Napoleon: Dictator, Or Political Visionary? An Interview With Thierry Lentz

In this “Year of Napoleon,” we are highly honored to present this exclusive interview with Thierry Lentz, who is the foremost authority on Napoleon Bonaparte. He has written over sixty books on the Consulate period as well as the First French Empire. He is the current director of the Fondation Napoléon, and a Professor at the Institut catholique de Vendée.

On the occasion of the bicentenary of Napoleon’s death (May 5, 1821), Professor Lentz is interviewed by Arnaud Imatz, on behalf of the Postil.


Arnaud Imatz (AI): 2021 is the year of the bicentenary of Napoleon’s death at Longwood on the island of Saint Helena, May 5, 1821. The historical figure of the Emperor of the French (although it might be more appropriate to say the “historical figures” of the Emperor) has inspired in the world, and not only in France, an infinity of novels, historical works, films (more than a thousand) and pictorial or musical works. The two legends of Napoleon, black and golden, are now firmly established. But why does Napoleon still remain so much in our memories?

Thierry Lentz.

Thierry Lentz (TL): Napoleon is present in our memories for all the reasons you have just mentioned. He occupies a very special place in French history and memory. But beyond that, he is also linked to our daily life and our habits. Our state still resembles the one he created, our institutions are his and, above all, our daily life is influenced by the Civil Code. Even though this Code has undergone multiple reforms, necessary to adapt to new times and mores, its framework is still the same. It influences our daily lives and even what happens after we die through inheritance law. We are thus aware of the importance of Napoleon in our history… without always remembering that he is indeed there, in our present.

AI: In 1815, the 15-year adventure ended in disaster; the black legend certainly seemed to have definitely won. Napoleon “the warmonger” deserved nothing but ignorance and oblivion. However, the situation did quickly change. How and why did he become the hero of the 19th century liberal romantics against monarchists and traditionalists?

TL: The defeat at Waterloo, and the Treaty of Paris of November 1815, were indeed a catastrophe for France: it was occupied for three years and had to pay a formidable war indemnity. As a result, the image of Napoleon was tarnished; and we can say that it is then that the black legend triumphed. Even his death, announced in Europe in July 1821, went almost unnoticed. The displays of mourning were sporadic.

It was two years later, with the publication of The Memorial of Saint Helena by Emmanuel de Las Cases, that things started to turn around. As Lamartine came to observe, while France was bored, and Charles X passed away as the restorer of the Ancien Régime, that the image of Napoleon, presented as liberal by the Memorial, “recovered” and came to permeate both the arts and politics. The accumulation of references created a somewhat imaginary Napoleon; at the same time as the struggle to maintain the achievements of 1789 was once again becoming a reality. We put the emperor at the head of these struggles.

AI: Should we consider Napoleon as the continuator of the French Revolution, or as its “channeler,” if not its gravedigger? Did he want to conquer Europe in the name of a kind of revolutionary internationalism, or did he paradoxically contribute, by his invasions, to the creation of European nations? Was his ambition to disseminate ideas, relating to the rights of peoples, the defense of civil equality, the “intangible principles” of the Revolution? Or was he quite simply the continuator of Louis XIV, the bearer of the hegemonic aims of France, which then wanted to be dominant in the world as Spain had once been and as England and Germany would be or wanted to be, not to speak of the United States, Russia and China?

TL: Napoleon was undoubtedly the stabilizer of the Revolution, in his own version of 1789. He was certainly not a liberal in politics. But in social matters, he established civil equality, the right to property, the non-confessionality of the state and civil liberty (which is therefore not political). At a time when the country aspired to restore order and enjoy the achievements, he was the right man on the inside. In 1802, he had already accomplished much of the task: the great reforms were launched and civil peace returned.

Outside of France, things were a bit different. He was indeed the continuator of the diplomacy of the Ancien Régime and of the Revolution, halfway between seeking to impose French dominance in Europe and intending to spread the revolutionary principles (of 1789) in Europe. This is why the evaluation of his work outside France is so difficult. This was his main failure. While there is nothing left of the “Great Empire,” a great deal of its political and social accomplishments yet remain in France and in Europe.

AI: Why was the French military superior to others at that time?

TL: The French military benefited from its modernization throughout the Revolution, mainly in terms of manpower through conscription. They were now fighting for ideas and every citizen was invited to participate. Napoleon reorganized everything again—his army corps, the doctrine of the employment of cavalry and artillery, the excellence of command, and the amalgamation of old troops and conscripts. He also benefited from the concentration of the army at Boulogne, where for two and a half years, the soldiers lived together and trained, while awaiting the hypothetical invasion of England.

This army would long remain the best in the world and would show this excellence in the campaigns from 1805 to 1807. It was finally led by a true military genius, with a unique eye and quick decision-making. Things did turn sour afterwards, with the war in Spain, which devoured ground-troops, prevented amalgamation and demonstrated that this Grand Army was not invincible.

AI: Until 1795, France had the third largest population in the world, behind only China and India. Isn’t this the major explanatory factor for the Napoleonic conquests, rather than the merits and faults of the emperor?

TL: Regarding French military losses, which were poorly understood, it was not until the 1970s to have scientifically established figures. They are essentially derived from the work of demographer-historian Jacques Houdaille. Making use of large-scale scientific surveys in the extensive records, he estimated that there were about 450,000 men killed in action and about as many deaths from injury or illness, along with a few tens of thousands of the “missing.” It can be assumed that the actual losses are in the range of 900,000 to 1 million fatalities.

As for the allies and enemies of France, they suffered, it is often said, but without knowing how to prove it, losses that were “slightly higher” than those of the Grande Armée. If we adopt this principle, the wars of the Empire cost Europe from 2 to 2.5 million men over ten years. While this death toll is significant, it is still lower than in many previous and subsequent wars.

What is more, Europe was not drained of blood at the end of the period, neither economically nor demographically. There was no systematic destruction of towns and villages, and even less of the means of production, except in the Iberian Peninsula where the responsibility was largely shared between French and English troops.

Regarding demography, specialists have shown that France had nearly 1.5 million more inhabitants in 1815 than in 1790. For the whole of Europe, population growth was greater for the 1790-1816 period to what it had been from 1740 to the Revolution. These results are of course due to advances in medicine and the decline in infant mortality. But this general finding will no doubt surprise more than one.

AI: Politically, was Napoleon a “classic” dictator, in the Roman sense, or a totalitarian dictator in the modern sense? Do you consider that despite his mistakes, especially in the choice of ministers, often traitors and incompetents, he remained an exceptional leader or even a political visionary?

TL: It goes without saying that from 1799 to 1815, Napoleon spent every minute strengthening and defending the reign of the executive, even if it meant showing himself to be more and more authoritarian. But to speak of a dictatorship and, moreover, of a military dictatorship, is to make fun of history and the meaning of words.

According to the jurist and political scientist Maurice Duverger—who has devoted a good part of his work to the concept of dictatorship—three simultaneous conditions are necessary to characterize it: 1) that the regime be installed and maintained by force, in particular military; 2) that it be arbitrary, that is to say that it suppresses freedoms and controls the decisions of arbitral or judicial bodies; 3) that it be considered illegitimate by a large part of the citizens. The study of each of these points for the Napoleonic regime leads to the rejection of any such peremptory conclusion. Under Napoleon, the establishment of a strong and embodied state was not accompanied by the systematic use of illegitimate coercion or indiscriminate force, much less for the benefit of the army.

AI: In economics, was Napoleon an interventionist or a liberal?

TL: In economic matters, Napoleon was more of a “liberal.” For him, the state did not have to intervene in the day-to-day economy, except for foreign trade which was carried out “for the grandeur of the state.” It was also important to him that the social situation be as stable as possible; and that is why he was able to intervene with public orders at the time of the crises, in particular that of 1810, which was extremely serious.

AI: Is he the “father” of the modern French state?

TL: Napoleon put an end to the trial-and-error approach when it came to the organization of the state and its administration. He simplified the grid into a pyramid model, at the top of which was the executive, not always himself in person, but those who represented the government, such as ministers. This has been called the “French model,” moreover adopted by most European states, with adaptations, even among its enemies.

AI: In his will Napoleon declared himself belonging to the Catholic religion. Can the leader of an army of soldiers from the Revolution, whose members were seen as dechristianizers in most countries of Europe, be presented as a Catholic? Wasn’t his Catholicism more of interest than conviction?

TL: We will never know whether Napoleon believed in God or not. What is certain is that he saw religions, especially the Catholic religion, as an intermediary body that should contribute to social stability and public order. This is why he “reestablished” Catholicism, organized Protestantism and Judaism, leaving them a certain dogmatic freedom, but subjecting them to the law of the state.

AI: What is the difference between the non-denominational Napoleonic state and the tradition of French republican secularism that prevailed from 1880 onwards, under the Third Republic?

TL: The Napoleonic non-confessionality, established in principle by the Civil Code, is a first step towards secularism. It proclaims that the various churches are subject to the state and to the law. But with Napoleon, this is expressed through concrete measures: public and civil status, acceptance of divorce, submission of faiths to the laws governing public order. He had no ambition to intervene in beliefs; but on the other hand, he left nothing to be organized outside of social and political necessities.

