:: Tuesday, November 30, 2010 ::
The TSA: Enabler of “A Thousand Cuts”
Posted by Edward Cline at 11:28 AM
Reading several articles about how the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA’s) full-body scans and pat-down “enhanced” security procedures violate the Fourth Amendment, I was struck by the utter irrelevancy of the argument. Citing that Amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures would indeed present an unarguable efficacy if we lived in a political environment in which the rule of law otherwise prevailed. No court could contradict the argument and still retain any credibility.
But we do not live in such an environment. We are living in a political era of fiat law. The rule of law in the United States has nearly expired. I would not discourage lawsuits based on the Fourth Amendment, but, to judge by the intellectual caliber of most of our jurists, I am not confident these lawsuits will succeed in getting the TSA out of our hair, pants, bras, and pockets.
“Don’t touch my junk”? As far as the TSA and its meat-inspectors are concerned, you the traveler are nothing but a bundle of junk to fondle, probe, grope, examine, and scan at their leisure. Yet, you must respect TSA’s empowered fondlers and be kind to them. They are only doing their job, and do not establish policies. This, however, was a plea heard often during the Nuremberg trials.
I have cited her before, but, as novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand noted, many years ago in a more “civil” and placid era: "We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force."
A government that is free to do anything it wishes – provided it has a semi-credible excuse, or even a transparently false one, with which to silence critics and cause the citizenry’s collective eyes to glaze over – is a government that has abandoned the rule of law. This is the environment we are presently living in, and have been long before 9/11 or even the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. I could dwell on such precedents as the Sixteenth and Seventeenth Amendments, which obviate the Bill of Rights, and the myriad federal agencies that have blossomed since 1913 that have contributed to the phenomenon, but that is another issue.
The arguments presented for the continued existence of the TSA and in defense of its “enhanced” but invasive pat-down security procedures and full-body scans have the substance of single-hole Swiss cheese. The TSA has never stopped, foiled, or even detected an attempted airline bombing. It is a purely reactionary organization, as pitifully inept as a “Had I But Known” detective novel. It claims, with a tongue-in-cheek it hopes nobody will notice, that it “knew all along” about incidents after they have happened. If this were true, the incidents would never have occurred, and the American public would never hear the end of it from the TSA’s publicists. It did not foil the Christmas Day bomber of 2009, and it was British security that uncovered the printer-cartridge plot. The Oregon Christmas Tree lighting bomb plot was foiled by the F.B.I. Can the TSA claim an equivalent action? No. The TSA cannot boast of one foiled incidence of terrorism.
The TSA refuses to adopt a more rational security policy, such as the Israeli one, claiming that it would be too expensive, or that Israel’s security conditions are not replicated here. Why is the TSA (indeed, the Department of Homeland Security), so impervious to reason? Any argument for the continuation of arbitrary, police-state power does not hove or defer to reason. Reason is not in the calculations of power-seekers. Reason is their enemy. The TSA seeks to justify its existence, to preserve and perpetuate itself, as any government bureaucracy does that is threatened with redundancy.
The chief reason, a reason which renders specious all arguments for the necessity of the TSA and even for the DHS, is that our government will not eliminate the states that sponsor terrorism – indeed, states that have by proxy declared war on the U.S. At the same time, the U.S. has been engaged in an undeclared, actual combat war for nine years – longer than the Vietnam War, as another article mentioned – and in an undeclared war of intelligence and covert operations ever since the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. This is a state of existential purgatory, in which only the enemy, Islam and its jihadists of all stripes and callings, is comfortable and in which only the enemy prospers, by having not been wiped out, as it deserves to be, and in having been granted the freedom to wage a war of “a thousand cuts.”
The TSA and its futile “preventative” policies conform to that scenario. It is a large, costly knife that inflicts wounds not only on our Fourth Amendment guarantees, but on a bankrupting economy. Jihadists welcome the “enhanced” security, for the TSA forces Americans to endure degradation and violation of their persons and their characters. Their values are held hostage by a government claiming that legalized extortion trumps the Constitution in the name of “national security” and “public safety,” although the nation is less secure and the public is placed at greater risk.
Moreover, the security procedures are egalitarian in nature and treat all travelers as suspects – except Muslims. One could even make an argument that the TSA is also violating the Fifth Amendment, without even affording Americans the benefit of a grand jury. Suspicion of having committed a crime necessarily implies a possible indictment. But who are one’s judges? Rent-a-cops.
This is not the horrible death that jihadists wish upon infidels, but it is the next best thing. Osama bin Laden, Anwar al-Awlaki, and their ilk (Plague and Misfortune be upon them) are jubilant. Seeing Americans squirm at TSA airport checkpoints must be nearly as satisfying to them as seeing their corpses after a suicide bombing, or their body parts strewn in the wreckage of a downed plane, or as splotches of pulp on the World Trade Center plaza before the towers collapsed. The TSA offers jihadists the spectacle of a literal living hell. They could not have devised a better “revenge” upon Americans they have not yet killed. The federal government has done it for them.
Foreign Policy magazine carried an insightful article that focuses on the costs to the U.S. of trying to maintain the stasis of a besieged nation after every foiled terrorist attempt, costs which the jihadists are well aware of. David Gartenstein-Ross discusses the ruminations of bin Laden, and also cites Inspire, the English-language online magazine produced by al-Qaeda. Bin Laden demonstrates that he knows his enemies, while our government does not wish to identify its enemies.
In his October 2004 address to the American people, bin Laden noted that the 9/11 attacks cost al Qaeda only a fraction of the damage inflicted upon the United States. "Al Qaeda spent $500,000 on the event," he said, "while America in the incident and its aftermath lost -- according to the lowest estimates -- more than $500 billion, meaning that every dollar of al- Qaeda defeated a million dollars."
Gartenstein-Ross opens his article with this revealing paragraph about Inspire:
The cover features a photo of a UPS plane and the striking headline: "$4,200." It is referring to the recent cartridge-bomb plot, and specifically the great disparity between the cost of executing a terrorist attack and the cost to Western countries of defending against asymmetric warfare -- costs now numbering in the billions of dollars a year and climbing. The magazine warns that future attacks will be "smaller, but more frequent" -- an approach that "some may refer to as the strategy of a thousand cuts."
After revealing the nature of the Islamists’ phase of economic (as opposed to violent or stealth jihad) warfare against the West and especially against the U.S., the Foreign Policy article ends with this observation:
The point is clear: Security is expensive, and driving up costs is one way jihadists can wear down Western economies. The writer encourages the United States "not to spare millions of dollars to protect these targets" by increasing the number of guards, searching all who enter those places, and even preventing flying objects from approaching the targets. "Tell them that the life of the American citizen is in danger and that his life is more significant than billions of dollars," he wrote. "Hand in hand, we will be with you until you are bankrupt and your economy collapses."
Jeffrey Rosen, in an article in The Washington Post, “Why the TSA pat-downs and body scans are unconstitutional,” predicts that the TSA’s “enhanced” security measures are probably headed for a Supreme Court ruling.
Although the Supreme Court hasn't evaluated airport screening technology, lower courts have emphasized, as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit ruled in 2007, that "a particular airport security screening search is constitutionally reasonable provided that it 'is no more extensive nor intensive than necessary, in the light of current technology, to detect the presence of weapons or explosives.'"
That is the kind of ruling that does not auger well for Fourth Amendment guarantees. The TSA has not discovered serious threats, nor does it tailor its measures to protect personal privacy. It is above the law and need not promise or deliver anything. Alito’s opinion is simply an instance of judicial waffling.
In a 2006 opinion for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, then-Judge Samuel Alito stressed that screening procedures must be both "minimally intrusive" and "effective" - in other words, they must be "well-tailored to protect personal privacy," and they must deliver on their promise of discovering serious threats.
Rosen also discusses the back-scatter machines (the porn-o-rama ones) and how ineffective they are, the ones in which former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff has a vested interest in selling to the government.
The backscatter machines seem…to be the antithesis of a reasonable search: They reveal a great deal of innocent but embarrassing information and are remarkably ineffective at revealing low-density contraband.
A World News Daily article, “Shocker: TSA’s nude scans would miss taped-on bombs,” substantiates that claim:
"Even if the [X-ray] exposure were to be increased significantly, normal anatomy would make a dangerous amount of plastic explosive with tapered edges difficult if not impossible to detect," Kaufman and Carlson wrote. A further disadvantage is that the X-ray backscatter units are not effective at detecting explosive packages that are contoured to supplement the natural features of the body, even when the explosive packages are concealed on the front or the back of a person.
Which means, if it absorbs this bit of information, that the TSA will likely initiate a further measure requiring its agents to either bathe travelers with increased dosages of radiation to reveal those contours, or become extra-personal in its pat-downs. Are Americans ready to be “kind” to TSA agents, and allow them to become their “huggy-bears”?
I hope not. The best guarantee of our Fourth Amendment rights would be for our government to eliminate states that sponsor terrorism: Iran, Saudi Arabia, and North Korea. The only alternative is for this self-besieged country, is to bleed to death, to perish from “a thousand cuts,” half of them inflicted by our own government, and the other half by our chortling, snickering killers.
Will we return to the rule of law? We shall see.
3 Comments ::
:: Sunday, November 28, 2010 ::
Amadeus: A Pinnacle of Cultural Corruption
Posted by Edward Cline at 6:03 PM
Many wiser minds have written about the failure of statist economics, the fraud of “social parity,” the scam of anthropogenic climate change, and the injustice and guaranteed poverty inherent in a policy of “spreading the wealth around a little.” But, why does not the wisdom exhibited in these essays circulate as rapidly as does gossip, or hearsay, or scandal? Why is it so difficult to impart a general acceptance that the truisms burst in these essays were indeed lies, frauds, and deceptions?
These and other very old progressive balloons are being burst, or at least they are losing their buoyancy without the slightest prick of the needle. So many were floated with great ballyhoo and celebration, yet when they reach a certain altitude and nearness to the sun of rational scrutiny, they inevitably fall to earth, their fallacies escaping like helium through the expanded pores of the balloons’ material. Their shapeless forms litter the landscape everywhere.
