Book Reviews

Lessons from Douglas Murray’s ‘The War on the West’

“We appear to be in the process of killing the goose that has laid some very golden Eggs.”- Douglas Murray, author of The War on the West

“[A]s recently as 2006, about 18% of social scientists self-identified as Marxists.”- Bryan Caplan, Ph.D., The Prevalence of Marxism in Academia (March 21, 2015, EconLib.org)

I was always ashamed to be a Westerner. A civilization, I was told all through my public schooling years, uniquely contributed to the world in the following ways: slavery, child labor, bad working conditions, greed, sexism, genocide, racism, McCarthyism, and a bunch of useful idiots for the 1%.

Recently Douglas Murray authored a book titled The War on the West in which he obliterates the conspiracy theory, shall we say, that the West is a uniquely evil collection of civilizations unworthy of preserving or appreciating having no redeeming qualities.

It’s clear how seldom people develop their default ideas or world views based on empirical research or abstract thinking. This is where the power of historical narratives comes into play. They (leftists advocating ’social justice’) strip away competing allegiances of families, churches, and nations. By poisoning the well of prevailing interpretations of past events (historical narratives) which give people a sense of identity and belonging, the enemies of the west then would have fertile ground to establish an empire of their own.

As Murray says, “The West was the problem. The dissolving of the West was a solution.”

Section One: Race

Murray explains racism as having to do with “dismissing people, vilifying them, or generalizing about them simply because of the color of their skin.” Consider a hypothetical: imagine someone says, “Asians benefited from Ghangis Khan conquering of land. Asian violence is evident in the mass murder campaigns of Emperor Hirohito, Mao, Chiang Kai-shek, and Pol Pot. Asians today need to acknowledge their higher income privilege and apologize for the crimes of their ancestors.” Any sane person should see this for what it is: a disgusting, cruel, racist, unnecessary provocative generalization which misallocates guilt based on an accident of birth.

All Murray is saying in this section is that racism is abhorrent and no double standards should exist for any group, including people of European ancestry. When I first heard this line of reasoning I was hesitant to accept the idea that a majority could possibly be victimized by a small minority; then I realized there are 535 members of Congress and 330 million Americans and then I could see how. For the record Murray makes clear he is not vilifying minorities at all, his primary examples of such racism come from whites: Robin DiAngelo’s White Fragility, American legislators, National Geographic, Jimmy Fallon’s studio audience applauding low white birth rates, and Michel Moore’s Stupid White Men.

Murray also introduces readers to the tragedy of Texas man Tony Timpa. I have witnessed this story alone change the heart and mind of social justice advocates, correctly switching the focus from “white supremacy” to “government supremacy.” I can’t recommend this section highly enough.

Section Two: History

img 0968In 1952 Samuel Kramer, one of the world’s leading Assyriologists, an expert in Sumerian history and Sumerian language, translated tablets which were found in Iraq dated between 2100 BCE – 2050 BCE. The tablets are known as the Code of Ur-Nammu, one of the oldest legal texts known to mankind. In the list of 32 laws, the word “slave” is found 9 times.

It turns out slavery is maybe the least unique thing about Western Civilization, contrary to vice presidential candidate Tim Kaine’s claim that America created slavery. Murray points out, “The best available figures, proposed by scholars such as Professor Ralph Austen of the University of Chicago, is that somewhere between eleven and seventeen million Africans were traded east in the Arab-run slave trade.”

Murray does an outstanding job explicitly condemning the evils of slavery, while making it crystal clear that The New York Times’ 1619 Project is a scam on stilts. The authors of 1619 equate slavery with voluntary labor saying “In Order to Understand the Brutality of American Capitalism, You Have to Start on the Plantation.” Classic contradiction. Its akin to saying: free market voluntary exchanges are rooted in violence, going to a persons house voluntarily is rooted in kidnapping, love making is rooted in rape, and The New York Times selling a book is rooted in theft.

There are great lessons to be learned from America’s founding. The existence of self evident truths. Humans being created equally and having unalienable rights no person or group thereof can justly deprive them of. Freedom to speak to develop one’s personality influencing the lives of others. Opposition to the state having a monopoly on weapons. Not to mention the English common law traditions dating back to 1215 with the Magna Carta giving us demands for proof, and a trial by a jury of one’s peers leading to the recognition of jury nullification.

Gratitude

img 0969The problem Western Civilization faces is resentment and the solution is gratitude.

A quote from the section reads as follows, “A great building such as a church or a cathedral can take decades—even centuries—to build. But it can be burned to the ground or otherwise brought down in an afternoon.”

Therein lies the source of the rage I feel seeing the indiscriminate destruction of property by mobs and states alike. It illustrates the difficulty and complexity in developing the things we hold dear in life while recognizing how easily they can be lost.

Point of Contention: From Section Two on Churchill

Winston Churchill is a hero of many people of goodwill, however I respectfully disagree with Mr. Murray on this issue.

As First Lord of the Admiralty on August 12th 1914, Churchill initiated a blockade around Germany starving hundreds of thousands of civilians to death. If this isn’t wrong, nothing is. He caused the Narvik debacle of 1940 which led to Chamberlain stepping down and Churchill being appointed, later losing his 1945 election. He initiated bombing of civilians with Physicist Frederick Lindimann’s “dehousing” plan as his inspiration. Enforced the National Service Act of 1939 which enslaved men ages 18-41 to fight in a war—the most horrific working conditions imaginable. He disapproved of Chamberlain giving the Sudetenland to Hitler, then surrendered the Sudetanland and half of Europe to Joseph Stalin in Yalta in 1945.

Churchill later wrote in his war memoirs:

“The human tragedy reaches its climax in the fact that after all the exertions and sacrifices of hundreds of millions of people and the victories of the Righteous Cause we have still not found Peace or Security, and that we lie in the grip of even worse perils than those we have surmounted.” (The Gathering Storm, written in March 1948, p. xiv)

Let’s continue to be the civilization we admire so much and lead by example, embracing the values of humility, compassion, and universal ethics.

Conclusion

This book is a phenomenal criticism of ‘social justice’ advocacy, which is the most powerful ideology advocating the ideas of statism today, making them the biggest threat to freedom, equality of rights, and civilization. This book will give you the tools to see through the propaganda of the press, politicians, Hollywood, k-12 teachers, University Professors, and corporate advertisers. I highly recommend it.

Why America Has Splintered Into Identity Groups

Many Americans are concerned about the splintering of America into identity groups and are bewildered by critical race theory, queer studies, the proliferation of genders, cancel culture, the claim that reason and logic are constructs of white culture, and the corresponding shift from classical liberalism to identity-based authoritarianism.

Other Americans believe that these are passing fads that will dissipate like former fads if they are ignored, or humored, or accommodated until they run out of steam.

The scholarly book below can inform the first group and disabuse the second group.

Cynical Theories, by Helen Pluckrose & James Lindsay, Pitchstone Publishing, Durham, North Carolina, 2020, 351 pages.

The book is a very important treatise on how the new thinking came about, why it is not going away on its own, and why it is destroying the bonds that hold society together.

The authors are pedigreed liberals and scholars with inside knowledge of the academy. They rightly see the new thinking as a threat to classical liberalism, which they define as “political democracy, limitations on the powers of government, the development of universal human rights, legal equality for all adult citizens, freedom of expression, respect for the value of viewpoint diversity and honest debate, respect for evidence and reason, the separation of church and state, and freedom of religion.”

In this, the authors have a lot of common cause with conservatives, libertarians, and anyone of any party who still values such political principles.

The problem is that the book is a difficult read, not because it is badly written, but because, by necessity, it has to delve into academic jargon and philosophical abstractions and concepts. Understandably, with the stresses of living in these troubled times, most people don’t have the time or interest to read a book that is about as relaxing as studying for a final exam.

As such, given the importance of the book’s message, this paper is less of a traditional book review and more of a formal exposition based on the book’s key points, for the benefit of those who won’t be reading the book. Personal thoughts are included based on my career experience at the vanguard of equal opportunity, affirmative action, diversity, and racial sensitivity training.

The paper is divided into the following sections:

  • Postmodernism Roots of New Thinking
  • The Mutation of Postmodernism
  • Social Justice’s Version of Scholarship
  • Queer Theory
  • Critical Race Theory
  • Intersectionality
  • The New Feminism
  • The New View of the Disabled and the Obese
  • Standpoint Theory
  • Social Justice Closemindedness
  • The Rapidly Spreading Dogma
  • White Fragility
  • Solutions

Due to the complexity of the foregoing topics, and due to the new illiberal thinking having its tentacles deep inside America’s major institution, this paper is necessarily long at nearly 6,900 words. I believe it is one of my most important writings, more important than my published book, my seven years of authoring a newspaper column, and my many articles in leading newspapers and publications. That shows how much I see the new thinking as a serious threat.

Postmodernism Roots of New Thinking

The roots of today’s voguish theories go back to the postmodernism of the late 1960s. There’s not a universally-accepted definition of “postmodernism,” but a common one is “a belief that there is no objective knowledge or truth.”

Postmodernism rejected the reason and scientific method of the Enlightenment, embraced moral and cultural relativism, and saw power, cultural biases, and the language of political discourse as the guiding forces of society.

Because postmodernism deconstructed all large social and political systems into meaninglessness, it resulted in cynicism and nihilism and tore itself apart in the process. But one aspect of postmodernism survives today: a rejection of both individuality and common humanity. In their place, postmodernism saw small groups as the only legitimate sources of knowledge, values and discourses—groups that have the same experiences, perspectives and values, due to being of the same race, sex, or class.

The Mutation of Postmodernism

Originally, postmodernism was kind of an intellectual game without a political or social agenda. Its modern mutation is the opposite.  It has morphed into what the book calls New Theories, which have the goal of reordering society, righting wrongs, achieving equal results instead of equality under the law, pursuing social justice for those groups seen as being treated unjustly, taking power from white men, stereotyping all whites as having conscious and unconscious biases, rejecting white ideas about reason and merit, replacing white literature and words with the literature and words of marginalized groups, and dismantling the white institutions and social norms that are seen as being built on colonialism, slavery, discrimination, and other injustices.

The book’s authors don’t say this, but revenge is one of the driving forces behind the New Theories; that is, the unspoken motive is to get even with white men and Western culture for demeaning and supplanting non-Western cultures and powerless minorities. Of course, the vast majority of those who embrace the New Theories have been born and raised under Western values, are the progeny of generations of Americans who have lived under Western values, and only have an imagined or exaggerated sense of another cultural heritage.

Not only that, but many of the theorists are whiter than this Mediterranean. One wonders if they realize what they have unleashed on their progeny and society.

Acolytes of the New Theories fail to acknowledge the self-correcting nature of classical liberalism and democracy, and they seem blind to the tremendous progress made in extending rights, political power, and economic progress to non-whites, women, gays, and the disabled. Nor do they seem to realize that the reason they have not been sent to the gulag or reeducation camp for their revolutionary ideas is because they are citizens of a pluralistic, liberal democracy and a constitutional republic with a Bill of Rights.

At the same time, they don’t say what political and economic system they see as a replacement, they don’t admit the failings of other systems and cultures, and, for sure, they can’t imagine that things might get worse if they were to rise to power. In their sanctimonious minds, they don’t have human foibles and are therefore incapable of governing out of self-interest and being corrupted by power. In that sense, they are reminiscent of idealistic Bolsheviks in 1917.

As will be seen below, their methods reveal the opposite about them.

