YDS: The Clare Spark Blog

August 14, 2017

Skin in the game

Adam video game

https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/fights-in-advance-of-saturday-protest-in-charlottesville/2017/08/12/155fb636-7f13-11e7-83c7-5bd5460f0d7e_story.html?undefined=&utm_term=.ffba0ee1bc89&wpisrc=nl_headlines&wpmm=1. Compare to  http://althouse.blogspot.com/2017/08/there-was-no-police-presence-we-were.html, a fine analysis by Harry Lewis regarding the role of the police in failing to separate the warring sides and more.

This blog is mainly about the missing terms in the media discussion of the Charlottesville riot: the fantasy of “unity,” present-mindedness, “fascism,” and discipline.

Moderation. The press has reverted during and after the weekend Charlottesville riot to its “moderate” position: condemning both (equally culpable) “extremists” as evil, while implying that its “moderation” is laudably (progressive). So the “moderate men” continue to hold the “center.” (See Yeats’s famous formulation.) Also, https://clarespark.com/2015/04/07/who-are-the-moderate-men/.)

This a deeply deceptive way of talking, for analysis suffers when we cannot identify class interests: what social groups inhabit the so-called “alt-Right”? Are they all “white” workers? Do the  protesters know the first thing about actually existing “fascism” (that was distinctive in say, Italy, Germany, France and Spain?)
Unity. And Fox News Channel (like the others) has been united in the hope that we can “come together” to defeat the dark forces on both sides. I have been wondering for some time if we are living in some variant of a “fascist dictatorship,” for (populist) Nazism stressed the “people’s community” in the effort to stamp out communism, and the longing for an impossible unity reminds me of Hitler’s utopian deadly premise.

Any student of US history knows that sectionalism is paramount, and defies any attempt to reconcile the conflicting regions of our country. (https://clarespark.com/2014/03/13/what-is-cultural-relativism/.)

Discipline. Which brings me to the traditional Jewish imperative to subdue the negative part of “human nature.” This sets up a conflict with those ideologies that see the self as all good or all bad. So the press (including many assimilated Jewish journalists) calls for “love” all around, presumably encompassing faith, hope and charity.

Lodz

Arthur Szyk, Lodz, Poland, ca 1939; pinterest.com

But the racism that is and was opposed by progressives/the New Left is not quickly or easily eliminated, for it is embedded in the existing major ideologies, each requiring separate analysis. For we must refrain from reading our current values into the past (present-mindedness), while still recognizing those pseudo-progressive institutions holding minorities back (e.g., teachers unions).

But such analysis is missing from our dumbed down culture where “ignorant armies clash by night.” (Dover Beach, Matthew Arnold)

August 6, 2017

The Free Speech Muddle

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 5:42 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

free-speechThe “kept” media is all aflutter this week, because Attorney General Jeff Sessions hinted that journalists, as well as leakers, might be held responsible for publishing classified information. This blog is about the fantasy that the West (including the US) distinguishes itself from all forms of tyranny by its vaunted freedom of speech and expression as promised, say, by the US Constitution.

I say “fantasy” because, although freedom of [anything] is a lifelong achievement; a fulfillment that may or may not be achieved even in old age by the best of us.

The notion of journalistic freedom, for instance, depends on the assumption that American print media have never been partisan. (If you want to see polarization, just look at the 1790s as Hamiltonian Federalists and Jeffersonian agrarians slugged it out.)

Then there is the issue of government secrecy: anyone who has used the FOIA option, knows that the State can redact at will, so that crucial documents remain off limits to citizens (including academics and journalists).

We might add the barely admitted problem of self-censorship, some on grounds of politeness or intimidation, some from not daring to look inside ourselves too closely, some by ideology: the facts are always in dispute.

Let us now briefly turn to the subject of “fascism” a taunt that is bandied about these days, without much understanding by the anti-Trump protesters, old and young alike. The various fascisms that sprung up after the calamity of WW1 in the 1920s and 1930s, were distinct from one another. But they were all authoritarian and counter-Enlightenment. (Italy and Germany in particular were distinguished by the cult of the charismatic Leader and the one-party state). So “anti-fascists” like to attach themselves to “Free Speech” as proof that there is no authoritarianism in the West, particularly in the post-1960s USA, even as we pass laws affirming “diversity” and arbitrary notions of “community”—all in the name of human rights!

July 16, 2017

What does 21st Century “Americanism” mean to you?

reddit.com

We are currently polarized around the question of nationalism vs. globalization. With the football season only a few months away, the fate of the now unemployed quarterback Colin Kaepernick has now generated some discussion of “patriotism” that many associate with “nationalism.”

