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Every spring has its fall ...

Larry Auster notes an odd unexplained shift in the New York Times coverage of the "Arab Spring" and its aftermath: it used to be unproblematically good, because Arabs of course can't be distinguished from Eastern Europeans, whereas now it's suddenly an issue, because the Arabs of course mostly support Islamic politics.

I don't know whether I'd call that Orwellian or blinkered and braindead. I'd agree the effect is similar. It seems that the Times has been persistently and somewhat mindlessly optimistic as to likely developments and the people involved. That leads to distortion and incoherence when they report events, all in defense of a dominant political tendency and its ideology, and that's the sort of thing Orwell wrote about.

What I'd say though is that they are acting like secular journalists who are Conscious Of Their Responsibility. People in that position have to make instant sense of every possible event among every kind of people everywhere in the world, otherwise they couldn't put out the morning edition, and they have to do so in a way that gives practical guidance to decisionmakers.

To do that they need a story line that applies automatically to everything. Once they have the story line they're going to resist changing it, because then their world would fall into chaos, and this world during their lifetime is all that exists for them. In addition, they'd be unable to perform their function of providing a usable account of events for officials, concerned citizens, people who want to be part of what's happening, etc.

The story line is that contemporary liberalism, which is the view with which the Times identifies itself and which motivates and justifies the dominant tendencies in present-day government and intellectual life, fully embodies what's right and just and fulfilling. That makes it the natural way to look at things. It's all quite obvious, so in general everybody's going to settle into it as the way to go. Anything else would be weird, and you shouldn't assume weirdness, so events should be interpreted as part of that process.

Views like Islam are also attempts to realize what's right and just and fulfilling. It follows that their most intelligent, insightful, disinterested, and committed adherents are going to realize that their tradition is really just a particular way of approximating contemporary liberalism so there's no conflict. Ditto for the masses of Muslims. They can't have a special ideological ax to grind, because they're the masses and ideology is something for special interests, so they're just trying to pursue in their own way the normal human goals fully realized in liberalism. There's no way to keep the fundamental identity between Islam and liberalism a secret, since we have TV etc. now, so in the coming years people are going to realize it more and more.

Responsible journalists should do what they can to forward the process. They should encourage change, since change is generally for the better, be open to Muslims and Muslim views, since at bottom we all end up in the same place and openness makes the progression easier, and above all fight prejudice and misunderstanding, the view that the Other is Other in the extraordinarily radical sense that he's not at bottom a contemporary liberal. Because if that were so he wouldn't be a human being at all, since contemporary liberalism is the true and perfect and obvious expression of humanity. That would be crazy and irrational. It's the sort of thing Republicans and conservative Christians believe. It would mean that Auschwitz or something like it is a good idea. Why would any sane and well-intentioned human being think the Times should push such a view?

Comments

This is the kind of thing you do very well!

Another thing I would add is that this kind of mind probably feels that the Arab revolutions *would have* worked out well, except that they were (in some way, perhaps not yet explicitly articulated in the NYT - but soon to be) that the process was hijacked or diverted by the forces of Western reaction.

I'm thinking here of one of the early examples of this kind of revisionism, the Spanish Civil War, seen from a perspective like Chomsky (which used to be on the extreme Left of public discourse but has now moved to the center).

Chomsky regarded the anarchist elements of the Spanish Civil War as being (for a few days or weeks perhaps) the nearest approach ever actually in existence of the kind of polity he hopes for. Of course the war led to massive slaughter on both sides, horrific atrocities on both sides and Franco.

But revolutionary Leftism was innocent.

I've lived in the belly of the beast most of my life, and I'm a lawyer, so I know the point of view and how to turn it into principles.

As to future interpretations: it should be pretty clear that if the Brits hadn't interfered in Egypt and the Americans hadn't supported the Mubarak regime authentic local democratic forces would have had a much freer field to develop. And as to the present situation, democracy and pluralism haven't been perfectly realized anywhere. Norway has Breivik, the Brits have the BNP and English Defense League, and the Americans have Republicans and Christian fundies, so it's not surprising that the Arabs have their own local equivalents to contend with. Don't give up hope though. It's all a process. The fact Iran turned out as it did doesn't mean we should have kept supporting the Shah. There's always a new generation coming up and if you're progressive you have faith in the future.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.

