Old Europe as Tigana

Friday, August 5th, 2011

The fate of old, pre-World War Europe reminds Mencius Moldbug of Guy Gavriel Kay’s fantasy novel, Tigana:

The plot focuses on a group of rebels attempting to overthrow both tyrants and win back their homeland. Many of the rebels are natives of the province of Tigana, which was the province that most ably resisted Brandin: In a crucial battle, Brandin’s son was killed. In retaliation for this, Brandin attacked Tigana and crushed it more savagely than any other part of the Palm; then, following this victory, he used his magic to remove the name and history of Tigana from the minds of the population. Brandin named it Lower Corte, making Corte, their traditional enemies to their north, seem superior to a land that was all but forgotten.

Only those born in Tigana before the invasion can hear or speak its name, or remember it as it was; as far as everyone else is concerned, that area of the country has always been an insignificant part of a neighbouring province, hence the rebels are battling for the very soul of their country.

This makes more sense when you realize that modern Europe, according to Moldbug, was remade by the American Left after World War II, and old Europe was equated with fascism.

Breivik’s Mother

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

I was aware that Norwegian terrorist Anders Breivik’s father had remarried multiple times and abandoned Anders at a young age. I hadn’t heard much about Breivik’s mother though:

According to him, she has been debilitated by an STD. At the age of 48, she married a man who regularly frequents hookers in Thailand, and she contracted herpes.

In his words (pg. 1172):

The herpes infection went to her brain and caused meningitis (this condition is usually rare and occurs in less than 1% of herpes infected individuals). As a result of this brain infection, which prevented the spinal fluid from flowing freely, she had to operate a shunt into her brain as the herpes attacks occurred regularly. She was forced into early retirement as a result and her life quality has been significantly reduces since, and she now has the intellectual capacity of a 10 year old. Her STD has not only cause her much hardships, but it has also cost her and the state up to 1 million Euro.

Both my sister and my mother have not only shamed me but they have shamed themselves and our family. A family that was broken in the first place due to secondary effects of the feministic/sexual revolution. I can only imagine how many people are suffering from STDs as a result of the current lack of sexual moral.

Delightful family.

(Hat tip to Mencius Moldbug.)

Fatah Youth condemns Norway attacks

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

The Ma’an News Agency reports that the Fatah Youth released a statement on Saturday condemning the recent attack against their Norwegian Labor Youth comrades:

“It is with consternation that we have received the dramatic news of an awful terrorist attack against a summer camp ran by our comrades of Norwegian Labor Youth ‘AUF,’” the statement said.

The Fatah Youth group had taken part in the summer camp in the past on the Island of Utoya, near Oslo, where over 90 people were reportedly killed in a shooting spree on the Island and a bomb attack in Oslo on Friday, news reports said.

“Fatah Youth declares its consternation about the terror attack. There are no words to describe an attack against people that have been our comrades in our struggle for freedom and independence. Very few people have stood by our side as much as the Norwegian people, and particularly our AUF comrades.”

“We know those who have been cowardly assassinated. Those are people that have stood for the human and national rights of the Palestinian people both in Europe and while visiting Palestine.

“Fatah Youth has participated for almost 15 years in the same summer camp and our youth has benefited by learning and sharing experiences on democracy and advocacy for peace and justice.

“We hope that those responsible for this criminal terror attack will be brought to justice. Such sick minds should not have a place in any society.

“As a people that has been victim of state terror for the last 64 years, the Palestinian people and particularly Fatah Youth presents its condolences to the families of those killed and sends a strong message of support to our comrades from the Norwegian AUF as well as from other sister parties that were participating in this summer camp,” the statement concluded.

A commenter at Lawrence Auster’s site follows up another comment with this:

“Fatah is Norwegian Labour’s sister party through the Socialist International.”

This sentence is so fascinating. It is like finding a living fossil in a quiet, bucolic, farm pond. It is like walking into a small town general store and finding life-sized images of Lenin and Stalin hung in places of honor.

The sad history of the 20th century is studded with horrible episodes, and often one finds the Socialist International bound up in them. Mussolini broke with the Socialist International over Italy’s entry into World War One, but took much of his Fascist philosophy from that organization. If I recall correctly, Orwell mentions the Socialist International in “Homage to Catalonia” more than once, not always in a favorable context to be sure. The various Soviet-run “peace” groups of the 1950s, ’60s, ’70s and ’80s were almost always affiliated with the SI.

