:: Saturday, October 27, 2012 ::
The Welfare State of Mind
Posted by Edward Cline at 2:44 PM
I was recently advised by my office manager, who was responding to the building manager's office receipt of complaints, that I could not smoke outside near a side entrance to our office building, as I had been for years, because it offended non-smokers who were coming and going and who claimed to be super-sensitive to smoke, and also that somehow the smoke was also getting inside the building where the slightest trace of smoke also bothered them. I was advised to use the designated smoking area on the other side of the building. The catch was that this area, too, is subject to the same conditions.
I cite this incident because it underscores a phenomenon I have watched grow over five decades, from the first time I began to observe and evaluate men's behavior to my current and far more incisive cogitations, which is how quickly and easily men submit to government authority and the consensus of the collective, and how inured they can become to being taken care of and protected. The anti-smoking campaign that has been waged for decades is merely one facet of the phenomenon. I suspect that much of the anti-smoking stances adopted by non-smokers is feigned and likely psychosomatic. Having been patronized and protected and legislated for by way of lobbies and pressure group warfare, they are amenable to more of the same.
My gut response to the advice could have been any one of the following: They don't own the air. Shall I wear a Star of David, too, so that non-smokers can better identify and avoid me? What are they going to do about it? Beat me up? Call the Green Police? Behave like picture- and video- and insult-maddened Muslims? Pressure my employer to fire me if I don’t cave in? Ask the police to ticket me?
But the welfare state is not just laws or legislative acts that encourage individuals to become dependent on the State. The welfare state is first and foremost a "state of mind."
A welfare state would not work if it did not inculcate, either by education, by mandated indoctrination, by incessant propaganda, or by cultural osmosis, the proper "state of mind" in a population, that is, to instill in men an individual's alleged duty or obligation to submit to a consensus propagated by a variety of authorities, especially government authorities. A welfare state would evaporate almost immediately without first having pulled a fraud on the electorate. However, a welfare state could not establish itself without the overt or tacit approval of a large component of a country's population. This consensus requires as well the consensual sanction or silence of the targets of a welfare state and its vanquished, ill-informed, or willing population and electorate. And if the opponents do not consent, they are simply ignored.
The process of securing such a sanction is stealthy and incremental, with the aim, conscious or otherwise, of eradicating that which the government has deemed as wrong and not in the public interest, together with the steady promotion of what a government has deemed to be in the public interest. It is interesting to note that a government that legislates against, say, smoking, or eating certain foods, or speaking truthfully about certain subjects (such asIslam), knows, as well as do the advocates of such restrictions and prohibitions, that it can legislate "for free," that is, at the victim's or taxpayer's expense, but to combat those restrictions and prohibitions, it will cost the victim or taxpayer his time, money and effort, with no guarantee of success.
Welfare state laws have a tendency to become inert and immovable. So have welfare states of mind, which become proof against facts, statistics, logic, and reason. Welfare state law becomes a boulder which only dynamite, or revolution, can remove.
There was a time, a freer time, when today's non-smokers would have not noticed the smoke around them, nor complained about it, nor feigned "sensitivity," nor frowned with maniacal disapproval of smokers, nor made faces or uttered insults and deprecations or cautions not to smoke. These are the same mentalities who now check the mandated calorie counts on restaurant menus, or automatically read nutritional information on packaged food, or otherwise conform to the safeguards and wisdom of the moment, most of which is sheer, unadulterated hokum advanced by government scientists and their partners in the civilian world, the tax-exempt reformers for the public good.
If its propaganda campaign is successful – or if it thinks it is and puts out the word that it has been, even if it wasn’t and most people have ignored its imprecations – a government can pass a law without having to present much of an argument for its alleged necessity, or no argument at all. As with the assertions of Al Gore and his global warming friends, "The science is settled," and there's nothing else to discuss. Look at how ObamaCare was passed. Those countering the law must argue it in court or in books or columns, and, most daunting of all, against the "conditioned" prejudices of their next door neighbors, office mates, and random strangers who accost them with angry and often unsolicited disapproval of their behavior or opinions.
Which brings us to this point: That most Americans have developed a welfare state of mind. Whether or not it is European in color is irrelevant. They have been "conditioned," or have allowed themselves to be "conditioned," to become tolerant of totalitarianism, to become tolerant of the intolerable.
Daniel Greenfield had this to observe in his October 26th column, "Muslim Violence is Our New Law":
Laws are decided by many things, but sweep away all the law books, the pleas from tearful mothers, the timed publicity campaigns, the novel legal theories and the greedy bureaucrats expanding their turf, and under the table you will find a gun. The first and final law is still the law of force. The law begins with the power to impose its will on others. It ends with the enforcement of that power.
Law either has force behind it or it does not, and if it has no force behind it then it is an optional thing that is subject to custom. And every now and then the law is challenged, not with novel legal theories or with petitions, but with force, and it either responds with force or submits to a new law. That is what we call revolution.
But law is not merely "force" or a gun under the table. It is also a "state of mind" that can work to an individual's benefit, or to his enslavement. It is unwritten law that employs the threat of social ostracism and unspoken prejudice. The welfare state is merely soft totalitarianism, which ultimately leads to the hard kind. It is the freshet of scalding water and rocks that precedes the onrush of lava and pyroclastic gases that can extinguish smokers and non-smokers alike. For a concrete lesson in the progress of totalitarianism, read the fate of the West Indian city of St. Pierre during the eruption of Mt. Pelée in 1902.
As the politicians and "experts" of St. Pierre wished to assure the citizens that the ominous rumblings and intrusions of Mt. Pelée were nothing to worry about, let's get on with this election, politicians and "experts" have been assuring Americans for decades that there's nothing to worry about, as well, so let's get on with the business of life, except that you can't do this, that, and the other anymore. St. Pierre was obliterated, and 28,000 people perished who adopted a particular "state of mind" that their routines and prejudices and customs and the urgency of an election were far more important.
Proper law in a civil society sanctions the use of retaliatory force in answer to the initiation of force, against individuals and against a nation. On this premise, 90% of the laws passed in this country since about the time of the Civil War are illegitimate (read unconstitutional), because they sanction the initiation of force against individuals or groups of individuals targeted for regulation or just plain looting in the name of a populist "public good." This trend has resulted in the establishment of an implicit looting-by-principle welfare state. It takes time for the regulators and do-gooders and social reformers to accustom people to it, to get them to accept their wishes and laws as the norm and as how they believe men ought to behave in private and to each other.
America has been governed by Progressive politics for nigh on a century. Progressivism is merely a euphemism for socialism. Socialism is not Communism, it is not the wholesale nationalization of everyone and everything. It is the conscription of individuals to serve a "higher" purpose than their own existence while leaving them a modicum of property and freedom to act and produce, so long as their property and actions and production serve the government's purposes. National Socialism is Nazism, or fascism. Men wearing jackboots and armbands and kepis carrying banners with odd-looking symbols are optional.
The Progressives of the 1930's, for example, detested the German American Bund, not because they disagreed with the Bund's national socialist ambitions, but because the Bund was too blatant a tip-off to their own ambitions. When your ambition is to draft a whole population into a campaign for eventual total power, you don’t go around crudely parading your intentions. You don business suits and flaunt your degrees in sociology and political science and economics and apply for a seat with the Brain Trust and wail constantly that "something must be done" about whatever it is that someone else is wailing about.
