Get PJ Media on your Apple

Ed Driscoll

The Gulag Archipelago

The Banality of Justifying Evil

October 19th, 2014 - 3:13 pm

In “Stalin, Sane,” National Review Online’s Andrew Stuttaford links to Anne Applebaum’s review of a new biography of Joseph Stalin:

Writing in The Atlantic, Anne Applebaum reviews the first volume of what looks like an interesting new biography of Stalin (it takes the story up until 1928). Critically, its author, Stephen Kotkin, appears to dispense with glib ‘psychological’ alibi (tough childhood and so on) for what Stalin became, replacing it with the more sinister explanation that his actions were, in one sense, perfectly rational:

 His violence was not the product of his subconscious but of the Bolshevik engagement with Marxist-Leninist ideology. This ideology offered Stalin a deep sense of certainty in the face of political and economic setbacks. If policies designed to produce prosperity created poverty instead, an explanation could always be found: the theory had been incorrectly interpreted, the forces were not correctly aligned, the officials had blundered. If Soviet policies were unpopular, even among workers, that too could be explained: antagonism was rising because the class struggle was intensifying.

And if you think that that sounds a lot like a true believer trying to square the teachings of his faith with perennially inconvenient reality you would be right. The frontier between avowedly atheistic communism, a “political religion” (as it has often been described) and more conventional religious belief is not as clearly defined as is so often imagined. Trying to understand why Stalin was attracted to such a creed thus raises unsettling questions—over what we want to believe, and why— that go far beyond the motivation of a series of communist fanatics.

As Glenn Reynolds likes to say, “Communists are just Nazis with better PR”; those engaging in PR spin to defend Stalin and his crimes go far beyond the Russians themselves to include numerous academics in both the US and England (including venerated British historian Eric Eric Hobsbawm, a true believer to the very end), crazed filmmakers such as Oliver Stone, and more than a few journalists in places such as the New York Times. But note how similar the “Stalin was a hideously deformed monster” theories dovetail with those who wish to whitewash their nation of the crimes of another murderous tyrant. Or as Ron Rosenbaum, the author of Explaining Hitler wrote in 2006:

As I tried to point out in Explaining Hitler, so called “psycho-historical” theories of Hitler have long been justly discredited, but still attract those who find some kitschy thrill in contemplating the sexual and personal perversities of Nazis.

Psycho-historical theories have been discredited both for lack of credible evidence and for flawed notions of causation. Here, for instance, it sounds like the director has blindly accepted the dubious, contradicted hearsay that Hitler’s father beat him, promoted strenuously without corroboration by psychoanalyst Alice Miller (who, again without corroboration “explains” Hitler’s anti-semitism by claiming Hitler’s father beat him because the father was upset that he, the father, might have “Jewish blood”–a concatenation of unproven, unprovable old wives tales). Even if it were true that Hitler’s father beat him this does not support the notion that therefore Hitler became a mass murderer because he resented Daddy. All too many children are beaten by their fathers, true, but only Hitler became Hitler because his exterminationist impulses had the enthusiastic support of hundreds of thousands of “ordinary” Germans and other Europeans.

Second, the focus on Hitler’s alleged personal peculiarities, de-historicizes the causes of the Holocaust; making it some kind of outgrowth of personal revenge and perversion rather the culmination of centuries of murderous anti-semitic hatred in Europe carried out by hundreds of thousands of non bed-wetting accomplices to Hitler. It de-politicizes the genocidal hatred in an utterly trivializing way. The Holocaust was not the product of one man’s personal peccadilloes, but of a powerful historical, theological and racial ideology that a juvenile comic focus on “bed-wetting” utterly obscures and in effect denies.

In his recent article “Arendt, Banality, and Benhabib: A Final Rejoinder,” Richard Wolin of the Jewish Review of Books writes:

In The Origins of Totalitarianism, Arendt viewed Nazism as a manifestation of “radical evil,” insofar as, as she explains in her preface, its crimes could “no longer be deduced from humanly comprehensible motives.”

Actually, the motives of Nazism and Bolshevism, those twin “heresies of socialism,” as Richard Pipes has dubbed them, flow logically and inexorably from the rhetoric of those whom Martin Marty dubbed “The Bearded God Killers” of the 19th century, and the “Progressives” such as H.G. Wells and Margaret Sanger who followed them in the early 20th century.  And they certainly can be deduced from humanly comprehensible motives.

At least by those who wish to make the effort.

Too good to check: “Kim Jong Un ‘sprained ankles wearing Cuban heels:’”

The North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, has sprained his ankles after tripping over his own high heels, according to a report from South Korea, four weeks after he abruptly disappeared from public view.

The Chosun Ilbo newspaper in Seoul said that Mr Kim underwent surgery in the middle of September quoting an unidentified source. It said that he is now convalescing in a heavily guarded clinic which specialises in treating high-ranking North Koreans.

All night he tried and tried, but he could not master the Cuban slide:

Related: “He is now believed to weigh at least 20 stone as a result of his fondness for heavy drinking and imported Swiss cheese, which he gained a taste for while at school in Switzerland.”

As Stephen Kruiser quips, “Oh, the Swiss cheese eating commies are the worst, aren’t they?”

Indeed they are.

The Party of Death

September 25th, 2014 - 7:00 pm

“The greatest cultural victory of the Left has been to disregard the Nazi-Soviet Pact,” Daniel Hannan, posits in the London Telegraph:

To the modern reader, George Orwell’s depiction of how enmity alternates between Eurasia and Eastasia seems far-fetched; but when he published his great novel in 1948, such things were a recent memory. It suited Western Leftists, during and after the War, to argue that Hitler had been uniquely evil, certainly wickeder than Stalin. It was thus necessary to forget the enthusiasm with which the two tyrants had collaborated.

* * * * * * *

In his Sword of Honour trilogy, Evelyn Waugh, largely through gentle subtext, told the story of how Soviet sympathisers in the West used the alliance with the USSR to rehabilitate its doctrines. Hayek, writing in 1944, devoted the greater part of his Road to Serfdom to refuting the idea that Nazism and Communism were opposed ideologies, well aware of how fervently this idea was being promoted.

He was right; but he made little impact. If you want to see how successful the propagandists of the time were, look at the reaction you get today when – as I did recently – you recite a few unadorned facts that point to the socialist nature of fascism.

