Vast, Conservative Literary-Persecution Complex

by John Holbo on July 8, 2014

It’s lazy days of summer, so here’s some low-hanging fruit: a long essay by Adam Bellow at NR, advocating for a conservative literary counter-culture to the totalitarian thing we’ve got now.

What is it that Bellow actually wants? Is it: let a thousand flowers bloom, so long as they are all paranoid dystopias about the liberal fascist not-so-distant-future? Surely not. A new T.S. Eliot? But what’s stopping him? Ignatius P. Reilly, but not treated like some sort of dunce? What? Consider this bit:

By harnessing the passions of offended minorities to the power of social media, the Left has created a hurricane of politicized indignation that can be directed wherever it likes and levels everything it touches. Meanwhile the general response is the same as it was for me at Clarion: embarrassed silence and the fear of being targeted yourself. This is a key point, for just as bad as outright censorship (which cannot be imposed to the extent the Left would like) is the censorship people impose on themselves in order to avoid being punished with the loss of their reputation and livelihood.

The Left has adopted this strategy for obvious reasons: They cannot win the argument on its merits, and unlike their counterparts elsewhere they can’t consistently win (or steal) elections.

It seems like the aspiration is this: a safe place where I can think these thoughts without fear of being mocked or accused of being in the wrong. But which thoughts are they? Bellow doesn’t say.

The new conservative counterculture is a rebellion from below and from without. Fueled by the rise of digital self-publishing technologies, it is a simultaneous revolt against the hierarchical control of mass media and the ideological narrowing of acceptable discourse.

But what is it that he wants to say that is beyond the bounds of current discourse?

Recently Mel Brooks observed that one of his funniest movies, Blazing Saddles, couldn’t be made today.

So the goal is Blazing Saddles II: Blaze Harder?

This cresting wave of right-wing creativity is raw and untamed. But what it lacks in polish it makes up for in invention and energy.

But if the problem is supposed to be that conservatives are currently too daunted by the discourse police, then the problem is the opposite: too much polish, as oppressed conservatives try (unsuccessfully) to ‘pass’, not enough raw, untamed energy.

Now, many liberals believe (and many on the right privately agree) that conservatives can’t “do” culture. They can’t produce great music, they can’t be funny, and they can’t keep their political ideas out of the way of their stories and novels.

But we aren’t going to form a gulag archipelago of conservative writing programs just to teach conservatives how to keep their conservative ideas from shining through. Isn’t the idea supposed to be to wave your conservative freak flag proudly? That’s the point of the counter-culture analogy, right?

These are the voices not of ideologues but of free individuals exercising their birthright as Americans to think and write with fearless independence. But they are up against tremendous odds. Scattered all over the country, they are isolated geographically and culturally. They feel embattled and excluded. Many are aware that they are taking a risk and prefer to publish pseudonymously.

What non-ideological thing are they saying, which they are allegedly being persecuted for saying?

Back to the beach for me!

{ 216 comments }

1

John Glover 07.08.14 at 1:27 pm

“By harnessing the passions of offended minorities to the power of social media, the Left has created a hurricane of politicized indignation that can be directed wherever it likes and levels everything it touches. Meanwhile the general response is the same as it was for me at Clarion: embarrassed silence and the fear of being targeted yourself. This is a key point, for just as bad as outright censorship (which cannot be imposed to the extent the Left would like) is the censorship people impose on themselves in order to avoid being punished with the loss of their reputation and livelihood.
The Left has adopted this strategy for obvious reasons: They cannot win the argument on its merits, and unlike their counterparts elsewhere they can’t consistently win (or steal) elections.”

Let’s see if I have this straight. We are dealing with issue X. L takes position Y, which most people agree with. C says “Position Y is stupid. You should adopt position Z instead.” Most people react with horror at what C says.

But for some reason, L “cannot win the argument.” As near as I can tell, L has already won it. Further, L has won it “on its merits.”

Unless, of course, you define “winning” as convincing people to adopt a position they don’t really agree with.

I had thought that democracy was a system whereby rules are adopted that most people agree with.

Silly me.

2

MPAVictoria 07.08.14 at 1:33 pm

Shorter Adam Bellow: Free Markets! Except when I don’t like the results! In which case subsidies for stories about Free Markets!

3

Ronan(rf) 07.08.14 at 1:42 pm

Whatever about the rest of the essay (which I haven’t, and won’t, read) This:

“By harnessing the passions of offended minorities to the power of social media, the Left has created a hurricane of politicized indignation that can be directed wherever it likes and levels everything it touches.”

Is largely true. (Although it seems to drive political discourse on the – North american and british – left and right equally, and is slowly consuming the world.)
I think the moniker Irish nationalists were given of – (M)ost (O)ppressed (P)eople(E)ver has finally been passed to the twitter outrage machine ! Congrats to all involved !

4

Barry Freed 07.08.14 at 1:43 pm

They want to say the N-word. That’s really all there is to it. They want to say the N-word anywhere they please and to anyone they please and not get called out for it. They’re like toddlers who are told not to put beans up their nose.

5

Christiaan Hofman 07.08.14 at 1:46 pm

“The Left has adopted this strategy for obvious reasons: They cannot win the argument on its merits, and unlike their counterparts elsewhere they can’t consistently win (or steal) elections.”

Why is it that Right always accuses the Left of the Right’s excesses?

6

Peter K. 07.08.14 at 1:49 pm

Bellow:
“Here in a nutshell were the ideas and methods of the contemporary Left, including its reactionary humorlessness, its bullying tone, and its impulse to dictate what people may and may not say. The Left has always understood the importance of language to its transformational project. If you can control the use and even the meaning of words, as Orwell showed in 1984, they cannot be used to express dissenting views, or even to formulate the thoughts that might inform such intellectual resistance. And if you cannot actually dictate people’s thoughts, you can force them into silence by making it too costly to express them.”

I know you are but what am I? The “contemporary Right” has become expert in bullying the media into repeating its preferred narrative and distorting words like “freedom.” What planet does Bellow live on? Planet Academia?

As John Quiggin recently blogged “The Republican party is, in essence, a combination of an ethnic voting bloc (Southern whites) and an economic interest group.” How do the rightwing intellectuals rationalize the dumbness of their democratic voting base and major campaign donors? That they’re useful?

But they’re still …. you know, morons.

7

MPAVictoria 07.08.14 at 1:52 pm

“Is largely true. (Although it seems to drive political discourse on the – North american and british – left and right equally, and is slowly consuming the world.)”

Not saying you are doing this but I find that most people who complain about “Political Correctness” are just mad that they are not allowed to be assholes in public to those they consider their social inferiors.

8

bianca steele 07.08.14 at 1:54 pm

That is one of the weirdest pieces of non-fiction I’ve ever read. Blazing Saddles came out in 1974. The Clarion conference Adam Bellow occurred in . . . the age of social media . . . in other words, 1976. (Mr. Sammler’s Planet was published in 1970. But Adam Bellow was shocked, shocked! by the inklings of incipient political correctness six years later.) Maybe the Trafalmadorans got him?

9

William Timberman 07.08.14 at 1:55 pm

A new literary figure, the victimbully. Created and perfected by Rush Limbaugh after the Charles Atlas ads on the backs of old comic books. Adam Bellow’s kinda late to the game, and on the face of it, probably too dumb even to carry Limbaugh’s suits out to the Gulfstream.

10

Ronan(rf) 07.08.14 at 2:04 pm

@7 – I have no problem with common sense ‘political correctness’ that takes some account of actual existing mores and speech norms as they exist in the world at this moment, and works from there. I just don’t buy PC as political napalm, which works as a tactic to bully and intimidate and shut down debate. (ironically often use as a justification for being an asshole in public..which I am also, I agree, although I do try)
I agree fully with the piece quoted. Sections of the social media/social justic left are completly nuts.

11

Ronan(rf) 07.08.14 at 2:05 pm

..do try not to be ; ) that is

12

rea 07.08.14 at 2:07 pm

From the Clarion Workshop, 1976:

I remarked to one of the women in the group, in what was meant to be a compliment, that she had “balls” for tackling a particularly difficult subject in one of her stories. Joanna [Russ], who had caught a bad cold and was sunk in her chair, groaning and blowing her nose, suddenly roused herself to rebuke me for using this paternalistic epithet.

I kind of saw her point. I had used a phrase that unconsciously valorized courage as a masculine trait. But I didn’t see why I should be called out in front of the group and angrily chastised as though I were merely an embodiment of the white male heterosexual power structure. I stood my ground as best I could, protesting that my intentions had been good and that I was not responsible for 50,000 years of patriarchy. The other members of the group sat silently, embarrassed and clearly intimidated.

Man, this is a writers’ workshop. The whole point is to learn something about the use of language, using a group approach. Now note, all these years later, he’s not attempting to defend his language choice as good or appropriate in context. Instead, he asserts that his intentions were good. Well, fine–you’re not really the sexist asshole your language seems to indicate. But learn your lesson–don’t talk that way. And if you don’t want to be taught lessons about use of language, do something with your time other than go to writers’ workshops.

13

MPAVictoria 07.08.14 at 2:12 pm

” I have no problem with common sense ‘political correctness’ that takes some account of actual existing mores and speech norms as they exist in the world at this moment, and works from there.”

The whole point of “Political Correctness” is that some of the mores and speech norms that currently exist are harmful/demeaning/insulting to segments of the population and should be changed. From my perspective that fact that calling someone a “dyke” or a “wetback” or whatever is not acceptable in (most) professional environments is progress.

14

Theophylact 07.08.14 at 2:14 pm

And he hasn’t learned much about writing since 1976, either.

15

Theophylact 07.08.14 at 2:15 pm

I’ll take the late Joanna Russ over the living Adam Bellow any day of the week.

16

David 07.08.14 at 2:15 pm

While I disagree with the excesses of the so called “social justice warriors”, their energy and drive is useful in countering irrationally self-confident and assertive right-wing discourse. I support them even if I find them mildly irritating.

17

PJW 07.08.14 at 2:23 pm

First no Blazing Saddles, then no The Life of Brian: http://bullybloggers.wordpress.com/2014/07/05/you-are-triggering-me-the-neo-liberal-rhetoric-of-harm-danger-and-trauma/

Some strange affinities between the two articles.

18

rea 07.08.14 at 2:24 pm

And also: as though I were merely an embodiment of the white male heterosexual power structure.

Bear in mind that the guy saying this is this is the kid who made a big splash at the writers’ conference when his dad was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature during the conference. (Clarion runs 6 weeks in the summer–June-August; Saul Bellow’s prize was announced in early July). So yeah, he was something of the embodiment of the white male heterosexual power structure.

19

JustinV 07.08.14 at 2:25 pm

“These are the voices not of ideologues but of free individuals exercising their birthright as Americans to think and write with fearless independence. But they are up against tremendous odds. Scattered all over the country, they are isolated geographically and culturally. They feel embattled and excluded. Many are aware that they are taking a risk and prefer to publish pseudonymously.”

This is silly. The “Left Behind” novels were wildly popular. Mark Helprin is reasonably well regarded as a literary novelist. In the vast space between hack religious propaganda and well reviewed literary novels there are other successful conservative authors of fiction or fiction with more or less conservative messages. Kent Haruf exists and writes novels about small town life replete with messages about well-worn virtues and timeless verities. I have no idea how he votes, though, and people are depicted engaging in sexual congress from time to time. The problem seems to be precisely that these people are ideologues and require political purity before literary production.

It is possible that the literary merit of the work Bellow calls for is compromised by its nature and is for that reason regarded as terrible. There must be conflict and some basis in the lived experience of the reader (one can write successful conservative fantasy like Lewis, Tolkein, and Chesterton – but one must still make the world more or less believable). As a premise for art, “America is great and the New York Times is a powerful enemy of that greatness” contains neither of those qualities.

The Zhdanov Doctrine is not a reasonable template for a robust intellectual movement.

20

bianca steele 07.08.14 at 2:27 pm

AFAICS, Bellow wants to use “left” to mean “people who use social media”; and if you object that he’s not free to make up his own meanings, as far as he’s concerned, you’re the Language Police. It’s possible he also wants to use “I” to mean “a fictional character something like me and something like you,” and it would be language-police-y to complain that the facts don’t make sense.

But the idea that he made it through childhood without any authority figure or peer ever dressing him down for something he felt was innocent, doesn’t ring true to me.

21

Bruce Wilder 07.08.14 at 2:43 pm

An antihero, perhaps?

22

Shakezula 07.08.14 at 2:44 pm

“By harnessing the passions of offended minorities to the power of social media, the Left has created a hurricane of politicized indignation that can be directed wherever it likes and levels everything it touches.”

Yes Adam. Outside agitators made the meek, gentle, obedient neeegroes into scary, aggressive, disrespectful n-words.

Keep telling yourself that. And don’t forget that women would be perfectly biddable, stay-at-home cookie bakers if it weren’t for The Left’s Feminazi Army.

23

John Holbo 07.08.14 at 2:47 pm

“Bear in mind that the guy saying this is this is the kid who made a big splash at the writers’ conference when his dad was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature during the conference. (Clarion runs 6 weeks in the summer–June-August; Saul Bellow’s prize was announced in early July). So yeah, he was something of the embodiment of the white male heterosexual power structure.”

That’s a fun fact. It almost makes me feel sympathetic. I think attending a writing workshop the same week my dad wins the Nobel Prize for literature sounds like a story that ends ‘and then I woke up and felt an enormous rush of relief’.

24

Anarcissie 07.08.14 at 2:50 pm

The problem of ‘political correctness’ is a consequence of participation in bourgeois institutions. On the one hand, the bourgeoisie must always be about their business of revolutionizing the means of production, imperialism, etc. etc. etc. On the other, they’re usually pretty comfortable, pretty well off, don’t want to cause too much trouble because who knows what might happen. So, when the business is discourse. as in academia and the boss media, discourse must be propertized and managed. It must not be too offensive, especially along tribal lines. Each registered participant becomes responsible for the whole, and disrupters, heretics, cranks, and psychotics must be thrown out of the temple. So this Bellow character is complaining about something he totally signed up for, which is pretty silly.

I have to say, though, that going up to some women at a writers’ workshop and telling one of them, admiringly, that she had balls, is pretty funny. In fact, it’s pushing the humor envelope, one might say.

25

Main Street Muse 07.08.14 at 2:53 pm

““By harnessing the passions of offended minorities to the power of social media, the Left has created a hurricane of politicized indignation that can be directed wherever it likes and levels everything it touches.”

???? Wondering how Bellow has missed the Right’s adept use of social media and its own Level 5 Hurricanes of politicized indignation, including Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and everyone on Fox “News.”

I do find it hilarious that the young son of Saul found himself brutally chastised at a 1976 writer’s conference by a feminist for using “balls” to “unconsciously valorize courage as a masculine trait.”

This essay is FILLED win unintentional humor! Like this: “When I joined the culture war in 1988 as an editor of nonfiction books, conservatives had little to read.” Eight years into the Reagan era – of course we were all dying in that terrible drought of conservative ideas and books…

Apparently in Bellow’s mind, the only discourse is complete and total agreement with the conservative agenda. That’s some reality he’s got going on in his mind.

One must feel sorry for Bellow, a little man who’s never moved far from the shadow of daddy.

26

Ben Alpers 07.08.14 at 2:54 pm

This Cresting Wave of Right-Wing Creativity would be a great band name.