Allied with these phenomena are certain cultural “truisms,” such as the intrinsic value of abstract and anti-art, or the noise and obscenity of rap “music” as legitimate modes of expression, or the semi-literacy that can be had in obtaining a degree in English in a community college. There are certain cinematic icons, also, that stand as truisms, such as Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus. Salieri murdered Mozart, right?
From my childhood through adolescence and well into adulthood, I was moved by film to glean much of my knowledge of history. Having seen a film about some historical person or event, I would repair almost immediately to history books and biographies, to learn the truth. It was not that I doubted the truth of what a film conveyed. It was a hunger or a need for proof of the existence of heroism, of the exceptional, of the grand scale, of the larger-than-life. If a story contained an element of Romanticism in it – that is, a conflict requiring heroism – my disappointment in finding instead a contrary account or record, or a mass of banal irrelevancies, was balanced by the fact that the heroism or the significance of an event remained in the film and could not be altered. It remained an Aristotelian ought. It was of value in the culture and so one could have a kinship with that culture. It was important that I could see evidence of heroism in the real world as well as in the imaginary. It still is.
So, it never mattered to me, for example, that in Michael Curtiz’s 1936 The Charge of the Light Brigade, the Indian Mutiny and the Crimean War were transposed in time, or that George Stevens’s 1939 Gunga Din was a very liberal adaptation of Kipling’s poem. I could cite dozens of instances.
Little did I realize that the benign fiddling with historical facts and literary works was but an innocent overture to the conscious and deliberate abandonment or disparagement of facts, and to the use of past literary and artistic accomplishments to denigrate those very facts and accomplishments in pursuit of a nihilistic agenda. As good-intentioned as they may have been in another era, these little white lies in the following era sanctioned the wholesale commission of big black ones.
As the years passed, the more “realistic” this genre of film became, the less it had to do with fact or even a suggestion of truth. At the same time, heroic spectacles largely devolved into spectacles without heroism (such as HBO’s TV miniseries, John Adams). I noticed how carefully the new generation of movie makers attended to historical minutiæ, regardless of the period – such as clothing styles, etiquette, manners, modes of transportation, and so on – while abandoning, betraying, or omitting the truth. The “realism” hid lies, falsities, fabrications, and literary gerrymandering to accommodate political prejudices and multiculturalism. The kinship I had with the culture waned, grew cold, and finally expired. It grew into revulsion and an intolerance for what was passing for “art.”
I grew to distrust the depiction in film of the life of any historical person and most adaptations of literary works. After all, I reasoned, if one is dramatizing the life of Beethoven, Edison, Patton, or even of Stalin, one must invent actions and dialogue and ascribe them to the subject. This is true even if one’s purpose is benign and one does not intend to demean or whitewash the character of the subject. To present a just depiction of the subject one would need a transcript of every word and action of the person. No such record could exist or even be communicated. All one can rely on are the recorded highlights of a person’s life and trusted biographies and strive for something consistent with the record or reputation. Such depictions can be illuminating if a writer or director is able to discern a person’s fundamental character and possesses the skill to dramatize it. One of the best practitioners of this art was Terence Rattigan, whose dramas about T.E. Lawrence, Alexander the Great, and Lord Nelson are nonpareil delvings into the make-up of exceptional men.
But otherwise, exercising one’s literary imagination in the dramatizations of especially the lives and careers of actual historic persons necessarily involves making things up and is fraught with the risk of error and subjectivism. Literary imagination is more properly applied to Aristotle’s ought, and not to his is.
Aristotle, in The Poetics, noted: “This is why poetry [or fiction] is more philosophical than, and is superior to, history – for poetry tends to speak of universals, but history particulars.” Or, as novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand, put it, in discussing Romanticism in art: “Romanticism is the conceptual school of art. It deals, not with the random trivia of the day, but with the timeless, fundamental, universal problems and values of human existence. It does not record or photograph; it creates and projects. It is concerned—in the words of Aristotle—not with things as they are, but with things as they might be and ought to be.”*
“Everything you’ve heard is true,” ends the narrator of the trailer for Amadeus. Well, not everything. In fact, not much is. I recall hearing the same thing said about Bonnie & Clyde, and any number of other “realist” films. In Amadeus, Shaffer neither recorded nor photographed the “particulars” of recorded history, but made things up to conform to the bile that constitutes his philosophical premises.
I make an example of Amadeus here because, of all the literary and esthetic felonies and larcenies committed by politically-motivated mediocrities in the 20th century in the name of “realism,” Amadeus is by any measure one of the pinnacles of cultural corruption. This particular corruption was consciously instigated, propagated, and legitimized. It is a literary crime. The purpose of this essay is to bring some justice to the subjects of the abomination. It is by no means exhaustive; I may someday turn it into a longer, deeper study in which Amadeus will be but one of many instances. I am no steadfast fan of opera; I can enjoy some parts of it. This essay will focus on the biographical aspects of the composers’ lives and not the esthetic merits of their work.
One need not be a musicologist, or an authority on 18th century music to argue that Amadeus is not a true retelling of the Mozart-Salieri rivalry, because even a cursory investigation of the lives of the two men and their careers would reveal that no such rivalry existed. Peter Shaffer’s play** and film (for which he wrote the screenplay) are fraudulent, untruthful, a disgrace, and an injustice to both men. The truth about Mozart and Salieri was as readily available in the pre-Internet period of 1979 and 1984, when the play and film debuted respectively, as it is now. There was no excuse for the studied literary libel of both composers. The enormity of the lie cannot be excused by “artistic license.”
From a literary standpoint, the problem with dramatizing a historical person or event is that one is limited by fact; one is not in control of what actually happened or what a person actually said or did. So one is faced with a decision: does one exaggerate or fabricate something about the person, or abandon the project? Of course, if the playwright or screenwriter adhered to the record, he would find one of two things: nothing to “dramatize” or to develop; or actions and/or characters whose dramatization is possible but which will be governed by his philosophical premises, the nature of his esthetics, and by his political leanings.
In the critical raves about Amadeus, the story is described as “highly fictionalized” and “loosely based.” Shaffer could very well plead “artistic license” when he wrote the play and screenplay. In no way could he have “fictionalized” the alleged rivalry between the two composers, no way he could take license with what was not there.
Here is a list of all of the principal characters in Amadeus, and brief notations on their actual, historical roles:
Antonio Salieri (1750-1825), like his compatriot and librettist, da Ponte, was born in Venice. Amadeus has been responsible for the resurrection of his reputation as a prolific and more than competent composer of the 18th century. Several biographies of him were inspired as rebuttals to Shaffer’s malign portrayal of him in his play and film, and his works have seen a revival. The lie became a vehicle of justice. Salieri was married in 1774, as well, and fathered eight children, hardly proof of a vow of “chastity” to God in exchange for musical talent to become as famous as Mozart.
Count Franz Xaver Wolfgang von Orsini-Rosenberg (1723-1796), the unofficial director of Hapsburg Emperor Joseph II’s operas, was an early champion of Mozart, and did not try to block Mozart’s appointments in the court or censor his work. He was also a career diplomat. In the film, among other actions he takes, he tears the score of the “ballet” from the sheet music of Figaro during a rehearsal because ballet had been banned by Joseph II. That much was true. Lorenzo da Ponte, Mozart’s librettist, persuaded Joseph to attend the dress rehearsal. Seeing the dancers performing without music, Joseph asked why, and da Ponte explained. Joseph ordered the music restored. So, the conflict was not fundamentally between Rosenberg and Mozart (with Salieri managing it in the background), but between Rosenberg and da Ponte. Other than that episode, Rosenberg was not a mortal enemy of Mozart.
Count Johann Kilian von Strack (no biographical information extant) was a “groom of the chamberlain,” or chamberlain of Joseph II. In short, the emperor’s personal valet. “…. Strack, we are told, was an unofficial but indispensable participant in the daily music sessions as well.” There is evidence that he was a cellist. In the film, he is shown as a toady and hostile to Mozart. Strack’s actual attitude towards Mozart is unknown.
Baron Gottfried van Swieten (1733-1803) throughout the film is depicted as an admirer of Mozart, upbraiding him only once for his choice of Pierre Beaumarchais’s The Marriage of Figaro as the subject of a new opera, and expressing shock at a vulgarism spoken by Mozart in the presence of the emperor. In reality, van Swieten, a diplomat and librarian, was a true friend and patron of Mozart, and there is no evidence that he questioned Mozart’s taste in literature. In the play, Swieten condemns Mozart for revealing and mocking Masonic rituals in The Magic Flute.
Kappelmeister Giuseppe Bonno (1711-1788), in the film, the aged, rotund Italian figure who had difficulty expressing himself, was in fact a friend of the Mozart family, no stranger to Mozart’s abilities, and had been in the imperial court for decades, having composed operas and oratorios. It is presumed that Bonno could speak fluent German. When he died in 1788, Salieri was appointed Kappelmeister to replace him.
The portrayal of Count Hieronymus Joseph Franz de Paula Graf Colloredo von Wallsee und Melz, or the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg (1732-1812), was roughly consistent with the record. He regarded talented musicians appended to his court as mere servants. He disliked Mozart’s independence and ultimately dismissed him, an action Mozart welcomed.
Katerina Cavalieri (1755-1801), an opera singer, is portrayed as a pupil of Salileri’s who somehow contrives to play the lead role of Constanze in Mozart’s Abduction from the Seraglio. She sang in a number of Mozart’s and Salieri’s operas. There is no evidence that she landed the role of Constanze in Abduction by sleeping with Mozart, a conclusion of Shaffer’s Salieri, though there is strong evidence that she was Salieri’s mistress.
The portrayal of Leopold Mozart (1719-1787), Wolfgang’s father, in the film is barely consistent with the record – he was a “control freak” of his son and his career – although no explanation is given why. He does not appear in the play version of Amadeus, and was written into the film version to lend credibility to Shaffer’s linkage between Don Giovanni, Mozart’s illness, and Salieri’s ruse to drive him to death by secretly commissioning the Requiem Mass in the evocative persona of Mozart’s vengeful father.