Vidkun Quisling’s party had a sister party, too, through a different Socialist organization. It seems to me that Norwegian Labor’s alliance with Fatah is a lot closer to Quisling’s alliance than the left would care to admit.

(Hat tip to Mencius Moldbug.)

Such a Nice Boy

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2011

Recently, around 11 PM in a “bad” part of Chicago, police shot a teenager who was holding a gun. It turned out to be a realistic-looking BB gun.

Anyway, here is the photo his family sent the media:

And here’s how his photo appeared in the media.

Naturally the cop community considers this yet another media cover-up designed to make them look bad:

It has been pointed out to us by a number of commentators that he is representing one of the most violent street gangs ever to grace the streets of Chicago, namely the vice lords. It has also been mentioned that the nearby Piccolo Elementary School has suffered a rash of windows being shot out by BB’s over the past week along with neighborhood cars. Also, the time of the shooting (after 2300 hours) indicates a curfew violation. But none of this is being covered in the media reports now. All we’re hearing is how police are too heavy handed, Jimmell was a good boy, there was no gun, blah blah blah.

A commenter emailed the reporter:

Your first picture on the tribune website, WAS CROPPED, to eliminate the fact this teen was flashing GANG SIGNS. The full picture is available all over the internet. Now your picture of this teen in the hospital is bordering on scandalous. How dare your newspaper use these subtle techniques to slant the news. The fact is he had a realistic looking gun. Was already in the grip of a street gang, these are the things your story should mention, and that this is a BIG problem with youth in certain areas of the city. These are the facts. I feel sorry for the officer and the rest of the CPD that the trouble that your slanted biased coverage will cause. Yellow Journalism is alive and well in Chicago.

The reporter replied:

A couple of things…

Our “first” picture — I take it you mean the first photo we posted — was uncropped. If you’re a regular reader on our site, you’ll know that most of the pictures we post are cropped, so our photo folks cropped it as they always do.

I’m not aware whether the picture is “all over the internet” but we posted it with the family’s permission.

I don’t know if the gun in question was realistic looking, I haven’t seen it, though from past experience, many BB or pellet guns do look like their real counterparts. I don’t know if he was “already in the grips” of gang life, either.

Yellow journalism refers to the sensationalism of the news. What you’re accusing us of is the exact opposite: still incorrect, but not yellow journalism by its definition. Your statement is wrong because it flatly states that we as a newspaper, or I, as a journalist, have a pre-determined point of view.

I’m a fact gatherer. Sometimes we get the facts, sometimes we don’t. Whatever we get, we pass it on to our readers.

I like to interact with readers. I like it even better when they’re correctly informed.

I hope this clears a few things up.

W.

(Hat tip to Mencius Moldbug, who considers this a dispatch from the real America.)

Folk Activism

Sunday, July 24th, 2011

We do need to remember that terrorism, left or right, is a legitimate military tactic, Mencius Moldbug says:

But by the natural law of war, which no man made and no man can unmake, 9/11 was far more legitimate as a military act than the Utoye massacre. ABB is worse than OBL.

Why? Because the law of war is that all war’s carnage, whether it affects “soldiers” or “civilians” (a completely arbitrary distinction) is legitimate if and only if it serves a military purpose. What is a military purpose? Since the purpose of all war is the transfer of political power, a military purpose is a political purpose.

Slaughter that serves no purpose is sadistic, insane, terrible. Slaughter for purpose is the very nature of war, and cannot be separated from it. Since right-wing terrorism does not work, it is illegitimate as a tactic of war. Since left-wing terrorism does work, it is perfectly legitimate. Thus, OBL is legitimate and ABB is not.

Islamic terrorism (which is in every case left-wing) is legitimate because it’s effective. It’s effective because its political result is to expand the political power and privilege of Muslims and their progressive sponsors. Right-wing terrorism is illegitimate because it’s ineffective. It’s ineffective because its political result is to contract the political freedom and influence of conservatives (extremist or moderate).

If it was militarily possible to free Norway from Eurocommunism by killing a hundred communists, or a thousand communists, or ten thousand communists, we might have an interesting moral debate over whether this butcher’s bill was worth paying. Since it is not possible to free Norway from communism by killing a hundred communists, ie, roughly 0.01% of all the communists in Norway, leaving the other 99.99% with a permanent raging hard-on, no debate is possible. The verdict is clear: illegitimate, ineffective and wrong. I condemn Anders Behring Breivik! So there.

Of course, there are plenty of historical contexts in which right-wing terrorism did work — for instance, Germany in the 1920s. In these contexts, it was legitimate. Conversely, left-wing terrorism was ineffective in the fascist nations, and hence illegitimate.

