On the Educated Elite’s Adoration of Centralized Authority: Part One

A conversation I had earlier this week is really getting me down. The person concerned is a Chinese colleague who survived the Tiananmen Square crackdown and knows the PRC’s communist regime up close and personal. I’ve grown very fond of her. I think she understands much about freedom that most Americans have forgotten. And yet…

And yet, she readily unleashes comments such as the following. All Trump voters are impoverished, uneducated, blue-collar white people (what we call down South “poor white trash”). They are single moms with five kids and no job. They’re grouchy old men living in clapboard houses with sagging, leaky roofs. They’re cousins of the cast of Moonshiners, wearing no shirt under their overalls, sporting boots with holes cut for their toes, and lisping through their remaining teeth that jut out like yellow tusks. How could they possibly be anyone else? All the smart, educated people voted for the other party. With an absolute conviction of omniscience and infallibility that the Chinese system drums into its own educated elite—including a reflexive “doubling down” response whenever one blunders into error—this worthy colleague sought to school me on the demographics and propensities of my own society.

I sought to remonstrate mildly. Excuse me… but the type of person just described a) rarely votes at all, and b) votes solid “D” (as his or her relatives have done immemorially) on rare trips to the polling station.

More significantly, my disputant maintained that these fictitious masses were voting against their interest in supporting a candidate who would cut off the flow of freebies. My own belief (and fear) is that Donald Trump isn’t this type at all, ideologically (which is why I didn’t vote for him); and my further belief (and fear) is that no one is served, eventually, by trying to bleed a corpse that has already started to draw flies.

Indeed, my original comment that started this conversational ball rolling into the La Brea Tar Pits was that all of our masses—American, Chinese, English, Italian—are too multitudinous, too unskilled, too needy, and too prolific for any of the world’s devious political systems to keep sustaining them. A sow with a dozen teats cannot feed fifty piglets. The world’s various political elites all know this. Ergo, it is painfully obvious that various plans for mass die-off at some critical point must be circulating in back rooms, bunkers, and barrooms of exclusive golf courses.

My point never penetrated. Despite her experience of authoritarianism, my colleague couldn’t grasp the extremely high probability that the nerve ganglion of an intricately centralized human system would devise ways to rid its outer reaches of unproductive cells. Indeed, I have noticed in her and other Chinese an almost obsessive concern over access to doctors and medicine, as if the “dependency” impulse had been activated across the board. When educated Chinese are imprisoned by their paternalistic handlers (an ordeal euphemistically known as “going to the police station for a cup of tea”), their first lament seems to be for their meds. The orientation toward the ganglion is invincible, apparently. After all, how could we survive without a brain, even though some brains think evil thoughts?

Yep. Depressing. God forbid that we should use our own brains!

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Netflix Movies: Just Stick Your Head in the Toilet

Over the holidays, my son wanted us to watch a movie together. He had something very recent in mind, and he didn’t think Netflix would carry it. I’d never logged onto Hulu, and the Roku seems to have misremembered the PIN number that I wrote down a long while back, so… we went movie-hunting in Netflix, despite my son’s strongly expressed misgivings.

(The previous paragraph, by the way, is an excellent capsulization of e-life: infantilized product names, cryptic acronyms, passwords and numbers galore, software malfunction [I wrote the PIN down precisely because it worked at one time]… so much spiritual poverty amid so much material wealth!)

After we tired of combing through endless yet uniformly idiotic offerings, I all-but-blindly clicked on something titled U.S.S. Indiana. It claimed to be historical. How could you go far wrong with World War II? It opened with two ordinary seamen puttering up to a Southern mansion in an old truck. The one was ushered into a roomful of profiteer-industrialists back-slapping each other over all the riches the war had brought them and closely questioning their guest in bell-bottoms about the Manhattan Project. The other was taken upstairs to a bevy of hot Southern chicks dancing to jazz in slow-motion moves that reminded one of Ice Follies… and of these, she who was most overly made-up partnered up with Sailor Boy for a lust-at-first-sight tango.

Back to menu. Scroll down. Hmm… Canadian movies. The Canadians are more tasteful and cultured than we, are they not? They’re always telling us so. I’ll try this.

