No Minister

Posts Tagged ‘Far Left

Do you need an NKVD for this?

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Based on history I would have said yes. Certainly the collectivisation of Russian farms in the USSR and Mao’s Great Leap Forward could not have been achieved without having a State police force pointing their firearms at unarmed civilians.

On the other hand, the last two years of General Tso’s Sickness has persuaded me that there are rather large chunks of our society who will willingly bend to the wishes of the State if they are both terrified enough and sense that opposition to the State’s plans is small and weak, plus another chunk that think they’ll be the ones in charge of all of this.

But what will happen to the land? Mr Kotsko already has that planned out too:

Because that has worked so well in the past. But aside from Communist failures the fact is that this ties in well with environmental groups, from the Very Far Left Sea Shepard, to the hideously wealthy capitalist sociopaths of the World Economic Forum – if the intention is to greatly reduce the size of the planet’s human population, which would solve all manner of problems.

I had no idea who this clown was, but he’s more than just another Toxic Twitter Leftist: he has his own Wikipedia page:

Adam Kotsko (born 1980) is an American theologian, religious scholar, culture critic, and translator, working in the field of political theology.

“Political Theology”? Ewwwwww. Sounds scary, even if it is a good description of what passes for politics nowadays. He’s also written a number of books, including Why We Love Sociopaths (2012): no word on whether he meant it as a warning or an instruction manual, possibly for the WEF. He certainly has not applied its analytics to himself.

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you – unless indeed you fail to meet the test!?– 2 Corinthians 13:5

Written by Tom Hunter

August 23, 2022 at 5:07 pm

Right and Left wing support for Putin

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One of the strangest aspects of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine has been the support given to it, or at least the excuses made for it, by elements of the Western Right wing.

This has been claimed as merely another example of the “Alt-Right” or “Far-Right” in action, although the former slur seems to have died away in the last couple of years, apparently having failed to have much impact, probably because it was never well-defined in the first place.

In an example of the classic donut representation of ideologies the Far Right appears to have matched up with the Far Left, at least on this issue, although the same observations have been made of the recent anti-mandate protests in Wellington. I’ve always thought the elements of the donut that would do so would be the various brands of Anarchism, with only a hair’s breadth difference between the Anarcho-Communists and Anarcho-Capitalists – a wide, deep canyon in other words.

But perhaps this meshing is based on a faith in a vast, centralised state? After all, Lefties like Chris Trotter have quite happily identified themselves as “tankies”, – a term of abuse apparently used within the Left, of which I was unaware until he used it a few weeks ago:

Tankie” is a pejorative label for communists, particularly Stalinists, who support the authoritarian tendencies of Marxism–Leninism…Specifically it was used to distinguish party members who spoke out defending Soviet use of tanks to crush the Hungarian Revolution of 1956 and later the 1968 Prague Spring uprising, or more broadly, those who adhered to pro-Soviet positions in general.

As such Chris has often defended Putin’s Russia using all the now-standard arguments: the threat of NATO, the West in general and especially the USA, the corruption of Russia by capitalism, etc, etc, plus the massive propaganda war against Russia. He and others have also pointed out the hypocrisies and double standards involved when looking at events like the invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the attack on Libya in 2011.

To be fair Chris has nevertheless condemned the latest Russian invasion as a crime.

But what of the Western Right who are defending Putin’s actions? A rather dejected sounding classical liberal from Britain, Daniel Hannan, someone whose arguments I’ve very much admired over the years, posed that question in The Examiner: How can any American patriot support Putin?

How can people who call themselves nationalists be so blasé about the asphyxiation of a nation whose sole offense has been to assert its independence?

But what is it that Trump and his followers see in Putin in the first place? This is where I start to worry. For a Reagan conservative, Putin’s flaws are obvious. He does not respect elections. He believes he can make up the rules as he goes along. He defines some of his people as “traitors” and encourages others to go after them. The sole principle of his foreign policy is Machtpolitik — let the stronger take from the weaker. He has replaced multiparty pluralism with a cult of personality. He can’t tolerate criticism.

Are Trumpsters as repelled by these things as Reaganites? Considering that list in an American context, I wonder. Things have changed since the Gipper’s time. In a polarized age, people are readier to overlook the shortcomings of politicians who specialize in “owning” the other side. Instead of wanting to limit the state as a general principle, modern conservatives are happy to make use of it when it suits their ends. And whereas they used to support candidates who shared their principles, they now tend to shift their principles whenever their champion does.

Unlike Hannan I’m well aware of plenty of Trump supporters who are very much against Putin’s invasion and wish to see him fail, including especially seeing the back of him as the leader of Russia. I did laugh at his take on Leftist support for Putin:

There is nothing surprising about dissent on the Left, chunks of which will align with any cause, however vile, provided it is sufficiently anti-American. If H.G. Wells’s novel came true tomorrow and Martian invaders launched their spaceships at Earth, there would be a New York Times op-ed arguing that the invasion was an understandable response to former President George W. Bush’s foreign policy.

But I don’t think it’s as simple as Hannan’s claim that it’s just siding with those who “own” their personal opposition, and a better answer may be found in this analysis of the apologetics for Putin, one that’s more subtle, and more disturbing:

“Both the liberal center-Left and the conservative center-Right are basically committed to upholding the global liberal order. Putin, by invading and attempting to conquer a sovereign state, challenges that order. If Putin succeeds, even modestly, it represents a failure for the U.S. establishment figures who tried to stop him. And establishment failures equal insurgent opportunities. Both the rightists and the leftists here are fighting against the Fukuyaman end-of-history idea that gives their own movements little space to move up.”

I think that’s it, but he’s also clinging to a very slim reed in thinking that these groups are frightened by the idea that the Fukuyamian world of the 1990’s is going to return, especially when he pinpoints its failures himself:

… the rightists and leftists must now see their shared nightmare unfolding before them — a great muddling-through, a slow revivification of the institutions that failed in Iraq and the Great Recession and the Trump Era. 

Ummm… No! The failures of the institutions that created the disasters of Iraq and the GFC, and before them the 9/11 attacks, are what led to the Trump era, and the continued public failure of them during Trump’s presidency – most vividly on show now with the slow revelation of coverups by none other than the CIA and FBI themselves, plus their handmaidens in Big Tech and the MSM in things like the Russia Collusion nonsense and Hunter Biden’s laptop of corruption, all working to bring Trump down – have only reduced public confidence in them further, worsened the situation and pulled us further away from that fabulous 90’s world that the author pines for.

