Quotulatiousness

September 16, 2017

Moral and philosophical conflict in Wilhelmine Germany

Filed under: Germany, History, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

At Samizdata, Paul Marks looks at intra-German conflicts that were played out during and after the First World War:

The conflict between German Generals Falkenhayn and Ludendorff was over a lot more than military policy – indeed Falkenhayn made some horrible mistakes in military tactics, for example allowing himself to be pushed into continuing the Verdun offensive much longer than he intended (at least much longer than he later claimed had been his original intention), and insisting that General Fritz Von Below recapture any position he lost to the British in the Somme offensive – an order that led to terrible German casualties.

The conflict may have been presented as a military one (between the “Westerner” Falkenhayn and the “Easterner” Lundendorff ) over whether to concentrate German military resources in the West or the East – but it was really a lot more than a dispute over military policy. Nor was it really a dispute over the form of government – as neither Falkenhayn or Ludendorff was a democrat. It was fundamentally a MORAL (ethical) dispute.

General Lundendorff had absorbed (even more than Kaiser Wilhelm II had) the moral relativism and historicism that had become fashionable in the German elite in the decades running up to the First World War – ideas that can be traced all the way back to (in their different ways) such philosophers as Hegel and (far more) Fichte, whereas General Falkenhayn still clung to concepts of universal justice (morality) and rejected such things as the extermination or enslavement of whole races, and the destruction of historic civilisations such as that of Russia. Lundendorff, and those who thought like him, regarded Falkenhayn as hopelessly reactionary – for example thinking in terms of making peace with Russia on terms favourable to Germany, rather than destroying Russia and using the population as slaves. In the Middle East Falkenhayn came to hear of the Ottoman Turk plan to destroy the Jews (as the Armenian Christians had been destroyed), and he was horrified by the plan and worked to frustrate it. Advanced and Progressive thinkers, such as Ludnedorff, had great contempt for Reactionaries such as Falkenhayn who did not realise that ideas of universal justice and personal honour were “myths” only believed in by silly schoolgirls. Falkenhayn even took Christianity seriously, to Lundendorff this was clearly the mark of an inferior and uneducated mind. And Falkenhayn, for his part, came to think that his country (the Germany that he so loved) was under the influence of monsters – although while their plans to exterminate or enslave whole races and to control (in utter tyranny) every aspect of peacetime (not just wartime) life remained theoretical, he never had to make the final break.

The conflict continued into the next generation. Famously Admiral Canaris (head of German military intelligence) became an enemy of the National Socialists – not because he was a believer in a democratic form of government, but because he believed that the Nazis were a moral outrage violating the most basic principles of universal truth and justice. But the point of view in Germany opposed to men such as Admiral Canaris. the point of view that made itself felt in such things as the German Declaration of War upon France in 1914 – a pack of lies, and (perhaps more importantly) a deliberately OBVIOUS pack of lies (in order to make a philosophical point – as the President of France, a philosopher, noticed at once), had long had nothing but contempt for the very idea of universal objective truth and justice.

I’d always thought that the rise of Fascism and Communism in the 1920s was primarily due to the political chaos and material privations suffered by German citizens through the latter stages of WW1 and continuing through the Versailles Treaty negotiations. Paul shows that the groundwork for both strains of totalitarian thought were already well underway even before the catastrophe of 1914. Of course, as I think I illustrated in the origins of WW1 posts, nothing about the situation in Europe at that time was simple or straight-forward.

September 14, 2017

Ken Burns and Lynn Novick: The Vietnam War Is the Key to Understanding America

Filed under: Asia, History, Media, Military, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 13 Sep 2017

Nick Gillespie interviews Ken Burns and Lynn Novick about their new documentary series: The Vietnam War.

The Vietnam War led to more than 1.3 million deaths and it’s one of the most divisive, painful, and poorly understood episodes in American history.

Documentarians Ken Burns and Lynn Novick have spent the past decade making a film that aims to exhume the war’s buried history. Their 10-part series, which premieres on PBS next week, is a comprehensive look at the secrecy, disinformation, and spin surrounding Vietnam, and its lasting impact on two nations. The 18-hour film combines never-before-seen historical footage, with testimonies from nearly 80 witnesses, including soldiers on both sides of the conflict, leaders of the protest movement, and civilians from North and South Vietnam.