Why does left-wing terrorism work, and right-wing terrorism not? As Carl Schmitt explained in Theory of the Partisan, terrorist, guerrilla or partisan warfare is never effective on its own. While an effective military strategy, it is only effective as one fork of a pincer attack. The terrorist succeeds when, and only when, he is allied to what Schmitt called an interested third party — either a military or political force.

Left-wing terrorism succeeds as the violent arm of a political assault that would probably be overwhelming in any case. In every case, the terrorist plays Mutt in a Mutt-and-Jeff act. Right-wing terrorism in the modern world is cargo-cult terrorism: Mutt without Jeff. Indeed, in historical cases where right-wing terrorism has been successful, in every case we see it aligned with powerful forces within the state. Right-wing terrorism worked in Weimar Germany, for instance, or prewar Japan, because it aligned with fascist conspiracies in the security forces. Somehow I don’t see a lot of that in 2011 Norway.

Thus, we note that there are two responses to terrorism: the natural response and the unnatural response. The natural response is to take revenge on the terrorist and everyone even remotely resembling him. If he is a Muslim, the natural response is to chastise the Muslims. When Grynzspan, a Jew, kills the German vom Rath, the German people must chastise the Jews. And, of course, when a right-wing piece of filth slaughters the cream of the Norwegian Komsomol, all racists and reactionaries are automatically suspect.

The unnatural response — which will not happen by itself, but can be made to happen by a sufficiently powerful psychological-warfare machine — is to look instead at the grievances of the attacker. After all, no one commits terrorism unless he has some complaint. No complaint — no terrorism. Thus while the Nazi response to the terrorism of Grynzspan is to collectively punish the Jews, the Atlantic response to the terrorism of Grynzspan (ineffective and thus illegitimate) is to attribute it to the injustices suffered by the Jews. This of course is also our response to the terrorism of Mandela (effective and thus legitimate).

In more typical cases, however, the political movement allied with a successful terrorist campaign adopts a strategy of dualism. Here is our Mutt-and-Jeff act: the unnatural response. We can always tell a Mutt-and-Jeff strategy because Mutt and Jeff have the same demands. Mutt tells you to satisfy these demands, or die. Jeff tells you to satisfy these demands, to “take the wind out of Mutt’s sails.” Also, Jeff and Mutt are frequently found at the same parties, enjoying the hell out of one another’s company.

Thus, Islamic terrorism is productive, because it results in increasing communal deference to the Islamic community and its progressive allies. Fascist terrorism is counterproductive, because it results in increasing communal intolerance toward the fascist community — which of course has no conservative allies. Rather, the community — whose information source consists almost exclusively of progressive organs — adopts a monist approach, ascribing guilt by association to everyone even remotely resembling a fascist. Ie, everyone to the right of Mitt Romney. Since this is the natural response, it is not at all difficult to orchestrate. The story writes itself.

This gets us to the essence of what’s wrong with ABB‘s thinking. The error of ABB goes far beyond his decision to run wild with a Glock. This is just his specific error. His general error is what Patri Friedman calls folk activism — a broad pattern of ineffective or counterproductive political action which extends across the entire right-wing spectrum, from moderate libertarians to hardcore neo-Nazis. It’s not just that running wild with a Glock is stupid. Almost everything the right does is stupid. Very few rightists are running wild with a Glock, but most are in some way or other guilty of folk activism.

Why did ABB think right-wing terrorism could work? Because ABB grew up in a leftist world, he thinks like a leftist. His heroes are leftist heroes — Max Manus, not Vidkun Quisling. Terrorism works for leftists — and so do many other forms of democratic activism.

Terrorism is anarchism: a shattering of order. Is there such a thing as right-wing anarchism? Of course not: the concept is retarded. If the word “right” means anything, its goal is not to shatter order, but impose it.

Who governs Norway? The Norwegian Labor Party? If an ABB wanted to accomplish something useful, he shouldn’t have decimated the Norwegian Labor Party. Rather, he should have joined the Norwegian Labor Party. After all, Chinese communism became fascist — why can’t Norwegian communism? ABB could have been Norway’s Deng Xiaoping, not its Timothy McVeigh. That’s the difference between action and folk activism.

Who Are These Luzers?

Monday, April 4th, 2011

Gary Brecher found his book, The War Nerd, criticized by a “goody-goody lefty” named Daniel Luzer, leading him to ask, Who are these Luzers?