Indeed, in high school we were taught that “nationalism, militarism, and imperialism” caused the rise of fascism after World War One. No mention of the Progressive or “Middle Way” response to industrialization that Hitler lauded in the Table Talk. The point was not to take patriotism to “extremes” as did the dictators.

Doesn’t Hitler sound like a “moderate” progressive here, lauding elites, collectivizing “the people,” and lauding “balance”?

[Hitler, 1942]:] “The English have to settle certain social problems which are ripe to be settled. At present these problems can still be solved from above, in a reasonable manner. I tremble for them if they don’t do it now. For if it’s left to the people to take the initiative, the road is open to madness and destruction. Men like Mosley would have had no difficulty in solving the problem, by finding a compromise between Conservatism and Socialism, by opening the road to the masses but without depriving the élite of their rights. Class prejudices can’t be maintained in a socially advanced State like ours, in which the proletariat produces men of such superiority. Every reasonably conducted organization is bound to favour the development of beings of worth. It has been my wish that the educative organisations of the Party should enable the poorest child to lay claim to the highest functions, if he has enough talent. The Party must see to it, on the other hand, that society is not compartmentalized so that everyone can quickly assert his gifts. Otherwise discontent raises its head, and the Jew finds himself in just the right situation to exploit it. It’s essential that a balance should be struck, in such a way that dyed-in-the-wool Conservatives may be abolished as well as Jewish and Bolshevik anarchists….”(Jan. 27, 1942, p. 253).

I have been reading Felix Gilbert’s The End of the European Era, 1890 To The Present (Norton, 1970) and like other social democrats, he describes the Russian Revolution of 1905 as a “socialist revolution.” Of course it was not, as the tsar remained in power and only modest reforms were achieved. But the lead up to 1905 was worth reviewing, for autocratic Russia was beginning to be industrialized, which opened the way to liberal reformism, and ultimately to Revisionism (the Menshevik road to socialism).

But what did 1930s Stalinists mean by the claim that “Communism is “20th Century Americanism”? I had always assumed that Reds were pulling the wool over American eyes, but I now wonder if they meant that for traditional Americans (loyal to the Constitution) they expected that “Americanism” would be adapted to a modicum of free speech and “good” labor unions, i.e., progressivism and the Third Way.

What do you think?

Hatsune flag posted by a libertarian nationalist

 

April 6, 2017

Are we in a revolution?

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 8:04 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

Fascist Revolution posterIt has bugged me for a long time that “liberals” knock their conservative or Republican opponents as fascists, while reserving for themselves the white hats of sensible (i.e., moderate/centrist) reform. Similarly, some religious conservatives may equate Bolshevism, fascism, and the Enlightenment (including the science that was spawned in the modern period).

I prefer to make a distinction between the Radical and Conservative Enlightenments. In my view, the Radical Enlightenment was a product of the Scientific Revolution that could lead to either communism or to “laissez-faire capitalism,” both of which celebrated the scientific method/empiricism. Marx himself recognized this when he celebrated the American Civil War as clearing away the feudal relic of slavery. (It is worth noting that New Left scholars, influenced by black power (?), have asserted that slavery was thoroughly capitalist. Thus there was no revolution during the Lincoln administration, and all self-made men are tainted by slavery: “You didn’t build that.”)

Turn now to the “Fascist Revolution”. I view the various fascisms as counter-revolutionary, and like social democracy, meant to frustrate not only the scientific revolution, but also the bourgeois revolution that celebrated individualism understood as the search for truth, for instance, to quote Milton’s Satan, in tracing the “wayes of highest agents.” No secrets! https://clarespark.com/2012/05/24/curiosity-and-the-femme-fatalejew/.

Almost all of the postings on this website have focused on the mystical, hence backward, character of multiculturalism. The state of Mussolini sought to make “responsible” both capital and labor where the working class threatened to join the Bolshevik revolution. Similarly, “moderate” American capitalists wedded to “social responsibility” during the Great Depression have been opposed to the notion that individuality cannot exist without the marketplace of ideas—a marketplace that celebrates individual achievement. https://clarespark.com/2015/12/29/milton-friedmans-capitalism-and-freedom-1962/.

The “moderates” have been aligned with fascism since Mussolini took power, though they contrast their progressive nostrums on behalf of human rights with the authoritarian controls ferociously asserted by the fascist regimes. Of course, for “liberals” these human rights are collectivist in nature, leading to the infamous carving up of the “body politic” that individualists protest; moreover, these rights are conferred by the Leader as opposed to the biological capacities of humans.

