Critiques reconsidered

by Henry on May 12, 2005

Brad DeLong revisits the Guenter Grass question.

UPDATE: Well, the original title is wrong: Guenter Grass is not minimizing the holocaust by comparing Nazi Germany to globalization. And I should not call him crypto-Nazi scum.
But there is, still, something very wrong with claiming not that the neoliberal approach to economic reform is wrong, and that the analyses of people like me and my friends are flawed, but that we and I are the standard-bearers of a new totalitarianism. There is something very wrong with claiming that that the decision of the Social Democratic Party to push Harz IV is not a mistake, but rather a reflection of the Social Democratic Party’s subservience to multinational capital.
Chancellor Schroeder is working for the interests of the German people as he sees them, and deserves a better quality of critic.

There aren’t many (any?) political bloggers who haven’t made overly-hasty or sweeping judgments at one point or another. But there’s a lot more rhetoric out there about the “self-correcting blogosphere” than there are selves who are willing to correct where correction is appropriate. More power to Brad for doing this.

{ 71 comments }

1

A. 05.12.05 at 4:07 pm

Yes. Noted, appreciated, and will be remembered. But whether or not the SDP is subservient to multinational capital is an empirical question.

2

angry german 05.12.05 at 4:31 pm

Do I see anywhere an appropriate excuse?

No.

Has he read a definition of totalitarianism in the meanwhile?

Doesnt seem so.

Yes, he has removed some of his old BS. But he adds new BS:

http://bilder.bild.t-online.de/BTO/news/2004/10/03/hartz__prominente/sz__gross__pic,property=Bild.jpg

Grass is a supporter of Hartz IV.

BTW. I am german and it is still may. Prolly DeLong reads this so I should add the word jew here now.

3

Donald Johnson 05.12.05 at 4:40 pm

I hope there’s more to Brad’s apology than what you quoted–I’m too lazy to look. (His website takes forever to download on my home computer). But he called the man a Nazi scum and now , after being told by everyone what an idiot he was, he says he shouldn’t have. Fine. But the blogosphere has pretty low standards if this is something to be praised.

4

des von bladet 05.12.05 at 4:40 pm

J Bradford “Crypto-Stalinist Filth” Delong has “updated” his post, huh?

5

Richard Cownie 05.12.05 at 4:44 pm

A step in the right direction, I think. But
rather a non-apology apology. Of the words in
Brad’s update, none is “sorry” or “apologize” …

I think Brad continues to overstate Grass’
opposition to neoliberal economics – the
interesting case for me was the German unification,
where Grass argued against the over-generous
merger of the Deutschmark and Ostmark – and also
overstates his own commitment to the profit motive.
Surely, as a Democrat, Brad believes that there
are social goals which might be worth pursuing
even if they conflict with pure economics.
For example, is he happy that the current
healthy growth in GDP and corporate profits is
perversely accompanied by falling real wages ?

Now it’s possible that there are real issues on
which DeLong and Grass would differ – but I
don’t think the very brief Grass speech offers
enough evidence to decide that question.

6

Otto 05.12.05 at 5:05 pm

Any apology is a sign of maturity.

But I dont agree with this:

“There is something very wrong with claiming that that the decision of the Social Democratic Party to push Harz IV is not a mistake, but rather a reflection of the Social Democratic Party’s subservience to multinational capital.
Chancellor Schroeder is working for the interests of the German people as he sees them, and deserves a better quality of critic.”

I agree with the first poster above: the subservience or otherwise of SPD to international capital is an empirical question which should be argued or investigated. “Chancellor Schroeder is working for the interests of the German people as he sees them” is a ridiculous response to this suggestion. It’s a question of what factors are internalised or not in German government decision-making and how/why these have changed over the years. If you think the claim that the decision-maker is a person of good faith ends this sort of questioning, critical analysis is out the window.

Tom Delay/Howard Dean/Paul Wolfowitz/George Voinovitch/Richard Perle/Al Gore are all working in the interests of the American people as they see it. Having got that out of the way, let’s have some analysis about how and why they are influential and whose interests (including MNEs or hedge funds) they support.

7

Ginger Yellow 05.12.05 at 5:17 pm

I’m normally an admirer of Brad’s, but I can’t understand why this sent him so overboard. It’s not as if there aren’t hundreds of people in Europe’s newspapers decrying the subservience of politicians to global capital and comparing extreme capitalism to other totalitarianisms. Why pick on Grass?

8

dq 05.12.05 at 5:31 pm

because most of them never get re-printed in the ny times, so delong isn’t reading them. of course, grass was printed in the times because of *who he is*, and delong may not have been aware of who he is (i.e., huge figure in german artistic life much of whose work has wrestled with fascist past).

i agree with the original ct poster that the reconsideration is a positive sign. i still don’t think delong understands, or perhaps is not able to acknowledge, grass’ stature as a politically engaged artist, which is unfortunate, but ultimately delong’s loss.

9

bob mcmanus 05.12.05 at 5:33 pm

“Adding to the Marshallian Toolkit: Big Push and Nonlinearity in History and Theory”

I have just read this paper(draft) on DeLong’s website and the comments; and the post linked here and the ensuing comments. The blogosphere is astonishing in what is made easily available to a layman and I am sincerely grateful to be able to observe such conversations.

DeLong may have overreacted to GG’s speech but it appears he has an informed perspective on the macro-economic issues and a historical understanding of the consequences of bad policy and ideology. The above paper on development humbled me. My comment yesterday on neo-liberalism and capitalism was an idiocy drawn from an appalling ignorance. Yet I feel compelled to make judgements (votes) on macro-economic matters like the deficits, housing boom, outsourcing, social safety nets and simply not take the experts and academics on faith. For I feel some are disingenuous, and many are even in good faith badly in error. Since they conflict so widely, someone has to be in error.

I feel at this point that DeLong saw ideas in Grass’s speech that perhaps Grass himself did not fully understand or that Grass might not have fully known the consequences thereof. DeLong might have been justifiably frightened, we are at I think a tipping point where ideologies will be important, and a direction could be taken that would be tragic.

I still consider DeLong a good man, and though I might criticize him for intemperate language I will listen to his warning.

10

JR 05.12.05 at 5:50 pm

Angry German, you beat me to it. I’ve just posted that bild page about Grass’s support of Hartz IV on DeLong’s thread. Would you go over there and check my translation?

Bob McManus, he slams Grass for opposing a reform that Grass actually supports. This combination of ignorance and arrogance is what we ridicule when we see it from the wingnuts.

Unbelievable how DeLong goes from error to error, without a break.

11

JR 05.12.05 at 5:54 pm

PS I’m a Jew and I don’t want too many words to go by without saying so- Brad might be counting.

