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March 08, 2014

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Pitkin

"empty-headed and messianic"

Joan

"Arrogant and immature."

ftumch

Two things that bother me: most people I've known on the left have never read Marx; a small minority have read him, yet still buy into the stupid. Sigh.

OT, in light of recent discussion here on feminism etc, via Guido:

http://conservativewoman.co.uk/2014/03/saturday-more-victimhood-than-sisterhood/

Hal

Inevitably stupid is always going to always occur, being an excellent reminder that the One Holy Day A Year is fast approaching . . .

Insistently clueless, on an other hand . . . .

Hal

Very interesting reading, by the way. The L.A. Times did a review back when it came out---Noting that the one book has going through a number of slight title changes.

Anyone who has lived in the Soviet Union quickly learns that life can imitate bad art. Where the ways of the system are concerned, nothing is too outrageous or absurd. The chilling opening scene in Viktor Suvorov's "Inside the Aquarium" demonstrates that. A training film for Soviet spies features a lesson on the penalty for deception: One of their own agents is shoved into a crematorium's oven alive. The fact that this is ideally suited for a Hollywood production caricaturing the evil empire is, of itself, no reason to dismiss it as too far-fetched to be real.

Suvorov is the pseudonym of a defector from the GRU, the Soviet Union's military intelligence organization . . . .

Connor

Marxism is, in general, cleverness for stupid people

And it makes clever people stupid too.

Hal

Don't forget required correctness . . . .

mojo

“Stupidity cannot be cured. Stupidity is the only universal capital crime; the sentence is death. There is no appeal, and execution is carried out automatically and without pity.”
― Robert A. Heinlein

dicentra

"stupid"

= malignantly narcissistic
= spiteful and childish
= flatly delusional

Just got off a Twitter exchange with a moron who actually defended the Obamacare trainwreck. Dude. If you're gonna defend the O-ministration, don't stand behind Obamacare.

David Gillies

Socialism is self-absorbed without being introspective, grandiosely theoretical where it should be empirical, and petulantly insistent that its failures are due to external forces and not its own defects. These are the aspects of an adolescent, and it's no surprise that many of its adherents adopt a deliberately adolescent demeanour. Witness our own beloved Penny Dreadful, a woman rapidly approaching 30, who dresses like a sullen teenager and acts like one, too. It's just so silly, and if it weren't for the fact that unchallenged it tends to rack up death tolls in the seven figure region the correct response to socialists would be hoots of derision.

David

Witness our own beloved Penny Dreadful, a woman rapidly approaching 30, who dresses like a sullen teenager and acts like one, too. It’s just so silly, and if it weren’t for the fact that unchallenged it tends to rack up death tolls in the seven figure region the correct response to socialists would be hoots of derision.

Yes, laugh while don’t have the power they want. That’s power over you. And Marxoid psychology does seem comically adolescent, which may explain why its adherents are so often students who never grew up and lecturers who surround themselves with teenagers every day for decades on end.

Hence the self-imagined hipsters whose badges of “Che” and Trotsky actually tell the world, “I’m wearing these badges because of credulity and peer pressure, and sadly my peers are all idiots.” Hipsters who are so non-conformist they want a world in which everyone is forced to conform. Some of these towering intellects are so ignorant of history (and much else besides) they don’t even register the connotations of what it is they say they want. This young woman, for instance, is a student. One of our brightest and best. Just let that sink in for a minute.

And then of course there’s the hilarious self-flattery on which it all depends – the belief that one is smart enough to remake the world and to ‘manage’ the yearnings and affairs of the beings within in. And so we get pretentious little idiots like Jesse Myerson, whose grip on facts and reality is somewhat shaky, often inverted, and who gets his arse handed to him when challenged by someone more familiar with Marxism and its consequences.

Or there’s the anti-capitalist “artist and activist” John Jordan, who thinks it’s his job to “show us how to live differently.” Which is to say, in ways that suit his ego. In order to achieve this noble and heroic realignment of our lives, Mr Jordan expects to be subsidised indefinitely, via taxation, by people who actually work for a living and who may not wish to be re-educated by chronic freeloaders with mental health issues. And then of course there are people like the reprehensible Eric Hobsbawm, who simply didn’t care about the cost of his utopia for others, however monstrous it might be.

These, then, are the titans who would save us from ourselves.

Nik White

Witness our own beloved Penny Dreadful, a woman rapidly approaching 30, who dresses like a sullen teenager and acts like one, too.

During a recent live radio debate on the BBC, Ms Dreadful ended a short discussion on education with the following exchange:

    Chair: Did you go to, how did you go to school? Were you educated at [sic] private system or state system?