A two-time Academy Award winner, Burns is among the most celebrated documentary filmmakers of our time, best-known for the 1990 PBS miniseries The Civil War, which drew a television viewership of 40 million. He and Novick are longtime collaborators, and in 2011 she co-directed and produced Prohibition with Burns. In 2011, Reason’s Nick Gillespie interviewed Burns that film and the role of public television in underwriting his work.

With the release of The Vietnam War, Gillespie sat down with Burns and Novick to talk about the decade-long process of making their new film, and why understanding what happened in Vietnam is essential to interpreting American life today.

Produced by Todd Krainin. Cameras by Meredith Bragg, Mark McDaniel, and Krainin.

Full interview transcript available at http://bit.ly/2x0e5U4

September 13, 2017

QotD: The changed nature of “class”

Filed under: Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

For a while communists went around looking lost [after the collapse of the Soviet Union]. Umberto Ecco referred to them as “defrocked priests” who have lost their vision of paradise. And then … And then they decided we just hadn’t tried it hard enough or well enough.

But by the time they found this “new vision” (these doomsday cults never admit they were wrong, you know) they had given up on the idea of the proletariat conquering the bourgeoisie and rich, and had instead turned into sort of missionaries of victims and wounded people.

Instead of social class meaning what it meant to Marx, which was entirely economics based, it now meant “group vaguely aligned through some (usually natural) characteristic.” So we have the oppressed class of oh, gay people who come from all backgrounds and regions and who face differing levels of acceptance from family and society, but who are deemed to be all equally victimized, and as such to need equal intervention from the elites to make them whole. Then there are racial groups, so factionalized that at some point we’re all going to become a race of one.

The elites took to this new way of viewing society like ducks to water, partly because you don’t actually need to do anything to help anyone anywhere. Like Marx, who mistreated his illegitimate son from the woman who was somewhere between an indentured servant and a slave to his family, even as he preached social revolution and the triumph of the lower classes, they can simply preach acceptance and talk about how poor victims suffer without bothering to notice that their neighbor is unemployed and surviving on cat food. If you ask them about this particular instance, they’ll tell you that, well, come the revolution he will have a job and food… Meanwhile they’re working for the greater cause of bringing about the revolution.

And thus, more dreary than the “quality” that consisted of unpleasant people doing unpleasant things, we have the taste makers hailing the new “quality” which consists of “fighting patriarchy” or “white hegemony” or whatever latest crazycakes lens is applied to society. Yep, the people with the power are accusing other people of keeping them down because they have a vagina or can tan or whatever. (And the proof of this is the Dolezals of the world who find great rewards in pretending to be victims.)

Sarah A. Hoyt, “The Quality of Writing”, According to Hoyt, 2015-10-11.

September 1, 2017

The Moscow State Conference – Black Sea Revolutionaries I THE GREAT WAR Week 162

Filed under: Europe, France, History, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Published on 31 Aug 2017

The political factions that oppose the rise of Bolshevism in post-revolutionary Russia come together for a conference this week 100 years ago. But apart from the Moscow State Conference, some people in the military actually aim for a military dictatorship to restore order in Russia and continue the war. At the same time the 2nd Battle of Verdun comes to an end with a French victory and revolutionary fever also spreads across the Black Sea Fleet.

August 28, 2017

QotD: Gramscian damage

Filed under: History, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Americans have never really understood ideological warfare. Our gut-level assumption is that everybody in the world really wants the same comfortable material success we have. We use “extremist” as a negative epithet. Even the few fanatics and revolutionary idealists we have, whatever their political flavor, expect everybody else to behave like a bourgeois.

We don’t expect ideas to matter — or, when they do, we expect them to matter only because people have been flipped into a vulnerable mode by repression or poverty. Thus all our divagation about the “root causes” of Islamic terrorism, as if the terrorists’ very clear and very ideological account of their own theory and motivations is somehow not to be believed.

