I have always been deficient in expressing emotion through anything other than the written word. It’s one reason I always return to poetry when the occasion calls for some depth of feeling.
My favorite American poet, the late Richard Hugo, is a forgotten figure. You will not see his sinewy free verse quoted during special occasions in the manner one might invoke Shakespeare, Whitman, or Frost. But his strong, declarative style is appropriate for times of remembrance like Memorial Day.
A bombardier during the Second World War, Hugo continually returned to that conflict in his writing. His 1969 collection “Good Luck in Cracked Italian” distills many of the feelings he took with him from his combat missions in Europe. Here, for example, is the opening stanza of “G.I. Graves in Tuscany”:
They still seem G.I., the uniform lines
of white crosses, the gleam that rolls
white drums over the lawn. Machines
that cut the grass left their maneuvers plain.
Our flag doesn’t seem silly though plainly
it flies only because there is wind.
The last two lines might strike you as flippant. But what appears to be frivolity or cynicism, in a Hugo poem, often turns out to be simple bewilderment: something seen through the eyes of a broken man whose honesty has an unintended comic effect.
In “April in Cerignola,” Hugo ponders his own role in war and death:
I was desolate, too, and so survived.
I had a secret wish, to bring much food
and feed you through the war. I wished
you also dead. All roads lead to none.
You’re too far from the Adriatic
to get good wind. Harsh heat and roaring cold
are built in like abandonment each year.
This is a poetic voice lacking in any kind of self-dramatization; it’s almost clinical in its description. It might be why the poem sounds so odd and, in a way, so dated.
Poetry is how I make sense of strange times. Perhaps it can help you as well. With these modest offerings, I give endless thanks to our fallen guardians.
Having been thoroughly embarrassed in the recent general election—the shadow foreign secretary lost to a 20 year old from the Scottish National Party who will be the youngest member of parliament since the 17th century—Britain’s Labour Party is attempting to diagnose what went wrong.
Everyone has a preferred way of explaining or dealing with the results. If you’re Russell Brand, Britain’s Che Guevara in leather pants, you run away like a dejected teenager once you discover how many of “the people” disagree with you. If you’re former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, you mutter haughtily about “self-deluded” voters.
And that’s part of the problem, if not the entire thing. Left-wing parties slice up the population, appoint themselves surrogates of certain segments of it, and, without consulting anybody, convince themselves they know what’s best for every member of the coalition. Then, when people don’t vote the way they want, or say the things they’re supposed to say, the party denigrates the population as dupes and bigots and turncoats.
One left-leaning blogger, Ben Cobley, thinks Labour’s problem is the identity politics on which the party has based its entire strategy:
You might see what is happening here: that for a strong tendency within Labour (in London in particular) ethnic minority voters count as ‘us’ while white people are regarded with suspicion as a latent, potential UKIP-supporting ‘them’. We draw ourselves around our core, and this creates our opposition. Labour’s tendency to associate itself with ethnic minorities and others as separate groupings which it specifically claims to represent (for example through ethnic minority, women’s and ‘LGBT’ Manifestos – while the Conservatives produced an ‘English Manifesto’) sends messages not just to those groups but to those who don’t qualify. Those messages say “we represent these people” but not you.
This is why UKIP has been able to draw votes away from the mainstream parties. They appeal both to disaffected Tories and white working-class leftists who feel Labour has disowned them. Cobley thinks the SNP is popular because its identity politics is national rather than racial. In other words, it’s inclusive of all its citizens:
We need to get rid of some sacred cows – open up the party, stop offering favouritism to certain groups and start to embrace equality rather than its opposite. [...] I seriously doubt if the party is even ready to start questioning these things, let alone embarking on such changes, but this is the challenge in my view.
I know many young, left-leaning Britons who agree. Alas, they still appear hopelessly outnumbered by their side’s radical social-justice wing. But now, especially given the open lunacy in our universities, I’m finally seeing pushback against identity politics in both the U.S. and UK.
Many people seem to think that the results of the British general election—a gain of 24 seats for the Tories, giving them a majority—herald a major win for conservatism. They don’t. They herald a major win for the Conservative Party, but just because it calls itself the Conservative Party doesn’t mean it does conservative things.
Actually, the full official name of that party is the “Conservative and Unionist Party,” and last night was not a win for unionism either. The Scottish National Party, once a marginal outfit known outside Scotland only because Sean Connery supported it, picked up 50 seats last night. They utterly destroyed Scottish Labour, which for years was guaranteed the vote of left-wing Scots. Scotland now continues on its chosen path to become a stridently nationalist, one-party socialist state—a kind of Venezuela on the North Sea.
The Tories, meanwhile, have the same problem the Republicans do: they have ceased to be an effective vehicle for the kind of conservatism most of their constituents want. No one trusts they will accomplish anything significant, especially on issues like immigration and the European Union. As someone who reads and has written for British conservative publications, I am surprised the Tories performed as well as they did, given the outright hostility many average, middle-class conservatives have for the party and its leadership. Read the comments below any article in any right-leaning British periodical and you’ll see what I mean.
The Tories’ coalition partner, the Liberal Democrats, was also destroyed yesterday, losing 49 seats. We’ll see what the Conservatives can accomplish over the next five years, but if change comes to Britain, I doubt it will arise from anything David Cameron does. Rather, the party will remain successful, in purely electoral terms, because of forces outside its control. If Scotland leaves the union, it would be a boon for the Conservative Party—there are Conservative politicians who, despite their party’s manifesto, actually want this. (Well, since Labour has been destroyed north of the border, Scotland has already left the union in the sense that matters for general elections.) This might have the effect of making the Tories even more useless: success can breed arrogance, and arrogance can breed indolence and complacence. The Conservatives would continue to prosper even as they became less conservative, there being no incentive to listen to their constituents. Not that they listen to them now.
Even as I write this, I can feel the Overton Window shifting. Let the record show that when a death squad descended on Pamela Geller’s event in Texas with the aim of killing Geller for speaking freely, the “mainstream” response was to provide the death squad with golden parachutes of sophistry and moral equivalence. It was the finest of East Coast intellectual output.
I’ve lost count of how many sophistic articles have been published so far, but surely one of the most egregious came from Noah Feldman, JD, PhD, at Bloomberg View. In opening paragraphs so glib they seem to have oozed out of some used car salesman’s Brylcreemed pompadour, Feldman writes:
It’s easy to be distracted by the condemnation of the crime, which should be absolute. No verbal provocation can justify killing.
But it’s also easy to be distracted by the First Amendment.
Why do people write this kind of thing? What compels someone to consider a case of attempted terrorist murder, arising from the “provocation” of cartoons, and then devote all his forensic acumen to saying, essentially, “Hey! Look over there!”
I wrote last week that the enemies of free speech are slowly nudging their target into the identity-politics framework. In this worldview, there are Oppressors and the Oppressed, and the roles are irreversible. It’s all narrative: the interlocking assumptions that determine how people interpret real-world events. The identity-politics framework sees American society (all of Western civilization, in fact) as a structure, a machine expertly tuned to produce benefits only for the Oppressor. Some people always win; some always lose. Thus Geller is the real aggressor, even when she’s being shot at. The death squad was merely reacting to overwhelming forces within the structure.
Others channel their narrative in a softer, mealy mouthed way, usually with the well practiced preamble “I believe in X, but…,” X being some bedrock value of our country. This latter group is less explicit about their assumptions, probably because they don’t know they have them. You’ll find these people at the more “mainstream” media outlets.
Whether they’re “hards” or “softs”—we could use the old Thatcherite terminology of “wets” and “dries” if you want—the people who argue this way have particular beliefs about power in our country. This is why charging them with hypocrisy never works. After incidents like the Geller event, many conservatives go straight to work documenting the double standard. We’re not allowed to draw Mohammed, the alleged prophet of Islam, but others are allowed to depict Jesus submerged in urine. These articles are necessary, but you’ll have noticed they don’t move the apologist crowd even one inch.
There’s a reason for this. In the identity-politics framework, double standards are necessary and justified. They are a way of balancing the unequal power distribution in the United States. (Trust me that I hate writing sentences with phrases like that.) Just as affirmative action is supposed to correct structural injustice in the economy, gagging people is necessary to stop the “oppression” of designated victim groups. Think of the new obsession with “trigger warnings” and “safe places” on university campuses. This crowd sees free speech as one more tool of power in the Oppressor’s handy box.
Wishing to learn more about the terrorist attack on the Pamela Geller event in Texas, I typed “Pamela Geller” into Google and was rewarded with the following headlines:
“Don’t be fooled by Pamela Geller,” from CNN
“CNN’s Tapper to Pamela Geller: Why Specifically Make Mohammed Target of Event?” from Mediaite
“Who is Pamela Geller?” from Newsweek
“The toxic implication that Pamela Geller had last night’s terror attack in Texas coming,” from Hot Air
In other words, terrorists open fire and the American media go to work with hard-hitting takedowns of…the terrorists’ target. This is what Garry Trudeau might call “punching down.”
I don’t read Geller. She has a, shall we say, heterodox take on what happened in the Balkans after the breakup of Yugoslavia, and it’s sufficiently illiterate for me to distrust whatever else she says about world affairs. And when I want to learn more about Islam, I have Bernard Lewis, Albert Hourani, and Ernest Gellner as able guides.
Nevertheless, Geller has an absolute right to speak, an absolute right to hold events at which people draw the alleged prophet of Islam, and an absolute right to do these things without a self-appointed death squad interrupting the proceedings. That’s it. If your first instinct after a terrorist attack is to go to work on the target, I am entitled to question your priorities. No matter how many “I believe in free speech” preambles I hear, the inevitable “but” that follows is all I’m listening to.
Walter Hudson has already drawn your attention to an article in Salon endorsing urban guerrilla warfare as a viable strategy for “the oppressed.”
