Thursday, December 01, 2016

Follow My Leader

Negan, a post-apocalyptic Cult figure

With all apologies to Terence Rattigan, I have appropriated the title of one of his earliest and unpublished plays. This is a post I’ve been wanting to write for a long while, but other writing priorities kept cropping up.

In the anarchic apocalyptic milieu of The Walking Dead, the hit TV-AMC series, which I have ceased watching regularly, the few heroes who dominated the series for a few years and who were the main attraction (for me, at least) have been demoted from taking life-preserving actions and moral certitude to mere “guest appearances.” I have also stopped viewing it because a new element has been introduced, one that violates my own story-telling premises. Namely, giving evil center stage as the prime mover of the action.

The prime mover is Negan, in this instance, a kind of warlord who runs an army of thugs and killers out of his Sanctuary, raids peaceful communities of survivors, and demands half of what they have as the price of not slaughtering them. Negan brandishes a baseball bat wreathed in barbed wire.  In effect, those who submit – literally, Islam style – to Negan become his slaves. Beginning with the last episode of Season 6 and the brutal, raw beginning of Season 7, the glib malevolence of Negan is repulsive to me.

I won’t recap the story line up to this point. What has fascinated me has been how Negan’s army – the “Saviors,” obeys his every command and whim. And most of his army is armed, variously with spears (manufactured by a subject agricultural community), pistols, and automatic rifles. I often asked myself, “Negan wields a mere baseball bat and maybe a pistol under his belt, and wields psychological hegemony over his followers. But his followers are armed and could kill him in a second. Why do they tolerate his head-bashing tyranny, when they could easily free themselves of his dictatorship?

I made this point but did not pursue it in another column, “Hillary and Negan: Parallels in Evil,” from October 2nd. I noted in it, and also in the continuation of that same column, “Parallels in Evil: Part II,”

Negan is a vile, evil character who debuted in April at the end of Season Six of The Walking Dead. Negan is a brutal tyrant who lords over an enclave of plague survivors and likes to smash victims’ heads with a baseball bat sheathed in barbed wire. He has a policy of extortion that requires other, productive enclaves to give him half of what they have in exchange for his not raiding, raping, enslaving, and killing their inhabitants and trashing their communities….

And here is…an uncensored version of how he terrorizes, humiliates, and taunts his captured victims. Please excuse the language. This version was recorded from a TV. I do not know its source. It is compelling because Negan expresses Hillary’s malevolence, and Negan’s foul language has also been captured elsewhere as Hillary’s.  Negan is the real Hillary Clinton’s fantasy surrogate. It is what she is at the core. Negan is artfully glib, almost poetic, as Hillary is consistently plastic and artificial.

What might mystify people reading a history of Nazi Germany or Red China is why uncountable millions would bow voluntarily and without hesitation to a single allegedly charismatic person such as Negan, Hitler, and Stalin, when a simple revolution would overpower the creature.

The answer is that these millions, once they have gotten over their fear and doubts, become comfortable with tyranny. Or they become so amenable to it that they remain clueless and ignorant of what else might be possible to them. Memory of their previous lives, as relatively free men, fades and vanishes. All that is left to them is to obey Negan because his looters policy allows them to continue living.

In one episode, Negan gives a hubristic speech to the mob claiming that his “Saviors” are saving civilization. His mob swallows that line with a collective straight face.

The Walking Dead Hitler in action
Of course, The Walking Dead (TWD) is, on the surface, a dramatization of emergency ethics. Emergency ethics is a temporary set of moral rules that can govern one’s decisions and actions. A nickname or metaphor for emergency ethics is “lifeboat ethics.” Unfortunately, the subject has been monopolized by left-wing environmentalists and other confusing writers. In this instance, the circumstances are the collapse of civilized society because most people become flesh-eating zombies while they are alive or after they die.

