Introduction

Whigout.com is a place to discuss the future of the Republican party, conservatism, libertarianism (a.k.a. classical liberalism), traditionalism, and the other important values that the party has furthered in the past, such as competent, effective government.

As a culturally traditional, pragmatic libertarian, I want a government that does less but does it well. "Energetic" government, as Hamilton used to say. I think that the major legitimate purpose of government is collective self-defense: against foreign attackers, violent criminals, and even infectious diseases and natural disasters. (And in law school, in first-year torts and second-year criminal law, you learn that there are already well-developed common-law standards for how and when it's OK to act in "substituted self-defense", i.e., defending someone else. You can only do things the person you're defending would be allowed to do in the situation.)  

Another vital purpose, but not the fundamental justification, of government is to maintain the legal system, to maintain the common law and amend it by statute or case law as circumstances change, so that people interacting with one another will have a stable, comprehensible understanding of their rights and duties; to provide for the enforcement of contracts and remedies for the injuries people sometimes inflict on each other. But there are other roles that government has assumed, and some of them cannot be abandoned overnight without civil society setting up something to take their place.

The response to Hurricane Katrina, the failure to plan for what we used to think was the aftermath of the Iraq war, and other missteps, made me wonder whether the Bush Administration or indeed any Republican administration could govern effectively and lead the country. Maybe the Clinton administration had been even more incompetent, but at least they knew how to look like they cared about what was most important to the American people, and they had the media to help them give that impression.

All this makes me wonder whether people like me should try to make the Libertarians or some other middle-way party (like Israel’s Kadima party or the Modern Whig Party) viable, go back to trying to be a centrist Democrat, or stay Republican, and if so, what kind of fundamental changes to seek in that party.

I understand the practical challenges and dismal history of attempts to launch a third party or replace the second party in a two-party system.  Replacing the Federalists with the National Republicans and Whigs involved an eight-year “Era of Good Feeling”, an uncontested presidential election in 1820, one between four factions of Democrats in 1824, and the Democrats winning the popular vote every time from 1800 to 1836. Replacing the Whigs with the Republicans only happened because both major parties fractured over the slavery question, and the Democrats lost because they fractured more evenly than the former Whigs.

I hope this blog will include many and diverse voices. I look forward to seeing your comments.

- John Crouch (November, 2008)


What were the stated reasons for secession in 1861?

From The Civil War Trust / civilwar.org's collection of the separate official declarations of GEORGIAMISSISSIPPISOUTH CAROLINATEXAS and VIRGINIA:

Slavery. Necessary for the safe existence of the African race in America. Beneficial to both races. Authorized by "the revealed will of the Almighty Creator, as recognized by all Christian nations".

"Slavery-- the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization."

 Free speech, press, and association (against slavery): "They have, through the mails and hired emissaries, sent seditious pamphlets and papers among us to stir up servile insurrection and bring blood and carnage to our firesides."

"Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection."

Politicking (against slavery): "By consolidating their strength, they have placed the slave-holding States in a hopeless minority in the federal congress, and rendered representation of no avail in protecting Southern rights against their exactions and encroachments."

"In all the non-slave-holding States, in violation of that good faith and comity which should exist between entirely distinct nations, the people have formed themselves into a great sectional party, now strong enough in numbers to control the affairs of each of those States, based upon an unnatural feeling of hostility to these Southern States and their beneficent and patriarchal system of African slavery, proclaiming the debasing doctrine of equality of all men, irrespective of race or color-- a doctrine at war with nature, in opposition to the experience of mankind, and in violation of the plainest revelations of Divine Law."

Electing an antislavery President who says a half-slave nation cannot last.

"The party of Lincoln, called the Republican party, under its present name and organization, is of recent origin. It is admitted to be an anti-slavery party. While it attracts to itself by its creed the scattered advocates of exploded political heresies, of condemned theories in political economy, the advocates of commercial restrictions, of protection, of special privileges, of waste and corruption in the administration of Government, anti-slavery is its mission and its purpose. By anti-slavery it is made a power in the state."

Economic policies: protectionism, corporate welfare, monopolies, pork-barrel spending, etc.:

  • "In the first years of the Republic the navigating, commercial, and manufacturing interests of the North began to seek profit and aggrandizement at the expense of the agricultural interests. Even the owners of fishing smacks sought and obtained bounties for pursuing their own business (which yet continue), and $500,000 is now paid them annually out of the Treasury. The navigating interests begged for protection against foreign shipbuilders and against competition in the coasting trade."

  • "Congress granted both requests, and by prohibitory acts gave an absolute monopoly of this business to each of their interests, which they enjoy without diminution to this day. Not content with these great and unjust advantages, they have sought to throw the legitimate burden of their business as much as possible upon the public; they have succeeded in throwing the cost of light-houses, buoys, and the maintenance of their seamen upon the Treasury, and the Government now pays above $2,000,000 annually for the support of these objects. Theses interests, in connection with the commercial and manufacturing classes, have also succeeded, by means of subventions to mail steamers and the reduction in postage, in relieving their business from the payment of about $7,000,000 annually, throwing it upon the public Treasury under the name of postal deficiency."

  • "The manufacturing interests entered into the same struggle early, and has clamored steadily for Government bounties and special favors. This interest was confined mainly to the Eastern and Middle non-slave-holding States. Wielding these great States it held great power and influence, and its demands were in full proportion to its power. The manufacturers and miners wisely based their demands upon special facts and reasons rather than upon general principles, and thereby mollified much of the opposition of the opposing interest. They pleaded in their favor the infancy of their business in this country, the scarcity of labor and capital, the hostile legislation of other countries toward them, the great necessity of their fabrics in the time of war, and the necessity of high duties to pay the debt incurred in our war for independence. These reasons prevailed, and they received for many years enormous bounties by the general acquiescence of the whole country."

  • "But when these reasons ceased they were no less clamorous for Government protection, but their clamors were less heeded-- the country had put the principle of protection upon trial and condemned it. After having enjoyed protection to the extent of from 15 to 200 per cent. upon their entire business for above thirty years, the act of 1846 was passed. It avoided sudden change, but the principle was settled, and free trade, low duties, and economy in public expenditures was the verdict of the American people. The South and the Northwestern States sustained this policy. There was but small hope of its reversal; upon the direct issue, none at all."

  • "All these classes saw this and felt it and cast about for new allies. The anti-slavery sentiment of the North offered the best chance for success. ..."

"They have impoverished the slave-holding States by unequal and partial legislation, thereby enriching themselves by draining our substance."

Abolitionism:

  • "It advocates negro equality, socially and politically, and promotes insurrection and incendiarism in our midst."
  • "It has enlisted its press, its pulpit and its schools against us, until the whole popular mind of the North is excited and inflamed with prejudice."
  • "It has made combinations and formed associations to carry out its schemes of emancipation in the States and wherever else slavery exists."
  • "It seeks not to elevate or to support the slave, but to destroy his present condition without providing a better."
  • "It has invaded a State, and invested with the honors of martyrdom the wretch whose purpose was to apply flames to our dwellings, and the weapons of destruction to our lives."
  • "It has given indubitable evidence of its design to ruin our agriculture, to prostrate our industrial pursuits and to destroy our social system."

Not cooperating with return of fugitive slaves.

"In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia."

"They have sent hired emissaries among us to burn our towns and distribute arms and poison to our slaves for the same purpose."

U.S. not protecting us from attacks of "savage Indians" and "Mexican banditti."

Some states have given citizenship to certain people in violation of the Constitution, and their votes helped turn the federal government against slavery.

Our original ratification said we could revoke it when the U.S. government's delegated powers were perverted to our injury and oppression, and now it's oppressing all the "Southern Slaveholding States".

With our neighbors seceding we must choose a side. 

"Utter subjugation awaits us in the Union, if we should consent longer to remain in it. It is not a matter of choice, but of necessity. We must either submit to degradation, and to the loss of property worth four billions of money, or we must secede from the Union framed by our fathers, to secure this as well as every other species of property. For far less cause than this, our fathers separated from the Crown of England."


George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language," 1946

Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language -- so the argument runs -- must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of the English language as it is now habitually written.

These five passages have not been picked out because they are especially bad -- I could have quoted far worse if I had chosen -- but because they illustrate various of the mental vices from which we now suffer. They are a little below the average, but are fairly representative examples. I number them so that I can refer back to them when necessary:

  1. I am not, indeed, sure whether it is not true to say that the Milton who once seemed not unlike a seventeenth-century Shelley had not become, out of an experience ever more bitter in each year, more alien [sic] to the founder of that Jesuit sect which nothing could induce him to tolerate.

Professor Harold Laski (Essay in Freedom of Expression)

  1. Above all, we cannot play ducks and drakes with a native battery of idioms which prescribes egregious collocations of vocables as the Basic put up with for tolerate, or put at a loss for bewilder .

Professor Lancelot Hogben (Interglossa)

  1. On the one side we have the free personality: by definition it is not neurotic, for it has neither conflict nor dream. Its desires, such as they are, are transparent, for they are just what institutional approval keeps in the forefront of consciousness; another institutional pattern would alter their number and intensity; there is little in them that is natural, irreducible, or culturally dangerous. Buton the other side, the social bond itself is nothing but the mutual reflection of these self-secure integrities. Recall the definition of love. Is not this the very picture of a small academic? Where is there a place in this hall of mirrors for either personality or fraternity?

Essay on psychology in Politics (New York)

  1. All the "best people" from the gentlemen's clubs, and all the frantic fascist captains, united in common hatred of Socialism and bestial horror at the rising tide of the mass revolutionary movement, have turned to acts of provocation, to foul incendiarism, to medieval legends of poisoned wells, to legalize their own destruction of proletarian organizations, and rouse the agitated petty-bourgeoise to chauvinistic fervor on behalf of the fight against the revolutionary way out of the crisis.

Communist pamphlet

  1. If a new spirit is to be infused into this old country, there is one thorny and contentious reform which must be tackled, and that is the humanization and galvanization of the B.B.C. Timidity here will bespeak canker and atrophy of the soul. The heart of Britain may be sound and of strong beat, for instance, but the British lion's roar at present is like that of Bottom in Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream -- as gentle as any sucking dove. A virile new Britain cannot continue indefinitely to be traduced in the eyes or rather ears, of the world by the effete languors of Langham Place, brazenly masquerading as "standard English." When the Voice of Britain is heard at nine o'clock, better far and infinitely less ludicrous to hear aitches honestly dropped than the present priggish, inflated, inhibited, school-ma'amish arch braying of blameless bashful mewing maidens!