Rampage: President Down. Guns, guns, guns. Explosions, assassinations, land mines, tunnel-crawling, body armor, target practice, machine-gunning, more explosions… punctuated with Superhero Mass-Murderer’s raves on some recorded message or other about the United States being solely responsible for all the violence and evil in the world.

We ended up with Trailer Park Boys, a serial which seems much more adequate to the genius of the contemporary Canadian mind. My wife had retired to bed by that time, so the steady barrage of f-bombs fell on hardened ears; and, of course, it occurs in a context which underscores the impotence of brain capacity hasn’t learned to cope with modern living. One can let loose and laugh.

What about the “serious” productions, however? A common seaman being grilled by drooling capitalists about the nuclear bomb before one was ever dropped? Did someone hire the Trailer Park Boys to write this script?

I’m sure the Canadian snot who directed the assassination-orgy would argue that we Americans brought all the violence into the world–so if we’re offended, well… take that! But you’re the one responsible for this movie, imbecile. And if you have a specific indictment to lodge against a specific American foreign policy initiation–Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan, Obama’s beloved drone program–then do some research and make a film about that particular adventure. Your vengeance-flatulent fantasy about the lone-wolf weird kid turning the tables on the playground bullies and taking them all out (in FBI and CIA gear) with grenades and exploding bullets conveys about as much moral insight as Stephen Paddock Against the World would have displayed if the Las Vegas shooter had lived to get a directing gig in Hollywood.

I could drop some trailer-park adjectives myself when I think about what utter crap our “entertainment” industry is churning out. You tedious, talentless, parasitic, hypocritical, sanctimonious, morally vacuous, intellectually bankrupt, doped-up, spaced-out legions of deadbeats and losers! I hope your punishment is to watch your own creations over and over for all eternity.

Insanity Begins Where Truth Evaporates

In just the past week, I’ve been bombarded with so many outrageous claims and patently made-up fantasies that I’m somewhere between headache and nausea.

Did you know that illegal aliens actually commit crimes at a lower rate than other residents—overlooking the fact that illegal entry is itself a crime, I mean?  Of course, being illegal, many of this group don’t call the cops when they’re robbed, raped, or mugged in the barrio… but I’m sure that whatever study the professor was quoting to Tucker Carlson took this into account.  Right?

High rates of Ruthenium 106 have been detected in the southern Urals… but, hey, Russia isn’t engaged any longer in the covert weaponizing of nuclear materials, and Jared Kushner’s chat with a Russian lobbyist remains a far greater threat to our security than Hillary’s Uranium One deal.  Anyway, who’s to say that Greenpeace Russia isn’t lying as part of a Trump pay-off?  Right?

Today I saw a video claiming that Native Americans have observed Thanksgiving as a day of mourning for centuries, and that the actual date marks the occasion of a massacre wrought by the Pilgrims upon their swart, dark-haired, fatally naive hosts.  The narrator was a Native-looking young lass who truly seemed to be very distressed.  Why would she lie?

All week I’ve been reading about our “greatest president”.  No, not Barack Obama—the other one: Abraham Lincoln.  He promised not to free the slaves as a candidate, his proclamation freed them only in the South and not in Unionist border states, he freed them then only to find more cannon fodder for his unpopular war, he had to siphon off precious troops to suppress draft resistance in states like New York, he smashed presses and imprisoned editors when newspapers in far-from-the-front Ohio and Indiana criticized his policies… but these are all just charges assembled by Southern apologists.  I have it on the high authority of Glenn Beck, the official historian of Planet Earth.

A professional sportswriter penned something that crossed my bow yesterday.  It argued that we might as well usher all the Steroid Boys into the Hall of Fame and waive the character criterion, because the Hall’s prior occupants are a bunch of bastards.  Take Tris Speaker, who wouldn’t attend teammate Ray Chapman’s funeral because Ray was Catholic.  Naturally, the argument made in Charles Alexander’s painstaking biography that Chapman was born Protestant and that, in any case, he selected Speaker to be best man at his wedding reeks of bias.  I’m sure the no-name who has wearied of the Hall’s prissy “character” clause must have it right.

A certain relative at our Thanksgiving gathering launched a verbal tirade because my son beat her at chess.  She insisted that knights couldn’t leap over other pieces when moved—citing an Internet source which actually undermined her position… but that was just our interpretation of the passage.  And the Internet is always right, especially when it’s vague.

