Good Lord, There's So Much to Catch Up On.
Meanwhile, this from the archives Before Blogging. Just a reminder that the Culture War also matters.
Halfwits of the World, Untie! (Um, ‘Uniet’? ‘Utein’? Oh. ‘Unite!’ There We Go!)
Journalists traditionally refer to op-ed pieces of high would-be portentousness - not to say pomposity - as ‘thumb-suckers.’
This truly astounding bit of rubbish from a professor of some pseudo-discipline (‘Cultural Studies‘) at a Mancunian redbrick university, published in the regularly contemptible Guardian
and posted on the ’Net here
, would be better characterized as sucking a less innocent part of the anatomy.
It came to my attention late last year in the course of an ongoing firefight with the lunatics of the Left over at Epinions, where I had recently reviewed David Pryce-Jones’s The Closed Circle: An Interpretation of the Arabs.
For an entertaining – in a dark comedy sense – look at what the Left is up to and the lengths they will go to to shill for tyrants (Yasser the Chinless being the latest poster-boy), you'll want to look at the ravings over at the 'Comments' page
For my part, I decided to cut Terry Eagleton’s idiocies to shreds first, before then dealing with what new depths the Left had sunkto , back in the comments section to my review.
Comrade Eagleton begins with the headline, ‘History gets the last laugh,’ and goes on to a snarky subhead of ‘Capitalists were triumphant when they saw off socialism. But will they live to regret it?’
Hint: Nope. We won't.
And who is this Terry Eagleton, pray? Well, he is
a Cambridge man and he was a don at Oxford. He is also a rather pathetic sycophant of the romanticized ‘wurrrking class ’eroes’ who haunt his dreams, a particularly barbarous (and prolific) writer in that perversion of English that has become the lingua franca of academia, a stunningly incompetent literary critic, an unrepentant Marxist, a largely-wannabe folk-singer-screenwriter-hack-novelist on the ideological, ‘socialist realist’ model, a man impervious to logic and fact (especially historical fact), and, as we shall see, a blithering, bloviating idiot. Think of him as the British version of Cornel ‘Rap’ West.
And so it begins:
‘One of the darker ironies,’ Professor Puerile writes, ‘of the 20th century is that socialism proved to be least possible where it was most necessary. To go socialist, you need material resources, democratic traditions, cooperative neighbours, a flourishing civil society, an educated populace; and it was just these vital ingredients of the project which colonialism had denied to its premodern, poverty-stricken clients. As a result, one bitter irony bred another: the effort to build socialism in these dismal conditions led straight to Stalinism, and a bid for freedom twisted inexorably into its monstrous opposite.’
Amazing. What have we learned already, kids? Why, that the prerequisites of socialism are all the benefits that socialism has inevitably destroyed wherever it has been given power. And we have learned that Comrade Eagleton is incapable of sustained thought.
For example, he proclaims – the man always proclaims: he never argues, because he never produces evidence (largely because there is
no evidence) for his conclusory statements, and all his statements are
merely conclusory, not being derived from any known, shown, or imaginable premisses – the man Eagleton proclaims that, ‘material resources, democratic traditions, cooperative neighbours, a flourishing civil society, an educated populace ... [were] just [the] vital ingredients … [that] colonialism had denied to its premodern, poverty-stricken clients.’
I hold no brief for colonialism, but it takes a peculiar imperviousness to simple fact for Red Terry to believe, or pretend to believe, that the premodern, poverty-stricken indigenes who found themselves colonized by the Usual Suspects, the ‘white Eurocentric heterosexual phallocracy’ (AKA, the Pale Penis People), thitherto possessed ‘material resources, democratic traditions, cooperative neighbours, a flourishing civil society, [and] an educated populace.’
Had they possessed these resources, of course, they would not have been ‘premodern and poverty-stricken.’ They would also, the military historian in me points out, have been impossible to colonize, since those resources would have afforded them, as possession of such resources always affords their possessor, with sufficient assets for defense and for arms.
So it's not as if Whitey came in and plundered, overthrew, and enslaved pre-existing ‘material resources, democratic traditions, cooperative neighbours, a flourishing civil society, [and] an educated populace.’