By way of coincidence, and to tie this essay back to the smoking incident, on October 24th an interesting academic paper was published by Basil Aboul-Enein of San Jacinto College in Pasadena, Texas, "The Anti-TobaccoMovement of Nazi Germany: A Historiographical Re-Examination." In it, Aboul-Enein recounts the anti-smoking and anti-tobacco research conducted under the aegis of Nazi science and research. After detailing the various programs instigated by a régime determined to fashion a healthy, smoke- and alcohol-free "master race" that would rule the world, astonishingly the author approves of those programs. He naturally notes with disapproval the "research" conducted on Jews and other "inferior" races, but gives the anti-tobacco programs and propaganda a free pass.
Today, the case of smoking has been partially solved by the discovery of the deleterious effects of passive smoking. The fact that second-hand smoke can kill non-smokers has provided a prevailing argument to interfere with smokers’ behavior. However, considering the American Public Health Association 'code of ethics' regarding the rights of the individuals to achieve community health, health education programs and priorities should be thoroughly evaluated using courses of action and strategies that ensure opportunities for input from the community.
No, let us not observe the deleterious effects of "passive" smoking, or even of smoking itself. There are no credible studies or statistics about especially "passive" smoking killing anyone, and those studies and statistics are government generated or government-grant subsidized. Give a "scientist" an a priori conclusion to reach, and he'll "prove" anything to keep the money rolling in.
Aboul-Enein wanted his academic colleagues to be certain he wasn’t condemning Nazi science:
The Nazis were primarily interested in preventive medicine and public health to the end effect of serving the National Socialist ideals of advancing a healthy and vigorous German public. The promotion of these lifestyles only fitted the grand scale of racial hygiene movement. Since Nazi wishes were to encourage its citizens to live a healthy life, it seemed only logical that such a State sought to discourage or ban what was seen as harmful to its cultural health. Nevertheless, tobacco remained a legal product even under state funded anti-tobacco propaganda and legislation. The level of ambivalence observed in Nazi anti-smoking policies indicate the necessity for a clear and consistent body of federal and state laws that present a clear message regarding smoking and tobacco use.
German Nazis never had a monopoly on "grand-scale" hygiene movements. The decades-old anti-smoking movement in America has branched out into all sorts of realms, to food and soft drinks and exercise and even sex. That was only to be expected. If you allow your mother-in-law to decide on the kinds of curtains you'll hang, she'll wind up refurnishing your whole home.
Anti-smoking zealots in and out of government smirk at accusations that they're behaving like Nazis or fascists. Robert Proctor, writing for TheAnti-Defamation League, however, puts an interesting context on Aboul-Enein's findings, without having read Aboul-Enein's paper. There was something inherently evil about all aspects of Nazi science, including tobacco research:
The problem with the "science vs. fascism" thesis is that it fails to take into account the eagerness with which many scientists and physicians embraced the Reich, and the many scientific disciplines which actually flourished under the Nazis. Anyone who has ever examined a V-2 engine will have few doubts about this, and there are numerous other examples. During the Nazi era, German scientists and engineers either developed or greatly improved television, jet-propelled aircraft (including the ejection seat), guided missiles, electronic computers, the electron microscope, atomic fission, data-processing technologies, pesticides, and, of course, the world's first industrial murder complexes. The first magnetic tape recording was of a speech by Hitler, and the nerve gases Sarin and Tabun were Nazi inventions.
The men who conducted the anti-tobacco research and vetted Nazi efforts to eliminate it especially in women and employing the Trojan Horse excuse that it was for "the children," were not paragons of moral esteem.
How can we explain the fact that Nazi Germany was home to the world's foremost tobacco-cancer epidemiology and the world's strongest cancer prevention policy? Do we say that "pockets of innovation" existed in Nazi Germany, resistant to ideological influence?8 What if we find, on closer inspection, that Germany's anti-tobacco research flourished not in spite of the Nazis, but in large part because of the Nazis? And would it then be appropriate, from a moral point of view, to cite such research in scientific studies today?
I ask this last question partly because the two tobacco studies I have just discussed have, in fact, been repeatedly cited by postwar scientific researchers, though rarely with any mention of the social context within which they were carried out. There is never any mention, for example, of the fact that the founding director of Schöniger and Schairer's Institute was Karl Astel, Rector of the University of Jena, a vicious racial hygienist, and an SS officer. One never hears that the grant application for the Institute was written by Gauleiter Fritz Sauckel, chief organizer of Germany's system of forced labor and a man hanged after the war for crimes against humanity (most leaders of Nazi Germany's anti-tobacco movement were silenced in one way or another after 1945).
Far be it from today's researchers to be so fastidious and honest as to cite their illustrious predecessors. Proctor cites many more of these creatures. Proctor, however, is also torn between placing any value on Nazi anti-tobacco research and treating any tobacco research today as a valid field that can exist without government encouragement (or without the example of a health-conscious Führer or Surgeon General).
I raise the questions I do about Nazism and science because it is poor scholarship and perhaps even dangerous to caricature the Nazis as irrational or anti-science. What we have to look at more carefully is the relationship between science and ideology at this time. It is not the case, for example, that the papers on tobacco epidemiology I have mentioned were uninfluenced by Nazi ideology.
This is indecisive hand-wringing. Proctor logically asks:
The complicity of German physicians in the Nazis' crimes against humanity is a well-established historical fact. Explaining that fact is far more difficult. Why were German doctors such avid fans of fascism? Why did nearly half of all German physicians join the Nazi party?
It is not difficult to explain. So many German doctors were of a welfare state of mind. German philosophy, German culture, and that culturally inbred deference to "authority" unique to Germany prepared them for it. Just as so many American doctors are of a welfare state of mind, and are registered Democrats, ready to submit to the intricate, ten thousand dictats of ObamaCare, and who welcomed its passage because it guarantees them a release from independence and allows them to work for a "higher" cause. One may say the same thing about American insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, and the makers of medical and surgical supplies, not to mention middle-aged patients and the "elderly," that pathetic generation of "boomers." My "generation," by the way, which I've disowned.
Oh! Someone may cry: What about all those people who are really sensitive to smoke? Well, it shouldn’t be anyone else's problem. You don’t advocate putting shackles on everyone for the sake of a minority. Living doesn’t mean a guaranteed existence. Living doesn’t mean nationalizing homes and restaurants and parks and appropriating private property to placate and coddle minorities based on their likes, dislikes, or "sensitivities." Those likes, dislikes, and "sensitivities" can include the ingredients of food or the nuclear composition of wall paint to accessibility of the wheelchair-bound to a 7-11.You leave people alone to sort out their own business.
So, it's just not a matter of laws and legislation to force Americans in the preferred statist direction. The British tried that in the 1760's and 1770's, and lost a continent. The generation that made the Revolution possible was the "greatest generation." It did not have a welfare state of mind. It isn't' even just about smoking or health, either.
It's about rejecting the notion that one owes allegiance and deference to the collective, to the State, and to anyone who has "sensitivity" problems with freedom.
6 Comments ::
:: Monday, October 22, 2012 ::
The Deer Crossing Principle of Social Policy
Posted by Edward Cline at 8:58 AM
Listening to a video recently that featured numerous stills of deer, deer crossing signs, and of cars dented or mangled by close encounters between reckless drivers and bounding deer, I had an epiphany: I finally grasped, for all time and for all mankind, how statist economists and society managers thought. A new sun rose, and I heard trumpets and a heavenly chorus singing "Hallelujah!" I didn't quite experience "rapture," but it was very close that state of exaltation.