Constanze Mozart (1762-1842) hardly resembled the vapid wife of Mozart in Amadeus. In the film she is depicted as the only daughter of Mozart’s landlady, when in fact two of her older sisters were noted opera singers, while her father was a violinist. One of her sisters, Josepha, appeared as the first Queen of the Night in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. She lived for half a century after Mozart’s death in 1791, and promoted his music. She married Georg Nissen, a Danish diplomat, and arranged to have her late husband’s Requiem Mass finished by Franz Xaver Süssmayr, an associate of Mozart’s whose subsequent plan to claim the work as his own was foiled by Constanze. For an excellent recounting of the facts behind the composition of the Requiem and its disposition after Mozart’s death, Wikipedia has a long article on the subject.
Emanuel Schikaneder (1751-1812) was a talented and ambitious impresario, composer, Shakespearean actor, and dramatist. He wrote the libretto for Mozart’s The Magic Flute and appeared in it as Papageno. He built The Theater an der Wien, which still stands. It is not likely that Schikaneder “got physical” with Mozart, as he does in the film, for not having put The Magic Flute on paper. And while his troupe of actors and singers put on farces, it is not it likely, either, that he produced a parody or burlesque of Mozart’s music, as occurs in the film. Nor is it likely that if he had, and Mozart saw it, Mozart would have approved.
Emperor Joseph II (1741-1790) of Austria (his full name and full titles would together occupy half a page) was the “musical king” of Austria, reformist, and enlightened despot. In the film he is portrayed as hesitant, slow-witted and open to influence by his toady entourage. In fact, he could not only read music, but play it as well as the next amateur, and not like an unpromising novice, as he was depicted playing Salieri’s “March of Welcome” to Mozart in the film. Further, the film leaves one with the impression that his chief calling was to attend operas and play favorites among Vienna’s composers. His political life absorbed most of his energies, and other than a brief mention of the alleged danger of staging Mozart’s Figaro, not much of his politics is evident in the film. And, there is no hint that he would predecease Mozart in 1790, exhausted from a failed military campaign against Turkey and resistance to his reforms.
Lorenzo da Ponte (1749-1838) wrote the librettos for three of Mozart’s most famous operas and for a number of Salieri’s. He was a Venetian republican, an admirer of Benjamin Franklin, and much like him in the character of his politics and virtuosity in various realms of culture and science. He fled the Venetian Inquisition and found work as a librettist in Vienna. In 1805, he emigrated from Britain to the United States where he lived a successful and productive life. This remarkable man is not mentioned once in either Shaffer’s play or the film.
Count Franz von Walsegg (1763-1827) does not appear, either, as a character in Amadeus. He was, however, an amateur musician and the actual mysterious commissioner of Mozart’s Requiem Mass. There is evidence that, once the Requiem was finished, he, too, intended to pass it off as his own in honor of his late wife. It appears that this was a regular habit of Walsegg’s. Theft from composers was a common practice in that period. So, it was not Salieri who planned to work Mozart to death composing the Requiem. Shaffer, at the end of the play, through Salieri alludes to the “mysterious” commission to compose it, but does not name Walsegg.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) has been the subject of dozens of biographies and articles. It would be fruitless to cite any one of them for they are of varying merits (and demerits). The biography I relied on most, aside from the vast sources of information on the Internet, was Piero Melograni’s Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: A Biography, translated by Lydia G. Cochrane (University of Chicago Press, 2007).
What was the purpose of mounting such an enormous and complicated lie about historical personages, except to destroy the good?
I can speculate only to a certain point about what moved Shaffer to choose to write about Mozart and Salieri. The subject of their alleged rivalry and poisoning was not original. Alexander Pushkin in 1830 wrote a verse story about it. Another Russian, composer Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, expanded the story into a one-act play in 1898. As with his imaginary Salieri, Shaffer had no imagination, no genius or creativity, and settled for an apocryphal old wives’ tale to spread an untruth about two genuine creators. It is elevating gossip to the level of historical fact. This is a sign of artistic bankruptcy. But what is worse is a culture that would sanction and reward it. Shaffer simply expanded on Rimsky-Korsakov’s libretto and dialogue. He was a third-hander in the transmutation of back-fence gossip into a grand-scale fraud.
The scam was extremely successful. Today, “everybody knows” that Salieri envied Mozart for his creative genius, and planned and carried out Mozart’s early death. No one disputes the “fact.” What was the purpose of misrepresenting Mozart and Salieri? Surely, neither Shaffer, nor Milos Forman, nor Warner Brothers would have lavished so much in the way of time, sets, cast and expense to perpetrate a lie. So, it must be true.
In Honors Due, a detective novel in which Chess Hanrahan investigates the murder of one of his favorite historians, J. Forbes Munro, and why his name paradoxically appears in the credits of a film farce about Galileo, whom the historian revered, he encounters the man’s philosophy of history and biography:
“…Mine is not a unique approach to writing history and communicating its value. It is, frankly, traditional, but traditional only because I believe it is the single proper and profitable approach. It is at sharp odds with current approaches which, generally, seek to present historical persons and events as either nuggets of predestination or snapshots of some school’s dialectical process. The modern approach denies man one of his most unique assets -- indeed, his sole defining and distinguishing asset -- his volition. And it denies us our critical judgment and even our purpose; it robs an individual of all recognition, of credit, of discredit, of moral approbation, as the case may be. It reduces both subject and historian to the level of programmed ants.
“Galileo was not fated to write The Starry Messenger; nor was Cardinal Bellarmine fated to straddle an ecclesiastical fence. Napoleon need not have decided to escape from Elba; and Gordon need not have elected to remain in Khartoum. Whatever the reasons and reasoning behind it, there is no single major or minor historical event that cannot be ascribed to a conscious decision by an individual. An event, after all, is simply an action….The school that would elevate a single individual as an iconic chalice brimming with mysterious forces, and the school that would reduce him to a nearly insensate drone of a myriad of exocausative urgings, are but two sides of the same coin. I reject both.”
Amadeus is an example of the first school of history disputed by Munro. It elevated Mozart into an “iconic chalice brimming with mysterious forces,” namely the ability to write great music, a phenomenon that drives the Shaffer Salieri mad because he cannot understand it.
In order to destroy the good, it was necessary to introduce a paradox. It would have been difficult for Shaffer to portray Mozart as a genius with no important, exploitable “flaws” and have Salieri envy him to the point when he would plot Mozart’s murder. That would have required that Shaffer portray Salieri as a true villain, contemptible and repulsive to the core. But moral judgments are the bane of ethical relativists. So Mozart had to be portrayed as a fluke, a paradoxical contradiction, and as such earn Salieri’s sanctionable and comprehensible envy and hatred. We are supposed to forgive Salieri because he could not understand why God “blessed” the buffoonish, obnoxious, filthy, vulgar, dissipated Mozart – who somehow has the ability to write “divine” music – but denied that ability to the chaste, mediocre Salieri, who was “implanted” with the desire to honor God with great music, but could never match Mozart’s music. In the film, Salieri winds up blaming and hating God, as well.
The purpose was to present a contradiction that could not be resolved except by reference to the unknown and the unknowable, God and God’s whimsical will: Mozart, the brilliant, creative artist who wrote glorious music, but who is portrayed as a self-absorbed narcissist, a boasting bore concerned with what others think of his work – in other words, a completely shallow vessel of nothing – and God’s joke on Salieri, and, by implication, on the world.
Salieri, on the other hand, is portrayed as a wronged man moved to vengeance not only on Mozart, but on the God who allegedly blessed Mozart with an ability He denied Salieri. As a consequence, we are supposed to sympathize, if not empathize, with Salieri.
The final consensus, then, that is communicated is that both men were contemptible, perhaps even laughably so, leaving the paradox of the source of great music unknowable and unresolved. This non-resolution satisfies only two categories of minds: those who hate greatness, who say, “What’s the big deal about it? It’s a gift no one else has, why credit anyone with it, he didn’t develop the skill, it was given to him” – and those who don’t hate greatness but who wish to apologize for it and grovel before a paradox.
One of those motives was Shaffer’s.
Only one example of Salieri’s work is shown in the film, the finale of Axur, re d’Ormus, which follows after excerpts from Mozart's Figaro. A short excerpt of an aria from it is shown in the beginning when Salieri is reminiscing about his career. This was his Italian rendition of his successful Paris opera, Tarare. Lorenzo da Ponte wrote the librettos for Axur and other of Salieri’s works, as well as for Mozart’s most famous operas. The longer excerpt of Axur in the film demonstrates that the genuine Salieri was certainly capable of composing glorious if not divinely inspired music.
Among the plot anomalies in the film, much is made of Mozart using ballet in Figaro in violation of Joseph II’s ban of ballet in his operas. Yet, in the excerpt of the finale of Abduction from the Seraglio, which precedes the excerpt of Figaro, there is a vigorous, extended dance or ballet of whirling dervishes and couples, choreographed by Twyla Tharp, and in a modern style I do not think was imaginable in Mozart’s time. Yet, in the film, no objection is made to it by Rosenberg or by anyone else.
And in all the film, there is only one potential, dramatic conflict: When Mozart and the Emperor meet onstage after the finale of Abduction, Joseph remarks that there “are too many notes. Just cut a few, and it’ll be perfect.” Mozart, at first eager for the Emperor’s approval, answers petulantly, “Which few did you have in mind, Majesty?” (The question is not asked in the play version.) Shaffer saved himself the bother of a conflict by resorting to a deus ex machina in the form of his future mother-in-law and her pratfall.
If there was a rivalry, it was not a bitter, personal one. It was professional one whose resolution depended on the decisions of Joseph II. But the silliness and vulgarity of Mozart could not be omitted from either the play (which underwent six versions or revisions, including the film version); that silliness and vulgarity (and the whole paradox) were absolutely necessary to Shaffer. Reading some of Mozart's correspondence, even his close-to-death correspondence, and this was hardly a man who lent himself to silliness and vulgarity in his mature years. Shaffer had to have known this.