Yes, it seems odd to argue that national socialism isn’t national socialism, but there we are. On the other hand, as we get closer to November, the American left seems increasingly unafraid to let it all hang out in other ways. Let’s look at how they dropped the mask and revealed their inner liberal fascist for all to see, just this past week alone:

  • Those who contend that global warming “does not exist,” [Robert F. Kennedy Jr.] claimed, are guilty of “a criminal offense — and they ought to be serving time for it.”
  • “So that’s the problem with the idea that it’s all going to go to rat shit eventually so let’s make as much money as possible.  Those people will always be a fungus and if I was running the country I would take them out and shoot them frankly, but that’s something else [laughs].” — Terry Gilliam of Monty Python, casting a whole new spin on his dystopian 1985 film Brazil as a how-to guide for totalitarianism.
  • “The ACA’s conservative critics have long knocked Obamacare as a first step toward medical rationing. Read Emanuel’s diatribe against living too long, and suddenly Sarah Palin’s attack on Obamacare’s ‘death panels’ does not seem so far-fetched.” — Victor Davis Hanson on Obamacare architect, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, currently age 57, whose new essay in the Atlantic is titled, “Why I Hope to Die at 75.” Gee, when do babies start having their palms fitted with Logan’s Run lifeclocks?
  • “Gitmo remains open; we are still at war in Afghanistan; we are still at war in Iraq; and all this is true despite a president elected explicitly and clearly to end the failed wars he inherited. This comes perilously close to proving that our democracy doesn’t really have much of a say in whether this perpetual war should continue or not.” — Andrew Sullivan.
  • Speaking about such modest restrictions on abortion as have been enacted over the past several years, Justice Ginsburg lamented that “the impact of all these restrictions is on poor women.” Then she added: “It makes no sense as a national policy to promote birth only among poor people.”
  • “I’m Marching for Full Communism” — sign on display at Sunday’s New York People’s Climate Change March (where RFK Jr. was promising to start build the gulags.
  • “Climate Movement Drops Mask, Admits Communist Agenda” — as displayed in numerous examples in Zombie’s photo-heavy round-up of the Sunday’s Bay Area sister march.
  • “Mr. Goebbels’ words are wise words to live by.” — Alison A. Martin of anti-Second Amendment group, Moms Demand Action.

And to sum up the quotes of the past week, “It’s what we all know is true, but we only whisper it.”

Update: “And that doesn’t even include groundhogs,” PJM reader “Sisyphus Redux” jokes in the comments.

Related: Of course, one day the American left will eventually make it to the promised land, if they don’t first fundamentally transform America into it:

Obama: There is No I in ISIS

September 11th, 2014 - 4:37 pm

“Sorry Mr. President, ISIS Is 100 Percent Islamic,” Daniel Pipes writes in response to the recently retired president’s speech last night:

In a televised address on how to address the Islamic State this evening, President Barack Obama declared the organization variously known as ISIS or ISIL to be “not Islamic.”

In making this preposterous claim, Obama joins his two immediate predecessors in pronouncing on what is not Islamic. Bill Clinton called the Taliban treatment of women and children “a terrible perversion of Islam.” George W. Bush deemed that 9/11 and other acts of violence against innocents “violate the fundamental tenets of the Islamic faith.”

None of the three has any basis for such assertions. To state the obvious: As non-Muslims and politicians, rather than Muslims and scholars, they are in no position to declare what is Islamic and what is not. As Bernard Lewis, a leading American authority of Islam, notes: “It is surely presumptuous for those who are not Muslims to say what is orthodox and what is heretical in Islam.”

Indeed, Obama compounds his predecessors’ errors and goes further: Clinton and Bush merely described certain actions (treatment of women and children, acts of violence against innocents) as un-Islamic, but Obama has dared to declare an entire organization (and quasi-state) to be “not Islamic.”

So just to review how the left has responded to a 100 years of inconvenient history, National Socialism wasn’t “real” socialism, except that it certainly was — it was just socialism that the rest of of the left didn’t like. The Soviet Union wasn’t “real” communism or socialism, except that as Tom Wolfe once impolitely reminded “liberals” in the mid-1970s, ”On the contrary — it was socialism done by experts!” And now ISIS isn’t Islamic. Gotcha.

But say, in regards to all of the above “isms,” what about the “peaceful majority…?”

Elites’ Sacrificial Victims

April 22nd, 2014 - 3:32 pm

Victor Davis Hanson writes, “When your goal is to save the planet, you can’t worry about who may get hurt:”

Why do our well-meaning elites so often worry about humanity in the abstract rather than the real effects of their cosmic ideologies on the majority? The dream of universal health coverage trumped the nightmare of millions of lives disrupted by the implementation of it. Noble lies, with emphatics like “Period!” were necessary to sell something that would hurt precisely those who were told that this was going to be good for them. A myriad of green mandates has led to California’s having the highest-priced gasoline and electricity in the continental United States, a fact that delights utopians in San Francisco and in the long run might help the rest of us, but right now ensures that the poor of the state’s vast, hot interior can scarcely afford to cool their homes or drive to work. Fresno on August 1, after all, is a bit warmer than Berkeley or Menlo Park.

In a word, liberal ideology so often proves more important than people. Noble theories about saving humanity offer exemption from worry about the immediate consequences for individual humans. In a personal sense, those who embrace progressive ideas expect to be excused from the ramifications of their schemes. For the elite who send their kids to prep schools and private academies, public charter schools for the poor are bad, given that they undermine the dream of progressive, union-run education that has turned into a nightmare for those forced to enroll in it.

The notion that elites, well-meaning or otherwise, “worry about humanity in the abstract rather than the real effects of their cosmic ideologies on the majority,” certainly isn’t a new one. In November of 2009 at the New Criterion, Anthony Daniels (aka Theodore Dalrymple) explored “The costs of abstraction — On the intellectual irresponsibility of Soviet sympathizers:”

In a desultory kind of way, I have collected, over the years, many books about the Soviet Union published in Britain, France, and America during the 1920s and 1930s. They are not by any means overwhelmingly pro-Soviet, with titles such as Soviet Russia Fights Crime, The Protection of Women and Children in the Soviet Union, and Soviet Russia Fights Neurosis (in which, published at the height of the famine, are found the immortal words, “The greatest and most far-reaching values of the Soviet dictatorship are psychological and spiritual”); on the contrary, many of these books give the most compelling evidence of all the horrors of the Soviet Union, all of them now attested and accepted as being true.

My little collection has led me to the conclusion that the Soviet Union was valued by contemporary intellectuals not for the omelette, but for the broken eggs. They thought that if nothing great could be built without sacrifice, then so great a sacrifice must be building something great. The Soviets had the courage of their abstractions, which are often so much more important to intellectuals than living, breathing human beings.

Leftwing ideology and a love of abstractionism caused intellectual elites to look the other way at the eggs being broken in the Soviet Union. (Other than Orwell, who famously asked, “But where is the Omelette?”) No wonder they can avert their eyes so easily to the slow-motion rolling disaster of Obamacare.

Or heck, the original sin of today’s eco-holiday:

Related: If you haven’t read it yet, don’t miss Victor Davis Hanson’s PJM column yesterday on “Cliven Bundy and The Rural Way,” with an assist from VDH’s rough-hewn grandfather, and his horse named — of course — Paint.

Jay Carney Comes Full Circle

April 11th, 2014 - 3:58 pm

Hey, give Carney credit for pro-Communist consistency.

Now is the time when we juxtapose, Small Dead Animals-style:

“In towns like Pushkino (pop. 90,000), many Russians view the tumult sweeping Moscow with more anxiety and skepticism than do their big-city compatriots…they wonder if the destruction of Soviet communism will bring them anything more than uncertainty and hardship.”

—Jay Carney, cub reporter at Time magazine, September 9, 1991.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney and his family are featured in a worshipful profile in this month’s Washingtonian magazine.

It’s the sort of adoring journalistic exercise reserved for only the most handsome of the power elite. In it you can find out details about the Carney dog (a cousin to presidential pooch Sonny!), and how much the press secretary’s tie costs ($135).

But keen observers may notice the kitchen decor in the photo: Soviet propaganda posters. They really are the perfect pop of color whether you are the dour and sincere Nikita Khrushchev or the cheeky press-wrangler for a president who is constantly accused of being a socialist himself.

“Obama’s press secretary decorates home with Soviet propaganda,” The Week, today.

