Posts by author:

John Holbo

Peter Gay Has Died

by John Holbo on May 13, 2015

New York Times obituary.

I guess I’m the one who should make this little post, since for the last couple weeks I’ve been talking, a bit, about his classic book, Weimar Culture: The Outsider as Insider. I didn’t know very much about the man, myself, before reading his obit this morning. I haven’t really thought much about his legacy – how much of what he wrote was valid, or is still valid in light of subsequent historiography. But he has had an influence on me. In sophomore (?) year of college I heard about him from a Freudian psychology prof. I struggled through The Enlightenment: An Interpretation. It was maybe the first ‘proper’ intellectual history I read. I found it fascinating. But I had such screwy ideas at the time that the details didn’t really stick. Maybe I should go back and give it a reread in honor of the man. Well, maybe not the whole thing …

Any thoughts about Peter Gay?

This will be the final installment in my ‘were the Nazis right-wing and, if so, why were they socialists?’ series (part 1, part 2).

This final post will consist mostly of a long passage from a chapter titled, ‘The Conservative Dilemma’, from Conservative Revolution In The Wiemar Republic, by Roger Woods. But I’ll frame it with a few general thoughts.

Before we get to the passage, the thing you should know is that ‘Conservative Revolution’ is not a tendentious title – some sinister liberal attempt to slap ‘conservative’ onto a bunch of Nazis (who were radicals, not conservatives!) Or if it is semantically tendentious, it isn’t the author’s fault, just because it seems like an flagrant oxymoron. German nationalists, from 1918 on, used the phrase ‘die Konservative Revolution‘. It was the proper, often self-applied name of a literary/intellectual movement.

In 1937 Thomas Mann wrote: [click to continue…]

{ 404 comments }

In What Sense Were The Nazis Socialists?

by John Holbo on May 4, 2015

Socialism! That is really an unfortunate word.

– Adolf Hitler (quoted in Dietrich Orlow, The Nazi Party 1919-1945: A Complete History, p. 88

When one thinks of all the people who support or have supported Fascism, one stands amazed at their diversity. What a crew! Think of a programme which at any rate for a while could bring Hitler, Petain, Montagu Norman, Pavelitch, William Randolph Hearst, Streicher, Buchman, Ezra Pound, Juan March, Cocteau, Thyssen, Father Coughlin, the Mufti of Jerusalem, Arnold Lunn, Antonescu, Spengler, Beverley Nichols, Lady Houston, and Marinetti all into the same boat! But the clue is really very simple. They are all people with something to lose, or people who long for a hierarchical society and dread the prospect of a world of free and equal human beings.

George Orwell

I was going to try to get good old Montagu to contribute a personal note about his own fascist flirtations, after his long and unaccountable absence from the blog. No dice.

So I’ve solicited some commentary from Oswald Spengler, at least. [click to continue…]

It’s Nazi week at Crooked Timber! Do you love thrilling stories about Nazis? Great! [click to continue…]

What Did Pippin Tell Denethor?

by John Holbo on April 18, 2015

I’m reading The Lord of the Rings to our daughters. (Famous trilogy of fantasy novels, in case you’ve been in a coma since 1953 and are just checking Crooked Timber to see what’s new.) Last night we began The Return of the King. One thing that happens at a couple points is our heroes narrate the tale of their travels to someone they meet, without fully revealing the true nature/purpose of the Fellowship (Merry and Pippin when they first meet Treebeard; Frodo to Faramir; Pippin to Denethor). Obviously Tolkien summarizes his way past these points, since the reader doesn’t need to hear it all again. But it’s impossible to imagine what Pippin actually said. He couldn’t tell Denethor 1) they’ve got the ring; 2) the goal of the fellowship; 3) the existence/identity of Aragorn; 4) the meaning of ‘Isildur’s Bane’.

‘Now tell me your tale, my liege,’ said Denethor, half kindly, half mockingly. ‘For the words of one whom my son so befriended will be welcome indeed.’

Pippin never forgot that hour in the great hall under the piercing eye of the Lord of Gondor, stabbed ever and anon by his shrewd questions, and all the while conscious of Gandalf at his side, watching and listening, and (so Pippin felt) holding in check a rising wrath and impatience. When the hour was over and Denethor again rang the gong, Pippin felt worn out. ‘It cannot be more than nine o’clock,’ he thought. ‘I could now eat three breakfasts on end.’

So here’s your challenge. What did Pippin tell to the shrewd Denethor for an hour? Narrate the tale of how and why Pippin and three other hobbits left the Shire in haste, traveled to Rivendell, Lothlorien, etc., without mentioning any of the things he has promised Galdalf he won’t. Here’s my best shot. Pippin tells Denethor ‘Isuldur’s Bane’ is some sort of exotic brand-name pipeweed Elrond is looking to score. He knows hobbits are into pipeweed, so he sent for them from the Shire. But they didn’t have any. So he sent them out to score it for him, and someone heard maybe there was a dealer in the Mines of Moria. But that didn’t work out. Meanwhile, Saruman and Sauron have this wrong idea that the hobbits are themselves pipeweed dealers, since orcs overheard them asking around after ‘Isuldur’s Bane’, and so …

If you’ve got a more plausible, false explanation for the Fellowship, I’d like to hear it. Pippin must be one hell of a liar.

