Friday, September 13, 2019

The book that liberated nobody

Dear H,

I hate to use the word fascist, not just because it's unfair, but because it's uncool.  Like literally, diversity, equality, and bigot, it's a word that used to have a meaning, and even a useful meaning; but eighty years of use by tricksters, slanderers, and dimwits has run it into banality, and now when I hear it it signifies much less about the thing being spoken about and much more about the person who's speaking it.  Winston Churchill was called a fascist for wanting to fight the fascists.  George Orwell, in another one of his passages which ought to have been famous, said he'd heard Gandhi, Catholics, Boy Scouts, and pet dogs called fascists; and that the term meant anything you didn't like, and beyond this most usually a bully.  This was at the beginning of the word fascism, and it will probably be this way to the end.


Nevertheless, sometimes the shoe fits.  China, a country where industry is managed by the state, where ethnic and religious minorities are hunted down and put into camps, where free speech is verboten, where the all-seeing eye of Orwell's 1984 is a reality, where a social credit system bans people from life for not stepping in line, where political prisoners are killed and their organs are put on sale, where de facto slave labor powers factories, where the military runs over protesters and a tightly controlled propaganda system dictates what people hear -- this China, I tell you, this place closer in zeitgeist to Nazi Germany* than anywhere else, very few leftists have dared to call fascists.  The man who wants us to hold China accountable, mostly with tariffs**?  The new Hitler.  The people who want us to bend over for China?  The Resistance.  And the antifa, a downright fugly horde of marxists and anarchists, are here to save us from Nazis -- who in turn love free speech and capitalism, and worship men like Winston Churchill.

Along these lines, Timothy Snyder, professor of history at Yale and studier of Eastern European dictatorships, wrote a short book On Tyranny and it was a huge success -- with everyone the book was effectively against.  I don't recommend it because the best books on tyranny have already been written, and written above a level for eighth graders*** (he recommends, in one section, that all anti-fascists read Harry Potter).  But failures can be instructive as well; and we can learn much more about the human condition from Tim Snyder than I think he originally intended.

For instance, intending to pillory the swastika and the MAGA hat, he said fascists were big on enforcing their symbols.  But nobody can wear either without fear in America; and the closest thing we have to the swastika is the rainbow flag.  The New York Times, in fact, who loudly praised Snyder's book, ran an article on the subject during pride month and asked a host of scary questions. Chief among these were 1) is it okay for a business to not fly the rainbow flag? 2) Is it enough for a business to fly the rainbow flag? And 3) Is it okay for people to take their rainbow flags down after pride month?  All great questions, if gay pride, like the swastika, is your only insignia of human dignity.

Snyder speaks of fascists dehumanizing the enemy, but nothing in America dehumanizes the enemy like calling them fascists.  It serves as a license to punch.  He speaks of the tyranny of virtue signalling, without realizing that 90% of all virtue signalling in the West is done to prove you're not "racist," or "sexist," or "homophobic;" and that the biggest enforcers of such group-think are our corporations.  In short, the law (in the event of a lawsuit) requires them to prove these things about themselves, and so they prove it -- by proclaiming their allegiance to the diktats in fashion, and policing the opinions of their dissident underlings.  You can defend illegal immigrants in the break room, but you can't defend the border.

Snyder says we ought to speak up for the little guy.  But left-wing Big Tech decides, many times, to shut out our most vulnerable dissidents.  He says the president's bullying of news outlets is unacceptable -- but fails to see that left-wing news outlets, which control much of the thoughts of the nation, are capable of bullying the president****.  He praises "honest" judges who stand up for the law -- but fails to mention the activist judges who subvert it.  He says 
It is impossible to carry out democratic elections, try cases at court, design and enforce laws, or indeed manage any of the other quiet business of government when agencies beyond the state also have access to violence. For just this reason, people and parties who wish to undermine democracy and the rule of law create and fund violent organizations that involve themselves in politics. 
No mention is made of antifa.  He says he supports the right to speak, but believes SJW's have a right to yell over speakers.  He says
 It is easy to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there is no freedom. Remember Rosa Parks. 
Tommy Robinson?  Milo Yiannopolous?  Christian bakers?  No mention, but categorically implied, in Snyder's book, as the oppressors.  He says "The people always meant some people and not others" without admitting nobody ever uses the people, regarding public opinion, about everybody.  He says One of the regime’s projects is to limit the language further by eliminating ever more words with each edition of the official dictionary.  He neglects to mention that "illegal immigration," "Islamic terrorist," and "thug" have all recently been scrubbed -- and that these scrubbings are just the tip of the iceberg.  The left is the party of doublespeak and censorship and the thought crime.  It may be the result of what they call neurodiversity.

Much of his book is right on if taken impartially, but unfortunately none of his loudest fans understands what words mean.  He says electronic privacy is important, but leftists are the world's most notorious doxxers.  He says Be alert to the use of the words extremism and terrorism, but none of his fans blink when these terms are applied haphazardly to white people.  He says truth dies when there's "open hostility to verifiable reality." Nobody bothered to tell him how trans activists react to a "misgender."  He says The way to destroy all rules [...] was to focus on the idea of the exception.  When did he write this?  Shortly after Obama let grown men into little girls' locker rooms, and right before half of Central America claimed asylum at the border.

