Stockholm Syndrome

There’s been quite a fuss about Donald Trump’s having suggested that Sweden might be having problems digesting millions of profoundly alien, mostly Muslim, immigrants. The narrative conflict could not be starker: on the one side, a description of a formerly safe, homogeneous and peaceful Scandinavian nation descending into a darkening abyss of rape, fear, cultural disintegration, unpoliceable zones, and silencing of dissent, while on the other we hear an increasingly embattled Cathedral’s assurances that all of this is just “fake news” from the Far Right, and that things in Sweden, while admittedly a bit strained in places (just like they are everywhere, friends!), are really pretty swell overall — and that the good-hearted Swedes are of course much happier now, cheered and strengthened by the bracing tonic of Diversity, than they ever might have been in their benighted and racist past.

This is a propaganda war. As far as the global Progressive hegemon is concerned, the stakes are existential: its survival depends completely upon whether the minds of its subjects will continue to be suitable hosts for its memes, and that in turn depends upon whether it can continue to suppress the immune systems of the native cultures of the West. It has managed to do this very effectively indeed for seven decades now, but in recent years the disease has progressed so far, so fast, that millions of ethnic Europeans are now awakening to their peril, understanding — too late, perhaps — that they must resist or die.

I won’t do the Progressive clerisy’s work here; my sympathies are with the heretics. To that end, here’s a recent compilation from VDare to counter what you’ll be reading in the Times, and hearing on NPR.

So: which is it? Sweden-as-Eden, or Sweden bleedin’? Both sides can’t be right — and one hardly knows whom to trust anymore. What, then, is to be done?

In our new secular religion, belief in absolute human universalism and interchangeability is a fundamental moral imperative. Should Sweden, then, to “keep the faith”, carry on importing Muslims en masse, and hoping for the best? Or should it close its borders to them, thereby committing discrimination, the darkest possible sin?

The answer you’d expect from the Cathedral is of course the same one we get from the Times; this is not a coincidence. But if you’re willing to flirt with apostasy, here’s something to keep in mind (a kind of “Pascal’s Wager”, if you like): as I explained years ago in my post Simple Common Sense About Diversity And Immigration, immigration moratoria are easily reversible, while immigration is not. If your mistake turns out to be too little importation of profoundly alien peoples and cultures, well, you can always have more. If, on the other hand, you find out that your mistake was too much of it — as Sweden is doing now — it’s already too late.

Doesn’t all this seem perfectly obvious?

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Ourobouros

With a hat-tip to Bill Valicella, here’s an item, by Alex Ross for The New Yorker, arguing that the Frankfurt School foresaw the rise of Donald Trump.

Did they? Well, we shouldn’t be surprised, because they labored to create exactly the ideological conditions in the postwar West — the deadly mind-virus of radical and pathologically altruistic non-discrimination — that, by opposing every normal means of cultural self-preservation until at last the West’s very survival was at stake, guaranteed at last the very reaction they had sought to prevent. (Perhaps it is similar, in a sense, to the way the overuse of antibiotics has given rise to deadly strains of bacteria.) The New Yorker has been disseminating this pathogen for decades.

Mr. Ross, however, sees none of this. He betrays this blindness in his last sentence:

[T]he fear is that the present antidemocratic wave may prove too strong even for Germany — the only country in the history of the world that ever learned from its mistakes.

“Learned from its mistakes”? I think not. What happened, rather, was that Germany was crushed by its enemies, subjugated, and forcibly re-educated. It “learned” nothing that it wasn’t taught, in the wake of the war, by the Frankfurt School itself. As we watch Germany now, its culture staggering in extremis from decades of memetic infection, it should be obvious that all it has done has been to exchange one catastrophic mistake for another.

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Quite Possibly The Stupidest Thing Ever Said

I heard it again just the other day. It’s from some sappy movie a few decades back:

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

What idiot wrote this? Love means constantly having to say you’re sorry.

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Friend Of The Devil

Steve Bannon’s reading-list has had our Brahmins on the fainting-couch. In this item, for example, Jason Horowitz of the the New York Times, searching for the “roots” of Mr. Bannon’s “dark” and “apocalyptic” worldview, notes with horror that our new presidential adviser has not only heard of, but has actually read Julius Evola. (So have I, for that matter; a while back I posted this deeply insightful passage from Men Among The Ruins on the horror of totalitarianism.)

Imagine: a well-read man of the Right, with brains and a plan, whispering into the President’s ear! In other words: we now have our very own Valerie Jarrett — and this scares the bejesus out of them.

Over at Social Matter, Arthur Sarsfield asks (my emphasis):

If Trump is the devil of America’s liberal civic religion, how can anything be worse than the devil? How is anything noteworthy beyond Satan being Satan in building a case against Satan? Is reading Evola worse than being literally Hitler? … If Hitler is in power, why should anyone care that Evola is his adviser?

Why, it’s almost as if Mr. Sarsfield’s been popping in at my place. Read the rest of his post here.

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:-(

In my ceaseless foraging for blog-fodder, I ran across this clickbait today:

10+ Hilarious Reasons Why The English Language Is The Worst

“The worst”? Au contraire, say I: what other language has such richness of idiom, precision and discrimination?

Anyway, off to the linked item I went. It began:

English is a mystery to all of us, whether you’ve been speaking it since day one, or you’ve just started to learn it. From its bizarre spelling rules to its free-for-all grammar, it’s a daily struggle just trying to form sentences that make sense.

For some of us, I suppose.

No wonder people are turning to emoji to express their thoughts.

Strewth! This is what’s called a “category error”. Here’s an example of a “thought”:

He who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste his life in fruitless efforts.

If you can express that with emoji, please astonish me by doing so. The comment-box is open.

The truth, I fear, is that if people are “turning to emoji to express their thoughts”, it’s because they are no longer being taught how to have “thoughts”. The world now runs on feelings.

Good Lord, what a mess we’re in.

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You Can’t Keep A Good Man Down

With a hat-tip to Nick B. Steves, here’s a post-and-thread you might like to read, if you have some time. The post, at the computer scientist Scott Aaronson’s blog Shtetl-Optimized, is a protest against the Trump travel ban, from a familiar perspective, and ends with a challenge to Trump voters: “go ahead, let me hear you defend this.”

He got his wish, and a (very) long and lively comment-thread has ensued. Among those representing the Right are “jim” (who will be familiar to you NRxers) and “Bran”, but the sharpest is a chap commenting as “Boldmug”.

As Bernoulli said of Newton, “we know the lion by his claw“, and it’s nice to see Mr. Yarvin on the ramparts again. He writes at considerable length in this thread, and applies the poignard to the clerisy with impressive skill (not to mention stamina, and obvious relish). I believe he’s grown restless on the sidelines, and we welcome him back to the fray.

A very tiny sample, on the Left’s conceit that they are “speaking truth to power”:

Let’s be real: which is stronger, the universities or the proles? West Virginia can take it in the tail for decades; if Berkeley (or worse, one of Berkeley’s pets) stubs a toe, it’s a monstrous violation of the Constitution and George Washington is spinning in his grave.

Where are you absolutely positioned on a line segment whose length is 1? To answer this question is to ask: how much room would you have to move left? How much room would you have to move right?

Berkeley can teach the Marines all about how to fight wars (which, the latest research tells us, can only be won with a sensitive grasp of intersectionality). Imagine if the Marines instead taught Berkeley how to socialize 18-year-olds.

So not only are you listening to only one side of this power dynamic. You’re listening to by far the most powerful side.

(See also this comment, in particular, which I won’t excerpt here.)

As I said, the thread is long — but if you are interested in seeing, not the usual shouting and name-calling, but serious combat between the Progressive intellectual hegemon and one of its most articulate critics, then go have a look.

Update: see also this excellent entry late in the thread, by commenter “Bran”, on the near-impossibility of productive political dialogue.

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Join Or Die

Our previous post touched on the inexorable encroachment of sensors and listening devices into every cranny of our lives. In the comment-thread I mentioned a “particular nightmare” of my own, and said I’d describe it in a new post.

It is this: given the exponential advances being made in brain-machine interfaces and nanotech, I see no obvious barrier to implantable communication interfaces. (The current state of the art is better at controlling things with our brains than receiving input, but work proceeds apace, and I’m sure things will accelerate briskly on both fronts.)

Imagine being able to send and receive messages across such an interface. At first it would be on the level of text-massaging, I suppose, but it’s hard to see any limit to the possibilities — images, emotional states, and perhaps the full range of qualia and subjective experience. The possibility, then, is actual mind-to-mind networking, and the accomplishment of this would be, I think, the starting point for a rapidly evolving, Borg-like aggregate. I really don’t think this is far-fetched at all, and I expect it to be within our technical capabilities in no more than a decade or two at most. It would be a truly radical — I believe the vogue word is “disruptive” — alteration of the human experience.

Would you sign on for such a thing? I have a feeling that if you didn’t, you’d very quickly be left behind — and any organized resistance to it would face impossible odds. It would be like fighting gods. What I think will happen will be that there will be some remnant who will not participate, and they will simply be left behind to die out.

That this scenario, which to me seems quite obviously likely, doesn’t seem to come up much in techno-futurist circles rather puzzles me.

Here’s another angle: Elon Musk advising us that we will have no choice, really, but to become man-machine hybrids. (I suppose with my artificial knee I’m on the way already.)

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Boil That Frog!

One thing I’ve been awfully leery of is the proliferation of sensors of every sort in every part of our environment. In particular I’m edgy about the new generation of devices, such as Amazon’s Echo, that just sit in your house and listen.

I realize that this ship has already sailed, really, in that we all now carry around smartphones that contain cameras, location sensors and microphones. (It used to be that if you wanted to, you could make sure they were turned off by taking out the battery — but with most of them, now, you can’t even do that. Am I being paranoid to think the switch away from removable batteries might be motivated by more than, say, reliable waterproofing?)

This latest wave of products, though, is another level of monitoring: we all know it’s right there listening, because that’s what we expect it to do. And apparently we’re just fine with that: these things are selling like hot-cakes.

Here’s an article about the road ahead — at least the few feet of it that we can see.

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The Devil You Know

In September 2015 I commented on the increasing political polarization of Europe, and the extent to which any middle ground was increasingly excluded. A longish auto-quote:

… [T]he entire continuum of political opinion on the question of immigration and and of the ethnic and religious composition of European nations has now been reduced, editorially, to a binary, Manichaean choice: either you signal, proudly and loudly, that you believe these questions should be of no importance to any right-thinking person, or you are, not to put too fine a point on it, a Nazi.

