The most important weapons of al-Qaeda and the rest of the Islamist terror network are the suicide bomber and the suicide thinker. The suicide bomber is typically a Muslim fanatic whose mission it is to spread terror; the suicide thinker is typically a Western academic or journalist or politician whose mission it is to destroy the West’s will to resist not just terrorism but any ideological challenge at all.
But al-Qaeda didn’t create the ugly streak of nihilism and self-loathing that afflicts too many Western intellectuals. Nor, I believe, is it a natural development. It was brought to us by Department V of the KGB, which was charged during the Cold War with conducting memetic warfare that would destroy the will of the West’s intelligentsia to resist a Communist takeover. This they did with such magnificent effect that the infection outlasted the Soviet Union itself and remains a pervasive disease of contemporary Western intellectual life.
Consider the following propositions:
- There is no truth, only competing agendas.
- All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West’s history of racism and colonialism.
- There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such standards is an evil oppressor.
- The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of the Third World; therefore Westerners actually deserve to be impoverished and miserable.
- Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal. Poor criminals are entitled to what they take. Submitting to criminal predation is more virtuous than resisting it.
- The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only victims are virtuous. Therefore only the poor and criminals are virtuous. (Rich people can borrow some virtue by identifying with poor people and criminals.)
- For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself. But “oppressed” people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.
- When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist’s point of view, and make concessions.
These ideas travel under many labels: postmodernism, nihilism, multiculturalism, Third-World-ism, pacifism, “political correctness” to name just a few. It is time to recognize them for what they are, and call them by their right name: suicidalism.
Trace any of these back far enough (e.g. to the period between 1930 and 1950 when Department V was at its most effective) and you’ll find a Stalinist at the bottom. Among the more notorious examples are: Paul de Man — racist and Nazi propagandist turned Stalinist, and founder of postmodernism; Jean-Paul Sarte, who described the effects of Stalinism as “humane terror” and helped invent existentialism; and Paul Baran, who developed the thesis that capitalism depended on the immiseration of the Third World after Marx’s immiseration of the proletariat failed to materialize.
Al-Qaeda didn’t launch any of these memes into the noosphere, but it relies on them for political cover. They have another effect as well: when Islamists characterize the West as “decadent”, and aver that it is waiting to collapse in on itself at the touch of jihad, they are describing quite correctly and accurately the effects of Western suicidalism.
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.
Eric S. Raymond, “Suicidalism”, Armed and Dangerous, 2005-09-13.
May 22, 2016
May 16, 2016
I rarely agree with much that Barack Obama says, but I can’t disagree with this part of his speech to the graduating class at Rutgers University this weekend:
President Obama strongly condemned the rising anti-intellectual streak on the right — but also on the left — in his remarks at Rutgers University’s spring commencement on Sunday.
He harshly attacked the policies and rhetoric of Donald Trump (without mentioning him by name), asserting that the presumptive Republican presidential nominee’s deliberate ignorance is destructive.
“That’s not challenging political correctness,” said Obama. “That’s just not knowing what you’re talking about.”
But he reserved some time at the end of his speech to also criticize students who are too “fragile” to listen to people whose opinions offend them. He said it was a mistake for students to seek to disinvite speakers with whom they disagree.
“I know a couple years ago some folks on this campus got upset that Condoleezza Rice was supposed to speak at a commencement,” said Obama. “I don’t think it’s a secret that I disagree with many of the foreign policies of Dr. Rice and the previous administration. But the notion that this community or the country would be better served by not hearing from a former secretary of state or shutting out what she had to say, I believe that is misguided.”
The answer to bad speech is more speech, Obama continued.
January 25, 2016
At Acculturated, Mark Judge outlines one of the more irritating ways that the “great and the good” show how much better they are than us uncultured, boorish masses:
British author James Bartholomew has secured his place in history. Recently, he invented the perfect phrase for our times: “virtue signaling.”