The revelation was this: Statists old and new, freshly minted and long retired, think like the lady who called into a radio talk show to complain about deer crossing signs. Not about the deer, but about the location of the signs.
Her reasoning, if it can be called such, was that if the signs were placed at local roads and highways with low traffic volume, there would be fewer deer casualties and fewer crumpled cars. It made no sense to her to place those signs at high-volume traffic locations. Wasn’t that obvious?
The host of radio Y94, in Fargo, North Dakota, listened patiently to Donna – that was her name – and refrained from audible smirks and guffaws while he explained in very simple terms the purpose of the signs. He was a paragon of courtesy and tolerance and public civility.
Now why, I asked myself, would any rational person come to the conclusion that the location of a deer crossing sign would have any effect on, well, deer? Or, rather, the proper question to ask was: How would any rational person come to such a conclusion?
Well, no rational person would establish a causal connection between the signs and deer. No rational person would ascribe to deer the ability to read signs, or even grasp the silhouettes on them of leaping deer. Perhaps not even the caller. We must allow Donna that much – in spite of evidence to the contrary – for she does drive a car, and it has physically encountered deer a number of times, much to the cost of her bank balance and insurance premiums. She did not say that she had tired of exchanging insurance company information with the offending deer, or had had mutual cuss-out incidents with any one of them. Or so she claims. But she was clearly fed up.
No, the explanation for this lady's reasoning must be that the signs impart some kind of existential power over the deer. The deer are like metal shavings, or filings, so to speak, and the signs are super magnets. Deer magically gravitate towards these signs. Move the magnet and watch the filings move. Move the signs, and watch the deer move. That part of academia studying the metaphysics and epistemology of deer hasn’t quite nailed down why deer follow deer crossing signs, just as scientists haven’t quite nailed down what gravity is – is it undetectable gravity waves, volitional quarks, or what? – although gravity certainly works. So should deer crossing signs. They are preparing a major experiment on the power of deer crossing signs to manipulate the impenetrable predisposition of deer to cross roads and highways.
But deer want to cross the road, just like chickens, raccoons, possums, squirrels, and other groundlings that are regularly squashed. The deer don’t necessarily take note of the signs. They just show up near them, collectively or by their lonesome. Photographs prove this.
Of course, a deer can have the quirky habit of outrunning a car and deliberately crossing in front it. It appears to be in a rush to play chicken with a driver. Or perhaps its day just isn't made without a brush with metal and risking death or maiming by a two-ton entity. Perhaps it is vain and wishes to show the noisy entity just how nimble and agile it is. Deer anthropologists claim there are "show-offy" deer. Such a deer is determined to cross the road ahead of the vehicle. Its self-esteem must depend on it. Or something.
Anyway, back to the complaining lady. She was sincere in her reasoning. Or perhaps she was pulling the legs of the show's two hosts. But she sounded sincere. Let us grant her a state of genuine perturbation.
You see, your average economist and your average politician and your average teacher and your average voter all think the same way as Donna. Never accuse of them of harboring a dichotomy between cause and effect. Donna has a unique epistemology; it established for her the causal metaphysical connections between deer and deer crossing signs. Our group of averages is also imbued with a similar epistemology. But Donna could never validate that knowledge, because, well, she couldn’t. Just as the undetectable powers of Ouija boards and the miraculous powers of pyramid hats can't be validated. One can't validate what can't be detected, what isn't open to sensory perception. Or what isn't and never was there.
Donna has reached her end game. Her epistemology and metaphysics are the stuff of Road Runner cartoons. And Groucho Marx's seven-cent nickel. And global warmng.
Paul Krugman, champion of inflation and government interference and moving the country in a different direction, shares Donna's epistemology and metaphysics. He believes that if the Fed moves the deer crossing signs, the public will follow and cross the road where he and Bernard Bernanke and Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner have designated the true and proper point to cross. Or rather, where the public should follow, but too often does not, thus throwing a monkey wrench into their best laid deer crossing plans. Millions of metal filings fly in every direction but in the direction forecast by the planners, usually as far away from the magnet or sign as possible. They haven’t quite validated their metaphysics. Because their epistemology hasn’t quite worked yet. They haven’t quite figured out the composition of those countless metal filings. They seem to have minds of their own.
Now, take your average socialist. You know, the one who wants to just "spread the wealth around a little." Or a lot. One you will find in a stinking, vermin-infested sleeping bag with Occupy Wall Street; the other you will find in the meticulously clean White House, bacteria- smoke-, and class-free. They together possess in common a cornucopia of deer crossing signs, in many sizes and colors and styles. All property is theft, you see – they both agree with John Reed, who was an acolyte of socialist-anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, who worked out his own deer crossing sign hypothesis before Karl Marx did (Karl stole it from him, that was only fair) – so the OWSer and the White House guy share the credit.
The OWS fellow wants to maneuver the deer with baseball bats and curtain rods and pooper-scoopers in the manner of Indian tiger-beaters and herd them in a direction that will stampede them off a cliff. Just as those other Indians used to do to buffalo herds, resulting in piles of dead buffalo at the bottom of a precipice, from which Indians managed to carve out some edible buffalo meat and the makings of a teepee and a wrap-around coat before the whole pile putrefied.
The average OSWer doesn’t believe there ought to be any roads for any deer to cross, not until he first has had everything provided to him for free, including a vehicle in which to play "dodge the deer." Then he will deign to use the roads, as long as they are always torn up by contractors and municipalities being paid with stimulus money to repave those roads and confuse the deer who might want to cross it.
Of course, once the property is seized and redistributed and consumed, that is the end of it. There is no more, not unless deer living beyond the range of an OWSer's deer crossing signs decide to volunteer for the experiment and provide the OWSer with freshly stolen property. To the Donnas of OWS, all property is also static, but that's just a theory which doesn’t bear close examination, so they don’t talk about it much. After all, there was the Soviet Union, and that experiment in deer crossing signs finally collapsed much to the embarrassment of sign planners and deer manipulators, and that section of the road was taken over by a champion tiger beater by the name of Putin.
The fellow in the White House wishes to maneuver the deer with executive directives and mandatory health insurance and subsidized solar energy companies and an auto company that produces cars that deer do not want to tangle with. He has the same deer management philosophy as the OWS fellow, but has infinitely more power to experiment with his policies, and a nasty army of tiger-beaters, as well. His rule of thumb is simple and easily understood by the graduates of Sesame Street: If you change the deer crossing signs, the deer will come. Just like in that fabulous Kevin Costner movie about baseball fields and deceased baseball stars.
If you pour millions into a solar panel company or two or three, the sun will come and so will the deer. And if the deer don't come, then the molecular composition of the crossing signs must be awry and not friendly to deer vibes. Or something. The guys in the lab are working on it, following John Dewey's philosophy of pragmatism: If you build it, and it doesn’t work, try something else at random, such as putting deer into a super-microwave oven and setting it at full blast to see exactly when they explode.