If it’s a post-rock outfit, This Cresting Wave of Right-Wing Creativity is Raw and Untamed would be even better.

27

John Holbo 07.08.14 at 2:58 pm

“This Cresting Wave of Right-Wing Creativity”

Agreed!

But I hope, despite the arty name, they are drop-D-ocons, and that the cresting wave consists of good old-fashioned power chords.

28

Zamfir 07.08.14 at 3:27 pm

“America is great and the New York Times is a powerful enemy of that greatness” contains neither of those qualities.
Oi? It’s got a conflict right there, and many Americans take ‘America is great’ as a lived experience, an empirical true fact about the world.

A good writer could write a good book about, say, a young idealist from the country who joins the news forces of the city and slowly becomes corrupted by them. Or an American Buddenbrooks, where every generation loses entrepreneurial virtue and decends further into hipsterdom. With the last generation joining the cynical ranks of the NY Times, only capable to rally against the values that the family once exhibited itself.

Someone could also write very bad books on such premises, but I don’t think that is inherent in the concept.

29

Ronan(rf) 07.08.14 at 3:32 pm

“The whole point of “Political Correctness” is that some of the mores and speech norms that currently exist are harmful/demeaning/insulting to segments of the population and should be changed. From my perspective that fact that calling someone a “dyke” or a “wetback” or whatever is not acceptable in (most) professional environments is progress.”

Sure, but I also think there’s room for common sense and objectivity and generosity in all of this, and it’s generally missing. I’m not going to go to the barricades for a persons right to say dyke and wetback (or nigger) , or to abuse people on account of reason X, and if it was just those terms we were talking about (rather than a style of discourse and endless offense taking) there wouldn’t be a problem.

30

roger gathman 07.08.14 at 3:35 pm

I believe the cresting wave of right-wing creativity was first used in one of the sex scenes in Scooter Libby’s 1996 novel. It is the scene where the hero is approaching orgasm: “and as she position papered herself on the sofa, exposing her deregulation, I felt the beating of my heart and the cresting wave of right wing creativity coursing through my virility.”
This is soon to be re-issued with a preface by Harvey Mansfield, in which he laments that such a novel could not be written in today’s climate of correctness.

31

P O'Neill 07.08.14 at 3:46 pm

Also in terms of band names, it seems his problem is The Pains of Being Impure at Heart.

32

Donald Johnson 07.08.14 at 4:05 pm

Bellow–

“For years conservatives have favored the rational left brain at the expense of the right. “

From the movement that gave us creationism, climate change denialism, and the evidence-based approach to thwarting the WMD threat in Iraq.

33

CJColucci 07.08.14 at 4:07 pm

Let me get this straight. Adam SaulsKid Bellow is still miffed that an instructor in a writing workshop conducted during the Ford administration dared call him out for (rightly, as he admits) using language that implied, not very subtly, that courage was a masculine, rather than a human, quality. He complains about his insufficiently deferential treatment at the hands of writers most of us have never heard of. He won’t accept the verdict of the free cultural market that his kind don’t write appealing books or make appealing movies. He wants someone, somewhere, to do something about it.
Hey, Adam SaulsKid, stop whining; grow a pair — if you’ll pardon the expression — and write something somebody might actually want to read.

34

phosphorious 07.08.14 at 4:44 pm

” . . . just as bad as outright censorship is the censorship people impose on themselves in order to avoid being punished with the loss of their reputation and livelihood.”

Does he mean the free market? Because what he just said there sounds like the free market. Which it sounds like he’s against.

Odd, that.

Also, how is it possibly, from a purely physiological perspective, for conservatives to gloat (as they often do) about Ayn Rand being the best selling novelist of all time (second only to the bible) and ALSO to claim that they have been excluded from mainstream media.

Wouldn’t you need two independently working sets of vocal cords to do both of those at once?

35

Davud 07.08.14 at 4:45 pm

Those conservatives – just too damn rational to appeal to the hoi polloi!

36

bianca steele 07.08.14 at 5:04 pm

@34 Good catch. And it sounds awfully familiar . . .

\”Title: The Stalin in the Soul ISFDB Title Record # 125424
Author: Ursula K. Le Guin
Year: 1973
Type: ESSAY
Language: English
Note: This began as a talk for the Clarion West Writers’ Workshop at the University of Washington in July 1973. It was revised for publication in the The Future Now: Saving Tomorrow, 1977.\”

37

GiT 07.08.14 at 5:13 pm

The widespread culture of whining and complaining about the PC police is much more of a blight on public culture than the alleged “Social Justice Warrior” PC crusade, which has its most intense existence as a construct in the minds of aggrieved babies who don’t like being told how ignorant and dull they are.

38

DavidtheK 07.08.14 at 5:26 pm

Trolling, Trolling, Trolling, Trolling… keep those trollers rolling soon they’ll be sending out some snide.
Don’t try to understand em’
Just mock, scorn, and ban them
Eventually they’ll just sue far and wide.

The project of William Buckley has reached its apotheosis – it’s all trolling all the time now. From Holly Hobby Lobby to Sarah Palin to Ted Cruz trolling the US Senate to this poor clown it’s trolls all the way down

39

PGD 07.08.14 at 5:30 pm

I believe the cresting wave of right-wing creativity was first used in one of the sex scenes in Scooter Libby’s 1996 novel. It is the scene where the hero is approaching orgasm: “and as she position papered herself on the sofa, exposing her deregulation, I felt the beating of my heart and the cresting wave of right wing creativity coursing through my virility.”

Have nothing to add to this but just had to reproduce it.

If you’re a good writer you can be pretty racist and make it work, in a literary and popularity sense — Saul Bellow was.

40

nm 07.08.14 at 5:31 pm

I can’t help but read Bellow’s article as a response to recent denunciations of Orson Scott Card and Ted Beale from the world of SF/F readers. In which case he needs to recognize that the denunciations are not of these gentlemen’s fiction but of their very public political actions. Well, the denunciations are not of Card’s fiction; nobody thinks Ted Beale’s books are any good.

41

James Wimberley 07.08.14 at 6:36 pm

JustinV in #19: “one can write successful conservative fantasy like Lewis, Tolkein, and Chesterton..” Is it significant that all three writers were English? Of course, the English conservative tradition is longer than the American (though back in in the mists of time, would you call the Tory Swift a conservative?) and is all about class not race. There have been successful English and other British fantasy writers who weren’t conservative: Morris, Nesbit and Pullman for three. I can’t place the Scots George D. MacDonald or J.K. Rowling on a political spectrum. Off the top of my head, American fantasy writers tend to the left: Gaiman and le Guin. SF writers lean the other way.

42

David 07.08.14 at 6:38 pm

What makes you think Neil Gaiman is on the Left?

43

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 07.08.14 at 6:41 pm

Not saying you are doing this

I’ll say it. Ronan (rf) is full of crap.
~

44

MPAVictoria 07.08.14 at 6:45 pm

J.K. Rowling is a strong supporter of the welfare state and the NHS. I think it is safe to put her with the left.

45

Colin Danby 07.08.14 at 6:52 pm

The end of Mr. Bellow’s piece explains why he’s making these arguments: to advertise his new venture, libertyislandmag.com.

The Mission Statement is rather touching: “What is Liberty Island? An imaginative colony. A playground for the mind. A place where your right brain is allowed to run free.”

46

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 07.08.14 at 6:54 pm

UPDATE 2. Making everything worse as usual, Jonah Goldberg tells us the liberals who run Hollywood actually make lots of conservative entertainments because that’s what sells (“Most Hollywood liberals probably oppose the death penalty, yet they make lots of movies where the bad guy meets a grisly death to the cheers of the audience”).

A sane person might ask: if Liberal Hollywood is making the bloodthirsty entertainments conservatives like, what is Goldberg bitching about? See Bellow, Adam: They may fantasize about being treated with the respect due an artist, but what they really want is their names above the titles and (especially) on the checks. All the rest, as someone once said, is propaganda.

- Roy Edroso
~

47

J Thomas 07.08.14 at 7:39 pm

What makes Tolkein’s writing conservative? Sure, the humans, elves and dwarves had kings and nobody talked like monarchy was a bad thing, but that’s been true for most of human history. Does that make all those historical novels conservative? Or all the fantasies with swords and kings? Then there’s the Shire which appears to be a libertarian paradise where nobody’s in charge but the middle-class social conventions are so strong that almost nobody ever does anything out of line and it’s all completely stultified…. It’s a conservative dystopia.

And Lewis? I remember reading conservative stuff by him in high school, but I don’t see it in the Narnia books. People try to do the right thing. They swear to follow the example of noble people but then they observe the nobles and withdraw their loyalty from people who don’t deserve it. There is not a big economic surplus for kings to expropriate, but they have a large capital in fortifications which they don’t add to much in any one year. I just don’t see it as particularly conservative.

Their enemies? When Sauron tries to take over the world again, is that like Communism which makes the good guys AntiCommunists? Similarly the White Queen? No, she’s another aristocrat with evil magic, who persistently mis-runs things. I just don’t see it.

You could argue that the authors were conservatives so that made their stories conservative. But by that argument Bellow can count Gene Wolfe on his side. I don’t accept that. Gene Wolfe is a conservative who writes SF/fantasy, and who often puts conservative and liberal and christian slants into his stories, but I strongly doubt he would agree to be on Bellow’s side.

I just don’t see it.

48

Agog 07.08.14 at 7:53 pm

‘What makes you think Neil Gaiman is . . .’

American?

49

heckblazer 07.08.14 at 7:57 pm

The British fantasist China Mieville was a Socialist Alliance candidate for Parliament, so I think it’s safe to say he isn’t a conservative fantasy writer. The American SF and fantasy writer Gene Wolfe is conservative, but is no longer a doctrinaire one.

50

roy belmont 07.08.14 at 8:03 pm

Well, here we go again.
Mr. Freed: The “n-word” is the “n-word”.
Just like “dick” is semantically equivalent to “penis”. Shit/caca/doo-doo. Etc/etc./etc.
The use of one or the other or some creative new construct is a cultural signal of moral intent, the words themselves have no moral content inherently.
Using the “n-word” in place of “nigger” means you’re a nice white person, or ardent POC, who recognizes the vast and still unresolved suffering behind the original term.
Using “dick” instead of “penis” means you’re a little sort of schoolboy-edgy. Whereas “cock” means you’re placing yourself outside consensus norms for polite speech. And “throbbing gristle” means you’re a middle-aged musician or something.
Honky libs are uncomfortable with fully-certified young blacks using “nigga” because it seriously undercuts the purity of their signals of niceness and confuses and blunts the efficacy of changing up the language and policing overt behavior.
I mean if it’s okay for Dre and his heirs to say it, does that mean, I mean, if white guys use it are they just wanna-be’s, or, or, or, confusion.
Keep in mind Joyce, James, was seriously abused by the agents of political correctness of his time, for levels of “obscenity” most parents today wouldn’t be particularly upset with their children reading or viewing. Championed by people who had to battle the attempt to configure them as champions of the ebscene.
Allowing the economic and incarceration disparities of our little experiment in freedom and democracy to continue without an *equivalent* amount of outrage to that leveled at non-rule respecting speech is a little, you know, hypocritical. And it cements the antagonism of Bellow’s fellows in incoherence. It’s a vulnerability.
You can’t identify racists and collaborators in racist policy by their language.
There’s racists that would never use the word “nigger”, and there’s common folk who use it who don’t have racist-one for attitude. I’ve know both. Of the two I’ll take improper speech fromm a good -hearted country boy over the heartless practices of those whose language is impeccably acceptable, any day.
-
CJColucci:
“that courage was a masculine, rather than a human”
The duty of the male to protect women and children isn’t a foolish relic of patriarchal chauvinism, it’s an atavistic biological strategy that can require conscious willing risk of sacrifice, or, courage.
Men are sperms, women are eggs.
As above, so below.
If there’s going to be a serious engagement with people like Bellow and his seemingly non-diminishable-by-appeals-to-compassion cohort, it is going to have to be coherent, and grounded in reality.

51

MPAVictoria 07.08.14 at 8:15 pm

“I mean if it’s okay for Dre and his heirs to say it, does that mean, I mean, if white guys use it are they just wanna-be’s, or, or, or, confusion.”

You really don’t know why it is okay for a black person to say it but not you? Are you Jonah Goldberg posting under a pseudonym?

52

J Thomas 07.08.14 at 8:34 pm

Mr. Freed: The “n-word” is the “n-word”.
Just like “dick” is semantically equivalent to “penis”. Shit/caca/doo-doo. Etc/etc./etc.
The use of one or the other or some creative new construct is a cultural signal of moral intent, the words themselves have no moral content inherently.

Yes. You seem to have missed the important point there, or maybe you disapprove.

Yes, it is a cultural signal of moral intent. They want something like an armband, a flag to put on your lawn to show which side you’re on, a bumper sticker. A way to declare your loyalties. A sort of cultural immune response.

You can’t identify racists and collaborators in racist policy by their language.

But there’s an attempt to do just that. You say it can’t succeed. But to some extent it succeeds merely by existing. Every time its proponents fight the good fight, they have stood up for themselves and that’s a win. Of course, if you become their opposite number and you stand up for yourself against them, I guess that means you win too. A mutually-beneficial arrangement, which is one explanation why it persists so well.

There’s racists that would never use the word “nigger”, and there’s common folk who use it who don’t have racist-one for attitude. I’ve know both. Of the two I’ll take improper speech fromm a good -hearted country boy over the heartless practices of those whose language is impeccably acceptable, any day.

So, try looking at it from the other guy’s point of view. Once the good-hearted person finds out that he is being unintentionally offensive, then he will stop doing it. Because he doesn’t want to offend. Then all is forgiven and forgotten.

But if an evil racist person stands up for his right to wear the racist armband, then they want to mob him like a pack of crows.
“You can’t say that! It means you’re a racist!”
“Of course I’m a racist. I stand up for my own kind, and that’s right and proper.”
“But you can’t do that, it means you’re a racist!”
“I can and I do. If I’m not for myself, who am I for?”
“Racist!”
“Quite all right.”
“No respectable person will have anything to do with you.”
“I don’t like your kind of respectable person all that much either.”

Again they all know where they stand.

Third way:
“You can’t use that word!”
“It doesn’t mean anything.”
“It does to me. It’s offensive.”
“You have no right to be offended by innocent words.”
“Those are racist words! You’re a racist!”
“I am not. I was a Freedom Rider. I have scars from the racist police dogs. I got knocked on my ass by the racist water cannons. Some of my best friends were murdered by racists. I’ve done more for niggers and the whole nigger race than you ever did.”
“But you use the n-word!”
“It’s just an arbitrary symbol. You only give it meaning because you want to.”
“Of course we want to give it meaning. We give it the meaning that you’re a racist.”
“I disagree. You have no right to give it that meaning. You have no right to choose meanings for words.”

Leads to confusion, right?

53

Anarcissie 07.08.14 at 8:39 pm

I’d like to note that lot of Black people think it is not okay for anyone, including Black people, to use bad language.

54

J Thomas 07.08.14 at 9:09 pm

“that courage was a masculine, rather than a human”
The duty of the male to protect women and children isn’t a foolish relic of patriarchal chauvinism, it’s an atavistic biological strategy that can require conscious willing risk of sacrifice, or, courage.
Men are sperms, women are eggs.
As above, so below.

This is a meme, a folk knowledge, a superstition. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it could be true or false independent of belief. It might have survived to now because it has been useful in the past, or maybe not.