He also doesn’t even mention the catastrophic Biden withdrawal from Afghanistan and the authoritarian over-reaction to the Chinese Lung Rot pandemic in almost all Western nations which saw our Public Health institutions and a good chunk of the public gleefully turning themselves into modern-day Stasi agents.

The End of History is dead and something new will take its place.

Written by Tom Hunter

March 25, 2022 at 10:22 am

Crystallization, Madness and Tyranny

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Protection, therefore, against the tyranny of the magistrate is not enough: there needs protection also against the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling; against the tendency of society to impose, by other means than civil penalties, its own ideas and practices as rules of conduct on those who dissent from them; to fetter the development, and, if possible, prevent the formation, of any individuality not in harmony with its ways, and compel all characters to fashion themselves upon the model of its own.

There is a limit to the legitimate interference of collective opinion with individual independence: and to find that limit, and maintain it against encroachment, is as indispensable to a good condition of human affairs, as protection against political despotism.

On Liberty by John Stuart Mill

That famous quote actually came about because Mill – the son of a famous economist who also contributed to the somewhat crude theory of utilitarianism (as did his son), which I must admit increasingly dominates our world, especially now – was in the end influenced and changed by that close observer of democracy, Tocqueville, and his notion of the tyranny of the majority, who pointed out that the tyranny unique to democracy gave rise to “the peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion” in the social sphere, in our so-called free societies. It moved Mill to write his great plea for free speech.

The reason this came up in my reading was due to a lengthy (38 pages) and very thoughtful article published in Tablet magazine, Needle Points, which attempts to explore the world of “vaccine hesitancy” from an intellectual medical standpoint rather than the crude and simple-minded abuse that fills the screens of the MSM and more than a little of FaceTwit (full PDF version here). The author, Norman Doidge, is a psychiatrist, psychoanalyst, and author of The Brain That Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing.

He writes of one insight into vaccination from his days at medical school:

At times modern science and modern medicine seem based on a fantasy that imagines the role of medicine is to conquer nature, as though we can wage a war against all microbes with “antimicrobials” to create a world where we will no longer suffer from infectious disease. Vaccination is not based on that sterile vision but its opposite; it works with our educable immune system, which evolved millions of years ago to deal with the fact that we must always coexist with microbes; it helps us to use our own resources to protect ourselves. Doing so is in accord with the essential insight of Hippocrates, who understood that the major part of healing comes from within, that it is best to work with nature and not against it.

It is an unusual aspect of modern medicine, which can seem overly “cold and clinical”, the stereotype of that term in fact. He writes of the two sides of what he calls the behavioral immune system:

… ever since they were made available, vaccines have been controversial, and it has almost always been difficult to have a nonemotionally charged discussion about them. One reason is that in humans (and other animals), any infection can trigger an archaic brain circuit in most of us called the behavioral immune system (BIS). It’s a circuit that is triggered when we sense we may be near a potential carrier of disease, causing disgust, fear, and avoidance. It is involuntary, and not easy to shut off once it’s been turned on.

It’s useful, but:

One of the reasons our discussions of vaccination are so emotionally radioactive, inconsistent, and harsh, is that the BIS is turned on in people on both sides of the debate. Those who favor vaccination are focused on the danger of the virus, and that triggers their system. Those who don’t are focused on the fact that the vaccines inject into them a virus or a virus surrogate or even a chemical they think may be poisonous, and that turns on their system. Thus both sides are firing alarms (including many false-positive alarms) that put them in a state of panic, fear, loathing, and disgust of the other.

And now these two sides of the vaccination debate are tearing America apart. . .

America? The world.

We see it firing every day now, when someone drives alone wearing a mask, or goes for a walk by themselves in an empty forest masked, or when someone—say with good health and no previous known adverse reactions to vaccines—hears that a vaccine can in one in 500,000 cases cause death, but can’t take any comfort that they have a 99.999% chance of it not happening because it potentially can. Before advanced brain areas are turned on and probabilities are factored in, the BIS is off and running.

Meh. The human brain is not equipped to understand probability. But the aspect of a mass of numbers is not just about probability but something more viciously concrete:

It seems to me especially vital that we broaden our understanding of the history and current state of vaccines because, over the summer, many who chose vaccination for themselves concluded that it is acceptable to mandate vaccines for others, including those who are reluctant to get them. That majority entered a state of “crystallization”–a term I borrow from the French novelist Stendhal, who applied it to the moment when a person first falls in love: Feelings that may have been fluid become solid, clear, and absolute, leading to all-or-nothing thinking, such that even the beloved’s blemishes become signs of their perfection.

Crystallization, as I’m using it here, happens within a group that has been involved in a major dispute. For a while there is an awareness that some disagreement is in play, and people are free to have different opinions. But at a certain point–often hard to predict and impossible to measure because it is happening in the wider culture and not necessarily at the ballot box–both sides of the dispute become aware that, within this mass of human beings, there is now a winner. One might say that a consensus arises that there is now a majority consensus. Suddenly, certain ideas and actions must be applauded, voiced, obeyed, and acted on, while others are off limits.

It sounds like witch burning, or perhaps in a less damaging form, a version of the focus of the famous book, Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds. But Doidge brings us back to Tocqueville:

One person who understood how this works intuitively was Alexis de Tocqueville. In democracies, as long as there is not yet a majority opinion, a range of views can be expressed, and it appears there is a great “liberty of opinion,” to use his phrase.

But once a majority opinion forms, it acquires a sudden social power, and it brings with it pressure to end dissent. A powerful new kind of censorship and coercion begins in everyday life (at work, school, choir, church, hospitals, in all institutions) as the majority turns on the minority, demanding it comply. Tocqueville, like James Madison, was concerned about this “the tyranny of the majority,” which he saw as the Achilles’ heel of democracy.

It isn’t only because divisiveness created a minority faction steeped in lingering resentment; it’s also because minorities can sometimes be more right than majorities (indeed, emerging ideas are, by definition, minority ideas to start with). The majority overtaking the minority could mean stamping out thoughts and actions that would otherwise generate progress and forward movement.

Historian Victor Davis Hanson made that point about Western societies, especially democracies, many times in his book Carnage and Culture. I think we’re losing that in our technocratic age, dominated by giant monopoly IT companies that increasingly control our discourse.

It is a fascinating moment when this sort of crystallization happens in a mass culture like America’s, because seemingly overnight even the definition of legitimate speech (or thought or action) also changes. Tocqueville observed that quite abruptly a person can no longer express opinions or raise questions that only days before were acceptable, even though no facts of the matter have changed. At an individual level, people who were within the bounds can be surprised to find themselves “tormented by the slights and persecutions of daily obloquy.” Once this occurs, he wrote, “your fellow-creatures will shun you like an impure being, and those who are most persuaded of your innocence will abandon you too, lest they should be shunned in their turn.”

