A Comment on Political Activism in Fairy Stories

A reader with the rural yet ovine name of Pastor asks:

Cannot politics and religion and philosophy be elements of a story without that story being reduced to propaganda?

My comment:

I can speak for no other writer. In my stories political matters can crop up as elements of the plot or character development or mood or theme or background without there being an ulterior desire on my part to persuade my readers to join my political party.

I believe that in THE HERMETIC MILLENNIA your humble author describes quite a number of political and social arrangements quite unlike the free-market federalist Constitutional democratic-republicanism I personally favor, but with no purpose on my part to urge the reader to become a federalist rather than a warrior-aristocrat of the Emergency Eugenic Command, witch, iatrocrat, Simplifier, or drugged subject of the Conscript Mothers of the Natural Order of Man. I dismiss any critic who believes I portrayed these polities unsympathetically. Each was clearly shown to have advantages and drawbacks.

But I am a Christian, hence I regard God as the ultimate floor of reality, the one necessary being from which all contingent beings flow. If I am a faithful Christian, this one ultimate reality influences all lesser realities, and there is no neutral ground. Even something as lighthearted as a fight scene, I must decide if the characters act like pagan warriors or chivalrous knights, that is, with the romance of Christendom. Even a love scene must show love to be romantic, as a Christian sees love, or as situation of shameful weakness, erotic madness, or mutual exploitation, as various pagan and secular worldviews see love.

The Leftist for whom politics is the ultimate floor of being is an idolater, and makes power arrangements his personal little crappy god. It influences everything in his thought and life, and if left unchecked will eventually ruin his writing.

The Leftist who is a faithful Leftist only on their sabbath days, and otherwise ignores the business (and that would be the majority of Leftists) can write a perfectly passable story about space pirates kidnapping space princesses without any hint of politics, to the satisfaction of all involved. He will write his love scenes with romance and his fight scenes with chivalry without noticing or caring about the origin of these Christian cultural artifacts. He will not think of them as particularly Christian, merely as part of the moral atmosphere and cultural background of his society. He will not notice the incongruity between his art and his philosophy.

46 Comments

  1. Comment by Pastor:

    Sir,

    with you so far, I think, but another question comes to mind. Granted that your stories portray various political theories or philosophies sympathetically – that is, you use your imagination to depict even objectionable ideas from the inside, as they would appear to a man who subscribes to them – are you not nevertheless constrained, for honesty’s sake, to undermine them in the end? If the grim dualism of your Viking hero triumphs in the end, does your sense of artistic integrity compel you to intimate that his victory is actually a bit forlorn? In that sense, even if the story is not pedantic, in the sense of being written with the express end of dissuading impressionable young people from seeking glorious obliteration on the field of battle, it would still tend (I imagine) to have that effect. Is a thoughtful author with a coherent point of view, therefore, necessarily a kind of soft propagandist?

    Oh, and incidentally, “rural yet ovine”? Why the adversative?

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      “are you not nevertheless constrained, for honesty’s sake, to undermine them in the end?”

      No.

      Back when I was an atheist, I can think of at least three scenes where I portrayed the Christian worldview so convincingly and so sympathetically, that at least one editor thought I was a Christian. I did it for the sake of the story, for the sake of art, out of loyalty to the muse. Yet at the time I thought the Christian worldview false and pernicious.

      Ergo, were I motivated by an non-diegetic honesty, (that means an honesty belonging to this world rather than belonging to the make believe world)I would have marred or ruined those scenes to make the Christian worldview seem untrue or worthless.

      I am not the teacher, father or father confessor of the reader, but their servant. The unspoken bargain I have with them is that they will willingly put themselves under my spell, and I will show them visions of wonder. My job is not to instruct, and any attempt to instruct mars the make believe.

      While I suppose it is possible for a grim pagan to be so inspired by some imaginary pagan I invent as to be stirred to burn more churches than otherwise he might, all I can say it that readers who cannot distinguish reality from make believe deserve what they get.

      “If the grim dualism of your Viking hero triumphs in the end, does your sense of artistic integrity compel you to intimate that his victory is actually a bit forlorn?”

      I am not sure what you mean by dualism. Perhaps you mean fatalism? Viking victories are forlorn, and this is something they know from inside the world view, so perhaps this is not a good example of your question.

      “In that sense, even if the story is not pedantic, in the sense of being written with the express end of dissuading impressionable young people from seeking glorious obliteration on the field of battle, it would still tend (I imagine) to have that effect.”

      One hopes one’s readers read more than one story with more the one point of view, then. The tendency you mention can exist only if all the boy’s reading encourages the same ideas.