Our genes are set up to provide the right number of people of each gender. When one gender has a higher death rate, eventually natural selection results in more babies born of that gender. Among europeans, there are something like 10% more males conceived, maybe 7% more males born. This is commonly explained by males being more “fragile” and so dying more before birth, during birth, during the first year, during childhood, etc.

The Aztecs did a lot of female infanticide and now their descendents have about 20% more female births than male.

Since a man can die only once for his wife, this isn’t something he can make a habit of. But even doing it once could make a difference for the children’s survival, in the old days. I’m sure they did better when neither parent died. I don’t know how hard it would be to get statistics about all that. Surely easier for cities than unsettled areas. But traditionally cities did not replace themselves, city children tended to die and be replaced by immigrants from farms where the birthrate was high. So what men did in cities might not matter as much.

Here’s my point — you have a story that makes sense, but it’s only a story. We won’t know how true it is unless we get some sort of evidence.

About men and women being brave, here is one story. A family was camping. My friend was a little kid with his two brothers, and they were playing while their mother made lunch. They saw a bear and got interested in it. Their mother saw them close to the bear and she freaked out. She grabbed the first thing that came to hand and charged at the bear screaming. The bear ran away, no doubt thinking of the people as being like bears. He knew what would happen if he got too close to a mother bear’s cubs. After the bear left her kids asked her why she was attacking the bear with a roll of paper towels. I talked to his father and he confirmed the story.

Men and women are both protective of their children.

55

Bruce Baugh 07.08.14 at 9:15 pm

Bellow’s poorly articulated desires remind me of a line from Clive Barker’s “The Hellbound Heart”. This is right at the start, with the character preparing to summon angelic and/or demonic entities….

“The bare boards had been meticulously scrubbed and strewn with petals. Upon the west wall he had set up a kind of altar to them, decorated with the kind of placatory offerings Kircher had assured him would nurture their good offices: bones, bonbons, needles. A jug of his urine — the product of seven days’ collection — stood on the left of the altar, should they require some spontaneous gesture of self-defilement.

I’ve had this thought several times lately: what a lot of conservatives want is for the rest of us to be prepared to show them “some spontaneous gesture of self-defilement” whenever they ask for it. They have accommodation far beyond the merits of their work, but they don’t believe in equality; when every relationship must have a superior and an inferior, they need the rest of us to constantly renew submission.

56

CJColucci 07.08.14 at 9:17 pm

Roy, you need to get out more. Meet some women. If you have the balls.

57

roy belmont 07.08.14 at 9:23 pm

Anarcissie 07.08.14 at 8:39 pm
Oh gee dude I completely didn’t know that. Living as I do in a little cul-de-sac of antique values with no access to contemporary culture less than 40 years old.

It’s not okay for anyone to use “bad language”.
It’s the articulating accurately just what exactly that means, you know?
Believe me when I say I’m not going to take your word for what makes for good or bad in something as important to me and what I do as language is.
The point you seemed to have missed, about Joyce, is that cultural norms shift, they move, they are not now where they once were.
But every fucking step of the way there’s some tendentious idiot insisting they’ve discovered the golden tablets with the universal codes of what’s good and proper language on them. And that creates a natural, healthy resistance. To idiocy.
-
J Thomas: what you don’t seem to get is that reacting to police behavior on language is in and of itself a thing entirely separate from the ostensible motives of the police doing the policing. It gets mucky when the word-police use real ethical problems as a shield for their policing. Yhis works in many situations.
“You hate me because I’m a ___. You’re a ____-hater.”
Well yes and no. I’m seriously disgusted and irritated by you, and your identity is so fully bound up in that ____, that semantically it’s sort of accurate to say that. But really it’s you. You’re an idiot, and seemingly, you’re an idiot by choice.
And you’re creating an alignment against people I’m seriously opposed to, in which I have to be with you or with them.
Fuck that.
People are offended by a list of words they find offensive. The list has all kinds of situational and cultural permissions and taboos, shifty iterations and overlaps.
Fuck ‘em all.

58

roy belmont 07.08.14 at 9:26 pm

CJColucci 07.08.14 at 9:17 pm:

Careful there big boy.
I’ve got the active attention of more women, right now, than you’ve met in your entire life.

59

CJColucci 07.08.14 at 9:28 pm

I didn’t know restraining orders counted.

60

roy belmont 07.08.14 at 9:37 pm

CJColucci:

Unless you’re a gynecologist or something

61

roger gathman 07.08.14 at 9:38 pm

Nobody seems to have remarked that poor A Bellow, with his Clarion story, is again punking off his much greater dad. It is well known that Saul Bellow, at some point in the wild sixties, was verbally assaulted by some macho new lefty type giving a talk at San Francisco State, which was transmuted into the attack on Sammler when he gives his talk on Orwell at Colombia in Mr. Sammler’s Planet. At SF state, supposedly, the heckler called Bellow an old man with no more jism in him, or something equally stupid, and in MSP, the heckler says Sammler’s balls are dry. But only Saul himself, in full comic mode, could do justice to his son parodying him to the extent of the same word – balls – cropping up, or should I say being cropped off? And then the transmutation into a lousy essay in the National Review. This is pathetic, balls and all. I suppose Adam Bellow is just lucky that his audience is probably so culturally illiterate – so without any knowledge of conservative and rightwing literature, of which there is plenty, much of it excellent – that most likely, they’ve never heard of Mr. Sammler’s Planet.
National Review is where Joan Didion and Gary Wills started out. Hugh Kenner and Guy Davenport wrote for it. And it now features Mini-me. Sadness.

62

CJColucci 07.08.14 at 9:42 pm

Never interfere with the enemy when he is making a mistake.

63

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 07.08.14 at 9:56 pm

If there’s going to be a serious engagement with people like Bellow and his seemingly non-diminishable-by-appeals-to-compassion cohort, it is going to have to be coherent, and grounded in reality.

Why the hell should there be a serious engagement with the Doughy Pantload set?

“We love the magicke of the free markets, yet we need even more wingnut welfare! Because lieberals are like Hitler!”

This is the extent of their argument. You want to engage it ‘seriously’, knock yourself out.
~

64

roy belmont 07.08.14 at 10:07 pm

Cross-posted there didn’t we?
Let me clarify: I’ve got the unbiased, not-negative, not-hostile attention of more women than you’ve ever even met. Which is not say it is anything like adulation or any of that. Just that it isn’t hostile, or biased against me.
Hostile, probably about the same as your life-list.
Unless, like I said you’re an ob-gyn or something. Which seems doubtful.
I’m, let’s say, a little bigger than you.
In the sense of being paid attention to.
By women.
And others too, of course.
Meaning people who are not women.
Such as yourself, possibly. Though gender isn’t exactly shining through your prose, there is a snotty adolescent maleness to it that could be an indicator.
-
So.
Having tidied that up, let’s move on to Ayn Rand.
Now there’s my idea of a human being.
Her most famous works in the umpteen hundreds of pages and the amount of genuine human emotion in there wouldn’t fit in a child’s toy thimble.
An as-yet undiagnosed type of high-function autism, maybe.
Her heart’s got the depth and dimensionality of a pencil-scrawled outline on a post-it note.
And she’s the champion of how we’re supposed to look at the misfortunate, according to some prominent social voices.
It doesn’t seem even sightly plausible that language policing is going to have much effect on people who would hold her up as how we ought to be doing things.
In case anyone’s interested in why I’d spend any time answering snotty fools on the internet.

65

Homer 07.08.14 at 10:11 pm

To roy

Politically incorrect language is like intimate touch. If my partner touches me a certain way I react with joy and the touch is welcome. If the same touch is from a coworker, or a stranger, it is offensive and I react with anger. Just because my partner can approach me physically it doesn’t mean you can. Same with politically incorrect words.

66

ZM 07.08.14 at 10:12 pm

On changes in language from Joyce to the nouveau roman and Sarraute
On signs and social bonds &c.
Hannah Arrendt on Nathalie Sarraute’s The Golden Fruits (NYRB)

“Every word, if it is not meant to deceive, is a “weapon,” all thoughts are “assembled like a large and powerful army behind its banners…about to roll forward.” The imagery of warfare is all-pervasive. Even in Kafka, as she herself has noted—let alone in Dostoevsky or in Proust and Joyce, the earlier masters of the inner monologue—there are still these “moments of sincerity, these states of grace,” which are absent from her own work. There is, second, and more surprisingly, the fact that she has never elaborated on her enormously effective use of the “they”—what “they say,” the commonplace, the cliché, the merely idiomatic turn of the phrase—emphasized by many of her reviewers and admirers. “They” made their first appearance in the Portrait, moved into the center of the plot in The Planetarium, and become the “hero” of The Golden Fruits.”

“As they exhaust all aspects, all arguments and outdo each other with superlatives until they all know: “There will be those who came before and those who came after ‘The Golden Fruits’.” “

“The “secret signs” by which we recognize each other, what else do they say but, “We are brothers, aren’t we…I offer you this holy bread. I welcome you to my table.” This feeling of natural kinship in the midst of a world, to which we all come as strangers, is monstrously distorted in the society of the “refined” who have made passwords and talismans, means of social organization, out of a common world of objects. But have they really succeeded in ruining it? Shortly before the end, Nathalie Sarraute turns from the “they” and the “I” to the “we,” the old We of author and reader. It is the reader who speaks: “We are so frail and they so strong. Or perhaps…we, you and I, are the stronger, even now.””

67

roy belmont 07.08.14 at 10:15 pm

“Why the hell should there be a serious engagement with the Doughy Pantload set? “

Uhm… because they have a lot of very real power in a lot of the important areas of our lives as social beings? Because a whole bunch of shit is happening all at once, and a cohesive group has an advantage against an incoherent one in a turbulent situation?

Exposing their incoherence, check. Fun, easy.
Getting them to admit the incoherence of their position?
Delivering a countervailing coherence in its place?
How’s that working so far?

68

Main Street Muse 07.08.14 at 10:23 pm

Colin Danby @ 44 “The end of Mr. Bellow’s piece explains why he’s making these arguments: to advertise his new venture, libertyislandmag.com.

“The Mission Statement is rather touching: ‘What is Liberty Island? An imaginative colony. A playground for the mind. A place where your right brain is allowed to run free.’”

You’ve nailed it – this long, awful “article” is really NR’s version of native advertising, promoting the opportunity to traipse over to the “imaginative colony” where right-wing Randians can endlessly define “who is John Gault?”

69

David 07.08.14 at 10:40 pm

“The point you seemed to have missed, about Joyce, is that cultural norms shift, they move, they are not now where they once were.
But every fucking step of the way there’s some tendentious idiot insisting they’ve discovered the golden tablets with the universal codes of what’s good and proper language on them. And that creates a natural, healthy resistance. To idiocy.”

It’s actually the other way around, Belmont. Language use keeps shifting, and every time it does some self-important idiot believes that we are finally crossing over into 1984.

70

Jack 07.08.14 at 10:58 pm

I find this… erm… essay? interesting because it mirrors the current hulabaloo within American SFF — to wit, there are a number of conservative authors who generally write paternalistic, authoritarian “Lazarus Long Knows Best” “hard” SF who are up in arms that they aren’t getting the attention they feel they deserve from a generally left-leaning industry. To the point where they vote-bombed the Hugo nominations with the works of a number of conservative authors (which is fine, some of them are pretty good) as well as the works of a few very vile persons. The point of this exercise is that if said vile authors win the Hugos, they can crow about how they’re taking back the fandom; and if they lose the Hugos, they can complain about how the liberals have taken over the fandom and they’re being censored and shut out and and and…. In other words, they’re attempting to make the Hugos — a personality contest, essentially — into a referendum on politics.

71

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© 07.08.14 at 10:59 pm

Getting them to admit the incoherence of their position?
Delivering a countervailing coherence in its place?
How’s that working so far?

Nothing like that is going to work, because their wingnut welfare checks keep clearing.

What has this to do with your postings here? If you harangue the C.T. audience enough, the checks will bounce? What is your point?
~

72

MPAVictoria 07.08.14 at 11:06 pm

Shorter Roy:

I can bench press a car, I’m an ex football star
with degrees from both Harvard and Yale
Girls just can’t keep up, I’m a real love machine
I’ve had far better sex while in jail
I’ve designed the Sears Tower, I make two grand an hour
I cook the world’s best duck flambe
I’ll take the pick of the litter, girls jockey for me
I don’t need these lines to get laid

I’m a man of the night, a real ladies delight
See my figure was chiseled from stone
One more for the gal then I’ll escort her home
Come last call, I’m never alone
I’ve a house on the hill with a red water bed
That puts Hugh Heffnor’s mansion to shame
With girls by the pool and Italian sports cars
I’m just here in this dump for the game

73

Davud 07.08.14 at 11:13 pm

“If there’s going to be a serious engagement with people like Bellow and his seemingly non-diminishable-by-appeals-to-compassion cohort, it is going to have to be coherent, and grounded in reality.”

This reminds me of the strawman hippies in alien invasion movies who argue that we have to make peace with the aliens as they are in the middle of blowing up the White House.

74

MPAVictoria 07.08.14 at 11:21 pm

“I’d like to note that lot of Black people think it is not okay for anyone, including Black people, to use bad language.”

Very true. But while one can make an argument that Dr. Dre is reclaiming the word to rob it of its power one cannot make the same claim for Roy. He is just being an asshole.

75

David Margolies 07.08.14 at 11:23 pm

@46 (are Tolkein and Lewis conservative in their writing?) For a screed against Lewis see ‘A Natural History of Make Believe’ by John Goldthwaite (“but he views C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia as a parable that is not only murderously misogynistic, but deeply blasphemous as well” — from the amazon blurb http://www.amazon.com/Natural-History-Make-Believe-Principal-Britain/dp/0195038061/ref=la_B001HD06JO_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1404861115&sr=1-1) — a good book in general, by the way.

Tolkein’s Shire was a place where the lower classes touched their forelocks in the presence of their betters and it was (nearly) ruined by an industrialist building dark satanic mills. Geneology was destiny and orcs seemed a lot like southern and eastern europeans while elves were quite northern. But I read it like 10 times before those aspects finally got too tiresome.

That is the problem I have as a liberal: I like good reads and do not care much about the politics of the author even when I can determine what they are.

76

John Quiggin 07.08.14 at 11:24 pm

Also, I think, Bellow wrote a book in favor of nepotism. LGM observed, IIRC, that he was a living refutation of the idea that nepotism could be beneficial.

77

Lee A. Arnold 07.08.14 at 11:50 pm

James Joyce’s political and critical essays scrupulously avoid slang and invective and use a highly polished style of polite English. His novels use vernacular because he tried to reproduce exactly how his characters think.

78

roy belmont 07.08.14 at 11:57 pm

David/Davud:

Not sure if that’s the same person, but…
Also Mr. Bird-photo thunder guy:

Something that’s been cleared up for me recently is that I’m probably correct in assuming there’s more readers than commenters here, by a considerable factor, so haranguing the tendentious may have a beneficial result for some of them.

Long-term liberal elders like Bill Moyers are practically calling for revolution in the streets, and a majority of the posters here are chanting a watered-down version of “Won’t Get Fooled Again”.
The idea that we’re in any proximity to Orwellian dystopia, did I say that? I mean, Jesus, how absurd do you want to get?
Sure we’re a little fractured and dysfunctional as a society, and we’re actively prosecuting wars against distant vague enemies no one knows anything about but what they’re told by proven liars, there’s a fascistically secure elite sucking up the wealth of the country using a near-privatized armed force to protect themselves from the rabble, we’re under near constant surveillance even in our homes, the majority respond automatically and unquestioningly to messages from an unseen authority about who they’re supposed to hate, and people are being locked up and or driven into silent anonymity for telling the truth about all that,,,,but c’mon. Orwell?
Pish tosh!
Much more Huxley than Orwell, don’t you think?