Social Justice’s Version of Scholarship

There used to be a barrier between scholarship and activism in academia, just as there used to be a barrier between the news and editorial pages of newspapers. The barrier has been breached. As the authors of Critical Theories write, “Teaching is now supposed to be a political act, and only one type of politics is acceptable—identity politics…”

In turn, identity politics has led to the concept of “research justice,” which demands that scholars maximize citations of women and minorities and minimize citations of white Western men, because empirical research rooted in evidence and reasoned argument is an unfair and privileged cultural construct of white Westerners. Therefore, according to the authors, research justice establishes a moral obligation for scholars to include other forms of research, such as “superstition, spiritual beliefs, cultural traditions and beliefs, identity-based experiences, and emotional responses.”

The authors go on to say that this agenda is not hidden. It has been open and explicit for many years. No doubt, it was not open and explicit to parents who footed the college expenses for their kids.

The authors quote a postmodernist scholar on his theories about the role that language plays in constructing knowledge. In a case of ironic comedy, the scholar’s writing was so incomprehensible that he won second place in a bad writing contest for this sentence:

If, for a while, the ruse of desire is calculable for the uses of discipline, soon the repetition of guilt, justification, pseudo-scientific theories, superstition, spurious authorities, and classifications can be seen as the desperate effort to “normalize” formally the disturbance of a discourse of splitting that violates the rational, enlightened claims of its enunciatory modality.

Much of the writing in the New Theories is just as incomprehensible, and even when it is comprehensible, it is often incoherent, inconsistent, illogical, and contradictory. That’s certainly the case with queer theory.

Queer Theory

Queer theory is mostly about sex, gender and sexuality but can be applied to other subjects. It is a belief that language causes oppression when it is used to establish and reinforce what society considers normal, especially in regards to the binary categories of male and female, masculine and feminine, straight and gay, and so on. The goal of queer theory is to subvert or reject anything considered normal and to replace it with the queer.

Once again, the driving force is the belief that normative categories are social constructs developed intentionally or unintentionally by the dominant culture to discriminate against outliers. Therefore, it’s self-defeating for minorities and the disadvantaged to judge themselves by the standards and mores of the dominant group.

As with a lot of the New Theories, an ounce of truth can be found in a gallon of hogwash.

Science does show that gender dysphoria is real, and for sure, humans have always engaged in sexual practices outside of what society at a given point in history has considered normal. But it is not enough under queer theory to employ classical liberalism to extend equal rights to so-called queers. It’s necessary to go beyond that to make queers the new normal, to change the language accordingly, and to even put them on a pedestal as a brave new victim group deserving of accolades. A personal anecdote illustrates the difference in treatment.

Circa 1988, I was an executive with an old-line manufacturing and mining company dominated by macho, good ole boys. A male clerk in one of my departments began wearing female clothes as part of a gender transition. I quickly stopped the snickering by his male and female coworkers by asking them to imagine how uncomfortable it was from his perspective to be so different, irrespective of whether the difference was due to hormones, genes, or a psychological problem. Deciding what restroom he could use was a non-event, and the transitioning employee quickly returned to being treated as just another coworker. (In some countries, he would have been fired or maybe even stoned to death.)

Treating transgendered people this way is far different from putting a transgender on a company’s board of directors as a token to appease queer activists and to demonstrate to employees who have a warped view of social justice that the company is hip. It’s also far different from the radical idea that the majority should submerge its values or risk being called intolerant—and that children should be encouraged in public schools to be trendy and adopt a different gender identity or to change their identity at the first sign of normal gender confusion.

A similar shift to radicalism can be seen in critical race theory.

Critical Race Theory

Critical race theory is primarily about African Americans, who are also known as Blacks, with the “B” capitalized.  It isn’t really about other so-called “people of color.” CRT began with the undeniable fact that whites (with the “w” not capitalized) engaged in the slave trade. Actually, it was some white Anglo-Saxon Protestants, as well as some Portuguese and Spaniards (aka Hispanics) who engaged in the slave trade.

Another undeniable fact is that many other whites benefited economically from slavery and that racism continued through Jim Crow and continues today, albeit at a much reduced level. Still another is that Blacks continue to suffer socioeconomically as a group in spite of the Great Society, War on Poverty, voting rights legislation, equal opportunity laws, affirmative action, scores of welfare programs, and dramatically increased political power.

CRT’s basic premise is that race was a social construct designed to maintain white privilege and white supremacy. A corollary is that racial stereotypes and racism have become so ingrained in the dominant white culture that all whites, regardless of their ethnicity and class, have economic, social, educational, and political advantages over Blacks—advantages that are reinforced by white concepts of reason, science and merit.  Moreover, even the most enlightened and open-minded whites harbor unconscious prejudices.

Given that there is little genetic variation between different peoples, race is indeed mostly a social construct; but it is a construct that also applies to whites and other “races,” not just to Blacks. Also, of course, all people, regardless of pigment, harbor conscious and unconscious stereotypes and prejudices about people who are different from them. However, what’s unique about whites, according to CRT, is that they hold political, social and economic power over Blacks and other non-whites.

The solution, therefore, is twofold: first, to take political, social and economic power away from whites; second, to get whites to admit their advantages and to confront their unconscious prejudices.

Efforts to achieve the first goal include diversity and inclusion initiatives that prioritize Blacks over whites in hiring and promotions, as well as the elimination of quantifiable admissions criteria for colleges and certain professions. Efforts to achieve the second goal include CRT training programs in corporations and government, in which whites are confronted with their privileges and unconscious racism, similar to how people accused of being capitalists during the Chinese Cultural Revolution were humiliated and forced to confess. Much to the consternation of parents, CRT training has been adopted by many school districts.

CRT has established a Catch-22 to protect itself from counter-opinions and scholarly debate, namely that denials of racism and power by whites are proof of their racism and power. Such denials can result in whites being cancelled, or seeing their career ruined, or, in academia, being denied tenure and grants.

On a personal note, if I mention my work on behalf of equal rights, I’m ipso facto a racist who uses that work as an excuse not to give up power and money. Likewise, it is seen as totally irrelevant if I relate my experience as a teen and the only “white” on an otherwise all-Black janitorial and kitchen crew at an exclusive country club in St. Louis that denied membership to Blacks, Jews, Italians, and Catholics. The fact that I would wash and wax the big Buick of the Black clubhouse manager, Bill Williams, for extra money, and the fact that my dad was a non-union tile setter and the son of a coal miner, does not keep me from being branded as coming from privilege.

Because I’m considered white and privileged by whomever decides such matters, my opinions are discounted by CRT. It’s unclear how this is good for whites, Blacks, and society at large.

In the same vein, in a glaring double standard, it’s not okay to negatively stereotype Blacks but is okay to negatively stereotype whites. And in an awful and unmentioned development, white elites are now more paternalistic, more condescending, and more pandering towards Blacks than ever. An example is the proliferation of TV commercials featuring Blacks, who, except for skin color, resemble the idealized WASPs in the fantastical TV shows of the late 1950s and early 1960s, such as “Father Knows Best” and “Leave It to Beaver”—shows that had little resemblance to my Italian family or the families of scores of other ethnic immigrant groups.  No doubt, the commercials are produced by ad agencies staffed by wealthy graduates of the Ivy League, on behalf of corporate clients who are wealthy graduates of the Ivy League.

To a large extent, the relationship between whites and Blacks remains parent-to-child instead of adult-to-adult.  The former relationship results in dependency and child-like behavior. The latter, in independence and self-confidence. At least Malcolm X and the Black Panthers didn’t want to depend on whites for anything.

The relationship can be seen in the reticence of whites to level with Blacks to the same degree that they level with fellow whites. In discussing and debating current events, political philosophy, economics, racism, or whatever, they hold back for fear of triggering an emotional reaction and being seen as overbearing and insensitive. In other words, they tiptoe around certain subjects with Blacks.

The authors make an excellent point that the hallmark of critical race theory is a “paranoid mind-set, which assumes racism is everywhere, always, just waiting to be found,” and which is “extremely unlikely to be helpful or healthy for those who adopt it.” They go on to say:

In addition, interpreting everything as racist and saying so almost constantly in unlikely to produce the desired results in white people (or for minorities). It could even undermine antiracist activism by creating skepticism and indignation and thus producing a reluctance to cooperate with worthwhile initiatives to overcome racism…It is bad psychology to tell people who do not believe that they are racist—who may even actively despise racism—that there is nothing they can do to stop themselves from being racist…Worst of all is to set up double-binds, like telling them that if they notice race it is because they are racist, but if they don’t notice race, it’s because their privilege affords them the luxury of not noticing race, which is racist.

The same problems exist with a branch of critical race theory known at intersectionality.

Intersectionality

Intersectionality is the idea that marginalized people can be victims of more than one prejudice. It comes from the writing of Kimberlé Crenshaw, who used the analogy of someone standing in an intersection, where the person could be hit by a car coming from any direction or by more than one car at a time, just as a marginalized person can be a victim of more than one prejudice. For example, a Black woman can be discriminated against because she is both Black and a woman. And a Black woman who is overweight, on welfare, and a single parent faces five prejudices.

Of course, prejudices are almost endless. They can spring from such differences as race, sex, class, gender, immigration status, religion, disability, body shape, occupation, political affiliation, dress, mannerisms, and so on. But the focus of intersectionality is only on those prejudices that are deemed as stemming from power imbalances and that result in disparate outcomes.

There is a hierarchy, or caste, of intersectionality. A black woman ranks higher than a Black man, because, as mentioned, she encounters prejudice as a woman and a Black, while the man only encounters prejudice as a Black. In the same thinking, a gay white man ranks lower than a gay Black man, and upper-income Jews and Asians don’t make the list. Likewise, an impoverished, poorly educated, disabled white male in the backwoods of Appalachia probably wouldn’t make the list, even though he lacks political power.

Such questions and all of the possible permutations and combinations keep the intersectional labelers busy and in disagreement over what groups to include and where to rank them. But as the authors explain, this is all done in the service of uniting the so-called disadvantaged groups into a single meta-group of the oppressed, under an overarching metanarrative of social justice.

In the process, however, the labelers often end up in irreconcilable conflict about which oppressed group they should support. The book gives the example of minority beauticians who refused to wax around the testicles of a person claiming to be transgendered, because the beauticians’ religion and customs prohibited contact with male genitalia. In other words, a group that was characterized as oppressed was oppressing a transgender person, who was also characterized as oppressed. Curiously, the issue wasn’t framed in another way: that it was a form of oppression for beauticians to be pressured to shave someone’s privates.

Once again, the authors make an excellent point: “From the outside, the intersectional approach seems grating, fractious, and incomprehensible. It appears to operate like a kind of circular firing squad, continually undermining itself over petty differences and grievances.”

This is certainly true with respect to the current state of feminism.

The New Feminism

Feminism has gone through different stages over the decades. It began as a push for equal rights and equal pay, grew into a strident attack against patriarchy, and changed again by adopting a neo-Marxist view that capitalism was to blame for the problems facing women. It has now been hijacked by critical race theory, queer theory, and intersectional theory, so that the focus is on oppression, bigotry, power, and privilege—and on white women’s complicity in these injustices.

Women are no longer seen under these new theories as a sisterhood of shared experiences. The theorists even question what it means to be a woman, because what it means depends on their assigned identity group. This dovetails with the notions coming out of gender studies.

Gender is defined by the studies as a social construct in which people have been taught to perform certain roles and behaviors. While this traditional teaching can’t be completely done away with, the thinking goes, it can be questioned, disrupted, and replaced with new teaching.

