Gramscian damage

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Accordingly, the Soviet espionage apparat actually ran two different kinds of network: one of spies, and one of agents of influence. The agents of influence had the minor function of recruiting spies (as, for example, when Kim Philby was brought in by one of his tutors at Cambridge), but their major function was to spread dezinformatsiya, to launch memetic weapons that would damage and weaken the West.

In a previous post on Suicidalism, I identified some of the most important of the Soviet Union’s memetic weapons. Here is that list again:

  • There is no truth, only competing agendas.
  • All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West’s history of racism and colonialism.
  • There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such standards is an evil oppressor.
  • The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of the Third World; therefore Westerners actually deserve to be impoverished and miserable.
  • Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal. Poor criminals are entitled to what they take. Submitting to criminal predation is more virtuous than resisting it.
  • The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only victims are virtuous. Therefore only the poor and criminals are virtuous. (Rich people can borrow some virtue by identifying with poor people and criminals.)
  • For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself. But ‘oppressed’ people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.
  • When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist’s point of view, and make concessions.

As I previously observed, if you trace any of these back far enough, you’ll find a Stalinist intellectual at the bottom. (The last two items on the list, for example, came to us courtesy of Frantz Fanon. The fourth item is the Baran-Wallerstein “world system” thesis.) Most were staples of Soviet propaganda at the same time they were being promoted by “progressives” (read: Marxists and the dupes of Marxists) within the Western intelligentsia.

The Soviets consciously followed the Gramscian prescription; they pursued a war of position, subverting the “leading elements” of society through their agents of influence. (See, for example, Stephen Koch’s Double Lives: Stalin, Willi Munzenberg and the Seduction of the Intellectuals; summary by Koch here) This worked exactly as expected; their memes seeped into Western popular culture and are repeated endlessly in (for example) the products of Hollywood.

Indeed, the index of Soviet success is that most of us no longer think of these memes as Communist propaganda. It takes a significant amount of digging and rethinking and remembering, even for a lifelong anti-Communist like myself, to realize that there was a time (within the lifetime of my parents) when all of these ideas would have seemed alien, absurd, and repulsive to most people — at best, the beliefs of a nutty left-wing fringe, and at worst instruments of deliberate subversion intended to destroy the American way of life.

Koch shows us that the worst-case scenario was, as it turns out now, the correct one; these ideas, like the “race bomb” rumor, really were instruments deliberately designed to destroy the American way of life. Another index of their success is that most members of the bicoastal elite can no longer speak of “the American way of life” without deprecation, irony, or an automatic and half-conscious genuflection towards the altar of political correctness. In this and other ways, the corrosive effects of Stalin’s meme war have come to utterly pervade our culture.

The most paranoid and xenophobic conservatives of the Cold War were, painful though this is to admit, the closest to the truth in estimating the magnitude and subtlety of Soviet subversion. Liberal anticommunists (like myself in the 1970s) thought we were being judicious and fair-minded when we dismissed half of the Right’s complaint as crude blather. We were wrong; the Rosenbergs and Alger Hiss really were guilty, the Hollywood Ten really were Stalinist tools, and all of Joseph McCarthy’s rants about “Communists in the State Department” were essentially true. The Venona transcripts and other new material leave no room for reasonable doubt on this score.

While the espionage apparatus of the Soviet Union didn’t outlast it, their memetic weapons did. These memes are now coming near to crippling our culture’s response to Islamic terrorism.

In this context, Jeff Goldstein has written eloquently about perhaps the most long-term dangerous of these memes — the idea that rights inhere not in sovereign individuals but identity groups, and that every identity group (except the “ruling class”) has the right to suppress criticism of itself through political means up to and including violence.

Mark Brittingham (aka WildMonk) has written an excellent essay on the roots of this doctrine in Rousseau and the post-Enlightenment Romantics. It has elsewhere been analyzed and labeled as transnational progressivism. The Soviets didn’t invent it, but they promoted it heavily in a deliberate — and appallingly successful — attempt to weaken the Lockean, individualist tradition that underlies classical liberalism and the U.S. Constitution. The reduction of Western politics to a bitter war for government favor between ascriptive identity groups is exactly the outcome the Soviets wanted and worked hard to arrange.

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

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

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

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

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

Religions are good at filling that kind of nothing. Accordingly, if transnational progressivism actually succeeds in smothering liberal individualism, its reward will be to be put to the sword by some flavor of jihadi. Whether the eventual winners are Muslims or Mormons, the future is not going to look like the fuzzy multicultural ecotopia of modern left fantasy. The death of that dream is being written in European banlieus by angry Muslim youths under the light of burning cars.

In the banlieus and elsewhere, Islamist pressure makes it certain that sooner or later the West is going to vomit Stalin’s memes out of its body politic. The worst way would be through a reflex development of Western absolutism — Christian chauvinism, nativism and militarism melding into something like Francoite fascism. The self-panicking leftists who think they see that in today’s Republicans are comically wrong (as witnessed by the fact that they aren’t being systematically jailed and executed), but it is quite a plausible future for the demographically-collapsing nations of Europe.

The U.S., fortunately, is still on a demographic expansion wave and will be till at least 2050. But if the Islamists achieve their dream of nuking “crusader” cities, they’ll make crusaders out of the U.S., too. And this time, a West with a chauvinized America at its head would smite the Saracen with weapons that would destroy entire populations and fuse Mecca into glass. The horror of our victory would echo for a thousand years.

I remain more optimistic than this. I think there is still an excellent chance that the West can recover from suicidalism without going through a fevered fascist episode and waging a genocidal war. But to do so, we have to do more than recognize Stalin’s memes; we have to reject them. We have to eject postmodern leftism from our universities, transnational progressivism from our politics, and volk-Marxism from our media.

The process won’t be pretty. But I fear that if the rest of us don’t hound the po-mo Left and its useful idiots out of public life with attack and ridicule and shunning, the hard Right will sooner or later get the power to do it by means that include a lot of killing. I don’t want to live in that future, and I don’t think any of my readers do, either. If we want to save a liberal, tolerant civilization for our children, we’d better get to work.

UPDATE: My original link to Protein Wisdom went stale. I’m not certain the new one is the same essay, but it is on many of the same ideas.

210 thoughts on “Gramscian damage

  1. A defense of Mormonism:

    “Whether the eventual winners are Muslims or Mormons, the future is not going to look like the fuzzy multicultural ecotopia of modern left fantasy.”

    I sure as hell hope esr is trying to show the greatest disparity possible. Mormons believe most fervently in being nice to the neighbors and following the laws of the land (criminal behavior is an excommunication offense, and is regularly enforced). Mormons are a bit overboard on the “convert your neighbor” thing, but the only ones really working at it, do so out of a genuine concern for their neighbors eternal welfare.

    Mormons also devoutly believe that believers in other faiths, who keep to their own faith’s rules will go to heaven too (where, of course, everybody gets a chance to convert). Their belief in heaven may be a bit complex, but suicide bombing of innocents (or worse, forcing others to do it) would almost certainly land you in the universes most exclusive club: “outer darkness”. The only defense before God would be true coercion (like the guys with the families held hostage) or insanity of the “I thought I was a cabbage” variety.

    Hardly the “God hates all infidels” thing.

    Mormons actually believe that a truly good Muslim, Catholic, Hindi, Jew or anybody else faithfully following their religion throughout life will certainly go to heaven at death. Even atheists and pagans (esr take note) who lived a good life, but never really had a chance to accept the truth, get a chance after death to accept. What defines “really had a chance” vs “had a chance in life but chose sinfulness” is something for Jesus to decide. Even then, the worst of the most common sinners still make it to a heaven far better than earth. “Outer Darkness” and eternal misery, like earth orbit, is reserved for people who WORK for evil and _really_ succeed at it.

    Frankly, I don’t know why ESR would dislike Mormons. The Mormons were driven out of the east by murder and terrorism, and finally went to Utah (then part of Mexico) to get away from everybody else and live their own way and be left alone. Gun ownership among Mormons is extremely common (almost universal), and children in sunday school lessons are taught early church history, including the mobs raping, murdering and burning. Joseph Smith was murdered by a terrorist mob, and Mormons have never forgotten it.

    Mormons have a disporportinately large representation in the armed forces, because patriotism is still a virtue in their church. In the US, members are asked point blank if they are members of, “the Communist Party or any other group dedicated to overthrowing the U.S. government?” A yes answer means excommunication.

    Personally, I think that ESR has become a biased against Mormons because of the SCO scandal. It should be known that there are many more mormons who are outraged by Darl and Co, than there are participating. Unfortunately, the only church members who seem to understand what’s going on are either SCO insiders, or outraged tech geeks who have no authority to do anything. Not to mention, nobody has even yet brought charges against the SCO people — so there’s nothing yet to complain about. Currently, in the eyes of the church, some members belong to a company that has a contract dispute that is so muddy, the finest judicial system in the world hasn’t even begun discussing it yet (discovery is still in it’s first decade …)

    In summary, I can’t think of two more disparate groups on the planet than Islamic extremists and Mormons, and I sure as hell know who I’d rather be neighbors with.

    Incedentally, Mormon core doctrine says they’re all members of one of the 12 houses of Israel by birth or divine adoption. and the Jews are all relatives. They also understand well what it is like to be surrounded by governments trying to obliterate them, and feel compassionate towards these problems too.

    Some Jews seem to be extremely uncomfortable with the concept of a non-anti-semetic religion, and are working very hard to correct the aberration.

    Although I find the Mormon beliefs rather hard to swallow, I really can’t stand to see a decent, honorable group of people slandered gratuitously. I have had occasion to meet and be friends with many Mormons, including some who were extremely high in the organizational chart, and none of the high-ups ever struck me as pretenders. As far as I know, most of them built a sizable nest egg before getting drafted into the church leadership ranks, and live off their investments without drawing a dime from the church.

    I guess, in closing, esr is technically right about the “ectopia” thing, since Mormons are notoriously hard workers, and seem to have an almost genetic drive to drain wetlands (swamps) and irrigate deserts (precious fragile ecosystem of rattlesnakes, spiders and scorpions). Sorry for the long post, but I felt it important.

    Hanzie.

  2. Apologies,

    I have criticized one tiny bit of an otherwise amazingly thought provoking essay. Overall, esr seems to be one of the few voices of sanity in the world. Reading his essays is like seeing really bad news on a medical chart. I wish like hell the problems weren’t there, but at least I can work on it now.

    Precisely describing the problem is 90% of the solution.

    Thanks,
    hanzie.

  3. I’m not as optimistic as you are. We are not going to reject the Stalinist memes unless and until some terrorist nukes Flatbush Avenue and puts Junior’s Deli out of business permanently. At that point, we will turn Damascus or Tehran into radioactive glass, and we won’t feel the least bit sorry about it.

  4. I don’t know… if our cities were to be attacked by nuclear devices, I do believe that many of the leftist soi-disant humanitarians out there would see this as a vindication of their views: We were attacked because we’re “bad.” We’re on the wrong side of history. We deserve to be destroyed because we are the oppressors.

    Maybe there are fewer of those kinds of people out there than it seems… but, at least in New Jersey, I feel as if I’m a fish out of water–a slack-jawed yokel among the effete elite (but it’s not quite as bad as New York City itself, as paradoxical as that sounds). Oh well, at least it’s not as bad out here as it seems to be in the rest of the addle-brained coastal voting bloc.

  5. >We deserve to be destroyed because we are the oppressors.

    That’s as neat a one-sentence summary of suicidalism as one could ask for.

  6. I don’t agree with sentiments like “We deserve to be destroyed because we are the oppressors.” That reminds me of Nietzsche’s views about the ways the gods were once reflections of the strength and power of a people, and how Christianity has a skinny, gother-than-thou god nailed to a cross.

    But… “We’re on the wrong side of history.” kind of rings a bell. We’ve been unbelievably ham-handed in our foreign policy. (Especially since 9/11. The current US adminstration aren’t even good villains — they’re mustache-twirling cartoon oil barons. They *look* like bad guys.) I can’t help but read “When confronted with terror…” and want to translate it into the more blunt, “We’ve been screwing around over there for years — poorly! — and surprise, it blew up in our faces!” We shouldn’t be pushing Christianity to Muslims, setting up dictators and knocking them down 20 years later, ignoring the UN we helped found because it was in our own interest to do so, et cetera. We’re making it easy for terrorist organizations to recruit new members.There are always going to be unhappy people at the bottom of the economic pyramid complaining about rich people, “America the Great Satan”, and so on, but should we be giving them documentary proof of their claims? We help make Marxism / leftism / etc appealing by coming off as a bunch of jerks.

    [ I know you're not supposed to say "jerks" when you're talking about geopolitics :-), but emotional issues become more predominant as you go lower in the socio-economic pyramid. It's when you start to accumulate capital that some of the immediate pressure to be happier is off you. That's the point at which you start to seek money in addition to seeking happiness, because, emotionally, you can now afford to. That's Marx's classic 'proletariat wants to be happy' / 'bourgoisie wants to make money' axis, but it seems to apply. (It's also the classic engineering positive feedback loop, which I learned, of course, from the man whose name I've adopted.) ]

    I think we’d be way ahead of where we are now if the US abandoned it’s own ideological extremity (which I realize varies a lot over time with administration and culture) and started building economic ties. My favorite pet example is the embargo on Cuba. Where would Cuba be now ideologically if we had been slowly and carefully opening trade relations with them all this time? (With “all this time” meaning since the war or since the Berlin Wall went down, pick one.)

    We’re on the wrong side of history by the only sensible definition of wrong. We’re on the *stupid* side of history.

  7. A classic line: “In the banlieus and elsewhere, Islamist pressure makes it certain that sooner or later the West is going to vomit Stalin’s memes out of its body politic.”

    Again – I have to avoid the tempation to really get into this because I have a very important deadline soon but I would like to comment on Geno H.’s comment: “We’re making it easy for terrorist organizations to recruit new members.” I can only conclude that you didn’t understand what you just read. The Islamic extremists are not mere vessels, waiting around to be filled with Western comfort and happiness and pissed off that we aren’t doing it fast enough. They are real people with real (and sometimes extreme) political and cultural beliefs. Your post strikes me as the worst kind of presumptive, ‘soft’ racism (my apologies if this seems overwrought, I don’t mean to offend). You seem so sure that these people – being so far below your level of cognitive skill – are just waiting for the right people to say the right things, apologize the right way and to make appropriate amends (a few billion in aid, perhaps).

    You say: “We shouldn’t be pushing Christianity to Muslims, setting up dictators and knocking them down 20 years later, ignoring the UN we helped found because it was in our own interest to do so, et cetera. ”

    Where on earth do you get this stuff? We’ve bent over backwards to be “respectful” of Islam. We did *NOT* install Saddam, Arafat, Assad or Khomenei. The UN is useful to them only insofar as it can be used to advance their ambition. About the only thing you left out is that we haven’t ratified the Kyoto treaty! You are a walking, spouting example of exactly the kinds of weak thinking described in the source article (but, truly, you don’t have to be – keep reading Heinlein).

    While we have not executed the Iraq war particularly well (but not particularly badly, either, when compared to the historical norm) you are fooling yourself if you think that this explains their violence. If you wish to stand by your explanation then you’ve got a LOT of explaining to do WRT 9/11, USS Cole, Kobar Towers, etc.! LISTEN to bin Laden: they are pissed off about the Crusades, about losing Andalusia, about the fall of the Caliph, about the ascendancy of the “corrupt and decadent” West. They are pissed off about a lot of things that you (and we) simply cannot fix without either dying or giving up and living as Dhimmis.

    They are spoiling for a fight because they believe that the West has turned decidely weak. And they are right – for exactly the reasons that Eric has documented. They are spoiling for a fight because they see the demographic trends and the decaying West and think that God and history are on their side. But they are wrong about their fantasy of subjugating the West because, for all our faults, we are stronger than they can ever dream of being.

  8. >We deserve to be destroyed because we are the oppressors.

    I think a better one-sentence summary (less cartoony) is “We deserve to be destroyed because we support the House of Saud, who are oppressors.”

  9. Interesting. A lot of this stuff is what Coulter is on about in “Treason”, though her view that the strength of America lies in its Christianity might not sit well with everyone.

    The U.S., fortunately, is still on a demographic expansion wave and will be till at least 2050.

    You might want to have a closer look at the composition of that wave. AFAICT white American middle class fertility rates aren’t all that much higher than Euro ones.

    The self-panicking leftists who think they see that in today’s Republicans are comically wrong (as witnessed by the fact that they aren’t being systematically jailed and executed)

    *Proto*-fascism is what’s being smelled in, well, exhortations to “hound the po-mo Left and its useful idiots out of public life with attack and ridicule and shunning”, frex. Though it does depend on what you mean by “attack”. I think you’re going to need a bigger soapbox, somehow.

  10. We are not going to reject the Stalinist memes unless and until some terrorist nukes Flatbush Avenue and puts Junior’s Deli out of business permanently. At that point, we will turn Damascus or Tehran into radioactive glass, and we won’t feel the least bit sorry about it.

    I can just see Bush going “Eenie, meenie, minie, mo”. Sadly, even if America does gets hit, it’s still going to need the oil for the foreseeable future, which is likely to introduce constraints on using nukes as freely as the imagination might permit.

  11. Ann Coulter is a perfect present-day demonstration of the sad truth that even the most repellent frothing conservatives can get an important thing right once in a while. But don’t expect me to endorse her Christianity fixation; I’m a Wiccan.

    The key difference between the U.S. and Europe isn’t that white people here are breeding a lot faster, but that we actually assimilate our fast-breeding immigrants, even when they’re Mexicans or Vietnamese. They’ll end up culturally white, just as previous migrant waves that used to be considered “non-white” did. The Italians. The Eastern Europeans. The Jews. The Irish. This is not a new story.

    Watch that “proto-fascism” label. If you help make relatively peaceful ejection of the suicidalists by men and women of goodwill impossible by equating it with fascism, you’ll be helping guarantee that the job gets done by people far nastier than Ann Coulter — real fascists with truncheons. I don’t think either of us wants to see that. But it’s what’s coming if more civilized means of cultural self-preservation fail, so don’t help them fail.

  12. The key difference between the U.S. and Europe isn’t that white people here are breeding a lot faster, but that we actually assimilate our fast-breeding immigrants, even when they’re Mexicans or Vietnamese. They’ll end up culturally white, just as previous migrant waves that used to be considered “non-white” did. The Italians. The Eastern Europeans. The Jews. The Irish. This is not a new story.

    Ever read about the pressure to assimilate those earlier waves washed up against? There’s some interesting background to it here. I do wonder if the current Hispanic wave is going to pick up the torch with quite the enthusiasm you seem to be expecting of them. Though the ‘reconquista’ folks are probably overstating their case.

    Watch that “proto-fascism” label. If you help make relatively peaceful ejection of the suicidalists by men and women of goodwill impossible by equating it with fascism, you’ll be helping guarantee that the job gets done by people far nastier than Ann Coulter — real fascists with truncheons.

    At least they’d make the trains run on time. I’m all Godwinned out by “Islamofascism”, unfortunately. Anyway it’s hardly a label, more a sort of smell. You seem to be talking about destroying people’s careers here, which was an early Nazi staple IIRC, though it’ll be difficult if they don’t come out with ill-considered Ward Churchillisms you can beat them with. Liberals are a bit dispersed in the US for a good old-fashioned pogrom to be practical, as well, but where there’s a will…

  13. “Pogroms?”

    No one is talking about pogroms on the right; such language almost invariably comes from the left. While you might say “Well, they’re the ones suffering it” I don’t buy this logic for several reasons.

    First, partisans on the hard left pay little price for even the most extreme and repugnant statements. For example, what price has Ward Churchill or Cindy Sheehan paid? Ward’s had some people looking into his background claims (and finding he’s a few cards short of a full deck) but both have become celebrities on the left. Shouldn’t these people at *least* be suffering some mild intimidation before the hard lefties go on screaming about “pogroms” and “jack-booted thugs”? Being actively disliked by your political opponents is not “oppression” – it is the expected outcome of saying things that are purposely offensive to them. Talk to me when Churchill and Sheehan are in prison as “enemies of the state.”

    Second, the Centrists and the Right know very well what game these people are playing. It is the “scream” game where those who really don’t want all the trouble and controversy (the majority – especially in the Center) just throw their hands up and walk away. The problem is that, after all the screaming, we end up abandoning some once-vital cultural institutions to decay into irrelevance. The extemist claims, in essence, are just a way to try to intimidate others into leaving the hard left to its Gramscian project.

    Third, no real program of social control gets implemented by subtle “manipulations of the discourse” and other such Po-Mo nonsense (not that ‘manipulations of the discourse’ don’t exist, just that they don’t amount to oppression in any meaningful sense). Indeed, the entire literature of “hidden oppression” and “cultural discourses” that makes up the bulk of the Po-Mo canon is just so much masturbatory intellectual fantasy. When a society such as ours doesn’t experience enough injustice to create the updraft that they need to take flight, the hard lefties try to torch the culture to create it themselves.

    Finally, all societies involve a fair amount of political pig wrestling where ideas get injected, debated, accepted or rejected; interests get advanced or trampled; and where some people suffer injustices because their beliefs or practices are found repugnant by the majority. Free societies experience more of this than other forms of social organization. The hard lefties have found a way to game the system using the memes that Eric has discussed. By wrapping themselves in the mantle of “protector of the oppressed” they exploit the inevitable fact that all societies have a gap between its ideals and its muddy realities. This strategy is particularly powerful in America because it effectively harnesses our culture’s obsession with fairness. Having stepped into this breach, they use their position to browbeat their critics and advance their own narrow interests. To the extent that they do gain control, however, the result is oppression of a far less subtle nature. Indeed, you don’t need to resort to “manipulations of discourse” and “subtle structures of oppression” to see the injustice in hard left political orders: oppression stands astride the populace with an AK-47 cocked and the barbed wire at the ready.

  14. One more thing. There is an excellent article in a related vein here:

    http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=010804A

    It’s focus is more on fascism but you can see the affinity with the idea of pernicious memes. I’d highly recommend that you read it, especially if you are tempted to buy into the idea that we are seeing a sort of “proto-fascism” in America’s liberal capitalist society.

    (Eric – I think that you’ll particularly like it if you haven’t read it already).

  15. ESR Takes Nuanced Idea, Jumps On It With All 17 Feet. Film at 11.

    Add to your list of Stalinist-inspired memes the civil rights movement, which was Red from top to bottom. There’s also the current set of Trotskyists setting policy in this government — we know them all too well, better than you do. Spying on your own people is just the beginning.

    “Having an arsonist for a grandfather may bequeath you a nose for smoke.”

  16. Islam is not immune to those memes that left European Christianity an hollow shell, many of which are rife on the Left, and it si now being exposed to them.

    Europe may well go through dark times, again, but there’s a good chance Islam will lose its fire in the process, hopefully before the West is aroused to holy war. As the collision of Islam with Hindu memes produced Sikhism, a less virulent religion than Islam, so its collision with the memes of the western Left, and Right, should produce a meme-system nearly harmless.

