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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Figure And Ground

I always have to admire those who present quantitative data in visually compelling ways. With a hat-tip to David Duff, here is a wonderful example: Trumpland and the Clinton Archipelago, from the site Vivid Maps.

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They Grind Exceeding Small

I’ve written before about the fractal nature of social grievance, and the curious inversion of status that is only made possible by comfortable political and material conditions. Back in 2014, I had this to say:

As I’ve said before (see here and here), “injustice” is fractal. (Zoom out and you get slavery, the Holocaust, ISIS; zoom in and you get this.) The corollary of this is that when it comes to social-justice warriors, faction is fractal too. Interest groups will form ad-hoc alliances so as to unite against a common or external enemy, but once he has been driven off, the various factions no longer have enough in common to bind them one to another, and so they begin to squabble for dominance over the newly conquered territory. What’s more, when exposing social injustice is the defining purpose of your life, and the the measure of all that is holy, then you always need new injustices to put right, or you’re out of a job. So you zoom in. Rinse and repeat.

To those with any sense of history, that this bickering is happening at all is actually a sign of tremendously luxurious social conditions: if we were grappling with the Black Death, or a sacking by the Mongols, we’d never get around to any of these things. Another sign of this is the curious inversion of status that characterizes the grievance culture: as is always the case in human affairs, it is a competition for status — but in this case the rules have been reversed so that the highest status within the grievance community is awarded to those who can demonstrate the lowest status in the broader culture. It is as if the grievance culture is a little ‘virtual machine’ running inside the Western cultural operating system; it is only the smooth functioning of the external OS — peace, prosperity, tolerance, etc. — that makes running the virtual grievance-culture ‘game platform’, with its amusingly inverted status polarities, possible at all.

In June of last year, I added this:

In the end, of course, real power wins. When the ‘external OS’ that supports this platform stops running, natural inequalities will assert themselves, as they always do.

In that 2015 post, I also offered Pollack’s Principle of Privilege:

To learn where true privilege lies, simply see how people choose to identify themselves.

For today’s example of the fractal nature of the grievance industry, and of the eternal engine of faction in human affairs — which operates at every scale — we have this account of a conference at the University of Irvine.

The title aptly describes what’s happening: a descent into chaos. When natural order and hierarchy are crushed and broken at higher scales, they will still, just as naturally, try to reassert themselves among the rubble. In descending eras such as the one we inhabit, however, as soon as they appear at lower scales, they are broken again — until everything is smashed to atoms.

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Europe: To Be, Or Not?

Last weekend my daughter, who lives in Vienna, sent us a photograph of herself, her husband, and our four-month-old grandson enjoying themselves in the Kristmasmarkt in Karlsplatz.

Today a similar holiday marketplace in Berlin was attacked by a jihadist, who rammed a truck into the happy crowd. As I write the death-toll stands at twelve, with forty-eight injured.

The attacker has been arrested. Multiple news outlets have reported that he is a Pakistani “refugee”. ISIS has claimed responsibility.

Forgive me for asking, but: why in God’s name is Germany admitting “refugees” from Pakistan? Is Pakistan at war, or under siege? Is the country suffering famine, or pestilence?

It is not.

Europe is very, very, ill, a victim of a weak but highly opportunistic pathogen, and if it cannot soon mount a robust immune response it will die. Even if it can manage such a response, at this late hour it will be a close-run thing — and we have already passed the point, I think, where it can recover without some very serious “unpleasantness”. But the choice is now very plain: awaken or die.

Most likely it will die, I think. (Already there are calls to close down the traditional Christmas-markets for the sake of security. This is what late-stage cultural immunodeficiency looks like.)

When a nation forgets her skill in war, when her religion becomes a mockery, when the whole nation becomes a nation of money-grabbers, then the wild tribes, the barbarians drive in.

John Howard

I wonder: when the last native Europeans have dwindled to a final few, and they are forced to watch one another put to the sword, will they worry, most of all, about an anti-Muslim “backlash”? Will they wonder, in that moment, how things might have been if they had stood for themselves — and then say, just as they are annihilated, “But that’s not who we are”?

“Not ‘who you are’?” says Gnon, with majestic indifference. “Right, perhaps not. Very well, then. Goodbye.”

*        *        *

 
Update, December 20th: According to this report, the Pakistani “refugee” arrested yesterday has been released. The truck had been hijacked by someone who shot and killed the driver. That attacker is still at large.

Saarland’s Minister of the Interior, Klaus Buillon, is quoted as saying that Germany is in a “state of war’. Duh.

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The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Well, the Electoral College has cast its votes, and the results are in. The envelope, please?
 
Aaaand … the winner is….
 
…Donald Trump! Hillary Clinton loses again!

The best part? More of Hillary Clinton’s electors defected than Donald Trump’s.

There is special kind of wonderfulness about this election: not only did we get to watch the Clintons lose, but we got to watch them lose two extra times. (How I hope they come up with something else to try!)

It’s like Christmas and the Fourth of July all rolled up together. The world’s on fire, but for tonight let’s drink deep of this timely Wassail bowl.

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Careful What You Wish For

Here’s an unsympathetic op-ed piece — from the New York Daily News, of all places — on the Left’s desperate campaign to annul the recent presidential election by subverting members of the Electoral College.

The author, Michael Tracey, writes:

Such a move would be rightly labeled a kind of hostile coup, as it totally flies in the face of all established convention, and would mark a point of no return in American politics. Henceforth, all bets are off.

Those advocating for this strategy should admit what they are demanding — that centuries of settled precedent be summarily tossed in the trash, in pursuance of a short-term political objective: blocking Trump. The advocates should admit that they are so virulently opposed to Trump, and view him as such an acute danger, that they are willing to fundamentally upend the United States electoral system. That’s what this would be.

A “hostile coup” is scarcely an understatement; that is certainly what it would be seen as in the vast geographical majority of the nation that supported Mr. Trump’s candidacy. (You know — that part of the country where the well-armed people who grow all the food live.)

President Obama, in a characteristically blinkered and narcissistic presser yesterday, lamented “how divided, partisan, dysfunctional our political process is”. If, against all the odds, this Democrat putsch succeeds on Monday, what follows will make our current social and political divisions look like The Love Boat.

Is that really what these people want? One does get the feeling that they haven’t quite thought the thing through.

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Nuts, In A Nutshell

Here.

In Your Dreams

On Monday, the nineteenth of December, the Electoral College will register its votes. Many on the Left have staked their hopes on “faithless electors” denying Donald Trump the presidency. (Yes, this is really where we’ve got to in America, folks. Please fasten your seat belts.)

Leaving aside the seismic social consequences of such a thing –let’s just say that a reversal of the election might lead to some unpleasantness — it isn’t going to happen. Jeff Greenfield explains, here.

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It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like “End Of Fiscal Year”

Do you go out of your way to avoid the word “Christmas” when greeting people at this time of year? (I hope not, but maybe you do.) Perhaps, seeking to remain employed, avoid stupid arguments with pugnacious “social-justice” busybodies, or just generally toe the line, you wish them enjoyable “holidays” instead.

Well, that line keeps moving. You might as well forget about it.

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Feeling Their Pain

This ruction over “Fake News” is fascinating. There are so many angles and interests.

I won’t say much here (tonight, at least) about some of the more widely discussed angles on this story — freedom of speech, the struggle for power, or the general deliquescence of the very idea of Truth, of which this latest tussle is just another of a thousand symptoms. What I will comment on is seeing an powerful guild losing its grip on production, because I know a thing or two about that myself.