We are so close to this here in New Zealand. Far closer than in the federated world of the USA, where actual states, almost nations in themselves, can chart different courses. But in a nation state such as ours there is only one course, that determined by Parliamentary Supremacy, boosted by a majority government not anticipated by the supporters if MMP. The only reason I voted for National in 2002 was precisely to prevent Helen Clark, competent as she was, getting FPP control.

And so…

A June 2021 Gallup poll found that, among the vaccinated, 53% now worry most about those choosing not to get vaccinated, “surpassing concerns about lack of social distancing in their area (27%), availability of local hospital resources and supplies (11%), and availability of coronavirus tests in their area (5%).” True to the BIS’s impulses, this fear is metastasizing into disgust, even hatred, of those who–because they believe or act differently–are now perceived as threats: On Aug. 26, in a front-page story in the Toronto Star, my local newspaper, a resident was quoted as saying: “I have no empathy left for the willfully unvaccinated. Let them die.”

Heh. I have seen much the same on FaceTwit from (now former) friends and acquaintances. You can read the rest of the analysis in these sections.

CHAPTER II: The kernel brilliance of vaccines

CHAPTER III: A new plague descends

CHAPTER IV: Getting out

But one aspect of the crystallization that amuses/bemuses me is summarised very well by the following point from the article:

As of a September 2019 Gallup poll, only a few months before the COVID-19 pandemic, Big Pharma was the least trusted of America’s 25 top industry sectors, No. 25 of 25. In the eyes of ordinary Americans, it had both the highest negatives and the lowest positives of all industries.

At No. 24 was the federal government, and at No. 23 was the health care industry. These three industries form a neat troika (though at No. 22 was the advertising and public relations industry, which facilitates the work of the other three.)

Those inside the troika often characterize the vaccine hesitant as broadly fringe and paranoid. But there are plenty of industries and sectors that Americans do trust. Of the top 25 U.S. industry sectors, 21 enjoy net positive views from American voters. Only pharma, government, health care, and PR are seen as net negative: precisely the sectors involved in the rollout of the COVID vaccines. This set the conditions, in a way, for a perfect storm.

You know who probably were the dominant members of those untrusting American souls on “Big Pharma” and the “Health Care” industry pre-Covid-19?

The Left. In the USA, the Democrats. Here, Labour and the Greens.

Politics and the madness of crowds can work miracles in changing people’s minds. As the Joker said in The Dark Knight:

Madness, as you know, is like gravity.
All it takes is a little push”

Written by Tom Hunter

November 25, 2021 at 11:13 pm

The Age of Men is over. The Time of The Orc has come.

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This will not be news for people who play Dungeons and Dragons, the now almost fifty year old, role-playing game beloved by generations of nerds.

Dungeons and Dragons goes woke.

Well shit! What hasn’t been going woke recently? From the article a bit of background for non D&D’rs.

The science-fiction fantasy game was created in 1974 by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. Players pretend to be fantasy characters who are guided through adventures and scenarios by a dungeon master. 

By the early 1980’s, thanks to some insane and talented coders, I was playing a crude version of it with mates on our university’s computer system: the Digital Equipment Manufacturer (DEC) VAX 11/780, a 32-bit “minicomputer” that was far more attractive to learn on than the more common but huge IBM mainframes with their clunking batch-processing oriented architecture. Naturally we had to play the game in the wee small hours of the morning because 128Mb of RAM only goes so far even with a superb time-sharing OS. Typically for the times, nobody thought of commercialising it. After all, what computers could run such a thing from the comfort of your home?

🤣🤣🤣🤣

Anyhoo, I stopped playing it, whether on computers or in the traditional board version, as soon as I graduated. I thought it had been left behind with the world of nerds. It’s therefore been with baffled amusement that I’ve seen the Millennial and Gen Z generations glom on to it in recent years, with huge online viewing of D&D games on things like the live-streaming site, Twitch. (9 million viewers for one game in 2017: eat that TVNZ).

Because we lived in a vastly less inter-connected world, we weren’t aware for some years that D&D had played a significant role in the great 1980’s Satanic Panic bullshit, all because of one dickhead private “dick” hired by a family to find their missing 15-year old boy genius in 1979 – who just happened to be totally into D&D. There were others:

The panic continued into 1982 when Virginian high school student Irving Lee Pulling II killed himself. Patricia A. Pulling, his mother, claimed the game was responsible and founded ‘Bothered About Dungeons & Dragons.’ In 1984, Missouri teenager, Mary C. Towey, was strangled to death by Ronald G. Adcox and Darren Lee Molitor. What connected both cases? They all played D&D.

As you can imagine, by the time I and other nerds heard about this panic some years later it was merely good for uproarious laughter, scorn and ridicule of the moralising idiots pushing all the panic. It’s probably not surprising that sales went from from thousands per year to millions.

Which brings us to the moralising dickheads of today:

‘Throughout the 50-year history of D&D, some of the peoples in the game — orcs and drow being two of the prime examples — have been characterized as monstrous and evil, using descriptions that are painfully reminiscent of how real-world ethnic groups have been and continue to be denigrated,’ the statement reads. ‘That’s just not right, and it’s not something we believe in.

Oh FFS! What a complete and total load of crap. But it also ties in so well with other such developments, such as the drive to pervert the works of that dreaded Catholic Conservative, J.R.R. Tolkien (from which D&D took much inspiration), with a new Lord Of The Rings spinoff that’s going to employ all that hot and saucy Game of Thrones stuff, no doubt with really cool Elvish sex action among other things.

Ok. Let me think about that last a bit more.

Anyway, the problem with trying to pull this with D&D is that the gamers themselves will subvert it just as thoroughly as they did the “Satanic” bullshit.

‘The beauty of D&D is that players can ignore the official storylines, narratives, maps and characters if they find them ridiculous,’ radio host and D&D junkie Larry O’Connor told The Spectator. ‘So this entire exercise is performative to get attention but the actual players will just look the other way and laugh.’

They already are.

Even that isn’t new. Way back in 2003 McSweeney’s Quarterly took a witheringly precise slice at a supposedly “unused audio of a discussion between Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky”:

CHOMSKY: The film opens with Galadriel speaking. “The world has changed,” she tells us, “I can feel it in the water.” She’s actually stealing a line from the non-human Treebeard. He says this to Merry and Pippin in The Two Towers, the novel. Already we can see who is going to be privileged by this narrative and who is not.

ZINN: Of course. “The world has changed.” I would argue that the main thing one learns when one watches this film is that the world hasn’t changed. Not at all.