  17. WildMonk, I suspect there’s an interesting discussion lying around here somewhere, but you’ve taken my post and extrapolated it to whole other realms of fantasy that have less than zero connection to what I actually wrote. I’m sure there’s a special latin name from debate class for saying that I said something I didn’t say and then responding to that instead of what I actually said., but I’m at a loss to recall it.

    For the record

    “You seem so sure that these people – being so far below your level of cognitive skill – are just
    waiting for the right people to say the right things, apologize the right way and to make appropriate
    amends (a few billion in aid, perhaps).”

    is not even REMOTELY my point of view. On the contrary, I believe that people are all more-or-less equally driven by emotions no matter what part of the world they’re from. And frankly

    “You are a walking, spouting example of exactly the kinds of weak thinking described in the source
    article (but, truly, you don’t have to be – keep reading Heinlein).”

    is so rude that I can’t see how you how you could have been that rude by accident.

    As for “they are pissed off about the Crusades”, well, hell, WHY WOULDN’T THEY BE? If Muslim armies landed in the US and started killing and looting, there would be nuclear missiles and emotionally-retarded invective launched in a New York second.

    “They are pissed off about a lot of things that you (and we) simply cannot fix
    without either dying or giving up and living as Dhimmis.”

    I disagree. The point of my entire post was that by being ideologically more neutral and carefully opening and strengthening economic ties, we can slowly reduce the antagonistic posture of all the parties involved. We can build co-operative relationships. We don’t have to “defeat” the “villains”. We can become business partners with people. People are less likely to attack others when doing so would hurt themselves, and eventually those economic ties can become stronger, turning into alliances and even genuine friendships.

    “… they believe that the West has turned decidely weak. And they are right… we are stronger than they can ever dream of being.”

    That seems like a contradiction, but presuming that it’s not, I ask you this. If we are that strong, what do we have to worry about? This nation sounds, on an international scale, like just as big a bunch of religious nuts as the people we claim to be fighting. Even if the only values you want to apply to this situation are pragmatic and maniplulative, that’s remarkably stupid just from a PR standpoint. I’d like to see the US stand up for idealism, but if we can’t do that, we should at least be against stupidity.

  18. Geno

    I was extremely tired when I wrote what I did so my apologies if I didn’t catch everything in the spirit that you meant it. When you said that we’re “on the wrong side of history” though, it kind of set me off. The U.S. is one of history’s leading examples of liberal, democratic capitalist states. All three tendencies are, in their own respective categories, the most humane and materially productive ways of organizing a state. Knowing this, how do you conclude that we are on the “wrong side of history” unless you believe that shackles and chains are mankind’s normal or inevitable state?

    You disagree with the comment about people in the M.E. waiting for us to say the “right things” (the “below your level of cognitive skill was a gratuitous – I’m sorry). But I’m not sure how else to interpret your comments. You seem to believe it superior to yield – to be non-confrontative in the hopes that this will somehow avoid the creation of Jihadists. I don’t get this at all. Leaving out the bit about cognitive skill, isn’t this exactly what you propose as an alternative to Bush’s direct confrontation with the violent Jihadists? If not, then what is?

    RE: Weak thinking – if you read the article you’ll understand this to be a technical, Po-Mo term and I did mean it in that sense. I can’t claim innocence WRT the intent to insult but I can at least apologize (which I do) and point out that it is not meant as the simple insult that you may have thought (which I didn’t – you are obviously a smart person).

    See, if you really believe that all societies, cultures and expressions are philosophically equal you’ll end up being either cornered into concluding that all that matters is the will to power (again, used in its technical meaning) or you’ll be forced to adopt Rorty’s “weak thinking.” If you start from these assumptions AND you retreat from the sword, then you must end up with weak thinking. It is in that sense that I wrote what I did. Personally, I reject the underlying assumption and I am pretty certain that Robert Heinlein would as well!

    Tell me seriously that the Muslims should be “pissed off about the Crusades”. Really, I want to hear the conclusion as to why this is relevant when the events were roughly 1000 years ago. Furthermore, why the hell isn’t the West pissed off about the Siege of Vienna?? Why aren’t we pissed off about the Siege of Jerusalem? Christianity was in retreat for about 300 years before the first Crusade and Christians were slaughtered or forceably converted by the tens of thousands. Should I be pissed off too? Islam was an expansionist power, Geno. While the Crusades were often needlessly bloody you can say the *exact* same thing about the period of Islamic expansionism: from the founding right on through the Siege of Vienna!

    WRT being “more neutral and carefully opening and strengthening economics ties” – I am almost speechless. These people threaten nuclear annihilation, behead bound captives, slaughter women and children indiscriminately, and threaten the same for Christians and Jews. And you want to be “more neutral”?? As far as carefully opening economic ties – their entire economic infrastructure was developed by the West and, in essence, handed over to whichever local sheik happened to be in the area. We’ve given them trillions of dollars in wealth simply for being in the right place at the right time, what more “strengthening” do you want? We are, in every respect, their sponsor and patron and yet as soon as they began recieving this excess wealth, they began funding a further expansion of fundamentalist Islam and aggressive pan-Arabism.

    This is my whole point: everything they have done over the past 50 years bespeaks a confident, expansionist power willing to shed enormous amounts of blood for no more reason than the thrill of watching Infidels die. While nominally Islamic, they are actually no more than radical nihilists. Are we strong enough to outlast them? Yes. But I am not willing to see innocent people die while we make nice with them out of some misplaced guilt over the Crusades or the Shah of Iran or whatever fashionably America-bashing reason someone comes up with tomorrow.

  19. > I can just see Bush going “Eenie, meenie, minie, mo”. Sadly, even if America does gets hit, it’s still going to need the oil for the foreseeable future, which is likely to introduce constraints on using nukes as freely as the imagination might permit.

    Unlike the Israelis, the US has more nukes than targets, so the “eenie, meenie” is merely prioritization.

    Adrian10 seems to think that the US couldn’t take the oil it needs. While we don’t have any experience as a traditional colonial power, who does he think can stop us? If we did try, does he think that the Euros would refuse to buy from us or oppose us militarily? Would the Chinese refuse their share and fight for some “common good”? Since the Russians are self-sufficient, would they even care?

  20. Andy – you hit on a good point. For all the Chomskyite talk about how America is a source of oppression in the Middle East, there is little doubt that a *real* hegemonic power would have simply occupied the region and pumped its oil without concern for the people living there.

  21. A Russian friend growing up as a teen in the Soviet Union said that the meme on everyone’s lips was, “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is mine.” They’ve gone thru the worst and it appears they’ve rejected that.

    It’s hit the West hard now.

    That’s the meme to root out, completely and thoroughly and it will only happen if we do it one by one, IMO.

  22. Adrian10 seems to think that the US couldn’t take the oil it needs. While we don’t have any experience as a traditional colonial power, who does he think can stop us?

    Andy Freeman, forever in the third person for some reason (the desire not to actually address someone tainted with liberalism? Who can say), should read Twain on the Philippines if he thinks America is innocent of colonialism (there’s also the little matter of the 19th century land grab, but apparently that ‘”doesn’t count” for a lot of people).

    Your government undoubtedly has the *technical* means to clearcut the populations of the ME and set up colonies of oil technicians in radiation suits there (though I doubt you’ve thought through the economics of it), but I don’t think you could live with yourselves if you did (I don’t necessarily mean you personally, I suspect some people posting here would have no problems whatsoever). Your illusion of yourselves as the Good Guys would take a hit from which there would be no return. Something really bad would have to happen to you first – and I don’t reckon even nuclear terrorism would be enough.

    This is actually a compliment, when you think about it.

  23. “Pogroms?”

    No one is talking about pogroms on the right; such language almost invariably comes from the left. While you might say “Well, they’re the ones suffering it” I don’t buy this logic for several reasons.

    You’re getting carried away here. My point was that yer classical pogroms *aren’t practical* in a US context, other than against ghettoized groups. But some kind of adaptation – perhaps using the Internet (enough emails saying “we know where you live” would spook me, for one) would be another thing. Any political movement adapts to its environment.

    By *proto*-fascism, I mean exactly that – the *potential* for fascism to develop, if enough Americans get enough of a sense of grievance about something. They’re a long way from it atm. But there seems to be an increase in meanness in the discourse, and a withering of trust on both sides, that worries me slightly. A smell, IOW.

    Is Sheehan really hard left? I thought she was just antiwar/antiBush.

  24. “… apologies if I didn’t catch everything in the spirit that you meant it.” — Apology accepted, sir; it’s behind us.

    “The U.S. is one of history’s leading examples of liberal, democratic capitalist states.” — I agree with this. I’ve already said why I believe we’re on the wrong side of history. We are handling international affairs in a remarkably incompetent manner. We are responding to threats emotionally instead of rationally. The damage done to US reputation and credibility by the Bush administration’s mishandling of terrorism — including lying about MWDs, hyperbolic rhetoric, the deliberate conflation of al-Qaeda and Iraq, and turning away from our own ideals to the point of passing the flamboyantly bad Patriot Act — will take a century to undo.

    “You seem to believe it superior to yield – to be non-confrontative in the hopes that this will somehow avoid the creation of Jihadists.” — I believe this to be true, although I might say “reduce” rather than “avoid”, and I am suggesting not that we yield as in “surrender”, but yield as in “be flexible”, “be moderate”. I have no reason to believe that “you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar” doesn’t apply to politics. Once again, why make it easier for the bad guys to recruit, hide among locals, or have local grass-roots support by having bad PR?

    Think of it as geopolitical Aikido. If we attack irrationally, if we look violent and ideological, we lose credibility with allies — from nations like France to shopkeepers in downtown Baghdad — who can help us in the fight. If we use more subtle economic methods, if we seek the positive instead of fighting the negative, we strengthen our old alliances and build new ones. A government that thinks of us as a trading partner has incentive to stop violent groups (or even to stop funding them), to keep the money flowing smoothly. A nation of people who buy American goods don’t provide terrorists as solid a crowd to blend into.

    “.. if you read the article you’ll understand this to be a technical, Po-Mo term and I did mean it in that sense.” — My education is somewhat scattershot and informal, I didn’t catch the reference. Hell, I had to look up “po-mo”. :-)

    “See, if you really believe that all societies, cultures and expressions are philosophically equal…” — I do and I don’t. At a pure intellectual level, of course I do. All formalism is dependent on premises, and premises are arbitrary, et cetera, et cetera, ad nauseam, and please! can the mountain be a mountain again? On a personal level, I don’t believe that at all. I have my own beliefs and preferences, and like most people, I’m convinced the world will be a better place when everybody gets with the Geno program. :-)

    “… you’ll end up being either cornered into concluding that all that matters is the will to power (again, used in its technical meaning)” — I’m not sure how to read “all that matters”. The will to power just is; what life does is the will to power, pretty much by definition. People believe what they choose and do what they choose, and they do it from instinctive need, not rational thought. I’m not convinced it’s a bad thing.

    “If you start from these assumptions AND you retreat from the sword, then you must end up with weak thinking.” — I am completely pro-sword. But sometimes the way to victory is to put down a sword and pick up a gun. My problem is that we’re not using our big guns: our ideals, our intelligence, our rationality and our reputation. The military is the weapon of last resort. It’s the two-by-four you pick up when an intruder breaks into your home because you didn’t prevent the break-in in the first place.

    “Tell me seriously that the Muslims should be ‘pissed off about the Crusades’”. — I didn’t say they should be, I asked why wouldn’t they. You can’t solve this situation without dealing with people’s emotions. Right now, we are the guys on top. We are the ones with both the responsibily to improve things and the intellectual, emotional and productive resources to do so. And we are perceived as bullies instead of benefactors by the guys on the bottom, where these problems originate. There are always going to be alienated youth, frustrated misfits, and so on. Why should we allow to continue circumstances that let those people focus on us? It may be cold and calculating of me, but I’d rather an alienated youth slit his wrists and kill one person, I’d rather a frustrated misfit gun down his co-workers in the Baghdad Post Office and kill 10 or 20 people, than see those people EASILY turn their self-hatred into hatred of the US and 2800 deaths in one day because we are being boorish and common.

    And sadly, we are an easy target for these people because we have drifted away from even paying lip service to the ideals of the US founders. We’ve gone from treasuring strength-from-diversity, moderation and friendly relations to openly showing contempt for other peoples and other nations.

    “Islam was an expansionist power” — I hold the same beliefs about Islam then. (I hope that parses. :-)) When Islam was on top, at its most advanced, they had the same obligation of generosity that we now have. The obligation to live up to their ideals. They too drifted. That doesn’t make it okay for us to do it now. The idea that we can do it now because they did it then smacks of revenge, not punishment and deterrence. Let’s say I don’t care at all one way or another about the terrorists. (This is close to true; there are always these people, and I don’t believe in living in fear.) Revenge and other forms of immoderation are bad for US (uppercasing pun intended).

    “These people threaten nuclear annihilation, behead bound captives, slaughter women and children indiscriminately, and threaten the same for Christians and Jews.” — These people are a small minority. The vast bulk of Muslims are just like the vast bulk of Christians. Maybe they’re open minded and tolerant, maybe they’re not. But they mostly want to go about their lives and be happy in their particular ways. Politicians want to be well-liked and get re-elected. Shopkeepers want people to shop so they can make money. Workers want to have a decent job at a decent wage and come home and relax. If we were properly building bridges with the politicians ans shopkeepers and workers, we’d have much less of a problem with the minority of terrorists.

    “… everything they have done over the past 50 years bespeaks a confident, expansionist power willing to shed enormous amounts of blood for no more reason than the thrill of watching Infidels die.” — I just can’t believe that. They’re not that different from us. There are terrorists that feel that way, but the terrorists can’t operate if the confident, expansionist power they live in and operate from are on the US’s side instead of the terrorists side.

    “America-bashing” — I don’t believe this was directed at me, but I want to make something perfectly clear. The degree to which I may criticize the US government is strictly the degree to which it deviates from the Founders’ ideals. I don’t hate the United States. I just miss it.

  25. Interesting series E.R.

    But to do so, we have to do more than recognize Stalin’s memes; we have to reject them. We have to eject postmodern leftism from our universities, transnational progressivism from our politics, and volk-Marxism from our media.

    Well then a fundamental question, if you hold that such memes adhere to Dawkin’s imperatives, is : what perceived utility do they convey to their hosts? A successful meme will putatively demonstrate a high degree of fidelity in replication, an optimized rate of replication, and ‘longevity’. The utility criteria, as I understand it, entails a subjective belief in the benefit of retaining and transmitting the meme ( longevity & replication ) – that it is perceived as useful towards some goal(s) esteemed by the host.

    A likely criticism of the application of a memetic model to suicidalism is that such memes are maladaptive. That their transmission will incur significant social costs, and that they contradict prominent psycho-evolutionary influences involving self defense and territoriality. While gene v. meme competition is accommodated by memetics, there is a conservative principle which holds that impedance with inveterate genetically motivated memetic complexes will tend to thwart the adoption of a meme ( Coherence ) .

  26. Try reading “Necessary
    Illutions” and “Manufacturing Consent”
    by Prof. Noam Chomsky.

    Think you could argue
    with him ? I dare you
    try it!

  27. Well, here in spain we have a perfect Suicidalist goverment, our President talks about Alliance of Civilization to understand islamic terrorism (obiusly caused by poverty), our Minister of Defence says that he prefers to be killed than to kill, and Minister for Foreign Affairs friends are Venezuela, Cuba, Palestina, Siria…

    You should be happy.

  28. One more thing. There is an excellent article in a related vein here:

    http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=010804A

    Yeah, yeah, and I’m sure Eric will like it, but it’s a bit glib for me. And it may be that today’s liberals have strange subterranean connections back to fascism in an “A was influenced by B, and B by C, and C by D…” way (and let’s not forget that the neocons started out on the left). But the two little things that Hitler had at his disposal which made all the rest possible were the Wehrmacht and the Luftwaffe, and I do not see any equivalent force in the hands of the sorry band of college professors, Hollywood celebrities and insufficiently pro-war journalists to whose doors you seem to have managed to track everything that’s wrong in the world today. On the other hand, I *do* see such a force somewhere else, and I tend to reserve my suspicions for the motives of the guys who are directing it, however much they say they’re doing so in everyone’s best interests.

  29. > Andy Freeman, forever in the third person for some reason (the desire not to actually address someone tainted with liberalism? Who can say),

    Few people confuse writing about someone’s comments with writing to that person.

    > should read Twain on the Philippines if he thinks America is innocent of colonialism

    Andrian10 seems to confuse “an American exploited some non-Americans” with “America has significant experience as a colonial power”.

    >(there’s also the little matter of the 19th century land grab, but apparently that ‘”doesn’t count” for a lot of people).

    It doesn’t because “the West” became part of America – colonies don’t. (The changing definition of “the West” in American history is somewhat interesting. In some cases, the “wild frontier” is in upstate NY.) Or, is Adrian10 suggesting that separatist loons are correct, that “the West” is “occupied” by the oppressive easterners and should be liberated? Or does he believe in Aztlan?

  30. Nice attempt, it manages to grab a potpourri of “for dummies” and layman books and papers on everything from evolution to unabombing, doing for blogs what Terry Pratchett did for DEATH and Shakespeare.

    But I missed the stuff about people in key positions being lizards more typical of successful work in this genre.

  31. ESR,

    am interested to know why you use the notation CE, and not AD — or are you being ironic? I am not defending the latter from a religious point of view, just wondering why you side with the politically correct academics on this one…

  32. >Yeah, yeah, and I’m sure Eric will like it, but it’s a bit glib for me.

    Actually, that was my reaction too. But then, the intimate connections between classical Fascism and the modern left have been too obvious to me for far too long for me to find this kind of argument very interesting. It’s a good thing for the less historically-aware to see, though.

  33. By contrast, ideological and memetic warfare has been a favored tactic for all of America’s three great adversaries of the last hundred years — Nazis, Communists, and Islamists. All three put substantial effort into cultivating American proxies to influence U.S. domestic policy and foreign policy in favorable directions.

    The fact that the first two lost suggests to me that we’re right to disregard the effectiveness of memetic warfare and concentrate on the underlying reality. In the case of terrorism, that underlying reality is that the hard-core nutters can only be effective if there’s a large pool of support for them. OBL may indeed hate the West because of the Crusades and the end of the Caliphate, but people only listen to him in large numbers because of the “root causes” that you so denigrate.

    [FWIW, I don't believe any of the things on the list of "Soviet memetic weapons" as absolute truths, but I do believe they can be useful ideas to bear in mind. There is truth, but there are also competing agendas that obscure that truth. Your agenda may not be the one that's closest to the truth. And as for "we deserve to be destroyed because we are the oppressors" - no, we are the oppressors, and we should stop, not least because it's hurting us as well as them.]

  34. adrian10: You need to study american nuclear history more, the only three nuclear explosions set off in the state I live in were not weapons tests, but attempts to increase oil and nautral gas production in wells by using a nuke to fracture the surronding rock. The resulting glow in the dark gas didn’t sell well, but it did provide significant data on what level of irradiation is “too much”. Bearing this data in mind I have no doubt our targeting cells could pick off the mullahs while leaving 90% or more of the nautral resources (and more importantly, the transportation infrastructure) in a recoverable state.

  35. Based on my childhood and teenage experiences in Communist Hungary, I think ESR is basically right.

    I think a lot of Americans have the mistake of thinking of the late Soviet Union as big, strong, stupid, aggressive giant – something kinda like the neighborhood brute. And while the claims of aggression and cruelty are of course true – we felt it in 1956 – these ideas are missing the point. Brutality was in the picture and it was of course the most painful part of the system, but wasn’t the most important one. The most important, most typical, and most effective part of the system were deceit, lying, “desinformatsiya”, camouflage, and so on. We called it agitprop. It is a short form of “agitation and propaganda”. It derives from the 40′s – when Communist agitated poor peasants to get them into a state of hating more wealthy peasants. Agitprop was kinda official word – The Party had an official agitprop department. There even were women called “agitka” – women who completely believed the official line and ran around preaching it. This word has a female connotation because 1) women somehow became more fanatic believers in the agitprop than men, I don’t know why 2) agitka’s were easy to get in bed with: one just had to mirror their beliefs and there you go :-) There is no male version of agitka, one called male commies “boss” at work and “assholes” in the pub.

    So, yes, agitprop was a more important aspect of Communism than tanks and MiG’s. I’d suggest to use the word agitprop instead of desinformatsiya, as desinformatsiya is what the KGB feeds to the CIA, while agitprop is what normal people and intellectuals feed to other normal people and intellectuals. It’s the same level of lying, but a different level of theoreticalness and professionality.

  36. Maybe I did not express myself clear enough: of course propaganda is a key part to every dictatorship. But in the average dictatorship agitprop is only a tool to keep the oppressed people calm – it is a defense tool. Dictatorships generally don’t use agitprop for offensive, they have tanks to do this job. Goebbels’s propaganda was only used to provide explanation of what the Nazis did by brute force. It was used to “justify” the use of force, not as a weapon in itself. It was a defensive measure.

    But Communism was different. While Marx thought the proletariat would “wake up” just itself, just by the dialectics of history, Lenin introduced the concept of the Communist elite: only a small group of people can understand the goings of history and they have to “educate” the proletariat into supporting them. This is why the ideology was called Marxism-Leninism, because Lenin introduced a lot of new concepts, the most important being the one that not the forces of history, but only the direct agitprop of Communists can get the proletariat to make a revolution. Agitprop was deeply set in the mind of Soviet Communists. They thought agitprop is a lot more than explaining what the goverment does. They thought it is a clever social weapon that induces revolution. It was a core concept of Communism that agitprop is an offensive, and not just a defensive weapon.

  37. The only thing one needs to know to measure Noam Chomsky is that the man spent the early 1970s as an apologist for Pol Pot during the same years Pol Pot’s Angkha was building pyramids of skulls in Cambodian cities. Even in a list as long and wretched as that of the Western intellectuals who shilled for totalitarianism, he stands out as a particularly horrible example of where reflexive anti-Americanism and moral blindness (if not active complicity) can lead.

    As for “CE”, I’m not a Christian.

  38. adrian10: You need to study american nuclear history more,

    Oh, here we go.

    the only three nuclear explosions set off in the state I live in were not weapons tests, but attempts to increase oil and nautral gas production in wells by using a nuke to fracture the surronding rock. The resulting glow in the dark gas didn’t sell well, but it did provide significant data on what level of irradiation is “too much”. Bearing this data in mind I have no doubt our targeting cells could pick off the mullahs while leaving 90% or more of the nautral resources (and more importantly, the transportation infrastructure) in a recoverable state.

    Well, once you’ve taken out the mullahs and everyone within artillery range of one, perhaps those who are left will sing Praise Be and welcome your troops as liberators and your oil companies with open arms, but I can’t help suspecting they may be more interested in dealing with someone a little more Chinese. The “radiation suits” crack was…a crack. They key point was that you’ll be unlikely to get all that much cooperation from the locals after you’ve nuked them. Unless you think that the Japanese example is really instructive, as Bush still seems to.

  39. Few people confuse writing about someone’s comments with writing to that person.

    I’m just amused that you should think such a childish attempt at condescension effective without any discernible, er, “altitude”.

    Andrian10 seems to confuse “an American exploited some non-Americans” with “America has significant experience as a colonial power”.