It’s important to take articles like this very seriously. One is tempted to shrug—”well, it’s Salon“—and go on with one’s day. But Salon is not The Socialist Worker. It isn’t even what Ramparts used to be. It reaches a much wider audience, and those who read it and write for it are not solely members of obscure sects like the Revolutionary Communist Party. They are registered Democrats and independents. They are students, teachers, journalists, and the baristas at Starbucks. They’re all around.
I cannot detect any significant opposition to the article, written by Benji Hart, in the comments that follow it. Any critical comments are immediately followed by at least one other commenter who supports the article.
The basic logic used in the article is becoming standard in all arguments about racial strife, even if others fall short (for now) of Hart’s conclusion that mass violence is acceptable. As I wrote yesterday, support for rioters comes from a particular kind of thinking. This thinking sees oppression not as something that individuals do, but as a systemic process, as intricate and efficient and predictable as a Swiss watch. In this view, Person A does not oppress Person B. Rather, “society” is structured in such a way as to make any action by Person A oppressive by definition to Person B. Person B is not oppressed by a man, but by The Man.
This is a very dangerous kind of thinking. One effect is to obliterate the importance of individual characteristics. When you shift the locus of responsibility from individuals to “society,” personal morality no longer matters. If Person A works hard, obeys the law, and treats his fellow man kindly and respectfully, he is still an oppressor because of his place in The System. And if Person B robs and kills someone, he can never really be at fault, since his place in The System compels him to do what he does. Worse, if Person B works hard and obeys the law, he is a collaborator. Virtue becomes criminality; criminality becomes virtue.
Support for mass violence is the logical conclusion of this type of thinking. Once you believe that oppression is part of The System, the only way to stop oppression is by destroying The System…and there’s no way to do that without mass violence. The oppressors are not just going to let you change things peacefully, are they?
There’s no effective way to argue against this, in my experience. No statistics, no studies, no logical and rhetorical flourishes, no testimonials, no research or documentation of any kind—nothing will convince someone who has stepped onto this merry-go-round of unfalsifiable thinking. The most you can do is to point out the remorselessness of the logic and the Stygian places it usually leads…and to prep yourselves as these arguments become more common in the United States.
Evidently “riot shaming” is an actual concept now: a human being’s neurons actually misfired so spectacularly as to produce the idea that opposing mass violence, destruction, and theft is worse than the mass violence, destruction, and theft themselves.
The riot-shaming is getting old. Burning things down has always had a place historically. I wish ppl on would quit pretending otherwise.
— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek) April 28, 2015
The internal logic goes something like this. Oppression is a system. Criminal violence is resistance. If you are oppressed, any level of violence is justified to break through The System. The more criminal you are, the more oppressed you must be. All violence is a product of The System and not your own immorality.
There is no way out of this perfect circle of apologism once you’ve entered it.
As Baltimore burned, the rest of us tweeted.
The riots followed a weekend in which GoFundMe shut down a fundraising page for a Christian-owned bakery that was hit with a huge fine for refusing to serve a gay wedding. GoFundMe has said its policy precludes raising money “in defense of formal charges of heinous crimes, including violent, hateful, or sexual acts.” The key word here is “hateful”: if you can expand or contract that word at will—which many people in this country can and do—you can accomplish anything.
Every week this country is consumed in a new distended orgy of polarized, mutual hatred, set against the backdrop of outrage mobs, race riots, shuttered businesses, scandals, Twitter-induced career ruination, gleeful smear parties, and partisan hackery.
Admit it: You’ve asked yourself where America is going, and how long it can survive the trip. Admit it.
Usually people think you’re crazy for asking this. But the New Normal has prompted Ace of Spades to ask: “Is it time to formally separate America into two or more sovereign nations?”
“No one actually seems happy in this national marriage,” writes Ace. That is sadly true.
I’m not advocating a national schism. I don’t want it. I want a union. I want a flag with 50 stars.
But what I want doesn’t matter. Larger forces are at work here, and it seems to me that a dispassionate assessment of the United States in 2015 must include the possibility of a major rupture in our social and political order within ten years. Probably less.
Now, some people will say, “You 30-year-old know-nothing, you weren’t around for Vietnam. Everyone thought the country would come apart then, but it didn’t. Then we got Reagan!”
To which I say: You’re right, I wasn’t around for Vietnam. Maybe I don’t know anything. But I think the country is quite different from the one that existed in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s. We are different politically, economically, ideologically, demographically…pretty much in every way that matters. I think that conservatives who are waiting for a new Reagan are deluded, and dangerously so. They have been lulled into thinking that things will just get better as a matter of cyclical routine. Everything stays the same…until everything is different.
I’m not so sure “getting better” is possible anymore, or at least not possible before some major rupture once again makes it possible. I hope I’m wrong. I hope I look back at this post in 2020 and laugh at myself. But who honestly thinks they’ll be laughing in 2020?
One of the more salient lessons to take away from the Trayvon Martin-George Zimmerman tragedy (and it is a tragedy on multiple levels) is that the bad faith of Race, Inc. knows no bounds. It is a ruthless, pitiless, greedy, bloodthirsty, and vicious perversion of what it claims to be. It is, remember, a profit-making industry in which there is much largesse and renown to be made. And just like any profit-making entity based on an ideology, that ideology will twist and transform and adapt under any and all circumstances to preserve its status. This means that, when its essential narrative is under fire, Race, Inc. must change the rules, if temporarily. Under normal circumstances, though Hispanics are strictly speaking not a race, they are treated as such to advance a particular narrative. Zimmerman, who has Peruvian ancestry, would be considered an Approved Victim under such circumstances. But these were not normal circumstances, so things had to change. For media purposes during this whole fiasco, Zimmerman was made into a white surrogate. Race is indeed socially constructed, but what matters is who’s doing the constructing.
After the not-guilty verdict was handed down, I tweeted: “So a Hispanic shoots a black and is acquitted by women, but it’s still white men’s fault.” This, being a tweet, was somewhat glib, but I was amazed at the response I got. (Rod Dreher at The American Conservative called it his favorite tweet of the night. Thanks, Rod.) It touched a nerve with people; they were sincerely shaking their heads over how this case could be turned into an example of white racism. Then we get articles telling us that “white supremacy” acquitted Zimmerman. There is no arguing with such people. As I’ve written before, arguing that “white supremacy” controls the American legal system is a conspiracy theory similar to antisemitism. There is no real argument against it because it is unfalsifiable: the purveyors of the theory recognize no limiting principle to their idea, no point at which they would concede a point by the opposition. That in itself could be the very definition of radicalism: the absence of a limiting principle. To these people, everything, from the rules of a jury trial to the statutes themselves to the grammar of standard English, is tainted by whiteness. There is no escape. That’s their logic.
The “white supremacy” charge comes partly from the allegation that Zimmerman profiled Martin because of the latter’s race. In theory, those who hold this view are motivated by the honorable notion that all people should be treated as individuals. In practice, however, the radical extent to which they’ve taken this view has led to the result that there cannot be ANY interaction between a black and a white in which the black is not in some way seen as the victim of racism. To the more radical opponents of the trial’s verdict, there is no possible way that Martin wasn’t profiled; that he was the victim of racism is as a priori true as that 2+2=4. This means, further, that there are no circumstances under which blacks are to be guilty of anything. Still further, any and all trials that involve blacks and whites are metaphysical travesties unless the black is ruled innocent and the white guilty.
You can see, then, how radical ideology, any radical ideology, poisons a legal system. The purpose of a trial is to present empirical evidence and facts, all held together by a logical narrative of events, to arrive at responsibility for a particular charge. (Radicals sometimes think “logic” and “facts” are themselves white constructs.) Radical logic, whether far-left notions of “white supremacy” or actual white supremacy as in the KKK, runs counter to that behind a fair legal system. For radicalism forces its adherents to hold particular views; all judgments are pre-determined. There is, therefore, only one fair outcome to any trial.
This is ripping the United States apart.
I have finally identified exactly what is so irritating about reading Andrew Sullivan these days: He rigs every one of his arguments so that disagreement with him on even the smallest point necessarily entails absolute moral decrepitude on your part. Sullivan does this by carefully positioning himself above the fray-in-question by first criticizing “both sides.” That’s step 1: establish an untainted position for oneself free from association with any embarrassing figures of the left or right. After assuming this above-the-fray vantage point, thereby cloaking himself in moral purity, Sullivan moves to step 2, which is to use his new strategic position to fire exaggerated judgments at cartoon versions of his opponents, which these days is almost exclusively “the right.” Every single argument is rendered in the most extreme moralistic language possible, so that taking issue with particulars is not possible; you’re either all in or all out. You are either Sullivan, in which case you are very moral, or not, in which case you are very, very bad.
His response to the not-guilty verdict of the George Zimmerman displays all these characteristics. You really must read it yourself to get the full flavor. I refuse to quote it here, though I have linked to it. Look, all commentators and opinion journalists are prone to self-righteousness, hyperbole, and so on. It’s the nature of writing about politics. I’m not immune to it. No one is. And there is a time and a place for anger and ad hominem…if it is directed at a particular person who has said or written a specific and clearly bad thing. But this kind of angry shotgun writing, which sprays its venom everywhere and which very nearly equates the idea of self-defense against a black person with legalized lynching, is one of the most egregious cases I’ve seen, especially from someone who claims the “pragmatic” conservative legacy of Oakeshott.
I didn’t want to do it. I said I wouldn’t. Hypertension runs in my family. But owing to a tweet by James Taranto, I was pulled inexorably into reading this perfectly atrocious piece in The Nation by Aura Bogado, who covers “racial justice, native rights and immigration.” (“Natives,” in this context, probably does not include most people who were born in the United States.) The title of her piece is “White Supremacy Acquits George Zimmerman.” I’ll give you a few seconds to guess what Ms. Bogado has concluded from the not-guilty verdict.
To wit: “This verdict is a crystal-clear illustration of the way white supremacy operates in America.”