      “Is a thoughtful author with a coherent point of view, therefore, necessarily a kind of soft propagandist?”

      If by ‘a soft propagandist’, you mean someone who allows you to understand your enemy by putting you imaginatively and sympathetically in his shoes, yes, however this is the direct opposite of the ordinary meaning of the word propaganda.

      Sympathy is a species of love, which is a species of truth, which is the mere opposite of propaganda.

      The point of art is to make the heart large and deep; the point of propaganda is to make the heart dry and narrow, unable to sympathize with (and eventually unable to imagine even as a hypothetical) any viewpoint aside from the Politically Correct view of Big Brother.

      • Comment by Pastor:

        A few clarifications seem to be in order.

        1. I use the phrase “soft propaganda” to indicate narratives that advance a particular point of view (one might say, “propagate it”) without that viewpoint becoming so blatant that it breaks the imaginative spell and becomes a sermon. Hence the qualifier. So, Lewis in the Narnia stories makes Christianity appear winsome and splendid, but that agenda does not overpower the story he wants to tell, probably because it is not simply that agenda that motivated his creativity in the first place. Yet that agenda (perhaps a better word would be presupposition) still seems important – it would feel wrong or false, to me at least, for Lewis to turn around and write a story in which the Calormenes defeat the Northern kingdoms and return happily to their blood-soaked temples to enjoy the fruits of victory.

        Now, you seem to disagree (at least in principle – there may be other reasons why Lewis making such a change would be a bad idea), writing “my job is not to instruct”. Which may as be, but don’t all stories instruct in some fashion, whether you wish them to or not? Even unconventional or experimental literatures make implicit claims about the relationship of words and things; more traditional stories apply all kinds of unspoken standards about the nature of virtue and vice, what constitutes a satisfactory resolution… Now I would distinguish between stories that make such claims hamfistedly and those that manage it with appropriate deftness, but I don’t see how you can escape entirely.

        2. I think that dualism is the word I wanted, in the sense of believing good and evil to be ontologically equal. The gods fight the giants, but they didn’t create them. Neither principle can claim universality, which makes the victory of one side over the other hollow in a way that you don’t see in, say, Tasso or the Arthurian cycle.

        Vikings are also fatalistic, as you note – they know that their mead-halls will inevitably burn. But that sobriety is tempered by frenzied delight in the good things of the world: strong drink, bright steel, alluring company. As a Christian I can see not only what they see – that life is brief – but also what they can’t, that their struggles are futility and folly. The Vikings obviously feel differently. Perhaps “forlorn” was a poor choice of words, but what I am trying to get at is the asymmetry between the character who does what he does because *reasons*, and the author who, given his own presuppositions, finds that reasoning deficient. Is it your contention that an author’s creativity, sympathy or what have you renders his own views irrelevant?

        • Comment by Mary:

          “As a Christian I can see not only what they see – that life is brief – but also what they can’t, that their struggles are futility and folly.”

          Eh, I think at least some of the time they see that it’s a brave flare of light before the dark, and so futility — remember the story in Bede of how Christianity came to England, and the wise man’s description of life — but face it down.

          Poul Anderson could hit this note off well.

        • Comment by Mary:

          Reality is such that if you treat a problem realistically enough to avoid hard propaganda, readers will read what they want into it — especially those who most need to learn the opposite.

          I read myself a book about movies in which the author was incapable of describing a war movie as anything but an anti-war movie. He’d cite the dead bodies and the injured, and declare — anti-war!

          • Comment by Pastor:

            Signor(in)a,

            I am not prepared to assert dogmatically that no Viking ever suffered existential doubt about what it all means. But I note that, taking the culture as whole, they were far more likely go off and sack Ireland than sit about in turtlenecks writing angsty poetry. Like most of us, they acted like their lifestyle was worth doing, irrespective of its philosophical coherence.

            In your view, is there no “right interpretation” of a well-done narrative? In other words, is the choice between bald propaganda and a “realistic” treatment that entirely obscures the author’s view? Isn’t it simpler to suppose that “realistic” (i.e. well-done, true-to-life) stories contain something of the author’s idea of reality?

        • Comment by John C Wright:


          Which may as be, but don’t all stories instruct in some fashion, whether you wish them to or not?

          If all stories instruct ‘in some fashion whether you wish them to or not’ then there is no need because there is no possibility of your humble author either deliberately injecting nor deliberately rejecting political messages in his stories, because you have defined the term so that all stories are members of the set.