Letter in Tribune

Each of these passages has faults of its own, but, quite apart from avoidable ugliness, two qualities are common to all of them. The first is staleness of imagery; the other is lack of precision. The writer either has a meaning and cannot express it, or he inadvertently says something else, or he is almost indifferent as to whether his words mean anything or not. This mixture of vagueness and sheer incompetence is the most marked characteristic of modern English prose, and especially of any kind of political writing. As soon as certain topics are raised, the concrete melts into the abstract and no one seems able to think of turns of speech that are not hackneyed: prose consists less and less of words chosen for the sake of their meaning, and more and more of phrases tacked together like the sections of a prefabricated henhouse. I list below, with notes and examples, various of the tricks by means of which the work of prose construction is habitually dodged:

Dying metaphors. A newly invented metaphor assists thought by evoking a visual image, while on the other hand a metaphor which is technically "dead" (e.g. iron resolution) has in effect reverted to being an ordinary word and can generally be used without loss of vividness. But in between these two classes there is a huge dump of worn-out metaphors which have lost all evocative power and are merely used because they save people the trouble of inventing phrases for themselves. Examples are: Ring the changes on, take up the cudgel for, toe the line, ride roughshod over, stand shoulder to shoulder with, play into the hands of, no axe to grind, grist to the mill, fishing in troubled waters, on the order of the day, Achilles' heel, swan song, hotbed. Many of these are used without knowledge of their meaning (what is a "rift," for instance?), and incompatible metaphors are frequently mixed, a sure sign that the writer is not interested in what he is saying. Some metaphors now current have been twisted out of their original meaning without those who use them even being aware of the fact. For example, toe the line is sometimes written as tow the line. Another example is the hammer and the anvil, now always used with the implication that the anvil gets the worst of it. In real life it is always the anvil that breaks the hammer, never the other way about: a writer who stopped to think what he was saying would avoid perverting the original phrase.

Operators or verbal false limbs. These save the trouble of picking out appropriate verbs and nouns, and at the same time pad each sentence with extra syllables which give it an appearance of symmetry. Characteristic phrases are render inoperative, militate against, make contact with, be subjected to, give rise to, give grounds for, have the effect of, play a leading part (role) in, make itself felt, take effect, exhibit a tendency to, serve the purpose of, etc., etc. The keynote is the elimination of simple verbs. Instead of being a single word, such as break, stop, spoil, mend, kill, a verb becomes a phrase, made up of a noun or adjective tacked on to some general-purpose verb such as prove, serve, form, play, render. In addition, the passive voice is wherever possible used in preference to the active, and noun constructions are used instead of gerunds (by examination of instead of by examining). The range of verbs is further cut down by means of the-ize and de- formations, and the banal statements are given an appearance of profundity by means of the not un- formation. Simple conjunctions and prepositions are replaced by such phrases as with respect to, having regard to, the fact that, by dint of, in view of, in the interests of, on the hypothesis that; and the ends of sentences are saved by anticlimax by such resounding commonplaces as greatly to be desired, cannot be left out of account, a development to be expected in the near future, deserving of serious consideration, brought to a satisfactory conclusion, and so on and so forth.

Pretentious diction. Words like phenomenon, element, individual (as noun), objective, categorical, effective, virtual, basic, primary, promote, constitute, exhibit, exploit, utilize, eliminate, liquidate, are used to dress up a simple statement and give an air of scientific impartiality to biased judgements. Adjectives like epoch-making, epic, historic, unforgettable, triumphant, age-old, inevitable, inexorable, veritable, are used to dignify the sordid process of international politics, while writing that aims at glorifying war usually takes on an archaic color, its characteristic words being: realm, throne, chariot, mailed fist, trident, sword, shield, buckler, banner, jackboot, clarion. Foreign words and expressions such as cul de sac, ancien regime, deus exmachina, mutatis mutandis, status quo, gleichschaltung, weltanschauung, are used to give an air of culture and elegance. Except for the useful abbreviations i.e., e.g., and etc., there is no real need for any of the hundreds of foreign phrases now current in the English language. Bad writers, and especially scientific, political, and sociological writers, are nearly always haunted by the notion that Latin or Greek words are grander than Saxon ones, and unnecessary words like expedite, ameliorate, predict, extraneous, deracinated, clandestine, subaqueous, and hundreds of others constantly gain ground from their Anglo-Saxon numbers.* The jargon peculiar to

*An interesting illustration of this is the way in which English flower names were in use till very recently are being ousted by Greek ones, Snapdragon becoming antirrhinum, forget-me-not becoming myosotis, etc. It is hard to see any practical reason for this change of fashion: it is probably due to an instinctive turning away from the more homely word and a vague feeling that the Greek word is scientific.

Marxist writing (hyena, hangman, cannibal, petty bourgeois, these gentry, lackey, flunkey, mad dog, White Guard, etc.) consists largely of words translated from Russian, German, or French; but the normal way of coining a new word is to use Latin or Greek root with the appropriate affix and, where necessary, the size formation. It is often easier to make up words of this kind (deregionalize, impermissible, extramarital, non-fragmentary and so forth) than to think up the English words that will cover one's meaning. The result, in general, is an increase in slovenliness and vagueness.

Meaningless words. In certain kinds of writing, particularly in art criticism and literary criticism, it is normal to come across long passages which are almost completely lacking in meaning.† Words like romantic, plastic, values, human, dead, sentimental, natural, vitality, as used in art criticism, are strictly meaningless, in

† Example: Comfort's catholicity of perception and image, strangely Whitmanesque in range, almost the exact opposite in aesthetic compulsion, continues to evoke that trembling atmospheric accumulative hinting at a cruel, an inexorably serene timelessness . . .Wrey Gardiner scores by aiming at simple bull's-eyes with precision. Only they are not so simple, and through this contented sadness runs more than the surface bittersweet of resignation." (Poetry Quarterly)

the sense that they not only do not point to any discoverable object, but are hardly ever expected to do so by the reader. When one critic writes, "The outstanding feature of Mr. X's work is its living quality," while another writes, "The immediately striking thing about Mr. X's work is its peculiar deadness," the reader accepts this as a simple difference of opinion. If words like black and white were involved, instead of the jargon words dead and living, he would see at once that language was being used in an improper way. Many political words are similarly abused. The word Fascism has now no meaning except in so far as it signifies "something not desirable." The words democracy, socialism, freedom, patriotic, realistic, justice have each of them several different meanings which cannot be reconciled with one another. In the case of a word likedemocracy, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of regime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using that word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different. Statements like Marshal Pétain was a true patriot, The Soviet press is the freest in the world, The Catholic Church is opposed to persecution, are almost always made with intent to deceive. Other words used in variable meanings, in most cases more or less dishonestly, are: class, totalitarian, science, progressive, reactionary, bourgeois, equality.

Now that I have made this catalogue of swindles and perversions, let me give another example of the kind of writing that they lead to. This time it must of its nature be an imaginary one. I am going to translate a passage of good English into modern English of the worst sort. Here is a well-known verse fromEcclesiastes:

I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.

Here it is in modern English:

Objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that success or failure in competitive activities exhibits no tendency to be commensurate with innate capacity, but that a considerable element of the unpredictable must invariably be taken into account.

This is a parody, but not a very gross one. Exhibit (3) above, for instance, contains several patches of the same kind of English. It will be seen that I have not made a full translation. The beginning and ending of the sentence follow the original meaning fairly closely, but in the middle the concrete illustrations -- race, battle, bread -- dissolve into the vague phrases "success or failure in competitive activities." This had to be so, because no modern writer of the kind I am discussing -- no one capable of using phrases like "objective considerations of contemporary phenomena" -- would ever tabulate his thoughts in that precise and detailed way. The whole tendency of modern prose is away from concreteness. Now analyze these two sentences a little more closely. The first contains forty-nine words but only sixty syllables, and all its words are those of everyday life. The second contains thirty-eight words of ninety syllables: eighteen of those words are from Latin roots, and one from Greek. The first sentence contains six vivid images, and only one phrase ("time and chance") that could be called vague. The second contains not a single fresh, arresting phrase, and in spite of its ninety syllables it gives only a shortened version of the meaning contained in the first. Yet without a doubt it is the second kind of sentence that is gaining ground in modern English. I do not want to exaggerate. This kind of writing is not yet universal, and outcrops of simplicity will occur here and there in the worst-written page. Still, if you or I were told to write a few lines on the uncertainty of human fortunes, we should probably come much nearer to my imaginary sentence than to the one from Ecclesiastes.

As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier -- even quicker, once you have the habit -- to say In my opinion it is not an unjustifiable assumption that than to sayI think. If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don't have to hunt about for the words; you also don't have to bother with the rhythms of your sentences since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphonious. When you are composing in a hurry -- when you are dictating to a stenographer, for instance, or making a public speech -- it is natural to fall into a pretentious, Latinized style. Tags like a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind or a conclusion to which all of us would readily assent will save many a sentence from coming down with a bump. By using stale metaphors, similes, and idioms, you save much mental effort, at the cost of leaving your meaning vague, not only for your reader but for yourself. This is the significance of mixed metaphors. The sole aim of a metaphor is to call up a visual image. When these images clash -- as in The Fascist octopus has sung its swan song, the jackboot is thrown into the melting pot -- it can be taken as certain that the writer is not seeing a mental image of the objects he is naming; in other words he is not really thinking. Look again at the examples I gave at the beginning of this essay. Professor Laski (1) uses five negatives in fifty three words. One of these is superfluous, making nonsense of the whole passage, and in addition there is the slip -- alien for akin -- making further nonsense, and several avoidable pieces of clumsiness which increase the general vagueness. Professor Hogben (2) plays ducks and drakes with a battery which is able to write prescriptions, and, while disapproving of the everyday phrase put up with, is unwilling to look egregious up in the dictionary and see what it means; (3), if one takes an uncharitable attitude towards it, is simply meaningless: probably one could work out its intended meaning by reading the whole of the article in which it occurs. In (4), the writer knows more or less what he wants to say, but an accumulation of stale phrases chokes him like tea leaves blocking a sink. In (5), words and meaning have almost parted company. People who write in this manner usually have a general emotional meaning -- they dislike one thing and want to express solidarity with another -- but they are not interested in the detail of what they are saying. A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: 1. What am I trying to say? 2. What words will express it? 3. What image or idiom will make it clearer? 4. Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: 1. Could I put it more shortly? 2. Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you -- even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent -- and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. It is at this point that the special connection between politics and the debasement of language becomes clear.

In our time it is broadly true that political writing is bad writing. Where it is not true, it will generally be found that the writer is some kind of rebel, expressing his private opinions and not a "party line." Orthodoxy, of whatever color, seems to demand a lifeless, imitative style. The political dialects to be found in pamphlets, leading articles, manifestoes, White papers and the speeches of undersecretaries do, of course, vary from party to party, but they are all alike in that one almost never finds in them a fresh, vivid, homemade turn of speech. When one watches some tired hack on the platform mechanically repeating the familiar phrases -- bestial atrocities, iron heel, bloodstained tyranny, free peoples of the world, stand shoulder to shoulder -- one often has a curious feeling that one is not watching a live human being but some kind of dummy: a feeling which suddenly becomes stronger at moments when the light catches the speaker's spectacles and turns them into blank discs which seem to have no eyes behind them. And this is not altogether fanciful. A speaker who uses that kind of phraseology has gone some distance toward turning himself into a machine. The appropriate noises are coming out of his larynx, but his brain is not involved as it would be if he were choosing his words for himself. If the speech he is making is one that he is accustomed to make over and over again, he may be almost unconscious of what he is saying, as one is when one utters the responses in church. And this reduced state of consciousness, if not indispensable, is at any rate favorable to political conformity.