CHOMSKY: We should examine carefully what’s being established here in the prologue. For one, the point is clearly made that the “master ring,” the so-called “one ring to rule them all,” is actually a rather elaborate justification for preemptive war on Mordor.

ZINN: I think that’s correct. Tolkien makes no attempt to hide the fact that rings are wielded by every other ethnic enclave in Middle Earth. The Dwarves have seven rings, the Elves have three. The race of Man has nine rings, for God’s sake. There are at least 19 rings floating around out there in Middle Earth, and yet Sauron’s ring is supposedly so terrible that no one can be allowed to wield it. Why?

CHOMSKY: Notice too that the “war” being waged here is, evidently, in the land of Mordor itself — at the very base of Mount Doom. These terrible armies of Sauron, these dreadful demonized Orcs, have not proved very successful at conquering the neighboring realms — if that is even what Sauron was seeking to do. It seems fairly far-fetched.

Grateful and Ungrateful

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I don’t know about you but I’ve never walked into a hardware store like Mitre10 or Bunnings and thought to myself how beautiful it is, or that some parts are like a carnival.

But then I’m not from Cuba, whereas the guy in this video is and it documents his first ever visit to a Home Depot store in the USA.

Watching it I’m reminded of a scene from the 1980’s movie Moscow on the Hudson, where Robin Williams, playing a Soviet circus musician who defects during a US tour, is so overwhelmed by his first experience of supermarket shopping that he faints.

Little ordinary things that we all just take for granted in Western democratic capitalist nations.

On the other hand there’s this video from San Francisco that has gone viral in the last few days. It shows a shoplifter just blatantly filling up a garbage bag with stuff from a Walgreens store in daylight and right in front of a security guard, who simply videos the whole event. When the thief cycles out of the place, the guard does make a half-hearted grab for the bag but fails.

The woman beside the guard is also videoing the theft and asks about calling the cops on 911. However, arresting the man would be a waste of time since San Francisco has implemented a policy of not charging shoplifters if they steal less than $950, which has produced daily scenes in the city like this one, as shown in the rest of the video.

The inevitable happened when Walgreens recently closed seventeen of its stores in the city, but blatant shoplifting like this has become a common feature of other large, Democrat-controlled cities as well.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 20, 2021 at 3:04 pm

“Even North Korea is not this nuts”

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That’s not from this Babylon Bee tweet, despite it being another of their wonderful pieces of satire.

Now you may be thinking that photoshopping North Korea’s Kim Jong Un into a modern American university lecture theatre is over-the-top, even for a satirical story.

But that would be before you read this article about a North Korean defector named Yeonmi Park, who has recently graduated from Columbia University.

Park is one of the more famous defectors, having written a 2015 memoir called “In Order to Live”, in which she chronicled her life in the repressive regime of North Korea and her eventual escape with her mother. At the age of 13 she saw people die of starvation right in front of her. When she and her mother managed to get across the border into China they were captured by human slavers. Having been freed by Christian missionaries she still ended up having to walk across the Gobi desert before she got to South Korea.

Then she moved to the USA and went to one of the great Ivy League universities.

“I expected that I was paying this fortune, all this time and energy, to learn how to think. But they are forcing you to think the way they want you to think,” she said. “I realized, wow, this is insane. I thought America was different but I saw so many similarities to what I saw in North Korea that I started worrying.”

Her money quote:

“Even North Korea is not this nuts. North Korea was pretty crazy, but not this crazy.”

When you read the details she supplies about her education you can understand why she came to this conclusion.

Like in North Korea, Park said she witnessed example after example of anti-Western sentiment and guilt-tripping. During her orientation, for instance, a staff member scolded her for liking classic literature, such as the writings of Jane Austen.

“I said ‘I love those books.’ I thought it was a good thing,” Park said of her orientation. “Then she said, ‘Did you know those writers had a colonial mindset? They were racists and bigots and are subconsciously brainwashing you.’”

Heh. I encountered a number of feminists in the 1980’s with a very low opinion of Jane Austen, because she did not fit their conceptions of what a feminist was. To say the least their opinions of the woman were primitive and reductive, but by the late 1990’s things had turned around, with increased celebration of Ms Austen’s feminist traits.

Just in time to now be a “colonialist” and a racist.

Yeonmi Park

Her professors gave students “trigger warnings,” sharing the wording from readings in advance so people could opt out of reading or even sitting in class during discussions, Park told The Post.

“Going to Columbia, the first thing I learned was ‘safe space,’” she said.

“Every problem, they explained us, is because of white men.” Some of the discussions of white privilege reminded her of the caste system in her native country, where people were categorized based on their ancestors, she said.

The similarities with North Korea mounted up, but at least the North Koreans had some rationale in defending their system, which they did partly by hating on Americans. As Ms Park points out there seem to be rather a lot of Americans who also hate America.

When it came to gender pronouns and manipulation of the English language, Park was even more confused.

“English is my third language. I learned it as an adult. I sometimes still say ‘he’ or ‘she’ by mistake and now they are going to ask me to call them ‘they’? How the heck do I incorporate that into my sentences?” she remembered asking herself. “It was chaos. It felt like the regression in civilization.”

It is a regression in civilisation. And it comes from being in a “safe space”.

“Because I have seen oppression, I know what it looks like,” she said. “These kids keep saying how they’re oppressed, how much injustice they’ve experienced. They don’t know how hard it is to be free.”

The paradox of supposedly being taught about “oppression”, “injustice” and being “free” is that it’s producing graduates who actually don’t know anything about them.

Park said as a child she had thought dictator Kim Jong Un was “starving” and overworked until she was in South Korea and was shown pictures that showed how large he was in pictures compared to other people who looked thin and hungry.

“That’s what it does when you’re brainwashed …. Oh my God, why did I not notice that he was fat?’ Because I never learned how to think critically. That is what is happening in America, people see things but they’ve just completely lost the ability to think critically.”

More paradox, this time courtesy of “Critical Theory”. Or perhaps irony is a better term?

“You guys have lost common sense to a degree that I as a North Korean cannot even comprehend,” she said. “Where are we going from here? There’s no rule of law, no morality, nothing is good or bad anymore, it’s complete chaos. I guess that’s what they want, to destroy every single thing and rebuild into a Communist paradise.”

I don’t agree with that last, although I can see why she would think that. The fact is that outside of a tiny fringe of real Marxists there are few who believe in that, mainly because there are so many grifting, money hungry Leftists tearing things up just to make a buck for themselves:

But that doesn’t mean they can’t cause an awful lot of damage to American society as they claw in the money while forcing everybody else to bend to their whims.