12

seth edenbaum 05.12.05 at 6:00 pm

DeLong becomes unhinged at the mention that there’s an alternative to capitalism, or at the mention even that one would like to wish there were. Chomsky brings out in him the same response as Grass has (and Chomsky annoys me almost as much)
There’s an emptiness at the center of all DeLong’s arguments, one that he refuses to acknowledge though at some level he’s aware of it. He wants the benefits of community- the grandmother’s bolognese, challah, or ceviche, but he refuses to admit that such things were the product not of individuals but of communities, and that communities and the restrictions they impose have a value. He wants his individualism and the opposite; to defend gentrification – the ‘Haussmannization’of the world- and neoliberal policies and still to think of himself as representing something more than vulgar materialism.
DeLong is shallow and he knows it, but that makes him nervous.
I wouldn’t give a shit if he weren’t in a position of some authority and if so many others weren’t surprised at his recent stupidity.
It was all utterly predictable. More than that he poses as if his actions are independent, as if his tastes and manners weren’t scripted by history. DeLong’s as much an open book as any drooling klub kid, wholly he product of his culture. If he thought that that were even possible- if he were capable of the smallest amount of skepticism regarding his own logic- he would be less of a cookie cutter technocrat, but he isn’t.

I hate him.

13

Palo 05.12.05 at 6:34 pm

Very well said Seth. I’m tired of Brad’s apologists.

14

david 05.12.05 at 7:05 pm

Wow, that’s sounds like a different Bob McManus. I should look at that paper more carefully.

But DeLong’s objection seems now reduced to “I don’t like being called a bad person.” So what? And guess what — flawed analyses can lead to very bad outcomes. I don’t know that DeLong is a standard bearer of totalitarianism, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility that his talk of how much he wants the people of India and China to prosper will lead to free trade agreements that allow for no such thing to happen.

And he does seem to go around the bend occasionally, just to make sure he’s no leftist. It’s an older and more technocratic version of the “I didn’t like the hippies so I supported the war” argument.

All that said, he’s got a good weblog going. If the first post on Grass was Volokh-on-torture bad, this is something of a better apology.

15

ogmb 05.12.05 at 7:56 pm

Günter Grass deserves a better quality of critic than Brad.

16

Walt Pohl 05.12.05 at 8:00 pm

Wow. Why would Brad apologize? None of you are Guenter Grass. He said some pretty objectionable things about Grass, and then he took them back, and admitted he was wrong to have said them. That’s good enough.

17

JR 05.12.05 at 8:08 pm

Walt Pohl, for a lot of people of a certain generation (mine) The Tin Drum was a very important book. If someone said that Jerry Garcia was a closet pedophile we’d be just as mad. Well, I should speak for myself- I would be.

18

ogmb 05.12.05 at 8:57 pm

It might be good to summarize what has not been retracted, as of Thursday afternoon:

> [Grass] claim[s] (…) that we and I are the standard-bearers of a new totalitarianism.

> (…) that the decision of the Social Democratic Party to push Harz IV is not a mistake, but rather a reflection of the Social Democratic Party’s subservience to multinational capital.

> Chancellor Schroeder (…) deserves a better quality of critic.

> Grass’s scorn for the “complacent official speeches [calling May 8] liberation day” and for the early post-WWII “spokesmen for the rhetoric of liberation… self-appointed anti-fascists” echoes Nazi scorn for the November criminals who had accepted that Germany lost World War I and tried to build the Social Democratic Weimar Republic.

> Grass’s scorn for the “Federal Republic’s almost unconditional subservience to the United States” echoes Nazi demands for a Germany freed from the chains and limitations of the Treaty of Versailles.

> Grass’s scorn for the Bundestag–“our freely elected members of Parliament… no longer free to decide… lobbyists… multifarious interests… disharmony… Parliament is no longer sovereign… banks and multinational corporations”–is the classical fascist condemnation of the cretinism of parliaments: once the people’s representatives are no longer the representatives of the people, you need to find alternative sources of legitimacy, like the Fuehrer Principle.

> Grass’s scorn for establishment politicians who are the real enemy–“the threat to the state, or what should be regarded as Public Enemy No. 1, comes not from right-wing radicalism but rather, from the impotence of politics, which leaves citizens exposed and unprotected from the dictates of the economy.”

> It was Hermann Goering [sic] who said, “A thousand years shall pass and the guilt of Germany will not be erased.” Yet here after only sixty Guenter Grass finds the particular Nazi animus against Jews not worthy of mention.

> Soviet and East German narratives of the Nazis had no place for the Jews either.

> These rhetorical moves by Grass strike me as (a) very false, and (b) very ugly

What I see is a shifting to a new, equally untenable, position rather than anything resembling an apology.

19

Richard Cownie 05.12.05 at 9:11 pm

What’s going on here is a Rorschach test – you
take a piece originally intended to be spoken
aloud in German (as others have noted, in German
it has a constant refrain of “Freiheit” and
“Befreiung”): first you write it down; then
you translate into English; then you prune it
to suitable length for an op-ed. Then you give
it to someone who apparently knows very little
of the context – as far as I can tell from the
various threads, Brad has never read any of Grass’
novels, and doesn’t know much about his political
views.

The resulting response tells us much about Prof
DeLong, and nothing about Grass. I expect that
shown a random inkblot, Brad probably sees
Karl Marx bayonetting Adam Smith.

20

bob mcmanus 05.12.05 at 10:01 pm

“Wow, that’s sounds like a different Bob McManus”

It was the section on Argentina. Now I know very little about Argentina and Peronism, save that it is a nation with great potential unfulfilled. DeLong’s analysis can be wrong, but it made me think that small policy or ideological decisions can lead to long-term underperformance and a generally unsatisfying std of living.

I am very open to Grass’s arguments , and would love to see a US that looked more like France or Germany in many ways. I am not certain their systems are sustainable in today’s global environment, and I do worry that any transition contains dangers of overreach.

However those would be questions for a moderate or neo-liberal policymaker, none of which have any power or influence in the US today. The radicals are taking us over a cliff, and setting the stage for a revolution, farther to the left than DeLong will be at all comfortable with.

21

Dick Durata 05.13.05 at 1:43 am

Too much oolong has made Brad susceptible to bursts of outrage when certain red flags are waved. Often the flags live only in his head; a quick reading of the offending text will betray his unjustified embellishments and fantasies. The simple words ‘Robert Fisk’ in an article about Lebanon’s cuisine has been known to leave him gripping the ceiling and crying ‘anti-Semite’ until a nice pot of tea was brewed.

22

moni 05.13.05 at 1:44 am

Oh come on, it’s an apology just like Blair’s on the WMD screwup, only more irrelevant because well he’s not a politician. He sounds like a spoilt little kid – “shouldn’t have called him that but I’m still right and he’s still an asshole”. But mommy, he started it!