In our time, political speech and writing are largely the defense of the indefensible. Things like the continuance of British rule in India, the Russian purges and deportations, the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan, can indeed be defended, but only by arguments which are too brutal for most people to face, and which do not square with the professed aims of the political parties. Thus political language has to consist largely of euphemism, question-begging and sheer cloudy vagueness. Defenseless villages are bombarded from the air, the inhabitants driven out into the countryside, the cattle machine-gunned, the huts set on fire with incendiary bullets: this is called pacification. Millions of peasants are robbed of their farms and sent trudging along the roads with no more than they can carry: this is called transfer of population orrectification of frontiers. People are imprisoned for years without trial, or shot in the back of the neck or sent to die of scurvy in Arctic lumber camps: this is called elimination of unreliable elements. Such phraseology is needed if one wants to name things without calling up mental pictures of them. Consider for instance some comfortable English professor defending Russian totalitarianism. He cannot say outright, "I believe in killing off your opponents when you can get good results by doing so." Probably, therefore, he will say something like this:

"While freely conceding that the Soviet regime exhibits certain features which the humanitarian may be inclined to deplore, we must, I think, agree that a certain curtailment of the right to political opposition is an unavoidable concomitant of transitional periods, and that the rigors which the Russian people have been called upon to undergo have been amply justified in the sphere of concrete achievement."

The inflated style itself is a kind of euphemism. A mass of Latin words falls upon the facts like soft snow, blurring the outline and covering up all the details. The great enemy of clear language is insincerity. When there is a gap between one's real and one's declared aims, one turns as it were instinctively to long words and exhausted idioms, like a cuttlefish spurting out ink. In our age there is no such thing as "keeping out of politics." All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred, and schizophrenia. When the general atmosphere is bad, language must suffer. I should expect to find -- this is a guess which I have not sufficient knowledge to verify -- that the German, Russian and Italian languages have all deteriorated in the last ten or fifteen years, as a result of dictatorship.

But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought. A bad usage can spread by tradition and imitation even among people who should and do know better. The debased language that I have been discussing is in some ways very convenient. Phrases like a not unjustifiable assumption, leaves much to be desired, would serve no good purpose, a consideration which we should do well to bear in mind, are a continuous temptation, a packet of aspirins always at one's elbow. Look back through this essay, and for certain you will find that I have again and again committed the very faults I am protesting against. By this morning's post I have received a pamphlet dealing with conditions in Germany. The author tells me that he "felt impelled" to write it. I open it at random, and here is almost the first sentence I see: "[The Allies] have an opportunity not only of achieving a radical transformation of Germany's social and political structure in such a way as to avoid a nationalistic reaction in Germany itself, but at the same time of laying the foundations of a co-operative and unified Europe." You see, he "feels impelled" to write -- feels, presumably, that he has something new to say -- and yet his words, like cavalry horses answering the bugle, group themselves automatically into the familiar dreary pattern. This invasion of one's mind by ready-made phrases (lay the foundations, achieve a radical transformation) can only be prevented if one is constantly on guard against them, and every such phrase anaesthetizes a portion of one's brain.

I said earlier that the decadence of our language is probably curable. Those who deny this would argue, if they produced an argument at all, that language merely reflects existing social conditions, and that we cannot influence its development by any direct tinkering with words and constructions. So far as the general tone or spirit of a language goes, this may be true, but it is not true in detail. Silly words and expressions have often disappeared, not through any evolutionary process but owing to the conscious action of a minority. Two recent examples were explore every avenue and leave no stone unturned, which were killed by the jeers of a few journalists. There is a long list of flyblown metaphors which could similarly be got rid of if enough people would interest themselves in the job; and it should also be possible to laugh the not un-formation out of existence*, to reduce the amount of Latin and Greek in the average sentence, to drive out foreign phrases

*One can cure oneself of the not un- formation by memorizing this sentence: A not unblack dog was chasing a not unsmall rabbit across a not ungreen field.

and strayed scientific words, and, in general, to make pretentiousness unfashionable. But all these are minor points. The defense of the English language implies more than this, and perhaps it is best to start by saying what it does not imply.

To begin with it has nothing to do with archaism, with the salvaging of obsolete words and turns of speech, or with the setting up of a "standard English" which must never be departed from. On the contrary, it is especially concerned with the scrapping of every word or idiom which has outworn its usefulness. It has nothing to do with correct grammar and syntax, which are of no importance so long as one makes one's meaning clear, or with the avoidance of Americanisms, or with having what is called a "good prose style." On the other hand, it is not concerned with fake simplicity and the attempt to make written English colloquial. Nor does it even imply in every case preferring the Saxon word to the Latin one, though it does imply using the fewest and shortest words that will cover one's meaning. What is above all needed is to let the meaning choose the word, and not the other way around. In prose, the worst thing one can do with words is surrender to them. When you think of a concrete object, you think wordlessly, and then, if you want to describe the thing you have been visualizing you probably hunt about until you find the exact words that seem to fit it. When you think of something abstract you are more inclined to use words from the start, and unless you make a conscious effort to prevent it, the existing dialect will come rushing in and do the job for you, at the expense of blurring or even changing your meaning. Probably it is better to put off using words as long as possible and get one's meaning as clear as one can through pictures and sensations. Afterward one can choose -- not simply accept -- the phrases that will best cover the meaning, and then switch round and decide what impressions one's words are likely to make on another person. This last effort of the mind cuts out all stale or mixed images, all prefabricated phrases, needless repetitions, and humbug and vagueness generally. But one can often be in doubt about the effect of a word or a phrase, and one needs rules that one can rely on when instinct fails. I think the following rules will cover most cases:

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never use a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.

These rules sound elementary, and so they are, but they demand a deep change of attitude in anyone who has grown used to writing in the style now fashionable. One could keep all of them and still write bad English, but one could not write the kind of stuff that I quoted in those five specimens at the beginning of this article.

I have not here been considering the literary use of language, but merely language as an instrument for expressing and not for concealing or preventing thought. Stuart Chase and others have come near to claiming that all abstract words are meaningless, and have used this as a pretext for advocating a kind of political quietism. Since you don't know what Fascism is, how can you struggle against Fascism? One need not swallow such absurdities as this, but one ought to recognize that the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language, and that one can probably bring about some improvement by starting at the verbal end. If you simplify your English, you are freed from the worst follies of orthodoxy. You cannot speak any of the necessary dialects, and when you make a stupid remark its stupidity will be obvious, even to yourself. Political language -- and with variations this is true of all political parties, from Conservatives to Anarchists -- is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. One cannot change this all in a moment, but one can at least change one's own habits, and from time to time one can even, if one jeers loudly enough, send some worn-out and useless phrase -- some jackboot, Achilles' heel, hotbed, melting pot, acid test, veritable inferno, or other lump of verbal refuse -- into the dustbin, where it belongs.

 

 


"The Prevention of Literature" -- Orwell on how censorship affects literature

"Political writing in our time consists almost entirely of prefabricated phrases bolted together like the pieces of a child's [Erector] set. It is the unavoidable result of self-censorship. To write in plain vigorous language one has to think fearlessly, and if one thinks fearlessly one cannot be politically orthodox."

George Orwell

The Prevention of Literature

About a year ago I attended a meeting of the P.E.N. Club, the occasion being the tercentenary of Milton's Aeropagitica — a pamphlet, it may be remembered, in defense of freedom of the press. Milton's famous phrase about the sin of ‘killing’ a book was printed on the leaflets advertising the meeting which had been circulated beforehand.

There were four speakers on the platform. One of them delivered a speech which did deal with the freedom of the press, but only in relation to India; another said, hesitantly, and in very general terms, that liberty was a good thing; a third delivered an attack on the laws relating to obscenity in literature. The fourth devoted most of his speech to a defense of the Russian purges. Of the speeches from the body of the hall, some reverted to the question of obscenity and the laws that deal with it, others were simply eulogies of Soviet Russia. Moral liberty — the liberty to discuss sex questions frankly in print — seemed to be generally approved, but political liberty was not mentioned. Out of this concourse of several hundred people, perhaps half of whom were directly connected with the writing trade, there was not a single one who could point out that freedom of the press, if it means anything at all, means the freedom to criticize and oppose. Significantly, no speaker quoted from the pamphlet which was ostensibly being commemorated. Nor was there any mention of the various books which have been ‘killed’ in England and the United States during the war. In its net effect the meeting was a demonstration in favor of censorship.

There was nothing particularly surprising in this. In our age, the idea of intellectual liberty is under attack from two directions. On the one side are its theoretical enemies, the apologists of totalitarianism, and on the other its immediate, practical enemies, monopoly and bureaucracy. Any writer or journalist who wants to retain his integrity finds himself thwarted by the general drift of society rather than by active persecution. The sort of things that are working against him are the concentration of the press in the hands of a few rich men, the grip of monopoly on radio and the films, the unwillingness of the public to spend money on books, making it necessary for nearly every writer to earn part of his living by hackwork, the encroachment of official bodies like the M.O.I. and the British Council, which help the writer to keep alive but also waste his time and dictate his opinions, and the continuous war atmosphere of the past ten years, whose distorting effects no one has been able to escape. Everything in our age conspires to turn the writer, and every other kind of artist as well, into a minor official, working on themes handed down from above and never telling what seems to him the whole of the truth. But in struggling against this fate he gets no help from his own side; that is, there is no large body of opinion which will assure him that he's in the right. In the past, at any rate throughout the Protestant centuries, the idea of rebellion and the idea of intellectual integrity were mixed up. A heretic — political, moral, religious, or aesthetic — was one who refused to outrage his own conscience. His outlook was summed up in the words of the Revivalist hymn:

Dare to be a Daniel
Dare to stand alone
Dare to have a purpose firm
Dare to make it known

To bring this hymn up to date one would have to add a ‘Don't’ at the beginning of each line. For it is the peculiarity of our age that the rebels against the existing order, at any rate the most numerous and characteristic of them, are also rebelling against the idea of individual integrity. ‘Daring to stand alone’ is ideologically criminal as well as practically dangerous. The independence of the writer and the artist is eaten away by vague economic forces, and at the same time it is undermined by those who should be its defenders. It is with the second process that I am concerned here.

Freedom of thought and of the press are usually attacked by arguments which are not worth bothering about. Anyone who has experience of lecturing and debating knows them off backwards. Here I am not trying to deal with the familiar claim that freedom is an illusion, or with the claim that there is more freedom in totalitarian countries than in democratic ones, but with the much more tenable and dangerous proposition that freedom is undesirable and that intellectual honesty is a form of anti-social selfishness. Although other aspects of the question are usually in the foreground, the controversy over freedom of speech and of the press is at bottom a controversy of the desirability, or otherwise, of telling lies. What is really at issue is the right to report contemporary events truthfully, or as truthfully as is consistent with the ignorance, bias and self-deception from which every observer necessarily suffers. In saying this I may seem to be saying that straightforward ‘reportage’ is the only branch of literature that matters: but I will try to show later that at every literary level, and probably in every one of the arts, the same issue arises in more or less subtilized forms. Meanwhile, it is necessary to strip away the irrelevancies in which this controversy is usually wrapped up.