It all reminds me, you see, of what happened in the recording industry when music went digital. Not only was file-sharing eating into record sales, which put terrible pressure on record budgets, but cheap samplers and sequencers were making it possible for people to make records at home without ever setting foot in a recording studio. For those of us in the priesthood — recording engineers and studio owners — this was not only a threat to our livelihood, but also an affront to our craft. Those early “outsider” records, made with eight-bit equipment, cheesy-sounding loops, and stolen snippets of recordings that we had made, sounded horrible — but that was part of their appeal. They thumbed their nose at the sonic Establishment, and suddenly beautifully crafted soundscapes, sculpted by highly trained professionals using expensive German microphones and million-dollar consoles in magnificent acoustic spaces (this was the one I used to work in every day), seemed stuffy and bourgeois. Having spent tens of thousands of hours honing my skills, suddenly I was being told by clients “now don’t make it sound too good!” Can you imagine?

It wasn’t just that we hated losing our monopoly — which we did, for all the obvious reasons — it was that those records just sounded so amateurish. How could anyone really prefer that? But of course an awful lot of people did; it was what you might call a “populist movement”. It was certainly “leveling”: all of our hard-won expertise, disciplined craftsmanship, and professional standards suddenly meant pretty much nothing, and no longer gave us any competitive advantage. People already at ground level always enjoy leveling, but those being leveled seldom do, and we certainly didn’t.

So, having gone through this myself a while back, I have to say I do feel a twinge of sympathy for old-school journalists these days.

Just a twinge, mind you. More on that later.

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A.K.A. Deplorable

Saw an unfamiliar acronym over at Maverick Philosopher the the other day: “SIXHIRB”. I had to look it up. It’s a coinage of Dennis Prager’s, and it stands for Sexist, Intolerant, Xenophobic, Homophobic, Islamophobic, Racist, Bigoted: the “basket” of cudgels routinely applied to anyone to the right of the Vox editorial staff.

I’d have preferred “BRIXISH”: it sounds more like an adjective, and carries a faint echo of America’s founding people and culture (i.e., the usual target). But it’s still handy to have a linguistic shortcut for these reflexive and ubiquitous slurs, so here’s a nod to Mr. Prager.

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The Big Red Button

Here’s one that’s been getting a lot of linkage in the past couple of weeks: a welcoming and inclusive note from firearms instructor Larry Correia to all those folks who didn’t get what they wanted on November 8th — many of whom are just now realizing that government can be scary.

Yes, we’ve known that for some time now. (Over 229 years, in fact.) Welcome aboard.

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12/8

It’s been a busy week, with scant time for writing. So just a couple of brief notes:

First, it was a month ago tonight that an amazingly wonderful thing happened: we sent the Clintons packing. I still can’t believe we really did it. But we did!

Also, I should note the death of John Glenn. I’m old enough to remember when those seven astronauts were American icons, and to remember John Glenn’s being the first American to orbit the Earth. What great things we were capable of in those days, when America was still a virile and confident nation! Perhaps we will be again. (And perhaps not. But at the very least, I’m a little bit less pessimistic about that than I was 31 days ago.)

John Glenn was a brave and disciplined, decent and patriotic man. I’ve never heard a thing to make me think otherwise, and I hope I never do. He was a good man for boys of my generation to have as their hero. May flights of angels sing him to his rest.

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Well Said, Fred

I haven’t linked to Fred Reed in a while, but he continues to do what he does best: writing plain common sense. His latest, from the first of this month, is about gun control. Excerpts:

The two most heavily armed countries in the world are (still, I think) Israel and Switzerland. In Switzerland, men of military age are (still, I think) required to keep an assault rifle and ammunition in their homes, and Israelis are similarly armed because, having enemies on their borders, they need to be able to mobilize rapidly.

In both countries murders by armed citizens are essentially nonexistent. By contrast, Mexico has strict gun control. Does anyone get shot in Mexico?

Yes, actually. Some 164,000 thousand shot dead between 2007 and 2014 (Figures vary. The foregoing are typical.) Pretty effective, gun control is.

Why do murders occur so exuberantly in a country with gun control? Because making guns illegal doesn’t make guns go away…

…If guns were made illegal in the US, not a single villain would turn his gun in. The bumper sticker, “When guns are criminal, only criminals will have guns,” is exactly right. Guns, usually small and easily smuggled, are immensely valuable to criminals. Why would they turn them in? Criminals do not obey laws. It’s how you know they are criminals.

Curiously, the fewer guns in the hands of the law-abiding, the more valuable they are to criminals. When citizens may be armed, crawling in a window at night becomes much less attractive. And of course gun control would mean disarming white people, who tend to obey laws. Having witnessed Baltimore, Ferguson, and Charlotte, many whites are not enthusiastic about being left helpless.

One must never say this.

That’s the relatively P.C. part of the post. It descends from there into darker heresies:

Gun-controllers, unless they are greater fools than seems humanly possible–they may well be–know that criminals are not going to turn their guns in, and there is no way to confiscate them. They also know, unless actually mad, that criminals are overwhelmingly black. Do the controllers propose to send the army through black regions of Chicago, searching houses room by room to find hidden guns? Hardly.

When of a hundred murders in Chicago, almost all are committed by an underclass, do we have a gun problem, or an underclass problem? Do blacks have a white problem, a gun problem, or a themselves problem?

Obama of course blamed guns for the shooting deaths in Chicago. Can he really believe this? It is like the obese blaming spoons.

It is verboten to notice that crime with guns is heavily concentrated in particular groups. I grew up in rural Virginia where all the boys and Becky had guns, chiefly shotguns for hunting deer and rifles for killing varmints. Nobody shot anybody, either deliberately or otherwise. Murder wasn’t in the culture. We couldn’t understand why our guns should be taken away because criminals in the cities wanted to kill each other.

I once spent a week with the US Army in the slums of Port au Prince in Haiti, where guns were illegal. Nobody was shot. Instead brains were laid open and arms severed by machete. It was in the culture.

But of course gun control is only tangentially about gun control. The controllers detest gun owners viscerally as they imagine them, aging white Southern yahoos or Western cowboys with potbellies and third-grade educations who are probably werewolves, Republicans or even conservatives. Deplorables…

…If a woman tells me that she favors gun control, I can with confidence predict that she favors unchecked immigration, sanctuary cities, affirmative action, banning the Confederate flag, suppressing Christianity, homosexual marriage, abortion, feminism, and the dumbing down–she will call it something else–of schools to avoid wounding the self-esteem of the usual suspects.

The question of guns demarcates a sharp dividing line between who read the New York Times and those for whom it is the house organ of a class of people they detest.

There’s more. Read the whole thing here.

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Different Animals

Consensus is orthogonal to truth.

In Science Consensus Is Irrelevant

I’ve been on the road today, with no time for writing. So for tonight we have for you an evergreen speech by the late Michael Crichton on how real science works.

Money quote:

In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus. There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.

Also this:

Has everybody lost their minds?

Read the whole thing here.

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Flags, Speech, and Symbols

Not long ago I had a little rhubarb on Twitter with my old e-pal Kevin Kim on the subject of flag-burning. Kevin had quoted George Carlin’s remark that he preferred to leave symbols to the “symbol-minded”.

The meaning of Mr. Carlin’s remark, and of Kevin’s quoting it, is clear enough: that the flag is just a piece of cloth, a mere symbol, and to care overmuch about how people treat the flag is to, in Kevin’s words, “fetishize” it.

I thought that this was a surprisingly superficial way of looking at the matter, and needled Kevin by tweeting that I was starting to think he didn’t understand how symbols work. Kevin took this as an unforgivable insult, and so we are, apparently, no longer friends. That’s a shame, and seems awfully petulant for a man of his age, but there’s nothing more I can say about it.