From the cosmic to the national to the trivial, I find myself wading through hastily stitched “facts” at every turn.  What’s happening?  Are we all losing our minds?  Am I, perhaps, a psycho for thinking that the sun sets in the west?

No, it seems to me, rather, that we’re falling into a habit of rewriting the rules (sometimes literally) to whatever game we’re playing so that we personally come out ahead.  And because I once thought that Putin could be trusted, and that Glenn Beck could be trusted, and that institutional or professional research could be trusted, I don’t think I’m the lunatic in this asylum.  Why not?  Because I’m capable of admitting error and changing my mind.

Here’s an exercise I recommend: think of three positions that you’ve had to surrender over the past year because the facts just didn’t support them.  Can you do it?

Thanksgiving Lite vs. True Gratitude

Like just about every other thoughtful person, I’m a little queasy when I hear all the Christian-lite bromides at this time of year. “Thank you for our health.” So the ailing are hated of God? “Thank you for our family.” Pagans have families, too; so do murdering drug-cartel kingpins. “Thank you for peace.” Well, sort of… only don’t go for an evening walk without a concealed weapon unless you live in an exclusive gated community; and if it’s peace in the world to which you refer, I guess you mean, “Thank you for not making me Mexican, so that I don’t inhabit a nation that produced 21,000 murders last year and 30,000 surviving casualties.”

That’s a little Pharisaical, don’t you think? “Thank you for not making me like that filthy publican at the altar.”

And then we have the unnerving fact that what we fear and loathe most is often what we most need. We don’t know what to be thankful for. Maybe our raise is just going to plunge us into a more materialistic lifestyle. Maybe being bumped to part-time will make us become more creative and independent. Should we be thankful that we can afford to view more trashy Hollywood movies and stuff ourselves on more sweets and fats… or should we be thankful that we’re now having to read books for amusement and grow potatoes and beans in the back yard? How we hate being forced into virtue! When that doesn’t happen, we’re so damn thankful!

I have enough of the old pagan in me that I’m almost afraid to be thankful for anything, lest I make a target out of myself. “Thanks for our prosperous investments… oh, my God! Did you see how much the Dow just plunged?” There’s an Irish saying that runs, Mol an là um trathnóna—“Praise the day as the sun goes down.” It’s the same sentiment that we find at the end of Sophocles’ Oedipus the King and ascribed to Solon by Herodotus: “Let no man be called blessed before he is safely dead and secure from the world’s shocks.”

In my more Christian moments, however—truly Christian—I know that I must die to this world some day, and I am grateful for the little clues that alert me to a “winding down”. I am grateful that I can see a way to start tying loose ends together—to leave some sort of legacy that will warn others against living just for the here and now. And, yes, I’m grateful for something to put on the table. “Let each day’s worries be sufficient unto itself.” I am grateful that we get by, that the sun and the rain fall on good and evil alike, and that the means of survival are always within reach of the humble and hard-working. I want to learn more about those means in my final years, and I want to do more about passing them along. Simply feeling the days lengthen and then shorten, simply studying how the earth grows food and then gives it up to those who know her secrets, is a vitally important part of understanding bountifulness and feeling gratitude for it.

I am not grateful to this culture we have created which has carried us so far away from such understanding and such gratitude.

 

Girls Need More Prudence in the Post-Polite World

I would begin, “Please don’t misunderstand…” but I have long learned that those words are always wasted.  People who want to misunderstand will surely do so, as on the day when three senior English majors were pleased to construe a perfectly anodyne joke I hatched (to cover my irritation about rampant absenteeism) as a crude sneer at suicides.  (I had murmured, “Absent again?  Question 5 must have driven them to suicide!”)  These prissy censors decided to be offended rather than opt for a more civil, friendly, and obvious interpretation of my words; and as for me, I will never forget the offense I felt at being so zealously cast in a villain’s role.  No, I didn’t feel “raped”: I just felt slapped in the face.

So misunderstand, if you will… but listen: women who don’t wish to lure into the open their male colleagues’ Inner Swine probably shouldn’t leave dozens of photos on Google images showing themselves buck naked (or peu s’en faut), with the skimpiest of remaining strings or veils, perhaps, serving only to emphasize what isn’t in plain sight.