If you force banks to accept billions in imaginary money and credit, prosperity and full employment and economic solvency will come. All that money, causing the machines at the Bureau of Printing and Engraving to hover close to over-heating and breakdown, and all that credit, are the deer crossing signs. But now the deer crossing signs are so numerous and thick that they form a barrier that deer cannot cross. They remain across the road because they cannot penetrate through the signs, and exhaust the foliage and begin to starve.
Deer crossing signs were urgently needed in the Mideast. Dozens were erected at all the designated crossings in hopes of altering the deer's social environment. The species of deer that inhabit the Mideast, however, is particularly destructive, even carnivorous, and have pulled down and trampled on all the signs, and have staged mass attacks on passing traffic, such as cars full of female journalists and Coptic Christians and ambassadors. These deer look like normal, peace-loving, plant-munching deer, but the workers who attempt to erect the signs and befriend the deer with handfuls of foliage have had their hands bitten off and their torsos gored. These aggressive deer have taken over whole sections of the highway, and the sweltering pavement is littered with human road kill as far as the eye can see.
This species of deer is infected with an incurable strain of rabies. The Donnas of deer crossing sign policy implementation refuse to send in professional hunters to cull the herd or perhaps even eradicate the whole lot. Rabies is not, by Donna's thinking, a disease, but just a different way of looking at things. There is room on this earth for all classes of deer, even ones that froth at the mouth and whose coats are thick with tics and chiggers and other viral bugs.
So, there it is. The Donna principle of people management and deer crossing sign guidelines. Don’t everyone get up and applaud me for the discovery. After all, I didn't build it. I must give credit to deeper thinkers than I, such as Plato and Augustine and Kant and Comte and Proudhon and Marx and Dewey and all those other guys.
The metaphysics is: Reality is malleable, movable, and flexible. It can be anything one wishes. The consequent epistemology is: Deer will cross wherever you erect a sign. Automatically. Without fail. Except when they don’t and you must take a fistful of filings and do it yourself with your back turned to the audience, or the electorate. That's cheating, of course, but with artful sleights of hand, no one will notice. But whether or not it works or is cheating, is irrelevant, because it accomplishes the desired end. Deer or filings wind up in the right place, where they belong.
Will someone please gag that guy in the front row who did notice?
4 Comments ::
:: Wednesday, October 17, 2012 ::
"Hate" Laws are Criminal
Posted by Edward Cline at 11:22 PM
The end of freedom of speech began with the invention of "hate crimes" as a means to deter and punish crimes committed against an individual or members of a designated or protected "minority." Hate crimes had their conspicuous genesis under the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which criminalized actions against individuals because of their race, color, gender, or national origin. This was the first major step away from treating individuals as individuals, and not as members of groups or tribes, and away from objectively defined crime.
Following it was passage of the Federal Hate Crime Law of 1969 (18 U.S.C. § 245(B)(2)) which, among other things, clarified or buttressed the definition of resistance to law enforcement officers, including preventing individuals from voting or the like because of their race, color, gender, and so on.
It was followed by the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994, which increased the penalties for "hate crimes."
This in turn was complemented with the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, signed into law by President Barack Obama. (Incidentally, this law was a rider to the controversial National Defense Authorization Act for 2010.) The Act's name refers to two individuals, one a homosexual tortured to death in Wyoming, and a black man who was tied to the back of a truck in Texas and then decapitated. In neither state existed a hate crime law relevant to their groups, and the perpetrators of both crimes were tried under normal capital crime law. The formal name of the Act was a gratuitous sop to special interest groups for political advantage.
The problem with the idea of a "hate crime" is that it appends an irrelevant motive to an action that would otherwise be treated as a felony, and makes the motive a felony, as well. Further, "hate crimes" are complemented by another invalid concept, "hate speech," also elevated to the status of a felony, that is, a crime. While criminal actions cannot be divorced from motives, up until recently motives were not punishable as state-defined and state-enforced crimes, only the fact of a criminal action. That is, a criminal action would be the initiation of force against an individual. The end or purpose of the initiation is irrelevant. It could be robbery, rape, or simply the malicious infliction of pain in revenge or as a means of visceral restitution.
This dangerous and totalitarian idea of "hate crime" has naturally migrated into the realm of speech. Now the act of expressing a "negative" stance on Muslims, homosexuals, and other "protected" groups is treated as a "hate crime" compounded by the crime of "hate speech." Both notions seek to punish the contents of an individual's mind. However, no matter how repellant those contents, they can never be objectively known, not even when a defendant describes them. To make the contents of one's mind a legal liability, is a form of thought control.
There is a double standard in force, however. Rappers can denigrate women freely with as many obscenities as are in their vocabulary. Muslims can call for the death of anyone who "denigrates" Islam or Mohammad. Rappers are defended by the First Amendment. Muslims screamers and sign carriers are also protected by the First Amendment, regardless of how outrageously homicidal or offensive or intimidating their rhetoric, but exempted from being charged with "hate speech" because they are now a special "protected" class who are merely expressing their "pain" and "offended feelings." Muslims are even excused from actual crimes such as physical assault with wrist-slaps, even though they may have employed "hate speech" in the commission of a provable crime.
But Bryan Jennings, who got into an argument with a Muslim cab driver, and who expressed his feelings about the cab driver, was treated as a felon. He was fortunate that a judge ruled on the matter on a technicality created by a clueless and victimhood-seeking Muslim.
Muslim organizations such as CAIR and its numerous ideological affiliates such as ICNA (allied with the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, or OIC) wish to convert the First Amendment from a guarantee of freedom of speech to a punishable "freedom from speech" tool to silence criticism, whether that criticism takes the form of scholarly disquisitions or crude cartoons or just plain from-the-gut expressions of dislike or fear of Islam and Muslims.
The concepts of "hate crime" and "hate speech," together or separately, are a form of totalitarian gangrene spreading throughout America's judicial system. Does anyone else see where this is leading?
The notion of Orwellian "thought crime," once regarded as an impossibility in this country, has in fact taken root, doubtless fueled by political correctness and politically correct speech and group warfare, with the consequence that more and more Americans – dare we say it? – are afraid to think. Because to think is to court disaster and put oneself in a potential state of double jeopardy. This is dependent on whether or not they even know there is an issue.
So, why bother to think?
Dark Ages do not just suddenly happen. They begin when men begin turning off the lights of their minds. There is only one duty an individual is obliged to fulfill, and that is to think, and that is for his self-preservation. Neglect that duty, or abdicate it, and one's life may or may not be preserved at the whim of another.
However, let's run down a short list of various notions of criminal law and how restrictions on freedom of speech can be rationalized and imposed by the state using criminal law at the behest of Muslims, their Islamic mouthpieces, and their "civil rights" advocates. Insofar as Islam is concerned, "hate speech" or a "hate crime" can be anything from satirizing Islam, Mohammad, or Muslims in a cartoon or video, to burning a copy of the Koran, to telling a Muslim to "go back where he came from," to innocuous jests, to writing a learned and critical treatise on Islam.
Vicarious liability: This concept places the "public interest" above "private interest" and is concerned with the actions of an employer's employees. If I happen to be employed, and write something that offends Muslims but wrote it outside my employer's office and on my own time, it is possible that a court could hold the employer responsible for not having imposed any number of speech-deterring or preventative incentives to still my pen. Whether or not I had any criminal intent, would be irrelevant. Nor would my intent to educate or entertain others be relevant. Whether or not my employer had any right to impose those incentives would be irrelevant. The "public interest" would be construed as an absence of rioting Muslims. My speech "incited" rioting. The rioters would be held blameless. Ergo, the employer must be punished.