And this:
Chancellor Schroeder is working for the interests of the German people as he sees them, and deserves a better quality of critic

So DeLong, living in California, thinks that he has more of a say in current German political debate, that he has proven to know nothing about, than anyone, novelist or not, Nobel Prize or not, who’s lived in Germany all their life and doesn’t see the current Chancellor as ‘working in the interests of the German people’ just because DeLong says so.

The level of arrogance here is revolting.

23

moni 05.13.05 at 1:51 am

“But the blogosphere has pretty low standards if this is something to be praised.”

Oh no, Donald, it’s a lot more widespread than the so-called blogosphere, if only it was just that…

24

abb1 05.13.05 at 2:35 am

Hah, hah, Bob Mcmanus, certainly you’re being facetious here, right? Most of your comments have more common sense, decency and historical perspective than anything any of the blogging professors post. Don’t let them intimidate you by their ‘nonlinearity’ bullsh*t. Cheers, man.

25

MFB 05.13.05 at 8:25 am

This has been bugging me a lot. I am an academic. If I come across someone who says something that I understand to be wrong, I call bullshit by saying what is wrong, and why.

What happened here is that DeLong came across something that he didn’t like but was too lazy or incompetent to refute, so he smeared it in the most contemptible way. That’s not the behaviour of an academic, or even of a grown-up; it’s the kind of thing that makes people like Ann Coulter rich and famous.

Then it turned out that he was too culturally illiterate to realise that the person he was ignorantly smearing was well-known, and a modest shitstorm erupted.

Then, being a coward as well as lazy and shoddy, DeLong, instead of standing by his original post or explaining it, backed down. But dishonestly, without really retracting the important bits or discussing what the person he was talking about was really saying. Again, that’s a bit like the “retractions” Coulter made after her book SLANDER was revealed to be utter bullshit.

OK, if DeLong was a talk-radio propagandist, end of story. Who has any respect for professional bullshitters? But DeLong is an academic. Granted, I have little respect for economics as a discipline these days (too much corporate totalitarian propaganda, as Grass would rightly say), but you’re still supposed to respond like an academic.

DeLong didn’t.

Therefore, to me, he isn’t one. He’s had enough opportunity to show he could be one, and he hasn’t used it. He can keep his professorship and stuff it up his jacksie, but no serious scholar should ever pay the slightest attention to DeLong again. (Which in my opinion will not prevent most economists from paying attention to him, of course!)

26

Keith M Ellis 05.13.05 at 9:51 am

“…and still to think of himself as representing something more than vulgar materialism. DeLong is shallow and he knows it, but that makes him nervous. … I hate him.”

Ah, well, I hate you. (Not really, but let’s say I do for the sake of the argument. I do hate what your comment here represents.) Your reasoning is shallow, your resulting conclusion is shallow, and the morality and social policy that follows from it is therefore shallow, and you are thus shallow. You are morally shallow; perhaps enough so that you make the world a worse place through your actions regarding your beliefs. You perhaps are a bad person, deserving the exact sort of condemnation, with exactly the same sort of moral smugness, you heap on DeLong.

And I’m not being facetious. As I said, I don’t hate you for this because, unlike in your case with regard to DeLong, I don’t think your shallowness arises from bad faith or bad character or even laziness. I reserve my hatred for those whose badness arises not from a somewhat common and reasonable yet incorrect (and shallow) analysis but from exceptional vice. You think DeLong has a great deal of vice—but, if so, he surely cannot be that exceptional, can he?

Well I do sort of hate you for your smugness. At the very least, the hypocrisy of it. It seems in your view, being smug is itself a vice when DeLong is smug. Being morally outraged to excessive rhetoric is a vice when DeLong is morally outraged to excessive rhetoric. Not so in your case. In fact, it seems to me that your smugness is so great that it is impossible for you and those like you to grant that DeLong’s moral outrage could be valid (though wrong). No, in your view, his moral outrage is necessarily invalid—it’s a facade, a defense mechanism, an absurdity, a self-serving rationalization. In contrast, you are deep; you are caring; you are thoughtful; your views are valid. Or so you believe.

But I can’t see how that’s the case. Because reading DeLong it’s apparent to me that all those things are true in his case…even if his argument is ultimately flawed and his conclusions wrong. He writes about expensive rice cookers. Looking at your commenting and blogging history, I won’t find anything similar? Hmm. But he also writes passionately about the situations surrounding human physical misery and how we might alleviate it. He writes about these things grounding them in well-regarded ideas in moral philosophy; he writes about these things with almost certainly a stronger expertise in the relevant history than you; he writes about them with expertise I know you don’t have and which is well-regarded by his professional peers. I see in his writings reasoned moral outrage channeled into what he believes are practical and urgent solutions that are the result of a lifetime’s hard professional work. This is all the stuff of someone very far from “shallow”. Your evaluation of him, however, is not. And lest you attempt to turn my argument against you against DeLong, note that he didn’t assert that Grass was morally or intellectually “shallow”. He asserted that Grass was wrong, dangerously wrong. Which isn’t nearly so smug as your accusation against him.

27

Palo 05.13.05 at 10:59 am

He asserted that Grass was wrong, dangerously wrong. Which isn’t nearly so smug as your accusation against him

it’s a shallowness competition here.

For keith m., viciously and maliciously attack a man who over 50 years built a well-deserved reputation of a humanist, humanitarian, human-rights advocate, anti-fascist and, on top, one of the greatest writers of the 20th century, to accuse a man like that of ‘nazi minimizer’ and ‘crypto-nazi scum” is simply “asserting he is wrong”.

Come on. Brad’s post and his petulant afterwards stubborness has been disgusting. If you want to make apologies for him, fine. Call us all ‘smug’.

28

Doctor Slack 05.13.05 at 11:10 am

Then, being a coward as well as lazy and shoddy, DeLong, instead of standing by his original post or explaining it, backed down. But dishonestly, without really retracting the important bits or discussing what the person he was talking about was really saying.

I agree DeLong’s “reconsidering” is still sloppy and tendentious and doesn’t begin to address his actual mistakes. It’s certainly an instance of his being caught up in the very worst habits of off-the-cuff polemic and general smallness that are the common drawbacks of the “blogosphere,” where the standard posture on being caught out in a moment of weakness is a defensive crouch (or just ignoring the critics).

I’m not sure I would disqualify him from being an academic on the strength of this alone — sad though it is to say, I’ve seen even worse nonsense than Brad’s post that actually got published in peer-reviewed journals. But this little incident certainly doesn’t cast him in the best light.