Even the nouns “men” and “women” are seen as problematic, because people given those labels have varied so much over history and across different cultures.

Heterosexual white women in the new feminism movement are expected to defer to the perspectives and experiences of women of color, lesbians, bisexuals, and transgender people. But due to the specious claim of power imbalances, the other groups are not expected to defer to the perspectives and experiences of heterosexual white women. As with so much today, dialogue only goes in one direction.

The authors say that gender studies are losing their credibility for rigorous scholarship, because in deference to CRT and intersectional and queer theories, they have discounted biological explanations for differences between men and women in traits, behaviors, and interests.

A similar radicalism has changed how disability is discussed.

The New View of the Disabled and the Obese

As with so much else, disability is increasingly seen as a social construct imposed by the majority. Accordingly, the disabled are labeled as disabled only because they are compared with the non-disabled, or able-bodied. In other words, the negative status of “disabled” is imposed on them by a prejudicial society—just as other marginalized groups suffer from prejudices.

Those who think this way acknowledge physical or mental impairments, but they contend that disability is imposed on top of the impairments. It is the role of society, then, to adjust to the perspective of the impaired, not vice versa.

A related concept is ableism, which is an accusation and stereotype that the able-bodied see themselves as superior to the disabled. To that point, the self-described autistic, disabled, asexual, and genderqueer activist Lydia X. Y. Brown is quoted in the book as follows:

[A]bleism might escribe the value system of ablenormativity which privileges the supposedly neurotypical and ablebodied, while disableism might escribe the violent oppression targeting people whose bodyminds are deemed deviant and thus disabled.  In other words, ableism is to heterosexism what disableism is to queerantagonism.

Then there is Dan Goodley, the likeminded author of the book, Disability Studies: Theorising Disableism and Ableism.  He is quoted as follows:

I argue that modes of ableist cultural reproduction and disabling material conditions can never be divorced from hetero/sexism, racism, homophobis, colonialism, imperialism, patriarchy and capitalism.

I argue that the foregoing quoted statements are gobbledygook.

Additional gobbledygook underlies the attempt to transform fat people into victims of the dominant culture and to redefine obesity as a social construct instead of a health problem. This absurdity is an outgrowth of fat studies, which in turn are an outgrowth of the earlier body positivism movement, which focused on celebrating fat bodies.

According to current fat theory, the way that the majority speaks about obesity (discourses) reflects a hatred of fat people, or “fatphobia,” which is seen as similar to racism, sexism, homophobia, and other prejudices and injustices. In the name of empowering obese people, the theory encourages them to reject medical advice and seek support from each other.

The book quotes a fat activist as claiming that “Fat hatred is fueled by capitalism because these companies create products that are all about making fat people skinny.” The book’s authors respond, “If this sounds like a paranoid fantasy, it’s because it is.”

As an aside, the same capitalism has resulted in commercials that respond to the activism by featuring overweight women, including scantily-clad ones.

Another fat activist is quoted in Fat Studies Reader as saying that those who see their weight as a problem have been conditioned into accepting their oppression:

That fat and queer people would heartily embrace science and medicine as a solution to their socially constructed problems is redolent of Stockholm syndrome—after all, science and medicine have long been instrumental in oppressing fat and queer people, providing argument after argument that pathologize the homosexual or “obese” individual (whether the mind or the body).

Let’s move from this weighty topic to a theory that is a top cause of identity politics.

Standpoint Theory

Standpoint theory contends that people in groups of the same race, gender, sex and other identities will have the same experiences and see the world the same. It also contends that marginalized groups will have a fuller and more authoritative picture than the dominant, privileged group. Being marginalized, the theory goes, those in the first group understand both the dominant culture and what it is like to be oppressed by it. Those in the second group, on the other hand, only know what it is like to dominate.

Proponents of the theory don’t say that if the marginalized groups were to dominate, they would have the same blind spots as the current dominate group. Nor do they say that there are plenty of situations today where the marginalized switch roles with those who dominate; that is, with whites.

Standpoint theory goes on to contend that the knowledge gained through experience by marginalized groups is better in many ways than the knowledge gained by dominant groups through science and reason. Both ways of gaining knowledge depend on cultural traditions, but white cultural traditions are based on power and privilege, the theory says. This spoils whites and makes them closeminded about other ways to gain knowledge.

As a so-called white, my experiences over my life don’t match the theory. Two examples from my teen years come to mind. The first example was my first day of work at the country club mentioned earlier. My Black boss Jewel told me to clean the employee restroom in the dark, grungy basement, a restroom that looked and smelled as if it hadn’t been cleaned in years. Even at my young age, I understood what was going on and thus tackled the chore cheerfully and meticulously. The second example was my high school years, where I was only one of two Italians in my graduating class, and, unlike the preponderance of students who were wealthy, I was the son of working-class, second-generation parents, who somehow had managed to scrimp and save enough money to send me to the college prep school, where I was immersed in science, logic and reason.

Was I in a marginalized group or dominant group?

To answer, members of the white working class get no standing as a marginalized group in any of the New Theories. No wonder many feel alienated from the left and have abandoned the Democrat Party for the GOP or the Trump wing of the GOP.

Having explored the New Theories, let’s see how they come together under the banner of “Social Justice” and how closeminded social justice dogmatists are.

Social Justice Closemindedness

Social justice dogmatists brook no disagreement, because they are certain of their rightness and righteousness; and, given that they are so certain, they see whites who dare to disagree with them as demonstrating their privilege and racism.

This explains speech codes and safe zones on college campuses and what is called cancel culture throughout American institutions. Those who claim that they’ve been traumatized by racism and oppression all of their lives say that they are re-traumatized when whites try to assert their privilege and dominance by disagreeing with the irrefutable truth of the New Theories.

Barbara Applebaum is the author of Being White, Being Good:  White Complicity, White Moral Responsibility, and Social Justice Pedagogy. She equates disagreement over the New Theories by white students in a college class with resistance:

Resistance will not be allowed to derail the class discussions! Of course, those who refuse to engage might mistakenly perceive this as a declaration that they will not be allowed to express their disagreement but that is only precisely because they are resisting engagement.

The most amazing aspect of the New Theories is that the theorists see themselves as super-intelligent, yet they overlook some of the most fundamental complicating factors.

First, they don’t define “white” or recognize that over 100 unique ethno-cultural groups have been force-fitted into the contrived category, that many of the groups come in various skin shades, that many members of the groups have been the victims of discrimination and oppression, and that many others have recently immigrated to the U.S. and thus have no responsibility for historical racism in the nation. Second, they don’t acknowledge that due to an increase in biracial marriages and to centuries of different peoples mixing their chromosomes together, the “white” category overlaps with other racial/ethnic categories and is not homogenous.

Equally amazing, due to what has been taught in K-12 schools and in colleges, and due to what has been reinforced by the media, Hollywood, corporations, and government, most of the public is unaware of these and other flaws in the New Theories. This is especially true for Americans under the age of 30, who have taken what they learned in college into the workplace. It’s sobering to realize that they’ll will carry the notions with them as they rise through the hierarchy.

The rapid spreading of the dogma is troubling to behold, for it is reminiscent of the damage done throughout history when dogma of an authoritarian bent has spread just as quickly and gone unquestioned.

The Rapidly Spreading Dogma

In a latter chapter of Cynical Theories, the authors detail how the dogma of the New Theories quickly spread from academia to become entrenched in America’s major institutions, where it is enforced through intimidation, facilitated by powerful departments of diversity and inclusion, and applauded by idealistic and naïve employees.

The authors also give many examples of how minor infractions of the dogma or the use of an incorrect word have resulted in modern-day witch hunts, whereby miscreants are humiliated, shunned, canceled, fired, or attacked viciously on social media by enraged internet mobs. You no doubt have heard such stories and remember some that especially upset you.

The speed of the dogma’s spreading can be seen in the popularity of Robin DiAngelo’s 2018 book, White Fragility: Why It Is So Hard to Talk to White People about Race.

White Fragility

White Fragility is another example of an ounce of truth in a gallon of hogwash. Its basic premise is that whites live in a social environment that protects and insulates them from race-based stress, thus leaving them with expectations for racial comfort while lowering their ability to tolerate racial stress.

DiAngelo is white, so maybe she is projecting her own anxieties on the entire population of whites, however “white” is defined by her. Anyway, she goes on to write:

To challenge the ideologies of racism such as individualism and color blindness, we as white people must suspend our perception of ourselves as unique and/or outside race. Exploring our collective racial identity interrupts a key privilege of dominance—the ability to see oneself only as an individual.

Judging by her name, DiAngelo might be Italian. She shouldn’t be surprised, then, that my grandparent’s generation, my parent’s generation, and my generation to a much lesser extent, lived with such epithets as dago, wop, goombah, greaser, and mobster. At least that wasn’t as bad as the 11 Italians who were lynched in New Orleans. None of my family ever used the word “stress,” but the way we handled the insults was to use an Italian arm gesture that meant, Stick it up your culo! The Italians of St. Louis also formed their own community in a hilly part of the city, which became known as Dago Hill. It was a spotless, crime-free community of tiny bungalows and two-flats. Woe to any outsiders who tried to cause trouble in the community.

On another personal note, decades ago I participated in a three-day encounter session in the backwoods of Maine. Blacks were in attendance, including a couple of Black consultants who advised corporations on racial issues. One night the consultants invited me to join them for some beer. We drove in the big Mercedes of one of the consultants to buy a couple of six-packs to take back to our lodging. As the night wore on, they and I began ridiculing corporate executives for falling for the latest management fads, including the work of the consultants.

DiAngelo claims that American society is permeated by white supremacy and that anyone who takes exception to her ideas has a weakness resulting from being socialized in white privilege. She writes:

White fragility is a state in which even a minimum amount of racial stress becomes intolerable, triggering a range of defensive moves. These moves include the outward display of emotions such as anger, fear, and guilt, and behaviors such as argumentation, silence, and leaving the stress-inducing situation.

There are other possible explanations. Maybe they think that her ideas are hogwash, maybe they don’t like to be stereotyped as privileged and racist, maybe they’ve learned that it’s a lose-lose to discuss race in the workplace, or it could be as simple as believing that it’s impolite to discuss certain emotionally-loaded subjects with strangers, such as race, politics, bad breath, and body odor. DiAngelo would probably say that politeness is a white thing.

Memo to Robin: May I call you Robin? I’d be happy to discuss race with you and anyone else you want to bring along. Not only would I find it stress-free and enjoyable, but it might give me an insight into how in god’s name you sold so many books. My guess is that the sales have nothing to do with white guilt but a lot to do with masochism.   

Solutions

The authors of Critical Theories conclude the book with suggestions for countering the identity politics and authoritarian methods masquerading as social justice that are undermining classical liberalism. Courage is a prerequisite, they say.

They also say that counter measures should not call for the restriction of free speech but should call for the end of political indoctrination cum identity politics in public institutions. Such orthodoxy should be just as prohibited in public institutions as religious orthodoxy. Likewise, no one should be required to take a real or de facto oath in support of the orthodoxy or be pressured to attend CRT training or any training that portrays one group as racist, privileged, or otherwise inherently flawed.

I would add that both public and private institutions should be held accountable for violating longstanding equal rights laws that forbid discrimination on the basis of race, sex, and national origin. Also, they should not be allowed to mask such discrimination behind the pretext of correcting disparate outcomes.

The authors go on to suggest that the fight should be taken to the marketplace of ideas by educating people on how classical liberalism has improved, and will continue to improve, the lives and well-being of so-called minorities at a much faster rate and in a much fairer manner than coercion masquerading as social justice.