    *An* American? He must have been some guy, I was under the impression there was an army involved. But I’m glad to see that you’ve progressed from “we don’t have any experience as a traditional colonial power” to merely denying “significant experience”. A journey of a thousand miles, a single step etc.

    It doesn’t because “the West” became part of America – colonies don’t.

    Hairsplitting. Your genocide was more thorough, that’s all. The key idea was that white (later sometimes yellow) guys with superior technology beat on usually darker-skinned guys and took their stuff away. It’s not complicated.

    America preferred to dominate other countries throughout the 20th century indirectly, by co-opting their elites, as Euro-style colonialism had become unprofitable – basically the natives were getting too restless, reading Marx etc. That system appears to be in the process of breaking down. It’ll be interesting to see what replaces it.

  40. Hello! This is a response to esr’s most recent comment.

    The only thing one needs to know to measure Noam Chomsky is that the man spent the early 1970s as an apologist for Pol Pot during the same years Pol Pot’s Angkha was building pyramids of skulls in Cambodian cities.

    This is too vague for me to check, but I can find an apologist line in “Distortions at Fourth Hand” (1977):

    [W. J. Sampson] concludes “that executions could be numbered in hundreds or thousands rather than in hundreds of thousands,” though there was “a big death toll from sickness” — surely a direct consequence, in large measure, of the devastation caused by the American attack.

    (Which he believes put a very large dent in the supply of rice. In fact, this was a result of typical communist farming practices: no, you’re in an agricultural camp; you can’t eat. He really should have known that.)

    And later: “In the New York Times Magazine, May 1, 1977, Robert Moss… asserts that “Cambodia’s pursuit of total revolution has resulted… in the slaughter of a million people.” (His source is an interview with Khieu Samphan, Cambodia’s head of state at the time. This statement turned out to be correct.) Nowhere… does Khieu Samphan suggest that the million postwar deaths were a result of official policies. The “slaughter” by the Khmer Rouge is a Moss-New York Times creation.

    These do not justify your slur. I understand that his book “After the Cataclysm” (1979, not 1980) is closer to apologist, but I can’t get hold of it as easily as his articles, and you’re obviously not talking about it – early 1970s?

    (The statement that the left is essentially Communist, but that it is not Communist any more – that is, that we are Communists but don’t realize it – what’s up with that? So Noam Chomsky says, for example,

    “…It’s a kind of irreducible moral judgment that one should not resort to violence even if it would eliminate a greater evil. And these judgments are very hard to argue. I can only say that to me it seems like an immoral judgment.

    Now there is a tendency to assume that a stand based on an absolute moral judgment shows high principle in a way that’s not shown in a stand taken on what are disparagingly referred to as “tactical grounds.” I think this is a pretty dubious assumption.”

    Could you please, with aged, wise hand, reach out your handstamp and mark this “Postmodern Suicidalist – Eric Raymond”? I would wish to frame it.)

  41. >> Few people confuse writing about someone’s comments with writing to that person.

    >I’m just amused that you should think such a childish attempt at condescension effective without any discernible, er, “altitude”.

    It isn’t condescending to address one’s audience, no matter how much Adrian10 would like to be the center of the discussion.

    The “colonialism” in the incident that Twain refers to was more like raiding. It didn’t involve setting up a long term establishment for exploitation.

    The American west was conquest and assimilation, not colonialism. One important difference is the “oppression”, or lack thereof, afterwards. If Adrian10 sees oppression, perhaps he’ll tell us which “free state” organization he belongs to. Is it Aztlan?

  42. So, cola, you object to my charge because you think Chomsky may have written his main apologetic for Pol Pot later than I remembered (e.g. with less excuse?) There’s a new model in hairsplitting — a kind that actually hurts the person you’re defending! Congratulations!

    “that we are Communists but don’t realize it”. I would say: you were successfully infected by Communist memetic weapons but don’t realize it. Worth noting that the only respondent who grew up in a Communist country agrees. If it looks like a duck, quacks like a duck, walks like a duck…

    >Your genocide was more thorough, that’s all.

    True, but not basically anybody’s fault. The “genocide” was accomplished by accidentally-imported disease germs, and has been more than countervailed by improved living conditions since. There are way more people of primarily Amerind stock alive in North America today than there are estimated to have been in its peak pre-contact population. Thus, in the long run contact and its consequences were a good deal for the native populations genetically speaking, and arguably a good deal culturally — flush toilets count for a lot.

    (I’m part Amerind myself, by the way, if family tradition is correct.)

  43. “…if family tradition is correct…”

    LOL! What tradition is that ESR? “Wherever we Raymonds hang our hat, we pork the locals” ? “Nativus Bootyus Mountus” ?

    Sorry pal…couldn’t resist ;-)

  44. Well, no, Dan. The family legend has the Amerind ancestor on my mother’s side, so whoever did the porking was not a Raymond. :-)

    You wouldn’t think there was any Injun in my family to look at me — I take after the Swiss Germans and Alsatians in my ancestry — but you might guess it looking at my sisters, who’ve both got high cheekbones and very dark hair and just the faintest touch of copper in their skin tone. Truthfully, I’m not sure; the family legend may be pure myth.

    The main good thing about being (or believing) I’m part-Amerind is that it entitles me to be completely unsentimental about the whole Native-American thing. My ‘blood ancestors on the plains of North America weren’t saintly enviro-martyrs any more than my Germano-Celtic ancestors in the Neustrian forests were, and the fact that liberals abase themselves before one but not the other just makes me laugh.

  45. I usually take the weekend off, so I missed most of the beginning discussion. I’m glad it’s come around to something I can comment on again.

    /* [WildMonk] LISTEN to bin Laden: they are pissed off about the Crusades …
    */

    I agree with WildMonk more than this comment will let on, but it is hard to believe that modern-day Muslims are truly able to remember what happened 1000 years ago. It’s easy to believe that modern-day Muslims have been told that they ought to be upset about the Crusades because if it weren’t for the Crusades they’d (fill in the blank). Of course there’s no logic behind that, but it seems to be where the resentment comes from.

    It also explains why Muslims (are told to) riot and kill over cartoons or police chases, but not over Islamic schools keeping young girls inside burning buildings because their heads weren’t properly covered or when Filipinos behead Christian schoolchildren in the name of Allah.

    /* [adrian10] Andy Freeman … should read Twain on the Philippines if he thinks America is innocent of colonialism (there’s also the little matter of the 19th century land grab, but apparently that ‘”doesn’t count” for a lot of people).

    [Andy Freeman] It doesn’t because “the West” became part of America – colonies don’t.

    [adrian 10] Hairsplitting. Your genocide was more thorough, that’s all. The key idea was that white (later sometimes yellow) guys with superior technology beat on usually darker-skinned guys and took their stuff away. …

    America preferred to dominate other countries throughout the 20th century indirectly, by co-opting their elites, as Euro-style colonialism had become unprofitable
    */

    Again, we’re talking about something that happened outside of living memory. Are there lasting consequences because of the Phillipines or Manifest Destiny? Sure are. Should they be addressed? Probably. Does that mean that Western Civilization is inherently evil, and we ought to instead go out and buy prayer rugs and pre-emptively convert to Islam? Not really. And, yes, I know that nobody has suggested that.

    My point is simple: the 19th Century is like Vegas, whatever happened in the 19th Century stayed in the 19th Century. Should we still hold grudges against Great Britain for the burning of the White House in the War of 1812? How about the fact that Canada actually took some US land up in Maine? Do Northerners still believe the South ought to be convinced at the end of a gun? (I live in North Carolina, for the record, and for the record, NC is currently experiencing serious econimic growth because a lot of Yankees are moving here and setting up shop).

    That isn’t to say that modern US history is unblemished. There’s plenty of dirty laundry there for somebody to haul out, especially in relation to South America or to what we allowed to happen in order to prevent the spread of Communism. It is to say that it’s apparent the US doesn’t have the same values it had during WWII (not in terms of sticking to a war unless there is a day-to-day roadmap for withdrawal, and definitely not in terms of occupying Japan for decades), and that the meme that Viet Nam taught us all nations must be allowed to go their own way if that’s what they want is a meme (especially when we notice that Viet Nam’s way has led to untold suffering and starvation).

  46. So, cola, you object to my charge because you think Chomsky may have written his main apologetic for Pol Pot later than I remembered (e.g. with less excuse?)

    I’m not sure “After the Cataclysm” did contain an apology for the Khmer Rouge. I haven’t read it. So… you were thinking of some speech that he gave, or some book that he wrote. Could you tell me what it was? Then I won’t have to read “AtC”, and it looks like a terrible book. :)

    (Defending?)

    …You were successfully infected by Communist memetic weapons but don’t realize it. Worth noting that the only respondent who grew up in a Communist country agrees.

    Oh! Well, you can’t fight memes by attacking their carriers. What you ought to do is convince a bunch of academics and public figures that these ideas should be shown to be wrong, carefully and persuasively. Especially the first one, “there is no truth, only competing agendas;” I would very much like to see that idea more generally discredited.

    Shenpen’s post says, “Yes, agitprop was a more important aspect of Communism than tanks and MiG’s. It was a core concept of Communism that agitprop is an offensive, and not just a defensive weapon.” Did it stick? How much of the left believes these ideas? I don’t think his (?) post says anything about that.

  47. “Did it stick? How much of the left believes these ideas? I don’t think his (?) post says anything about that.”

    Actually, I would love to see an overview of the current political beliefs held by the people who were directly under the soviet rule – with the different age/sex/geographical groups broken out.

    Does anyone have any links?

  48. Google for “chomsky Pol Pot”. The best summary, supported rather than refuted by Chomsky’s own weasel-wording on line, is
    here.

  49. I have no desire to defend Chomsky’s anti-Americanism, but nonetheless, I think it important and realistic to understand that people, even people we’d deem wicked, often still have positive traits. Chomsky’s hatred of postmodernism is one such trait; his contributions to linguistics are another. Along those lines, I didn’t want a misconception being accidentally spread.

  50. The main good thing about being (or believing) I’m part-Amerind is that it entitles me to be completely unsentimental about the whole Native-American thing.

    Few things can be more frustrating than trying to get one of your chromosomes to pay reparations to the others.

    My ‘blood ancestors on the plains of North America weren’t saintly enviro-martyrs any more than my Germano-Celtic ancestors in the Neustrian forests were, and the fact that liberals abase themselves before one but not the other just makes me laugh.

    Without actually having been elected to speak for these people, I suspect most liberals, slack and effete and GUILTY though they must surely be, would be more impressed by memetic influence than by a few random base pairs. Of course, Wicca might for all I know have absorbed a dose of Native American shamanism, in which case they would be forced to concede respect despite themselves.

  51. >Wicca might for all I know have absorbed a dose of Native American shamanism

    Good guess. The dominent influences in Wiccan symbolism remain Greco-Roman and Celtic, but there’s a strong sense among us that what we’re actually groping for is a form of shamanism appropriate to our cultural context. Thus there have been continued and conscious efforts to stir Native American shamanism into the mix. Sioux mysticism has been expecially influential because there are good primary sources on it, notably Black Elk Speaks.

    Actually, if I took the religion-of-my-ancestors thing as a necessary condition, I’d have to join the Germanic revivalists in the Asatru Folk Assembly. They’re OK, but so influenced by Wicca that there wouldn’t be a whole lot of point in switching. I pursue this stuff because it does useful things to my brain; to pull me they’d have to be offering consciousness-changing tools that Wicca doesn’t.

  52. It isn’t condescending to address one’s audience,

    It’s just kind of a weird affectation, you know?

    “Hey everybody! I’m talking about this guy, not to him! Look!”

    I mean, if you were dominating the proceedings a bit more convincingly, that would be one thing, but…

    no matter how much Adrian10 would like to be the center of the discussion.

    This is a “discussion”? I suppose you did get one reply from Wildmonk. More than you deserved, I thought.

    The “colonialism” in the incident that Twain refers to was more like raiding.

    This was a “raid”? I mean, OK, it’s Wikipedia, and may have been personally edited by Noam Chomsky to make America look bad, but still.

    The American west was conquest and assimilation, not colonialism. One important difference is the “oppression”, or lack thereof, afterwards.

    Well, yeah, wipe enough of them out and the ones who are left do kind of lose the taste for insurrection. Australia’s settlement pattern was pretty similar, and most people have no problems calling that part of the colonial project. The process of taking stuff away from less technologically advanced folks is a common theme.

    I realise some of you just want to be different, of course.

    You never explained your plans for the US “taking the oil it needs”, btw. Was Wildmonk’s observation that the fact that America hadn’t done so was evidence for its good intentions the point you meant to make? I had the impression that you were suggesting something a little more assertive at some point in the future, in response to my idea that using nukes out there could backfire on you somewhat.

  53. Also, I think it’s worthy to be investigated that why Marxist agit-prop was so surprisingly successful in the West.

    I think one of the main reasons was the “anti-fascist” badge. During WWII,
    Stalin ordered the journalist to call the Germans Fascist instead of Nazi as
    the word Nazi implied that they are also socialists, and it was hard to
    explain why two socialist countries were engaging in an all-out total war.

    This subtle change came in very handy after the war. In reality, Nazism was
    a more or less isolated occurence of madness, bearing little resemblance to
    Fascism. Remember, for example, that Futurism was considered “degenerate
    art” by Nazis – a subtle, but sure sign of them being actually a world apart
    from each other. I think they just became military allies only because out
    of common interests, just like the US supporting Islam mujahedeen in the
    Soviet-Afghan war.

    Building upon the Nazi = Fascist story, Communists were able to present
    Nazism not as an isolated madness but as a part of a big Fascist uprising
    ranging to Mussolini, Franco, Salazaar, later Pinochet etc. This helped them
    spread the fear that the concept of Auschwitz is still there and the
    murderously insane ones are still not defeated, so one must fight global Fascism
    - and, of course, rub shoulders with Marxists.

    So to sum it up, the agitprop coctail contained the following elements:

    1) It was Fascism that built the extermination camps
    2) Fascism still represents a global danger, because it was only partly
    defeated
    3) Communists are most dedicated and most sucessful anti-fascist
    4) So if you want to get rid of Fascist danger, they’re here to help

    This message became so successful that the word actually “Fascist” became synonymous with “a general bad guy, anybody, who opresses people”, instead of being the
    label of a well-defined political movement. Even ESR uses the word
    Islamofascism despite that the most important Fascist concepts (corporative
    economy, the priority of the organic State over nationality, race and religion, enthusiasm over machines and technological advancement etc.) are nowhere to be found in Islam. Anti-racist young people
    call themselves “antifa” even though Fascism had nothing to do with racism,
    because in Fascism it’s the State (or, rather, the supra-ethnical,
    quasi-spiritual concept of the Empire, as presented by Julius Evola) is what
    creates a nation, not the other way around. Even programming languages are
    called Fascist, a good indication of the general misuse of the term. So, the
    injection of this concept was quiet successful.

    By presenting defeated Nazism as a part of a still dangerous global Fascist movement,
    it was possible to scare parts of the intelligentsia into a robotically
    reactive “clockwork orange” anti-fascist mindset: supporting everything that
    claimed to be “antifa” and distancing themselves from everything that
    vaguely resembled Fascist, including patriotism, wisdom, common sense, generosity,
    courage, self-sacrifice, duty and telling right from wrong – basically every
    concept of human quality. Err, even the term “human quality” sounds somewhat Fascist and therefore eeeevil. We completely forgot to keep the topic of what kind of people we are a natural part of the political discourse…

    This might be the biggest harm of them all.

  54. Shenpen, I disgree with your analysis somewhat because I think the essential ideas of Fascism are a different set than the ones you cite. Futurism and technology-worship are accidental; what’s essential is irrationalism, corporatism, and absolute statism. As Mussolini said. “Everything for the state, nothing outside the state, nothing above the state.” This is why I regard Naziism not as an aberration but as the realization of Fascist ideology at an extreme the Italians were unwilling to embrace.

    I use the term “Islamofascism” because both the Baath Party and the Muslim Brotherhood explicitly emulated what they perceived as the strengths of Fascist doctrine and organization. They, too, extracted the essential ideas while discarding the superficial ones. The fact that Qutb and the Muslim Brotherhood located their authority in the will of Allah rather than a mystical conception of the ‘Volk’ or nation is of no actual consequence.

    I think the Communists were correct to equate Naziism with Fascism. What they didn’t want anyone to notice is that (a) Stalinism demands a state every bit as absolute as the Fascist one, and (b) Stalinism is where you have to end up if you take Communist redistributionism seriously. No less absolute a system of coercion can accomplish the stated goals of Communist ideology.

    Then, of course, if you examine the history of Fascism you find that it was all ex-Communists of Leninist stripe at the back of it (the only significant exceptions, near as I can tell, were Gabriel DiAnnunzio and Hitler). Fascism simply gave Communist absolutism a superficial nationalist/racist paint job.

    This is why I view the Communist-Fascist dispute as an essentially intramural squabble between two only trivially different forms of socialism.

  55. Fascism: Totalitarianism with nationalistic chauvinism.
    Nazism: Totalitarianism with racial chauvinism.
    Communism: Totalitarianism with class-based chauvinism.

  56. So we have more amerinds around today, but at the cost of their genuine cultures, almost all of which have been wiped out and replaced with casinos.

    I don’t know yet that that’s an even trade. You may wish to consider that the reason why blacks and hispanics don’t assimilate well into white Murkan society is a deliberate and well-considered one, especially given the treatment those two groups have endured for centuries.

  57. Shenpen, the Marxist agitprop agents didn’t have to work very hard to win the black crowd, as a cursory reading of Hughes or DuBois might suggest.

    I’m to understand that the passing of civil-rights legislation had nothing to do with restoring the humanity of America’s most oppressed underclass and everything to do with Cold War geopolitics…

  58. Cultures change, Jeff. You don’t honestly believe that Amerinds today should be living exactly like Amerinds of 1491, do you? And if you don’t, then how much should they change before it’s too much? In fact, by what moral philosophy can you say anything about what their culture “should” be, today?

    As for blacks and hispanics not assimilating well, why don’t you prove that statement, and then account for asians, jews, indians, italians, russians, and everyone else that came to America and seems to be doing alright.

    I have no idea what your second comment means. Seriously. You’ve done outwitted me, so pat yourself on the back. The nearest I can figure is your calling Charlton Heston a communist, or something.

    Lastly, why don’t you espouse your solution to the problem of Western culture. How, exactly, do you believe the world, or this part of it, should be run? I can’t figure it out.

  59. >I’m to understand that the passing of civil-rights legislation had nothing to do with restoring the humanity of America’s most oppressed underclass and everything to do with Cold War geopolitics…

    Few things have single causes. A meme didn’t have to be evil and wrong to be useful to Stalin, merely disruptive and demoralizing. Occasionally his agents of influence did something useful despite the aims of the program, just as Stalin’s opponents sometimes did bad and harmful things in the service of what was overall a worthy struggle.

  60. Good guess. The dominent influences in Wiccan symbolism remain Greco-Roman and Celtic, but there’s a strong sense among us that what we’re actually groping for is a form of shamanism appropriate to our cultural context.

    That would probably be the drugs you appear to have eschewed, unfortunately. The Maya seem to have had some pretty hardcore practices, but it sounds like they might interfere with the modern workweek a little.

  61. Bessman, have you not considered that maybe exchanging their bottom-up tribal culture for participation in top-down, seigneurial, Murkan culture was not a change for the better, but rather a change for the worse? Especially considering that the most lucrative option for Injuns (the gaming industry, and I don’t mean Xbox) only serves to deepen the normotic illness the enclosing culture suffers so gravely from?

    As for what to do about it, I’m convinced that Americans remain the more threatening memebots, and their sleep-obey-consume programming (aka normotic illness) remains the greater form of suicidalism, since it is likely accelerating humanity to the mass extinction event by demanding ever greater consumption and strain of already thinly spread resources — and furthermore, the illness is so deeply ingrained into our culture that there’s no regime change that will wake up 200+ million somnambulents in this country alone. Those who do survive will, out of absolute necessity, have to regain their organic competency if they want to live terribly long, just as the Africans and Amerindians did before being coopted by the European hegemon.

    That said it’s probably better to start assembling the bottom-up social structures necessary to survive what’s to come, right now, than sit on our butts and cheerleading G-Dub to finish his War on the Islamic Red Herring. Eric’s mesh networking is one way of doing so. And Cuba’s agricultural revolution, in which the Western-supported, resource-hungry Green Revolution practices were supplanted by smaller, communitarian, ecologically aware farming practices, is an example of how the dirty commies have triumphed over the cowboy capitalists in this most important of political issues: how best to make use of our dwindling resources.

  62. And Cuba’s agricultural revolution, in which the Western-supported, resource-hungry Green Revolution practices were supplanted by smaller, communitarian, ecologically aware farming practices, is an example of how the dirty commies have triumphed over the cowboy capitalists in this most important of political issues: how best to make use of our dwindling resources.

    Sadly, word is Chavez has been giving them cheap oil and they’ve regressed quite a bit.

  63. This “normotic” thing, it’s like “praxis”, it triggers a protection-from-ideology reflex and anything else you write might as well be in Swahili IMO.

  64. Adrian, I will be honest: your protection-from-ideology reflex may be quite a bit more highly developed than mine, which leads me to be greatly concerned as I try to sort these new bits out. The idea that American freedom and market economy may be just a new, more resilient and pernicious form of hegemony is quite new and foreign; and, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure it’s true yet (though my suspicions are that it is). Then again, at first my family objected to my frequent use of “canonical”; now they use it themselves. So perhaps it’s just a Kids in the Hall “Ascertain Guy” thing.

  65. Adrian, I will be honest: your protection-from-ideology reflex may be quite a bit more highly developed than mine, which leads me to be greatly concerned as I try to sort these new bits out.

    No, I know more or less what you mean, it’s the other guys.

    The idea that American freedom and market economy may be just a new, more resilient and pernicious form of hegemony is quite new and foreign; and, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure it’s true yet (though my suspicions are that it is).

    Freedom to Shop, innit. There’s a passage in de Tocqueville you might like, in volume 2, Chapter VI: What Sort Of Despotism Democratic Nations Have To Fear. Some prescient stuff there, though he’s always in danger of being dismissed as French.

  66. The same religous extreme ideoligy that existis in islam also exists in the USA, americain irish calling the IRA reedom fighters and welcoming Jerry Adams like a hero even though they where comitting acts of terroism in the UK. One of the most hypocrytical things that turned my stomach the most was just after 9/11, I was in a bar New Jersy and saw a comiseration note from the IRA. Don’t get me wrong 9/11 was a hideous thing, but to see that from an organisation that has no qualms about planting bombs and killing innocent people in London and Manchester. In my mind it was written by some 5th generation americain irish morron who has never set foot in Ireland and can’t speak a word a Gealic thought they where being patriotic to a country they have very tenuous ties to.
    Americain politicians also use this method as a powerful tool against it’s own people, they were doing exactly the same in the cold war as the Russians, and more recently in the post 9/11 era with the enhanced terror threats even saying that small town america is at risk.
    The whole point of this was ideological warfare against it’s own people was to go in search for WMD’s (OOOPS none there but lots of oil). The US is already ‘Crusading’ because all the Crusaders really went into the Holy Land for was personal gain, history is repeating itself again the only difference is that in the 11th century the West went there in the name of religion, now it was because of WMD’s (even though Isreal’s allowed them). The goverment was also correct that small town america was at risk, but it wasn’t from terrorism, they are returning in body bags (come on who many people from New York ar L.A. join the Army).