Religious liberty and the Romance of Orthodoxy

by John Holbo on April 9, 2015

“This is the thrilling romance of Orthodoxy. People have fallen into a foolish habit of speaking of orthodoxy as something heavy, humdrum, and safe. There never was anything so perilous or so exciting as orthodoxy.” – G.K. Chesterton

Long post, hastily hammered. I’m hammering, specifically, a Rod Dreher post, since (I admit) I have become quite addicted to watching him chew the theological scenery re: the Indiana stuff. But, in criticizing, I’m not just piling on with more pizza parlor people snark, I hope. I think he’s confused, but what he says does raise interesting issues. I will attempt to be only mildly sarcastic around the edges, in the hopes of good conversation all round.

Dreher writes: [click to continue…]

Ow, a bee stung me!

by John Holbo on April 5, 2015

We have a saying in the Holbo-Waring household. “Ow, a bee stung me!”

red_bee_comics

You say it if you have just utterly failed to foresee a wildly foreseeable but minor injury.

I nominate Mike Pence for the role of the guy who got stung by a bee, in the Indiana RFRA controversy. [click to continue…]

It would explain a lot

by John Holbo on March 27, 2015

The daughter: So, was J.R.R. Tolkien saved by eagles in W.W. I?

I shall abhor you

by John Holbo on March 26, 2015

Do you ever wonder what a Wes Anderson horror film would be like? I have a good idea for one. It’s set in 1963, in a junior high school in Auburn, California, birthplace of “the bard of Auburn”, Clark Ashton Smith. An over-ambitious junior high drama director (Jason Schwartzman), in a misguided attempt to make the English teacher (Gwyneth Paltrow), fall in love with him, is staging an 8th grade production of Smith’s The Dead Will Cuckold You.

This is a truly unique play, in the Zothique cycle. I’m saving this Zothique zinger for some special occasion in comments, so be on your toes: [click to continue…]

Ancien Régime Turkophile Destroyed By Magnetizers?

by John Holbo on March 15, 2015

Having made one recent post that topped 1000 comments, I thought I would try to be more abstruse for a time.

I have a trivia question for you. I’m reading Volney’s The Ruins. Why? Because it’s one of the books that Frankenstein’s monster overhears: [click to continue…]

Weirdies

by John Holbo on March 10, 2015

I haven’t been posting, so I figure I should show my work – that is, establish that I’ve been toiling on some sort of important intellectual project behind the scenes.

So here’s the thing. I always figured Jack Kirby just made up ‘weirdies’ – like he invented most things that matter to us today: [click to continue…]

Reciprocity vs. Baseline Communism

by John Holbo on February 19, 2015

I was rereading David Graeber’s Debt over the weekend. The intervening two years, since our book event, have not caused it to be the case that Graeber doesn’t owe Henry an apology, after all. But the life of the mind goes on. We do not freeze intellectual accounts due to outstanding personal debts. That is to say, the free market of ideas is baseline communist, in Graeber’s sense. If I have a bright idea, I do not expect to be paid back, by those who receive it, in the form of two half-insights – or 100 comments, each containing but a grote’s worth of thought; none of that. (I expect intellectual credit, of course.)

My bright idea for the day is that I have no idea what the difference is between reciprocity and baseline communism. [click to continue…]

I’m an animation history buff, as you may know. Here’s something I noticed today.

“Hell-Bent For Election”, the 1944, Chuck Jones-directed, proto-UPA pro-FDR agit-prop classic, shows Roosevelt’s streamlined profile as the head of the Win The War Special. On the other track is the Defeatist Limited, pulling various cars including, finally, the Jim Crow Car.

jimcrowcar

That is, the cartoon basically says: vote FDR, because Thomas Dewey is in favor of Jim Crow.

I am very surprised to see this messaging in 1944. I wouldn’t have thought the Democrats would have wanted to go there. Too much of a raw nerve. Too close to home for a party still based in the South. (Probably also unfair to Dewey, but the cartoon isn’t a model of fairness. It contains a pretty raw ad hitlerum argument. The surprise is only that it seems to risk offending the white Democratic base.)

It wouldn’t surprise me if the cartoonists, who were all lefties, were wishing FDR further to the left. Maybe message discipline for this stuff wasn’t very tight.

The cartoon got a lot of play in the election. From a book on history of the studio:

The film worked. Distributed in 16 mm by Brandon Films, Inc., of New York City, the cartoon could be rented for ten dollars. Boxoffice reported that it was screened in “union halls, political clubs – even in private homes at parties organized for fund raising purposes.” Naturally, the liberal press trumpeted Hell-Bent For Election: “Clever cartooning, obviously done by Hollywood’s best,” noted John T. McManus in the newspaper PM. The Daily Worker praised the cartoon’s “expert craftsmanship and sound political advice to labor and the nation.” Hell-Bent also warranted a two-page spread in Life – a periodical aimed at the middle-American mind. Direction magazine estimated that Hell-Bent was “shown to more than ten million persons.” (57)

What do you think? I’d be kind of curious to see the Life spread.

Thirteen Ways of Looking At A Trollbird

by John Holbo on January 31, 2015

The author is a genius but would prefer to remain mildly anonymous. I think it reads like Donald Barthelme. (I mean, the Stevens influence is also pretty definitely there.) [click to continue…]

Daumier Does Socrates, Robo Hates Dr. D.

by John Holbo on January 22, 2015

I’m glad to have spread the gorey news regarding Daumier. Some commenters were evidently unfamiliar. Here’s a nice Flickr set if you just want to browse. But, for CT’s especially philosophically-minded and discerning readership, one from Daumier’s “Histoire Ancienne” series. (It also belongs in my collection of philosophers looking silly. This one is also good.)

I present: Socrates doing a soft cancan, to Aspasia’s discomfort. [click to continue…]