79

Lee A. Arnold 07.09.14 at 12:04 am

Bellow’s article reveals a babe in the woods. He doesn’t seem to realize that he’ll be lucky to find 10,000 readers, tops, not because of the vast left-wing conspiracy (composed of many right-wing movie directors) churning the mindless summer blockbusters out of Hollywood, but because the old glory days of New York publishers, promoting certain writers to national status as cultural weathervanes, whether they tilted to the left OR the right, are over, dead, gone. It’s the internet, and you’re just another little niche market, now. Welcome to democracy!
Davidthe K has it right, I think: it’s trolling, all the way down. but its both sides, now. And flows and bow of angels hair, and ice cream castles in the air.

Bellow’s underlying complaint appears to be that he is being sneered at and called a knucklehead, or rather, that conservatives are being “demonized” by their raging leftist oppressors for supporting “the traditional view of marriage”, for questioning “the economic benefits of raising the minimum wage”, for wanting “America to establish control over its borders”, for believing “a human fetus has legal and natural rights”, for supporting “the death penalty in certain cases”, and last but (clearly) not least, for opposing “any aspect whatsoever of Barack Obama’s transformative agenda for America”.

Aside from the fact that conservatives don’t understand the economics of the minimum wage, and that any reference to “Obama’s transformative agenda for America” is a delusional fantasy, where’s the beef? People have different views. So?

So What Do Knuckleheads Want? Is it for us to acknowledge that people have different views of things? Shouldn’t we err on the side of letting individuals decide for themselves? If you don’t want to see gays holding hands, shouldn’t you close your eyes, blindly walk into a wall, and then move to another country?

Furthermore, Bellow’s stated thesis seems rather odd: that the rise of the “new conservative arts counterculture” will escape the stifling straitjacket of liberal criticism. Come to think of it, it is logically bonkers: how and why would that happen? It will instead further distract the thundering Left into indignation and punitive reviews on Amazon, and drive the rest of us to demonize the new era genre of fatuous, Pecksniffian bathos.

80

Anarcissie 07.09.14 at 12:17 am

roy belmont 07.08.14 at 9:23 pm:
‘Anarcissie 07.08.14 at 8:39 pm
Oh gee dude I completely didn’t know that. Living as I do in a little cul-de-sac of antique values with no access to contemporary culture less than 40 years old.’

I wasn’t talking to you or about you. Sorry for the confusion.

81

bob mcmanus 07.09.14 at 12:46 am

Recently Mel Brooks observed that one of his funniest movies, Blazing Saddles, couldn’t be made today.

Probably not. Also movies that couldn’t be greenlighted by a major studio today: Z, MASH, Clockwork Orange, Conversation, Nashville, Bound for Glory, Network, Julia, Deer Hunter, Coming Home, Apocalypse Now, Norma Rae, Reds

Instead we get Hurt Locker, Argo, Wolf of Wall Street, Zero Dark Thirty, Moneyball, weak-kneed identity pics (No Sweet Sweetback these days) and a swampland of jingoistic exceptionalist Superhero movies (Cap’n America, f yeah!)

The conservatives, with the help of the neo-liberals, have completely won. The conservatives whine and pretend they wanted the sun, the neo-liberals laugh at the conservatives, what a real Left is is forgotten, and the complete capitulation and abject servitude is celebrated as a triumph. It’s a plan.

Watched a Masao Adachi directed movie last night. This guy filmed the Red Army, possibly was indirectly involved in the Lod Airport Massacre of 1972, spent twenty years in Lebanon working with the PFLP, and five years in two prisons afterwards. Good movie.

There was a Left that could leave me room to be a moderate incrementalist. Now everything is to my right.

82

J Thomas 07.09.14 at 12:49 am

“but he views C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia as a parable that is not only murderously misogynistic, but deeply blasphemous as well”

Yes, but so what? OK, Lewis wrote Narnia as a place where men and women had different roles, where men could be kings and women could be queens. That isn’t enough to make him a conservative. Blasphemy isn’t enough either. He wrote stories where indivdual people made their own individual choices and it mattered. That isn’t enough to call the stories conservative either.

Tolkein’s Shire was a place where the lower classes touched their forelocks in the presence of their betters and it was (nearly) ruined by an industrialist building dark satanic mills.

Yes, and Frank Herbert’s Dune was a place where aristocrats with nukes maneuvered for family advantage, where the Fremen settled their personal disputes with dueling and apparently kept slaves, they ran a free market economy while they were unquestioningly obedient to their tribal leaders. That doesn’t make it a conservative story.

I liked Tolkein’s conservationist stance — anti-conservative today, though it used to be conservative before conservatism got so capitalist.

Geneology was destiny and orcs seemed a lot like southern and eastern europeans while elves were quite northern.

I dunno. Did Tolkein say to make that interpretation?

Jack Vance’s Maske: Thaery involved colonizers who ruled a subject race — the slaves were naturally subservient and would do whatever a master told them, provided certain protocols were followed. (They themselves settled into groups of four, and a party of three slaves and one master would work with nervous energy.) They lived in their own communities doing whatever they thought was worth doing, and at any time a master could stop by and draft some of them to work for him. If somebody decided that Vance was describing an idealized version of happy US slavery with the darkies singing in the fields etc, and that made it a racist book, I would strongly disagree.

It isn’t enough to show the Shire as a classist place. The author has to say that’s a good thing. What Tolkein shows is the Shire as a boring place for the upper classes, so that his main characters in each case sneak out, have enough adventures to last a lifetime, and then come home lacking any better choice.

It isn’t enough to show monarchies with no attempts at republican revolt. There must be some indication that monarchies are a good thing. It isn’t enough to show free markets (which are mostly absent from Tolkein. mostly governments give people things). There needs to be some effort to show that free markets are good, or better than a less-conservative alternative.

That is the problem I have as a liberal: I like good reads and do not care much about the politics of the author even when I can determine what they are.

Same here. I have to figure that different cultures do things in different ways. If somebody writes about a made-up culture and it does things that seem to fit together reasonably, I don’t mind if it isn’t the way I’d want things to happen here.

83

bob mcmanus 07.09.14 at 1:26 am

I would like to correct my comment 78 of 12:46

The Left wants to blow it all up
Liberals want systemic change. They are out there, not around here or engaged very much here. >Plantation Neoliberalism at New Inquiry is an example, people who have heard of Frederick Lordon.

Conservatives pretty much want the system to stay the way it is, with some regulation and reform, a replacement of the corrupt not-our-kind people-in-charge with moral-people-more-like-us so we can get the same good stuff. More women directors and CEOs. Married LGBTs bombing babies in the ME.

Most people are conservative, always have been, still true. That’s you too. All of you. Conservatives.

Why the hell should I care about anybody to the right of conservatives? You are the ones keeping them in mind so you can ally with them if catastrophe happens. Saw that in 2001-2003.

84

CJColucci 07.09.14 at 1:43 am

MPA Victoria @ 69

Hilarious, but is Roy self-aware enough to recognize that it’s a parody, or will he mistake it for one of his own?

85

heckblazer 07.09.14 at 2:24 am

jingoistic exceptionalist Superhero movies (Cap’n America, f yeah!)

I take it you didn’t actually bother to watch the recent Captain America: The Winter Soldier, seeing as it portrays the American military-industrial complex as needing to be completely leveled because it’s been corrupt to the core from its very inception.

86

MPAVictoria 07.09.14 at 2:28 am

“Hilarious, but is Roy self-aware enough to recognize that it’s a parody, or will he mistake it for one of his own?”

Who knows? But I enjoyed it.

87

Thornton Hall 07.09.14 at 2:31 am

What people call “conservatism”, I call “Reaganism”. The discourse treats it like a world view and thus the kind of thing that might inform fiction. But it’s not. Reaganism is simply a series of empirical claims about the world that turn out to be wrong.

http://thorntonhalldesign.com/philosophy/2014/5/5/reaganism-is-a-series-of-claims-about-the-world-that-have-turned-out-to-be-false

88

Thornton Hall 07.09.14 at 2:47 am

Also, Chesterton was conservative!?!? All you all need to read “Man Who Knew Too Much”! It’s a joy.

89

Anarcissie 07.09.14 at 2:55 am

MPAVictoria 07.08.14 at 11:21 pm @ 71:

‘“I’d like to note that lot of Black people think it is not okay for anyone, including Black people, to use bad language.”
Very true. But while one can make an argument that Dr. Dre is reclaiming the word to rob it of its power one cannot make the same claim for Roy. He is just being an asshole.’

What Dr. Dre is doing is selling records.

90

MPAVictoria 07.09.14 at 3:00 am

91

Thornton Hall 07.09.14 at 3:00 am

I have long believed in the comparative advantage theory of gender roles: women are better at everything but the gap is smallest in the category of killing things so men do that while women focus on the things most important for genetic survival.

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MPAVictoria 07.09.14 at 3:01 am

Thank you for sharing that link Thornton. I really enjoyed reading that.

93

MPAVictoria 07.09.14 at 3:06 am

Heckblazer I find that most people who complain about the quality of modern cinema are not actually watching any of it. I would recommend the podcast Filmspotting to anyone who is interest in learning more.

94

LFC 07.09.14 at 3:28 am

re the movies thing:
I wonder if McManus actually saw ‘Argo’.

95

MPAVictoria 07.09.14 at 3:52 am

“re the movies thing:
I wonder if McManus actually saw ‘Argo’.”

Betting not…

96

Lee A. Arnold 07.09.14 at 4:10 am

Thornton Hall #84: “Reaganism is simply a series of empirical claims about the world that turn out to be wrong.”

I think we should add two things: 1. Reaganism is used by cynical people (e.g the Republican leadership) as propaganda to keep the true believers (the Tea Party) showing up in the voting booth, and 2. because the claims are wrong, Reaganism is now crashing into reality after 30 years of denying that reality.

This contradiction is driving two wedges, one wedge into the GOP and splitting it, and the other wedge between the GOP and the rest of the country.

97

roy belmont 07.09.14 at 4:24 am

Anarcissie 07.09.14 at 12:17 am:
No apology necessary, sorry for my assumption. Interesting cross-wire simultaneity me 56 with 55 above on that. Could just readdress it and have it quite nicely
-
Mr. and/or Ms. Colucci: I don’t read that person’s comments anymore. So the sting, if there was any to be had, has passed me by.
-
bob mcmanus 07.09.14 at 12:46 am
I hear the guy that made Brazil‘s got a new one. Also he’s the guy that made Tidelands. Also a bunch of other cool dadadelic stuff.
Something with “Zero” in the title. He’s, you know, the guy that made that foot that kept squashing people in the Monty Python series. The one that isn’t Michael Palin or John Cleese or Eric Idle or Terry Jones or Graham Chapman.
Probably gonna redeem the fuck out of cinema all by itself, I’m guessing.

Did you catch Masked and Anonymous? There’s a scene in the opening montage of Marcos on a horse, with balaclava and pipe. And a Ford Falcon, in a telling shot, the preferred ride of the Salvadoran death squads. And Bob Dylan.

Open Culture’s got a Japanese silent from like 1918 or something called “A Page of Madness”.
https://tinyurl.com/pa5k697
Free, I don’t have the bandwidth myself, otherwise I’d give up a little exegesis on it..

There’s always Antonioni’s Il Grito if you need some serious bolstering.

98

dr ngo 07.09.14 at 4:24 am

JT: The Aztecs did a lot of female infanticide and now their descendents have about 20% more female births than male.

I’d be interested to see the source for this comment, which is well out of line with what I learned when I was studying (and writing) historical demography a few decades past. It is true that the male birth rate is almost universally higher than the female one – presumably because baby boys are more fragile than baby girls – but the recorded sex ratios I’ve seen [number of male births per 100 female] are generally in the region of 105-110, with anything outside this range being presumptively regarded as a flaw in the data. There is (generally speaking) some evidence for the proposition that after a period of population decline birth rates tend to rise somewhat, but none that I have seen for differential rates by sex in response to cultural/historical developments.

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J Thomas 07.09.14 at 4:55 am

#56

J Thomas: what you don’t seem to get is that reacting to police behavior on language is in and of itself a thing entirely separate from the ostensible motives of the police doing the policing. It gets mucky when the word-police use real ethical problems as a shield for their policing. Yhis works in many situations.
“You hate me because I’m a ___. You’re a ____-hater.”
Well yes and no. I’m seriously disgusted and irritated by you, and your identity is so fully bound up in that ____, that semantically it’s sort of accurate to say that. But really it’s you. You’re an idiot, and seemingly, you’re an idiot by choice.

If you talk back in reaction to real police, they will arrest you. If you don’t talk back to real police, they will still arrest you but likely with fewer charges and less drama. Real police who want to arrest you are a problem with no easy solution.

If you talk back to PC police they will talk back to you, back and forth, back and forth. If you instead ignore them what will happen? (You can’t tell what will happen by watching what I’ve done recently because I haven’t done it. But just suppose.)

They will say whatever they say, once, and then they’ll shut up. Unless you respond to them, they will shut up until next time.

If the moderators are not against you, then your status is equal to the PC police status. All they can do is argue with you until they get the last word or it gets so ridiculous they quit, leaving you with a last word so attenuated it doesn’t matter.

There are usually going to be ants at a picnic. How much attention do you want to give them?

If you want to be a rebel, you can rebel against the police, the town council, your state government, the US government, the US military, etc. Or you can rebel against some kibitzers who have no authority but who claim to be the mainstream though they are not.

What if you were to give these guys the last word? Would that kill your soul? When you don’t it isn’t that there is some special virtue in responding to them. It isn’t that lurkers will see that the PC guys are wrong and you are right because you did an extra six rounds with them, just like last time. It’s almost entirely that you won’t let them have the last word.

That is, you are being trolled. When you keep responding because you won’t let some idiot have the last word, all he has to do is keep responding and you have to keep responding too. Is this really a good use of your time?

But really it’s you. You’re an idiot, and seemingly, you’re an idiot by choice.

And this is the person you disproportionately respond to?

When they actually look like they’re gaining power, then maybe it’s worth an effort to pull that out of reach. But when they have the right to say pretty much whatever they want and you do too, what’s the point?

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J Thomas 07.09.14 at 5:07 am

#95

I’d be interested to see the source for this comment,

I don’t have one handy. It was in a book on evolutionary population genetics in a university library, and I don’t now have access to the library or even remember the name of the book. It’s possible I misremember it and it was only 2%.

The reasoning is sound. If you accept a reason for a change in sex ratios like “males are more fragile”, then there’s the question how it evolved. There must be mechanisms to influence sex ratio, like a difference in number of sperm of different genders, etc. If there is a mechanism that influences sex ratio, whose genes can vary and be subject to selection, it will be selected on average for the right sex ratio, depending. In an obligately bisexual species, whichever gender is in shorter supply at reproduction will be selected to increase, and any linked genes will be selected also.

Of course, there’s room for anomalies from segregation distortion, but then segregation distortion is one of the mechanisms which can balance it too.