One paragraph must unfortunately be quoted in full:
In the last few days, Latinos in particular have spoken up again about Zimmerman’s race, and the “white Hispanic” label especially, largely responding to social media users and mass media pundits who employed the term. Watching Zimmerman in the defense seat, his sister in the courtroom, and his mother on the stand, one can’t deny the skin color that informs their experience. They are not white. Yet Zimmerman’s apparent ideology—one that is suspicious of black men in his neighborhood, the “assholes who always get away—” is one that adheres to white supremacy. It was replicated in the courtroom by his defense, whose team tore away at Rachel Jeantel, questioning the young woman as if she was taking a Jim Crow–era literacy test. A defense that, during closing, cited slave-owning rapist Thomas Jefferson, played an animation for the jury based on erroneous assumptions, made racially coded accusations about Trayvon Martin emerging “out of the darkness,” and had the audacity to compare the case of the killing of an unarmed black teenager to siblings arguing over which one stole a cookie.
So, to give a precis of Ms. Abogado’s logic: George Zimmerman is not white, but insofar as he does bad things, those bad things are “white.” No true Hispanic would be so racist as to shoot a black person; he is merely acting according to white societal hypnosis. This is textbook Whiteness Studies, according to which White = Bad, and Not White = Good, so that insofar as Not White = Bad, the Bad =/= Not White. It’s a neat and internally consistent little word game that people in academia and journalism play with one another. (See “No True Scotsman.”)
In practice, the Whiteness Studies game works as follows: All bad things are labeled “white supremacy,” which is defined as a complete and total system of “white” bourgeois logic, law, custom, etc. This system is so pervasive that even when a non-white person does something ostensibly racist, he is only acting according to “white logic,” thus his or her racism is actually white racism. Much of this derives from the theories of the pseudoscientist Frances Cress Welsing, whose definition of racism was white supremacy. Again, word games.
Whiteness Studies works exactly the same way classical antisemitism works, and still does work. Jews are said to be controlling absolutely everything, including people’s consciousness. The Jew is responsible for everything bad, because everything bad is, to the antisemite, the definition of Jewishness. There is no way out of this logic, which is total and pitiless, once its initial premise has been granted. It is a conspiracy theory and thus immune to reason and argument. True white supremacists play this game too. They take everything wrong with society and say it’s the product of non-white values, forces, etc. In formulating her “theory” of “white supremacy,” then, Bogado, too, is operating according to white supremacist logic. Her theory–rather, its essential thought process — is not new. Today it’s called Whiteness Studies and gets people tenure and good salaries at universities. In 1933, in Leipzig or Frankfurt am Main, it would have been known as something else.
Over at The Douche, ex-journalist Andrew Sullivan writes the following:
“So far as I can tell, this president has done nothing illegal, unethical or even wrong.”
He’s reacting to a column by Peggy Noonan that describes the IRS scandal as “the worst Washington scandal since Watergate.” You can either agree with that or not, but you cannot so glibly dismiss, as Sullivan does, the systemic implications of each of these assaults on the American public. “But how exactly is all this a crippling scandal for the president?” Sullivan asks, employing the singular rather than the plural, and apparently unaware that The White House is in panic mode. “He is not involved in any of these issues directly.” (Sullivan is still stuck on the “low-level” talking point; he’s willing to be outraged so long as that outrage doesn’t extend beyond the borders of a regional IRS office.) Then: “I guess what I’m saying is that my own confidence in this president’s integrity and abilities is completely unfazed by these unconnected stories.”
I won’t quote anymore of this nonsense, lest people begin to suspect they should actually read it. To paraphrase a character from the movie The Paper, how stupid does Sullivan think we are? What does he think we get when we put two and two together? Three? Three and a half? The notion that no high-level official had any knowledge of, or guiding hand in, the IRS scandal is risible. It simply can’t be believed by anyone with some knowledge of politics and history.
Like Glenn Greenwald, Sullivan’s main rhetorical trope is a cranky self-righteousness, according to which we mere non-Sullivans are all just hateful little machines reflexively performing our hateful little duties. Let this creepy self-worship turn you off from him forever.
A hobby of mine is to keep up with the ever-shifting arguments of Holocaust deniers. I do this mainly because it provides me with insight into how insane liars operate. I also do this because it is every decent person’s responsibility to defend history from the lunatic fringe, and doing so requires keeping up with both the latest scholarship as well as the latest pseudo-scholarship.
When you spend enough time reading denialist literature–indeed, if you spend enough time reading conspiracy theorists in general–you notice the same methods and tendencies appear over and over. One of these is what I call the Law of Mutually Exclusive Exculpations. This is when different denialists propose different but mutually contradictory versions of the conspiracy theory. A weird kind of theoretical inbreeding develops wherein the theorists begin to quote and support one another, absorbing these different arguments into their own narratives, which they continually revise, despite all the narratives contradicting one another.
Holocaust deniers do it all the time. The Holocaust never happened, some say. Others say it happened, but it was exaggerated. There were no gas chambers. There were gas chambers, but they were used only for delousing. The Nazis didn’t do it. Actually, they did but Hitler didn’t know about it. Actually, he did know about it but tried to stop it. And so on and so on. Each of these theories contradicts the others, but all deniers seem to support every one of these theories, so long as the general theme of making light of the “official narrative” is maintained. The objective is not to get at the truth, but to subvert it at all costs, even at the expense of internal consistency.
Scandal denial is no different. I hate to traffic in Godwin’s Law and lump people in with Holocaust deniers, but as a lesson in rhetorical slipperiness it needs to be done. Shape-shifting and mutually contradictory arguments are thrown at the wall like wet toilet paper, in the hopes that some of it will stick. The IRS targeted conservatives, but it was only “local officials” who did it. Actually, it was Washington officials too, but this is somehow still “local.” Actually, the IRS didn’t target conservatives. OK, the IRS was just doing its job in targeting conservatives. Actually, it was “bad management,” but it was still good management since it was justified. Somehow, in the denialist universe, all these arguments obtain simultaneously. Each is valid even though each is contradicted by the other. We are expected to be so stupid and naive as to believe all of them.
Joanne Chesimard, perhaps better known as “Assata Shakur,” was convicted in 1977 of murdering New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster four years earlier. A member of the so-called Black Liberation Army, Chesimard was sprung from jail by her radical friends and fled to Cuba, the land of milk and honey. The New York Times reports that the FBI has now placed her on the agency’s notorious Most Wanted list. “She became the first woman named to the list, and only the second domestic terrorist, the agency said,” according to the Times.
In a world where most violent crime is committed by males, it is nice to see that the FBI is embracing progressive standards of diversity and equality by putting a woman on their Most Wanted list. This is a glorious day for progress and social justice. For years, women have had to endure the FBI’s sexist glass ceiling imposed on the Most Wanted list; this is a step toward ensuring a more proportional representation on that list.
According to Lennox S. Hinds, a professor of “criminal justice” at Rutgers, however, “There is no evidence that she in fact either caused the death or was involved in the shooting of the state trooper.”
“The attempt at this point by the New Jersey State Police to characterize her as a terrorist is designed to inflame the public who may be unfamiliar with the facts,” said Professor Hinds, who clearly opposes the FBI’s new policy of progressive diversity and equality.
Mr. Foerster could not be reached for comment.
Not that anyone should care too much, but Ron Paul has started a “foreign policy institute” called the “Institute for Peace and Prosperity.” (If you oppose it, therefore, you’re against Peace and Prosperity!) Be sure to brace yourselves for hard-hitting analyses from the Charles Lindbergh-Noam Chomsky wing of the libertarian movement, which, as this article from The Daily Caller demonstrates, will compose a chunk of the institute’s “academic board.”
Since surviving in a radical movement means continually adopting increasingly more radical positions, it’s not surprising that this “academic board” features several 9/11 Truthers. After all, the Truth is out there, folks, and what better way to obtain it than to listen to those who think that the CIA/George Bush/Ariel Sharon/ExxonMobil/a race of lizards took down the World Trade Center?
That Daily Caller article is interesting for another reason. As you’ll notice, the comments section has been completely hijacked by Ron Paul’s Red Guards. When they smell the blood of a wounded neocon, they come a-swimmin’ in from all corners of the Internet. Go have a look.
There are several phony arguments making their way through the “progressive” quarters of the commentariat that need to be addressed at once. One of them goes like this: We can’t blame Islam for the the Boston terror bombings because that would be committing “the sin of essentialism,” to quote Marc Ambinder at The Week. The brilliant if unintended non-sequitur is that since not all Muslims are terrorists, therefore no Muslims are terrorists, or at least no terrorists are actually Muslim. Think about that one. This has actually cleared an editor.
But the anti-essentialists want to have it both ways. They chide others for thinking (allegedly, as I’ve never seen one credible writer actually make this argument) that Islam is a completely violent religion, even as they argue that it is a “religion of peace.” Well, if it is a sin to boil Islam down to any single essence, the proscription works in both directions, and it’s just as ridiculous to say it’s completely evil than that it’s completely peaceful.
The other pernicious argument is a variation on the anti-essentialist theme. These people adopt a form of linguistic slipperiness, in which “Islam” as a concept is said to be undefinable and amorphous. To use the unfortunate language of postmodernism, it is an “unstable” concept. Nobody, then, is *really* a Muslim. Following this internal logic, nobody can *really* be a Muslim terrorist. Get it?
The obvious flaw in this argument is that if no one can really be motivated by Islam, nobody can really be motivated by Islamophobia. (How can you hate that which doesn’t exist?) I doubt the anti-essentialists would consent to this corollary. It also ignores the, well, pretty important fact that the bombers were obsessed with radical Islam!
I have put the following question to many people since last week, and no one has chosen to answer it. If a black church is burned to the ground, and the crime traced to a white kid with a swastika hanging in his room and a YouTube account full of KKK and Nazi videos, are we allowed to say the crime was the result of white supremacism? What we have in the Boston terror attacks is, mutatis mutandis, the exact analogue of that crime.
