On the Enormities of Kindly Men

A reader with the ever-present name of The Ubiquitous utters this cri de coeur:

During election night, I cheered in irony because if I did not laugh I would not know what to do. The greatness in this sarcastic folly struck me only the following day in conversation with a friend, a God-fearing man who means well — and voted for Mr. Obama.

“But what about abortion? How is that not terrible?”

“It’s just one issue … ”

True to form, I cut him off bitterly, and the weight on my shoulders increased with every word: “It is not an issue. It’s everything. How can it be an issue when the scale boggles the mind? What is it, 45 million in the United States alone, since the ’70s?”

Any man who openly advocates for abortion may seem a nice man, a decent man, who loves his daughters and means well. But these otherwise noble qualities do not redeem a man, but condemn him. It is kinder, in a sense, to Mr. Obama if we demonize him. For the other option is that he is a dupe, willing or unwilling.

The greatest evil is not now done in those sordid “dens of crime” that Dickens loved to paint. It is not done even in concentration camps and labour camps. In those we see its final result. But it is conceived and ordered (moved, seconded, carried, and minuted) in clean, carpeted, warmed and well-lighted offices, by quiet men with white collars and cut fingernails and smooth-shaven cheeks who do not need to raise their voices.

Clean, nice, kind Mr. Obama, with a long solemn face wracked with what might be genuine torment advocates for the clearest, crispest moral evil our country has ever endured and cannot endure for much longer.

It would almost be best if he really were an America-hating devil, a Socialist fifth columnist, a Balrog clothed in nightmare. But instead he is a man who appears, by every indication, to believe he is doing good by doing the very wrongest thing there is in this world.

Evil prevails when good men do nothing, or so goes the adage. This is centrally the tragedy of Mr. Obama: He is not just a good man doing nothing, but a good man doing everything upside down without seeming to notice it, aiding and abetting one of the greatest natural evils the world could possibly know. It is as if a man with a wide, friendly smile began to clean the kitchen by dipping his mop in pus and bile and the droppings of a diabetic.

My comment:

I believe the theory of the Russian Orthodox writer Father Seraphim Rose that there are four stages of corruption in a society once it severs its ties to an explicitly Christian establishment: the first is classical liberalism of the so-called enlightenment, where matters of religion are regarded by worldly men with a benign neglect. Christ is dethroned from the hearts and excluded from the politics of men in order to win a little worldly peace.

While this first stage can endure in perfect health for as long as a Deist-flavored Judeochristian philosophy, ethics, traditions, and worldview can be maintained outside the limited orbit of a very limited government, the temptation to dismiss religion in favor of bourgeois luxuries and materialistic concerns is great, and, in our history, proved to be overwhelming.

The second stage is socialism, which rejects the worldliness and complacency of liberalism, and upholds the zeal of a religious crusade, but a crusade for the sake of the materialistic goal of prosperity and redistribution of wealth and the creation of paradise on earth.

The third is what Father Rose called ‘Vitalism’ which I think is a misleading name for it. He meant the adoration of what Shaw called the ‘Life Force’ but I think in this class we should include both the gentle mysticism of the New Age and the bloodthirsty mysticism of the Nazis. It is a spiritualism that rejects both socialist materialism and monotheism, leaving one with a bland and tasteless soup of pantheism, or some form of divine “Force” or supernal “Energy” which makes no demands and passes no judgments, but which otherwise satisfies some of the psychological needs for God. I would call this stage ‘Mysticism’ or ‘Unitarianism.’

The final stage rejects all theories and faiths whatsoever, deeming them to be ‘narratives’ or rationalizations of the powerful used to oppress the powerless, or to give an illusion of meaning to a meaningless world. This is the default stance and assumption of our modern age. It is the belief that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, that the only truth is that there is no truth, that good and evil are situational and arbitrary, that life is a void or vacuum upon which the Promethean human spirit imposes by fiat any truth upon the void it wills to impose.

The election this week was, among other things, a referendum in favor of the nihilist world view and a vote of no confidence for the classical liberal and Christian world view.

It was a rejection of the idea that reality is real, that debts must be paid, that rules have meaning, the adolescents must one day grow up.

It was a rejection, in other words, of goodness and sanity.