It needn’t have come to this. Had Europe followed a less aggressively xenophilic and oikophobic immigration policy over the past several decades — even along the same lines, but tempered by sensible and cautious moderation — moral virtue might still have been signaled at acceptable levels by the ethnomasochistic and culturally self-abnegating Left, while reactionary elements would have had nothing much to feed on. But the accelerating displacement of European ethnies by Muslim migrants had already got to the point where even ordinary people had started to have misgivings, and nativism had already begun to exert a gathering political influence throughout the Continent — and so this latest wave of “refugees” falls upon a European polity already awakened to its existential peril, and concerned enough to react.

The Cathedral, correctly sensing the threat to its hegemony, responded in precisely the way we should expect a secularized Protestant cryptotheocracy to behave:

Naturally, this reaction now provokes a counter-reaction by those in charge, using what has been their weapon of choice since the dawn of the Puritan era: public shaming (supported, in modern Europe, by whatever thoughtcrime and “hate-speech” statutes they can bring to bear). But shaming is only effective when the offender feels himself to be one against many; it is most effective of all when the would-be heretic has so internalized the social Panopticon that his heresy is snuffed out before it even rises to the level of speech. All it takes for the system to collapse, though, is for enough people to say what multitudes of others are thinking (and, in many cases, have been thinking for years), and that is exactly what is happening now in Europe.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and so we see what would, in earlier times, have been an appeal to God. The impulse to invoke the transcendent remains intact, however, and so the clerisy reaches for the through-the-looking-glass version of supernatural Good that serves the purpose nowadays: worldly but equally infinite Evil.

As this tension reaches a crisis, we should naturally expect the shaming-weapon, in desperation, to be switched from “Stun” to “Kill” — and so dissent is now made equal to Nazism, or infinite evil. (Hitler occupies an interesting position in the West’s modern, secular religion: there is no longer any God or Christ to represent infinite Good, but in a roundabout, apophatic way we can still have our sense of the transcendent by using the infinitely evil Hitler as something resembling Christ’s antiparticle.)

Heresy is still heresy, same as it ever was. All that has changed is that before religion went undercover, the heretic was accused of rejecting God — while now, with God out of the picture, the heretic’s crime is now orientation toward the opposite pole: the tangible and worldly Hitler, a Satan for our times.

Adolf Hitler did very bad things, on the grandest possible scale. (The Nazis wiped out, for example, most of my mother-in-law’s family.) He clearly deserves prominent inclusion in any anti-pantheon (“pandemonium”?). But history is chockablock with extremely bad actors — a couple of whom were even Hitler’s contemporaries, and killed, just as mercilessly, even more millions of people. So why was it, then, when the puff of white smoke appeared in the Cathedral’s chimney, was it Hitler, and not, say, Stalin (who was by any measure every bit as malignant and murderous as Hitler) who emerged as the new antipontiff?

It’s a fair question, I think, and an interesting one, and I believe I could go a long way toward answering it (though I won’t do so here). Just to cross one thing off the list, though: to say that Hitler’s crimes were the worst of all because they were racist puts the cart before the horse: the elevation of European identitarianism to the direst of available sins is a postwar reaction to Hitler’s crimes. Hitler isn’t the postwar era’s secular Antichrist because he was racist. Racism, rather, is now the darkest of possible sins because it’s what Hitler did.

(If you think I’m wrong about this, go and read some mainstream prewar Progressive literature. You might start with Lothrop Stoddard’s The Revolt Against Civilization: The Menace of the Under Man. Or you might try this one: The Rising Tide of Color Against White-World Supremacy.

If you’ve never heard of these books, and you’re a relatively normal, well-educated Westerner of the 21st century, you probably can’t even read these titles without a shudder of aversion — and yet Lothrop Stoddard was no extremist: he was a highly regarded public intellectual of his day, a respected, forward-thinking Progressive. His books were popular and highly influential. If NPR had been around in the 1920’s, he’d have been a regular. As far as the evolution of mainstream opinion is concerned, to get from that era of Progressivism to what it is today is a change on a par with the Cretaceous extinction — and yet it’s within living memory.)

So: as very, very bad as he surely was, the question remains: exactly how, given the tremendously stiff competition, did Hitler edge out all the others, and become the one and only Anti-God, the apex of transcendent evil? If you were born after World War Two, you probably haven’t asked yourself this question. No need — it’s something you just know. More than that, it’s a question you aren’t supposed to ask. (If you think I’m wrong about that, well, next time you’re at a party, try asking it. Or ask yourself this, readers: don’t you already feel that I’m getting a little “outside the pale” myself, right now? I’m feeling it too, enough to want to make clear that I’m not — hey, seriously! — a Nazi. That’s how potent, how fraught with religiosity, this is. In the old days, when they they encountered heresy, people worried about the fate of their immortal souls. Are you worried now, just a bit, about my soul?)

Well, asking this question is exactly what Mencius Moldbug did, in Part 1 of his essay An open letter to open-minded progressives. He understood that asking the question would bring out implicit assumptions, and internal inconsistencies, that might help us to understand the operating-system the Western world runs on nowadays. So he asked it: “What’s so bad about the Nazis?”

The framing is provocatively blunt. But if you read on, the question is a serious one: what was it about the Nazis that makes us see them as uniquely evil, given that others, such as Stalin, were arguably even more monstrous?

But to read on, after an opener like that, would be to flirt with the darkest of heresies. A quarantine is needed. And so we have, for example, this article in MacLean’s, entitled Steve Bannon’s Dangerous Reading List. We read:

Those who have tried to draw a line from Bannon to Curtis Yarvin, the computer programmer who blogs under the name Mencius Moldbug (Yarvin denies any links), have focused on a 2008 post in which the self-described neo-reactionary asks “What’s so bad about the Nazis?” aside, that is, from that Holocaust thing.

Bannon’s critics are attempting, of course, to firmly situate him on the wrong side of a very bright red line, with Moldbug’s comment itself dismissed as an instance of a favourite alt-right tactic—uttering provocations simply so the speaker can be amused by the outraged reactions.

But there is an actual link in thought, if not in person, here between Bannon’s interest in traditional and authoritarian ethno-nationalism and the alt-right’s admiring reappraisal of pre-genocide Nazis.

In other words: Get thee behind me, Satan! The analysis really goes no deeper than that, I’m afraid. Regarding the MacLean’s article itself, a little meta-analysis is possible, though:

Progressives are fond of quoting Martin Luther King’s remark about the “moral arc of the Universe”. If the moral universe really is the sort of reference-framework that admits of curvature, then Nazism, in postwar moral astrophysics, is a place where it bends itself right out of existence: a singularity. If Dr. King was a shining star in this moral firmament, then Adolf Hitler is Cygnus X-1. A merciful Nature, itself abhorring such a negative moral infinity, modestly shrouds it with an “event horizon” (at a distance with a fittingly German name: the Schwarzschild radius). For the protection of your soul, you can’t even look at the singularity itself: anything that gets too close is swallowed up by mere proximity to such evil, and vanishes forever.

And so: what to do about that Steve Bannon? Properly understood, the article says this:

“He is obviously already within the gravity well of the Hitlerian Singularity, and getting tantalizingly close to the event horizon.

All it should take is a little push…”

A perfect plan! — until you remember that business about parallel universes.

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Tekhwan

With a hat-tip to the indefatigable JK, here’s an interesting little item: three Congressional IT staffers — brothers Abid, Imran, and Jamal Awan — may have been using their access to snoop.

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Ought v. Is

Here’s tart piece by Porter on Cass Sunstein’s vision of the Constitution. (I always enjoy Porter’s astringent writing, except for those doggone sentence fragments.)

Give Me The Child…

The National Association of Scholars has published a new report entitled “Making Citizens: How American Universities Teach Civics”.

From the “executive summary”:

A new movement in American higher education aims to transform the teaching of civics. This report is a study of what that movement is, where it came from, and why Americans should be concerned.

What we call the “New Civics” redefines civics as progressive political activism. Rooted in the radical program of the 1960s’ New Left, the New Civics presents itself as an up-to-date version of volunteerism and good works. Thoughcamouflaged with soft rhetoric, the New Civics, properly understood, is an effort to repurpose higher education.

The New Civics seeks above all to make students into enthusiastic supporters of the New Left’s dream of “fundamentally transforming” America. The transformation includes de-carbonizing the economy, massively redistributing wealth, intensifying identity group grievance, curtailing the free market, expanding government bureaucracy, elevating international “norms” over American Constitutional law, and disparaging our common history and ideals. New Civics advocates argue among themselves which of these transformations should take precedence, but they agree that America must be transformed by “systemic change” from an unjust, oppressive society to a society that embodies social justice.

The New Civics hopes to accomplish this by teaching students that a good citizen is a radical activist, and it puts political activism at the center of everything that students do in college, including academic study, extra-curricular pursuits, and off-campus ventures.

New Civics builds on “service-learning,” which is an effort to divert students from the classroom to vocational training as community activists. By rebranding itself as “civic engagement,” service-learning succeeded in capturing nearly all the funding that formerly supported the old civics. In practice this means that instead of teaching college students the foundations of law, liberty, and self-government, colleges teach students how to organize protests, occupy buildings, and stage demonstrations. These are indeed forms of “civic engagement,” but they are far from being a genuine substitute for learning how to be a full participant in our republic.

New Civics has still further ambitions. Its proponents want to build it into every college class, regardless of subject. The effort continues without so far drawing much critical attention
from the public. This report aims to change that. In addition to our history of the New Civics movement and its breakthrough moment when it was endorsed by President Obama, we provide case studies of four universities: the University of Colorado, Boulder (CU-Boulder), Colorado State University in Fort Collins (CSU), the University of Northern Colorado in Greeley (UNC), and the University of Wyoming in Laramie (UW).

NAS has 9 findings about the state of civics education nationwide, and 4 about the state of civics education in Colorado and Wyoming.

To see what those nine findings are, download the executive summary here. The full report is here.

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Outed

It turns out that “Publius Decius Mus”, who wrote the influential essay “The Flight 93 Election” back in September (we commented on it here) is Michael Anton, a former editor of the Journal of American Greatness.

He is now a member, I’m glad to say, of the Trump administration. Therefore he is also a Nazi.

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Bingo

From a scathing editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal (my emphasis):

The Senate made history Tuesday when Mike Pence became the first Vice President to cast the deciding vote for a cabinet nominee.

The nominee is now Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. The vote came after an all-night Senate debate in a futile effort by Democrats to turn the third Republican vote they needed to scuttle the nomination on claims that the long-time education reformer isn’t qualified. Republicans Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins had already caved, so Mr. Pence had to cast the 51st vote to confirm Mrs. DeVos.

She can now get on with her work, but this episode shouldn’t pass without noting what it says about the modern Democratic Party. Why would the entire party apparatus devote weeks of phone calls, emails and advocacy to defeating an education secretary? This isn’t Treasury or Defense. It’s not even a federal department that controls all that much education money, most of which is spent by states and local school districts. Why is Betsy DeVos the one nominee Democrats go all out to defeat?