Garrett Hardin wrote 1974 about the concept of “Spaceship Earth”:

No generation has viewed the problem of the survival of the human species as seriously as we have. Inevitably, we have entered this world of concern through the door of metaphor. Environmentalists have emphasized the image of the earth as a spaceship -Spaceship Earth. Kenneth Boulding (1966) is the principal architect of this metaphor. It is time, he says, that we replace the wasteful "cowboy economy" of the past with the frugal "spaceship economy" required for continued survival in the limited world we now see ours to be. The metaphor is notably useful in justifying pollution control measures.

Unfortunately, the image of a spaceship is also used to promote measures that are suicidal. One of these is a generous immigration policy, which is only a particular instance of a class of policies that are in error because they lead to the tragedy of the commons (Hardin 1968). These suicidal policies are attractive because they mesh with what we unthinkingly take to be the ideals of "the best people". What is missing in the idealistic view is an insistence that rights and responsibilities must go together. The "generous" attitude of all too many people results in asserting inalienable rights while ignoring or denying matching responsibilities.

For the metaphor of a spaceship to be correct, the aggregate of people on board would have to be under unitary sovereign control (Ophuls 1974). A true ship always has a captain. It is conceivable that a ship could be run by a committee. But it could not possibly survive if its course were determined by bickering tribes that claimed rights without responsibilities.

Bowing to Satan or to Negan or to Allah
Does it matter which to a cultist?
See what I mean? Go ahead and parse the passage. I won’t.

Aside from fighting off “zombies” or “the walking dead,” the core group of survivors in TWD must also deal with marauding looters and killers and the irrational foibles of members of its group.

Ayn Rand wrote about emergency ethics in The Virtue of Selfishness that:

An emergency is an unchosen, unexpected event, limited in time, that creates conditions under which human survival is impossible — such as a flood, an earthquake, a fire, a shipwreck. In an emergency situation, men’s primary goal is to combat the disaster, escape the danger and restore normal conditions (to reach dry land, to put out the fire, etc.). [Currently, the unlimited immigration of illegals and Muslims into the U.S., which certainly qualifies as an “emergency” because on the one hand, Muslims adhere to an ideology hostile to American values, which ideology requires the subornation and overthrow of the Constitution and the institutionized violation of individual rights, and on the other hand illegals who come to attach themselves to the welfare state and who have no allegiance to America as a free, unbalkandized  country].

By “normal” conditions I mean metaphysically normal, normal in the nature of things, and appropriate to human existence. Men can live on land, but not in water or in a raging fire. Since men are not omnipotent, it is metaphysically possible for unforeseeable disasters to strike them, in which case their only task is to return to those conditions under which their lives can continue. By its nature, an emergency situation is temporary; if it were to last, men would perish.

It is only in emergency situations that one should volunteer to help strangers, if it is in one’s power. For instance, a man who values human life and is caught in a shipwreck, should help to save his fellow passengers (though not at the expense of his own life). But this does not mean that after they all reach shore, he should devote his efforts to saving his fellow passengers from poverty, ignorance, neurosis or whatever other troubles they might have. Nor does it mean that he should spend his life sailing the seven seas in search of shipwreck victims to save . . . .[Italics mine]

Emergency ethics are not normal ethics by which to live.

The U.S. has no moral duty to help strangers of whatever character, be they refugees from the Mideast or from south of the border. But our government, and that of many European nations, has inversed the altruist ethics vis-à-vis emergency ethics to invite the ethically lame, the barbarously halt, and the primitively savage to engulf their civilized societies with the consequence that the “immigrants” not only imperil indigenous citizens, but form political blocs to alter the political structures of those countries. Taking the suicidal altruistic inversion further (altruism, straight up, shaken not stirred), the code commands the governments to protect the invaders based on their “needs,” and not its own citizens and to punish or penalize citizens who resist or criticize the destruction of their values and societies. To become “Islamophobic” or “illegalphobic” is deemed a wrong not to be countenanced or tolerated.