Virtue signaling is the popular modern habit of indicating that one has virtue merely by expressing disgust or favor for certain political ideas, cultural happenings, or even the weather. When a liberal goes on a tirade about how dumb and dangerous Senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is — a tirade devoid of specific examples of Cruz’s mendacity — that person is actually signaling to others that he or she is virtuous. It has very little to do with Cruz’s actually personality or record.
Celebrities who publicly express panic about the environment without knowing much about science are virtue signaling. So are those who seize on current events to publicize their supposedly virtuous feelings, as Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg did recently when he wrote on Facebook: “If you’re a Muslim in this community, as the leader of Facebook I want you to know that you are always welcome here and that we will fight to protect your rights and create a peaceful and safe environment for you.” Well, that’s a relief—Facebook won’t be banning Muslims.
The New Left of the 1960s was more about rage than reason, and they passed their anger down to their Millennial offspring. Often the entire front page of left-leaning websites like Slate and Salon are nothing but virtue signaling, the headlines all variations of: Celebrity/Politician/Activist A Just Destroyed the Homophobic/Sexist/Racist Idiocy of Politician B. Usually the articles are jeremiads without much reporting. If research is going to buzzkill your virtue signaling, well then, to hell with research.
But then, virtue signaling is not about journalism. It’s a way to vent your anger.
December 20, 2015
In the town of Rotherham, the local police have been effectively hiding a massive criminal conspiracy for fear of being accused of racism:
Fifteen years ago, when these crimes were just beginning, the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry into the conduct of the British police was made by Sir William Macpherson a High Court judge. The immediate occasion had been a murder in which the victim was black, the perpetrators white, and the behaviour of the investigating police lax and possibly prejudiced. The report accused the police – not just those involved in the case, but the entire police force of the country – of ‘institutionalised racism’. This piece of sociological newspeak was, at the time, very popular with leftist sociologists. For it made an accusation which could not be refuted by anyone who had the misfortune to be accused of it.
However well you behaved, however scrupulously you treated people of different races and without regard to their ethnic identity or the colour of their skin, you would be guilty of ‘institutionalised racism’, simply on account of the institution to which you belonged and on behalf of which you were acting. Not surprisingly, sociologists and social workers, the vast majority of whom are professionally disposed to believe that middle class society is incurably racist, latched on to the expression. MacPherson too climbed onto the bandwagon since, at the time, it was the easiest and safest way to wash your hands in public, to say that I, at least, am not guilty of the only crime that is universally recognised and everywhere in evidence.
The result of this has been that police forces lean over backwards to avoid the accusation of racism, while social workers will hesitate to intervene in any case in which they could be accused of discriminating against ethnic minorities. Matters are made worse by the rise of militant Islam, which has added to the old crime of racism the new crime of ‘Islamophobia’. No social worker today will risk being accused of this crime. In Rotherham a social worker would be mad, and a police officer barely less so, to set out to investigate cases of suspected sexual abuse, when the perpetrators are Asian Muslims and the victims ethnically English. Best to sweep it under the carpet, find ways of accusing the victims or their parents or the surrounding culture of institutionalised racism, and attending to more urgent matters such as the housing needs of recent immigrants, or the traffic offences committed by those racist middle classes.
Americans too are familiar with this syndrome. Political correctness among sociologists comes from socialist convictions and the tired old theories that produce them. But among ordinary people it comes from fear. The people of Rotherham know that it is unsafe for a girl to take a taxi-ride from someone with Asian features; they know that Pakistani Muslims often do not treat white girls with the respect that they treat girls from their own community. They know, and have known over fifteen years, that there are gangs of predators on the look-out for vulnerable girls, and that the gangs are for the most part Asian young men who see English society not as the community to which they belong, but as a sexual hunting ground. But they dare not express this knowledge, in either words or deed. Still less do they dare to do so if their job is that of social worker or police officer. Let slip the mere hint that Pakistani Muslims are more likely than indigenous Englishmen to commit sexual crimes and you will be branded as a racist and an Islamophobe, to be ostracised in the workplace and put henceforth under observation.
