Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It's worth it. It's a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else's rights, because if you don't there is no one to defend yours. -- MaxedOutMama

I don't just want gun rights... I want individual liberty, a culture of self-reliance....I want the whole bloody thing. -- Kim du Toit

The most glaring example of the cognitive dissonance on the left is the concept that human beings are inherently good, yet at the same time cannot be trusted with any kind of weapon, unless the magic fairy dust of government authority gets sprinkled upon them.-- Moshe Ben-David

The cult of the left believes that it is engaged in a great apocalyptic battle with corporations and industrialists for the ownership of the unthinking masses. Its acolytes see themselves as the individuals who have been "liberated" to think for themselves. They make choices. You however are just a member of the unthinking masses. You are not really a person, but only respond to the agendas of your corporate overlords. If you eat too much, it's because corporations make you eat. If you kill, it's because corporations encourage you to buy guns. You are not an individual. You are a social problem. -- Sultan Knish

All politics in this country now is just dress rehearsal for civil war. -- Billy Beck

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

On Guillotines and Gibbets

Personally, I’m interested in keeping other people from building Utopia, because the more you believe you can create heaven on earth the more likely you are to set up guillotines in the public square to hasten the process. - James Lileks
In my copious (HA!) spare time over the last few days, I've done some reading, and a lot of thinking. Last Friday I read Theodore Dalrymple's piece The Frivolity of Evil, and on Saturday two associated pieces from that same issue of City Journal, Dads in the 'Hood, and The Myth of the Working Poor.

All of these pieces reminded me of essays I've written here. For instance, from Dads in the 'Hood:
In 2001, encouraged visitors to post Father's Day greetings. Organizers assumed that they would see a Hallmark fest of "I love you" or "I miss you." Instead they got a "venting session": "I hate you," "To all my deadbeat dads out there, I just want to say, thanks for nothing," and "That bastard forgot that I even existed," contributors railed.

Father loss is a recurrent theme in contemporary black music, chronicled by some of the baddest brothers: "What's buried under there?/Was a kid torn apart once his pop disappeared?/I went to school, got good grades, could behave when I wanted/But I had demons deep inside," raps Jay-Z, who was raised in Brooklyn's notorious Marcy Projects and usually sings of "hos and bitches." "Now all the teachers couldn't reach me/And my mom couldn't beat me/Hard enough to match the pain of my pops not seeing me."
Back in June I wrote a three-piece essay on "Dangerous Victims." The first, "It's Most Important that all Potential Victims be as Dangerous as they Can" was inspired by a piece at Grimm's Hall called Social Harmony, and that had everything to do with father-figures. I excerpted this out of it:
I was reading an article the other day, in the local newspaper, about an elderly Korean gentleman who has moved into town and opened a martial arts studio. He chastened the reporter who had come to interview him not to suggest that the martial arts were 'all about fighting.' "No!" he said. "The purpose is social harmony."

That is exactly right. The secret of social harmony is simple: Old men must be dangerous.

Very nearly all the violence that plagues, rather than protects, society is the work of young males between the ages of fourteen and thirty. A substantial amount of the violence that protects rather than plagues society is performed by other members of the same group. The reasons for this predisposition are generally rooted in biology, which is to say that they are not going anywhere, in spite of the current fashion that suggests doping half the young with Ritalin.

The question is how to move these young men from the first group (violent and predatory) into the second (violent, but protective). This is to ask: what is the difference between a street gang and the Marine Corps, or a thug and a policeman? In every case, we see that the good youths are guided and disciplined by old men. This is half the answer to the problem.
My piece was specifically on the difference between "violent and predatory" versus "violent but protective," but in this context it is critical to understand that violent and predatory is the natural condition - it is through directed training and education that young men develop the socially critical characteristics of honor, integrity, and the understanding that violence for protection is valid, but for predation is not. That training and education, politically correct or not, comes almost exclusively from older men. And if that training doesn't occur, then the behaviors detailed in both Frivolity and Dads result.