Another author, in an earlier period, might have made something of Mozart's sanity. But, according to Shaffer's metaphysics and esthetics, there is nothing "dramatic" in sanity. So he had to make Mozart a sphinx, in Salieri's mind and in the minds of Shaffer's audiences.
I think he consciously chose to demean Mozart and Salieri. All of his plays are malevolent. The one he is most famous for after Amadeus is Equus, also made into a film. I remember thinking, when I lived in NYC and it opened on Broadway there, why would anyone want to write a whole play around a disturbed person who blinded a stable of prize horses? Most of his plays have a nihilist theme, saying more or less that without religion, man is a beast, and his "instincts" struggle against the necessity of religion.
In the film, but not in the play, probably the most benevolent character was Baron Swieten (the character with the long black hair). But in the play, he turns against Mozart because he claims Mozart revealed the Masons' “secret” rituals in The Magic Flute and mocked the Freemasons. But in both the play and the movie, his opposition to Mozart's choice of subject in Figaro is interesting. When Mozart protests, "How can we go on forever with these gods and heroes?" Swieten answers in both versions, "Because they go on forever. They represent the eternal in us. Opera is here to ennoble us, you and me just as well as the Emperor. It is an aggrandizing art! It celebrates the eternal in Man and ignores the ephemeral. The goddess in Women and not the laundress."
But, one could take Swieten's answer and position as championing Romantic art and literature (or what passed for it in that period, the Classicist school), and Shaffer choosing to reject it, because, in his eyes, man is a beast and his pursuit of the “noble” and "eternal" is a pretense. In his metaphysics, Mozart the vulgarian is the norm, regardless of the period or era. His only salvation is to accept the will of God, come what may, and to not protest that man is corruptible and mean and small. His only salvation lies in selflessness and sacrifice. Mozart was obnoxiously selfish and greedy. And so in Amadeus, Salieri's fighting God's inexplicable and arbitrary will can only lead to his madness. The sole comprehensible thing is "mediocrity." The "divine" is beyond man's comprehension, and when it occurs in life, such as in a miracle, or exhibits itself in a person like Mozart, it cannot be understood.
I do not think Shaffer is just a "victim" of his education. His literary track record is consistently malevolent. A person who chooses to make a career of mocking man and commiserating in literature about man’s misery and failings is not necessarily a "victim." He must feel at home in the received wisdom he never questioned. He chose to remain in it. Moreover, he was encouraged by the culture. Shaffer has been amply rewarded by it (Oscars, Tonys, the British equivalent of them, and numerous other accolades), and, as Rand put it, when she was criticizing the second-handers who were exploiting Ian Fleming’s Bond novels by turning them into farces, with piles of money.***
And in the film production, Milos Forman is a partner in the libel. He knew as well as did Shaffer what the true story could have been, but chose the old wives' tale to develop and lavish with money and talent. And, as I remarked earlier, if it were not for the old wives' tale, Shaffer probably would not have chosen to write Amadeus. These men are not ignorant. They knew what they were doing.
In the film’s opening dialogue between Salieri and the priest, Salieri asks the priest if he knows who he is. The priest answers that it makes no difference, all men are equal in God's eyes."Are they?" replies Salieri. That establishes the theme for the rest of the story. Salieri was saying, "Well, they aren't all equal in His eyes. He bestows ability to compose great music on some, and not on others, which is unjust. He cheated me, the virtuous man dedicated to His glory, and rewarded 'the creature' who was not dedicated to His glory. But I showed Him. I murdered Mozart. Or, at least, I drove him to his death. The devil didn't make me do it. God himself did by betraying me, mocking me. But, even then, God cheated me, by foiling my plans to be credited with the Requiem that was to be played at Mozart’s funeral.”
And not once, in either any of the play versions or the film version, does Shaffer allow Salieri to say it was true that he murdered Mozart.
Two articles can be found online that address the propagated “truisms” of Amadeus. One is A. Peter
Brown’s “’Amadeus’ and Mozart: Setting the Record Straight,” originally published in The American Scholar in 1992. Brown thoroughly bursts most of the balloons that surround the myth of Mozart, Salieri, and the murder hypothesis. A second article is Albert Borowitz’s “Salieri and the ‘Murder’ of Mozart,” an essay on the Tarlton Law Library Legal Studies Forum site, published in 2006. Among the many conspiracy theories discussed by Borowitz are the 19th century cottage industry of “proving” Salieri’s poisoning of Mozart and the “contract” put out by the Freemasons on a disobedient member, Mozart.
An additional treasure trove of information about Mozart’s relationship with the Viennese court can be found in Dorothea Link’s “Mozart’s Appointment to the Viennese Court.”
Amadeus is the sack into which the reputations of both Mozart and Salieri were sewn by Peter Shaffer and Milos Forman, tossed ingloriously into the common grave of the undifferentiated, and sprinkled with generous shovelfuls of the lime of Critical Theory.
Well – there it is.
*”Introduction to The Fountainhead,” The Objectivist, March 1968, p. 1.
**Amadeus, A Play by Peter Shaffer. 1979. (New York: Harper Perennial, 2001).
***”Bootleg Romanticism,” in The Romantic Manifesto, 1965. (New York: New American Library, 1971), p. 137.
© 2010 by Edward Cline
6 Comments ::
:: Wednesday, November 24, 2010 ::
The TSA and the New Enemies List
Posted by Edward Cline at 5:43 AM
The Obama Administration means to cause as much damage as possible in the two years remaining of its existence. If that reads like a hubristic prediction, I have no better foundation for making it than the White House’s approval – nay, its encouragement – of the Transportation Security Agency’s (TSA’s) new “enhanced” security measures and procedures. Those measures and procedures, which violate, as a matter of policy, the Fourth Amendment rights of American travelers, are meeting as much opposition as any of the administration’s legislative policies. They have not caused a “Tea Party,” but instead an “Opt Out” movement that advocates either not flying and subjecting oneself to the indignity, or “disrupting” the assembly line of pat-downs and full-body scanners at airports.
Novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand noted, many years ago: "We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force."
The Department of Homeland Security and the TSA are not satisfied with treating Americans like pieces of meat, or like printer cartridges, or prison inmates. It is compiling a database of everyone who opposes the new procedures, that is, anyone who has written anything whatsoever critical of the DHS and TSA, and whose words may cause others to oppose or “disrupt” the assembly line.
Canada Free Press carried a follow-up article to Doug Hagmann’s “Gate Rape of America,” about the Transportation Security Agency’s “enhanced” security procedures and how they are intended to cow Americans into surrendering their Fourth Amendment rights in the name of “fighting terrorism.” The new article, also by Hagmann, “DHS & TSA: Making a List, Checking it Twice,” contains some extremely disturbing revelations. Hagmann was contacted by a person in the DHS, who read his “Gate Rape” article, who alerted him to a document that discusses the resistance to the TSA’s “enhanced” procedures.
The memo, which actually takes the form of an administrative directive, appears to be the product of undated but recent high level meetings between Napolitano, John Pistole, head of the TSA, and one or more of Obama’s national security advisors. This document officially addresses those who are opposed to, or engaged in the disruption of the implementation of the enhanced airport screening procedures as “domestic extremists.”Hagmann, who may or may not have been forwarded the complete text of the directive, could not cite it in its entirety without drawing the wrath of the DHS.
The introductory paragraph of the multi-page document states that it is issued “in response to the growing public backlash against enhanced TSA security screening procedures and the agents conducting the screening process.”
It is this particular paragraph of the directive cited by Hagmann that is especially disturbing:
For “any person, group or domestic alternative media source” that actively objects to, causes others to object to, supports and/or elicits support for anyone who engages in such travel “disruptions” at U.S. airports (as defined above) in response to the enhanced security procedures, the [applicable DHS administrative branch] is instructed to identify and collect information about the persons or entities, and submit such information in the manner outlined [within this directive]. [Bold mine]
Domestic media source[s]...that actively object to...etc.? This can't mean anything other than FSM, Rule of Reason, and countless other blogs or “alternative media sources” that have criticized or "objected to" the DHS and the TSA in the past and now the "enhanced" procedures. I've gone onto the Threat Analysis Division, the Extremism and Radicalization branch of the Office of Intelligence & Analysis (IA) division of the Department of Homeland Security, which Hagmann provided a link to.
The language in that particular section is vague and can be interpreted any way the TSA and DHS wish. Surprisingly, it actually mentions the Islamic Sunni and Shiite "radical" groups, but the "domestic extremism" portion of the paragraph is a catch-all for anyone who protests TSA policies. The concept "extremism" can be stretched from including private armed militia groups to individuals who calmly cite the Fourth Amendment.
Under the header, “Homeland Security Intelligence Analytic Priorities,” that paragraph reads:
The second is the threat of radicalization and extremism. Our top priority is radicalized Islam (Sunni and Shia groups), but we also look at radicalized domestic groups. We do not monitor known extremists and their activities; instead, we are interested in the radicalization process—why and how people who are attracted to radical beliefs cross the line into violence.
Spot the contradiction? The lie? The ambiguity? How can the DHS “know” why and how people are “attracted to radical beliefs” – whether or not they “cross the line into violence” – unless it “monitors” individuals it deems “extremists”? And draws up a list of individuals and organizations to monitor? To prioritize and analyze them on that list?
And to take what action? As I remarked to a friend, a government agency does not draw up a “watch list” without purpose, unless it claims and reserves the option of taking some form of action against the individuals and organizations on that list. The agency assumes it has the power to act. Otherwise, such a list is pointless. As individuals can identify unconstitutional actions taken by the government, the government will identify those who make such an identification – and has the power to punish them.
I am an “extremist.” When I point to a table and say that it is a table, then I can be deemed an “extremist.” I don’t take a non-radical, pragmatist or equivocal position and say it is probably a piece of furniture, or maybe it’s a doghouse. By the same reasoning, when I say that the “enhanced” security procedures of the TSA violate the Fourth Amendment, then that is what I mean, because the Amendment is there, it exists, it is being violated, those violations are demonstrable, and that assertion cannot be refuted or argued away.