Turn now to the Trump election. Is it or is it not a “revolution”? I queried my Facebook friends, and few agreed with me that we were in some kind of great transformation. To be sure, private property has not been attacked as was done in the earliest stages of the Bolshevik seizure of power. But was the New Deal a revolution or not? https://clarespark.com/2009/08/25/preventive-politics-and-socially-responsible-capitalists-1930s-40s/.

To the extent that big business is asserted (laissez-faire capitalism), we are once again in the realm of the bourgeois revolution. The petit-bourgeoisie (the political foundation for both Nazism and the bureaucratic collectivist New Deal) has been frustrated in its zeal for “equal opportunity”. Big business is once again on the move as they were after the American Civil War; Trotskyists will claim that we are in a neo-fascist period catering to Big Business, and they may be correct. I honestly don’t know, but I have come to believe that we are in some kind of upheaval, comparable in some respects to the big revolutions of the past.

Scientific_Revolution_-_Thinkers

Leading thinkers of the Scientific Revolution

But it is interesting that the Democratic Party (riding on the coat tails of the Roosevelt administration and its Conservative Enlightenment) is hell bent on discrediting the achievements of the President by describing him as in bed with the Russians, hence held to be anti-American.

The “progressive” claim of Trumpian neo-Fascism in this administration will have resonance with some “moderate” Republicans, though not with all conservatives.

 

November 13, 2016

Apocalypse now

Apocalypse Kingofwallpapers.com

Apocalypse: Kingofwallpapers.com

This blog is about the requirement to understand the socially-induced misconceptions of the protesters, including the destructive anarchists among them.

I have changed my mind about the election blog I would write, partly because I have seen the conservative responses written by many of my Facebook friends, which roundly criticize the protesters.

Indeed, my first response was to post a message from Jenny, one of my daughters: “I know many are mourning, crying, and panicked over the election results, a reaction to which I honestly cannot relate, but let people feel their feelings, I say. I cannot understand and find totally irresponsible, however, parents who have demonized the president elect, making their children believe he is a bad man and will hurt them and our world. Children need to feel secure and confident in order to grow into happy and successful adults. Shame on parents who feed their children unfounded ideas which then make them feel unsafe. This country is home to citizens and their families with a vast spectrum of valid values and beliefs. We can’t get our way all of the time. Liberals had eight years to get it right and now it’s time to take a different approach. Let us not put our children in the crossfire while battling different opinions. Oh, I’ve got an idea. Why don’t we all act like grownups—inform ourselves, work to make ourselves and the world better, and be an example to the children of how to move forward in a constructive, generous, and faithful way. Let us leave tantrums to the two-year- olds.”(end of Jenny’s post-election comment.)

I agree with this analysis, but I also see the results of a partisan education outside the family, that has thwarted the political education of the youthful protesters, even the violent ones among them. This partisan education is also a form of child abuse that should be more widely recognized. (And Jenny concurs, noting that her comment was only one thread among many.)

The protesters (including the anarchists) are a product of an education that has left them terrified. In no particular order, these are the deficiencies that have fueled their panic (this fear of annihilation was brought to my attention by my daughter Rachel). In no particular order:

  1. The notion that the Democrat Party is left-wing. It is common for many conservatives to view “the Left” as if they are all communists, ignoring the obvious fact that Democrats/progressives have co-opted and neutralized the demands of revolutionary socialists: i.e., the radical demands of the 19th and early 20th century labor movements for worker control of production.
  2. The notion that identity politics/multiculturalism is a radical innovation, and is similarly communist-inspired. Indeed, it is another example of co-optation and neutralization, substituting “race” and “ethnicity” for class interest. Here came the notion of “political correctness” that Trump appears to have violated, leaving the masses unprotected from “racist” and “sexist” conservatives.
  3. The notion that the Constitution protected “white supremacy.” Again, this is context-ignoring factor. It is true that the Constitution was a compromise between Northern and Southern slaveholding elites, but that was dramatically changed by the Civil War and the social movements it spawned. Again, the progressives were aristocratic and racist, though this is too obvious a distinction for the “tenured radicals” controlling education today. Although progressives claim the mantle of science, balance, and enlightenment for themselves, in their zeal for the social relationships of the medieval period (e.g., deference to the Good King), they may be said to have dumbed down our population by denying the sharp tools of history.

This website has been devoted the misconceptions of our socialization. The media have always been partisan, but the 1960s movements developed a cadre of activists claiming the mantle of social justice, while trashing opponents as fascists, while some conservatives, just as foolishly, equated communism and fascism. (Both forms of social organization are statist and repressive, but fascism was a counter-revolution to the Soviet coup of 1917, not its structural twin.)