If my speech violated Congressionally- or federally-imposed restrictions on speech (say, at the behest of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the OIC through United Nations resolution 16/18), my employer's innocence in the matter would also be irrelevant. He would be held responsible for my actions, whether or not he had knowledge of them.
Conspiracy: A conspiracy requires at least two persons to plot to take a criminal action, or an action defined by a government to be criminal. If criticism of Islam, Mohammad, or Muslims is deemed a criminal offense, then Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, Steve Emerson, Raymond Ibrahim, Nonie Darwish, Daniel Greenfield, Caroline Glick, and a host of other critics of Islam could be charged with conspiracy to "harm" Muslims, or hurt their "feelings," or violate their "sensitivities," acting in formal or informal compact, independently, or all together or in pairs or threes. The criminal action would be defined as a "plot" to hurt the feelings and sensitivities of Muslims with criticism of their religion, even though the criticism would be limited to the content of Islam's primary documents, such as the Koran, the Hadith and The Reliance of the Traveler, in order to highlight in those documents the numerous Islamic imperatives to initiate force against non-Muslims.
Suppose, by some miracle of oversight, the government treated criticism of Islam as a "legal" end, but deemed a certain quality, tone or form of criticism "illegal," "irresponsible," and beyond the pale of civil inquiry or discourse. If CAIR or some other Muslim organization decided to file suit based on a perceived illegal form of criticism, the resolution of the case would depend entirely on a judge's or court's arbitrary and subjective interpretation of the offense. It may find for or against the plaintiff. The purpose of such a suit would not be justice, but vengeance for having spoken one's mind, and to exhaust the defendant's financial resources through attorney and court costs. Several states have passed laws invalidating "libel tourism," that is, suits brought against individuals in this country by Muslims in another country, particularly in Britain.
Assault and/or Battery: Criminal or aggravated assault entails the physical initiation of force against another individual, with or without a weapon, with the intent to inflict bodily harm, compounded or not in the commission of another crime, such as robbery, rape, or simply harassment or intimidation. Battery is the unsolicited contact of another person, such as "buttonholing" him, jabbing a finger on his chest, grabbing his shirtsleeve, with no intent to inflict bodily harm. It is usually construed as unlawful detention if the victim did not wish to be "detained" by the aggressor and had no recourse but to "get physical" with the perpetrator, if he so chose. The notorious Rutgers case, which involved no physical contact at all between the defendant and the "injured" but the use of a webcam, saw the coining of another euphemism for "hate crime": bias intimidation.
Muslims and their spokesmen repeatedly claim that Islam, Muslims, Mohammad, the Koran are under "assault" by their critics and that their "defamation" constitutes nearly literal physical assault, when in fact, all that can result from written, verbal or visual criticism of Islam in any form is "emotional cruelty" experienced by Muslims. But just as a man can ignore an insult and walk away, Muslims are free to do the same thing.
Instead, practically all criticism of Islam is regarded as "hurtful" and an "insult," and Muslims and their advocates continually seek "justice" or restitution of or compensation for their lost "dignity" in courts. All a Muslim need do is assert some form of (unprovable) anguish (or a diminution of his mental and/or emotional well-being) as a result of the "inhuman" treatment of legitimate criticism, and is regarded as a virtual physical assault. There are irreconcilable differences between American law and Sharia, but Sharia, because it is a "religious" code, is frequently countenanced as a legitimate moral code that must not be amended or adulterated by secular law.
After all, secular or man-made law is an abomination in Islam. See "Three Things You(Probably) Did Not Know About Islam" at minute 3:58 for an explanation of this crucial facet of Islamic activism.
One would imagine, and with ample justification, that the purpose of these suits is to "divorce" Muslims from secular law, and to accord them "separate but equal" status. But there can be no feasible "separate but equal" relationship between a country's secular law and Sharia. One or the other must sooner or later dominate. That is the inevitable nature of compromise. Any compromise would be secular law's, not Islam's, for Islamic doctrine forbidscompromise. Islamists are working assiduously to ensure that Sharia dominates, and if successful, they will with blaring trumpets and calls from the minarets announce the end of freedom of speech and the reign of "freedom from speech."
Libel and Slander: These are two favorite terms employed by Islamist supremacists when charging critics of Islam with "hate speech" or "insensitivity." One might "libel" or "defame" Islam, Mohammad, or Muslims by writing, broadcasting, or otherwise publishing in words or in recordings statements or images critical of Islam, Mohammad, or Muslims, yet "perceived" by Islamic authorities or lawyers as malicious or false or defamatory in nature, resulting in a loss of one of those overrated intangibles, "respect" or "esteem" or "dignity." One might "slander" them by verbally making "false" or "malicious" statements. In both instances, the statements must be addressed to persons other than the subjects.
But the champions of Islam hunt for offense and insult, and are perfidious eavesdroppers, as well. They always manage to find something "hurtful."
Islam is alleged to be an efficacious and powerful creed, yet it seems to be so sensitive to criticism as to be an ideological hypochondriac, always complaining about something. One expects it to succumb any day now. Mohammad, if he actually existed, has been dead 1,400 years, and so is beyond libel or slander. In point of fact, his personal and private life is a goldmine of supermarket tabloid gossip, much of it recorded telltale in the Koran and Hadith, sordidly reminiscent of the private lives of the Kennedy clan and Bill Clinton but far, far worse. The things revealed in Islamic documents about this "role model" constitute a rap sheet of serious felonies a mile long. He is a perfect subject to be ridiculed, mocked, or caricatured, as much as Adolf Hitler and Mussolini, and Neville Chamberlain. Or Barack Obama. Such a figure deserves contempt and hilarity, not "respect."
As for Muslims, Mohammad is their icon and "prophet," and if they revere his alleged "wisdom" (if not his image, for that is forbidden), neither are they deserving of respect. You stay away from people whom you learn idolize Al Capone, John Dillinger, and Bonnie and Clyde as paragons of virtue and goodness. You give the cold shoulder to people whom you know idolize a mass murderer, mass rapist, genocidal maniac, and slitter of throats and tongues and who threaten mayhem if you take his name in vain.
"Hate crimes" and "hate speech" are the weapons employed by Islamists and secular statists to silence their critics. They are the shipworms of objective law, burrowing randomly but determinedly through its timbers oblivious to the time when the judicial structure of law, weakened by a maze of rotting tunnels and gaping caverns, must someday collapse into anarchy and ultimately tyranny.
The champions of "hate crime" and "hate speech" know this. This is why freedom of speech must be upheld and defended with our utmost energy and dedication. For our own self-preservation, we must oppose turning the First Amendment into a felony offense.
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:: Monday, October 15, 2012 ::
The Madness of Qutb's "Milestones"
Posted by Edward Cline at 9:12 AM
Reading Seyyid Qutb's Milestones to pen a serious, informative, and critical review was an intellectual and literary chore I expected to be a cinch. Having finished reading this short, 160-page encomium for Islam, it is not so much a cinch as an exercise in nausea. Imagine assigning oneself the task of comparing a set of amusement park horror houses and awarding them points on how realistic their artificial ogres, witches, and ghouls were and how successfully they caused people to scream, cringe, or have strokes.