The answer is the cold-blooded reality of union power and money. The National Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers are, along with environmentalists, the most powerful forces in today’s Democratic Party. They elect Democrats, who provide them more jobs and money, which they spend to elect more Democrats, and so on. To keep this political machine going, they need to maintain their monopoly control over public education.

Mrs. DeVos isn’t a product of that monopoly system. Instead she looked at this system’s results—its student failures and lives doomed to underachievement—and has tried to change it by offering all parents the choice of charter schools and vouchers. Above all, she has exposed that unions and Democrats don’t really believe in their high-minded rhetoric about equal opportunity. They believe in lifetime tenure and getting paid.

The article is behind the paywall, but if you use an “incognito” browser and Google the title — “The Real Democratic Party” — you should be able to read it.

I should say also that this is not to suggest in any way that the same sort of thing doesn’t happen on the Republican side as well; of course it does. It is an obvious and inherent liability of our system of government. What should also be obvious is that the bigger that government is, and the more powerful it is, the more it attracts — and welcomes — such unholy arrangements, and the more pernicious they become to the general welfare.

If we are to continue to embrace this form of democracy, then the only good answer to the problem is to curtail the size and power of the Federal apparatus itself. You would think that would be as plain as day — so why does it never happen? Because among the many inherent liabilities of complex representative democracies is that the Leviathan always seeks its own growth, with the political class generally acting in the role of parasitic symbiotes. (I’ll take this opportunity to recommend two books: Crisis and Leviathan, by Robert Higgs, and The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior is Almost Always Good Politics, by Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith.)

It is not easy to see a way out of this trap.

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Emotional Granularity And The Richness of Human Idiom

The range of human emotion varies widely not only among individuals, but also across cultures. There is a poignancy in an inexpressible emotion (there ought to be a word for that!) — but there’s a good chance that what is inexpressible in one language is pinpointed by a word or phrase in another.

Tim Lomas of the University of East London has set about collecting these idioms from all over the world. Learn more here.

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Could California Secede?

In the comment-thread to a recent post, our commenter Henry argues that Calexit, as the Golden State’s secession movement refers to its goal, is a non-starter. Is it?

Is secession prohibited by the Constitution? Not explicitly. By Constitutional interpretation? Well, there’s Texas v. White (1869). Wikipedia has excerpted some key passages from Salmon P. Chase’s majority opinion (my emphasis).

The Union of the States never was a purely artificial and arbitrary relation. It began among the Colonies, and grew out of common origin, mutual sympathies, kindred principles, similar interests, and geographical relations. It was confirmed and strengthened by the necessities of war, and received definite form and character and sanction from the Articles of Confederation. By these, the Union was solemnly declared to “be perpetual.” And when these Articles were found to be inadequate to the exigencies of the country, the Constitution was ordained “to form a more perfect Union.” It is difficult to convey the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly than by these words. What can be indissoluble if a perpetual Union, made more perfect, is not?

I beg to differ. It is not difficult at all to convey, in a written constitution, “the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly than by these words.” For example, the Constitution might have said:

“The Union of States hereby constituted shall be forever and always indissoluble.”

See how easy?

Moreover, I should think that any notion of “a perfect Union” would presume, at the very least, the willing participation of its members; a Union that a constituent party wishes so badly to leave that it is willing to go to war over it hardly seems “perfect” to me. So with all due respect, I think Chief Justice Chase rather badly missed the mark here.

The Chief Justice continued, referring to the recent Civil War:

Considered therefore as transactions under the Constitution, the ordinance of secession, adopted by the convention and ratified by a majority of the citizens of Texas, and all the acts of her legislature intended to give effect to that ordinance, were absolutely null. They were utterly without operation in law. The obligations of the State, as a member of the Union, and of every citizen of the State, as a citizen of the United States, remained perfect and unimpaired. It certainly follows that the State did not cease to be a State, nor her citizens to be citizens of the Union. If this were otherwise, the State must have become foreign, and her citizens foreigners. The war must have ceased to be a war for the suppression of rebellion, and must have become a war for conquest and subjugation.

Chief Justice Chase presents this as some sort of reductio ad absurdum. I see here a syllogism going something like this:

1) If the secession of the Confederacy were valid, then the Civil War would have been “a war for conquest and subjugation”.

2) The Civil War was not a war for conquest and subjugation.

3) The secession of the Confederacy was not valid.

If this all seems solid to you, you might like to ask a Southerner about premise 2).

Salmon P. Chase was born in New Hampshire. The concurring Justices were born in New York, New Hampshire, and Connecticut (as well as one who, though born in Maryland, went to college in Ohio, Massachusetts, and Yale, married a gal from Massachusetts, and settled in Illinois). The dissenting Justices, however, were all Southerners. (I suppose that’s why they call these things “opinions”.)

The fact is: the Southern states seceded from the Union, and the North forced them back in by defeating them in an exceptionally bloody war. You may claim a legal basis for it, if you like (and of course the North did like) but in the end, like so much of human affairs, it comes down to power. How else would you compel a seceding state to rejoin the Union except by “conquest” (i.e. the seizure of sovereignty by superior force, military or other), and “subjugation” (forcing submission to the will of the conqueror)?

It can certainly be argued that to secede from the Union is to renege on a contract, namely the Constitution itself. But the Constitution, to the extent that it is a contract at all, is a contract between the United States of America — and as soon as a state has seceded from that Union it considers itself no longer a part of that republic. Why would it consider itself bound by the Constitution of a nation it doesn’t belong to?

“No,” you might say, “to secede in the first place is a breach of contract.” But what gives contracts their binding power, in the absence of voluntary compliance? Only the coercive power of the sovereign — a sovereign to which a state in secession no longer believes it owes any obedience.

The question, then, is not a Constitutional one, but, as it was in the 1860’s, a matter of coercive power. If California were to secede, this means that the rump United States would have to decide whether to retake it by force.

Would it do so? The previous Civil War was a gruesome affair, costing over 600,000 lives. How would a sitting President, in the second decade of the 21st century, decide what to do?

Perhaps he would try and consult the nation’s mood, the national will. But what would be the national will be in a nation so deeply divided as ours? California, after all, is the mothership of Leftism in America: of radical environmentalism, open borders, sexual libertinism, and entropic postmodernism regarding every natural category. It media apparatus is the great antenna from which the liberal Narrative is broadcast, and its balmy littoral precincts are where the Cathedral’s wealthy and photogenic aristoi fly home to roost, in sumptuous isolation. All of this attracts a good deal of sympathy from a great many people throughout the Clinton Archipelago. (They may not occupy a lot of physical territory, but they are numerous, and they make a lot of noise.) How would they react to the sight of B-2s over the Golden Gate?

Admittedly, the secessionists in California might not be able to put up much of a fight; it’s hard to imagine Barbra Streisand or Lena Dunham striking fear into the hearts of the Marines. But I do believe that an awful lot of people in America would not only not want to reclaim California by force, but would be strongly sympathetic to its secession, and would even be inclined to move there once the dust settled.

On the other side of the coin, there would be an awful lot of people in TrumpLand who would be happy to see California go, and even happier to see local sympathizers hit the road for the new Utopia.

In short, a peaceful separation might be a great blessing for a nation stuck in a very bad marriage, and badly in need of a divorce. And so I very much doubt that if California secedes the result would be war.

But will California secede? There is certainly a movement towards it that is gathering steam, but it’s too soon to say. If I had to make a guess, though, I’d say that I rather think it actually might.

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I Drink, Therefore I Am

Why is there civilization?

To make beer, of course. Duh.

And That’s The Fake News, Folks. Now, Here’s The Fake Weather.

Here’s a story I think we’ll be hearing a thing or two about. From the Daily Mail:

The Mail on Sunday today reveals astonishing evidence that the organisation that is the world’s leading source of climate data rushed to publish a landmark paper that exaggerated global warming and was timed to influence the historic Paris Agreement on climate change.

A high-level whistleblower has told this newspaper that America’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) breached its own rules on scientific integrity when it published the sensational but flawed report, aimed at making the maximum possible impact on world leaders including Barack Obama and David Cameron at the UN climate conference in Paris in 2015.

The report claimed that the ‘pause’ or ‘slowdown’ in global warming in the period since 1998 – revealed by UN scientists in 2013 – never existed, and that world temperatures had been rising faster than scientists expected. Launched by NOAA with a public relations fanfare, it was splashed across the world’s media, and cited repeatedly by politicians and policy makers.

But the whistleblower, Dr John Bates, a top NOAA scientist with an impeccable reputation, has shown The Mail on Sunday irrefutable evidence that the paper was based on misleading, ‘unverified’ data.

It was never subjected to NOAA’s rigorous internal evaluation process – which Dr Bates devised.

His vehement objections to the publication of the faulty data were overridden by his NOAA superiors in what he describes as a ‘blatant attempt to intensify the impact’ of what became known as the Pausebuster paper.

And here’s Dr. Bates’s own account, courtesy of vox clamantis in deserto Dr. Judith Curry.

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Pour La Canaille…

Our commenter Robert has sent us a link from MindingTheCampus.org: What To Do When Angry Students Plan To Cancel A Speech. It is brief enough to quote in its entirety here (emphasis added).

So the Chancellor of the University of California put out a defense of free speech when violent rioters threatened to cancel a talk by a far-right agitator at Berkeley (see following item). So the violent rioters overwhelmed the insufficient force of municipal and campus police and canceled the speech. Then what have we learned here? That high-minded statements unaccompanied by not enough law-and-order often do little or nothing for free speech.

What to do? The same thing we advise whenever this happens: don’t let the censors win. Be sure to invite the speaker back, even if it is the obnoxious Milo Yiannopolous, after negotiating enough local police and enough rent-a-cops to handle the feral young. This will make your commitment to free speech very clear.

I approve (as would Tom Petty and Winston Churchill). And if that fails, of course, there’s always grapeshot.

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What Now?

In my previous post I mentioned the fault-lines dividing the nation, and said it seemed the ground was beginning to shake. There’s no question that the West’s tectonic plates, which have been locked for a long time now, have begun to slip; the collapse of the Democratic Party, and the ascension of Donald Trump, could not have happened without real seismic movement.

As a result, there has been a convulsive reaction on the Left: riots, mass demonstrations, an annulment/secession movement in California, boycotting of Senate confirmation hearings, and incendiary denunciations by every organ of the Cathedral. There has also been, to borrow from the Left’s own glossary, a general intensification of “othering”, at a level bordering on outright dehumanization. Those not enthusiastically supportive of the activist Left are no longer “conservatives”, or even “tea-baggers”; they are now Nazis — and, the label having been applied, it’s broadly considered justifiable, if not downright fashionable, to assault them. (Even the New York Times considers the question worth debating. If that’s what they say in public, one can imagine what their private sentiments might be.)