By contrast, ideological and memetic warfare has been a favored tactic for all of America’s three great adversaries of the last hundred years — Nazis, Communists, and Islamists. All three put substantial effort into cultivating American proxies to influence U.S. domestic policy and foreign policy in favorable directions. Yes, the Nazis did this, through organizations like the “German-American Bund” that was outlawed when World War II went hot. Today, the Islamists are having some success at manipulating our politics through fairly transparent front organizations like the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

But it was the Soviet Union, in its day, that was the master of this game. They made dezinformatsiya (disinformation) a central weapon of their war against “the main adversary”, the U.S. They conducted memetic subversion against the U.S. on many levels at a scale that is only now becoming clear as historians burrow through their archives and ex-KGB officers sell their memoirs.

The Soviets had an entire “active measures” department devoted to churning out anti-American dezinformatsiya. A classic example is the rumor that AIDS was the result of research aimed at building a ‘race bomb’ that would selectively kill black people.

On a different level, in the 1930s members of CPUSA (the Communist Party of the USA) got instructions from Moscow to promote non-representational art so that the US’s public spaces would become arid and ugly.

Americans hearing that last one tend to laugh. But the Soviets, following the lead of Marxist theoreticians like Antonio Gramsci, took very seriously the idea that by blighting the U.S.’s intellectual and esthetic life, they could sap Americans’ will to resist Communist ideology and an eventual Communist takeover. The explicit goal was to erode the confidence of America’s ruling class and create an ideological vacuum to be filled by Marxism-Leninism.

Eric S. Raymond, “Gramscian damage”, Armed and Dangerous, 2006-02-11.

August 27, 2017

QotD: Communism wouldn’t have worked any better with modern computers

Filed under: Economics, History, Quotations — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

At the New Republic, Malcolm Harris asks an interesting question: Was the Soviet Union’s problem that Communism can never work? Or did the Soviets just need a lot more MacBook Airs?

Actually, Harris is channeling Paul Mason, the author of the book he is reviewing, and unfortunately, he doesn’t really try to answer the question. Instead he makes the stridently timid argument that this won’t happen because the capitalists won’t let it, at least without a healthy dose of revolutionary action.

I’ll swing for the fences and argue that no, even with better computers, Communism isn’t going to work. Nor some gauzy vision of post-capitalism that looks like Communism, but with YouTube videos.

In retrospect, Communism seems wildly stupid, or at least, incredibly naive. Did the people who dreamed up this system not understand the enormous incentive problems they were creating? As Ayn Rand dramatized the problem in Atlas Shrugged: “It’s miseries, not work, that had become the coin of the realm — so it turned into a contest among six thousand panhandlers, each claiming that his need was worse than his brother’s. How else could it be done?” The incentives of “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need” drive toward falling production, which means there won’t be enough to cover the needs.

Or as a former colleague who fled Communist Poland once told me, “They pretended to pay us, and we pretended to work.” There is a reason that basically all the Communist and Socialist regimes ended in some degree of authoritarianism.

How could anyone who had, y’know, met some people in their visit to our planet, not see that this was coming? Large swathes of Communist and Socialist writing was naive and impractical. But the idealists weren’t entirely unaware that when monetary incentives disappeared, they would need to find other ways to get people to do things.

Megan McArdle, “Yes, Computers Have Improved. No, Communism Hasn’t”, Bloomberg View, 2015-09-02.

August 25, 2017

QotD: The “job” of literature between the wars

Filed under: Books, Economics, History, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Until round about WWI when the wheels came off European culture (and in that strata, American taste always molded itself on European taste, starting before the revolution) “high culture” and “proper taste” which defined “quality literature” involved the author making sure the upper classes knew he was one of them. That is, the story would be full of literary references, to either classical literature (a lot) or to various artists and writers which had become hallmarks of high culture. (Shakespeare or Chaucer, not “quality” or high class in their own times, but rendered more difficult and therefore more rarefied a taste by the change in language.)

Then the wheels came off. There was some insurgence and some of this type of thing before then, mind, but it was after WWI that self-loathing became the hallmark of the upper classes in Europe. Then, because they were still the elite and (in their own eyes) the taste makers, the mark of rarefied good taste became the nostalgie de la boue. Where Shakespeare and his like had written about kings and queens or at least Lords and Ladies, increasingly the “modern” and cutting edge literature bypassed even decent middle class who were despised as bourgeois and concentrated on ne’er do wells, the criminal element, the lowest of the low in morals more than in money. Alternately it concentrated on the corruption and bankrupt morals of the [nouveau riche], the noblemen, those that could be seen as winners in life.