And do not miss Noah Rothman at Mediaite, who spots the Washingtonian doing some sort of Photoshopping on the books on Carney’s bookshelves: “Carney is surrounded by shelves and shelves of the same books. The photo-shopping was so hurried, in fact, that Carney’s son’s finger was never removed:”

And the same photo “updated with more duplicated books.”

Not surprisingly, Twitter is having a field day with the Washingtonian’s Photoshop meltdown.

‘¿Fox Butterfield, Es Que Usted?’

February 28th, 2014 - 1:09 pm

“Venezuela is now the world champion of inflation, homicide, insecurity, and shortages of essential goods–from milk for children to insulin for diabetics and all kinds of indispensable products. All this despite having the greatest oil reserves in the world and a government with absolute control of all state institutions and levers of power.”–Moisés Naim, TheAtlantic.com, Feb. 25

—As spotted by James Taranto in his latest Best of the Web column today.

Hard to believe how badly the Atlantic has fallen in recent years from its perch as a once-serious publication. I’d blame Xenu, but his appearance last year on their homepage was simply the most visible symptom, not the cause.

And for those who can’t spot the glaring logical fallacy in the quote above, a rereading of the Politically Incorrect Guide to Socialism is well in order.

All This and World War II

February 22nd, 2014 - 11:06 am

“Ukraine: the opposition aren’t all angels. Some are neo-Nazis,” Tim Stanley writes at the London Telegraph, discussing the “Svboda” protest group, “which dominates the Western-most provinces of Ukraine:”

It is a member of the Alliance of European National Movements, along with France’s National Front, the British National Party and Hungary’s Jobbik. Its policies include taking farm land into national ownership and giving to people to hold on a “hereditry basis”. No one who was not born in Ukraine can become a citizen; outsiders cannot adopt Ukrainian children. In 2005, one of the party’s deputies founding the Joseph Goebbels Political Research Center. It was later renamed after a German conservative revolutionary. That particular deputy described the Holocaust as “a bright episode in European civilisation” which “strongly warms the hearts of the Palestinian population.” The best defence against Jewish corruption is childbearing Ukrainians. Women carry

the societal and racial morality … the 300 ovulations of every Ukrainian woman, as well as the 1,500 ejaculations of every Ukrainian man are the same national treasures as, say, energy resources or deposits of iron, coal or oil.

Some of Svboda supporters are people who believe that the German invasion of Ukraine in the 1940s was not an occupation but a liberation from “Jewish Bolshevism”. Needless to say, they also don’t like gay people.

“The involvement of Svboda in the protests doesn’t delegitimise the opposition, but it is a reminder that this situation is really, really complex,” Stanley writes at the start of his concluding paragraph, which dovetails well with Jonah Goldberg’s latest G-File, which is now online.

We already mentioned his link yesterday to Timothy Snyder in the New York Review of Books, who discussed the origins of “National Bolshevism:”

The Eurasian ideology draws an entirely different lesson from the twentieth century. Founded around 2001 by the Russian political scientist Aleksandr Dugin, it proposes the realization of National Bolshevism. Rather than rejecting totalitarian ideologies, Eurasianism calls upon politicians of the twenty-first century to draw what is useful from both fascism and Stalinism. Dugin’s major work, The Foundations of Geopolitics, published in 1997, follows closely the ideas of Carl Schmitt, the leading Nazi political theorist. Eurasianism is not only the ideological source of the Eurasian Union, it is also the creed of a number of people in the Putin administration, and the moving force of a rather active far-right Russian youth movement. For years Dugin has openly supported the division and colonization of Ukraine.

The point man for Eurasian and Ukrainian policy in the Kremlin is Sergei Glazyev, an economist who like Dugin tends to combine radical nationalism with nostalgia for Bolshevism. He was a member of the Communist Party and a Communist deputy in the Russian parliament before cofounding a far-right party called Rodina, or Motherland. In 2005 some of its deputies signed a petition to the Russian prosecutor general asking that all Jewish organizations be banned from Russia.

The text of Jonah’s email-blast G-File is now online at NRO, where Jonah writes, see I told you so:

Snyder’s rebuttals are good (I’ve trimmed them mostly for space). But they don’t cut to the heart of it.

First, let’s clear some underbrush. The idea that Communism and Nazism are opposites is more of a utilitarian idea than a core conviction for the Left. It is a rationalization that allows the Left to cut around the historical tumor of Nazism and fascism and say, That has nothing to do with us.

But the simple fact is that the hard Left has always endorsed or at least sympathized with national-socialist countries. What do you think Cuba is? It’s nationalistic and it’s socialistic. Venezuela under Chávez and now Maduro is nationalist and socialist. Nicaragua in the 1980s, etc., etc. Read a speech by any socialist dictator and swap out the word “socialize” for “nationalize”: The meaning of the sentences doesn’t change one iota. Nationalized health care is socialized medicine. Even Obama’s weak-tea socialistic rhetoric is usually dolled up in the rhetoric of nationalism, even militaristic nationalism. Let’s all be like SEAL Team Six! Let’s make this a “Sputnik Moment.”

Most of the Left in the U.S. didn’t really hate the German national-socialists until Stalin told them to. That the useful idiots thought Stalin’s command to turn on his one-time Nazi ally was rooted in deep ideological conviction just proves the depths of their idiocy.

After all, it’s not like the Left suddenly turned on Stalin when he embraced nationalism wholeheartedly and talked of fighting the Nazis as part of the “Great Patriotic War for Mother Russia.” But, hey, maybe I’m missing the deep Marxist themes in the phrase “Great Patriotic War for Mother Russia.

As Tim Stanley wrote in the London Telegraph, the protest in the Ukraine “is really, really complex,” made more complex by the sense that both sides have factions that are itching to put the old bands from World War II back together again, to borrow Jonah’s riff from his latest G-File.

Yesterday, Mark Steyn mentioned the left’s “New Tribalism.” But has the left’s old tribalism ever gone away? Good thing that the White House is currently staffed with such able and thoughtful foreign diplomats, men capable of seeing all of the moves on the three dimensional chessboard as Joe Biden, John Kerry, Chuck Hagel, and their boss himself during this time of crisis.

Speaking of which, the White House infamously bungled the 2:00 am phone call from Benghazi on September 11, 2012; today, “Nobody Will Answer Chuck Hagel’s Phone Calls” to the Ukraine, Daniel Greenfield writes at FrontPage:

Ukraine Defense Minister Pavel Lebedev has refused to take multiple phone calls made personally by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, the Pentagon said Thursday.

“Secretary Hagel has been trying, himself, since early this week,” Pentagon press secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby told reporters. Lebedev refuses “to communicate, to accept a phone call” from Hagel or the Pentagon.

“We haven’t been able to connect with anybody from the Defense Ministry there in Ukraine,” he said. “We’ve been trying pretty diligently here in the Pentagon, we’ve been trying pretty diligently this whole week. I’d say it’s pretty unusual.”

As Greenfield writes, “It’s not unusual, it’s soft power. It’s what happens when no one takes you seriously anymore.”

The New Tribalism

February 21st, 2014 - 12:45 pm

brad_johnson_anti_krauthammer_condom_2-21-14

In-between countersuing Michael Mann for $20 million,  Mark Steyn writes:

Julie Burchill, my old boss at The Modern Review many years ago, has a bracing column in this week’s Speccie on the difference between the left she grew up with and the left today:

While working-class left-wing political activism was always about fighting the powerful, treating people how you would wish to be treated and believing that we’re all basically the same, modern, non-working-class left-wing politics is about… other stuff. Class guilt, sexual kinks, personal prejudice and repressed lust for power.