December 14, 2015
Some are apparently so concerned at gendered pronouns that they hope to persuade everyone else to go linguistically generic:
Let’s call everyone “they”: Gender-neutral language should be the norm, not the exception.
We are forced to… give in and refer to our co-workers, students and friends as “he” or “she.” The result is that our language caps our ability to be progressive in this realm, forces us to immediately characterise people as male or female.
Which is only accurate and expected practically all of the time. And so,
We ought to revert to the gender neutral “they” whenever gender is not explicitly relevant.
You see, Ms Kovvali believes that gendered pronouns and honorifics are an “outdated linguistic tic.” And not a useful, rather concise source of information, a signal of respect, and a way of clarifying who it is we’re talking about.
The effect of elevating gender’s importance is felt by the cis-gendered as well. None of us fit neatly or entirely into a traditional gender binary, with all the expectations of masculinity and femininity that these buckets entail.
And yet despite this claim, and the somewhat random mention of buckets, almost all of us seem quite happy to be referred to as either male or female, as if it were in fact “relevant,” and the demand for gender-neutral pronouns remains, to say the least, a niche concern. I’d even venture to suggest that some of us might feel slighted by the wilful omission of – diminishing of – our respective maleness or femaleness.
That a tiny minority object to gendered pronouns, or pretend to object in the hope of seeming morally fashionable, is apparently grounds for the rest of us to be imposed upon, and possibly insulted, with a widespread and routine denial of our gender. It isn’t clear to me why un-gendering everyone is hugely preferable to the highly unlikely mis-gendering of one person, potentially, in theory. And much as I hate to be a bother, my “preferred pronouns” are masculine. Like almost all human beings, I am not alienated from my sex in psychologically hazardous ways. I am not of indeterminate gender. I am not a they.
November 25, 2015
The bitterness, anger, and even hate that radiates from them is shocking to me. “This conversation doesn’t make me feel safe” is genuine, actual college speak, in the “microaggressions” school of thought. The purpose is to silence speech that the listener does not care for or that threatens their worldview.
They care nothing for liberty, or truth, or honesty, they do not want a world where people interact and learn from each other, they want nothing save a continual, comforting womb of support and confirmation of their worldview. And they’re more than willing to crush anyone or anything that threatens this.
This attitude might be a byproduct of the bubble wrap children, who were raised so carefully, protected, and supported that they never encountered anything that challenged or made them question themselves. It might be a subversive method of silencing speech and dissent from a political agenda that cannot survive rational discussion. It might be the result of a psychosis that cannot abide being questioned. It might be a combination of some or all of those things.
What’s most troubling to me is that the loudest, most insistent, and most publicly conspicuous of this group are those who at the same time insist that they are lovers of liberty and will not tolerate intolerance.
And yet here we are, in the 21st century, where academics have churned out an entire system designed to do exactly the opposite of what academia is meant to be: silence any debate, questioning, or interaction that in any way threatens one specific certain viewpoint. And its done with passive-aggressive behavior taken to an astounding depth of creativity and precision.
Christopher Taylor, “SOCIAL JUSTICE KITTENS”, Word Around the Net, 2014-10-22.
November 17, 2015
Jonah Goldberg’s weekly “news”letter last week covered the entertaining spectacle of legions of progressive thinkers turning on their own allies:
… this “crisis” is 100 percent liberalism’s fault. Sure, sure, you can divvy up the slices of blame in different ways, but those guys tailgating in the parking lot drinking beers and eating bratwurst? Those are the conservatives and libertarians enjoying a day off, because they don’t have to wait in line for even a morsel of blame.
I almost feel sorry for those decent, sincere career liberals standing there in the quad as the little Maoists scream in their faces and strip off the suede elbow patches on their tweedy jackets like a lieutenant being busted down to a private. As the kids fit lifelong members of the ACLU with their duncecaps, the poor souls can hear the conservatives hooting and laughing off beyond the fence, throwing nerf footballs and telling jokes at the liberals’ expense.
Outside of the actual headquarters of the Democratic party itself, no major institution in America today is more thoroughly run and controlled by the Left than academia.