          By this same token, because everything I say and do reflects and springs ultimate from my worldview, philosophy and viewpoint, not just stories but all communication whatsoever, including asking my wife to pass the pepper at luncheon, instructs and propogandizes my viewpoint in some fashion whether I wish it or not.

          I humbly suggest a much less confusing (and, to be blunt, a more honest) terminology might be to call stories which attempt to persuade to reader to favor a particular political viewpoint ‘propaganda’ or ‘lectures’ or ‘message stories’ and call those that do not ‘stories’ or ‘entertainment.’

          • Comment by Pastor:

            I suppose that would follow if “in some fashion” meant “always in the same fashion and to a similar degree”. As it is, some kinds of communication are clearly less directly freighted with an ideological agenda than others. “Please pass the pepper, Dear” asserts certain things about the world (socio-sexual norms, a distinction between subject and object, culinary culture) but its relationship to any articulated political or philosophical system is very indirect; to posit a strong connection between the two would clearly be interpretive violence.

            On the other hand, in the context of a story in which you design and represent cultures and philosophies, those concerns seem a lot less tangential. You said before that your job was to produce wonder. Doesn’t that task presuppose a distinction between things that are wonderful and things that are repellent? It would be irrational to ask your wife for pepper if you didn’t have a wife or didn’t think that pepper was a real thing. Does it make any more sense to write a tale that lionizes vice?

            • Comment by John C Wright:

              I don’t understand the question. What point are you trying to make, or to ask about, again, exactly?

              If your point is that everything is political, this is wrong, for the reasons we’ve covered. If your point is that you think I am saying nothing is political, this misunderstands my position.

              If you want to say that there is some messages in fiction, that is correct, in the same way there are some carrots in the stew. Too many carrots, and it becomes carrot soup, and not stew. Too much message renders the story unreadable aside from the choir of partisans of your own political opinion. ATLAS SHRUGGED and STARSHIP TROOPER and AMBER SPYGLASS are carrot soup: no one not a partisan of Capitalism, or Militarism, or Atheism can read such books with pleasure. Narnia books are stew thick with carrots, and can be read by non-Christians with pleasure. Lord of the Rings or Shadow of the Torturer or Paradise Lost are stew, and non-Christians might not even notice the Christian elements for the savior of the meat and onions and other elements in the broth.

              If you want to say some stories contain bad messages, that is also true. If you want to say that an author by his very nature portrays the world in the way he sees it or would like it to be or fears it might be, that is also true. If you call that a message, you are misusing the word message.

              If you want to say that all stories contain a message, that statement is true if and only if we misused the word ‘message’ to include both message stories and art-for-arts-sake stories, and the word is robbed of meaning: some stories, including ones I myself have written (Awake in the Night, for example) had no ulterior moral, point, or message and do not even reflect my own worldview (Null-A Continuum, Guyal the Curator, Last of All Suns). Other stories, including some I have written, have heavy-handed messages (Mists of Everness, for example) and still others have relatively light-handed messages (The Golden Age) or none (Orphans of Chaos).

              If you think authors have a duty to instruct their readers, I say only authors wiser than their readers can fulfill this duty, and that does not include yours truly.

              This conversation is meandering and slow because you have not yet defined your terms. Until you define your terms, you cannot ask a precise question.

              • Comment by Pastor:

                I have not defined my terms, such as they are, because I am trying to understand yours. Is your distinction between “message stories” and “art-for-arts-sake stories” merely a question of how many carrots are in the stew? I had supposed from the decisive tone of your previous answers that you imagined the two to be basically autonomous realms, rather than existing, as I would tend to think, on a continuum.

                If the latter is indeed your view, then I think we mostly agree, at least on this point.

                • Comment by John C Wright:

                  Is your distinction between “message stories” and “art-for-arts-sake stories” merely a question of how many carrots are in the stew?

                  No, of course not. Each work of art is crafted to perform specific purposes, and something as complex as a sonnet or a novel can serve more than one at once. Propaganda is clearly one purposes among many a work of art can serve. Like putting a nose on the face of a statue of Venus, any wrong proportion, too much emphasis, sticking too far into other people’s business, can make the nose of Venus unappealing indeed, and ruin the whole statue.

                  I had supposed from the decisive tone of your previous answers that you imagined the two to be basically autonomous realms, rather than existing, as I would tend to think, on a continuum.

                  Rather than making suppositions about what I think, or attempting to imagine my tone from the mute witness of the written word, things would be more clear if you asked me a question on the topic.