Eventually, Park stopped arguing with her professors and “learned how to just shut up” so that she could graduate.

“I literally crossed the Gobi Desert to be free and I realized I’m not free, America’s not free.

Well she did still graduate, and she got to talk to reporters about this – but only once she escaped from the university, and to paraphrase Andrew Sullivan, once we all live on campus…

Answers to Bad Anti-Free Speech Arguments

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Aeromagazine has a superb article that deals with twelve such arguments that are commonly heard.

While the whole thing is worth your time to read I wanted to extract two in particular.

First up is the classic one about shouting fire! in a crowded theatre;

Answer: Anyone who says “you can’t shout fire! in a crowded theatre” is showing that they don’t know much about the principles of free speech, or free speech law—or history. 

This old canard, a favourite reference of censorship apologists, needs to be retired. It’s repeatedly and inappropriately used to justify speech limitations. People have been using this cliché as if it had some legal meaning, while First Amendment lawyers roll their eyes and point out that it is, in fact, as Alan Dershowitz puts it, “a caricature of logical argumentation.” Ken White has already penned a brilliant and thorough takedown of this misconception. Please read it before proclaiming that your least favourite language is analogous to shouting fire in a crowded theatre.

The phrase is a misquotation of an analogy made in 1919 Supreme Court opinion that upheld the imprisonment of three people—a newspaper editor, a pamphlet publisher and a public speaker—who argued that military conscription was wrong. The court said that anti-war speech in wartime is like “falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic,” and it justified the ban with a dubious analogy to the longstanding principle that the First Amendment doesn’t protect speech that incites people to physical violence. But the Supreme Court abandoned the logic of that case more than 50 years ago. That this trope originated as a justification for what has long since been deemed unconstitutional censorship reveals how useless it is as a measure of the limitations of rights. And yet, the crowded theatre cliché endures, as if it were some venerable legal principle.

Oh, and notice that the court’s objection was only to “falsely shouting fire!”: if there is, in fact, a fire in a crowded theatre, please let everyone know.

But I also appreciate the response to this more modern one that I often see on social media because it’s a cartoon.

Assertion: The right to free speech means the government can’t arrest you for what you say; it still leaves other people free to kick you out.

Answer: No, the popular xkcd cartoon below is wrong. The First Amendment limits what the government can do, but freedom of speech is something much bigger than that.

This cartoon is often used to dismiss free speech arguments, but it is wrong: it not only confuses First Amendment law with freedom of speech, it doesn’t even get the First Amendment right.

The concept of freedom of speech is a bigger, older and more expansive idea than its particular application in the First Amendment. A belief in the importance of freedom of speech is what inspired the First Amendment; it’s what gave the First Amendment meaning, and what sustains it in the law. But a strong cultural commitment to freedom of speech is what maintains its practice in our institutions—from higher education, to reality TV, to pluralistic democracy itself. Freedom of speech includes small l liberal values that were once expressed in common American idioms like to each his owneveryone’s entitled to their opinion and it’s a free country. These cultural values appear in legal opinions too; as Justice Robert H. Jackson noted in West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, “Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.”

While the United States Constitution limits only governmental behaviour on its face, its application sometimes requires the government to protect you from being censored by other citizens. For example, the government has a duty to protect you from being attacked by a hostile mob that doesn’t like your ideas or having your public speech disrupted by a heckler’s veto.

The First Amendment also bars government officials from punishing your speech in many ways that don’t rise to the level of arresting you. To give just one example, since administrators at state colleges are government actors, they can’t tear your flyer from a public message board because they don’t like what it says.

A belief in free speech means you should be slow to label someone as utterly dismissible for their opinions. Of course you can kick an asshole out of your own house, but that’s very different from kicking a person out of an open society or a public forum. The xkcd cartoon is often used to let people off the hook from practicing the small d democratic value of listening.

Related to this is an excellent article by the American essayist, Roger Kimball, which looks at what he calls “crybullies” and their lousy impact on education:

There are two central tenets of the woke philosophy. The first is feigned fragility. The second is angry intolerance. The union of fragility and intolerance has given us that curious and malevolent hybrid I have called the crybully, a delicate yet venomous species that thrives chiefly in lush, pampered environments.

The Struggle Sessions – Back to Academia

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Back to the world where it all started – Academia. The following article from Aero magazine, Listening at the Great Awokening, has a concise but comprehensive take on what Woke Politics is doing to American universities.

All the accents and cadences of critical race theory can be identified. Williams, Sarah Lawrence, Evergreen and Yale could really be Any Residential College in Any Town.

As such I’d be interested to know how much of this crap is slipping into New Zealand universities.

But that article deals with a lot of student protest. Here are two specific stories of how actual academic research is being screwed up as a result of the Great Woke Fest. First up is how two academics withdrew a study they’d conducted on police shootings. After studying “917 fatal police shootings of civilians from 2015 to test whether the race of the officer or the civilian predicted fatal police shootings“, they had reached the conclusion that there was:

“no significant evidence of anti-black disparity in the likelihood of being fatally shot by the police.”

The two researchers from the University of Maryland made it clear that they stood by their analysis and findings and there has been no dispute about such. So why withdraw it?

Politics! Right-Wing attorney and Police researcher Heather MacDonald had cited it during her testimony before Congress in September 2019 as well as in a City-Journal article, although the shit did not really hit the fan until she wrote another article on June 3rd of this year for the WSJ. In the post-Floyd era such thoughts were unacceptable. As MacDonald wrote in a subsequent WSJ article:

My June 3 Journal op-ed quoted the PNAS article’s conclusion verbatim. It set off a firestorm at Michigan State. The university’s Graduate Employees Union pressured the MSU press office to apologize for the “harm it caused” by mentioning my article in a newsletter. The union targeted physicist Steve Hsu, who had approved funding for Mr. Cesario’s research. MSU sacked Mr. Hsu from his administrative position. PNAS editorialized that Messrs. Cesario and Johnson had “poorly framed” their article—the one that got through the journal’s three levels of editorial and peer review.

Mr. Cesario told this page that Mr. Hsu’s dismissal could narrow the “kinds of topics people can talk about, or what kinds of conclusions people can come to.” Now he and Mr. Johnson have themselves jeopardized the possibility of politically neutral scholarship. On Monday they retracted their paper. They say they stand behind its conclusion and statistical approach but complain about its “misuse,” specifically mentioning my op-eds.