29

abb1 05.13.05 at 11:10 am

…to accuse a man like that of ‘nazi minimizer’ and ‘crypto-nazi scum” is simply “asserting he is wrong”.

Yes, but Brad didn’t call him ‘shallow’. ‘Shallow’ is over the top, have to draw the line somewhere.

30

Doctor Slack 05.13.05 at 11:11 am

I’ve seen even worse nonsense than Brad’s post that actually got published in peer-reviewed journals

Okay, on second thought, maybe not “worse.” But almost as bad.

31

moni 05.13.05 at 11:25 am

Good grief, Keith, if I was being a tiny bit smug, I could say I could hear the violins when you wrote that last paragraph!

Weird concepts of criticism, when it’s no big deal to accuse someone of being a crypto-nazi, display total ignorance and misunderstanding of his views and the context they’re uttered in, demand more of a say in the affairs of a country than someone who’s been writing about them for decades, have ridiculous knee-jerk reactions as soon as a certain style of capitalism is denounced as dangerous, state things like a political leader works for the interests of his people as self-evident truths and that’s it, and then call smugness the disgust at that kind of approach.

I wouldn’t believe it if I wasn’t reading it. If that’s what passes for intellectual depth, let’s have more stupidity, please.

32

Keith M Ellis 05.13.05 at 11:52 am

“Yes, but Brad didn’t call him ‘shallow’. ‘Shallow’ is over the top, have to draw the line somewhere.”

Did I compare the severity of the accusation of “shallow” to the severity of the accusation of being a “crypto-nazi”? Nope. I compared the two accusations with regard to their “smugness”. There is an implicit comparison of DeLong to Seth, a self-aggrandizement of Seth, in Seth’s accusation of DeLong that isn’t in DeLong’s accusation against Grass. DeLong’s acusation against Grass is really a garden-variety “this person is a bad person for believing these things” rant. Seth’s has a different character and this character is best revealed in the implicit “I hate DeLong because I am Deep and he is Shallow”…most especially because Seth’s accusation itself is not “deep”—it is almost a cliche, it is unsupported. The most charitable thing that can be said of it is that it willfully misreads DeLong as badly as DeLong misread Grass—a remarkably hypocritical error for Seth to make in this context. A shallow error. A lack of moral seriousness within a charge of a lack of moral seriousness.

33

Walt Pohl 05.13.05 at 12:14 pm

There is distinction between being wrong, and saying something that’s “out of bounds” in civilized discourse, a distinction that many people seem to be ignoring. Perhaps his current post on Grass is incredibly wrong-headed, but it’s not out-of-bounds. His previous post was. Henry clearly understands this, but many of the commenters do not.

34

Doctor Slack 05.13.05 at 12:23 pm

Perhaps his current post on Grass is incredibly wrong-headed, but it’s not out-of-bounds. His previous post was.

Not that I’m eager to dwell on this or anything, but since a good chunk of his previous post reamins unretracted (much of which was out-of-bounds or at least over the top even without the “crypto-Nazi scum” reference), his current post is still freighted with that context.

35

ogmb 05.13.05 at 1:10 pm

keith m ellis: “yadda yadda yadda”

A sad, sad example of deflective apologia.

36

Keith M Ellis 05.13.05 at 3:23 pm

Oh, please. A “deflective apologia”? Hmm. Because you’ve defended Grass does that mean that what you’ve written could be (must be!) characterized as such as well? No, my comment arose because Seth is full of shit and unbearably smug about his fantasy that he’s not. That annoys me on its own merits. As for you, you’ve posted about thirty comments too many on CT in these two threads, almost all of them beating a drum as if it were you who is calling the hordes upon a crypto-nazi scum, in this case DeLong.

Every damn day here on CT (in comments) and at DeLong’s and other left-of-center sites people use hyperbole and angry, even vicious rhetoric in denouncing writers who, via only minimal familiarity and because of a knee-jerk (and often understandable) response, are assumed to be crypto-Nazi scum, or otherwise fascists, or bigoted/racist warmongers, or potentially violent homophobes, or whatever it is that these commenters perceive as quite dangerous to themselves and the people they love and the world in which they wish to live. Just as similarly occurs on the right. And on both sides of the aisle, vicious rhetoric is seen as righteous and necessary when it is felicitous to one’s point of view but dangerous, excessive, ill-considered, poisonous, hateful, self-serving when it is not. More to the point, the voices are raised against it for being all these things, not merely that the point of view expressed with such viciousness is wrong. And so we get the spectacle of people like yourself going apeshit against DeLong because he went apeshit against Grass. In both cases, the denunciations are that the accused are crypto-antiliberals. Can the irony be any thicker?

I’m not defending DeLong’s outburst either in its substance or in its character. I think it is in its substance false; I think DeLong badly misread Grass; and in fact I think Grass is attacking someone who is ultimately a powerful ally of the same values he holds (assuming he’s truly a liberal/progressive, which I think he is). But more significant to my posts in this thread, I am very critical of the character of his post. It reveals exactly why why vicious rhetoric is more poisonous than it is righteous…even when it is righteous. Because it is self-indulgent, because it breeds smugness and more of the same. Brad has indluged himself by living by the rhetorical sword in his blog—now, to a degree, he’s dying from it. He’s hurt his credibility among a great many people that are naturally his allies, and who have wanted to be his allies, and who had been his allies but with reservations. A great many people that practically worship at the feet of Paul Krugman these days should recognize that this is a mistake that Krugman may very well have made himself. In fact, Krugman’s many fans of his pugnacious NYT column would be as shocked to read his (in that case, as they’d surely believe) “distorted” and “irresponsible” and “propogandistic” polemics he’s written against the antiglobalization movement. But Zizka, and others, praise Krugman’s NYT anti-Bush admin stuff. “He’s just what we need!”, they say. “Yes! Speak truth to power!”, they say. “No more of this liberal pantywaist equivocation!”, they say. But that’s basically what DeLong thinks he’s doing in his posts against Grass. No mamby-pamby ambiguity for him! And he’s not really backing down, either! Today, that’s a sin. Tomorrow, when his critics agree with DeLong, it’ll be a virtue. And, as Zizka wrote to me on DeLong’s blog, “Duh”. “Duh”, that he only supports vicious rhetoric when the rhetoric is truthful. Because, I suppose, in his world he’s never wrong and no one he agrees with is ever wrong. That resolves the contradiction. Well, not the contradiction that that’s delusional. On the other hand, it feels damn good, doesn’t it?

37

abb1 05.13.05 at 4:28 pm

But some people indeed are crypto-fascist or even crypto-Nazi scum; some don’t even try to conceal it. Others are not crypto-Nazi scum. Somethimes rhetoric is right on the money, and sometimes it’s wicked. You shouldn’t equate strong but accurate rhetoric with vile rhetoric, it’s not the same. There is such a thing as objective truth, you know.