AI: Freemasonry lived fifteen extraordinary years under Napoleon, multiplying the number of lodges which went from 300 to 1220. Napoleon had many Freemasons in his family (including Jérôme, Louis and Joseph, whom the Spaniards nicknamed Pepe Botella); 14 of the first 18 marshals were Freemasons, as were a number of generals and most of the great dignitaries of the Empire. What was his relationship to Freemasonry? Was he himself a Freemason?

TL: Even if he himself was not (there is no proof of a supposed initiation in Egypt), Napoleon was surrounded by initiates such as his brothers, as well as Cambacérès, Lebrun, Fouché, Talleyrand, etc. In his Masonic policy, he relied above all on Cambaceres, who appeared to be the “protector” of the Order.

Initiated in 1781 in a lodge in Montpellier, Cambaceres climbed all the ranks and took this commitment very seriously, including at the time of the revolutionary interdicts. He then helped his friend Alexandre-Louis Roëttiers de Montaleau, grand master of the Grand Orient, to “rekindle fires” within the Directory. He thus participated in the first ranks in the meeting of June 22, 1799 by which, in the presence of five hundred masons, the Grand Lodge merged into the Grand Orient.

From that moment, French Freemasonry had almost regained its unity, further supplemented by the addition of the Grand Chapter of Arras to the Grand Orient, on December 27, 1801. It was not affected by the creation of a Scottish lodge, in 1803, an experiment immediately stopped by a new act of union signed a few days after the Imperial Coronation.

This unification of December 5, 1804, sometimes qualified as a “Masonic concordat,” confirmed the primacy of the Grand Orient which, in exchange, admitted the maintenance of several rites within it. Napoleon would have liked Freemasonry to constitute an intermediary body supporting the regime. But it was too plural for that; it crossed too many parties to be able to be a real support. It was never that, and continued its existence without problem under other regimes.

AI: It has often been suggested that after his military expedition to Egypt (1798 – 1799), Napoleon Bonaparte professed great sympathy for Islam? Was he sincere?

TL: Napoleon studied Muhammad, especially through the works of Voltaire. He admired his determined and almost warlike aspect. His sympathy for Islam hardly went beyond that. He did not convert, nor was he inspired by it for the Civil Code, as we can sometimes read on websites that are sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood.

AI: Almost all European people had a place in the Grand Army (Dutch, Saxons, Germans, Poles, Spaniards, Portuguese, Italians, Belgians, Austrians, Bavarians, Swiss, etc..). Allied strengths even made up between 20% to 48% of the total force, depending on the campaign, but only the Poles remained loyal to the end. How do you explain that?

TL: It has been said, and we have come to believe, that it was out of pure personal ambition that Napoleon made war. But this forgets that, at that time, peace was a state of emergency and that all states were primarily concerned with preparing for inevitable conflict. This is also forgets that history and geopolitics often made it inevitable. I have written dozens of pages on this subject to which I refer interested readers. I will just repeat here that Europe was not simply divided into two camps during the Napoleonic episode; otherwise, it would not have been until the fall of 1813 that a general coalition was formed against France.

Before that, the continental powers had come to terms with French dominance and tried to make as much profit as possible for themselves. It was the great success of British diplomacy to succeed in uniting all of Europe around its lowest common denominator (bringing down France and its leader), by playing on resentments and unfulfilled promises to some, and to others, on the economy and finances—much more than on the principle of a “liberation” of the Continent. This explains why many foreign contingents were placed at the disposal of the Grande Armée for nearly fifteen years, most often with the consent of their sovereigns.

AI: The controversies surrounding the figure of Napoleon have redoubled in virulence on the eve of the celebration of the bicentenary of his death. The exaltation of heroism and the spirit of sacrifice have now largely given way to victimist and navel-gazing ideology. On the other hand, the wave of political correctness and the nihilistic modes embodied in the woke spirit or the cancel culture originating in North America seem irresistible. As a result, the vast majority of the media see Napoleon only as a tyrant, an instigator of war, a misogynist, a supporter of patriarchy, a slaver (for having reestablished slavery eight years after its suppression and imprisoned Toussaint Louverture, a black separatist, who had been appointed general under the Directory). How do you answer these charges?

TL: I answer them at length in the book I just published, Pour Napoléon (For Napoleon). I think we are at an important time in the fight against the trends that you describe.

Our rulers are paralyzed by groups which have made a specialty of amalgams and historical untruths to impose their “agenda,” and to accuse their country of having “murdered” entire categories, and then defiling public places or calling for action and riot?

Nothing was done either to prevent or to combat the iconoclastic fever that came from the United States, after the tragic death of George Floyd. Even though we sometimes think that the famous “submission,” nicely denounced by Michel Houellebecq, is a bit tricky, it is all the same the first word that comes to mind.

If one believes Montesquieu’s warning that “oppression always begins with sleep,” one can only be frightened to see those we mandate to preserve national cohesion and unity sleeping soundly—or pretending to sleep so as not to see anything, which in the end comes to the same. As a historian and as a citizen, I thought that I could not remain inert in the face of this danger.

AI: Monsieur Lentz, thank you for this delightful conversation.


The featured image shows, “Napoleon I, crowned by the Allegory of Time, writes the Code Civil,” by Jean-Baptiste Mauzaisse, painted in 1833.


The featured image shows a portrait of Napoleon by Andrea Appiani, painted in 1805.

God And The World: Renovating Philosophy

I intend here to return to my renovation of Platonism—and to confront some classical arguments in favor of God’s existence, then present how my claims on God and on the supraworldly realm are corroborated by cosmic evolution. I will also deal with the issue of apodicticity in mathematical knowledge—and in the knowledge of essences.

The Identity Argument

A classical argument for the existence of God goes like this. At a given moment, in a certain respect, any existing entity is necessarily what it is, rather than what it is not. It follows that any existing entity is necessarily an entity which has always existed, or an entity which was engendered by another entity; and that an entity that changes is necessarily an entity that owes its change to the action of another entity. In other words, no existing entity is an entity born out of nothing, nor an entity that changes spontaneously.

It is thought one can deduce the existence of God from this argument. Some of the entities in that world change or appear seemingly in a spontaneous manner (i.e., change or appear without finding the origin of their change in another entity existing in that world) and the universe itself has not always existed. The apparently spontaneous change and appearances, and the appearance of the universe itself, are therefore, it is said, the result of an entity eternal and external to the universe. And that entity would be God (conceived of as supramundane).

This argument is refuted as follows. The alleged fact that any entity is necessarily what it is rather than what it is not in some respect, at a given time, does not imply that any entity necessarily remains identical to itself (unless an external action to make it other than what it is at a given moment, in a given respect); nor does it imply that any entity is either uncreated or created by another entity. In other words, if one proved that our world is indeed subject to the law of identity, the fact that it is subject to the law of identity would not result in the impossibility for the entities within it—or for our world taken as a whole—to change spontaneously or to create itself spontaneously.

The aforementioned argument in favor of the existence of God—which concludes the existence of God on the grounds that entities in that world change in an apparently spontaneous mode and that new entities appear spontaneously (and that the world itself was created), and that the law of identity allegedly makes spontaneous change or creation impossible—is therefore false. The existence of God (conceived of as supramundane) would not be implied by the law of identity if it existed. The apparition of the universe from nothing would not be rendered impossible by the existence of the law of identity.

The Movement Argument

Another classic argument in favor of the existence of God, which for its part was proposed by Aristotle and taken up by Saint Thomas Aquinas, goes like this. Any existing entity that happens to be moving (in the broad sense of displacement, action, or change) necessarily finds the origin of its movement in another entity that, temporally, precedes it or is simultaneous with it. Yet an infinite regression of movers is inconceivable, whether on the worldly or supraworldly level. It follows, it is said, that the existence of a prime and supramundane mover, itself immobile, is necessarily supposed by the existence of movement in the world.

The premise of the impossibility of spontaneous movement is ambiguous from several points of view. It strictly admits two interpretations with regard to the question of the supramundane extent of said impossibility. The first interpretation is that any existing and moving entity, whether on the plane of that world or on the supramundane plane, finds the origin of its movement in another entity. The second interpretation is that in that world, and only in that world (rather than on the supramundane plane), any existing and moving entity necessarily owes its movement to another entity. To those two distinct interpretations of the premise of the impossibility of movement correspond two distinct interpretations of the argument. Either way, the argument does not hold up.

As for the first interpretation, the argument is thus refuted. The alleged facts that, on the worldly and supramundane planes, every movement (in the broad sense, therefore beyond the sole fact of moving in space) is (strictly) the fruit of another mover, and that, on the mundane and supramundane planes, every mover is necessarily either a first engine or a non-prime engine (otherwise there would be an infinite regression in the number of movers, which is allegedly inconceivable), are false. Moreover, they exclude each other, i.e., cannot coexist; and, for that, their necessary implication is self-contradictory. The force of attraction exerted in that world by quarks, stars, or apples, which falls within movement in the broad sense, is not the result of an external mover.