As for the condition in which the colonial powers left their former colonies as each in turn achieved independence, the stark, if uncomfortable, fact is that whatever these ex-colonies possess (and, after the vicissitudes of formal independence too often combined with practical tyranny and looting by the native diadochs, whatever they retain) of ‘material resources, democratic traditions, cooperative neighbours, a flourishing civil society, [and] an educated populace,’ is, painful as it may be to admit, the legacy and gift of their former colonial masters. This point has been most recently (and, of course, unpopularly) made by Dinesh D'Souza in The Chronicle of Higher Education, in his article ‘Two Cheers for Colonialism.’
But what really takes the cake is this: ‘… it was just these vital ingredients of the project which colonialism had denied to its premodern, poverty-stricken clients. As a result, one bitter irony bred another: the effort to build socialism in these dismal conditions led straight to Stalinism.’ That’s right, saddle pals. Colonial oppression led to Stalinism.
Now, unless the Sain Khan Batu, grandson of the mighty Temujin Genghis Khan, and his Golden Horde, are to be fingered as the Wicked Colonialists, I for one am damned if I can figure out how colonialism led to the rise of Uncle Joe Stalin, the Vozhd. If the UK or the US or France ever colonized Russia, I’ve apparently missed a major story somewhere.
And do you know, it just gets worse from here. Eagleton is, as an idiot, encapsulated in this first soggy paragraph, but there’s plenty more where that comes from.
‘Indeed, we may yet see the capitalist world glancing nostalgically back at the socialist project it screwed so effectively.’ Eagleton's attempts at hipness and working-bloke authenticity, I note, are right up there with Dick Nixon’s trying to be one of the boys by asking David Frost if he’d ‘done any fornicating lately.’
Anyway: more mush from the wimp. ‘Socialism, after all, is out to expropriate the propertied classes, not to exterminate them.’
Aw, damn it! Which one of you guys failed to get the message to Pol Pot? Now we’re going to look bad….
Seriously, though, let’s bear in mind that this is Eagleton, Marxist True Believer, here. When he says ‘socialism’ he’s not talking about national health care and welfare nets. He’s talking undiluted Marxism, straight from the bottle: he just doesn’t have the balls to frighten off the meeker sisters by saying so outright. Well, junior rangers, let me remind you that ‘socialism,’ that loving philosophy that seeks only to plunder, not to kill – as if plundering people of their property were itself merely a peccadillo: it’s called theft,
damn it – ‘socialism’ has exterminated more people than the Nazi Reich ever had a chance to. Ukrainians, Cambodians, ‘kulaks,’ Laotians, Vietnamese, Cuban dissidents, Ethiopians, Chinese students and peasants, Balts, Khazaks … the XXth Century was frankly a vast graveyard, and an inconceivable number of the victims died at the hands of ‘socialism.’
It's hardly surprising. Robbery on that scale – and Eagleton admits that its purpose is robbery at best – generally does
lead to capital murders committed in the course of those robberies.
‘[Socialism’s] weapons [anyone suddenly hear echoes of the Python troupe’s ‘Spanish Inquisition’ routine?] are general strikes and mass struggle, not anthrax and dirty nuclear bombs. Its aim is for people to live in plenty, not for them to scavenge their scanty grub from war-scarred urban deserts.’
Every time socialism’s been put seriously and fully into practice, its weapons have been concentration camps, secret police, and mass executions in its killing fields. It has invariably resulted in famine and dearth, not in plenty, and it has created more ‘war-scarred urban deserts’ than the combined efforts of Tamerlane, William Tecumseh Sherman, and the 8th US Army Air Force fire-bombing Germany in the Second World War.
‘Socialism was the last chance we had of defeating terrorism by transforming the conditions which give birth to it; and those who helped to send it packing – not least those among them whose offices are rather high off the ground – ought to be licking their lips for the taste of ashes.’