Now that an Islamist terror plot has been exposed in friendly ol’ Canada, do you think that certain Deep Thinkers will relinquish the theory that U.S. foreign policy creates terrorism? Of course not. This is about as central to their worldview as anti-psychiatry is to the Scientologists. They’re not about to ditch such a convenient meta-narrative in the face of mounting counter-evidence. That would be positively un-radical.
People who actually pay attention to international affairs, and who read more than one news source, know that Islamist terror is not confined to American targets. Hell, the vast majority of targets are non-American. Mosques in Iraq. Tourist sites in Bali. Mumbai. Madrid. London. Argentina. Algeria. Etc. ad nauseum. Are these Deep Thinkers so Americocentric they think everything is about us and us alone?
Well, they might reply, U.S. foreign policy might not be the cause of all terror, but it is a cause of some terror.. In that case, I urge that they turn to a wonderful collection called The Al Qaeda Reader, edited by Raymond Ibrahim. Mr. Ibrahim demonstrates that our foes love to talk out of both sides of their mouths. When the propaganda is directed to Western audiences, it’s all about anti-imperialism, woe-is-me theatrics. The willing recipients of this message are the useful (and useless) idiots in the West. When the terrorists talk amongst themselves, however, the message conveyed through internal memos and letters is one of pure religious fanaticism.
Dupes will always be dupes, especially if they want to be duped.
Glenn Greenwald is a member of that curious group of (exclusively) Western writers who are best referred to as pseudo-dissidents. A pseudo-dissident is not just someone who devotes his every waking breath to deligitimizing Western civilization; he does so while adopting the pose of the genuine dissident, those who, like Havel and Sakharov (both of whom they usually despise), have lived under truly oppressive regimes. The pseudo-dissident imbues his work with the paranoid sense that he is the brave Cassandra whose views of The Truth are ruthlessly suppressed by a corporate-media oligarchy–instead of realizing that those views are usually too insipid or stupid or radical to be taken seriously by average people. He usually expounds these views in the same corporate media said to be suppressing him, or else in packed lecture halls in which he is given a nice percentage of the door charge, and a significant stipend by the group who solicited his bile in denouncing profits and mass marketing.
Despite this pretense of brave dissident obscurity, the most well known American pseudo-dissidents, such as Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, are acclaimed and widely read authors–unjustifiably so, but it’s true nevertheless. Their views are standard on university campuses across the world. Greenwald himself has a perch at the Guardian, a highly regarded British newspaper. Not many people have such opportunities. Instead of putting his own to good use, Greenwald writes things such as the following, on the recent death of Margaret Thatcher:
“Demanding that no criticisms be voiced to counter that hagiography is to enable false history and a propagandistic whitewashing of bad acts, distortions that become quickly ossified and then endure by virtue of no opposition and the powerful emotions created by death. When a political leader dies, it is irresponsible in the extreme to demand that only praise be permitted but not criticisms.”
Greenwald imagines that he is the lone voice criticizing Thatcher, the brave dissident in the howling-mad wilderness. Meanwhile, the hard Left in both the United States and the U.K. is busy crafting savage and sociopathic denunciations of a woman who had more courage in her two front teeth than they have had in the entire history of their wretched movement.
Greenwald’s own criticisms of Thatcher are that she spoke well of Augusto Pinochet and General Suharto–as opposed to his hero Noam Chomsky’s praises of and excuses for Mao, Pol Pot, and Slobodan Milosevic. (Greenwald is a confirmed Chomsky fanboy, about which more in due course.) He also accuses her of basically starting the Persian Gulf War; his source on this historical analysis is a post on the website of Michael Moore. The unstated corollary of Greenwald’s criticism is that Kuwait should have been left to the exclusive personal use of Saddam Hussein. That, in learned circles, is known as “anti-imperialism.”
I know of no one saying that Thatcher is beyond criticism. If someone is expressing this view, it’s not one I agree with. The complaint is that one should not say that a Western democratic leader is rotting in hell, or some ugly variation, and then cite conservative criticism of Hugo Chavez on the occasion of his death as license for this filth. This supposedly shows our “hypocrisy.” It is a classic Chomskyist tactic; it sets up a dubious moral equivalence between the leader of an essentially free society, constrained by the rule of law and a free press, and an authoritarian huckster who jailed critics and wrecked his own civil society.
Kim Jong-un right now is like the drunk meathead in the bar on Saturday night, strutting around looking for a fight. There is almost nothing that can be done to defuse the situation except to leave.
The North Korean regime is, as scholars like B.R. Myers have noted, based on a certain kind of rhetoric and spin-doctoring. This is piped into society on a constant basis through DPRK propaganda channels. It really doesn’t matter what the U.S. government says to North Korea: if we rebuke them strongly, Pyongyang spins it as imperialist aggression; if we stay quiet, Pyongyang spins it as Yankee cowardice.
Think of the meathead in the bar again. If you talk back to him, he wants to fight. If you look away, you’re considered weak and he wants to fight. Back-and-forth exchanges are pointless and have only one outcome: his desired, pre-conceived outcome of conflict. Just leave.
What’s the international/diplomatic equivalent of “leaving” in this case? Quiet strength. Washington should quietly and calmly prepare for conflict while ignoring Kim Jong-un’s rhetoric. Whatever strength he has is based on that rhetoric, and by refusing to respond, we remove its persuasive power. We’ve already rebuked him. That’s fine and justified, but once is enough. North Korea and the world know our position. Do not legitimize Kim’s aggression further by responding rhetorically. He will say we’re weak, but he says that already. Nothing will change. Respond strategically instead.
This will not damage U.S. prestige. Prestige is based on strength and soft power, among other things. The Pentagon seems to be following this strategy. Good. It claims to be “reducing” rhetoric, though ours was never amped up in the first place–quite moderate, in fact, which is where it should stay, as that befits a mature superpower. No, libertarians and paleocons, missile-defense systems on Guam is not “aggression”; it is quiet, efficient strength. Bear in mind, however, that another war in the Korean peninsula itself would be an absolute disaster. Thousands upon thousands would die. China could be sucked in, based on who initiates. Everybody just take a deep breath and stay calm.
Once again, remaining strong but quiet is the only conceivable option to defuse the situation. It’s unclear whether Pyongyang truly wants a war. What they want, however, is immaterial, as the situation is now based on the minutiae of strategy and subtle military movements. The slightest one could tip the scales, regardless of what any leader wants. As crazy as Kim sounds, I think he’s lucid enough to know that initiating conflict against the U.S., or a U.S.-backed ally, will be suicide. Then again, he knows that goading the U.S. into making a wrong move could mean that he could spin it as a U.S.-initiated conflict, thus drawing in China and starting a global agitprop war against the U.S.
That’s my two cents for now.
I have “come out,” as it were, on the screens of this venerable website several times in my support for same-sex marriage. I don’t do this to annoy people or to be a “contrarian” or to curry favor with various groups that value image over substance; I have drawn this conclusion based on the rather unfashionable classical liberalism in which I have believed, to one degree or another, since I became politically conscious.
What disturbs me now, however, and what has always disturbed me, is that the primary driving force behind gay-marriage legalization is not people who believe in individual rights. This push is, rather, largely the work of the identitarian New Left, the same Marxoid juggernaut that has brought us some of the most destructive policies and concepts in our history. What should be a movement based on individual liberty is actually a Frankfurt School-tinged movement of identity politics. It’s true that the pro-gay marriage crowd contains a truly diverse group of people: there are libertarians (Reason magazine), center-left liberals (most mainstream Democrats), neoconservatives (Dick Cheney), moderate conservatives (Ron Radosh), pseudo-conservatives (Andrew Sullivan), and many others. But behind this diverse vanguard one detects the greasy and despotic hand of the radical ’60s Left. I don’t mind standing with the former; I DO mind standing with the latter, since if you give them an inch, they take a mile, and that mile usually leads somewhere not too pleasant.
I have a feeling that if the push to end DOMA and Prop 8 were primarily the work of Reason or the Ayn Rand Institute, certain traditionalist conservatives would be at least slightly more amenable to it. This would be because the implicit threat of future civil-rights lawsuits against, say, churches that refuse to marry gays would be a moot point. No Cato Institute senior fellow wants to file suit against the Catholic Church for exercising its First Amendment rights. Social conservatives know this; they trust libertarians enough even if they don’t agree with them.
In my previous post, I mentioned in passing that school-vouchers need to be revived as a key issue for Republicans. I’ll broaden this and say that education in general should be moved to the center of the debate. For too long the Democrats have been allowed to slide by without having to talk about how they’ve helped to wreck the American public-education system. Putting education front and center will highlight the absolute devastation that liberal “education” has brought to lower-class black and white kids; it will also target an area of our public life that is a key part of the cultural “narrative” in this country.
There is a caveat to this, though: The issue has to be talked about as though it were a local issue. Voters are tired of hearing issues talked about in the abstract: “We will fund education,” “we will protect our children’s future,” “we will go after unions,” etc. It’s bogus. No one listens. Be like Reagan: frame the issue in smaller, working-class terms. Win over a new segment of Reagan Democrats. There are plenty of blue-collar types out there, many of them Democrats, who aren’t and have never been fully on-board with the interest-group liberalism of that party. I know many of these people. Long Island, where many local Democrats tend to be pretty conservative fiscally and culturally, is full of them.
There are also many younger teachers who are seeing how difficult it is to get full-time jobs in today’s education system. They are stuck with subbing, or teaching in inner-city schools full of apathy and violence. If they do get a full-time gig, it’s with a private school or charter school, and they are surprised at the quality. I had a liberal acquaintance recently tell me she’s sick to death of the rhetoric against private schools by unions and their Democratic enablers.
Do NOT frame the issue in theoretical, abstract, elitist terms. Don’t say you’re going to abolish the Department of Education. (Good idea, but not prudent at this juncture.) Don’t say anything except that Democrats are destroying education, have been doing so for at least 50 years, and that’s it’s time for a change. Then lay out an agenda: better standards, foreign-language instruction at earlier ages, English grammar, funding for science, etc. Lay off tax cuts for a minute and first win over some people with other dinner-table issues.