For several years now, whenever I’ve visited a college campus, I’ve tried to make the following point. It basically goes like this:
You kids think it is somehow rebellious to be liberal. So let me see if I get this right. The administrators at this school are liberal. The professors are liberal. Your high-school teachers were probably liberal. Your textbooks are, for the most part, liberal. Hollywood is liberal. The music industry is liberal. The fashion industry is liberal. Publishing is liberal. The mainstream media are liberal. Silicon Valley is liberal. Believe it or not, most corporations and the overwhelming majority of charitable foundations are liberal.
And yet, you think you’re sticking it to the man by agreeing with them?
Moreover, it’s been like this for generations. It was true when most of these administrators and faculty were born — they have grown up inside a universe where this fact was simply taken for granted. With the Left given total control of these oases of tolerance and citadels of progressivism, what do we get?
We get pampered and coddled students screaming that these institutions are hotbeds of racism, homophobia, sexism, and the rest of the 31 Flavors of Oppression.
I’m sorry, but over here by the hibachi in the parking lot, that’s just frick’n hilarious.
And it is fitting. It is just. It’s almost frick’n Biblical in its justness. You see, there is precious little bigotry and prejudice on college campuses. But the bulk of what does exist is aimed almost entirely at the guys and gals chilling at the tailgate party. Pro-life Christians, Israel-supporting Jews, libertarian professors, conservative scholars, climate-change skeptics, traditionalists of every stripe including classical liberals, and, of course, people who can take a joke: These make up the bulk of the victims of campus bigotry and prejudice. I can’t tell you how many professors I’ve met who have to keep their conservatism secret, at least until tenure, if not forever. I’ve never met or heard of a faculty member who had to keep her Marxism on the down-low.
November 14, 2015
Jonathan Rauch discusses the now famous Yale courtyard temper tantrum:
During protests that followed, undergraduates confronted Nicholas Christakis, the master of Silliman, in a courtyard. When he told a student he disagreed with her claim that his job is “to create a place of comfort and home for the students that live in Silliman,” she began screaming at him: “Then why the f–k did you accept the position! Who the f–k hired you? You should step down! If that is what you think about being a master, you should step down. It is not about creating an intellectual space! It is not! Do you understand that? You are disgusting!”
The self-infantilization on display in this tirade lacked even the dignity of a sinister ideology. Its point was more like: “I want my mommy.”
But if students feel the modern university’s job is to create a “place of comfort” rather than an “intellectual space,” that is hardly all their fault. Many parents of my generation make it their business to spare their children any exposure to upset and risk. Then kids and parents alike are wooed by colleges that promise idyllic experiences at very steep prices.
Yale, for example, markets its residential colleges as “little paradises.” No wonder if some students expect college to provide shelter from intellectual and interpersonal storms.
And no wonder the movement for trigger warnings and safe spaces is gaining traction at colleges around the country. Trigger warnings supposedly help students cope with (or avoid) exposure to upsetting ideas and images; their other purpose, I and many other free-speech advocates believe, is to chill the presentation of controversial material. Either way, they seek to make higher education emotionally safer by making it less intellectually dangerous.
He also suggests the most appropriate kind of trigger warning to provide:
So it is only fair to warn students and their parents that higher education is not a Disney cruise. Tell them in advance so they can prepare. Not, however, with multiple trigger warnings festooning syllabi. One will suffice:
“Warning: Although this university values and encourages civil expression and respectful personal behavior, you may at any moment, and without further notice, encounter ideas, expressions and images that are mistaken, upsetting, dangerous, prejudiced, insulting or deeply offensive. We call this education.”
Display that trigger warning prominently on the college website. Put it in the course catalog and in the marketing brochures. Then ask students and their parents to grow up and deal with it. And watch as they rise to the challenge.