There’s a taste of ash here, all right. I hadn’t thought that anyone this side of Tom Paulin could be this contemptible. That’s Eagleton’s kindly, loving, creating-peace-and-plenty-for-all socialism, is it, dancing rhetorically upon the site of the World Trade Center massacre? Utterly, inhumanly disgusting.
Less overtly sickening, but just as vicious in the long run, is his previous unsupported – and insupportable – claim: that ‘[s]ocialism was the last chance we had of defeating terrorism by transforming the conditions which [sic;
silly bugger means ‘that’] give birth to it.’ Bear in mind that in his next paragraph, Old Dimwit here natters on about how ‘the wretched of the earth have not of course retired; they have simply changed address. Whereas Marx looked for them in the slums of Bradford and the Bronx, they are now to be found in the souks of Tripoli and Damascus.’ Well, it's not the ‘wretched of the earth’ in that twit Frantz Fanon’s sense who were involved in the terrorist attacks on the United States. Far from being drawn from the ‘oppressed proletariat,’ the goons, thugs, and psychotics involved were a mad billionaire and a bunch of middle- and upper-class college graduates from professional-class families (Mohammed Atta, for example), who in their privileged boredom turned to murderous religious fanaticism.
The ‘conditions [that] give birth to’ terrorism were never contemplated by that oh-so-historicist-scholar Karl Marx, and the motive force behind terrorism cannot be addressed by analyses captive to Marxist claptrap. Sodding Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, and Syria are not, after all, capitalist states; not a few of the places that breed terror are at least putatively or partially socialist (the Ba’ath party, which is formally the ‘Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party’ in Iraq and Syria, claims socialist lineage, for that matter; then again, so did the NSDAP in Germany: ‘Nazi,’ after all, derives from its formal designation as National Socialism
Eagleton – perforce – does not, as he cannot possibly, say why
‘socialism [could] … transform the conditions that give birth to’ terrorism, and in fact there is no way in which socialism has or could address its root causes, which are wholly unrelated to any economic-deterministic mechanism apprehensible to Marxists. I can suggest only two ways in which socialism could root out terror. It might do so by its being adopted in the West at sufficient levels to prevent Western action or degrade Western ability to project power (the inherent inefficiencies and industrial incompetence of socialism constitute a negative
force multiplier, which is how Ronald Reagan encompassed the implosion of the Soviet Empire through luring them into an unwinnable arms race): thus allowing the destruction of the State of Israel and all the Jews therein. Or socialism might choke off terror by being adopted on its usual secret police / mass liquidation model, bleeding off part of the terrorist manpower pool into its security apparat, and then having them machine-gun the rest and toss their corpses into one of socialism’s numerous mass graves.
Somehow, I don’t think this is what Comrade Terry has in mind, though God knows I wouldn’t put it past him.
In any event, Marxist analysis is almost ludicrously incompetent to address the terror problem, given that the terrorist wretches are precisely not
‘the wretched of the earth … now to be found in the souks of Tripoli and Damascus,’ but are rather the amoral, well-to-do, coddled assassins in the service of the latest ‘Old Man of the Mountains,’ the rich capitalist Osama bin Laden.
But those uncomfortable facts, of course, do not fit The Good Professor’s thesis or the iron categorizations of Marxism, and must therefore be ignored. If you're looking for intellectual honesty from T. Karl Eagleton, folks, you’re expecting romantic fidelity from a an intellectual street whore.
Merrily impervious to these facts and blithely ignorant, Our Boy Terry maunders on. ‘The fact that capitalism,’ quoth the Raving, ‘now has no real rivals in the official political arena is precisely what causes the unofficial rancour that can blow enormous holes in it, including nuclear ones.’
In case anyone else
is this ignorant, let me point out that the State of Israel has been the primary target par excellence
of systematic terrorism since before its birth in 1948, and ever after, unto this day. And in its early years, Israel attempted to operate as a social-democratic state on the Western European model.
Kibbutzim are not capitalist entities, people. Did that stop the terror?
The United States, similarly, could (theoretically, though God forbid) become a socialist state tomorrow, without losing its distinction as the terrorists’s Enemy Number One. If anything, they would be emboldened by the systemic weakness that would inevitably accrue to the United States were this nation to attempt a socialist rather than a free economy. The only thing that would get the current crop of murderous thugs off our six would be for us to abandon Israel to her fate. Anyone who can cheer that prospect – not that it will ever happen – should be closely monitored indeed.