“But, but, but…that’s abandoning our principles of tax cuts!” No, it’s not. Who said anything about abandoning that? It’s simply forcing the other side to talk about an issue they understandably don’t want to confront. It’s not “re-branding”; it’s putting your full brand forward. Liberals have NO ideas on education. NONE. The record is pure failure.
There needs to be some heavy linkage here too, including tying the issue of education to urban blight in general. Detractors will say that Republicans have tried this before and that it hasn’t worked, the media doesn’t listen, the culture’s rigged, blah blah blah. Well, you have to try. If you hammer away at this loudly and often enough, it will become part of the so-called national debate. It should be part of the more general strategy of putting the Left on the defensive. I know it’s tough with the media. But the way to handle the media’s power is by refusing to answer every little charge of “racism” and instead hammering away at some fresh new issues. They will eventually be forced to cover what we’re talking about.
Keep everyone on their toes by triangulating, linking, refusing to answer “racism” charges, and introducing frequently ignored issues. Change the subject frequently and don’t let them get too comfortable. When they think they have the answers, change the questions. Stage media stunts. Contracts with America, Tea Party rallies in Washington. (How about a Contract with the Children of America?) Take a page out of Rand Paul’s book and hammer away at something seemingly irrelevant and insignificant. Was the federal government about to drone us all to death while we sipped our lattes at Starbucks? No, but Paul dominated the news cycle by essentially staging a 13-hour magic show in which he used a very-nearly-fringe viewpoint to trick even liberals into agreeing with him. If we can figure out a way to do THAT with every issue, or at least a few issues, we can regain some control.
I suppose I’d have to write a post like this sooner or later. All the cool kids are doing it — diagnosing the ills of the Republican Party and then offering a few of their own analgesics. Most of these articles strike me as smart if a little naive. Too many of them fall for the false dichotomy on which the notion of “rebranding” is based: that the Republican Party needs to be either completely and totally orthodox conservative, Jessie Helms-style, or completely and totally orthodox centrist, Lowell Weicker-style. This kind of all-or-nothing logic is going to keep us all arguing in circles until we lose the next election.
I use the word “we” somewhat lightly, as I’m technically a registered independent. As a classical liberal independent, however, I see no reason ever to vote for a Democrat. I know plenty of Dems on a personal level and find those particular individuals to be wonderful people, but let’s face it, the national party is a gang of thieves and liars. I know this is the part where I’m supposed to berate “both sides” for doing it, but you know what, I’m sick of that. Pick a side and fight for it, even if you don’t agree with it 100%. I’ve picked my side and am going to fight for it, even though I disagree with conservatives and Republicans all the time. No two people agree on every issue. It would actually be creepy if they did.
So don’t “rebrand.” Screw THAT. If you don’t agree with gay marriage, then don’t agree with it. Me? I happen to think the government should not be involved in anybody’s marriage, which means I’m a de facto supporter of gay marriage. Some conservatives will hate me for this. Fine. I am not changing to make them happy, nor do I expect the traditional marriage people to change to suit me. Instead, we should band together and keep the fusionism thing alive, because ultimately we both agree that the problem is the Juggernaut State and its gang of grifters and hangers-on that is destroying the United States of America. There’s no marriage to save, gay or traditional, if we’re all poor and unemployed.
How does this translate to the level of pragmatic strategy? I’m not exactly sure. But whatever it is needs to have a very large cultural component to it. Moving to “the center” will do nothing because the legacy media will, at the end of the day, happily assassinate the centrists at election time. What good does that do? Ask not-President Dole and never-was-President McCain and never-will-be-President Romney how that all worked out.
Perhaps try to infiltrate the universities? Start a MASSIVE fundraising campaign to set up scholarships for conservative students and Young Republican clubs? Could work. It’s worth a shot. Beef up their presence a little bit. This isn’t rebranding so much as it’s branding in the first place; conservatives currently have no voice on campuses. Other students, many of whom are naturally conservative, are deathly afraid to speak up.
That’s the general idea. There’s no magic bullet to solve this problem. It simply involves getting ordinary people interested in conservative ideas. This doesn’t necessarily mean standing around like Lyndon LaRouche groupies and handing out flyers, but it means getting people’s attention in charismatic ways. I hate to use this language, but there needs to be a new cultural vanguard out there, or at least a decent counterweight to what we have now. (Easier said than done, I know). There’s a LOT of talent out there that needs to be mainstreamed. I would like to see a guy like Andrew Wilkow with his own prime time TV show on Fox. Mark Levin, too. These are rhetorical geniuses who wipe the floor with just about everyone who argues with them. Who else out there can do this? Can we recruit any young conservative commentators from the U.K.? Think of what a British accent would do for us.
The question is not what the Party is going to do, but what are you going to do? When you get up in the morning to eat your Wheaties or drag that razor over your tired face, ask yourself: What am I going to do today to help promote my ideas? Will you donate? Will you attend rallies? Will you start a think tank? Will you start a publication? Will you help set up a Conservative Healthcare Charity for those who don’t have insurance?
The most important thing is not to feel sorry for yourself. And DON’T apologize. And definitely DO push for school vouchers, because that’s part of the cultural drive as well.
That’s all for now. As you can see, I didn’t solve the problem with a magic math equation. Nor did I resort to pol worship and say how wonderful and oh-so-beautiful and great and perfect will be the future under Marco Rubio or Rand Paul or Paul Ryan any of these other people. We should learn from Hayek that central planning can’t solve a problem like this: we all need to do our part individually and the invisible hand will take care of the rest.
A day after “International Women’s Day,” a femino-fascist spectacle in which pampered nitwits take to Facebook to protest non-existent forms of oppression, I read in the Telegraph that “controversy has erupted over next Tuesday’s European Parliament resolution ‘on eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU,’ meant to mark international women’s day…”:
“The proposal ‘calls on the EU and its member states to take concrete action on discrimination against women in advertising… [with] a ban on all forms of pornography in the media.’”
Proposed by a Dutch femino-fascist ironically named Kartika Liotard, the measure would technically not be legally binding, something that simultaneously proves the ridiculousness of the proposal itself as well as the ugly and oppressive uselessness of the “European Project.”
The report continues:
“Rick Falkvinge, the founder of the Swedish Pirate Party which campaigns for internet freedom and has MEPs, warned that there is ‘a clear majority in favour of this report, much because of its title and a belief that there’s nothing odd about it.’”
It is an odd day in hell, is it not, when a libertarian Swede is sounding the warning bells against the politically correct Eurocracy?
As it happens, I am in the middle of writing an essay on the nastiness of the European Project–its essentially doomed character, its contempt for the people it claims to represent, and its unique ability to fuse the worst elements of the far left and the far right as a result of its tyrannical mission creep.
Also from the report:
“The MEPs are also demanding the establishment of state sex censors with ‘a mandate to impose effective sanctions on companies and individuals promoting the sexualisation of girls.’”
This is what happens, ladies and gentleman, when you allow gender fascism to become a mainstreamed ideology. Men who find women sexy or “hot” are said to be “objectifying” women. The inevitable corollary is that male sexuality comes to be seen as a pathology in need of correcting. As is the case with all totalitarian ideologies, the bar for being deemed pathological becomes progressively lower, for a totalitarian is NEVER satisfied. After pornography, it will be flirting on the Brussels agenda.
Just you wait. Oh, just you wait.
Exactly sixty years ago today, Iosef Vissarionovich Djugashvili, the Georgian son of an illiterate shoemaker, and better known to the world as Joseph Stalin, died in his bed. The relative peacefulness of his death, set against the ruthless torment he inflicted on millions of his “own” people, is emblematic of why Robert Conquest called the twentieth century “the ravaged century.”
It was a time filled with the relentless pursuit of empty ideologies. We will never know the full extent of this madness–Boris Pasternak wrote of the Holodomor that it “would not fit within the bounds of consciousness”–although historians like the brilliant Timothy Snyder are slowly filling in the gaps in our knowledge. Stalin’s atrocities were not limited to the Gulag, but extended into the fringes of the Soviet empire, in the barren landscapes of Ukraine and Eastern Europe (what Snyder calls “the bloodlands”) where millions were starved (both intentionally and accidentally) as a result of Communist greed before, during, and after the Second World War.
Immediately after Stalin’s death, the Soviet government began to acknowledge the breadth of his cruelty. Everyone knows about Khrushchev’s “secret speech,” but this did not completely exorcise Stalin’s ghost from Soviet or Russian society. During glasnost and perestroika in the 1980s, the Communist government admitted even more embarrassing horrors like the Katyn massacre; the opening of Soviet archives during the Yeltsin era, after the USSR’s dissolution, carried this process of discovery further forward. Historians and researchers, however, still have millions of documents to tackle. This work, I believe, is a moral duty to the victims.
One document in particular, for me, symbolizes everything that is cruel and unusual and horrible about ideology in general and Communism and Stalin in particular. It comes from a transcript of Stalin’s comments at an October 1932 meeting with Maksim Gorky and other prominent writers in a Moscow villa. At that meeting, Stalin said:
“As someone here rightly said, the writer cannot sit still, he must get to know the life of the country. Rightly said. Men are transforming life. That is why I propose a toast to the engineers of human souls.”
As if we needed more irony, Stalin’s death coincided with one of the greatest scientific discoveries in history: James Watson’s and Francis Crick’s (and, yes, Rosalind Franklin’s) discovery of the double-helical structure of DNA in March 1953. This discovery, and the research that followed it, has saved many lives and has dissolved many secrets about cancer, genetics, and disease. This was the work of the truly democratic West, and those scientists didn’t need a mountain of skulls or a five-year plan to accomplish it.