As for an infinite regression (in any domain), it is quite conceivable that it is possible in that world as much on the supramundane plane—and possible in that world as in other possible worlds. Besides, the allegation that movement, in that world as well as on the supramundane plane, is inconceivable in the absence of a prime mover contradicts the allegation that an external mover, in that world as much as on the supramundane plane, is necessary to generate the movement of a given entity. And that to affirm simultaneously those two premises necessarily amounts to affirming, notably, that the movement of a certain mundane or supramundane entity requires the movement consisting for a primary and supramundane mover to provoke (directly or indirectly) the movement of the above-mentioned entity, but that the movement of the first and supramundane agency will itself necessitate the movement of another agency prior to that first mover. Which is a self-contradictory, and therefore absurd, assertion.

Instead of these two premises implying that the existence of a first and supramundane agency, itself immobile, is a necessary condition for the movement of entities in that world—they imply that the movement of entities in that world has, as a necessary condition, a prime and supramundane agency, and that the latter is itself a non-immobile agency which has as a necessary condition for its movement a mover prior to that prime mover. In other words, the necessary implication of those two premises is that there is a prime and supramundane mover, itself mobile, which is both prime and non-prime, which is absurd. It is, admittedly, quite conceivable that there exists a supramundane and mobile agency which—instead of being prime—is itself moved by another supramundane and mobile agency preceding it, and that that other supramundane and mobile agency is itself moved by another supramundane and mobile agency preceding it; and so on.

But that speculation is neither the conclusion that effectively flows from the premises mentioned above (namely that any intramundane or supramundane movement is the result of an external agency, and that an infinite regression is possible neither on a worldly plane nor on a supramundane plane); nor the conclusion that the movement argument (thus interpreted) believes, wrongly, to be able to infer from said premises. The concept of an immobile mover is itself contradictory: every mover exerts a movement in so far as it exerts an agenting activity.

When it comes to concluding that there is a primary and supramundane agency, the argument from movement, if we now interpret it in these terms, is more coherent. In such a world, but not on the supramundane plane, any moving entity (in the broad sense) is necessarily moved by another entity. Yet an infinite regression of the movers is inconceivable, whether on the worldly or supraworldly plane. It follows, says the argument of movement thus interpreted, that the movement in such a world necessarily presupposes a primary and supramundane mover, itself immobile, whose agential activity is not due to another mover preceding it.

Here, the premises are now compatible, but are again wrong. Endless regression is not more inconceivable on the mundane level than on the supramundane level. Moreover, it is wrong that any moving entity in that world (as it is reasonably conjectured) finds the origin of its movement in another entity. As for the suggested inference, it is almost consistent. What the above-mentioned premises necessarily imply is in fact that movement in such a world necessarily presupposes a primary and supramundane mover itself mobile, whose agential activity finds its origin in itself. They do not imply what the argument from movement (thus interpreted) claims to be able to infer from it—namely, that they do not imply that movement in such a world necessarily presupposes a primary and supramundane driver, itself immobile. They even imply that it is wrong (and absurd) that the prime and supramundane mover be itself immobile.

As correct as the inference is that intramundane movement necessarily presupposes a primary and supramundane mover, which is at the origin of its own movement—the premise of the necessary impossibility of spontaneous movement in such a world, and the one of the inconceivability of an infinite regression of the agents on the worldly or supraworldly plane, are both false. Therefore, that alleged proof of the existence of God is not valid. Here, I will leave aside Saint Thomas Aquinas’s four other arguments for the existence of God.

The Perfection Argument

The argument of perfection, most often known as the “ontological argument,” goes like this. It is in God’s concept to be perfect. If God lacked the property of existing, something would be lacking in him; he would therefore not be perfect. It follows, it is said, that it is in the essence of God (i.e., among the constitutive properties of God) to exist. That classic argument, which dates back at least to Anselm of Canterbury, was the subject of a refutation attempt by Immanuel Kant. For my part, I claim that the Kantian critique is not more valid than is the argument from perfection itself.

The Kantian criticism goes like this. The term “is” is not a “real predicate,” i.e., a logical predicate corresponding to an alleged attribute of the object contained in the concept of the logical subject. In Kant’s terms, it is not “a concept of something which can be added to the concept of a thing.” The term “is” is either “the copula of a judgment,” i.e., a word which establishes a link between the logical subject and the logical predicate, without itself being a logical predicate; or a logical predicate which poses the object of the concept of the logical subject without itself, being a real predicate. In other words, the fact that an existing entity exists is not an attribute of said entity; and the fact that the logical predicate “exists” to be used does not add anything to the concept of the logical subject, nor does it make explicit what the concept of the logical subject contains.

The concept of perfection is certainly contained in the concept of God; but the judgment “God is” is a synthetic judgment (in the Kantian sense, i.e., in the sense of a judgment which associates with the logical subject a logical predicate, not included in the concept of said subject), which does not associate a “real predicate” to the concept of God.

Therefore, if God existed, it would not add any attribute to God that was not already formulated in his concept. Just as “a hundred real thalers contain nothing more than a hundred possible thalers,” the perfection of God, if he existed, would contain nothing more than the perfection constitutive of God according to his concept. In other words, the fact for God to exist (instead of being only possible through the concept of God) would not increase the perfection of God; but would only make it happen with all the properties which are attributed to him according to his concept, without adding or subtracting anything from his properties.

In Kant’s words, “even if I were to think in a thing, all of reality, except one; that one missing reality would not be supplied by my saying that so defective a thing exists, but it would exist with the same defect with which I thought it; or what exists would be different from what I thought. If, then, I try to conceive a being, as the highest reality (without any defect), the question still remains, whether it exists or not.” Therefore, it is impossible to infer the existence of God from the concept of perfection, included in the concept of God, just as it is impossible to infer the existence of one hundred real thalers from the concept of one hundred thalers. “Whatever, therefore, our concept of an object may contain, we must always step outside it, in order to attribute to it existence.”

Kant’s critique of the ontological argument (as Kant calls it) comes to a correct conclusion, but infers it (correctly) from a false premise. It is quite true that the existence of God would not make him more perfect than he already is according to his concept; and that the fact the concept of perfection is included in the concept of God does not render his existence necessary. Nonetheless, it remains false that existence is not a property of existing entities; and that the logical predicates “is” or “are” are not “real predicates.” Existence and the mode of existence are genuinely properties of existing entities: just as the fact of not existing and the mode of non-existence are genuinely properties of non-existent entities.

To say that Donald Duck is a fictional character genuinely consists of attributing “a real predicate” (namely “fictional character”) to the logical subject, “Donald Duck.” In other words, it genuinely consists of attributing to the logical subject, “Donald Duck,” the “real predicate” of inexistence; and, more precisely, the “real predicate” of the mode of non-existence consisting of being a fictional character (rather than a real person).

To say of a human who really existed that he was born in this or that year and died in this or that year genuinely consists of attributing to the logical subject the “real predicate” of a certain mode of existence (namely, the fact of coming into existence through birth and of existing for the duration of a human lifetime); and the “real predicate” of a certain mode of non-existence (namely the fact of having ceased to exist after death).

The flaw in the perfection argument is the following one. An existing entity that would be perfect in every way would not need to exist to be perfect. In other words, the perfection constitutive of a perfect existing entity would not render its existence necessary: the attribute of existence existence and the attribute of perfection would be in said entity independent of each other. Therefore, the fact that perfection is included in the concept of God does not imply that the existence of God is necessary. Just as Botticelli’s Venus does not need to exist to be perfectly beautiful, so God does not need to exist to be perfect. The existence of Botticelli’s Venus would not render her more beautiful than she already is according to her painting; the existence of God would not render him more perfect than he already is according to his concept.

So, what is going on with these concepts, including the attribute of existence – for example, the concept of substance, which includes the attribute of existence in an eternal and uncreated mode. In a certain existing entity, the attribute of existence is not implied by those attributes distinct from the attribute of existence. Therefore, the non-existential attributes of an entity, alleged by a certain concept, including, and thus alleging, existential attributes imply neither the allegation of the alleged existential attributes, nor the existence of the alleged existential or non-existential attributes. It follows that in a certain concept whose object corresponds to a certain existing entity, and whose object is defined by an attribute of existence, the inclusion of the attribute of existence does not render the object real; i.e., that the existence of the object is not implied by the inclusion of the attribute of existence. In other words, it follows that a certain concept will be true or false, depending on whether its object exists or not—and not depending on whether the attribute of existence is included or not. Jesus existed depending on whether he existed or not—and not whether or not the concept of Jesus says of Jesus that he was born in Bethlehem on December 25 shortly before the year one. Venus existed depending on whether or not she existed—and not on whether or not Botticelli’s painting shows the birth of Venus in a seashell. Substance exists according to whether it exists or not—and not whether or not its concept describes it as an uncreated, eternal entity.

The World As Incarnation

I intend now to return to my conception of God—and to argue in its defense. My conception of God, which I already introduced elsewhere, can be put as follows. Let us imagine that someone starts to write a book in an improvised mode. His story begins with a character rolling a six-sided dice, which lands on the face with three dots. On the one hand, the fact that the dice lands on that face is due to chance in the world of the story considered independently of the writer. On the other hand, in the world of the story, considered in relation to the writer, that fictional event is rendered necessary by the fact that the writer decides to land on the face with three dots.