In addition, that training comes not only from the immediate father figure, but from other father figures such as the elderly Korean sensei in Grimm's piece, or, as in this excerpt from Dads:
Michael Datcher's Raising Fences perfectly captures the starkness of the contrast between the love and marriage that are central to the mainstream life project, and the consequences of their absence in the ghetto. As a child during the 1970s, Datcher was bused from a poor, single-mother home in Long Beach, California, to a middle-class white school. He visited a classmate's middle-class home and was floored. "It was a feeling of stability, comfort, and safety that touched me," he recalls. "I wanted that feeling in my life." He was similarly astonished when his friend introduced him to his father. "My parental introductions had always begun and ended with the mama because the mamas were the daddies too," he says. "Not in this house. They had real fathers here. . . . I literally could not speak."
The loss of a father figure for a few in a society is damaging - for that few. But when such loss is epidemic then there are no alternates to turn to, and it becomes endemic and self-sustaining. The concept of a "father" vanishes, to be replaced by a "brotherhood" in which the smartest, least restrained strongman becomes the leader - the dictatorial, criminal, paternal order of gangs.

In both Frivolity and Dads it is made apparent that the mechanism that has destroyed the family unit and resulted in what Dalrymple describes as the dropping of the "barriers to evil" is the Welfare State, and the force behind that mechanism is the flawed ideology of the Left.

The third City Journal piece, analyses that:
(T)he new thinkers quickly veer to the left of (Socialist author Michael) Harrington, following some of his more radical acolytes whose theories produced the War on Poverty's most spectacular disasters. Harrington had seen the poor as victims because they could find no work; his more radical allies, especially a group associated with Columbia University's social-work school, argued that compelling the demoralized inner-city poor to work or take part in training that would fit them for work, instead of giving them unconditional welfare, was itself victimization. Richard A. Cloward and Frances Fox Piven, for example, argued that America's poverty programs - "self-righteously oriented toward getting people off welfare" and making them independent - were violating the civil rights of the poor. Journalist Richard Elman claimed that "vindictive" America was "humiliating" welfare recipients by forcing them to seek entry-level work as taxi drivers, restaurant employees, and factory laborers, instead of giving them a guaranteed minimum income.

Sympathetic mayors and welfare officials responded to Cloward and Piven's call, boosting benefits, loosening eligibility rules, and cutting investigations of welfare cheating. Welfare rolls soared, along with welfare fraud and illegitimate births. The result was a national backlash that sparked the Reagan administration's welfare spending cuts.

But the Columbia crew left its enduring mark on welfare policy, in the principle that welfare, once a short-term program to help people get back on their feet, should be continuous and come with few restrictions and no stigma. A welfare mother, screaming at New York mayor John Lindsay (responsible for much of the city's rise in welfare cases), expressed the system's new philosophy: "It's my job to have kids, Mr. Mayor, and your job to take care of them." It was a philosophy that bred an urban underclass of non-working single mothers and fatherless children, condemned to intergenerational poverty, despite the trillions spent to help them.
But wait! It gets worse!
Like communists who claim that communism didn't fail but instead was never really tried, Barbara Ehrenreich made her public debut with an attempt to brush aside the War on Poverty's obviously catastrophic results. The 46-year-old daughter of a Montana copper miner-turned-business executive, she joined Cloward and Piven to co-author a 1987 polemic, The Mean Season: The Attack on the Welfare State. The War on Poverty had failed so far, the book claimed, not because of its flawed premises but because the government hadn't done enough to redistribute the nation's wealth. America needed an even bigger War on Poverty that would turn the country into a European-style social welfare state. Pooh-poohing the work ethic and the dignity of labor, the authors derided calls for welfare reform that would require recipients to work, because that would be mortifying to the poor. "There is nothing ennobling about being forced to please an employer to feed one's children," the authors wrote, forgetting that virtually every worker and business owner must please someone, whether boss or customer, to earn a living. Welfare's true purpose, the book declared, should be to "permit certain groups to opt out of work." (The authors never explained why all of us shouldn't demand the right to "opt out.")
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the quintessential example of what I, in more than a dozen posts, have described as cognitive dissonance - the inability to accept that ones fundamental premise is wrong, and results in failure. As Steven den Beste put it so succinctly:
When someone tries to use a strategy which is dictated by their ideology, and that strategy doesn't seem to work, then they are caught in something of a cognitive bind. If they acknowledge the failure of the strategy, then they would be forced to question their ideology. If questioning the ideology is unthinkable, then the only possible conclusion is that the strategy failed because it wasn't executed sufficiently well. They respond by turning up the power, rather than by considering alternatives. (This is sometimes referred to as "escalation of failure".)
Or, as I keep putting it: "Do it again, only HARDER!" This raises a question, though: If it is so blindingly obvious to many of us that the ideologies behind, for example, gun control and welfare are so fundamentally flawed, why are these ideologies not dead? Not only are they not dead, in many ways, still flourishing? Why is the demonstrably erroneous ideology of the Left still advanced by people who just want to keep turning up the power, with the resultant escalation of failure?