I will look for new sources but I don’t know ahead of time what I’ll find. I want you to know I wasn’t just making it up, but I have to accept the possibility that the author I read was making it up.

101

bad Jim 07.09.14 at 6:16 am

We are so powerful!

By harnessing the passions of offended minorities to the power of social media, the Left has created a hurricane of politicized indignation that can be directed wherever it likes and levels everything it touches.

But so weak:

They cannot win the argument on its merits, and unlike their counterparts elsewhere they can’t consistently win (or steal) elections.

This constant shift between feeling at the same time powerful and victimized is typical. From Umberto Eco, “UR-FASCISM” (also known as “14 Ways of Looking at a Blackshirt”; NY Review, June 22, 1995):

The followers must feel humiliated by the ostentatious wealth and force of their enemies… However, the followers must be convinced that they can overwhelm the enemies. Thus, by a continuous shifting of rhetorical focus, the enemies are at the same time too strong and too weak. Fascist governments are condemned to lose wars because they are constitutionally incapable of objectively evaluating the force of the enemy.

102

Collin Street 07.09.14 at 6:20 am

I have to accept the possibility that the author I read was making it up.

I think the important thing in that case wouldn’t so much “author made it up” — people make stuff up all the time, nothing unusual — but “J Thomas lacks the ability to spot that stuff he is reading is made up”.

[you could respond, but remember what you wrote above about sometimes giving other people the last word? I think some humility-and-quiet-reflection time would serve better than a quick off-the-cuff response, here.]

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J Thomas 07.09.14 at 7:24 am

I think the important thing in that case wouldn’t so much “author made it up” — people make stuff up all the time, nothing unusual — but “J Thomas lacks the ability to spot that stuff he is reading is made up”.

It was a textbook I found in a university library. I didn’t think to check the footnotes to make sure they weren’t making it up.

104

heckblazer 07.09.14 at 7:35 am

MPAVictoria

Well, the complaint here was specifically that Hollywood movies aren’t as politically edgy as they once were, and I think you could make a colorable argument along those lines. You could even use superhero movies like Iron Man and The Dark Knight as examples of modern jingoism; I’d say that’s a mistaken interpretation, but at least there something there in the text. However, while Captain America has a name that sounds jingoistic the actual character was a “premature anti-fascist” and New Deal liberal. The example is so incredibly wrongheaded it’s pretty much trolling me, intentionally or not.

Of course, bob mcmanus also complained that a major Hollywood studio wouldn’t make a film like Z these days. That’s a silly complaint since Hollywood didn’t make Z in the first place; it was a French production with a Greek director.

105

Ze Kraggash 07.09.14 at 7:47 am

“They want to say the N-word. That’s really all there is to it.”

Oh, dear, I’m fainting… Smelling salts, quick!

Seriously, whatever the hair-raising taboo du jour is, I imagine every true artist is itching to break it. And these days religious conservatives are not the juiciest target.

106

bad Jim 07.09.14 at 7:53 am

Apparently even Disney’s Frozen passes the Bechdel test, so there’s progress.

107

godoggo 07.09.14 at 8:03 am

Contemporary Hollywood has become very conservative financially, meaning lots of remakes, sequels and comic book adaptations, but offhand I don’t have the impression that the political messages in recent movies are unusually conservative by historical standards.

108

godoggo 07.09.14 at 8:10 am

It occurs to me that even though the Vietnam war was wildly unpopular you really didn’t start seeing antiwar movies until several years after it was over. OK, there was MASH I guess.

109

ZM 07.09.14 at 8:34 am

It would make a change if these sorts were going to be upfront about the ‘culture wars’ more generally than they were in the 20th C

http://m.chronicle.com/article/How-Iowa-Flattened-Literature/144531/

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/modern-art-was-cia-weapon-1578808.html

http://overland.org.au/2014/06/overland-and-the-cia/

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Sancho 07.09.14 at 10:15 am

Much of what Bellow’s saying relies on a sort of Moral Majority question-begging, in which hard-right ideology is assumed to be deeply popular with most of the population, therefore the lack of mass enthusiasm for it can only be the product of censorship and repression from the left.

111

PatrickfromIowa 07.09.14 at 10:54 am

It is fun to remember that National Review does so well in the market that it conducts a yearly fund raising begathon. A few years ago I offended Jonah Pantsload by suggesting that if he thought NR was worth a donation from me, he ought to donate his labor.

They don’t want us to let them talk. They want us to pay them for it.

Screw that, they’re dicks.

112

jfxgillis 07.09.14 at 1:12 pm

My general sense is that true paleocons are more than capable of producing great, even profound art. Ezra Pound. Wendell Berry (?). Andrei Navrozov is a great writer even if he’s a lunatic.

But neocons and bidnesscons are by definition incapable. Their concerns are simply too ephemeral. When the profit is banked or the issue of the day resolved, the story is empty.

113

JW Mason 07.09.14 at 1:17 pm

I think the important thing in that case wouldn’t so much “author made it up” — people make stuff up all the time, nothing unusual — but “J Thomas lacks the ability to spot that stuff he is reading is made up”.

Yes, that was the conclusion I drew too. Especially since he can’t remember what the number is — 20%? 2%? 0.02%? — or where he read it.

Five minutes of googling establishes that the sex ratio at birth in Mexico is 1.05, exactly the same as in the US and Europe. It’s also 1.05 in Guatemala and the rest of Central America.

What we have learned here is that J Thomas has a severe case of McArdleism — the tendency to assert any number that pops into your head as fact, as long as “the reasoning is sound.”

114

Lee A. Arnold 07.09.14 at 2:11 pm

jfxgillis #109 — Pound was something of a minor monetary-theory crackpot and gave raging anti-semitic speeches on Rome radio against bankers who caused wars, but was he a “paleocon”? How are you defining that?

115

Lee A. Arnold 07.09.14 at 2:16 pm

Sancho #107 — Bingo, you win. And note that this is also true of much of the left, which believes that most of the population is on their side, or would be if they knew better, and it is only rightist propaganda and workers’ alienation which prevents them from waking up.

116

Anarcissie 07.09.14 at 2:22 pm

MPAVictoria 07.09.14 at 3:00 am @ 87 –
I’m familiar with reappropriation. Given the free use of misogynistic terms such as ‘bitch’ and ‘whore’ by some male rappers, and given the consumer demographics, and given the handle, I wonder if you think that’s reappropriation, too. I’d call it something else.

117

The Dark Avenger 07.09.14 at 2:28 pm

I think it’s a bit much to call someone an adherent of McArdleism because they can’t give an immediate citation for a datum that they read many years ago.

118

MPAVictoria 07.09.14 at 2:49 pm

“I’m familiar with reappropriation. Given the free use of misogynistic terms such as ‘bitch’ and ‘whore’ by some male rappers, and given the consumer demographics, and given the handle, I wonder if you think that’s reappropriation, too. I’d call it something else.”

You seem to be coming at me pretty hard about this…

I am not sure what you want me to say? Do you think there is any difference between a black man using the n-word and a white person? I never disagreed with you that it would be better if no one used racial/homophobic/misogynistic slurs. I merely pointed out that it also matters WHO is using the word.

119

J Thomas 07.09.14 at 3:08 pm

Five minutes of googling establishes that the sex ratio at birth in Mexico is 1.05, exactly the same as in the US and Europe. It’s also 1.05 in Guatemala and the rest of Central America.

The claim I read was for a particular population which was claimed to have undergone a period of intense female infanticide. The author made a rough calculation how much female infanticide would be required to create the result he claimed was there.

This would not be true for all of Mexico. It would not be true for all of Oaxaca if I remember correctly that it was Mazateca, but my google search did not find the sex ratio for Oaxaca, much less any group of Mazatec. Mazatecs are about 15% of Oaxaca, which would be enough to bring down the Oaxaca sex ratio some if the ratio was .8 for them, but not if it was .98.

I tried looking at anthropological data about Mazatecs, since I didn’t find government data. I ran into paywalls for most of leads.

I looked at Aztec stuff just in case I had that confused. I found somebody who quoted an old spanish record that looked at a few hundred aztecs, where the child sex ratio was 1.02. At that time that group of Aztecs could not be doing extreme female infanticide and get that ratio. I thought it was Mazatec anyway.

I sort of remembered the color pattern on the book’s cover. I tried a quick look for books on evolutionary population genetics. It should have been a classic, very readable. It would have been published before 1980. My search skills couldn’t narrow it down, and most of what I found was published within the last 10 years.

Especially since he can’t remember what the number is — 20%? 2%? 0.02%? — or where he read it.

I remember it as 20%. That seemed shocking to me at the time and it still does. Since I haven’t found my source and it seems incredible, I’m ready to consider I might have it wrong.

Without rereading it, I can imagine that the author might have created an example to demonstrate the math, with a made-up population and made-up numbers. That isn’t what I remember, but when it’s hard to believe the claim, I’ll consider that my memory could be faulty or I could have misread it to begin with.

I don’t know why the mazatecs would have a lot of female infanticide. I could imagine it for Aztecs who wanted to raise lots of warriors, but I didn’t find the evidence.

“Fernando de Alva Cortés Ixtlilxochitl, an Aztec descendant and the author of the Codex Ixtlilxochitl, claimed that one in five children of the Mexica subjects was killed annually. These high figures have not been confirmed by historians.”
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_sacrifice_in_pre-Columbian_cultures

It makes sense that Aztecs would sacrifice other people’s children, but I didn’t find that they preferentially killed girls. They could sensibly kill boys to reduce the number of warriors in the next generation, kill girls to keep the subject population from growing, or do both. To follow that lead I should look for an ethnicity that was dominated by the Aztecs for a long time, and that survived as a distinct group long enough for its secondary sex ratio to get counted.

I’ve put some hours into this and haven’t found what I wanted. I’m getting tired of looking for it. i would be willing to bet that something somewhat similar to what I said has been published in a reputable source (maybe only 2% and not 20%), but I don’t see a way to lose the bet short of somebody finding the text I haven’t found, and showing that it says something significantly different. So that is not a practical way for me to attest my partial certainty.

It’s what I remember, but I have occasionally misremembered things before.

120

MPAVictoria 07.09.14 at 3:14 pm

“It’s what I remember, but I have occasionally misremembered things before.”

Haven’t we all….

121

CJColucci 07.09.14 at 3:32 pm

Just for the record, though I don’t expect anyone to have paid much attention over the years, there is plenty of evidence in my comments — besides “snotty adolescent maleness” — of my gender. That said, I am not at all bothered by anyone confusing me for a woman. Though there are probably some, at least one, who seem to think I should be.

122

donquijoterocket 07.09.14 at 3:34 pm

@ Rea # 12- And if you don’t want to be taught lessons about use of language, do something with your time other than go to writers’ workshops. Especially those with real writers like Joanna Russ.
I’ve listened to the arguments about political correctness and have many times asked a conservative,any conservative, to give us all a precise definition of the phenomena and then to tell us all precisely how it differs from do unto others… So far I’ve had no takers.

123

Consumatopia 07.09.14 at 3:36 pm

There are some white people who want to feel free to say the n word. They miss the days when some people who don’t like it were afraid to object. They don’t just want to say the n word, they want to force other people to pretend to like it. The sort of “freedom” they want is zero sum–the only way they can be free to express themselves is if the people who don’t like their expressions are silenced.

To put it another way:

“Uhm… because they have a lot of very real power in a lot of the important areas of our lives as social beings? “

Yes, that is exactly why privileged people got away (and get away) with hurtful and threatening language–because they had and have a lot of power over those who would have objected.

A world in which every one were truly free to be who they truly were would have more criticism of privilege and the words of the privileged, not less.

124

Jerry Vinokurov 07.09.14 at 3:47 pm

Also, Chesterton was conservative!?!? All you all need to read “Man Who Knew Too Much”! It’s a joy.

We’re talking about a dude who literally wrote a book titled Orthodoxy, defending same.

125

Anarcissie 07.09.14 at 3:50 pm

MPAVictoria 07.09.14 at 2:49 pm @ 115:
‘You seem to be coming at me pretty hard about this…

You seemed to be pretty interested in it before. And I’m interested in the subject too — that is, how we categorize people into certain groups who are thereby permitted or encouraged or forbidden to do certain things. Dr. Dre is an artist, so ‘we’ permit him to use a lot of bad language about his and other categories. (‘We’ being mostly well-off White people not necessary including those present.) Dr. Dre does very well as an artist — he makes millions of dollars, that is — in part by permitting and encouraging other people to use bad language about women and minorities of various kinds, which they enjoy doing anyway and which, because of Dr. Dre’s efforts, is now down and cool and aesthetically appealing as well as gratifyingly offensive. In short, he exploits people by degrading them, by encouraging them to degrade themselves. It is not surprising that members of certain other categories find this an enjoyable spectacle. The main thing which seems to be undergoing reappropriation is the money of Dr. Dre’s customers. If the language had really been reappropriated we wouldn’t be having this discussion.

126

Thornton Hall 07.09.14 at 3:55 pm

@Mpavictoria: Thanks for clicking! I really think the way forward is to doggedly point out all the bits of “ideology” that have nothing to do with systems of ideas and everything to do with being wrong.

127

MPAVictoria 07.09.14 at 4:10 pm

@122

Let’s say that I agree with everything you wrote, which in fact I largely do, I can still believe that there is a difference between a member of an oppressed group using a word and a member of an oppressing class using that same word. Do you agree?

128

Bloix 07.09.14 at 4:13 pm

#43 – Rowling’s Potter world view is overtly progressive but the premise is profoundly conservative: a secret elite, educated at a private boarding school, runs the government. The model is Eaton/Rugby/Oxford/Cambridge and then on to the Foreign Office and the Exchequer.

129

Lynne 07.09.14 at 4:20 pm

Bloix—and male. Don’t forget that. For all the imagination she showed in the details of magic, she had zero imagination about who makes a good hero.

130

Bruce Wilder 07.09.14 at 4:21 pm

Let’s say that I agree with everything you wrote, which in fact I largely do, I can still believe . . .

Good discussion is seldom compatible with reducing it to an exercise in socialization.

131

MPAVictoria 07.09.14 at 4:29 pm

“Good discussion is seldom compatible with reducing it to an exercise in socialization.”

Thank you for that pearl of wisdom Bruce.

132

J Thomas 07.09.14 at 4:31 pm

Good discussion is seldom compatible with reducing it to an exercise in socialization.

We don’t want to remove everything else. But — I read a story about an academic who got a job working for a politician. The politician told him he had to restructure his approach to discussion. His old way, if he agreed 90% with somebody then they argued about the 10%. If he agreed 99.9% then they argued about the 0.1%. But the politician said that in discussion, he needed to look for agreement. If they agree 50%, look for ways to make progress on the 50% they agree on. If they agree 1%, look for ways to use that 1%.

To the extent that there’s still any real action in Congress, I think that’s what is getting it.

I think it’s admirable for them to examine their 0.1% disagreement while recognizing that they do mostly agree and are not really enemies.

133

MPAVictoria 07.09.14 at 4:32 pm

@125, 126

Good points. However, she also included female characters who were every bit as competent as their male counterparts and a gay Headmaster. Also a subplot about the importance of respecting the rights of minorities.

134

Thornton Hall 07.09.14 at 5:09 pm

@125 The biggest problem isn’t that Hogwarts is modeled after Oxford, the problem is that our state universities are based on the elites only model. Why on earth do we tax everyone to pay for education that only a select few will “qualify” for. As the Supreme Court’s recent anti-affirmative action case involving Michigan suggests, “qualifying” for public education is incoherent.