I said there was something to learn from this book and I meant it.  Aside from the fact that Trump made a better president than most of his enemies told us, the lesson here is the same one Christ taught us 2,000 years ago -- that our eyes face outward, that because of this we're likely to find faults in others, and that if we're going to criticize our neighbor we ought to take the thing we hate about him and ask ourselves if we're doing it.  Snyder quoted Christ too; but unfortunately it was the passages about rich men not getting into heaven, and about the truth setting everyone free***.  Snyder believes his truth will; but I find it more likely that when the blind lead the blind, they'll both fall into a ditch.  How do I know he's blind?  I've never met a poor professor at Yale; and if this qualifies him for hell I for one would rather not go with him.

Your father,
-J

*The Chinese and the Nazis have another thing in common, and it's the Great Humiliation.  I've already written about how bad Germany's self-esteem was in my essay The New Pacifism, but what's surprising about the Chinese is that their Century of Humiliation ended seventy-plus years ago and they're still smarting over it.  You can read about it in Jonathan Fenby's Penguin History of Modern China.

In short, by the mid-to-late 19th century Christian missionaries had hit China en masse.  What many westerners don't know is the missionaries were successful.  Soon there were pockets of Christian civilization in the middle of Asia; and the locals were getting spooked, and they ran pogroms against the missionaries like the Europeans and the Russians used to run against the Jews.

Pamphlets were spread, as devastating as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which described heinous acts of Christians stealing and sacrificing babies and other such atrocities, and the peasants all around the missionaries believed them.  So the peasants did what any patriots would about baby stealing, and they ran mobs on the missionaries, and tens of thousands of Christians were murdered.

This of course brought about a reaction; and Western powers, finding a golden opportunity, teamed up and raped China right back.  Everyone got a slice of the pie back then.  Whites took over, and made Russian "concessions" (meaning a place in China effectively run by the Russians), British concessions, French concessions, and German concessions -- places where you could find European architecture and law, clean and well-managed streets, gender mores wildly offensive to the locals, and a deep sense of Chinese resentment.  Even the Japanese, widely considered by the Chinese as inferior and referred to in official memos as "dwarves," got their concessions; and this was on top of the fact that the British, due to outright brute force, had already been filling the country with opium.  Drug addicts multiplied over decades, the Chinese minister asked why the Brits made junkies of the Chinese when opium was illegal in England, and the Brits continued to ruin families for the sake of a fast buck.  We hate the Mexican cartels, but we forget that before the Mexicans the Chinese were dealing with the British.

Of course, we now know that the Chinese, for the most part, run China; and that they took it back by violence.  So good for them, I guess.  The communists, in terms of self-esteem, were a kind of step forward.  What many don't know is that after all these years every Chinese schoolgirl remembers the Century of Humiliation.  And can we blame them?    The Nazis blew up the world after 15 years of the Treaty of Versaille.  We say Make America Great Again after sixty years of our own liberals.  The Chinese say Make China Great Again after a century and more of abuse -- by foreigners they had always regarded as savages.

**It's worth mentioning here that one of the major objections to arming against the Nazis, in Britain, was the budget.  In our day we ignore the budget, arm ourselves up the ying-yang, and turn a blind eye to the dangers of the Chinese -- for the sake of bobblehead dolls, Livestrong bracelets, and throw-away sneakers.  We live at the extremes of both miserliness and profusion.  We won't keep from indebting our great grandchildren, but we sure know a hot deal on a cheap hat when we see it.

***Chesterfield advised his son, Let blockheads read what blockheads wrote.  I don't know that I'm entirely on board with this program; but if you haven't read The Federalist or Orwell's essays I say save Snyder for later -- when you're wiser, and can get a good laugh at him.

My belief is that reading constructively eventually gets boring, so I like to switch things up and read things written by morons.  I could, of course, go on piling up facts -- but is this as fun as watching someone mangle them?  I insist that it isn't;  so I load myself up with books that I'll hate, with titles like Why Women Should Rule the World or this book On Tyranny; something so obviously and deliciously stupid that I couldn't dare to miss it.  These opuses of idiocy are a treasure to me and serve to get my blood boiling and my mind churning; a garbage pile of ideas so rotten I have to take it down with a flamethrower -- bullseyes to set my mind to, meth-houses to bulldoze; at the very least a sassing teen-age girl to bitch-slap.  Something satisfying in the whole, and an on-tap sense of superiority.  I go to Macaulay and I feel edified, but small.  He's so far above me I have no choice but to worship him.  I go to Michael Eric Dyson when I want to feel like a giant.

****In one of the more curious passages about fake news, Timmy describes big media, the people who control much of the thought of the nation, as the minority.  In one sense he's absolutely right: we do outnumber them.  But do we have to believe or honor them?  We always outnumber our masters; and a professional journalist or media mogul is no less prone to personal interest than our oil tycoons, big pharma, and state universities.  Each of them is a minority -- and it is precisely because they're the minority, and they hold so much power, that we ought to hold them in suspicion.

This being said, I'm not one of those people who thinks mainstream news is to be avoided.  I recommend reading papers from a diversity of viewpoints; and if you're following Breitbart you ought to be reading The New York Times.  If you're reading Ben Shapiro you ought to be reading The Daily Kos.  I'm not saying these are equally honest, or equally righteous, or equally intelligent, or equally professional.  But they all have their guns on one another, and if one of them is pulling a fast one the others are likely to rat them out.  

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