Then the writer wonders what the possibilities are for the rest of the story, i.e., wonders what such a beginning for his story renders possible and impossible for the rest of the story. One possibility is that the character, having thrown the dice, finds himself in a casino; another one is that the character does not find himself in a casino, but in a bedroom with the dice on a bedside table. The number of possibilities is tremendous, but the writer cannot identify each of them. He finally decides that the character finds himself in a field of daisies and has thrown the dice on a wooden table. Then he continues to expand the created fictional universe by identifying possible implications and by actualizing some of them. The situation of God in relation to His creation is to some extent similar to the situation of that writer in relation to his story.

The notion of reality has a strong sense and a weak one. In the weak one, reality is the totality of what exists—whether supramundane or intramundane, and whether material or spiritual. I claim there are two levels of reality in the weak sense. One is like the letters written in a novel; the other is like the fictional world created by those letters. In the strong sense, reality is the material, worldly plane. For the sake of semantic clarity, the rest of the article will make use of the notion of reality only in the strong sense. I claim reality (understood in the strong sense) to be the incarnation of a supraworldly, spiritual plane that is like a book whose letters produce a fictional world.

Two things must be specified when doing that comparison. On the one hand, the letters of a novel do not incarnate themselves into the occasioned fictional world. But the supramundane plane, for its part, incarnates itself into the real world it occasions (while remaining virtual and external to the world). On the other hand, the letters in a novel are placed one after the other. But the supramundane plane is, for its part, atemporal—in the sense that its past, its present, and its future are simultaneous rather than successive. The supramundane plane is composed of an infinity of ideational entities—and endowed with a pulse to select some of those ideational entities and to turn the selected ones into material entities.

In selecting and materializing some ideational entities, the supramundane plane proceeds like the aforementioned writer. It starts with materializing some ideational entities (what occasions the apparition of the world from nothingness); then deciphers the possible implications from those very first materialized ideational entities. It selects some of those implications and actualizes them, what is tantamount to materializing some other ideational entities; then it actualizes some of the new offered possibilities, and so on. The world is the material, temporal incarnation of the virtual, atemporal pulse through which the supramundane plane sorts and actualizes its own content.

The pulse through which the supramundane plane sorts and actualizes its own content is also the pulse through which the supramundane plane is united. That virtual and atemporal supramundane plane united by its own sorting, actualizing pulse—and selectively incarnated into a material, temporal world to which it however remains external—is what I deem to be God. Like the aforementioned writer, God improvises His creation; and like the aforementioned writer, God plans and renders necessary those events in our world that happen in a random, unplanned manner.

As random and unplanned as are genetic mutations in our world considered independently of the supramundane plane, they are decided and forced in the supramundane plane and incarnated into our world. In improvising the course of unplanned, random events, God tries to generate ever-higher levels of order and complexity in the world; that is how an undirected, random cosmos is persistently, but fallibly, evolving towards order and complexity. Just like mistakes happen in some improvised fictional narratives, mistakes happen in the march of the improvised universe; it is not a perfect universe, nor a universe with a predefined arrival line. It is an irremediably imperfect universe, partly random (and irremediably random); but relentlessly, surprisingly evolving towards order and complexity, without the final stage of cosmic history being preset.

Again, the cosmos is a temporal, material improvised incarnation of an atemporal, virtual improvised pulse; a pulse whose past, present, and future stages happen simultaneously. The operation of that pulse does not exclude the operation of some intermediate demiurges between God and the humans; but every pulse in the world happens as an incarnation of a single pulse. Whether it comes from a demiurge, a human, a bacterium, or a dog—every pulse in the mundane realm comes as a temporal, material, singular illustration of the divine pulse, incarnating itself into the whole cosmos and remaining however external to the cosmos.

I will not venture to try to prove the existence of God (such as described here); but I believe I can show that my approach to God is highly corroborated (in default of being proven) by two things, at least. On the one hand, cosmic evolution, as conjectured nowadays in Western science, is an undirected, largely random process that however leads, more or less, to ever-higher levels of order and complexity. By itself, such a process is highly unlikely to result in such high levels of organization as those conjectured.

My approach to God proposes a solution to that paradox and transcends the opposition between the thesis of the “intelligent design” and those theoretical conceptions known as “Neo-Darwinism.” Cosmic evolution (including biological) is indeed undirected and largely random, as so-called Neo-Darwinists claim; but it is also the shadow, so to speak, of a directed, spiritual process. The latter is not present in the world, in which evolution is really undirected and (partly) random—unlike what the proponents of the “intelligent design” thesis believe. Instead, the divine process, which is purposeful and nonetheless fallible, is incarnated into the cosmos, which remains undirected and largely random for its part.

On the other hand, my approach to God takes into account the existence of suprasensible intuition, i.e., the experience of the supraworldly, ideational realm through unempirical perception. Suprasensible intuition is especially practiced in the knowledge area known as mathematics—as Pythagoras and Plato claim. For the sake of semantic clarity, the rest of the article will call “entities” only those distinct beings that are material and intramundane.

The distinct beings within the supraworldly, ideational realm will not be called entities. The distinct ideational beings include numbers and figures; but, also, the ideational models for the entities within the worldly realm—as much those that used to exist as those presently existing and as those existing in the future. The ideational models within the supraworldly realm also include models for those entities corresponding to possible worlds that the sorting, actualizing pulse chooses not to actualize. The issue of knowing whether some truths in that world remain true in all the possible worlds is an old one. Mathematical truths are often thought to be such truths—and, more precisely, thought to remain true in all the possible worlds through being apodictic statements. I intend now to turn to that issue.

Mathematics As Suprasensible Intuition

An allegedly apodictic statement is a statement allegedly true by its sole terms—and therefore true by right and true whatever may be. An allegedly analytical statement is a statement that, allegedly, is true or wrong depending (and depending only) on the (correct) laws of formal logic. In Kant’s approach to analyticity, an analytical statement is, more precisely, a statement in which the predicate is included in the concept of the subject. In the approach of logical empiricism, an analytical statement is, more precisely, a statement that is either tautological (i.e., true for any distribution of the truth-values in the calculation of predicates), or reducible to a tautology (i.e., a statement true for any distribution of the truth-values in the calculation of predicates). In Leibniz’s approach, an analytical statement is, more precisely, a statement whose opposite is self-contradictory.

An allegedly synthetic statement is a statement that, allegedly, is true or wrong depending (and depending only) on whether it is congruent with reality. In Kant’s approach to syntheticity, a synthetic statement is, more precisely, a statement in which the predicate is not included in the concept of the subject. In the approach of logical empiricism, a synthetic statement is, more precisely, a statement that is neither tautological nor reducible to a tautology. In Leibniz’s approach, a synthetic statement is, more precisely, a statement whose opposite is not self-contradictory.

The problem with the notion of apodicticity is dual. Firstly, the problem is to know whether an apodictic statement is possible. Secondly, it is to know whether an apodictic statement (if it is possible) is necessarily an analytical statement. Kant is commonly thought of as claiming the mathematical statements to be apodictic ones that are nonetheless synthetic in the Kantian sense, i.e., endowed with a predicate that is not included in the concept of the subject.

According to my understanding of Kant’s approach to mathematics, he really conceives of mathematical statements as synthetic statements that are not apodictic; but which can nonetheless be proven true or false independently of sensible experience. And that by reason of the fact their concepts are constructed exclusively within the “pure forms of sensible intuition” that are, according to Kant, space and time, i.e., the fact that their concepts are constructed not on the basis of sensible experience, but only within the a priori spatial, temporal framework that the human mind, according to Kant, confers onto sensible experience. What Kant has in mind when speaking of an “a priori synthetic judgment” is not an apodictic synthetic judgment, but a synthetic judgment that, while being a priori (i.e., independent of sensible intuition) and while being not apodictic, can be proven true or false when—and only when—constructed within the human mind’s “pure forms of sensible intuition.”

Kant’s thesis (that mathematical judgments exclusively deal with concepts the human mind spontaneously constructs within the spatial, temporal framework of the human mind) is notably opposed by the one—notably shared by Pythagoras and Plato—that mathematical statements are exclusively the fruit of suprasensible experience. I will leave aside the issue of knowing whether Pythagoras and Plato also think of mathematical statements as apodictic ones.

In my opinion, Kant’s thesis suffers two flaws, at least: on the one hand, a logical flaw (i.e., a flaw in terms of internal coherence); on the other hand, an analytical error, i.e., a mistaken appreciation of reality. On the one hand, it claims the (true) mathematical synthetic judgments to fall both within unapodictic statements (i.e., those statements that are not true by the sole reason of their terms) and a priori, objective knowledge (i.e., objectively true knowledge logically anterior to sensible experience); but is really unable to account for the alleged ability of the human mind to determine in an a priori mode (i.e., independently of sensible experience) whether its mathematical synthetic judgments are true or wrong.

If mathematical judgments were, indeed, both unapodictic and (exclusively) constructed within the alleged spatio-temporal framework of the human mind (as Kant claims), the fact would still remain that such origin for mathematical judgments would not allow the human mind to determine in an a priori mode whether those unapodictic judgments are true or wrong. Thus, Kant’s thesis leaves unexplained an alleged fact it proposes to explain: the alleged character of (true) mathematic judgments as a priori, unapodictic, objectively true knowledge.

