Dissident Politics

To start the year, I made the rather obvious prediction that the coalition of weirdos that willed Donald Trump into the White House would succumb to infighting and begin to break apart and splinter. This was a no-brainer, as fringe politics tends to attract weirdos and weirdos tend not to get along with other weirdos. Often, people are attracted to these movements over one issue. They find out that their new friends have a whole list of other issues that don’t match up with everyone else. That breeds conflict.

There’s also a “giant among midgets” phenomenon, where someone can be a star in a small group and outgrow their hat. In the mass media age, it’s easy to start thinking you’re a big deal when you see your social media profile grow and the calls from media people start coming.This was obvious with Milo who started thinking he was bulletproof. He had gotten away with so much that he thought he could say anything. It did not take long before he pissed off the wrong people.

Then you have the fact that political coalitions are temporary. Many people voted for Trump because they hated Clinton, so they were willing to look past the cartoon frogs and Hitler memes. Now, not so much. Then there is the fact that there is money to be made in politics. Lots of money. A racket like the Oath Keepers is a business that used to be able to peddle themselves as an edgy opposition group. The new groups turning up and battling the Left make the geezers at Oath Keepers look silly. That’s bad for business.

Of course, the Dissident Right is suddenly hip. If you look at the sites and events catering to us, you see lots of young males, which is resulting in lots of young females, because biology. Once young people get into something, even a small thing, it attracts people hoping to ride the wave to riches. That inevitably leads to the purists complaining that their thing has gone commercial along with accusations that the leaders are selling out. You see some of that with guys like Mike Cernovich.

Anyway, things have reached a boiling point with Mike Cernovich and Richard Spencer denouncing one another on-line. Vox Day got into this a little bit the other day in one of his periscope things. For those who don’t follow this stuff, there was a free speech rally in DC last weekend. The organizer invited Spencer and that led to Cerno and the alt-lite guys having a counter rally. Cernovich then made a bunch of wild claims on-line about who did what and a purse fight ensued. It’s all a bit silly, but these things always are to outsiders.

The main problem for all of these guys is the leaders, wannabe leaders and personalities are simply not very good at politics and public relations. That’s common in outsider politics. The two big political parties are good at grooming and selecting people so they can put on a good show for the public. Outsider movements have no systems for doing this so it means the first wave of leaders and personalities are often just the first people to step up to the podium. Spencer registered the domain, so he’s the leader of the alt-right.

All these guys squabbling with one another will inevitably be pushed aside by people who are better at organizing and better at presenting themselves and their arguments to the public. Pax Dickinson, the guy behind Counter.Fund, often makes this point. Most of these people got into this stuff by accident and events carried them to prominent roles. In time, new people will come along who will know how to avoid the petty squabbling and figure out how to impose discipline without alienating the people with big egos.

The bigger issue, as Vox Day points out regularly, is that the alt-lite faction has no future, because it has no logical reason to exist. Civic nationalism sounds good to the younger people, who are fans of McInnes and Cernovich, because they don’t remember the 1980’s when the Buckley crowd were civic nationalists. The lesson of the Reagan years is that civic nationalism has no way to defend itself against the Left. Once you agree to the blank slate argument, you inevitably have to agree to the rest of the Progressive moral order.

The alt-right is not without their problems. The vision Richard Spencer has for a white ethno-state strikes most people, including me, as a bit ridiculous. In fact, the idea of a world wide honky awakening is absurd. Most people engage in culture debate in framework of politics and they are just not going to sign off on a political agenda that strikes them as fantasy. The Libertarian Party has proved this fact beyond any debate and their fantasy land is more realistic than the honky paradise offered by Spencer.

The thing the alt-right has working in their favor is reality. In a multi-racial, multi-ethnic society, people vote their skin. That’s the lesson of history. Humans are tribal and hierarchical. That’s the lesson of biology. As whites in America come to realize their decreasing numbers, relative to the rest of society, white solidarity will naturally evolve and develop into a political order. The exact contours of how this plays out are open for debate, but in the end, Charles Murray was right. Racial politics is the future in the US.

The Witch Hunters

One of the themes here is that the American Left is a different thing from the European Left in that it was not born out of the French Revolution. It was born out of the English Civil War and the religious radicalism of the prior century. American Progressives are the spiritual children of the Puritans and Public Protestantism. Their primary motivation is communal salvation. To that end, their focus is on rooting out sin and naming the sinner, rather than the material egalitarianism we associate with the European Left.

American liberals, even though they don’t always articulate it, operate from the assumption that the community is judged as a whole. It is why they obsessively use the word “community” whenever they are talking about public issues. For the Prog, the ideal for man is the community where members are in harmony, living fulfilled lives. It’s why they are endlessly going on about “building communities.” The community has agency and the members work together toward a common goal, that goal being a state of grace.

This spiritual longing for a community is behind the efforts of social media platforms like Facebook to enforce community guidelines. Their executives obsess over their rules as if there can be such a thing as an agreed upon culture for a “community”  that includes a billion people from different parts of the world. That never occurs to them as they assume the community is the default. It is also why they are fanatically evicting bad thinkers from their “community”, even when it is hilariously illogical. So much for their AI, I guess.

The American Left is, essentially, a theocratic movement. They seek to have the church control the state in order to enforce “community standards” and root out “hate and extremism.” The “church” in this sense is the secular religion we call Progressivism. In Europe, the Left has always sought to control the state in order to prevent the Church from making claims on the people’s morality and loyalty. Europe has always been blood and soil, while America was founded, in part, as a spiritual commune.

The quest for spiritual egalitarianism in America is a very different thing than the material egalitarianism of Europe. A Jeremy Corbyn has to kit himself out in the garb of the working man in order to be authentically Left. In America, a rich white woman like Elizabeth Warren can lecture us about the poor, from the steps of her mansion, as she is decked out in a designer outfit. The reason is she cares more for the spiritual well-being of the poor than their material condition. She fears the poor are being excluded.