That is, how does one go about discussing with a straight face the pathological meanderings of a very disturbed and malevolent man, knowing that his meanderings have served as an intellectual sanction for terrorism, death, destruction, and the ongoing Islamic jihad against the West? What makes it so nauseous a chore is not the English translation of Qutb's screed. I do not think the quality of the translation matters, because there is no way any translator could do the work justice other than just translating it straight from the Arabic. There are no elusive nuances to catch and objectify, there is no "poetry" or literary value to be found and captured in the work. It is the subject matter itself that is nauseous. Milestones is the Islamic equivalent of the mental ravings of psychotic murderers such as Richard Speck, Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, and Ted Kaczynski.
Milestones, published in 1964* (Ma'alim fi al-Tariq), purports to adhere to and advance the cause and spread of a moral code that will "save" mankind. The book is actually a manifesto for nihilism that guarantees man's enslavement and the eradication of any and all who refuse to submit to Islam.
I have been writing for years saying that Islam is fundamentally a nihilist ideology (and that President Barack Obama is a practicing nihilist, as well, thus his symbiosis with Islam). Nihilism is an ideology that recognizes the good and acts to destroy the good, because it is the good. Qua nihilism, the destruction of the good is not haphazard or accidental. It is conscious and deliberate. Instances of Islam's core nihilism are legion. At the moment, I can think of no better example of it than Lara Logan's description of her ordeal in Tahir Square, Cairo, on February 11, 2011. As she describes it, her attackers, all Muslims (whether they were government goons or anti-Mubarak celebrants, is irrelevant), sought to literally pull her to pieces and to make it as painful as possible, and in the end destroy her. Nihilism is a system of negation; her attackers wished to extinguish her existence.
Seyyid Qutb would have approved. To learn why, read these two accounts of his experiences in the United States here and here.
Who was Seyyid Qutb?
Qutb was a selfless little man, a "moderate" Muslim, who came out of Egypt to absorb Western methods of education, and returned to Egypt convinced that the West needed to be educated about the true nature of Islam, even if that pedagogy meant killing, maiming, and enslaving non-believers. He developed a special animus for the United States, for that is where he went to learn about Western education. Long before any mullah deemed America the "Great Satan," Qutb's observations of the country during his two-year sojourn here (1948-1950) caused him to mark it for jihad and its cultural and/or violent conversion to Islam.
That is, he marked it for death. For that is all Islam is – a nihilist state of existence for Muslim zombies and their looted and subservient non-believers.
Qutb, born in Egypt in 1906, was an Islamic "geek" from his teen years to his death in 1966. While an adolescent, he memorized the Koran and became a kind of neighborhood savant on its content and meanings. After his formal education in Cairo, he went into Egypt's education bureaucracy. Upon his return to Egypt from America, he resigned from it and joined the Muslim Brotherhood, founded by Hassan Al-Banna in 1928. He rose to its highest position, a seat on its Shura or "guidance" council that set the means and goals of that organization's campaign for a Mideast caliphate, and eventually for a global one.
Becoming embroiled in Egypt's political turmoil, he spent two terms in jail for being a member of the outlawed Brotherhood, which was at odds with the secular nationalists. He was hanged in 1966 after a show trial. He was a "martyr" without having ever strapped on a suicide vest or learned how to pilot a plane into a skyscraper. His "bomb" was an articulated, unswerving dedication to the Koran and its commands to wage jihad against the secularization of the Mideast and against the West.
The Koran, he emphasized, was not just a book to consult for "culture and information." It was a command for action, a blueprint for purification and conquest.
Osama bin Laden, author of 9/11, was a devoted follower of Qutb. He accused other Islamists, including the Brotherhood, of deviating from Qutb's principles of conquest and subjugation. Although how one could deviate from the Brotherhood's fundamentalist credo, beggars the imagination.
Allah is our objective; the Quran is our law, the Prophet is our leader. Jihad is our way; and death for the sake of Allah is the highest of our aspirations.
"Death for the sake of Allah" here does not mean death from natural causes, old age, or by accident. It means throwing one's life at the "enemy" with the intention of causing his death and one's own. Compare that with the official Nazi oath of loyalty required to be taken by all officers and ranks of the Wehrmacht in August 1934:
"I swear by God this sacred oath that to the Leader of the German empire and people, Adolf Hitler, supreme commander of the armed forces, I shall render unconditional obedience and that as a brave soldier I shall at all times be prepared to give my life for this oath."
The comparison is legitimate. Hitler found Islam a symbiotic ideology; the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Mohammed Effendi Amin el-Husseini, found Nazism symbiotic. Modern Islamist leaders, spokesmen, and paramilitary armies emulate the histrionics, tactics, and even salutes of the Nazis. Hitler's written "struggle" or "striving" (otherwise known as jihad), Mein Kampf, is a popular book in countries ruled by Sharia or countries yearning to be Islamist. Dutch politician Geert Wilders suggested it was the Nazi Koran. In terms of the Nazi oath, one could argue that Hitler was the objective, as well as the leader, that aggression was the Nazi way, and that death for the Fuhrer was the highest aspiration a German soldier could entertain.
Qutb could just as well have written one expression of the Brotherhood's means and ends:
Enablement of Islam in North America, meaning: establishing an effective and stable Islamic Movement led by the Muslim Brotherhood which adopts Muslims' causes domestically and globally, and which works to expand the observant Muslim base, aims at unifying and directing Muslims' efforts, presents Islam as a civilization alternative, and supports the global Islamic state, wherever it is.
Dr. Mohsen El-Guindy on October 9th published a long apologetic about Islam (nearly half as long as Milestones) together with a call for censorship of critics and mockers of Islam and Mohammad, which included an attack on Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch. It echoes Qutb's theme:
The purpose of life is to know Allah, to believe in Him and to worship Him according to how He wants to be worshipped, this includes that we live our lives according to His commands. In the Koran, Allah tells us that since the Messages of all prophets before the Prophet Muhammad have been distorted, none of these objectives could be achieved correctly except through His last and final Message, and therefore He will judge people on the Day of Judgment based on whether they believed and followed Islam.
Rather laughably, among other non-sequiturs, El-Guindy advises that a Muslim should "use his logic, reasoning and intellect. Allah in the Quran stresses the importance for people to think, to reason and to use their mind and intellect," when Islam requires the surrender of logic, reason, and intellect – in short, of men's minds – in favor of blind, submissive faith. In essence, Islam does not want men who think. It wants men who obey without thought.
Qutb's Milestones is a document that reveals an obsession with Islam as a political as well as a religious system. The Koran, Qutb writes, is a mandate for action, not merely a book of verse and virtues dictated to Mohammad for Muslims to hear and recite every Friday.
"…If they had read the Qur'an only for the sake of discussion, learning and information, these doors [to action, or jihad] would not have opened. Moreover, action became easy, the weight of responsibilities became light, and the Qur'an became a part of their personalities, mingling with their lives and characters so that they became living examples of faith – a faith not hidden in intellects or books, but expressing itself in a dynamic movement which changed conditions and events and the course of life. (p. 18)
Translation: The true, devout, genuine Muslim is one who does not merely answer the muezzin's call to prayers, but answers the call to action. Which means: Waging war on the infidel, to slay, convert, or enslave. Until all the earth is ruled by Islam, not just Egypt, or Iran, or Indonesia, or Britain or France.