On the other hand, Kant’s thesis is partly mistaken about the origin of mathematical synthetic judgments. Those are really the fruit of suprasensible perception to some extent; and the fruit of the human mind to some extent. Here I will leave aside the issue of knowing whether the mathematical statements the human mind is able to conceive (and able to conceive of as true) are necessarily an extension of statements the human mind is able to conceive of as true by the sole operation of certain admitted logical laws. Or the issue of knowing whether any true mathematical statement, i.e., any mathematical statement congruent with reality, is necessarily an extension of certain admitted logical laws congruent with what may be called the ontological structure of reality. My only points here are the two. First, the truth of a mathematical statement—such as “7 + 5 = 12”—is not apodictic. Second, our mathematical concepts and statements are to some extent the product of the suprasensible perception which Plato and Pythagoras refer to; and to some extent the product of the human mind itself.

At least in that world, perhaps also in all the possible worlds (which remains to be determined—and I will leave aside that issue here), an apodictic statement (i.e., a statement true by its sole terms—and therefore true whatever may be, and true by right) cannot exist. At least in our world, a true statement can be true only by virtue of its conformity to reality. Hence, there can be no statement true by reason of its sole terms. A certain statement that holds true, whatever may be, is true by virtue of a certain fact that remains whatever may be, i.e., a certain fact that remains in all the possible worlds; but it is not true in an apodictic mode.

The same applies to logical laws and to definitions. An objectively valuable logical law, i.e., a logical law that objectively allows for coherent lines of reasoning, is objectively valuable because it is in line with the ontological structure of (our) reality; but it is not rendered objectively valuable by its sole terms. The law of identity, the law of non-contradiction, the law of the excluded middle, the modus ponens, the modus tollens, etc., cannot be logically valuable unless the corresponding alleged ontological facts (i.e., the alleged fact that any existing entity is necessarily what it is, rather than what is not, etc.) are real. Likewise, an objectively valuable definition is necessarily a true definition, i.e., a definition that is congruent with reality; it cannot be rendered objectively valuable by its sole terms.

An allegedly analytical statement is an allegedly apodictic statement that allegedly owes its apodicticity to being true by the sole operation of some (allegedly correct) logical laws. An admitted logical law is not analytical, i.e., is not rendered true or false by its own operation; but it is true or false, depending on whether it is congruent with the ontological structure of our world. A tautological statement is a statement that certain admitted logical laws (whatever they may be) deem to be true (or deem to be false) for any distribution of truth values. A tautological statement necessarily expresses what it claims to be—a certain illustration (in our world) of the ontological structure common to all the possible worlds. For instance, “a cat is cat” expresses a certain illustration of the ontological law of identity—and implicitly claims such law to be common to the ontological structure of all the possible worlds.

A tautological statement is not analytical, i.e., is not rendered true or wrong by the sole operation of certain admitted logical laws; but it is true or false, depending on whether it is congruent with an actual illustration (in our world) of a certain ontological law of our reality—and on whether that ontological law is common to our world and to all the possible worlds. “A cat is a cat” is true depending on whether the alleged fact that a cat is a cat is an actual illustration (in our world) of an actual ontological law in our world—and on whether that ontological law is common to the ontological structure of all the possible worlds.

A definition is a statement of some alleged properties in the object of a certain concept. An admitted definition in a certain language is contentless and conventional from the angle of that language, considered independently of reality; but it is informational and speculative from the aspect of that language considered in relation to reality. An admitted definition is not analytical, i.e., is not rendered true or false by the sole operation of certain admitted logical laws; but it is true or false depending on whether it is congruent with the object of the definition. A mathematical statement is not analytical either; but it is true or false depending on whether it is in line with what may be called the mathematical field of reality.

Here I will leave aside the issue of knowing whether a mathematical statement and a definition can be reduced to a tautology; but let us admit they can be reduced to a tautology, i.e., a statement that certain admitted logical laws deem to be true for any distribution of truth values. Their reducibility would not render them analytical—since they would be reducible to a (tautological) statement that is not analytical. Saying that a statement is true for any distribution of truth values, in regards to certain admitted logical laws, is tantamount to saying that the latter is true in all the possible worlds in regards to those laws. Yet a statement is not rendered effectively true in all the possible worlds by the fact of being tautological in regards to certain admitted logical laws.

The only way for a statement to be true in all the possible worlds (i.e., true whatever may be) is to be congruent with a fact that remains in all the possible worlds. A tautological statement is not contentless (as Ludwig Wittgenstein and others claim). If it were a contentless statement, it would be neither true nor wrong; but a tautological statement is true or false depending on whether it is congruent with an actual illustration (in our world) of an ontological law common to all possible worlds.

Wittgenstein’s claim that a tautological statement exhibits (but does not tell) the ontological structure of our world (and only that of our world) is doubly wrong. Instead, a tautological statement tells (instead of showing) what it claims to be—the ontological structure common to our world and to all possible worlds. If any possible mathematical statement is reducible to a tautology, then any possible mathematical statement speaks of the ontological structure allegedly common to our world and to all possible worlds. Any possible mathematical statement is true or false, depending on whether it is congruent with an actual illustration (in our world) of an ontological law common to all the possible worlds.

Going back to Kant’s claim about the origin of mathematical judgments, I suspect that the human mind is indeed endowed with a spatio-temporal framework which it uses to structure the sensible content; and that such framework is innate or acquired through experience or culture. But the human mind is not the only originator of its mathematical statements and concepts; they are to some extent the fruit of suprasensible intuition (in people highly gifted with suprasensible perception). On the one hand, the human mind’s spatio-temporal framework hosts within it the fruit of suprasensible intuition; on the other hand, the human mind works from the fruit of suprasensible intuition and generates its own mathematical concepts and statements.

The necessarily flawed character (to a varying degree) of a suprasensible intuition is one of the reasons why our mathematical knowledge is necessarily perfectible—and why revolutions can happen in mathematics. The fact the human mind, when it does not host the necessarily flawed fruit of a suprasensible intuition, only deals with its own invented concepts and statements, is another reason for the perfectibility of our mathematical knowledge. It is true that our mathematical concepts and statements, whether they stem from suprasensible intuition or from the human hind itself, can be corroborated by reality, such as it is observed or conjectured; but our observations of reality and our conjectures about reality can only corroborate our groping mathematical knowledge. They cannot confirm it. Such affirmation deserves further clarification, which I intend to deal with elsewhere.

The Issue Of Essences And Definitions

Besides containing ideational numbers and figures, the ideational domain also contains ideational models for existing entities (as well as for those that used to exist and for those that will exist). The essence of a (material) entity is what a (material) entity is. More precisely, it is both what an entity is—and what makes said entity be what it is, rather than be what it is not.

The essence of an entity is dual: it has an ideational component on the one hand; and a material one on the other hand. The ideational essence, i.e., the ideational component of an essence, contains the sum of all the properties of the considered (material) entity. The material essence, i.e., the material component of an essence, only contains the sum of all the constitutive properties of the considered (material) entity. I intend now to deal more extensively with the subject of ideational and material essences.

A mistake by Plato was to conceive of essence as only ideational—and to conceive of ideational essence as only containing the constitutive properties. More precisely, those constitutive properties that are general in the strong sense, i.e., attached to the genre under which a considered entity falls. An ideational essence instead contains the sum of all the properties of the considered entity—and not only those properties that are both constitutive and general in the strong sense.

As for the material essence, it only contains those properties that are constitutive—but as much those constitutive properties that are general in the strong sense as the rest of those properties that are constitutive. Another mistake by Plato was to conceive of the material entity as partaking of its ideational model. Any material entity is instead the incarnation of its ideational model, which incarnates itself into the corresponding material entity while remaining ideational and external to the corresponding material entity.

The definition of a material entity can be unique to some individuals, or can be generally admitted, i.e., admitted in a certain language and common to all the people participating in that language. Any definition deals with some properties of the defined material entity; more precisely, those properties whose inclusion into the considered definition allows the latter to make the considered entity easily distinguished (and recognized) when referred to in a certain statement. The properties evoked in a certain definition do not necessarily coincide with the constitutive properties of the defined entity. But the definition of a certain entity is true or false, depending on its conformity to the properties of the entity. Here, I will leave aside the issue of defining properties rather than entities—and the issue of defining ideational models rather than material entities.

A property is what is characteristic of a certain (material) entity at a given moment of the entity’s existence. Among the properties of an entity, some are constitutive of said entity, i.e., part of what makes that entity what it is (rather than what it is not); others are accessory, i.e., external to what makes that entity what it is (rather than what it is not).

Among the constitutive properties, some are innate to an entity, i.e., are attached permanently to said entity over the course of its existence (unless its integrity is broken); others are emergent in the weak sense, i.e., become attached (whether permanently or temporarily) to said entity over the course of its existence. Among the emergent properties in the weak sense, some are constitutive; others are accessory. Among the emergent properties in the weak sense, some are emergent also in the strong sense, i.e., they introduce qualitative novelty into the world; others are emergent only in the weak sense, i.e., are properties that become attached (instead of being permanently attached to the considered entity over the course of its existence), but which are not novel qualitatively.