Last night, riots broke out on the Berkeley campus in response to an speaking engagement by Milo Yiannopolous. Certainly the ground is shaking a bit. The question we should ask, though, is whether these are foreshocks — the early tremors of an impending catastrophe — or aftershocks. To pursue the seismological metaphor, might it be that the plates having slipped, the shaking will gradually abate as the landscape settles into its new configuration? Or are we, as some are suggesting, on the brink of far greater shocks, possibly including civil war?

Best of all, of course, would be peaceful disaggregation — but so deeply interpenetrated are the opposing sides as to make that almost impossible. California may secede (with my blessing!), and so might Texas, and there are some geographic generalities that may offer other possibilities, but for the most part a split is going to be very hard to arrange. If it really does come down to war, think Rwanda. (And the Left will lose, badly.)

I don’t expect that to happen, though I do expect real violence to erupt here and there. Certain cities might not be safe places to be, without a lot of warning, and sooner than you think.

If you imagine the chief features of the modern left-wing activist, “impulse control” is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. This means that they tend to behave badly in public, even when times are good — and for the American Left in early 2017, times are not good. It seems likely, then, that in the coming weeks and months, we will see more and more vandalism, disturbances of the peace, obstruction of public thoroughfares, shouting and insults, “getting in people’s faces”, and general obnoxiousness, as they feel power and representation slipping away. This in turn will alienate more and more of the quiet, middle-of-the-road sorts who might once have had some sympathy for their cause. In short, the more chaos they create, the more people will come to realize the primary importance of order. Order is one of those things, like air or water, that you don’t really appreciate until it’s in short supply — but when that supply is threatened, restoration becomes Job One.

So, the divorce we’d all love to see isn’t going to happen, I’m afraid, and so the sullen left, I’m sorry to say, will continue to be with us for the foreseeable future, and will continue to be a degrading, corrosive force. They will never sleep, and will pounce on any weakness, and there will be some very ugly outbreaks. But in their spasm of anger they are now going to present themselves so badly to the American people that they will lose a great deal of sympathy, and with it a great deal of power, for some time to come.

That’s how it seems to me tonight, anyway. (I might have a different opinion by morning.) Am I right? We’ll see.

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Earthquake Weather

Here’s me, three years ago:

America’s ideological landscape is like the continent itself: transected by deep fault-lines at the irregular boundaries of rigid plates. Though crushed tightly together, these great masses seek to move in different directions, and so they strain relentlessly against one another. The pressure builds, and builds — until, sooner or later, it must release itself in a destructive convulsion. …

The plates press and moan and grumble. The water in the wells is rising, and muddy. Dogs and cats fidget restlessly. Farm animals are balky and skittish. Migraines are up sharply, and radios are on the fritz.

It’s getting hard not to notice the ground starting to shake.

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All, And Nothing

With a hat tip to Nick B. Steves, we have for you a meditation from the Dissenting Sociologist on an ideological neoplasm: the Universal Person.

The Universal Person is a being almost celestial. He is best understood in contrast to the corrupt and sublunary identitarian, who remains trapped in his gross particularity:

Since the particular, by definition, is that which is embodied, and the Universal pure form emptied of any particular substantive embodiment, Universal Person’s contempt for the particular, for identity, is strictly analogous to the contempt for the body characteristic of traditional religious asceticism. Suggestively, religious asceticism, with its severe austerities, mortification, and discipline, sought to liberate the spirit from the fetters of mundane bodily existence, and to annihilate and dissolve the particular self into the infinite, the Divine, the Universal. Universal Person seems to strive towards much the same transcendent state, albeit by means much less rigorous and more congenial to the late-modern ethos of comfort, ease, and convenience. You don’t have to renounce all your worldly possessions, sleep on a bed of nails, live on top of a pillar for forty years, or for that matter do much of anything to attain to Universal Personhood; all that’s needed in order to lose one’s identity in the mystical unity of the secular Godhead is ostentatious public disavowal of that identity, which instantly and painlessly accomplishes what the mystical ascetics of old spent suffered their entire lives trying to achieve.

We’ve linked to this writer before; you may remember his excellent essay Weaving the Basket of Deplorables. This piece does a good and insightful job of limning a modern type with which we are all drearily familiar. Read it here. (See also our own Culture and Metaculture.)

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Sex And Violins

As tempting as it’s been, I haven’t commented here about the recent “women’s march”. (Anyway, it would be hard to top the succinct remark left by “The Anti-Gnostic” at Steve Sailer’s blog, so I won’t try.)

Here, though, is some worthwhile contrarianism from Margaret Wente, writing at the Globe and Mail.

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Donald Vs. The Gorgon

With concatenated hat-tips to our friends Horace Jeffery Hodges and Bill Vallicella, here is a superb essay on the Trumpian assault on the postmodernism that has had a death-grip on Western culture for some time now (and which, I have argued, has its roots in the radical skepsis that was born in the Enlightenment itself).

Central to the argument is that Mr. Trump is canny enough to fight the postmodernist devil not by direct dialectical opposition, but by turning its own method against it. (In this, as I mentioned over a year ago, there is a satisfying Alinskyist irony.)

I’m reminded of how Perseus slew Medusa: he was able to approach her safely by looking only at her reflection in his shield. Millennia later, Mr. Trump is beheading the Gorgon by becoming its reflection.

In this context I’ll recommend also The Devil’s Pleasure Palace, by Michael Walsh (who may be known to some of you as “David Kahane“.

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Do I Stand Corrected?

In an earlier post, I castigated President Trump for a “blunder”: not exempting green-card holders from his U.S. entry-restriction list.

Scott Adams argues that this might not have a blunder at all: that to restrict them first, then exempt them after all hell broke loose, was, perhaps, a carefully considered move.

Perhaps he’s right (which is, of course, to say that perhaps I’m wrong.) Read his explanation here.

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All Fixed!

As I imagined would happen, the Trump team has apparently realized its error, and has added permanent residents to the list of persons exempted from its temporary entry ban.

Good, I’m glad that’s sorted out. I do wish they hadn’t made this colossal boo-boo in the first place, but at least they’ve put it right.

The Left, of course, is writhing like a snake in a noose, but what else would you expect? They have only two modes of behavior: bullying when they have the advantage, and tantrums when they don’t.

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In A Nutshell

From Porter today on Twitter:

The right wants politics to make a better life for their children.

The left wants children to make a better life for their politics.

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Facepalm

As I write, the world is in an uproar because people with permanent resident status in the United States (i.e., holders of “green cards”) are being prevented from re-entering the country as a result of a recent executive order. (I’ve been offline for the past day or so, and am still trying to find out exactly what’s going on and why.)

If things are exactly as the hysterical reporting would indicate (which does happen once in a while), then this is a very clumsy move, and a political auto-goal. I am all for a moratorium on Muslim immigration to the West, and for far stricter immigration policy in general, and have said so often. But doing it so precipitously and ham-handedly is a serious blunder. In particular, absent evidence of malevolent activity or intent, green-card holders have a reasonable expectation to be treated, in terms of entry and exit, exactly as U.S. citizens are. If there’s a problem, the least we should do is let them come home and deal with it here.

Here’s Charles Cooke making the case:

Green card holders are not citizens — depending on the card and how it was obtained, that honor comes three or five years later. But they’re not bog-standard visa-holders either. Unlike, say, H1B-carriers, permanent residents are expected to live in America by default, and are in fact penalized if they don’t. By law and by expectation, this country is their home; their base; the ground in which their roots are planted. Because of this, permanent residents are able to purchase, own, and carry firearms; they are required to register with the selective service; and they are treated for tax and welfare purposes as are U.S. citizens. They can’t vote or serve on a jury, but, other than, they effectively enjoy all the liberties that natural born Americans enjoy. When they re-enter the country, the agent says “Welcome Home,” which is a big change from their visa days. They are not Americans, and they mustn’t pretend to be. But they are as close as one can get without being one.

And that’s fine. As a permanent resident myself, I don’t expect to be handed a passport or treated like a citizen (for what it’s worth, I like Josh Marshall’s conception of “thick citizenship”). But I do expect to be treated differently than a guy who just got off a plane for the first time — and not least because the process of obtaining a green card is tough. It took me a year from application to acceptance, and the vast majority of that time was taken up by the FBI. In addition to furnishing the government with my residential history, my employment history, and my criminal record (which is clean), I had to provide details of any clubs or societies to which I have ever belonged, to promise I wasn’t a terrorist or a Nazi or a communist, and to submit my fingerprints and a government-taken photograph on top. Which is to say: I had to go through the wringer before my card was issued. Because I was spotlessly clean my application wasn’t too involved, but I have friends whose days have been taken up by details of their parking tickets or their boyhood indiscretions or their penchant for getting fired. This is a tough nut to crack.

Some have suggested that blocking green-card holders is a misinterpretation of the executive order. I’ve just read it, and I don’t think so. (The full text is here.) The relevant section, I think, is 2(c):

(c) To temporarily reduce investigative burdens on relevant agencies during the review period described in subsection (a) of this section, to ensure the proper review and maximum utilization of available resources for the screening of foreign nationals, and to ensure that adequate standards are established to prevent infiltration by foreign terrorists or criminals, pursuant to section 212(f) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1182(f), I hereby proclaim that the immigrant and nonimmigrant entry into the United States of aliens from countries referred to in section 217(a)(12) of the INA, 8 U.S.C. 1187(a)(12), would be detrimental to the interests of the United States, and I hereby suspend entry into the United States, as immigrants and nonimmigrants, of such persons for 90 days from the date of this order (excluding those foreign nationals traveling on diplomatic visas, North Atlantic Treaty Organization visas, C-2 visas for travel to the United Nations, and G-1, G-2, G-3, and G-4 visas).

I don’t see anything anywhere in the rest of the text that exempts anyone on the basis of permanent-resident status.

As glad as I am that Hillary Clinton did not win this election, and that Donald Trump is serious about securing the nation’s borders and enforcing immigration law in ways that prioritize the interests of U.S. citizens over foreigners, preventing re-entry by permanent residents seems like a very serious error to me, and I hope this detail of the E.O. is corrected as soon as possible. It’s already too late to repair the political damage it’s going to cause, though. What a stupid mistake.

Am I wrong about this? If so, please tell me why. Comments are welcome.

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Defending The Keep

I’ve just run across an interesting and illustrative story about academic heresy. It’s by a dissident researcher who took on the high priest of linguistics, Noam Chomsky, and describes the storm of opprobrium that followed.

In brief: a central tenet of Chomsky’s model is that a particular feature — recursion — is universal to all human language. This is to say that it is a manifestation of our linguistic “hardware”, upon which the “software” of different languages runs.