There is, however, more I can say on the subject of flag-burning. The topic’s been in the air lately. Donald Trump’s been tweeting about enforcing “consequences” for it, and the New York Times responded with a prim article (perhaps “snotty” would be a better adjective) chiding him for his ignorance of the Constitution. (The Times is completely unable to conceal its contempt for, and visceral loathing of, Mr. Trump, but of course that shouldn’t surprise anyone; it is of a piece with the general superiority their social class feels toward the traditional American nation and those who would empower it, and it is why they lost this election. Nor should the Times be surprised to see itself increasingly marginalized, and even reviled, as the tectonic plates upon which they have built their Cathedral continue to shake and shift.)

If you skim off the bile from the Times’s editorial, the residuum of actual content is two sentences long:

Flag-burning is constitutionally protected speech. The Supreme Court has made this clear, in a ruling joined by Mr. Trump’s favorite justice, Antonin Scalia.

Well, OK, then. The Court having ruled, the question is, in purely legal terms, settled. (The case was Texas v. Johnson.)

One may still ask, though, whether the Court’s ruling was the right one, which is what Bill Vallicella did just the other day. He argues that the opinion should have gone the other way, on the grounds that flag-burning is too lacking in specific propositional content to qualify as “speech”.

We read:

[T]he editorial board of The New York Times betrays a failure to grasp the distinction between the U. S. Constitution and Supreme Court rulings about it. In the 1989 case “Texas v. Johnson,” SCOTUS handed down a 5-4 ruling according to which flag burning was a form of speech protected by the First Amendment. Now if you read the amendment you will find no reference to flag burning. The subsumption of flag burning under protected speech required interpretation and argument and a vote among the justices. The 5-4 vote could easily have gone the other way, and arguably should have.

So Trump’s tweet, “Nobody should be allowed to burn the American flag . . . ,” does not show a lack of understanding of the Constitution. After all, SCOTUS rulings can be overturned. On a charitable interpretation, Trump was advocating an overturning of the 1989 and 1990 flag burning rulings.

Ought flag burning come under the rubric of protected speech? Logically prior question: Is it speech at all? What if I make some such rude gesture in your face as ‘giving you the finger.’ Is that speech? If it is, I would like to know what proposition it expresses. ‘Fuck you!’ does not express a proposition. Likewise for the corresponding gesture with the middle finger. And if some punk burns a flag, I would like to know what proposition the punk is expressing.

The Founders were interested in protecting reasoned dissent, but the typical act of flag burning by the typical leftist punk does not rise to that level. To have reasoned or even unreasoned dissent there has to be some proposition that one is dissenting from and some counter-proposition that one is advancing, and one’s performance has to make more or less clear what those propositions are. I think one ought to be skeptical of arguments that try to subsume gestures and physical actions under speech.

Even if you disagree with Bill’s argument here — that flag-burning is not “speech” — there’s another angle of attack on the Court’s ruling that I think is worth mentioning, one that comes back to the nature of symbols, and to what flag-burning, properly understood, really means.

In Buddhism there’s a notion of “the finger pointing at the Moon”. It refers to an intellectual or epistemic trap, in which one mistakenly identifies a “pointer” — a word, a sign, a symbol, or even a charismatic teacher — for the thing pointed to. It is a defect in the normal function of symbols in human culture, which is to act as proxies for their referents. They can also be tremendously powerful proxies in that they “compress” an enormous amount of information about the thing they point to. All the power of an entire culture’s history and folklore, its mores and traditions, and its ancient claims upon its people’s love and honor, can be condensed and focused through a universally recognizable symbol. But the symbol itself is still, in a sense, transparent, like a lens.

When two people recognize such a symbol for what it is, and engage in a social transaction using the symbol as shorthand, the symbol itself — the word, or insignia, or flag, or song, or whatever it might be — being common on both sides of the equation, cancels out. And both sides understand this, quite naturally. It is what we humans do. So to dismiss flag-burning as nothing more than arson committed against a piece of cloth — as if it were equivalent to burning one of your socks — is either willfully disingenuous, or profoundly ignorant. But to dismiss it as silly “symbol-mindedness”, as George Carlin did with a lofty tone of superior detachment, is not a whole lot better, as it still misses (or sneers at) the real function of symbols in human societies, and in normal human minds.

Symbols are so universal, and their function and power so well-understood, that they can even be created on the fly. Walk up to some hulking biker in a park, mark off a little patch of ground, and say “this is your mother’s grave.” Then spit on it. Will he laugh and say “That’s silly, my mother is buried in Staten Island”? No — you will probably have a fight on your hands, and you will deserve it.

If even an ad hoc symbol can focus so much power, then clearly a venerable symbol like the American flag is a very powerful lens indeed — and when someone burns it, they know very well what they are doing, as do those who see them do it. To do so says, and says very clearly: “We both know that this flag is a proxy for what you hold most sacred, for what you feel honor-bound to defend, and for what your fathers died for. I am going to stand here before you and spit on all of it. What are you going to do about it?”

This is the propositional content that Bill was looking for. Flag-burning is not about the flag. It is not about the finger, it is about the moon. And because its propositional content is in fact quite clear, I think it is not wrong to regard it as a kind of speech.

But does that mean it is protected speech, under the First Amendment? My answer, which agrees with Bill’s but for different reasons, is no. Why? Because, given everything above, the burning of a flag is correctly understood as a deliberate and calculated provocation, a non-verbal act that still carries a very definite propositional content: an intentional defilement of that which the intended target holds sacred — not the flag (the finger), but the nation, history, traditions, folkways it symbolizes, and the honor and sacrifice of those who gave their lives to build and defend it (the moon). Both parties in this transaction understand this very well indeed: those who burn the flag do so precisely because they intend to taunt, defy, and enrage patriotic Americans who watch them do it.

So what kind of “speech”, then, is flag-burning? A very particular kind, I think, that the Supreme Court defined in Chaplinsky v. New Hampshire, in 1942: “fighting words”. And fighting words, by that ruling, are not protected speech under the First Amendment.

In the unanimous opinion, Justice Frank Murphy wrote:

It has been well observed that such utterances are no essential part of any exposition of ideas, and are of such slight social value as a step to truth that any benefit that may be derived from them is clearly outweighed by the social interest in order and morality.

Now I realize that in the majority opinion in Texas v. Johnson, William Brennan wrote:

Nor does Johnson’s expressive conduct fall within that small class of “fighting words” that are “likely to provoke the average person to retaliation, and thereby cause a breach of the peace.” … No reasonable onlooker would have regarded Johnson’s generalized expression of dissatisfaction with the policies of the Federal Government as a direct personal insult or an invitation to exchange fisticuffs.

Well, I’m a reasonable person, and for the reasons given above, I disagree — as would, I think, many millions of Americans. Is flag-burning an “essential part of any exposition of ideas”? When some Occupy slacker defecates on Old Glory, is that an essential “step to truth”? Of course not. Given the unique potency of this symbol, its deliberate desecration is distilled provocation — and if you want to make the case that the license to make this incendiary gesture is “outweighed by the social interest in order and morality”, you have my blessing.

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Cabinet-Building

I’m happy to to see that Donald Trump has named James Mattis as his choice for Secretary of Defense. (Just think: a warrior who understands what the miltary is and isn’t for. Amazing.) As a recently retired member of the armed forces, he will, according to the National Security Act of 1947, need a waiver from Congress to serve:

SEC. 202. (a) There shall be a Secretary of Defense, who shall be appointed from civilian life by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate : Provided, That a person who has
within ten years been on active duty as a commissioned officer in a Regular component of the armed services shall not be eligible for appointment as Secretary of Defense.

That ten years was later reduced to seven, but he’ll still need a waiver. I hope he gets it. Marshall did.

Meanwhile the big unknown is still Secretary of State. That’s a hard one. John Bolton’s name is on the list, but he’s way too much of a neocon for me. With him I’d have the same worries I had about Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy: hawkishness in general, confrontation with Russia, and futile wars all over the world.