38

Palo 05.13.05 at 4:32 pm

I don’t get it, keith. You want the discussion to be who’s more “smug”, Brad DeLong calling Gunther Grass ‘nazi scum’ or an angry admirer of Grass calling DeLong “shallow” in response?.

And for a “smugness” vigilante, you are not doing too bad yourself:

“Seth is full of shit and unbearably smug about his fantasy that he’s not.”
“you’ve posted about thirty comments too many on CT” [to ogmb]
“in his world he’s never wrong and no one he agrees with is ever wrong.” [about zizka]

If not “deflective apologia”, at least “apology by dilution”.

39

ogmb 05.13.05 at 4:54 pm

keith m ellis: “more yadda yadda yadda left right right left spectable blablabla”

You’re a fascist twat, keith m ellis. You’re also ugly.

40

seth edenbaum 05.13.05 at 5:05 pm

Why exactly am I ‘full of shit?’ You don’t like my manner? Ignore the insults and respond to the rest.
And don’t toss me in with everyone else here. I wish it weren’t the case it makes no sense to do do. I’m aware of Krugman’s record more than I am of DeLong’s, and both of them impress me with their skill with numbers. But I’m not defending the White House I’m atacking the people who will be responsible for making policies once those idiots are gone. Read Pankaj Mishra on William Pfaff in the NYRB and get back to me on whether or not DeLong’s intelligence is ‘shallow.’

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Keith M Ellis 05.13.05 at 5:23 pm

No, I don’t want the conversation to be “more smug”. If you didn’t notice, I was responding to a specific, single post by a specific, single person that was as vicious as DeLong’s was. That’s some attempt at deflection or dilution of the entire conversation. And, are you really arguing that characterizing Edenbaum’s comment as merely saying that DeLong was “shallow” is accurate? That Seth said that DeLong was “shallow” while DeLong said that Grass is “nazi scum”? This is a fair characterization of the what these two authors said, side by side?

For however little DeLong really knew of Grass, it’s obvious that DeLong couldn’t have thought of Grass as literally a fascist. It’s obvious just from what he quoted that Grass is nominally on the left. (It’s not so clear from that piece that Grass doesn’t sympathize with a generic “these foreign/alien influences, related to capital and its cabals, are what ails Germany” echo of Nazi antisemitism; and it’s not so clear from that piece that he doesn’t sympathize with a totalitarianist answer to the problem of capital.) So at least nominally, DeLong knows that Grass is supposedly a partial ally. Even neoliberal economists are legitimately liberal in some sense. That being the case, a chief error that DeLong committed was in so quickly and hotly reacting to what is for him a hot-button emotional issue (the demonizing of capital) that, to him, represents at the very least an unwitting antiliberal sentiment. He reacted quickly and forcefully and, most important, he did so by assuming that this nominal ally was speaking in the worst possible bad-faith. That he was more than intellectually dishonest, that he was immoral, perhaps even evil. Because, you see, the most smug of us tend to be sure that no one with any sense, no one acting in good-faith could possibly hold to ideas that have even the whif of moral repugnance to us. No, if we smell what disgusts, it means that That Person is an Evil Person. And a courageous person, a person with conviction, will denounce an Evil Person in no uncertain terms. True, someone on the left these days will avoid the word “evil”. But they’ll get the message across. That’s what you do, right? That’s the mark of a clear-eyed person. George W. Bush is that way. Brad DeLong at his blog is often that way. He was that way when he denounced Grass. And Seth is that way when he denounced DeLong. When DeLong speaks this way of BushCo, he’s praised. Not just that he’s right, but that he has the courage to speak so in these not-the-least-uncertain terms. But over and over and over again in the comaplaints against DeLong here and elsewhere, I don’t see merely someone saying that DeLong is very wrong about something important. I see the claim that he was irresponsibly, hatefully, viciously, unrepentently wrong about Grass. The outrage against DeLong isn’t occuring just because of the essential substance of what DeLong wrote. It’s because he used words like “crypto-Nazi scum”. If he had said “Grass very suspciously sounds similar to someone who has subterranean positive sentiments regarding the old, old complaint that alien/foreign capitalist influences (read: Jews) are the bane of Germany”, the reaction against him would not be so vitriolic. There would not be calls for UCB censure of him. People over and over and over quote “crypto-Nazi scum”. It’s not just what the words accuse, it’s the words themselves that inflame. And so it it the style, the pugnaciousness, the recklessness, DeLong’s disregard for ambiguity and uncertainty, his disregard for the possibility of personal ingorance and fallibility—his anger and hate-filled denunciation of a man many people believe to be very virtuous, even heroic—oh, it is that which outrages. The substance of the accusation is a serious intellectual matter. But it is the style which outrages. And yet it is this style which is otherwise applauded.

DeLong should have stopped and considered possibilities other than his quick jump to the assumption of very bad faith on Grass’s part. But then, so should all of DeLong’s harshest critics.

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Keith M Ellis 05.13.05 at 5:26 pm

“You’re a fascist twat, keith m ellis. You’re also ugly.”

This is supposed to be self-parody, right? Right? Someone tell me that it is. It’s just barely possible that ogmb has a very clever, self-deprecating and conflict-defusing sense of humor. On the other hand, everything else he’s written would indicate he’s deadly serious in this quote. Which is really, really damn depressing.

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Keith M Ellis 05.13.05 at 5:31 pm

“Ignore the insults and respond to the rest.”

Make an actual argument and I will. What you wrote is merely a charge of shallow, morally bankrupt materialism on the basis of a) he’s a neoliberal economist; and b) he writes about some of the material goods he enjoys. Those two points don’t make an argument. They make a slur butressed by two facts that appeal to many people’s prejudices but don’t actually argue anything. Such a serious charge, using such strong language, with nothing even approaching the level of detail and rigor of what even I admit is the deeply flawed and wrong argument of DeLong’s and in the context of criticizing that argument of DeLong’s…well, that’s the stuff of what “shit” is made.

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ArC 05.13.05 at 5:51 pm

DeLong should have stopped and considered possibilities other than his quick jump to the assumption of very bad faith on Grass’s part.

DeLong, IME, has used the most hyperbolic terms to describe those he disagrees with (and yeah, on brief and sometimes ill-considered skim-throughs) more often than I’d like. That is, by my count, Grass wasn’t the first.

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seth edenbaum 05.13.05 at 5:55 pm

‘And don’t toss me in with everyone else here.’

That’s something I regret writing.

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Keith M Ellis 05.13.05 at 5:59 pm

I really don’t have any more energy for this, especially since I disagreed from the first with both DeLong’s post and how he wrote it.