The TSA’s policy is simply to ignore and overrule the Fourth Amendment, and to resort to brute force. This is what it regularly tells travelers who question the policy. It and the DHS will sooner or later decide to ignore and overrule the First Amendment, or freedom of speech. It can claim that my writing – or anyone else’s writing, no matter how calmly or emotionally composed – has caused others to oppose or “disrupt” the TSA’s policies. Whether the actions of those so inspired or so persuaded are criminal in nature, or lawful actions taken under the mantle of the Fourth Amendment, is irrelevant.
The threat implied in that directive is there are certain individuals and organizations that must sooner or later be silenced. Patrick Henry spoke his immortal “liberty or death” speech in Richmond in 1775, when the Virginia Assembly held its session away from Williamsburg, then the capital, because the royal governor there had the power to prorogue or dismiss that assembly by directive or by brute force. Today, no one can speak from a safe distance. Miles cannot serve as a guarantee of freedom of speech. We are no longer beyond the arm’s length of government coercion, but a mere keyboard. Our best protection is to speak out, and often, and to either force the hand of DHS and TSA, or cause them to back off.
The First Amendment is in more serious jeopardy than one might have previously imagined. Do not cave in to the TSA’s “conditioning” to make your silence a measure of normalcy. The government’s intention is to inure Americans to living in a state of obedient and submissive servitude. Of existing and acting by permission. This is as good an explanation as any of President Obama’s policy on Islam, a totalitarian ideology. He and his appointees have an affinity with it.
3 Comments ::
:: Thursday, November 18, 2010 ::
The TSA’s Extortion Racket
Posted by Edward Cline at 10:00 PM
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) only seems to lack perspicuity, foresight, basic analytical skills, and senses of humor and irony. Its head, its staff, and its administrator are as distant from reality as Pluto is from the Sun. It has just launched a propaganda campaign called, “If You See Something, Say Something.” They have roused the wrong “enemy” – the American people.
"As Americans head into the busy holiday travel season, it is important to remember that every individual has a role to play in keeping our country safe and secure," said Secretary Napolitano. "The ‘If You See Something, Say Something' campaign encourages travelers and those who work in the hotel industry to identify and report indicators of terrorism, crime and other threats to the proper law enforcement authorities."
Imagine that in Nazi Germany, every German was urged to perform the same “patriotic” duty to keep the country safe and secure. To wit: “If you see a Jew, say something. If you see a gypsy, say something. If you see a Negro, say something. If you see a German curse Hitler, say something.” You get the picture.
In the official announcement site, the term “terrorism” occurs only once. Nowhere are the terms, Islam, Muslim, and jihad to be found, even though it is Islamic terrorists who are the purported enemy. The enemy, however, is left unidentified. Common criminals can wage terror, too, while “other threats” also float in the sump of official DHS terminology. You, the concerned citizen, have a role to play in spotting and ratting on shapeless, nameless bogeymen. Forgive the TSA if it treats you like a suspect, guilty before proven innocent. It is your duty to act guilty until proven innocent by a semi-literate making just above the minimum wage.
But, think twice, though, if you see a Muslim behaving oddly or suspiciously. Do not point fingers at men performing prayers in an airport lounge, or at women wearing various kinds of strange headgear. That would be discriminatory, evidence of prejudice, bigotry, and groundless fear.
Do not for one minute, however, think that the introduction of these “enhanced” security procedures is a consequence of poor planning or shortsightedness. The procedures are obnoxious, repellent, and invasive by design. They are intended to inure Americans to being treated as chattel and the property of the state. Americans are supposed to treat the right and luxury of flying as a state-granted privilege.
A memo to DHS secretary Janet Napolitano: I have seen something, and I am saying something. Aside from violating the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against the federal government conducting “unreasonable searches and seizures” at airports, loosing on American and foreign travelers the costly, invasive, and futile sham of security checks at airports, sexually assaulting individuals of both genders and of all ages, subjecting said travelers to degradation and humiliation, physically assaulting travelers who may have included an eye-drop dispenser or a tube of toothpaste in a carry-on bag – there is this observable but too-often overlooked defining characteristic of especially the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA’s) airport security checks: the practice of criminal extortion.
The legal definition of the act and crime of extortion includes:
Perform[ing] any other act which would not in itself materially benefit the actor but which is calculated to harm another person materially with respect to his health, safety, business, calling, career, financial condition, reputation or personal relationships.
Excuse me, but doesn’t this definition apply to a TSA agent (I refuse to call these creatures “officers”) telling you that if you don’t submit your luggage and your person to his optionless search and likely seizure, you won’t be flying anywhere? You won’t be going to Cleveland on business, you won’t be having turkey with all the trimmings with family in Reno, you won’t be seeing your sweetheart in Des Moines?
Of course, once one submits to the extortion, it triggers and sanctions the unreasonable search and seizure, also chargeable offenses.
Extortion is the threat of withholding a value by compelling a victim’s consent to surrender another, perhaps lesser value. Think Sophie’s Choice. The consensual character of extortion does not hide or disguise the element of the threat of initiated physical force by compelling an individual to take an action he otherwise would not choose to take.
But this is not the exclusive realm of TSA policy. It is the federal government’s modus operandi in virtually all areas of American life. For example, Americans are already “conditioned” to filing tax returns under the threat of audits, fines, expropriation, and prison. Employers act as unpaid tax collectors under penalty of audits, expropriation, fines, and prison. Other examples would fill several pages of redundancies. The TSA is merely a late-comer to the game, an in-your-face and in-your-pants late-comer that reveals the true nature of statism.
The growing resistance to the TSA’s policies is evidence that Americans still don’t like to be pushed around. They don’t like being treated like pieces of meat, or print cartridges, to be inspected and certified by the lackeys of federal authority.
The Fourth Amendment reads:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
So, when an infant, or a person in a wheelchair, or schoolchildren, or adults, are subjected to virtual strip searches, legalized molestation, and exposed to radiation in the back-scattering machines, where is the “probable cause,” unless one is already a suspect? Where are the “warrants”? And where is the “particular place” that must be searched, other than one’s whole person and property? Where is the description of the “person or things to be seized”?
Nowhere to be found in the TSA playbook. The TSA’s policies, past and present, are in complete and demonstrable violation of the Constitution. What a banquet of litigation and lawsuits Napolitano’s and John Pistole’s policies present to the legal profession!
The TSA and its operatives across the nation, as actors in the extortion, do not “materially benefit” from the act (unless they are the receivers of the all the confiscated – that is, stolen – goods taken from travelers). They are just “doing their job,” like the good totalitarian functionaries they were hired to be. There are, however, personal and psychological benefits they must derive from holding power over their victims. They hold one’s values hostage until the ransom is paid, and that ransom is submitting to their salacious scrutiny. The only alternative they offer is the destruction of a value. They are gratified, either way, because they offer you no choice. You, the violated individual, are the loser.
Americans exhibited signs of rebellion during the Tea Party movement and in the recent midterm elections. A brewing revolution against the depredations and incompetency of the TSA and DHS is part and parcel of those uniquely American phenomena.
After all, “opting out” is nearly as good as good as “Going Galt.”
5 Comments ::
:: Tuesday, November 16, 2010 ::
The TSA’s “Protection” Racket
Posted by Edward Cline at 9:16 AM
There is a scene in Schindler’s List in which all the inmates of the concentration camp are forced to strip naked en masse and run through a gauntlet of outdoor medical checks. If the inmates weren’t already “conditioned” to incarceration, humiliation, being kidnapped, robbed, tagged, folded, spindled, shredded, and “processed,” that exercise guaranteed it. Those who didn’t pass the “test,” were pulled from the line and never heard from again. Not that it mattered in the long run: they were all scheduled for extermination.
Too eerily a parallel with the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA's) new “enhanced” security policies at American airports, which include full-body scans that show every detail of one’s person beneath clothing and/or intimate “pat-downs” by manqués wearing blue surgeon’s gloves, who are authorized to probe and grope infants, school children, adults, nuns, businessmen, well, everyone for combustibles or explosive materials. Passengers are allowed to “opt out” for the pat-down, should they object to being seen naked, or if they’re susceptible to involuntary radiation treatments.
Some choice. No pressure at all, your choice – unless you choose to stop flying the unfriendly skies. And if you object to either invasive scrutiny, you will be pulled from the line and browbeaten by the Cro-Magnons of the TSA. “It’s your patriotic duty.” “It’s for your own safety.” “It’s the law.” “If you resist, we’ll fine you bundles of money and put you on our watch list and have you investigated.” “Resistance is futile.” “You want to be arrested? We know how to waste your time.”
Perhaps that is unfair to the Cro-Magnons. They at least left us some magnificent cave paintings, more than Janet Napolitano, Michael Chertoff, President Barack Obama, and the minions and munchkins of the TSA are ever likely to leave the country.
I will not inveigh about how the whole idea of screening passengers violates the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable searches and seizures (and the TSA’s personnel, besides being legalized molesters, are also kleptomaniacs; what happens to all the things they confiscate?). This has already been thoroughly discussed by others. I will not point out how great a failure the TSA is in preventing terrorist hijackings and bombings; handfuls of passengers have a greater track record in foiling them than the 250,000 employees of the TSA. I will not reiterate that, if airport security is necessary, then the simplest solution would be to profile Muslims of any gender or age; after all, it is Muslim terrorists, acting in the name of their faith, that the TSA is purportedly hoping to catch in the act. Islamists have used women and children as suicide bombers.
But, to governments with a penchant for the police state, the simplest solution is not an option. The TSA has “opted out” of it. We can’t profile Muslims. That would be “discriminatory.” Not respectful. Insensitive. A violation of their persons, forbidden by the Koran.
Both former President George W. Bush and the current occupant of the White House believe in “outreach,” which means taking under advisement from the likes of the Council on American-Islamic Relations the necessity to exempt Muslims, especially Muslim women, from the kind of thorough concentration camp routine all others must endure. That “outreach” means that an infidel may not feel a Muslim woman’s breasts and groin, run his or her hands over her buttocks, legs, and back, or rummage through her hair.