How can a man reject the good and still appear good? How can he maintain kill lists and betray his allies and inflict death and torture on the innocent, and loot and rob the productive and work tirelessly for the ruin his civilization, while at the same time being a charming speaker, a family man, as inoffensive and vacantly smiling as an Eloi from AD 802701?

It is because the primary purpose of nihilism is to disconnect thought from action. It is the attempt to live life without any philosophy of life, without ideals, without metaphysics, without a world view, so that all one’s words and actions spring directly from the will, without any reference to context or meaning or cause or effect.

I will give  a single example of such non-contextual, false-to-facts, divorced-from-reality thinking from my recent life and adventures:

My habit when discussing things with the faithful believers in the modern world, is to define my terms, ask them to define theirs; and then use their term in an example sentence, and, when the pure absurdity of what they are saying is so clear no honest man can deny it, when they deny it, ignore them and say a rosary to St Dymphna, patron saint of lunatics.  

 

My most recent example of this practice was when I had a conversation with a coworker, which I did not offer a single opinion or make any statements of my own, merely asked him to define his terms and to use that definition to reference to real world examples. His statement was that the mainstream press, indeed, all the press and all media, were innately conservative and rightwing. I asked him if the Right generally favored private gun ownership and use of guns in self defense, and if the Left generally favored gun control. He replied in the affirmative. I then asking him to name one story in the national media where private ownership and use of a gun in self defense was reported favorably. He said the coverage by the mainstream press of the Trayvon Martin shooting was such a case.

Unable to believe my ears, I asked him if this coverage was an example of the press applauding, affirming and glorifying the use of a firearm, rather than condemning such use as violence motivated by racial hatred. He said that the coverage and the slant of the stories was rightwing, because the press wanted to help the NRA (National Rifle Association) sell guns.

I asked him if Chris Matthews were a right-winger, and slanted his story coverage to help the Right, or Candy Crowley or Sam Donaldson. I asked him if George Stephanopoulos was a Right-winger, the moderator of THIS WEEK WITHOUT DAVID BRINKLEY; he replied that Mr Stephanopolis’ name reminded him of the name of the muppet on Seseame Street, Mr. Snuffleupagus.

Eventually he said that all figures in the media are right-wingers, because the press and the television networks are owned by the rich, who are, by definition, rightwing. This included all magazines.

I asked him if Hugh Hefner, who owns a publishing empire including gambling casinos, and is therefore rich favored typically leftwing ideas such as legalizing and normalizing pornography and fornication, or favored typically rightwing ideas, such as traditional family values, chastity, and modesty. He said that Hugh Hefner was a man of the right, and supporting rightwing ideas, because he is rich. I said “We’re done here.” And he became irate and accused me of being closed-minded.  

 

Naturally, I vowed never to discuss politics with this lunatic again, if I can help it, but I will say a prayer for him.   

Now, you might think that persons with scientific or literary backgrounds, literate people able to reason clearly and honestly, would be mostly immune from false-to-facts thinking. Not so. Indeed, nearly the opposite is usually the case.

In order to perform the agile mental backflips needed to look straight at a fact and deny its existence, one needs an emotion investment in a theory, a theory so wide and so elegant and flexible,  that it can be used to explain everything and explain away anything that challenges it. One needs a certain intellectual juggling skill to be able to change the subject and blank out inconvenient facts.

Now, speaking as an intellectual, I can assure you that only intellectuals are open to the temptation to disregard facts for love of theory.

This is what happened with my coworker above: According to the theory, all rich magazine owners are Rightwingers who favor the status quo. Hugh Hefner, being a magazine owner, by theory must be right wing. The fact that his prints pornography and was the main standard bearer for the sexual revolution, and the sole source of the normalization of pornography in the modern day, is a fact not to be contemplated.

What happens when an intellectual in love with a theory meets  fact which casts doubt on the theory, he immediately parries reality with a few and tried-and-true psychological sleights of hand, usually an ad hominem attack on whatever person brought the inconvenient fact to this attention.

(As when my coworker declared me ‘closeminded’ for thinking it not worthy anyone’s time to discuss a theory that proves Hugh Hefner to be a rightwinger.)