I submit, it is because the Left has never been significantly checked as it strives to spread its flawed ideology. Leftists occupy the majority of journalism positions, both as reporters and editors. Editor and Publisher reports that the most recent Pew Research Center survey found:
While most of the journalists, like many Americans, describe themselves as "moderate," a far higher number are "liberal" than in the general population.

At national organizations (which includes print, TV and radio), the numbers break down like this: 34% liberal, 7% conservative. At local outlets: 23% liberal, 12% conservative. At Web sites: 27% call themselves liberals, 13% conservatives.

This contrasts with the self-assessment of the general public: 20% liberal, 33% conservative.
Bear this in mind when you read that: Dan Rather considers himself a "moderate."

Leftists make up an overwhelming majority of educators and administrators in both primary and secondary education. Through these vectors of media and public education the Left has spread its ideology largely without any effective opposition for literally decades. Bear in mind also, I'm not attributing this occupation of media and education to some "vast Left-wing conspiracy." It's a natural outgrowth of a philosophy that builds unquestioning "true believers" who take their flawed ideology as gospel and are thereby inspired to evangelize. A fundamental tenet of Socialism is to proselytize the proletariat so that it recognizes the oppressive bourgeoisie and can then take steps to pull it down. The two places to best accomplish this are media and schools, so the evangelical migrate there, and steadily chip, chip, chip away at the proletariat, spreading the "hate the bourgeoisie" meme that produces women who tell mayors, in all seriousness, "It's my job to have kids, Mr. Mayor, and your job to take care of them."

But why do we not oppose the Left? Or at least not oppose it with much success?

In Not with a Bang, but a Whimper? I noted the retirement of Toren Smith from his section of the battlefied, The Safety Valve:
Frankly, I'm tired of getting all bent out of shape about the stupidities of the world, which seem to be getting worse and worse as time goes by. The last few months it seems every day brings worse news about the corruption of science, the destruction of society by PC-think, the complete and utter end of rational political discourse, and the hydra-like expansion of government powers. International politics has gone insane.


To hell with rubbing my face in all the downer crap that's out there. Yes, I know - even if you don't go looking for politics, politics will come looking for you. But I'm going to try crossing the street, at least for the time being.
I also quoted Porphyrogenitus on the apparent futility of illuminating the failures of Leftist ideology:
Everywhere your light touches you get the satisfaction of seeing the cockroaches scurry away. You move the light around the room, and you get to see cockroaches scurrying off. What you don't see, because you have moved on, is as your light moves, the roaches scurry right back into the places they left. You have changed nothing.

We have been shining a light on this problem for probably a quarter of a century or so now. We know two things. Firstly, that the people doing these things are, like all bullies, cowards as well - they are intellectual bullies, but also intellectual cowards. When the light is shined on them, they complain (their academic freedom is being violated, dissent is being suppressed, the whole litany. Never mind how they close the academy to perspectives that aren't theirs, how they silence views in the name of sensitivity and the like). But they also tend to back down - back down on speech codes, back down on anti-American course outlines, back down on whatever. Superficially.