That’s why, as Kathy Shaidle observes here, the concept of free speech is no longer widely accepted. If you believe in “treating people how you would wish to be treated”, then it’s natural to accord them the same rights of freedom of expression that you yourself wish to exercise. But, if you believe (as I discussed with Steve Madely on the radio yesterday) that what matters is what identity group you belong to (the New Tribalism), then it’s natural to demand that members of non-approved groups should not be permitted to make their case.

Consider, for example, Brad Johnson – “Climate Brad”, who’s something to do with that group that wanted you to send Valentine cards* and “carbon-offset roses” to Michael Mann. Yesterday, Climate Brad Tweeted:

Today, 110,000 citizens told @washingtonpost to stop publishing climate lies like today’s @krauthammer oped pic.twitter.com/iM2ZO9cRVZ

I’m so bored by people whose only reaction to a difference of opinion is to demand you be banned. Do please click over to Brad Johnson’s accompanying photograph. It shows the fetching young pajama boy clutching what appears to be a giant eco-condom made for First Grade Show-&-Tell using only eight cereal boxes, some Scotch tape and a bright red marker. Look, it’s even got a hashtag! Even though it’s not a Tweet but a prop he made to stand outside his office and be photographed with!

Washington Post: #Don’tPublishLies

Because everyone knows The Washington Post is just another right-wing Koch-funded denialist operation.

Wouldn’t it be easier just to sit down and demolish Krauthammer’s “lies”? An ideology that can only scream “Shut up!” sounds a wee bit insecure, don’t you think? That’s true for firebreathing mullahs whose reaction to a cartoon is to demand your beheading as it is for firebreathing climate mullahs whose reaction to a column is to demand your lifetime publication ban.

And speaking of the New Tribalism, David Thompson spots a doozy from the UK Guardian, basking in the warm embers of what Thompson dubs “Lovely, Lovely Guilt:”

The Guardian’s Natalie Hanman — who edits Comment Is Free, where the party never stops – urges us to cultivate some pretentious guilt. Boldly, she asks:

Should Benedict Cumberbatch say sorry for the slave owners in his family?

Not current family members, you understand. So far as I’m aware, Mr Cumberbatch doesn’t have some weird cousin with strangers chained up in the cellar. No, we have to project our agonising backwards in time, past parents and grandparents, and great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents – past centuries of people who are themselves strangers:

A newly appointed city commissioner in New York, Stacey Cumberbatch, told the New York Times last week that she believed British actor Benedict Cumberbatch’s fifth great-grandfather owned her ancestors on an 18th-century sugar plantation in Barbados. They “are related,” the newspaper noted, “if not by blood, then by geography and the complicated history of the slave trade.”

Which is to say, actually, not related at all.

The Cumberbatch case involves two high-profile individuals and so has had media attention, but these questions concern us all.

I suspect opinions on that point may differ.

For as long as structural inequalities persist, we cannot overlook how far the tentacles of history might reach into the present. The real challenge is to recognise, and address, how much the privileges of the past continue to benefit some, and wrong others, today.

We “cannot overlook” these things, you see; we must “address” them and weigh our privilege. Some more than others, it seems. So says the woman who gets paid to invent esoteric problems and then fret at length in print. But those “tentacles of history,” through which our “collective responsibility” is supposedly transmitted – and with it, lots of lovely, lovely guilt – reach an awfully long way, across continents, cultures and all manner of events.

I usually reflexively type something like “the far left UK Guardian,” when referencing the venerable British socialist house organ, but that phrase doesn’t quite cut it: with the notion of past guilt, they’ve gone so far left, they’ve bypassed Hillary and Barack and the EU, and driven straight into Pyongyang:

The most striking feature of the gulag system is the philosophy of “guilt by familial association” or “collective responsibility” whereby whole families within three generations are imprisoned. This policy has been practiced since 1972 when Kim Il Sung, the founder of communist North Korea, stated “Factionalists or enemies of class, whoever they are, their seed must be eliminated through three generations.”

Actually, three generations sounds rather modest compared to how far back the Guardian wishes to aim its collective guilt, as the new tribalism continues to advance “Progressivism” even further into the past. Tom Wolfe has written about the leftwing revolutionary urge to “Start From Zero” — even without an armed revolution, the left seems determined to get to Year Zero one way or another.

Update: How far back to Year Zero does the left wish to aim for? The Wall Street Journal reminds Al Gore-wannabe John Kerry, ” who as Ed Morrissey notes, “burned 12 tons of carbon to travel to Indonesia and declare global warming as the biggest WMD of all,” that Flat Earthers were the consensus, science-is-settled, the discussion is over position. Speaking of Kerry, as Virginia Postrel once told Brian Lamb of C-Span:

The Khmer Rouge sought to start over at year zero, and to sort of create the kind of society that very civilized, humane greens write about as though it were an ideal. I mean, people who would never consider genocide. But I argue that if you want to know what that would take, look at Cambodia–to empty the cities and turn everyone into peasants again. Even in a less developed country, let alone in someplace like the United States, that these sort of static utopian fantasies are just that.

As long as Kerry can keep his yacht, presumably, that all sounds fine with him.

* Sending Valentine’s Day cards? Don’t let the enviro-obsessed New Republic hear about that.

In this week’s email edition of the G-File, Jonah Goldberg notes today that in the New York Review of Books, “Timothy Snyder has written the best piece I’ve seen on what’s going on in Kiev. It’s worth reading just as a primer. But it’s also interesting in other ways:”

I had not read a lot about the “Eurasian Union,” a proposed counterweight to the European Union, in much the same way the Legion of Doom is a counterweight to the Justice League. Putin and a band of avowed “National Bolshevik” intellectuals are in effect trying to put the band back together. Snyder writes:

The Eurasian Union is the enemy of the European Union, not just in strategy but in ideology. The European Union is based on a historical lesson: that the wars of the twentieth century were based on false and dangerous ideas, National Socialism and Stalinism, which must be rejected and indeed overcome in a system guaranteeing free markets, free movement of people, and the welfare state. Eurasianism, by contrast, is presented by its advocates as the opposite of liberal democracy.

The Eurasian ideology draws an entirely different lesson from the twentieth century. Founded around 2001 by the Russian political scientist Aleksandr Dugin, it proposes the realization of National Bolshevism. Rather than rejecting totalitarian ideologies, Eurasianism calls upon politicians of the twenty-first century to draw what is useful from both fascism and Stalinism. Dugin’s major work, The Foundations of Geopolitics, published in 1997, follows closely the ideas of Carl Schmitt, the leading Nazi political theorist. Eurasianism is not only the ideological source of the Eurasian Union, it is also the creed of a number of people in the Putin administration, and the moving force of a rather active far-right Russian youth movement. For years Dugin has openly supported the division and colonization of Ukraine.

The point man for Eurasian and Ukrainian policy in the Kremlin is Sergei Glazyev, an economist who like Dugin tends to combine radical nationalism with nostalgia for Bolshevism. He was a member of the Communist Party and a Communist deputy in the Russian parliament before cofounding a far-right party called Rodina, or Motherland. In 2005 some of its deputies signed a petition to the Russian prosecutor general asking that all Jewish organizations be banned from Russia.