You see, that’s where the obsession with community fits into their morality. In the mind of the American Prog, the worst thing to happen to someone is for them to be excluded from the community of the righteous. This is almost always caused by the sinners who preach hate or extremism, so the logical way to address this “inequality” is to root out the sinners and hate thinkers. The poor will still be shopping at Walmart and struggling to keep it together, but they will be included in the community and the community will be saved.

This impulse to hunt for sinners in order to save society may feel like a new thing, but it is a permanent and integral part of the Prog theology. It does not always manifest itself in the political and social arena. For example, in the 1980’s, the Progs were sure that the infernal one was causing daycare workers to engage in unspeakable, and implausible, acts with the children in their care. The result was a national panic about daycare centers and a spasm of wild accusations, leading to bizarre show trials reminiscent of Salem.

One of the more egregious examples was in Massachusetts, unsurprisingly. The Amirault family had run a daycare center for decades and there was never any evidence of problems. Then, the fever hit and the Progs were sure it was a den of molestation. The DA at the time had his assistant, Martha Coakley, build a case based on manipulating children into saying things that were not only false, but in many cases physically impossible. The family was destroyed and sent to prison by the witch hunters.

Another example is the Satanic Panic that ruined the lives of a Texas couple. They were accused of being Satan worshipers and doing horrible things to children. Like all of these cases, the evidence ranged from totally fabricated to outlandishly absurd. That did not prevent the state from destroying their lives. Like the Amirault case, the truth was finally revealed and the accused were exonerated, but the damage can never be undone. That’s the thing about witch trials. Even when there is no witch, they still have the trial.

The thing you always see with these spasms of witch hunting, is that the witch hunters never pay a price for their misdeeds. In the Amirault case, Martha Coakley went onto a long political career. In the Texas case, the DA never faced discipline. Today, of course, the wave of hate hoaxes like what went on in Virginia never result in the perpetrators facing punishment. It’s just assumed they had good intentions because they were defending the community against hate and extremism. Who can fault them for that?

The point of all this is to remember that the other side, the people in the Cult of Modern Liberalism, are motivated by the same forces that motivated Cotton Mather. Although he was scientifically inclined, he enthusiastically supported the witch trials. It is an example of how even the most rational mind can be possessed of such fervent conviction that it leads to the embrace of homicidal lunacy. Then, as now, these are not people with whom you can reason. The Prog is a crusader whose thirst for social justice cannot be sated.

Cornpone Nonsense

A long time ago, I decided I would just ignore the intelligent design people. I’m perfectly fine leaving them to their beliefs, as I don’t think it causes any harm for people to believe in a supernatural designer. In fact, I feel the same way about creationists. There’s no harm in it and if it brings people some peace and comfort, that seems like a good thing. The reason I will not debate evolution with them, however, is that intelligent design people rarely argue in good faith. They engage in sophistry and logical fallacies, rather than honest debate.

ID’ers will often misrepresent some bit of science, in order to discredit it, and by extension, everything they claim rests upon it. The thermodynamics and entropy argument that was popular with them for a while was a grossly inaccurate interpretation of the science and a faulty application of it. order cannot arise from disorder.By the time you corrected them, they were onto some other half-baked claim. It is simply a waste of time debating them as they just keep moving the goal posts, demanding you prove them wrong.

Anyway, this steaming pile of nonsense from Fred Reed the other day reminds me a lot of the way ID’ers attack evolution. If I recall, Reed is a flat earth guy, so it is probably a habit of mind that puts ID’er and IQ denialists in the same pew.

Apologies to the reader. Perhaps I wax tedious. But the question of intelligence is both interesting to me and great fun as talking about it puts commenters in an uproar. It is like poking a wasp’s nest when you are eleven. I am a bad person.

This Gomer Pyle routine has always been a part of his act. It’s a form of intellectual base stealing where the writer gets to declare the subject, upon which he intends to opine, is easily reduced to folk wisdom. The author is the folksiest of folk wizards, so that means he can be an expert on the countrified version of the topic. He also likes playing the Jon Stewart game of wearing the serious mask when criticizing others, but then donning the clown mask when receiving criticism. In Reed’s case, it is “Ah shucks fellers, I’m just a simple country boy. Why are you sore with me?”

Clearing the underbrush: Obviously intelligence is largely genetic–if it were cultural in origin, all the little boys who grew up in Isaac Newton’s neighborhood would have been towering mathematical geniuses–and obviously the various tests of intellectual function have, at least among testees of similar background, considerable relation to intelligence.

This is a good example of what ID’ers like doing when attacking evolution. It is the false concession. He appears to be conceding that iQ is not cultural, but in reality he is saying it is not magic.  What Reed is describing, with regards to Newton, is not culture. It is magic. Culture is the highly complex feedback loop that evolved over time among a group of people with a shared heritage and biology. Mere proximity does not mean culture. That’s just a version of Magic Dirt Theory. No one would call that culture.

Some individuals have more of it than others. For example, Hillary, a National Merit Finalist, scored higher than 99.5 percent of Illinois and can reliably be suspected of being bright. Some groups are obviously smarter than other groups. Mensans and Nobelists are smarter than sociologists. Of course, so are acorns.

But knowing that a thing exists and measuring it are not the same thing.

Notice the Hillary gag. He knows his readers are not Hillary voters so he attempts to discredit the idea of intelligence, by pointing out that, according to standardized testing, Clinton is intelligent. “How ’bout that fellers? These pin-headed IQ people are so dumb they they think that fat commie Hillary Clinton is smart! Shazam!” It is a way to get the reader to accept a point that the writer was never able, or never bothered, to prove. It’s basically guilt by association.

Notice also the subtle confusion of the idea of shared group traits. When people in the cognitive sciences talk about shared traits, they mean biological groups, not social groups or arbitrary categories like Nobel Prize winners. The implication of what Reed is claiming here is that sub-Saharan Africans, for example, are just a random a collection of people like the local PTA or Rotary Club. That’s absurd. They are people with a shared biological heritage and as a result, a shared sent of traits that evolved in Africa.