One big problem relates to democracy.

It is proving impossible for Westerners to regard democracy as merely a means to an end - and instead they regard whatever-outcome-democracy-leads-to as intrinsically superior to whatever-outcome-non-democratic-systems lead to.

Furthermore, they regard it as inevitable that all other types of regime will - sooner or later - collapse and become democracies. So there is little point in supporting anything else than democracy, because 'history is against you'. The attitude is that other modes of government might as well get on with it, get-through the teething stage, and become democracies...

I certainly used to believe that.

What is *very* hard for Westerners to recognize are the twin facts (I think they are facts) that other types of regime than democracy may be legitimate (and indeed that democracy almost-cannot be legitimate - or rather its legitimacy is of a kind that the modern liberal does not recognize - if he is honest) - and secondly that democracy has changed.

Even if democracy was at some point legitimate, even if it was at some point the best type of government; democracy is fundamentally different now that leftist governments have discovered how to create mass dependency (through 'welfare' of various types, subsidies, tax exemptions, regulations and laws etc) and couple this with manipulating voter composition by mass immigration and (in most of the world) the much greater fertility of dependent client groups than productive citizens.

Of course, this is accepted because it benefits the left: the political landscape moves continually leftward as the mass of state dependent expands to become a majority, and the appearance of democracy is maintained by periodic voting competitions between the ever-more-left-left and the ever-more-left-right.

But, under this kind of 'advanced' democracy, the right cannot ever win an election on a rightist platform because this would entail removing vast numbers of 'benefits' from vast numbers of state dependents.

So I do not believe that democracy can solve the problem of progressive decline to utter collapse.

The use of repeated cycles of blatantly inflationary 'money printing' to continue staving-off economic recession, for ever shorter periods, at the cost of increasing the size of the collapse when it eventually arrives - is typical of governments that lack power to impose effective economic policies. Of course, a period of recession, with reduced standard of living, is inevitable, necessary and desirable - but democratic governments of the kind we have now are simply unable to impose long-termist policies when these have immediate and detrimental effects of the mass majority of state-dependent clients; they would be voted out by rivals who quite simply and easily asset-strip the (small and shrinking) minority of productive people to maintain the lifestyle of the majority of economic dependents.

The only solutions I can imagine which might break free from this race to the bottom would be a non-materialist mass religious revival that transcended politics (another Great Awakening) - or the collapse of democracy and take-over by some 'authoritarian' group. One or another will eventually happen - the only question is when.

In the recent - deeply shocking - English riots I had a sense of public yearning for some kind of effective authority to by-pass the pitiful, neglectful authorities. This yearning could only achieve acceptable public expression when these efforts came from non-white immigrant groups - but the sense of hunger for a 'common sense' response to this shocking attack on peace and prosperity was palpable.

I don't see any major change as imminent at the moment, but the riots revealed that the self-destroying tendency of leftism is much more advanced than most people had realized (I hadn't supposed British police would stand by and watch arson and looting), and that trend to enfeeblement has continued unabated since the riots revealed it - so at some point it is inevitable that the current central authority will become weaker than various possible local forms of authority around England - and will be *tested* by these local forms of authority. Having seen the uncontrollability of the London riots, I would not be surprised if such 'tests' were imminent.

The current view is that there are no intrinsic meanings or natural goals, it's all just will. That being so, there's no real basis for government, since all wills are equally wills. An attempt to restrain and order that situation by law is just another exercise of will, no different in kind than the will of a looter. Hence, at bottom, the inaction of the British police

What do you do in that situation? The only way to get people to go along with what responsible officials think is best is to pay bribes, and tell people that officials are their agents, so they're just carrying out their will.

You obviously need both arguments working together, so you need both democracy (or its appearance) and fiscal irresponsibility. This can't last forever, but nothing else is conceivable, because basic government policy is required by the current naturalistic metaphysics.

Rem tene, verba sequentur.