The article explains what is meant by lingustic recursion:

Recursion is common in English and many other languages. For example, put the noun ‘truck’ and the noun ‘driver’ inside a single noun, and you get ‘truck-driver’. Put a sentence inside another sentence and you get ‘John said that he did not do it,’ where ‘he did not do it’ is a sentence inside the larger sentence, ‘John said that…’ Or, much more fun, ‘Oysters that oysters eat themselves eat oysters,’ which can also come out as ‘Oysters oysters eat eat oysters.’

Chomsky’s opinion that recursion was indeed a human universal became an uncontroversial orthodoxy among linguists. In 2005, however, along came one Daniel Everett, who published a counterexample: the isolated Amazonian language Pirahã, which does not use recursion. A single counterexample always being fatal to any claim of universality, the paper was a mortal threat to the Chomskian model. This was, for many, intolerable, and Professor Everett came under heavy fire.

This was, says Everett, due not only to the theoretical implications of his paper, but also to the lofty status of Noam Chomsky himself:

There is another reason why people seem to have an emotional stake in this otherwise obscure academic dust-up. Thousands know Chomsky not because of his linguistic work but because of his political writings. For some, his intellectual authority on politics is believed to derive ultimately from his brilliance in inventing a theory in linguistics that is intellectually on a par with Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity. These folks are put off by criticism of his linguistics, I believe, because this could undermine in some way his ‘genius’ label, so important to their idolisation of him as a political figure. My criticisms of Chomsky are seen by some as analogous to those of some junior physicist at an obscure college saying that he or she had falsified Einstein’s theories.

Another reason for negative reactions to criticism of Chomsky is what I refer to occasionally as ‘Ivy-league bias’. Imitation is a stronger force in cultures than innovation. Everything goes more easily if we imitate rather than innovate – so we buy our clothes at the same department stores and eat out at the same chain restaurants. And when we imitate people – wearing their jerseys, singing their music, repeating their ideas – we are doing what most cultures do, copying people with prestige and status. For example, reporters rarely innovate when covering science, that is, they rarely come to their own opinion about difficult material. Rather, they establish a set of ‘go-to’ experts to cite. And those sets are populated largely by Ivy-league professors. There is nothing wrong with that. I simply point out that it is common. It saves one from the excruciating work of original thought.

But Chomsky is no Einstein. And linguistics is not physics. Unlike Einstein, for example, Chomsky has been forced to retract at one time or another just about every major proposal he has made up to his current research, which he calls ‘Minimalism’. Concepts that helped make him famous, such as ‘deep structure’ and ‘surface structure’, were thrown out years ago. And unlike physics, there is no significant mathematics or clear way to disprove Chomsky’s broader claims – part of the reason for the current controversy.

I’m no linguist, and so have nothing to contribute to the academic debate here. As I said above, though, the story is an interesting and illustrative one (illustrative of “motte-and-bailey” arguments, the prestige of academic clerisies and orthodoxies, and much else besides), and well worth your time. Read it here.

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R.I.P.

Today we note with sadness two deaths: the actress Mary Tyler Moore, and the drummer Butch Trucks.

Mary Tyler Moore was a beloved figure in American popular culture, and rightly so: she was gifted, beautiful, charming, funny, intelligent, decent, and magnetically appealing. She touched nothing that she did not adorn, and I think I speak for everyone of my generation when I say it hurts to know she is gone.

I’ll miss Butch Trucks, too; the Allman Brothers were a hell of a band, and he was a big part of the reason why. I never got to meet him or work with him, but I’ve heard he was a mighty nice guy.

We’ll be seeing plenty of Mary Tyler Moore over the next few days, so I won’t worry about finding links here. (Go and watch a few episodes of the old Dick Van Dyke Show in her memory.)

For you drummers out there though, here’s a clip of Butch Trucks, explaining how to play Whipping Post.

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Corpore Sano

From our e-pal P.D. Mangan (who, as people who used to read his now-defunct blog will know, already has the mens sana part covered), here is a list of 20 principles for good health and longevity.

Many of these principles are obvious common sense. A controversial one, though, is number ten:

The cholesterol hypothesis of heart disease is nonsense. Statins have tiny effects on mortality with the potential of large, deleterious side effects.

Mr. Mangan, who has a professional background in the biological sciences, and who has done his homework on this, has over the years persuaded me of the validity of this claim. Your doctor, however, is not likely to agree.

On nearly every topic of importance, you have a choice: outsource your opinions to the established contemporary priesthood, or try, to the best of your ability, to make an independent assessment of whatever theories and data are available. (Sometimes none of the available theories will turn out to satisfactory, and if you are able to do so you may need to create a radically new and original one. This talent is very rare, but we have a word for people who are able to do it especially well: we call them “geniuses”.)

Often such independence of mind will make your life difficult, and depending on the questions you focus on may have significant social costs — but if you are constituted a certain way you really won’t have much choice, and once you cultivate the habit there’s no going back. Once you get good at it, though, you may have the satisfaction of seeing your contrarian notions validated as time goes by. (Don’t expect to get much credit for it, however. Everything that a society comes to accept as truth always seems obvious in hindsight.)

Mangan has always been an independent thinker of this sort. I miss his old blog, but I’m glad he’s turned his attention to something as important as the proper care and maintenance of our bodies.

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Never Interfere With The Enemy When He Is In The Process Of Destroying Himself

Behold Sally Boynton Brown, an industrial-strength ethno-masochist who wants both to “have a conversation” and “shut other white people down”.

(If you’re a student of political language, by the way, and you’re looking for examples of Orwellian phrases that mean exactly the opposite of what they say, it’s hard to beat “have a conversation”.)

I can’t think of any examples, throughout all of history, of any ethnic group despising themselves, and seeking their own abnegation and extinction, in the way that large numbers of white people are doing today. (I mean it: I’m really stumped here. Readers?)

Ms. Brown is standing for the job of head of the Democratic National Committee. I hope she gets it; she might even be a better choice than Keith Ellison.

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NYT: Political Violence? Go For It!

In this torrid political season, if your sympathies are with the Left, you may have been saying to yourself:

“Boy, I’m frustrated! I can’t believe we actually lost!! It’s so unfair!!! Is it OK now if I just go out and assault people I disagree with?”

Well, I’ve got good news: the New York Times feels your pain. As far as I can tell from this item, the answer just might be “Yes!”

Just make sure that before you go out and injure anyone, you call him a Nazi first.

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Dear Diary: I Can’t Believe He’s Gone.

Barack Obama has left office, and in a weepy item called “Obama’s final ride into a wet, foggy California night“, the Washington Post grieves. (The article was written by “Greg Jaffe”, which seems an odd name for a teenage girl. I had to squeegee estrogen off the screen several times to maintain legibility.)

This eulogy for a broken love-affair did provide two points of insight:

“He may be the least sentimental guy I’ve ever met,” marveled one top aide from his first term.

“Marveled”. Gotta love it. Anyway, as we suspected: a distinct lack of normal human empathy, a common symptom of psychopathy.

Also this:

Even as the country grew more angry and polarized during his presidency, Obama believed that his shape-shifting identity, and ability to empathize with Americans of all races and backgrounds, could help him bridge deepening divides.

Right: delusional too, as we also knew all along.

So, here we are. President McDreamy’s out, and the new guy’s in. Poor Greg Jaffe may be sitting home eating pints of ice cream and sobbing into her pillow, but I think the rest of us will manage, somehow.

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Inaugural Balls

Finally, to borrow a phrase from another presidential transition, “our long national nightmare is over.”

That was quite a speech Mr. Trump gave today (video here, transcript here). Yes, it had its moments of hyperbole — we will not, for example, be eradicating Islamic terrorism from the face of the Earth any time soon, I think — but how refreshing it was to hear an American president, or any Western leader, even say the words “Islamic terrorism”!

(Another contrast with what we’ve had to get used to over the past eight years: in his speech, Mr. Trump said ‘I’ only twice. He said ‘we’ thirty-two times.)

The speech was strong, and it was blunt, and it was clear. It was virile, in a way we haven’t seen for quite some time.

This evening we drove from New York to Wellfleet. We got in around eleven, and I stopped off in a convenience store to buy some milk for the morning’s coffee. There was a young man with a ponytail working at the register. I asked him how he was doing.

“I’m excellent,” he said. “It’s a beautiful day in America.”

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Game On!

Right, then, today’s the day. The inauguration is about to begin. Mr. Trump can expect to be tested at once.

From today’s NightWatch:

China-US: On 19 January, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Ms. Hua Chunying answered a question about China’s relations with the new US administration. Her reply is China official position regarding the US on the eve of inauguration. As such, it represents a baseline for studying US-China relations.

“We are also paying close attention to the 20 January inauguration ceremony of the new US President. As for our expectations for China-US relations under the new US administration, we have repeatedly indicated our relevant position recently.”

“The China-US relations is one of the most important bilateral relations in the world. China and the United States are the world’s top two major economies and the largest developing country and the largest developed country respectively.”

“A healthy and stable development of China-US relations is in line with the common interests of the people in the two countries. In fact, the development of China-US relations over the last few years has fully proved that China and the United States have far more common interests than differences, and cooperation between China and the United States can accomplish many things in a big way for the benefits of the two countries and the world.”

“Whether it is for the interests of China and the United States and the two peoples, or for promoting world peace, stability, and development, we have every reason to expect and believe that China and the United States can work together to ensure that China-US relations will move forward along the correct direction in a healthy and stable way.”

“Of course, on some specific issues and differences between China and the United States, the two countries should engage in dialogue and communication in a constructive way to deepen understanding in the intentions of each other, avoid misinterpretation and misjudgment, manage and control differences in a constructive way, and ensure the overall healthy and stable development of China-US relations.”

“We look forward to work hard with the new US administration, continue to uphold the principles of non-confrontation, non-conflict, mutual respect, and win-win cooperation, and continue to expand cooperation on bilateral, regional and global issues, and other fields to strive to push China-US relations toward greater development at a new starting point.”

NightWatch Comment: Hua remarks essentially are a tutorial for the benefit of the US President-elect, laying out China’s expectations of American behavior. Hua was careful to avoid provocative statements, but Chinese behavior in the past eight years belies her reassurances about stability and “non-confrontation”. The Chinese have their own definitions of the principles for managing state relations “in a healthy and stable way.” The “correct direction” always favors China.

China is in confrontation with both Koreas; Japan; all the countries in southeast Asia except the Philippines; Burma, and India. Stability means that other states affected by Chinese initiatives should not react aggressively to protect their interests.

Non-confrontation applies to the US Navy and Japan’s self-defense forces, but not to Chinese ships intruding in the Senkakus or to China’s claim to sovereignty over most of the South China Sea. In 2012, Chinese forces simply seized the Philippine territory of Scarborough Shoal by force.