This is what Agatha Christie in her Miss Marple books more than once characterizes as “Unpleasant people in unpleasant circumstances, doing unpleasant things.”

This trend, roughly akin to an adolescent reveling in writing things that upset his parents, as communism became an established thing and the USSR reached out tendrils of propaganda to the west, turned into a mess of set-pieces, the “international realism” of socialists, about as artistically relevant as the national realism of the fascists. It became set pieces to the point that you REALLY need to question your cultural assumptions to get at the truth.

The “literature” of this type has given us the exploited mill workers, for instance, living in horror and squalor. While this is absolutely true when compared to the conditions of our time, those mill workers didn’t get the chance to live in our time, in the conditions of our time. They had the choice of living off the land or going to the city and living in factories. Life on the land has been painted with the soft tints of the romantics and the glorious tints of the early Marxists, but if you actually LOOK at the industrial revolution going on before our eyes in China or India, you realize people are coming to the cities and getting factory jobs because life is BETTER there than in the rural fastnesses they come from. Sure, their lives as industrial workers would horrify American workers, but they’re relatively good for what they have available.

In this sense, the literature of that time did its job which was to sell a socialist future (though most of the authors who were trying to write quality were probably unaware of what they were doing or how the dictates of “quality” came from a self-hating and often outright traitorous elite.) It shaped even the minds of those who are naturally suspicious of socialist tripe.

Sarah A. Hoyt, “The Quality of Writing”, According to Hoyt, 2015-10-11.

August 7, 2017

QotD: Communism, competition, and the socialist calculation problem

Filed under: Economics, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Competition turns out not to be so wasteful; it makes a system resilient. That misunderstanding was a symptom of a larger issue called the socialist calculation problem. We think of prices largely in reference to ourselves, or other individuals, which is to say that we mostly see them as the highest barrier to getting something we want. But as we pull back to look at society, or the globe, we see that they are in fact an incredibly elegant way to allocate scarce resources.

This was best explained by Friedrich Hayek in his essay “The Use of Knowledge in Society.” Some good like tin becomes scarce, perhaps because a large tin mine has failed, or perhaps because there is a new and very profitable use for tin that is soaking up much of the supply. The price rises, and all over the world, people begin to economize on tin. Most of them have no idea why the price of tin is rising, and if they did, they wouldn’t care; they just switch to another metal, or start recycling old tin, finding a way to bring global demand closer in line to global supply. A lot of that is possible only because of price competition.

You can think of this as something like a distributed computer network: You get millions of people devoting some portion of their effort to aligning consumption with production. This system is constantly churning, making billions of decisions a day. Communism tried to replace this with a bunch of guys sitting around in offices, who occasionally negotiated with guys sitting around in other offices. It was a doomed effort from the start. Don’t get me wrong; the incentive problems were real and large. But even if they could have been solved, the calculation problem would have remained. And the more complex an economy you are trying to manage, the worse a job you will do.

The socialist calculation problem is not fundamentally an issue of calculating how to produce the most stuff, but of calculating what should be produced. Computers can’t solve that, at least until they develop sufficient intelligence that they’ll probably render the issue moot by ordering our toasters to kill us so that they can use our bodies for mulch.

Megan McArdle, “Yes, Computers Have Improved. No, Communism Hasn’t”, Bloomberg View, 2015-09-02.

July 28, 2017

QotD: Soviet agitprop still echoes today

Filed under: History, Media, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Stalinist agitprop created Western suicidalism by successfully building on the Christian idea that self-sacrifice (and even self-loathing) are the primary indicators of virtue. In this way of thinking, when we surrender our well-being to others we store up grace in Heaven that is far more important than the momentary discomfort of submitting to criminals, predatory governments, and terrorists.

The Communist atheists of Department V understood that Christian self-abnegation tends to inculcate a cult of self-sacrifice even among Westerners who are themselves agnostics or atheists. All the propagandists had to do was make the case that the value of self-abnegation applies to culture as well as individuals. By doing so, they were able to entrench the idea that suicidalists are morally superior to non-suicidalists.

