Quotulatiousness

November 27, 2017

Steve Kates on growing up in a communist home

Filed under: Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

At Catallaxy Files, Steve Kates reflects on how his early upbringing gave him insights into modern political discourse:

The one blessing about being brought up in a communist household is that you understand the left a good deal better than most. It also brings an added measure of concern when I see how easily a public unused to lying as a tactic is influenced by these manoeuvres which are standard practice on the left. My Dad was an expert in agit prop and I grew up understanding the role of the agent provocateur only too well. These are not well-meaning individuals who wish to investigate the truth. They are individuals whose only interest is to disrupt the communications among those on the other side through whatever lies they might find convenient and they hope persuasive.

[…] You will be lied to by the left to the furthest extent they believe they can get away with. That there is not an instantaneous scepticism amongst us on this side of politics from any unverified political story carried by a mainstream media organisation fills me with dread since most of us are so middle class that we find it hard to believe others will lie, distort, or withhold relevant information without the slightest hesitation if it serves their ends. The attitude you need to take when reading anything from an MSM report is the same attitude you might take when buying a used car. Do not trust a thing you are told and make sure you verify everything you can from a separate source.

Dishonesty is the trade mark of the left, not that they have a monopoly, but it is a specific tactic aimed at the fair minded who are seldom as aware as they need to be of the practice, and seldom think of the need to guard against the premeditated lies they tell. […] The interesting part is that for the left to succeed, they can only achieve their ends by lying. For the right, what you hear people say is almost invariably what they believe. The left often mimics the same concerns but it is tactical and never substantive unless for a change good policy overlaps what they see as tactical advantage.

The one valuable part of being on this side of the fence is that with so many out there on the left who will swarm around any genuine falsehood stated by someone on the right, the standard of probity is higher. This is part of the reason why sex scandals, to just name the issue in relation to Roy Moore, are not as common on the right as on the left. Except that when they are caught out – such as with Bill Clinton – it is no longer a scandal and is put to bed as soon as it is practical to do so. They never mean it. It is not hypocrisy, it is a policy of deceit. They are perfectly aware they are lying and just take the rest of us for fools.

November 9, 2017

QotD: The reputation of Che Guevara proves “the triumph of marketing over truth and reality”

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

The Irish Post Office has issued a stamp to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the death of Ernesto Guevara. This is, presumably, because he was both very famous and had some distant Irish ancestry. It is, however, a rather sinister philosophy that the worth of a man’s work or ideas, or his influence on the world, is much affected, either for the better or the worse, by his distant ancestry.

Guevara’s reputation is, of course, the triumph of marketing over truth and reality. There is probably no resort of mass tourism in the world where Guevara kitsch is not on sale and, one must presume, bought; and in an odd way this is only appropriate, for mass tourism makes lemmings seem like unreconstructed individualists, and Guevara was nothing if not an ardent promoter of mass conformity and unthinking obedience. Like many an adolescent psychopath, as he remained all his life, he dreamed of making mankind anew — not in his own image, exactly, for he thought of himself as a leader rather than a follower, but according to his own far-from-profound ideas of what mankind should be. The triumph of marketing is to have made this apostle of the most complete servitude into an apostle of the most complete freedom.

The triumph of marketing over truth and reality is nothing new, however. To expect people who are trying to sell you something also to tell you the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth is to expect what never did happen and what never will happen. The buyer will always have to beware, no matter what legal protections are put in place for the unwary; the necessity is inscribed, as it were, in human nature itself.

Theodore Dalrymple, “The Way of Che”, Taki’s Magazine, 2017-10-28.

November 2, 2017

“… the United States made a collective choice to let the South have a mythology in place of independence”

Filed under: History, Politics, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Colby Cosh is cheering on the carnage of the US-Civil-War-revisionism war that appears to have broken out to our south:

As someone who is relishing the United States’s outburst of Civil War revisionism, I am a little confused by the controversy over a remark by the White House chief of staff, John Kelly. Kelly is being assailed for saying in a Fox News interview that “the lack of an ability to compromise led to the (American) Civil War, and men and women of good faith on both sides made their stand where their conscience had them make their stand.”

This was part of a familiar-sounding encomium to Gen. Robert E. Lee, the Confederacy’s warlord. It is the kind of thing, until recently an accepted part of the American civil religion, that is being instantly challenged in our tempestuous moral climate. And I think this is, on the whole, terrific. About time, and then some.

But I would have thought that the objectionable part of Kelly’s comment was the stuff about “men and women of good faith” — as if Southern whites had not made war for the purpose of preserving a caste’s economic advantage and its political dominance within the federation. Did “good faith” always characterize the Confederacy’s collective behaviour before and during the war? One thinks of Andersonville, or Fort Pillow, or Bleeding Kansas, or — to throw in a Canadian angle — the Confederacy’s use of British North America as a base for conspiracies and violence. We may even recall Preston Brooks beating Charles Sumner nearly to death in the United States Senate in 1856, and being lionized throughout the South for it.