An easier way to avoid the mental convulsions that occur when reality does not yield to theory is to deny the existence of reality. In this way, any fact can be dismissed as the theory of whichever person brings the inconvenient fact to one’s attention. The fact is now a mere opinion of the messenger, and of no more authority than any other man’s.

Only the messenger’s intentions matter, and then it is a simple thing to ascribe to the messenger a malign intention, or some moral or mental failing, such as racism, or lack of compassion, or lack of openmindedness, or lack of loyalty to the glorious vision of the future, or of clinging bitterly to guns and Bibles.

 

 You see, this is why the abolition of metaphysics is central to the nihilist case and nihilist psychology. Once the link between the will and reality is severed, only intentions matter, for intentions fall within the region of the will, and the results of one’s words and actions either are unrelated or are counterproductive of those intentions.

In this way a man with good intentions can do precisely what will produce the opposite of good, congratulate himself on his goodness, and be unable to discuss or perceive or reason about or even to imagine that he should take responsibility for the evil he does.

Because irresponsibility is at the core of nihilism, its defining characteristic, the nihilist in economics can both claim to be attempting to take wealth from the greedy hence ill-intentioned rich and give it to the victimized hence well-intentioned poor in the name of social justice AND can achieve the direct opposite of its result.

One example of an opposite result is a socialist country which, in the name of abolishing class and hierarchy, eliminates the middle class, creating a vast division between the Nomenklatura , who live in special housing and shop are special markets and generally live well, and their masses of wretched and terrorized slaves, inevitably racial minorities.

Another example of an opposite result is a semisocialist economy where companies “too big to fail” (who make large donations to politicians) urge politicians to enact regulations allegedly for the public good which actually suppress competition. The long run effect is to increase rather than decrease the gap between rich and poor, because under semisocialist regimes, the politicians are dragooned into protecting the wealth of the rich from competition, which relieves them of the need diligently to serve their customers.  Ah, but the reality of what happens in the long run need not be consulted, because, in the words of that grandfather of all nihilist economic policies, and gross irresponsibility disguising itself as intellectualism, John Maynard Keynes, ‘In the long run, we are all dead.’

I should close by pointing out that I am not dead at the time of this writing, but John Maynard Keynes is, but that my whole life I have lived with the cycles stagnation, inflation, and the permanent unemployment rate and slow growth his economic policies put into place. He is dead, and I am living in his long run. 

And yet he also was no doubt a well spoken and genial man, no doubt faithful to his wife, one who never cheated at cards. I am sure the same is true of Rommel, or any number of Nazi generals or Soviet apologists. I have never heard that Walter Duranty ever kicked puppies or ate babies, and yet he used his prestige and talents loyally to act as an apologist for the unthinkable evil of the Stalinist famines, purges, show trials, gulags, and so on.

Once the link between intention and consequences is broken, the conscience is presented with the relatively easy task of merely maintaining one’s self esteem, not of standing in judgment on one’s actions, because actions have no meaning. All moral reasoning merely becomes introspection, and then degrades itself into narcissism, a repeated attempt to self-medicate the woes of life into drugged stupor, and to feels good about oneself.

Metaphysics is the study of axiomatic truths, those truths that must be true under all times, places and conditions. If the despotism of moral relativism successfully abolishes all study of metaphysics from the minds of men, no axiomatic truths will be contemplated nor imagined by the minds of men, and link between the objective fact of right and wrong intentions and the objective fact of intentional or negligent consequences will be severed.

That men will thereafter accomplish ever more destructive and ever more inhuman evils on ever more vast magnitudes in the name of ever more noble-sounding intentions, and be ever more foolish and incompetent as they do so, is the natural, perhaps inevitable, consequence.

About John C Wright

John C. Wright is a practicing philosopher, a retired attorney, newspaperman, and newspaper editor, and a published author of science fiction. Once a Houyhnhnm, he was expelled from the august ranks of purely rational beings when he fell in love; but retains an honorary title.
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38 Responses to On the Enormities of Kindly Men

  1. Sean Michael says:

    Dear Mr. Wright:

    I’m a bit pressed for time, but you wrote a very good essay I agreed with. But the last part repeated what you’ve already said.

    Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

    • Sean Michael says:

      Dear Mr. Wright:

      I agree that merely because Erwin Rommel was a brave and patriotic German and a decent man does not justifiy or excuse how he served so ably a regime as evil and vile as Hitler’s National Socialists. However, would his possible involvement in the “July 20″ plot to overthrow and kill Hitler partially redeem him in your eyes?

      Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

      • It would redeem him in my eyes about as far as Marcus Aurelius is redeemed for having written a book. Your standards are much too lax.

        Evil people do exist, and they do indeed to evil. What does not exist are the utterly evil supervillains of comic books, men with no admirable traits whatsoever. Even Lucifer has some admirable traits. Evil men who were not brave and smart would pose no threat. Evil is a corruption of some good. The greater the good, the greater the corruption. An evil philosopher king is worse than an evil petty tyrant, because the philosopher king is a genius, and is undeterred by setbacks, and is motivated by non-negotiable ideals.

        I don’t need to be told what swell people the enemies of Christ are. I used to be an enemy of Christ. I think I know them well enough to judge their merit, without being overly indulgent.

        • Sean Michael says:

          Dear Mr. Wright:

          I did agree Erwin Rommel’s virtues and abilities and patriotism did not justify him serving a regime as evil as Hitler’s National Socialism. The right thing for him to do after in or shortly after 1933 was to resign his commission in the German army. And even to publicly oppose the evil policies of the Nazis (here I have Clemens von Galen, Bishop of Munster, in mind).

          Btw, as himself a patriotic German, Bishop von Galen repeatedly enraged the Allied Occupation after the war by his open resistance to Allied abuses.

          Sincerely, Sean M. Brooks

        • joeclark77 says:

          One of the problems of our age is gnosticism — the heresy that “who we really are” is defined not by our actions but by our feelings and what we think of ourselves, because we are really souls trapped in evil bodies. According to this way of thinking, we can’t be held responsible for what we actually DO, because “that’s not us”. We see this in the attempts to apologize for what Marcus Aurelius did on the account that he had a beautiful mind (i.e. soul). But we humans are spirits with bodies, what we do is part of who we are.

  2. vanderleun says:

    Keynes: “And yet he also was no doubt a well spoken and genial man, no doubt faithful to his wife, one who never cheated at cards. ”

    Sadly, no. He was a pervert. A pervert twice perverted.

    “Keynes’s early romantic and sexual relationships were almost exclusively with men.[112] At Eton and at Cambridge, Keynes had been prolific in his homosexual activity; significant among these early partners were Dilly Knox and Daniel Macmillan.[13][113] Keynes was open about his homosexual affairs, and between 1901 to 1915, kept separate diaries in which he tabulated his many sexual encounters.”

    Later he climbed into a very strange “marriage:”

    In 1921, Keynes fell “very much in love” with Lydia Lopokova, a well-known Russian ballerina, and one of the stars of Sergei Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes. For the first years of the courtship, Keynes maintained an affair with a younger man, Sebastian Sprott, in tandem with Lopokova, but eventually chose Lopokova exclusively, on marrying her.

    Both citations from the La Wik entry at

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Maynard_Keynes#Personal_life

    • Well, that is good to know. My theory is that nearly every famous intellectual of the modern age is possessed of abnormal sexual appetites, and invented all their rigmarole they call philosophy, all their allegedly deep thought, to invent elaborate justifications to cover their sins and soothe their queasy consciences.

      But did he cheat at cards?

      • paul.griffin says:

        I would agree that most of what passes for philosophy in the modern/post-modern era is merely an attempt to discard and discredit a guilty conscience. It is what we all do on a personal level, writ large. It left the realm of wisdom and descended into the realm of self-justification a long time ago. We repeat the original sin over and over and seek to establish ourselves as the final authority on what is or is not Good and Evil. Some of us think (or would like to think) that if we collectively agree that something is no longer Evil, then our guilt will cease to plague us and our dysfunction will come to an end. We think that if we declare ourselves God, we will no longer be separated from Him. Those of us who truly seek to love wisdom will occasionally be granted the terrible grace to recognize the futility of our position and fall to our knees to beg mercy and salvation from the only One capable of giving us such an undeserved gift.