What would I like in a Secretary of State? Mr. Trump hasn’t called yet to ask, but should his staff happen to see this, I’d like someone who:

1) Exhibits the social grace and other civilized qualities of the natural aristoi, as one thinks of when imagining a great nation’s top diplomat;

2) Puts America’s interests above global utopianism;

3) Has a broad, preferably even scholarly, knowledge and understanding of history;

4) Strongly favors the Anglosphere as our organic allies;

5) Understands also that Russia has a far deeper kinship with the West than with any other conceivable bloc of nations, and would be far better as an ally against Islam and China than a foe;

6) Has a clear-eyed understanding of the devastating effect of mass alien immigration on any nation, and is therefore sympathetic to the desire for cultural self-preservation that is awakening all over the West;

7) Doesn’t go blundering around wrecking nations in the hope of perfecting the world;

8) Doesn’t have the neocon bee-in-the-bonnet about democracy as the one-size-fits-all solution to every nation’s problems, and understands that different peoples naturally form different cultures and types of sovereignty. Russia, for example, has never had any sort of real democracy, and doesn’t want or need one — and to make Putin an enemy simply because he is authoritarian (as many mainstream conservative types do) betrays, I think, a naive universalism that works against our better interests.

I’m not particularly optimistic about this appointment; that’s a pretty tough resume to fill. (In a pinch, point 2 would be an improvement all by itself.) We’ll see what happens.

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King Of The Hill

Magnus Carlsen wrapped up his World Championship title defense against Sergey Karjakin today in a series of four rapid-play tiebreakers. It was a fantastic finish that featured some brilliant, beautiful chess.

Each player had 25 minutes for the whole game, with a 10-second increment added for every move.

The first game (you can play through it here) was a Ruy Lopez, with Karjakin playing Black. A draw.

Next came a Giuoco Piano, with Carlsen playing White. In a bloody exchange starting at move 23 Carlsen exchanged a rook and a pawn for two of Karjakin’s pieces. Carlsen pressed ferociously, but apparently missed at least one winning opportunity, and with a tremendous defensive effort by Karjakin the game ended in a stalemate. (Not often you see one of those in a championship match.)

The third game was another Lopez, with Carlsen playing Black. In this game he showed, for perhaps the first time in the whole match, real dominance. He slowly crushed Karjakin, who ended the game in terrible time-pressure. To do so with Black was even more impressive. It was a devastating blow.

Now Karjakin needed a win in the fourth game just to pull even and make it to the next tie-break round. It was a desperate situation for Karjakin, and the champion knew he was now in a commanding position. But Carlsen didn’t just play for the draw, which would have been enough to retain his title. He went for the win, and got it — with a gorgeous sacrificial mating combination at move 50. It was a stunningly beautiful way to end the match, and the spectators roared when he delivered the fatal blow. This game will not soon be forgotten, I think.

What a treat! But don’t take my word for it, readers: have a look for yourselves.

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Poe’s Law

We were treated to some grandmaster-level trolling at the Guardian yesterday, by one Godfrey Elfwick. Here.

Their Lyin’ Eyes

All over the Western world, ethno-nationalist sentiment is ascendant. In France, Marine Le Pen has a very good chance of taking the presidency in the next election. (Even if she doesn’t, the likely winner will be the conservative Catholic François Fillon, who is himself an immigration restrictionist.) In Austria, where my daughter lives, a presidential election this weekend may install the Freedom Party’s Norbert Hofer, another man of the Right. In Holland, it looks like Geert Wilders, despite being on trial for “hate speech”, is in the strongest position to be the next Prime Minister. The persecution of Mr. Wilders has, apparently, backfired: it has aroused in the common people of the E.U. an ardor to resist the increasingly totalitarian control of language that has been, all over Europe and in Canada as well, the only way to clamp down on noticing, and speaking about, obvious things — and one obvious thing in particular.

What is that Obvious Thing? Simply this:

Allowing mass Muslim immigration is the stupidest and most irreversibly self-destructive thing that any Western nation can do.

The evidence of this is now completely overwhelming, everywhere in Europe. I have a friend, for example, who is a distinguished scholar of European politics. He has taught at the Sorbonne, the top Ivies, and elsewhere, and is a fellow at several major European think-tanks. From his resume, and his positions as both a member par excellence of Europe’s intellectual elite and an influential voice in the shaping of public policy, you would assume that he is “all in” for accelerating multiculturalism in the E.U. — but he has, in private conversations, agreed with my formulation of the Obvious Thing.

If even a member of this global Brahmin clerisy — who live, everywhere, in well-secured isolation from the practical consequences of public policy — is willing to confess such apostasy, then something is cracking. You can be sure that for hundreds of millions of the ordinary people of Europe, the Obvious Thing has now assumed the self-evident certainty of natural law, and that they are adjusting their sense of social, political, and familial obligation accordingly. The old postwar intellectual order, so plump and comfortable until so recently, has now gone bankrupt, in just the way Hemingway described: “Gradually, then suddenly.”

In America today we had another public demonstration of the Obvious Thing: a mass attack by a Somali Muslim at The Ohio State University. The perpetrator was one Abdul Razak Ali Artan, now deceased.

Why, you may ask, would this young man run his car into a crowd, and then stab people with a butcher’s knife until he was shot dead? It’s a poser, I admit — and NBC News informs us that “officials” have not yet “determined a motive”. (What a relief it is not to have to rely on “fake news”!)

Helpfully, however, Mr. Artan gave us the answer himself, shortly pre-mortem: having reached a “boiling point”, he wished us all to know that the Ummah was “not weak”.

Duly noted, Abdul — and increasingly so, I’m glad to say, both here and abroad. I do believe that noticing is now back in fashion, and not a moment too soon.

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Black Friday

A scene from earlier today:

 
This is what happens when all connections to anything beyond atomistic individualism, and mere presentist materiality, are severed. This is what it looks like when all of the horizontal ligatures, organic hierarchy, and embedding in past and future time that give a culture health, harmony and order are deliberately and patiently destroyed.

Expect more and more of this as civilized norms perish. Soon we’ll be calling it Red Friday.

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Reverse Engineering

Here’s a treat for you music fans, and especially my old friends and colleagues in the recording biz: producer Tony Visconti in his studio doing a track-by track breakdown and analysis of what I’ve always considered David Bowie’s best song ever: his 1977 classic Heroes.

Many thanks to my old friend (and former bandmate) Joe Abelson for sending me this.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

…to all of you.

Given recent events, I’m sure it will be a contentious gathering in millions of homes across the country. That’s a shame, because we ought, if we really want, to be able to put social and political externalities aside for one day.

Thanksgiving is a beautiful holiday, and a necessary idea. All it needs to make it work is for us to spend a few hours, together with those we love the most, being grateful for the things we have, instead of sullen about the things we don’t. The effect, if we can achieve it, is good, and lasting. But to achieve it requires, sometimes, a measure of inner discipline, and an inkling of the transcendent — both of which are in increasingly short supply these days.

Good luck and good wishes to you! I think we all have much to be thankful for. I know I do, and as always I thank you, readers, for visiting and commenting.

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It’s On

Chess fans: there’s a world-championship match underway, here in New York, between the current king of the hill, Norway’s Magnus Carlsen, and the Russian challenger Sergey Karjakin. It’s a 12-game match, and it was all draws until yesterday’s Game 8, in which Mr. Karjakin achieved a dramatic win. Game 9 is now underway — a scrappy Ruy Lopez, with Carlsen playing Black.

For a paltry $15, you can buy a ticket for online coverage — cameras, live game boards, and analysis, here.