The enemies of intellectual liberty always try to present their case as a plea for discipline versus individualism. The issue truth-versus-untruth is as far as possible kept in the background. Although the point of emphasis may vary, the writer who refuses to sell his opinions is always branded as a mere egoist. He is accused, that is, of either wanting to shut himself up in an ivory tower, or of making an exhibitionist display of his own personality, or of resisting the inevitable current of history in an attempt to cling to unjustified privilege. The Catholic and the Communist are alike in assuming that an opponent cannot be both honest and intelligent. Each of them tacitly claims that ‘the truth’ has already been revealed, and that the heretic, if he is not simply a fool, is secretly aware of ‘the truth’ and merely resists it out of selfish motives. In Communist literature the attack on intellectual liberty is usually masked by oratory about ‘petty-bourgeois individualism’, ‘the illusions of nineteenth-century liberalism’, etc., and backed up by words of abuse such as ‘romantic’ and ‘sentimental’, which, since they do not have any agreed meaning, are difficult to answer. In this way the controversy is maneuvered away from its real issue. One can accept, and most enlightened people would accept, the Communist thesis that pure freedom will only exist in a classless society, and that one is most nearly free when one is working to bring such a society about. But slipped in with this is the quite unfounded claim that the Communist Party is itself aiming at the establishment of the classless society, and that in the U.S.S.R. this aim is actually on the way to being realized. If the first claim is allowed to entail the second, there is almost no assault on common sense and common decency that cannot be justified. But meanwhile, the real point has been dodged. Freedom of the intellect means the freedom to report what one has seen, heard, and felt, and not to be obliged to fabricate imaginary facts and feelings. The familiar tirades against ‘escapism’ and ‘individualism’, ‘romanticism’, and so forth, are merely a forensic device, the aim of which is to make the perversion of history seem respectable.

Fifteen years ago, when one defended the freedom of the intellect, one had to defend it against Conservatives, against Catholics, and to some extent — for they were not of great importance in England — against Fascists. Today one has to defend it against Communists and ‘fellow-travelers’. One ought not to exaggerate the direct influence of the small English Communist Party, but there can be no question about the poisonous effect of the Russian mythos on English intellectual life. Because of it known facts are suppressed and distorted to such an extent as to make it doubtful whether a true history of our times can ever be written. Let me give just one instance out of the hundreds that could be cited. When Germany collapsed, it was found that very large numbers of Soviet Russians — mostly, no doubt, from non-political motives — had changed sides and were fighting for the Germans. Also, a small but not negligible portion of the Russian prisoners and displaced persons refused to go back to the U.S.S.R., and some of them, at least, were repatriated against their will. These facts, known to many journalists on the spot, went almost unmentioned in the British press, while at the same time Russophile publicists in England continued to justify the purges and deportations of 1936-38 by claiming that the U.S.S.R. ‘had no quislings’. The fog of lies and misinformation that surrounds such subjects as the Ukraine famine, the Spanish civil war, Russian policy in Poland, and so forth, is not due entirely to conscious dishonesty, but any writer or journalist who is fully sympathetic for the U.S.S.R. — sympathetic, that is, in the way the Russians themselves would want him to be — does have to acquiesce in deliberate falsification on important issues. I have before me what must be a very rare pamphlet, written by Maxim Litvinoff in 1918 and outlining the recent events in the Russian Revolution. It makes no mention of Stalin, but gives high praise to Trotsky, and also to Zinoviev, Kamenev, and others. What could be the attitude of even the most intellectually scrupulous Communist towards such a pamphlet? At best, the obscurantist attitude of saying that it is an undesirable document and better suppressed. And if for some reason it were decided to issue a garbled version of the pamphlet, denigrating Trotsky and inserting references to Stalin, no Communist who remained faithful to his party could protest. Forgeries almost as gross as this have been committed in recent years. But the significant thing is not that they happen, but that, even when they are known about, they provoke no reaction from the left-wing intelligentsia as a whole. The argument that to tell the truth would be ‘inopportune’ or would ‘play into the hands of’ somebody or other is felt to be unanswerable, and few people are bothered by the prospect of the lies which they condone getting out of the newspapers and into the history books.

The organized lying practiced by totalitarian states is not, as is sometimes claimed, a temporary expedient of the same nature as military deception. It is something integral to totalitarianism, something that would still continue even if concentration camps and secret police forces had ceased to be necessary. Among intelligent Communists there is an underground legend to the effect that although the Russian government is obliged now to deal in lying propaganda, frame-up trials, and so forth, it is secretly recording the true facts and will publish them at some future time. We can, I believe, be quite certain that this is not the case, because the mentality implied by such an action is that of a liberal historian who believes that the past cannot be altered and that a correct knowledge of history is valuable as a matter of course. From the totalitarian point of view history is something to be created rather than learned. A totalitarian state is in effect a theocracy, and its ruling caste, in order to keep its position, has to be thought of as infallible. But since, in practice, no one is infallible, it is frequently necessary to rearrange past events in order to show that this or that mistake was not made, or that this or that imaginary triumph actually happened. Then again, every major change in policy demands a corresponding change of doctrine and a revelation of prominent historical figures. This kind of thing happens everywhere, but is clearly likelier to lead to outright falsification in societies where only one opinion is permissible at any given moment. Totalitarianism demands, in fact, the continuous alteration of the past, and in the long run probably demands a disbelief in the very existence of objective truth. The friends of totalitarianism in this country usually tend to argue that since absolute truth is not attainable, a big lie is no worse than a little lie. It is pointed out that all historical records are biased and inaccurate, or on the other hand, that modern physics has proven that what seems to us the real world is an illusion, so that to believe in the evidence of one's senses is simply vulgar philistinism. A totalitarian society which succeeded in perpetuating itself would probably set up a schizophrenic system of thought, in which the laws of common sense held good in everyday life and in certain exact sciences, but could be disregarded by the politician, the historian, and the sociologist. Already there are countless people who would think it scandalous to falsify a scientific textbook, but would see nothing wrong in falsifying an historical fact. It is at the point where literature and politics cross that totalitarianism exerts its greatest pressure on the intellectual. The exact sciences are not, at this date, menaced to anything like the same extent. This partly accounts for the fact that in all countries it is easier for the scientists than for the writers to line up behind their respective governments.

To keep the matter in perspective, let me repeat what I said at the beginning of this essay: that in England the immediate enemies of truthfulness, and hence of freedom of thought, are the press lords, the film magnates, and the bureaucrats, but that on a long view the weakening of the desire for liberty among the intellectuals themselves is the most serious symptom of all. It may seem that all this time I have been talking about the effects of censorship, not on literature as a whole, but merely on one department of political journalism. Granted that Soviet Russia constitutes a sort of forbidden area in the British press, granted that issues like Poland, the Spanish civil war, the Russo-German pact, and so forth, are debarred from serious discussion, and that if you possess information that conflicts with the prevailing orthodoxy you are expected to either distort it or keep quiet about it — granted all this, why should literature in the wider sense be affected? Is every writer a politician, and is every book necessarily a work of straightforward ‘reportage’? Even under the tightest dictatorship, cannot the individual writer remain free inside his own mind and distill or disguise his unorthodox ideas in such a way that the authorities will be too stupid to recognize them? And in any case, if the writer himself is in agreement with the prevailing orthodoxy, why should it have a cramping effect on him? Is not literature, or any of the arts, likeliest to flourish in societies in which there are no major conflicts of opinion and no sharp distinction between the artist and his audience? Does one have to assume that every writer is a rebel, or even that a writer as such is an exceptional person?

Whenever one attempts to defend intellectual liberty against the claims of totalitarianism, one meets with these arguments in one form or another. They are based on a complete misunderstanding of what literature is, and how — one should perhaps say why — it comes into being. They assume that a writer is either a mere entertainer or else a venal hack who can switch from one line of propaganda to another as easily as an organ grinder changing tunes. But after all, how is it that books ever come to be written? Above a quite low level, literature is an attempt to influence the viewpoint of one's contemporaries by recording experience. And so far as freedom of expression is concerned, there is not much difference between a mere journalist and the most ‘unpolitical’ imaginative writer. The journalist is unfree, and is conscious of unfreedom, when he is forced to write lies or suppress what seems to him important news; the imaginative writer is unfree when he has to falsify his subjective feelings, which from his point of view are facts. He may distort and caricature reality in order to make his meaning clearer, but he cannot misrepresent the scenery of his own mind; he cannot say with any conviction that he likes what he dislikes, or believes what he disbelieves. If he is forced to do so, the only result is that his creative faculties will dry up. Nor can he solve the problem by keeping away from controversial topics. There is no such thing as a genuinely non-political literature, and least of all in an age like our own, when fears, hatreds, and loyalties of a directly political kind are near to the surface of everyone's consciousness. Even a single taboo can have an all-round crippling effect upon the mind, because there is always the danger that any thought which is freely followed up may lead to the forbidden thought. It follows that the atmosphere of totalitarianism is deadly to any kind of prose writer, though a poet, at any rate a lyric poet, might possibly find it breathable. And in any totalitarian society that survives for more than a couple of generations, it is probable that prose literature, of the kind that has existed during the past four hundred years, must actually come to an end.

Literature has sometimes flourished under despotic regimes, but, as has often been pointed out, the despotisms of the past were not totalitarian. Their repressive apparatus was always inefficient, their ruling classes were usually either corrupt or apathetic or half-liberal in outlook, and the prevailing religious doctrines usually worked against perfectionism and the notion of human infallibility. Even so it is broadly true that prose literature has reached its highest levels in periods of democracy and free speculation. What is new in totalitarianism is that its doctrines are not only unchallengeable but also unstable. They have to be accepted on pain of damnation, but on the other hand, they are always liable to be altered on a moment's notice. Consider, for example, the various attitudes, completely incompatible with one another, which an English Communist or ‘fellow-traveler’ has had to adopt toward the war between Britain and Germany. For years before September, 1939, he was expected to be in a continuous stew about ‘the horrors of Nazism’ and to twist everything he wrote into a denunciation of Hitler: after September, 1939, for twenty months, he had to believe that Germany was more sinned against than sinning, and the word ‘Nazi’, at least as far as print went, had to drop right out of his vocabulary. Immediately after hearing the 8 o'clock news bulletin on the morning of June 22, 1941, he had to start believing once again that Nazism was the most hideous evil the world had ever seen. Now, it is easy for the politician to make such changes: for a writer the case is somewhat different. If he is to switch his allegiance at exactly the right moment, he must either tell lies about his subjective feelings, or else suppress them altogether. In either case he has destroyed his dynamo. Not only will ideas refuse to come to him, but the very words he uses will seem to stiffen under his touch. Political writing in our time consists almost entirely of prefabricated phrases bolted together like the pieces of a child's Meccano set. It is the unavoidable result of self-censorship. To write in plain, vigorous language one has to think fearlessly, and if one thinks fearlessly one cannot be politically orthodox. It might be otherwise in an ‘age of faith’, when the prevailing orthodoxy has long been established and is not taken too seriously. In that case it would be possible, or might be possible, for large areas of one's mind to remain unaffected by what one officially believed. Even so, it is worth noticing that prose literature almost disappeared during the only age of faith that Europe has ever enjoyed. Throughout the whole of the Middle Ages there was almost no imaginative prose literature and very little in the way of historical writing; and the intellectual leaders of society expressed their most serious thoughts in a dead language which barley altered during a thousand years.