“Good faith,” eh? This reflects the toxic part of the schoolhouse account of history given to Americans: faced with the problem of being bound together in a Union as a victorious nation and a vanquished one, the United States made a collective choice to let the South have a mythology in place of independence. An account of the war as a fateful collision between “ways of life” was allowed to stand — perhaps in the absence of acceptable alternatives — and the South was permitted to commemorate and celebrate war heroes without inviting odium or reprisal. Those heroes ultimately remained part of the ruling class in the South.

It is easy to recognize talk of “good faith” (or “ways of life”) as the thinking of somebody still under the cultural spell of Gone With the Wind. The puzzle is that it does not seem to be the “good faith” part of Kelly’s comment that is inviting the strongest objections. He is being vilified by the “lack of an ability to compromise” part.

Misunderstood Moments in History – The Spartan Myth

Filed under: Europe, History — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 04:00

Invicta
Published on 27 Oct 2017

The Spartans are immortalized in history as super soldiers bred for war. However most of what we think we know about them is a lie. Today we will unmask the truth behind the Spartan Myth.

The Great Courses Plus is currently available to watch through a web browser to almost anyone in the world and optimized for the US market. The Great Courses Plus is currently working to both optimize the product globally and accept credit card payments globally.

Documentary Credits:
Research: Dr Roel Konijnendijk
Script: Invicta
Artwork: Milek J
Editing: Invicta
Music: Total War OST, Soundnote

Documentary Bibliography:
Paul Anthony Cartledge, The Spartans: The World of the Warrior-heroes of Ancient Greece
Nigel Kennell, Spartans: A New History (2010)
S. Hodkinson, Property and Wealth in Classical Sparta (2000)
J. Ducat, Spartan Education: Youth and Society in the Classical Period (2006)
S.M. Rusch, Sparta at War: Strategy, Tactics and Campaigns, 550-362 BC (2011)
E. Rawson, The Spartan Tradition in European Thought (1969)
S. Hodkinson & I.M. Morris (eds.), Sparta in Modern Thought (2012)

October 27, 2017

QotD: Russian meddling in US politics

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

In last week’s decidedly un-jocular “news”letter, I wrote about how the hypocrisy of the Left’s newfound outrage at Russia’s meddling in our politics can’t be summarized by saying “Romney was right!” when he said Russia was our biggest geopolitical foe in a debate with Barack Obama. Starting with George Kennan’s Long Telegram [link], conservatives spent the entirety of the Cold War pointing out that the Russians were undermining American life, and we got mocked and ridiculed for it by self-styled sophisticates who thought such concerns were little more than paranoia.

The ridicule didn’t end with the Cold War (when, by the way, the extent and danger of Russian meddling were much greater than they are now). Liberals were so invested in the idea that the political Right made too big a deal about Soviet Communism and that we used our hawkishness as an unfair wedge issue against Democrats that when Mitt Romney said an incandescently true thing about Putin’s Russia, liberals rolled their eyes and then laughed uproariously at Obama’s “the 1980s called” quip. In other words, they were so married to the myth of their moral and intellectual superiority, liberals preferred to stick with the punch-line than even imagine that reality wasn’t on their side.

Jonah Goldberg, “Binders Full of Asininity”, National Review, 2017-10-13.

October 4, 2017

QotD: Transnational progressivism

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

The Soviets didn’t invent [transnational progressivism], but they promoted it heavily in a deliberate — and appallingly successful — attempt to weaken the Lockean, individualist tradition that underlies classical liberalism and the U.S. Constitution. The reduction of Western politics to a bitter war for government favor between ascriptive identity groups is exactly the outcome the Soviets wanted and worked hard to arrange.

Call it what you will — various other commentators have favored ‘volk-Marxism’ or ‘postmodern leftism’. I’ve called it suicidalism. It was designed to paralyze the West against one enemy, but it’s now being used against us by another. It is no accident that Osama bin Laden so often sounds like he’s reading from back issues of Z magazine, and no accident that both constantly echo the hoariest old cliches of Soviet propaganda in the 1930s and ’40s.

Another consequence of Stalin’s meme war is that today’s left-wing antiwar demonstrators wear kaffiyehs without any sense of how grotesque it is for ostensible Marxists to cuddle up to religious absolutists who want to restore the power relations of the 7th century CE. In Stalin’s hands, even Marxism itself was hollowed out to serve as a memetic weapon — it became increasingly nihilist, hatred-focused and destructive. The postmodern left is now defined not by what it’s for but by what it’s against: classical-liberal individualism, free markets, dead white males, America, and the idea of objective reality itself.