They continue by saying that opposition should be principled, and they give examples of what that looks like.  Here’s a snippet of one example:

We affirm that racism remains a problem in society and needs to be addressed.

We deny that critical race Theory and intersectionality provide the most useful tools to do so, since we believe that racial issues are best solved through the most rigorous analyses possible.

We deny that the best way to deal with racism is by restoring social significance to racial categories and radically heightening their salience.

We contend that each individual can choose not to hold racist views and should be expected to do so, that racism is declining over time and becoming rarer, that we can and should see one another as humans first and members of certain races second, that issues of race are best dealt with by being honest about racialized experiences while still working towards shared goals and a common vision, and that the principle of not discriminating by race should be universally upheld.

The foregoing is well and good, but I have additional suggestions.

Express your views whenever you see evidence of postmodernism, queer theory, CRT, standpoint theory, or any of the other identity-based theories in news stories, editorials, commentaries, or in government, collegiate or corporate pronouncements.

Obtain the author’s email address, if possible, to write a personal note. Always be polite, respectful, and tactful. Begin by complimenting the person’s professionalism and concern for social justice and equal rights. Then suggest that there might be a better way of accomplishing these ends, a way that doesn’t violate anti-discrimination law, exacerbate social divisiveness, and embolden extremists.

Never make it a partisan issue and don’t identify yourself as a conservative or a Republican. If you do, most believers in the new theories will immediately write you off as having a political ax to grind or worse. If you believe in classical liberalism, then identify yourself as a classical liberal.

Support your comments with relevant facts, if you have them, preferably facts from nonpartisan sources, such as the Census Bureau or Department of Labor. An example would be the fact that from 1965 to 2019, the poverty rate for blacks declined from 40% to 18.8%. Another example is that 8.5 million Blacks are in poverty, versus 15.9 million whites. Of course, Blacks have a much higher poverty rate and are only 14% of the population, but this certainly shows that not all whites come from privilege.

Use the Socratic Method, not to embarrass the person, but to reveal the contradictions in the individual’s beliefs. Below are sample questions separated into five themes:

  1. Since you referred to white people, how do you define “white,” given that race is a social construct and not genetically deterministic? Is the classification based on skin color/shade, facial features, self-identification, or arbitrary placement in the government’s official category?
  2. There are over 100 unique ethno-cultural groups that are force-fitted into the official White category, as well as hundreds of others that are force-fitted into the other categories of Black, Hispanic, and Asian. Where do such peoples as Persians, Turks, Armenians, Greeks, Albanians, and Sicilians belong? Should they be seen as the same as white Anglo-Saxon Protestants for purposes of diversity and inclusion? Are they minorities or in the majority? Or they privileged or unprivileged?
  3. What about the offspring of biracial parents? How should they be classified? By the classification of the mother or the father?
  4. What race is a Hispanic who hails from the Iberian Peninsula? Is the individual a person of color? What about a Mexican American who comes from a long line of Spanish aristocrats at the upper-crust of Mexican society? Is the person privileged or a minority? Would the person count as adding diversity to an organization in a diversity and inclusion initiative?
  5. To achieve diversity goals, is it okay for organizations to violate Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits basing hiring and promotions on race, ethnicity and sex? If an East Indian or Han Chinese is put on a board of directors for the purpose of diversity, is the individual representative of all other people classified as Asian, including Filipinos, Japanese, Koreans, Cambodians, Vietnamese, and so on? Are Mongols considered Asian? What about Russians from eastern Siberia? Do you find it hypocritical and contradictory for companies headquartered in such non-diverse countries as Japan, South Korea and China to run commercials spouting platitudes about diversity?

Don’t waste your time in trying to change the minds of dogmatists and ideologues. They have to be dealt with through the political system or by a personal decision not to do business with organizations that are dominated by them.

Alternatively, you can wait until the New Theories burn out on their own, as other utopian, illiberal movements have done in history. But that could take generations to happen.

Scott Horton Busts Neocon Conspiracies in New Book

Last month Foreign Affairs ran an article saying that Iran and Israel were engaged in mutual hostilities that could drag the United States into a war not of our choosing, and there was no mention in the article of the people who really do want the U.S. to go to war with Iran, the neoconservative branch of the Israel lobby. Last week Foreign Policy ran an article by one of those neoconservatives, saying that if the U.S. returns to its deal with a “rogue regime committed to Israel’s destruction,” Israel will likely go to war against Iran.

It ought to be terrifying that our supposed client state is escalating its attacks on Iran just as the United States is trying to reenter the Iran deal; and its friends in the U.S. are escalating the war of words. But the most you hear about this on mainstream media is Andrea Mitchell venturing to Jake Sullivan that Israel “is being unhelpful” to the United States with its attacks.

It’s as if the Iraq war and the neoconservative/Israel lobby role in pushing that invasion has disappeared down the memory hole.

That’s what makes Scott Horton’s new book such essential reading. “Enough Already” is the radio host/libertarian/antiwar.com editor’s meticulous analysis of how the U.S. “war on terrorism” has generated unending suffering in the Middle East. A million lives lost in Bush’s war on Iraq alone, as Horton said during the Israel lobby conference April 24.

And yet because some of the same well-connected actors are now pushing a war with Iran as a matter of supposed U.S. national security, they get a pass from a media that likes to say that Americans are tired of “forever wars.”

The strength of Horton’s analysis is first, exposing the roots of the Iraq war, in an entire political establishment’s signing off on a calamitous folly out of credulity in a half-baked idea of spreading democracy. And second, showing how the neoconservative vision, of the destruction of Arab capitals to realign the Middle East, only empowered Iran and put the U.S. on the side of Al Qaeda’s offspring in Syria.

I found the most damning statement in Horton’s book to be this: “Polls showed that by the time of the invasion, in March 2003, as much as 2/3 of American people believed Iraq had helped carry out the September 11 attack against our country.”

These days when everyone is talking about rightwing delusions and conspiracy theories, we really need to understand how such a lie became so repeatable by American leaders. And the neoconservative ideologues played a key role in that deception. Horton captures the vulnerability of the establishment to such a committed faction:

“The true neoconservatives have probably never counted more than 100 men and women among their ranks. But during the runup to the invasion of Iraq, they divided themselves almost perfectly into newspaper, magazine, think tank, and undersecretary positions across the national security bureaucracy.”

The neocons sought to topple the Saddam Hussein regime for years. Under Bill Clinton’s presidency, Zalmay Khalilzad and Paul Wolfowitz wrote a piece called “Overthrow Him” for the Weekly Standard. Then the next year, Robert Kagan and Bill Kristol founded the Project for a New American Century and immediately demanded regime change in Iraq, in a letter signed by Kagan and Kristol and Wolfowitz, Khalilzad, Richard Perle, Elliot Abrams, James Woolsey, and Francis Fukuyama among others.

“They succeeded in getting Congress to pass the Iraq Libertion Acti of 1998, which made it official American policy to seek regime change,” Horton relates.

The neocon logic was that toppling Saddam would strengthen Israel’s position. Neocon prodigy David Wurmser argued in 1996 that Israel’s primary foreign adversary was Hezbollah, and in order to weaken Syrian and Iranian influence, the U.S. should “focus on removing Saddam Hussein… an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right — as a mean of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.” Jordan would then take over Iraq, and “Syria would be isolated and surrounded by a new pro-western Jordanian-Israeli-Iraqi-Turkish bloc,” which would help “contain and manage.. the scope of the coming chaos in Iraq and most probably in Syria.”

Horton says charitably that Wurmser was “hallucinating.”

Wurmser, Perle and Douglas Feith made a geopolitical argument that was just as farcical in “A Clean Break: a new strategy for securing the realm,” a paper they prepared for Benjamin Netanyahu in 1996 that imagined a reordered Middle East.

While in another influential neoconservative tract, “Rebuilding America’s Defenses,” the Project for a New American Century in 2000 argued for a “permanent [U.S.] role in Gulf regional security.” Iraq provided the “immediate justification” for a “substantial American force presence” in the region.

Neocons bought this “bill of goods,” Horton relates, because of Israel’s presumed interest. “Israel’s interests had always been the purpose of the neoconservatives’ advocacy of American militarism.” (Horton notes that Perle was said to have been recorded by the FBI for leaking classified information to Israel (per mainstream sources) “but was never prosecuted.” While Douglas Feith was fired from NSC in 1982 “because he’d been the object of an inquiry into whether he’d provided classified material to an official of the Israeli Embassy in Washington.” (Counterpunch, 2004)).

And of course when George W. Bush assumed the presidency in 2001, his braintrust was this neoconservative gang. Wolfowitz, Perle, Wurmser, and Feith all had policymaking jobs at the Pentagon.

By November 2001 Rumsfeld was working on a plan to invade Iraq and “floating proposed excuses for it, such as showing an Iraqi link to September 11th or the anthrax attacks, or an alleged violation of international restrictions [on WMD].” Rumsfeld’s plans included a Pentagon memo to “take out seven countries in five years,” among them Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Iran, none of which had anything to do with 9/11 or were allied with Al Qaeda. Another conspiratorial lie was that North Korea, Iran, and Iraq were an “axis,” working with Al Qaeda to foster terrorist attacks on the U.S. “It was just nonsense… a giant bait-and-switch.”

Horton captures the majestic arrogance and brutality of the American scheme.

The government was determined to attack Iraq “and they were going to come up with whatever propaganda was necessary to get the people to allow them to do it. It did not matter that Iraq was a small, poor country that the U.S. had already been bombing for 12 years straight, which had a gross domestic product the size of northern Arkansas, possessed no navy, no air force and no ability to project power beyond its borders whatsoever,” he writes.

Saddam was a secular leader and no ally of bin Laden. But the U.S. establishment was intoxicated with a faith in the use of military power.

“The Bush government and the media’s narrative was that the lesson of September 11th is that we must start all the wars from now on ourselves. That way, no one can ever attack us because we already attacked them first. This was just an excuse for aggression.”

Horton surveys the evidence and concludes there can be no question “that they knew they were lying about Iraq’s alleged ‘threat’ to America.” High Bush national security aides, Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, had stated that Saddam could be easily contained.

Horton describes the political and psychological motive for the war: Bush wanting to prove he was tougher than his father and assure his reelection. Oil also had a role, as part of a “harebrained” scheme to privatize Iraqi oil and lower prices and break Saudi Arabia’s OPEC cartel.

The media was utterly passive. Broadcast media said that the attack was the “only logical consensus of the American foreign policy community,” Horton relates, though this was not the case. Broad segments of that community opposed the war, from the left and progressives to libertarians, realists, and conservatives, not to mention millions of American demonstrators. The war was championed by Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld and a chorus of neoconservative hawks in the administration and media. Those three officials had “stacked the government with the men [Bush’s father George H.W. Bush] had labeled ‘the crazies.’”

Neoconservatives and their friends dominated the Washington, D.C. think tanks, from Heritage to Hudson Institute to AEI to WINEP. In maintream media “they pushed ceaselessly for invading Iraq.” Among them: Kristol, William Safire, Danielle Pletka, Norman and John Podhoretz, Robert Kagan, David Brooks, Fred Hiatt, Reuel Marc Gerecht.