                  As for my tone of voice, let me see if I can embed an audio file from a speech I once gave to the United Nations:

                  [audio mp3="http://www.scifiwright.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Colossus.mp3"][/audio]

                  • Comment by Pastor:

                    Sir,

                    As any reader can see, I’ve done very little except ask you questions; I stated my supposition in the pluperfect tense, an open invitation to you to correct whatever its defects might have been. All I have tried to do in this conversation is understand the argument that you advanced, of your own will, in a public forum, and my attempted restatement of your position was directed to that same end.

                    Your metaphor of the difference between carrot soup and stew suggested a continuum, which image was followed by a distinction between “message fiction” and the “art-for-art’s-sake” kind. “There is some message in fiction” you conceded first, before saying that the statement “all stories contain a message” robs the word of meaning. No doubt the claims seem significantly different to you, but that distinction is not obvious, to me at least.

                    So I asked you if the two lines of thought were meant to be compatible, and instead of an answer get a rap on the knuckles. Granted, you did provide a kind of answer (“No, of course not.”), but not one that explained how “The Lord of the Rings” can exist on the same soup-stew spectrum as “Atlas Shrugged”.

                    I’m going to assume, in a spirit of charity, that this impasse, wherein I ask you questions and you deride me for not doing so correctly, stems from a miscommunication of some kind. I assure you that I am not querying you simply to be obnoxious, nor to waste your time. I admire your fiction very much, and am genuinely interested in understanding your point of view.

                    In which spirit, let me try again. Is the distinction you are drawing between “messages in fiction” and “messages contained by fiction” (stories was your word) basically turn on the relative emphasis a story lays on its message – in the sense of its identification with identifiable ideological commitments – as compared with other elements? If not, what is the distinction?

                    • Comment by Centurion13:

                      Urg. Even *I* can follow what John is saying. It’s one thing to disagree or agree with him, but this endless line of question after question after question…

                      I mean, really… “As any reader can see, I’ve done very little except ask you questions”. And as any reader can see, there’s a time when the questions stop and the thinking begins.

                      Presumably you are asking questions so you make a better-informed decision. The trouble is, you are already unhappy with the answers you are getting – wait, I mean, you don’t understand the answers you are getting – and so you keep asking and asking and asking.

                      I would like to be charitable here and assume you are obsessed with the definition of the definition of the definition of a metaphor because, well… because you just have to know.

                      On the other hand, I have seen folks troll this way, wasting weeks of the author’s time and patience, only to abruptly step back and wave bye-bye with a grin. And well they should grin.

                      Having successfully fed their egos by stringing along a blog author – as he or she attempts to correct an apparent fellow traveler who “just wants to understand” – these parasites move on to other blogs.

                      The more famous the author, the bigger the ego feed. The longer you get them to engage, the more brags you can make back at the old homestead. The best possible outcome is to get them engaged, split hairs right down to the atomic level, then goad them into losing their temper, and finally move off in a huff of righteous indignation.

                      See, this whole thing can be copied, cut and pasted as proof on the “homestead”, an innocuous forum tucked away somewhere. People on the internet actually set store by their skill at this sort of thing. Who would have thought of trolling as a hobby?

                    • Comment by John C Wright:

                      I did not rap you on the knuckles, I asked for clarification. Don’t be so defensive. If you have a specific question, I can answer it, but, as of this point, I don’t understand the question.

                      Listen to me carefully: I am a very straightforward man. If I wanted to insult you or wound you I would not resort to ambiguous words or half measures. When I say that I do not understand your question because you have not defined your terms I mean that, exactly that, and no more than that, and no less. If you think I am saying something I seem to be saying, ask me directly, and I will answer you directly.

                      Is the distinction you are drawing between “messages in fiction” and “messages contained by fiction” (stories was your word) basically turn on the relative emphasis a story lays on its message – in the sense of its identification with identifiable ideological commitments – as compared with other elements?

                      No and no. Not to the unasked assumption, I am not drawing the distinction you say I am drawing, since I don’t know what it means. No to to asked question, relative emphasis is not as significant as, for example, how well the message is integrated with the plot.

                      The Aesop fable of the Boy Who Cried Wolf has a moral or a point to the story. Indeed, any story has to have some sort of implied moral, if we expand that to mean ‘whatever the behavior that prevails in the story is what the story tacitly recommends.’

                      Propaganda on the other hand is a attempt to manipulate the reader to accept an ideology. This can be well done, as in ATLAS SHRUGGED, where, even despite bloated speech scenes like none seen before or since in literature, the ideological message was woven seamlessly into the fabric of the tale; or it can be poorly done, as in THE AMBER SPYGLASS, where the author’s need to preach his sermon overwhelmed his story telling instinct and ruined the story.