Totalitarianism, however, does not so much promise an age of faith as an age of schizophrenia. A society becomes totalitarian when its structure becomes flagrantly artificial: that is, when its ruling class has lost its function but succeeds in clinging to power by force or fraud. Such a society, no matter how long it persists, can never afford to become either tolerant or intellectually stable. It can never permit either the truthful recording of facts or the emotional sincerity that literary creation demands. But to be corrupted by totalitarianism one does not have to live in a totalitarian country. The mere prevalence of certain ideas can spread a kind of poison that makes one subject after another impossible for literary purposes. Wherever there is an enforced orthodoxy — or even two orthodoxies, as often happens — good writing stops. This was well illustrated by the Spanish civil war. To many English intellectuals the war was a deeply moving experience, but not an experience about which they could write sincerely. There were only two things that you were allowed to say, and both of them were palpable lies: as a result, the war produced acres of print but almost nothing worth reading.

It is not certain whether the effects of totalitarianism upon verse need be so deadly as its effects on prose. There is a whole series of converging reasons why it is somewhat easier for a poet than a prose writer to feel at home in an authoritarian society. To begin with, bureaucrats and other ‘practical’ men usually despise the poet too deeply to be much interested in what he is saying. Secondly, what the poet is saying — that is, what his poem ‘means’ if translated into prose — is relatively unimportant, even to himself. The thought contained in a poem is always simple, and is no more the primary purpose of the poem than the anecdote is the primary purpose of the picture. A poem is an arrangement of sounds and associations, as a painting is an arrangement of brushmarks. For short snatches, indeed, as in the refrain of a song, poetry can even dispense with meaning altogether. It is therefore fairly easy for a poet to keep away from dangerous subjects and avoid uttering heresies; and even when he does utter them, they may escape notice. But above all, good verse, unlike good prose, is not necessarily and individual product. Certain kinds of poems, such as ballads, or, on the other hand, very artificial verse forms, can be composed co-operatively by groups of people. Whether the ancient English and Scottish ballads were originally produced by individuals, or by the people at large, is disputed; but at any rate they are non-individual in the sense that they constantly change in passing from mouth to mouth. Even in print no two versions of a ballad are ever quite the same. Many primitive peoples compose verse communally. Someone begins to improvise, probably accompanying himself on a musical instrument, somebody else chips in with a line or a rhyme when the first singer breaks down, and so the process continues until there exists a whole song or ballad which has no identifiable author.

In prose, this kind of intimate collaboration is quite impossible. Serious prose, in any case, has to be composed in solitude, whereas the excitement of being part of a group is actually an aid to certain kinds of versification. Verse — and perhaps good verse of its own kind, though it would not be the highest kind — might survive under even the most inquisitorial regime. Even in a society where liberty and individuality had been extinguished, there would still be a need either for patriotic songs and heroic ballads celebrating victories, or for elaborate exercises in flattery; and these are the kinds of poems that can be written to order, or composed communally, without necessarily lacking artistic value. Prose is a different matter, since the prose writer cannot narrow the range of his thoughts without killing his inventiveness. But the history of totalitarian societies, or of groups of people who have adopted the totalitarian outlook, suggests that loss of liberty is inimical to all forms of literature. German literature almost disappeared during the Hitler regime, and the case was not much better in Italy. Russian literature, so far as one can judge by translations, has deteriorated markedly since the early days of the revolution, though some of the verse appears to be better than the prose. Few if any Russian novels that it is possible to take seriously have been translated for about fifteen years. In western Europe and America large sections of the literary intelligentsia have either passed through the Communist Party or have been warmly sympathetic to it, but this whole leftward movement has produced extraordinarily few books worth reading. Orthodox Catholicism, again, seems to have a crushing effect upon certain literary forms, especially the novel. During a period of three hundred years, how many people have been at once good novelists and good Catholics? The fact is that certain themes cannot be celebrated in words, and tyranny is one of them. No one ever wrote a good book in praise of the Inquisition. Poetry might survive in a totalitarian age, and certain arts or half-arts, such as architecture, might even find tyranny beneficial, but the prose writer would have no choice between silence or death. Prose literature as we know it is the product of rationalism, of the Protestant centuries, of the autonomous individual. And the destruction of intellectual liberty cripples the journalist, the sociological writer, the historian, the novelist, the critic, and the poet, in that order. In the future it is possible that a new kind of literature, not involving individual feeling or truthful observation, may arise, but no such thing is at present imaginable. It seems much likelier that if the liberal culture that we have lived in since the Renaissance comes to an end, the literary art will perish with it.

Of course, print will continue to be used, and it is interesting to speculate what kinds of reading matter would survive in a rigidly totalitarian society. Newspapers will presumably continue until television technique reaches a higher level, but apart from newspapers it is doubtful even now whether the great mass of people in the industrialized countries feel the need for any kind of literature. They are unwilling, at any rate, to spend anywhere near as much on reading matter as they spend on several other recreations. Probably novels and stories will be completely superseded by film and radio productions. Or perhaps some kind of low grade sensational fiction will survive, produced by a sort of conveyor-belt process that reduces human initiative to the minimum.

It would probably not be beyond human ingenuity to write books by machinery. But a sort of mechanizing process can already be seen at work in the film and radio, in publicity and propaganda, and in the lower reaches of journalism. The Disney films, for instance, are produced by what is essentially a factory process, the work being done partly mechanically and partly by teams of artists who have to subordinate their individual style. Radio features are commonly written by tired hacks to whom the subject and the manner of treatment are dictated beforehand: even so, what they write is merely a kind of raw material to be chopped into shape by producers and censors. So also with the innumerable books and pamphlets commissioned by government departments. Even more machine-like is the production of short stories, serials, and poems for the very cheap magazines. Papers such as the Writer abound with advertisements of literary schools, all of them offering you ready-made plots at a few shillings a time. Some, together with the plot, supply the opening and closing sentences of each chapter. Others furnish you with a sort of algebraical formula by the use of which you can construct plots for yourself. Others have packs of cards marked with characters and situations, which have only to be shuffled and dealt in order to produce ingenious stories automatically. It is probably in some such way that the literature of a totalitarian society would be produced, if literature were still felt to be necessary. Imagination — even consciousness, so far as possible — would be eliminated from the process of writing. Books would be planned in their broad lines by bureaucrats, and would pass through so many hands that when finished they would be no more an individual product than a Ford car at the end of the assembly line. It goes without saying that anything so produced would be rubbish; but anything that was not rubbish would endanger the structure of the state. As for the surviving literature of the past, it would have to be suppressed or at least elaborately rewritten.

Meanwhile, totalitarianism has not fully triumphed anywhere. Our own society is still, broadly speaking, liberal. To exercise your right of free speech you have to fight against economic pressure and against strong sections of public opinion, but not, as yet, against a secret police force. You can say or print almost anything so long as you are willing to do it in a hole-and-corner way. But what is sinister, as I said at the beginning of this essay, is that the conscious enemies of liberty are those to whom liberty ought to mean most. The big public do not care about the matter one way or the other. They are not in favour of persecuting the heretic, and they will not exert themselves to defend him. They are at once too sane and too stupid to acquire the totalitarian outlook. The direct, conscious attack on intellectual decency comes from the intellectuals themselves.

It is possible that the Russophile intelligentsia, if they had not succumbed to that particular myth, would have succumbed to another of much the same kind. But at any rate the Russian myth is there, and the corruption it causes stinks. When one sees highly educated men looking on indifferently at oppression and persecution, one wonders which to despise more, their cynicism or their shortsightedness. Many scientists, for example, are the uncritical admirers of the U.S.S.R. They appear to think that the destruction of liberty is of no importance so long as their own line of work is for the moment unaffected. The U.S.S.R. is a large, rapidly developing country which has an acute need of scientific workers and, consequently, treats them generously. Provided that they steer clear of dangerous subjects such as psychology, scientists are privileged persons. Writers, on the other hand, are viciously persecuted. It is true that literary prostitutes like Ilya Ehrenburg or Alexei Tolstoy are paid huge sums of money, but the only thing which is of any value to the writer as such — his freedom of expression — is taken away from him. Some, at least, of the English scientists who speak so enthusiastically of the opportunities to be enjoyed by scientists in Russia are capable of understanding this. But their reflection appears to be: ‘Writers are persecuted in Russia. So what? I am not a writer.’ They do not see that any attack on intellectual liberty, and on the concept of objective truth, threatens in the long run every department of thought.

For the moment the totalitarian state tolerates the scientist because it needs him. Even in Nazi Germany, scientists, other than Jews, were relatively well treated and the German scientific community, as a whole, offered no resistance to Hitler. At this stage of history, even the most autocratic ruler is forced to take account of physical reality, partly because of the lingering-on of liberal habits of thought, partly because of the need to prepare for war. So long as physical reality cannot altogether be ignored, so long as two and two have to make four when you are, for example, drawing the blueprint of an aeroplane, the scientist has his function, and can even be allowed a measure of liberty. His awakening will come later, when the totalitarian state is firmly established. Meanwhile, if he wants to safeguard the integrity of science, it is his job to develop some kind of solidarity with his literary colleagues and not disregard it as a matter of indifference when writers are silenced or driven to suicide, and newspapers systematically falsified.

But however it may be with the physical sciences, or with music, painting and architecture, it is — as I have tried to show — certain that literature is doomed if liberty of thought perishes. Not only is it doomed in any country which retains a totalitarian structure; but any writer who adopts the totalitarian outlook, who finds excuses for persecution and the falsification of reality, thereby destroys himself as a writer. There is no way out of this. No tirades against ‘individualism’ and the ‘ivory tower’, no pious platitudes to the effect that ‘true individuality is only attained through identification with the community’, can get over the fact that a bought mind is a spoiled mind. Unless spontaneity enters at some point or another, literary creation is impossible, and language itself becomes something totally different from what it is now, we may learn to separate literary creation from intellectual honesty. At present we know only that the imagination, like certain wild animals, will not breed in captivity. Any writer or journalist who denies that fact — and nearly all the current praise of the Soviet Union contains or implies such a denial — is, in effect, demanding his own destruction.

1946

 

The Burgering of Buchanan and JQ Adams; the apolitical Golden Age never was

 One last leftover from my attempt to provide a full history of "Borking" and "Burgering" during the Garland nomination:

"Justice Robert Trimble died in August 1828 as the election campaign between President John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson was concluding. Adams allegedly asked Henry Clay to consider replacing Trimble, and Adams then nominated John Crittenden in December 1828, after Jackson won the general election. The Senate postponed any vote on Crittenden until Jackson became President. After Jackson became president the following March, he named John McLean to the position.

Justice Peter Vivian Daniel died in late May 1860 during the race that saw Abraham Lincoln win the White House. President James Buchanan failed to get Jeremiah Black confirmed as Daniel’s replacement in February 1861. Lincoln finally had Samuel Miller confirmed in July 1862 to replace Daniel.

--

From "Why the current Supreme Court nomination situation isn’t that unique"

The Supreme Court and Military Justice by Jonathan Lurie - 2013

Lincoln's Supreme Court

Some Legal Myths About Lincoln


Does the West have the will to survive, defend its values, civilization? Most important presidential speech since Reagan?