These American lefties, I swear to God. Other countries have revolutionaries like Pancho Villa. I could back somebody like Pancho in a second. But these little preachers — that’s what they remind me of more than anything: preachers  — and not Pentecostal ones either because to give them credit Pentecostal preachers are a salty bunch. More like Anglicans. Yeah that’s it: Leftists are like Anglican preachers. In fact half of them are Anglican preachers. The women, mostly.

And what these lefty preachers hate more than anything is bad language. Seriously. Nobody notices but it’s true. Everybody think because the movies say “fuck” a lot that we’re all past the bad-language thing, but the bad words have just changed, that’s all. These preachers are as twitchy about language as they ever were. That’s why Daniel Luzer had a problem with my book.

I was expecting him to continue his tirade with an attack on political correctness. Instead, he mocks Luzer for writing “s–t”.

One of the commenters immediately saw the parallels to Mencius Moldbug’s argument that American leftism is protestant millennialism minus the whole God part.

A Simple Game of Rock, Paper, Scissors

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

Power in Egypt — and the world has many Egypts, Mencius Moldbug says — is a simple game of rock, paper, scissors:

In Egypt there are three kinds of people: sheep (liberals, upper-class), dogs (nationalists, lower-class), and wolves (Islamists, beyond class). Sheep (with a big hand from Twitter and State) beat dogs, dogs kill wolves, wolves eat sheep.

If our twittering hipster is especially hip, she’s seen Persepolis and met the wolves. And indeed, the wolf form is natural to humanity. It is our society, the civilized European system with lots of sheep and some dogs and a very, very rare wolf, that is anomalous. And if it keeps behaving as it is, the anomaly will not take long to rectify.

The “Arab Spring” is springtime indeed for the violent, ruthless young man with a mission. Mubarak’s dogs, equally violent — indeed once Nasser’s wolves themselves, for fat authority turns wolves into dogs — tamed the most violent of wolves with the most wolfish of methods. The dog, half wolf himself, speaks the language of the wolf. The sheep looks at the wolf — and sees a sheep. And there has never been any shortage of wolves who speak sheep. Baa! Baa!

In the dog state, so long as they minded their own business, within very broad definitions of their own, a sheep could live as a sheep. Now we see the sheep state, young heaven for wolves. Even the dogs turn into wolves — what’s an old Mubarak thug to do? Thuggery is all he knows. The old firm has disbanded. The jihad is hiring. Allahu akbar! Indeed, Islam is the future in Egypt — if I were an Egyptian, I’d be working on my raisin right now. Sovereignty is conserved; power creates its own popularity. In anarchy, violence is power, and the wolves have it.

The tragedy of Egypt is that if the dogs and sheep did not respond to different masters, if the sheep did not have Twitter and Harvard to follow, the sheep would do what sheep do naturally and follow the dogs. Who would in turn love and cherish the sheep, and kill the wolves. This is the difference between Mubarak’s Egypt and Elizabeth’s England — both societies with a small educated elite, a vast base of varlets, an absolute ruler and an active, efficient secret police.

In other words, if Egypt’s natural intelligentsia was not Americanized, if it was not drawn away from its own country and its own leadership by the lure of Twitter, it would have no choice but to participate in the government of its own country. Which would, in turn, lose much if not all of its peasant-thug character, having better talent to draw on than peasant thugs. If this hypothesis is correct, it’s the apparent solution — the Americanization of Egypt — which creates the problem.

So the American liberal, who is not after all dumb, if he was genuinely concerned about the Egyptian liberal, would observe reality and tell his tawny friends: chill out. Deal with it. You cannot rule Egypt; we are not the British Empire, we are not going to rule it for you. Yet someone will rule Egypt, as they have since the Scorpion King was a little boy. Do you even begin to know how much worse than Mubarak it can get? If you don’t like peasant thug secret policemen, apply for a visa or just come illegally. Learn a little Spanish and pass for Mexican. Or, you know, just deal. I mean, it’s not like our permanent government is that great either.

But no. And here is the American’s sin: from his own cupidity, from his ennui and folly and innate, instead of using the power of America in the best interest of Egyptians, or even in the best interest of Americans with an Egyptian passport, what does he do? To entertain himself, to get his TV jollies, shouting hosannahs and clapping himself on the back, he assists his Egyptian friends in committing horrible and spectacular political suicide. Is the American moral? Is he realistic? He is both criminal and insane. His nightly news is quite dramatic; his gas goes up by a dollar a gallon; his friends are devoured by wolves. Hell, it’s America, we’re bored and rich.