                      But proportion in ATLAS SHRUGGED of message is greater than in AMBER SPYGLASS. Despite this, ATLAS is a better work of art.

                      Does that answer the question?

      • Comment by Gigalith:

        What of the villains of a story, also portrayed (a little) sympathetically?

        I ask because in my latest short story the hero, for much of the recounting of the story (as it is in the form of a confession) is among the members of an incredibly evil organization known as the Society of Gardeners. The Gardeners seek to create an Eden in this universe (thus their name) using various evil and SFnal methods.

        At the end, however, I had to undermine the Gardeners with about the subtlety as a baseball bat, for if their misguided idea was actually right, then they could hardly be called evil. I fear I might have gone a little too far though, but we will see what the judges of the contest think.

  2. Comment by Montague:

    As the Greeks said, art ought to “delight and instruct.”

    To put it tautologically, you can’t honesty write a story by lying (in the fundamental sense – concerning what is also good and beautiful. That is to say, God, or whatever idol you have in His stead). On the other hand, we say that an entertaining story, regardless of actual veracity, is “a good tale.”

    The problem with Leftist writing is that Leftism (well, I think a better term might be brutism, or the hellish triumph of the will, or something like that) believes that everything is a power play. Hence, whatever other people’s writing might be, their writing will eventually become a power play, an attempt at domination. These are literally the “arts” of Sauron and Morgoth; and true art is their opposite – Elvish, and before them, divine.

    I think you hit at is most, Mr. Wright, when you say that your writing is a contract in which you promise to provide enchantment. But I think it is fair to say that art in general needn’t even be a mutual contract; so long as it is gift (though it is a certain kind of contract, in a sense, to receive a gift). Writing is to give and not to take; to be grateful and to wonder, rather than to lust.

    AH! It’s like that chapter in The Man Who was Thursday. Even of Anarchists, we say they act like gentlemen, when they keep their promise: the promise of a very entertaining evening.

    That’s my two pennies’ worth. Well, it would be if I was being paid, that is; and one ought not be paid to throw up redundant thoughts onto a combox.
    – Christian Boyd

    • Comment by Mary:

      As Aristotle observes, fiction does not tangle itself up in the accidental particulars but deals with the form of things.

      You can see this in the regular hysteria about the fictional depiction of one person of any given type as if that person were necessarily the archetype of that type.

      • Comment by Stephen J.:

        That is because artists who incorporate “representational criticism” into their work as a form of social justice activism are unfortunately caught between two mutually opposing imperatives: they want to retain the power of positive character examples to improve general perceptions of that character’s demographic group, but also want (if they are attempting to be honest in their art) to retain the freedom to have individual characters be flawed and antagonistic without being accused of worsening general perceptions of such characters’ groups. In other words, they want to create something that has the aesthetic merit of art but the social-activism merit of propaganda, and are failing because the propaganda tends to interfere with the art in direct proportion to its obviousness. (Compare Pullman’s The Amber Spyglass to Lewis’s The Last Battle for an example.)

        I have always loathed “All art is political” as perhaps the ultimate Bulverism: a way to bypass any serious discussion of a work’s themes by assuming one knows the author’s political intent, or that one can prove an effective political intent by surveying the politicized reactions of the audience to the work.

        • Comment by Montague:

          Would you say that the most common fallacy of the left is Bulverism? Even their ad-hominem attacks seem to always of that nature.

          • Comment by Tom Simon:

            I would say that Bulverism is the foundation of the Left. ‘You say X because you are only a Y’ is at the root of all their philosophies.

            ‘You say free markets work because you are only a capitalist pig.’

            ‘You say justice should be colour-blind because you are only a cracker.’

            ‘You say men and women have different strengths because you are only a tool of the patriarchy.’

            Etc. At bottom, all their arguments pro amount to cheerleading for Their Side, and all their arguments contra spring from their inability to see how anyone could disagree with them except by being a cheerleader for the Other Side.

  3. Comment by Rainforest Giant:

    I was reading a book yesterday. Every Christian, conservative, or rural white was depicted as stupid, evil, bigoted and venal all at once. Every single minority or educated urban (liberal) white was depicted as virtuous, tolerant, and heroic. The minorities were in every single case actually magical and good.

    The story was about monsters vampires and werewolves. While the evil conservatives were monstrous monsters that preyed on the weak the good liberals and minorities were good magical heroes that just happened to be different not monsters even if they were vampires or werewolves. Then I did something I have never done before, I simply quit reading. Just gave it up.