Why do whole populations – or armies of “Saviors” – submit to the commands of their dictators? The answers – and there have been numerous answers – are various. One student of the phenomenon, Geotz Aly, a lecturer at the University of Frankfurt, posited that Germans warmed up to Hitler because he was a “good provider”:

To do so, he gave them (Germans) huge tax breaks and introduced social benefits that even today anchor the society. He also ensured that even in the last days of the war not a single German went hungry. Despite near-constant warfare, never once during his 12 years in power did Hitler raise taxes for working class people. He also — in great contrast to World War I — particularly pampered soldiers and their families, offering them more than double the salaries and benefits that American and British families received. As such, most Germans saw Nazism as a "warm-hearted" protector, says Aly, author of the new book "Hitler’s People’s State: Robbery, Racial War and National Socialism" [TC: I cannot find it on U.S. Amazon, try this German link] and currently a guest lecturer at the University of Frankfurt. They were only too happy to overlook the Third Reich’s unsavory, murderous side.

Financing such home front "happiness" was not simple and Hitler essentially achieved it by robbing and murdering others, Aly claims. Jews. Slave laborers. Conquered lands. All offered tremendous opportunities for plunder, and the Nazis exploited it fully, he says.

Negan – like Hitler – had to ensure the loyalty and obedience of his Saviors by distributing the loot from others to sustain their relatively above-bare sustenance existence (safe places to sleep, food, other “necessities,” and diversions). Ian Kershaw, the prominent historian, on the other hand, noted that submission to Hitler was not by all means universal.,

 The referendum that followed on 19 August 1934, to legitimize the power-political change that had occurred, aimed at demonstrating this identity. "Hitler for Germany -- all of Germany of Hitler" ran the slogan. As the result showed, however, reality lagged behind propaganda. According to the official figures, over a sixth of voters defied the intense pressure to conform and did not vote "yes." In some big working-class areas of Germany, up to a third had not given Hitler their vote. Even so, there were one or two tantalizing hints that Hitler's personal appeal outstripped that of the Nazi regime itself, and even more so of the Party. "For Adolf Hitler yes, but a thousand times no to the brown big-wigs" was scribbled on one ballot-paper in Potsdam. The same sentiment could be heard elsewhere.

Beneath the veneer of Führer adulation constantly trumpeted by the uniform propaganda of the mass media, there are numerous indicators that Hitler's appeal remained far less than total, even in what later memory often recalled as the "good years" of the mid-1930s. One example of strong criticism leveled at Hitler can be seen in a report from the Gestapo in Berlin in March 1936. Hitler's toleration of the corruption and luxury life-style of the Party big-wigs at a time when poor living standards still afflicted most ordinary Germans was, the report noted, heavily criticized. "Why does the Führer put up with that?" was a question on many people's lips, noted the report, and it was evident "the trust of the people in the personality of the Führer is currently undergoing a crisis."

The wholesale surrender of Germans (and of Italians to Mussolini, and of Argentines to Peron, of the Chinese to Mao, etc.) to Hitler can be ascribed in part to a pathological absence of individualism among the masses, and a dire absence of any kind of self-esteem among them as volitional men, that is, of the view that individuals were responsible for their own beliefs and actions, and not a dictator or a strongman like Negan.

Mass submission to a “leader” also incorporates the psychological phenomenon of a cult, in which individuals see their salvation and mental and material contentment in the form of an irrational obsession with a “leader,” who can solve all problems and work astounding miracles. It would be easy to picture Hitler or Negan as infallible, and not to be questioned or criticized, and not just from fear of him. Islam treats Mohammad that way; Mohammad is seen by Muslims as infallible, and their relative mental and material well-being depends on their dependence on that infallibility. As many Germans became psychologically dependent on Hitler, and would resist or refuse to question his actions even when they were disastrous, so the Saviors refuse to question the “practicality” of looting or destroying the productive who made it possible for them to eat and thrive.

The mass surrender of Americans to Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election is another case in point. Even though it is virtually common knowledge that she is corrupt and is a congenital liar and that her policies would, like Obama’s, leave them impoverished, and also in danger from ISIS, they’re obsessed with her, and won’t let her go. Their identities have substance only in reference to her image, to her icon. The fruitless and pointless Jill Stein recount effort is demonstrable of that obsession. Clinton is a kind of cult figure, as well. The violent Social Justice Warriors and her meeker followers are not so much for her as against everything she isn’t.

They wish to follow their leader into oblivion like a million lemmings.