This fits in well with the last line where he claims you can know something exists, without measuring it. This is complete nonsense. We cannot know something exists without having some evidence of it. Seeing a a mysterious animal may not tell us much, but it is data of an animal. How accurately we can measure a thing like IQ or height or weight is the question, not whether we can measure it. Of course, what he is trying to slip in here is the assertion that just because something can be measured does not mean it exists.

Virtuosity in taking tests is similarly affected by experience in taking tests. Like most in my generation, I was subjected to unending tests: an IQ test in the second grade when my teacher thought me retarded (as many readers still do). Some sort of Virginia test. PSATs. NMSQT. SATs. GREs. Marine Corps General Qualification Test. FSEE. And so on.

As I suppose others did, I learned the technique for acing tests. Run through all the questions rapidly, picking the low-hanging fruit, putting a tick mark by those questions not instantly obvious. Run through again, answering those of the tick-markeds susceptible to a minute’s thought, double tick-marking the really difficult ones. Then to the really hard ones and finally, with an eye on the clock and knowing how the tests are scored, eliminate one or two answers on the remaining ones and guess.

This is a bit of folk nonsense popular with people who have no idea how intelligence testing is constructed. Test designers have understood for generations that guys like Fred Reed will try to game the test. People who have done a lot of test administration learn that people in the high normal range really worry that they are just in the normal range, rather than some level of genius. Therefore, they will be the ones who are the least honest in test taking. That’s why the tests are designed to mitigate this observed phenomenon.

The most common way of defeating the scheme Fred thinks is effective is to make the exams progressively more difficult. Therefore, running through and answering the easy ones just means you get frustrated quickly as you find fewer and fewer cherries to pick from the exam. Some tests are designed such that non-consecutive answers will be discarded. These days, test takers will use a computer and not have the ability to skip ahead looking for easy questions, even if they think it will work.

Among the lumpen-IQatry, the tendency is to regard SATs, NAEP, and so on as surrogates for IQ, and thus for intelligence. This is error. The SATs in particular are not intelligence tests and were never intended to be. Their function was to measure the student’s ability to handle complex ideas in complex normal English, which is what college students used to do. The tests did did this well. The were not intelligence tests as their scores were functions of at least three things, intelligence, background, and experience in taking tests. IQ = f(a,b,c…)

This is a what is called a lie. Yes, some standardized tests correlate with IQ tests in narrow areas, but exactly no one in the cognitive sciences thinks the SAT is a surrogate for an intelligence test. As for the claim regarding cultural bias, that’s always been nonsense, as anyone who has taken the Raven’s Progressive Matrices would know. When researchers look at IQ among groups, they specifically use these sorts of exams. Here’s a short presentation on IQ testing in Africa for those interested.

Like those ID’ers I referenced at the start of this post, Fred has the habit of assuming that his position must be right if the alternative is not proved beyond all doubt. If evolutionary biology has not answered all of his questions to his satisfaction, then it must all be wrong and his brand of oogily-boogily is correct. Similarly, because there are lots of things we don’t know about IQ, he feels free to dismiss all of it, even the stuff that is correct.

What’s objectionable about Fred Reed is not the sugar-coated goober routine that he lays on so thick it gives you cavities. That’s tolerable if it is sincere. When he gets into these topics, there is a distinct lack of authenticity. There’s a meanness to his approach, as if he is bitter at not being able to keep up with the crowd, so he invests his time in trying to prove there’s no reason to bother. Regardless of the motivations, his brand of cornpone nonsense is exactly that, nonsense.

Boomer Cons

During World War II, there was a great debate among the Allies about the use of bombing raids against German cities. Collateral damage was the concern. The Germans built their munitions plants near population centers. There were those in the high command who said that if the Allies used aerial bombardment against these facilities, then they would be no better than the Germans. It would be much better to maintain their principles and lose than win and be judged as morally equal or even similar as the Germans.

Of course, that never happened. There was some debate about the morality of certain tactics, but only in so far as they would result in retaliation. That was the lesson of the Great War. The use of poison gas, for example, just resulted in the use of gas by the other side. As Greg Cochran pointed out, the Soviets may have resorted to germ warfare against the Germans, but fear of retaliation certainly shaped their thinking. If they used biological agents, it was out of desperation and covered up after the fact.

The point here is that in war, the first priority, the overriding priority, is winning. You do that first and worry about morality later. Principles are the things the winners create after they have secured victory. Principles are the way in which the winners consolidate their gains after victory in a war. Imagine if the Civil War had gone the other way and the South had won. Would anyone today tremble at the accusation of racism? Obviously not, because the victors would have had no reason to make racism a mortal sin.

The obsession with principle has always been the central defect of what the kids now call “Boomer Conservatism.” The BoomerCons accept, without argument, the principles and moral framework of the Left and then they try to out-righteous the other side in a pointless game of virtue signalling. It is the basis of the DR3 meme. Even if you are able to “prove” that the “Democrats are the real racists,” all you have done is prove they are right and that racism is the worst thing ever. Even if you win, you end up losing.

And yes, I know, not all Boomers think like this and many younger people fall into the same trap. Lots of young people like the Rolling Stones and The Who, but it is still Boomer music. The cultural upheavals going on today are due to the cultural upheavals that went on yesterday, when the Boomers tossed over the culture they inherited and created the prevailing orthodoxy of today. All of us now live in Boomer Land, which means we live in the moral structure created by the Boomer generation.

Now, the folks with the tricorn hats and “heritage not hate” signs can be forgiven for not seeing the folly of their tactics. They came of age when the general consensus said that the goal is a color blind society. If the bad honkies would just open up their hearts to the black man, all the race stuff would melt away. It was all nonsense, but a whole generation was raised on it and now they struggle to let it go. For most Boomers, egalitarianism is their heritage, so it is understandable that they cling to it.