Among the properties of an entity, some are necessary, i.e., are forced to be attached permanently to the entity, or are forced to become attached to the entity; others are contingent, i.e., are attached permanently to the entity, or become attached, but without being forced to be attached permanently or forced to become attached. Among the necessary properties, some are constitutive, permanent properties; others are constitutive, emergent (in the weak sense) properties. Among the constitutive properties, some are general in the strong sense, i.e., are attached to the genre within which the considered entity falls; others are unique, i.e., are attached to the considered entity but are not attached to its genre.

While any constitutive, permanent property is also a necessary property, any necessary property is not a constitutive, permanent property. While any general property in the strong sense is also a constitutive, necessary property, any constitutive, necessary property is not a general property in the strong sense. Among the properties of an entity, some are fundamental; others are secondary. Among the constitutive properties of an entity (whether they are permanent or emergent in the weak sense, and whether they are general in the strong sense or unique), some are fundamental; others are secondary.

The ideational model of a certain entity contains the sum of all the properties of said entity over the course of its existence—as much those constitutive, as those accessory; as much those permanent, as those emergent in the weak sense; as much those emergent only in the weak sense, as those emergent also in the strong sense; as much those necessary, as those contingent; as much those general in the strong sense, as those unique; as much those fundamental, as those secondary. Any admitted definition in a given language is true or false depending on the quality of the reality—whether or not that definition only deals with all or part of the constitutive properties of the defined entity. Any admitted definition is both a contentless statement from the aspect of language considered independently of reality—and an informational statement from the aspect of the confrontation of language with reality.

What is more, any admitted definition is both conventional from the aspect of language considered independently of reality—and conjectural from the aspect of the confrontation of language with reality. No definition (whether it is generally admitted or not) is analytical, i.e., true or false by the sole operation of certain admitted logical laws. But any admitted definition in a given language is thought (by that language) to be synthetic, i.e., to be true by being congruent with reality. No definition (whether it is generally admitted or not) is rendered true by the fact that the involved language deems that definition to be true; but any definition is true or false depending on reality.

Any definition is likely to get updated when progress is made in the knowledge of reality—whether such progress is made through (sensible) observation, through corroborated conjecturing, or through suprasensible perception (i.e., through the suprasensible grasp of ideational models). As for those (impracticable) definitions dealing with all the properties of a certain entity—a perfectly true definition of that kind is a definition perfectly mirroring the whole ideational model of the defined entity. And as for those definitions only dealing with all or part of the constitutive properties of the defined entity—a perfectly true definition of that kind is a definition perfectly mirroring all or part of the constitutive properties formulated within the ideational model of the defined entity. The ideational entities within the ideational domain are too much complex with respect to what a human mind is really able to understand (no matter how powerful a human mind is). Hence, the suprasensible grasping of a certain ideational model by a certain human mind is necessarily imperfect. In other words, only a more or less misrepresentative portrait of a grasped ideational model can be obtained through suprasensible intuition.

Conclusion—And A Few Words On The Kabbalah

The problem of knowing whether the world emerges from God is different from the problem of knowing whether God necessarily occasions the existence of the world. Besides, the latter arises differently, depending on the answer given to the former. If God, conceived of as substance (in the sense of an uncreated, necessarily existing entity), creates the world, the question of the necessary or contingent character of the world’s causation then applies to a world distinct from God. If God, conceived of as substance (in the sense of an uncreated, necessarily existing entity), sees the world emerging from God, the question of the contingent or necessary character of the world’s causation then applies to a world that constitutes a constitutive emergent property in the strong sense, i.e., a property that, while being constitutive of God and introducing novelty, is not co-eternal with God.

For my part, I claim that the world is neither created nor emergent, but that it incarnates God (conceived of as uncreated and as necessarily existing), who nevertheless remains distinct from said world (as the Father remains distinct from the Son, who is nevertheless His incarnation). That relation of incarnation is necessarily occurring. Hence, the world is necessarily occasioned. Besides, that relation of incarnation is co-eternal with God—although the world has a temporal beginning.

The cosmos is neither an emergent property of God (as in the medieval Kabbalah), nor a product of God (as in the modern Kabbalah). The cosmos is an incarnation of God— more precisely, an incarnation of the book, that is—both in a simultaneous and improvised mode—written in God’s mind. The Kabbalah’s idea that the cosmos is created through letters is thus deepened in this way: the cosmos is created through an improvised, atemporal writing process, incarnating itself into the temporal, (partly) random cosmos.

As for the Kabbalah’s idea that man is made in the image of God and is mandated both to repair the world and to respect God’s law, is deepened in this way: the writing process incarnating itself into the world aims to accomplish ever-higher levels of order and of complexity, but is likely to commit mistakes. It is up to man to repair those mistakes to the extent possible—and to respect at the same time the cosmic order, which is part of God’s law to humans.

When some men are trying to repair the creation, they are really the incarnation of God trying to repair His own work through them. Yet some men are more linked to God than others—and therefore, more able than others to grasp the writing process through suprasensible intuition. Those men are as such because they have a more yechidah soul.


Grégoire Canlorbe is an independent scholar, based in Paris. Besides conducting a series of academic interviews with social scientists, physicists, and cultural figures, he has authored a number of metapolitical and philosophical articles. His work and interviews often appear in the Postil.


The featured image shows, “Young Man Holding a Roundel,” by Sandro Botticelli, painted ca. 1475.

“Well, Who Ya Gonna Believe? Me, Or Your Own Eyes?” Leopold Tyrmand: The “Cabal” and the “Media-Shangri-La”

The following points were the lead into the Daily Mail’s story on January 26 2021 about the findings of Edelman’s 2021 Trust Barometer:

  • New data from Edelman shows that American trust in media is at all-time low
  • 56% believe that journalists and reporters are purposely trying to mislead
  • 58% think news organizations are more interested in ideology than facts
  • Only 18% of Republicans trust the media versus 57% of Democrats
  • As a whole, 46% of Americans of all political stripes say they trust the media
  • Media trust is at lows around the world indicating a global phenomenon

In the United States this figure is more or less on par with the percentage of the population that believed that the outcome of the 2020 USA election was the result of foul play. While journalists may be disappointed by this lack of trust, given that from the moment of Donald Trump’s election victory in 2016, they shifted from opposing his candidature to all-out war with him and those who did not represent their interests or view of the world, one can only ask: why would they be surprised?

If the journalists were to be believed, then Trump had not only colluded with Russia to win the White House in 2016, he and his followers were white supremacists. His racism was such that he banned Muslim immigrants for merely being Muslim immigrants, and was happy to put Latino migrant children in cages because they were Latino migrant children. Who could not see that he was a monster? Then there was his sheer incompetence—his handling of COVID directly led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people. Who could not see that he was a complete idiot? Surely, it was utterly immoral to let the fate of the world hang upon his deranged and deplorable supporters having the numbers on election day.

And so it was, as an intrepid reporter for Time magazine on February 4th, informed the world, in a sentence that would be endlessly repeated by conservative bloggers and Youtubers who were not allowed to say that the 2020 election had been rigged: “a well-funded cabal of powerful people, ranging across industries and ideologies, working together behind the scenes to influence perceptions, change rules and laws, steer media coverage and control the flow of information.”

As the author of the piece, Molly Ball, spun it, thanks to their tireless efforts in making it easier to vote, democracy was saved from a tyrant. Other journalists had been routinely comparing the tyrannical Trump to Hitler, so she did not need to repeat that historical analogy; though the historian Timothy Snyder, who knows a thing or two about the holocaust, had said early on in the Trump presidency that the comparisons with Hitler might be a little overblown—Mussolini was closer to the mark.

To the Trump haters who appeal, when it suits them, to “the science,” who “fact check” every joke or exaggeration that Trump has ever made, and who see the need for a Reality Czar to deprogram the members of the Trump cult, the minor fact that Trump had not imprisoned any journalists, or any other of his political opponents for that matter, was of no consequence. As for the dribbling deranged deplorables—likened by the actor Sean Penn and FBI Director James Comey to members of Al Qaeda—who, on election night, thought that their votes might just have been discounted or put in the Biden pile along with the votes of convicted felons, illegal aliens, people of no fixed address, the dead, and the never having existed, Big Tech joined the forces of older media in censoring and denouncing them.

The whole idea that this “cabal” was a “cabal” rigging the vote was a conspiracy theory spread by QAnon. Given that the sibylline utterances of Q were bat-crap crazy and that nothing Q had ever predicted actually occurred, the identity of Q came down to one possibility—Q was someone who was dedicated to making Trump and all of his supporters look like idiots. That left the following possibilities about who came up with Q: either someone having a laugh at the expense of the small band of deplorables with unlimited gullibility, or a Democrat, or a never-Trump shill.

It may well be that the reason so few journalists had so little interest in genuinely investigating why half the United States did not think like they were supposed to think was sheer laziness—for finding them would mean going and talking to people beyond the bars, clubs and restaurants frequented by journalists from New York, Washington, Portland, Los Angeles, or San Francisco. It would have required journalists going to very unpleasant places and hanging out with a bunch of weirdos and white supremacists—yuk!