Some of this was news to me. I was familiar with the National Bolshevism of the early Nazi years. Thinkers like the Ukrainian Bolshevik Karl Radek and the Nazi Otto Strasser dabbled with the idea of merging Bolshevik and Nazi ideology. After all, if you’re already a National Socialist it’s not that long a trip to being a National Bolshevik, now is it? Some left-wing members of the Nazi military described themselves as National Bolsheviks as well. But ultimately, National Bolshevism as an intellectual movement died in the crib. Or so I thought.

What I did not know is that National Bolshevism is making such a comeback. And while, it’s evil and a national-security threat and all that, I can’t help but smile.

Kingsley Amis famously quipped that the updated version of Robert Conquest’s hstory of Stalin’s terror and the Soviet Union should have been re-titled, “I Told You So, You F***ing Fools.”  That would also apply as well to a book that Jonah published in late 2007 on the intertwined nature of national and international socialism and their various spin-off franchises, which continue to this day. In recent weeks, NRO has been uploading Jonah’s G-File the day after their Friday email blast; assuming that trend continues, don’t miss it tomorrow for the rest of the story.

And while National Bolshevism sounds like deadly serious stuff, I can’t help but hear John Cleese shouting about “National Bocialism,” and “boncentration bamps,” while wearing the tiny toothbrush mustache in the classic Monty Python sketch featuring “Mr. Hilter,” “Ron Vibbentrop,” and “Heimlich Bimmler” vacationing at a cozy English bed and breakfast:

Two CNNs In One

February 19th, 2014 - 1:17 pm

Past performance is no guarantee of future results:

Most of what you read or hear in mass media about President Hugo Chavez is always negative, his faults exaggerated, his discourse distorted and his achievements ignored. The reality is quite different.

Hugo Chavez was beloved by millions around the world. He changed the course of a continent and led a collective awakening of a people once silenced, once exploited and ignored. Chavez was a grandiose visionary and a maker of dreams.

An honest man from a humble background who lived in a mud hut as a child and sold candies on the streets to make money for his family, Chavez dreamed of building a strong, sovereign nation, independent of foreign influence and dignified on the world scene. He dreamed of improving the lives of his people, of eradicating the misery of poverty and of offering everyone the chance of a better life — the “good life” (el buenvivir), as he called it.

“Opinion: Chavez was a maker of dreams,” CNN.com, March 7th, 2013.

Kiev isn’t the only part of the world protesting this week, protestors in Venezuela have been standing up against the government of President Nicolas Maduro. Since protests began in Venezuela, there have been five fatalities, the most recent one today after one protestors was fatally shot in the head. The opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, turned himself in to authorities yesterday, and is currently facing trial on charges of terrorism and murder. And covering the protests is turning into a very rough and arduous task, as one CNN reporter revealed that his crew’s equipment was taken at gunpoint by plainclothes police officers.

Karl Penhaul explained the “difficulty of covering this story on the street” by recanting how “a group of armed thugs” motorcycled through the crowd and eventually set their eyes on the CNN team.

“The men on motorcycles rounded on us, the next thing I knew I was staring down the barrel of a chrome-plated nine-millimeter pistol and three armed men then proceeded to rob our crew of all the camera gear, all the transition gear as well.”

They later learned those were most likely plainclothes cops.

—”CNN Reporter: Venezuelan Cops Confiscated Our Equipment at Gunpoint,” Mediate, today.

Again, which tinpot socialist dictators have CNN not supported in its 35 year history?

The Banality of Stalinism

February 15th, 2014 - 4:22 pm

In his weekly column titled “Fom Russia with Euphemisms,” Jonah Goldberg asks us to “consider the stunted and ritualistic conversation (‘controversy’ is too vibrant a word for the mundane Internet chatter) about the Soviet Union sparked by the Winter Olympics. The humdrum shrugging at the overwhelming evil of Soviet Communism leaves me nostalgic for the Eichmann controversy. At least [Hannah] Arendt and her critics* agreed that evil itself was in the dock; they merely haggled over the best words to put in the indictment:”

What to say of the gormless press-agent twaddle conjured up to describe the Soviet Union? In its opening video for the Olympic Games, NBC’s producers drained the thesaurus of flattering terms devoid of moral content: “The empire that ascended to affirm a colossal footprint; the revolution that birthed one of modern history’s pivotal experiments. [Video here -- Ed] But if politics has long shaped our sense of who they are, it’s passion that endures.”

To parse this infomercial treacle is to miss the point, for the whole idea is to luge by the truth on the frictionless skids of euphemism.

In America, we constantly, almost obsessively, wrestle with the “legacy of slavery.” That speaks well of us. But what does it say that so few care that the Soviet Union was built — literally — on the legacy of slavery? The founding fathers of the Russian Revolution — Vladimir Lenin and Leon Trotsky — started “small,” merely throwing hundreds of thousands of people into kontslagerya (concentration camps).

By the time Western intellectuals and youthful folksingers like Pete Seeger were lavishing praise on the Soviet Union as the greatest experiment in the world, Joseph Stalin was corralling millions of his own people into slavery. Not metaphorical slavery, but real slavery complete with systematized torture, rape, and starvation. Watching the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, you’d have no idea that from the Moscow metro system to, literally, the roads to Sochi, the Soviet Union — the supposed epitome of modernity and “scientific socialism” — was built on a mountain of broken lives and unremembered corpses.

To read Anne Applebaum’s magisterial Gulag: A History is to subject yourself to relentless tales of unimaginable barbarity. A slave who falls in the snow is not helped up by his comrades but is instantly stripped of his clothes and left to die. His last words: “It’s so cold.”

Meanwhile, at Big Journalism, John Nolte notes that “CNN Overlooks ‘Uncle Joe’ Stalin’s Mass-Murder of Millions.” But then, that’s been the story of CNN throughout its existence — both with the former Soviet Union specifically, and with virtually every other dictatorship, from Castro to North Korea.

Such moral equivalence bleeds (pun intended) into lighter fare on TV as well. In his weekly G-File, which expands upon his column on the banality of Stalinism, Jonah links to this clip from the 1990s sitcom Friends:

As he adds, “This gag would never work with an Adolf Hitler.”  A decade ago, Applebaum gave a speech which touched upon how this pop culture lacuna came to be. As she noted, when veteran foreign correspondent Robert D. Kaplan reviewed her first book for the New York Times in 1994, he wrote the following description of the Soviet Union in the 1930s, in which, as far as the west was concerned, the banality of evil was in full force:

Here occurred the terror famine of the 1930s, in which Stalin killed more Ukrainians than Hitler murdered Jews. Yet how many in the West remember it? After all, the killing was so–so boring, and ostensibly undramatic.

Of course, the Times is particularly to blame for west not remembering these horrors, given that the paper won a Pulitzer whitewashing them away. But beyond that, as Applebaum said in response in 2003, “Were Stalin’s murders boring? Many people think so. Put differently, the crimes of Stalin do not inspire the same visceral reaction as do the crimes of Hitler:”

Ken Livingstone, a former British member of Parliament, now Mayor of London, once struggled to explain the difference to me. Yes, the Nazis were “evil,” he said. But the Soviet Union was “deformed.” That view echoes the feeling that many people have, even people who are not old-fashioned members of the British Labor Party: The Soviet Union simply went wrong somehow, but it was not fundamentally wrong in the way that Hitler’s Germany was wrong.