A few years ago, I was involved in an argument with a fellow alumnus of the peculiar college I attended which includes a great deal of study of western moral and political philosophy. And I was arguing, as I always do, the moral necessity of taking the fallibilist position. “Why”, this woman asked me, “Should I need to constantly consider the possibilty that I’m wrong when, almost by definition and necessity as a thinking person, I already ‘know’ that I’m right insofar as I’m thoughtful?” And I wondered, did she read different books than I read?

I argued in the other thread that at some level I essentially agree with DeLong about something deeply implicit in this controversy. And that is that there is an almost unrelenting attack on the idea of economics as a branch of moral philosophy. The attack isn’t even, mostly, explicit. It needn’t be explicit because, for most people left-of-center, the subject of the study of economics (unless it is a sort of descriptive repudiation of it in moral philosophical terms) is prima facie assumed to be essentially immoral—it is the leftist, secular version of the Money Lenders in the Temple. The idea that social justice could be furthered via the activity that economists study is, at best, a sort of unfortunate present failure of the imagination and, at worst, a complete contradiction in terms. And thus it is oh-so-easy to jump right to the “DeLong is an evil, selfish, anitcommunitarian materialist who represents a sort of force of entropy against the Good” point of view. See Seth’s, and others, diatribes against him and neoliberal economists for examples. Hardly anyone left-of-center even begins to take seriously the possibility that Brad could be deeply, honestly, thoughtfully angry from what is, at root, a generous, communitarian, and nonmaterialist ethos that is expressed via his advocacy for neoliberal economics. If such people could imagine such a thing, they’d be able to see the possiblity that Brad may have reacted badly out of haste and ignorance but from the best of intentions…not unlike all of us do from time to time. No, because they cannot see this, they (like Brad with regard to Grass!) are quick to assume that this angry voice which advocates a point of view in opposition to their own must, by necessity, be ill-intentioned. Or willfully ignorant. Or subconsciously malicious. Or shallow. Or a crypto-fascist.

Brad’s reaction and conclusion about Grass were wrong, but not in bad faith. Not with general malice against the general principles that both he and Grass claim to support. Similarly, I think that Seth’s reaction and conclusion about Brad (in this context, from what I’ve read from Edenbaum in this context) are also wrong but not in bad-faith. That’s why I said I do not hate him. The failure of Seth, or others, to be similarly generous toward DeLong—or, hell, to me—only underscores how very sad it is in a sense that their complaint is that DeLong failed to be so generous with Grass.

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Keith M Ellis 05.13.05 at 6:01 pm

“That is, by my count, Grass wasn’t the first.”

Oh…I can’t help but respond to this, since it’s important and perhaps in my verbosity people have missed my adressing this point. It certainly isn’t the first, it is a bad habit of DeLong’s and it’s something I think he wrongly prides himself on. And, to the point, it’s something that, when his current critics agree with him, they cheer. A hugely important lesson is waiting here for all those who choose to read it. Especially DeLong.

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seth edenbaum 05.13.05 at 7:05 pm

Mr Ellis, you miss my point (again)
“Helbronerian” economics may be a branch of moral philosophy but “Longian” economics most certainly is not.

–“Why… Should I need to constantly consider the possibilty that I’m wrong when, almost by definition and necessity as a thinking person, I already ‘know’ that I’m right insofar as I’m thoughtful?”—
What. You Quoting DeLong?
I didn’t accuse him of having dirty hands, I’m accused him of having no sense of moral ambiguity, or of his own culpability in anything. I compared DeLong to Chomsky for christ’s sake, in his obliviousness to the ins and outs the flaws and fuckups of human behavior. You accuse me of moralizing? I don’t give a shit. All my friends are stockbrokers. But hypocrisy I can’t stand. And DeLong’s mechanized logic is absurd and hollow, and he knows it. Why the hell else would he go so nuts over one stupid article?

He wants to pretend he’s a moral philosopher, but he’s not. He’s a number cruncher and that’s all. He should stick to Tolkien and leave Chaucer and Proust and Billy Wilder to those who like stories for adults.

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Keith M Ellis 05.13.05 at 7:56 pm

“He wants to pretend he’s a moral philosopher, but he’s not. He’s a number cruncher and that’s all. He should stick to Tolkien and leave Chaucer and Proust and Billy Wilder to those who like stories for adults.”

That’s egregiously pugnacious. For example, I’m pretty sure that at least one or two of the bona fide philosophers here on CT read Tolkien (and, oh no, science fiction). That’s just a cheap shot that hurts your argument, not helps it.

I just don’t see why you’re so sure he’s in no sense a moral philosopher (insofar as any of us who aren’t bona fide moral philosophers could be such). He doesn’t even have a phil undergrad degree, true. Not a minor, either, I don’t think. On the other hand, that seems a paltry basis on which to make such a determination, given the seriousness of the matter. Because he does seem quite extraordinarily erudite on humanistic works. And the moral reasoning I’ve seen has not, to me, seemed either simplistic or uninformed or inexperienced. And while not a moral philosopher myself, I do have some significant educational expertise in the subject so my opinion doesn’t count for nothing.

And then secondarily, there is the derogatory connotation of “number-crucher” (see my previous comment). It seems to me that it is not clear at all that there may not in fact be exceptionally large value in the utility of “number-crunching”, shall we say, with regard to moral analysis. Maybe not. But maybe so; and, if so, the DeLongs would be the spiritual guides of our future (assuming we would have the wit to follow them, were their intuitions correct).

So again I’m left with a strong impression that your criticism is mostly one of a sort of tempermental bias—not so much one actually a product of intellectual rigor. You find his conclusions disagreeable. You find his methods, his approach, disagreable. Therefore, his claim to moral validity in his project must be false. He is a charlatan—an accusation, in this context of morality, to be especially serious. Indeed, I now see that I shouldn’t be surprised that you compare him to Chomsky.

“You accuse me of moralizing? I don’t give a shit. All my friends are stockbrokers.”

No, I don’t accuse you of moralizing. I moralize and I’m proud of being a moralizer among a left that refuses to (explicitly) moralize. But you go far beyond moralizing. You go beyond DeLong’s accusation against Grass. Yes, his accusation taken alone was more serious: being a “crypto-Nazi scum” is pretty damn bad. But you tear DeLong into small pieces and find nothing redeemable, nothing even of value. You play the role of forensic psychologist and declare DeLong just this side of a sociopath. Taken all together, that seems to me to be ultimately almost the worst accusation one person could make against another. And there is far more hubris in doing so, in disecting DeLong’s mind, his soul really, than there is in saying that in Grass DeLong has detected crypto-Nazism.