They did this so successfully that at least one major form of Western self-abnegation seems to have developed as a secondary phenomenon: “deep environmentalism”. I can’t find any sign that this traces back to the usual Stalinist suspects, but it is rather obviously a result of generalizing suicidalism not just to culture but to species.

I think it’s important to understand that, although suicidalism builds on some pre-existing pathologies of Western culture, it is not a native or natural development. It is an infection that evildoers and their dupes created and then spread as part of a war against the West; their goal was totalitarian control, and part of their method was to talk the West into slitting its own throat.

Eric S. Raymond, “Suicidalism”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-09-13.

July 21, 2017

July Days In Petrograd – Blood On The Nevsky Prospect I THE GREAT WAR Week 156

Filed under: Europe, History, Military, Russia — Tags: , , , , , , — Nicholas @ 06:00

Published on 20 Jul 2017

The tensions between the Russian Provisional Government, between the civilians and the Bolsheviks turn violent this week 100 years ago. Machine Guns fire into the demonstrations on the Nevsky Prospect and arrest warrants are issued for Lenin and Trosky. At the same time the preliminary bombardment for the Battle of Passchendaele begins on the Western Front.

July 18, 2017

The upcoming Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam War

Filed under: Asia, History, Military, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Stephen Sherman discusses some of the things that may or may not be given appropriate treatment in the new PBS documentary series to air this fall, covering American involvement in the former French colonies:

Indochina in 1954. Map prepared for the US Military Acadamy’s military atlas series. (Via Wikimedia).

Ken Burns correctly identifies the Vietnam War as being the point at which our society split into two diametrically opposed camps. He is also correct in identifying a need for us to discuss this aspect of our history in a civil and reflective manner. The problem is that the radical political and cultural divisions of that war have created alternate perceptions of reality, if not alternate universes of discourse. The myths and propaganda of each side make rational discourse based on intellectual honesty and goodwill difficult or impossible. The smoothly impressive visual story Burns will undoubtedly deliver will likely increase that difficulty. He has done many popular works in the past, some of which have been seriously criticized for inaccuracies and significant omissions, but we welcome the chance of a balanced treatment of the full history of that conflict. We can only wait and watch closely when it goes public.

The term “Vietnam War” itself, although accepted in common parlance, would more accurately be called “The American Phase of the Second Indochina War” (1965 to 1973). The U.S. strategic objectives in Vietnam must also be accurately defined. There were two inter-related goals: 1) to counter the Soviet and Red Chinese strategy of fostering and supporting “Wars of National Liberation” (i.e., violent Communist takeovers) in third-world nations, and 2) to defend the government of the Republic of (South) Vietnam from the military aggression directed by its Communist neighbor, the Democratic Republic of (North) Vietnam.

Arguments offered by the so-called “anti-war” movement in the United States were predominantly derived from Communist propaganda. Most of them have been discredited by subsequent information, but they still influence the debate. They include the nonfactual claims that:

1) the war in South Vietnam was an indigenous civil war,

2) the U.S. effort in South Vietnam was a form of neo-colonialism, and

3) the real U.S. objective in South Vietnam was the economic exploitation of the region.

The antiwar movement was not at all monolithic. Supporters covered a wide range, from total pacifist Quakers at one end to passionate supporters of Communism at the other. There were many idealists in it who thought the war was unjust and our conduct of it objectionable, as well as students who were terrified of the draft, and some who just found it the cause of the day. But some of the primary figures leading the movement were not so much opposed to the war as they were in favor of Hanoi succeeding in the war it had started.

The key question is whether the U.S. opposition to Communism during the Cold War (1947 to 1989) was justifiable. The answer is that Communism (Marxism) on a national level is a utopian ideal that can function only with the enforcement of a police state (Leninism) or a genocidal criminal regime (Stalinism). It always requires an external enemy to justify the continuous hardships and repression of its population and always claims that its international duty is to spread Communism. When Ho Chi Minh established the Vietnam Communist Party in 1930, there was no intention of limiting its expansionist ambitions to Vietnam, and he subsequently changed the name to the Indochinese Communist Party at the request of the Comintern in Moscow.