Is it any wonder that our young folk are in the streets? In their own eyes, they are doing the right thing by averting apocalypse now!

3-14-16, demo outside GOP headquarters. CBS News/AP

3-14-16, demo outside GOP headquarters. CBS News/AP

December 4, 2014

“Race relations” as managed by the Left

whitepolice[This is the first of two blogs on the subject of race relations after Ferguson. See https://clarespark.com/2014/11/25/reflections-on-the-ferguson-aftermath/.%5D

Is there a thread linking the Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, and Eric Garner cases?

This blog is about the horrific consequences of abandoning the widely differing details of each of these deaths, in favor of collapsing unique events into the discourse of “race relations.”  This, along with securitizing mortgages, was a practice initiated by the white liberal establishment in response to thuggish “cultural nationalists” who mounted urban race riots in the mid to late 1960s. Martin Luther King Jr.’s legacy of legal integration was annexed to the Pan Africanism of “black power” with the blessing of cultural anthropology and the Democratic Party. This recent history, documented in widely available books, has either been ignored or forgotten or buried. For my blogs on this transformation see https://clarespark.com/2009/10/31/the-offing-of-martin-luther-king-jr-and-ralph-bunche/ and  especially https://clarespark.com/2010/07/18/white-elite-enabling-of-black-power/ .

The most elite universities and foundations came up with the idea co-opting the mob’s “leaders.”  Along with this mystification that erased individual differences for the sake of the organic community/multiculturalism/social stability/group cohesion, came the ratification of a certain kind of reactionary nationalism.

Recall that for decades, Nazis and “fascists” were believed to be produced by excessive “nationalism.” Only a few voices bothered to make distinctions between contrasting forms of “nationalism.” The anti-slavery Senator from Massachusetts, Charles Sumner, was one of these. Oddly the late historian Eric Hobsbawm was another, but he was arguing from the communist Left, whereas Sumner thought of himself as a moderate conservative.

First, Charles Sumner: For the lawyer Sumner, an admirer of the Declaration of Independence and the Preamble to the Constitution (that he viewed as having the force of law, affirming human equality and negating slavery), the state had limited functions: national security and the protection of individual human rights (that meant equality before the law, rich and poor alike). He was also a modernizer who believed that all Americans deserved an excellent free education. See https://clarespark.com/2009/10/05/charles-sumner-moderate-conservative-on-lifelong-learning/. For Sumner’s view of railroads as modern improvements see https://clarespark.com/2013/11/30/railroading-captain-ahab/, and https://clarespark.com/2008/05/03/margoth-vs-robert-e-lee/.  I see Sumner as a proponent of limited government. Were he alive today, he might be a libertarian with a bias in favor of meritocracy; he would surely be enraged by the inferior educations tolerated in ghetto schools. Sumner was a man of the Enlightenment, as was his intellectual descendant Walter Lippmann (see https://clarespark.com/2009/08/19/noam-chomskys-misrepresentation-of-walter-lippmanns-chief-ideas-on-manufacturing-consent/.)

radicalrepublicans

Second, Eric Hobsbawm, who made crucial distinctions between liberal nationalism and conservative nationalism in a widely read Nation article: Liberal nationalism, unlike its conservative form, was about reducing privilege, step by step. Conservative nationalism was solely about the control of territory and resources, in competition with other states.

The cultural nationalism favored by today’s liberal elites who  push “multiculturalism” based on racial identity or similar forms of artificial “community” (like affinity groups), would have to be rejected by that forgotten man, Sumner.  Hobsbawm would probably go along with the ethnicity/race craze that has substituted for class analysis since the days of the Popular Front, even though 1930s Marxist-Leninists were strongly anti-racist before they got their marching orders from Stalin to bond with their prior class enemies, the “anti-fascist [imperialist, racist] bourgeoisie.”

Then the New Left came along, allegedly the friends of the downtrodden. Those who had benefited from prestigious educations went on to fight for the commanding heights of academe and journalism, which they now occupy, having been tolerated by weak-kneed liberals (conservatives having been banished from the respectable humanities owing to their “McCarthyism”). Their students have been indoctrinated into the belief that “African Americans” (a Pan-African term) are a cohesive whole, each one oppressed by “Whitey.” Some of these new model “anti-racists” even write popular television shows in which blacks not only enjoy interracial sex or marry with whites, but dominate them, sometimes behind the scenes (Scandal comes to mind: will Olivia Pope and her “gladiators”–other liberals masquerading as moderate Republicans– ever escape from her father’s net?).