Thus brains on the road. And thus, Libya — which is to Egypt as Egypt is to New Jersey, at least culturally. Thus America, twittering away, says to Libya: “Come on! Have a revolution! It’s fun! Don’t miss out! Besides, we’re all done with Egypt and we’re getting bored bored BORED!”

More Concentrated, Less Direct, and More Anonymous

Friday, February 11th, 2011

In Unchecked and Unbalanced, Arnold Kling argues that knowledge is becoming more diffuse while political power is becoming more concentrated. Foseti disagrees:

I unreservedly agree with Kling’s argument with respect to knowledge. Knowledge is becoming more complex and diffuse. Kling focuses on the financial industry. Knowledge has become more specialized, and therefore more diffuse. Kling also repeatedly cites the example of the internet as a inherently diffuse source of knowledge.

Unfortunately, with respect to power, I have some disagreements with Kling. Let’s take his favorite example of TARP. Under TARP, Congress allocated close to a trillion dollars to buy “troubled assets” (my favorite term from the financial crisis) from failing banks. Kling uses this example to show how much power Congressmen have — they can spend trillions!!

But, a closer look at TARP reveals who really had the power. Congress was essentially blackmailed by the financial bureaucracy into passing TARP. Did Congress want to destroy the global financial system? Of course not. So, they only had one choice — pass TARP. The financial bureaucracy told Congress to dance and Congress did. There was clearly a crisis, did Congress have any better ideas? Of course not — please don’t be ridiculous.

Once passed, what did TARP actually do? In short, it gave a trillion dollars to the bureaucracy to spend as it saw fit. The bureaucracy had changed its mind by the time TARP passed. Instead of investing in “troubled assets” the bureaucracy now wanted to invest directly in what we might call “troubled banks.” Nothing in the bill prevented bureaucrats from totally changing how the money was spent (a good indication of who was really in charge). TARP was therefore immediately used to inject capital into banks and into auto companies in a decision that could only make sense to the bureaucracy (if the plebes don’t like bank bailouts, maybe they’ll be happier if we bailout some plebe companies, and who’s more plebe than GM?).

So, if I’m right, it’s overly-simplistic to describe what we see as a concentration of power. I admit that in some ways power is more concentrated — someone is clearly exercising a huge amount of power. But who and how? If we don’t know, are they really that powerful? The exercise of power is also not particularly direct. TARP was — perhaps more than anything else — an unorganized mess. Whoever was exercising power was doing so in an incredibly haphazard and disorganized way. I think these facts — that we don’t really know who is exercising power and they don’t seem to be able to exercise it very directly or effectively — are as salient as the fact that the power has become more concentrated.

How do we explain how power has gotten more concentrated, less direct, and more anonymous? Foseti turns to Moldbug, who ranks the preferred sources of policy within a large bureaucracy like the government:

  1. The Law
  2. Science
  3. Public Opinion
  4. Committee
  5. Personal Authority

For instance:

Congressmen, like everyone else, don’t want to exercise responsibility, so they consult the law, which doesn’t help. Next they consult science. Fortunately, the financial bureaucracy is staffed with many economics PhDs who will be happy to scientifically demonstrate why not bailing out the banks will cause ruin.

The specialists can use “science” and who is a Congressman to question science? Science demands $700 billion dollars! So Congress wrote the check. (Notice that science trumps public opinion).

On government employment

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

One of the things that drew Foseti, then a neo-fusionist libertarian-conservative, to Mencius Moldbug’s neo-reactionary point of view was that Foseti had an inside look at how government bureaucracy works, and Moldbug was the only writer who seemed to understand that elected officials aren’t in charge any more.

Now Foseti has written his own piece on government employment, answering questions and explaining how it works:

I’m suggesting that the bureaucracy runs the show. You might take that to be a bad thing. But, it’s important to remember that it’s far superior to the alternative. We would really be screwed if Congress was actually running the show. In this sense, one can agree with me that the bureaucracy is in charge and be very happy (not cynical) about the status quo.

I share my cynicism with people in government all the time. Almost alll agree that agencies have immense power — and they see nothing wrong with this fact. I sometimes push back that the bureaucracy is totally unaccountable. This often gets some objection, but not in the form of a coherent argument opposing my position.

Accountability does not work in the bureaucracy. I can’t stress this point enough. The defining feature of the bureaucracy is lack of accountability. It’s very hard to understand the complex ways in which the total absence of accountability affects and organization.