There are still many in Russia and the former Soviet republics who are nostalgic for Communism—I’ve met and talked to them; it’s a gruesome spectacle to hear Stalin’s name invoked positively—but few seem interested in the real accomplishments of free societies. Theirs is a world of shame and self-pity and envy. Be glad you live where you do, dear readers.
It happened faster than McDonald’s changes its menu from breakfast to lunch, capturing the unsuspecting customer off guard: the media-class has euthanized Bob Woodward like a rabid pitbull. He is now old and senile. Not a very good reporter anyway. Never was. He made up that conversation with Bill Casey in his book about the CIA. His books were written by ghostwriters, in fact. He’s on the Breitbart payroll. He’s not even real: the name Bob Woodward is a pseudonym, an alternate identity that Henry Kissinger set up in the late 60s. Bob Woodward engineered the secret bombing of Cambodia. In fact, we’ve just learned that Woodward was the one who broke into DNC headquarters, then covered it up by making himself lead reporter on the case to alter all the evidence. Carl Bernstein is actually Marty Peretz in a wig. It was part of the lead up to the October surprise to get Reagan elected by funneling money to the Iranians in exchange for hostages.
By the way, the media are cackling like well fed hens that the emails between Woodward and Gene Sperling are not threatening. But no one seems to be focusing on Sperling’s opening line: “I apologize for raising my voice in our conversation today.” Why was Sperling yelling at Woodward? What else was said? How professional is it for White House officials to be badgering reporters or yelling at them in any way, especially Bob Woodward? Even if it wasn’t a true threat, who does Sperling think he is? And if he has the temerity to yell at Bob Woodward, who else has he intimidated into silence? We already have the sense that the White House has done this before. Even Lanny Davis is upset. When you start a sentence with “Even Lanny Davis…” you know something’s up, and it isn’t his former boss’s you-know-what.
A disgruntled reader, a certain Mr. “JES,” writes:
“…the identification of his [Christopher Dorner’s] race as the reason they are sympathizing with him is even more ridiculous. Before Wargas mentioned that, I never even thought of it. I thought these idiots were sympathizing with him b/c they felt he got screwed by the police.”
Of course he didn’t think of it. He didn’t think of it for the same reason that many people from across the entire political spectrum (yes, even some conservatives) don’t think of it: the association of a minority with oppressed righteousness has become totally reflexive and completely instinctual in contemporary society, to the point where nobody “thinks” of it; they just feel it on some sub-rational level.
Indeed, Dorner’s supporters do believe he has been screwed by the police. But why do they think that? Have they investigated Dorner’s case? No. They believe it because Dorner himself told them so, and gave explicitly racial reasons for the alleged injustice done to him. The LAPD has hundreds of minorities in service as well as in positions of power and administration. Why would they target Dorner for any reason other than a legitimate grievance? They are surely aware of the legal and political repercussions of genuine racism. What cop or police administrator wakes up in the morning and thinks, “Gee, today I’m going to compromise my career, my pension, my family, my reputation, and my freedom by targeting some minorities”?
And yet Mr. “JES,” who obviously hasn’t read this “manifesto,” continues to wonder where the racial element comes from:
“To bring race into the argument is rather sad, and a perfect pathetic
parallel to these idiots who are trying to find some justification in
what this lunatic is doing in LA. I don’t know this writer [i.e., me], but seems
like he might suffer from the White man’s burden [sic].”
Mr. “JES” (give your real name; I give mine) asks why I have brought race into this. Perhaps Mr. “JES” can put this same question to Christopher Dorner–assuming he can find him and, furthermore, assuming he doesn’t get shot before opening his mouth. For it is Dorner, not I, who brought race into this matter, by claiming the following in his screed:
“The department has not changed since the Rampart and Rodney King days.”
“Terminating officers because they expose a culture of lying, racism (from the academy), and excessive use of force will immediately change.”
“Those Caucasian officers who join South Bureau divisions (77th,SW,SE, an Harbor) with the sole intent to victimize minorities who are uneducated, and unaware of criminal law, civil law, and civil rights. You prefer the South bureau because a use of force/deadly force is likely and the individual you use UOF on will likely not report it. You are a high value target.”
“Those Black officers in supervisory ranks and pay grades who stay in south bureau (even though you live in the valley or OC) for the sole intent of getting retribution toward subordinate caucasians officers for the pain and hostile work environment their elders inflicted on you as probationers (P-1′s) and novice P-2′s. You are a high value target. You perpetuated the cycle of racism in the department as well. You breed a new generation of bigoted caucasian officer when you belittle them and treat them unfairly.”
Dorner explicitly writes that he is targeting whites. He also claims to target blacks, but only for the reason that those blacks may simply create more racist whites by taking revenge on their racist oppressors. Those who claim, therefore, that Dorner is in some sick way fighting to extirpate racism miss that his only reason for wanting to target black supervisors is that “they breed a new generation of bigoted caucasian officers.” In other words, all whites are basically the same–robots and automata who reflexively become racist on having a black supervisor. How racist can you get?
How odd, but not so surprising, that with a murderer on the loose with these political and racial motivations, it is I, a blogger, who am accused of moral degeneracy and racism. (Despite the attempt to look moderate, or even conservative, by condemning Dorner and referring to the “idiots” who defend him, Mr. “JES” shows his hand by accusing me of racism.)
Even if Dorner hadn’t provided us with this racial context, it could nevertheless be gleaned from the moist display of support for, or generally weak-kneed and wishy-washy criticism of, his murderous actions. As I have pointed out in two posts, a disturbing number of Huffington Post readers regard Dorner as one or more of the following: (1) a fighter for truth and justice who should continue killing; (2) a fighter for truth and justice who should not kill, but continue to fight for truth and justice in other ways–by, for example, taking hostages; (3) an essentially good soul whose decline is not his own fault and therefore the stuff of Greek tragedy.
How do the above interpretations of Dorner relate to his race? A thought experiment might serve us well in this regard. PJ readers must bear with me, for I am sure this is a hypothetical they have already thought of. Let us suppose that Dorner were a white man. Having been fired from a big city police department, he proceeds to go on a Rambo/Falling Down rampage, murdering both cops and civilians. He publishes, on his Facebook page, a document proclaiming his intention to murder more people in retaliation for the alleged wrong done to him. Also contained in this document are references to his love for Wayne LaPierre and the NRA, his hatred for gun control, his contention that Barack Obama is a Kenyan usurper, and the assertion that those who have badmouthed George W. Bush must cease to do so or face some serious consequences. He cites Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck as among his favorite media personalities. He says he will shoot blacks for treating him badly.
I can’t imagine, in this case, Mr. “JES” going onto the Huffington Post and asking its readers why they insist on injecting race into the discussion. No, I can’t imagine that at all. Nor can I imagine that, in this case, the received wisdom pumping through liberal websites would be that this hypothetical nut is a tragic figure who has been wronged by the system, despite his being a murderer.
Mr. “JES” then claims that I “suffer” from the “white man’s burden.” He cannot possibly know what this means. Rudyard Kipling’s poem refers to the “burden,” noble in the poetic speaker’s mind, of colonizing the benighted world for its inhabitants’ own benefit. In what sense do I advocate this? Mr. “JES” seems to be using the word “burden” here to mean something more mundane, as in “I am burdened by blacks” or “I am burdened by this rock in my shoe.” This is not the first time I have seen this literary term employed in this illiterate and ahistorical manner.
Apropos, though the business of calling others racist is a market that has been cornered, I can do it as well as anybody else. If anyone is laboring under a “white man’s burden,” surely it is the white progressive, who seems to view him- or herself as the only recourse that blacks have to succeeding in society. This is a kind of imperialism of the mind, is it not? It is an imperialism that presumes to bring comforts, both psychic and material, to the hearts of the helpless and the incompetent. A burden indeed–not for white men but for petty and power-hungry men. It is a form of soft bigotry whose low expectations mean that men like Christopher Dorner are never permitted to be fully responsible for what they do.
Instead, it is we who are the true criminals.
Earlier today, I linked to a Huffington Post article concerning Christopher Dorner’s “manifesto” that he wrote to justify the slaughter, and continued slaughter, of Los Angeles citizens. I wrote that a majority of Huffington Post commenters were openly supportive of mass murder. Here is more pro-mass murder sentiment from HuffPo readers.
sweetnancy44 belies her name with this:
“Even though I disagree with his solution, I understand why this man saw no other way to vindicate himself from the wrong that was done to him. Even though I am a white woman, he and I are very much alike in our opinions and beliefs. I think when we are wronged we may wish we could harm the person that wronged us. However, I am very disappointed that this man chose to harm the child of one of his “targets.’”
Oh, she’s “disappointed.” And how kind of her to assuage our moral concerns by opting to “disagree” with his solution. One must exercise one’s right to redress grievances, after all.
One Mr. David Ramirez, designated a “Super User” by HuffPo, writes:
“I agree with practically everything this man wrote in his manifesto. Very impressive guy. He lost a great future by being overcome with anger. He should have just let it go. He could have done much better in life than being an LAPD Officer.”
Very impressive, indeed, Mr. Ramirez. I put it to Mr. Ramirez: Would you continue to think Mr. Dorner “impressive” if the latter decided to target you?
“He is a product of his environmnet and training. This man was a police officer and a professional soldier. He was trained to use violence to resolve conflicts. LAPD is just reaping what it has sown.”
kokonutgrl reveals her credulity:
“I believe him…”
He stands for the truth to be told
He stands for Justice for the innocent victims who have been wronged.”
And she even makes it a free-verse poem. Note her excellent stanza structure.
John Hall 2, another “Super User”:
“It’s tragic to see what appears to be a good person believing he now must do evil for real or imagined injustices.”
I don’t know how many “good” people Mr. Hall knows, but in his view there is now one less in the world.
These comments all come from the same article to which I linked earlier. I have checked other articles on Dorner and have seen similar pro-murder sentiments. It is, of course, to be expected that this man would have supporters, much as a serial killer has his coterie of panty-flinging girls outside the prison on execution day.