Friday, November 25, 2016

“Hate Speech”: Then and Now

John Adams, who signed the Sedition Act
It is interesting that a number of signatories of the Declaration of Independence later in their careers took actions that jeopardized the foundations of liberty, and specifically of freedom of speech, or the First Amendment of the Constitution.

The greatest enemy of liberty is fear. When people feel comfortable and well protected, they are naturally expansive and tolerant of one another’s opinions and rights. When they feel threatened, their tolerance shrinks. By 1798, the euphoria surrounding the American Revolution, the sense of common purpose and a common enemy, was gone. Everyone agreed that the new nation, founded amid high hopes and noble ideas was in danger of collapse. The one thing they could not agree on was who to blame. (p. 1)

What went on in the mid- to late-1790s has reverse parallels today. Where the Mainstream Media (MSM) today, by its own admission, intervened to slander, libel, and smear presidential candidate Donald Trump (now the President-Elect), to aid in and guarantee the election of a criminally irresponsible, scandal-rich, unstable Hillary Clinton, the Democratic candidate, the writers and newspapers of the 18th century came under vicious attack from the government and the Federalists, the party of John Adams, who as President signed the Alien and Sedition Acts passed by Congress. The MSM failed ingloriously in its efforts. But Adams, who was the main target of criticism by “Republican” (the name of the early Democratic Party) writers and newspapers, unleashed the dogs of censorship on them when he signed the Alien and Sedition Acts on June 18th, 1798.

The Sedition Act outlawed what one could call the 18th century equivalent of “hate speech.” It was impermissible and punishable now to hate President John Adams (the second President after George Washington) and the Federalists and their national and foreign policies, and to voice one’s anathema for them in print or vocally. Those who did so and drew the attention of large numbers of people were arrested and jailed. Adams and the Federalists would not otherwise have heard or read the dissatisfaction but for informers who reported the transgressions to Adams and his political allies.

A history of that time, Liberty’s First Crisis: Adams, Jefferson, and the Misfits Who Saved Free Speech, by Charles Slack, came my way and further educated me on the pernicious consequences of the Sedition Act of 1798 and the scope of the evil. The consequences and injustices were wider than I had previously imagined. As Slack points out, one need not have been a conspicuous, widely known opponent of Adams, the Federalists, and the Sedition Act to attract the attentions of the 18th century speech “police.” An idle, disparaging remark overheard and reported by a neighbor could land the speaker in jail and earn an enormous fine, as well.

Here is the key section of the Sedition Act under which several men were prosecuted and jailed for “blaspheming” the government, President Adams, and other individuals in the government.

SEC. 2. And be it farther enacted, That if any person shall write, print, utter or publish, or shall cause or procure to be written, printed, uttered or published, or shall knowingly and willingly assist or aid in writing, printing, uttering or publishing any false, scandalous and malicious writing or writings against the government of the United States, or either house of the Congress of the United States, or the President of the United States, with intent to defame the said government, or either house of the said Congress, or the said President, or to bring them, or either of them, into contempt or disrepute; or to excite against them, or either or any of them, the hatred of the good people of the United States, or to stir up sedition within the United States, or to excite any unlawful combinations therein, for opposing or resisting any law of the United States, or any act of the President of the United States, done in pursuance of any such law, or of the powers in him vested by the constitution of the United States, or to resist, oppose, or defeat any such law or act, or to aid, encourage or abet any hostile designs of any foreign nation against United States, their people or government, then such person, being thereof convicted before any court of the United States having jurisdiction thereof, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars, and by imprisonment not exceeding two years. [Italics mine]