    Laurie: Oh, I was educated in the private system from the age of 10. So I saw this very much from the inside

    Chair: OK

    Laurie: Um, there are a lot of prefects sitting in the front row and you guys still scare me. You still terrify me. We were taken in [to the hall] by the prefects and I was: 'Oooh, God! They're gonna report me!'

She's not a professional comedian of course, but even so I'm not sure the joke makes sense for a woman 'rapidly approaching 30'. What's she going to do in five years' time?

Still, as I already had some of this transcribed you may also be interested – or not (!)– to ponder some other comments made by Ms Dreadful during the same debate.

More of her views on state versus private education:

    Laurie: Well, it's interesting that we ask this question in Blundells School which I believe is one of the oldest independent schools in the country. And, um, I think that the private school question is not paid attention to enough in terms of perpetuating lack of social mobility and inequality in this country [smatter of applause] Oh, good! I hope that's a pupil clapping [laughs] at least there's some independence of thought here! […] Um, if you look at the intake of, uh, top universities such as Oxford and Cambridge, um, an enormous proportion of the people who go to those top universities still come from private schools um and er of the rest a lot come from the hundred-plus grammar schools which are still in operation. And now, um, some of the solutions that have been mooted include opening up private schools to intake from the state sector. 25% has been a, uh, mooted figure. I think we could go further than that. I think we could go at least 50%, if not more. Force private schools and independent schools to take on non-fee-paying pupils if they want to retain their charitable status. The idea, the fact that institutions which perpetuate social inequality in this country retain a charitable status is an absolute disgrace.

And answering an earlier question on the UK's welfare system:

    Laurie: … It is not the welfare system that keeps people out of work […] the reason people are out of work right now is not because of welfare; it's because of austerity; because jobs in the public sector have been cut and because wages are being kept low [ … ]

    Chair: You are saying that […] what you need is higher incomes for people at the bottom end. Now, the low-pay commission […] has said that that might work in the public sector, but in the private sector, if you have increased pay at the bottom end you might find that the companies that are paying low rates are doing that because they have to, to be competitive with countries elsewhere […] people would be out of a job if you put the wages up too high.

    Laurie: Well, um, I don't pretend to be a global economist but personally I am less concerned about us competing with China than I am about us giving people a fair wage. It is not that hard to pay people a decent wage. It's a lot less hard [laughs] it's a lot less difficult than people seem to say to just pay people enough to have a decent standard of living …

This is an extract only of course, but for any wondering where the evidence for this last assertion comes from you needn't – there wasn't any.

Oh, she also promises that: If Scotland breaks away I will be moving to a Red Scotland the very next day, I already have my bags packed. Those lucky Scots.

David

Marxism: The belief that if only one could violate the autonomy of enough people, confiscate their earnings and rewire their very nature, the result would somehow be Total Human Contentment™.

David

Nik,

It is not that hard to pay people a decent wage.

Says a woman who, so far as I know, has yet to start a business or employ anyone. And she thinks high wages are easy because apparently it doesn’t matter whether your business is competitive.

Patrick Brown

David: "Says a woman who, so far as I know, has yet to start a business or employ anyone."

Don't you remember? In 2011 she advertised for a research assistant, who she was proposing to pay £500 for 85 hours work - which works out nearly £2 an hour short of the minimum wage.

http://order-order.com/2011/01/18/sexist-penny-exploits-unemployed-offering-below-minimum-wage/

abacab

Just a thought. The cold war ended with the west working. TheSoviet block collapses and reverts to various degrees of more or less democracy.

Had the Soviets won, it would have been through outright invasion. Or do the deluded left think that western democracy could have collapsed and spontaneously developed communism, a system only ever imposed by force?

I think this asymmetry is worth pondering

abacab

* working = winning. Damn you, predictive swiping nonsense.

Nik White

It is not that hard to pay people a decent wage.

David,

That is a good example but the transcript is littered with similar nonsense.

For example, she cites low wages as one of her supporting points for the welfare system not being a cause of unemployment. Assuming that by this she means that some individuals on benefits might actually find themselves financially worse off by being in work than by being on welfare then there might be some evidence for that claim – however she doesn't seem to be aware that the claim in question is one that undermines the central assertion it is meant to be supporting: that '[i]t is not the welfare system that keeps people out of work'.

Another is when she claims that private and independent schools should be forced to accept an intake of 'at least 50%, if not more' of non-fee payers. I can't work out whether or not she understands what the practical consequences of such a move would actually result in. I like to think not.

Oh and of course it wouldn't be 'Scotland' but 'Red Scotland'.

Ten

Marxism is, in general, cleverness for stupid people.