Because, having felt we solved the problem, we dust off our hands and move on. Then the roaches go right back into place; the speech codes get put back into place, in a slightly different guise. The same old stuff is taught, with less overtly obvious descriptions in the course descriptions but the same lectures. And it spreads.
Yes it does. We on the "Right" side of the spectrum - the ones who recognize the flaws in the ideology of the Left - have patted ourselves on the back over the re-election of George W. Bush so much that we have dislocated our shoulders, but we've apparently chosen to ignore the elephant in our own living rooms: the continuing slow growth of Leftism. As I pointed out in More on the Divide, the binary election map is vastly red vs. minimally blue, but in an analog map, the U.S. is a sea of purple. A three percentage-point victory is not something that should make rational humans comfortable, but it apparently has.

We've not had much success because we're not "true believers." Like Toren, most of those of us who recognize the flawed ideology of the Left have to earn a living. The efforts we make in fighting them are on or own time and on our own dime. The Left is getting paid to evangelize, often on our tax dollars. We shine the light, but when it passes they come back out and keep on going. It's tiring, soul-sapping, and we're overwhelmed by the media and education vectors. Leftism is easy. Reason is hard. Being irresponsible is easy. Responsibility is hard.

Evil is easy. And yes, I mean precisely that word: evil.

The Lileks quote above is quite accurate. When (or if) the Left finally achieves unbridled control, it will continue in its cognitive dissonance, and keep turning up the power until guillotines are erected in public squares or mass starvation is seen again as a regrettable but necessary step towards Utopia. I and others like me who know and can illustrate the fundamental flaws in the Leftist ideology would be sent to "re-education" camps (or get a government-issue bullet behind the ear.) It cannot be any other way, so long as their ideology cannot be wrong.

What, I think, the Left fears from the religious Right is a conclusion that the Left is actively, deliberately evil in its pursuit of its Utopia. I don't see that, myself. Misguided certainly. Deluded. Unwilling to reason. But I've been giving the entire question a great deal of thought, and I've concluded that the vast majority of the Left consists of the brainwashed products of the education system and the media who have had no (or very little) exposure to anything else - thus the reaction by the mainstream Left to the blogosphere, talk radio and FOX News. They vaguely grasp the ideas presented, but are not "true believers." They want the State to be responsible for them, because they've only been taught that is the job of the State, and being taken care of is easier than doing it yourself. Being presented with an alternative is troubling, though, as Bill Whittle puts it:
Your Worldview has been hit by heatseeking reality, and you're on fire and out of control. You have only a few decades in which to react! Think fast! Cool, soothing logic tells you it's time to get out.
There's a smaller portion of the Left, the True Believers I discussed above. Even here these people are merely deluded, suffering from cognitive dissonance. I don't understand them, but I recognize their existance.

And then there are the actual evil ones - the ones who know the facts, but - like Stalin - are willing to manipulate their "useful idiots" to achieve power.

But how do you tell them apart?

Does it matter?

A while back Connie du Toit wrote this (have the quote, but not the link):
The other day our Carpenter’s helper heard me say something along the lines of, "it is difficult to conclude that incompetence is the reason why our public schools have deteriorated. There comes a point where you have to suspect sabotage, or a conspiracy."

He asked me if I really meant that. I gave him the five minute explanation of John Dewey’s known affiliation with communists, his frequent essays and articles about the wonders of the Soviet education system, and his quote, "You can’t make Socialists out of individualists. Children who know how to think for themselves spoil the harmony of the collective society which is coming where everyone is interdependent."

I then went on to tell him about how public schools changed at the turn of the last century. That there were others involved in turning Americans from free-thinking individualists to factory drones. I also added that many people probably went along with it because it seemed like a good idea, but there were certainly enough people behind the scenes, who knew that the goal posts had been moved. THAT is a conspiracy.