    I used to read every book to the finish but it was like Bilbo when he finally put down the ring, I felt better. You don’t suppose I might be an addict do you? lol!

    • Comment by Stephen J.:

      What was the book called, so I know to avoid it?

      • Comment by Foxfier:

        It sounds like about 90% of the urban fantasy I’ve read….

        • Comment by Rainforest Giant:

          I remember reading some fanfic about the evil conservatives in Seattle that persecuted the good vampires in the ‘Anitaverse’ (unless you’re into vampire/werewolf bondage porn no need to read past the first couple novels). Anywho I pointed out that it was flippin’ Seattle. Far from evil conservatives somehow infringing on the monsters’ ‘right’ to be monsters, Seattle would elect a vampire mayor and probably require the citizens to contribute to a ‘blood bank’ every couple weeks.

          Despite the portrayal of the whole world as some kind of conservative wasteland that the good monsters need to protected from most ‘urban’ areas would welcome their monsters.

      • Comment by Rainforest Giant:

        ‘VWar’ I think. Now remember I quit reading with quite a bit of the book left unread. It might have matured in the second two thirds.

        • Comment by Centurion13:

          By Jonathan Maberry? Mmmm. The author appears to be moderate, politically speaking, and a practicing Methodist, but I guess I’d have to read one of his books. Do you remember the exact title? VWars is a series of some sort.

          • Comment by Rainforest Giant:

            Maberry is just the first author listed apparently it is a shared universe or anthology. It was edited in the style of World War Z meaning unlinked vignettes.

            • Comment by Centurion13:

              Ah! Mmm… World War Z. I want to like it more, because it was written so strongly in the style of Studs Terkel’s “The Good War”. But… I was never convinced by the zombies, whose abilities were so vaguely defined that they were, for me at least, magical critturs. And there was no magic available with which ordinary humans could fight them. The rules of physics were routinely suspended for zombies – humans, on the other hand, were held to the ordinary results of everyday scientific enquiry.

              Which meant that they died in their millions, to George Romero zombies. It kinda ruined the suspense for me. And yeah, that spoiled the book a little bit.

              I’ve no doubt you encountered just what you said was in those books. What passes for ‘horror’ these days is, ummm, kinda weak sauce. It’s mostly gore, jump shocks and gross out. Bleh. Give me ‘Necroscope’ any day.

    • Comment by Centurion13:

      Eh, I think I will begin taking John’s advice and stop reading the news, or at least what passes on Yahoo’s portal as news.

      Gay bashing
      Gay rights
      Abortion rights
      Stupid Christians
      More Gay ‘marriage’
      Obama’s proclamations
      Global climate change and how you’re just too stupid if you don’t believe…
      More judges decide that what the people want and voted for isn’t really what they should have – what they should have is more gay marriage.
      Gay Pride
      Hollywood participation trophy
      How the media is controlled by conservatives

      and so on. I swear, half these pieces come straight from the Huffington Post. And as every conservative knows who’s ever been there to comment, if you disagree with the article, your comment simply gets deleted.

      Just a daily blitz, craziness without end. As if, because hundreds of scientists find it prudent to go along with the AGCC crowd to keep their jobs, AGCC is suddenly ‘true’. I didn’t know science was something determined by a vote, but it’s the age of the internet and…

      Anyway, I think I am just gonna fast-forward to the comics and my email from now on.

  4. Comment by Non Compos MENTOS:

    JCW: “The Leftist for whom politics is the ultimate floor of being is an idolater, and makes power arrangements his personal little crappy god. It influences everything in his thought and life, and if left unchecked will eventually ruin his writing.”

    This is why, to take the Star Wars saga for an example, George Lucas could give free reign to his eastern-influenced “good and evil are just two sides of the same coin” nonsense in Episodes I and II; but when required to depict Anakin as a soul seduced by Evil in Episode III, he was thrown back by the needs of the story into the reality of the Judeo/Christian moral universe.

    It’s also in large part why Episodes I and II were so dreadful.

  5. Comment by AstroSorcorer:

    I’m a bit confused.
    You mentioned that chivalry and romantic love are exclusively Christian and only Christian in origin. Certainly they are celebrated in Christendom. But does not the love of Odysseus and Penelope, or the recognition and admiration of a pagan warrior of a worthy foe count as well? Are they different in kind, or only in frequency?
    (By they way, the modern fetish with demeaning romantic love and chivalrous conduct has become obvious to me, so I’m asking that I may help clarify the appropriate antidote.)