The first step to recovery is understanding the problem. Knowing that suicidalist memes were launched at us as war weapons by the espionage apparatus of the most evil despotism in human history is in itself liberating. Liberating, too, it is to realize that the Noam Chomskys and Michael Moores and Robert Fisks of the world (and their thousands of lesser imitators in faculty lounges everywhere) are not brave transgressive forward-thinkers but pathetic memebots running the program of a dead tyrant.

Brittingham and other have worried that postmodern leftism may yet win. If so, the victory would be short-lived. One of the clearest lessons of recent times (exemplified not just by kaffiyeh-wearing western leftists but by Hamas’s recent clobbering of al-Fatah in the first Palestinian elections) is that po-mo leftism is weaker than liberal individualism in one important respect; it has only the weakest defenses against absolutist fervor. Brittingham tellingly notes po-mo philosopher Richard Rorty’s realization that when the babble of conflicting tribal narratives collapses in exhaustion, the only thing left is the will to power.

Again, this is by design. Lenin and Stalin wanted classical-liberal individualism replaced with something less able to resist totalitarianism, not more. Volk-Marxist fantasy and postmodern nihilism served their purposes; the emergence of an adhesive counter-ideology would not have. Thus, the Chomskys and Moores and Fisks are running a program carefully designed to dead-end at nothing.

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

September 19, 2017

Even in a progressive educational bubble, this isn’t correct

Filed under: Cancon, Economics, Education, Liberty, Politics — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 03:00

Holly Nicholas shared this photo, which is said to be from an Alberta school:

If this is indeed how public schools are presenting the political spectrum (and it’s unfortunately easy to believe that they do), the closest thing to a “centrist” party in Canada is the loony left Green Party … who somehow pip the NDP on the right. The far right end of the spectrum, Fascism, is graphically indicated to be all about “Market Economy, Free Enterprise, and Laissez-Faire Capitalism”, because as we all remember, Hitler and Mussolini were in no way fans of state intervention in the economy, right?

The graphic does, however, support certain shibboleths of the left including implying that libertarians (who are actually in favour of market economies, free enterprise, and laissez-faire capitalism) are in the same economic and political basket as actual fascists. Nice work, faceless agitprop graphic artist!

September 8, 2017

New pro-Hillary website gets panned … even by otherwise pro-Clinton sites

Filed under: Media, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

Peter Daou’s Verrit, a new website for Hillary Clinton supporters, isn’t getting rave reviews even from pro-Clinton sources:

This Pro-Hillary Website Looks Like North Korean Agitprop
Peter Daou, the prickly pro-Clinton operative, has launched a propaganda rag so shameless it would make Kim Jong Un blush.

Who would buy stock in a twice-defeated presidential candidate?

If the candidate under question is Hillary Clinton, that zealous buyer would be Peter Daou, one-time rocker, seasoned political blogger, former campaign adviser to John Kerry and Hillary Clinton, ambitious litigant, propagandist and internet entrepreneur. A couple of days ago, Daou launched his self-funded Verrit.com, a slavishly pro-Clinton site (endorsed by Hillary!) to carry on her failed crusade.

The derision greeting Verrit is so universal it inspires sympathy for Daou, as Gizmodo, the Washington Post, Outline, New Republic, New York, The Ringer and others have broken its back with their snap judgments. “Verrit, a Media Company for Almost Nobody,” read one headline. “No One Asked for Verrit, But Here We Are,” stated another. “What Is Verrit and Why Should I Care? (Unclear; You Shouldn’t.),” said a third. “Peter Daou Continues to Embarrass Hillary Clinton,” asserted the best in show.

People, people! It’s only a website!

Granted, Verrit is a goofy website, as websites go. If you don’t possess the courage to visit it right now, here’s a description: Imagine if Matt Drudge created a Hillary fan site, only instead of listing news stories in a text-heavy fashion, he arranged them on the Web equivalent of 3×5 cards, and in addition to typing headlines onto the cards, he pulled out salient facts and stats from the stories (called “verrits”). Each card carries a unique serial number that you can plug into the Verrit database to prove … well, I don’t know exactly what it proves other than Verrit drew its facts and stats from the news source cited.

September 6, 2017

QotD: Suicidalism

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.

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

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 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 9, 2017

Ernst Zündel, “the Zelig of Holocaust denial”

Filed under: Cancon, Germany, History, Media, Politics — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 05:00

In the National Post, Colby Cosh tells the tale of Canada’s “favourite” holocaust denial specialist:

Ernst Zündel in 1992 on the day of his legal victory in R. v. Zündel (via Wikipedia)

Ernst Zündel, the Zelig of Holocaust denial, died suddenly this weekend at his ancestral home in the Black Forest of Germany. If he had died sooner, before his 2005 deportation from this country, I am afraid he would have been widely described in obituaries as “German-Canadian.” He lived here from 1958 to 2000, unsuccessfully trying a couple of times to obtain official citizenship, and was visible for years as a self-styled opponent of Germanophobic stereotypes in the popular media.