  67. Shenpen: What did I agree to? I think was writing about a totally different subject than Chomsky.

    What I got from your post was: for Communism, agitprop is a weapon, and a very important one. I didn’t think you said that the American left-wing has been taken in by Soviet agitprop.

    esr: Google for “chomsky Pol Pot”.

    My first post is mostly a reply to that article, “The hypocrisy of Noam Chomsky”. Which I guess makes me feel happy that I’m not overlooking something. Thanks for your time! :)

    guy: Actually, I would love to see an overview of the current political beliefs held by the people who were directly under the soviet rule…

    I would like to see that too! Hmm. Wikipedia (Politics of Russia) has the breakdown of votes in the 2003 Russian elections. (What? The Soviet Union had other parts?)

  68. You didn’t answer my question about Amerinds. If you can’t answer my question, then you’re position is arbitrary and no more right than mine (which is that Amerind hotties should cook me dinner and give me Swedish massages [don't question it]).

    I can’t figure out “normotic illness,” but if it really means “sleep-obey-consume,” I think you need to flesh that idea out a bit more. If all American’s really did was “sleep-obey-consume,” well — nevermind, I’ll let you explain this idea a bit more before I try to figure out how I feel about it.

    Your last argument seemed to be a tangential bit of greeness and vague hand-wavery. Where in the world do you get this “running out of resources” stuff from? How can America be the best fed nation in the world if we’re screwing ourselves out of our resources? Our homeless people are obese. Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me as if you’re world view is shaped by the perception that we’re going to, basically, consume ourselves to death. That’s very, very wrong, but I want to make sure that is indeed what you think before I dismantle it.

  69. >> It isn’t condescending to address one’s audience,

    >It’s just kind of a weird affectation, you know?

    >“Hey everybody! I’m talking about this guy, not to him! Look!”

    Except that I wasn’t talking about Adrian10, I was writing about his comments, as is clear from “Few people confuse writing about someone’s comments with writing to that person.”, a sentence that he somehow didn’t manage to quote.

    And, I didn’t draw attention to it – Adrian10 did. He finds it notable when he isn’t the object of interest.

    Maybe we can have an Adrian10 topic where those interested can discuss him. Maybe he’ll participate. And then we’ll have ice cream.

  70. >> The American west was conquest and assimilation, not colonialism. One important difference is the “oppression”, or lack thereof, afterwards.

    >Well, yeah, wipe enough of them out and the ones who are left do kind of lose the taste for insurrection. Australia’s settlement pattern was pretty similar, and most people have no problems calling that part of the colonial project. The process of taking stuff away from less technologically advanced folks is a common theme.

    Yawn. So some folks like to mislabel their hairshirt.

    Yes, conquest and colonialism both involve taking away stuff from other people. That doesn’t make them the same.

    Pretty much every society today is the result of conquest. Is there any reason why the US’ conquest of “the west” should be thought of differently?

    I’m still waiting for Adrian10 to tell us which resistance group he finds appealing. Aim? Aztlan? Sons of the West? Who is the colonial power? NY? DC? The Queen of England? (If the American west is a colony, the oppressor has to be mostly outside and taking stuff out. With conquest, the “oppressor” is local and mostly keeps the stuff where it is.)

  71. > You never explained your plans for the US “taking the oil it needs”, btw. Was Wildmonk’s observation that the fact that America hadn’t done so was evidence for its good intentions the point you meant to make? I had the impression that you were suggesting something a little more assertive at some point in the future, in response to my idea that using nukes out there could backfire on you somewhat.

    “plans” is an interesting word choice, one that isn’t supported by my actual statement. Let’s start with what I actually wrote.

    >> Adrian10 seems to think that the US couldn’t take the oil it needs. While we don’t have any experience as a traditional colonial power, who does he think can stop us?

    Wildmonk’s observation is relevant but I was pointing out that the effectiveness of the “backfire” is largely dependent on control of oil production. The relevant facilities are fairly small. (They aren’t the whole country.) If the US tried to control them, the locals couldn’t do much about it. Which outsiders would help enough to make a difference?

    The oil consuming countries have already demonstrated that they don’t much care what happens in oil producing countries. Why would they start caring if the US ran the fields and transportation and basically ignored the rest of those countries and their inhabitants?

    It would be an odd sort of colonialism, one that didn’t rely on labor by the locals. In some sense, it would be like agriculture’s effects on local wildlife.

  72. And, I didn’t draw attention to it – Adrian10 did. He finds it notable when he isn’t the object of interest.

    You keep saying this, but there really isn’t a lot of evidence for it. I’m here to talk about ideas. You’re here to mostly…well, talk about my posts atm, afaict. While deliberately not addressing me, a not-very-grownup rhetorical distancing device which you’re now committed to, as reverting to normal would feel like a retreat. And then saying that *I’m* not the object of interest – my *posts* are. Again, it would be more convincing if you had more interlocutors than a single obliquely relevant comment from Wildmonk.

    Yawn. So some folks like to mislabel their hairshirt.

    A hairshirt is something uncomfortable which is voluntarily worn as an act of penance. This would be what…colonialism?

    Yes, conquest and colonialism both involve taking away stuff from other people. That doesn’t make them the same.

    The main distinction would appear to be that conquest relieves one of the experience of governing numbers of subject peoples large enough to be dangerous, forcing one to, say, invade Iraq for a reminder of why the Europeans decided it wasn’t worth the trouble any more.

    “plans” is an interesting word choice, one that isn’t supported by my actual statement. Let’s start with what I actually wrote.

    Plans, scenario, whatever. Lord, you’ve a taste for hairsplitting.

    I’m still waiting for Adrian10 to tell us which resistance group he finds appealing.

    Hardly any of my business. Twenty years from now it might have started to result in something. Very hard to know how the anti-immigration thing is going to go.

    Wildmonk’s observation is relevant but I was pointing out that the effectiveness of the “backfire” is largely dependent on control of oil production. The relevant facilities are fairly small. (They aren’t the whole country.) If the US tried to control them, the locals couldn’t do much about it. Which outsiders would help enough to make a difference?

    The oil consuming countries have already demonstrated that they don’t much care what happens in oil producing countries. Why would they start caring if the US ran the fields and transportation and basically ignored the rest of those countries and their inhabitants?

    It would be an odd sort of colonialism, one that didn’t rely on labor by the locals. In some sense, it would be like agriculture’s effects on local wildlife.

    Well, unless “ignoring” includes “feeding” it would also presumably result in the mass starvation/immolation/emigration of the locals (and the knock-on effects that would produce on surrounding areas), which you (by which I mean the whole country) would have to watch on TV. And as I said before, I don’t think most Americans (including the ones in the military) are ready to see themselves as high-tech successors to Genghis Khan yet (nor do I reckon losing a city or two would prepare them), however up for it you may be personally. It’d be the insiders you had to worry about, not the outsiders.

  73. >>And, I didn’t draw attention to it – Adrian10 did. He finds it notable when he isn’t the object of interest.

    > You keep saying this, but there really isn’t a lot of evidence for it.

    Adrian10 “forgets” that he’s the one who pointed out,, aka “noted”, that I wasn’t addressing him. Most other people don’t.

    > Plans, scenario, whatever. Lord, you’ve a taste for hairsplitting.

    I do prefer accuracy. I didn’t propose a set of actions aimed at accomplishing a goal. I asked about capability. (Capability being necessary but not sufficient.)

    While Adrian10 might prefer to criticize a plan from me, the success/failure of the scenario described doesn’t depend on whether I can dot all the is.

    > Well, unless “ignoring” includes “feeding” it would also presumably result in the mass starvation/immolation/emigration

    Why seizing the oil fields result in starvation? They had food before they knew that they had oil. If they’ve forgotten how to live without oil revenue, they could ask Texans.

    Yes, their rich class wouldn’t be able to afford new Filipino maids every season and might have to give up their Swiss vacations, but I don’t see that as a big concern.

    Many people have figured out how to make a living without oil revenues. Why would those middle east folk be any different? (There are middle east folk who have figured it out.)

  74. You keep saying this, but there really isn’t a lot of evidence for it. I’m here to talk about ideas. You’re here to mostly…well, talk about my posts atm, afaict. While deliberately not addressing me, a not-very-grownup rhetorical distancing device which you’re now committed to, as reverting to normal would feel like a retreat. And then saying that *I’m* not the object of interest – my *posts* are. Again, it would be more convincing if you had more interlocutors than a single obliquely relevant comment from Wildmonk.

    Oh whatever man. Here to talk about ideas? BS. You’re here to be snide and ambiguous. I have yet to hear you clearly say anything, with the net result that the bulk of the “discussion” about your “ideas” is people trying to figure out WTF your point is. I still don’t know WTF your point is. The only time I actually drilled you hard enough to get down to it (libertarian theory and fraud), it turned out to be absolutely worthless, weak, and wrong.

    I mean, look at you kicking up a storm like some bratty 13 year old girl because Daddy Freeman didn’t address you directly. You know why he said “Adrian10 seems to think?” Here, let me show you:

    The main distinction would appear to be that conquest relieves one of the experience of governing numbers of subject peoples large enough to be dangerous, forcing one to, say, invade Iraq for a reminder of why the Europeans decided it wasn’t worth the trouble any more.

    What? How does conquest relieve the conqueror of governing duties? And why did that cause America to invade Iraq? The Europeans tried to invade Iraq? WTF are you saying man?

    Hardly any of my business. Twenty years from now it might have started to result in something. Very hard to know how the anti-immigration thing is going to go.

    HUH!? What might have started to result in something? And WTF does it have to do with the… wait, what anti-immigration thing are you talking about anyway?

    You write your posts as if we’re already inside your head and we know what you’re thinking, when such is not the case. If this is giving you cramps, then why don’t you write clearly? I think the fact that you never do indicates that you don’t actually have anything meaningful to say, and if there is some nugget of a substantial position buried in your posts, when you actually dig it up — it’s a turd.

  75. Pete, Andy, I know I’m just a know-nothing pansy-ass welfare-statist Limey, but that’s just pathetic. Only one person (until now) has been replying to Andy, and that’s adrian10. Andy, meanwhile, has been rather rudely talking *about* Adrian instead of replying to him, even when called on it. The effort is incidentally starting to make his writing rather tortured. Meanwhile Adrian has been wrily taking the piss out of him for his pomposity (it’s this thing we have called “deadpan humour”: you might like to try it some time). As for Adrian’s contributions, I think he’s serving the useful function of pointing out the flaws in others’ thinking and providing a useful non-(libertarian/conservative/rightist-wingnut) counterbalance – which should be quite enough around here. Of course, I would think that, because I mostly agree with him.

    The main distinction would appear to be that conquest relieves one of the experience of governing numbers of subject peoples large enough to be dangerous, forcing one to, say, invade Iraq for a reminder of why the Europeans decided it wasn’t worth the trouble any more.
    I’m not entirely sure what he was saying here myself, tbh – the conquest-v-colonialism argument was always pretty silly and hairsplitting. I think he meant that Americans conquered the West and genocided the Indians almost completely, so their subject peoples were too small to be dangerous. Whereas the Brits (say) merely colonised India, didn’t go in for genocide much (or at least not to the same extent), and consequently spent the next hundred or so years learning just how difficult it is to govern “numbers of subject peoples large enough to be dangerous”. The Americans, lacking this experience (forgetting the Philippines for now), didn’t realise that this colonialism thing is actually quite hard, and needed the experience of invading Iraq to learn that lesson.

    There are holes in this argument, to be sure, and I’m sure it wasn’t meant entirely seriously. But there’s still some truth in it. I keep watching the news and shouting “For God’s sake, America, if you’re going to try to be an Imperial power, would you please have the courtesy to learn from our mistakes?” I mean, points to you for having the balls to start with Afghanistan, the graveyard of empires, but minus several million for good thinking, yeah?

    Hardly any of my business. Twenty years from now it might have started to result in something. Very hard to know how the anti-immigration thing is going to go.
    HUH!? What might have started to result in something? And WTF does it have to do with the… wait, what anti-immigration thing are you talking about anyway?

    *sigh*. OK, small words. Adrian does not live in the US. Adrian might, in twenty years, want to move to the US. Publically admitting to membership of an extremist society might affect his chances of making that move. This all depends on future US immigration laws. Clear enough? It’s… a… joke. Like much of what he says. He’s partly British, I believe; we all talk like this.

  76. Yeah, small words: STFU and let adrian10 tell us what he meant to say.

    He’s partly British, I believe; we all talk like this.

    I call Bravo Sierra. You all don’t talk like that anymore than “we” all talk like me. That is wee todd ed.

  77. > Andy, meanwhile, has been rather rudely talking *about* Adrian instead of replying to him, even when called on it.

    Feel free to quote any comment that I’ve made *about* Adrian10. I have commented on his ideas, but that’s not talking “*about* Adrian”.

    BTW – “It’s a joke” is generally short for “I screwed up”. It’s usually considered poor form to attribute it to someone else, even if you think that it’s their best way out. Adrian10 seems quite capable of making his own case.

    As far as “wrily taking the piss out of him”, nope – he’s just whinging.

    > Adrian might, in twenty years, want to move to the US.

    Why? Where he currently lives is clearly superior.

  78. >>He’s partly British, I believe; we all talk like this.

    >I call Bravo Sierra.

    Er. Pete, I’m afraid Miles is right. They do all talk like that. Meiosis. It’s a cultural thing.

    (I speak as a former resident of London who imprinted on Kipling instead of Westerns, saw early Dr. Who episodes first-run, and actually got the obscure British-politics jokes in Monty Python that most Americans never knew were there.)

  79. Oh whatever man. Here to talk about ideas? BS. You’re here to be snide and ambiguous.

    I know my style isn’t going to appeal to everyone.

    I have yet to hear you clearly say anything, with the net result that the bulk of the “discussion” about your “ideas” is people trying to figure out WTF your point is. I still don’t know WTF your point is. The only time I actually drilled you hard enough to get down to it (libertarian theory and fraud), it turned out to be absolutely worthless, weak, and wrong.

    Are you *still* patting yourself on the back for that? You quoted the thing about fraud from Eric’s site, which I hadn’t seen before, or hadn’t really looked at. So I asked about it, specifically about meeting fraud with fraud, as I didn’t know what that implied. OK, I asked kind of snidely, and you were quite entitled to be snide back – but having answered my question (for which props and thanks) you then got yourself involved in some absurd victory dance. I mean, get a sense of *proportion*. It was just a spontaneous fucking question.

    I mean, look at you kicking up a storm like some bratty 13 year old girl because Daddy Freeman didn’t address you directly.

    I actually have no problem with my opponents making themselves look a little affected, but I don’t have to pretend they’re doing otherwise (and again, you may not be the target audience here). He can talk about me how he likes.

    What? How does conquest relieve the conqueror of governing duties? And why did that cause America to invade Iraq? The Europeans tried to invade Iraq? WTF are you saying man?

    Miles has unpacked it pretty well. The British did occupy Iraq, in fact. Not the worst of our legacies – that has to be Kashmir.

    HUH!? What might have started to result in something? And WTF does it have to do with the… wait, what anti-immigration thing are you talking about anyway?

    OK, that wasn’t clear. There’s currently a fairly big wave of mainly Mexican immigration coming in afaict, and despite Eric’s confidence, some debate about whether the country can absorb it the way previous waves were absorbed – whether these guys will internalise The Dream in quite the same way as the WASPS, who are breeding at similar rates to Euros. Surely you’re aware of anti-immigrant sentiment? Whether the ‘resistance movements’ Andy keeps asking about develop into anything, and whether a distinct Hispano-American identity which might not be quite so interested in direct domination of bits of abroad is being forged or not probably depends on how that plays out, and I imagine it’s going to take a while.

    This follows on from my pointing out parallels between conquest and colonialism, which Andy thinks means I have to support a resistance group. I am, in fact, getting bored with this line of argument – Miles is right, it’s hairsplitting – hence the carelessness. There you go.

    You write your posts as if we’re already inside your head and we know what you’re thinking, when such is not the case.

    Having to infer things occasionally isn’t the worst thing that can happen to someone. But I hear what you’re saying.

  80. *sigh*. OK, small words. Adrian does not live in the US. Adrian might, in twenty years, want to move to the US.

    Only if I’m totally wrong (yes guys, I *already know* you think I am) about the energy situation. I reckon America could turn into a really mean place in a contracting world economy, what with the expectations they tend to have, even though they’ll still have huge resources.

    That would be an ambiguous bit of implication even for me, Miles!

  81. Adrian10 “forgets” that he’s the one who pointed out,, aka “noted”, that I wasn’t addressing him. Most other people don’t.

    Which ‘other people’? Oh…Pete. Well, that’s something.

    Why seizing the oil fields result in starvation? They had food before they knew that they had oil. If they’ve forgotten how to live without oil revenue, they could ask Texans.

    Most of their populations have been allowed to mushroom by oil revenue, to a rather larger extent than happened with Texans. Might well be their fault (refusal to educate women, resistance to family planning, yadda yadda), but take it away and they’d still return to equilibrium, on your television screens.

    As far as “wrily taking the piss out of him”, nope – he’s just whinging.

    That’s what I want you to think.

  82. Pete Bessman:

    Normotic illness is, roughly, the death of subjectivity. It is the consideration of people, including oneself, as objects, the opposite, as Trang and/or Pensinger put it, of animism. The term originally comes from the psychiatrist Christopher Bollas.

    Upthread, Eric mentioned that he was a Wiccan because Wicca did good things to his brain, which leads me to believe that he encountered a Wiccan tradition with definite anti-normotic bits in it. Not exactly what I would choose but hey, horses for courses. Religion is a tool whose use, like all tools, is supposed to bring ostensible benefit to the user. Many of the world’s religions including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, come with a definitive exoteric/esoteric split; the former being a management tool, the latter being an instruction manual or guidebook for the managers. Rather like The Matrix, actually, although I prefer an analogy from Ira Levin’s This Perfect Day, in which the machine’s programmers are recruited from among those who rebel against it.

    I’d rather dispense with the whole mess altogether and start afresh with a society of fully self-aware humans. Such societies existed you know, especially in Africa and the Americas before Western contact and colonialism. Guess which two kinds of societies suffered the most brutal, deliberate attempts at destruction or subjugation by Europeans and Americans throughout this country’s history beginning at least with Columbus (who encountered the Arawaks and figgered, what fine people; they’d make wonderful slaves)?

    Protestant Christianity is perhaps the most normotic religion extant in the world today — I’m not even sure that fundamentalist Islam can compare, its power being magnified by its coincidence with rich oil deposits upon which the rest of the world is dependent — and it has America in a hammerlock. John Taylor Gatto provides perhaps the richest exposition of how fundamentalist religion and industry work together, each with the goal of automatizing an ostensibly free society to create a productive, obedient work force and economic engine, completely unaware of (or unwilling to acknowledge) the squandering of resources and utter lack of respect for human dignity committed by agents of this engine. Sleep – obey – consume.

    If you ask me what a culture should be, Native American or otherwise, I say it should be non-normotic or even anti-normotic, the normotic model of course being not only monstrous but unsustainable and due for imminent collapse. So no, I don’t necessarily think they should live exactly as they did in 1491, but I do think they lost (or had taken from them) something precious which they may not be able to get back. See, I can talk about what a culture should be like till the cows come home, but it doesn’t look like there’s anything substantive we can do to get the camel out of our collective tent. We simply have to build our social-structures to exist independently of, and resist, the omnipresent top-down hegemonic ones and hope the blowback doesn’t kill us when the collapse comes.

    Eric’s an interesting character because he’s come into contact with what may be genuine practice of consciousness; and yet he has materially benefited enough from the hegemonic structure as to identify with it (“the terrorists want to destroy my civilization”) and give loud and vocal support to its continuation; specifically its most monstrous recent instantiation in the form of the Bush regime. It is unfortunate that this POV is very, very tempting for most Americans, even myself, to hold. I still want to be on your and Eric’s side in this; unfortunately, after having discovered a few key bits about American and Western history, I cannot be.

  83. >Eric’s an interesting character because he’s come into contact with what may be genuine practice of consciousness; and yet he has materially benefited enough from the hegemonic structure as to identify with it

    My “genuine practice of consciousness” tells me that anyone who can use the phrase “hegemonic structure” and mean it is exactly the kind of pathetic memebot running the program of a dead tyrant that I was describing in my original post. One of us needs to break out of a mind-deadening program, all right, but here’s a hint: it isn’t me.

  84. Eric,

    You yourself have declared your opposition to hegemonic structures on this blog though without that particular buzzwordology: to wit, the Augustinian guilt monitor that inheres to Catholicism. You have even wondered why we’re such a materially rich but feckless society. The obvious answer is that Americans are, by and large, also bots running their own meme plague — except it could be a version of the same meme plague. Read your Gatto; he notes that Taylorism and Fordism were concepts co-opted wholesale to forge the early Soviet work ethic.

    I’m all for libertarianism, individual rights, and individual initiative. Where you and I part company is that I can no longer retain the cognitive dissonance necessary to believe that a culture capable of this is, in any regard, a free one.

  85. Augustinian guilt monitor

    You’re doing it *again*. These conceptual units aren’t part of the common language (though they may be current in certain specialised subgroups). Outside they fairly shriek of ideology, and serve mainly to annoy people who haven’t accepted them. Gotta sell the meme before you can get people to use it in transactions. Take “Islamofascism” – some of us may well think it’s asscrack (eg using some fantasy Caliphate as the putative totalitarian state its enthusiasts want to work toward), but it’s part of the currency here.

    Where you and I part company is that I can no longer retain the cognitive dissonance necessary to believe that a culture capable of this is, in any regard, a free one.

    That was a little while ago, still, even if some of the echoes haven’t quite died away. You can hardly mean America is capable of that *now*.

  86. adrian, I got “Augustinian guilt monitor” from Eric himself. My intended audience for that comment knows exactly what I’m talking about, being the establisher of the concept; and, as a recovering Catholic, I knew exactly what he was talking about when he brought it up.

  87. Pete, Andy: my intention was not to defend Adrian (he’s capable of doing that himself), but rather to show that what he was saying was in fact intelligible and that someone other than him thought you were being idiots. As I realised later, I actually interpreted the immigration thing wrongly: serve me right for a) being patronising, and b) jumping into a flamewar. Sorry about that. I stand by the rest of what I said, though. Oh, and when said by a Brit, “It’s a joke” means “It’s a joke, and you’re… somewhat slow on the uptake if you need to have that pointed out”, as Eric will confirm.