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On The Nature Of Things

I’ve been reading Richard Weaver’s Ideas Have Consequences. Written in 1948, it is a profoundly reactionary book, a revolt against the modern world. And when I say “modern”, I mean something more than you might imagine: Mr Weaver traces the cracking open of the abyss all the way back to William of Ockham and the birth of nominalism — the idea that there is nothing more to the things in this world than the things themselves. In this, Weaver argues, our culture began a move from the transcendent to the particular; from the purpose of labor to the fruits of labor; from the eternal to the merely present; from a lofty hierarchy of order, with its apex in Heaven, to undifferentiated rubble on a darkling plain.

I’ve highlighted many passages. Here are some (I’ve bolded some that seem to me particularly relevant today):

— The practical result of nominalist philosophy is to banish the reality which is perceived by the intellect and to posit as reality that which is perceived by the senses.

— His decline can be represented as a long series of abdications. He has found less and less ground for authority at the same time he thought he was setting himself up as the center of authority in the universe; indeed, there seems to exist here a dialectic process which takes away his power in proportion as he demonstrates that his independence entitles him to power.

— The unexpressed assumption of empiricism is that experience will tell us what we are experiencing.

— Civilization has been an intermittent phenomenon; to this truth we have allowed ourselves to be blinded by the insolence of material success.

The most portentous general event of our time is the steady obliteration of those distinctions which create society.

— If society is something which can be understood, it must have structure; if it has structure, it must have hierarchy…

— [T]he goal of social democracy is scientific feeding. If one dares to visualize the millennium of the social democrats, he is forced to picture a “healthy-minded,” naturally good man, provided for by a paternalistic state and seeking to save himself from extinction by boredom through dabbling in some art.

— [E]qualitarianism is harmful because it always presents itself as a redress of injustice, whereas in truth it is the very opposite.

Since liberalism became a kind of official party line, we have been enjoined against saying things about races, religions, or national groups, for, after all, there is no categorical statement without its implication of value, and values begin divisions among men. We must not define, subsume, or judge; we must rather rest on the periphery and display “sensibility toward the cultural expression of all lands and peoples.” This is a process of emasculation.

— The very possibility that there may exist timeless truths is a reproach to the life of laxness and indifference which modern egotism encourages.

— Here begins modern labor’s history; in conflict with an exploiting and irresponsible bourgeoisie, it found no alternative but to avail itself of the bourgeois philosophy and strike back. Accordingly, workers’ organizations accepted in their practice the idea that labor is a commodity when they began the capitalist technique of restricting production in the interest of price… Labor which is bought and sold by anonymous traders cannot feel a consecration to task. Its interest becomes that of commercialism generally: how much can be had for how little? … The bourgeoisie first betrayed society through capitalism and finance, and now labor betrays it by embracing a scheme of things which sees profit only, not duty and honor, in work.

— That curious modern hypostatization “service” is often called in to substitute for the now incomprehensible doctrine of vocation. It tries to secure subordination by hypothezising something larger than self, which turns out, however, to be only a multitude of selfish selves.

An ancient axiom of politics teaches that a spoiled people invite despotic control. Their failure to maintain internal discipline is followed by some rationalized organization in the service of a single powerful will. In this particular, at least, history, with all her volumes vast, has but one page.

— [T]he metaphysicians of publicity have absorbed the idea that the goal of life is happiness through comfort. It is a state of complacency supposed to ensue when the physical appetites have been well satisfied. Advertising fosters the concept, social democracy approves it, and the acceptance is so wide that it is virtually impossible today, except from the religious rostrum, to teach that life means discipline and sacrifice.

In summary, the plea that the press, motion picture, and radio justify themselves by keeping people well informed turns out to be misleading. If one thinks merely of facts and of vivid sensations, the claim has some foundation, but if he thinks of encouragement to meditation, the contrary rather is true. For by keeping the time element continuously present—and one may recall Henry James’s description of journalism as criticism of the moment at the moment—they discourage composition and so promote the fragmentation already reviewed. We have seen in other connections how specialization is hostile to all kinds of organization, whether that organization is expressed as image, as whole, or as generalization. In the last analysis this reveals itself as an attempt to prevent the simultaneous perception of successive events, which is the achievement of the philosopher. Materialism and success require the “decomposed eternity” of time for their operation, and this is why we have these hidden but persistent attacks on memory, which holds successive events in a single picture. The successive perception of successive events is empiricism; the simultaneous perception is idealism. Need we go further to account for the current dislike of long memories and for the hatred of the past?

— The man of culture finds the whole past relevant; the bourgeois and the barbarian find relevant only what has some pressing connection with their appetites.

Having been taught for four centuries, more or less, that his redemption lies through the conquest of nature, man expects his heaven to be spatial and temporal, and, beholding all things through the Great Stereopticon, he expects redemption to be easy of attainment. Only by these facts can we explain the spoiled-child psychology of the urban masses. The scientists have given him the impression that there is nothing he cannot know, and false propagandists have told him that there is nothing he cannot have. Since the prime object of the latter is to appease, he has received concessions at enough points to think that he may obtain what he wishes through complaints and demands. This is but another phase of the rule of desire. The spoiled child has not been made to see the relationship between effort and reward. He wants things, but he regards payment as an imposition or as an expression of malice by those who withhold for it. His solution, as we shall see, is to abuse those who do not gratify him.

— After man has left the countryside to shut himself up in vast piles of stone, after he has lost what Sir Thomas Browne called pudor rusticus, after he has come to depend on a complicated system of human exchange for his survival, he becomes forgetful of the overriding mystery of creation. Such is the normal condition of the déraciné. An artificial environment causes him to lose sight of the great system not subject to man’s control.

— After a people have repudiated ideals, they respond to the prick of appetite as an animal to a goad, but this, for reasons already outlined, does not take the place of systematic labor toward a suprapersonal goal. In becoming pragmatic, they become ineffectual. De Tocqueville, alert to discern the effects of different social ideals, noted this well: “In ages of faith, the final end of life is placed beyond life. The men of those ages, therefore, naturally and almost involuntarily accustom themselves to fix their gaze for many years on some immovable object toward which they are constantly tending; and they learn by insensible degrees to repress a multitude of petty passing desires in order to be the better able to content that great and lasting desire which possesses them. . . . This explains why religious nations have often achieved such lasting results; for whilst they were thinking only of the other world, they had found out the great secret of success in this.”

— Nothing is more certain than that whatever has to court public favor for its support will sooner or later be prostituted to utilitarian ends.

This is all just a sampling. There is much, much more on Weaver’s table, and it is rich stuff, not to be wolfed down. (Indeed, the idea that the West really began to go off the rails as far back as the beginning of the fourteenth century may be, for some, completely indigestible.) The book is a potent reactionary manifesto, and, especially given my own flirtations with nominalism, it has given me a lot to think about. I should have read it years ago.

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Recess

Sorry for the lack of substantial content here recently. I’ve felt it possible to have a bit of a breather after the election, and apparently the Muse has felt the same. That’s not to say that there hasn’t been much worth commenting about — the Left is writhing like a wounded serpent, but it is still as dangerous as ever. “Fake News”, the purging of social media, the Trumped-up calumnies against Steven Bannon, the desperate rush to distance themselves from the identitarian monster they created but can no longer control, the candidacy of Keith Ellison for the DNC chair, the administration’s cataract of last-minute regulations, the Calexit movement (which our resident gadfly the One Eyed Man enthusiastically supports), the accelerating disintegration of the last vestiges of cultural and political unity in America, amid what may indeed turn out to be a reversal of truly stupendous proportions — these are all worthy topics. But not tonight.

I do have this, though: our friend Bill Vallicella has posted an essay — a reflection on the recent election — over at the philosopher’s website Rightly Considered As you should expect, it is lucid, and good. Sections D and E — on moral imperatives and tribalism, respectively — are the most interesting bits, I think. In particular, section E shows me that Bill, despite his protestations to the contrary, is an “Alt-Right”-er in all but name; he withholds assent rather specifically because he defines the movement as anti-Semitic. Perhaps this is unnecessarily strict — every movement has its fringes, after all — but in any case Bill, despite wiggling around a bit, seems to accede to the more general Alt-Right position that human biodiversity is real, and that as far as the fate of the West is concerned, matters.