Given the way the word “racists” was thrown around so frequently as the answer to the question, who actually voted for Trump, it is only reasonable to think that if laziness were in the mix it was ideologically induced laziness. The same question arises about Q. Is it because of laziness that none of those intrepid reporters, who turned up to all those press conferences to give Trump a good piece of their mind, were interested in finding out who Q was? Or, was Q an ideological gift that just kept on giving, something that only completely came to the fore after the election, when anyone who called for an election audit was said to be just repeating that crazy election conspiracy theory invented by Q?

In a world where an ideological trope—racism, sexism, Islamophobia, transphobia et al.—explains all the great social and political problems of the day, and hence is ever ready at hand to tie a story together, it all made sense that if people were crazy enough to support Trump they must be crazy enough to believe in Q; and hence if they are crazy enough to support anything Q says then they are crazy, though even if they have never heard of Q, they are still stooges of Q, who is a stooge of Trump, who was Putin’s stooge. And if you don’t believe that, you believe in conspiracy theories. It is a serious question: how much recreational drug use contributes to this way of thinking amongst our educated elite?

Or, to put it another way: why would the media-entertainment, sport and big tech moguls, celebrities, academics, global financiers, wall-street brokers, captains of industry, trade-union officials, journalists, and other societal and economic “leaders”—in sum, the “cabal”—who ranged from those who openly called for Trump’s assassination, to those who just wanted him beaten up, to the moderates who just wanted him impeached and banned for life from social media access or ever holding political office—tolerate Trump’s deranged supporters having their vote counted?

But lest anyone think that any of the “cabal” were thinking along such logical lines, Molly Ball (our intrepid reporter) set the record straight: “They were not rigging the election; they were fortifying it.” Yes indeed, democracy was fortified by a raft of changes to voter eligibility, the process of voting, as well as the security protocols surrounding voting. Most significant was the easing of conditions of mail-in votes, with a number of states changing early voting and voter deadlines rules, and “simplifying” or scrapping altogether requirements for authenticating voter ID and ballot signatures. All of which just happened to make it much easier for a third party to tamper with a ballot. In some states the security around voting was less than is needed to buy a beer in the USA. “Fortifying” the election would also explain the videos of the unsealed boxes of ballots being found or delivered at all those weird times, and the multiple tabulation of ballots performed in the wee small hours when scrutineers had been sent home. To such non-evidence, journalists, in unison, repeated the immortal line of that great metaphysical rationalist Chico Marx: “Well, who ya gonna believe? Me, or your own eyes?”

Let us, though, imagine for a moment that the above survey results came from the 1950s: in light of the very different values that most people in the USA shared then, would the journalists of today think such widespread mistrust in the media had been a bad thing? For the values that most journalists and other urban professional groups supported back then were pretty much the values Trump and his supporters defended in 2016, viz.,

  • that citizenship was not the right of someone who entered the United States by illegal means;
  • that the national partnerships, especially between labor and capital, and the national interest had to take priority over global partnerships and global capital and the economic well-being of other nations;
  • that the key to the nation’s welfare was an environment in which access to employment was a major priority;
  • and that citizens of the United States could and should peacefully resolve their problems rather than treat other Americans on other aspects of their being, such as, race, gender, or sexual preference.

That is, it is hard to argue that the progressive journalists of the 1950s, who generally thought that most other journalists were mere mouth pieces of America’s ruling class interests, that is, the journalists who went along with the Soviet depiction of the United States as a cauldron of racial and working-class oppression and hatred, would have been anything other than heartened to see that the population did not accept the ideological propaganda of their bourgeois colleagues.

Leaving ideology aside for a moment, one might reasonably argue then—as now—that there is something else that one might consider in more normal times, if one were seriously interested in whether people should believe what journalists tell them. And that is the question of the competence of journalists to investigate a story thoroughly. I hardly think it would be a bad thing for the majority of the population to suspect that journalists are not particularly trustworthy, because, said people recognize that journalists like most people take short cuts, and soft options, and generally are neither overly bright, nor overly industrious.

I think most of us find that if we want a good tradesman, a good doctor, a good dentist, a good lawyer, it is better to ask around than take pot-luck—because we regularly come across people in professions and trades who are not very good at what they do. Why would journalists be an exception? I doubt that most people have ever thought that journalists are naturally wiser, smarter, more industrious or less prone to error and prejudice than other people. When it comes to political reporting, it is also obvious that most political journalists think like their colleagues and people who have had a similar education to them. And they nearly all think they are entitled to set the agenda for how the world should be.

As for their education, journalists are just as likely to have been taught by people who are also not overly bright or thoughtful. By bright and thoughtful I mean someone who is not only naturally gifted, but someone who is really hungry to know stuff, someone with a wide range of interests and curiosity, someone who looks at issues from vastly different and contradictory viewpoints, someone who is not only open-minded, but who is willing to be, and who admits to being, wrong. Such a person is far better placed to identify connections and associations that others fail to notice because they are not prisoners of their own vanity, nor of a consensus, whether that consensus be disciplinary or ideological in nature.

In the fifty or so years of my life spent as a university student and university teacher, I encountered plenty of naturally gifted minds, but I met very few bright or genuinely thoughtful people who taught Humanities. Most that I met read little outside of their area of “expertise,” were far stronger in conviction than in curiosity, had not significantly changed their minds on the issues that they taught and studied since their graduate days, were prone to vanity, loved to “critique,” but hated to be criticized, and generally enjoyed being with people who thought just like them.

For most of them being a good teacher amounted to them being enthusiastic in encouraging their students to think just like them. It can hardly be expected that those who prepared to be journalists by going to college would end up being particularly bright—their chances of even getting a degree requiring that their ideas generally conform to the narratives of their teachers, just as their chances of getting a job also required a conformity of values and social and political outlook with their fellow journalists and editors.

In so far as the class (covering a range of occupations) that crafts, instructs and monitors narratives which have social and political efficacy are almost universally subject to the same norms and processes of socialization, it is not surprising that those who have gone to college and received their information from the media, believe what they read or hear and watch when it is prepared by people who think just like they do—all of which conforms to the ideas and associations that they identify with, routinely discuss, and have reaffirmed in almost every social setting.

This is no less the case in my circle of friends, most of whom have been fairly well educated, have firm political convictions (which I do not remotely share) about how to make the world a just and fair place. Most of them, like other well-educated Western peoples, receive their information from such seemingly “reliable” and professionally run outlets, such as, the New York Times, the Guardian, or (here in Australia) the Australian ABC.

I realize that I have been very fortunate in that my political teachers have been people like Thucydides, Plato, Aristotle, Tacitus, Augustine, Hobbes and such like (who mean nothing to most of my friends), rather than Rachel Maddow, Don Lemon, or the writers at BuzzFeed or Mother Jones and their Australian equivalents. But even when I am with fellow academics who are reasonably well read, when it comes to politics, many of them sound much more like Maddow and Lemon than Thucydides, et al. And I rarely meet anyone who is remotely interested in thinking what would a Thucydides have made of this event—anyway he was just another white guy.

Like most of my friends, most academics I know do not think that there has been anything wrong with the behavior of the media, or Big Tech, or universities, or schools, or publishers, or human resource officers, or celebrities, or sports administrators, or high ranking figures from intelligence agencies and the military, who have routinely denounced, “de-platformed,” silenced, sacked, harangued critics of ideas that have become part of the contemporary consensus of the class that instructs and informs the rest of us about ideas and values.

My suspicion, though, is that more than half the population—that is the people who expressed their mistrust of journalists—think that our social and political elite are rotten, and not just victims of natural human failings, such as, laziness, incompetence and arrogance. They think this because they see that there is no area of their life that the state and corporate world has not conspired (I use the word deliberately) to politicize and make subject to some authority or other that can destroy one’s reputation and livelihood. That is to say, more than half the adult population of the United States believes they are now living in an increasingly totalitarian society—and the rest of the West is not far behind. Sure, they know the difference between the USA and a country that harvests the organs of their criminals, but many would also point to the harvesting of body parts of the unborn to say, make COVID vaccines, as something equally horrifying and unimaginable a couple of generations ago.

What is not as clear is the exact moment at which all the main institutions of the nation were controlled by an elite that chose to sacrifice freedom of thought and freedom of expression for a program, which they represent as justice. What, though, can be said with certainty is that the moment was the outcome of the victory of ideas that had some, albeit very minor, support in the United States amongst intellectuals even prior to the Russian Revolution, but by the time of the 1960s had swept up a great part of the student body at its most prestigious institutions of higher learning.

By the time Alan Bloom published The Closing of the American Mind in 1987, the radical ideas of the 1960s about human emancipation, how power is constituted and how it can be transformed to achieve greater emancipation had not only changed the university curricula within the Humanities, but the entire mindscape of a generation who now typically thought in terms of identity and diversity (understood as group identity which being a fundamental characteristic to be considered when employing or judging people). Bloom had identified what had become known around the same time as political correctness within the universities. What was less obvious then was the extent to which other institutions had succumbed to the same set of bad ideas.

