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Practical politics

How many can play the game?

In an email discussion with Larry Auster (reproduced toward the end of this entry at his weblog) I suggested that our rulers would always give way to the group that combines maximum ability to disrupt with a colorable claim to leftish legitimacy, simply because things are easier that way. That’s the basis of European pre-emptive dhimmitude, and it’s why university administrators have often thanked black students for their efforts when they’ve taken over their offices.

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Did Sandy Berger blow up the WTC?

I hadn’t paid much attention to 9/11 conspiracy theories, even though I’m somewhat fond of conspiracy theories as a literary form, but a couple of friends were interested in them and they’ve popped up on usually-respectable websites, so when one traddish Catholic friend asked me my opinion I put together a couple of longish responses. For whatever they’re worth, here they are, in somewhat edited form:

I. I’m boringly mainstream in my views on 9/11, mostly on general grounds. Some thoughts:

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    Speaking truth to power can work!

    Every now and then there’s a social-science result that seems illuminating. Here’s one from the ’50s: Opinions and Social Pressure. It’s often very hard to buck social consensus when it’s uniform, but even a little moral support can go a long way. All the more reason for us all to blog!

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    Another blast from the past

    Here’s another pre-9/11 goldie oldie, this one from the well-placed and highly-regarded Anthony Lewis, in the March 12, 1993 New York Times:

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    It helps to be into theatre

    When I passed through the Houston airport recently they kept threatening over the PA system to arrest anyone who made jokes about airport security. Since that’s where we are, it’s hard to believe many people will take complaints from the airport imams seriously. The Muslims still seem rather ham-handed manipulating public views.

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    What's it all about?

    The Left (which in most important respects includes liberals and “moderates”) thinks about things technologically. Leftists may talk about the evils of logocentric thinking or whatnot, but that sort of thing answers no questions, and when something actually has to be decided scientism cuts in. As a result, all principles that matter have to be universal, wholly public, clearly defined, and designed for implementation through a definite system of command and control.

    Once that point is understood, others fall into place:

    • The Left considers personal morality private and subjective. It’s improper to comment on it or suggest that one version is better than another. That would cause bad feelings, and more importantly it would distract attention from social justice, which is now understood as absolute morality. Such views do make sense if the only rational way of organizing social life is through formal public systems of control and command run on universal demonstrable principles.
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    New poll

    There’s a new poll over on the right, designed to test your knowledge of literary history.

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    Poll on Mexican immigation

    I’ve brought back a poll on immigration from Mexico and it’s now over on the right. I had it up for quite a while and a lot of people looked at it but very few voted. Of those that voted most thought the invasion from the South would continue pretty much unchanged. Have recent events changed any minds? Have they at least made any opinions more definite? Do vote and comment!

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    Can a Catholic oppose mass immigration?

    Here’s an edited version of a usenet discussion I had on immigration in a Catholic newsgroup:

    Ille: In the US the government is discussing new rules on how to keep THEM out of the US.

    Ego: What’s with the “THEM”? Disagreement on immigration does not mean stupidity and malice.

    Ille: The THEM is any group that is not ourselves. They can be from Bangla Desh or they can be from New Orleans.

    Ego: Do you think there’s something wrong with distinguishing “us” from “them,” and looking after our interests more than theirs? To my mind it’s the same issue as private property. In some grand sense everybody’s responsible for everything, but to have a system that works you have to divide things up so that individuals and groups have something definite to look after.

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    Making nice is not statesmanship

    I’d been out of internet contact for 10 days or so and hadn’t seen the cartoons that supposedly gave rise to all the delayed Muslim outrage. When I did I was startled by how mild they were. A few of them seemed likely to offend: one that made the Islamic crescent look like horns on Mohammed’s head, and a couple that depicted the prophet as violent and oppressive.

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    Limits on free speech in England

    For those who want to keep tabs on where things stand, here’s a video (22 min.

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    Where are we

    In France, an MP is fined and denounced vehemently for criticizing homosexuality, and the Culture Minister wants him kicked out of the party. In this country we mostly don’t fine people for saying the wrong thing, we just re-educate them or put them in therapy.