Until recently, it was possible to explain this absence of popular feeling about the tragedy of European communism in the West as the logical result of a particular set of circumstances. The passage of time is part of it: Communist regimes really did grow less reprehensible as the years went by. Nobody was very frightened of General Jaruzelski, or even of Brezhnev, although both were responsible for a great deal of destruction. Besides, archives were closed. Access to camp sites was forbidden. No television cameras ever filmed the Soviet camps or their victims, as they had done in Germany at the end of the Second World War. No images, in turn, meant that the subject, in our image-driven culture, didn’t really exist either.

But ideology twisted the ways in which we understood Soviet and East European history as well. In fact, in the 1920s, a great deal was known in the West about the bloodiness of Lenin’s revolution. Western socialists, many of whose brethren had been jailed by the Bolsheviks, protested loudly and strongly against the crimes being committed then.

In the 1930s, however, as Americans became more interested in learning how socialism could be applied here, the tone changed. Writers and journalists went off to the USSR, trying to learn lessons they could use at home. The New York Times employed a correspondent, Walter Duranty, who lauded the five-year plan and argued, against all the evidence, that it was a massive success–and won a Pulitzer Prize for doing so.

Throughout the 1930s and 1940s, a part of the Western Left struggled to explain, and sometimes to excuse, the camps and the terror that created them precisely because they wanted to try some aspects of the Soviet experiment at home. In 1936, after millions of Soviet peasants had died of famine, the British socialists Sidney and Beatrice Webb published a vast survey of the Soviet Union, which explained, among other things, how the “downtrodden Russian peasant is gradually acquiring a sense of political freedom.”

Hey, everybody’s entitled for their predictions to be off by over half a century.

Which brings us to the moral blinders worn by those who populate the offices of NBC and CNN today. To paraphrase Jonah’s frequent question to college students regarding National Socialism, aside from the murder and genocide, what exactly don’t you like about Communism?

That would be quite an interesting query for anyone employed on the air at CNN, NBC, or (especially) MSNBC.

* For much more on that topic, check out our post from last month on the recent German biopic, Hannah Arendt.

‘In Praise Of Sochi Schadenfreude’

February 8th, 2014 - 4:08 pm

sochi_horror_tweets_2-8-14-1

“On the bright side, Sochi has been utter embarrassment for Vladimir Putin — or, in other words, though it’s hardly started, it’s been the rare entertaining Olympic experience,” David Harsanyi writes at the Federalist, along with collating the above two cringe-inducing tweets:

Vladimir Yakunin, a Russian plutocrat who, unlike some less vigilant magnates, knows where his black bread is buttered, groused about Western journalists who were “feeding hysteria about Russia.” Some people wondered if it was fair? Here’s Julia Ioffe at the New Republic:

There’s a fine line between fair criticism and schadenfreude, and the Western press has been largely well on the side of the latter. I’d also argue that there’s something chauvinistic, even Russophobic in it.

Russophobic? As in harboring negative prejudices, dislikes and fears about Russia and Russians? The place that gave us Dostoyevsky, Stravinsky, Solzhenitsyn and so on and on and on …? Hardly. Is it Russophobic to have a good laugh at the expense of a crooked government that squanders an estimated $50 billion on a publicity party when its per capita income is less than that of Equatorial Guinea or Gabon? A country that is 140th in on the economic freedom index, according to Heritage Foundation, slotted between Tajikistan and Burundi.

These Olympics might even end up doing the Russians a favor by bringing attention to their plight. Maybe Sochi will be seen as an event emblematic of the deeper problems in the country, As Garry Kasparov puts it:

Do not mistake the epic graft in Sochi as unusual or incidental. Corruption is the overriding principle of Putin’s 14 years in power and looting the Russian treasury and the Russian people is itself the goal. For all the foolish attempts to interpret Putin’s geopolitical strategy and personal ideology, the common denominator is always whether or not an action helps him maintain the cash flow that in turn enables him and his clique to stay in power.

Americans aren’t Russophobic; on the contrary, we’re simply embarrassed that, as the above photos highlight, 21st century Russia of all places can’t even build a proper Potemkin Village anymore. See also, the cardboard and chicken-wire doors leading to the above men’s room monstrosities:

sochi_olympic_cardboard_door_2-8-14-1

And speaking of Sochi schadenfreude and Putin’s pathetic Potemkin Village, elsewhere at PJM, Ron Radosh explores the Baltic-sized gap between “Putin’s Olympic Fantasy vs. The Reality of Putin’s Russia.”

Meanwhile, back in the US, NBC’s well-documented love of selective editing continues: “NBC Edits Out IOC Anti-Discrimination Statement From Opening Ceremony,” presumably to keep Comrade Putin happy — or perhaps to get an early jump on the competition for the next Duranty Prize from PJM.

Update: “Clorox wins Twitter with its solution to Sochi’s double toilets:”

“The towering presence, the empire that ascended to affirm a colossal footprint. The revolution that birthed one of modern history’s pivotal experiments. But if politics has long shaped our sense of who they are, it’s passion that endures. As a more reliable right to their collective heart. What they build in aspirations lifted by imagination. What they craft, through the wonder of every last detail. How magical the fusion of sound and movement can be. How much a glass of distilled perfection and an overflowing table can matter. Discover the Russian people through these indelible signatures. Discover what we share with them through the games that open here tonight.”

George Orwell, call your office. As he wrote in “Politics and the English Language,” in 1946, such euphemisms are “designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable,” and certainly describing Communism as “one of modern history’s pivotal experiments” fits the bill in spades. Or as Stacy McCain accurately described it this week at the American Spectator, “The Worst Idea in the World”:

Five years after the Bolshevik Revolution, Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises predicted that the Soviet project was doomed to fail. In his classic work Socialism, Mises explained that the attempt to replace the market system with central economic planning could not succeed, because the planners could not possibly have the information necessary to make all the decisions which, in a market economy, are made by individuals whose needs and desires are reflected in prices: “The problem of economic calculation is the fundamental problem of Socialism.”

“Everything brought forward in favour of Socialism during the last hundred years,” Mises wrote in 1922, “in thousands of writings and speeches, all the blood which has been spilt by the supporters of Socialism, cannot make Socialism workable. …. Socialist writers may continue to publish books about the decay of Capitalism and the coming of the socialist millennium; they may paint the evils of Capitalism in lurid colours and contrast with them an enticing picture of the blessings of a socialist society; their writings may continue to impress the thoughtless — but all this cannot alter the fate of the socialist idea.”

Undeterred by Mises’ criticism, the Soviet Union spent the next seven decades proving his prediction correct. By the time the Communist utopia collapsed in bankruptcy and disgrace, it seemed that everyone with two eyes and a brain understood the lesson: The Marxist-Leninist project was a complete failure and, as historians documented in The Black Book of Communism, tens of millions of people had died for this mistake, deliberately starved or slaughtered by totalitarian Communist governments.

Not surprisingly, as Twitchy notes, numerous Twitter users are denouncing the morality-free brain-dead husk of the NBC television network:

nbc_soviet_union_pivotal_experiment_twitchy_twitter_roundup_2-7-14-1

As Greg Pollowitz notes today at National Review’s “Right Field” sports blog, Bob Costas and the rest of NBC appear to be going out of their way “to paint Putin in the best possible light.”