November 10, 2015
Brendan O’Neill in sp!ked on the Halloween derangement syndrome at Yale:
Video footage of Yale students losing the plot over a faculty head who said everyone should calm down about Halloween has caused much head-shaking in liberal circles. And it isn’t hard to see why. The head’s crime was that his wife sent an email suggesting academics and students should chill out about ‘culturally insensitive’ Halloween costumes. It’s okay, he said, to be a ‘little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive’ on this one day. For his wife issuing this mildest of rebukes to over-sensitive over-18s, he was accosted by a mob of students insisting the email made them feel unsafe. When he told the crowd that he thinks university is about providing education, not a ‘safe home’, they screamed at him to ‘step down!’. ‘Who the fuck hired you?!’, the most unhinged of the students cries.
It’s unnerving, odd, a terrifying snapshot of the new intolerance. We could see the culture of ‘You can’t say that!’ in all its swirling, borderline violent ugliness. It wasn’t a whispered or implied ‘You can’t say that!’, of the kind we see all the time in 21st-century public life, in response to people who criticise gay marriage, say, or doubt climate change. No, this was an explicitly stated ‘You can’t fucking say that, and if you do we’ll demand that you be sacked!’ That it was stated at Yale, and in response to a bloody email about Halloween, has added to the hand-wringing among liberals, who want to know what’s gone wrong with the new generation.
Okay, fine. It is indeed interesting, and worrying, that students are so sensitive and censorious today. But I have a question for the hand-wringers, the media people, academics and liberal thinkers who are so disturbed by what they’re calling the ‘Yale snowflakes’: what did you think would happen? When you watched, or even presided over, the creation over the past 40 years of a vast system of laws and speech codes to punish insulting or damaging words, and the construction of a vast machine of therapeutic intervention into everyday life, what did you think the end result would be? A generation that was liberal and tough? Come off it. It’s those trends, those longstanding trends of censorship and therapy, that created today’s creepy campus intolerance; it’s you who made these monsters.
October 25, 2015
David Warren admits he’s not welcome at a few local drinking establishments nowadays:
There are at least two tables, within pubs in the Greater Parkdale Area, where, notwithstanding I was once quite welcome, I am not today. Some think this is because of my opinions, which are those of a rightwing fanatic and religious nutjob. But no: it is because I am willing to express them. This is a form of incontinence, one might argue; and like other forms, it may accord with increasing age. Yet I do not think that silence is invariably golden.
To hear me tell it — and whom else were you expecting, gentle reader? — it goes like this. In years past, I would sit quietly and ignore nonsense, especially political nonsense, spoken by my fellow imbibers. I can still do this. Many of the most ludicrous remarks, on any passing issue, are not actually opinions of the speaker. He simply echoes or parrots the views of the media and his own social class. I’ve been absorbing this “background music” for years; why revolt now? The noise is anyway not arguments but gestures.
Say, “Stephen Harper,” and watch the eyeballs roll. Say, “George Bush,” and still, ditto. Say “Richard Nixon,” however, and you don’t get much of a rise any more, for memories out there are short, very short.
(A Czech buddy, in the olden days, once performed this experiment in a pub. “I just love that Richard Nixon!” he declared, in his thick, Slavic accent, loud enough to afflict the Yankee draft-dodgers at the next table, who’d been prattling about Watergate too long. “Gives those liberals heart attacks,” he added. … Some bottle-tossing followed from that, and we were all banned together, so ended up as friends.)
On the other hand say, “Barack Obama,” and they will focus like attentive puppies. Or, “Justin Trudeau” to the ladies, to make them coo.
It is a simple Pavlovian trick, and might be done in reverse in a rightwing bar, except, there are no rightwing bars in big cities.
Yet everyone knows there are rightwing people, even in Greater Parkdale. And they are welcome anywhere they want to buy a pint, the more if they’re buying for the whole table. The one condition is that they must keep their “divisive” opinions to themselves.
October 1, 2015
September 23, 2015
Ken White imagines a market solution to help academia’s most special snowflakes:
Imagine a world in which the market lets people decide whether to be special snowflakes — people wtih an actual protected right not to be upset or offended.
As the University of California’s proposal shows, the legions of school administrators are perfectly capable of creating Snowflake Schools, where the administration vigorously defends students’ rights to be free of offense. What if we let them?