Napolitano and Company know what they’re doing. Aside from giving carte blanche to the perverts and pedophiles in the TSA a dream job of feeling up attractive women (or men) and children and availing themselves to an endless stream of wacko porn in a dark room (and we have only the government’s word that these images are not stored or able to be added to some employee’s catalogue of porn), the TSA from the beginning has played the role of extortionist and hostage-taker: You want to see your relatives, seal a business deal, get to school, take your kids to Disneyland? You can’t, unless you surrender your liberty, your dignity, and your money.
That is an option the TSA knows you can’t refuse. The Mafia had a term for this kind of abuse: a protection racket.
4 Comments ::
:: Sunday, November 14, 2010 ::
The Missing Link in Dystopian Novels
Posted by Edward Cline at 6:12 PM
“Usually I’m pretty mild, in fact many of my friends are kind enough to call it ‘Folksy,’ when I’m writing or speechifying.” – Zero Hour, Berzelius Windrip*
A chilling familiarity: Where have we read this before?
Oh, yes, in Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 dystopian novel, It Can’t Happen Here. In it, a charismatic middle-aged man on a white unicorn gallops across a battered economy littered with the wreckage of past federal stimulus programs to the White House, advocating the transformation of the country into a utopia of social justice, and promising everyone, not $5,000 a year, as did Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip, but government-managed health care and a “fairer” (re)distribution of wealth. In his entourage are numerous placemen eager to control everything from the consumption of oil and nicotine and sugar and salt and history and science to education, and who also suggest “minor” adjustments to the Bill of Rights in the Constitution to better facilitate social justice and economic fairness to bring about their leader’s promised land. Just like Windrip and his entourage in the Lewis novel.
The administration and “folksy” style of President Barack Obama have in part prompted this essay. His and Congress’s statist legislation and semi-disguised and dissimulated agenda to “transform” the United States from a faltering constitutional republic, already burdened with a plethora of government interventions, regulations, and extraordinary enforcement powers, into a certified socialist “republic,” have elicited an intense public hostility toward him and that agenda. Many Americans have now seen the face of extortionate, authoritarian arrogance, and like it not. It was not gratuitous slander or character assassination when many Tea Party protest signs featured a pairing of his face and the term, “Big Brother.” Whether or not that hostility will translate into effective resistance, a rediscovery of freedom, a decoupling or abolition of government powers, and support for the sanctity of individual rights, remains to be seen.
There is, however, no part of the Obama agenda that does not comport, complement, or mesh with legislation advocated and enacted by earlier administrations, and that does not contain the germ of totalitarian or dystopian power. This includes Social Security, Medicare, the Federal Reserve, the income tax, the FDA, the EPA, and so on. Obama’s agenda is merely the undisguised climax of collectivist ideas and yearnings dating back to the early years of the republic. Both major political parties are responsible for the patchwork of economic and “social” controls, the direct and indirect confiscation of wealth through taxation, and regulations that weigh upon Americans, a byzantine quilt not quite basted together to create the kind of smothering totalitarianism that existed in Soviet Russia or that exists in Mainland China and North Korea, or in a theocratic state such as Iran or Saudi Arabia.
But, back to Berzelius Windrip, Adam Sutler, Mr. Thompson, and Big Brother.
The corpus of dystopian literature is old, vast, disparate, intriguing, and of varying quality. The stories discussed here focus only on a few of the better known or outstanding examples of it, and does not claim to be comprehensive by any means. It will not address the concerns of past dystopian writers, such as Thomas More, Jonathan Swift, and Samuel Butler. It will, however, address what I see are key strengths and faults of the genre.
The term utopia is classical Greek for nowhere – meaning an imaginary, impossible, unrealistic place – while a Greek homophone, eutopia, means a “good place,” or a society that has actually achieved realizable perfect happiness and contentment. Dystopian stories focus on one or more negative attributes of totalitarianism. Therein lies their key fault.
The only realm in which tyrannies or dystopias “work” is in literature, specifically in fiction and in motion pictures. In reality, by their nature, they must self-destruct. If they endure for any length of time, it is by grace of external factors: the sanction of the victims, as dramatized in the finest and eminently credible “dystopian” novel, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged; by compromise with evil, a la Neville Chamberlain; or by toleration of totalitarian regimes, e.g., through “trade pacts” and “cultural exchanges” between totalitarian regimes and semi-free nations.
The trouble with the dystopian genre is that while the best of it can be disturbing, compelling, instructive, and very effective – depending on a writer’s narrative and dialogue skills – they are not credible, no matter how well accomplished. That is because if such dystopias existed in reality, they would, once they had reached the point of perfection, implode and collapse. I do not think that any creator of a literary dystopia has ever believed that such societies could actually exist and function. Most men, however, take them literally as the possible.
The chief value of a dystopian story – and here is its potential strength – is that it can impart a moral, in the way of a parable, or portray the essence of a particular totalitarian ideology, or offer insights into current social or political phenomena in reality that are in incubation and not yet fully grown, and which deserve dramatic explication. They can depict the consequences of evil ideas in action, and what men do or do not do about them.
In reality, a perfect dystopia would collapse and perish because it was perfect, because it could not achieve its ideal state, stagnation, without courting suicide. Total control and manipulation of men, their minds, and actions in such a political projection would succeed in crushing the very thing such a system depended on to make the system work: man’s volitional capacity. To prevent such a death, totalitarians resort to even more force – invasion of their neighbors, or unleashing the power of the state on their own citizens. Pol Pot in Cambodia, Stalin in Russia, and Mao in China, are examples of the latter alternative. Force is the only alternative in a totalitarian’s ideological toolbox. It is there to be used.
Stagnation, or an enforced state of a status quo, of an arrested movement in men’s minds and actions, is the ideal state sought after by despots and totalitarians. But, stagnation means regression, dissolution, and death. It can have no other end. And, as only one fiction writer has eloquently demonstrated, it has only one unacknowledged purpose: destruction for the sake of destruction. Or death.
For example, in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the ruling Inner Party pursues of policy of lobotomizing the members of the Outer Party to create an obedient, unthinking cadre of servants of the Inner Party’s hold on power. This is most evident in Orwell’s brilliant grasp of the necessity of destroying language, of a policy of deliberately reducing the number of operative and permitted words and ideas among all Party members.
But if such a policy were actually implemented, the Inner Party would be helpless against the first man who rediscovered or reinvented the words that had been excised from others’ minds (and words are, as novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand defined them, audio-visual symbols for things or entities, including ideas). The literary and philosophical antidote to this aspect of Orwell’s novel, as pointed out by Shoshana Milgram in Essays on Ayn Rand’s Anthem**, is Anthem, in which the hero triumphantly rediscovers the words that were lost to or banished from the truncated minds of his fellows.
Orwell demonstrates an understanding the role of language in the essay that accompanies the novel, “The Principles of Newspeak.” However, the essay is merely a description of the mechanics of thought control and thought suppression, of chaining men’s minds to a miniscule lexicon of politically correct thought, and is not a critical delving into its infeasibility, one consistent with his true contention, portrayed throughout the novel and also in a fictive book in the novel, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, that a totalitarian regime could not maintain or progress beyond the technological level that it inherited when it took power.
(Incidentally, it is only government force that can fuel and sustain political correctness in speech. See my “Speechless Speech” and other essays on political correctness and incorrect speech. It can accomplish this if it has a head-lock on a nation’s educational institutions, as the government now has. Syme, a character in Orwell’s novel who works on the ever-shrinking Newspeak Dictionary, remarks to Winston Smith, “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?....Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller….Orthodoxy means not thinking, not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness."*** Because he is intelligent enough to make such an explicit observation – which is completely in line with the Party’s ends – he is subsequently vaporized by the Party. Active minds such as his can also rebel against the Party.
But Syme’s acumen reveals an internal plot contradiction in the novel. O’Brien, an Inner Party member and Smith’s tormentor, displays an intellect vastly superior to Outer Party member Syme’s, who not only repeats Syme’s statements but claims he helped to write the banished book, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism, an indictment of the Party and its ends. Yet, it is unlikely he will be targeted for liquidation, even though he has the mind to orchestrate the Party’s overthrow.)
In reality, a government that ruled a nation of truncated minds would not be able to “run the country,” other than “running it to the ground.” It would not last. Either the country or the government would collapse first.
Independent minds do not obey commands to think or not to think. And independent minds not free to act on their thinking, do not produce, create, innovate, or function at their maximum capacity in totalitarian systems; at the very most, they function, quite deliberately, at minimal capacity, on the short-range. They produce as little as possible. They cease to function – as far as the statists are concerned – or they remove themselves from the realm of coercion. That is a key point demonstrated in Atlas Shrugged.
A totalitarian regime cannot even remain stagnant for long – unless it leeches off what is left of a nation’s private sector, or benefits from the proximity and productiveness of its free or semi-free neighbors. Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, Imperial Japan, among others, subsisted on a combination of loot, conquest, and trade with willing, indiscriminate, more prosperous nations that they had not yet invaded and looted, together with the willingness of most of their populations to work for and defer to the state.
Whence the means of oppression?
Many dystopian novels, dubbed “technocratic,” are warnings about an over-reliance on technology. They depict technology “gone wrong.” This view is in error on two counts. The first is that technology can “go wrong” only with the power of government force. The second is that in most novels of this type, an industrial civilization that could produce the technology is implied or taken for granted. A literary indictment of any technology is, implicitly, an indictment of industrial civilization per se. We have seen today protests against everything from nuclear power to cosmetics to sugar to salt. No product of human effort is exempt from the indictment.
For example, in the film V for Vendetta (a gross distillation of a popular British comic book series) there is no negative existential consequence portrayed in a recognizable, prosperous society ruled by Adam Sutler’s totalitarian government. Set in Britain, one discerns no real distinction between contemporary Britain and its standard of living, and the story’s setting. One is left asking: What has anyone to complain about? Everyone seems fat and happy, and the trains run on time. This copasetic depiction renders all of the subplots – of some government biological experiments, the round-up and extermination of anyone not approved by a nominally “Christian” dictator, and the protagonist’s mission of vendetta – entirely irrelevant.