(I should say also that there is an important difference between malevolent, tribalist anti-Semitism and merely acknowledging the vastly disproportionate affinity of Jews, from Marx to Alinsky to Bernie Sanders, for Leftist, multiculturalist, and antinationalist ideology. There are rational, perhaps even compelling, historical and cultural reasons for this persistent affinity — but I’ll save that for another time.)

Having said all that, I’ll make clear that I don’t give a hoot about the “Alt-Right” label. I’m an anti-anti-Semite myself, and if we need a name for an Alt-Right minus virulent anti-Semitism, I’m perfectly happy to go with “Dissident Right”, “New Right”, or “Undaunted Knights of the Emerald Escutcheon” — whatever gets the job done. I understand that branding is important, but it’s ideas that matter, not names.

Read Bill’s essay here.

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The Umbrella Man

Today’s offering, courtesy of War on the Rocks: an essay on the study of history, from MIT’s Francis J. Gavin. Here.

Cue Debussy

In the Daniel Greenfield essay we linked to in our previous post, Mr. Greenfield wrote:

Like the ordinary men chipping away at the Berlin Wall, they tore down an unnatural thing that had towered over them. And as they watched it fall, they marveled at how weak and fragile it had always been. And how much stronger they were than they had ever known.

At his blog Outside In, Nick Land makes a similar point:

Perhaps NRx was from the beginning part of the Cathedral funeral process.

Some serious adjustment is called for. An enemy that can suffer a defeat this stupendous clearly isn’t a radically intimidating adversary. We can already see beyond it. The conflict has moved on.

My current (uncertain) take: The regime analyzed by classical NRx has descended into a deeply morbid state. Things will get worse for it, perhaps catastrophically, more quickly than we yet imagine, in a cascade of collapse. All the trends that count against it are still strengthening, in many case exponentially. It would be an analytical error to remain fixated upon its corpse.

Demotism is, of course, undefeated (perhaps even temporarily reinforced). The Cathedral, however, appears mortally wounded. This year was — quite plausibly — its 1989.

ADDED: To be a little clearer, it isn’t really 1989, it’s 1517. The quasi-universal authority of a church died (as a result of techonomic media innovation, among other factors).

Read also an earlier Outside In post, linked to from the post above, that says:

Extreme corrosive pessimism is an NRx specialty. Since optimism bias is a status quo-supported human cognitive frailty, it’s a good thing to have. If rigidified, however, it can result in missing things.

One systematic distortion stems from hubris, taking the form of a confusion in causality. “We don’t like X, and want bad things to happen to it” can actually be a distorted expression of a more basic process: X is dying, and therefore we have started to dislike it

This blog strongly suspects that the Cathedral has become an object of animosity as a consequence of its morbidity. After all, it’s a mind-control apparatus. If it’s no longer universally accepted, and in certain problematic patches actively loathed, dysfunction is clearly indicated. Contestation of its story is not supposed to be part of the story…

Every critical component of the Cathedral — media, academic, and bureaucratic — is exceptionally vulnerable to Internet-driven disintermediation…

A step down from hubris might begin with an acknowledgment that NRx is — primarily — a symptom. Whatever imagined heroism is sacrificed thereby, it is more than compensated by an opportunity for deepened realism.

“NRx is — primarily — a symptom”. Indeed it is. But so is all reaction, no?

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This

With a hat-tip to our friend Bill Keezer, we give you a rousing essay by Daniel Greenfield on what has just happened in America. It begins:

This wasn’t an election. It was a revolution.

It’s midnight in America. The day before fifty million Americans got up and stood in front of the great iron wheel that had been grinding them down. They stood there even though the media told them it was useless. They took their stand even while all the chattering classes laughed and taunted them.

They were fathers who couldn’t feed their families anymore. They were mothers who couldn’t afford health care. They were workers whose jobs had been sold off to foreign countries. They were sons who didn’t see a future for themselves. They were daughters afraid of being murdered by the “unaccompanied minors” flooding into their towns. They took a deep breath and they stood.

They held up their hands and the great iron wheel stopped.

Read the whole thing, then read it again. Here.

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Tilting At Windmills

I (and many others) have written often about the obvious religiosity of Progressivism, and about its being, quite plainly and transparently, a secular continuation and direct descendant of the Puritan “mission into the wilderness”. A particularly instructive aspect of this atheistic quest for holiness and salvation is the patently crypto-religious “climate-change” crusade. Early last year, after a conversation with a liberal friend on the topic, I had this to say:

I was struck once again by the clarity with which global-warmism reveals itself as a secular repurposing of the religious impulse — a deep and universal human yearning that, in the corroded cultural aftermath of the Enlightenment’s skeptical acid-bath, has lost a transcendent God as its referent, and now wants very badly something else to plug into.

The mythos, from Genesis to Redemption, has been transplanted almost entirely without alteration:

In the beginning, there was only God.

From God arose Man.

Before his Fall, Man lived simply, and in perfect harmony with God. It was a Paradise on Earth.

Then a disaster happened. Man acquired a new kind of Knowledge: knowledge that he did not need, but that conferred upon him enormous temptation. In his unwisdom, and against God’s wishes, Man succumbed. His new Knowledge gave him great power, but at a terrible cost: he had turned his back on God, and his Paradise was lost. In his exile, he would wield his ill-gained power in prideful suffering and woe.

But then came a Messenger, offering the possibility of Redemption: if Man were to renounce his awful Knowledge, and learn once again to surrender himself to the love of God, he would be forgiven, and could find his way back to Paradise. It would not be easy — it would require that he make terrible sacrifices, atone for his many sins, and give up his worldly comforts and much that he had come to love — but if his faith was strong, his Salvation could become a reality, and he could once again live in Paradise, in sweet communion with God.

In order to move from the old religion to the new one, we need only substitute “Nature” for “God” in the passages above. That the two conceptions are almost perfectly isomorphic, and that both are manifestations of the same underlying impulse, should be plainly evident. But perhaps one must be a heretic oneself to notice it.

A hallmark of religious crusades, and of mass movements, is an indifference to unintended consequences. For the True Believer, when the end is holy enough, it justifies any means. For an excellent and illuminating example, of this, read this account of the E.U.’s missionary work on the lonely Atlantic island of El Hierro. It has it all. It is also a fine example of why centralization of vast federations under remote and indifferent bureaucracies, whose functionaries are entirely insulated from the consequences of their decisions, is such a very, very bad form of government.

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Not To Worry

My liberal Jewish friends are on the fainting couch after the Trump victory. One said to my wife that as a Jew he now felt very afraid of what might be coming.

I think they should relax. Here’s the economist David P. Goldman, whom you may know as the pseudonymous Asia Times columnist “Spengler”, and the author of How Civilizations Die, writing at PJ Media:

Trump’s election is the best thing that has happened to Israel in many years. It eliminates the risk of a diplomatic stab in the back at the Security Council and sends a dire warning to Iran, the only real existential threat to the Jewish State. The security of the Jewish people in their homeland is vastly enhanced by the vote on November 8, and Jews everywhere should thank God that the head of state of the world’s most powerful country is a friend of Israel with Jewish grandchildren. Instead of slanders, Jews should offer up prayers of Thanksgiving.

(I’d ask my friends also to reflect on multiple eyewitnesses having heard Hillary Clinton calling Paul Fray, a campaign aide, a “fucking Jew bastard”, and ask them what, exactly, Donald Trump has ever said about their people that makes them so worried.)