Yes. There does come that time when you are forced to don the tinfoil hat.
The incompetence excuse only works once. Incompetence this great is impossible to attribute to accident.
That's what the Left fears - that the Right will manage to reach and educate enough people, and they'll conclude sabotage and conspiracy. Instead of guillotines we'll have ropes and gibbets as Kim du Toit and Emperor Misha often recommend (only half-jokingly.) That attitude is taken to its logical (and hilarious) conclusion in this post by Mike at Cold Fury. Excerpt:
Yep, that’s right, you commie bastiches, we’re coming for you. It’s only a matter of time now until you hear that late-night knock on the door you’ve been dreading all along. Our jack-booted gendarmerie is going to be working overtime rounding up every non-white and non-rich subject of our fascist regime, and we’re going to be baking every last one of you into pies that we’ll then refuse to share with the poor and hungry. We’ll be baking those pies in coal-fired ovens, and those ovens will be devoid of any sort of exhaust-scrubber whatever, because we want to release all the toxic gases and chemicals we can into the atmosphere.
RTWT, it's very funny. But it illustrates what I think is psychological projection from the Left. We're in the middle of a philosophical Cold War. The fact of the matter is, though, that philosophical war is a religious one. It is, in effect, between the faiths of Christianity and Socialism. In Herbert Meyer's Open Letter to Europe from immediately after the election, he said:
We believe that church and state should be separate, but that religion should remain at the center of life. We are a Judeo-Christian culture, which means we consider those ten things on a tablet to be commandments, not suggestions. We believe that individuals are more important than groups, that families are more important than governments, that children should be raised by their parents rather than by the State, and that marriage should take place only between a man and a woman. We believe that rights must be balanced by responsibilities, that personal freedom is a privilege we must be careful not to abuse, and that the rule of law cannot be set aside when it becomes inconvenient. We believe in economic liberty, and in the right of purposeful and industrious entrepreneurs to run their businesses – and thus create jobs – with a minimum of government interference. We recognize that other people see things differently, and we are tolerant of their views. But we believe that our country is worth defending, and if anyone decides that killing us is an okay thing to do we will go after them with everything we’ve got.
If these beliefs seem strange to you, they shouldn’t. For these are precisely the beliefs that powered Western Europe – you - from the Middle Ages into the Renaissance, on to the Enlightenment, and forward into the modern world. They are the beliefs that made Europe itself the glory of Western civilization and – not coincidentally – ignited the greatest outpouring of art, literature, music and scientific discovery the world has ever known including Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Shakespeare, Bach, Issac Newton and Descartes.
It is your abandonment of these beliefs that has created the gap between Europe and the United States. You have ceased to be a Judeo-Christian culture, and have become instead a secular culture. And a secular culture quickly goes from being “un-religious” to anti-religious.
The Left, intolerant and unbending, agressively evangelical, historically in control of the education of youth and the flow of information to everyone, fears a Christian backlash and a modern-day massacre of St. Bartholomew's Eve. They don't much fear the non-religious among the Right - we're not organized enough. We're not true believers. But they understand that when men like Theodore Dalrymple start throwing the religiously-weighted word "EVIL" around, then the backlash might not be far away.

UPDATE, 12/8: Jeff at Caerdroia has an excellent post up, Politicism, that is also explanatory of the cockroach-resilience of the Left.

UPDATE, 12/9: Russell at Solarvoid has penned a companion piece from the devout Mormon perspective. You might want to give that a read as well.

UPDATE, 12/10: Zendo Deb of TFS Magnum has a post expanding on the collapse of public schooling, with an inside insight - her parents were both educators. (Rambling? I'm hurt!)

UPDATE 12/11: Rodger Schultz gives an example of what the Left fears:
Go to your next PTA meeting and lay the law down. Say, we've had it with your left wing agenda! We will sing Christmas carols! We will not study the Koran in class! We will not allow you to politicize our kid's education! Now here's the important part. Some schmuck will stand up, some pasty face creep wearing a "Reelect President Gore" button, and announce that he will not allow your right wing values to corrupt his little precious. It's here that you turn into a mob and lynch him. That's right. If there ain't no rope hooks inside, go outside and use a tree. When the cops come to investigate, every one says "I didn't see a thing," and what can they do? (I learnt that from Bill Clinton). If you live in Hollywood, or Beverly Hills, or one of them places, you will have to do this several thousand times. Make sure you go to Rob Reiner's kid's school. Trust me, after these vermin read about the 6-7 thousandth lynching, they'll get the message and STFU.
See? It's a meme!