They did not explain exactly how it had been “misused”. A better explanation was that they were saving their own necks, and to aid that they also tried throwing MacDonald under the bus, as she described:

The authors don’t say how I misused their work. Instead, they attribute to me a position I have never taken: that the “probability of being shot by police did not differ between Black and White Americans.” To the contrary, I have, like them, stressed that racial disparities in policing reflect differences in violent crime rates. The only thing wrong with their article, and my citation of it, is that its conclusion is unacceptable in our current political climate.

The “political climate” in American universities that those authors are terrified of is also seen with this from NorthWestern University Law School in Chicago, one of the most prestigious in the nation.

If you think that my description of all this as a Maoist Struggle Session is exaggerated then just look the chat stuff on this screen capture of a Tweet.

There had been a similar example around the same time from the world of political science, courtesy of a Democrat political consultant, David Shor, who Tweeted some advice as the George Floyd riots were cranking up:

“Post-MLK-assasination race riots reduced Democratic vote share in surrounding counties by 2%, which was enough to tip the 1968 election to Nixon. Non-violent protests *increase* Dem vote, mainly by encouraging warm elite discourse and media coverage.”

He even cited a very dense Poli-Sci paper by a Princeton political scientist,  “Agenda Seeding: How 1960s Black Protests Moved Elites, Public Opinion and Voting.”. Clearly he was worried about his Party, but others did not see it that way. The most popular Tweet response: “white dems to black people in 2020: ‘could you die more quietly? We have an election to win,’” 

Shor was fired within days. He must have been pissed off when, a few months later, CNN mouthbreather Don Lemon said the following:

“Guess what, the rioting has to stop….Chris, as you and I know, it’s showing up in the polls, it’s showing up in focus groups. It’s the only thing right now that’s sticking.”

Last I heard Lemon still has his job, but that’s because by then the Democrats had figured out that the riots were not their magic bullet in defeating Trump.

But the following example is worse, because the academic concerned had to write a “secret” letter to some – but only some – of his colleagues.

Dear profs X, Y, Z

I am one of your colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley. I have met you both personally but do not know you closely, and am contacting you anonymously, with apologies. I am worried that writing this email publicly might lead to me losing my job, and likely all future jobs in my field.

What a great learning and teaching environment to exist in. And he’s not wrong.

In your recent departmental emails you mentioned our pledge to diversity, but I am increasingly alarmed by the absence of diversity of opinion on the topic of the recent protests and our community response to them.

I’m getting vibes of “If only Stalin knew”. This poor bastard still believes the “diversity” schtick, even as he raises a question that answers itself:

In the extended links and resources you provided, I could not find a single instance of substantial counter-argument or alternative narrative to explain the under-representation of black individuals in academia or their over-representation in the criminal justice system.

Not one alternative eh? Well duh!

The explanation provided in your documentation, to the near exclusion of all others, is univariate: the problems of the black community are caused by whites, or, when whites are not physically present, by the infiltration of white supremacy and white systemic racism into American brains, souls, and institutions.

It’s a mystery!

The claim that the difficulties that the black community faces are entirely causally explained by exogenous factors in the form of white systemic racism, white supremacy, and other forms of white discrimination remains a problematic hypothesis that should be vigorously challenged by historians.

I feel so sorry for this guy. He actually thinks that modern universities are places where academic research into socio-political questions is still academic rather than political and ideological. And he really does not understand that his next comment will be greeted with “Yeah? And?

Instead, it is being treated as an axiomatic and actionable truth without serious consideration of its profound flaws, or its worrying implication of total black impotence. This hypothesis is transforming our institution and our culture, without any space for dissent outside of a tightly policed, narrow discourse.

He goes on to examine this axiom in some detail, applying the sort of research powers you’d expect, including noting how much of these truths are based on anecdote or “transparently motivated“. You can read it for yourself but some of his key points are as follows:

  • If we claim that the criminal justice system is white-supremacist, why is it that Asian Americans, Indian Americans, and Nigerian Americans are incarcerated at vastly lower rates than white Americans?
  • None of this is explained, beyond hand-waving and ad hominems. “Those are racist dogwhistles”.
  • Increasingly, we are being called upon to comply and subscribe to BLM’s problematic view of history, and the department is being presented as unified on the matter,

He also could have looked at non-crime stuff for evidence of a lack of White Supremacy in the USA.

So fanatical are these people that even legal and financial punishment won’t dissuade them, as was seen with the hits taken by the formerly prestigious Liberal Arts university, Oberlin College in the middle of last year:

The jury handed down a staggering $11 million verdict against Oberlin for a smear campaign against a local business and awarded another $33 million in punitive damages to the targeted mom-and-pop store, Gibson’s Food Market and Bakery.

The bakery, which had served Oberlin students for decades, had got a couple of shop-lifting university students arrested. Unlike past ages when shame meant something, they counter-attacked by accusing the bakery of racism. This was whole-heartedly backed by the university, which launched an all-out attack to destroy the bakery’s business via cancelled business, public attacks and protests that fully involved the staff. The lawsuit loss came as a shock..

Oberlin’s defenses — it was neutral in the dispute between its students and the store — were shredded at trial (admirably covered in detail by the Web site Legal Insurrection).

… but obviously not enough of one:

I received an even more defiant letter from Oberlin College President Carmen Twillie Ambar on June 14 vowing that “this is not the final outcome.” Ambar warns of a “lengthy and complex legal process.” Indeed, I’m now hearing from infuriated Oberlin insiders this week that the college persists in treating the Gibson family horribly and refuses to end the horror show, all while blithely assuring alumni that “we value our relationship with the town and region that are our home.”

Oberlin alum Beth Kontrabecki Walters summed it well for me in her reflections on campus life and the Gibson’s verdict: “What was once considered a forward-thinking and prestigious institution has now become the poster child for intolerant, myopic crybabies. Oberlin should not appeal this decision. … The multimillion-dollar reward to Gibson’s is the public’s way of sending a message; it’s high time these insulated left-wing incubators put an end to the out-of-control politically correct culture

The article documents examples over three decades of how Oberlin has been pulling this shit on the local community and students. But I don’t think they, or most of these universities can change themselves given how embedded this racist crap is, as can be seen by this official student categorisation system used by the University of California:

I’ve seen this somewhere before:

In 1984, for example, “518 coloureds became white, 2 whites became Chinese, 1 white became Indian, 1 white became coloured, 89 coloureds became black.

Surely U-Cal is not far away from undertaking the same steps as Apartheid South Africa. It would hardly be less crazy and racist than what they’ve got. The only real solution will be public de-funding and/or the loss of students until even tenured professors get fired, as has happened at Evergreen University. In fact the greatest impact has been from the impact of the Chinese Sinus Rot.

Every disaster has a silver lining, but this one needs to be much brighter and stronger – looking at those numbers I’d guess at least 3 million stronger.