    • Comment by John C Wright:

      But does not the love of Odysseus and Penelope, or the recognition and admiration of a pagan warrior of a worthy foe count as well? Are they different in kind, or only in frequency?

      If you’ve read the Odyssey, the love between Penelope and Odysseus is not chivalric at all. He fools her by dressing as a beggar, she outsmarts him by getting him to reveal himself through he story about how their bed was wrought. Her relationship is similar to that of one of his many prizes and privileges, a sign of his kingship. I am not saying it is not love — far from it — but he does not humble himself for her.

      Chivalry is protect the weak. Honorable admiration for a foe is a universal among all honorable men, Christian and pagan alike. Only modern Leftists, Socialists, Nazis and so on have no sense of honor, and modern Muslims who follow the pattern of subversion and terror laid down by the Leftists, Socialists, Nazis and so on.

      • Comment by AstroSorcorer:

        Thank you for the distinction, that helps clear it up.

        And yes, the philosophies that turned early 20th century Europe into a slaughterhouse directly and explicitly rejected any concept of chivalry, compassion, nobility, or even basic humanity.

    • Comment by Scholar-at-Arms:

      There is nothing chivalrous about Odysseus in either the Odyssey or the Iliad. His love with Penelope is a sign of his kingship, as Mr Wright says; another sign of his kingship (and Telemachus’ princehood) is his and Telemachus’ power to slay all of the rebellious suitors and treacherous servant girls, which they do mercilessly, without offering the opportunity to flee or surrender. Chivalry is strength putting itself at the service of weakness. I cannot think of an example of this in European paganism.

  6. Comment by PoxVay:

    I find this argument lacking. It relies on the idea that virtue is an absolute, when in actuality different people have different virtues. How virtuous one is, is not decided on the virtues at hand but rather one’s adherence to that virtue. It seems that you believe that their are absolutes, likely due to your Christianity, in regards to virtue and morality. And, like most Christians, you believe that objective virtue/morality is comprised of your very own standards. It’s an egotistical philosophy.

    My other, and bigger, problem with your argument(s) is the insistence on labeling everyone as either left or right. You have stripped people of their individuality with this notion. I’d grant you that most people lean left, or lean right, but lock any group of people in a room and they’ll find a near-infinite amount of topics to disagree on. I, for one, am very left. But I find plenty of fault in comments of other lefties, especially those in the political sphere.

    Trying to turn a political spectrum into a strict dichotomy leads to only prejudice and lack of progress. That goes for both sides.

    • Comment by DGDDavidson:

      You recently commented on another, quite lengthy, essay of Mr. Wright’s in which he discusses morality without any appeal to Christianity. He became a Christian only recently, yet has been concerned with ethics for much longer than that, yet you have the nerve to claim that you somehow know his ethics is due to his Christianity? Surely you can do better than that.

      It is meaningless to condemn a philosophy as “egotistical” unless there is a standard that informs us that egotism is vicious. It is impossible to discuss ethics at all without assuming the existence of an objective standard of ethics.

      If morality is individual, and if I get to decide what is virtuous for me, and if there is no objective standard of virtue, and if no one can tell me to what standard I ought to adhere, then why are you in the habit of going onto other people’s blogs and upbraiding them for their lack of virtue according to your standard?

      • Comment by PoxVay:

        With Mr. Wright, there may be more at play than Christianity. In fact, it may be that his own logic lead to a belief in objective morality which informed his conversion. Still, the two go hand-in-hand on a regular basis.

        If you want to look at why ethics/morals are NOT objective, just find an issue with a gray area. Abortion, is one example. Almost no one is for late-term abortion. A few are okay with mid-term abortion. A few more are okay with early-term abortion. Many are fine with the “day after” pill. An overwhelming majority of people are okay with birth control. Some people believe any abortion is immoral. Others can be plotted on a graph between day after conception to 40 weeks.

        Then throw in medical complications. Let’s say a mother of two small children is pregnant with a third and has to choose between her own life and that of her unborn child’s. And by choosing the unborn child she’s abandoning three children.

        The point is: Morals are subjective. Even if this analogy doesn’t work for you at all, there are plenty of others that would.

        Also, I’m not upbraiding Mr. Wright here. Just leaving my honest opinions. Deal with it.

        • Comment by John C Wright:

          The commenter here lists a topic where there is a difference of opinion, and from that concludes that morality is subjective. This is an impermissible deduction.