Of course, the libertarian boomers have turned their love of principle into a ready excuse for not getting into a serious fight with the Left. You see it in this post on the American Conservative.

This month, three conservative protesters rushed onto a New York City theatre stage—and briefly into the national spotlight—enraged by the mock-execution of a character dressed to look like Trump. As a New Yorker fond of civilization I was alarmed at this barbaric behavior because this is how cultures unravel.

Well, that’s how culture wars work. Each side tries to impose their cultural preferences on the other. If you are in opposition to the prevailing culture then what you seek, by definition, is an unraveling of the culture. That’s how you win. Otherwise, you confine yourself to tactics that will never work. For guys like Todd Seavey, principle is a coffin they think will give them comfort as the Left lowers them into the grave.

Again, the Boomer generation can be forgiven for clinging to their principles even if it means defeat. They came into an America that was the colossus, standing astride the world as the defender of freedom and the exponent of economic prosperity. The principles they inherited were cooked up by people who conquered the world. America in the 50’s and 60’s was a society that was sure it had things figured out. If you were ten years old in the early 60’s, truth, justice and the American way made perfect sense.

The last fifty years, however, have proven to be a cultural disaster for America, one that will have to be addressed by the coming generations. In order for that to happen, a counter culture must form that is willing to be called unprincipled as they rush the stage or shout down the people with the megaphones. What ponytails and recreational drugs were for the Boomers, fashy haircuts and race realism will be for the next generations. The young who are rebelling are rebelling against those vaunted principles the Boomers cherish.

The only way a counter culture gets any traction is if it is indifferent, or even hostile, to the prevailing morality. There are two types of principles a people live by. There are those that precede their demise and those they create after they triumph. The people desperately clinging to their principles, lecturing those willing to do what it takes to win, will be buried with those principles. The winners, meanwhile, will be busy crafting a new morality. That’s the lesson of history. The people with a future get to write the past.

Fake News

I think I may have watched a grand total of one NBA game this past season. The games are not geared for middle-aged white guys. The game has been changed over the years to value running and jumping over teamwork and developed skills. The result is that basketball looks a lot like track and field, rather than a skills game. That’s not a moral argument, just a factual observation. I do follow the game through the stat sheet, as it is a good study of human bio-diversity and not just what is on the court.

The other aspect of the NBA that makes it interesting to me is the conduct of the sports media covering the NBA. It is a good model for understanding what has happened to the mainstream media, particularly with regards to politics. The NBA press does very little reporting. There are still game summaries posted on-line and box scores, but those are churned out by interns and robots. The professional NBA journalist does no actual reporting, Instead, he talks about story lines, personalities and other sport reporters.

The recent NBA draft is a good example. Every year the “reporters” claim it is going to be a wild week of trades and deals. Then they spend the week talking about rumors that are made up by other reporters. Those rumors are often just about rumors. It is not unusual to see a story about how it is rumored that a trade was rumored to have been mentioned by someone. Meta-news is news about news. The NBA is now doing news and rumors about rumors. That’s meta-meta-rumor-news, I guess.

The reason for all this is the news media no longer bothers to uphold any of its alleged standards. It was not that long ago that editors required two sources that were actual human beings with a credible claim to know the material. Newspapers might bend this rule, but they never went with copy that contained sources unknown to the editor. That’s no longer the case as editors no long exist in sufficient numbers to police it and the remaining ones simply don’t care. Anything goes so its all fake sources now.

Sports reporters have never been terribly bright or hard working so they have responded to this breakdown in order by doing what comes natural. Instead of working hard to get good stories, they make up semi-plausible stories with fake sources. An NBA trade, for example, will involve two or three people talking by phone. Yet, we’re supposed to believe that some guy at ESPN was then briefed on it by one of the parties. Even more absurd, we’re supposed to believe some blogger “broke” the story. Yeah, right.

The bigger issue though is something that happened in the Jordan years. It has been thrown down the memory hole, but Jordan decided the way to help black sports reporters was to give them exclusive access and deny access to honkies. Guys like Ahmad Rashad and Michael Wilbon were given special access. This made their careers, but it also ushered in the era of access journalism. Players granted access to reporters who were willing to sing their praises in their columns and on TV shows.

Something similar happened around the same time in Washington politics. The Clinton machine was ruthless in controlling the media. They would shutout reporters that did not play ball. There’s always been some of this, as people are naturally going to be nice to those who are nice to them and not so nice to people they see as adversaries. The difference was, the Clinton team turned this into a formal policy and the Washington press corp went along with it. They liked being treated like players so they acted accordingly.

The Bush people could not play the same game, as the Washington media is universally liberal, but they did a little bit of it with operations like Fox and the talk radio guys. Rich Lowry of National Review remodeled the magazine to be a GOP mouth piece for exactly this reason. It gave them access to Republicans. The Weekly Standard largely existed as a public relations vehicle for the Bush family. Much of what has gone wrong with Buckley Conservatism is due to the perils of access journalism.

This is why we see the explosion of fake news. The NBA guys want access or at least the illusion of access. To that end, they tweet out rumors and fake news in the hope of getting a reply from an agent or front office guy. That way they can then shoot down their own rumor or fake news with an actual quote from a real person. “After talking with person X, I can now report that the rumor I reported is false.” Fake news about rumors produces gossip that is eventually addressed by a real person in the news.

That seems to be what’s going on Washington with all the fake news. No one in the Washington media bothered to develop contacts in the Trump team. Instead, they mocked and harassed them through the campaign, figuring they were currying favor with the Clinton people. Now, they have no access so they create fake stories hoping to get a response from the Trump people. In lieu of real reporting, it is provocative fake reporting in the hope of gaining access to real people in the Trump White House.

Now, that’s not to say it is all innocent. Clearly, the major fake news organizations are fully converged, as Vox Day would put it. They are so in the tank for the one true faith, they now resemble a UFO cult. The point of their fake news campaign is to discredit the Trump people. Still, this is the logical result of access journalism. When the path to fame and glory is getting exclusive access to a powerful person, it is no surprise that the media has now turned itself into a PR firm for the rich and powerful.