I would bet my Mickey Mantle card that all of this support derives from the idiotic mental state induced in people whenever the subject of race comes anywhere near a topic. Dorner is black, and so is Good by definition. Thus all his seemingly bad actions must be explained, in the manner of the practice of theodicy, to our own moral failings rather than his.
After reading a comment from Fail Burton that a disturbing number of Huffington Post readers have been supportive of Christopher Dorner, the former LAPD officer who has allegedly murdered several people thus far, I decided to check it out for myself. Mr. Burton is correct. I would say the comments, as of my checking one particular article on Dorner’s “manifesto,” were 90 percent supportive. Feast your eyes on the following wisdom from the Left.
(Note: Before reading these comments, bear in mind that Dorner is black, and the “manifesto” that inspired these comments contains general support for many left-wing ideas. Dorner’s race explains the knee-jerk identification of him as an oppressed “fighter” a la Mumia Abu Jamal. His ideology — supporting gun control, Barack Obama, and Piers Morgan, and despising the NRA — explains the memory-hole treatment the media is giving the “hate” aspect of the story. Ironically, then, Dorner’s identification with left-wing ideas is the impetus for simultaneous support for and denial of who he really is.)
From “Andrew Coe”:
“After reading this I am going to come out and say it, I support this guy. I do not like that he is killing civilians though. I wish he would have been smarter and picked off the cops that did him wrong instead of starting things the way he did but that is his issue. I have no doubt in my mind that everything he were about being wronged by the LAPD is true and I feel sorry he was victimized by an organization he clearly loved so much. After reading about how the police have shot three innocent civilians, a grandmother none the less, while searching for him makes me lose almost all respect for the LAPD. I think this is an example of reaping what they sow.”
Elsewhere, “Andrew Coe” states:
“I believe and support him too. I hope he gets the justice he deserves and by that I mean vengeance.”
Mr. Coe openly supports more murder.
In response, “sdgrrl” writes:
“I wish he has simply held people hostage. The impact would be greater. Now, the media and LAPD can target him as nuts due to the murders.”
You see, “sdgrrl” just wants your family held hostage, not killed, by this lunatic.
Over the next few days, I will try to write more about the legacy of the late New York Mayor Ed Koch. For now, if you know only one fact about Koch, let it be the following from his New York Times obituary:
“He said, for example, that busing and racial quotas had done more to divide the races than to achieve integration, and that Jews would be “crazy” to vote for the Rev. Jesse Jackson in his 1988 presidential campaign after Mr. Jackson’s 1984 reference to New York as “Hymietown” and his call for a Palestinian homeland in Israel.”
Radicals always hated Koch for his refusal to pander to the race lobby, the Israel haters, and the PC media hand-wringers. Apart from the Founding Fathers, he is one of the few honest politicians I can name off the top of my head.
Richard Seymour, a British Marxist writer who runs a blog called Lenin’s Tomb (with himself cast as Vladimir Ilyich), has mounted a campaign against the legacy of Christopher Hitchens, authoring a book called Unhitched: The Trial of Christopher Hitchens, among other shorter pieces aimed at showing that Hitchens was nothing but an apologist for “empire.” By now, such a verdict — reached, in true kangaroo court-like fashion, in every such “trial” — should be familiar to readers.
In case it isn’t, however, it helps to be prepared for the type of “evidence” likely to be brought against you if you ever face a radical indictment. Seymour gives us a taste of his views in a recent piece in the Guardian–because, let’s face it, finding books published by Verso on our local shelves can be a bit challenging:
“The episodes in Hitchens’s shift to the right are well-known: the Rushdie affair, the Bosnia wars, the skirmishes with the Clinton White House and finally 9/11. The main conclusions that Hitchens drew from these were that religion, and specifically Islam, was an underestimated force for evil in world affairs, that the US empire could be a countervailing force for good, and that the left had become detached from any international working-class movement capable of challenging capitalism, and was on the wrong side of history.”
By implication, then, Seymour considers opposing the Ayatollah Khomeini’s murder contract on Salman Rushdie to be an exclusively “right-wing” position (even though the right, including George H.W. Bush, had almost nothing to say on the matter at the time). Am I to take it, then, that Seymour thinks that contracts put out on writers by religious dictators is something about which one needs to keep quiet, lest one be seen as “conservative”?
Seymour also apparently considers speaking out against ethnic cleansing in the Balkans to be a “right-wing” position: again, it was something that many on both the right and the left ignored at the time and have either ignored or justified since. You’ll still find people on both sides who either reserve kind words for Slobodan Milosevic or who express “doubt” or “skepticism” about the “official” narrative. Some on the left, like Michael Parenti and Edward Herman, have even denied that mass murders took place at Srebrenica. (Herman has taken his own idiocy further and written that Rwanda was basically a put-up job by the Western capitalist press). Seymour himself, in a book unironically entitled The Liberal Defence of Murder, seems to regard harsh criticism of Milosevic as an exclusively neoconservative phenomenon; thus he is reserved in his own condemnation. The mind of a radical can never separate recognizing foreign crimes from advocating military intervention to stop those crimes. For these people, it is never enough to argue that intervention is wrong; they must always claim that there is no impetus for intervention in the first place. A true anti-interventionist, as Marko Attilla Hoare has written, will argue against military action even as he recognizes the crimes taking place.
Note, too, that opposing Bill Clinton, a serial liar and sex offender, is also something that, according to Seymour, only someone of a conservative persuasion could undertake. This made me chuckle. Does Seymour, then, a self-identified radical leftist, support Clinton? Of course not. The radical left hates Clinton, and has always hated Clinton; in fact, Hitchens’s original criticisms of Bill were premised on the idea that the president was too conservative, according to his then-understanding of the term: the rocketing of the Al-Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Sudan, the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, welfare reform, the bombing of Iraq in 1993 and 1998, “the era of big government is over,” etc. I’m willing to bet my pocket-watch collection that Seymour despises Clinton for the reasons I just cited, assuming he knows about them. Why, then, include hatred of Clinton as part of Hitchens’s “right” turn? If Seymour hates Clinton, is he also not a “conservative,” or at least someone in the midst of a “right turn”? Should he be on trial along with Hitchens?
Naturally, no. Because being a radical means you can adopt any position at will, so long as it serves the meta-narrative (in however vague, roundabout, or inconsistent a way) that the West is uniquely guilty of extraordinary crimes. When Saddam Hussein was Donald Rumsfeld’s buddy in the early 1980s, the radical left could be relied on to point out the crimes of the Ba’athist state and to remind everyone that the Kurds were as dispossessed as their beloved Palestinians. This changed when Bush Sr. pushed for an international consensus to kick Hussein out of Kuwait. All of a sudden, Hussein was transformed, as Milosevic later would be, into a poor, helpless victim of imperialism. The Kurds, who supported Desert Storm, became instant imperialist dupes.
Lastly, it is interesting to hear a Marxist-Leninist cite Hitchens’s hatred of religion as one of his character defects. I will once again bet my pocket-watch collection that this is only because Islam, a religion mainly of darker-skinned individuals, tasted Hitchens’s wrath as much as Christianity. The idiotic cult of Marxism can no more question the culture of “minorities” as it can repudiate its obsession with seizing the “means of production.”
I am waiting to get my hands on a copy of Seymour’s new book to see whether these obvious inanities resolve themselves in long form. I have little hope that they will, as Marxist show trials historically have had only scant regard for the rigors of true dialectic.
Like so much else that passes for liberalism these days, “gun control” is based on the idea that appearances are always to be preferred to reality. In this case, the gun controller likes the appearance of being hip, modern, and progressive, regardless of the consequences–for guns are something that only beer-swilling rednecks own, and if one is to remain a member of The Club, one must stay as far away from those people as possible.
And like all pushes for “gun control,” what lurks beneath every word is a preening pacifism that, in the final analysis, would rather criminals prevail than a citizen abandon appearances and snatch up a gun for defense.
Newsday, my local daily paper, recently ran an op-ed by a Methodist pastor (who better than a man of God to urge self-immolation?) that tells the tale of Dr. Martin Luther King’s decision to get rid of his firearms because, at least according to the author, these were antithetical to King’s message of nonviolence:
“King never called for a repeal of the Second Amendment. He had no quarrel with hunters, target shooters or police officers carrying weapons. He did not command his followers to lay down their weapons. But he led by his own example. What he preached was something far more radical than gun control: rejecting violence as a way of righting wrongs, and a willingness to suffer in pursuit of justice.”
Oh, how by blood doth boil. It’s not the self-righteous tone that gets me so much as the urge to render me as helpless and neutered as the author has rendered himself. If gun control always reveals a latent pacifism, then pacifism always reveals a latent moral equivalence: Notice the glib implication that “rejecting violence” entails rejecting self-defense as well. Even a gun kept at home purely for protection is a mortal sin. You are to accept your fate at the hands of home invaders for purely cosmetic reasons. Gandhi thought the British should welcome the Nazis to their shores; these nitwits want your home to be everyone’s castle but your own.
This sort of thing was to be expected on Martin Luther King Day, an occasion when trolls show their bona-fides by invoking King on every issue of the hour, and when every word drips with the threat of being called racist for disagreeing. But rest assured that this trope will continue long after this year’s MLK Day has passed. Everyday I hear new reasons why I shouldn’t defend myself. “What if the intruder takes your gun?” “What if you shoot another member of your family by accident?” Ah, yes: much better to be killed than own a gun. Much better to be a corpse than a NASCAR-watching hick. Keep up appearances at all costs, even the cost of risking the life and health of you and your loved ones. Sorry, not for me. While they’re burying you with the Nobel Peace Prize, I’ll still be alive, at home, watching re-runs of The Honeymooners. The difference between a martyr and a redneck is that the redneck’s still breathing.