Foreseeably, Zündel turned out to be the ultimate German stereotype himself: a war baby who used Canada as a refuge from conscription and anti-Nazi laws back home, all while obsessively re-litigating the Second World War in pseudonymous anti-Semitic pamphlets and books. Most ethnic Germans abroad wouldn’t deny the Holocaust or complain of a worldwide Jewish conspiracy, as Zündel did, but… well, if you have studied German history seriously enough to talk about it socially, you will have run into folks who have funny ideas and tiny chips on their shoulder about, say, First World War reparations or the bombing of Dresden.

[…]

It should be remembered that by 1986 Zündel was already well on his way to establishing his place in Canadian legal history. He had already been convicted once under the Criminal Code’s “spreading false news” section, eventually struck down by the Supreme Court in 1992’s R. v. Zündel. Free speech absolutists argued then that the legal and social pursuit of Zündel merely served to increase his notoriety.

As a purely empirical question of history, this is hard to resolve. But we know that protests and the exertions of the police failed to stop Zündel from winning over Irving, and thus acquiring international influence. It may have done nothing but enhance his credentials as a pseudo-intellectual grappler, defying social scorn and the force of law.

The authorities were eventually able to bundle Zündel off to Germany through a legal door that has since closed. He was deported as an undesirable alien on the basis of a ministerial “security certificate” — not long before the Supreme Court denounced the use of secret evidence in deportation proceedings, and made such certificates harder to obtain. After Zündel’s deportation, an apparatus of progressive opposition to security certificates was quick to materialize. One cannot help wondering: if he were still alive in Canada in 2017, and the state tried to banish him, who might be out marching on his behalf, defending him as an “undocumented Canadian”?

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 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 1, 2017

QotD: Lying about our age on Canada Day

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

“We are a young nation,” declared Prime Minister Paul Martin. “Look into the face of Canada, and you will see the world.”

Well, maybe. But, more likely, if you looked into the face of Canada, you’d wonder why the old gal keeps lying about how old she is. “We are a young nation.” How old were you when you first heard a Liberal apparatchik drone about what a “young” nation we are? Maybe you were young yourself, and now, as the healthy glow of late middle-age fades from your cheeks, you’re wondering why you’re so old but your country is younger than ever. It’s like The Passport Photo of Dorian Gray.

For me, no sooner did Paul start burbling about what a young nation we are than the years fell away, like calendar leaves signalling flashback-time in an old movie — the sort Hollywood used to make before it discovered there was a young nation up north where you could make them a lot cheaper. Anyway, the years fell away, and suddenly I was a wee slip of a thing again and it was 1497 and on the windswept prow nice Mister Cabot was saying to me, “Aargh, Mark lad, is me eyes deceiving me or is that a big rock up ahead?”

No, hang on, that can’t be right. We’re a young nation. My mistake, it was 1997 and I was at the “Canada Day” festivities at the Old Port in Montreal. We’re a young nation with an old port, don’t ask me how that happens. And Lucienne Robillard, then our citizenship minister, was addressing a couple of dozen brand new Canadians: “Fifty years ago we were British subjects,” she said. “We forget how young a country we really are.” Mme Robillard forgets more than she realizes: it was only 20 years — 1977 — since the term “British subjects” was discreetly removed from Canadian passports. But what’s a decade or two when you’re shaving half a millennium off your age?

Isn’t there something deeply weird about an entire nation that lies about its age? Canada is, pace Mr Martin, one of the oldest countries in the world — the result of centuries of continuous constitution evolution. Even if one takes the somewhat reductive position that Canada as a sovereign entity dates only from the 1867 British North America Act or the 1931 Statute of Westminster, that would still make us one of the oldest nations in the world. We are, for example, one of the founding members of the United Nations, ahead of three-quarters of the present membership.

As George Orwell wrote in 1984, “He who controls the present controls the past. He who controls the past controls the future.” A nation’s collective memory is the unseen seven-eighths of the iceberg. When you sever that, what’s left just bobs around on the surface, unmoored in every sense. Orwell understood that an assault on history is an assault on memory, and thus a totalitarian act. What, after all, does it really mean when Mme Robillard and Mr Martin twitter about how “young” we are? Obviously, it’s a way of denigrating the past. Revolutionary regimes routinely act this way: thus, in Libya, the national holiday of Revolution Day explicitly draws a line between the discredited and illegitimate regimes predating December 1st, 1969, and the Gadaffi utopia that’s prevailed since. In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge literally reset the clock, to “Year Zero.”

Mark Steyn, “Happy Dominion Day!”, The Western Standard, 2005-07-01 (reposted at SteynOnline, 2015-07-01).

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