“The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive ... . Do we have the confidence in our values to defend them at any cost? Do we have enough respect for our citizens to protect our borders? Do we have the desire and the courage to preserve our civilization in the face of those who would subvert and destroy it?”

That's thoroughly presidential, something that has needed to be said for decades, and yet it's also true to what Trump seems to stand for. (And for the record I've never been a Trump fan." 

"The president made his sharpest criticism of Moscow since taking office, urging Russia to “cease its destabilizing activities in Ukraine and elsewhere and its support for hostile regimes, including Syria and Iran,” and asserting that it must “instead join the community of responsible nations in our fight against common enemies and in defense of civilization itself.”

"And Mr. Trump moved to reassure Poland and other allies fretful about Russia’s aggression, making a full-throated endorsement of the collective defense principle that undergirds NATO, something he was unwilling to do during his first trip to Europe as president in May.

“The United States has demonstrated not merely with words but with its actions that we stand firmly behind Article 5, the mutual defense commitment,” Mr. Trump said."

Trump, in Poland, Asks if West Has the ‘Will to Survive’


Leftists master the game of long-term policy change, tacking against strong headwinds. Can libertarians or conservatives do it?

Whatever you think about the merits of the issues, you've got to admire gun controllers' and other social-change movements' strategy and tactics, but also recognize their dishonesty -- their eternal cycle or ratchet between "This legislation merely imposes slight restrictions that hardly inconvenience any reasonable person, we would never try to take away your rights", and "That legislation has failed to seriously reduce the underlying problem and it's time to just ban everything" --  as  does in "Gun Controllers Know Their Policies Won’t Stop Murder. They’re Playing A Different Game", at The Federalist:

... If their proposed remedies would be so obviously and demonstrably unlikely to solve the very problems they claim to intend to solve, then why do gun controllers keep advocating these ridiculous and counterintuitive laws? 

The answer is not hard to see. Gun control advocates, like most political actors, are pragmatic and practical. They understand that certain legislative goals and ambitions must play out over a period of time rather than in a political instant. You can see this type of long-game strategy in, say, the American health-care debate: after seven years of Obamacare, Democrats are increasingly pursuing single-payer, something that was much less feasible before the Affordable Care Act. Indeed, Sen. Harry Reid has explicitly stated that Obamacare is intended solely to be “a step in the right direction” towards single-payer, nothing more.

So it is with gun control: liberals propose these useless laws and regulations not in an attempt to honestly curb gun violence but rather in a long-form attempt to pass other laws down the road. It will be much easier to ban large classes of semiautomatic rifles, after all, after five or ten years of banning scary-looking AR-style “assault weapons.” It will be far easier, too, to sharply restrict firearm purchases after a decade of regulating ammunition sales, the latter of which will soon begin in California.

This doesn’t have to be some grand conspiracy theory or dark, shadowy intrigue. Gun controllers are not stupid. They understand long-form political action as well as anyone. They do not like guns and they are more than patient enough to play the drawn-out politics necessary to curtail American gun rights.

... To be fair, I get it: if the situation were reversed, and I were starting from a legal position in which gun rights were severely restricted in this country, I would play the same game if necessary. It’s the smart thing to do.


Caught in lies, Left just rides out the controversy, then carves 'em in stone when no one's looking

Todd Seavey writes:

I notice that now that the chronic con artist Brianna Wu is running for Congress in the Boston area, the New York Times seizes the opportunity to define Gamergate as simply an Internet harassment campaign -- no debate necessary, I guess -- and CNN casually describes Gamergate (inaccurately) as a movement that believes there should be no women in gaming.

Disturbingly, the establishment left is perfectly willing to just ride out the storm and then carve its lies in stone once everyone's attention has moved elsewhere. I'm not sure how people interested in telling the truth can match that relentless, tireless evil.

That's how they do. That's one of the parts of politics that I learned on the playground: people's reality is what they start repeating because it's what people are saying and what they think people want to hear them say. 

The greatest example of this silent switcheroo that I've witnessed is how in the early 90s, the Soviet Union fell, a wider swath of policymakers and educated people learned about market economics, and everyone conceded that socialism didn't work. Democratic President Bill Clinton proclaimed, "The Era of Big Government is Over." Newt Gingrich took over Congress and for a couple years, no one in Washington told him he wasn't the best and the brightest. Ever since the backlash from his hubris in the 1995 government shutdown (which White House chief of staff Leon Panetta later bragged about orchestrating on NPR), the GOP has been afraid to make public arguments for why free markets work, fearing to scare away some fraction of its precarious majority coalition. In that vacuum, leftist academics, writers and politicians rushed back in like the tide, teaching whole generations that market economics was totally disproven. Not by actually engaging with what free-market economists and philosophers actually taught, but just by sidestepping it and repeating that all of that had been discredited at some point.


Police successfully justify killings with irrational fears, some based on training & jargon

The Unwritten Law That Helps Bad Cops Go Free

by DAVID FRENCH in the National Review

And that's because of "jurors with an authoritarian mindset," Brian Lambert writes:

“... the “authoritarian” aspect refers to those on the receiving end, people who have been acculturated to give uncritical respect to any authority figure, be they parents, teachers, government leaders or cops.

Justice for Castile v. the Authoritarian Juror


Following "current affairs" too closely leaves no room for deep background to understand them, "Current Affairs" magazine says

'...There’s something deadening about religiously following“current” affairs, because remaining current precludes getting in-depth background knowledge. Reading the newspaper becomes ritualistic rather than useful or educational. It’s always funny that the more time you spend trying to “stay informed,” the less informed you actually become compared with someone who doesn’t stay informed but goes out and learns untimely things.)'

From "KEEPING THE CONTENT MACHINE WHIRRING: Reports from an experiment in the manufacturing and distribution of clickbait…"


Media says "#Reeling" & "Under Siege" because that's how they like us. Can #JohnOliver change that?

It took a Brit to have the daring, and the permission, to effectively poke a hole in the American media's universal chorus about how Londoners are Reeling, Traumatized, Quivering, Disoriented, Shell-Shocked, Incapacitated and Under Siege. 

John Oliver - Britain Reeling

Because in Britain you can straightforwardly argue for Fabian Socialism or whatever Oliver believes, without having to convince yourself that you speak for a consensus of all responsible and respectable members of the community. But in the US, generations of progressives have learned not to advocate socialism directly, or at least to dare not speak its name, when addressing the general public. Instead, around 1970 the media started talking to us as if we were not citizens but a mass of passive Consumers, overwhelmed by events too large for individuals or voluntary groups to handle.  A view of ourselves that typical Americans had always vehemently rejected, but it was central to the views of Progressive-Era leaders, New Dealers, and establishment leftists.

Not all leftists -- the old Populist farmers, the Civil Rights organizers, and many 60s radicals believed in self-help and self-organizing. But the Progressive leftists, who already dominated all mainstream social institutions, feared and loathed as "false consciousness" anything that made individuals feel self-sufficient, empowered, free, etc. Everything from driving cars instead of relying on public transportation, to civilians owning weapons, to any way of providing for our needs or wants that was not governmental or government-dependent. 

So the media started pounding us with one too-big-to-comprehend Crisis after another: Gas shortages. Random terrorism. Inflation. Unpredictable "lone gunman" assassins. Global Cooling. The Population Bomb. Random Urban Violence. Drug Epidemics. (I'm not saying they conspired or fabricated these things; it's about how they began to portray them, which was based on, and/or encouraged, the Progressive view of individuals and "Society".) What could an individual do about anything? Wait for government experts to solve the problem. And tie a yellow ribbon on something -- we only started doing that sort of thing during the 1979-81 Iran hostage crisis, and we're still at it.

Little things that reinforce that view of mankind still bug some of us. Everything from the ribbons being yellow to the obvious connotation of pronouncing the Sept. 11 attacks "Nine-Eleven". Needlessly shortening "terrorism" to "terror" probably has something to do with it too.

9/11 seemed to radically dethrone this paradigm, at least for a while. It began with World Trade Center management telling everyone to stay at their desks until safety officials assessed and determined, etc. It ended with passengers organizing an unarmed assault and making their 737 explode in a field before it could kamikaze the White House. But the herd mentality is strong, the left-wing "hive" endures for generations and knows when to tactically retreat or change the subject temporarily, and they've trained us to want what they're selling. 

Oliver has given us a widely-publicized chance to re-evaluate the whole passivity paradigm. I hope we'll take it. After all, from the time of the Battle of Britain through the Berlin Airlift, the news spin about our allies under attack was completely different.  

And on the eve of WWI it was even differenter: the English were proud of their resistance and their Reeling, with more than one beer in hand:

The Rolling English Road
 
Before the Roman came to Rye or out to Severn strode,
The rolling English drunkard made the rolling English road.
A reeling road, a rolling road, that rambles round the shire,
And after him the parson ran, the sexton and the squire;
A merry road, a mazy road, and such as we did tread
The night we went to Birmingham by way of Beachy Head.
 
I knew no harm of Bonaparte and plenty of the Squire,
And for to fight the Frenchman I did not much desire;
But I did bash their baggonets because they came arrayed
To straighten out the crooked road an English drunkard made,
Where you and I went down the lane with ale-mugs in our hands,
The night we went to Glastonbury by way of Goodwin Sands.
 
His sins they were forgiven him; or why do flowers run
Behind him; and the hedges all strengthening in the sun?
The wild thing went from left to right and knew not which was which,
But the wild rose was above him when they found him in the ditch.
God pardon us, nor harden us; we did not see so clear
The night we went to Bannockburn by way of Brighton Pier.
 
My friends, we will not go again or ape an ancient rage,
Or stretch the folly of our youth to be the shame of age,
But walk with clearer eyes and ears this path that wandereth,
And see undrugged in evening light the decent inn of death;
For there is good news yet to hear and fine things to be seen,
Before we go to Paradise by way of Kensal Green.
 
Related Posts: 

Press deploys its worst bureaucratese against Portland's anti-Muslim killer, Constitution-burning mayor

A horrible example of the passive voice obscuring life-or-death questions in the classic "bureaucratic style", from the AP in the Washington Post, the paper I was born and raised on and really expected better from:

"Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, and Ricky John Best, 53, were killed Friday as they tried to stop Jeremy Joseph Christian from harassing the women, one of whom was wearing a hijab, authorities say. Another who stepped in was seriously injured."

The passive-voice obfuscation makes one wonder if the killer was this "Christian" guy, police, other Muslims, or someone else whom the writer doesn't want you to think about. Only way down deep in the story, in a quotation, do we learn who did what:

"And then we turned around while they were fighting, and he just started stabbing people, and it was just blood everywhere, and we just started running for our lives."

Even that doesn't say who started the physical fighting, or who was fighting. That quotation is the first specific first description of anything physical. Then there's this:

"A day before the attack, cellphone video confirmed by police Sgt. Pete Simpson shows Christian using expletives as he rants about Muslims, Christians and Jews on a train."