Apparently there is at least one “Jewish lobby” that Chuck Hagel is willing to tolerate: the Mossad. In front of me is a copy of a new book on the Israeli secret service that I’m in the middle of reviewing. I realized only last night that on the back cover are laudatory blurbs from Shimon Peres and–that’s right–former Senator Chuck Hagel.
Hagel’s remark is as follows: “Mossad reads like a spectacular spy novel, and contains the real stories from one of the world’s premiere [sic] intelligence agencies. It’s worth reading.”
The book is in no way “anti-Zionist” in tone. Quite the opposite. Hagel, then, seems an odd choice for a blurb, no? Was this a small step taken to beef up Hagel’s “pro-Israel” credentials? Is Hagel lying or confused? The blurb does not enthusiastically praise the Mossad, but describing something as premier is complimentary. So, to wrap up: AIPAC is a “Jewish lobby”; Mossad is a premier agency. Will Hagel apologists use this quote as part of his published record of “support” for Israel?
VDH’s latest column, a profound indictment of the hypocrisy of much of our contemporary culture, has stirred a sense of anger inside me that I haven’t felt for a while. Maybe it’s VDH’s mastery of the art of juxtaposition, but I know of no starker picture of the difference between liberal theory and practice than his latest piece. It is a brief but devastating disrobing of our hollow culture. Are you angry after reading it? Good.
I mention it for two reasons:
(1) It is not mentioned enough.
(2) Lifestyle Liberalism (a.k.a. Limousine Liberalism, Bollinger Bolshevism, MasterCard Marxism) is now the dominant strain of progressivism. It is, quite simply, the striving to make oneself appear hip in order to achieve social status. That’s it. It is, psychologically and sociologically, a very simple concept. Say what you will about the Old Left, at least they tried to practice what they preached. Many donned Mao tunics and eschewed “bourgeois” lifestyle. Many actually were poor. Now it’s the complete opposite: in order to be “downtrodden” you must try very, very hard to appear so. You must be fashionably unfashionable, richly impoverished, powerlessly empowered, rebelliously trendy. You must become an expert on racial statistics, but never wander into Detroit, Inglewood, or Newark. You must live in Brooklyn, but in Carroll Gardens, not Brownsville. You must hate Christianity but write your master’s thesis on the awesome tradition of the black church. You must wear a keffiyeh but have bought it from Urban Outfitters, not a shack in Marrakech. You must hate affluence more than poverty, all the while affecting to believe the opposite, while using the fruits of the former to create a commodified version of the latter.
Well, we humans are rather primitive. Nobody wants to feel ostracized, so you do what you must in order to remain part of an in-group. This includes mouthing all the right slogans. The average college student is deathly afraid of disagreeing with his radical classmates and professors. If he does, he might not get the girls, he might fail the course, etc. The impulses for going along with absurd claptrap are mostly sexual in nature. Don’t agree? You’re not hip. Not hip? No status. No status? No sex.
This started in the 1960s at the universities and has trickled down to pretty much every corner of contemporary Western society. Universities are hellholes. The atmosphere of most humanities classrooms is as close to the feeling of being in Pyongyang as you’re likely to get in the United States. Everyone is on edge, petrified of saying the wrong thing. Even mildly dissenting opinions must be cloaked in the language of radical chic. Free speech means freely agreeing with the professor. But it is no longer just in the universities. American culture is fast becoming a very large classroom.
Regardless of what people actually think of radical chic, they go along with it in varying degrees in order not to be consigned to the margins of society. Czeslaw Milosz called this socio-political phenomenon “ketman.” I call it tragedy.
A somewhat informative article in the Guardian tells of the trend of elderly Germans moving away from their homeland to avoid rising costs of living for pensioners. The phenomenon of “oma export” has resulted in many moving to places like Hungary to avoid going broke on room and board and medical care. This is perhaps marginally better than the situation in New York, my home state, where politicians are busy wrecking every one’s chances at affordable living. But that’s for another blog post.
I say the article is only somewhat informative because it’s not long before two things occur; these two things, it seems, must occur in every article about European social problems, especially German ones. The first is the ham-handed but nevertheless de rigueur reference to Nazism and/or the Second World War in general. Here it is:
Such stories have flooded the German media in recent months following the revelations that thousands of Germans are being sent to live in overseas nursing homes. News of the practice has stoked much anger to the extent that comparisons have been drawn with the often brutal expulsion of ethnic Germans from parts of what is now Poland and the Czech Republic after the second world war.
Surely this is among the more illiterate comparisons I’ve ever heard. (You can write the historian R.M. Douglas for a more authoritative opinion on whether it’s true.) Now that we’ve got that out of the way, we can get to the second necessity: the quote from the local prestige-press editorialist/labor-party representative peddling one of the West’s favorite cultural tropes: collective guilt. In this case, it comes from Heribert Prantl of the Süddeutsche Zeitung, who writes that “a country that is capable of building the best machines in the world has not yet been able to develop a proper and intelligent care concept when in a generation from now every 15th German will be in need of care.” This quasi-Malthusian horror will continue: “Will we also start exporting our children when the kindergartens become too expensive?”
Both of these necessary tropes, the hyperbole and the moralistic hand-wringing, make sound analysis of European welfare collapse almost impossible. (The same applies a fortiori to the United States, where the only acceptable responses to any political issue are outrage and character assassination.) No attempts are ever made to ask why such tendencies have come about. No solutions beyond the political leitmotif of “more money” are ever offered. No structural analyses of particular welfare programs are discussed. No relatively sane or non-partisan economist or policy expert is ever quoted. No ideas are ever within earshot of the discussion. This might be because politics is the art of preserving the status quo while maintaining the appearance of progress. In politics, therefore, real ideas are dangerous.
I am not about to go into wonk mode and start spouting off glib policy prescriptions about how to “solve” our nation’s obvious problems regarding mass violence. This does not mean that there is nothing that can be done; it does mean, however, that social problems are complex problems, with millions of different variables, tradeoffs, and problems of law and rights to consider. To even begin to be realistic or reasonable about such issues, one must be widely read in law, history, anthropology, psychology, philosophy, and dozens of other fields. And even then, you will have amassed perhaps .0001% of the knowledge required to “do something.”
So, what can be done in light of the latest massacre? Before we ask that question, these others (and more) must be asked:
1) What is the source of the problem? We’ve had guns in the United States since before the revolution; we’ve had anti-social mass shootings for much, much less time. Even if you advocate gun control, you’re still obliged to consider that fact. What are the conditions under which these anti-social tendencies have been fostered? The Left will say its the alienating effects of capitalism; the Right will say it’s lack of religion and good morality; the libertarians will say that too much government has turned people into zombies without personal responsibility.
The libertarians and conservatives speak a common language, which is why they seldom go to war with one another the way each camp goes to war with the Left, which speaks a vastly different language. The libertarians and conservatives see politics as a tragic game of trade-offs in which the raw material is Kant’s crooked timber of humanity. The Left sees politics as a way of straightening that crooked timber, an endeavor the other two camps see as inherently absurd. We must therefore create a kind of political Esperanto: which common language can make a conversation possible? Is there such a language? I am skeptical about this.
2) Assuming, arguendo, that we can identify the source of the problem, what practical (and practicable) measures are possible? The Left wants gun control. This latest shooter stole the guns he used. This means that the only gun control that *might* have prevented the massacre would have to target not only the mentally ill, but the parents of the mentally ill. What if the shooter had stolen the guns from his cousin? A friend? Gun control would then have to cover extended family and close friends of the mentally ill. Even the category “mentally ill” is nebulous and riddled with all sorts of potential rights violations. Only a small percentage of people with diagnosed mental disorders are violent. How do we preserve their rights, not just when it comes to guns but with other things? How do we prevent “mentally ill” from becoming the starting point from which all authoritarian measures become justified and initiated? How do we preserve medical privacy? How do we keep the United States from becoming a pure surveillance state in which all economic and social transactions are linked and monitored by bureaucrats?
3) What has led to the rise of anti-social attitudes in this country? This is related to question (1) above, but is different because it asks not only to identify the problem but to identify the variables. Is it violent movies and video games? Is it mass consumerism? Is it lack of religion? Is it bad parenting? Capitalism? Socialism? Overmedication? All or none or some of the above? This is an extraordinarily complex question. The United States is a nation of over 300 million people. Which leads me to…
4) In what ways is the United States different from other nations? This is the ultimate question, because many politicians would have you believe that what works in, say, Sweden would work in the U.S. Not true. The population of New York City, for instance, is almost bigger than the entire population of Austria. Austria! One American city almost has more people than an entire European state. What’s more, European countries tend to be more culturally and ethnically homogenous than the U.S. So, small nations with small, homogenous populations have a bigger chance of getting away with gun control and welfare statism than a nation of 300+ million people all with different ethnic and cultural backgrounds and different values. I once heard someone say, in jest, that a nation like Sweden could get away with all sorts of crazy regulations that a nation like the U.S. could never get away with–mandating, for instance, that only left-handed people could be teachers and only right-handed people could be cardiologists. And they would get away with it, this person said, because of certain tendencies in Swedish culture, demographics, and history.
What about the United States? What if we banned all guns tomorrow? Would we turn into Germany overnight? No, we would not, and the sooner we realize that the whole is sometimes greater than the sum of its parts, the quicker we might be able to deal with complex social problems.
5) Has the United States evolved into a society in which the above questions are not only unable to be answered but unable to be asked? Our political culture nowadays is one in which disagreement is not a sign of simply disagreement, but grievous moral idiocy. Merely saying you believe that taxes should be lower, for instance, brings with it labels as far-reaching as “racist,” “heartless,” and so on. Even within political camps, one step outside orthodoxy is enough to ignite an almost Jacobin response. In other words, we live in a (forgive this phrase) hair-trigger political culture. People are sent flying into rage by the slightest disagreement. This means that certain things are off limits to discussion; thus, a certain degree of stagnation will remain inherent in American politics until that political culture changes.
Therefore, I must draw the sad conclusion that all of the above questions are, at this point, incapable of being asked.