Take, let’s say, Brown University. They’re already on FIRE’s red light policy list, and frankly I enjoy making fun of them. Brown could decide to take on the mantle of a Snowflake School. It could openly declare that its students have a right not to be offended. It could enact policies accordingly, and discipline students and faculty who cause any offense through their speech and actions. Brown could display the snowflake symbol on their letterhead and web page. They could even vigorously rebrand themselves to attract students who don’t want to be offended — I don’t know, they could rename their teams The Blizzards or something.
Students, staff, and academics could then vote with their feet. Do I want to go to an acknowledged Snowflake School? Maybe I do, and will wear the snowflake badge proudly. Maybe I don’t — either because I don’t want to get expelled for offending someone, or because I’m embarrassed to go someplace that marks me as a snowflake.
Other people could vote, too. Do I want to hire someone who chose to go to a Snowflake School? You might, but I wouldn’t. Do I want to date a Snowflake? Do I want a doctor, a lawyer, an accountant who wears a Snowflake U. sweatshirt?
September 19, 2015
Katharine Timpf explains why we all face potentially insurmountable problems with our pronouns:
Scripps College, a private all-women’s college in Southern California, is giving students ten pronoun options to choose from in their student portal accounts — including “hu, hum, hus, himself,” “Just My Name Please,” and “None”
It’s not clear what the hell students who choose “None” are supposed to be called, especially since “Name Only” is another option. Are they (oops! I said “they!”) asking to not be spoken to at all? Because that sounds like a microaggression.
The other eight options are “E/Ey, Em, Eir/Eirs, Eirself/Emse,” “Per, Per, Per/Pers, Perself,” “Zi, Hir/Hirs Hirself,” “Ze, Zir, Zir/Zirs, Zirself,” “They, Them, Their/Theirs, Themse” (used as a singular pronoun) and — yes — the archaic “He, Him, His, Himself” or “Her, She, Hers, Herself.”
There is, however, an obvious problem with this system: What about the gender-fluid students who may change genders and pronouns throughout the year, or even perhaps throughout the day? I can’t imagine how traumatic (dangerous?) being pressured to choose just one might be.
September 13, 2015
In The New Yorker, Joe Keohane gives us an updated, modernized version of William Golding’s 1954 book:
By the time Ralph finished blowing the conch, a large crowd had formed.
“Well, then,” he said, clearing his throat. “First rule: we can’t have everyone talking at once.”
Jack was on his feet. “We’ll have rules!” he yelled excitedly. “Lots of rules!”
Ralph explained, “We need to have ‘hands up,’ like at school. Then I’ll pass the conch.”
“Conch?” someone asked.
“That’s what this shell’s called,” Ralph said. “I’ll give the conch to the next person to speak. He can hold it while he’s speaking. And he won’t be interrupted, except by me.”
“Just because we’re stranded doesn’t give you the right to use non-inclusive language,” Jack said.
The littluns muttered in assent.
“Uh, O.K.,” Ralph said. “So he or she can hold this conch when he or she is …”
“He or she,” a littlun cried, “imposes a binary view of sexuality that excludes the gender-non-conforming.”
“I feel unsafe!” Percival whimpered.
“O.K.,” Ralph said. “During assembly, any person who holds the conch—”
“Excuse me,” Roger began, “remind us again why you get to interrupt us even if you don’t have the conch?”
“Because I’m the chief,” Ralph said. “I was chosen.”
“I didn’t vote for you,” Roger said, with a frown.
“We had a vote. The majority rules.”
“Oh, that’s brilliant — the majority,” Jack scoffed. The littluns tittered. “If anything, that means you have even less of a right to interrupt than we do!” Jack faced the others. “If you agree with me, wiggle your fingers.”
They wiggled their fingers.
“Look, I’m trying to get us rescued by the grownups,” Ralph said, gesturing toward a plane that had been circling the island for some time, and now seemed to be flying away.
“You are speaking from a position of privilege,” Jack said, “so you have no right to criticize us or tell us what to do.”