Pollowitz adds that former Soviet spokesman Vladimir Pozner is part of NBC’s on-air team, alongside Costas. As I warned in December, when news first broke that Pozner, who was a staple of American TV in the 1980s as a much beloved (among American chat show bookers, that is) apologist for the Soviet Union before that “pivotal experiment” was mercifully concluded, “NBC Goes Full Commie. Never Go Full Commie, Man.”

Update: “PUTIN PROPAGANDA: NBC’s Bob Costas portrays Russian leader as great peacemaker.”

Keep that in mind the next time NBC or MSNBC has an “anti-bullying” rant.

And one more Tweet:

Hey, if any network could — other than CNN, of course.

Flashback: Back in 2011, when Keith Olbermann was given his permanent vacation from NBC’s spin-off network, I asked, “Chat Rock or 3CP1? Where Does MSNBC Go From Here?” I should have known the answer — but once again, Muggeridge’s Law strikes again — I had no idea their parent network would openly worship the former Soviet Union before its subsidiary.

Update (2/8/14): Welcome those clicking in from:

As well as Instapundit readers. As Glenn Reynolds notes, If NBC thinks of the Soviet Union as one of history’s “Pivotal Experiments,” then “Viewed in that Light, So was the Confederate States Of America.”

NBC’s screwed up enough already these days. Don’t give them any ideas, Glenn…

Quote of the Day

January 10th, 2014 - 5:01 pm

In an exchange with the evolutionary biologist and Marxist J.B.S. Haldane, C.S. Lewis found his motivations under assault. Lewis offered this marvelous reply:

The Professor has his own explanation … he thinks that I am unconsciously motivated by the fact that I “stand to lose by social change.” And indeed it would be hard for me to welcome a change which might well consign me to a concentration camp. I might add that it would likewise be easy for the Professor to welcome a change which might place him in the highest rank of an omnicompetent oligarchy. That is why the motive game is so uninteresting. Each side can go on playing ad nauseam, but when all the mud has been flung every man’s views still remain to be considered on their merits. I decline the motive game and resume the discussion.

As quoted by Peter Wehner at Commentary. Read the whole thing.

NBC Goes Full Commie. Never Go Full Commie, Man

December 12th, 2013 - 1:03 pm

MSNBC-parody-10-4-10

Oh to be a fly on the wall of the NBC boardroom. “Gentlemen, we have the gang at MSNBC under contract. We have Al Sharpton. We have Maddow. We have Melissa Harris-Perry. We even tried to make it work with Alec Baldwin and Martin Bashir, but alas, they just couldn’t deliver the goods.”

“Who can we hire that’s even further to the left? Surely, there has to be somebody out there, right?”

“Sir, there’s only man who fits that bill. And he’s got plenty of broadcast experience. Snappy dresser, great tone and enunciation. Two words. Just two simple words:

“Vladimir. Pozner.”

“Brilliant! Sign him up now, and have Bob Costas interview him from the 2014 Russian Olympics!”

Yesterday, Deadline.com noted that NBC-Universal “Adds Controversial Russian Journalist Vladimir Pozner To Olympics Coverage”:

Two days after announcing it had hired New Yorker editor (and former Washington Post Moscow bureau chief) David Remnick to provide SochiOlympicsNBCguest commentary on the network’s air during its coverage of the upcoming Sochi Winter Games, NBCUniversal announced it had hired Moscow-based TV journalist Vladimir Pozner as a correspondent for its Olympics coverage in Sochi. Pozner will appear with Bob Costas on a late-night program, offering a Russian perspective of the Games, the company said.

Vertu Constellation Launch Party In Moscow, Russia to Celebrate The Launch of the New Constellation Touch Screen Handset – Inside“With his deep Russian roots and American upbringing, Vladimir Pozner is uniquely qualified to provide a Russian outlook to our audience during the Sochi Olympics,” said Jim Bell, Executive Producer, NBC Olympics, in this morning’s announcement, calling this “another significant moment in Russia’s history.” Costas, know [sic] for his outspoken commentary, recently told The Associated Press he won’t comment on Russia’s so-called “gay propaganda” law that’s causing people to protest NBC’s participation in the upcoming Games because he’s hoping to land an interview with what AP called “responsible people.”

Pozner’s a controversial guy. About a year ago, Radio Free Europe reported he’d blasted the state of justice in Russia, over the abduction and alleged torture of opposition activist Leonid Razvozzhayev, as well as the prison sentences of Pussy Riot members. He’s not controversy-free in this country either. Pozner’s U.S. media experience, NBCU noted, includes co-hosting Pozner/Donahue – a syndicated weekly, issues-oriented roundtable program that aired on CNBC from 1991-1996 – and numerous appearances across the landscape, including NBC’s Today, and ABC’s Nightline.

For those who were fortunate enough not to be exposed to as much cable television as I watched in the late 1980s and early 1990s, allow me to flash back to that era, if only to describe the roomtone. At least compared with today’s “Triumph of the Vulgarians” on cable TV, it was a relatively classy affair. The A&E Network in its formative stages attempted to be something akin to PBS with commercials, or an American BBC — they even imported BBC shows, such as this segment on Mies van der Rohe. A&E and the USA network seemed to run Woody Allen movies every week, before Woody self-destructed with Soon Yi. MTV was still watchable, although the rot was setting in, even then. Their sister network VH-1 ran plenty of sophisticated adult pop (didn’t everyone have a crush on Sadé back then?), and a nifty jazz show on Sunday nights hosted by jazz musician Ben Sidran.

Pages: 1 2 | 24 Comments bullet bullet

The Ruins of Socialism

December 7th, 2013 - 4:29 pm

I’m sensing a theme here:

Cuban architects understood the need for air and shade in a climate such as Cuba’s, and they proportioned buildings and rooms accordingly. They created an urban environment that, with its arcades, columns, verandas, and balconies, was elegant, sophisticated, convenient, and joyful.”

But now it looks like a set on the History Channel’s show Life After People, only it’s still inhabited. Baghdad in the middle of the Iraq war was in better shape physically. I know because I spent months there and wrote a book about it.

— Michael J. Totten in his new article at World Affairs, “The Once Great City of Havana,” continuing his tour of Fidel Castro’s hellish prison island.

Its notional unemployment rate was 16 percent in April 2013; its real unemployment rate is probably closer to 50 percent. Its murder rate is about 11 times that of New York City. The median value of a home in the city is $9,000. When the Cold War classic Red Dawn was remade in 2012, the producers saved themselves some of the cost of creating a postapocalyptic United States by filming in Detroit, though filming had to be stopped when councilwoman JoAnn Watson, in a car with municipal plates, parked in the middle of a scene and refused to leave.

— Kevin D. Williamson, in his new book, What Doomed Detroit.

Until quite recently, I had assumed that the extreme ugliness of the city in which I live was attributable to the Luftwaffe. I imagined that the cheap and charmless high rise buildings which so disfigure the city-scape had been erected of necessity in great gaping holes left by Heinkel bombers. I had spent much of my childhood playing in deserted bomb shelters in public parks: and although I was born some years after the end of the war, that great conflagration still exerted a powerful hold on the imagination of British children of my generation.I discovered how wrong I was not long ago when I entered a store whose walls were decorated with large photographs of the city as it had been before the war. It was then a fine place, in a grandiloquent, Victorian kind of way. Every building had spoken of a bulging, no doubt slightly pompous and ridiculous, municipal pride. Industry and Labor were glorified in statuary, and a leavening of Greek temples and Italian Renaissance palaces lightened the prevailing mock-Venetian Gothic architecture.