Essential Knowledge: Part XI

The last post in this series left off with English literature through the Victorian period, with a little overlap here and there, along with a few references to American literature. In retrospect, I probably should have done the literature posts a bit different. Instead of breaking it up into eras, it would have been better to break it into three or four categories, based on the significance or importance of the writer. Getting into this, I did not have a plan for covering literature so things got a little sideways.

The truth is, there’s probably only 100 books and writers that have a claim to being essential to the English canon. If you asked a bunch of well read people to list the 25 books they would take to a deserted island, they would have no trouble cutting down their list. There would be lots of overlap between them, but in the end, there are probably a hundred or so books that truly qualify as essential to an English reader. The rest fall into categories like “important to their genre” or “emblematic of a certain period.”

Anyway, in order to put some structure on this topic, let’s finish off English literature through the early 20th century. The first recommendation here is Samuel Beckett. The reason for this is he is a good example of something that changed in English letters around this time. Writers were no longer appealing to the educated classes. Writing in the 20th century was a social movement and often a political act. Beckett was probably as famous for his influence as he was for his writing. Writers were now pop stars.

You can, if you are a masochist, buy something like the Complete Dramatic Works of Samuel Beckett and start plowing through it, but that’s not going to be fun. My recommendation is to come at it from a different angle. Instead, read a good biography of him like Damned to Fame: The Life of Samuel Beckett. It’s probably better to learn about the man and then sample some of his work. Since he was primarily a dramatist, maybe take in a play or rent a movie adaptation of Waiting for Godot.

Another important figure is William Butler Yeats. Like Beckett, Yeats is probably more important for his shadow than his work. If you are into folk literature and traditionalism, then you will enjoy reading Yeats, even if you don’t care for poetry. This is a biography I read a few years ago and I enjoyed it. Again, it is a great introduction to the man and you can use it as a jumping off point for selected readings. I’ll also note that Yeats was a nationalist and traditionalist, something all of us should rediscover.

This naturally leads into the dreaded discussion of poetry, but luckily there is Rudyard Kipling. Like a lot of great literature, Kipling can he had for a song, especially of you don’t mind the ebook format. His poetry is available on-line. Like so many men of his era, his influence extends beyond literature so reading a biography of the man is a good way to understand his impact on the culture. I read this one a dozen years ago, but there may be better ones. It was interesting, despite the writer’s best efforts.

As far as poetry, well, I’m not a big fan of the genre, but others will disagree. The big names are T. S. EliotW. H. Auden and Dylan Thomas. Yeats is the giant, but we covered him. I never really cared for Eliot, but I liked Thomas enough to have memorized a few of his poems. In all candor, I did it because quoting Dylan Thomas worked well on the ladies back in the day. They thought I was deep and sensitive. My guess is this still works, if there are any younger guys reading this. Poets used to be lady’s men for a reason.

Another giant is James Joyce. I think Dubliners is one of the best collections of short stories ever written. I’ve read it a dozen times and will probably read it a dozen more before I die. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is also good. I strongly recommend against reading Ulysses, as it is the most dangerous book ever written. Like some others listed here, Joyce really is a giant, despite his relatively modest output. Knowing about him is important. That said, Finnegan’s Wake is just nonsense.

Obviously, Orwell and Huxley are must reads. Both writers get talked about to death by people on the Dissident Right, so there is no need for additional commentary. For Orwell, 1984 and Animal Farm are must reads. I’m much more fond of the latter than the former, on aesthetic grounds. Brave New World is a great book. I’ve made this point a gorillion times, but Huxley was much more realistic about the future than Orwell. I’d also argue that he wrote a better book. 1984 is ugly, like Wagner, while Huxley’s book is beautiful.

Finally, the man who invented fantasy literature is J. R. R. Tolkien. My guess is most literate man got the taste for reading through Tolkien. I still remember the puzzled look on my mother’s face as I spent a full summer Saturday on the couch engrossed in The Hobbit. Even as an adult, you can still enjoy The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, but they are probably best read as young adults and then re-read later in life. Classic science fiction works this way too, but that is a topic for another post.

Like so many great writers of the late Victorian and early modern period – yes, I know, you have a different definition of this time period – Tolkien was a fascinating guy. He fought in the Great War and hung around some of the most important men of letters in his day. In fact, his war experiences are what inspired his darker imagery in his work. Here is a pretty good biography of him from 20 years ago There may be newer biographies out now, given the popularity of the movies, but his life is a fun read.

Like, Should and Will

People who enjoy quantitative analysis of current events and social policy tend to get irritated by the fact that most people don’t know what “average” means. In fact, most people don’t know the difference between the words “some”, “all” and “many”, treating them as if they are synonyms. The easiest way to activate the nearest outrage machine is to say something like “Some women….” and you can be sure a local gal will clutch her pearls and tell you she is nothing like whatever you described. It’s madness.

Something similar happens to people when discussing social policy or describing a cultural phenomenon. What is good for society, may not always be good for each member of society. Similarly, what you like may not scale up very well. Open borders fanatics fall into this trap. They look at the quaint ethnic eateries around their college campus and think, “This is how it should be everywhere!” They never stop to think if it should be something we attempt and they never think about what actually will happen.

It’s not just liberals and libertarians that get confused by this. Lots of people say they want America to return to its constitutional founding, never stopping to think if we should actually try to do it. If we tried to roll back the 19th Amendment, there would be endless protests, even if every state promised women the franchise. Rolling back the Reconstruction Amendments would launch a civil war. You may like the idea of going back to the original, but we shouldn’t attempt it, which is why we will never try it.

This circles back to the topic of internet commerce. Lots of people like the convenience of ordering on-line and having their goods delivered to them. Some people like the fact they can buy on-line from cheaper foreign sources, thus saving some money. That’s perfectly understandable, but that does not mean we should, as a society, let Amazon monopolize the retail marketplace. There may be ugly trade-offs. Even if we can figure it out, that does not mean we will act accordingly. Instead, we will plow ahead and learn the hard way.

