The act of paying lip service while concealing secret opposition

Saturday, August 27th, 2022

A fellow traveler quipped that it must be a credit to our ketman that we have survived this long, and I was shocked to realize that I’d never mentioned the term on this blog:

The Captive Mind was written soon after the author’s defection from Stalinist Poland in 1951. In it, Milosz drew upon his experiences as an illegal author during the Nazi Occupation and of being a member of the ruling class of the postwar People’s Republic of Poland. The book attempts to explain the allure of Stalinism to intellectuals, its adherents’ thought processes, and the existence of both dissent and collaboration within the postwar Soviet Bloc. Milosz described that he wrote the book “under great inner conflict”.

Chapter I: The Pill of Murti-Bing
The book begins with a discussion of the dystopian novel Insatiability by Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz. In the novel, a new Mongol Empire conquers Poland and introduces Murti-Bing pills as a cure for independent thought. At first, the pills create contentment and blind obedience, but ultimately lead those taking them to develop dual personalities. Milosz compares the pills to the intellectually deadening effects of Marxism-Leninism in the USSR and the Soviet Bloc.

Chapter II: Looking to the West
Milosz describes how Western democracies were perceived with a mixture of contempt and fascination by Stalinist Central and Eastern Europe among intellectuals. Constraints put on politicians and policemen by the rule of law struck them as incomprehensible and inferior to the police states of the Communist world. Milosz noted, however, that the same intellectuals who denounced Western consumerism in print would often read Western literature in search of something more worthy than in books published behind the Iron Curtain.

Chapter III: Ketman
This chapter draws upon the writings of Arthur de Gobineau, a 19th-century French diplomat assigned to present-day Iran. In his Religions and Philosophies of Central Asia, Gobineau describes the practice of Ketman, the act of paying lip service to Islam while concealing secret opposition. Describing the practice as widespread throughout the Islamic World, Gobineau quotes one of his informants as saying, “There is not a single true Moslem in Persia.” Gobineau further describes the use of Ketman to secretly spread heterodox views to people who believe that they are being taught Islamic orthodoxy.


  1. James James says:

    Moldbug covers Milosz. A more “correct” transliteration is “kitman” but neither appear in the dictionaries.

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