“The political right was joined in urging an attack by their counterpart liberal hawks, journalists and ‘humanitarian interventionists’ like Jeffrey Goldberg, Christopher Hitchens, Thomas L. Friedman, Matthew Yglesias, George Packer, Andrew Sullivan, Ken Pollack, Peter Beinart, Robert Kerrey, and the major networks,” Horton relates. “[Dan] Rather later complained that CBS had ‘regulatory needs’ in Washington, D.C., that he needed to consider before telling the American people the truth about the war.” While Tom Friedman has said he would do it all over again.

The broader Israel lobby also pushed for the war. AIPAC lobbied for it. Benjamin Netanyahu told Congress that Saddam had a “secret uranium enrichment program and…’if you take out Saddam…I guarantee that it will have enormous positive reverberations on the region.’”

The pro-Israel argument was rarely made openly. Six months before the war, Philip Zelikow, then assistant to Susan Rice the national security advisor, said,

[T]he argument that [Bush administration aides] make over and over again is that this is about a threat to the United States. And then everybody says: ‘Show me an imminent threat from Iraq to America. Show me, why would Iraq attack America or use nuclear weapons against us?’ So I’ll tell you what I think the real threat is, and actually has been since 1990. It’s the threat against Israel. And this is the threat that dare not speak its name, because the Europeans don’t care deeply about that threat, I will tell you frankly. And the American government doesn’t want to lean too hard on it rhetorically, because it’s not a popular sell.

As Horton says, “Nobody told the American people this.” We were told “Iraq was going to attack us with weapons of mass destruction if we did not stop them first.”

The national security branch went along with the lie. Perle, Kenneth Adelman, James Woolsey and Jeanne Kirkpatrick along with former House speaker Newt Gingrich and Henry Kissinger led the Pentagon’s Defense Policy Board, which recommended attacking Iraq as early as Sept. 19, 2001.

The Office of Special Plans in the Pentagon became an “expanded Iraq desk” run by a former Perle aide and staffed by AEI and WINEP “hacks” such as Michael Ledeen as well as the hotheaded Michael Makovsky of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs. The office would pick through CIA “trash” and collect tall tales from the Iraqi National Congress and “funnel the lies that led to war up the ‘stovepipe,’ straight to the White House and mainstream media in ready-made talking point format,” Horton writes.

Other neocons in power undertook efforts to “purge actual Middle East experts from their positions and replace them with loyal hawks from the think tanks.” While Feith and Wurmser helped set up a counter-terrorism group at the Pentagon that “pushed the fake story about an Iraqi official meeting with September 11th hijacker Mohammed Atta in Prague…shortly before the attack.”

It was absurd to suggest that Saddam Hussein would give unconventional weapons to Osama bin Laden. That would have been purely self-destructive. But Horton says one reliable count states that the top 7 officials of the Bush administration made 935 false statements of Iraq’s possession of banned weapons and support for al Qaeda in the year before the war.

While it is true that Iraqi intelligence had met with bin Laden’s men “a few times over the years…nothing had ever come of it, as the CIA had…repeatedly told the White House,” Horton says.

Joe Biden played an important role in enabling the Iraq war. As chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Biden and his aide Tony Blinken “called just two days of sham hearings on the question of invading Iraq,” Horton writes. “Only hawks were permitted to testify and serious experts who could have cast doubt on the cause for war were excluded.”

Biden, Hillary Clinton, and John Kerry, along with the majority of Senate Democrats “made the obviously political decision to support Bush’s war,” Horton says, while reminding us that Nancy Pelosi and the majority of Democrats in the House opposed it.

“Biden did not just support the war. He served as Bush and Cheney’s Senate gatekeeper and whip, guaranteeing a majority vote for the war in the upper chamber while controlled by the opposition party. If Biden had any moral courage at all, he could have stopped the war.”

All Biden would have had to do is bring in real experts like Scott Ritter and Anthony Zinni “to debunk the case that Iraq was stockpiling banned weapons or had programs that necessitated war,” Horton says.

Or Biden could have held up the 2002 vote authorizing the use of force.

Instead, Biden conspired with the White House to force the authorization through. He also continued to endorse the war publicly for years after that, though he has since spent the better part of a decade denying he ever did, lying that he only wanted the inspectors back in the country.”

Obviously Biden has changed, but his weakness when a strong political force was pushing war must give us all pause.

The neocons haven’t gone away. Their thinktanks continue to push for war, and they have publications to get out the word. “Dangerously obsessed doesn’t begin to describe this,” one observer of the rightwing Israel lobby writes.

The Capitol Hill riot showed that an advanced democracy is vulnerable to fake news and conspiracy theories, promoted by powerful people, in that case the White House. But the Iraq war was one of the biggest mistakes in the history of modern statecraft, creating enormous suffering and instability that has persisted for nearly 20 years. That decision was propelled by lies and false conspiracy claims—and it was approved by leading news organizations and politicians, including the current president. It is arguable that Donald Trump would never have become president, with his own regime of lies, if the imperial folly/horror of the Iraq war had not paved the way.

Joe Biden is not the only one to survive that error of judgment. There has been very little accountability at all for the Iraq war. The establishment that got us into that war is the same establishment that claims now to want to end “forever wars;” and many politicians, experts and media figures have little interest in any scrutiny of the record—with some insisting to this day that one of the biggest fabrications, the Iraq WMD argument, was made in good faith.

Scott Horton’s book is an indispensable contribution to the record of imperial madness. Its careful documentation and moral outrage are as much historical accountability as we can expect, for now.

This article was originally featured at Mondoweiss and is republished with permission.

Scott Horton’s ‘Startling’ New Book: A Review

Scott Horton’s new book, Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism serves as an excellent guide to America’s misadventures and war crimes since the 9/11 attack in 2001, including the endless war in Afghanistan, the wars with Iraq, our constant bullying of Iran, the destruction of Libya and the destructive civil war in Syria, which the U.S. helped create. The book was published in January and has in my opinion not received the attention it deserves.

Many of the places Horton writes about remain in terrible shape. Libya, attacked during the Obama administration, is still embroiled in a civil war. Yemen remains under a famine that kills children.

Much of what Horton writes about will be known to any American who bothers to pay attention to American to foreign policy, but I suspect that’s a minority of Americans. In any event, the details in Horton’s book are startling. Did you know, for example, that the Obama administration sided with radical Islamists in the Syrian civil war, supplying them with arms? (We supposedly were arming “moderates,” but that’s not what took place in practice.) Or that Russia intervened on the side of the Assad regime largely to save Syria’s Christian community, which could have been wiped out by the Islamists for all that most Americans care?

Horton’s 2017 book Fool’s Errand: Time to End the War in Afghanistan was heavily footnoted, but Enough Already does not have footnotes. When I asked Scott about this, he explained, “I skipped the footnotes because I decided to err on the side of brevity and timeliness. If I had given it the full Fool’s Errand treatment, each chapter would have been its own book and it wouldn’t be done for another long while. I really wanted it to be the everyman’s guide to it all, rather than another liberal professor book that nobody reads. And the end of an era was fast approaching with the end of the 20-teens and the Trump government.”

Still, Horton gives enough information about the source of his assertions that it’s easy to find documentation. When I went look for the claim that Putin intervened in Syria partly because of pressure from the Russian Orthodox Church to save Christians, I found articles such as this one. (“One does not have to grant a single noble motive to Russian President Vladimir Putin to grasp that secular and religious leaders in Russia do not want to risk the massacre of ancient Orthodox Christian communities in Syria.”)

In his chapter on Pakistan, Horton writes about how President Obama’s policies resulted in many civilians being killed in drone strikes and that the civilian population was terrorized by the drone attacks. He cited a 2012 report by Stanford Law School, “Living Under Drones.” That report is available on the internet; you can download your own copy.

The details in the report are appalling. Here is a paragraph about a drone strike that killed 42 people, mostly civilians:

At approximately 10:45 am, as the two groups were engaged in discussion, a missile fired from a US drone hovering above struck one of the circles of seated men. Ahmed Jan, who was sitting in one of two circles of roughly 20 men each, told our researchers that he remembered hearing the hissing sound the missiles made just seconds before they slammed into the center of his group. The force of the impact threw Jan’s body a  significant distance, knocking him unconscious, and killing everyone else sitting in his circle. Several additional missiles were fired, at least one of which hit the second circle. In all, the missiles killed a total of at least 42 people. One of the survivors  from the other circle, Mohammad Nazir Khan, told us that many of the dead appeared to have been killed by flying pieces of shattered rocks. Another witness, Idris Farid, recalled that “everything was devastated. There were pieces—body pieces—lying around. There was lots of flesh and blood.”

The report has pages and pages of similar accounts. Your tax dollars at work!

I am not a big fan of war crimes in general, but at least with some of the things the Allies did in World War II such as the bombing of Dresden, you can argue that there was some military justification, the war wasn’t started by the U.S., etc. What is the justification for killing civilians in Pakistan, or destroying Libya, or menacing Christians in Syria? Did any of these countries attack the U.S.?

This article was originally featured at RAWIllumination.net and is republished with permission.

The American Conservative Reviews Scott Horton’s Newest Book

We’re approaching the 20th anniversary of the Global War on Terror when the George W. Bush administration made the decision to ruin the 21st century. Trillions of dollars spent, a permanent and expanding war bureaucracy on our shores, upwards of a million civilians dead, tens of millions more displaced, entire regions of the globe destabilized, and the American people no safer than they were on September 10.

When the immensity of the nefariousness is laid bare, a normal man is tempted, in the words of satirical cynic H.L. Mencken, “to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats.” That is the conclusion when one finishes Scott Horton’s Enough Already: Time to End the War on Terrorism, which stands as the most irrefutably argued and damning indictment of modern U.S. foreign policy yet written.

Published on the anniversary of Operation Desert Storm, its release date is a distressing reminder that, with a brief respite from 2011 to 2014, the United States has been bombing Iraq continuously for 30 years. Add Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, and a dozen other countries, and the cascade of errors (and worse) can overwhelm the reader.

Indefatigable localist writer and TAC luminary Bill Kauffman once called the unasked question of American foreign policy, “What does this war mean for my block, my neighborhood, my town?” Horton’s answer, as biting as it is accurate, is that the American people have gained nothing from the War on Terrorism “beyond, perhaps, increasingly necessary technological advancements in the manufacture of prosthetic limbs.”

The schizophrenic demeanor of Uncle Sam is summarized succinctly:

The U.S. backed the Arab-Afghan mercenaries and terrorists and then fought them; backed Saddam Hussein and then fought him; backed the Taliban and then fought them; worked for Sadr, then fought him; fought al Qaeda in Iraq, backed them, and then fought them again; worked with Gaddafi, Assad and the Houthis against al Qaeda, and then fought all of them too—for al Qaeda. Does that sound right to you?

According to majorities of Republicans, Democrats, veterans, and every other polled demographic, that does not sound right. If there is one through-line in Enough Already, it is the contempt that the managerial elite hold for the average American and his antiquated loyalty to fellow citizens.

In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, should the focus of the United States have been apprehending Osama bin Laden and those responsible? “I don’t know where he is. You know, I just don’t spend that much time on him,” President Bush said, after his obstinance allowed the terrorist leader to escape from Tora Bora. “I truly am not that concerned about him.”

Should the U.S. military be used as a tool to knock off secular dictators, inversely advancing the strategic goals of either the Islamic Republic of Iran or Sunni jihadists? Yes, according to every think tank report produced in Washington or Tel Aviv in the 1990s and 2000s.

Should the American government provide training, weapons, and money to terrorists sworn loyal to Ayman al-Zawahiri, the butcher of New York City, in the most treasonous operation since the Rosenbergs? Try to ask the late Senator John McCain, who took selfies with the Northern Storm Brigade in Syria just years after their members were shooting American servicemen in Iraq. Or Foreign Affairs, the flagship journal of the Council on Foreign Relations, which published numerous articles with innocuous titles like “Accepting al Qaeda.”