From George L. MacGarrigle, The United States Army in Vietnam: Combat Operations, Taking the Offensive, October 1966-October 1967. Washington DC: Center of Military History, 1998. (Via Wikimedia)

July 7, 2017

QotD: The Marxist influence on modern “Regency” romances

Filed under: Books, History, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

Which gets us to why these romances of people sashaying around in costumes while being 21st century moderns go against the wall: It is the perverse and self-aggrandizing view of history of the modern Marxist.

Because their religion is all pervasive, it projects itself into the past. Forget that there was no contraception, there was no modern medicine and the deaths in childbirth were shockingly high and that it was for women eventually a number game: have children often enough and you will die of something going wrong with the pregnancy and the birth. Women are just like men in their view and as “entitled” to consequence free sex. Everything else would be an injustice.

In the same way everyone is “entitled” to being supported while doing whatever they please, be it painting or rescuing unwed mothers. Anything else would be “unfair.” And since they all froze in kindergarten when “unfair” was the battle cry that would bring the teacher down, they think that complaint trumps EVERYTHING.

So they know those people in the past were just pretending at being unenlightened, but really were doing wrong ON PURPOSE. Which is why they hate the past and keep trying to remake it into the current-day-Marxists shining idol image which is always of themselves.

Sarah A. Hoyt, “What Has Gone Before Us”, According to Hoyt, 2015-08-03.

June 13, 2017

How to defeat Islamist terrorism

Filed under: Books, Politics, Religion — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

In the latest Libertarian Enterprise, L. Neil Smith suggests a different approach to fighting Islamist terror:

Somebody once wisely observed that you can’t fight an idea with guns and bombs, but only with a better idea. One reason we are still having problems with communism — in North Korea, China, Venezuela, and our college campuses — is that we have been trying to fight it, since 1917, with guns and bombs. There are many better ideas than communism, but its strongest advocates, the American mass media, won’t permit them to be discussed.

Much the same is true of Islam, only more so. It is a belief-system almost entirely rooted in fear and ignorance, and has many vulnerabilities. A full, open, and public discussion of it would destroy it utterly, but its advocates are afraid to permit that, turning instead to Molotov cocktails, submachine guns, and large knives. Failing that full, open, and public discussion, a book should be produced that could change the course of history.

When I was a young man, classified ads in Reason magazine and elsewhere offered a publication called 100 Biblical Contradictions. The book I have in mind for Islam would be similar to that, short, plain paragraphs mostly asking dangerous questions. It would be small enough to fit into a jacket or jeans pocket, and durable, like a Langenscheidt’s foreign language dictionary. It could be air-dropped by the hundreds of thousands where it would do the most good — Syria, Iran, Michigan — and audio recordings could be made available to the many — especially Muslim women — who can’t read.

I would borrow a leaf from Heinlein and call it by the Arabic word for Doubt. It would be more powerful than the Father of the “Mother Of All Bombs”.

The trouble with it, and the reason such a book will likely never be produced, is that it would be fully as destructive to other mystical and irrational belief systems, to Christianity and Judaism, among others — all of which are based on faith (which Mark Twain or someone once said means “believing in something you know damn well ain’t so”) as it would be to Islam. Joseph Farah and Glenn Beck and Franklin Graham would all freak out. Of course, there are individuals I’ve known — Christians, Jews, Muslims, and quite a few Buddhists — whose belief is gentle and strong enough to withstand what should be in Doubt, but not a majority.

It would appear that most human beings believe, without examination, whatever their parents and leaders and Hollywood balloon-heads want them to believe. So much for advancing the human condition.

June 10, 2017

QotD: Quoting and mis-quoting Orwell

Filed under: Liberty, Media, Politics, Quotations — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

The interpretation of George Orwell could be a paradigm for how dead literary figures get knocked from pillar to post by the winds of political interpretation. During his lifetime, the author of 1984 and Animal Farm went from darling of the left to exile for having been willing to write the truth about Communist totalitarianism in allegories too pointed to ignore.