    Jeff: that’s a somewhat… unconventional idea. Interesting, to be sure, but I’m not convinced it describes the real world all that well. Reminds me of the Chinese proverb about being a Confucian (a normotic religion for sure) by day, and a Taoist by night.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but it seems to me as if your world view is shaped by the perception that we’re going to, basically, consume ourselves to death. That’s very, very wrong, but I want to make sure that is indeed what you think before I dismantle it.
    OK, Pete, I’ll bite: why do you think we aren’t going to consume ourselves to death? I’m genuinely interested to hear your arguments. Think of me as someone who holds that belief but is willing to be persuaded (though I’ll warn you: climatology is a science in its infancy, but pop-economics isn’t a science at all).

  88. Jeff –

    Is your post not written from the perspective of an objective, disinterested observer? Are you not thus assuming a ‘normotic’ stance towards the people of the culture you analyze (even bizarrely calling Protestantism normotic). Don’t you, by doing so, prove yourself to be normotically ill? Of course, I would argue that the entire concept is meaningless and we cannot help but discuss culture and history in a fashion that ‘objectifies’ the people under discussion. But, hey, you made your bed so you’ll have to lie in it.

    In a late entry into the “most charming” category, you then present yourself as having reached the Olympian stature of “fully self-aware” – a position from which I presume you occasionally deign to peer down on the human cattle lowing and scratching below you and pass judgement. As your charm offensive builds steam, you even admit Eric to the status of those who have at least ‘come into contact’ with ‘consciousness’ (you go, Eric!).

    Bet it feels good.

    BTW – just so you don’t think that throwing around names like Bollas somehow builds credibility, I’ll tell you straight up that I view his work – like much of the psychoanalytic literature before him – as no more than masturbation aids for the (usually powerless) intellectual. This is especially true when I see attempts to extend it to the realm of politics and culture. I don’t mean to be insulting, it is just that your post fairly drips with condescension towards Eric as well as a very narrow experience with both life and literature.

  89. Miles – the essential argument behind the belief that we will not “consume ourselves to death” is that, while material goods are finite, creativity and human ingenuity are not.

    The cardinal virtue of optimists is that they assume that there are lots of really smart, creative people out there. The cardinal virtue of optimistic capitalists is that they assume that all material goods are fungible and, when prices go up, that smart, creative people will step in to find a substitute!

  90. WildMonk:

    No. It doesn’t feel good. And I never claimed to be one of the Enlightened, though I am a fair bit more questioning than the average American, which may be precisely the problem here.

    I think I better understand the operation of the Soviet meme plague described in this post; I thank you for this perspective and owe you and Eric an apology.

  91. > Which ‘other people’?

    People in other comment situations. Esr’s isn’t the only blog with comments and public commenting predates blogs.

  92. > Oh, and when said by a Brit, “It’s a joke” means “It’s a joke,

    Hint – we’re on the web. Just as no one knows if you’re a dog, your localisms don’t apply. In the web context, “It’s a joke” is almost always “waa, please let me off” whinging.

    > and you’re… somewhat slow on the uptake if you need to have that pointed out”, as Eric will confirm.

    That works only if there’s actually a joke involved rather than a statement that one is trying to disown.

    Since it wasn’t a joke and isn’t something that Adrian10 wants to disown, using that defense on behalf of him isn’t doing him any favors. (Coming to someone’s defense/aid on the web rarely works, and this isn’t one of the exceptions.)

    BTW – we’re still waiting for any examples of “talk about”….

  93. The cardinal virtue of optimistic capitalists is that they assume that all material goods are fungible and, when prices go up, that smart, creative people will step in to find a substitute!

    *All* material goods? Not even with kindly nanotech elves to help, I fear. The “optimistic capitalists” are sometimes guilty of the error of assuming that the kinds of things you can do with information can also be freely applied to non-informational things like energy supplies – in his “Ephemeralization” essay Eric invokes improvements in cellphones to illustrate where we might go with distributed power and water supply, frex. It’s true that information can enhance efficiency – say, as in all the just-in-time processes businesses now use – but outside the techno-utopian/cornucopian community there are considered to be limits, and probably thermodynamic ones, to what can actually be accomplished in the world of things involving energy flow. Again, this is not an ideological position (to the extent that you can concede that any position held by those who disagree with you isn’t) – convincing counterexamples will bring us round. But at the moment it’s all pie in the sky.

  94. Ooo, tag fuckup, sorry Wildmonk.

    Hint – we’re on the web. Just as no one knows if you’re a dog, your localisms don’t apply. In the web context, “It’s a joke” is almost always “waa, please let me off” whinging.

    Irony isn’t for everyone. The jokes that go over your head are still jokes if someone else gets them. Having said that, that particular instance wasn’t, but the principle still stands.

    That works only if there’s actually a joke involved rather than a statement that one is trying to disown.

    My “statement” about immigration needed clarification. I don’t “disown” (retract?) it.

    Are you *ever* going to start talking about something involving content? It seems to me you just snip all the content out (possibly because you don’t know that much about it) and focus on one or two minor areas where you think you can score some hairsplitting rhetorical points. VERY BORING, hth.

  95. Jeff – thank you for your considered reply. I hope that I was not too intemperate in my earlier post.

    Here’s what I would ask of you: a simple respect for the intelligence and adaptability of people besides yourself. Nothing more.

    A few other notes on this topic…

    I am working out an outline for either another extended piece on Wildmonk.net (or perhaps even a book) covering the relationship between socio-political theory and actual practice where “practice” is explictly compared to complex systems engineering. For example, there are a lot of problems with any Democratic Capitalist society and certaintly no shortage of theoretical frameworks explaining why this is so. The problem with socio-political theories of any stripe, however, is that they always suffer from two fatal flaws: an assumed detachment of interests when proposing a normative or desirable society (leading to theories of social justice that are invariably coercive) and an inability to deal effectively with complexity.

    Reading modern Marxist social justice critiques (or Islamic critiques of the “decadent” West – they are often quite similar) is like reading a half-educated software developer who ‘outlines’ an order-N solution to an NP-complete problem (in other words an easy solution to a problem that can be shown to be horrendously difficult). It would be great if it works but the author’s inexperience soon shows itself in his unwillingness to grapple with the true nature of the beast under analysis. Indeed, the hard-left economic and “social-justice” literature that I read in preparing the piece that Eric discussed above (and found on Wildmonk.net) was often amazingly glib about the destructive potential of the solutions they proposed and often downright ignorant of the fact that variants of their proposal had suffered a long history of failure.

    My take on this is that the hard-leftists have hit a wall with respect to the ability of their theories to “scale” to the social and economic complexities of the society we have actually built. Having reached their limit, their intellectual tools are failing. Some, like Rorty and Fish, admit this to be happening and have even detailed their angst. Others – the great majority – refuse. They participate in one or more of three strategies:

    * they treat their failure to be taken seriously as proof of a plot by Republicans, Jews or Capitalists, or
    * they attribute their problems to the stupidity and/or ‘unconsciousness’ of the masses who don’t see the world through the prism of their theory, or
    * they use theory – however debased – as cover for bare-knuckle power politics.

    Worse yet, by hiding behind grossly non-functional language, Neo-Marxist economists like Wallerstein, et. al. look to me as if they are actively working to “deconstruct” the world; wrecking the existing order so that it can be reduced to a state where their powers of analysis are again up to the task.

    As long as cultural criticism is driven by such confusion and hatred, as long as it assumes the rank corruption of existing Western society without reference to history, context or outside pressures, a significant portion of the best-educated people in our society will have their world-view framed by what is essentially socio-political pseudoscience.

    This is wrong. Real people will suffer – are suffering – because we fail to look soberly at our place in history and the world.

  96. Adrian –

    Well, actually I do mean all goods are fungible. Indeed, energy is a particularly good example of material fungibility. As a side note – while there are thermodynamic limits to energy efficiency, I don’t think they really come to bear here unless you assume that energy production will always be limited by the supply of fossil fuels and that our objective is to be so efficient that it never runs out (clearly, not a good ultra-long-term position).

    A few weeks ago I finished a very interesting piece on the evolution of our use of energy that was a real eye-opener and that spoke to this issue. Unfortunately, I cannot locate it now. The point of the article was that we are evolving fairly rapidly in historical terms towards fuels with a lower and lower ratio of carbon to hydrogen. Even without going to a fully hydrogen economy, simply getting to lower-carbon sources of energy has and will continue to dramatically reduce greenhouse emissions and improve the environmental profile of our energy use. Trick is – how do we get to an environmentally lightweight energy infrastructure given the ongoing depletion of traditional oil-based fuels?

    Well, keep in mind that hydrocarbon chemistry is very well understood territory. All of our hydrocarbon-based fuel sources are merely ways of storing energy in the molecular structure of carbon and hydrogen. The ultimate source of this energy has traditionally been current (ethanol, methanol) or ancient (oil, gas, coal) solar power. Note also that it is quite reasonable to transform essentially any of them into liquid fuel appropriate for transportation. The problem you face is one of energy: it often takes so much energy to transform one hydrocarbon into another, more useful form that it isn’t worth doing. But the primary virtue of hydrocarbon energy sources is *not* in their energy production, it is in their easy transport (as liquid fuel) and high energy value per volume and weight.

    Thus, in essence, we need never run out of hydrocarbon power (or pure hydrogen power) because, in the presence of adequate energy supplies, we can simply make more (starting with almost any biomass source). So – adequate liquid hydrocarbon power sources are a red herring. They seem important only because we’ve depended on them as primary *source* for energy over the last century.

    However, the far future almost surely lies in a combination of either safe nuclear power, mastery over fusion, or near-earth solar power collection (we can do a lot with coal, shale-oil, sea-bed methane, etc. for the next few centuries or so because we’ve come to a pretty good understanding of the chemistry for all of them). But the essential point holds – there are lots of ways to produce the energy we need as long as smart, creative people aren’t placed into political binds or forced to pursue only “government approved” solutions. And there are any number of ways to turn this energy into easily transported liquid stores for use in transportation – it’s all just organic chemistry once you have enough energy.

    Given how little impact the recent run up in energy prices have had on our economy, I am more bullish than ever that we can withstand a transition to new energy sources and infrastructure even if they are more expensive than oil has been over the last century.

  97. WildMonk, as a practical matter I’m actually pretty accommodating to most other people’s intelligence — so much so that observing willful stupidity in the wild is actually pretty surprising and disappointing whenever it occurs. (It’s usually over things like software design that I see it.) I don’t try to go around going “look at me, I’m a big man” — I leave that to the likes of Bessman. If we do have a cultural blindspot to our own atrocity, then I’d be the first to admit being blinded by it.

    The cultural hegemony thing is an easy theoretical trap to fall into because it neatly explains so much: racism, nazism, NSA violation of the FISA act, etc. Guess you can say I have a little more first-person experience with it now.

    By the way –

    adequate liquid hydrocarbon power sources are a red herring.

    I hope you’re right about this because late last year, we passed the peak when it comes to ground oil.

  98. WildMonk, I think you’ve uttered a better summary of what I’ve experienced reading Left theory than I could write. I’d add only that the similarity between postmodern-left and modern Islamic critiques is not accidental parallelism, but reflects a common inheritence from Leninism. The Islamists got their version through Fascism; as I’ve pointed out before, both the Baath party and the Muslim Brotherhood consciously imitated classical-Fascist doctrine and organization, which were in turn largely constructed by former Leninists like Mussolini.

    Also, my bet is on ethanol/methanol as a long-term hydrogen carrier. Molecular hydrogen is too explosive in the presence of oxygen and too good at leak-seeking; alcohols have the huge advantage of being liquid at room temperature and thus can be handled with much less expensive infrastructure. Also, a transport net based on hydrogen fuel cells would need more palladium (for catalyst) than we’re going to get without large-scale asteroid mining. But best of all, converting current internal-combustion engines to burn alcohol is an almost trivial modification, well within the capabilities of a neighborhood auto shop.

    There are no fundamental unsolved problems in the way of moving to an energy economy in which alcohols replace petroleum as the principal energy carrier for transport; the technology of alcohol synthesis and transport is quite well understood. All that needs to happen is for oil prices to rise to the point where conversion pays off in the foreseeable future. This is why I don’t even waste a thought on the peak-oil crowd; peak oil is a self-solving problem.

  99. The Islamists got their version through Fascism; as I’ve pointed out before, both the Baath party and the Muslim Brotherhood consciously imitated classical-Fascist doctrine and organization, which were in turn largely constructed by former Leninists like Mussolini.

    The Ba’athists certainly took stuff from the fascists (mainly with an eye to building national consciousness AFAIK), but they were/are a secular movement, with a liking for fundamentalism well illustrated by Assad’s levelling of the town of Hama in 1982. I don’t see why you see them as an integral part of the Islamism some Americans are now girding their loins to spend the next 50-100 years struggling against. I don’t know much about the Muslim Brotherhood, but I haven’t heard of their influence or activities extending much outside Egypt. The international dimension seems to be missing for both groups, though I’m sure in the current climate they and Al-Q can find things to have discreet heavily-encrypted chat conferences about.

  100. Wildmonk – interesting parallel! Though that’s how a lot of libertarian/free-market thought strikes me – as something that seriously underestimates the difficulty of solving systems of nonlinear differential equations, and, as you put it, proposes “an easy solution to a problem that can be shown to be horrendously difficult”.

    As for the consuming-ourselves-to-death thing: yes, I thought the answer would be something along those lines. And yes, I grok that given sufficient time and creativity, we can find replacements for the resources we’re currently using. For instance, I used to work at the Joint European Torus, and fusion is something we will crack if given enough time and money. I sometimes suspect that landfill-mining will be a major industry in the 22nd century… but it’s the timing bit I’m worried about. Let’s just take energy: All the exotic techs like fusion and powersats are years away, wind/water/etc would require a fair lead time to build enough of (if that’s even possible), fission plants take ages to build and anyway are seriously uneconomic, and the fuel sources we can switch to easily (Fischer-Tropsch plants, biodiesel, etc) are horribly polluting. Meanwhile, the CO2 content of the atmosphere is going up, and the fallout from climate change will get ever more severe, screwing our economy and making the necessary changes harder to implement. We all die the death of “yeast in a barrel, feeding and farting until they are poisoned by their own waste”, to use George Monbiot‘s poetic phrase. And it’s the fuel-transport problem that’s the red herring (though a good solution would certainly help): the real problem is where the energy comes from in the first place.

  101. He’s apparently the origin of the term ‘moonbat’. Not likely to go down well here.

    “Why are we transfixed by terrorism, yet relaxed about the collapse of the conditions which make our lives possible?”

    Good question.

  102. That thought did occur to me… but with the high standard of debate around here I don’t need to worry about ad hominem attacks, right? :-) Besides, I think Eric needs a better target for his fulminations than Michael Moore.

  103. Besides, I think Eric needs a better target for his fulminations than Michael Moore.

    I think he’s always going to save his most concentrated bile for those of his fellow-countrymen who’ve taken the (to?) Stalinist shilling, on account of the treachery aspect. Though I imagine there will always be some left for the French.

  104. Eric,

    Thanks for the comment. I am quite familiar with the traceback through the Muslim Brotherhood, Sayyed Qutb’s work and on to Fascism. A lot of folks are surprised to learn, for example, that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem traveled to Germany to meet the Nazis as early as 1937 and was actually on the Nazi payroll for a time. Yes – these are certainly peas in the same pod.

    I also agree with your take on alcohol-based fuels. My concern is that environmentalists will force an enormous, but eventually wasted, investment in pure hydrogen out of concern with greenhouse emissions. While I think it fairly reasonable to conclude that the earth is warming and that this may be helped along by humanity’s CO2 emissions, the ‘gaia-panic’ that seems to follow this conclusion makes no sense (unless you are an enviro-fundamentalist, I guess). It is something that we can certainly approach with a sober, well-thought out strategy for CO2 reduction but we needn’t – and shouldn’t – run away from alcohol-based fuels and into the arms of hydrogen – a fuel that will present a far greater aggregate risk to life and limb than a slow warmup of a few degrees over the next century or two. (Damn – gotta go – sorry if this is all fragmented…)

  105. >I don’t know much about the Muslim Brotherhood, but I haven’t heard of their influence or activities extending much outside Egypt.

    Would that it were so. The Muslim Brotherhood is international in scope (its principal aboveground spokesperson is a long-time London resident) and functions as a sort of incubator organization for radical Islamist groups; it has close (but fully deniable) ties to all of them. In some cases the connection is overt; Hamas is an MB offshoot through Sheik whatzisname Qassim, who was a principal MB theorist before the Israelis whacked him in 2004, and the Hamas Covenant identifies it as “The Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine”

    Westerners who think the Baath is irrelevant to Islamism don’t understand the degree to which Islamic fundamentalism and secular pan-Arabism have always fused at the edges. Fact: towards the end, avowed secularist Saddam Hussein was claiming descent from the family of the Prophet. Cooperation between ‘secularists’ and overt Islamists has always been common — Saddam Hussein ran chemical weapons training for Al-Qaeda affiliates, Hamas cooperated with al-Fatah, and in the Phillipines secularist Communists in the Moro Liberation Front were never clearly distinguishable from their Islamist brethren. These are not post-WTC phenomena but can be observed going back to the 1950s.

  106. Oh well, late again. However, regarding that “anti-immigration thing” referred to by adrian10:

    /* There’s currently a fairly big wave of mainly Mexican immigration coming in afaict, and despite Eric’s confidence, some debate about whether the country can absorb it the way previous waves were absorbed – whether these guys will internalise The Dream in quite the same way as the WASPS, who are breeding at similar rates to Euros. Surely you’re aware of anti-immigrant sentiment?
    */

    AFAICT, Europeans look at immigration very differently than we Americans. I used to live in Southern California, and I currently live in North Carolina where we’re seeing a strange growth in Mexican immigrants despite the fact that we’re like halfway to Canada, so I feel I’ve got enough experience with immigration to make the following observations:

    (1) If companies could no longer exploit illegal immigrants, they’d find other ways to cut costs, so illegal immigration’s effect on the economy ends up being an academic exercise;

    (2) People don’t realize the truth in (1), and while they complain about all the newcomers (both legal and illegal), they do so with a fatalist attitude because they think they’re getting a good deal on some level (i.e., lower prices somewhere);

    (3) The attitude in (2) has a big effect on politics, especially in attempts to prevent illegal immigrants from getting government welfare so that nobody has to pay extra for those lower prices;

    (4) The US has been absorbing far over the current immigration quota for a long time;

    (5) The newcomers (legal and illegal) are trying to become “American” and are working harder to internalize “The Dream” than the couple-thousand Katrina evacuees that still haven’t moved back to New Orleans, and they (the newcomers) know it (ironically, some of the earliest investigative hit-pieces on the Katrina aftermath were about illegal immigrants being paid for the clean up and rebuilding while the evacuees were holed up in hotels, ocean liners, and sports stadiums).

    There may be lots of shouting, but there just isn’t any stopping the tide of immigration, and most “anti-immigration sentiment” is only half-hearted.

  107. >> That works only if there’s actually a joke involved rather than a statement that one is trying to disown.

    >My “statement” about immigration needed clarification. I don’t “disown” (retract?) it.

    Interestingly enough, no one said that Adrian10 disowned it. In fact, I wrote that he didn’t want to disown it in the sentence right after the one quoted above. Since he seems to have missed that I’ll repeate it here. “Since it wasn’t a joke and isn’t something that Adrian10 wants to disown”

    The “here’s the general rule, here’s the exception, here’s the situation we’re in” form is fairly well understood.

    BTW – Have we abandoned the unfounded “talk about Adrian10″ assertion?

  108. Great post, ESR!
    As somebody who grew up in the USSR, I certainly apreciate your analysis. I think you hit it on the nail.

    The memes you’ve described are indeed alive and well. They are still used in explicit form by the Kremin propaganda, and in a veiled form, these memes are taught in colleges and spread by journalists.

    The deniers’ comments here are hilarious, as are your responses. Keep up the good work, comrade!

  109. its principal aboveground spokesperson is a long-time London resident

    Not the guy with the hooks?

    Westerners who think the Baath is irrelevant to Islamism don’t understand the degree to which Islamic fundamentalism and secular pan-Arabism have always fused at the edges. Fact: towards the end, avowed secularist Saddam Hussein was claiming descent from the family of the Prophet.

    He was also trying to rebuild Babylon, among other weirdass deluded activities presumably not specifically recommended by Baathist theoreticians. Claiming descent from Mohammed always struck me more as a forlorn attempt to attract some Islamic credibility (and support) than anything.

    Cooperation between ’secularists’ and overt Islamists has always been common — Saddam Hussein ran chemical weapons training for Al-Qaeda affiliates, Hamas cooperated with al-Fatah, and in the Phillipines secularist Communists in the Moro Liberation Front were never clearly distinguishable from their Islamist brethren.

    Again, no great surprise there – they all had some medium-term goals in common (variations on Yankee Go Home and so on). The American and Saudi governments have cooperated quite a lot too since 1945 without anyone thinking they’re converging ideologically.

    There’s an article on the origins of fascism here I’d like Wildmonk’s or your critique of – it contains (as well as an interesting section on anti-rationalism) nuggets like this…

    “In the panoramic sweep of history, Fascism, like Communism, like all forms of socialism, and like today’s greenism and anti-globalism, is the logical result of specific intellectual errors about human progress. “

    …which sounds like it ought to sit well with your viewpoint, but goes on to say:

    “Fascists were radical modernizers. By temperament they were neither conservative nor reactionary. Fascists despised the status quo and were not attracted by a return to bygone conditions. Even in power, despite all its adaptations to the requirements of the immediate situation, and despite its incorporation of more conservative social elements, Fascism remained a conscious force for modernization. “

    …which *really* doesn’t describe the beardies as we know and loathe them, though the rest of it appears sound (all good things flow from classical liberalism etc). Can either of you point out where he’s gone wrong?

  110. fission plants take ages to build and anyway are seriously uneconomic.

    Well, yeah, if we build them like we did in the 1970′s, with delays in every step courtesy of the anti-nuke retards and redesigns all through the process to cope with changing regs.

    If it’s clearly a choice between (a)letting people build a bunch of nuke plants in a hurry and (b)having everyone switch back to horse-and-buggy transportation, well, I like to think the electorate as a whole is smart enough to make the right choice. It would take a lot of nuclear accidents to equal the death toll of 19th Century technology.

    “Meanwhile, the CO2 content of the atmosphere is going up, and the fallout from climate change will get ever more severe, screwing our economy and making the necessary changes harder to implement.”

    Assuming that higher temperatures is bad. A milder climate and higher crop yields do have their advantages. And, again, a return to a 19th Century level of energy usage is far more dangerous than climate change.

  111. Great thread, thanks for hosting this discussion esr.

    I’m aware of Venona, but hadn’t heard the the “memetic weapon” stuff before; do you have a link or cite? It does sound very Soviet.

    I think it’s interesting that the whole discusion of “oppressed cultures” here fit the memes to a “t.” Does anyone argue those cultures were morally superior on any basis other than the fact they lost? Of course not, because you can’t: by the standards we judge our own culture by, they were generally racist, tribalist, misogynistic, oppressive, and cruel. The only way you can assert their superiority is through the simultaneous glorification of victimhood and denial of objective moral standards.

  112. “. But I fear that if the rest of us don’t hound the po-mo Left and its useful idiots out of public life with attack and ridicule and shunning, the hard Right will sooner or later get the power to do it by means that include a lot of killing. I don’t want to live in that future, and I don’t think any of my readers do, either. ”

    Then lets get together and hound and attack and ridicule the hard right.