“But hypocrisy I can’t stand. And DeLong’s mechanized logic is absurd and hollow, and he knows it. Why the hell else would he go so nuts over one stupid article?”

I could ask why you would go so nuts over DeLong.

And somehow in a way I can’t completely articulate, there seems to me to be much hypocrisy in your own failure for self-examination of your accusations against DeLong, particularly given that part of your complaint is that he hasn’t earned the right to be so morally smug, to denounce someone as he has Grass. But I could say the same about you. And, like you, hypocrisy is not a minor sin, to me it is a venal sin. It is in a way the chief sin that enables most others.

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JR 05.13.05 at 8:44 pm

People, you post too long. Be less self-indulgent if you want to be read.

Keith M Ellis, Brad certainly was in bad faith. He’d never heard of Grass (he calls him “this Nobel laureate” with a sneer). He doesn’t know anything about German politics but writes about “Hartz IV” as he hadn’t first heard of it 2 days ago. He’s pretending to knowledge he doesn’t have in order to smear someone who’s ten times the man he is.

That’s what they do over at the Corner, and it’s bad faith from a liberal just as it is from a wingnut.

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seth edenbaum 05.13.05 at 11:42 pm

jr,
‘Pow!’ ‘Blam! ‘Ooph!’ etc..

Okay I’m a bit drunk, lets get to it.
I’ve gone through this enough times with DeLong I forget my old points. But luckily Pankaj Mishra reminds me of one:

DeLong conflates the classical aristocratic pursuit of ‘virtue’ with that of self interest [If you do a search of my site you’ll find I’ve said that before. A the moment I’m too drunk -go use google] But there’s a contradiction in there kids, between the attempt of the individual to understand and act within the constraints of morality- even to the points of a certain aristocratic ‘asceticism’ and the proclamation of the hipness of the brand spanking -goddamn fucking- new. Which is it Brad, progress (by way of desire) or moral seriousness? Can you even articulate the contradiction? Do you even know that it exists?
Yeah and you got outsmarted by a 22 dollar an hour sheet-rocker. That’s capitalism baby.
Unsophisticated auto-mechanic on a power trip.
“Tomorrow I shall be sober”

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/article-preview?article_id=17991
read the article.
goodnight Keith

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ogmb 05.14.05 at 1:50 am

the keith m ellis smug-detecting action figure drones on:
in a way I can’t completely articulate

THANK GOD for that.

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Keith M Ellis 05.14.05 at 2:17 am

“THANK GOD for that.”

Is it worth the effort to note that if my droning offends, my inability to completely articulate an idea is not a blessing to to those reading, but a curse? Are you this intellectually incoherent all the time, or is it just something you ate this morning?

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moni 05.14.05 at 3:12 am

It’s not so clear from that piece that Grass doesn’t sympathize with a generic “these foreign/alien influences, related to capital and its cabals, are what ails Germany” echo of Nazi antisemitism

Note to Germans: please abstain from making any kind of political debate and criticism which, though entirely legitimate and within the bounds of democratic discourse (as opposed to neo-nazi racism and incitement to violence) can be read as directly or indirectly echoing, in a totally de-contextualised manner, some of the rhetoric that was used by a dictatorship.

Otherwise some professor in America who doesn’t even know what you’re talking about or what he is talking about will get mad at you! and you don’t want that, because American companies invest in Germany, and you see where this is going. Less jobs for you! We’re going to China, nar nar nar.

(Note to anti-war people: please stop protesting the war in Iraq, you’re echoing the terrorists).

Note to Germans again: in case your country ever gets invaded by Russia, please abstain from complaining about it because the nazis did it before.

Note to Iraqis: you too, are forbidden to complain about foreign invaders, because, you know, very bad people have done it. This is the standard of debate in a democracy, brothers and sisters! Learn and take note. Ah, but no complaining about democracy not working properly, either, because only crypto-baathists do that. In short: everyone shut up and spend more money, because capitalism needs you. Geld macht frei, ja.

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modus potus 05.14.05 at 5:27 am

keith m ellis writes:
It needn’t be explicit because, for most people left-of-center, the subject of the study of economics (unless it is a sort of descriptive repudiation of it in moral philosophical terms) is prima facie assumed to be essentially immoral—it is the leftist, secular version of the Money Lenders in the Temple.

Not immoral, amoral, like mathematics. However, any assumption that economics in isolation has any moral authority whatever is likely to lead to immoral acts.

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Uncle Kvetch 05.14.05 at 9:24 am

Note to Germans:

Well said, Moni. I’ll add one more, courtesy of Prof. DeLong: “If you refer to ‘Jews’ in any context whatsoever, you are an anti-Semite. If you fail to refer to ‘Jews,’ you are an anti-Semite.”

While we’re at it, today’s news brings up one more:

Note to Uzbeks:
You want freedom? You can’t handle freedom!

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otto 05.14.05 at 9:42 am

from the Economist’s letter page this week:
http://www.economist.com/opinion/displayStory.cfm?story_id=3960711

German capitalism

SIR – Your article on German capitalism (“Locust, pocus”, Economist.com, May 5th) does not give adequate importance to a crucial, missing ingredient for German economic growth: positive thinking. Most Germans at work act like they are under attack the whole time: defending their unconditional rights, demeaning their co-workers and grouping into obstructive factions, while Anglo-Saxon thinking remains perpetually positive. Such rigid and negative thinking cannot yield productivity and growth. Instead of criticism, negativism and fear of the future, people in Germany should enjoy their high standard of living and relax. Maybe after another vacation, they will consider living up to the real meaning of Sozialstaat, which is solidarity, equal opportunity and a little tender loving care for your work mates.

Andreja Lamberger

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seth edenbaum 05.14.05 at 11:22 am

The issue for Grass as it was for Sebald was the German inability to mourn their own losses, the point being that only by doing do will Germans begin to understand their crimes. Read ‘On the Natural History of Destruction.’ Grass and Sebald describe and by describing argue against the autism of postwar German culture, the emotional deadness that was the corollary of the productivism of the economic miracle. Read Boll, watch the New German Cinema of the 70’s, consider Richter and the Bechers and all their students. DeLong can’t accept the ambiguities of such an argument, that emotion inflects all consciousness. He knows nothing about art (and as i keep reminding most of you reading this, you’re not much better off.)

You can say you believe anything you want: you can sit at home in a your silk pajamas and smoking jacket claiming to defend world revolution or pure economic logic and sounding like an ass, or you can describe yourself, your house, your friends, you politics and your silk pajamas with care and detail, and your description may allow others to understand how and why you exhibit such odd behavior, all without making an ass of yourself except to those like DeLong who just yell back at you that you’re being illogical. But everyone’s illogical (Just ask an anthropologist.) Another reason I’m sick of people who shake their heads over the persistence of religion.