The easy thing to get right is what you like. The old maxim about being conservative about what you know best applies here. All the people screaming at me for questioning the wisdom of letting Amazon own the marketplace are doing so because they know how much they like shopping on-line. They don’t want any discussion of changing it. They know their tastes and habits better than anyone so they are the most conservative about those things. As a result, they instinctively recoil at any criticism of the internet economy.

To be clear, we all do this to some degree. I reject any and all efforts to impose regulations on gun ownership. I know the gun laws better than most and I know the gun statistics better than most. The only changes I favor are repeals of existing laws, but any mention of “gun laws” or “gun crimes” puts me in a defensive crouch. The most conservative position is to resists any discussion of changing gun laws so that is my default position. As a result, I probably have a few things wrong about the gun debate.

Where things always get squirrely is when the topic moves into what we should do as a society. Libertarians, of course, leave the room at this point because they think “should” means “must” and they are against coercion. This is one of the reasons I have so little patience with libertarians. Politics is about what will be done and that results from the debate over what should be done. The libertarian impulse to retreat into proselytizing about their principles makes them worse than useless in the war with the Left.

Liberals claim to hold the moral high ground so all of their proclamations about what should be done are invested with moral authority. It is why they frame every debate in moral terms. That way, they avoid the granular analysis of what they are doing, so the focus shifts to the morality of their intentions. It is often assumed that this is a deliberate tactic, but it is instinctual. Progressivism is a religion. The adherents naturally frame everything in terms of their faith, in the same way Muslims rely on the Koran for their authority.

Buckley conservatives abandoned public morality long ago, so they are reduced to turning everything into a math problem. This appeals to many libertarian-ish people which is why you see so many of them hanging around the Official Right™. It would be nice if public policy could be decided, at least to some degree, by mathematics, but there’s no history of that ever happening, which means it will most likely never happen. It’s why the Buckley Right has lost every fight over the last 25 years. You don’t beat morality with math.

Of course, no matter what your conception of what should happen is, the odds that it will happen are fairly low. Even the most modest plans have unintended consequences and most of us are easily deluded by our sense of righteousness. It is why Progressivism has devolved into a madhouse of lunacy. They stand on their soapboxes sermonizing about what should happen, only to see the opposite happen. The recent string of elections has them thinking the gods have abandoned them, which is why they are so distraught.

This is not a post with some great important point to make so I’ll wrap it up. The one take away here is that when I write about some public phenomenon, I’m usually looking at it from the various angles of the “should” position. Is this something we should embrace? Is this something we should tolerate? That sort of thing. You may like midget porn, for example, but we should not have it on television. On the other hand, you may hate paying your taxes, but we should enforce tax laws, even the terrible ones.

Utopian Misanthropes

It probably says something about us that we accept the dystopian future of Orwell as being to some degree inevitable, despite the fact he has proven to be wrong about most things. He was not wrong about everything. He got communism right in Animal Farm. His critique of writing is timeless and is probably more applicable today than in his era. On the other hand, the future is not “a boot stamping on a human face — forever.” Not even close. The future is a bot making sure you never get your feelings hurt or have a bad day.

In that regard, Huxley has proven to be the more prescient. Brave New World was much more accurate, especially with regards to the upper classes. Whether or not we will ever be “decanting” humans is questionable, but science may be closer to genetically enhancing people than maybe is proper. Similarly, H. G. Wells understood the arc of humanity was toward a softer end than Orwell imagined. His depiction of the Eloi, and his explanation for why they existed, is being proven out today.

Even so, Orwell is what resonates with us even today, as we drift into the soft authoritarianism of the custodial state. The most likely reason is that at some level, people understand that at the core of every Utopian scheme is a coldness toward humanity that eventually leads to the sort of ugliness we associate with Orwell. Huxley’s future is eerie and disconcerting, but Orwell’s gets right to the heart of it. There is no hope and there is no joy, because in Utopia, those things have been banned.

This has always been obvious with the global Left. They have always imagined a world that, at best, could work for a slim majority of people. The rest of humanity was not going to be a good fit. There are only two ways to solve this problem. One is to “fix” those people who can’t seem to go along with the program. The other is to get rid of those people who don’t fit the new society. It’s why re-education camps have always been a fixture of left-wing societies. It’s also why mass murder is where they always end up.

The assumption is that what drives this is an absolute belief in the blank slate. If people are infinitely malleable, then all of those bad thinkers can be adjusted. Since some defects are beyond repair, the only solution is to remove the defective from the population and the gene pool. In reality, the effort at re-education is always ceremonial. The people in charge go through the motions in order to justify the inevitable. There’s also a fair amount of sadism at work. Leftist regimes seem to take pleasure in culling the herd.

In fact, what may be the main attraction to Utopianism is its underlying antipathy toward humanity in general. Human existence is messy, dirty and frustratingly irrational, but this is also the source of its beauty. There is nothing rational about falling in love. There is nothing orderly about laughing at your own stupidity or your screw ups.  What drives the people dreaming up the perfect society is a hatred of this reality. They hate the apparent randomness, the part that makes life worth living, so they seek to eliminate it.

It is why Whittaker Chambers recoiled in horror at the philosophy of Ayn Rand. Chambers had spent most of his life as an atheist and a communist. He fully understood the materialism at the heart of every Utopian scheme. He saw it right away in Randian moral philosophy. The libertarian dream world is one in which everything about the human condition is squeezed out. The libertarian Utopia is one in which everyone is an isolated economic unit with no emotional ties to anyone.

Libertarians deny this because they hate this truth about themselves. It is the one thing that distinguishes them from the other Utopian dreamers. They flinch at the idea of shoving the deviants into the ovens. Instead, they dream of the isolated colony populated by the productive. What drives the Leftist is a hatred of mankind. They dream of a place where anything resembling humanity is gone. Libertarians, in contrast, are driven by self-loathing, so their dream is to be isolated away from humanity, like prisoners.