Horton represents the pinnacle of citizen journalism, a man outside major media institutions who feels more comfortable at a skatepark than a newsroom. When the Washington Post op-ed page was disseminating disinformation about WMDs in Iraq, Horton was debunking “aluminum tubes” to any stranger who transited his taxicab on the way to the Austin airport.

The disparity between Horton’s history of U.S. foreign policy and the narrative perpetuated by the corporate press is depicted in an exchange between the author and Charlie Savage, “probably the second or third least-worst reporter at the Times.” When confronted about his publication’s circulation of a false report about Russian bounties on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, Savage counseled Horton, “I think you have overlearned the lessons of the pre-Iraq War reporting failures—almost 20 years ago now—and see that dynamic as the norm rather than the aberration that it was.”

May all sensible Americans “overlearn” the lessons of the Iraq war! According to Horton, the lessons are: “These wars are already lost. There is no victory or stable peace to be had in any of them. If the U.S. must stay until its goals have been accomplished, then that is not opposition or skepticism, but a blank writ for another two decades of war.”

The path towards absolution is clear. Sweep aside the insufferable patricians who scorn our nation. Stop invading other countries. End the drone war. Abandon the quest for universal empire. Bring our troops home. And be satisfied with the advice of that great statesman of Idaho, William Borah, who told us to “hold fast to those political principles and foreign policies which others call provincialism but which we call Americanism.”

This article was originally featured at The American Conservative and is republished with permission of author.

Reflections on ‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich’

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to relive it.”- Santayana

There are some books you read which leave lasting scars on the mind. For me, that was The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer. Having first read it as a child when war was only a genre of films and comic book features, it exposed a dark truth about war and the evils of the Nazi regime. It was a book of horror. Having recently re-read it as an adult—after consuming many other books detailing history’s most terrilbe moments—its initial horror remains shocking.

Shirer’s extensive history of Nazi Germany is a heavy read not without its share of controversy (which given the subject matter, nor should it be). While it focuses on a uniquely German totalitarianism, its portrayal of victims and villains is universally human. Published only fifteen years after the defeat of Nazi Germany, the book was a surprise success.

Shirer looks at a deeper history of German culture reaching back to Martin Luther, discovering the origins of the Nazi state in pride, militaristic inclinations, a society driven to order and one that rewarded strong national and cultural identities. Following the shame and loss of World War I, economic depression, the emergence of radical anti-liberal and anti-traditional politics, the Nazis promised a restored Germany filled with the romantic delusions of fundamentalist zealotry. The dream of a thousand year Reich was born, to be built upon the bones of millions of individuals.

The Nazi state, as impressive and imperial as it became, began as a putrid ideology festering inside beer halls, spread by the minds and words of angry radicals. The party grew over time, mutating with each personality and influenced from places of simplistic solutions and blame into a welfare-warfare state built on racial nationalism. Sharing the very worse of left and right wing politics, Adolf Hitler became the great leader.

The hatred that the Nazi regime was able to manifest was done with such scale and implementation that it took more than just the single ideology of Nazism to make it possible. If history had only limited periods and examples of genocide and cruelty then it would be easy to just blame the Nazi ideology itself. Mass extermination and torture of innocent human beings had and was occurring elsewhere. From the Armenian genocide to the cruel policies in the Soviet Union, these predecessors assured the Nazi leadership that they too could implement terror on the innocent with impunity. As Shirer details, the Nazi state had a unique evil to its policies.

The book’s bitter facts expose the willingness of well educated and intelligent individuals to surpass any morality so that they may satisfy scientific and medical curiosities. The extensive nature of experimentation is given a degree of detail. Research that was conducted on unwilling and tortured individuals who suffered so that scientists and a state obsessed with racial supremacy and war could expand its knowledge about the ability to heal and destroy. It took such men of talent to help make the Nazi war machine and state advanced and deadly.

It is why many such Nazi scientists were rescued from justice by the United States and Soviet Union after the war. The Cold War would give the Nazi scientists a context to further their research. Absent were the slave laborers mostly made up of European Jews,  who were replaced by factories of employees willing to continue and expand the scientific and medical studies of their masters. Any crimes of the past washed away. For such men, was it purely ideology that drove them to dissect living human beings? Or an indifference to pain that led them to inject children with chemical cocktails that guaranteed an agonizing death? Or was it the unchecked pursuit of science alone that steered their instincts and desires?

One flaw commonly leveled at the book, especially from German critics, is Shirer’s assertion that the Third Reich is the fault the German people. Perhaps in some ways it was a uniquely German regime, but such horrors are not unique to Germany. The Soviet Union, before, during, and after the Stalin era reveals totalitarian characteristics and brutal tendencies that occurred without four centuries of Germany history. North Korea is a prison state which continues to abuse and terrorize millions. Chinese history, whether under Nationalist fascism, war lords, or the Communists is also replete with a history of slavery and torture. Each of these totalitarian states are responsible for mass murder. The dark aspects of humanity and the power of the state make such evil possible.

But it is easy to criticise Shirer from the distance of time and safety. He lived in Germany as a foreign correspondent. He witnessed the tyranny as a helpless observer and his perspective is coloured by those moments. His book ‘Berlin Diary’ is a journey from 1934 to 1941 when as a radio reporter for CBS he watched the rise of the police state turn into a genocidal nation at war. Published in 1941 just months before the United States would go to war, it helped to unveil the nature of the Nazi tyranny. Shirer knew people who were interned and risked their lives as whistle-blowers against state power. He dealt with the Nazi citizens and government alike, during the peak of the regimes hubris. It is at times that ‘The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich” borrows beats from his ‘Berlin Diary’.

In many ways this is a book of its time, written soon after the War and for an audience of those who may have suffered through and opposed the Nazi regime. It is also a book where the author injects certain bias, an example is how he views homosexuality as being a ‘perversity’. Shirer leans into the readers prior knowledge that Hitler is from the outset a known villain. Suggesting that all things Nazi as being evil, even before any examples of terrible deeds are given. But in doing so, Shirer attempts to theorise why Hiterlism was made possible. Just as Edward Gibbon looked for a conclusive sole reason as to why Rome fell, in ‘the Rise and Fall of Roman Empire” by blaming Christianity. Shirer also looks into the soul of Germany for his conclusive singularity. The fault being that of the German volk itself.

The street gangs,” in the words of Alan Bullock, “had seized control of the resources of a great modern State, the gutter had come to power.” But—as Hitler never ceased to boast—“legally,” by an overwhelming vote of Parliament. The Germans had no one to blame but themselves.

Shirer condemns every German, because of the belief in the democratic processes, that the voting majority who helped bring to power an unpredictable future of Hitlerism define all other Germans. It is in itself the very collective mindset that defined such a “gutter” culture. Crisis always makes it easy to find a simple answer and to impose blame on others. It removes the need for investigation and the understanding of complexity. It is how the Nazis were able to blame the Jews for defeat in World War One and economic depression. And in the years after the War a journalist like Shirer could readily blame the German people.

History is not so simple and the crimes of Nazi Germany can not be just blamed on Adolf Hitler as a sole individual or even the whole of Germany as a collective. It is easy to say that such an evil mastermind is responsible alone for the millions of dead. That removes guilt and responsibility of the many individuals who themselves pulled the trigger. The destinies of millions were steered at times by themselves not just by Hitler. His hatred may have provided a mandate, but no good person eagerly butchers a baby simply because they were told to. And those who profited from the misery and exploitation did so with their own self interest often hidden beneath the proclamation that it was for the Fatherland. For the Nazis that cause was a hatred of other races, notably the Jewish people. It will only be inside the pages of a David Irving book that such facts are disappeared.

At the heart of Nazi ideology is antisemitism. The steering irrational vulgarity that directed not only Hitler but the ideologically pure. Perhaps it is rooted in Martin Luther’s works but it is not unique to Germany, or even Europe for that matter. The anti-capitalist rhetoric combined with the scientific racism that was in its peak during this time found a common cause with the traditional antisemitic tendencies that existed in parts of European culture. These elements were crucial components of the Nazi ideology, it was not mere fascism or a variant of national communism. It may have had commonalities with those ideals, it was its own unique monstrosity. The censoring and burning of books, labour camps of mass murder are not uniquely Nazi either but they adopted and ritualised such acts to a grand scale.

Not found inside the book, but apparent the world over is the apathy of the morally neutral or even those who know better but are unable or unwilling to resist. Those who go along with it all, no matter how evil the path is. Those who simply did their job or informed on a neighbour because it was the law. Not unique to Nazi Germany, it was happening then in the Soviet Union, and even now in the war on terror. The apathy and obedience is what erodes liberty and justice. It is in the end what empowers and allows the greatest evil capable of becoming the very law of the land.

Nazi Germany was a regime where men of great intelligence could meet at Grosser Wannsee and plan the mass extinction of millions of human beings with bureaucratic calculation. Perfectly legal, but terrifyingly absent of justice. And many who may have lacked ideological purity implemented such horror, merely because it was their job to do so.

The book is a testament to its audience and time, it celebrates the allies and especially the Americans as knights that saved the world from the evil Nazi regime. It lacks the nuance and complicated nature of war. Being opposed to the Nazi regime does not simply rid one of any guilt should they commit atrocities themselves in the pursuit of defeating such an evil foe. At times the book can read as though Shirer wanted to pen a comic book, casting the Nazi’s as a rightfully evil villain but the US and Allies as a Superman or Captain America. To colour these panels the major players of the Nazi party and German military are either described as “stupid” without any real examples or in the case of a man like Ernest Rohm his defining crime being that he was a “homosexual”.

There are many good reasons to read the book. The depth and detail in parts that help to display the horrible nature of the Nazi state along with the sobering realisation that this actually happened. This is a living history that endured for years and harmed millions of human beings and has ramifications even to this day. The murderous street fighters of the early Nazi’s that were at times mere thugs would in a matter of years mature into a party of statesmen and central planners that would steer the nation that they claimed to love into the depths of chaos. By displaying the swastika one is not going to resurrect the Nazi state, it is unlikely that such a state shall ever reemerge. By opposing such an ideology does not necessarily make one a good person. After all Stalin himself was a nemesis of Hitler. Nazi Germany’s greatest foe and perhaps the greatest benefactor of its demise was the Soviet Union. Despite that, the Soviet state was also antisemitic and a collective nightmare riddled with slave camps, mass executions and perverse medical research. There is no good when the world is presented with the Nazi state or the Soviet Union. Only death and misery.

A book like The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich is a lesson that can teach the reader the dangers of an ideology that imposes a collective world view and worships hatred. It also reveals the power of the state itself. An unnatural entity that has the power to ruin everything. The lesson is not that Nazi Germany or Hitlerism will emerge again but that many other regimes will arise with shared characteristics. Or that those who oppose Nazism as a symbol will adopt many of its methods and intolerance. When street thugs with idealistic energy burning down shop fronts may some day mature into statespeople and impose their ideals onto others through the power of the state. It should be concern for all.

The great paradox of such a collective tyranny is that the individual citizen does not matter. Race, nation, class are all used to define ones status and worth. And yet these collective regimes require individuals of exceptional nature to lead and to engineer the technology and programs required to make the ‘perfect society’. Becoming a pyramid with hierarchies of elites, at the bottom the common volk and the Untermensch. The state exists to empower the proletariat but from within the state itself rises an elite hierarchy of planners that live better than any past kings or aristocrats. The Nazi state was certainly one such frightening empire of history.