Marxism is, in general, cleverness for disordered people; people with some stripe of appearances-centric, neo-moralistic, and typically self-superior regard. Narcissism is a good catch-all and it is clinically recognized.

Marxism is the grease that lubricates progressive ways. It's a code that, whether consciously or not, allows the lofty superiority of faux benevolence and tyranny to coexist.

It is The Lie. The closing of the mind and the nullification of the soul. Religiously it is the un-reborn or the unenlightened.

You get to use words like ‘hegemony’ and analyse the world, albeit in unusually fatuous terms.

Usually so. For Progressivism projects its ersatz superiority like a beacon, not uncommonly crushing light wherever it finds it.

Progressivism is the religious practice of employing unreformed, carefully coddled, self-absorbed rage to carry out its institution's pet neo-moralities -- racialism, classicism, the many inquisitions of political intolerance, the material envy of redistribution, the social covetousness of dull, killing conformity, anti-sociability against tradition and order, bearing eternal false witness against resistance, and the preachy hypocrisy that conveys it all -- to stamp out the finer, more aware, and vastly more functional principles of the classic spiritualities and moral codes.

To be free of personal responsibility organized Progressivism only needed to reinvent morality -- detach itself from real right and wrong and create these new, lower-order substitutes for it. Codifying the lie of it with institutional tradition and habit are what any number of Progressive luminaries openly preach in various manifestos. It's not like you can hide it and clearly many have not.

But of course, the dysfunctional's seven Progressive deadly sins immediately run afoul of the real issues in and with the human soul, but we can't have that awareness clouding the landscape for just the latest failing Progressive Utopia.

Progressivism is a disorder. Should mankind become sufficiently accountable sufficiently rapidly maybe we'll regard this truth with enough conviction to react better to its characteristic malignancy. We've had the awareness to for thousands of years.

Rafi

Laurie: Well, um, I don't pretend to be a global economist

But she still writes (and protests) as if she were.

David

Nik & Rafi,

I can’t work out whether or not she understands… the practical consequences

But she still writes (and protests) as if she were.

I doubt Laurie is overly troubled by the practicalities of whatever it is she’s demanding on any given day. The need to continually display her own radicalism doesn’t leave much time for piffling details. Hence her ability to wave aside basic economics as if it had no bearing on what is possible, or indeed moral.

dicentra

Hipsters who are so non-conformist they want a world in which everyone is forced to conform.

Not quite. Hipsters need to stand in opposition to a vast sea of squares whom they regard as the bovine-brained conformists, what with their breeding and WalMart shopping and Olive-Garden eating and all.

If the entire population were to conform to hipster norms, they'd compulsively sidle off and Be Different — albeit they'd all do it the same way amongst themselves.

The conformism is to establish tribal identity, not to hew to conformity itself. And there will be two tribes, the nomenklatura and the rest of us.

Who, naturally, will be forced to conform to the dystopian nightmare the nomenklatura has planned for us.

Mr Eugenides

A few days late with this, but:

"This Lent I will eat no food, to highlight the hunger all around us"

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/mar/03/lent-food-hunger-fasting-britain

David

dicentra,

If the entire population were to conform to hipster norms, they’d compulsively sidle off and Be Different — albeit they'd all do it the same way amongst themselves.

I suppose that’s the appeal of radical chic. It’s a way to display just how different one is, and how terribly brave, while having the security of a very narrow and generic group identity, in which the answers to all questions just have to be memorised and regurgitated. And so one gets to feel exalted and glorious, and steeped in critical thinking, while mouthing someone else’s idiocy, exactly as expected, and begging the question wherever possible. Like a shortcut to gravitas.

Joan

while mouthing someone else’s idiocy, exactly as expected,

They're so ignorant and yet so sure they're right.

David

Joan,

They’re so ignorant and yet so sure they’re right.

It’s a thing to behold - watching them mouth concentrated dumb while clearly feeling pleased with their own cleverness. And remember, many of those people are students. They’ve been educated.

And so we get Bearded Hat Guy, a man almost high on his own self-satisfaction, who loftily explains that the owners of a small restaurant across the street aren’t workers at all, but bourgeois “dominators.” And being the class enemy in his Marxoid calculus, the owners of that small restaurant don’t deserve whatever benefits have resulted from their labours, risk and investment. He’s sure about all this. He simply knows he’s right, and of course righteous. “It’s quite obvious,” says he.

Bearded Hat Guy isn’t into domination, of course. He simply wants to, in his words, expropriate your property and control how you may live. Like angels do.