Libertarians will dispute this, but they are wrong. They think because they have opposite ends than the Left, they must be the opposite of the Left. It is a form of hive mindedness, though, as things can be different without being opposites, just as things can have similarities, without being the same. It is another feature common to all Utopians. That’s a binary worldview. There are those inside the walls and those outside the walls. It’s why libertarianism, particularly Rand variety, is not of the Right.

It is one of the ironies of the Enlightenment. The people who came out of it with a head full of ideas about eliminating the human condition are cast as the friend of mankind, while those skeptical of these schemes are cast as the misanthropes, the reactionaries. The truth is exactly the opposite. The social reformer, the proselytizer and the Utopian fanatic are all driven by hatred of humanity and themselves. The skeptic, in contrast, is motivated by an appreciation of and a love for humanity and the human condition.

Whatever you care to say about the alt-right and the fellow travelers in the Dissident Right, they at least maintain a healthy respect for the diversity of the human animal and the need to respect that diversity. Throwing a tribe of Somalis into Lewiston Maine is not helping anyone. Diversity plus proximity is misery. The Somalis need their place and the Mainers need theirs. It’s why man invented borders and has always been willing to die maintaining them. Only the sociopath dreams of a beige future and what it would take to achieve it.

The Utopian dreamers start out thinking about all the things they hate about humanity, which if often everything about humanity. They have no respect for people, only disgust which is why they are consumed with changing everything about human society, including the people in it. This why Orwell remains the go to guy for dystopia, over more accurate people like Huxley. The Utopian hopes the future is “a boot stamping on a human face — forever”, while the skeptics suspect he may be right.

Late Phase Capitalism

The song we hear from our rulers is that America was built by immigrants. The other version is that America is a nation of immigrants. The latter does not hold up under scrutiny, but the former probably gets closer to the truth. The nation was obviously settled by people from over the sea and that settlement continued into the 19th century. The word “settler” is correct as most people who came over came in search of land, which is why there was a steady march west during the 17th and 18th centuries.

The last couple of decades of the 19th and the first decades of the 20th, on the other hand, were a time of high immigration. These were people headed for urban centers to work in factories. The new industrial barons wanted cheap labor so they imported it. It is probably true that the rapid industrialization of American could not have happened without the massive flow of migrants from Europe. It is certainly true that the newly minted industrial millionaires got rich from the supply of migrant labor.

By the second decade of the 20th century, the great fortunes of the industrial age had been built. Men were still getting rich, but they were not getting rich like Carnegie, Rockefeller or Mellon. There was also a move to reign in the super rich of the day by busting up trusts and forcing competition back into the market. Again, you could still get rich making stuff, but it was mostly by applying industrial techniques to narrow areas of the economy. Of course, the end of the industrial boom saw the boom in global finance.

The other thing that developed in the late phase of the industrial era was organized crime, most notably La Costra Nostra. The official narrative says it was Prohibition that ignited organized crime, but there were gangsters in America before that event. A better way to frame it is that urban criminal organizations were uniquely positioned to flourish in the era of illegal booze. They had worked out most of the problems that come with organized crime and so they had the people and structures in place to be rum runners on day one.

Prohibition era gangsters were cold blooded killers, for sure, but many were quite innovative in the crime business. Many of the techniques they employed to secure their businesses, territories and settle problems in their organizations are right out of the modern business school. The more famous gangsters could have been successful in legitimate business, but by the time they cam along, the big money from industry had already been made and the doors were closed to newcomers, so they went into crime.

It should also be noted that organized crime did pretty well through the Depression and the Second World War. Things got a little tougher in the post-war era, but the Mafia was still going strong into the 1970’s. The wheels came off for the Mob in the 1980’s, at the dawn of the technological revolution. New laws, but mostly new technology allowed the Feds to roll up the Mafia. The state had also taken over their rackets, like gambling and loan sharking, while foreign cartels took over the drug trades. Today, the mafia is dead.

Like the industrial revolution, the technological revolution has created some fantastically rich men. The difference is that the modern billionaire is most likely making his money from all over the world. Technology has allowed him to get rich because it allowed him to easily do business everywhere. The men who made the railroads were constrained by geography. They had to settle for being rich men in one country. Therefore, they took an active interest in their host country, often being very patriotic and nationalistic.

The new over-class lives globally so they think globally and that has brought problems unique to the technological era. But like the industrial age, the great fortunes were mostly made early on as everyone raced to apply the microprocessor to the big problems of society. Men are still getting rich, but the age of the instant billionaire are largely over. The SnapChat people are probably the last guys to hit the lottery with a killer app. The low hanging fruit has been picked. What’s left is the stuff that is harder to reach.

Another similarity to the industrial age is the role of immigration. As Steve Sailer has pointed out, the tech people  were granted an unofficial waiver with regards to labor laws and identity politics. Up until very recent, we have not seen any pressure on Silicon Valley to hire blacks or women. They have relied on an army of helot labor brought over on visas or setup up in camps over in Asia. In many cases, firms have flagrantly violated the laws aimed at curtailing this stuff, without facing much in the way of scrutiny.

In all probability, there will be people in the coming decades who point to the microprocessor revolution and say it was built on the backs of immigrants. Our cosmopolitan grifters already believe this. As with the industrial revolution, it will not be entirely wrong. The more accurate way of stating it is the great fortunes could not have been amassed without cheap foreign labor. The initial work, the groundbreaking work, was done by locally grown pioneers who did the inventing and innovating.

The one main difference between this age and the prior age is we have not seen the growth of organized crime. There are Russian gangsters stealing credit cards and running various financial scams, but nothing like the Italian Mafia. No one has tried to organize tech workers like the mob organized Jewish butchers or the garment industry. The old mob used fear to tax legal business and fearlessness to monopolize illegal business. We are not seeing anything similar, outside of the drug game run mostly by Mexicans.