If someone really really screws up, they will not be given any new work. That’s about the extent of accountability.

The bureaucracy changes it’s mind when the media and the academics change their mind. This is rare — I haven’t seen it happen yet. This also means that only tangible results that fit media narratives and academic biases inform policy.

Read the whole thing.

From Under the Rubble of Egypt

Monday, January 31st, 2011

Mencius Moldbug cites Solzhenitsyn’s From Under the Rubble to explain the situation in Egypt:

The intelligentsia proved incapable of taking action, quailed, and was lost in confusion; its party leaders readily abdicated the power and leadership which had seemed so desirable from a distance; and power, like a ball of fire, was tossed from hand to hand until it came into hands which caught it and were sufficiently hardened to withstand its white heat (they also, incidentally, belonged to the intelligentsia, but a special part of it). The intelligentsia had succeeded in rocking Russia with a cosmic explosion, but was unable to handle the debris.

The Dark Side of the Left

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

Foseti reviews another Moldbug-recommended work, The Dark Side of the Left, by Richard J. Ellis:

The radical leftists are uncompromising in a way that no other groups are. Thus, they inevitably win — everyone else compromises with them and the political equilibrium is thus constantly shifting leftward. Radically leftward.

Finally, the non-leftist reader will be struck by the similarities that run through all of the movements covered in the book. The abolitionists are the first group covered. The feminists are the second to last group covered. Yet, we don’t even have to leave the chapter on the abolitionists before we get calls for the end to “the patriarchy of marriage.” Let’s look closer at abolitionism.

Ellis quotes Stephen Foster as saying that “every family” is “a little embryo plantation.” Traditional marriage to many abolitionists was a form of slavery that needed to be eradicated like all other forms. Many of the abolitionists also rejected capitalism, as again, it creates “slaves.” Of course, the abolitionists also became militants. Many eventually gloried in the deaths of the Civil War which killed more Americans than any war. For example, Wendell Phillips said that “the bloodiest war ever waged is infinitely better than the happiest slavery which ever fattened men into obedience.” It would be hard to better distill the totalitarian mindset in one sentence.

I’ve chosen to focus on the most controversial topic (i.e. slavery). Don’t let this shade your view of the book. Ellis is best discussing the violence of the New Left, but I found the initial chapter on abolitionism more interesting.

I should conclude by saying that the reactionary will agree with many positions held by the radical leftists. Specifically, the radical leftists have a disdain of the masses that the reactionary will find appealing. However, the radical leftists believe that this makes the masses expendable. Further, the radical leftists believe that the deficiencies of the masses can be fixed with the right program. The reactionary believes neither. The radical leftist despises the masses but continually embraces democracy — his movements, therefore, fizzle in this inherent contradiction. Unfortunately, the don’t fizzle before the damage has been done.

Ellis believes that the core of radical leftism is radical egalitarianism, but Foseti shares Molbug’s belief that it’s really radical protestantism, which has evolved into a secular religion.

How much German World War I propaganda have you read?

Thursday, October 28th, 2010

How much German World War I propaganda have you read? Not much, I’m sure. Mencius Moldbug recommended reading The Vampire of the Continent, and Foseti took him up on it:

Before I started reading this, I decided to think about what I knew about the beginning of WWI. I knew that Europe was a tangled mess of alliances. I knew that England followed its historical pattern of allying itself in such away as to maintain a “balance of power” in Europe. I knew that the major powers were building up their armies and navies. I knew that when war broke in the Balkans, the alliances caused every country to instantly be at war with every other country. I knew that England was pledged to defend Belgium, but that it could have easily decided not to do so, when German attacked France. I knew that the war lasted a very long time and that lots of people died.

Looking back now on this narrative (which I have perhaps over-simplified slightly), I see some holes. Why were the alliances the way they were? If the major powers were accidentally drawn into war with each other — as the story goes — why were they willing to fight so long and lose so much? Why were they building up their armies prior to the outbreak of WWI? What did they hope to gain from the war once it had begun? Etc.

Reading Reventlow’s work, I realized that my understanding of WWI is based largely on Allied propaganda — this is really only a slight exaggeration. The hazy answers that I would have been able to provide to these questions were also based on Allied propaganda — this is hardly an exaggeration. Allied propaganda in 1916 (the year Reventlow wrote this book) is now known as “history.” The Allies, after all, won.

Reventlow’s work is over-the-top. But if Germany had won the war, it would probably be known as “history” now. Thus, one can argue that most of history is written by cranks.