      • Mary says:

        Have you read Paul Johnson’s Intellectuals? Or E. Michael Jones’s Degenerate Moderns?

      • Maypo says:

        At least from the data your theory appears to be true. I think by extension it is also true of much of popular American “culture” – those folks that want to be thought of as “intellectuals” as well: media “stars”, movie actors that spout off on any particular topic, comedians, et. al.

      • jollyroger says:

        “But did he cheat at cards?”

        Well what is important about card playing is not whether one “cheats” or not, but that the game continue with an ever increasing number of cards. If we want those pots to keep climbing, the dealer needs to throw out more aces and kings and queens so that people playing will feel more comfortable about betting their money.

        Now some will say that this will decrease the worth of anyones ace or king or queen that they are holding on to and have earned through judicious use of calls rather than raising the stakes as the game progresses. Obviously these short sighted individuals do not realize that what is important is that the exchange of pots between individuals allow for growth and that the cards themselves are meaningless. Even the act of burning cards is actually productive because it allows us to produce more cards (we will of course give these newly produced cards to the person of the dealers choosing-especially those who the dealer knows and plays golf with on the weekend).

        Cheating? What a quaint little concept.

  3. vanderleun says:

    Which is, of course, not to say you are not getting a bowdlerized version of the Keynes sex trip.

    Oh and…. “Keynes was a proponent of eugenics. He served as Director of the British Eugenics Society from 1937 to 1944. As late as 1946, shortly before his death, Keynes declared eugenics to be “the most important, significant and, I would add, genuine branch of sociology which exists.”"

  4. Stephen J. says:

    “(As when my coworker declared me ‘closeminded’ for thinking it not worthy anyone’s time to discuss a theory that proves Hugh Hefner to be a rightwinger.)”

    Well, bearing in mind your own observations that the Right can often be divided into three stripes, it occurs to me to wonder if this may simply have been another case of Vizzini-ism (“You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means”).

    There are aspects about Hefner’s interests that could be argued quite persuasively (to me) to be right-wing, if one limits one’s definition of “right-wing” solely to its economic aspects. As the leader of a capitalistic business, Hefner can quite plausibly be supposed to be in favour of lower taxes, lack of government regulation or proscription, freedom of the press from censorship, maximal market penetration (pardon my entendre), and the promotion of consumption, all of which are far more right-wing planks than left-wing ones.

    The problem, of course, is that Hefner’s business in the specific relies on a single overwhelming left-wing plank — widespread social denormalization of traditional sexual standards and propriety — to make his money via all his right-wing planks. Moreover, it would not at all surprise me to find that Hefner favoured all those right-wing planks only when it came to his own preferred market — that he might well be much more in favour of socialist/leftist levels of taxation and regulation when it comes to energy markets, or housing markets, or manufacturing markets, and would be perfectly willing to exploit government connections to ensure the freedom of his own market over the market in general.

    But this is another part of the differing definition: People who dislike “the right” usually define it not as people who favour certain market structures, but as those who a priori tend to exploit whatever market structures exist; they generally dismiss any argument that those who exploit cronyism within capitalism to make money are not real capitalists as No True Scotsman claims. The definition of “the right” is “those who exploited the system to get rich, and want to hide behind the system to stay rich”; the idea that it makes a difference how one gets or stays rich is simply not relevant, nor is the idea that there are legitimate ways to be much wealthier than most of your fellows. (Even our own Church, though it rightly teaches extreme wariness of the drive to accumulate wealth and extreme concern for the souls of those who have it, does not hold that wealth in itself proves sin or can only be got through sinful means.)

    So if what your coworker meant was, “Hefner is right-wing where it profits him to be; he’s more concerned with his bottom line than the state of society, which puts him closer to right than left in my book,” he may have had a point worth defending. If what he meant, on the other hand, was, “Hefner is right-wing because he’s rich and all the rich are right-wing no matter what they do with those riches or say about them,” then yes, further discussion would likely have been unprofitable.

    None of this is to disagree with how one should spend one’s time or deal with others, merely a thought exercise in trying to understanding other perspectives, in so far as they can be understood. (Sinistropsychology, as you have aptly named it.)

    • “There are aspects about Hefner’s interests that could be argued quite persuasively (to me) to be right-wing, if one limits one’s definition of “right-wing” solely to its economic aspects.”