There is also a great difference in the idea that Islam is a Divinely-ordained way of life and in the idea that it is a geographically-bounded system. According to the first idea, Islam came into the world to establish God's rule on God's earth, to invite all people toward the worship of God, and to make a concrete reality of its message in the form of a Muslim community in which individuals are free from servitude to men [that is, free from man-made laws and governments] and have gathered together under servitude to God and follow only the Shari'ah of God. This Islam has a right to remove all those obstacles which are in its path so that it may address human reason [!] and intuition with no interference and opposition from political systems….(p. 74)
Indeed, Islam has the right to take the initiative. Islam is not a heritage of any particular race or country; this is God's religion and it is for the whole world. It has the right to destroy all obstacles in the form of institutions and traditions which limit man's freedom of choice [the sole choice being limited to submitting to Islam]…It is the right of Islam to release mankind from servitude to human beings so that they may serve God alone, to give practical meaning to its declaration that God is the true Lord of all and that all men are free under Him….(p. 75)
The Islamic notion of "freedom" is the freedom to submit to Allah, so that all men are "free" to worship him. It is a pseudo-volitional Hobson's Choice, that is, no choice at all. And Islam has taken the "initiative," that is, it is waging an aggressive campaign to subvert and conquer Western civilization.
No political system or material power should put hindrances in the way of preaching Islam [dawa]. It should leave every individual free to accept or reject it, and if someone wants to accept it, it should not prevent him or fight against him. If someone does this, then it is the duty of Islam to fight him until either he is killed or until he declares his submission. (p. 57)
The irrational, dualist nature of Islamic doctrine, in which things can be A and non-A at the same time (just as the latter verses in the Koran abrogate the earlier ones, which, however, are not to be removed or contradicted) is explained by Qutb:
When writers with defeatist and apologetic mentalities write about "jihad in Islam," trying to remove this "blot" from Islam, then they are mixing up two things: first, that this religion forbids the imposition of its belief by force, as is clear from the verse, "There is no compulsion in religion (2:256), while on the other hand it tries to annihilate all those political and material powers which stand between people and Islam, which force one people to bow before another people and prevent them from accepting the sovereignty of God. These two principles have no relation to one another nor is there room to mix them. (p. 57, Italics mine.)
What a formula for ideological schizophrenia! Or a very serious bipolar condition. See the video "Three Things You (probably) Did Not Know About Islam" at minute 1:50 for a brief description of the significance of the contradictory verses.
Qutb employs a term throughout Milestones to designate "the state of ignorance of the guidance of God," jahiliyyah. A society governed by jahiliyyah is described as jahili, is outside the bounds of Islam, and is fair game for conquest and forced submission.
The jahili society is any society other than the Muslim society…a society that does not dedicate itself to submission to God alone, in its beliefs and ideas, in its observances of worship, and in its legal regulations. (p. 80)
Qutb inveighs against Communism as a form of jahiliyyah, claiming that "the communst ideology and the communist system reduces [sic] the human being to the level of an animal or even to the level of a machine." (p. 81) What does he say Islam does to men? Nothing. But Islam creates and values a human being who has sunk to the level of an animal by having surrendered his mind and self-identity to blind, unquestioning, unthinking faith in Allah. Qutb, and countless Islamic spokesmen, emphasize that a good Muslim is just such a creature, but instead claims he is enlightened and deserving of "respect."
Islam, he claims, unlike Communism, is for all people, is classless, and does not appeal to economic or social groups. Yet its doctrinal proponents boast that it will indeed create an upper class of "superior" Muslims who will be accorded preferential status in politics and economics, and a lower class of humble, deferential, jizya-paying dhimmis. This is Qutb's notion of a just society.
Nihilism in any form must be fought by calling it what it is, an ideological pathogen, and not pussy-foot delicately around its essence because it is disguised as a "religion" or a means to "save mankind." Islam, like communism, socialism, fascism, or any other collectivist ideology that seeks power over men, must be treated as essentially anti-man and anti-life. That is the only way it can be defeated and sent back beneath the rocks where it resides. Evil, after all, never admits it is evil. Its real and potential victims must be brave and perspicuous enough to call it out. Otherwise, it will never be defeated.
Seyyid Qutb was a selfless, sexless, empty little man, a mad and maddened creature who annihilated himself and advocated the annihilation of anyone or anything that had an identity. A desolate world of ruins and corpses and bowing figures is the only world such a creature could feel comfortable in.
*Milestones, by Seyyid Qutb. Dar Al-Ilm, Damascus, Syria. No copyright date (or copyright page) or actual publisher name or any other information is to be found in the copy I purchased. Amazon Books notes its ISBN numbers, ISBN-10: 0934905142 and ISBN-13: 978-0934905145, published by Kazi Publications in 2007, but this information is absent from the copy.
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:: Tuesday, October 09, 2012 ::
Tributes to Totalitarians
Posted by Edward Cline at 5:44 PM
remembers his American history courses in grade and high school – when American
history was still being taught, because very little of it is today – will also
remember all the glowing, adulatory accounts in standard textbooks of Woodrow
Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy. One encountered nary a disparaging
word about them. They "saved the world," were "forward
looking," or "ahead of their time," and "served
selflessly" the cause of "democracy" and "social
justice." These particular presidents appeared in those textbooks as
squeaky clean, literal saints, and were held up as models of political and
They could do no
wrong, and if these real-life Dudley Do-Rights failed in their missions to
reorient the electorate to be more easily led to moral adventures, the New
Frontier, and Great Societies, it was all the fault of greedy obstructionists
and other Snidely Whiplash villains in Congress or the Supreme Court.
Worse still, it was
implied ever so subtly that we the people didn't deserve to have them as
leaders. They were too good for us. We'd be punished for not living up to their
expectations, for eschewing the need for "leaders."
And we have been
punished: We got Barack Obama.
and Kennedy were not totalitarians, but their basic political agendas, at first
interventionist and regulatory, are the groundwork for eventual total
government. It was not for lack of trying. A statist principle cannot be
applied only half-way, not in the long term. Sooner or later, if not checked and
repudiated, it must be fully applied, across the board and over everyone and
everything. As statist policies are implemented incrementally, the electorate
must be made incrementally receptive to them, surrendering their liberties
piecemeal over time in exchange for ever-dwindling but more expensive messes of
portrayals of historical persons are based on what respected historians have
written about them. What students have read in textbooks about the forenamed
presidents is but a thin gruel distilled from approving weighty biographical
tomes and sycophantic histories of movers and shakers. And of destroyers.
Recently, Eric Hobsbawm,
a respected British historian, died and received glowing obituaries in British
and American newspapers.
Eric who? When I first read the surname in a
Daily Mail article, I immediately presumed it was either a name borrowed by
J.R.R. Tolkien for a character in his The
Lord of the Rings trilogy, or one invented by J.K. Rowling for a character
in her Harry Potter series. Then, to
my surprise and dismay, I learned he was an actual person, that he was an
unrepentant Communist, that he taught history from the Marxist perspective in
the best British schools, and that he wrote a number of histories from an
unapologetic Communist standpoint.
Then I saw the
Daily Mail's photograph of him. I immediately nicknamed him The Horrible
Hobgoblin of History.