135

Thornton Hall 07.09.14 at 5:24 pm

One general point: GK Chesterton (first a liberal then a “distributionist”calling for state seizure and redistribution of land) and CS Lewis have in common only a belief in traditional Christian religion and that gets them included in comment ?teen as “conservative”. Is such confusion down to Wm F Buckley and his whining about Yale? If so, he has slandered two great compassionate and wise writers.

136

LFC 07.09.14 at 5:24 pm

@T Hall
Why on earth do we tax everyone to pay for education that only a select few will “qualify” for

This is off-topic (if there is such a thing on this thread), but if you are talking about the US, as I understand it the majority of institutions of higher ed (incl. state ones) in the US are not v. selective in admissions, and someone w a h.s. diploma who wants to go to college can almost certainly get in somewhere. The state flagships are just the tip of the system. The questions of the distribution of public resources across the system and whether the system is generally serving students well are, granted, separate questions that have been debated on other CT threads. But in terms of qualifying for admission *somewhere* in the system, that’s not the main barrier to entry. A lot of the probs start earlier, w h.s. dropout rates, etc.

137

Thornton Hall 07.09.14 at 5:30 pm

@121. I’m not familiar with Chesterton’s religious apologies, but the word “conservative” is tricky (see, JQ imagining that there is a form of it he could endorse in a recent post). There’s “conservatism”, the American polititical dogma that I think is more correctly labeled “Reaganism” to avoid just such a confusion. Obviously, Pope Francis is “conservative” in your usage. But he’s no Reaganist.

138

Thornton Hall 07.09.14 at 5:36 pm

@LFC What’s the quote about changing people’s minds when they have a financial incentive not to change? How do we get American policy wonks (mostly paid by universities) and American progressive voters (all with find memories of the dear mother) to see that being the only country in the world that devotes vastly greater money to educating the rich than the poor is seriously fucked up? It’s gonna be an uphill struggle, no doubt, but U of M prides itself on spending tax dollars to educate the children of the elite. It’s their raison d’tra. The result is Detroit/Grosse Point.

139

Jerry Vinokurov 07.09.14 at 5:39 pm

One general point: GK Chesterton (first a liberal then a “distributionist”calling for state seizure and redistribution of land) and CS Lewis have in common only a belief in traditional Christian religion and that gets them included in comment ?teen as “conservative”. Is such confusion down to Wm F Buckley and his whining about Yale? If so, he has slandered two great compassionate and wise writers.

There’s confusion here only if you make the mistake of trying to exactly map Buckley or other modern conservatives back to the late 19th/early 20th century. Yes, Chesterton may have had some views that might be categorized as liberal in our times; he also wrote innumerable words inveighing against all manner of social advances we currently take for granted, e.g. women’s suffrage and evolution. He is most definitely a conservative and would almost certainly answer to that label. “Belief in traditional Christian religion” is not accidental to his conservatism but its core.

140

LFC 07.09.14 at 6:00 pm

@T Hall
I wd agree w you in principle on the distributional issues, but I have little to no knowledge of the details of higher-ed funding and its relation to taxation. (And the details here prob. matter.)

141

Jfxgillis 07.09.14 at 6:41 pm

111
Lee A. Arnold 07.09.14 at 2:11 pm

I always figured Canto XLV, “With Usura,” as a Paleocon manifesto.

142

Thornton Hall 07.09.14 at 6:53 pm

@136 It seems to me that there is sort of a choice about social vs economic policy that animates our semantic disagreement. There’s conservative meaning: don’t change. In that sense the contents of the policy preferences will be forever shifting with the status quo. I think the threat of Marxism and the “ideological” battles of the 20th C cause us to call this an “ideology” when it’s really a temperament.

There’s conservative the political economic ideology ala Burke: aristocrats rule because god made it that way.

Then there’s conservative the social philosophy: what is weird and strange in social relations is weird and strange because god made it that way.

It seems of these three types, the second is the only one that will have a consistent meaning over time, and even that’s contingent on our historical economic and political inequality.

Of course, I don’t endorse relativism. The wisdom of treating women like human beings was there for Chesterton to see, even in his own time. Nonetheless, I think defining conservative as “resistant to social progress” is the least helpful definition. But maybe that’s just a function of my greater interest in political economy over, say, gender roles.

143

Thornton Hall 07.09.14 at 6:56 pm

I mean, whatever he thought about women’s suffrage, he wrote mystery stories that containing passages mocking the Eton boys that are laugh out loud funny. There’s no way that calling the emperor naked in that way is conservative.

144

Thornton Hall 07.09.14 at 7:04 pm

@122 Exactly how much causal power are you attributing to Dr Dre’s references to bitches and hos? It seems to be: yes, kids would say those things if it weren’t for artists like Dr Dre, but they wouldn’t feel so cool doing it.

Is that right?

If so, when does Dr Dre go from being one of those kids to being the kind of person who is self-consciously making hate cool for profit? Is the threshold age? Record sales? Familiarity with sufficient white people?

145

Jerry Vinokurov 07.09.14 at 7:15 pm

There’s conservative the political economic ideology ala Burke: aristocrats rule because god made it that way.

This doesn’t seem to me like an accurate characterization of Burke’s views, which are considerably more sophisticated than that. Actually, I’m not sure I buy your tripartite division either, but I don’t think that’s what’s important here. Even Chesterton’s distributivist views were an outgrowth of his fundamental conservatism stemming in part from his religious outlook. I don’t think this is really that controversial at all; just because the guy was legitimately funny doesn’t mean that he wasn’t also conservative. Like, this:

whatever he thought about women’s suffrage

is not just some view he held in passing, but actually one of the defining political issues of the early 20th century. I’m a bit weirded out that you ascribe so little importance to his views on what’s actually a hugely important issue.

146

William Berry 07.09.14 at 7:28 pm

Adam Bellow: what a pathetic legacy for one of the most revered American novelists of the C20. Can’t help but think that, were he alive today, the old man would be a little embarrassed. Of course He was a bit of a racist nut-bag himself, so there you go.

And what are these ass-clowns crying about anyway? They already have two of the “greatest” American “literary” figures in their corner: the bloody-minded Catholic neo-fascist, Cormac McCarthy, and the Nietzachean latter-day Zarathustra, Orson Scott Card.

147

roy belmont 07.09.14 at 7:40 pm

Hey speaking of “women’s suffrage”, ain’t it funny (odd not ha-ha) how pretty much everybody but low-hanging fruitcakes agrees that that was majorly wrong to not have it, but there is not one. single. clear. rational explanation for its lack for all those years and years.
Except the “Oh you know, people them days was all kindsa dumbass.”
The “we’re crawling out of a swamp of superstition and ignorance with muck in our eyes” explanation.
Yeah? Really?
Dumb?
How bout batshit lunar crazy? With a cloud of cunning toxicity all round it protecting its pathological center.
How bout where’s the bright line dividing said them dumbass crazies from the sensible sane now people?
It’s like watching the self-modulating of a sociopath as he runs into serious overt exposure of his void heart’s display.
Whoopsie! Them humans need some human-type show here. Better act more, uh, humanish.
Until I get where it won’t matter what they think of me. Again.

Seriously, the suppression of women, misogyny or call it what you will, seems to run right parallel to the suppression of emotion as primary human motivation and, let’s say, supra-rational wisdom, in Western Civ.
Leading, some would say, to…uhm…well…erhh… right where we are at right now.
More or less deep shit, depending how long your legs are.

148

geo 07.09.14 at 7:48 pm

Lee @112: much of the left … believes that most of the population is on their side, or would be if they knew better, and it is only rightist propaganda and workers’ alienation which prevents them from waking up

What else could it possibly be?

149

Thornton Hall 07.09.14 at 7:48 pm

@142 I honestly thought I was being charitable by chalking up our differences to a matter of emphasis and interest. But if you want to pick a fight: show me a woman who thinks voting is more important than economic distribution and I’ll show you a rich white woman.

150

Jerry Vinokurov 07.09.14 at 7:49 pm

I honestly thought I was being charitable by chalking up our differences to a matter of emphasis and interest. But if you want to pick a fight: show me a woman who thinks voting is more important than economic distribution and I’ll show you a rich white woman.

You’re acting like these are separate questions instead two aspects of the same question, that question being “do women have rights equal to men?” The political and the economic are inseparable here.

151

Ronan(rf) 07.09.14 at 7:56 pm

How can you divide out economic distributional issues and the right to vote ? The way people ‘get stuff’ in a liberal democracy (theoretically) is through the political system. If you are isolated from politics, how can you meaningful effect the distribution of wealth in society?
So by extension ‘women’s suffrage’ and feminism is *concerned fundamentally* with questions of economic distribution, no ?

152

Ronan(rf) 07.09.14 at 7:57 pm

crossposted with jerry v

153

Thornton Hall 07.09.14 at 8:01 pm

Also, if Chesterton was “conservative” then what were the “Conservatives”? I mean, everyone calls them “Tories” but it’s worth remembering their official name, if only to avoid mistaking a liberal who advocated massive wealth redistribution for a reactionary woman hater. I’ll read more Chesterton, but he disagreed with the “Conservatives” about something, right?

154

Sancho 07.09.14 at 8:18 pm

Lee A. Arnold @ 112

Except that, in America at least, that’s true.

It’s not guesswork: poll after poll, election after election demonstrates without doubt that the majority of US citizens are keen on centre-left, social-democratic policies.

They just don’t have a lobby.

155

geo 07.09.14 at 8:33 pm

Sancho, thanks for that link to the Onion. It’s priceless.

156

Thornton Hall 07.09.14 at 8:51 pm

@146 & 147 There is something deeply pernicious in seeing the right to vote as instrumental in social justice. It shares a perspective with the authors of Citizen’s United.

White gay men of property have never been disenfranchised in this country and yet…

157

Lee A. Arnold 07.09.14 at 8:58 pm

Jfxgillis #111: “I always figured Canto XLV, “With Usura,” as a Paleocon manifesto.”

But that is strictly about interest, and how it affects cultural values, and I didn’t think that the paleocons had a dog in that fight.

158

Lee A. Arnold 07.09.14 at 9:01 pm

Geo #144: “What else could it possibly be?”

I think it is the complexity of issues (e.g. mechanics of financial crash; imprecise predictability of climate) up against limited intellectual time. I suppose they could be “alienated” from sheer lack of time, but was that the original definition?

159

Thornton Hall 07.09.14 at 9:06 pm

PS I am familiar w/ Chesterton’s fiction, which, of course, is what the OP is all about. The more I read re: his politics, the more I see it was a mixed bag. But I am attracted to his critique of tolerance as requiring silence when we know the truth.

160

Lee A. Arnold 07.09.14 at 9:08 pm

Sancho #150: “It’s not guesswork: poll after poll, election after election demonstrates without doubt that the majority of US citizens are keen on centre-left, social-democratic policies.”

I happen to agree. In fact, I may have been the first individual on Crooked Timber to point out, many years ago now, that the U.S. majority is slightly center-left. However you will find that many leftists commenting here and elsewhere say that this isn’t good enough, that these people are all buying in to neoliberalism and evil, and it is THAT left which is echoing Bellow’s complaint.

161

Consumatopia 07.09.14 at 9:15 pm

Was Chesterton’s position that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote but should make as much money as men?

162

Thornton Hall 07.09.14 at 9:20 pm

@JerryV Would it be fair to say that you identify religious belief with conservatism? And if so, why not engage with my point about Pope Francis being no Reaganist?

163

Thornton Hall 07.09.14 at 9:24 pm

@161 I get the linkage between politics and economy thing. Today’s Internet research is that Chesterton wrote that women were far to busy concerning themselves with the business of real life to buy into men’s nonsense about the value of politics. This strikes me as a) patronizing and anachronistic, and b) correct.

164

J Thomas 07.09.14 at 9:42 pm

There is something deeply pernicious in seeing the right to vote as instrumental in social justice.

To the extent that we have democracy, we will tend to do what the majority wants.

Some Republicans say that we don’t have a democracy, we have a republic. Their distinction is that in a democracy, the majority can do anything it wants to minorities, but in a republic the majority is limited in its ability to trample minority rights — minorities are given the Constitutional means to keep the majority from trampling them.

But when I read the US Constitution, it has two main safeguards to protect minorities. First, it has various ways that people who live in small states are over-represented. If you live in Wyoming your congressman represents fewer voters than any single representative from California, and your two senators likewise. Also you are over-represented in the Electoral College voting for President. By giving extra power to states that don’t have many people, we make it harder to trample the rights of the citizens of those states.

The second safeguard was that slave states were over-represented in various ways, but that got thrown out a long time ago.

There is another way that minorities could be protected, namely that everybody is given various vague rights by the Constitution, and if you feel your rights are being violated you can go to court and appeal the decisions and if each court in the hierarchy decides to review it on appeal, eventually it can reach the US Supreme Court which will may rule on it and tell people they can’t violate that right against people like you. This is chancy and indirect.

Apart from the Constitutional guarantee of extra votes — which currently only applies to underpopulated states — minorities must depend on finding a majority that says they must not be mistreated. If a majority stands behind that, then the minority that wants to mistreat them must do it quietly. If the majority thinks some particular minority doesn’t have rights, then it all tends to fail. The Supreme Court can make a ruling and it won’t really be obeyed. Etc.

The right to vote is an important symbol. What’s really important is to have a majority of the public on your side and a majority of voters, whoever’s voting, but it’s good to have your own vote that doesn’t depend on somebody else.

It has been a good thing for the USA to have a lot of liberals who believe that everybody’s rights are important, who stand up for every minority. They occasionally slack off. Like, they have not stood up for NAMBLA, a bunch of men who believe that they should have a right to completely consensual sex with willing young boys. But usually they support even minorities that tend to get bad media attention, within some limits. So almost everybody gets the minimum rights we think everybody ought to get, except when abuse of those rights can be kept quiet.

165

ZM 07.09.14 at 9:47 pm

“My general sense is that true paleocons are more than capable of producing great, even profound art. Ezra Pound. Wendell Berry (?). Andrei Navrozov is a great writer even if he’s a lunatic.”

I don’t know why you lump Wendell Berry in with Ezra Pound . The last writer I’ve never heard of. Wendell Berry argued against Christian opposition to gay marriage (see below) , and Naomi Klein quoted him just recently as saying young or youngish people ought to settle down to know a place.

““My argument, much abbreviated both times, was the sexual practices of consenting adults ought not to be subjected to the government’s approval or disapproval, and that domestic partnerships in which people who live together and devote their lives to one another ought to receive the spousal rights, protections and privileges the government allows to heterosexual couples,” Berry said.

Berry said liberals and conservatives have invented “a politics of sexuality” that establishes marriage as a “right” to be granted or withheld by whichever side prevails. He said both viewpoints contravene principles of democracy that rights are self-evident and inalienable and not determined and granted or withheld by the government.

“Christians of a certain disposition have found several ways to categorize homosexuals as different as themselves, who are in the category of heterosexual and therefore normal and therefore good,” Berry said. What is unclear, he said, is why they single out homosexuality as a perversion.

“The Bible, as I pointed out to the writers of National Review, has a lot more to say against fornication and adultery than against homosexuality,” he said. “If one accepts the 24th and 104th Psalms as scriptural norms, then surface mining and other forms of earth destruction are perversions. If we take the Gospels seriously, how can we not see industrial warfare — with its inevitable massacre of innocents — as a most shocking perversion? By the standard of all scriptures, neglect of the poor, of widows and orphans, of the sick, the homeless, the insane, is an abominable perversion.”