Even some anchors on Fox News Channel accept the premises of identity politics: the police should “look like” the communities where they enforce the law, as if “white people” need to be reined in or “balanced” by members of minority groups. (Joe Hicks made two appearances on Fox, mocking such a premise, but he has disappeared from their channel as of this writing.)

unicorn

If historian Michael Burleigh is correct, and the most salient feature of Nazism was the “racial state,” then I will have to drop my cautious use of the term “proto-fascist.” We are in for it, the real thing, shipmates.

cultural-nationalism

The law is now a dead letter, as dead as Charles Sumner’s vision of limited but just government.  (For an academic critique of nationalism that I found on the web see http://professornerdster.com/nationalism-why-wont-you-just-die-seriously/.)

December 2, 2014

Academics, artists, and the “Nazi question”

affinity-groupsSometimes I ask myself, why do I read so much about theories of “fascism” and/or Nazi Germany? This blog attempts to answer that question, with some asides on the socialization of academics. My overall concern is why we don’t have a proper education for democracy.

I. First, my apparent “obsession”: Being born in 1937, I was a small child during WW2, and I still remember my anxiety when my father went off to join the Army medical corps; then we followed him around the country as he spent most of his service as a pathologist at various army bases. I don’t remember a time when I did not fear for his life, though he didn’t get in trouble until he suffered life-threatening allergies in Guadalcanal—the one time he (briefly) left the States. I didn’t hear a word about “the Holocaust” until after the war, and then my parents were reluctant to give me any details. It wasn’t until television treated the subject in the early 1970s that I first understood the magnitude of the event. And it was not until 1986 when I heard David Wyman and Deborah Lipstadt lecture on the cover-up of the event. After that, I even asked my favorite professor when Americans first learned about it, and she answered: “1945”—clearly the wrong answer. Thus began my extended inquiry into the character of anti-Semitism and related distorted notions. Before that, I had constantly minimized the power of this so-called “prejudice,” which left me vulnerable to many leftist personalities, many of whom were supposedly “Jewish.” (For some of my unusual blogs on anti-Semitism, see https://clarespark.com/2010/11/14/the-abcs-of-antisemitism/, and https://clarespark.com/2010/11/16/good-jews-bad-jews-and-wandering-jews/. Generally,  “bad” Jews are seen as “rootless cosmopolitans”: the anti-race or the enzymes that accelerate “change.”)

affinity2

Second, because I started studying censorship in the art world in 1969, I came across the interrogation of “myth and symbol” by various artists, both living and dead. This in turn, led me to the power of patronage and the fractured history of Christianity and paganism. Since much of contemporary art was reworked versions of modernism (starting in the nineteenth century), it was but a short step to the art and culture of the interwar period. Thus I was plunged into the controversies over Nazi versus Soviet art, sculpture, and architecture—controversies that had never been resolved. (I should add that the Museum of Modern Art did much to entrance me with the many variants of modernism, but like other museums, their labels were not informative: we were supposed to admire and not think too much about what conditioned the production of these materials.)

Arkady Plastov Threshing on the Collective

Arkady Plastov Threshing on the Collective

Third, as a result of my collaboration with composer and musicologist Joseph Byrd (in the 1970s), I got a grant to provide the cultural context for American sentimental song in the early to mid-nineteenth century. This led to Melville—an arch-critic of sentimentality—and then to graduate school in US history at UCLA, where I convinced (with some difficulty) my dissertation director Alex Saxton to allow me to study two different time periods (I was still obsessed with fascism): the family relationships and politics of Herman Melville (1809-1891) AND the period of the Melville Revival, mostly occurring in the interwar period, which facilitated the investigation of how far “fascist” beliefs had penetrated the US. I am told that had I been in an English department, I would never have been allowed to study a “major figure,” but Saxton had been a novelist in his youth, and though an unreconstructed Stalinist, he never entirely gave up his artistry to the Party—how else to explain his unusual permissiveness in my case?

BigWomanII. In recent weeks, I have returned to my interest in modern European history, filling in books that I had missed. Followers of my blogs will notice older references to George Orwell, Hannah Arendt, and the Frankfurt School, but then to recent readings of Robert O. Paxton, George L. Mosse, and Michael Burleigh.

Yesterday I completed a historiographical survey of all the literature on Nazi Germany by the late French historian Pierre Ayçoberry [The Nazi Question (Pantheon, 1979)], that denies the very existence of a generic “fascism,”  ending with the conclusion that whether Nazi German was unique or continuous with German history remains entirely unsettled. (In a few years, the much publicized and unresolved “historians’ debate” broke out in Germany; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historikerstreit.)