The Struggle Sessions – Everyday Life

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So far in the Struggle Sessions I’ve looked at where it came from, its effects in Academia, MSM, and even Science.

But it’s beginning to hit home to everyday people as well.

Some of this is obvious, as shown by Matt Taibbi’s article on the MSM:

Minneapolis mayor Jacob Frey, who argued for police reform and attempted to show solidarity with protesters in his city, was shouted down after he refused to commit to defunding the police. Protesters shouted “Get the fuck out!” at him, then chanted “Shame!” and threw refuse, Game of Thrones-style, as he skulked out of the gathering. Frey’s “shame” was refusing to endorse a position polls show 65% of Americans oppose, including 62% of Democrats, with just 15% of all people, and only 33% of African-Americans, in support.

Each passing day sees more scenes that recall something closer to cult religion than politics. White protesters in Floyd’s Houston hometown kneeling and praying to black residents for “forgiveness… for years and years of racism” are one thing, but what are we to make of white police in Cary, North Carolina, kneeling and washing the feet of Black pastors? What about Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer kneeling while dressed in “African kente cloth scarves”? 

There is symbolism here that goes beyond frustration with police or even with racism: these are orgiastic, quasi-religious, and most of all, deeply weird scenes,

Heh. What is not deeply weird is the classic feature of Nineteen Eighty Four, in which history is constantly updated, and woe betide anybody who does not keep up:

Even people who try to keep up with protest goals find themselves denounced the moment they fail to submit to some new tenet of ever-evolving doctrine, via a surprisingly consistent stream of retorts: fuck you, shut up, send money, do better, check yourself, I’m tired and racist.

I’ve referred before to Andrew Sullivan’s 2018 piece, We All Live on Campus Now, which pointed out that campus insanity was going to spread beyond universities as people graduated:

Why does it matter? These are students, after all. They’ll grow up once they leave their cloistered, neo-Marxist safe spaces. The real world isn’t like that. You’re exaggerating anyway. And so on…

The reason I don’t agree with this is because I believe ideas matter. When elite universities shift their entire worldview away from liberal education as we have long known it toward the imperatives of an identity-based “social justice” movement, the broader culture is in danger of drifting away from liberal democracy as well. 

To put it another way: the Culture Wars in the USA matter because their impacts are real and spreading not just across the USA but across the Western world. Sullivan has followed that article up with this one in 2020, Is there still room for debate?:

In the last couple of weeks, as the purges of alleged racists have intensified in every sphere, and as so many corporations, associations, and all manner of civic institutions have openly pledged allegiance to anti-racism, with all the workshops, books, and lectures that come with it, I’m reminded of a Václav Havel essay, “The Power of the Powerless.”

Short answer: NO! With regard to Havel, I thought I’d coined that phrase in 2007 on Kiwiblog. Nuts!

A lot of the crap that’s hitting the corporate world outside of the MSM places Sullivan is writing about, is a nasty little polemic called White Fragility. Back to Taibbi again as he reviews this ludicrous best selling book, Taibbi is not gentle. The book is actually being used as a basis for “training” in the Human Resource departments of US corporations and government departments, hardly surprising given that its author, Robin DiAngelo, is a former corporate consultant. She certainly landed on the gravy train with this one.

DiAngelo isn’t the first person to make a buck pushing tricked-up pseudo-intellectual horseshit as corporate wisdom, but she might be the first to do it selling Hitlerian race theory…

DiAngelo’s writing style is pure pain. The lexicon favored by intersectional theorists of this type is built around the same principles as Orwell’s Newspeak: it banishes ambiguity, nuance, and feeling and structures itself around sterile word pairs…

Writers like DiAngelo like to make ugly verbs out of ugly nouns and ugly nouns out of ugly verbs (there are countless permutations on centering and privileging alone)…

Put simply, the book is dumber than the average business book of the last forty years, and is certainly having worse consequences than something like the hideous 1980’s tome, In Search of Excellence, which, as just one example, highlighted IBM just before it started going down the crapper. It’s not surprising that White Fragility manages to twist the story of Jackie Robinson completely inside out, arguing that people back in the 1940’s believed that “Robinson finally had what it took to play with whites”. Taibbi really takes issue with this:

There is not a single baseball fan anywhere – literally not one, except perhaps Robin DiAngelo, I guess – who believes Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier because he “finally had what it took to play with whites.” Everyone familiar with this story understands that Robinson had to be exceptional, both as a player and as a human being, to confront the racist institution known as Major League Baseball….

Robinson’s story moreover did not render “whites, white privilege, and racist institutions invisible.” It did the opposite. … Robinson’s story, on every level, exposed and evangelized the truth about the very forces DiAngelo argues it rendered “invisible.” 

It takes a special kind of ignorant for an author to choose an example that illustrates the mathematical opposite of one’s intended point, but this isn’t uncommon in White Fragility, which may be the dumbest book ever written. It makes The Art of the Deal read like Anna Karenina.

Heh! But that’s what you get when dumb theories are applied to the real world, which is the story of Critical Race Theory. Because of his grounding in Old Fashioned Socialism Taibbi spends more time sticking it to the Capitalist Masters using this shite…

For corporate America the calculation is simple. What’s easier, giving up business models based on war, slave labor, and regulatory arbitrage, or benching Aunt Jemima? There’s a deal to be made here, greased by the fact that the “antiracism” prophets promoted in books like White Fragility share corporate Americas instinctive hostility to privacy, individual rights, freedom of speech, etc.

… than he does sticking it to his fellow Lefties who have pushed it for twenty years now. Still, I appreciated this bit:

White Fragility has a simple message: there is no such thing as a universal human experience, and we are defined not by our individual personalities or moral choices, but only by our racial category. If your category is “white,” bad news: you have no identity apart from your participation in white supremacy (“Anti-blackness is foundational to our very identities… Whiteness has always been predicated on blackness”), which naturally means “a positive white identity is an impossible goal.” 

DiAngelo instructs us there is nothing to be done here, except “strive to be less white.” To deny this theory, or to have the effrontery to sneak away from the tedium of DiAngelo’s lecturing – what she describes as “leaving the stress-inducing situation” – is to affirm her conception of white supremacy. This intellectual equivalent of the “ordeal by water” (if you float, you’re a witch) is orthodoxy across much of academia.

Read the whole thing.

And the real-world impacts on people are here, as a former HR person describes how she saw the shift when VP of Diversity and Inclusion for Apple, Denise Young-Smith was forced to resign for saying the following at a conference:

“Diversity is the human experience. I get a little bit frustrated when diversity or the term diversity is tagged to the people of color, or the women, or the LGBT.” Her answer was met with a round of applause at the session. Young Smith went on to add that “there can be 12 white, blue-eyed, blonde men in a room and they’re going to be diverse too because they’re going to bring a different life experience and life perspective to the conversation.”