Chinese and North Korean missiles that can target South Korea and Japan are not provocative, but the installation of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) anti-ballistic missile systems in South Korea and Japan is destabilizing. US bases are destabilizing, but the Chinese base in Djibouti is not.

Improvements to Vietnam’s islands are provocative, but China’s militarization of its man-made islets is not. President Xi’s Silk Road and Belt projects offer significant economic benefits to cooperating countries at the price of compromising their security and redirecting world trade. China’s reach is now farther than ever in Chinese history.

China’s focus on common interests ignores the much weightier issues on which national interests diverge, including North Korea’s missile and nuclear programs. Plus, there is a pattern. Chinese initiatives invariably are stabilizing and benign, so the Chinese assert. Resistance, disagreement or counter-initiatives, perforce, must be destabilizing and malign.

The statement of principles is beguiling. No one could object the principles, but the Chinese do not practice them. Nor do the Russians. They are for others – the victims and targets — to practice. Additionally, they appear to support the existing international order, as suggested by President Xi in Davos. However, they also help the China Dream in which China is building a new Sino-centric world order.

The new starting point is a test of wills and strength between an emerging Sino-centric world order and a re-energized US-centric world order.

Buckle up, folks.

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Like A Rug

With a hat-tip to Bill Keezer, here’s a scathing response to our Praetorian press.

Wha Daur Meddle Wi’ Me?

Making the rounds today (with a hat-tip to our old e-pal Dennis Mangan): a poem written for Donald Trump’s inauguration. It’s called “Pibroch of the Domnhall” and was written by Joseph Charles MacKenzie (originally published at ClassicalPoets.org).

I reproduce the first few stanzas, with prefatory notes:

§ The refrains at the end of each stanza are to be recited by the Inaugural crowd.
§ A Pibroch is a rallying bagpipe tune and is pronounced like “PEA-brohgh.”
§ Domhnall, the Scottish form of the name Donald, is pronounced like “TONE-all”
§ Torquil was the royal progenitor of the MacLeods of Lewis, the outer hebridean island and birthplace of President Trump’s immigrant mother, Mary Anne MacLeod.

Come out for the Domhnall, ye brave men and proud,
The scion of Torquil and best of MacLeod!
With purpose and strength he came down from his tower
To snatch from a tyrant his ill-gotten power.
Now the cry has gone up with a cheer from the crowd:
“Come out for the Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!”

When freedom is threatened by slavery’s chains
And voices are silenced as misery reigns,
We’ll come out for a leader whose courage is true
Whose virtues are solid and long overdue.
For, he’ll never forget us, we men of the crowd
Who elected the Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!

When crippling corruption polluted our nation
And plunged our economy into stagnation,
As self-righteous rogues took the opulent office
And plump politicians reneged on their promise,
The forgotten continued to form a great crowd
That defended the Domhnall, the best of MacLeod!

Read the rest here. It’s a rousing and celebratory offering, in fine Scottish style, and fit for a great and glorious day: the end, at long last, of the age of Obama.

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This Thing All Things Devours

In a post three years ago about the decline of eros, I had this to say:

I have a friend named Bob Wyman; he was the founder of a startup company I worked for a few years ago. He’s a mighty smart guy. One of Bob’s pet ideas is that we can understand a great many things about the human and social world through the metaphor of thermodynamics. In particular he likes to say that everything that is good in the world tends to reduce entropy, while everything bad increases it. For example, war is bad. This makes sense, in Bob’s view, because wars take highly ordered systems — the social and physical infrastructures of nations — and reduces them to disordered rubble. Meanwhile, wars also kill people — and a living human body is a far more ordered arrangement of the substance of the world than a decomposing corpse. And so on.

It isn’t hard to apply Bob’s idea here. For any system to be capable of producing useful work, there needs to be disequilibrium, a difference in potential. For a mill-race to turn a water-wheel, the water must flow downhill over the wheel. If the water on one side of the wheel is at the same level as on the other — that is, the parts of the system are at equilibrium — then nothing will happen. When the potential gradient inside a flashlight battery reaches zero, the battery is dead.

And so it is in a marriage: when the two poles of that system are at equilibrium, you can’t expect to produce any electricity.

It’s been a recurring theme in these pages that “Progressivism” is a relentlessly entropic force, seeking out natural gradients and flattening them. It levels everything it encounters with implacable indifference to value or consequences; this sort of erosion is simply what progressivism is. To quote myself again:

It’s a mechanical, entropic process, like water finding every crack and fissure as it seeks the lowest level.

It is entropic precisely in the sense that it levels and flattens everything, as order yields to disorder. In particular, it levels the gradients that are necessary, in any thermodynamic system, for the possibility of useful work. Ultimately, everything will be undifferentiated from everything else. (Is that not the obvious endpoint of our secular religion’s pathological mission?) It is this flattening, correctly understood as a thermodynamic exhaustion, that is why Leftism always reduces societies to economic and cultural rubble.

The natural differences between peoples and cultures are an obvious target for this process; hence the condemnation, sandblasting and dynamiting of “whiteness” that have been a central focus of academia and the media for some time now. Also lined up for the grinding wheel is masculinity — a frightful thing that, it seems, only appears in nature in a highly “toxic” form. (Learn more here.)

Like entropy, secular Progressivism has no limiting principle; this is because it is built upon a universal skepsis, an axiomatic and radical doubt, that dissolves any foundation it tries to stand on, leaving it in perpetual free-fall. By its very nature it can never come to rest, can never find a solid bottom. If, as it plummets into the abyss, it snags on a branch, it will simply saw it off.

Imagine the world as it would be when all this work is done: when everything is equal to everything else; when men and women are precisely the same; when every culture is the same grey mixture, everywhere on Earth; when you needn’t go anywhere, because everyplace is the same as every other; when all live and speak and think alike; where nobody will ever give offense to anyone, because there’s simply nothing left to distinguish anyone from anyone else.

Culture, variety, eros, excellence, aspiration; the sacred, the heroic, and the beautiful: the mill-wheels of Progressivism grind them all into powder. They may grind slowly, but they grind ‘exceeding small’.

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Everything Good Is Evil

Among today’s emails was a solicitation from an online gift-shop called The Grommet. What were they trying to sell me on this cold January morning? Something called hygge: a Danish word (pronounced ‘hue-gah’) that the advertisement defined as “coziness, warmth, and contentment through the enjoyment of life’s simple pleasures.”

You get the picture (quite literally so, if you like, by clicking here): wooly socks, hot chocolate by the fire, cozy blankets. Hygge is everything, in other words, safe and snuggly and welcoming; everything that normal human beings love about hearth and home, familiarity, family and friends, sharing and shelter. What’s not to like? There’s no place like home.

Pretty much everything, according to Slate, where we learn that hygge is xenophobic, populist, and — wait for it — racist.

H.L. Mencken defined Puritanism as “the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, is having a good time.” Can there be any doubt that Massachusetts conquered the world?

The Slate article articulates a worldview antagonistic to every normal human comfort, fondness, affinity, and aversion. It seeks to ensure that there really is “no place like home.” It will not rest until it has reduced everything to rubble.

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Trouble In Paradise

The spat between John Lewis and Donald Trump is all over the news today. It began when Mr. Lewis announced that in his view the Trump presidency was illegitimate, which is no small thing for a member of Congress to say on the eve of a presidential inauguration.

If I were Donald Trump, which I manifestly am not, I would not have dignified the remark with a response. (Or I might have offered an old Turkish saying: “The dog barks, the caravan passes.”) But solemnity and gravitas are not Mr. Trump’s modus operandi. If you pick a fight with him, you’ll get one, and he’ll be happy to roll around in the mud with you. He likes it down there.

It’s all very boring and tawdry, and I make no brief here for Mr. Trump’s behavior. But one thing that should not stand is the Left’s assumption (which we’ve seen before in this political season) that some players in this game deserve immunity from criticism on the basis of their personal history. Over the past couple of days, we’ve been hearing from every corner that anyone who criticizes the civil-rights hero John Lewis automatically forfeits the match.

Sorry, but no. John Lewis did brave things a half-century ago. He deserves respect for that, and he has received it, in spades. Indeed, he has received something more akin to canonization, to religious sanctification — which is not surprising, given the nature of the secular religion of the Left, and what it considers sacred objects.

But he has chosen to be a politician, and politics here in the final stages of the American republic is a rough-and-tumble business, a steel-cage match between competing interests, incompatible social and moral axioms — and, as we should all have expected as multiculturalism has increasingly worked its magic, tribal struggles for dominance. Had Mr. Lewis spent his dotage writing memoirs and receiving awards, he would have deserved respectful deference. But he has chosen to spend it in Congress. He’s welcome to say what he likes, of course, but if he’s going to get in the ring, he’s going to get what he gives.

Get ready for a lot more of this kind of thing. If you thought the Bush or Obama presidencies were contentious, you ain’t seen nothing yet. If the Republic as presently constituted still exists ten years from now, I’ll be amazed.

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So Long, BOTW

The Wall Street Journal editor James Taranto has for many years published a daily digest called Best of the Web. I’ve always enjoyed reading it: Mr. Taranto is a smart and funny guy, an astute observer, and a good writer.

Mr. Taranto has now been promoted to editor of the paper’s op-ed pages, and BOTW is no more. The final installment, which included a look back at the media’s coverage of the last election, is here. (I didn’t see it until just now, having been away.)

A snippet:

When you think about journalism in this way, its failure in 2016 becomes very simple to understand. Whether you see Trump as a hero or a goat—or something in between, which is our still-tentative view—his unlikely ascension to the presidency was a hell of a story. Most journalists missed the story because they were too caught up in defending a system of cultural authority of which they had foolishly allowed themselves to become an integral part.

I thank James Taranto for some of the most entertaining and lighthearted political coverage of the past decade or so, and wish him well in his new job.

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Wonders Never Cease!

Here’s something you might be surprised to see: a balanced and reasonable look at the Trump movement in the pages of The New Yorker. It is built upon an interview with the pseudonymous essayist “Publius Decius Mus”, whose anti-Clinton article “The Flight 93 Election” caused a such a stir last September. (We linked to it here.)

There is, of course, the obligatory swipe at the alt-right, and we see also the axiomatic rejection of the moral plausibility of white identitarianism in any form — but this is, after all, The New Yorker, and even ostensibly conservative publications must make these same obeisances. But the article, by Kelefa Sanneh, is a thorough and thoughtful look at Trumpism’s relationship to modern-day mainstream conservatism, and it is quite astonishingly free of malice.

Read it here.

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I’m Trying…

I’ll confess that its been a little hard to get back “up to speed” here since our little vacation. While we were away I was almost completely disconnected from the Internet, and from the news media. I thought I might draft a few posts, but the days and nights were full, and I never even switched on my laptop.