Although Adams signed the Alien (or “Naturalization” Act), but did not enforce it, it was the Sedition Act that drew the chief attention and ire of its foes and was the tool Adams used to retaliate against his and his administration’s vociferous critics. It is the Sedition Act that is the focus here.
Associate Supreme Court Justice Samuel Chase, who

presided over the prosecution of men for violating the

Sedition Act
The Alien and Sedition Acts were promoted and passed by the Federalists in Congress, who were the majority in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Federalists also dominated the Supreme Court.  All the men tried under the Sedition Act were tried by Federalist appointees. The legislation was passed because Adams and many Federalists thought that a war with France (and possibly another with Britain) was imminent, and so extraordinary restraints on speech and the press were justified. French privateers raided American shipping. The French, once an ally who helped Americans win the Revolution, were now hostile to the U.S.  The French had undergone a revolution of its own. Its reign of terror horrified Adams and the Federalists. The French bridled under American criticisms of the conduct of the revolutionary government and became so hostile to the U.S. that the government refused to receive or acknowledge the new ambassadors from America, instigating the X,Y,Z Affair, during which the French foreign minister’s agents sought to bribe the American diplomats before negotiations for more amicable relations could even commence.  Feeling that war was certain, and smarting from the Republicans’ criticisms, the Federalists wrote and got passed the Sedition Act, on July 4th, 1798.
Its known and principal victims, all of whom argued that the Sedition Act was a violation of the First Amendment (Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances).  There might have been many more victims, but records from the period are incomplete. The better known, as detailed and described by Charles Slack, were: 

Matthew Lyon, an Irish immigrant and a Democratic-Republican congressman from Vermont. He was the first individual to be placed on trial under the Alien and Sedition Acts He was indicted in 1800 for an essay he had written in the Vermont Journal accusing the administration of "ridiculous pomp, foolish adulation, and selfish avarice." Lyon was always spoiling for a “fight” against the Federalists. He spit on a Federalist political foe, Roger Griswold, on the floor of the House; Griswold retaliated by taking a cane to Lyon. Griswold was not charged with any misconduct. Found guilty of violating the Sedition Act, Lyon was fined $1,000 and sentenced to four months in prison. From inside his jail cell, Lyon won reelection to Congress for Vermont. He later in life moved family, business, and home to Kentucky.

James Thomson Callender, a Scottish citizen and immigrant, had been expelled from Great Britain for his political writings. Living first in Philadelphia, then seeking refuge close by in Virginia, he wrote a book titled The Prospect Before Us (read and approved by Vice President Jefferson before publication) in which he called the Adams administration a "continual tempest of malignant passions" and the President a "repulsive pedant, a gross hypocrite and an unprincipled oppressor." Callender, already residing in Virginia and writing for the "Richmond Examiner," was indicted in mid 1800 under the Sedition Act and convicted, fined $200, and sentenced to nine months in jail.

Benjamin Franklin Bache, a grandson of Benjamin Franklin, was a printer and editor of the "Aurora," a Democratic-Republican newspaper. Bache had accused George Washington of incompetence and financial irregularities, and "the blind, bald, crippled, toothless, querulous Adams" of nepotism and monarchical ambition. He was arrested in 1798 under the Sedition Act, but he died of yellow fever before trial. Bache’s widow, Margaret, inherited the “Aurora” and picked up where her late husband left off, excoriating Adams and the Federalists.

Anthony Haswell was an English immigrant and a printer in Vermont. Among other activities, Haswell reprinted parts of the "Aurora," including Bache's claim that the federal government had employed Tories. Haswell was found guilty of seditious libel by judge William Paterson, and sentenced to a two-month imprisonment and a $200 fine.

Luther Baldwin, a river boat man who made his living plying the waters carrying passengers and trade up and down various rivers including the Hudson, was indicted, convicted, and fined $100 for a drunken incident that occurred during a visit by President Adams to Newark, New Jersey. Upon hearing a gun report, fired during an artillery salute during a parade, he yelled "I hope it hit Adams in the arse."