“A great shame about the war,” I said to the store assistant, who was of an age to remember the old days. “Look at the city now.”

“The war?” she said. “The war had nothing to do with it. It was the council.”

The City Council—the people’s elected representatives it transpired, had done far more damage to the fabric of the city in the 1950s and 1960s than had Goering’s air force. Indeed, they had managed to turn it into a terrible visual ordeal for anyone with the most minimal visual sensibility.

— Theodore Dalrymple’s introduction to his tour of London’s low-income housing, in a 1995 City Journal article titled, “Do Sties Make Pigs?”

Nelson Mandela, Dead at 95

December 5th, 2013 - 2:13 pm

CNN’s hagiographic obituary contains the initial details:

Nelson Mandela, the revered statesman who emerged from prison after 27 years to lead South Africa out of decades of apartheid, has died, South African President Jacob Zuma announced late Thursday.

Mandela was 95.

“He is now resting. He is now at peace,” Zuma said. “Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father.”

“What made Nelson Mandela great was precisely what made him human,” the president said in his late-night address. “We saw in him what we seek in ourselves.”

Mandela will have a state funeral. Zuma ordered all flags in the nation to be flown at half-staff from Friday through that funeral.

Mandela, a former president, battled health issues in recent months, including a recurring lung infection that led to numerous hospitalizations.

More as it comes in, beginning with Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit, who includes a photo of Mandela making a power fist gesture while embracing fellow leftist Fidel Castro when the two socialists met in Cuba, shortly after Mandela’s release from jail.

Update: This July New American article offers some pushback against the media’s canonization: “‘Saint’ Mandela? Not So Fast!”

More: Shocker! “WH Marks Mandela’s Death with Pic of Obama in Mandela’s Cell,” Ben Shapiro writes at Big Government. “Even in paying tribute to a historic figure, President Obama couldn’t help but make it about him.”

Jon Gabriel has a sneak preview of what’s to come from the White House on December 7th.

Worse than Detroit, as Well

November 25th, 2013 - 12:38 pm

PJM alumnus Michael Totten, who frequently parachutes in to report on repressive regimes, visits a place where domestic spying is all-pervasive. Where a cult of personality has formed around the national leader. Where reporters are routinely harassed, and sometimes even thrown in jail, and the state-run media is pure propaganda. Where private property is seemingly forbidden,  especially the personal ownership of firearms. Where socialized medicine is the law of the land. Where truth is the rarest commodity of all.

Washington DC in the age of Obama? No, believe it or not, even worse — Cuba:

“Cuba is gorgeous,” said my journalist pal Terry Glavin up in British Columbia when I told him where I was going. “Although I expect it’s gone to s*** in some respects since I was there. The regime is that much more decrepit with the absence of Daddy Warbucks in Moscow. The things you will most love about Cuba, I bet, are the Cubans and the ravaged beauty of the place. I can’t imagine any people on earth putting up with such bulls*** with as much grace and humor and decency as the Cubans have managed, God love ‘em. Were it not for the regime I’d happily live in Havana.”

The Cubans do seem to handle it well, though I have no idea how. “You would make a fortune,” writes Havana-based journalist Mark Frank in his book Cuban Revelations, “if you could patent as an antidepressant whatever brain chemical kept the Cubans’ spirits up through the hard times.”

I wonder, though, how much of it’s real. Val Prieto warned me that to an extent it is not. “You will most likely see many smiling faces while you’re there,” he said. “Lots of laughter and dancing, too. But there will always be something much more profound behind all the smiles and laughter. Every Cuban, regardless of how content they may appear, lives with two underlying things—sadness and fear, the latter being more prevalent. Most Cubans will not openly display it as you are a foreigner, but read between the lines when they speak to you.”

I know what it’s like to wear a false face. Not only did I have to lie at the airport, I had to conceal my identity from every single person I met in the country, including other Americans, lest someone say the wrong thing about me in public in front of the wrong person at the wrong time. I vowed to myself before I even left the United States that I wouldn’t tell a single human being in Cuba who I am or what I was doing no matter how much I felt like I trusted them. I hated having to do that, and I felt a little self-loathing because of it, but I had to be careful and consoled myself with the fact that I could be honest about everything later in writing.

Likewise I have little choice but to conceal the identities of many people I spoke to. Occasionally I can quote Cubans by name—especially if they’re in exile—but for the most part I can’t. Those on the island had no idea they were speaking to a journalist and that I might quote them, and I won’t risk their safety.

However, I will tell you this much: None of the Cubans I quote are high profile dissidents except when I cite what they’ve written for public consumption. Those who aren’t in prison live under total surveillance. The regime posts guards outside their houses and points cameras at their windows and doors. I’ve been told by reliable sources that state security agents will sometimes commandeer next-door apartments and houses to tighten the screws even more. If I were to walk into that kind of surveillance umbrella, there’s virtually no chance I’d get in and out without being questioned and tailed, and there was a strong chance I’d be arrested.

Read the whole thing.

Related: Interview: Humberto Fontova on the MSM’s Love for Fidel Castro.

TNR’s John Judis, Then and Now

November 18th, 2013 - 1:10 pm

In his latest USA Today column, Glenn Reynolds notes that there really are two Americas — “One that works, produces value, and overcomes problems, and one that for the most part doesn’t work, consumes wealth, and produces more problems than it solves:”

The America that doesn’t work was very much in evidence this past week, as the Obamacare roll out continued to be — in Democratic Sen. Max Baucus’ memorable phrase — a “train wreck.” Writing in The New Republic, John Judis observed that the Obamacare fiasco should make fans of activist government angry, because it will damage big government’s brand for decades to come. Well, if you support big government because you think that politicians are more competent or honest than the rest of us, yes, it’s a big bummer. Then again, if you really think so highly of politicians, you have more serious problems than that.

And Judis does. As he wrote in the New Republic on Christmas Eve of 2008, at the dawn of the era of Hopenchange, when the left was certain that We Are All Socialists Now,” America was Starting From Zero, and were simply dazzled by the crisp, cool, kabuki confidence displayed by the mystical Office of the President-Elect:

A decade ago, I might have been embarrassed to admit that I was raised on Marx and Marxism, but I am convinced that the left is coming back. Friedrich Hayek is going to be out; Friedrich Engels in. Larry Kudlow out; Larry Mishel in. And why is that? Because a severe global recession like this puts in relief the transient, fragile, and corruptible nature of capitalism, and the looming contradiction between what Marx called the forces and relations of production evidenced in unemployed engineers and boarded up factories and growing poverty amidst a potential for abundance. As capitalism itself–or at the least the vaunted miracle of the free market–becomes problematic, the left is poised for an intellectual comeback.

So, how’s that working out these days? With Paul Krugman predicting Carter-esque permanent recessions, TNR needs something to take their minds off the horrors unfolding before them in the White House. No wonder they have a new article titled “High Times Magazine May Be the Most Influential Publication of Our Era.”

After his Website went 404, I’m sure President Choom wouldn’t mind declaring that it’s gotta be 4:20 somewhere, and sparking up a doober himself right about now.