The timing was good: after the intense run-up to the election, and the achievement, at last, of what had seemed an all-but-impossible dream — the defeat and ruination of the House of Clinton — I’d been feeling somewhat spent. I knew of course that this was just a battle won, and that the war still raged, but it did seem a good time for a little shore leave — especially as I suddenly found I had nothing much to say. It was good to “unplug”.

The thing about writing, though, is that if you stop doing it for even a few days, you get a little rusty, and if you stop for very long at all it’s hard to pick up the thread. It’s exactly the same as the physical lethargy one feels after having neglected one’s exercise over the holidays and putting on a few pounds (which, just to make matters worse, I will confess to as well).

So, I’ve been looking over the news, but it’s mostly all the same: the tantrums of the Left in the wake of their staggering defeat, more of America coming apart at the seams, more terrorism, more entropy. What has stood out, if anything, is the speed with which all journalism, all media, all commentary, all communication, are turning into a buzzing fog of noise and shouting and confusion, in which shocking apparitions and lurid phantasms suddenly loom and vanish, and through which we all are now groping to find our way.

I wrote some time ago that the human world was like a gas in a rapidly shrinking container, and that with everything now impinging upon everything else the pressure and temperature would sharply increase. About such a state of affairs, I wrote:

This is a very small, and very disorderly world. Collisions are so frequent, and of such high energy, that it is hard for orderly arrangements of matter to form; they are battered to pieces as soon as they do.

And here we are. Nevertheless, I’m trying to catch up, and get back into the old rhythm. As I said, I’ve been reading the news again. Some of it’s been rather steadying, in fact — a reminder that some things are comfortingly constant. For example, this headline from the Daily Mail:

Disturbing moment a bull MOUNTS a stricken female bullfighting dwarf after knocking her to the ground in the middle of a fight

There’s video, of course. Here.

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Science On A Shoestring

This is fantastic: a centrifuge, spinning at up to 125,000 RPM, made out of paper and string. Brilliant.

Here.

Ex Cathedra

In a comment on our previous post, our reader Robert, a.k.a “Whitewall’, gave us this link to a piece by Rod Dreher about the framing by NPR and the New York Times of the recent attack by four blacks on a young white schizophrenic, in which the victim was beaten and forced to drink from a toilet, while his tormentors shouted anti-white and anti-trump obscenities.

On NPR’s program All Things Considered, the host discussed the atrocity without ever mentioning its racial aspect (or even the race of the victim), while a story from the Times presented it only as an act of aggression against disabled people.

As Mr. Dreher notes, this is the modus operandi of what has come to be called, over here on the dissident Right, the Cathedral.

The term was coined some years ago by ‘Mencius Moldbug’ in his blog Unqualified Reservations. In Part 1 of a 2009 series called A Gentle Introduction to Unqualified Reservations, he looks at the “separation of church and state” in democracies. Here’s a long excerpt:

Clearly, if we have some general objection to union of church and state, these objections must in some way be derived from some generic definition of the word church. But when we use words like church, religion, etc, while it is very easy to think of examples (the Catholic Church, Islam, etc, etc), it is considerably more difficult to construct a description which includes all the examples, and excludes all the non-examples. Of course one may have a perfectly reasonable prejudice against the Pope, Muslims, etc – but if so, why not just say so?

For example, it is very easy to include God or gods in one’s definition of church. In that case, we throw out Buddhism, which is surely a legitimate religion. I assume your version of separation of church and state includes separation of Buddhism and state. Mine sure does. And what about Scientology? Shouldn’t we have separation of Scientology and state? I’m guessing you’ll sign up for this one as well.

The question seems difficult. So let’s procrastinate. For a straw definition of church, though, let’s say a church is an organization or movement which specializes in telling people what to think. I would not inquire into this definition too closely – lest you ruin the suspense – but surely it fits Scientology, the Southern Baptists, Buddhism, etc. That’s close enough for now.

This definition of state, separation, and church gives us three interpretations of why separation of church and state is such a good idea.

One: our definition of church might include the stipulation that a church is an organization that distributes misinformation – ie, lies, unfalsifiable hypotheses, and other bogus truths. This sounds very sensible, because we don’t want the state to distribute misinformation.

On the other hand, this is not a very useful definition. It is equivalent to a restriction that union of church and state is okay, so long as the state church teaches only the truth. Naturally, according to the church, it teaches only the truth. But it is difficult to imagine a clause in the Constitution which states: “Congress shall establish a Church, which shall Teach only the Truth.” From an engineering perspective, the restriction is more effective if it does not depend on some process for distinguishing true churches from false churches. Ya think?

Two: we might say that whether they teach the truth or not, churches are just a bad idea, period. People should think for themselves. They should not have thoughts broadcast into a little antenna in the back of the skull. Therefore, the state should separate itself from the church, just because a good state should separate itself from all evil things.

But fortunately or unfortunately, there is no kingdom of philosophers. Most people do not think for themselves, should not think for themselves, and cannot be expected to think for themselves. They do exactly what they should be doing, and trust others to work out the large philosophical truths of the world for them. This trust may be well-placed or not, but surely this mechanism of delegation is an essential aspect of human society – at least with the humans we have now.

Three: we might believe that a government should not tell its subjects what to think. Since this is the only option I have left, it is the one I follow. I’d like to think you follow it as well.

If not quite for the same reason. Let’s think about it. There are two kinds of government: those whose formula of legitimacy depends on popular consent, and those whose doesn’t. Following contemporary usage, we can classify these as authoritarian and democratic.

An authoritarian state has no need to tell its subjects what to think, because it has no reason to care what they think. In a truly authoritarian government, the ruling authority relies on force, not popularity. It cares what its subjects do, not what they think. It may encourage a healthy, optimistic attitude and temperate lifestyle proclivities, but only because this is good for business. Therefore, any authoritarian state that needs an official religion must have something wrong with it. (Perhaps, for example, its military authority is not as absolute as it thinks.)

A democratic state which tells its citizens what to think is a political solecism. Think about the motivation for democracy: it consigns the state to the collective responsibility of its citizens, because it feels this is an independent and well-anchored hook on which to hang the common good. Once the republic has an established church, this hook is no longer independent, and the (postulated) value-add of democracy is nullified.

Without separation of church and state, it is easy be for a democracy to indulge itself in arbitrarily irresponsible misgovernment, simply by telling its bishops to inform their congregations that black is white and white is black. Thus misdirected, they are easily persuaded to support counterproductive policies which they wrongly consider productive.

A common syndrome is the case in which a purported solution is in fact the cause of the problem. As a Russian politician once said of his opponents: “These people think they are the doctors of society. In fact, they are the disease.” …

Union of church and state can foster stable iatrogenic misgovernment as follows. First, the church fosters and maintains a popular misconception that the problem exists, and the solution solves it. Secondly, the state responds by extruding an arm, agency, or other pseudopod in order to apply the solution. Agency and church are thus cooperating in the creation of unproductive or counterproductive jobs, as “doctors.” Presumably they can find a way to split the take.

The root problem with a state church in a democratic state is that, to believe in democracy, one must believe that the levers of power terminate with the voters. But if your democracy has an effective state church, the actual levers of power pass through the voters, and go back to the church. The church teaches the voters what to think; the voters tell the politicians what to do. Naturally, it is easy for the politicians to short-circuit this process and just listen to the bishops.

Thus the government has a closed power loop. With the church at its apex, of course. Which is exactly what we were hoping to avoid when we decided to make our state democratic, rather than authoritarian – an independent and unaccountable authority, which is in charge of everything else. In this case our authority is, of course, the church itself. Oops! We have engineered ourselves a big bucket of FAIL.

In other words, our so-called democracy is dependent not on the wisdom of the people, but on the internal power politics of the official church. If these politics produce a political platform which translates to responsible and effective actions, the government will be good. If they don’t, it will suck. Either way, we have consigned the state to an unaccountable conclave of bishops. Why this is an improvement on monarchy, or any other form of autocracy, is unclear.

So: what constitutes the “state church”? Moldbug again:

I have constructed my definition of church as a trap. If you have been following along without suspicion, you are in the trap. Let us now close the lid.

Notice that our definition of church has not invoked any of the typical attributes of religion. In particular, we have avoided any requirement that (a) the doctrines of the church be either partially or entirely supernatural in nature (think of Buddhism or Scientology – or, for that matter, Nazism or Bolshevism), or (b) the structure of the church be in any way centrally organized (a Quaker theocracy is just as excluded as a Catholic theocracy – and once your church is united with the state, there is no shortage of structure).

We have just said: a church is an organization or movement which tells people how to think. A broad definition, but it turns out to be perfectly adequate to validate our case for separation of church and state. And it contains all our test cases.

There’s just one problem. The definition is slightly too broad. It captures some cases which we obviously don’t want to include. You see, under this definition, Harvard is a church.

And we surely can’t mean that there should be separation of Harvard and state. Yet somehow – this is the result the computer keeps giving us. Perhaps there is some mistake?

There is certainly no question that Harvard, and related institutions, wield great power in shaping opinion and policy. “Well, so what?” you may ask. “Somebody’s going to. Why not Harvard? At least that’s better than some sort of theocracy.”

Is it? Moldbug continues (I have bolded some key passages):

Unlike the Harvard of 1639, the Harvard of 2009 bases its authority not on the interpretation of scripture, but on some other intellectually legitimating principle like reason or rationality. Everything else is the same.

It could be, of course, that Harvard of 2009’s application of reason or rationality is inherently accurate, ie, endowed with an automatic efficacy that need simply be applied to any problem to generate a univocal solution. Whether or not this is the case, many behave as if it were.

But even if it is, all we are looking at is a condition we rejected earlier as unsatisfactory: a state church which teaches only the truth. Perhaps Harvard of 2009 teaches only the truth. And Harvard of 2010? 2020? We resign the answer to the tempests of academic power politics. If this is transparent and accountable, so is mud.

The basic security hole is this word, education. Education is defined as the inculcation of correct facts and good morals. Thus an institution which is educational and secular, such as Harvard, simply becomes a “Church, which shall Teach only the Truth.” Like the Puritans of old New England, in seeking to disestablish one state church, we have established another.

It is also hard to argue that we enjoy separation of Harvard and state. Harvard is conventionally described as a “private” university. This term is strictly nominal. Vast streams of cash flow from the taxpayer’s pocket into Harvard’s – as they do not flow to, say, the Vatican.

And we can see easily that Harvard is attached to something, because the perspective of Harvard in 2009, while wildly different from the perspective of Harvard in 1959, is not in any way different from the perspective of Stanford in 2009. If a shared attachment to Uncle Sam isn’t what keeps Harvard and Stanford on the same page, what is? It’s not football.

