddafi has been cooperating with the industrialized world for over a decade and had been working towards removing the "rogue nation" label from his country so that Libya can sell oil to Europe. Only now is this news in the US because it looks like Gaddafi has been set straight by the Iraq war, giving the war some justification.

13. God is on our side.
(Non-falsifiability)
Well, the winners are always right, because the losers are dead.

The Future

Iíve been focusing so hard on "Food for the Gods" that Iíve had little time to think about what Iíd like to record next. Over the past few months Iíve tossed around some ideas and have come up with a working title and theme. The next Fireaxe work will dig even deeper into the dark crevices of our society and our minds, pull forth the myths that we cling to and hold dear, and expose them all for what they are. While "A Dream of Death" explored the madness of dreams, and "Food for the Gods" described the chaos wrought upon the earth by ideologies, "Eternal Devotion to the Dark Goddess" will depict the psychological enslavement of the individual in modern times. It will be the darkest Fireaxe work ever. But donít put your order in just yet. After wrapping up "Food for the Gods" Iíll need a while to rest and upgrade my studio. Iím spent.

My goal is to deliver music to whoever wants to hear it in whatever way is necessary. Whatever the market demands, I will supply, but I do want to avoid the mass marketing channel. Exposure is fine, but in the modern business, the substance of the music must be altered to match the demands of the marketplace. This would totally defeat the purpose of why I write music in the first place. I write music because it is a way to express my emotions. What I both think and feel goes into the songs. That is the power, Fireaxe is the channel, and any diversion diminishes the emotive effect. Thus I try to avoid such diversions. That is how art should be.

Rights to duplicate Fireaxe materials

Currently Fireaxe is not for profit. I sell the CDs for $5 each which covers the production and mailing costs. For CDs sent out of the country, I'll have to charge $7 per disk to cover the additional mailing cost. If you write reviews or put samples on your website I'll give you a CD for free. Since I am not making any money with the current recordings, you are free to make duplicates of them to distribute as long as you obey the following guidelines:

  • 1. You can only sell the duplications for the price of the medium or less, plus any delivery cost. You are not allowed to make any profit with the music.
  • 2. You should tell me how many copies you gave out and who got them so I can keep track. Also, if they have an e-mail address I'd like that as well so I can add them to the mailing list.
  • 3. You are likewise free to adorn any webpages or duplications with the gifs and jpgs on my website as long as you include an obvious link back to my website. This includes putting Fireaxe song samples on your site as well.
  • 4. You are free to play any Fireaxe songs (in unaltered form) provided you are an unsigned band without a marketting tie-in. You are not allowed to record those songs onto anything that you will sell.
  • 5. You are food for the gods.
  • 6. You are required to crank the song "Hounds of Tindalos" as loud as you can as often as you can. It's your only defense against THEM. Be warned, they come through angles. Note that the CD is round. Are your speaker cabinets square?
  • 7. Cthulhu, the Necronomicon, Hastur the Unspeakable, and all other mythos creatures are purely the inventions of Lovecraft and other fiction authors. None of it is real, at least that's what I'm going to say in court if you try to sue me for destruction of your property, house, city, or soul as a result of listening to the "Lovecraftian Nightmares" CD too much.
  • 8. You are free to play "The Rack" in school or church or any other institution bent on crushing your will and turning you into a mindless zombie slave of the corporate dominated world. Try not to develop a bad attitude about it.
  • 9. You are not free to commit suicide while listening to any Fireaxe song. I'm sorry, I'll have to prosecute. On a serious note, if you are thinking about doing it, please e-mail or call me if you have no one else to talk to. When I was in my teens the album "The Wall" by Pink Floyd used to really get to me. Just hearing songs like "Comfortably Numb", and "Hey You" would get me pretty depressed and mildly suicidal. I'm just trying to say that I've been there. If my music is having that effect on you, please get in touch. You aren't alone.

The gist of it is that you can do just about anything with the music as long as you don't profit from it and that I get some sort of credit for having written it. I'm open to any methods of distributing my music, such as compilation tapes or CDs, radio play, or recording label distribution. However, you will need my direct permission to do so or some kind of legal agreement.
Brian Voth - Creator of Fireaxe

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