David Brown, in November 1798, led a group in Dedham, Massachusetts, including Benjamin Fairbanks, in setting up a liberty pole with the words, "No Stamp Act, No Sedition Act, No Alien Bills, No Land Tax, downfall to the Tyrants of America; peace and retirement to the President; Long Live the Vice President." Liberty Poles sprouted all over the colonial landscape before and during the Revolution, but the Federalists saw them now as incitements to civil disobedience and sedition. Brown was arrested in Andover, Massachusetts, but because he could not afford the $4,000 bail, he was taken to Salem for trial. Brown was tried in June 1799. Brown pleaded guilty, but Justice Samuel Chase asked him to name others who had assisted him. Brown refused, was fined $480, and sentenced to eighteen months in prison, the most severe sentence ever imposed under the Sedition Act.
John Adams and Benjamin Franklin read and

revise Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence

Thomas Cooper, an associate of Joseph Priestly, the noted scientist who with Cooper moved to America in 1793 to escape persecution in England, was arrested for questioning Adams’s declaration of a “National Day of Humiliation, Fasting, and Prayer.” In a local newspaper he questioned the propriety of the declaration. Cooper was arrested, tried and jailed in Philadelphia by Samuel Chase of the Supreme Court for violating the Sedition Act.

 Writes Slack,

It had been passed “in defiance of the plain and obvious meaning of the words of the constitution.”
…To Cooper freedom of speech had a deeper meaning and purpose than just ensuring open government. At stake was the right to of each individual to his own life, to form his thoughts and express them as he pleased. The most insidious aspect of the Sedition Act, he believed, was its direct transfer of rights from the speaker or writer to a faceless, unaccountable mob. Cooper saw in the law an invitation to tyranny in which unaccountable, ignorant men would pass judgment on “the most elegant writer.” Cooper added, “They may find him guilty of what they do not understand.” (p. 190)

Cooper was reminding his readers that Adams’s declaration was a sign of where religion and rights “should not go,” that there should be a separation of church and state, as expressed in the First Amendment.

Another outspoken enemy of the Sedition Act was Charles Hay, who served as James Callender’s defense attorney, wrote and  published a long essay, An Essay on the Liberty of the Press, and in it offers one of the best intellectual defenses of the freedom of speech of the period.

As Slack writes, Hay’s explication of the Bill of Rights, especially of the First Amendment, in relation to the repressive Sedition Act, “galvanized” the distinction.

“The words, ‘freedom of the press,’ like most other words, have a meaning, a clear, precise, and definite meaning, which the times require, should be unequivocally ascertained,” Hay wrote. “That this has not been done before, is a wonderful and melancholy evidence of the imbecility of the human mind.”

Hay continued: “This argument may be summed up in a few words. The word ‘freedom’ has meaning. It is either absolute, that is exempt from all law, or it is qualified, that is, regulated by law. If it be exempt from the control of law, the Sedition Bill which controls the ‘freedom of the press’ is unconstitutional. But if it is to be regulated by law, the amendment which declares that Congress shall make no law to abridge the freedom of the press, which freedom may however be regulated by law, is the greatest absurdity that ever was conceived by the human mind.”

…Likewise, “if the words freedom of the press, have any meaning at all, they mean the total exemption from any law making any publication whatever criminal,” since the only way to stifle objectionable voices would be to exercise “a power fatal to the liberty of the people.” (pp. 170-172)

Hay does not state it, but he meant by that fatal power: by force.

Clearly something had to be done to silence Matthew Lyon, Bache, Callender, and others. Vice President Jefferson sensed the coming storm, noting in a letter to James Madison, that President Adams “May look to the Sedition bill which has been spoken of, and which may be meant to put the Printing presses under the Imprimatur of the executive. Bache is thought to be a main object of it.” (Jefferson to Madison, May 3, 1798) (pp. 64-65)

Thomas Jefferson, the Republican

enemy of John Adams, a Federalist

One of Jefferson’s first acts as President in 1801 was to grant general pardons to any surviving, jailed victims of the Sedition Act, which expired on March 31st, 1801, “written into it to coincide with Adams’s last day in office,” notes Slack. “The pardon automatically freed the two remaining prisoners who remained in jail: James T. Callender and David Brown.”  (p. 224)

Charles Slack’s opus is highly recommended for anyone who wishes to understand the struggle to defend freedom of speech and of the press over two hundred years ago, and to better grasp how low the press has stooped to ally itself with parties hostile to freedom of speech and of the press.

Liberty’s First Crisis: Adams, Jefferson, and the Misfits Who Saved Free Speech. By Charles Slack. New York: Atlantic Monthly Press, 2015. 340 pp.

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