Fabius Maximus image

Fabius Maximus image

What have I learned from this immersion in academic and literary treatments of European and American history? Aside from my oft stated premise that we are all, to some unknowable extent, prisoners of our context (including the access to primary sources), it occurred to me that my reverence for the “better” academic historians was misplaced: that they had been asking the wrong questions of their laboriously collected evidence, for, as the sociologist Stephen Turner has observed, scholarship is subsidized [by specific institutions with an agenda].

The question I should have been asking, but have hinted at throughout the website is this: under what conditions is it possible to have a functioning democratic republic? Has one ever existed? Why talk about scholarship at all, when there is so much pressure from institutions to stay on the narrow path prescribed by family, other patrons, “affinity groups,” and the anxieties of readers? If I have been a maverick, is it not because I am not dependent on a salary, or by anyone’s approbation but my own [possibly flawed] sense of what is reasonable, given the materials at hand? Why didn’t Pierre Ayçoberry raise these issues? Could it be that his ideology and that of Pantheon books–that of an academic “right-wing social democrat” (a term that Ayçoberry loathed)–preclude such tough questions?

Above all, is the “civilized” West ready for an appropriate education for democracy?

R. B. Kitaj, Rise of Fascism, 1975-79

R. B. Kitaj, Rise of Fascism, 1975-79

April 19, 2014

‘Totalitarianism’ (2)

pimpsup-hosdownOn April 17, I wrote this popular blog: https://clarespark.com/2014/04/17/totalitarianism/. It was preceded by a related blog that also was popular: https://clarespark.com/2012/09/05/proto-fascism-and-the-democrat-peoples-community. The blogs on ‘totalitarianism’ got lots of views probably because it was not widely known at that time that there was a pseudo-democratic movement afoot to eliminate the Electoral College and substitute the trappings of a popular democracy, in effect, reversing the Constitution and eliminating the notion of a constitutional republic in favor of [mob rule, urban domination]. In other words, such details as the marketplace of ideas, checks and balances, and separation of powers would be obsolete and “anti-democratic” because they are ultimately controlled and defined by “the big money”—or so such blue-state politicians as Andrew Cuomo would have to argue.

We have seen the signs of such a transition to authoritarian statism already: the expedited passage of the Affordable Care Act (and then lawlessness in its implementation), the increasing power of the executive branch, the takeover of academe by “Democrats” who shamelessly proclaim themselves the police force that will patrol dissident factions (i.e., the Tea Party and all those who fear Big Government: see https://clarespark.com/2014/04/12/the-organization-of-american-historians-taking-sides/), and the turnaround of Brandeis University in the case of Ayaan Hirsi Ali—an insult supported by the Harvard Crimson staff, devoted as they are to multiculturalism, as opposed to the clash of civilizations thesis advanced by Hirsi Ali, who unequivocally states that there are no moderate Muslims. Similarly, the Secretary of State John Kerry’s deluded hope that he might broker a peace between Arabs and Israelis, reflects the assumptions of multiculturalism, as opposed to recognizing that there are some “differences” that are not only irreconcilable, but cannot be settled by mediation or “inclusion.” (And what the Left wants is a binational state, i.e., the end of a majority Jewish state, and the return of Jews to dhimmi status.) Soon we will all be requested to bow and scrape before our Platonic Guardians or the new nomenklatura.

Ever since I read Barack Obama’s two books in 2008, I have feared a bloodless transition to either fascism or communism. (Why bloodless? The population is so pacified/brainwashed, and force so unevenly distributed that I do not expect significant resistance.) BUT, I do not equate the two forms of statism, and have written extensively about this distinction in the past: The revolution of Communism promised to fulfill the promise of the Enlightenment with its ideal of individual emancipation, while Fascism (in all its variants) was a counter-Revolution that erased the Enlightenment, substituting the judenrein “people’s community” for the independent individual endowed with civil rights. Now look at the discourse of the Left and its stronghold in the Democratic Party: its key words are “families” or “the people” or “community”—entities that, in contrast to terroristic Republicans/Israelis/Goldfingers, are noted for their tender care and outreach to “the oppressed.”

One explicator of this crucial difference between fascism and communism was the late communist historian Eric Hobsbawm. See https://clarespark.com/2013/10/28/hobsbawm-israel-the-totalitarian-idea/. Sadly, Hobsbawm lacked the critical distance not to bash Israel and finance capital, as have other leftists, Karl Marx for instance in his early essay on “Money” as “the universal pimp.” But my most persuasive argument against the use of the word “totalitarian” is this: why are artists and dissidents murdered, locked up, or bought off in these omnipotent societies if it is so easy to impose total control on the population in societies with a tradition of cultural pluralism and at least a measure of free thought? Who but intellectuals benefit from this emphasis on the Soviets as compared to the Nazis and all their atrocities?