Bob-B

There is a lot of truth to this, but the late Norman Geras was a Marxist who was not a stupid nor someone who was clever in a perverse way:

http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/

GP

Marxism is a convex mirror that enables the pathologically solipsistic to view the universe in terms of themselves. It is a creed that requires its adherents to rage against class distinction, but at the same time allocate everyone and everything to an ever-growing list of classes.

David

Bob-B,

the late Norman Geras was a Marxist who was not stupid nor someone who was clever in a perverse way

True. But then Norm was something of a rarity and as a blogger spent much of his time, if not most of it, challenging idiocies on the left, including those of other self-defined Marxists. It often puzzled me how someone who was by no means an idiot could still cling to the Marxism of his youth, almost like a dead religion, even as he poked at its inherent indecency. Having invested so much time in it, academically and career-wise, perhaps he was reluctant to let it go. Maybe in part it’s analogous to the sentimental fondness people often retain towards the pop music of their youth. Objectively, the music may be naff, even ludicrous, but it still elicits pleasing memories, and therefore a degree of sympathy.

If you’re retired and have a lot of life to look back on, you probably will look back quite often. And if a lot of your youthful energy and enthusiasm - and sense of possibility - was attached to Marxism as a world-changing panacea, then that emotional connection may endure in later life. It may even endure endless discrediting and survive as a theoretical thing, a vague sense of nostalgia and potential. Provided, of course, you don’t spend too much time lingering on how the catastrophic real-world results of Marxism are inherent to the theory and therefore unavoidable.

[ Edited. ]

Sam

And so we get Bearded Hat Guy, a man almost high on his own self-satisfaction,

It's not called The Fatal Conceit for nothing.

Nik White

It often puzzled me how someone who was by no means an idiot could still cling to the Marxism … even as he poked at its inherent indecency.

I find this to be a really interesting question and one that applies (as Bob-B suggested) to quite a lot of people. For me personally, this includes virtually all of my close friends and, over the years, the majority of my work colleagues and certainly all of the British ones.

When I first started working with colleagues from the US I genuinely thought one of them was joking when I heard her say that she'd voted for George Bush in the 2000 election. I was even more surprised when it turned out that she was completely serious – they do say travel broadens the mind and that's certainly been true in my life.

Even though from high school on I've always been suspicious and/or dismissive of the kind of posturing that goes on with Occupy-style activists / neo-Hippies / aging Soixante-Retards etc. that doesn't mean that I've never had sympathy with the attractions of the Left and some form of Statism, and even now certain aspects of them still appeal to me.

I can't speak for Norman Geras and I'm sure that the nostalgia of an elderly gentleman must have played a role in his case as you have suggested, but I would also say that many more moderate, reasonable (and dare I say it) intelligent people on the Left are attracted to Statism because they perceive it to be a logical extension of the Rule of Law.

I would hazard a guess that the reasoning goes something like this:

  • the Rule of Law is essential for the protection of individual liberties and for the safeguarding of property rights;
  • as individual liberties and property rights are fundamental to a free and civilized society, the Rule of Law must therefore be fundamental to civilization;
  • that being so, why shouldn't the Rule of Law be extended beyond civilization's essential needs until it also encompasses all the additional needs required to cover every aspect of people's lives that, if left to Fate alone, can deprive them of life or liberty?

In other words, this logic says that if Law is essential to a civilized society then having more of it must result in an even more perfect form of civilisation. And by the same token, as there must be a state to enforce that Law, Statism must naturally be the best hope for achieving that most just form of society. The dream and promise of Statism is that the vicissitudes of Fate – illness, unemployment, divorce, bankruptcy, etc. – can be legislated out of existence and beyond all care and concern. (Certainly, the Book of Job would have turned out very differently if there had been a sizeable Welfare state in the Land of Uz!).

Laws are also attractive because Lawmaking seems to be a quicker and more efficient way of improving society than simply hanging around and hoping things will get better eventually if left to Chance alone. And as Lawmaking requires Lawmakers, they become attractive to those who would like to some day lay claim to having defied Fate and created Justice on Earth by the sweat of their own brow. Changing the Law basically means changing reality so it is not surprisingly an appealing (if albeit narcissistic) idea.

It's also unfortunate that for many on the Left (and not just on the extreme Left), a Free Market is equated with a Game of Chance and all that metaphor implies: i.e. that as in other games of chance, there must be winners and losers; that sometimes losing is a result of bad luck (e.g. an unexpected illness, an accident); that sometimes winning must be a result of graft, deliberate deception, corruption or brute force, etc., etc.