          Between 1920 and 1965 there was a difference of opinion among well informed astronomers as whether the Hubble expansion of the universe was better explained by a Steady State theory (the theory that matter is continuously created and the universe is infinite in age) and the Big Bang theory (the theory that all matter and energy came from a single pinpoint source and the universe is finite in age). This fact that a difference of opinion exists does not allow one to conclude that astrophysics is subjective. The possibility that one side in the dispute may be in error seems not to have been addressed.

          The comment is remarkably uninsightful, almost as if the commenter does not understand what the word ‘subjective’ means nor understand what the issue at stake might be.

          If all morality is subjective in the taste in food is subjective, then no one can object if I choose to say that morality is objective even if I do so with the intent to deceive, because, in my personal moral code, I can arbitrarily decide that uttering lies on that topic is licit. In such a case, while one can object that the statement is false, no one can utter a word of blame that I attempt to promulgate it.

          In other words, even the act of disputing whether or not morality is objective presupposes that (1) there is a right answer to the question (2) everyone disputing or listening to the dispute the question is under an objective moral obligate to adhere to that right answer once it is found.

          In other words, a duty to act in good faith is presupposed to exist, that is, an objective and moral duty to act in good faith, even by those people dispute whether morality is objective.

          I end with a personal remark: That the comment climaxes with a juvenile sneer ‘Deal with it’ (as if the commenter made an irrefutable argument, or, indeed, made any argument at all) implies that his inability to grasp the topic is produced by his emotional unwillingness to face it, that is, to deal with it. Neurotic people often reveal themselves in such unintentional ways.

          It is a troll comment. It need not be answered nor dealt with. I have done so here out of an overabundance of courtesy toward a creature who past experience leads me to believe can not understand nor appreciate nor reciprocate courtesy.

        • Comment by robertjwizard:

          Here is another argument of yours that demonstrates something other than what you are aiming for. What your argument testifies to is the following proposition.

          People disagree on matters.

          Well, any idiot knows that.

          You seem to be an expert in performing non-sequitors.

          If people’s disagreement is the standard by which we judge a field to be subjective – then everything is subjective. Which is probably the axiom you ultimately rely on.

          Also do research on issues before just blurting stuff out. Almost no one supports late term abortions? Millions of people are not “almost no one”. Just look up the statistics. Our president supports them and so does Planned Parenthood, plus 27 – 44% of the population according to various polls I looked up in under 1 minute. A few are ok with early term abortion?

          I’m not upbraiding you or anything. Just making mince meat of your arguments. Deal with it.

    • Comment by robertjwizard:

      How virtuous one is, is not decided on the virtues at hand but rather one’s adherence to that virtue.

      How do you know it is a virtue? Apparently, according to your own statement, consistency in action is a virtue – adherence to said, non-objective, i.e. subjective “virtue”. Consistency then is a virtue.

      Is it an absolute? Is it an objective virtue? Or can one, on your philosophy, have a virtue that is true “for them” and thus inconsistency, or expediency, is their virtue. Thus they can be honest today and dishonest tomorrow, but they are still virtuous because they are practicing the virtue of inconsistency.

      I know some wicked people who adhere rigidly to certain actions. History is full of wickedly adherent people.

      Your argument doesn’t address what you want it to at all. It sidesteps virtue all together and relates to something besides the point. Virtue is still virtue whether a man practices it once or every moment of his life.

      My other, and bigger, problem with your argument(s) is the insistence on labeling everyone as either left or right.

      Please cite where this is stated.

  7. Comment by Mary:

    At this point I am philosophically reminded of an observation I made a long time ago: fiction can educate intellectually, but that is not its main purpose, which is to educate and regulate the sentiments. If you can wiggle it in, an argument that shows that courage is good is good, but first and foremost, what a work of fiction should do is show that courage is admirable.

    To, as C. S. Lewis put it, prevent the readers from being Men Without Chests.

  8. Ping from The purpose of fiction:

    […] —Mary Catelli […]

  9. Comment by Pastor:

    Sir,

    I know this has run on a bit. We seem to have been talking directly past each other. I see I mistook your meaning before, and found a reproach you did not mean to offer. I withdraw my claim and apologize.

    The basic form of my question is “Do you think that propaganda (using your definition from above as “that which is designed to manipulate readers into an ideology”) and ordinary stories are different in kind or in degree?” I understand, from your last, that you think they are different in some essential way. Is that right?

  10. Ping from Life’s complexity and mortal weight: The supplicant | The Praetorian Writers Group:

    […] “The Leftist for whom politics is the ultimate floor of being is an idolater, and makes power arrangements his personal little crappy god. It influences everything in his thought and life, and if left unchecked will eventually ruin his writing.” –John C. Wright […]

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