      This was why I asked him first whether he considered support of the traditional family to be rightwing and support of the sexual revolution to be leftwing. Had he merely defined “rightwing” to mean “rich” it would be a mere tautology, and meaningless, to say that every rich man is rightwing.

      It also would be deceptive, considering the enthusiasm with which the rich support various socialist interventions in the economy, for reasons that range from self interest (since regulation discourages competition) to idealism (the wealthy are often sincerely motivated to have the government redistribute other people’s money. They are rich enough to be able to afford false-to-facts ideologies)

      So if what your coworker meant was, “Hefner is right-wing where it profits him to be; he’s more concerned with his bottom line than the state of society, which puts him closer to right than left in my book,” he may have had a point worth defending.

      No, that point is not only not worth defending, it is not worth uttering. The point in that case is merely conspiracy theory thinking, using ritualized phrases to denounce the target’s of one’s envy, phrases divorced from any relationship with reality. It is projection: “right” is defined as “those who place self interest above the common good” which is the same as defining “right” as “evil” and “left” as “good.”

      If this is what my coworker was thinking, I was correct to cut short the conversation. I am not his psychoanalyst, nor his father-confessor.

      • Stephen J. says:

        “No, that point is not only not worth defending, it is not worth uttering. …It is projection: ‘right’ is defined as ‘those who place self interest above the common good’ which is the same as defining ‘right’ as ‘evil’ and ‘left’ as ‘good’.”

        Well, the point as I meant it — which may well have left whatever your coworker had bothered to think of behind long ago, so I apologize — was more along the lines of noting that both right and left contain people who put self-interest above common good; it is merely that the means of that selfishness often differ between factions, or are perceived as being different, at any rate.

        In Rightist capitalism, malevolent self-interest is perceived to take the form of excessive greed for profit and wealth accumulation; in Leftist socialism, it’s perceived to take the form of excessive hunger for power and influence accumulation (the “commodification of power”, as I believe it’s been called on this very blog). The irony, of course, is that it doesn’t much matter whether you accumulate personal wealth in the market to generate political power, or accumulate political power in the bureaucracy to generate personal wealth; the corruption, in process and result, is much the same.

        However, if Hefner’s means of being selfish are seen primarily as via profit from sales of his company’s product, then — given that it is true that a fundamental of capitalism is sales for profit, and that it is true capitalism is far more favoured by the Right than the Left — if you assume that one’s politics are defined as much by one’s practices as by one’s proclaimed positions (a not unreasonable thesis in itself, I think), then it doesn’t surprise me that people would see Hefner as right-wing in practice, whatever his leftist inclinations in principle.

        (And I personally think “principle” is entirely too strong a word. Assuming — wistfully and improbably — that a moral reawakening swept the country, and pornography was once again outlawed, I myself find it very hard to believe Hefner would remain loyal to the “principles” of the Sexual Revolution the moment such loyalty would cost him his wealth or his freedom. I honestly don’t know how “leftist” you can call someone when their ostensible principles strike me as an excuse for the possession of their wealth, rather than something on which they’d spend it all if they had to.)

        But all of this is a level of hairsplitting that is utterly irrelevant to your greater point, so I will apologize once again for wasting more time on hunting the snark of better motivations here.

  5. Great essay.

    Couple thoughts: a few years ago, read an article in the NYT where the reporter was grappling with the claims, based on the latest “Science!” that there is no free will and therefore no morality, and having gotten a bit dizzy, he retreated to saying that he didn’t care all that much how it worked out, he really just wanted was to be able to say that Hitler was a bad man.

    Good luck with that. (also note: Hitler, not Stalin. All *I* really want is to say that *Stalin* was a bad man. That, and the rest of traditional morality.) So this poor creature, faced with the bottomless pit of his theory, attempts to back off a little from the precipice with the notion that *everybody* know Hitler was a bad guy, so we can just define morality – good and bad – by one’s proximity to Hitler. Not Hitler? Not bad!

    Which leads to the second point: while the interwebs have failed me – can’t turn up the picture – once saw a very nice black & white of number of clean scrubbed and happy uniformed younger men and women having a chat out on a deck near a wood. From the picture, you’d guess maybe an ROTC meeting? Or the office staff at a military base taking a break?