With the end of the Cold War, forty-two years after Orwell’s death, the poisonous fog breathed on Western intellectual life by Soviet agents of influence slowly began to lift. It became possible to say that Communist totalitarianism was evil and had always been evil, without being dismissed as a McCarthyite or reactionary not merely by those agents but by a lot of “no enemy to the left” liberal patsies who should have known better. In this climate, Orwell’s uncompromising truth-telling shone even more brightly than before. For some on the left, belated shame at their own complicity with evil transmuted itself into more adulation for Orwell, and more attempted identification with Orwell’s positions, than at any time in the previous fifty years.

Then came 9/11. Orwell’s sturdy common sense about the war against the fascisms of his day made him a model for a few thinkers of the left who realized they had arrived at another of Marx’s “world-historical moments”, another pivot point at which everything changed. Foremost among these was Christopher Hitchens, who would use Orwell to good effect in taking an eloquent and forceful line in favor of the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq. For this, he was rewarded with the same vituperation and shunning by the Left that had greeted the publication of Orwell’s anti-totalitarian allegories fifty years before.

Eric S. Raymond, “Getting Orwell Wrong”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-08-29.

May 16, 2017

QotD: Politics as an auto-immune condition

Filed under: Media, Politics, Quotations, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 01:00

From living with eczema, which is a chronic auto-immune disorder, I can tell you that it much resembles the way we stumbled through from the forties (perhaps earlier. But in the forties, Heinlein described the communists taking over the Democratic party. And considering it took him till the eighties to vote Republican for the first time, I don’t think he can be considered a biased source.) through to 2001 like I live – most of the time – with my eczema: it flares up in a specific part of my body, and it itches like heck, which of course means that I don’t give my full attention to anything much, but because I’ve lived like this since I was one, it doesn’t really bother me or I should say – I don’t know what it’s like when it’s not bothering me.

[…]

For those who’ve been following our politics in puzzled wonder, it might help if you think of our issues as an autoimmune disorder. Let’s for the moment forget where it came from. Most autoimmune disorders are a bit of a mystery. Yes, part of it was the same bad philosophy that affected Europe at the time, and some of it might have been Soviet agitprop leaking over the ocean (as someone who grew up in Europe and in a fractured country, I know most Americans ignore the chances of that.) Part of it was a predisposition to it. The US and the ancient Israelites are the only people I know of formed on a set of principles and engage in detailed criticism of themselves over their principles. (Most other nations engaged in a criticism of OTHER countries over their own principles and blame OTHER countries for their own failures. For further study, I recommend Europe.)

Anyway, mostly we’ve been living with it and ignoring it, like I do with eczema. The areas where it was chronic: college campuses, “intellectual” areas were relatively minor. Even when it affected Hollywood, as long as it wasn’t flaring up too badly, most people rolled their eyes and ignored it.

[…]

The problem is this – the flare up continued growing. All through the sixties and the seventies, and the eighties, and yes, of course, the nineties, the flare up of self-hatred grew. And just like the eczema in my hands, it started affecting areas we can’t live without: K-12 schools, business, news.

And it’s not just a little. The news have been biased left for a long time (yes, I know the left thinks they’re biased right, but that’s because the left is to the left of Stalin, while the media are basically propping up a state-capitalism system much like China’s.) If you consider Fascism right, then you’re darn tooting the media is biased right. Since I consider it a misnomer, well…

But more importantly, unlike the manifestations of totalitarian impulse in other countries – Russia, Cuba, China – the autoimmune problems are NOT affecting just our governance or our industry. It’s not a matter of destroying our industry so we’ll all be poor. That would be bad enough. The problem is far worse, though: the problem is that the statist ideology now in control of our government, our media, our education and what passes for “high culture” doesn’t just hate this or that part of us. No, they’ve been told/convinced/brainwashed that what’s wrong with the world is US – that the country and its existence ARE the enemy.

It might be the first time in history where in a non-occupied country flying the flag is an act of daring that in certain neighborhoods can get you shunned by all your neighbors. It might be the first time in history where teaching the good parts of your history in school is considered an act of defiance, and where the higher-class and all the bien-pensants push distorted histories and documentaries that run down the country that hosts them.

Autoimmune. Systemic.

Sara A. Hoyt, “Auto-Immune — A blast from the past post from February 2013”, According to Hoyt, 2015-07-01.

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