On the other hand, In Nineteen Eighty-Four (the novel or the 1984 film production), the appalling material living conditions are gruesomely described, just the opposite of those portrayed in V, with incredible poverty endured by Outer Party members – aside from their risk of arbitrary arrest, torture and execution for thought crime. Orwell was close to identifying the key motive – the poverty is planned and has a purpose, to sustain a grinding, exhausting existence that drains men’s capacity to think clearly, or to choose not to think and rather obey so as to earn an increase in the chocolate ration – but not close enough. He knew that a key to enforcing obedience was to erase concepts from men’s minds – to stymie any thought of disobedience and the possibility that one could even imagine or experience another kind of existence. Without the object or vision of freedom as an expressed possibility, no motive to think of it or move toward it could be possible. The goal of the Inner Party in Orwell’s novel was power for the sake of exercising power for its own sake – the power to destroy and reshape men – and he gave Big Brother a more credible means to achieve and retain total power.
Still, he discounted the role and efficacy of volition and the possibility that men might still think and triumph, and that, even in the absence of eradicated words, minds would still struggle to find, identify or create words. The fate of Winston Smith, the novel’s anti-hero, reveals the malevolent, deterministic premise of its creator. In spite of his contention that such a regime could not foster technological progress, he grants it an overriding metaphysical potency.
But, where does the chocolate come from? And the telescreens? Who produces them? Under what conditions? As do most other dystopian writers, he makes only passing references to an industrial base, manned largely by the “inhuman” proles, with raw materials coming from regions of the world contested by perpetual warfare between similar totalitarian regimes.
The parable of the short film 2081 is about complacency. George Bergeron, the father of Harrison, a man of superlative virtues – possessing genius, beauty, and strength , who has earned every “handicap” equalizing device imaginable – watches his son be murdered by the state, but cannot remember the event, thanks to the state’s power to disrupt his thinking and memory. His son, an “extraordinary” who was “beyond the reach” of the Handicapper General’s purposes, was impervious to the punishments. But in fact it is not the devices hanging from George’s body that stop him from thinking, or remembering. It is his acclimation to wearing the devices. He tells his wife that if he removed the devices, he wouldn’t want to put them on again. But, by the end of the story, he chooses to leave them on.
But, where do these sophisticated devices come from? Who makes them? Of course, 2081 is a parable, and not meant to be taken literally.
Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 assumes that a society in which books are burned and banned can maintain itself as a technologically advanced and prosperous one, relying on mere pictures and the general illiteracy of its population. Ira Levin’s This Perfect Day depicts a society that can maintain technology if its citizens are regularly doped up (or doped down). THX 1138 depicts an underground society that relies heavily on industrial production; in neither of these instances is there evidence of how a regime obtains its sophisticated tools of oppression, such as drugs and robot policemen and fire engines.
Totalitarian regimes, such as Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia, could claim some longevity because, aside from the sanction granted each regime by its victims, they also existed by grace of pragmatic policies and toleration of their more prosperous and freer neighbors. Red China has sustained its existence as a nominally communist country by adopting pragmatic “free market” policies that allow its citizens some modicum of freedom. Communist Cuba has existed on handouts from friendly statist regimes. Mixed economies such as Argentina and Mexico, or the Scandinavian countries, stumble along, relying on the vestiges of freedom that have not been snuffed out.
The only novel to make the connection between a government’s expropriation of the products of an industrial civilization (to use as weapons against men) and industrial civilization itself, is Atlas Shrugged. That unique, distinct feature makes Atlas not only more credible as a story and a projection of the possible, but more realistic, for the principles that govern the story also govern reality. It is a masterful integration of creative imagination and loyalty to facts and reality, an integration not evident or only suggested in most dystopian stories, and not likely to be repeated in the near future.
In the story, as in reality, when the policies of force lead to the shut down or extinction of free, productive work and the suspension of thought, the nation and the government both collapse. The nation has been bankrupted, not only in its economy and its productive industrial capacity, but it loses the minds that made the economy and capacity possible. The philosophy for living dramatized in Atlas is equally and wholly applicable to living in the “real world”; there is no dichotomy between them in any particular, no lapse of context, evidence of ignorance, or evasion of truth.
At their very best, dystopian novels and films, particularly those with a clear dramatization of the choices between freedom and slavery, freedom of thought and servile parroting, productive work and drudgery for the state, and revolution and submission, can lose one for a time in an imaginary world where those choices parallel the ones necessary in the real.
*It Can’t Happen Here, by Sinclair Lewis. 1935. (New York: Signet Classics, 2005), p. 130.
*”Anthem in the Context of Related Literary Works: We are not like our brothers,” by Shoshana Milgram, in Essays on Ayn Rand’s Anthem. Ed. Robert Mayhew. (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2005), pp. 119-171 (Orwell discussion, pp. 149-154).
***Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell. 1949. Ed. Irving Howe. (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1982), p. 36.
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:: Tuesday, November 09, 2010 ::
Islamic Ambulance Chasers
Posted by Edward Cline at 2:46 PM
I sent the following as an open letter of protest to U.S. District Court, Chief Judge Vicki Miles-LaGrange, Oklahoma City, in response to the news that she had blocked an amendment to Oklahoma’s constitution that would prohibit state and local judges from factoring Sharia and international law into their decisions.
The Associated Press reported:
A federal judge issued a temporary restraining order Monday to block a new amendment to the Oklahoma Constitution that would prohibit state courts from considering international or Islamic law when deciding cases.
Why? Is not the judge sworn to uphold the U.S. Constitution, as well as that of the state of Oklahoma? Well, she doesn’t think so, and neither does Muneer Awad. Who?
"My constitutional rights are being violated through the condemnation of my faith," said Muneer Awad, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations in Oklahoma. “Islam was the target of this amendment. This amendment does not have a secular purpose."
Wrong. It does have a secular purpose: to stop Islamic religious Sharia law from insinuating itself into American secular law. And wouldn’t you know it? A bill for amendment was introduced into the Oklahoma state legislature, passed, and approved by the voting electorate by 70%. Whether you call that “democracy at work,” or the proper procedure of a rights-protecting republic, the shills for Sharia object very much to self-governance. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) jumped on it immediately, waving the unsheathed sword of lawsuits.
During a radio interview on WABC on November 7th, Awad, who graduated from law school, claimed that
… Shariah is compliant with both American values and its Constitution, since the Islamic law is "dynamic" in that it changes based on circumstances, including governing law of lands where implemented.
There’s a serving of Taqiyya Supreme for you. Sharia is not “compliant” with American values and the Constitution. The Constitution was designed to protect individual rights; Sharia does not recognize individual rights, neither its religious nor its political side. In any event, the Koran regards all other man-made governments as “abominations” to be eliminated.
And I wonder how Mr. Awad can reconcile his statement with that of Omar M. Ahmad, chairman of the board of CAIR, who said to Muslims in 1998:
"If you choose to live here (in America) . . . you have a responsibility to deliver the message of Islam," he said. “Islam isn’t in America to be equal to any other faith, but to become dominant,” he said. “The Koran, the Muslim book of scripture, should be the highest authority in America, and Islam the only accepted religion on Earth.”
Awad, among other claims, asserts that the law “stigmatizes” Muslims. Wrong. The fact that the overwhelming majority of terrorist attacks in this country and around the world, are committed by Muslims in the name of Islam, stigmatizes them. And the primitive, brutal, Dark Age legal and moral code that comprises Sharia law stigmatizes Sharia, as well.
Why was this amendment passed by the state legislature and put up for referendum?
The measure's author, Rep. Rex Duncan, R-Sand Springs, attended the brief court hearing and said afterward he was surprised by Miles-Lagrange's decision.
"It thwarts the will of the people," said Duncan, an attorney who was elected district attorney in the northern Oklahoma counties of Osage and Pawnee in the general election.
Duncan has said the constitutional amendment was not intended as an attack on Muslims but an effort to prevent activist judges from relying on international law or Islamic law when ruling on legal cases.
That is an eminently clear reason for approving the amendment. But, “activist” judges? Is Judge LaGrange an “activist” judge? Has Duncan any grounds for making that stigmatizing allegation?
It turns out that Vicki Miles-LaGrange, a former state senator, was appointed in 1994 to the federal bench in Oklahoma, Western District, by President Bill Clinton, and has sat as chief judge there since 2008. It is interesting, also, that among the 367 judges nominated by him and still active in the federal system during his administration, he also elevated Sonia Sotomayor to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in 2008. She was subsequently nominated and elevated to the Supreme Court by President Barack Obama. Another “activist,” former Harvard Law School dean and Solicitor General Elena Kagan, since elevated to the high scourt, is Obama’s own creature. Would liberal/left/collectivist presidents nominate any judge to a high court whose political affinities and agendas did not mesh with their own?
My letter follows:
9 November 2010
Vicki Miles-LaGrange, Chief Judge
200 N.W. Fourth St.
Room 3301 (Third Floor)
Oklahoma City, OK 73102
Courtroom 301 (Third Floor)
Chambers Telephone: 405-609-5400
Chambers Fax: 405-609-5413
Dear Judge LaGrange:
Re your very recent decision to suspend voter certification of the referendum to bar the introduction of Sharia law into American jurisprudence.
Here are some perorations for you, from a major Horse's Mouth, about Sharia law:
"Those who know nothing about Islam pretend that Islam counsels against war. Those people are witless. Islam says: 'Kill all the unbelievers just as they would kill you all!' Does this mean that Muslims should sit back until they are devoured by the infidel? Islam says: 'Kill them, put them to the sword and scatter them.'
"Islam says: 'Whatever good there is exists thanks to the sword.' The sword is the key to Paradise, which can be opened only for the Holy Warriors! Does all this mean that Islam is a religion that prevents men from waging war? I spit upon those foolish souls who make such a claim."
The Horse? Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. But, don't take his word for it. Consult the Koran.