  113. I too think the comment about fission technology being too expensive is wrongheaded. Take the best design, shut down the enviroweenies, build it. Then go down the road on some vacant military land and build another just like it. Etc. BTW the hydrogen economy is a pipe dream.

    The problem with Islam (and potentially Protestantism) is that they have no mechanism for doctrinal adjustment. The Catholic church has a Pope who can change course as need be. Theodore Dalyrymple wrote an essay several years ago describing the current crisis as Islam’s “death rattle” altho he wasn’t sure just when that blessed event would occur. I was encouraged by his analysis but have since changed my mind. If there is no way to purge Islam of its murderous antipathy towards infidels, how will our conflict ever end? Isn’t the current crisis just a recurrence of the era of the Crusades? Ann Coulter had it right the next day after 9/11…rough quote…”we must invade and kill or convert them”. (Many loathe Ann…but I suspect they don’t read her columns…funny and dead on).

    Great post and much thoughtful commentary especially Wildmonk.

  114. Thanks – that was fascinating; as were the few responses that I’ve worked through so far. From a Christian world view, though, I’d point out that it probably wasn’t a coincidence that the most successfully practical and utilitarian society in the history of mankind (ours) was made up of, and largely led by, theists rather than philosophical materialists and utilitarians. I’ll yield to the notion that Thomas Jefferson and Thomas Paine might have been best described as the latter. They were an important minority; but a minority, still, and were the exceptions to the rule. EVR should thank his lucky stars (or whatever moral basis or First Cause he holds dear) that he is heir to a society that was founded by theists, not pure utilitarians (they stayed at home). Sometimes the best way to get from point A to point B is to aim beyond – for point C.

    The author also seems to insinuate that he believes in an objective standard of right and wrong. If that standard is simply a functional one – whatever works best – a reference point is needed: “works best for Whom?”. For example, as one Nobel Prize-winning economist has concluded (no surprise), the institution of slavery worked very well, thank-you, for one of the two groups involved. Other than a slippery, warm-fuzzy, stance that all humans have equal value (something that philosophical materialism has no need of – just ask Joseph Mengele), what enduring basis does a pure pragmatist have to include all humans, rather than just his group, in the benefits?

    It was the courageous and politically self-defeating stance of the Christian William Wilberforce who toppled English involvement in slavery – against the inertia of British pragmatists. For the first time in the history of the world, a bold step was taken toward the elimination of slavery. And it was led by …. a pragmatist?….no – by what evr would probably describe as a religious extremist of the Western stripe. The change was motivated by theology, not pragmatism. As the story of the fall of communism is written, the seminal role of faith in that toppling, too, is becoming apparent. Seems that when the real work of fighting against the evil ‘isms needs doing, some of it’s done by those who actually believe in good and evil, and not always by those who are simply fighting for the “American Way of Life”.

    As patriotic as I am, I’m also a little skeptical of relying too much on “The American Way of Life”, because, as evr pointed out, that way of life is changeable, and is changing. It’s also become the American Way of Life and Education to teach kids that nature is all there is (in a flourish of circular reasoning that would make George Orwell proud, pointing out that it is logically beyond the grasp of science to reach that conclusion is itself considered unscientific); that they are the end-product of purposeless and indifferent natural processes (with a seemingly magical ability to self-construct when the potion of ‘a lot of time’ is added); that they have descended from slime; and that now they should go out and be good. Why?…Good Slime?…Smart Slime?…Smart Slime is not always Good Slime – read “Intellectuals” by Paul Johnson.

    As I’ve said, impolitely, before: if there is no God, then Mengele is right and the Nazi death camps were just an example of one phenotype having its way with another. As simplistic as that sounds, it’s a logical stumbling block for pure pragmatism, and it always will be. No God, no objective standard. No objective standard, and all that remains is context-specific norms, standards, and preferences. The Nazis and Pol Pot had them, too. In fact, the Third Reich codified them into written law. We may not like them; we may feel good about them; they may be called unseemly or inconvenient; but absent God, let’s not call them immoral.

    Keith, you have a preternatural ability to get me to rant on in embarrassing length – which isn’t as hard as it should be. Thanks again for sending the piece – Jim

  115. Ah, right, adrian10 found the David Ramsay Steele article on Fascism. It’s pretty good; actually it’s probably the best single exposition I’ve seen on that topic. And yes, the stuff on Sorelian irrationalism is dead on.

    The reason the “beardies” don’t fit Steele’s frame is that he’s focusing on Italian and German Fascism, which he rightly describes as radically modernizing. The picture becomes a little more complicated if we consider Spanish and Japanese fascism. Spanish fascism, in particular, was genuinely reactionary in the same way that Islamic fascism is today. Japanese fascism combined reactionary and modernizing elements in ways too complex to go into here.

    I would revise Steele’s description by demoting modernism from an essential to an accidental feature of Italo-German Fascism, not shared by Spanish and Japanese Fascism. If we pull these varieties into the frame it becomes clear that the essential features of Fascism are irrationalism and a totalizing theory of the State. Reactionary Fascism is possible.

    Both flavors of Fascism have powerfully influenced the Middle East. The Baath took its cues from modernist Fascism, but other movements such as the Christian Phalangists in Lebanon took reactionary Spanish Fascism as a model. The doctrine of the Muslim Brotherhood (the root organization of Hamas, Jamiat-al-Islami, and al-Qaeda) is more ambiguous; like Japanese Fascism it combines reactionary and revolutionary-modernist ideas in subtle ways.

    So Steele’s picture isn’t wrong, but it’s incomplete.

  116. Thank you so much for this post.

    I believe we spent too little time openly relishing our victory against Marxism-Leninism. I partly blame Bush 41 for tamping down the celebration, but the blame is not entirely his. Victors should loudly – even offensively – wallow in their victory – and loudly and openly mock the defeated failings of an evil enemy. We didn’t do that. So, much of what the enemy was up to remains undiscussed in the public discourse.

  117. Excellent post. I linked to it.

    I write about this meme in movies; the self-loathing and envy of suffering informs characters and narrative in most popular movies. We are almost blinded to it because it is so pervasive. I just saw Man on Fire, which repeats the themes of Last Samurai, of the American military man, doomed emotionally and spiritually because of his unforgivable sin of making war at all.

    Why was Last Samurai so praised and Memoirs of a Geisha so castigated? Both are objectively cultural fictions. Because Memoirs was apolitical and therefore did not serve the higher cause (self-immolation) required of the “meaningful” modern film.

  118. I have just finished this entire thread in one sitting. Where’s is my diploma? I want to sincerely applaud everyone involved for creating one of the best ( and flamefree) threads I have ever read. I may not have understood all of the references, since “I are a college dropout”but I did get the gist of everyone’s meanings. I may not agree with alot of it, and I don’t have the skill or the time now to explain why or which parts but I look forward to reading more. Bravo.

  119. >if there is no God, then Mengele is right

    Oh, bullshit. That line of argument was already a dead cliche in 1900, because theism and nihilism simply don’t exhaust the possibilities. For example, we might live in a universe with no God but an iron law of karma, as Theravada Buddhists believe we do.

    If there is no God, and no iron law of karma, it just means we have to grow up. And base our notions of what is “right” and “wrong” on whether the outcomes produce more (observable) joy and more (observable) sorrow. And don’t give me any crap about that classic trap, “would you torture a child to death in order to bring on the millennium” — any utilitarian with two brain cells working knows that any set of premises that allows you to torture a child for an abstraction is a sure road to mass misery.

  120. >I’m aware of Venona, but hadn’t heard the the “memetic weapon” stuff before; do you have a link or cite? It does sound very Soviet.

    Chase the link I gave in the post to the book about Willi Munzenberg.

  121. The one thing that makes me optimistic about the West’s (or at least America’s) chances of survival is when I see all these immigrants hungering for a high definition TV and an SUV. Whether they come from Mexico, Peru, Uzbekistan or Korea, what they all share in common is an inability to suffer from “White guilt”. These people have no fear of being perceived as crass and materialistic. They look at Americans who have been living in this country for generations who make less money than they do and think “what losers”.

    The more multiculti America becomes, the harder it will be for the left to sell it’s “we’re colonial oppressors” propaganda. For every left wing Hispanic college student in the Hispanic studies dept, there’s about 10 other Hispanics waiting in line at Costco with a cart full of Twinkies, Calvin Klein jeans, and yes, giant tins of Danish butter cookies.

  122. Interesting reading. Everything seems pretty well covered, but I’d like to add a comment about Jeff Read’s link: How can anyone believe that there is a continuous 300 year conspiracy to do anything?!?

    Watch out: The Illuminati are coming!

    (btw, I don’t reject the starting point. It seems entirely plausible that tobacco farmers in the late 1600s decided to set up a race concious society in order to keep black slaves. I reject as ludicrous the idea that there is a conspiracy continuing to do so.)

  123. Who writes stuff this good on a blog?? Go get paid at some magazine, dude. You’re fired from the internet for being overqualified.

  124. Dammit, I meant:

    Who writes stuff this good on a blog?? Go get paid at some magazine, dude. You’re fired from the internet for being overqualified.

    WordPress needs a preview button…

  125. You might also say that extreme enviromentalism is a symptom of this cultural paralysis. The typical answer these days from the authorities, when one calls to report a coyote in the front yard, is “well, they were here first.” How can any culture survive that cannot even defend its right to exist vis a vi coyotes?

  126. >Again, no great surprise there – they all had some medium-term goals in common

    No, Adrian, it goes much deeper than that. The mythology of Islam pervades even ‘secular’ thinking in the Arab world to a degree that is difficult for post-Enlightenment Westerners to understand. There are clues in the language: for even atheists in Baghdad “If God wills it.” is normal verbal punctuation, for example.

    Add in the extent to which Islamic revivalism runs together with secular pan-Arabism and you have a climate in which the ideological distance between Islamists and Baathists is far less important to either group than a Westerner would assume. Assad senior didn’t raze that city because the opposition was religious, he razed it because the opposition was opposition.

  127. Ed wrote: “So, much of what the enemy was up to remains undiscussed in the public discourse.”

    That is because the memes had already taken hold in a significant portion of our population by the 1980′s. We didn’t feel like we had won in the fight against communism because we didn’t feel that we were right and they were wrong. By any objective standard I can come up with to measure good and evil, the West was “good” and the USSR was “evil”, but we had become convinced that there were different subjective realities for good and evil, depending on culture, location, time, etc. The victim meme was brilliant on the part of the communists. After all, it was the meme that Russia had experienced for centuries, that they were victims of the richer Western Europeans. Now they were able to reverse it and turn it into a strength, rather than a weakness. And it left us feeling that we had won nothing and unwilling to celebrate our defeat of our “victims”.

  128. esr,
    While theism/nihilism may not exhaust the possiblilities, neither does taking off on the “small raft.” Have you forgotten the long-standing arguments between Thereavaeda and Hinaveda? Wouldn’t the latter comport more to the idea of diminishing radical Islam in order to further enlightenment for all via the large raft?
    And if there exists an “iron law of Karma” how do you explain that fact that Buddha states that the extirpation of self requires the understanding of “no-self” while karma would seems to require a “self” in order to have some “thing” that, itself is reincarnated?

  129. Thank you for this post.

    I second Ed’s thoughts.

    We’ve got some make-up smackdowns to undertake.

  130. “Guess which two kinds of societies suffered the most brutal, deliberate attempts at destruction or subjugation by Europeans and Americans throughout this country’s history beginning at least with Columbus (who encountered the Arawaks and figgered, what fine people; they’d make wonderful slaves)?”

    Islam enslaved Africans before the West ever got there, and continued long after the West stopped, and continues to this day, and is just about the only major culture/religion left that justifies slavery and builds it into its law code (as long as the right people are the masters and slaves). Islam also enslaved white people; Muslim pirates travelled as far north as England and came ashore and kidnapped whole towns. The term “white slavery” actually refers to something that happened frequently and European society was legitimately afraid of.

    So if you are incensed at slavery aim your scorn at the people who are still practicing it, not those who made it illegal and despicable.

  131. “You may wish to consider that the reason why blacks and hispanics don’t assimilate well into white Murkan society is a deliberate and well-considered one, especially given the treatment those two groups have endured for centuries.”

    Hispanics are integrating very well, some of them are even becoming Republicans. :-)

    Also assimilation by blacks varies. The free middle-class black communities of big northern cities that date to Revolutionary times have always participated in American economic life. Black immigrants from other countries (Africa, West Indies) do also, even to the point of being resented by the locals for wanting to get ahead.

    Thomas Sowell writes a lot about this.

  132. jim munis- “No God, no objective standard. No objective standard, and all that remains is context-specific norms, standards, and preferences”

    esr points out that a bit of ‘growing up’ might be necessary in a world without god- i feel it necessary to highlight that a so-called ‘po-mo’ (i.e.- after ‘modern’, where modern refers to a certain idealism/reification of concepts) rejection of absolute truth and acceptance of the contingency of truth claims does not necessarily imply an abdication of ethical preference- one does not need sovereign reason to appreciate the scent of a rose, nor to abhor mass-murder: a highly developed nervous sysyem can be enough- sh*t really does stink (and so does BS…)

    i find that a sense of smell is important in an argument or a discussion…

  133. Jim: what enduring basis does a pure pragmatist have to include all humans, rather than just his group, in the benefits?

    Other than the stuff esr’s said, I’d point out that wealth (in the broad sense) is not a zero-sum game (up to fundamental thermodynamic/resource limits that may or may not exist). Making other people happier/richer/less enslaved will grow the total amount of wealth in the world and ultimately benefit you, or at least your descendents. This is a standard, but pretty important idea: Paul Graham’s written an interesting essay on the topic.

  134. Miles: I appreciate the gist of your argument about the total amount of wealth in the world benefiting a pragmatist’s descendents, but isn’t that a little optimistic? Does history really teach that efforts to increase the wealth of the whole world, rather than the pragmatist’s family, group, or nation, is an efficient (pragmatic) way to increase his, or his descendent’s happiness? I’m not so sure. as you probably gathered, I’m not a Darwinist, but if I were, I think I’d say that even models of apparently “altruistic behavior” in the animal kingdom are few and far between, and that the unit of selection is more often the individual or his proximate decendents than it is the entire species, let alone the world as a whole. A ‘pragmatic’ approach that targets increasing the wealth of the whole world works on such a distant time frame, and toward such a distant benefit, that it almost seems like “pie in the sky” liberalism to me. Unfortunately, history reveals examples of otherwise great civilizations that owed much of their economic success to slavery and oppression of neighbors (I almost sound like a liberal – sorry). Let me be more blunt: if I didn’t believe in God, or believe that I am measured by an absolute standard, and if I were given two choices: 1) sacrifice the present to work toward the eventual “good” of the world and the resulting increase in the world’s total wealth; or 2) work toward the proximate goal of increasing my, and my family’s, wealth at the expense, if necessary, of my neighbor; I’ll pick Door Number 2. Help me out here, please, but I’m still not convinced that utilitarian arguments alone will ever (or did ever in real history) extinguish slavery.

    esr: Sounds like I got your goat (exclaiming “bullshit” usually doesn’t win debates, but it does signal some disquietude with your own stance – no?). Followed by an argument from authority (“dead since 1900″) rather than from logic, I’d like to hear more, and different, please. Since the Theravada Buddhists example applies to so few of your readers (compared to nihilism or theism), do you have an alternative example that’s a little more common, robust, and interesting? The Nazi “doctors” were raised in an intellectual environment that was profoundly materialistic in the early twentieth century, as were, of course, their communist counterparts. Was it just a coincidence that a seed bed of materialism, which taught that humans are just another, more sophisticated, animal, should support the horrors of Nazi experimentation and communist “psychiatric hospitals”? I’m still not convinced that materialism contains within it any real or sustainable impelling toward human dignity or grace. Theravada Buddhists, by the way, haven’t seemed to generate an example of a society that operates according such principles, or that increases the wealth and happiness of their own nations, let alone the world. The Judeo-Christian West has.

  135. OK, I’m more or less on board for the connection between Islamism and Spanish fascism, but that was the stay-at-home runt of the litter, not exactly what the Greatest Generation bestirred itself to vanquish. Very little export orientation. Japanese so-called fascism is a bit of a stretch – it had evolved very much in its own sphere, and although there were parallels (and plenty of imported ideas from Germany and Italy) I’d be kind of surprised if our non-shaving friends turned out to have been studying the sayings of Admiral Tojo in great detail.

    And yes, the stuff on Sorelian irrationalism is dead on.

    And far from dead, I would say. I can definitely sense some myths under construction in the WoT enthusiast community. Of course, they’re being sold as objective reality, but then all ideologies do that.

    The mythology of Islam pervades even ’secular’ thinking in the Arab world to a degree that is difficult for post-Enlightenment Westerners to understand. There are clues in the language: for even atheists in Baghdad “If God wills it.” is normal verbal punctuation, for example.

    That’s like saying Western atheists are hypocrites to use “goodbye” as it was originally “God be with you”. “Inshallah”, “If (it’s) possible”, whatever – this stuff is ephemeral. And it’s hardly surprising that they’re closer to Islam than we are to Christian belief – the Enlightenment was a long time ago. It’s a little soon to be writing the Muslim “Dover Beach”.

    Assad senior didn’t raze that city because the opposition was religious, he razed it because the opposition was opposition.

    And their opposition didn’t stem from their religiousness? Chicken/egg situation IMO.

  136. Great post. It is great to see someone deconstruct the postmodernists and the communists. I particularly agree with you that the “four legs good- two legs bad” bleaters have no defense against totalitarianism.

  137. This is a standard, but pretty important idea: Paul Graham’s written an interesting essay on the topic.

    “This is why so many of the best programmers are libertarians.”

    Hmm…

  138. >but it does signal some disquietude with your own stance – no?

    No, it means I’m fed up with arguments that even people with three quarters of their brain shut down by religious canalization ought to recognize don’t work. I suppose next you’ll revive the First Cause argument or Anselm’s ‘ontological’ proof of theism?

    The existence of any logical alternative to theism that grounds a moral order disproves the claim that theism is needed to ground a moral order. It doesn’t matter that there aren’t a lot of Theravada Buddhists around where you live, nor that I’m not one myself. And there are other examples of nontheistic belief systems that ground a moral order; Confucianism and Taoism are two that leap to mind.

    Nor is it, actually, correct that the U.S. was founded by theists (I’ve blogged about this before). The Founders were mostly deists with a smattering of agnostic freethinkers. In 1784 Thomas Jefferson informed the Knights of Malta, quite correctly, that the U.S. is not a Christian nation. If you don’t understand this, go look up ‘deism’. The references to ‘God’ in the Declaration of Independence don’t mean what you think they do, and there are none in the Constitution.

  139. Great thought provoking post. Here are some of my thoughts. The issue is not in the memes you present, but in the conclusions drawn.

    >There is no truth, only competing agendas.
    In most land controversies this is reasonably true; the lesson, therefore, is to be well armed to defend your agenda, because there is no winning argument.

    >All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West’s history of racism and colonialism.
    We are not going to convince some Non-Westerners that we are morally superior. See lesson 1.

    >There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such standards is an evil oppressor.
    We are not going to convince some people of other cultures that our culture is better. See lesson 1.

    >The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of the Third World; therefore Westerners actually deserve to be impoverished and miserable.
    Ruthless exploitation has historically been one of the West’s most notable qualities, and I can believe some want to make us impoverished and miserable for it. See lesson 1.

    >Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal. Poor criminals are entitled to what they take. Submitting to criminal predation is more virtuous than resisting it. The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only victims are virtuous. Therefore only the poor and criminals are virtuous. (Rich people can borrow some virtue by identifying with poor people and criminals.) For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself. But ‘oppressed’ people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.

    I am Roman Catholic and these three seem more like Christian teaching (give the shirt off your back, easier for a camel…, turn the other cheek) than a subversive meme. I struggle to reconcile this with my view of the world, although I think the answer lies in Christ throwing the money changers out of the temple, but I haven’t worked it out.

    >When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist’s point of view, and make concessions.

    If you tacked “… before we bomb the hell out of them.” on the end of that, I would agree. We do have past sins and some terrorists may have legitimate grievances where concessions are warranted, not out of fear. but out of a sense of justice. If the agendas are too divergent then war may be the only answer, but it should not be the first alternative.

    So what scares me is not the memes in Western society because I think, if history is any guide, we will eventually come to the right, self-preservational conclusions. But rather the dangerous memes of the Islamists that are so hard to identify and differentiate from the benign. As an example, both Islamists and Westists (sorry, lack of better term) legitimately strive for justice and will fight and die for it, but both mean clash-of-culture, fight-to-the-death different things by that word. Western society needs to somehow root that out without becoming facist itself.

  140. Further note to T. Marcell and others: I’m not a Buddhist of either Theravada or Mahayana variety, but do I consider Buddhism by far the the sanest of the ‘great religions’ — the only one that would have any chance at all of surviving in a world of rational thinkers.

  141. Your use of “CE” illustrates another meme that has sneaked into rational discourse: That Christianity is to be erased by verbal gymnastics. Any reference to Christ must be expunged. “CE” is, of course, “Anno Domini” but that’s verboten. Despite the fact that the “common” era is only common because it is dated (however speculatively) from the birth of Christ, and therefore it conveys no information at all other than that conveyed by AD, it must be pushed because Christianity must be destroyed, cast into the memory hole. And that’s all that matters to the meme-ists.
    The interesting thing about this spreading of memes by the Soviets is how it didn’t work and isn’t working. Liberals use all the arguments you cited in cocktail-party conversation, but then go to work being good capitalists and, in the main, observing merit-based standards. The only effects are on the fringes.

  142. Adrian10: yeah, that’s one of the reasons why I said “interesting” rather than “bang-on accurate”. PG says some thought-provoking stuff, but he goes a bit crazy when he gets on his startup hobbyhorse (which is entirely understandable). Most of the programmers I know in Europe are vaguely Leftish like most other intellectuals over here. I suspect that if Libertarians are disproportionally represented among programmers, it’s because 1) being intellectuals, programmers are attracted to simple, abstract systems of thought, 2) early exposure to libertarian sf.

  143. Jim and Eric,

    Afaik, the whole “not a Christian nation” stance was copped so that the U.S. could enter into amicable relations with the Barbary pirates. (Our relationships with Islamic jihadis go all the way back to the establishment of the country.)

    Regardless of the religious affiliations of the founders, their genius when it comes to statecraft lies in the creation of an entirely secular governance apparatus with principles derived from reasoning which does not rely on the presupposition of supernatural forces. This is rather akin to writing code that’s portable across operating systems and CPU architectures; as it allows people of any religious affiliation to participate (as long as they respect the secular principles that underlie the state’s establishment). A big mistake we made in the handling of post-Saddam Iraq is not teaching them the inherent value of a secular state; I’m concerned that this understanding will only come with time and perhaps bloodshed.

    Jim, you would do well to remember that it was a seed bed of Catholicism that enabled the Dark Ages, with all its attendant misery, poverty, disease and periodic bouts of hysteria wherein nonbelievers were tortured and killed. It was only when materialism began to creep into Europe that progress could be made.