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Socratic Method – NOT

My old e-pal Kevin Kim and I have just had an unpleasant falling-out, the result of what I thought was a spirited, but not unfriendly, back-and-forth on Twitter last night about flag-burning, the power of symbols, and the persistent truths of human nature. The topic is an interesting and important one, and one that is right in Kevin’s academic wheelhouse; after our exchange I had looked forward to exploring it with him in a more accommodating format than Twitter, which is where serious discussions (and, apparently, long and happy friendships) go to die.

I’ll take the opportunity here to apologize for offending Kevin with what I do admit was my didactic (of which I am too often guilty) and occasionally needling Twitter-style tone; I meant no offense, and certainly never imagined that I would alienate him so. Kevin is an intelligent and thoughtful blogger. He was also one of my first friends in the blogging world, and I have valued his comradeship ever since we first got to know each other at least a decade ago. I hope we can mend fences.

I’m not going to get into the topic itself right now; I’ll leave that for another time.

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A Republic, If You Can Keep It

Following the Trump victory in last week’s election, many on the losing side have been calling for the abolition of the Electoral College. To do this would be to remove yet another Constitutional bulwark against raw democracy, which the Framers rightly saw as a buttered slide to tyranny (beginning with the tyranny of the majority). The Electoral College is all that gives the smaller states a voice at all in the selection of Presidents, and if it is abolished those states with large minority, urban, and elite populations — the ones that reliably go blue on Election Day — will effectively control the Executive branch forever (or at least until the dissolution of the Republic itself, which would likely follow shortly thereafter). Indeed, there would simply have been no United States at all under direct election of the President, as a Constitution that gave the big states such a commanding advantage would never have been ratified in the first place.

If you’ve been thinking about this over the past few days, you may have taken comfort in the fact that to abolish the Electoral College requires a Constitutional amendment, which in turn requires the approval of three-fourths of the state legislatures. Given the quite remarkable extent to which state voters have rejected the Democrats in recent years (only 26% of state legislatures are currently controlled by Democrats, and there are only four states — California, Oregon, Rhode Island, and Hawaii — in which both the governor and legislative majority are both Democrats), a Constitutional amendment is extremely unlikely.

You may not, however, be aware of a clever attempt to circumvent the Constitution, being sponsored by an organization called NPV, or National Popular Vote, whose plan is to put in place a contract by which signatory states can agree to bind their electors to the winner of the popular vote. The idea is that it takes effect when states totaling 270 electoral votes have signed on. It has already been signed into law in 11 states, with a total of 165 electoral votes. Even if it achieves its aim, I can imagine that it might not survive a challenge in the courts, as its effect is explicitly to nullify the electoral procedure prescribed in the Constitution. It is, nevertheless, something we all ought to keep an eye on.

Here’s a video explaining the plan:

The United States, a huge and diverse nation, is not, and was never intended, to be a democracy. It is an association of states. The voice given to the smaller and redder states by the Electoral College is an essential feature of a workable Union.

The 11 states (well, 10 plus D.C.) that have signed on so far are:

California
District of Columbia
Hawaii
Illinois
Massachusetts
Maryland
New Jersey
New York
Rhode Island
Vermont
Washington

Notice anything they have in common? This is, simply put, an attempt by the blue states to take over the Executive Branch (although, it should be said, it can only succeed if some swing states sign on; it is already only the large blocs of Democrat voters in these blue states that have tipped the popular vote against the Electoral result in recent years). Direct popular control of the Executive is precisely what the Framers sought to prevent, as they knew it would be the death of the Republic. We must do what we can to see that it fails.

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To-Do List

From Patrick Buchanan yesterday: a call to action in the wake of victory. Here.

This “magnanimity” business is certainly attracting a lot of attention. (More on that later.) Meanwhile, see the discussion at the Maverick Philosopher, here.

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Ignoracracy

It’s awfully (though darkly) amusing to hear, in the wake of Mr. Trump’s election, all the cries from the streets denouncing his supporters as ‘Fascists’. The word, of course, has nearly been drained of all meaning, and like ‘racist’, is now little more than a cudgel for the faithful to use against anyone from whom they catch a whiff of heresy.

 
So why is this amusing? Because of the slogan chosen by their own champion, Mrs. Clinton, who chose to run her own campaign under the rallying cry “Stronger Together” — which, as anyone with a rudimentary familiarity with political history* will know, is precisely the essence of the Fascist idea, and of the ancient symbol, the fasces, that gave the movement its name and emblem.

Next time someone gets in your face to tell you that Trump supporters are Fascists, please remind them of this. And to learn more about what the word really means, please get yourself a copy of Paul Gottfried’s Fascism: The Career of a Concept.

 
* i.e., almost nobody.

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Kumbaya

I’m trying to hang on to that “magnanimous” feeling tonight.

It’s not going so well.

The Popular Vote Means Nothing

Hillary Clinton supporters: let’s not hear a lot of whingeing, please, about how your gal “won the popular vote”. Leaving aside the most obvious response — that in this federal republic it is, by careful design, the States that elect the President, and not the mob — your argument depends upon the assumption of an unprovable counterfactual, namely the implicit assertion that she would have won the popular vote even if there were no Electoral College. This article explains why the notion is irrelevant.

Speaking of the mob, they are now having a tantrum, massing themselves in various urban centers (and blocking highways) to protest — what, exactly? What are their demands?

Perhaps soon it will be more relevant to ask: how many divisions do they have?

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Will Justice Be Served?

With the election of Donald Trump, many of us (count me in!) are hoping that the Clintons will at last be held to account for their criminality. One thing stands in the way: the power of the President to grant pardons.

“But wait,” I hear you saying, “can President Obama pardon the Clintons in advance for crimes they haven’t even been charged with yet?”

Yes, unfortunately, he can. In 1866, in Ex Parte Garland, the Supreme Court had this to say (my emphasis):

The Constitution provides that the President “shall have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offences against the United States, except in cases of impeachment.”

The power thus conferred is unlimited, with the exception stated. It extends to every offence known to the law, and may be exercised at any time after its commission, either before legal proceedings are taken or during their pendency or after conviction and judgment. This power of the President is not subject to legislative control. Congress can neither limit the effect of his pardon nor exclude from its exercise any class of offenders. The benign prerogative of mercy reposed in him cannot be fettered by any legislative restrictions.

Such being the case, the inquiry arises as to the effect and operation of a pardon, and on this point all the authorities concur. A pardon reaches both the punishment prescribed for the offence and the guilt of the offender, and when the pardon is full, it releases the punishment and blots out of existence the guilt, so that, in the eye of the law, the offender is as innocent as if he had never committed the offence. If granted before conviction, it prevents any of the penalties and disabilities consequent upon conviction from attaching; if granted after conviction, it removes the penalties and disabilities and restores him to all his civil rights; it makes him, as it were, a new man, and gives him a new credit and capacity.

Will Mr. Obama pardon the Clintons? We should not be surprised if he does. What, after all, does he have to lose? Yes, there would be terrible wrath on the part of millions of Americans who value the rule of law. But that was never an obstacle to this President, even while he still had to seek re-election.. Why should it restrain him now?

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The Morning After

Well! Here we stand, on the morrow of our victory. In this glorious dawn, let us survey the battlefield.

The Clintons are finished, done. Their political careers are over, and the parasitic criminal syndicates they run, which draw their life’s-blood by selling access to power, have been expelled by the host. Each of them has good reason to be worried today, as a newly constituted Department of Justice — a department that may now, refreshingly, concern itself with justice, and with the enforcement of the nation’s laws — will no longer serve as their Praetorian guard.

The GOP, for what they’re worth, have held the House and the Senate, have gained three governorships, and have increased their numbers in state legislatures and local administrations. In the Senate, Chuck Schumer will not be the Majority Leader.

The predicted collapse of the stock market — futures were down hundreds of points late last night, as the Clintons’ doom became apparent — did not happen. As I write, the DJIA is up over sixty points, and heading rapidly north.