It would be interesting to know if he was ranting for or against Christians and Jews. But at least they left in what's really important, the fact that he used profanity and the name of the police officer who confirmed the video. And then:


"The mayor says his main concern was participants 'coming to peddle a message of hatred,' saying hate speech is not protected by the Constitution."

Um, that last gerund is a grave accusation against the mayor, saying he expressed beliefs that disqualify him from active citizenship, not just from holding public office. So I think he deserves to have what he actually said quoted. (When I read the evolving story, the headline was about that. The characterization of his anti-American beliefs is accurate, though. See "‘Hate speech is not protected by the First Amendment,’ Portland mayor says. He’s wrong." byKristine Phillips in the Post)

The story is by Martha Bellisle of the AP. ("Portland mayor aims to nix free-speech rally, fears 'hatred'" -
By MARTHA BELLISLE, Associated Press). But the AP and Post editors are both independently responsible either for creating this dog's-breakfast or for not fixing it so that it delivers the news.

For more on the bureaucratic style and all the important questions it intentionally obscures, see "The Elements of Bureaucratic Style" by Colin DickeyMy own small contribution to that analysis is "When the people who had all the power say the victim forced them to use force ...".

Postscript: As if all that wasn't Orwellian enough, the Post  link this was about now points to a Post AP story with a different headline and  byline, with the first thing I complained about now totally fixed, and other major topics removed:

Portland uneasy; suspect shouts ‘you’ve got no safe place!’

May 30 at 7:53 PM

. . . "Authorities say Jeremy Joseph Christian started verbally abusing two young women, including one wearing a hijab. When three men on the train intervened, police say, Christian attacked them, killing two and wounding one."

 


Political comedians divide us w/ same cultural poison as Trump: cruelty, contempt, mocking the defenseless.

Required reading. Canonical.

How Late-Night Comedy Fueled the Rise of Trump

Sneering hosts have alienated conservatives and made liberals smug.

By  in The Atlantic.

_________  

Related post, from Whig Out Facebook page:

Why does the Daily Show get so much respect when their pre-taped interviews are just as faked (dishonestly edited) as those videos of Planned Parenthood and Democratic voter-turnouters allegedly were? .... the show absolutely represents that the interviews are genuine; the jokes are all made in response to them, necessarily based on that representation of accuracy. ... (See more)


When the people who had all the power say the victim forced them to use force ...

I've heard good arguments for both sides about United bumping the passenger off the flight, IF it was the only flight, on any airline, that could get the pilots to where they needed to be so that whole planeloads of passengers could fly as scheduled. For picking people to bump at random instead of calling for volunteers, and calling police and dragging a guy off, a doctor whose patients would be waiting for him, not so much.

But the CEO's non-apology does something that we allow far too many people in power and authority to get away with: Talking as if they had no choice in what they did to someone, as if their victim was a free agent who could choose differently, but their own response was an automatic consequence, an impersonal force of nature, etc.

United CEO on Flight Removal Video: ‘I Apologize for Having to Re-accommodate These Customers’

                         By Jennifer Calfas, Apr 10, 2017

Civil forfeiture's worse than we thought; blurs difference between cops & robbers, compliance & bribery.

I already knew Civil Asset Forfeiture was often horribly misused and somehow started affecting people who hadn't been convicted of crimes. But people who aren't even charged? In some places, it has taken America back to the bad old days where it isn't safe to travel if you're a minority or from out-of-state. Worse, some counties have become like those corrupt third-world countries where there's no real difference between cops & robbers; bribes & "fines". Where innocent travelers might get stopped at any time for a bogus crime and have to sign over whatever cash they have with them to get out of jail and -- a particularly American twist on this barbarity -- to not have their children taken away.

And sometimes, as described below, public servants are so focused on grabbing the cash etc. that when they do stop actual, serious drug-runners, they let them go, as long as they literally "get the goods" off them. 

There have been bipartisan efforts in many states, most recently Virginia, to reform "civil forfeiture" so it only applies to convicted criminals. (If something's actual evidence of a crime that someone's charged with, it would still be kept temporarily as evidence anyway.) But what this New Yorker article has to say makes it far more urgent than I knew.

TAKEN: Under civil forfeiture, Americans who haven’t been charged with wrongdoing can be stripped of their cash, cars, and even homes. Is that all we’re losing?


Bland "token" Black characters: a huge improvement, a necessary first step, Kenneth Kelly told Charles Schulz

Us kids of the 70s uncomfortably recall all the plain-vanilla TV and movie characters who merely "happened to be black". Perhaps none was plainer-vanilla than Franklin from Peanuts. But it turns out our discomfort was shared by their creators, even when they were considering whether to introduce them. And it was answered powerfully by moon-lander designer and housing discrimination activist Kenneth C. Kelly, who wrote to Charles Schulz after hearing that Schulz was considering adding a Black Peanuts kid but was worried about "patronizing" tokenism:

"... on the subject of including Negro kids in the fabric of Peanuts, I’d like to express an opinion as a Negro father of two young boys. You mention a fear of being patronizing. Though I doubt that any Negro would view your efforts that way, I’d like to suggest that an accusation of being patronizing would be a small price to pay for the positive results that would accrue!

"We have a situation in America in which racial enmity is constantly portrayed. The inclusion of a Negro supernumerary in some of the group scenes in Peanuts would do two important things. Firstly, it would ease my problem of having my kids seeing themselves pictured in the overall American scene. Secondly, it would suggest racial amity in a casual day-to-day sense.

"I deliberately suggest a supernumerary role for a Negro character. The inclusion of a Negro in your occasional group scenes would quietly and unobtrusively set the stage for a principal character at a later date, should the basis for such a principal develop.

"We have too long used Negro supernumeraries in such unhappy situations as a movie prison scene, while excluding Negro supernumeraries in quiet and normal scenes of people just living, loving, worrying, entering a hotel, the lobby of an office building, a downtown New York City street scene. There are insidious negative effects in these practices of the movie industry, TV industry, magazine publishing, and syndicated cartoons."

 From "Why Charles M. Schulz Gave Peanuts A Black Character (1968)" by  on flashbak.com


A Pogo Strip For Our Time: "Go Away, You Frighten Our Children" vs. "Everybody's Lost But Me"

I've finally encountered one of those alt-right people -- so they aren't a myth after all. A Facebook commenter talking about "Cucks" and leaving a picture of their Egyptian frog god, Kek AKA Kuk AKA Pepe. I decided to look it up to see what on earth it was all about, and it just left me feeling soiled and stupider than before. It's mostly defined in even more obscure and irrelevant terms, in the language of guys who feel they have no stake in society and just want to spout abuse. Also numerology and "magick". But it kept dimly reminding me of something, and after a few days, I remembered what it is. The Pogo series about the "Kluck Klams" may be the most heartstring-tugging Pogo strips ever. Not because of the unrealistically easy happy ending. Certainly not the stuff about "Go away, you frighten our children", which has long since become a sick, control-freaky liberal cliché, and just makes me mutter, "You wish your children were scared!" What gets to me -- and did even when I first read it back in grade school, when I had hardly any ability to pick up on emotions in other people, or in books -- is the smart, plucky little boy's unquestioning devotion to his horribly misguided, quite likely evil and criminal, father ...

  Kluck-klams11 Kluck-klams21 Kluck-klams31 Kluck-klams41 Kluck-klams51 Kluck-klams61 Kluck-klams71 Kluck-klams81








Johnson hasn't aimed at his most likely voters, is "maximizing his minimum" -- Brad Smith

I long ago signed up for the Johnson campaign's Facebook feed and e-mails, and curiously, nearly all of them seemed tin-eared and off-note, to be participating in a barely relevant conversation. Many had a content-free student-government-elections vibe, essentially, "Why not try a third party?" pointlessly saying a two-party system wasn't fair, etc. The ones that attacked Trump and Clinton just repeated the same old accusations people have already heard a million times, and in Hillary's case, the non-ideological "Crooked Hillary" stuff or the left-wing attack on her as an insider. I can't recall ever seeing an attack on her far-left, progressive-elitist IDEOLOGY, including her hostility to the traditional American libertarian ideals shared by many conservatives, moderates, and even many liberals (anyone remember Civil Libertarians?).

Professor and former Federal Election Commissioner Brad Smith discussed this in depth in a brilliant public post on Facebook. My only quibbles with him are:

  1. Posing as the sane moderate isn't incompatible with being the sensible, electable conservative alternative, the leader of the remainder of a split Republican party. Doing a better job at both of those would have made him the natural candidate for "Never Trump" Republicans who instead voted for Hillary, or McMullen, or even, in desperation, for Trump as the only alternative to Hillary.
  2. There's much more to be said, especially this year, for libertarianism as the real moderation. It doesn't erase, but defuses and declaws, most cultural and religious differences. The main theme of my libertarian folk song (temporary working titles: "Goons & Droogs" or "Johnson We Hardly Mentioned Ye.")

Smith writes:

I think basically the strategy was to try to present themselves as the "moderate, sane alternative," and to appeal to millenials, who are more likely to pull the third party lever. The hope was to peel off a bit from the left, and a bit from the right, and get into the debates with 15%. To do this they heavily emphasized social issues, to the point of abandoning tradition libertarian and Libertarian positions, such as supporting freedom of association, and viewing private anti-discrimination laws as a rare exception to be used only in rare situations. Instead, they aggressively attacked the idea that religious people (or others) should be free not to provide services for same sex marriages, etc.. They devoted considerable effort to courting Clinton and Sanders voters. They also talked quite a bit about foreign policy, a very unwise decision given Johnson's apparent lack of prep there, but they wanted to court anti-war voters.

In my view, the only real hope for a third party is always to become viewed as the alternative to one of the major parties. Otherwise, "don't waste your vote" mentality kicks in (and it is a logical mentality), and third party support always drifts away.

Their smart play, therefore, would have been not to campaign as the moderate alternative to Corrupt Hillary and Crazy Donald, but as the Republican alternative to Trump, much as Evan McMullen has done in his 1 state campaign in Utah. As two former GOP governors, this would have made sense and had some credibility. Further, Republicans who don't like Trump tend to not like him because he is not libertarian enough (this is not true of the neocons, but it is true of the free traders, the pro-immigration voters, and much of the limited government crowd. Liberals dissatisfied with Hillary tend not to like her because she's not statist enough--the Bernie voters. There's really no room to her left on the social issues that Johnson/Weld wanted to emphasize, and on economics, their libertarian views are as much or more a turnoff to the Sanders/Warren left as Hillary's cronyism.

Rather than Weld citing Breyer as a great Supreme Court justice, they should have been on one page that they would support people like Thomas, who is very popular with Republicans and probably the most libertarian justice on the Court. They should have finessed abortion through a federalism argument and aggressively defending the Hyde Amendment and attacking efforts to fund Planned Parenthood (a good libertarian position, defunding most any private group), require employers to provide particular coverages in health plans, or require individuals to perform non-essential services (the traditional libertarian position). Most importantly, they should have pounded on regulation and the growth of government and executive power. The idea would be to become (as McMullen has become in Utah) a credible alternative for conservative voters. As we see with McMullen, his support is not fading in Utah in part because he is seen as an electable alternative to Clinton.

Would such a strategy have worked? Probably not. Always a longshot, right? But I think they played a strategy to maximize their minimum, when this was the election for the LP to try to maximize its maximum.