Two authors stand out: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ernst_Nolte#The_Historikerstreit. Also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Origins_of_Totalitarianism (Hannah Arendt’s “great book”). Whatever their motives, such books and arguments take our attention away from the dynamics of Hitler’s rise to power and the unspeakable consequences of the Third Reich. As I write this, the factions that make up the right wing in America (not to be confused with the European Right) are still fighting with each other. Until the magnitude of the crisis that confronts us is broadly recognized and addressed in solidarity, excising those fringe groups and behaviors that really ARE racist, terroristic, populistic, and lawless (the Klan, Neo-Nazis, usually blamed by the Left on “the Right”), there is little doubt about who wins and who loses. If we get to 2016 without a coup (call it what you will), I will be the most surprised of anyone. plato

April 9, 2014

Disastrous nationalisms: the Kedourie version

Filed under: Uncategorized — clarelspark @ 8:05 pm
Tags: , , ,
Elie Kedourie (1926-1992)

Elie Kedourie (1926-1992)

Here is the Wikipedia entry on Elie Kedourie’s famous book Nationalism, first published in 1960, and available online in pdf format: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elie_Kedourie.

I read it because it was cited by an author whom I am reviewing for an academic publication, Aiyaz Husaini, author of Mapping the End of Empire: American and British Strategic Visions in the Postwar Word (Harvard UP, 2014). Husaini (whose writing is cryptic) appears not to have understood Kedourie’s famous book, so in this blog, I will briefly lay out the conservative late professor Kedourie’s main message, as they bear some resemblance to my own work on the sources of multiculturalism, and more, are relevant to competing narratives regarding Hitler’s intellectual ancestors, a perennial theme on this website.

I have warned readers before about aristocratic interpretations of the genealogy of Nazism and the crypto-racism of multiculturalism. (On the legacy of German Romanticism see https://clarespark.com/2010/07/20/german-romantic-predecessors-to-multiculturalism/.) For instance, the German aristocrat Friedrich Meinecke is cited favorably in Kedourie, but without laying out Meinecke’s hostility to the narrowly educated, “unspiritual” worker in technology, quoted here: https://clarespark.com/2010/04/12/multiculturalismethnopluralism-in-the-mid-20th-century/. Compare Kedourie’s assessment on the German Romantics with that of Hannah Arendt in Origins of Totalitarianism (1950, 1958). The Leninist Arendt blames “mass culture” for the appeal of Nazism and minimizes the legacy of German Romantic cultural nationalism and “nationalism” in general, unlike Kedourie.

Picasso, 1921

Picasso, 1921

It is well to remind the reader that the rise of Hitler was explained early on in cultural terms by such as Peter Viereck and his reviewer Harvard professor Crane Brinton, an admirer of Nietzsche. Although Brinton’s review of Viereck (Saturday Review, 1941) states that German Romanticism is not the only cause of Hitler’s program, he did find Viereck “reasonable.” That is weird, because organic conservatives such as Kedourie, Brinton, and Viereck, are similarly irrationalists: social bonds are mystical, not rational; established, order-making rulers are legitimate. Kedourie, at the same time he denounced anti-imperialist tribal nationalisms, lamented the invention of the printing press, democracy (as opposed to the republic or traditional state, all balancing each other out), the French Revolution, Napoleon, economic determinism (entirely Marxist in Kedourie’s view), and the Enlightenment-French notion that persons could separate themselves from empires in the name of self-determination. For Kedourie, without religion and tradition, the newly industrialized world would degenerate into mobbish democracies, and racist states, and once more we would hear that “the age of chivalry is gone.”

I have written at length here about cultural pessimism, apocalyptic fantasies, and the culture wars. I could call Kedourie an aristocratic radical or a reactionary. Do we not owe more to our children than to indulge in the gloomy Tory fantasies that opposed the political reforms of the English Civil War and that promoted the idea of the responsible individual?

We have seen years and years of horror movies, unprecedented best sellers that celebrate magic, and real-life retreats into barbarism. Can these be partly explained by movies and television shows that frequently present future technological disasters reaffirming, sometimes subtly, the old top-down neoclassical world view that Kedourie presents as the alternative to demonic Romanticism run amuck?

Fuseli-demon

Or do I give too much weight to cultural, as opposed to political and economic factors, just like the anti-Romantic [i.e., neoclassical] conservatives I am criticizing here?