Finally, the contention that ‘capitalism now has no real rivals in the official political arena’ is facially false. The Tories are not in power in London, and the Bavarians and the Christian Democrats are not drinking their lager in the seats of power in Berlin, for example.
Then Terry-boy really kicks in the afterburners: ‘Socialism may have seemed a dark threat to those with most to lose from it –’
– namely, anyone with a regular income, fee simple title to a dirt farm, or a habit of speaking his mind freely –
‘– but at least it is a secular, historically-minded, thoroughly modern creed, a bastard offspring of liberal enlightenment.’
‘Bastard’ I will not dispute.
‘It has a deep-rooted contempt for political terrorism, whether it denounces it as immoral or just petty-bourgeois.’
‘What? You mean we also didn’t get the memo out to Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, Fidel, and Uncle Ho? Damn it, Friedrich, that is it – you’re fired!’
‘Unlike fundamentalism, whether of the Texan or Taliban variety, it doesn’t dismiss alternative life-styles or symbolist poetry or a cellarful of chianti….’
I thought that was the job of socialist realism? And while we do have our share of Baptists and such small deer in Texas, I know plenty of gays and lesbians here who aren’t living in dread of the midnight knock on the door and the irruption of the Cheka. I admit I don’t associate with people whose taste is so poor as to find worth in symbolist poetry or Chianti, but nobody here is forced to circulate George Herbert or Thomas Hardy or Dryden or Milton in samizdat
editions, and Burgundy and Bordeaux have contributed their kindly product quite nicely to my cellar over the years.
‘Unlike fundamentalism, too, it is earth-bound and iconoclastic, sceptical of high-minded ideals and absolutes.’
That’s why it trades exclusively in ‘high-minded ideals and absolutes,’ which are the ends and goals that are always said to excuse such means
as collectivization, secret police bureaux, and the liquidation of ‘class enemies.’
‘The same might be said of American pragmatism, which always preferred turning a fast buck to brooding on the infinite. But the more terrorism occupies the space vacated by socialism, the less pragmatic America is bound to become.’
Why? Or is this yet another ipse dixit,
an infallible ex cathedra
pronouncement from the Red Pope? (Apologies to my RC pals.)
‘Indeed, it may well end up defending itself from Islamic fundamentalists by becoming every bit as fearful of freedom as they are….’
Any evidence for that twaddle? (Wait. I’m asking Eagleton
? I must have forgotten with whom I’m dealing.) Still, you know those Americans. Remember how ‘fearful of freedom’ they waxed whilst liberating Europe in a couple of world wars. Remember how they put Susan Sontag in the salt mines and had a show trial of Norman Mailer during the Cold War. Americans, sheesh.
‘If you really want to unmask liberal freedoms as hollow, the best way is to attack them with suicide bombers rather than sociological essays –’
Thanks for the advice, pal. But you’re doing just fine with essays.
‘– since such attacks, by provoking authoritarian measures, bring about the bogusness the bombers perceive….’
‘Bogusness’? Like, totally, dood. And if this sounds familiar, it is. It’s the same lie Stalin used to string the German Communists along into allowing the Nazis to seize power in the Thirties – during all of which time, as Dyakov has shown, they and he were hand-in-glove, long before the overt bargain sealed by Molotov and Ribbentrop.
And what authoritarian measures are we talking about here? Hell, even now the US is so afraid of ‘giving in to the Dark Side, Luke,’ that we strip-search elderly nuns while letting twenty-something males with Saudi passports through security with a wave, just so no one accuses us of bigotry.
‘And since Americans, as the most conformist bunch of individualists on the planet –’
Yep, there’s an irrefutable view of American history and the American character. Boone, Crockett, Sublette, Bridger; Patrick Henry, John Adams, Jefferson, Old Hickory, Sam Houston, Lincoln, and Lee; Debs, Wilson, and TR; Patton and Nimitz; Dr King and Rosa Parks; Eliot, Copland, Eakins, Twombly … man, what a bunch of conformist sheep those Americans are.