Reventlow explains the build-up to WWI, starting with British foreign policy going back to the Spanish Armada:

Thus began, as British historians solemnly tell us, the “hero­ic age” of the English people. It was an age characterised by organised piracy and high way robbery; which was at first tolerated, and subsequently sanctioned, by the English sovereigns — especially by the Virgin Queen, the champion of Protestantism.

This is hard to argue with, Foseti notes:

In Reventlow’s telling, England did nothing good. In fact, in his telling, the industrial revolution didn’t really start in England. It started elsewhere, but since England controlled the seas, England prevented any other country from becoming truly industrialized. Instead, England stole technology from others and ensured that markets around the world were opened to its goods. In other words, if you want to industrialize, you should: 1) steal others’ technological advancements, 2) prevent their goods from being sold abroad, and 3) prevent anyone from closing off other markets to you. Actually, this sounds like it would be highly effective.

Secret America

Friday, October 1st, 2010

What is the truth about the secret America of the 20th century? Mencius Moldbug gives his take:

The truth, which no one wanted or wants to hear, is that communism is as American as apple pie. Communism is a form of American liberalism, or progressivism. It is not, as so many anti-communists liked to suggest, an exotic foreign import. When imported from exotic lands, it’s because we exported it there in the first place. In America it may speak with a Russian accent; in Russia, it speaks with an American accent.

By the 1930s, communism with a strong Protestant flavor had become the dominant religion of American high society — the wealthiest and most fashionable Americans. But it was not yet the dominant religion of the American population, and America was a democracy. Thus the strong flavor of secrecy and intrigue, often frankly anti-democratic, that we find in the progressives of the early 20th century.

With a figure like Colonel House, for instance, the conspiracy theorist cannot find much else to ask for. Was Colonel House a free agent? Or did he report to some committee of bankers? How would we ever know? Frankly, in the Colonel’s world, the Elders of Zion hardly seem necessary.

Thus, as Quigley himself pointed out, the crusade of anti-communism was doomed from the beginning. Rather than attacking a foreign infection, anti-communism was attacking the host: the American social establishment. For this purpose it was a little short of lymphocytes. No surprise, thus, that it should fail and be consigned to historical ignominy.

Moreover, this social mismatch has been entirely rectified. What the bohemians of Greenwich Village believed in 1923, everyone in America (and the world) believes now. The beliefs of an ordinary Calvin Coolidge voter would strike the ordinary John McCain voter as outlandish, ridiculous, insane, and often downright evil. America has no surviving intellectual tradition besides progressivism — which is no more than a synonym for communism. (My own grandparents, lifelong CPUSA members, used “progressive” as a codeword all their lives.) Communism is as American as apple pie, and America today is a completely communist country.

The Study of History

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

The study of history reduces to two tasks, Mencius Moldbug says — reading primary sources and assessing their credibility — and one good way to assess their credibility is to test their predictions against hindsight.

This test is especially useful when the prediction comes from someone on the losing side, powerless to make his predictions come true, like Confederate theologian R. L. Dabney, who made the following declarations in his Life and Campaigns of Lieutenant-General Thomas J. Jackson (1866):

History will some day place the position of these Confederate States, in this high argument, in the clearest light of her glory. The cause they undertook to defend was that of regulated constitutional liberty, and of fidelity to law and covenants, against the licentious violence of physical power. The assumptions they resisted were precisely those of that radical democracy, which deluged Europe with blood at the close of the eighteenth century, and which shook its thrones again in the convulsions of 1848; the agrarianism which, under the name of equality, would subject all the rights of individuals to the will of the many, and acknowledge no law nor ethics, save the lust of that mob which happens to be the larger.

This power, which the old States of Europe expended such rivers of treasure and blood to curb, at the beginning of the century, had transferred its immediate designs across the Atlantic, was consolidating itself anew in the Northern States of America, with a wealth, an organization, an audacity, an extent to which it never aspired in the lands of its birth, and was preparing to make the United States, after crushing all law there under its brute will, the fulcrum whence they should extend their lever to upheave every legitimate throne in the Old World.

Hither, by emigration, flowed the radicalism, discontent, crime, and poverty of Europe, until the people of the Northern States became, like the rabble of Imperial Rome, the colluvies gentium. The miseries and vices of their early homes had alike taught them to mistake license for liberty, and they were incapable of comprehending, much more of loving, the enlightened structure of English or Virginian freedom.