As he was revered,
so were his books. At least they were in Britain. The New York Times ran a long
article on him, while The Washington Post ran two, one an extended obituary,
another a fond retrospective of his work.
writing for The Daily Mail, enlightened me about Hobsbawm and just how revered
evening, the BBC altered its program schedule to broadcast an hour-long tribute
to an old man who had died aged 95, with fawning contributions from the likes
of historian Simon Schama and Labour peer Melvyn Bragg.
day, the Left-leaning Guardian filled not only the front page and the whole of
an inside page but also devoted almost its entire G2 Supplement to the news.
The Times devoted a leading article to the death, and a two-page obituary.
imagine, given all this coverage and the fact that Tony Blair and Ed Miliband
also went out of their way to pay tribute, that the nation was in mourning. Yet
I do not believe that more than one in 10,000 people in this country had so
much as heard of Eric Hobsbawm, the fashionable Hampstead Marxist who was the
cause of all this attention. He had, after all, been open in his disdain for
Yet the nation was
not in mourning. Wilson suggests that most Britons were left scratching their
heads trying to recollect just who this person was and why well-known persons
such as Blair and Miliband were shedding tears over his passing.
Unlike Wilson at The
Daily Mail, William Grimes of The New York Times penned a nonjudgmental,
praising article about Hobsbawm, subtly implying that if Americans hadn't heard
of him until now, then they ought to have, because he was a very important
Eric J. Hobsbawm,
whose three-volume economic history of the rise of industrial capitalism
established him as Britain’s pre-eminent Marxist historian, died on Monday in
London. He was 95….Mr. Hobsbawm, the leading light in a group of historians
within the British Communist Party that included Christopher Hill, E. P.
Thompson and Raymond Williams, helped recast the traditional understanding of
history as a series of great events orchestrated by great men. Instead, he
focused on labor movements in the 19th century and what he called the
“pre-political” resistance of bandits, millenarians and urban rioters in early
Grimes thought it apropos
to quote an admiring professor of history from 2008:
“Eric J. Hobsbawm was a brilliant
historian in the great English tradition of narrative history,” Tony Judt, a
professor of history at New York University, wrote in an e-mail in 2008, two
years before he died. “On everything he
touched he wrote much better, had usually read much more, and had a broader and
subtler understanding than his more fashionable emulators. If he had not been a
lifelong Communist he would be remembered simply as one of the great historians
of the 20th century.”
To judge by
Hobsbawm's political prejudices, had he not been a lifelong Communist, he might
not have been an historian at all. Where's the fun in reporting and narrating
facts? In discussing real causes and real effects? No, the Communist philosophy
of history is to fit it all into a cockamamie ideology, and to dispense with
facts if they won't cooperate. Very much the philosophy of Nazi history, and
Islamic history, as well.
in a 2003 book review of Hobsbawm's autobiography, neatly distilled the
author's life as others did or would not:
Eric Hobsbawm has been a
believing Communist and a skeptical Euro-Communist and is now a faintly
curmudgeonly post-Communist, and there are many ways in which, accidents of
geography to one side, he could have been a corpse. Born in 1917 into a
diaspora Jewish family in Alexandria, Egypt, he spent his early-orphaned
boyhood in central Europe, in the years between the implosion of
Austria-Hungary and the collapse of the Weimar Republic.
This time and place were
unpropitious enough on their own: had Hobsbawm not moved to England after the
Nazis came to power in 1933, he might have become a statistic. He went on to
survive the blitz in London and Liverpool and, by a stroke of chance, to miss
the dispatch to Singapore of the British unit he had joined. At least a third
of those men did not survive Japanese captivity, and it's difficult to imagine
Hobsbawm himself being one of the lucky ones.
No, it is unlikely
Hobsbawm would have survived Japanese captivity. He was an intellectual snob
who would have been an abrasive fellow prisoner-of-war. As Wilson writes:
came to Britain as a refugee from Hitler’s Europe before the war, but, as he
said himself, he wished only to mix with intellectuals. ‘I refused all contact
with the suburban petit bourgeoisie which I naturally regarded with contempt.’
Naturally, but not
so inevitably. Hobsbawm must have witnessed the turmoil in Berlin and the
street battles between the Communists, Nazis and other political groups vying
for power in the expiring Weimar Republic. Spartacus, a self-educational blogsite
connected with the left-wing Guardian, noted:
When Adolf Hitler gained power in
1933, what was left of Hobsbawn's [sic] family moved to London. He later
recalled: "In Germany there wasn't any alternative left. Liberalism was
failing. If I'd been German and not a Jew, I could see I might have become a
Nazi, a German nationalist. I could see how they'd become passionate about
saving the nation. It was a time when you didn't believe there was a future
unless the world was fundamentally transformed."
It must have been hard
choosing sides in Germany then, one gang of thugs battling another gang of thugs,
both gangs fighting for the right to impose their brand of totalitarianism on a
whole nation. Hobsbawm must have tossed a mental coin and it came up tails:
Communism. After all, the Nazis allowed businesses and industries to keep their
property, if only to have it serve Nazi purposes. The Communists were more
thorough in such an expropriation; they took it all.
writing for Gatestone, is just as scathing as A.N. Wilson in his appraisal of Hobsbawm:
A writer in the Times
recalled the dead Communist to have been – "a man of deep intellect,
humility and charm" – on his only meeting with him; going on to claim that
the talent the man had shown had "superseded" the ideology.
I do not see how this could be
so. This man's career was spent whitewashing, minimizing, excusing and stooging
for some of the worst crimes in human history. Having been given ample years to
recant his views, he resisted the call, instead holding them to the end. The
system he supported prevented many people reaching even a quarter of the age he
was fortunate enough to live to. But for him human life always took an – at
best – secondary importance. The really crucial thing was communist ideology –
surely, along with Nazism, the most bankrupt and destructive ideology the world
has ever seen? Asked in a BBC television interview in 1994 whether the creation
of a communist utopia would be worth the loss of "15, 20 million
people," he replied clearly, "Yes."
But Nazism, or
fascism, lost the coin toss. Communism lost it, too, at least in Russia. Murray
Had he joined the Hitler youth
voluntarily in 1933 and stayed inside fascist movements until his death; had he
denied the Holocaust and said that the death of six million Jews and many
millions of others would have been worth it for the achievement of the ideal
Nazi state he would have died in ignominy. He would not have been celebrated in
his life and he would not have been celebrated after death. Irrespective of any
consideration of his works he would not have had plaudits from politicians of
any stripe, let alone the leaders of political parties of the right.
Formal Communism is
certainly dead. China has a "communist" ruling elite, which is more
fascist than communist. Britain is nominally "socialist," but is
governed by a kind of watered-down, kid-gloves brand of fascism subscribed to
and disguised by both major parties. The United States has been creeping unopposed,
yet ever so cautiously, in the direction of fascism ever since FDR's first term
in the White House. The current occupant has deliberately albeit pragmatically accelerated
America towards a full national socialist polity.
But, in the end, it
matters little which brand of totalitarianism governs men, because the results
are always the same: slavery and death and destruction. Historians like Eric Hobsbawm
– and there are more of his ilk in academia, pale pinks and flagrant reds and retiring
grays – give short-shrift to that slavery and death and destruction. They claim
it's all part of a price to pay to shepherd the survivors – the meek, the
humble, the morally lame and the halt – in the direction of that collectivist
City on the Hill that is actually a prison built to save mankind.
one style of totalitarian architecture; Howard Zinn another.
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