The Tweeden woman who is protesting Al Franken’s multiple molestations—and rightly so—might have considered that when you ring a bell in Professor Pavlov’s lab, all the dogs within earshot start to salivate.  I had no idea who this young woman might be; someone wrote that she was a newscaster.  I did a quick search… and my iPad’s screen started to blush.  Ms. Tweeden, I second your outrage, and I have decried the degeneration of male manners over a lifetime twice the length of yours… but if you don’t want the neighborhood strays nipping at your heels, don’t go jogging wrapped in strings of fresh sausage.

For fifty years and more now, feminism has been encouraging young women to flaunt conventions of decency (if not to advertise an overtly licentious lifestyle).  This was always a nasty pit-trap into which the most impressionable girls took hard falls.  Here they were told by academic mentors that they were going to gate-crash male lairs of privilege…. and all they accomplished was the rush-delivery of more low thrills to the worst kind of man.

I don’t know if the news desk and the Hollywood “casting couch” are distinctly different pieces of furniture any more, at least for young women.  If a daughter of mine were considering a broadcast career, I would warn her to develop a thick skin and study karate.  And if Megan Kelly, who hasn’t stopped protesting her harassment at FOX since her exit therefrom, really believes that she was originally hired only for her interviewing skills, then she must be the most naive human being ever to utter the words, “Tonight we begin our coverage…”.

It’s not right, of course, that women in particular should have to be eye-candy in order to land such positions.  Ratings rule, however, at the end of the day.  The profession is invincibly sordid in that regard.

Teaching isn’t so very different.  You can possess the knowledge of a Henry Kissinger about international affairs—but if you conduct your Topics in Diplomacy seminar in soporific monotone, you’ll soon be looking for a new gig (unless, that is, you are actually Henry Kissinger).

I wish we could recover some vestige of manners.  Few people loathe the moral and cultural cesspool in which we dwell more than I.  But as I recall my single days in the Eighties, when women never wanted to see you again if the first date didn’t end in bed, and as I now read of actresses feeling “assaulted” when a nonagenarian in a wheelchair slips his arm around their waist, I can’t help but conclude that today’s girls—for their own good—need to do their calculations all over again.  This world of “rights” and “freedoms” has grown dangerously pathological.  Don’t assume that any space is safe, ladies, and learn to keep your guard up better.  Listen to your grandmothers.

 

How to Hide in Plain Sight: Surround Yourself in Conspiracy Theory

Societies have always been vulnerable to blindness induced by their own prejudices.  If a child were born under the “wrong” alignment of the stars, or if a crow flew left instead of right as an expedition started out, then human ingenuity and determination could be negated by an invincible sense of doom.  To our own time of mass communication, instant dissemination, and absence of rooted values, however, belongs a special susceptibility to “being handled”.  Devious people can lead us all around by the nose with a bridle of two or three words… or even just one.

The idiotic coinage “judgmental” has been such a word since my early youth.  So we are not to judge anything?  But are we not judging, then, those who practice judgment?  And how does anyone abandon judgment without surrendering consciousness?  Don’t we still advise our children not to climb into cars with strangers?  Don’t we pass on eggs and yogurt if their container declares them out of date?

Of course, the whole idea behind “non-judgmental” is to judge very harshly and rashly a person or group designated by our handlers as caught red-handed in the exercise of principles.  It’s an easy sell to such as we have become.  Simply by turning off our brains, we ascend to the ranks of the “best” people.  We didn’t really want to think, anyway.  It’s painful.

Or take the phrase “conspiracy theory”.  Who wants to be detected in entertaining a crackpot idea?  That’s the only kind ever known to have been hatched by “conspiracy theorists”, you know.  They believe that reptilian aliens living in Inner Earth slipped Lee Harvey Oswald his rifle, shape-shifted to become Dick Cheney, and loaded the 9/11 jetliners with robots.

The truth is that a conspiracy is any plot to maneuver a person or persons into a certain behavior by withholding critical portions of situational truth.  Two or more must be involved in the subterfuge.  A lad who bribes a girl’s best friend to praise him lavishly to her has launched a conspiracy.  A dad who promises his son a new video game if he votes that the family should vacation in the Rockies instead of at the beach has created a co-conspirator.  Conspiracies are a fact of ordinary life.  To hear the “conspiracy theory” theorists, you’d think that all the laws on the books against conspiring to commit criminal acts would be redundant.  Few people would ever be stupid enough to conspire, and nobody would be stupid enough to believe them if they tried!