Ms Young-Smith is Black and that was in 2015, before the whole White Fragility and Critical Race Theory really got started in the HR departments, as witnessed by the city of Seattle:

In the US this is happening in Federal Departments as well:

The “HR” components in various offices are not run by “political appointees”.  These offices are run by career officials who carry over from one administration to the next.  In my experiences over 22+ years, EVERY such office was stocked by raging left-wing liberals.  Political leadership was largely powerless to “rein them in” because any such action would be seen as being based on the “content” of their HR advocacy, and itself the subject on HR complaint.  The people in those positions are pretty much “independent operators” within the agencies where they work, and the greater workforce is compelled to be silent about their pushing left-wing social policies under the guise of “HR” compliance.

Including – I shit you not – Sandia National Laboratories, a nuclear weapons lab, where it was found that expectations of competence are “devastating” to lesbians and “people of colour.” And where white male employees found themselves subjected to psychological abuse, before being told to issue hand-written apologies, atoning for their maleness and the colour of their skin. I don’t know about you but I very much like people working around nuclear weapons to be competent, although perhaps this is just another Leftie angle at eliminating such weapons?

All of which was why Trump issued an Executive Order to refrain from teaching this racist crap in Federal areas:

The President has directed me to ensure that Federal agencies cease and desist from using taxpayer dollars to fund these divisive, un-American propaganda training sessions…. [A]ll agencies are directed to begin to identify all contracts or other agency spending related to any training on “critical race theory/”white privilege,” or any other training or propaganda effort that teaches or suggests either (1) that the United States is an inherently racist or evil country or (2) that any race or ethnicity is inherently racist or evil. In addition, all agencies should begin to identify all available avenues within the law to cancel any such contracts and/or to divert Federal dollars away from these un-American propaganda training sessions.

Naturally this was categorised by helpful propagandists like Chris Wallace of Fox News as merely “teaching racial sensitivity“, and he did that in one of the Presidential debates. Awww…. who could be against something so moderate? The incoming Harris-Biden administration will reverse that EO and put CRT training on steroids. But the same shit is happening in private sector corporations and their “training sessions” as well.

But here is just one of many examples of this how horror is hitting ordinary people outside of HR departments – as it is ultimately intended to:

Last night I talked to a mother who described how her 11-year-old daughter is at a loss to know how to respond to the pressure she faces from her peers and others on Instagram to include a BLM hashtag on her posts. ‘Can I just post a cake that I baked on Instagram?’, she asked. When young children are faced with the demand to conform or else, it is clear that a powerful mood of illiberal intolerance is sweeping our societies. Threatened with being ostracised, children as young as 11 and 12 now feel compelled to fall in line. Suddenly, the term ‘peer pressure’ has acquired a whole new dimension.

Of course even your innocent little kids can’t escape. That’s one of the core aspects of totalitarian ideas. But I’ll leave the last word to Tatinia McGrath:

The Struggle Sessions – A Soviet Perspective

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In the middle of the great tumult of the Woke brigades of the USA, one magazine – The Tablet – had an interesting, disturbing take on them.

The article, The American Soviet Mentality, was written by Izabella Tabarovsky, who grew up in Russia and who specialises in Soviet history.

She begins the article by describing the collective demonisations of Boris Pasternak (his most famous work is Doctor Zhivago) following his being awarded the Nobel Prize in literature:

Within days, Pasternak was a target of a massive public vilification campaign. The country’s prestigious Literary Newspaper launched the assault with an article titled “Unanimous Condemnation” and an official statement by the Soviet Writers’ Union…

…A few days later, the paper dedicated an entire page to what it presented as the public outcry over Pasternak’s imputed treachery. Collected under the massive headline “Anger and Indignation: Soviet people condemn the actions of B. Pasternak” were a condemnatory editorial, a denunciation by a group of influential Moscow writers, and outraged letters that the paper claimed to have received from readers.

She goes into detail about all the aspects of this, including attacks on others like composers Dmitry Shostakovich and Sergei Prokofiev; writers Anna Akhmatova and Iosif Brodsky; and others, pointing out that the hounding could go on for years and destroyed people’s lives, health and ability to create.

Of course it all sounds awfully similar to the recent Twitter rage mob attacks on writers, reporters and editors described by Taibbi, Sullivan and others. Tabarovsky looks at those as well, but while she compares this situation to the USSR she also makes the point about the ordinary people involved:

But while the policy in the USSR was by and large set by the authorities, it would be too simplistic to imagine that those below had no choices, and didn’t often join in these rituals gladly, whether to obtain some real or imagined benefit for themselves, or to salve internal psychic wounds, or to take pleasure in the exercise of cruelty toward a person who had been declared to be a legitimate target of the collective...

The mobs that perform the unanimous condemnation rituals of today do not follow orders from above. But that does not diminish their power to exert pressure on those under their influence...

Sergei Dovlatov, a dissident Soviet writer who emigrated to the United States in 1979 [said]: “We continuously curse Comrade Stalin, and, naturally, with good reason. And yet I want to ask: who wrote four million denunciations?” It wasn’t the fearsome heads of Soviet secret police who did that, he said.

As a former Soviet herself she understands the mentality that drives these people, even as it threatens them too with ever greater and more precise demands for loyalty to the kollektiv:

Those of us who came out of the collectivist Soviet culture understand these dynamics instinctively. You invoked the “didn’t read, but disapprove” mantra not only to protect yourself from suspicions about your reading choices but also to communicate an eagerness to be part of the kollektiv—no matter what destructive action was next on the kollektiv’s agenda. You preemptively surrendered your personal agency in order to be in unison with the group.

…  How much of your own autonomy as a thinking, feeling person are you willing to sacrifice to the collective? What inner compromises are you willing to make for the sake of being part of the group? Which personal relationships are you willing to give up?

A point also made by Princeton professor Robert George in The Superior Humans of Today. Tabarovsky finishes on a note that I find very depressing as she writes of her adopted home and expresses a grim feeling:

Those who remember the Soviet system understand the danger of letting the practice of collective denunciation run amok. But you don’t have to imagine an American Stalin in the White House to see where first the toleration, then the normalization, and now the legitimization and rewarding of this ugly practice is taking us.

… I used to feel grateful that we had left the USSR before Soviet life had put me to that test. How strange and devastating to realize that these moral tests are now before us again in America.

From my vantage point, this cultural moment in these United States feels incredibly precarious.

So say we all.