For Kedourie’s opinion that the problems of the Middle East are insoluble, see this mildly dissenting publication by Harvard University: https://blogs.law.harvard.edu/mesh/2008/02/chasing_illusions_in_the_middle_east/.

May 10, 2013

Losing focus and mass media

mass-media1This blog is about how journalism can break our concentration on the most vital subjects, simply through its format. Nothing gets treated in adequate depth, anchors don’t press their guests to answer questions in any detail, and other events are interpolated that are de-politicizing and hence impede ameliorative action or curiosity about those debates that are crucial to our personal safety and survival as a putatively democratic republic.

Why elites hate mass media. Mass illiteracy in reading print and in reading other forms of media (including photos) is a present-day emergency, but I can’t get anyone excited about this. Many academics (the Frankfurt School critical theorists, for instance) blame totalitarianism on mass culture, by which they mean newspapers, radio, television, and movies. Today, add to that list the internet and social media. Why? Because religous authority, the Church that diverted attention from this world to life after death, suffered the greatest crisis since the Reformation at the point where visual and audio media became cheap and popular, promising large financial rewards to its technicians, writers, and artists.

Once naturalism and realism overtook mysticism and symbolism, accelerated by the world-shaking innovation of mass literacy that began to build after the invention of the printing press, democratic sects sprang up in Europe as part of the Reformation. (Read the communist historian Christopher Hill’s semi-classic The World Turned Upside Down that detailed such as Gerard Winstanley’s Diggers and other radical puritan sects of the 17th century, and which Hill clearly hoped would inspire current day readers to adopt their collectivism, including the notion that the earth was a common treasury. Such a historical reconstruction and popularization was surely meant to counter the growing individualism that leftish Romanticism and free markets had encouraged.)

In prior blogs I have shown how popular television shows not only instil fear of the internet and social media as a goad to “malignant narcissism” and serial killers, but that many series create an atmosphere of paranoia (“you are being watched” says Person of Interest every episode). Paranoia erodes basic trust, without which self-confidence and the search for truth are effectively undermined. We can’t count on our own senses, even when we reflect upon them and do research, for “we see through a glass darkly.” Thus, the old religious fears of “worldliness” and the terminal acceptance of insoluble “mystery” is reinforced: We won’t solve the mystery until we get to Heaven. (For related blogs see https://clarespark.com/2013/04/21/fascism-what-it-is-what-it-is-not/, and https://clarespark.com/2012/01/13/mark-twains-failed-yankee/.)

Why I wrote this blog. This blog, however, is not a defense of the potential democratizing mass media as currently practiced, but rather a different kind of warning about their effects, for this criticism comes from a historian who must focus, if necessarily, obsessively, on a significant problem before any writing can begin, and even after that, one’s writing is constantly interrogated with the same concentration, lest distortions and false claims be laid upon readers, readers who are expected to act upon this new knowledge that has been dug up, chewed over, tested and retested, and usually read by sympathetic but critical colleagues prior to publication.

What concerns me the day after the “explosive” hearings on the Benghazi affair, is that no sooner has the viewer or listener or reader absorbed new and potentially destabilizing information, than the subject is suddenly changed to a “human interest story” that invariably arouses strong emotions and causes the new facts on State Department misconduct to disappear from memory. So it was yesterday: the Jodi Arias verdict, the continuing drama of the Cleveland kidnappings, new facts on the Tsernaev brothers, all jumbled together with Democratic Party accusations that the hearings were a Republican stunt over a phony affair that was already moribund, and that nobody could have saved the four Benghazi victims, even if Clinton and the military had acted immediately upon being notified. (What is of course ignored is the prior cries for enhanced security sent to the State Department and then refused. A few commentators have emphasized this point, but only a few.)

Hence rational political discourse is discouraged, not only because the French Revolution is still on, producing only mobs, or because the nation is polarized over economic strategies or illegal immigrants. We are hampered from focusing on those preconditions that make citizenship possible: the close scrutiny of all our relationships, the desperate need for education reform, and the knowledge gap between most of the electorate and the specialists who make our society hum.

Without basic trust in our (educated) abilities to make sense of conflict; without proportion and a sense of appropriate scale so that we can discern between national emergencies and local problems, all talk of “participatory democracy” is an obscene joke. At one time, our opinion leaders knew this. (See Walter Lippmann’s Public Opinion, publ. in 1922, and my blog about Chomsky’s attempt to take it down: https://clarespark.com/2009/08/19/noam-chomskys-misrepresentation-of-walter-lippmanns-chief-ideas-on-manufacturing-consent/.)

media overload

This was a letter from your surrogate mother. Happy Mother’s Day.

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