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    The abolition of Europe continues

    I thought I’d post a couple of comments I made at Brussels Journal about the slow-motion war being carried out by European elites against their own societies and people. The first is more or less self-explanatory:

    Just a minor rant on “multiculturalism”:

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    Democracy in America

    What does it mean that the leader of the Senate Democrats plans to oppose John Roberts because of insufficient demonstrated commitment to “Democrats’ core causes, racial and gender equality”?

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    The Best Campaign-Finance Reform Money Can Buy

    Just recently I learned the term “astroturf,” an operative’s expression for a fake grass-roots movement, so I suppose I’m lucky to run so quickly into an example. It seems that in an unguarded speech last week a former employee of the Pew Charitable Trusts boasted that the “popular concern” that helped induce Congress to pass McCain-Feingold was in fact astroturf he had laid down with the help of $40 million of Pew’s money.

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    Thoughts on the bizarre power of weblogs

    Have emperors always gone about in their new birthday suits? Maybe there are always contradictions between obvious realities and the official stories everybody reputable agrees to. Or maybe there’s something about an expertised formally educated mass-media society, in which something can only become a fact or issue if the right people recognize it as such, that’s very like an imperial court.

    However that may be, today we see around us, pushed on us by our instructors and leaders,

    • Democracy in which the people rule as long as they make the right decisions.
    • Free and unfettered debate as long as you don’t say the wrong thing.
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    Notes on a history's end

    Martin Peretz notes in his publication The New Republic that liberalism is “bookless and dying.” He’s right, of course. A political movement with no guides in sight other than consultants, careerists and cranks isn’t going to go anywhere. The problem is that the lack of thought and vision isn’t peculiar to the Left. Kerry didn’t have much to say that made sense but neither does Bush. Open borders, world empire, endless deficits and America as a religion don’t seem that great a program to me. They look more like the manic phase of some bipolar disorder.

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    I hope this grows

    This does seem encouraging, although there’s a long way to go. One of the ‘ulema is putting it on the line and debating imprisoned radicals as to the Islamic correctness of their understanding of jihad:

    “If you can convince us that your ideas are justified by the Koran, then we will join you in your struggle … But if we succeed in convincing you of our ideas, then you must agree to renounce violence.”

    He seems to be making a great deal of headway.

    The usual line is that “Islam needs a Reformation.” Taken literally that doesn’t make much sense, since it seems Islam has already had a Reformation—it’s shucked off centuries of man-made traditions and cultural accommodations in favor of direct appeal to the words of scripture—and the result has been Islamic radicalism. What’s really meant, of course, is that Islam, like the whole of respectable Christianity, has to recognize modernity and liberalism as the public truth of things, and understand itself as a subordinate private pursuit. Like everything else, it has to submit to the Enlightenment. More concretely, the fact that some Wahhabi engineering students murdered 3,000 people 3 miles from where I’m sitting is taken to mean that both the Muslims and I have to convert to the faith preached by The New York Times. That’s the sole road to world peace in a multicultural world.

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    Since thought is out people use short-cuts

    Has public discussion come to an end? Bush and his supporters want to transform the world by force to eliminate tyranny and establish freedom and democracy everywhere. The transformation of the world is to parallel the accelerated tranformation of the United States through effectively open borders. It’s not clear why any of that makes sense, but Bush isn’t interested in discussing the matter and calls you a racist if you raise questions.

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    More on Buttiglione

    The outlook of one of the Pope’s closest friends and advisers is of interest, so a little more about Rocco Buttiglione’s views, as set forth at Zenit and in a speech he gave at a conference, seems in order. So far as I can tell, the basis of his position is that modernity and in particular liberalism can be wholly accepted consistent with Catholic orthodoxy (one might call it a Catholic “neocon” position). In particular, he apparently believes that:

    • Particular culture is unnecessary for social order, at least its formal public aspects, which can apparently be founded on reason alone: “multiculturalism is all right if grounded on the natural law, where we all have rights and duties.”
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