Sharia law would forbid you, a female, from being a judge, or having any kind of education or career goal beyond knitting, cooking, and child-bearing. Sharia would insist that you wear a burqa or niqab, or some other garb in public that would hide and denigrate your sex. Sharia would permit your husband to beat you and otherwise abuse you in all sorts of inhuman ways, and you would have no recourse to objective, rights-protecting law, because his actions would be motivated by the beast’s “religious beliefs.” Sharia would, if your eye ever roamed and fixed upon another man, permit the "community" to stone you to death. The advocates of Sharia wish to first, insinuate Sharia law into American jurisprudence, as they have in British law, then pursue the main goal of supplanting it with Sharia. Founders and current executives of CAIR, Mr. Awad’s mother organization, have said so repeatedly in public.
Your “honor”? Forgive me for neglecting to mention the “honor” killings of women and girls for straying from Islamic ways. “Your honor” would take on a completely different meaning, no? All this and much more would be permitted in your own country.
This is what you're sanctioning by blocking the Oklahoma law. Or are you a bean-counting judge, able to see concrete things, but not the total picture? Are you an anti-conceptual mentality, unable to project consequences from causes? Either way, you have demonstrated by this act that you are as much a danger to America as any suicide bomber, and ought to be disqualified or cited by the American Bar Association, if there is any reason left in that organization.
This advisory has been sent as an open letter to leading Oklahoma newspapers.
(Address withheld for security reasons)
1 Comments ::
:: Thursday, November 04, 2010 ::
Posted by Edward Cline at 9:49 PM
"I'm not a bigot. You know the kind of books I've written about the Civil Rights movement in this country," Williams said on the show. "But when I get on a plane, I got to tell you, if I see people who are in Muslim garb and I think, you know, they are identifying themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I get worried. I get nervous."
So said Juan Williams, news analyst for National Public Radio (NPR), to Bill O’Reilly on Fox News. The remark got him promptly fired from NPR, and subsequently hired fulltime by Fox News. What was NPR’s reasoning?
"His remarks on The O'Reilly Factor this past Monday were inconsistent with our editorial standards and practices, and undermined his credibility as a news analyst with NPR," the statement read.
And what editorial standards and practices might those be? No one really knows, but it is easy to guess, to judge by the wholly left-liberal-progressive bias and content of all its news programming. From NPR’s perspective, Williams not only shot from the hip, but shot himself in the foot. Williams expressed a private concern shared by multitudes of Americans, including very likely many denizens of NPR, when they see Muslims in their tribal garb anywhere, and not just in airports. But those other NPR employees will not be punished, because they have kept their mouths shut.
Using Williams’s pseudo-gaffe as an example, Gary Wickert, an insurance trial lawyer in Wisconsin and author or editor of several books on insurance, wrote an interesting article on Pajamas Media on the corrosive effects of political correctness, “Political Correctness and the Thought Police” (November 1st). He begins by stating that political correctness is hard to define.
It’s hard to define political correctness, but like pornography, you know it when you see it. Some say it is a social philosophy that strives to ensure nobody will ever be offended by anything, ever. Wikipedia defines it as a term which “denotes language, ideas, policies, and behavior seen as seeking to minimize social and institutional offense in occupational, gender, racial, cultural, sexual orientation, disability, and age-related contexts.” Merriam-Webster defines it as “conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities — as in matters of sex or race — should be eliminated.”
Two minor errors in the piece should be corrected: Mr. Wickert says that “niggardly” (a supposedly offensive term discussed in the article) means “spendthrift.” Actually, it means not quite the opposite: “ungenerous,” or “cheap,” or “penny-wise.” Then, he invented a new term, “cow-tow,” when he meant “kowtow.”
However, his article delves handily but inconsistently into the causes and consequences of political correctness in speech, action and policy.
I penned a review of Guidelines for Bias-Free Writing, published by The Task Force on Bias-Free Language, in 1996 for The Social Critic, “The Ghouls of Grammatical Egalitarianism.”
Thought orthodoxy is not synonymous with thought control. There is no Federal Board of Language Usage to which publishers must submit their books and journals to be tested for discriminatory or disparaging language before they can be put on the market for sale to the public. However, while no official agency of control exists, there is a kind of interlocking directorate of semi-public institutions and organizations which accomplishes the same purpose by presenting a united front against freedom of expression and imposing orthodoxy on our culture's intellectual and literary pacesetters. 'Say what you please, we're not censors!....But say it our way, or do not bother to say it.'
Short of overt government repression, I cannot imagine a more insidious form of thought control than this, which is to thrust independent minds of whatever professional suasion or degree of ability into a purgatory that is not quite freedom and not quite slavery.
(See also my entry, “Censorship,” in The Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science.)
The Task Force was created by the Association of American University Presses (the AAUP, see its membership here) in response to constant mewlings from other cultural quarters to research and write Guidelines, which has become a kind of Psalter of Bowdleristic Banter for academics and others obsessively sensitive to sensitivity.
Only H.L. Mencken could do better than P.J. O’Rourke, who reviewed this abomination in August 1995:
The pharisaical, malefic, and incogitant Guidelines for Bias-Free Writing is a product of the pointy-headed wowsers at the Association of American University Presses, seven women, two men] who established a Task Force on Bias-Free Language filled with cranks, pokenoses, blowhards, four-flushers, and pettifogs. This foolish and contemptible product of years wasted in mining the shafts of indignation has been published by the cow-besieged, basketball-sotted sleep-away camp for hick bourgeois offspring, Indiana University, under the aegis of its University Press, a traditional dumping ground for academic deadwood so bereft of talent, intelligence, and endeavor as to be useless even in the full precincts of Midwestern state college classrooms.
Politically correct speech and writing are not necessarily traceable, as Wickert alleges, to the Frankfurt School and Marxism, although the two are closely allied ideologically. I doubt that even David Axelrod, Cass Sunstein, or Anita Dunn would claim that politically correct speech is Communist in origin, though they would have no problem enforcing it. Politically correct speech in America, as a phenomenon, is a direct result of legislated envy.
Politically correct speech is the political bowdlerizing of thought and expression of thought. It requires ceaseless “conditioning” by government- and academically-approved wardens. As Thomas Bowdler sought to expunge “indecencies” from language by simply removing them from literary works (such as Shakespeare’s plays), politically correct speech seeks to expunge objectionable terms from the mind. The “authorities” plant un bacio Della morte on unwelcome terms, as surely as Michael Corleone condemned his brother Fredo in Godfather II.
However, while a mind cannot be forced, it can be corrupted. That is the sole purpose of politically correct speech. A corrupted mind will accede to anything. It is ready to be moulded and given its marching orders.
Political correctness is an insidious, poliomyelitic epistemological affliction that attacks, not the brainstem or spinal cord, but language, concepts, and ideas in one’s mind to render the mind an impotent and helpless plaything of authorities or the thought police. In short, it attacks the mind, and, like Orwell’s Newspeak Dictionary in Nineteen Eighty-Four, seeks to reduce the range of the mind by homogenizing and cleansing its contents and imposing a literal mindless conformity.
The catch is that, while imbeciles would not know the difference between plain, politically correct, and “incorrect” speech – they are not the objects of the tyranny, it is only active minds that are the object of controls – it works only if one is willing to submit, Muslim-style, to a higher “authority,” only if one knows that one is expected to knuckle under and bow to the god of sensitivity.
Compliance with politically correct speech, however, is voluntary. It is a conscious action requiring knowledge of what one is submitting to and for what reason, and knowledge of what one is abandoning. This in turn contributes to a deadening miasma of habitual, congenital conformity in politics, art, speech, and other realms of endeavor, even in soccer moms who applaud scoreless, “non-competitive” games – designed to protect the feelings of the losers and bolster their “self-esteem” – which in turn contributes to the growth of a servile, passive, complacent citizenry.
And a dishonest one, as well, for while “incorrect” terms may be suppressed, the banished terms form a black market of expression. They do not disappear. Genuinely offensive terms, which would not be employed by a civil person in any circumstance, such as wetback, Polack, wop, or kike take on even more vicious meanings, as well as prejudice-free terms such as black, idiot, moron, and imbecile. (Note: Black basically means either a color or an absence of color; the latter three terms were formerly clinical terms used to measure thinking or reasoning capacity, and are now “disused.” I have no idea what terms have replaced them, except the popular, universally applicable and now humorously denigrating challenged.)
In the written realm, political correctness results in staleness of writing, in thinking, in literature.
It is only government force that can fuel and sustain political correctness by imposing penalties on incorrectness. The trials of Geert Wilders in the Netherlands, of Elisabeth Sabaditsch-Wolfe in Austria, and of columnist Mark Steyn in Canada are proof of that power, a power handed government by its allies in academia. Political correctness is a trickle-down phenomenon with dual ends: the punishment and fettering of independent minds; and fostering the increase in truncated minds, which are more easily managed, manipulated, and led. It is a communicable polio that corrupts an increasing number of fields, from the military to politics to education and art. It is an enfeebling disease, promoted and imposed by government.
Political correctness, especially in speech, vitiates a person’s epistemology, with the consequence of creating a universal state of desideratum, or the nagging sense that the identifying terms of some things have been deliberately banished or eradicated. One’s only option is to conform to an arbitrarily enforced norm. For an individual who knows the terms, it puts him on a cautious self-defense regime that is more destructive repression than it is studied discretion.
It is noteworthy that it is specially protected or patronized groups that are the beneficiaries of politically correct speech. They are viewed in the same way that certain animals and plants have been designated “endangered species.” They beg protection from indiscriminate speech or “wounding words” and real and imagined insults. The disabled, the aged, the mentally incapable, and so on are allied in a unique menagerie of untouchables and the socially coddled, and safe-housed in the same iron-clad fortress of exclusivity with the spotted owl and the delta smelt and, more recently, Muslims.
To echo Juan Williams, whenever I encounter politically correct speech and action, I get worried and nervous. It means that I am dealing with dishonesty, with corruption, with a consciously shrunken mind that demands that I speak and write on its terms.
But then, as a free man, I simply laugh and say what I wish.
1 Comments ::