‘– [since Americans …] have a tradition of safeguarding their freedom by authoritarian means, they are particularly vulnerable to being discredited in this way.’
Oh, yeah. How could I forget? The show trials, the Gulag, the death camps, the suspension of the Bill of Rights, the KGB, the Designated Hitter rule in the AL … yep, that’s the USA in a nutshell. (Okay, I admit the DH.)
‘Liberal values are not, in fact, bogus; it is just that they cannot escape the taint of hypocrisy. The fatal flaw of liberal capitalist states is that they are by nature opposed to fundamentalism, yet cannot survive without it. Only a state with a few absolute values up its sleeve can finally contain the anarchy of the marketplace and the human unhappiness it breeds.’
And if those ‘absolute values’ are the Jeffersonian bundle of natural and unalienable rights, and a commitment to free elections and the Bill of Rights and the rule of law, that
is ‘fundamentalism’? As we ignorant hayseed Americans say, give me a freaking break.
Here’s a classic statement of the ‘absolute values up our sleeve’ - from, no doubt, an ignorant, conformist, authoritarian American ‘fundamentalist,’ George Mason of Gunston Hall: The Virginia Declaration of Rights, 12 June, 1776.
And what’s this business about ‘the anarchy of the marketplace and the human unhappiness it breeds’? The marketplace is not anarchic, but governed by highly complex economic laws: one of the few points on which Marx (though he misapprehended the nature
of those laws) agreed with Smith and Ricardo.
‘But what such states get up to makes a mockery of those values all the time.
‘George Bush really does believe in religion, and believes in nothing of the kind.’
Either Eagleton is being more unintelligible even than usual, or the Guardian
still slips into its old Mancunian tradition of odd misprints.
‘Bin Laden’s thugs may be morally obscene fanatics –’
Uh, yeah. They just might.
‘but … [t]hey simply want a brutally benighted state, not a state which is continually forced to defend its enlightened values by brutally benighted means.’
Yessirreebob, that’s us, always defending our ‘enlightened values’ (thanks for that
concession, Cheetoh) ‘by brutally benighted means.’ You remember all those times we’ve indulged in benighted brutality, of course. The Western Front in 1918. Operation Torch, Sicily, the Italian Campaign, and D-Day. Liberating the death camps and feeding the DPs. The Berlin Airlift. Containment, and the eventual destruction of the USSR. The Korean War. Viet Nam, for that matter (go ahead, take a shot at that one. Please
throw me in that briar patch). Somalia and Haiti and all the times we’ve fed people who curse us to our faces, despite the curses, because it was the right thing to do and we are Americans. Liberating Kuwait (yeah, the al-Sabah bunch are no prizes, but compared to the Iraqi Army…).
That Eagleton is a piece of work.
‘And it may,’ he concludes, trying and failing to pull out all the stops on his rhetorical pipe-organ, vox humana
and all, ‘[it may] be that in detonating that built-in contradiction in the west, they will score their most signal victory. Unless, of course, the left stages a comeback in the meantime.’
Because they’ve done so
well up to now. If that’s what it takes to save the West, pal, the West ain’t worth saving. But of course, that’s not what it takes, and the sharper-eyed amongst y’all will have noted that – as always – this conclusion hangs there in the air, suspended only by a willing suspension of disbelief and a voluntary renunciation of all critical faculties: there is not a lick of argument to support it – as of course, in the very nature of things, there could not be.
And there we have it. A tour de force of illogic, logical fallacy, historical ignorance, mangled English, and hostility to freedom and free institutions. Yep: Eagleton does speak with the authentic voice of the Left. I can think of few greater condemnations than that.
concludes on its website, in tones of reverent awe, is professor of cultural theory
(whatever the hell that’s
meant to be) at the University of Manchester.
That ain’t the half of it. For further reading about the abject stupidity to which one academic can descend, I recommend Roger Kimball’s ‘The Contradictions of Terry Eagleton’ in The New Criterion.