Shirer has compiled a detailed book, but does not give you all of them. Extensive research of primary sources has occurred since the book was written. But as a marker in time it stands on its own merits and will leave one with a heavy heart. Nazi Germany was a human tragedy, but it is not the singular anomaly in the history of humanity. The Nazi state provides fascination in a similar way as serial killers; it is romanced and enshrined as the template for all evil. Its victims become statistical props who are devoured on such a scale that they loose any individual humanity. Their victims are more than just Anne Frank and the countless statistics. The millions are used as a means of contrast against other murder states, providing fodder for academic debates over which regime was worse. That the Nazi state ever existed is frightening. That other such states also exist is scary and that many deny that the evils of Nazism ever occurred is plain sick.

“The man who has no sense of history, is like a man who has no ears or eyes.”– Adolf Hitler

The Banned Books of the Cold War-Era Soviet Union

“When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.”- George R. R. Martin

The authoritarian nature of the Soviet Union has been buried by apologist revisionism and has been romanced in the upsurge of sexy depictions of the Cold War. It’s a fondness for a past that never really existed. For its victims it was grim and chilling period of repression. The Stalinist era is one of dystopian horrors, genocide and gulags with centrally planned nightmares converging into a monstrous state headed by a dictator that was saved by the bloodiest war in human history. A period of uncertainty emerged after Stalin’s death, while the promise of reforms spirited the energies of the people and the intellectuals. At the 1956 20th Congress of the Soviet Communist Party, Stalin and his years of terror were condemned. A glimmer of hope emerged and writers wrote and unveiled the works that they had hidden during the dark years under Stalin.

For Russians, censorship and prohibited literature was not an exclusively Soviet era limitation. The first Russian book indexing prohibited writing goes all the way back to 1073 and insecure, ruthless leaders have imposed versions of censorship ever since. The 19th century was also a period where certain pamphlets containing speeches and essays that condemned the Tsar or questioned the status quo were banned. After the 1905 failed revolution, greater rule was imposed, including more censorship. Many of the heroes of the communist revolution were themselves victims of the censor and would go on to enforce their own censorship once they became the rulers. Under the tyranny of Stalin a prison state emerged and a cloud of death loomed throughout as thoughts and words became a very dangerous act.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn is one of the greatest writers in history. Arrested in 1945 while he fought in the “Great Patriotic War,” his crime was sharing his thoughts in 1940 about the Soviet system and insulting Stalin. The punishment could only confirm his condemnation and would provide fuel for his future writing. His experiences in a hard labor prison for eight years would not only give the world great works, but The Gulag Archipelago would also provide a voice and vindication for the many victims of the Soviet state.

Given relative literary freedom in the decade after Stalin’s death, writers and editors probed the boundaries of allowable opinion. It was a frontier of thought and expression that delved into dangerous territory, not only at the time but for future repercussions, as artists and writers explored and experimented in what became known as the Khrushchev “Thaw.” It was an era where the officials were uncertain as to what they could censor and punish. The authoritarians that had cut their teeth and ruled with omnipotence under Stalin still existed but they lacked the cultural moment to exercise their sinister instincts. Unfortunately, that time would return.

Boris Pasternak completed his novel Doctor Zhivago after over forty years of work. In 1956 he was able to reveal it. In 1957, after Italian Communist Party journalist Sergio D’Angelo tracked down Pasternak and received a copy of the manuscript in hopes of publishing it outside of Russia, Pasternak told him, “You are hereby invited to watch me face the firing squad.” The book was published in Italy that same year. Pasternak was nominated for a Noble Prize in literature the year after. The book was soon criticised by the Soviet authorities for its pro-individualist sentiments and criticism of Stalinism, collectivization, and general anti-Soviet tone. Communists the world over condemned the book and hate mail (along with death threats) were directed at Pasternak.

Doctor Zhivago remained popular and would go on to be made into a movie. The book was also used as a CIA prop as the agency purchased many copies and circulated them to defy the Soviet authorities. The book was no longer a story about individuals in a fictional setting but an emblem of division. It was a predecessor of Salman Rushdie’s Satantic Verses, which drew calls for his death from extremists in the Islamic World while simultaneously he became a champion for free speech advocates and atheists alike. Pasternak’s book was unable to stand on its own as a literary work, and instead would become a pariah piece criticising an ideology of centrally planned authoritarianism.

And in 1962 Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich was published in the literary journal Novy Mir, 95,000 copies were instantly sold. The work would later become banned and unprintable inside the Soviet Union, except in illegal typescript where it was widely circulated in secret along with other works. The book was about one day inside a labour camp as experienced by Ivan, it revealed more about the cruel system and institutions than any statistics have or could. Solzhenitzysn would become famous outside of the Soviet world and would himself also win a Noble Prize for Literature. His work becoming less available into the 1960s from within the Soviet Union and his status as a writer negated over time as he had become controversial and by 1966 when his new piece ‘Cancer Ward’ was ready the editor of Novy Mir was reluctant to print the work without the support of the Soviet Union of Writers, the ‘thaw’ had ended.

In 1965 two Soviet authors Andrei Sinyavsky and Yuli Daniel had been arrested for publishing their works in the West under fake names. Immediately the Soviet media attacked them and ran their names through dirt. In early 1966 both writers were tried and sentenced to suffer in prison camps. The State and its officials had shown its hand, the repression had returned and the two writers were a famous example of any who would dare to express themselves. Even as Russian writers and literature was being celebrated the World over the message and tone of the work may have varied, none of it was so dangerous that those outside of a specific ideology and government felt so threatened that they needed to edit or prohibit it.

The Master and Margarita is a book that in its creation has a fantastic story, the authour Mikhail Bulgakov in 1940 burned the completed copy after having spent 12 years writing it. In his later years Bulgakov wrote his work again and around 1966 after his death a heavily censored version of the book was published. An underground version without the edits soon circulated and the complete version of the book was available in 1973 and a final version was released in 1989. The spiritual and Christian themes were a dangerous threat to the Soviet officials. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov was another in many books also denied publication in the Soviet Union. However it was also banned in Australia, France, the UK and New Zealand and other territories, the original manuscript was refused by several publishers. The romantic and lustful interests of an adult man towards a young girl pushed taboos that transcended Soviet interests but challenged the moral sensibilities of supposedly liberal and free nations. The idea of adults reading words of such a nature would raise the ire of censors and officials the world over.

Soviet typewriters and printing machines had their typographic samples collected from the factory when they were manufactured and then stored in a government directory. The micro features of the typewriter is then used like a finger print.  When a typewriter was purchased it is registered to the owner. This then would allow the officials to determine which machine was used to print the offending works. Some East German and Warsaw Pact typewriters were not subject to such a directory and constraints. So many Soviet citizens purchased some of these machines, free of the registry process and along with smuggled in Western typewriters a dissident activity known as Samizdat (‘self-published’) was able to copy texts and distribute them avoiding the Soviet censors.

Those involved in the illegal reading market also used X-ray film to conceal works and found ingenious ways of hiding banned books or pages inside of the accepted-legal books. It was not just works written inside of the Soviet Union that were banned, many books from the World over, from HG Wells and George Orwell to political and religious texts that may challenge the minds of the reader or raise thoughts that could not be controlled by the State.

The Samizdat typewritten copies covered a variety of topics and genres from poetry, unpublished works to controversial pieces on politics, religion and nationalism. Despite the censors and official media, a lot of people wanted to be exposed to different views and perspectives. Whether they agreed or not, the proletariat was hungry for information. The official lies did less to conceal, it ultimately revealed the repression and shifting narratives of the Soviet state. What was acceptable could suddenly change and then the past officially scrubbed or adjusted to fit the States contemporary necessity. When Soviet citizens were able to read books like Doctor Zhivago and see just how benign its content was, it would only serve to prove the over reaction of the censors and the insecurity of the State itself.

Contraband works made available by Samizdat nourished a liberal instinct and helped to subvert the tyranny of the State, along with rock n roll, blue jeans and the continued economic idiocy that was felt by the common person daily. It is the writer who has the ability to put up a mirror on the system or society that is often the most threatening. The reflection of truth is far more dangerous than any lies. And this is where men like Alexander Solzhenitsyn became so dangerous to the Soviet government that at times they were uncertain how to deal with him. The crime in the past was in condemning the present and in the post-Stalin world it was in comparing the present to that past. Solzhenitsyn and other Russian writers fought this battle against the censors and the officials.

Through the 1970s the Soviet authorities were waging a losing battle against those writing and spreading the contraband. By 1985 over one million items of prohibited material existed deep inside the ‘restricted access collection’ of the Lenin State Library. Under the reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev, Perestroika and Glasnot reversed many of the ancient censorship and allowed artists and intellectuals to express themselves, within certain constraints. Some liberalization does not mean complete freedom. The spigot seemingly had opened up.

In the post-Soviet world, Russia like many other countries has its own nuanced sensibilities when it comes to censorship.  Inside of modern Russia the government itself does not need to impose traditional bans on books as it could have done in the past, instead the publishers do so for the state. Russia is again dominated by the cult of personality, Vladimir Putin. No where near as terrible as Joseph Stalin, though under his leadership Russia is not a free society.  A cultural homogenization exists, where private entities narrow the lanes of acceptable opinion and omit, criticise or banish anything outside of them. A form of cultural nationalism and a vanguard against any subversive ideas or immoralities that may corrupt or hinder Russia.

This is also a modern trend of large corporations and companies all over the world, not limited to publishing books and magazines. The modern Russian censors are fixated on prohibiting the publishing of materials about suicide, homosexuality, some religious texts and in some cases criticisms of Stalin himself, as was the case with the film and graphic novel, The Death of Stalin. A black comedy based on true events just before and after the death of the dictator revealing how deadly men were at times self obsessed buffoons despite ruling over millions.

Though it is in many cases not as bad as the Soviet era modern Russia has its share of direct and self imposed censorship.  Books relating to the usage of drugs such as Apocalypse Culture and The Ketamine Necromance have been banned and copies destroyed. Just as hard to publish are children’s books, where government and non-government actors heavily control such literature. It is not only the content of these books, the font and format that are dictated by the Russian government.

For the state and those interested in controlling others, it is not just the adult’s mind but especially those of children that are important to steer. The family, the school or even the child themselves does not come into consideration, all are determined to be inferior in their own learning and intellectual development. It is from the state and for the state that becomes priority. Such a miserable blandness of cultural porridge is ensured by the brain trust that adores authority. And the authority itself.

As technology and media evolved radio sets, cassette tapes and then video tapes all did the rounds and introduced the citizens behind the Iron Curtain to various perspectives that differed to their own. It helped to grow ideas and ideals, to expose them to the other world that existed beyond the bleak one of control and Soviet utopianism.  It is for the officials and central planners of modern regimes whether those of China and North Korea or even in democracies to massage or deny any alternative narrative. It is the imperial nature of those who are in control and those who benefit from such a system, to remove the alternative thoughts and works. To suppress literature and to condemn it as dangerous or immoral. To treat the citizen as a child like subject unable to make decisions for themselves.

What does it say of a government or society that makes words contraband? Whether a novel such as Doctor Zhivago is not merely a threat to the Soviet Union but communism itself exposes a fundamental flaw in the ideologies and states need to force and repress. In a free market, it is in the access to all forms of thoughts and expressions that can either confirm or condemn freedom itself. It is thanks to freedom that one can share and consider such thoughts. Inside a Soviet system one is deterred and denied from speaking outwardly about the only method of rule. Alternatives are the enemy, a deadly insecurity exists in those past and present who would inflict their views absolutely on others. Then to imprison who would dare to write something contrary, to ban or scrub their words, rather than to argue and to disprove.