Or as Matthew Finn put it in a comment:

He misidentified which demographic his campaign should've been targeting. Trump is enormously unpopular with small government conservatives. Thesevoters would've been ripe for picking. Yet Johnson seemed to snub them in favor of running a campaign targeted at youthful millennial voters and, oddly enough, the Sanders sect of the Democratic Party (who are, by nature, ideologically opposite of Johnson). In doing so, he created an image (and remember, perception is truth in politics), of a half-baked, middle aged stoner who is treating running for president with the same amount of seriousness that he would treat running a fantasy football league. That alienated a good portion of his ideal demographic (small government conservatives) who tend to be older and, to an extent, value based voters. In short, rather than painting himself as a sensible conservative alternative to Trump, he painted himself as a wacky caricature and in doing so alienated the voters who could have actually put him in the national discussion.


Candidates' science report cards misleading if you only read the headline or summary. Like most science stories.

Scientific American's "Grading the Presidential Candidates on Science" article is not without value, but it has some eccentricities that make it seriously misleading to just read the candidates' scores without reading the whole thing to see what the questions actually were, and how they were graded. It does not test candidates' scientific literacy or mastery. And even the breadth, detail and seriousness of their science-related public policies takes a back seat to some oddball factors that don't matter that much to anyone but the authors:

  1. The test puts surprisingly great emphasis not on scientific literacy or policies, but on following instructions in detail when taking the test. They asked for very specific policies on specific questions, not overall generalities. Even though describing overall general policy preferences and methods can be useful and instructive, and is often the best use of  candidates' and the public's time in a campaign. Gary Johnson came off more like he answered it on the fly without reading the instructions, and so didn't get credit for a lot of detailed, solid, moderate policies on energy and other science-related issues that are described on his web site or on an independent "candidates on the issues" site. 
  2. Though the graders didn't look outside the test answers for material that bolstered a candidate's scientific literacy, they did so to find positions and statements that would lower a candidate's grade or would, in their view, contradict their answers to the test. That hurt all candidates but Hillary. 
  3. A significant fraction of the test was government-funding issues, which it treated as showing whether a candidate would be good for science, ignoring any economic arguments about whether that's the best way to do things. (Or penalizing all market-based arguments, relying on a single study, far outside the graders' expertise, that they treated as authoritative on all economic questions.)
  4. The graders also got extremely, unscientifically doctrinaire on a couple issues: Stein was deemed an ignoramus for having misgivings about nuclear power, whereas apparently there's a total scientific consensus that nuclear is hunky-dory. Who knew? And although Johnson says global warming's a man-made program that needs governmental solutions, he's severely penalized for saying we should be open-minded to various dissenters and that some widely proposed solutions aren't necessarily worth the cost. 

Grading the Presidential Candidates on Science: Scientific American evaluates responses from Clinton, Trump, Johnson and Stein to 20 questions

By Christine Gorman and Ryan F. Mandelbaum in Scientific American


Clinton & Trump are too extreme, reject First Amendment's core rights: political speech, democratic participation

The most important reason to vote the Libertarian presidential ticket the other candidates' hostility to the First Amendment -- positions that are neither extreme liberalism nor extreme conservatism, as we have usually understood those terms, but are all the more extreme for being totally unplugged from liberal or conservative traditions.

As for everything else, a lot of the imperfections of Hillary and Gary are things we've had before in presidents; obviously she's not the first big-gov't economic lefty, nor the first to tactically hatemonger and demonize her fellow-citizens who disagree with her on that. I don't remember how Wilson, FDR, Truman, Johnson & Nixon did that, but Bill & Obama at least sounded like they still valued all Americans and beckoned the misguided back to the fold, while the media happily did the dirtier work for them. They usually singled out legislators & advocacy group leaders as the evil extremists. HRC, on the other hand, pretty clearly indicates that if you're opposing or obstructing anything, then none of your rights or interests matter, you don't matter, and you should just get swept off the chessboard.

But that's not what disqualifies her: it's the hostility to the First Amendment and her vow to amend it. First there's all the attacks on people's right to morally disapprove of, and choose not to participate in, certain actions that their religion has disapproved of for millennia. That's already been going on in the Obama administration and at every level of government. And the campaign finance reform, extending the notion not just to giving money to officeholders and candidates, but against any political speech against candidates, or even about referenda, if the speech costs money or involves banding together in groups, e.g. Citizens United. Which means any speech that's significant & effective enough to make any difference.

The First Amendment is what makes us America. We'll always have differences about where to draw lines in the gray areas around it, but somehow liberalism has turned around 180 degrees from when I was a proudly liberal Democrat in the 70s and 80s, and wants to cut out the heart of the 1st Amendment as it has always been understood from the founding up through the present: political speech and freedom of conscience.

That puts Clinton and Trump way too far out on the un-American extremes to consider voting for them. Johnson and Weld don't have to be perfect, they just have to be not as dangerous as Clinton or Trump. And they are a lot better on this and a great many other issues and measures, though of course not perfect.


Can there be an objective verdict on Hillary's ethics history? We begin at the Travel Office ...

Everything I needed to know about Hillary Clinton* [*until now], I learned in the first year of law school, the first year of Bill's presidency. We didn't have the internet, so we had to remember news events and utterances that were important to us, and we couldn't -- and weren't required to -- whip out a shareable web link to prove everything we said. (Such exercises were reserved for the junior law review editors, miserable creatures who lived in the library seeking citations to back up such statements as "The sun rises in the East".). I didn't have a TV, and newspaper reading varied depending on exam preparation, internship work, etc. I heard a lot but I missed a lot. Like most people who nonetheless think they have a right to express opinions about their government.

Since 1993 or '94 I haven't been much interested in anything purporting to prove Hillary's criminal or corrupt, because I already knew I wouldn't vote for her based on what I "knew" about the Travel Office firings and her "Let them eat cake" moment -- saying she wasn't responsible for "every undercapitalized entrepreneur in America" as a way of shrugging off any concern about her health care proposal's effects on small businesses and jobs. This piled elite nonchalance on top of an ugly tactic I was then observing in bullies everywhere, from brutal, racist cops to university administrators to politicians who would leave a market half-free, half-constrained, and then blame the resulting chaos on the free market. Cuffing a guy's hands behind your back, knocking him down and then laughing at him and belittling him because he can't pull yourself up by his bootstraps, can't hold his pants up, etc. Or saying students, employees or customers needed to be "responsible", but only as a way of disclaiming any responsibility for what you and your institutions do to them.

The Travel Office firing was chilling and clearly very wrong to five or six of its seven employees, but there's a whole history of investigation that shows no crime Hillary could be reasonably prosecuted for, and only ambiguous scraps of evidence that might point to her being flagrantly unethical. And likewise, even a cheat sheet covering a lifetime of possible scandals, by the unsympathetic Washington Examiner, shows nothing really damning. Bottom line, her character is dingy and battered, grungy, and if she has committed crimes herself, the most likely and numerous ones are the administrative/regulatory kind that many respectable people accumulate over a lifetime. But her zeal and anger inspire loyal staff to do cruel and unusual, perhaps criminal, things on her behalf, for reasons ranging from Arkansas patronage, to foiling potential enemies, to transcendent ideology.

Whoever really was responsible for the firings was pretty clearly acting (1) legally and (2) unethically, meanly, nastily, and with utter disdain for ordinary working people and how one's actions affect them. Which fit perfectly with the "undercapitalized entrepreneur"  attitude. The Travel Office staff formally served "at the will of the President" and could be dismissed at any time, so it was totally legal to fire them. But in practice they were non-political career employees, just like the kitchen and housekeeping staff. Five "had no financial authority in the office."

 The director of the travel office, who had worked his way up from the bottom from 1962 to 1982, may have been doing a fine job getting travel arranged for everyone, but he had no use for, nor knowledge of, conventional accounting, and devised his own "country storekeeper" method for collecting advance payments from media businesses sharing the costs of press pool travel, and refunding or collecting any difference afterwards. It sounds like whenever paper records were left over he piled them in a closet. All of that was not necessarily illegal -- this wasn't a business that had to pay taxes, and I don't know what kind of record-keeping the law actually required for that government office, but it reasonably could dovetail with the only criminal charge against any of the travel staff --  embezzlement of $54,000 from refunds and $14,000 from petty cash, using a personal account as the office's petty cash fund. He was tried for that, and acquitted. But the White House can't be blamed for investigating -- it would have been a scandal not to.

But White House had fired the entire seven-person staff at once and meanwhile called in the FBI to investigate the office's finances, announcing both actions to the press at once. On top of the usual effects of being fired, this certainly made it look to any potential future employer, and everyone else they interacted with, as if they had all been fired for some criminal wrongdoing.  All seven later "testified that the accusations by the Clinton White House had ruined them financially by forcing them to incur massive legal bills to clear their names," the LA Times said. And replacing them with the Clintons' associates and cousin, who had been lobbying for the investigation and the positions, made it look as if the Clintons had not only fired, but tried to incriminate and prosecute, ordinary, innocent working people simply to make jobs for their cronies. As if, as Vince Foster wrote in his suicide note, "Ruining people is considered sport." That's probably not a crime, but it's still vile.

But Hillary's actual involvement is not so black-and-white. After all the investigations by Kenneth Starr and his successor, long after I had stopped listening, it sounds like all she had to do is indicate once that she implacably wanted those people gone, and the Clinton's senior staffer did the rest, leaving the Clintons' hands sort of clean. Like with Henry II and St. Thomas à Becket. Well, she also apparently kept reminding aides that she wanted the situation resolved through swift action, but she may not have had to get any more specific than that, at least on paper. The Special Prosecutors' verdict was thatHillary had testified falsely when she said two years later that she had no involvement at all, but that there was insufficient evidence to convict her of knowing or intentional perjury or obstruction of justice. Indeed, it looks like the firing was mostly the doing of staffers who firmly believed from experience that they had to move ruthlessly to not only remove, but discredit and destroy, anyone who stood in the way of what Hillary wanted. As Clinton aide David Watkins wrote,  "We both know that there would be hell to pay [if] we failed to take swift and decisive action in conformity with the First Lady's wishes."

There is a remarkable level of consensus about the known facts of this scandal. Even a site claiming that all Clinton scandals have been debunked has nothing to say about this one except that the firings were legal and the Special Prosecutors found insufficient evidence of perjury or obstruction of justice by Hillary. The White House later issued a self-critical report, apologized to the staffers and found jobs for five of them; the director and one other staffer retired.

Sources:


Hillary rejects Bill's economic policies that made his time prosperous

Willingly or not, Bill Clinton presided over mildly free-market policies and welfare reform. The federal budget grew during his time but shrunk as a share of the economy. Federal deficits were reduced, then eliminated and turned into surpluses. He was enthusiastically for free trade. His very early attempt at an artificial "stimulus" was defeated, with money instead going where it was actually wanted, needed, and productive of things consumers valued and could afford. Hillary is rejecting all of that, as we saw in the first debate,  writes in Reason:

Hillary Clinton Wants the Economy of the 1990s Without Its Policy Agenda:

On budgets, trade, and more, the Democratic nominee rejects Bill Clinton's economic initiatives.