Labeling intelligent suspicion of official accounts a “conspiracy theory” has now become a favorite species of disinformation.  If you and your cronies design a lie for feeding to the public, and if some group of skeptics indicts your veracity, play the CT card.  “Oh, sure, that’s right… we wanted to cover up the existence of an alien spacecraft at Roswell, even though its discovery would have revolutionized modern living.  We want to stay in the Dark Ages—and we lied about the Lizard Men who fought us for the wreckage, too!”

A dismissive documentary about the Roswell incident quoted a high-ranking general testifying before Congress in almost exactly these terms—and the narrator obligingly rated the testimony “devastating” to the conspiracy crowd, though it had no more substance than I have portrayed.  All you have to do is sniff, be a little snarky, and tilt your head in the direction of “the troglodyte set over there”.

An infinitely subtler use of the technique, however, is to finance your own “conspiracy theory” clique, broadcast, or website to cry out against the very conditions you wish to hide.  Instead of cozening interviewers for the Roswell documentary to ignore the evidence of an extraterrestrial encounter, play the thing up to the hilt.  Make your own film.  Carry it far over the top.  Spread rumors that one alien pilot survived and conferred with President Truman.  Create a list of everyone in the county who died over the next decade and speculate that government agents “took them out”.  Disgust the public with your lunacy.

I sincerely wonder if some of the more extravagant serials and documentaries about the Kennedy assassination, alien visitors, 9/11, and the rest do not have their roots in this more subtle kind of dissuasion: the “make the believers look like psychos on crack” approach.  But that, of course, would just be another conspiracy theory.

 

9/11 Again: Did the CIA Get Played One More Time?

A very fast one today.  I watched the new British documentary about 9/11 on Netflix yesterday.  Was disappointed that the producers gave certain logistical inconsistencies and physical impossibilities in the official narrative a complete pass.  Obviously, their interests lay elsewhere.  It would have been okay just to say as much: no need to caricature those of us suspicious of the two towers’ incredibly telescopic collapse (repeated later by WTT 7) as believing that the planes themselves were just photoshopped in for the television audience and that the arms industries wanted to gin up business by starting a war.

The chosen focus was on the CIA’s refusing to share vital information with the FBI in a timely manner, and in the subsequent cover-up of a significant Saudi connection by all branches of the federal government.  Here’s a proposal: might the CIA have thought that Mohammed Atta & Co. were working undercover for Uncle Sam right up until the time that they steered the jetliners into the Towers?  Might the idea, that is, have been to stage four highjackings on the same day, land the jets in DC, incur a few civilian casualties as the planes and hostages were retaken, and then use the incident as an excuse for pressuring Saddam and ridding the House of Saud of Osama Bin Laden’s annoying influence?  The highjackers, one must presume, would not have been in on the whole scheme; they would have supposed that they were winning one for the Great Gipper in the Sky.  Yet they may well have received a degree of CIA training, and that organization was most certainly trying to recruit them.  This could have been a case of A playing B who thought he was playing A.

My theory would explain why no government agency has been forthcoming with details about events leading up to the highjackings.  The truth would make the CIA look indefensibly, perhaps fatally naive and obtuse.  And the Saudis, as co-owners of the secret, would of course have to be protected from public scrutiny lest they spill the beans.  If I’ve learned nothing else about careerist bureaucrats in high places during my long life, it’s that they know how to cover their tails.

Look at Operation Fast and Furious, where the Obama Administration was trying to use ATF to manipulate public opinion against the Second Amendment.  When things blew up, agents in the field were disgraced, released, and otherwise gagged if they attempted to cry foul.

Or look at the Kennedy assassination.  There’s quite a bit of evidence now that the CIA was bankrolling bands of Cuban exiles to train for guerrilla-like raids on Castro’s domain, that Oswald fell in with such a group that had been penetrated 100 percent by Castro’s own operatives, and that the president was thus shot thanks to training (and perhaps hardware) paid for by our tax dollars.  Again, we got played by the people we were trying to play.

I wish I could believe that 9/11 were as “simple” as this.  The trouble is that a massive structure severely compromised on one side about 80 percent of the way up doesn’t neatly accordion to the ground: its crown leans into the wound and falls.  The Popular Mechanics study that gave the thumbs up to this insane physics… I really do need to get a copy of the report.