Part of this is due to the fact that most vice is legal. Gambling is everywhere now, mostly run by the state or state sanctioned enterprises. Booze is everywhere and pornography is on TV. Even prostitution is largely ignored by the state. The only illegal business is drugs and that’s run  by Mexican cartels. There’s also that fact that there are many ways for a clever and adventurous person to get rich in politics or the shadier sides of finance. Crime simply does not pay as well as politics or banking.

That may be the way to look at something like the Clinton Foundation and, coming soon, the Obama Foundation. These are not explicitly criminal organizations, but they certainly play outside the spirit of the laws. Obama is out of office and prohibited from running again, but he still controls the Democratic party. The Clintons would be in charge, if not for the fact that the voters took their under boss out in the Tuesday Night Massacre, otherwise known as the presidential election. Even so, the Clinton Family is still a player.

In other words, the analog to the great mafia families of the prior era will be political organizations and operations that work the fringes of the system to rake in huge piles of cash for the people running them. Right now, the best way for a moderately intelligent person to get rich is to win a seat in Congress. Even a seat in the state legislature can be parlayed into a comfortable lifestyle paid for by insider deals and influence peddling. If you are not the sort to run for office, helping those who do run for office is very lucrative.

In one of histories great ironies, the English speaking world went to war with fascism and defeated them on the battlefield, but ended up adopting most of the fascists socio-economic polices. Similarly the US government went to war with the mob, but is now embracing the same ethos as those long vanquished gangsters. Maybe like the oxpecker, the tiny bird that lives off rhinos, human society will always have a quasi-criminal class that lives off the people at the pleasure of the people in charge.

The Killing Season

Baltimore has the nickname of “Bodymore, Murderville” because of a high rate of homicide and the habit of the locals spray painting the slogan on abandoned buildings. The other “slogan” you see around the city is a re-write of a marketing campaign run by the city a few years back. The pols had the idea of putting the word “Believe” on everything, so the more clever changed it to “Behave” which gets to the heart of the issue. The city has a huge population of people who cannot behave themselves like civilized people.

Currently the city is on pace for over 360 murders and we are just getting into peak killing season. Usually, the winter tamps down the murder rates as it is just not as much fun to pop a cap in an ass when it is snowing sideways. Similarly, the spring has been very rainy and gangsters tend not to like going out to murder people for their sneakers when it is raining. In other words, it’s possible there is a lot of pent up demand for murder that will now be unleashed with the summer weather.

To put this in context, Boston has about 650,000 residents. People think the city is much bigger, but that’s because of the surrounding cities and towns bunched in next to Boston give the feel of a much larger metropolis. Baltimore is around 600,000 people, if the census is correct, which no on thinks is true. Baltimore has a strong incentive to overstate their numbers as they get more Federal money as a result. Boston is on pace for about 40 murders this year, while Baltimore will have 350.

With that in mind, the city has put the cops on extra duty, allowing for overtime as a way to tell the cops they are sorry for the Freddie Gray fiasco. The official position of the politicians and our Progressive masters is that the Obama administration’s war on cops had nothing to do with the explosion of black homicide. People on the streets know better, but no one cares what they think. Either way, the city’s decision to make a peace offering to the cops suggests they are ready to stop pretending.

The precipitating issue was the murder of a white bartender in one of the nice parts of the city. Long ago, Baltimore pretty much invented the idea of gentrification. Mayor William Donald Schaefer had a dream of fixing his city so he condemned a bunch of houses in and around the waterfront and gave them away to urban pioneers. The one condition was they had to fix them up and live in them. The result was some very nice neighborhoods for young professionals and older people who enjoy city living.

The way the city has managed to keep these nice neighborhoods alive is by having the police keep the blacks in their ghettos. No one says it like that, but that’s the way it worked. They used good old fashioned racial profiling to make sure the homies stayed on the West side and the gentry class whites stayed out of West Baltimore. Local whites will tell you that they have been pulled over by cops when they decided to take a shortcut through the ghetto. The assumption being that they were lost or stupid.

Whether or not the cops can restore something resembling order is hard to know. The lesson the Left never learns is that society is a fragile thing. It’s quite easy to destroy the delicate balance that allows for a safe and civilized city. Topple it over and not only does all hell break loose, but restoring order requires a massive effort. It’s pushing a rock up a hill. If all goes well, your massive effort will get the rock to the top, but one mistake and the rock rolls down to the bottom and you have nothing to show for your efforts.

There’s also the fact that the supporting institutions in the city are always a mistake away from collapse making the job more difficult. The city prison system is just an extension of the ghetto. This was an outlandish example, but it is so common that everyone just accepts it. There are services to help black inmates stay in touch with their friends back in the neighborhood. It’s easy to see why cops and judges get a bit cynical about the system. They know that no one really wants to fix the problems.

There is, of course, the ever present issue of race. You would think that a city like Baltimore, and the surrounding environs, would be teaming with racism. After all, the overwhelming majority of the murders are done by blacks against other blacks. Of the 159 murders, 12 victims were white. In a city that is 60% black, 90% of the victims will be black and 95% of the perpetrators will be black. According to the myths of our age, the Backlash™ from the whites should make life a living hell for innocent blacks.

The opposite is true. Most whites have become habituated to the reality of life in this part of the world. Everyone, white and black, knows the reality on the street. The blacks with anything on the ball do exactly like the whites and that’s put distance between themselves and the black ghetto. That does not stop the Progressive maniacs from ranting about racism, but they do it from high up in the towers of their whites-only neighborhoods. As a result, no one hears them and so they can be ignored.

Interestingly, blacks tend to think of Baltimore as a good city for them. Number play a role as the city is close to 60% black, but that just means there is a thriving black social life, which is not the case in most cities. For the well-behaved blacks, there are black middle-class neighborhoods in the suburbs where they can be around other well-behaved blacks. The irony here is that while we have some of the worst blacks in America, we also have some of the best blacks, too. White people like that. it gives them hope.