Well, DeLong takes his faith a lot more seriously either Günter Grass or I do. And Grass in his novelist’s indulgence in his own subjectivity is a hell of a lot more objective in his analysis. Score one more for literature against political ‘science.’

Hung over on a saturday morning.

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john c. halasz 05.14.05 at 6:40 pm

Loathe as I am to interfere in such a tedious, misdirectedly trivial debate, (which mistakes Bic lighters for flame-throwers), aside from the tendency of literary types toward attitudinizing, since they might tend to forget the necessary, because constitutive, gap between art and life, and mistake their own reading for intelligence of reality, it should be remarked that works of art are not per se marks or measures of objectivity, (anymore than they are repositories of “subjectivity”, which latter concept is just a reflex of the former), and that the inability to mourn is not just a problem for Germans. But, for all we might owe to the impulses of desperate melancholy of the creative ones for their illuminating works, which may well be a substitution for any actual reparation, art remains sheer illusion, whether beautiful or “ugly”, whether high or low, and literature pure rhetoric. It is their insolent sneering that obstructs Seth’s deliverances, which, Keith, nuturing his own neurosis, mistakes for smugness, when the malignant component in “vanity” might be a more precise identification. It might help if Seth would try for more liquor and less vinegar when he ferments his honey. Sweet meade to y’all and cheers!

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Keith M Ellis 05.14.05 at 7:28 pm

I feel like I’ve been kidnapped by an alien and analy probed. Actually, it doesn’t feel as icky as I thought it would. Seth, however, may need another drink.

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seth edenbaum 05.14.05 at 8:21 pm

There’s a difference between rhetoric and empty rhetoric
“…art remains sheer illusion, whether beautiful or “ugly”, whether high or low, and literature pure rhetoric.”

Oy vey

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SombreroFallout 05.14.05 at 9:14 pm

W/o delving into the minutia, I find it incredibly ill-informed and hypocritical for DeLong to take on Grass on the issue of fascism.

The USA has no obligation to to surrender democratic decision-making mechanisms to the WTO. Nor does Germany, or any other sovereign nation, have any obligation to knuckle under to international capitalism. To follow orders.

Anything short of democratic, sovereign decision-making is indeed totalitarian in principle, and in fact.

Re the quote below: recall that John Bolton repeatedly told the nation, the world, and Schroeder that he, and Germany “should just shut up and follow orders!”

Bolton said this in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, on national TV, while Germany and France were resisting he U.S. rush to war.

It’s a clear reference to the Holocaust, reminding Germany of the past (as though it were still 1960), and pointedly, explicitly telling them that Germany and its “good Germans” had “followed orders” once (i.e. in carrying out the Holocaust) — and that they
would follow orders again.

But this time the USA would be giving the orders.

> Grass’s scorn for the “Federal Republic’s almost unconditional subservience to the United States” echoes Nazi demands for a Germany freed from the chains and limitations of the Treaty of Versailles.

DeLong is profoundly wrong on this issue, factually, and in principle.

And riddle me this: If Gunter Grass is really so wrong, then how come is it that John Bolton gets to “give orders” or even assume such a role?!? Even rhetorically?

Ane why, pray tell, can the USA be subservient to the WTO when no democratic decision allocated such power to them, and no WTO decision has been democratically approved w/in the US??

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agm 05.15.05 at 5:37 am

Brad may have reacted badly out of haste and ignorance but from the best of intentions

May be a bit late and get no response, but two questions pop into my mind.

1) Mr. Ellis, what makes you so sure that Prof. DeLong was acting in good faith when it’s simply impossible for him to be unaware of the impacts calling some Nazi and scum have? It’s rather improbable that someone at Cal is unaware of the baggage attached here.

2) Mr. Edenbaum, please, could you tone it down a little? Your signal-to-noise ratio is dropping quickly.

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raj 05.15.05 at 8:24 am

The issue for Grass as it was for Sebald was the German inability to mourn their own losses, the point being that only by doing do will Germans begin to understand their crimes.

Regardless of what the issue for Grass was, this is silly. The German people have been beaten over their heads regarding their crimes for sixty years. And as a result have largely come to ignore them.

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john c. halasz 05.15.05 at 9:09 am

Hey, Seth, baby, the notion of “empty rhetoric” goes back to the Stoics. It was not the predominance of opinion in the Classical world, for some good reasons. So why d’ja think you can “oy vey” the current account?

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seth edenbaum 05.15.05 at 10:57 am

Have you read Crabwalk? Have you read Sebald? Do you know anything about the recent arguments in Germany about history and memory and the ‘right’ to mourn? [that’s for you too raj] Have you read the piece on Pfaff in the NYR? Do you understand the argument?

And this?

“…art remains sheer illusion, whether beautiful or “ugly”, whether high or low, and literature pure rhetoric.”

Your rhetoric is empty because it is nothing but assertion, and inane at that. One studies baroque architecture to understand the formal rigor of the produced by and within the idea of the baroque. What ideas were central for the period; what were the tastes and manners; what were the modes of thought, the philosophies? How are they manifest in brick and stone?
This is history. To respect history is to respect art.

Signal to noise? Noise was all I had left, dealing with all this arrogant, illiterate, uneducable stupidity.
I’m arrogant for a reason. I’ll assert that now

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john c. halasz 05.15.05 at 6:11 pm

Seth, baby, I’ve read Grass, but not “Crabwalk”. I haven’t read Sebald, but I’ve sure as heck heard of him. In fact, he’s been discussed on CT. But I didn’t say that literature was “empty” rhetoric, but rather *pure* rhetoric. Ya know, like prayer? But evidently the liquor’s getting to you. When you said you were arrogant for a reason, you were starting to mix up your r’s and l’s.

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seth edenbaum 05.15.05 at 6:20 pm

In language nothing is pure.

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george 05.16.05 at 3:52 pm

Just out of curiosity, has any Crooked Timber poster ever corrected a nontrivial error? In my experience, the usual MO for an errant post here is to let it slip quietly off the front page.

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raj 05.16.05 at 9:22 pm

Do you know anything about the recent arguments in Germany about history and memory and the ‘right’ to mourn? [that’s for you too raj] Have you read the piece on Pfaff in the NYR?

Um, no. I’ve talked to actual, you know, Germans. In German. Auf Deutsch.

I stand by my comment.

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abb1 05.17.05 at 3:55 pm

I have a friend who lives in Germany, has been for more than a decade now. He says every time a conversation touches the war period their reaction is always the same: it was a terrible thing, thank god no one from my family had anything to do with it.

It’s a bit like 1973 opinion polls showing that almost no one voted for Nixon in 1972 – when he was re-elected in a landslide.

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