    Nope. These happy healthy young people were part of the medical staff at Auschwitz. They spent their days inflicting horrors on helpless victims. And I’d bet they liked dogs and babies, and kissed their spouses good night, maybe even said their prayers, and comforted themselves that they were doing their little part in the great project of Nazism, the success of which would ultimately lead to greater happiness for (almost) everybody!

    So, they are close to Hitler => BAD! We want to be able to say they are monsters, right? But, allowing for difference in costume, they are also close to us – and close to that dazed NYT writer. As Ubiquitous points out, they give every appearance of being Just Like Us.

    The devil is a gentleman.

    • Dystopia Max says:

      I’m trying and failing to find the link to the story that put the lie to Hannah Arendt’s ‘banality of evil’ quote-as it turns out the guys who enacted most of Hitler’s deeds were in fact enthusiastic about their jobs and often liberally inventive about exactly how far they were to go. “Gotta break new ground in torture if we want to advance science/get promoted!” was the attitude.

      Of course once the courtroom setting was draped around them they put on the affect of a just-following-orders bureaucrat. Hey, ever heard of acting school?

      I’m reminded of this blindness when David Petraus, a man who’s no doubt casually ordered men to die an be killed in all sorts of conflicts in far-flung areas both as a four-star general and CIA head, resigns on a Friday afternoon before a major federal holiday, citing an affair with an unnamed party that broke him up so much he had to resign before testifying on Benghazi the next week, and that this of course is just ROUTINE, NOTHING TO DO WITH BENGHAZI, OR MY WIFE’S CURRENT GOVERNMENT JOB, OR THE FORCED RESIGNATION OF THOSE OTHER GENERALS. YEP, I DID A BAD THING AND I’M BROKEN UP ABOUT IT.

      It’s like watching Severus Snape trying to play Cornelius Fudge.

      • Scholar-at-Arms says:

        Mr. Max,
        I take strong issue with your use of the word “casually” there. I have had the chance to work for a number of commissioned officers, both good and not-so-good, and none of the good officers were EVER “casual” about ordering their men to court death for the sake of the mission. General Petraeus was not just good, but one of the very best. He was a military commander and therefore at points did send men to their deaths, but to impute a cavalier attitude on his part to their duty is thoughtless and unseemly.

        • Dystopia Max says:

          The man had imbibed the lifestyle of the Washington set-he marries the daughter of the West Point superintendent, leaves her in charge at home, and goes off to far-flung places to fill slots, try his hand at COIN, and have affairs with ‘historians’ who need their own ghostwriters. Paula Broadwell was likely neither the first nor the last one, and I’m going to take a wild guess that a man who takes his wife for granted is going to take his soldiers and other subordinates for granted, both in operations and in writing field manuals.

          Petraus was better than some generals, but if he had an ounce of integrity or bravery he would have resigned immediately following the White House lying about Benghazi during the campaign. Instead…he protects his pension and his wife’s job after the truth comes out and the election ends Whoop dee frickin’ doo.

          I chose to ETS this year on a premonition that either Obama would win or Romney would win, but not pressure for the reversal of the idiotic Rules of Engagement or the draconian cuts already put in place. The American military is dying and led by Petraus/careerist types at best, incompetents/gangsters at worst. Better to train competent local militias in your free time than lose your edge as a time-server on the Titanic. Resign and find a private employment/skillset if you haven’t already, that pension ain’t worth it.

    • Mary says:

      I wonder what he would make of John Rabe.

      Great hero of the 20th century, a businessman, one of the tiny handful of whites who stayed in Nanking while the Japanese approached. Unquestionably saved thousands of lives there.

      Did I mention he was a Nazi?

    • Tom Simon says:

      ‘The Devil is a gentleman, and doesn’t keep his word.’ —G. K. Chesterton, ‘The Aristocrat’

  6. vanderleun says:

    The photo album you’re thinking of is probably at:

    “In the Shadow of Horror, SS Guardians Frolic”

    http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/19/arts/design/19photo.html?_r=0

  7. vanderleun says:

    A slide show of the album, narrated, is at:

    http://www.nytimes.com/packages/html/arts/20070919_ALBUM_FEATURE/

    And an 8 minute documentary on the album with commentary is found at youtube at the link

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=USqiV7phxjc&feature=player_embedded#!