In short: the enemy is driven before us. For a morning, for a day, let us listen to the music of their lamentations. Drink deeply of their sweet tears.

Then to work. We have retaken the citadel, but it is burnt and broken.

As Churchill wrote:

In War: Resolution,
In Defeat: Defiance,
In Victory: Magnanimity
In Peace: Good Will.

We have been resolute, and we have been defiant. Now let us be magnanimous. But I will add: let us be stern, and let us be vigilant. Let us defend the country we have retaken, and know that our Hydra-headed enemy still lives, is swollen with hatred, and never sleeps.

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Well, Whaddya Know

Donald Trump has won the election. This means that Hillary Clinton will never be President. She will be lucky to stay out of prison.

We did it.

The Underdog

If you haven’t seen this clip, I think you’ll enjoy it.

Sobornost

I have noted often in these pages that in the absence of a natural and organic social framework, order must be imposed artificially from the “top down”. Here, for example, is an excerpt from a 2014 post, The Death of Culture:

To create the new metaculture, muticulturalism cannot not add cultures together, due to the points of contradiction and conflict that are, in turn, manifestations of the innate differences of the peoples whose cultures they are. Instead, it can only proceed subtractively, by stripping away particularities, until it finds commonality at some baser level — and as more peoples and cultures are added to the mix, more and more must be pared away. Among the first things to go are the natural cohesion and public trust that organic cultures enjoy; these natural assets must be replaced prosthetically, by an act of power imposed from above. That this artificial, top-down structure in turn creates new inequalities even as it scrapes away familiar liberties must simply be tolerated as the price we pay for our salvation.

In May of 2015 I commented on the dissolution of our own organic culture:

All of the erosive forces at work here — demographic displacement by poorly assimilated immigrants, low birthrates among cognitive elites, multiculturalism, galloping secularism, centralization of Federal power at the expense of local government, anti-traditionalism, hedonistic apathy, instutionalized disparagement of America’s history, mission, cultural heritage, and mythos, and behind it all the universal acid of radical doubt that is the “poison pill” of the Enlightenment itself — all of these things attack and corrode the horizontal ligatures of American civil society, leaving behind only an atomized population with no binding affinities save their vertical dependence upon a Federal leviathan that is, increasingly, the source of all guidance and blessings.

Today I have for you an essay, posted by Mark Citadel at Social Matter, on what sort of organizing principles are necessary for the coalescence of a cohesive, organic society. He argues that mere abstracta will not do; they form the basis of what he calls “artificial collectives” that lack the sinews and ligaments that a living society needs to survive existential pressures.

The survival of a group, preyed upon by others as it will be, is in large part down to its organic, inner coherence or knowledge of itself. If a group lacks this, while at the same time refusing to recognize its enemy, it will succumb in every battle. At some point along this line of error, all the technology in the world couldn’t change the outcome. You won’t even fight. You will fade out in silence. If your society is based upon individualism, you will be playing vidya right up until your killers thunder up the carpeted stairway. If your society is based on some artificial collectivism (David Cameron’s pathetic “British values” come to mind as a good contemporary example), then rest assured, your ultimate security will be as brittle as fretwork in a hail of gunfire.

Read the essay here.

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We Need to Start Leaving Each Other Alone

It should be obvious to all at this point that a very great part of our nation’s political sickness is due to the ever-increasing concentration of power in the hands of the Federal leviathan in Washington, at the expense of local government. (That this is, even at this late stage of the disease, not obvious to many millions of citizens does not augur well for the nation’s prospects, as it makes it far more likely that, the proper treatment not being applied, the disease will progress until the patient dies.) Even if subsidiarity were not a sound principle for all hierarchical organizations, he United States is simply far too large, and far too diverse in political and cultural tradition, for one-size-fits-all regulation by remote and largely unaccountable administrators to provide good government, or to promote harmony and cohesion.

At the time of the Framing, a group of writers known collectively as the Anti-Federalists foresaw this problem, and wrote extensively about it. (You are far more likely to have read The Federalist Papers than the writings of this equally articulate opposition, for the same simple reason that you’ve probably never read Thomas Hutchinson’s Strictures Upon The Declaration of Independence: the Anti-Federalists didn’t win.)

The Cato Institute’s Trevor Burrus has published an essay today illustrating the prescience of the Anti-Federalists. What they feared has come to pass, in exactly the way they predicted.

We read:

For many, the city on the Potomac might as well be a later-stage Rome, sliding into decadent splendor and orgiastic self-absorption. Or, in the words of ‘Cato’ [probably New York governor George Clinton], the “federal city” would be “the asylum of the base, idle, avaricious and ambitious,” that would “possess a language and manners different from yours.”

A national government imbued with unrestrained power would be a bad idea, thought [Robert] Yates, because the people of the country were too diverse to be effectively centrally governed. A remote, national government given such great powers would cause a “constant clashing of opinions; and the representatives of one part will be continually striving against those of the other.”

This was because the “laws and customs of the several states are, in many respects, very diverse, and in some opposite; each would be in favor of its own interests and customs, and, of consequence, a legislature, formed of representatives from the respective parts, would not only be too numerous to act with any care or decision, but would be composed of such heterogeneous and discordant principles, as would constantly be contending with each other.”

Quoting the Constitution’s preamble, Cato sounded the same concerns:

[W]hoever seriously considers the immense extent of territory comprehended within the limits of the United States, together with the variety of its climates, productions, and commerce, the difference of extent, and number of inhabitants in all; the dissimilitude of interest, morals, and politics, in almost every one, will receive it as an intuitive truth, that a consolidated republican form of government therein, can never form a perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to you and your posterity.[/em>

It is well-known in the engineering disciplines that too-tight “coupling” is at the root of many, if not most, failures of complex systems. Far more robust are loosely coupled systems, in which components interact with, and depend on, each other no more than is necessary; in which the actions of each component affect the actions of others only so far as is essential for the operation of the system as a whole; in which friction between components is minimized; and in which the failure of a single component does not unnecessarily cause the failure of others. This is precisely the opposite of the systems that govern us today, at both the national and global level.

Read the whole thing here.

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Vote Suppression

Well, here’s a fine state of affairs: the lovely Nina has thrown out her back here in Wellfleet, MA, and so we can’t make the long ride back to New York — which is where we are registered to vote. I very much doubt that Hillary Clinton will take New York’s electoral votes by a margin of one, but if so, I will be very sorely vexed indeed.

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The Common Touch

From the Podesta emails:

 
“With friends like that…”

See also this. Three days to go, folks. Choose wisely.

The American Heartland As Viscoelastic Liquid: A Case Study

From the Wall Street Journal today:

Places Most Unsettled by Rapid Demographic Change Are Drawn to Donald Trump

ARCADIA, Wis.—Small towns in the Midwest have diversified more quickly than almost any part of the U.S. since the start of an immigration wave at the beginning of this century. The resulting cultural changes appear to be moving the political needle.

A Wall Street Journal analysis of census data shows that counties in a distinct cluster of Midwestern states—Iowa, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois and Minnesota—saw among the fastest influxes of nonwhite residents of anywhere in the U.S. between 2000 and 2015. Hundreds of cities long dominated by white residents got a burst of Latino newcomers who migrated from Central America or uprooted from California and Texas.

That shift helps explain the emergence of Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump as a political force, and signals that tensions over immigration will likely outlive his candidacy. Among GOP voters in this year’s presidential primaries, counties that diversified rapidly were more likely to vote for the New York businessman, the Journal’s analysis shows.

As you probably know by now, I’ve got a metaphor for everything. My metaphor for this, as explained here a year ago, is that societies are like Silly Putty: the faster you deform them, the more likely they are to snap.

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Everyone Needs A Hobby

Here’s a nifty visualization of the Clinton, etc. emails.