“We have the technology, after all, to monitor everybody’s sexual behavior, but so far as I can see so eager an interest in other people’s private intimacy is either prurient or totalitarian or both.”

“The oddest of the strategies to condemn and isolate homosexuals is to propose that homosexual marriage is opposed to and a threat to heterosexual marriage, as if the marriage market is about to be cornered and monopolized by homosexuals,” Berry said. “If this is not industrial capitalist paranoia, it at least follows the pattern of industrial capitalist competitiveness. We must destroy the competition. If somebody else wants what you’ve got, from money to marriage, you must not hesitate to use the government – small of course – to keep them from getting it.”

“But the difficulty is not assigned to any group of scapegoats,” he said. “It is rooted mainly in the values and priorities of our industrial capitalist system in which every one of us is complicit.”

“If I were one of a homosexual couple — the same as I am one of a heterosexual couple — I would place my faith and hope in the mercy of Christ, not in the judgment of Christians,” Berry said. “When I consider the hostility of political churches to homosexuality and homosexual marriage, I do so remembering the history of Christian war, torture, terror, slavery and annihilation against Jews, Muslims, black Africans, American Indians and others. And more of the same by Catholics against Protestants, Protestants against Catholics, Catholics against Catholics, Protestants against Protestants, as if by law requiring the love of God to be balanced by hatred of some neighbor for the sin of being unlike some divinely preferred us. If we are a Christian nation — as some say we are, using the adjective with conventional looseness — then this Christian blood thirst continues wherever we find an officially identifiable evil, and to the immense enrichment of our Christian industries of war.”

“Condemnation by category is the lowest form of hatred, for it is cold-hearted and abstract, lacking even the courage of a personal hatred,” Berry said. “Categorical condemnation is the hatred of the mob. It makes cowards brave. And there is nothing more fearful than a religious mob, a mob overflowing with righteousness – as at the crucifixion and before and since. This can happen only after we have made a categorical refusal to kindness: to heretics, foreigners, enemies or any other group different from ourselves.”

166

Theophylact 07.09.14 at 9:49 pm

Anyway, it was The Man Who Was Thursday.

167

Thornton Hall 07.09.14 at 10:54 pm

@165 You know he wrote more than one thing, right? I find The Man Who Was Thursday to be heavy handed. I prefer the little mysteries like Father Brown or The Man Who Knew Too Much.

168

Thornton Hall 07.09.14 at 11:03 pm

Belief in a strong connection between the right to vote and enjoying human dignity is at the heart of neoliberalism. It fits in with notions of meritocracy and “the market place of ideas”. Unfortunately, democracy is neither a necessary nor sufficient cause of human dignity. There are ways to get there that use democracy as one tool among many. And there are (to my imagination) very few ways to get there without democracy, but, importantly, there are a nearly infinite number of scenarios where oligarchs use democracy as a cover for reaping the surplus or everyone else’s labor. I’m not a Marxist, but voting in a capitalist democracy, without more, will get you nothing but suffering and a handy narrative about how you yourself are to blame.

169

Thornton Hall 07.09.14 at 11:30 pm

@Lee A Arnold 96: that dual wedge, plus Citizens United guaranteeing that no matter how crazy you are, some rich dude can fund your entire campaign, is, in my opinion, the structural doom facing the GOP. Everyday we get closer to the situation where the ability to win a GOP primary is, by definition, a guarantee that you cannot win a statewide general election. The whipsaw is going to be severe in NC and GA and very soon, probably right after the 2020 reapportionment. Then it will be a countdown until the GOP goes the way of the Whigs.

170

Anarcissie 07.09.14 at 11:35 pm

MPAVictoria 07.09.14 at 4:10 pm
‘@122 [not really]
Let’s say that I agree with everything you wrote, which in fact I largely do, I can still believe that there is a difference between a member of an oppressed group using a word and a member of an oppressing class using that same word. Do you agree?’

On the whole I find the former more repellent, especially when its purpose is mercenary, and a substantial portion of the audience is of the oppressing category, including a sort of hipster element, who are up for games around certain lexical entries, while a couple of million people are in jail and millions more are under police supervision. Where does the idea that Black people should be gangsters come from? What interests does it serve? Who’s buying tickets and applauding?

Thornton Hall 07.09.14 at 7:04 pm @ 144 — I don’t have a theory of (effective) causation or gradation. Talking about women, especially of one’s own oppressed category, as ‘whores’, casually and repeatedly, offends my delicate sensibilities, that’s all.

171

geo 07.10.14 at 12:14 am

Lee @158: the complexity of things

Sigh. Yes, I suppose you’re right. Still, I sometimes feel that McManus’s (or is it McGravitas’s?) eloquent exhortations to just string up the bastards and burn down their mansions go to the heart of the matter.

172

Lee A. Arnold 07.10.14 at 12:26 am

@ Thorton Hall 168 — You would not believe the trouble I had selling the same thesis to the commenters here, 5 years ago. If the Democrats have any brains, they will continue to drive the wedge into the GOP right now, by loudly proposing legislation that the Repubs will turn down. They should also now loudly tell the country that Obamacare allows the states to enact single payer systems starting in 2017, so anybody with half a brain should vote for a Democratic senate, to prevent it from being overturned. When you total it all up, about 55-65% of the country would welcome a single payer. People hate sending money to the private insurers. Also, a single payer system will help ensure a social preference for a stronger welfare state in the future. And that is how the wheel really turns (as the conservative right correctly fears). I fear however that the lefty liberals here and elsewhere would rather clutch at their purity rings.

173

MPAVictoria 07.10.14 at 1:14 am

Anarcissie

thank you for the response. I guess we just disagree on the topic and I am not interested in arguing about it any longer.

174

LFC 07.10.14 at 1:44 am

@Wm Berry
the bloody-minded Catholic neo-fascist, Cormac McCarthy

Well, that’s not how I read Blood Meridian, which is considered his masterpiece. (It’s been a long time since I read it, admittedly.) There is a lot of violence, and the central character has a sort of fascist (or nihilist) worldview, but it’s far from clear that that is McCarthy’s own view. I don’t know what his politics are. Perhaps he has said somewhere, but I would be wary of inferring his political views too readily from the fiction.

175

Consumatopia 07.10.14 at 1:47 am

@163, the linkage between politics and economics wasn’t quite what I was getting at. So far as I know, Chesterton didn’t think anything needed to be done to adjust the balance of power between genders, in politics, markets, culture or families. It’s not that he believed women were inferior to men, he just denied that they were treated any worse than men. He didn’t just oppose suffragism, he had conservative views on gender–even for the time–across the board.

176

J Thomas 07.10.14 at 1:50 am

#169

Where does the idea that Black people should be gangsters come from?

Probably the same place the idea that british seamen should be pirates came from. Seamen on sailing ships got a notoriously bad deal. The empire needed them but it didn’t need to pay them if it could keep them from escaping while docked. People instinctively liked the idea of pirates who got away with going into business for themselves. Approach a ship, offer the crew freedom and if they chose to join, a share of the profits, they mutiny on the spot and you have two ships for one….

Of course in reality most pirates wound up destitute and in poor health if not hanged. Unless some of them secretly retired with money. There aren’t good statistics about how many secretly managed that.

So now we have the idea of poor urban black people with essentially no prospects, and the idea that some of them could win — either by drugs or rock-and-roll or whatever — and thumb their noses at anybody they like, is kind of appealing. Only a fantasy, but a pleasant fantasy.

What interests does it serve?

Pirates probably served the interests of the traders in the Americas who fenced their stolen goods cheap. And they were good for the people who made up songs and stories about them.

The myth of winning gangsters is probably good for the high-level drug smugglers who employ them. And of course the media people who glamorize them. I’m not sure of anybody else who benefits.

Who’s buying tickets and applauding?

Lots of people. Particularly people who feel trapped, who imagine a life of danger and riches. Mostly they don’t want to try it, but they like to imagine it. I don’t think very much of the audience is people who want to give blacks an unrealistic dream that will funnel them into the prison system. Instead it’s people who share the dream, but whose prospects while kind of bleak are still good enough they don’t want to risk sharing a prison cell with one of the gangsters.

177

Layman 07.10.14 at 1:52 am

I confess I don’t want to know Cormac McCarthy’s politics because his prose is just too damned good to have it spoiled. Ditto James Elroy.

178

Layman 07.10.14 at 1:55 am

“Of course in reality most pirates wound up destitute and in poor health if not hanged.”

J Thomas, it’s hard to understand what a sentence like that can even mean. ‘Most pirates’? ‘In reality’?

179

J Thomas 07.10.14 at 2:18 am

“Of course in reality most pirates wound up destitute and in poor health if not hanged.”

J Thomas, it’s hard to understand what a sentence like that can even mean. ‘Most pirates’? ‘In reality’?

Try to read it ironically. The british tried hard to give that impression. How many pirates retired wealthy or at least with adequate recompense for their time enslaved at sea? Who would know? That isn’t even a secret, not like somebody knows and isn’t telling, not like somebody knew at one time. The pirates themselves didn’t keep centralized records and the empire didn’t know and wouldn’t be truthful if it did.

180

Nine 07.10.14 at 2:19 am

Pertinently, Saul Bellow has several unsuccessful sons of alpha-male fathers in his books. I can think of at least two (in “More die of heatrbreak” and (IIRC) “The Dean’s December”) offhand. These characters – who tend to be businessmen, not academics or novelists – are very conscious of their failure in the wake of their fathers’ fame & fortune. However does Adam Bellow interpret those books ?

181

Layman 07.10.14 at 2:33 am

” The empire needed them but it didn’t need to pay them if it could keep them from escaping while docked. People instinctively liked the idea of pirates who got away with going into business for themselves. Approach a ship, offer the crew freedom and if they chose to join, a share of the profits, they mutiny on the spot and you have two ships for one….”

OK, which Royal Navy crews mutinied, seized their ship & became pirates? I count, well, none, actually. The Bounty almost qualifies, though that crew simply marooned themselves on Pitcairn and burned the ship.

182

Thornton Hall 07.10.14 at 2:46 am

@Lee A Arnold: I think Democratic strategists are wise to this game, but conservative (so to speak) in how they play it. The war on women is a clear winner, so, (even as they hate what it means for women) having the discussion center around GOP opposition to contraception (mental shorthand) is fantastic. Meanwhile, I hear you on single payer. But don’t forget that pretty much every Congressional Democrat took part in town halls before and after passage of the ACA where they got screamed at by angry mobs of Obamacare haters. You can understand that would make a person gun shy.

Where you do see some more aggressive moves is on SS, where the talk is now about expanding benefits. That’s a clear winner, too, although far from a top priority in real policy terms.

183

heckblazer 07.10.14 at 3:00 am

OK, which Royal Navy crews mutinied, seized their ship & became pirates? I count, well, none, actually.

There was Henry Avery, who lead a mutiny on the ship Charles II due to lack of pay. He renamed it the Fancy and later became the self-proclaimed king of Madagascar. It was much more common for privateers to switch to piracy after the war finished, or for a merchant vessel to mutiny, though.

184

J Thomas 07.10.14 at 3:39 am

OK, which Royal Navy crews mutinied, seized their ship & became pirates?

I have read that commercial crews often had it worse. And those were of course what pirates attacked. Given a pirate attack a crew could choose to defend, or throw in with the attackers, or sit it out. After one side won, whoever was in charge could punish or reward each individual crewman based on whatever criteria they chose.

The empire needed cheap transport and tended not to assist defrauded sailors. A sailor who was not paid and not allowed to leave his ship, might find rescue by pirates his best exit strategy.

But ships needed maintenance that pirates could not do well, so they regularly had to capture new ships to replace old ones. It was a self-limiting process, so it would make sense for anyone who could collect enough of a stake to get set up doing something else probably ought to do that.

Regardless of all that, it was a fine fantasy which has captured imaginations from then right down to now.

185

roy belmont 07.10.14 at 3:42 am

Anarcissie 07.09.14 at 11:35 pm
Not to get deeper into a debate where the participants are so far outside the cultural nexus they’re discussing they really have no business saying anything at all, but…

There’s a huge, big, giant difference between throwing a pejorative term back in the face of oppression, and stomping all over everybody in sight, including people even less enfranchised than you are. Lumping all uses of all taboo – in your world – terms as equally misguided and wrong is…wrong.
You first heard rappers using variations on “nigga” in music industry products that got enough airplay and publicity to get to you. The guys using that term in that way did not. They heard it where they lived and brought it to the stage, way before you heard it.
There’s an enormous difference between reflecting the actual language of your peers back to them, and violating social norms just to make shock and bank.
I would never think of defending some asshole making big tough noises about degraded women serving him. It’s a stereotype, that pimp-daddy idiocy, self-fulfilling media hype, and doesn’t have much validity as representing the raw real music coming off the street that was rap’s lifeblood early on.
It became truer as the genre rose into the mainstream, and the dull-witted macho posturing sold more records. The industry itself and the buying public bear most of the responsibility for that, not the players.
-
For fun and dismay:

“I won’t get into the debate about climate change but I will just simply point out that I think in academia we all agree that the temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that. Yet there are no coal mines on Mars. There’s no factories on Mars that I’m aware of.”
Kentucky State Senator Brandon Smith.
This man serves in the legislature of one of the United States.
He was elected.
It’s not a problem of conservatives v. liberals anymore, is it?
Democracy’s not broken, it’s been kidnapped and chained to the walls of some lunatic’s basement.

186

J Thomas 07.10.14 at 4:17 am

You would not believe the trouble I had selling the same thesis to the commenters here, 5 years ago. If the Democrats have any brains, they will continue to drive the wedge into the GOP right now, by loudly proposing legislation that the Repubs will turn down.

Do you want Democrats to do that? If so, which Democrats do you need to convince?

Once I found a blog where many of the participants had a far better understanding of monetary theory than I was used to. I learned some things from them, and spent pretty much effort trying to get them to understand some things they were missing. Then I noticed that they were not trying to understand the stuff so they could influence people to do things better. They were traders, and they wanted to understand how the monetary system actually worked so they could better predict its effects on their investments. If I succeeded at getting them to understand even better, the main result would be that their businesses would be more profitable for them.

Do you want to convince commenters here for practice? Because they are better at convincing the people you need to convince, than you are? Because some of them (or lurkers) will actively make choices based on your advice, if you can convince them? Because it’s fun?

If you have a goal, it might make sense to look for ways to achieve the goal. If commenters here put up a roadblock, check how much you depend on commenters here and maybe route around them even while you look for ways to persuade them. Depending on your plan, their approval may not be necessary or even useful.

187

Lee A. Arnold 07.10.14 at 4:41 am

J Thomas #186 — Don’t worry about it.

188

William Berry 07.10.14 at 5:18 am

LFC and Layman:

There is plenty out there about McCarthy’s politics and views, and, yes, much of it can be deduced from the nature of his literary output.

While, obviously, his characters don’t necessarily speak for him all the time, some do, even if negatively or contrafactually. The Judge, e.g., in BM, in his famous speech late in the novel, expresses exactly McCarthy’s view of a a universe without God. It is this dark, dark view that leads McCarthy to ridiculously exaggerate every human fault and foible.