From this perspective, anyone saying that they are against Statism is perceived as if they were claiming to be against the Rule of Law, which immediately puts them under suspicion. At best they are likely to be seen as a lackwit or an ingrate who doesn't appreciate just how much they have been privileged by the Rule of Law (and by implication, privileged by the fruits of Statism); or as someone who is either actively trying to circumvent the law; or at worst, as a brazen criminal.

News reports of organisations using legal loopholes to pay the bare minimum in tax or even no tax at all only serve to reinforce the message that Free Market = Game of Chance (= the opposite of the Rule of Law) = a Criminal Conspiracy of Crooks and Thieves (= Capitalism)

Also unfortunate is the idea that because Statism is seen as the opposite of the Free Market, services provided by a State to an individual are not really perceived as incurring a cost at the point of access which in turn gives the appearance that they do not incur any costs whatsoever (or that the individual cost is so insignificant in comparison to the vast scale a state's resources that its consequences are abstracted).

Much of this probably seems astoundingly obvious but I did want to try and at least suggest why, despite considerable evidence showing that all forms of Statism lead to the opposite of what they promise to deliver, Tyranny instead of Liberty for example, various forms of it are nevertheless still hugely popular – even a long way outside Islington dinner parties or Occupy camps in Oakland, CA.

David

Nik,

I find this to be a really interesting question and one that applies (as Bob-B suggested) to quite a lot of people.

This is sort of related: David Horowitz on Christopher Hitchens and political second thoughts.

dicentra

the owners of that small restaurant don’t deserve whatever benefits have resulted from their labours, risk and investment.

And then there was that Twitter exchange I had a few months ago with someone who was trying to be very clever and Socratic in asking why I could assert that it was "my labor" to begin with.

Because "my labor" is performed in exchange for stuff, which thereby becomes "mine."

I don't recall getting a straight answer to "if not mine, whose" or "what happens if we eliminate the concept of ownership from the whole shebang? What's the result?"

Dude kept going infinite regress with the assumptions in each answer to his questions, which is fine as far as it goes, but he never settled enough to demonstrate the utility of questioning the assumptions behind "my labor."

Apparently in his world, discovering that you can identify and question an assumption is sufficient grounds to discard the assertion out of hand.

Which is that "first-level thinking" that David Mamet identifies. They get to the point in their intellectual maturity wherein they can describe problems in the world (college age, naturally) but they can't get beyond that. They can't see that the Marxists' ability to identify (often correctly) the injustices does not equal the ability to correct them.

Or that maturity involves accepting limitations.

Because they didn't land a man on the moon by changing the gravitational constant or the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics: they got there by hewing to the laws of physics with excruciating exactness.

Horace Dunn

Regarding Norm and his supposed adherence to Marx.

Norm was never dogmatic. He might have characterised himself as a Marxist thinker, but he was always ready to explore the implications of the Marxist ideology. He was clearly uncomfortable about Marx's anti-Semitism, which he acknowledged and he was always ready to challenge the prevailing leftist viewpoints.

He had a sense that society could be ordered along better lines and thought that a lot of Marxist teaching might well be brought to bear when seeking a more equitable society.

I think he was probably wrong, but it was always possible to engage with his views sensibly. And that's not something you could say of Monbiot, or Laurie Penny, or Toynbee.

Col. Milquetoast

But you see, if they are on the side of the inevitable progress of history then they feel they don't really need to put much effort into making an argument due to knowing they inevitably have the right answer.

Step one : find something you don't like
Step two : blah blah blah the details aren't that important and coherency is optional
Step three : declare capitalism is to blame and must be overthrown (One can't help but notice how often step 3 isn't the conclusion of reasoning in step 2 but the predetermined answer. It's easier that way.)

David

I think part of the problem is that a fixation with Marxoid control fantasies is often viewed as a rite of passage and, even if abandoned later in life, a source of credibility. It’s often excused as simply being “very political,” as if the particulars of those politics needn’t concern anyone. Given the left’s general appetite for scolding, a fondness for totalitarianism doesn’t seem to cost its advocates much, if anything at all. And so Bea Campbell, for instance, is graced with honorary doctorates despite her active dissembling for totalitarians at the communist Morning Star. And Peter Tatchell can fondly recall his attempts to sanitise Maoism and its horrors, as if supporting a blueprint for atrocity were little more than an adolescent fashion gaffe. A public figure seems more likely to be deemed suspicious or unfit for belonging to the oafish Bullingdon Club than for siding with tyrants and mass murderers. Which is a little odd, really.

And so it goes on, because in terms of reputation it costs so little.

Sanity Inspector

Oh come on, there's more to it than that! You also get to bolt forms of the word "dialectic" onto other words, and make all kinds of brain-throbbing hyphenated neologisms.

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