  144. >tobacco farmers in the late 1600s decided to set up a race concious society in order to keep black slaves.

    The actual history is more interesting than this. Early English colonists in the Caribbean and southern U.S. imported slaves in order to preserve a social pattern they valued, one in which a squirearchy controlled a large mass of illiterate laborer/tenants (there’s a good explanation of this in Albion’s Seed). What’s now forgotten is that early on most of the slaves were Irish, or English criminals or political dissenters (and technically they were under 7-year indenture rather than being chattels).

    Blacks became more valued because they survived the tropical climate and the psychological condition of slavery better than whites and Amerinds did. Amerinds, in particular, were notoriously prone to waste away and die in captivity before any useful amount of labor could be extracted from them. (However, this didn’t prevent them from participating in the system; in the early post-contact period, chieftains of what came to be called the “Five Civilized Tribes” not infrequently held plantations and slaves of their own under colonial and early American law.) Whites were somewhat more tractable but came to be considered bad investments (the Irish particularly so).

    The “race consciousness” came later; it wasn’t one of the original motivations at all. Racialist explanations of Southern slavery developed after 1750, during a period when the plantation system was under increasing pressure from industrial capitalism and free labor. By the 1850s, racialist and Biblical rationalizations of chattel slavery more or less crowded out earlier defenses based on historical analogies with Greco-Roman slave civilizations.

    This is one of the case studies that falsifies the Marxist idea that ideology is determined by the social means of production. That gets it exactly backwards about the origins of New World slavery, a means of production chosen in conscious support of a pre-existing ideology.

    CORRECTION: For ‘New World’ read ‘North American Colonial’. Slavery in the Spanish colonies developed along different lines and had strong racialist overtones from the beginning.

  145. Jeff,

    Your points are well-taken, but I have to ask what you mean by “progress”. The empiric fact is that the twentieth century stands as the bloodiest, and perhaps cruelest, in history. And those depradations were foisted upon the world by materialist regimes. The total amount of senseless squalor, torture, death, and ruined lives under communism and fascism tower above the offerings of the Middle Ages. This is what materialism accomplished during the march of progress? I could point out that many of the practices of the Catholic church of the Middle Ages represented a twisting of Biblical Christianity (which is not unrelated to the resistance of that structure to having the Bible widely read); and you might, in turn, point out that the materialism of the twentieth century was similarly just a perversion of its potential good, as represented by American secularism, e.g. I’m not ready to concede, however, that our founders were either mostly Deists; nor am I convinced that more accomplished historians than you or I would agree with that assertion. Much of this seems to boil down to the question: If the American experiment is the best example in history of governance/self-governence and progress, to what extent did its creation depend on Theism, or Theists? More than a few Deists and Materialists owe the existence of their civlization on George Washington’s otherwise irrational and unlikely persistence in a war and an ideal that depended heavily upon his faith. Even Benjamin Franklin made statements revealing a piety absent in modern materialists. I’m not ready to give up the ghost on this historical question.

  146. Wow, I cant beleive how paranoid you Americans are. “Everyone is out to get us” screams that article, and we better do something before we do something bad that makes people hate us even more? Come on. You’d prefer to actually ignore all the things the US HAS previously been involved in? Youd prefer to ignore that the US has DIRECTLY massacred many millions of people for all sorts of reasons. Youd prefer to blame it on a meme that the Soviets used? “We arent really that bad, we havent done anything bad.. really, why do so many people have a problem with us”.

    Its not only political, its economic, its social, its the whole box and dice. You seem to forget your empire has been busy asmmasing resources, and wealth from all over the global through all sorts of means – many quite horrific. Notice all of the wealthier people from poor countries flee to the US/UK when they are in trouble.. notice that your country so full of wealth, simply becomes a becon of greed, and capitalistic urges – “buy buy buy”is the cry, if you arent using the gun or the world bank to do your work for you.

    Surely there is simply now way in hell, you can blame some political dogma for the shit you have gotten yourselves in. Funnily enough, these memes arent just memes, but they do actually describe some of the things the US has been directly responsible for – you want to fix things, then face up to your responsibilities? Take ownership for your actions – you act like my young brother, who still lives his life as a teenager, not caring for anyone her hurts until he is confronted with someone that wants to hurt him.

    Dont beleive your dribble.. I beleive in karma. And its coming.

  147. excellent analysis, Eric. Posted a link to my website.

    Oh, and you are SO right about these memes being so ingrained in the culture: Adrian10 was working them to death in his subsequent replies, and it appears nobody noticed: since WHEN was guilt for the crusades/indian wars transferrable beyond the immediate perpetrators? MY only obligation is to learn from the mistakes and sins of the other: the feeling of guilt Adrian10 was trying to impress is part of the effect Stalin intended. Their exploitation has proven so useful to create unearned guilt and concessions that giving them up will seem impossible.

    These memes are like unsecured WMD: you don’t have to have the SAME GOALS as the guys who originally had them, but if they fell into your hands, they’d be useful to advance YOUR GOALS.

  148. esr:

    A lot of black anger seems to be directed at American culture on the basis that the English colonists appeared to have created racial slavery to specifically target blacks, and allowed it to persist in the creation of their new republic. One meme going around was that the Second Amendment was passed to give southerners a means to quell the frequent slave rebellions and not to give citizens a way to self-defend against tyranny or crime. This one largely seems to stem from the work of one Carl T. Bogus who, citing Zinn and Bellesiles to support his thesis, may actually live up to his name.

    Jim Munis:
    You can abide faithfully to the letter of the Bible and still have a backward, repressive society. What if the fundamentalists took over and outlawed apostasy? In America we actually have some experience with this sort of thing; consider the Puritans.

    What the dark ages and nazism and stalinism had in common was forceful insistence on belief in official dogma. The substance of that dogma is wholly immaterial. The ability to question beliefs and change them in light of new factual understanding is the cornerstone of any free society. Orwell put it best: “Freedom means the freedom to say two plus two equals four. All else follows from that.”

    eric simonson:

    I love the domain. I’d register http://www.ascertain.org as penance but it appears to be taken…

  149. >A lot of black anger seems to be directed at American culture on the basis that the English colonists appeared to have created racial slavery to specifically target blacks, and allowed it to persist in the creation of their new republic.

    As I’ve already explained, that’s not true. Early New World slavery in the English colonies was not racially loaded. (The Spanish colonies were a different matter.)

    >One meme going around was that the Second Amendment was passed to give southerners a means to quell the frequent slave rebellions and not to give citizens a way to self-defend against tyranny or crime.

    Also false, but with a grain of truth in it. See The Racist Roots of Gun Control for discussion.

  150. since WHEN was guilt for the crusades/indian wars transferrable beyond the immediate perpetrators?

    Guilt itself isn’t transferrable (and nor is credit for things like the liberation of France, incidentally), but if you’re demonstrably benefiting from something your ancestors did then a little responsibility can be assumed (but doesn’t have to be – a lot of people (eg you) are going to be only too happy to scuttle away bleating consoling stuff about “bad Stalinist memes”).

    MY only obligation is to learn from the mistakes and sins of the other: the feeling of guilt Adrian10 was trying to impress is part of the effect Stalin intended.

    And of course, some will only learn the easy (ie self-flattering) lessons. Sins? Never mind, I probably don’t want to know.

  151. Hah. After ALL the commentary, Adrian10 focusses on MY comment? Not unexpected at all, since I had detected his use of the “bad stalinist memes” and called him on it.

    NO responsiblity without causation, period. You’re in no position to posit or propagate gratuitious moral cause-and-effect relationships when you insist on judging me for what others have done. It smacks of a revival of the “royal blood/common blood” fallacy that insisted that virtue flowed via bloodlines, only you turn it around and insist that responsibility flows via bloodlines. I don’t believe ANY of that BS. Why should I honor a judgement derived from a patently deficient moral code that insists, among other things, that people are judged by the group they belong? on unvoluntarily imposed responsibility for the deeds of another? that blindly accepts accusations and demands some sort of response without concrete proof?

    Read about the denial of objective truth: Doing so enables accusers to evade the responsibility of proving the truth of any accusation.

    “I probably don’t want to know”

    I believe you definitely don’t want to know.

  152. Nicely put Ptah, and how is it any different from suggesting that someone is inferior or superior because of their bloodlines? I really don’t understand it. Maybe Adrian10 can explain it?

  153. PG says some thought-provoking stuff, but he goes a bit crazy when he gets on his startup hobbyhorse (which is entirely understandable).

    The parallels with that Jacobs article about cities are striking, though, I must admit. Perhaps small is beautiful after all.

    Anyway, I’ve got to go to Tokyo for the w/e. Keep an eye on the rubes for me. :-)

  154. Thank you Eric. I found your piece illuminating in many ways.

    The use of bloodlines as a means to determine the content of character is a short-cut, it being much easier determine who someone’s parent is than determine how they will behave under pressure or temptation. Racists make similar gratuitous associations for exactly the same reason: they can’t prove or disprove someone’s character traits, so they make an assertion based on an assumption of a causal/property connection whose property (skin color) is easier to determine.

    The use of programming terminology as a means of describing human behavior is probably fraught with hazards, but can be equally illuminating if done with care. For instance, if these memes are likened to programs running in the wetware of leftist intellectual brains, then how much of their effectiveness within that person is dependent on compromising what passes for the Arithmetic-logic unit? I.e. to be more specific, the comparator unit? Much of what passes for leftist reasoning is based on drawing equivalences: take the implication Adrian10 makes that the current american environment is equivalent to that of pre-nazi germany as a means to lay the groundwork for accusing america of going Nazi.

    If I recall correctly, I believe James Gosling, the creator of Java, noted that he looked at up to 10 different ways to test for “equality”, each of which is useful in a specific context. I believe it was in the C/C++ Journal that I read, in a discussion on overriding the equality operator, that there are 26 different notions of equality. Scheme has three different functions for testing equality: EQ, EQL, and EQUAL, each of which can yield different results for lists that have sublists as members.

    I did graduate work in AI under a student of Roger Shank, where we worked on frame based knowledge structures in LISP. These structures are similar to C++ structures and COBOL records, but with a varying number of fields defined by a “slot name” and “slot value”. Making inferences using Modus Ponens (A->B, A, therefore B) vitally depends on determining if a stated fact, X, “is equal enough” to A so that one could conclude B. This was done comparing the slot values of the two structures with identical slot names. There were three issues with this. One was the question of how many slots have to match so that one could conclude that X “is equal enogh” to A: Make too many comparisons, and you can’t draw any interesting inferences (nobody except Germans can be compared to the nazis if you require that the slot named “nationality” be German.). Key on too few, and you get patently false inferences (“Hitler was a great orator. Bush is a great Orator, therefore Bush is Hitler” also leads one to reason that “Hitler was a great orator. Churchill was a great orator. Therefore Churchill was Hitler,” not to mention: “Hitler was a great orator. Clinton is a great orator. Therefore Clinton is Hitler.” I kid you not, a leftie made that argument after one of Bush’s State of the Union addresses.). The second issue is slot name relevance: physics makes a distinction between physical properties and chemical properties, and states that certain reactions take place based on chemical properties alone, not physical. Seems to me that both Adrian10 and the royals, at this level, are equivalent: Adrian10 uses one slot, nationality, to draw his conclusions, while the royals also used one slot, ancestry, to draw their conclusions. Racists use one slot, race. Too few slots, with questionable relevance. (In the Abu Ghraib kerfluffle, the liberal media and democrats were reluctant to have any comparisons made using the slots “torture-committed”, “duration”, “loccation” and “degree” between Saddam and the soldiers involved: they were, we were told, not relevant. Why? THEIR CHOICE. they couldn’t make the connections that they wanted, and thus make the accusations and equvalences they wanted, if those slots were compared. Its all a matter of slot choice and comparison method to determine equivalence.)

    The third issue, obviously, is how do you determine whether the slot NAMES are equivalent. What about the slot contents? I toyed with the idea of including a slot called “comparison-method”, then later rejected it based on the fact that one couldn’t reason consistently about the validity of the system if I did so. however, it is quite obvious that many liberals insist on such a slot that mandates a looser function of equivalence if Nationality==American, and a tighter one if Nationality!=American.

    (I never got far in that AI program, mainly because such concerns afflicted the “neats”, of which I was one, while my Graduate advisor was a “scruffy”, and couldn’t appreciate the tight distinctions.)

    Given the above discussion, it is obvious that fairness consists in using the same comparison process and methodology, using the same “operators” operating on the same “slots”, regardless of frame contents. The Multi-culti meme cannot gain traction, “run”, in such an environment, so the ALU must be compromised and the microcode rewritten. This has the side effect of allowing other memes to run that otherwise wouldn’t, such as environmentalism and the current movement in Germany to sigmatize men when they piss standing up.

    Ugh, sorry to be overly long.

  155. “Blacks became more valued because they survived the tropical climate and the psychological condition of slavery better than whites and Amerinds did.” In addition, it was much more difficult for black runaways to evade capture. In particular, in the southern mainland colonies, a white slave/indentured servant could walk 50 miles and establish his own farm on unclaimed land, and it would be quite difficult for an owner without a picture of the runaway to ever find him, let alone prove ownership in court. Any black not known to people in the vicinity as a freedman was probably a runaway from somewhere, so running away was virtually hopeless unless someone would help them hide and travel to somewhere out of reach of the slavecatchers.

  156. “A big mistake we made in the handling of post-Saddam Iraq is not teaching them the inherent value of a secular state; I’m concerned that this understanding will only come with time and perhaps bloodshed.”

    “We” did teach them that, if “we” is all the various nation-building NGOs and programs that started as soon as the war was over, and if “teach them that” means offer secular democracy as an option. We did regularize the banking system, establish Western property laws, train judges in the theory and practice of independent judiciary and separation of powers, and many other preconditions for democracy.

    Beyond that, they really have to figure it out for themselves, we can’t do it for them. in every poll since the end of the war, Iraqis have consistently indicated they don’t want an Islamic theocracy, but do want Islam to inform their legal system in some way. Details still to be hammered out.

  157. “Your use of “CE” illustrates another meme that has sneaked into rational discourse: That Christianity is to be erased by verbal gymnastics. Any reference to Christ must be expunged. “CE” is, of course, “Anno Domini” but that’s verboten.”

    “Anno Domini” means “in the year of our Lord.” If he’s not your Lord, then it’s not appropriate to refer to him in what ought to be impartial historical references. Why shouldn’t “reference to Christ” be expunged from scientific or academic discourse where it doesn’t apply?

    “CE” means “Common Era,” which acknowledges that the Gregorian calendar is the standard for secular civilization. But it’s still not “the year of my Lord.”

  158. Ptah:
    >current movement in Germany to sigmatize men when they piss standing up.
    My wife, a German, says that the Spuk is a “gag gift” that’s been around since Dworkin’s fish entered the Tour de France.
    Whether or not it’s a subtle facet of a general assault on masculinity, who can say? Ambiguity is the spice of disinformation.

  159. Grover: “Wow, I cant beleive how paranoid you Americans are….. Youd prefer to ignore that the US has DIRECTLY massacred many millions of people for all sorts of reasons.”

    I find many of the posts here very interesting and thought provoking. However, it does amaze me how meritless many of the arguements posed by America-bashers are. By meritless I refer to fallacious and poorly thought out arguments that hinge on parallels that are so base as to be rediculous. Grover evidently lumps all of our “massacres” into one pile “all sorts of reasons.” So the destruction of the Nazi empire, and the eradication of the native American culture are the same travesties…both requiring guilt and atonement on our part. No country is more open about it’s mistakes and/or crimes than this nation, and we will always be open to the criticism of Europeans who have evidently been able to wash their hands of their own atrocities since our rise to global power and their demise from it. Without identifying his own “virtuous” country and relieving himself of the need to face up to his own responsibilities, Grover stands out as a beacon for the hypocrisy inherent in the America-Basher culture. He dismisses pointed and specific ideas concerning the roots of divisive perceptions and propaganda, and offers in return devisive generalities that have no relevance to the topic. In short: ” Do not concern yourself with how to avoid further division or how to prevent future atrocities. People hate you and you deserve it.” Thanks for the “Red Herring” Grover, the irony is almost overwhelming. (Only the winner is wrong.)

    P.S. Did you really call us paranoid, mock and mimic our supposed paranoia, and then confirm that we should in fact be paranoid becuase Karma has it out for us? Unreal.

  160. NO responsiblity without causation, period. You’re in no position to posit or propagate gratuitious moral cause-and-effect relationships when you insist on judging me for what others have done.

    I really don’t know if I can unpack all the inferences you seem to be drawing here. But suppose after your father died you discovered that he’d cheated someone years before, and that person’s family was still around and still visibly affected by it. Would you start inveighing against them for not getting off their passive, victimisation-claiming butts and making $$$$$ from a teledildonics startup, or would you feel obliged to help? And if so, why not on a larger scale, when the link between you and the original victimisers was memetic rather than genetic?

    And I wasn’t judging you, just pointing out that you were choosing not to judge yourself. Some Americans choose to accept some responsibility. Are they judging you? You certainly seem to be judging them (“running bad memes” etc).

    Much of what passes for leeftist reasoning is based on drawing equivalences: take the implication Adrian10 makes that the current american environment is equivalent to that of pre-nazi germany as a means to lay the groundwork for accusing america of going Nazi.

    I’m tempted to say something about much of what passes for rightist reading comprehension here…I haven’t actually done that, I’ve just said that there are parallels which merit watching – you do know what “proto-” means, right? There’s *nothing* equivalent to the loss of WW1, the treaty of Versailles, the Weimar hyperinflation or any of the other things that made the Germans desperate for what the Nazis had to offer. Though if you do something clumsy and burst your housing bubble at the wrong moment you might get a sniff of it. Death camps are pretty unlikely as things stand.

    I did graduate work in AI under a student of Roger Shank, [...]

    I’m really at a loss for words here.

    (I never got far in that AI program,

    [bites tongue]

    Given the above discussion, it is obvious that fairness consists in using the same comparison process and methodology, using the same “operators” operating on the same “slots”, regardless of frame contents. The Multi-culti meme cannot gain traction, “run”, in such an environment, so the ALU must be compromised and the microcode rewritten.

    [uncrosses eyes with difficulty]

    This has the side effect of allowing other memes to run that otherwise wouldn’t, such as environmentalism and the current movement in Germany to sigmatize men when they piss standing up.

    I love the way everything you disapprove of is a meme, and the stuff you like is Objective Reality. Hallmark of idealogues since forever.

    The second one’s less invidious than you might think – a lot of guys have a tendency to produce a light mist of urine when they stand, and a lot of women can detect it on various surfaces afterwards and don’t like it much. Course, your partner (I might be presuming too much here) may not be worthy of such consideration. But if your masculinity depends in any way on The Right To Pee-Stand In A Shared Environment you have my, er, sympathy.

  161. I’ve gotten pretty used to pissing sitting down (as I understand Turkish men, scarcely poster children for feminism on the whole, usually do), as I’m rather tired of cleaning up the floor afterwards if I stand up. The exception is in public toilets, where sitting down tends to get my pants wet with other people’s piss.

    And of course Adrian10′s entirely right about the “your father, the thief” scenario, with this exception: it’s not about you “helping” his victims, it’s whether a just legal system will compel you to disgorge his ill-gotten gains that you inherited. Otherwise, one is in the position of supposing an injustice to be allowable simply because it’s been going on for a long time.

  162. No one spoke on ideological warfare against islamists better than Obadiah Shoher. Many in the West don’t realize that it wasn’t arms race that killed commis – jeanses and jazz did. Offer Muslims something nicer than mosques. As Shoher says, offer them porno. They will succumb, just as the commis did.

  163. The author of Gramscian damage lists 8 “memes” that were supposedly planted by communist spies. Then he accuses today’s leftists of believing all 8 of these “memes,” as he has stated (or mis-tated) them. Then he accuses all Americans who are against the war in Iraq of being lefty. Therefor, everyone against the war must believe in every one of those ‘memes.” And supposedly that is the end of the argument.

    Pat Buchanan is against the war in Iraq, so does he believe in all of those ‘memes”? Is he a tool of Stalin?
    55% of the American public says the War in Iraq was a mistake. Are we all tools of Stalin?

    Some of us believe that Islamofascism is a tremendous threat, but that the war is being fought in entirely the wrong way. It is a question of tactics, not of willpower.

    Do you understand the difference?

    Islamofascismm is the enemy. The American “left” is not your enemy.

    Whose ‘meme’ is it that says the President of the United States is the only person in the world with the legal right to condone torture? Who planted that meme in your head? The fact that Stalin did not plant the meme does not make it right.

    To say that torture is wrong no matter who does it is not relativisim. It is moral absolutism.

    To say that torture is a strategic mistake and a violation of our core values is simply to be honest. Senator McCain is not a tool of Stalin.

    I am as partiotic as anyone. Seriously. But this war in Iraq sucks because it was a huge mistake. It is as if we were attacked by wolves and then launched a preemptive strike on the lion’s den. It did not help. It was and is a distraction and a diversion of our precious resources.

    Reagan financed Osama Bin Laden’s war against Russia in Afghanistan. The CIA made create that monster and then left the Taliban in charge of the country. Until 9/11/2001, that was considered one of the CIA’s greatest success stories.

    Whose “meme” was that? Not Stalin’s.

    To use the Iraq War as a wedge between American liberals and conservatives was a “meme” planted by Karl Rove in order to win votes for the Republicans. And you just bought it.

    Meanwhile, libertarians are joinging the ACLU. Buckeyite conservatives who have always warend against the unintended consequences of Utopian government crusades are realizing that GW Bush has dragged us into a huge mess.

    Let’s all agree that we must do better if we are to win this war. The left is not your enemy in this war.

  164. >The author of Gramscian damage lists 8 “memes” that were supposedly planted by communist spies.

    No; Communist agents of influence. The difference is siginficant.

    > Then he accuses today’s leftists of believing all 8 of these “memes,” as he has stated (or mis-tated) them.

    One could quibble that some leftists reject some of these; but, broadly, yes.

    > Then he accuses all Americans who are against the war in Iraq of being lefty. Therefor, everyone against the war must believe in every one of those ‘memes.” And supposedly that is the end of the argument.

    Now you’re off the deep end. I never stated either of these things, for the excellent reason that I don’t believe them to be true.

    I will, however, observe that if the Left wants not to be considered an enemy of civilization, it should stop cuddling up to barbarians.

  165. Which barbarians does the “Left” cuddle up to?

    The American right has cuddled up to plenty of barbarians.

    Fight the real enemy: Islamofascism. You are being brainwashed into thinking that the so-called left is your enemy, The ‘left’ in this country barely exists. They did not create Islamofascism. They do not support it.
    Get real.

    So let’s agree that Islamofascism is one of the most pressing issues endangering life as we know it

    What can be done about it? I really don’t know. But somehow we (as a nation) have managed to skip the policy discussion about the best strategy and have jumped right to accusations of anti-Americanism.