His prose is something like warmed-over (no, make that super-heated) Faulkner, without the humanist sensibility. I think his charm for some might be this very tendency to over-write and to exaggerate everything that is vile in human nature. It makes for plenty of blood-soaked excitement. Think of the prurient thrills of a Frank Miller graphic novel.

He is supposed to have mellowed out more recently, but that would be too late to be reflected in any of his major fiction. He must be around eighty or so; presumably, he wouldn’t be expected to publish much more. So, yeah, for most of his career, he has been a bloody-minded Catholic [reactionary] (allow me that emendation; on reflection, the “neo-fascist” bit doesn’t fit so well. There is no room for a cult; only for the solitary, self-reliant, masculine hero).

I think McC’s world-view might be closer to that of Robert Frost than of anyone else that comes to mind. But Frost didn’t write off virtually all humanity— he just liked a good fence. And Frost, at least, was a genuinely great American literary figure.

McCarthy’s own taste in literature is telling. He hates everything I (and like-minded left-liberal types) love; he professes to dislike Proust, Henry James (!), and Garcia Marquez. I mean, WTF?

James Wood doesn’t like him, and thinks he is enormously over-rated. In this, as in most things, I agree with James Wood.

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William Berry 07.10.14 at 5:50 am

Sorry, but in mentioning Wood above, I should have said that he is considerably impressed by some McC’s prose. He likes, e.g., the spare and muscular minimalism of The Road. What he finds questionable are the themes and tropes that style supports. Or whatever. YMMV.

Not a big thing with me really. I just love to read, think, and write about literature. And I am not a fan of writers who do not paint (at least metaphorically) accurate pictures of the world.

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Trader Joe 07.10.14 at 11:24 am

WB @188 and 189 – off topic

When I read McCarthy I always find myself thinking – I don’t much like these characters, this plot doesnt seem to be moving very quickly and the morality of the story is going to be some mix of nihilsm, deperation and inhumanit, but yet the prose evokes an odd compulsion to keep reading in the hope that something good will shine through, somewhere. I liked your comparison to Frost – maybe Frost without fences, and more blood, paricularly from nasty knife wounds.

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Thornton Hall 07.10.14 at 2:07 pm

@186 What 187 said.

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Anarcissie 07.10.14 at 2:19 pm

roy belmont 07.10.14 at 3:42 am @ 185:
‘Anarcissie 07.09.14 at 11:35 pm:
Not to get deeper into a debate where the participants are so far outside the cultural nexus they’re discussing they really have no business saying anything at all, but…
There’s a huge, big, giant difference between throwing a pejorative term back in the face of oppression, and stomping all over everybody in sight, including people even less enfranchised than you are. Lumping all uses of all taboo – in your world – terms as equally misguided and wrong is…wrong.

First of all, you don’t know what nexuses I’m in. Second, I am confident that the use of the language we are discussing preceded rapping as a general, widespread musical form. Third, I am not interested in presumably ultimate right and wrong — I have no access to such knowledge; I just know what I like and don’t like. In my doubtless partial view: every community (set of people living in some common relationship) which practices gradation, levels of social status, power hierarchies, differences of wealth and repute, respectables and contemptibles, sheep and goats, has to have a category of bad people for the others to be better than. It can be arranged in families, in villages, in tribes, in nations. It can and has been done experimentally on hitherto equal sets of people. The bad people are those who threaten, those who are poor, those who are weak, those who are ignorant, those who do badly in school, those who don’t have a job, those who do street crime, those who are in jail, those who complain, those who have problems, those who are a problem. This distinction is maintained with language as well as other behaviors. And the system reaches perfection when the ‘bad’ people adopt the language of their ‘betters’ and introject their worldview and start using the language and gestures that degrade and subjugate them. Right or wrong, I don’t have to like it. Sorry to be so tedious.

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MPAVictoria 07.10.14 at 2:37 pm

” Sorry to be so tedious.”

If it matters, I never thought you were tedious. I don’t agree entirely with your point of view but you laid it out well and with obvious feeling.

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Layman 07.10.14 at 2:56 pm

“It is this dark, dark view that leads McCarthy to ridiculously exaggerate every human fault and foible.”

Certainly there’s exaggeration, but I can’t recall a single good book that isn’t grounded in exaggeration. McCarthy is certainly convinced that most people are bad, but that’s not what I take away from his stories. What I get – what he is able to impart beautifully – is his wonder and deep love for what is good, even grand, in (some) people. The Road is painful to read, but ultimately redeemed by the love of a father for a son, and the self-sacrifice that love demands.

His use of language is astonishing, and the dialog always rings true, both in form and meaning.

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J Thomas 07.10.14 at 2:57 pm

@186 What 187 said.

That’s interesting.

I think I have a right to be interested in finding out what other commenters think their goals are. They have no obligation to discuss it, but it’s worth a look.

Like, if there’s a discussion going on and some people are seriously trying to think out what they should do, while others are just kibitzing, that can be a disconnect. Like, we can discuss whether that pitcher should have tried that fastball against Babe Ruth. What else could he have done that might have worked better? And we can discuss what Rossokovski could have done better at Kursk. Similarly we can argue what the Democrats should have done in the 2010 election, and with exactly the same motives what they should do in 2014.

This is entirely different from actually facing Ruth or being Rossokovski or pitching ideas to some group of organized Democrats.

Similarly, my desire to persuade you is different if you are a kibitzer who is only passing the time, versus somebody who might actually do something someday.

I can get value from what you say completely independent of who you are. The devil who correctly quotes scripture might be making valid points that are worth paying attention to despite the fact that he is guessing he gains by it. But still who you are makes a difference.

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bianca steele 07.10.14 at 3:31 pm

I borrowed an e-book of The Road from the library not long ago. I was glad to have done so. I was astonished at how quickly I read it. I was reading for the plot. For all McCarthy’s vaunted lyricism, I had no wish to linger on any of it, not the language, or the imagery, or the turns of phrase and the thoughts they expressed. The idea that this is a book about human relationships . . . well, it focuses on a relationship between a father and son. But the setting was so obviously allegorical that the connection between the story and real human relationships is entirely imaginary. And the ending was too pat. If you think the father is virtuous, the ending means one thing. Think of him as a psychopath, and the entire thing is flipped around 180 degrees. And the only thing the reader knows about the outside world–which is what supposedly forces the father to behave so oddly and to isolate his son from other people–is what the father has said.

I don’t know whether this means the author is personally conservative, or whether he’s had some contact with conservative ideas and then rejected them.

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jfxgillis 07.10.14 at 5:06 pm

ZM 07.09.14 at 9:47 pm #165

Mostly because he’s written for the Rockford Institute, which is pretty much the paleocon flagship.

While I freely concede that Berry is more “left” than paleocon in most instances, his localism and traditionalism is right up their alley. And his gay marriage positions actually aren’t far outside the paleocon worldview–they don’t think marriage is the domain of the state at all anyway, and they don’t much care who gets a “license,” as long as it’s not sacramental.

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Thornton Hall 07.10.14 at 5:34 pm

@192 I am not interested in presumably ultimate right and wrong — I have no access to such knowledge; I just know what I like and don’t like.

You did include the word “ultimate” as a qualifier, but I’m pretty sure that such a claim is against the spirit of the forum.

I’m happy to learn from any correction.

(Ps experimenting w/ html!)

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Thornton Hall 07.10.14 at 5:48 pm

@197 I am of course always interested to know where someone is coming from. It helps me avoid causing offense and tells me if I should believe what I am hearing. The fun thing here is that I can’t pre-judge and neither can you.

But mostly it’s the unsolicited advice. I don’t know how exactly you would know what I (or anyone else) am trying to do, exactly, or even if you did, how you would know that you were in a position to tell me how to do it better.

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Suzanne 07.10.14 at 7:44 pm

61: “National Review is where Joan Didion and Gary Wills started out. Hugh Kenner and Guy Davenport wrote for it. And it now features Mini-me. Sadness.”

True. Also Arlene Croce and John Leonard. However, for the most part they didn’t stay there, or wrote out of personal friendship with Buckley. The National Review always published a goodly share of unreadable right-wing hacks even in early days. Off topic but I mention it lest innocent readers get the idea that NR was ever a haven for the gifted, although it is true that Buckley’s taste was less rigid than that of his successors to the leadership.

Kenner was once briefly NR’s poetry editor. For his debut in that capacity he cajoled a new poem out of William Carlos Williams, a coup with which he was justly pleased, only to be assaulted with a barrage of complaints from readers that the magazine was publishing a fellow traveling rat fink. Kenner observed that NR had some of the dumbest readers in the world.

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J Thomas 07.10.14 at 8:32 pm

But mostly it’s the unsolicited advice. I don’t know how exactly you would know what I (or anyone else) am trying to do, exactly, or even if you did, how you would know that you were in a position to tell me how to do it better.

Did it look like advice to you?

I sometimes follow a line of reasoning out to a point where it stops making sense, and then I want to ask where I went wrong. People don’t usually have a short list of assumptions, so when the short list they’ve displayed isn’t enough they have more. Also, their assumptions don’t necessarily fit together the way I think they do.

Sometimes when I use this approach people think that I think I’ve disproven their reasoning. But of course it isn’t so easy to disprove things. I guess people get attacked so much it gets easy for things to feel like attacks.

I don’t know how exactly you would know what I (or anyone else) am trying to do, exactly,….

Yes, I was asking about that. If I make certain assumptions about it the results don’t make obvious sense, so maybe those assumptions are wrong. Or there could be complicating factors.

Of course there’s no obligation to explain.

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Sasha Clarkson 07.10.14 at 10:13 pm

I’ve lurked in this thread rather than contribute, partly because as a Brit I find the horror of North American politics difficult to believe and horrific to contemplate. Secondly, I was somewhat uneasy about the idea that it should be desirable to pick “low hanging fruit”. I hate the thought of a self-righteous “sneerfest”. Any camp, of any political colour, attracts some people who mostly want to belong – more than they really care about the cause concerned. A sneerfest attracts the kind of people a movement is better without.

In general, you’ve mostly been rather more thoughtful than I feared, and there has been a lot worth reading. Alas, there have been some personal arguments: without naming names or taking sides, all I would do is quote Emerson: “The louder he talked of his honor, the faster we counted our spoons.”

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ZM 07.10.14 at 10:41 pm

“While I freely concede that Berry is more “left” than paleocon in most instances, his localism and traditionalism is right up their alley. And his gay marriage positions actually aren’t far outside the paleocon worldview–they don’t think marriage is the domain of the state at all anyway, and they don’t much care who gets a “license,” as long as it’s not sacramental.”

I have never heard of ‘paleo-conservativism’ before, and it seems a rather offensive sort of term to use to categorise people. Anyway, the three things you mention – localism, traditionalism, same-sex right to State marriage rights – are all quite compatible with a traditional ‘left’ worldview going back at least to the 19th C and continuing today with people concerned about maintaining communities, environmental sustainability and retaining traditional modes in craft and food etc – eg. Farmer’s markets, heritage plants, local food production, traditional methods of baking and food preserving , traditional furniture making, etc.

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Matt 07.10.14 at 11:29 pm

I’ve read McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, The Road, and his Border trilogy (All the Pretty Horses, The Crossing, and Cities of the Plain). The Road was grim, but not great like the others IMO. I don’t recall anything fascistic or Catholic about these books. I tend to be sensitive to those attitudes because I experienced and then deviated from a right-wing religious upbringing. Blood Meridian was transcendently grim and the Border books were by turns achingly beautiful and grim. He is one of the very few writers whose prose literally gave me goosebumps from time to time, not from fright but awe. Neither the grimness, the beauty, nor the transcendence seemed to be making statements about mass politics or the existence or nature of God. Are other books of his more obviously Catholic/fascistic/didactic?

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gbh 07.11.14 at 9:34 pm

Oh man. Since someone smeared Frost by comparing him to McCarthy I feel compelled to weigh in. With all of his “spare” prose, McCarthy could only dream of writing as compact a story as Frost does in “Home Burial”. Frost writes better dialogue as well.

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roger gathman 07.12.14 at 4:56 pm

Whatever Mccarthy’s politics, Blood Meridien left me with the feeling that America was founded on corruption, brutality, mass murder and stupidity in high places. A pretty good summary of the new left view of America in the Vietnam era. I don’t feel like the scalphunters were meant to represent America’s empire of liberty and message of freedom to the whole wide world. They weren’t loveable.

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roger gathman 07.12.14 at 4:59 pm

ps – the scalphunters did seem eerily parallel to our boys in South Vietnam, though. As per the Nick Turse book, Kill anything that moves.

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PJW 07.12.14 at 5:53 pm

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roy belmont 07.12.14 at 11:57 pm

Hey kids!
Wanna read something I wrote here 9 (nine) years ago?
https://tinyurl.com/mjwmrwg
I couldn’t find the CT thread on you-know-where -in the Middle-you-know-where today.
Must be my browser or something.
Surely people vitally concerned with appropriate public use of slang, and the politics of popular American authors, would be filling the Crooked airwaves with Timbers of commentary on the slaughter excitement there.
Right?

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Ronan(rf) 07.13.14 at 1:18 am

roy, i love you bro.

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MPAVictoria 07.13.14 at 1:33 am

Guys, stop talking about what YOU want to talk about and start talking about what I want you to talk about.

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ZM 07.13.14 at 2:19 am

Re:Outsourcing of Torture to Uzbekistan

I’m not sure if by the ‘appropriate public use of slang’ you mean words and representations of the world – but if you do – then isn’t killing and torture and slavery generally interrelated with words and practices of representation?

I really loved a lot of 1990s Iranian movies, particularly those by Abbas Kiarostami and Mohsen Makhmalbaf. Makhmalbaf made a film/re-enactment called Bread and Flower or A Moment of Innocence with a man (whose name I’ve forgotten) that he had stabbed for being a guard for the Shah before the Islamic Revolution. After September 11 George Bush Jr asked for a special screening of Makhmalbaf’s film Kandahar.

‘… the Bush administration used Kandahar to shift its justification of the war , from indiscriminate targeting of “the terrorists and those who harbour them”, to the more popular narrative of “liberating the Afghan people”.’ (Estfandiary, in De-Westernising Film Studies)

There was an article in Harper’s a while back looking at how some US soldiers in or supporters of the wars in the Middle East were re appropriating the word ‘infidel’ to denote themselves
http://www.tcfrank.com/essays/Semper_Infidelis

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milk 07.13.14 at 7:06 am

paleo-conservative isn’t really considered pejorative; it’s essentially a back-formation from neo-conservative, and many on the US right gladly self-identify that way, so widely hated are the neocons. More broadly it signifies a back-looking, romantic, traditionalist, isolationist orientation that many unashamedly espouse – a fairly new term to describe a faction on the right, but one some self apply and most agree isn’t a slur.

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4jkb4ia 07.14.14 at 2:58 am

Adam Bellow was at least at one time an editor who could supervise conservative views in nonfiction. Logic would dictate that he believes that views which can happily be expressed by the many conservative nonfiction imprints cannot be expressed in mainstream literary fiction beyond a token author such as Mark Helprin.

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Harald K 07.14.14 at 7:24 am

David @16: If you aren’t with the social justice warriors, you’re against them, and being an “ally” is extremely hazardous. Last casualty is Charles Clymer, here’s the tragicomic recap. It’s only a matter of time until Artur Chu falls too.

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Anarcissie 07.14.14 at 2:31 pm

Harald K 07.14.14 at 7:24 am @ 215 — Not a matter of ideology. Twitter is a kind of slum; slumming is hazardous.

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