The first step in their vast designs was to overwhelm the Conservative States of the South. This done, they boasted that they would proceed first to engross the whole of the American continent, and then to emancipate Ireland, to turn Great Britain into a democracy, to enthrone Red Republicanism in France, and to give the crowns of Germany to the Pantheistic humanitarians of that race who deify self as the supreme end and selfish desire as the authoritative expression of the Divine Will.

By the way, you probably know Thomas Jackson by his nickname: Stonewall.

Three Attitudes Toward Government

Tuesday, July 13th, 2010

Mencius Moldbug wrote a letter to a liberal friend who had sent him a link to J.M. Bernstein’s NY Times opinion piece on the very angry tea party:

If I had to describe it in a sentence, I would say that the rage is easily explained, but not easily explained in the terms of those who feel it. They are clearly angry about something, but the actual words that come out of their mouths are often nonsensical and contradictory. This is why it is so hard for so many to get a handle on. It is simply inarticulate demotic discontent.

Basically, you will see this in any hieratic system of government which the peasants do not really understand. They feel, somehow, that they are getting jobbed. They are (in my opinion) getting jobbed. But how they are getting jobbed is infinitely more complicated than their simple peasant mind can understand. (Also, the idea that they are in some way jobbing the peasants is the farthest possible concept from the collective mind of the gentlemen.)

Therefore, the peasants open their mouths and out comes rage and nonsense. As a gentleman, you are fascinated and repelled by this extraordinary wave of rage and nonsense. Do I have this reaction right? You may of course feel free to disregard the crude metaphor of medieval class conflict, which is no more than a metaphor. Still, I feel it is a good way to ground the conversation in history.

One easy reaction is to blame Fox News. It is true: for the first time in a long time, the peasants have an exclusively peasant-themed mass propaganda channel. However, the objective observer notes quickly that Fox News is not so much telling its audience what to think, as telling them they are allowed to think what they already think. Since they are peasants, lacking any semblance of an aristocratic culture that can accumulate and transmit collective wisdom across generations, what they think is generally nonsense.

Fox News aggregates and retransmits this nonsense, but does not really direct it much in Goebbels style. In some ways it even moderates it — for instance, Fox, and neocons in general, are not much less aggressive in purging racism than establishment journalists.
[...]
But, although they do not reason openly and explicitly in this existential manner, the tea partiers feel emotionally that their entire system of government has lost, over the course of decades, their confidence, and needs to be replaced by something entirely different. The basic problem with their rhetoric is that in place of “something entirely different,” they insert two-dimensional cliches of historical American nationalism, dimly remembered at a folk level from the 1920s. It was no less nonsense then, but at least it had an aristocratic leadership caste, which was actually capable of governing a country. In short, it had Calvin Coolidge. Sarah Palin is no Calvin Coolidge.

There are three basic attitudes toward government in America today:

There are people who believe government is there to serve them; there are people who believe government is there to serve others; there are people who believe government is there to subsidize them. In our medieval metaphor, these correspond to peasants, gentlemen, and varlets respectively. The last is the caste Marx called the “lumpenproletariat” — and he was no fan of this group, or of political movements that exploited it. Respectable people say “underclass.”

When gentlemen look at progressivism, they see a movement whose purpose is to help the underclass, those whose plight is no fault of their own. When peasants look at progressivism, they see a movement whose purpose is to employ gentlemen in the business of public policy, by using the peasants’ money to buy votes from varlets. Who, in the peasants’ perception, abuse the patience and generosity of both peasants and gentlemen in almost every imaginable way, and are constantly caressed by every imaginable authority for doing so.

Among gentlemen, the idea that government could be there to serve us is almost socially taboo.
[...]
Peasants see a patron-client relationship between the gentlemen and the varlets — a relationship not at all unlike the late Roman relationship of clientela, where a patrician measured his social status by the vast army of plebeians that battened on his trenches. Again, what to the gentleman appears as a noble act of charity, compassion, etc, to the coarse and cynical peasant reveals itself as a purchase of political power, with his tax dollars if not his physical safety. Therefore a vision of the gallows arises in his hindbrain.

Can both be correct? Of course they can. Every case, in every detail, is different, and every case can be viewed from both perspectives. As Solzhenitsyn said, the line between good and evil runs through every human heart.

And again — are the tea partiers thinking this story? No such elaborate historio-political fantasy has ever come anywhere close to their heads. But it is, I would argue, the reality of history in our time. Truth, even if not realized in totum, glints off every surface. Therefore, it is an emotional subtext that spawns a continuous stream of inchoate, inarticulate and inexplicable rage. Precisely as your New School prof observes!