    Is there really anyone who thinks we should do nothing in response to Islamofascism? I don’t think so. And yet to read the Fox News/Karl Rove talking points, we live in a nation of traitors who want to roll over and play dead as Osama Bin Laden puts us in chains. They’ve been playing the patriotism card since September 12th, 2001. I resent it. I’m just as patriotic as you or them, but I disagree with their methods.

    I took a course on terrorism in college (taught by a conservative who is has advised the Bush Administration, so don’t give me the usual ‘all academics are lefties’ defense). We studied the anarchists in America, the Japanese Red Army, the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany, the Algerians under French occupation, the Tamils in Sri Lanka, the PLO in Palestine/Israel, the Quebecois nationalists in Canada. Etc. etc, etc.

    None of them had much of a chance to actually defeat their enemies. Every one of them had one wet dream in common: they hoped that acts of terrorism would trigger such an outsized and inappropriate authoritarian response that it would reveal the government to be a great oppressive satan. Sometimes it kind of works.

    Al Qaida and the Islamofascists can’t really defeat us. Even if they knock down every skyscraper in the country and release anthrax in the subways, it’s going to be tragic and expensive and horrible, but it won’t defeat us.

    What will defeat us, I think, is if we give up civil liberties and due process of law and congressional oversight and judicial oversight of the executive branch and then classify everything so nobody knows what the executive branch is doing and then torture our enemies and preemtively strike countries that have nothing to do with Islamofascism. That will defeat us.

    I took another class in college (class of 1980) taught by a brilliant man named Richard Slotkin. He’s the author of a trilogy about myth and ideology in American popular culture. One of the trends he identified goes back to Natty Bumpo and The Last of the Mohicans. In every war America has ever fought, our response is political speeches and fictional accounts that present the following self-image: We are a good and descent people. But this time our enemy is special. This enemy does not play by the rules. This enemy is sneaky. So we have to adopt some of his methods in order to defeat him. When the war is over we’ll go back to being descent.

    The myth comes up in the Indian Wars, the Revolutionary War, the war against the Barbary Pirates, the Mexican War, the Civil War, etc., up through Vietnam and now we can see it in spades in the ‘war against terrorism.’ Except if we get sneaky and inhumane in every single war we stop being descent, don;t we? And if it’s a war against “terrorism” when does it end? When do we go back to being descent? Or are we just going to keep torturing and wiretapping (and opening people’s mail or whatever else they are doing but Alberto Gonzales won’t tell us) forever?

    What about the next president? Does he have the same powers? What if it’s Pat Robertson? Or Pat Buchanan? Or Hilary Clinton? I really don’t understand all these “the government is the problem” Reagon desciples who now advocate an imperial presidency. I used to think they were a bunch of dogmatic ideologues. But that implies consistency. The only possible conclusion now is that no one is really in charge. They’re responsing to events willy nilly with no sustainable philosophy at all.

    What should we do? I don’t know. I’d much rather hear your ideas than your insults.

    Putting an end to the Taliban’s support for Al Qaida training grounds? Definitely.

    Toppling Saddam Hussen? I don’t think so. Especially since it was bungled so horrendously that we are in a much worse position to address the real issue. And since it was sold on false premises, it has lessened our national prestige to a tragic degree.

    Beefing up security in sensitive and vulnerable targets? Yes. Too bad the Marianas Islands and the Virgin Islands get more of our national security dollars per capita than DC and NYC and LA combined. Is it coincidence that the Marianas were an Abramoff client? (Have you heard about the classified documents regarding security threats in the Marianas that were shown to Abramoff by Ashcroft, despite the fact that the lobbyist had no secirity clearance? If it’s true as Abramoff bragged, that’s another glaring case of this administration releasing sensitive information when it helps their own inscrutable purposes. And then prosecuting everyone else.)

    Torturing terrorists as a matter of national policy? Abosultely not. If you haven’t done it already, carefully read “The Memo” in this week’s New Yorker. She doesn’t interview a single Democrat. She doesn’t have to. There are plenty of respectable, patriotic, conservatives who understand that we cannot remain a democracy if torture or even simple ‘cruelty’ is tolerated. These people are being tortured years after their arrest. There is no ticking bomb. It doesn’t work. The information received is unreliable. It hurts much more than it helps. The biggest argument for not keeping it under wraps now is to avoid the possibility of administration or military officials going to jail for acts performed in secret in the last few years.

    Nothing hurts our international standing more — and nothing sets us back further in our war against Islamofascists — than officially santioned torture and the double-speak cover-up: “We don’t torture and if we did it would be okay.” “America does not torture. It’s only torture if it causes pain tantamount to organ failure and maybe we do that sometimes. Or maybe not. It’s secret.” “Abu Ghraib was just a couple of bad apples. It’s only coincidence that people also used dogs and nudity and sexual humiliation at Guantanomo and Afghanistan and maybe some other places that we can’t talk about because it would compromise our methods.’

    Rounding up suspects and holding them in secret? No. We need some sort of due process. Maybe it can’t be done in the regular courts. But there needs to be some sort of process. The president cannot be allowed to decide these things on a whim. There have already been a bunch of mistakes. And now they can’t or won’t bring them to trial because they’ve all been tortured and no court will convict. So we’re really stuck.

    Reducing dependence on foreign oil? Yes. It should have been started four years ago. (Remember Cheney’s secret energy task force?) Will drilling in ANWAR help make us energy independent? Sure, we can get enough oil there to last us about one week. So let’s get serious, please.

    Some sort of public diplomacy? Yes, that sounds like a good idea. Is Karen Hughes the right person for the job? No.

    Stand up for free speech, even when offensive? Absolutely.

    Stand up for Democracy? Yes. But let’s be just a little bit smarter about backing election boycotts in Iran that then lead to Islamofascists in power. And let’s be a little smarter about promoting elections in Palestine when we are not willing to abide by the results. That makes us look like hypocrites and helps no cause.

    Planning to build nuclear bunker busters, announcing that we might consider a nuclear first strike, and brewing up anthrax at Dugway training grounds for “defensive purposes?” No. These make us all much less safe because they provide cover and incentive for our enemies to do the same. When we preach non-proliferation to other countries we look like hypocrites, and we are.

    Wasting trillions of dollars on “star wars?” No.

    Allowing all elements of society to share equally in the burdens of war? That would be good. Stop the shamneful tax cuts to the wealthy and include the costs of the Iraq war in the budget. It does not help national security to let your daughters and my daughters foot the bill.

    Being a better team player in the world? Yes. That means signing the Kyoto protocols, supporting the international courts, honoring our treaties, reforming the United Nations in a meaningful and not self-serving manner. We could also pay our UN bills.

    A Homeland Security Agency that earns the trust of the American people? That would be good. Incompetence and cronyism don’t help.

    A sensible gun control policy. Sure. Why sould guns be the only weapons that are not tracked?

    If I were president, I’d de-classify everything except the instruction manuals for weapons (which means classifying some things not now classified). And the names of our intelligence operatives and some of our methods. But other than that, let’s let it all out and discuss it. Let’s have a truly open and respectful debate about what to do next. What are we doing wrong and what are we doing right? Let’s finally live up to our ideals of freedom and openness and responsible government. Let’s show the terrorists that they cannot defeat us, they cannot trick us into giving up our basic values or principles.

    Again, I am as patriotic as you or George W. Bush. I’ll even allow that Bush is a hard-working man who truly wants to achieve a noble cause: protecting America. But he is going about it in entirely the wrong way. And he and his pitbulls Rove and Cheney need to stop accusing everyone who disagrees with them of being a traitor.

    What do you think we should be doing that we are not doing now?

  166. “Liberal”, while you wrote a lovely paper, you kinda missed the point. In fact, you played right into some of the memes that you ranted against with some of your comments. But, aside from that, you missed the even bigger point. ESR is not, repeat not, defending the Bush administration in some fashion when he takes issue with the European and American Left and when he discusses the undermining of Western Liberal culture/society by the Soviet Union. Nothing in there says a thing about agreeing that torture is okay, for example, or that the Patriot Act is okay. Not one word of it. Oh, and as far as a “left” in the United States, I would consider the real positions, the ones that get hidden away as soon as the presidential campaigning starts, of Kerry, both Clintons, Teddy Kennedy, Barbara Boxer, Michael Moore and many other vocal pundits of so-called progressivism to be on the left. Perhaps they aren’t anarcho-syndicalists, but that is hardly the only sort of left wing there is. No one who calls for universal government provided health care, universal national service (that was originally in Kerry’s platform, until his handlers decided to move him towards the right), increases in government intrusion into the market, increased progressive tax structures and redistribution of wealth through taxes can be called anything but Left. It’s disingenuous to claim there is no left in the USA. Although they aren’t as far to the left as, let’s say, Swedish politicians, that hardly makes them part of the Right.

  167. “fission plants take ages to build and anyway are seriously uneconomic,”

    Another bad meme from the Soviet era is that nuclear electric power is bad or undesirable. It was first floated by the anti-nuclear “peace” movement in the late 1950s. The event that gave it legs was the coincidence of the movie “China Syndrome” starring Hanoi Jane Fonda and the Three Mile island accident. As a result, no nuclear power plants have been built in the US for 25 years. Even so, existing plants have increased their share of the growing electricity market from 10% to 20%. Hardly the result of being uneconomic.

    It is interesting to not that France which was not a target of this meme attack now produces 70% of its electricity by nuclear power.

  168. I remain more optimistic than this. I think there is still an excellent chance that the West can recover from suicidalism without going through a fevered fascist episode and waging a genocidal war. But to do so, we have to do more than recognize Stalin’s memes; we have to reject them. We have to eject postmodern leftism from our universities, transnational progressivism from our politics, and volk-Marxism from our media.

    Would the ejection of the memes look like this? Or could it be less horrific?

    Also, what sort of an event would generate ire at a volume level to get people to purge memes in others’ heads (I’ll go out on a limb and speculate that people who think highly of the Baran–Wallerstein “world-system” thesis aren’t about to abandon their notions easily) yet not be so horrific that there’d be widespread support for a bombing campaign from Morocco to Malaysia? Another single tower felled by a non-nuke?

  169. I am becoming sick each time I watch on TV the demontsrations agianst the war in Iraq or the Parisian hooligan bands looting small stores on Rue des Écoles… As an incorrigible optimist, I believe that human stupidity should have limits. Those who do not want to fight and are eager to die should simply commit suicide NOW and leave the world alone to defend itself against the Islamic plague. How could these people forget the million-strong ‘peace’ demonstrations in 1940! They are trying to pull us back to this stage.

  170. How it looked from the other side of the iron curtain:

    There is no truth, only competing agendas.
    No, there’s only one truth and it’s carried by proletarians. Other people cannot comprehend it because they’re inherently biased. Nevermind that this ideas were created by non-proletarians.

    All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West’s history of racism and colonialism.
    Western ruling elite opresses workers in their countries. They know it and don’t dare to claim moral superiority over communism. I repeat, there are no claims of moral superiority over communism.

    There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such standards is an evil oppressor.
    See above
    The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of the Third World; therefore Westerners actually deserve to be impoverished and miserable.
    Add proletarians to the list of the suffering.
    Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal. Poor criminals are entitled to what they take. Submitting to criminal predation is more virtuous than resisting it.
    Yes, as long as we’re talking about western countries. In communist states criminals are guilty.
    The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only victims are virtuous. Therefore only the poor and criminals are virtuous. (Rich people can borrow some virtue by identifying with poor people and criminals.)
    Yeah, something like that – as long as we’re talking about western society.
    For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself. But ‘oppressed’ people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.
    Whene good guys commit violence (to enforce communist agenda e.t.c.) it’s ok. When bad guys commit violence…well, I guess you know…
    When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist’s point of view, and make concessions.
    Yet again there’s no distinction between westerners in different places of social ladder.
    You won’t become a good jihadist by condemning west _and_ insulting everything sacred in islam. Same thing for communism – blaming west is ok, but you should respect communist dogmas. This list doesn’t respect them at all. This list is ok for western leftist, but almost heretical for practicing communist. If a covert jihadist is pissing on Quran to get into anti-islamic cires, he’ll have a hard time explaining his behaviour to his masters. Same for communist propaganda – those who organized it would probably be in trouble back in home.

  171. In closing you state the following: ” But to do so, we have to do more than recognize Stalin’s memes; we have to reject them. We have to eject postmodern leftism from our universities, transnational progressivism from our politics, and volk-Marxism from our media.” Allright, I’ll go for it. Surely, ample evidence has been given to confirm the depths, truly abyssmal in their scope and intent, of Psy-op programs instituted under the former Soviet Empire.
    I’ll even allow, that in acknowledgment of this, the much-maligned, and deservedly so, for his over-zealous persecution of many innocent Americans, Sen. Joe McCarthy may have been fighting, not vague and illusory forces but, a genuine threat.
    “We will crush you!” Is that how the sound byte goes? Or is it bury? Whatever.
    But, I feel, in your article, you ignore the most deadly and insiduous memetic weapon to hit our beloved Terra Firma since organized religion. A powerfully meme sent here by an alien race, who wishes to activate within us our own pre-programmed code for annhilation, as postulated by psychotherapist Melanie Klein, our Thanatic propensity. This meme was sent here to destroy us: The Internal Combustion Engine.

  172. Hey there. I just read this essay… you are insane! Time to take of the tinfoil hat : ) This crazy rant is the same kind of paranoid fantasy as the whole “government started aids to kill the blacks” thing. It seems to me that right-wingers are losing their minds because the US hasn’t launched enough wars, and you’re blaming it on “insidious pomo-marxist memes” instead of the disaster that the current war in Iraq has quite obviousely become. Time to get back on your meds.

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  174. You wrote:

    We have to eject postmodern leftism from our universities, transnational progressivism from our politics, and volk-Marxism from our media.

    It’s a good idea, but it’s not going to happen. Since it won’t happen: Things are going to end badly.

  175. I’ve called it suicidalism.

    Ayn Rand called it altruism, the moral subjugation of the individual to the “other”. But she otherwise said much the same things… fifty years earlier …. but remains derided by conventional thinkers as looney, dogmatic, etc. to this day.

    But when you say it, the first comment is “bloody brilliant”?

    Oh well…. better that the rest of us catch up to her slowly, than never at all.

  176. Mark Steyn’s book seems to be doing well, or maybe it’s just a planetary convergence that has so many of us thinking about these ideas.

    I suspect that the cold, dead hand of Communism is still doing its work on us, the “winners.” Reagan was full of old-fashioned ideas about freedom, duty, and the value of the American idea to mankind. That’s why the left held him in such disdain. But we’re soon to be shown how the post-moderns fare against a cause dedicated to world domination based on a bigger, more primitive enemy motivated by the same blind faith that the Communists had.

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  178. “In every war America has ever fought, our response is political speeches and fictional accounts that present the following self-image: We are a good and descent people. But this time our enemy is special. This enemy does not play by the rules. This enemy is sneaky. So we have to adopt some of his methods in order to defeat him. When the war is over we’ll go back to being descent.”

    This line of reasoning is based on the assumption that what makes us more descent than our enemies is what military tactics we use or do not use against them. We are more descent than our enemies in this war because we do not treat women like pieces of property, we do not stone to death our daughters for premarital sex, we do not teach our children that it is noble to strap on a bomb and go sit somewhere that will kill as many civilians as possible by self-imploding. We are morally superior and far more descent than they are because of the type of society we have compared to the one they have created for themselves. Completely external to our military tactics, we are far more descent than this enemy is and if this battle ends up with us having to do whatever it takes to kill them wholesale, we will still have a far way to go to ever being morally inferior to them.

  179. “If I were president, I’d de-classify everything except the instruction manuals for weapons (which means classifying some things not now classified). And the names of our intelligence operatives and some of our methods. But other than that, let’s let it all out and discuss it. ”

    We have ways of using technology to spy on terrorists in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, et cetera. Ways that many of us do not understand, much less these knuckle draggers can understand.

    We do not have the human intell that is necessary to infiltrate these groups but we have other ways of tracking them and finding out who they are. Terrorists have too many civil rights in the U.S., but over in those war zones, they are being hunted down from the bottom of the food chain on up. If the methods of how this is being done is made public, then the terrorists will just keep changing their ways in response. They don’t have to understand the technology behind things to know how to change how they communicate with each other and such.

    Why would you want to take away that kind of advantage from our side and give it to the terrorists? What about leaderships in countries that secretly work with us and allow our special op teams to do things that the populations of those countries are told we aren’t allowed to do? Some of those heads of states would be overthrown and have their throats cut if their populations knew how much they work with us behind the scenes. Why would you want us to lose the ability to keep such things classified, knowing that this would prevent us from finding out the very types of things that are allowing our special ops teams to kill terrorists and their chains of command?

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  182. I feel that your observation of the validity of idealogical warfare isvalid one. But i think that you fail to see the truth behind it, that IT is the warfare of the future. An idea can churn out an infinite number of children strapped with suicide bombs. Sending a military force in to crush an idea is foolish and naive at best. But what happens if you sent in a kind of viral meme bomb that would overtake the ideas of the people and bend them towards being less antagonistic, or worse, destroying themselves? I tend to view this war through machiavellian tinted glasses, and i think that while you are right about the fact that the idealogical war on america has been somewhat succesful, it hasn’t crippled our reaction to terrorism. If anything it has taught us an important lesson.

  183. I'm a teacher, in a good middle-class district, and I will tell you now- the students and staff all believe and worship those 'truths' (communist memes) that you listed above. Not only that, the students now have been dumbed down so much that very few would even understand your arguments above- they lack the language and intelligence to do so. And I'm in a conservative area with a moderate staff- imagine the horrors of public education elsewhere. Great article, it's just shocking how much damage the Soviets did to our society. I think we are going to lose the Cold War in the end, comrades.

  184. The following was read into the congressional record January 10, 1963, from “The Naked Communist” by Cleon Skousen:

    The Goals of Communism

    1. U.S. acceptance of coexistence as the only alternative to atomic war.

    2. U.S. willingness to capitulate in preference to engaging in atomic war.

    3. Develop the illusion that total disarmament of the United States would be a demonstration of moral strength.

    4. Permit free trade between all nations regardless of Communist affiliation and regardless of whether or not items could be used for war.

    5. Extension of long-term loans to Russia and Soviet satellites.

    6. Provide American aid to all nations regardless of Communist domination.

    7. Grant recognition of Red China. Admission of Red China to the U.N.

    8. Set up East and West Germany as separate states in spite of Khrushchev’s promise in 1955 to settle the German question by free elections under supervision of the U.N.

    9. Prolong the conferences to ban atomic tests because the United States has agreed to suspend tests as long as negotiations are in progress.

    10. Allow all Soviet satellites individual representation in the U.N.

    11. Promote the U.N. as the only hope for mankind. If its charter is rewritten, demand that it be set up as a one-world government with its own independent armed forces. (Some Communist leaders believe the world can be taken over as easily by the U.N. as by Moscow. Sometimes these two centers compete with each other as they are now doing in the Congo.)

    12. Resist any attempt to outlaw the Communist Party.

    13. Do away with all loyalty oaths.

    14. Continue giving Russia access to the U.S. Patent Office.

    15. Capture one or both of the political parties in the United States.

    16. Use technical decisions of the courts to weaken basic American institutions by claiming their activities violate civil rights.

    17. Get control of the schools. Use them as transmission belts for socialism and current Communist propaganda. Soften the curriculum. Get control of teachers’ associations. Put the party line in textbooks.

    18. Gain control of all student newspapers.

    19. Use student riots to foment public protests against programs or organizations which are under Communist attack.

    20. Infiltrate the press. Get control of book-review assignments, editorial writing, policymaking positions.

    21. Gain control of key positions in radio, TV, and motion pictures.

    22. Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic expression. An American Communist cell was told to “eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings, substitute shapeless, awkward and meaningless forms.”

    23. Control art critics and directors of art museums. “Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaningless art.”

    24. Eliminate all laws governing obscenity by calling them “censorship” and a violation of free speech and free press.

    25. Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV.

    26. Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as “normal, natural, healthy.”

    27. Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed religion with “social” religion. Discredit the Bible and emphasize the need for intellectual maturity which does not need a “religious crutch.”

    28. Eliminate prayer or any phase of religious expression in the schools on the ground that it violates the principle of “separation of church and state.”

    29. Discredit the American Constitution by calling it inadequate, old-fashioned, out of step with modern needs, a hindrance to cooperation between nations on a worldwide basis.

    30. Discredit the American Founding Fathers. Present them as selfish aristocrats who had no concern for the “common man.”

    31. Belittle all forms of American culture and discourage the teaching of American history on the ground that it was only a minor part of the “big picture.” Give more emphasis to Russian history since the Communists took over.

    32. Support any socialist movement to give centralized control over any part of the culture–education, social agencies, welfare programs, mental health clinics, etc.

    33. Eliminate all laws or procedures which interfere with the operation of the Communist apparatus.

    34. Eliminate the House Committee on Un-American Activities.

    35. Discredit and eventually dismantle the FBI.

    36. Infiltrate and gain control of more unions.

    37. Infiltrate and gain control of big business.

    38. Transfer some of the powers of arrest from the police to social agencies. Treat all behavioral problems as psychiatric disorders which no one but psychiatrists can understand.

    39. Dominate the psychiatric profession and use mental health laws as a means of gaining coercive control over those who oppose Communist goals.

    40. Discredit the family as an institution. Encourage promiscuity and easy divorce.

    41. Emphasize the need to raise children away from the negative influence of parents. Attribute prejudices, mental blocks and retarding of children to suppressive influence of parents.

    42. Create the impression that violence and insurrection are legitimate aspects of the American tradition; that students and special-interest groups should rise up and use united force to solve economic, political or social problems.

    43. Overthrow all colonial governments before native populations are ready for self-government.

    44. Internationalize the Panama Canal.

    45. Repeal the Connally reservation so the United States cannot prevent the World Court from seizing jurisdiction over nations and individuals alike.

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  189. @esr:

    > …You were successfully infected by Communist memetic weapons but don’t realize it. Worth noting that the only respondent who grew up in a Communist country agrees.

    Make that “ALL respondents” – there’s more than one of us, and way more than that are lurking.

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  192. This is still a powerful essay. Perhaps even more so, after 2012 election.

    Gov’t schools (not “public”) should be funded by vouchers — this is the key long term policy that needs to be implemented. In order to strengthen a culture of individualism.

    Because the individual vs the state culture war will be lost if the culture is lost.

  193. @Tom G,

    The federal government should have no involvement in education at all, at any level. Not funding it through vouchers or any other means, not setting standards for it, not regulating it, not making or guaranteeing student loans or scholarships, nothing. Let’s follow the Constitution for once!

    States shouldn’t be involved in elementary or high school education. It’s time to start privatizing the state colleges too. Local schools can be funded and run by the parents who send their children there – with no involvement by big-city bureaucracies, school boards, and teachers’ unions. Get everything down to the most local level possible and let’s have some real accountability.

    Our entire educational system is a hard-left/eco-radical/pro-Muslim indoctrination factory. And it turns out they aren’t physically safe places either, which anybody with common sense could have predicted.

    See: Only one way to eliminate public school violence

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  195. @1389AD

    Since we aren’t going to end federal funding of education instantly, before it is ended, it should be voucherized, and predicated on voucherization of local funding.

    And RE the original post, yes it is excellent.

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