Further Update, 12/11: Eric S. Raymond penned an article over at Armed and Dangerous on Wednesday that dovetails nicely into one of the points I was making. In his Left2Right — a critical appraisal, he discusses an effort by the Left to "reach out" to the Right to get them to understand the error of their ways. Eric says:
I'm not a conservative or right-winger myself, but a radical libertarian who finds both ends of the conventional spectrum about equally repugnant. My tradition is the free-market classical liberalism of Locke and Hayek. I utterly reject both the Marxist program and the reactionary cultural conservatism of Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk, and (today) the Religious Right. Conservatism is defined by a desire to preserve society's existing power relationships; given a choice, I prefer subverting them to preserving them.

One advantage my libertarianism gives me is that while I disagree violently with a lot of right-wing thinking, I understand it much better than most leftists do. The reverse is not quite as true; while I do believe I understand left-wing thinking pretty well, most right-wing intellectuals are not so ignorant of leftism that I have an unusual advantage there. They can't be, not after having passed through the PC indoctrination camps that most American universities have become.
And I'm right there with him, for the most part. But in critiquing some of the posts at Left2Right Eric hits the point I make here in On Guillotines and Gibbets:

(T)he Bushies ignore advice from left-wing academics because they believe the source is poisoned. They believe you hate America and want to destroy it. Given that belief, it would be their duty to listen to your advice only with the determination to do the exact opposite of anything you recommend.

Now, mind you, in pointing this out, I am not alleging that you actually do hate America and want to destroy it. My claim is that from the point of view of most conservatives, that is the only model that plausibly explains your speech and behavior. They do not merely pretend to believe your kind is evil as a matter of rhetoric or tactical positioning, they actually do believe it. With the best will in the world to listen to critics and weigh evidence, they still wouldn't take policy advice from you any more readily than you would accept it from a Nazi.

(Allow me to contrast this with the position I think more typical of libertarians, which is that left-wing academics are not evil per se but have been so canalized by Marxist-derived ideology that on most politico-economic issues they should be ignored on grounds of irremediable incompetence.)
And that's my point: The Left doesn't fear Libertarians of either the large or small "L" stripe, nor does it fear non-Christians. We aren't true believers of either the Christian or Marxist pursuasion. We aren't the types to build guillotines or throw a rope over a gibbet, because we see the Left as incompetent, or mislead, but not actively evil.

But when evil is "the only model that plausibly explains (their) speech and behavior," what should one do? Continue letting their misleading incompetence destroy America?

RTWT. Eric uses that weighted word, "evil," quite a bit.

UPDATE 12/28: Kim du Toit linked to this piece with some kind things to say in agreement, and then Raging Dave from Four Right Wing Wackos pointed out something I and Kim neglected to:
One reason that the Left continues to spread its failure-bound ideology is that the people spreading it, by and large, have insulated themselves from the negative ramifications of their decisions.

How many business owners do you see trying to spread the socialist propaganda of the Left? Not too many. Most business owners understand that socialism and communism spell failure for anyone trying to run a business. These owners deal with the effects of their business decisions on a daily basis, and if they screw up, they are the ones who have to deal with the consequences. The same goes for people just working full time and trying to run a household, or raise children. Their decisions and the results of them are felt almost immediately, and must be dealt with by the people responsible.

When's the last time some communist college professor had to deal with the consequences of his actions? Why do you think that universities are so full of bullshit laden socialist fuckwits? Because it doesn't matter what some braindead hippie holdover says or does, his paycheck keeps on coming.
That's a valid point. The Left has done a magnificent job of setting up Professional Educators as an untouchable field - it's nearly impossible to get fired after achieving tenure at either elementary education or the university level. There have been a number of posts on this topic at the Volokh Conspiracy having to do with college-level tenure. And in the media, if you don't share the groupthink, it's difficult to advance as well. See Bernard Goldberg's books Bias and Arrogance, and John Stossel's book Give Me a Break!
But if you're Jayson Blair....

This is a point also made repeatedly by Thomas Sowell in his book Vision of the Annointed: Self-Congratulations as a Basis for Social Policy. Another group that shares this immunity from the results of their actions? Government employees and legislators.

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