The world is a better place thanks to the words of Solzhenitsyn and Pasternak. It is not a better place for the labor camps that imprisoned or the censors that sought to rid words written by such men. For the officials of the Soviet Union did what they needed to preserve the system and to maintain authority. That in itself was a righteous calling. To have a society of one or very few voices is the ore of iron rule, and it is impressive in its frightening scale that such an empire lasted so long and ruled over so many lives. Banning words (not just books and pamphlets) is not unique to the Soviet Union, but they do set an example for reflection. To make art and writing contraband only creates dissent and dissidents. The dissidents’ voice will whisper wherever the tyrant rules and in time they will yell until tyranny itself whimpers. Write on comrades!

James Douglass, the Kennedy Assassination, and a Missed Dinner in Austin

“Austin All Agog Over Kennedy Visit Friday” read the headline of the Austin American Statesman. The Texas capital was sparing no expense in welcoming the President of the United States. City schools were set to close early so that children could see the motorcade, and the excitement could be felt building in the weeks before.

Img 6575Preparations were in motion for a grand welcoming dinner at the city’s Municipal Auditorium. Hosted by the State Democratic Executive Committee, it would be the largest concentration of state and national leaders in the history of Texas.

Nearly 2,500 people were expected to attend the $100-a-plate banquet dinner, whose purpose was to simultaneously fundraise for President Kennedy’s 1964 reelection campaign and heal the ongoing conservative-liberal split in the Texas Democratic Party.

That morning, the auditorium was decorated to befit a presidential visit, thousands of chairs were arranged, and caterers prepared the dinner, including “Texas-size” sirloin steaks.

But President John F. Kennedy would never arrive in Austin that evening of November 22, 1963. He would never make it out of Dallas. At 7:30pm that evening, when he should have been arriving at the gala to enthusiastic cheers, doctors at Bethesda Naval Hospital were removing bullet fragments from his brain.

In a recent interview on The Scott Horton Show, ret. CIA officer Ray McGovern mentioned what opened his eyes about the seminal event of that autumn day:

There is an excellent book that I’ll recommend to you, written by James Douglass, an eminent historian. It’s called JFK and the Unspeakable. It was released about 15 years ago [2008], completely suppressed in the press…It is, in my view, the Bible.

The book received similar praise from filmmaker Oliver Stone—whose promotion led to the book’s wide release despite a media blackout—and Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the president’s nephew who visited Dealey Plaza for the first time after reading. The book convinced Vietnam War whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg that a new federal investigation into the Kennedy assassination was urgently necessary.

Douglass’ tour de force is well-deserving of these commendations. Clocking in at 495 pages—including endnotes—it is a tome of information, the finest synthetization of primary and multi-decade secondary sources on the market.

Prior to researching the Kennedy assassination, author James Douglass spent his life as a Professor of Religion and a dedicated activist in the Catholic Worker Movement. This influence outlines the entire book, and even inspired the title. “The Unspeakable” was a term coined by the Catholic monk Thomas Merton, an adoptive son of Kentucky, and Douglass’ biggest theological influence. Merton sought to depict “an evil whose depth and deceit seemed to go beyond the capacity of words to describe,” including the carnage of the Vietnam War, the string of political assassinations in the 1960s, and the ever-looming threat of nuclear annihilation.

JFK and the Unspeakable serves as a masterpiece because of how Merton forms a narrative around the slain president. The reader is introduced to young Cold Warrior, who over a period of two years begins to have a redemptive shift towards peace—aroused by near cataclysmic events such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, and continual subversion by the National Security State.

From January 1961 to November 1963, Douglass tracks Kennedy’s growing disillusionment with the hawkish and militant perspective of his military command and intelligence agencies. Upon entering office, he’s introduced to a plan by CIA Director Allen Dulles for a preemptive nuclear strike on the Soviet Union scheduled for late 1963. Kennedy walked out on the meeting, telling Secretary of State Dean Dusk, “And we call ourselves the human race.”

After being cornered into the failed invasion of Cuba at the Bay of Pigs and firing Dulles, Kennedy declared his intention “to splinter the CIA in a thousand pieces and scatter it to the winds.” The president began continually curtailing the preferred policies of the National Security State, including by pursuing the creation of a neutral and independent Laos, sending military advisors into Vietnam instead of the requested combat units, and most importantly by rejecting the demands of his Joint Chiefs of Staff for a preemptive strike on Cuba during the missile crisis.

“If the situation continues much longer, the President is not sure that the military will not overthrow him and seize power,” Attorney General Robert Kennedy informed Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin (as recollected by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev in his memoirs).

Kennedy was met by constant disruption and sabotage by the National Security State he was meant to command. In Spring 1962, he orders Defense Secretary Robert McNamara to formalize a plan for a partial exit from Vietnam by the end of 1963; this order was backlogged by the bureaucracy for a year and was presented as a multi-year exit. The president was similarly ill-served by his last-minute appointment to the South Vietnam ambassadorship, Henry Cabot Lodge Jr.

Lodge declined to carry out continued negotiations with the Diem government to avoid a coup and delayed the transmission of information back to Washington. When South Vietnamese President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother Nhu were assassinated on November 2, 1963, Kennedy was left “somber and shaken,” said Arthur Schlesinger, who “had not seen him so depressed since the Bay of Pigs.”

“I’ve got to do something about those bastards,” the President told Florida Senator George Smathers in the aftermath. “They should be stripped of their exorbitant power.”

You won’t find talk of ballistics or “magic bullets” in Douglass’ book. The events of November 22 take a backseat altogether; while he includes voluminous eyewitness accounts and a thorough walk through Oswald’s physical whereabouts, the author is less interested in the mechanics of the assassination than its context.

JFK and the Unspeakable is meant to help you understand why John F. Kennedy began a turn against the Cold War, and how the National Security State developed the motivation and determination to murder their Commander in Chief—not to calculate the mathematical trajectory of the Grassy Knoll.

More than a decade after its publication, James Douglass’ work stands as the pinnacle of Kennedy assassination texts, a required and laudable text for both laymen and enthusiasts alike.

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I am grateful for my suffering. I truly am. These are not words I utter in some halfhearted, feeble effort to brighten my mood or motivate my day. Fortunately for me, I am not battling depression. It’s been a challenging few years; Entrepreneurship. Battling Cancer....

Former U.S. Navy Sailor Makes the Case for Libertarianism

https://youtu.be/uI0iYWMK8Z8 [J]ustice is the means by which an individual who was victim to a criminal act is made whole again. If a statist society cannot perfect man’s own construct, how could a stateless society fare any better? Derek R. Wills, The Liberty...

The Scott Horton Show

5/21/22 Hassan El-Tayyab: Now Is the Time to End the War in Yemen

 Download Episode. Hassan El-Tayyab of the Friends Committee on National Legislation joins Scott on Antiwar Radio to discuss the effort to end the war in Yemen. Both sides have agreed to a ceasefire which has brought the level of violence down and the access to food...

5/19/22 Patrick Cockburn on the Arrogance of War Hawks on All Sides

 Download Episode. Scott talks with Patrick Cockburn about Russia’s war in Ukraine and the Western response. Cockburn argues that, regardless of any media spin, the Russians are running into more trouble than they expected to in Ukraine. He chalks that up to hubris...

5/16/22 Ted Snider: Did the CIA Oust Imran Khan?

 Download Episode. Scott is joined by Ted Snider to discuss the removal of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan. Khan’s government announced in June of 2021 that Pakistan would no longer host any American military bases. Then, earlier this year, Khan was forced out by...

Conflicts of Interest

COI #281: America Is on the Highway to Great Power Wars

On COI #281, Kyle Anzalone and Connor Freeman cover the Democrats’ lockstep anti-Russia hawkishness, the Blob’s refusal to hit the brakes, and the next target: China. Connor breaks down hist latest column for the Libertarian Institute, the article discusses the...

COI #280: Con Men Claim Ukraine Is Vital to American Security

On COI #280, Kyle Anzalone discusses recent news about possible war with Russia. Odysee Rumble  Donate LBRY Credits bTTEiLoteVdMbLS7YqDVSZyjEY1eMgW7CP Donate Bitcoin 36PP4kT28jjUZcL44dXDonFwrVVDHntsrk Donate Bitcoin Cash Qp6gznu4xm97cj7j9vqepqxcfuctq2exvvqu7aamz6...

COI #279: The Evil Republicans guest Patrick MacFarlane

On COI #279, Patrick McFarlane returns to the show to discuss the most hawkish GOP members of Congress. Odysee Rumble  Donate LBRY Credits bTTEiLoteVdMbLS7YqDVSZyjEY1eMgW7CP Donate Bitcoin 36PP4kT28jjUZcL44dXDonFwrVVDHntsrk Donate Bitcoin Cash...

COI #278: George W. Bush Finally Says Something True About Iraq

On COI #278, Kyle Anzalone and Connor Freeman cover former President George W. Bush’s viral confession- by-gaffe to war crimes in Iraq, President Joe Biden’s resistance to Kiev’s demands for long range rocket launchers, U.S./Israeli war drills aimed at Tehran, and the...

Don't Tread on Anyone

Liberty Weekly Podcast

An Economic Reckoning ft. Clint Russell Ep. 217

https://youtu.be/B4rBZcugFw0 Clint Russell joins me in this week’s episode of Liberty Weekly. Clint is the host of Liberty Lockdown, a podcast that took the liberty scene by storm during the COVID-19 lockdowns. Before Clint launched Liberty Lockdown, he was a private...

On the Brink of Nuclear War ft. Connor Freeman Ep. 216

https://youtu.be/CJ62Lw1PJsg In this episode of the podcast, I speak with Connor Freeman about the dismal state of U.S./Russian relations. We discuss the spiraling escalation in Ukraine and U.S. policy decisions which signal that the unthinkable may be inevitable....

Addiction and COVID-19 ft. The Clean Libertarian Ep. 215

https://youtu.be/38r3URgicX4 Much has been said about the excess rate of substance abuse during COVID-19. To try to understand some of these causes, I brought on my friend Drew Cook of the Clean Libertarian. Drew is a recovering addict who is now working to help other...

Press Censorship in Wartime Ep. 214

https://youtu.be/s5Jhj1smhFI With the risk of kinetic war between the US and Russia becoming more and more likely each day, the United States is already marshalling its forces to silence domestic and international dissent to the conflict. In this episode, I examine...

Year Zero

A Conversation with Patrick MacFarlane

Patrick joined me again. In this episode we discuss Ukraine Russia, China, culture, democrats, republicans, and traditional family. Liberty Weekly Discord Libertarian Institute 19 Skills Pdf Autonomy Course Critical Thinking Course Donate Patreon...

The Network w/John Robb

John Robb joined me to talk about the network, its operations, where it fails, and why he thinks conspiracy theorists are wrong. Global Guerillas Substack Discord Libertarian Institute 19 Skills Pdf Autonomy Course Critical Thinking Course Donate Patreon...

America’s Response to the War in Ukraine w/Dave DeCamp

Dave DeCamp joined me to discuss the American reaction to the war in Ukraine. We discuss how the sanctions and information war seem to be targeting Americans rather than the Russian politicians. Is the Biden Administration utilizing propaganda to manufacture consent...

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