    Finally, the entire album can be viewed at

    Auschwitz through the lens of the SS: Photos of Nazi leadership at the camp

    http://www.ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/online/ssalbum/auschwitz_album/

    And that’s it for this little trip down humanity’s memory lane.

  8. I think you are a little harsh on the poor Americans who voted for nihilism. The election was incredibly close. I think it is safe to say that a large percentage of those who voted for Obama did not do so for the dire reasons you cite, but because they felt fuzzy about letting the Rich pay more, or because they were nervous that Romney would outsource jobs, or because they have never spent a single moment meditating on the dire horror that is abortion at its core, and think of it as a purely medical procedure, or for any one of other reasons that all boil down to they did not see reality as it was.

    The fact that IMMEDIATELY after Obama’s election the stock market plummeted (as with his first election) will probably not convince any of my friends on the left that, just perhaps, their economic theories were mistaken, since Wall Street strongly disagrees.

    • Mary says:

      300% of their income, no doubt. That’s the lowest possible percentage of the rich’s income that would fund the Leviathan. (Depends on your precise definition of rich.)

    • paul.griffin says:

      Two things I would note here:

      1. Most people (or at least a majority of voters) consider Wall Street to be the enemy. If you had told them that electing Obama would cause a crash in Wall Street, this would be nothing but an incentive.

      2. I think the “harshness” which you allege is due to the fact that our country voted for nihilism and irresponsibility in the face of the effects four years of its more or less naked reign in the hands of a starkly incompetent leader. We can point to the economy, the rape and murder of American ambassadors, the rise to power, with our blessing, of enemies who publicly declare their solemn intention to kill us all, the invasion and overtaking of huge swaths of our private sector, the out-of-control spending, et al, and none of it matters to most of our country. They would rather fornicate and vote themselves gifts from the public treasury line of credit.

      None of this is new. I am not surprised by any of it, mostly because I recognize all of these tendencies writ small in myself. But it makes me angry and mournful nonetheless.

      • vanderleun says:

        Those fools are, alas, going to need something up close and personal to wake them up. As ee cummings had it in a different (but no too different) context:

        you
        told him:i told
        him;we told him
        (he didn’t believe it,no

        sir)it took
        a nipponized bit of
        the old sixth

        avenue
        el;in the top of his head:to tell

        him

    • Rob Corrigan says:

      It’s funny, when Obama was elected and his first big bill was to borrow a trillion dollars and use chunks of it to reward his supporters and label it stimulus, my thoughts were that we should just let it all happen, let the left build their utopia; and when it inevitably came crashing down, enough of the country would come to their senses. Misery would sharpen people’s minds. I mean, even in France, where they were dumb enough to elect a socialist, they realized he was driving them into a depression, and now you have the truly odd spectacle of a French socialist cutting corporate taxes. So, I figured, let them do what they’re going to do and eventually people would come to their senses. Now, I’m not so sure, we may be too far gone, and instead of reacting to the failure and widespread misery of these policies by turning away from them, we may just descend into discreet demographic groups fighting over the scraps of a shrinking pie.

  9. fabulous_mrs_f says:

    Do you recall, Mr. Wright, when you asked that women give up the vote for the good of the country? I fear you were right. I find myself mortified at the foolishness, vanity, and shallowness of my sex, as demonstrated within the election results.

    • Ah, but too many of my sex voted for the end of the Republic also, in the name of Big Bird. However, I don’t believe anyone of either sex could honestly be fooled by calling trampling on the faces of the Catholics in the name of having us pay for the fornications of the moochers was a “war on women.” My faith in mankind has been lowered to a more realistic level.

      I suggest we hang on for ten more years, and wait for the culture of death to abort and contracept and homosex itself into oblivion. The worshipers at the shrine of Darwin have embraced what their own code calls non-viable, actions not calculated to carry on the bloodline.

      We need to kill the mainstream media, too, and break the teacher’s unions and privatize all schooling, or else the sterility cult will pass along its values to our children, via indoctrination.

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