Now we’re getting at the nub:


Except for a few unimportant institutions of non-mainstream religious affiliation, we simply do not see multiple, divergent, competing schools of thought within the American university system. The whole vast archipelago, though evenly speckled with a salting of contrarians, displays no factional structure whatsoever. It seems almost perfectly synchronized.

There are two explanations for this synchronization. One, Harvard and Stanford are synchronized because they both arrive at the same truth. I am willing to concede this for, say, chemistry. When it comes to, say, African-American studies, I am not quite so sure. Are you? Surely it is arguable that the latter is a legitimate area of inquiry. But surely it is arguable that it is not. So how is it, exactly, that Harvard, Stanford, and everyone else gets the same answer?

I’m afraid the only logical alternative, however awful and unimaginable, is the conclusion that Harvard and Stanford are synchronized because both are remoras attached, in some unthinkable way, to some great, invisible predator of the deep – perhaps even Cthulhu himself.

Certainly, the synchronization is not coordinated by any human hierarchical authority. (Yes, there are accreditation agencies, but a Harvard or a Stanford could easily fight them.) The system may be Orwellian, but it has no Goebbels. It produces Gleichschaltung without a Gestapo. It has a Party line without a Party. A neat trick. We of the Sith would certainly like to understand it.

Here, Moldbug quotes professor Darren Staloff, the author of a book about the Puritan intelligentsia:

“… officially authorized bearers of the cultural tradition must always agree in their public formulations or at least not disagree. Cthulhu R’lyeh wagh’nagl fhtagn! If this condition is violated, the laity may come to see the cultural tradition as an amorphous collection of expressions or principles manipulated by “mandarins” for their own aggrandizement.”

But if Harvard in 2009 fits this description, how exactly is said agreement enforced? If you’ve ever met any of the officially authorized bearers, you know that the last thing they think of themselves as being is “officially authorized bearers.” And it is one thing to say they must always agree – another to make them do so.

No one does. And yet, they agree. Their views change over time – and they all change in the same direction, at the same rate. There is a strange self-organizing quality about this design.

(There does seem to be an “arrow of time” at work here. Remind you of anything?)

Whatever our Cthulhu may be, it is interesting to note that there is an algorithm for predicting the movement of the bobber. On a number of subjects – not just segregation – I note that the public opinion of California in 2008 is quite similar to the public opinion of Stanford in 1963.

This is easy to explain: in post-1945 America, the source of all new ideas is the university. Ideas check out of the university, but they hardly ever check in. Thence, they flow outward to the other arms of the educational system as a whole: the mainstream media and the public schools. Eventually they become our old friend, “public opinion.” This process is slow, happening on a generational scale, and thus the 45-year lag.

Thus whatever coordinates the university system coordinates the state, through the transmission device of “public opinion.” Naturally, since this is 100% effective, the state does not have to wait for the transmission to complete. It can act in advance of a complete response, as in this case the Supreme Court did in 1967, and synchronize directly with the universities.

This relationship, whose widespread practice in the United States dates to 1933, is known as public policy. Essentially, for everything your government does, there is a university department full of professors who can, and do, tell it what to do. Civil servants and Congressional staffers follow the technical lead of the universities. The residual democratic branch of Washington, the White House, can sometimes push back feebly, but only with great difficulty.

(What’s neat is that because of our armies’ great success in the early 1940s, the governments of other countries respond to American public policy as well. The synchronization is international. Some of America’s little friends overseas, such as Britain, have universities in the second rank. But there is only one global postwar academic system, the American one, and all top-tier universities are in the United States. The con by which policies devised by this system are passed off as global, transcending mere nationality, is sometimes called transnationalism. But I digress.)

(I’ll digress, too: the postwar expansion of our Cathedral into Europe was accomplished very effectively by giving Marxist expats of the Frankfurt School, who had fled to the U.S. for safety and had performed an effective memetic injection at the highest levels of our university system, the job of overseeing the re-education of Europe.)

The triangle of professors, bureaucrats, and public opinion is stable, because the professors teach as well as advise. Of course, there is a time lag. The system experiences some strain. But it will stay together, so long as the polarity does not randomly reverse – ie, because Cthulhu decides to suddenly swim right rather than left.

But no. Cthulhu may swim slowly. But he only swims left. Isn’t that interesting?

In the history of American democracy, if you take the mainstream political position (Overton Window, if you care) at time T1, and place it on the map at a later time T2, T1 is always way to the right, near the fringe or outside it. So, for instance, if you take the average segregationist voter of 1963 and let him vote in the 2008 election, he will be way out on the wacky right wing. Cthulhu has passed him by.

Where is the John Birch Society, now? What about the NAACP? Cthulhu swims left, and left, and left. There are a few brief periods of true reaction in American history – the post-Reconstruction era or Redemption, the Return to Normalcy of Harding, and a couple of others. But they are unusual and feeble compared to the great leftward shift. Nor, most important for our hypothesis, did they come from the universities; in the 20th century, periods of reaction are always periods of anti-university activity. (McCarthyism is especially noticeable as such. And you’ll note that McCarthy didn’t exactly win.)

The principle applies even in wars. In each of the following conflicts in Anglo-American history, you see a victory of left over right: the English Civil War, the so-called “Glorious Revolution,” the American Revolution, the American Civil War, World War I, and World War II. Clearly, if you want to be on the winning team, you want to start on the left side of the field.

And we are starting to piece the puzzle together. The leftward direction is, itself, the principle of organization. In a two-party democratic system, with Whigs and Tories, Democrats and Republicans, etc, the intelligentsia is always Whig. Their party is simply the party of those who want to get ahead. It is the party of celebrities, the ultra-rich, the great and good, the flexible of conscience. Tories are always misfits, losers, or just plain stupid – sometimes all three.

And the left is the party of the educational organs, at whose head is the press and universities. This is our 20th-century version of the established church. Here at UR, we sometimes call it the Cathedral – although it is essential to note that, unlike an ordinary organization, it has no central administrator. No, this will not make it easier to deal with.

Well, that’s enough excerpting for now. (Because it’s Moldbug, of course, there is a great deal more; this is only part of Part 1 of a ten-part series. Links to the rest, and to his Open Letter series, are here.)

All this was written eight years ago. Do recent events invalidate any of it? Is there really is an “arrow of time” in cultural and political events that operates as inexorably as the Second Law, meaning that the recent reactionary backlash is just a brief epicycle on the great wheel of history, like the retrogression of Mercury? Or has Cthulhu begun to swim so fast in recent years that large parts of Western civilization are actually tearing off, and may even begin swimming right? Can the egg unscramble itself?

My own inclination is that within any given system, at large timescales the Second Law holds. Cthulhu may take a rest now and then, but he only swims in one direction. The progress of democracies is toward mob rule, tyranny and collapse; I see no reason to imagine that this is not the future of the West as well. We’ve certainly been ticking all the boxes.

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Back

We’ve returned from our trip to the British Isles. It was a splendid, if not exactly slimming, trip (too many pints and convivial repasts for that, I’m afraid), and it was nice to be almost completely off-line throughout, paying almost no attention to social media and the news. Among the highlights (besides being with family new and old, which was best of all) were: a long walk through the fields of the rural Midlands to a twelfth-century pub; getting to know Dublin (including a sobering tour of the Kilmainham Gaol); a two-day visit to the starkly beautiful Antrim coast of Northern Ireland; the Churchill “War Rooms” museum in London; and seeing the magnificent St. Paul’s again after thirty-four years (with far more understanding and appreciative eyes).

Now I’ve got some catching-up to do. Back to normal order soon.

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Off For the Hols

We’re heading off across the pond for a couple of weeks to visit family old and new. Things will probably be pretty quiet here till the week of the 8th, but you never know: there may be reports from abroad. Feel free to browse our eleven years of archived posts (4,292 as of this entry), give the “Random Post” link a go, or chat amongst yourselves in the comment-section below.

Merry Christmas, and a happy New Year, to you all! Thanks as always for reading and commenting. May the coming year be a new beginning.

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Narrative Collapse. As Usual.

Well here we go again. Goodwhites (many of whom, I’ll confess, are my friends) have been aghast about all the “hate” unleashed among badwhites during the Trump ascenscion. Just look! — here’s a sweet young Muslim woman assailed by Trumpist bigots on the subway, while out at Nassau County Community College some sociopath, his mind obviously unhinged by “the dehumanizing forces of whiteness“, had been going around scrawling swastikas. Both of these stories were all over our local news. We all felt so ashamed.

Well, not me, of course. And when I saw the lovely Nina reacting goodthinkfully to these stories, and reaching for her pearls, I cautioned her that if I know anything about these things — which as you know, dear Readers, I do — these were probably false-flag operations.

Lo and behold, first the poor dear Muslima’s story unraveled, and she was arrested. Now we learn that the Nassau Nazi was no badwhite, nor indeed any sort of white at all: he is Jasskirat Saini, a student “of color” who doesn’t like Jews. (He is probably a Sikh: Saini is a northern Indian family name, found among both Hindus and Sikhs, and Jasskirat is a Sikh forename.)

There are nearly 320 million people in the United States; nearly a third of a billion. That’s enough people that some very tiny fraction of them are, no doubt, Nazis; some much smaller subset of those are Nazis who are so fidgety, stupid and unsophisticated that they would actually leave their homes to go around scrawling swastikas on university campuses. That latter cohort, however, are surely not many, and I expect that the number of them who live in Nassau County is probably zero.

There are a much larger number of people, however, mostly young, who have been so continuously marinated in grievance against the traditional American culture, and in whom that resentment has been so abundantly legitimized by everything they see, hear, and read in their schools and mass media, that they would actually go out and do such a thing as scrawling swastikas, or making up stories of assault by white bigots. They do this with the confidence — not misplaced! — that such behavior would both strike a blow against an evil, pallid culture, and increase their own status within their inverted virtual reality.

Most conservative, traditionalist sorts are fonder of order than chaos, of tidiness than graffiti, of civility than insult, of police than hooligans, of those who obey the law than those who break it, etc. In short, they are much less likely to deface public buildings with graffiti, and to lie to the police about things that didn’t happen, than the good souls who brought you Ferguson, Baltimore, Occupy Wall Street, the Rolling Stone rape story, the Michael Brown mythos, and so on. Even when they are sufficiently aroused actually to assemble in protest, they do not break things, or defecate on flags and police cars. They show up, mill around for a while, tidy up after themselves, and go back to their homes and jobs.

So: I don’t know about you, but when I read these stories, my pearls remain provisionally unclutched, my couch likewise unswooned-upon. There’s plenty of time for all that later, if needed. It almost never is.

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Three Years On

In the wake of the latest attacks in Europe, I’m re-linking to a post I wrote in April of 2013, in which I coined the term “Cultural Immunodeficiency Virus” to describe the lethal memetic pathogen affecting the West. The post seems to me as relevant now as it did then. Read it here.

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