As someone who observed the Trump presidency from very distant shores, the one thing that I thought his presidency had achieved was not only the exposure of the complete corruption of the media, and its willingness not only to lie, but to suppress the truth (the Hunter Biden lap-top was simply one egregious example of the media’s conspiracy of silence to get their man up), but to take the media head on. It may have not been as exceptional as we might wish to think, for media owners, and editors, prior to Obama taking office, to kill an investigation that might uncover a scandal that harmed their own political interests and investments. But when Obama became the commander-in-chief, as Jack Cashill has detailed in his Unmasking Obama, it became routine for what he (picking up on Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451) calls the “firemen” to protect the president from unwanted facts by “defaming opposition journalists, mocking their work, exposing their past sins, trivializing their information, and twisting their facts, among others.”

And while the media repeatedly said Obama’s presidency was scandal free, the fact was that just as he had firemen to burn the news, he was, as Cashill writes: “Like England’s Henry II, who reportedly said of Thomas Becket, “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest,’ Obama seems to have led by way of suggestion. His henchmen and women did the dirty work. They sent Nakoula Basseley Nakoula to prison for making a video. They watched in silence as Lt. Col. Terry Lakin was dispatched in shackles to Leavenworth. They had James O’Keefe and David Daleiden arrested for undercover reporting. They cyber harassed reporter Sharyl Attkisson. They used search warrants on reporter James Rosen and several Associated Press reporters. They punished whistleblowers. They helped frame George Zimmerman and Officer Darren Wilson. They used the IRS to crush the Tea Party. They turned a blind eye to the New Black Panther goons. They conspired to clear Hillary Clinton of criminal charges. They discouraged all serious investigation into the death of Seth Rich. And even before the election, they breached Obama’s passport file and probably doctored it.” And they could do all this because the media was cravenly abetting in its silence and “fact-checking” to ensure the dreamer-in-chief was presented as the great unifier; and when Trump won the election, the same firemen and enablers had to breathlessly report on fires that more often than not were of their own manufacturing. And they thought that the public would not notice—and, to be fair, their public didn’t.

Some thirty years ago I realized that journalists were not that bright, tended to be ideological, and rather lazy – which is to say I saw them as much like the academics I knew (don’t get me wrong I am fairly lazy and pretty slow—I just hate ideology). But I had not equated the New York Times with Pravda. That was my mistake (being slow, I am also not that bright).

I only wish that as I was starting what would become my academic life, I had read and had had the wherewithal to really absorb an essay published in 1976 in the American Scholar, by a Polish émigré, Leopold Tyrmand, entitled, “The Media Shangri-La,” which exposes how corrupt and pernicious to US democracy the media was even in the mid-1970s. To my shame and regret, I had not even heard of Tyrmand till my friend, Zbigniew Janowski, who regularly shakes me out of my tendency to sloth, suggested I should read it and reflect upon.

Before discussing the essay in a little more detail, I should mention that two brilliant and important books by Tyrmand. One is as perceptive a book on life within communism as has ever been written—The Rosa Luxemburg Contraceptives Cooperative: A Primer on Communist Civilization. The other, Notebooks of a Dilettante, is a fascinating and brilliant series of observational vignettes on American life. One observation from Notebooks is particularly pertinent:

“Even among trained Kremlinologists in this country, there persists a common belief that the upper class in communist society is made up of party members, government officials, high-ranking military people, and industrial managers. Nothing could be further from the truth; these people are the rulers; those overburdened with work, gross, coarse, very limited, “half-or-quarter intelligent (as we call them), undemanding where a better life is concerned. They live modestly, work fourteen hours a day and are early victims of heart disease. The real upper class are those who serve them—the cynical intellectual, writers, artists, journalists who sell a preparedness for every lie in return for money and lack of responsibility… They get in exchange material prosperity, extensive travel to the West paid by the state, intensive sexual dolce vita, made possible by their exceptional social position.”

Communism and its mutation of progressivism was the invention of what Tyrmand calls the real “upper class”—those who live off the making and monitoring of narratives which the rest of us should live by. I don’t think the “rulers” in the West today have quite the grim life that Tyrmand ascribes here to the communist “rulers” he describes, but his depiction of the group he identifies as the “upper class” is very accurate—it is the class of people who talk, write, play, and want to be renumerated for telling others what and how to think and what and how to behave in the world.

  • They are generally not interested in the hard sweat and compromise of policy and diplomacy;
  • they are largely averse to risk;
  • they do not wish to spend their time doing anything as boring as orchestrating and overseeing the productive deployment of material resources;
  • they like reading, writing and gas-bagging, especially with people who think just like them;
  • they are happy to morally condemn capitalism whilst designing (albeit without any detail) a new society in which capital would not exist; yet their interests align with those who do know how to attract massive amounts of capital and generate great wealth.

These are Nietzsche’s higher men and women, who (unlike Nietzsche) have discovered that if they purport to make the world equal, they will ever be served by clients who depend upon them—hence they are post-Marxists, and being post-Marxist means that they divide the world into oppressor and oppressed, and they receive the resources they need to live how they wish by instructing us all how not to oppress each other.

This conveniently fits the interests of that class of entrepreneurs and investors who want a compliant work force to produce what they think will be most profitable. This is the class of people who ensured that Trump and his goons did not destroy democracy. Of course, one only has to look at how the same people not only spoke about Ronald Regan, the Bushes, and a man who became a real sweetheart to them, John McCain, to realize how vicious they become if anyone stands in the way of their plans and interests.

Trump should have been the easiest of targets, and should have folded long before the 2016 election: he was a philanderer and cad; he was crude; he was vain; he was loose on detail; he was thin-skinned and petty, given to vengefulness over the most minor of slights, and seemingly incapable of circumspection. He constantly brought people into the administration who betrayed him and his program, and he frequently lost or turned against people who either loudly supported him, or were even brought onto the team with great fan-fare. This, though in large part, has to do with the class nature of the swamp problem that Trump had been elected to deal with.

Ann Coulter, who had supported him with such enthusiasm but was furious about his treatment of Jeff Sessions, called him out for being lazy, though—as someone who understands a thing or two about laziness—I doubt if sloth would really be brought up against Trump on Judgment Day. I think a more impartial observer might just note how many fronts Trump had to fight on because he could not find a supportive administration. In any case, for all Trump’s human flaws—he was no media pushover. At every opportunity, he called out journalists for being liars. And his supporters loved him for it. And as that happened the journalists and Democrats became ever more hysterical—they quite literally preferred to watch cities burn in “mostly peaceful protests” than have Donald Trump restore law and order.

The thing about any real democracy is that no one really gets what they want. When, though, people are unprepared to sacrifice what they want on behalf of a good that has been reached through contestation by accounting for differences in interests, then democracy itself is simply an impediment to an interest. Naturally, an elite of educated people think their interest is irreproachable. Hence, nothing is more evident to our elite than the “fact” that they are the incarnation of the good, the true, and the beautiful; and their mission in life is to guide the rest of us in ways in which we can all benefit from their goodness, truth and beauty.

Along with universities and schools, the media are our great saviours. And, as it so happens, they have managed to almost all line up as members, or outspoken supporters of a political party, which provides the program, policy platform, and plenty of jobs, and government funding for those who share its interests. Which is why Trump supporters have been saying for four years, the media is now simply the mouthpiece of the Democratic party—and, again, no wonder more than half the country does not trust the Media.

Workers in the Media claim to represent the public interest—when I first wrote this sentence, I had used the term the “national interest,” but it is incorrect to think that journalists care about the “national interest” when they are no longer in favour of national borders and hence of national sovereignty. The idea that there is a public interest which can be discovered and represented by anyone other than an elected representative, or, failing that, someone appointed by elected representatives, is very dubious indeed.

Though, one of the most dubious ideas that has, with the acceptance of the narratives and norms of identity politics, been presented as self-evident is that a person who shares a particular feature with others—gender or sexual identity, skin colour, etc.—is ipso facto a representative of others with that same characteristic. Thus, a presidential victory for a woman, say Hilary Clinton, would have been a victory for all women. Apart from this line of thinking being very self-serving—you should vote for me, Hilary, because I am a woman and am able to express policies that are beneficial to all women, etc.—it is obviously so silly that it was only believed by those women who shared the same values and wanted the same political things as Hilary Clinton did—as was obviously the case when Sarah Palin was mercilessly mocked by women and men who did not share her politics, and never hesitated to think for a moment that her gender made her a representative of women’s interests.

Conversely, we know that even the people who insist upon representation based upon identity are quick to jettison the primacy of identity when someone who is a black, woman, Muslim, gay—whatever—departs from the normative script about how a black, woman, etc. should behave. It is, then, understandable why a US citizen would say that the policies or pronouncements of the president do not represent what they think or feel, or their interest. But journalists are no more representative of the public interests, than butchers, bakers and candlestick-makers. Indeed, the one thing that is glaringly obvious is that their life-experiences have nothing in common with a large section of the public.

The larger media organizations also appoint the people with the best educational pedigree, which is to say, and to repeat my earlier point, that they appoint people who think like the people who trained them in how and what to think about social and political issues. And although academics generally claim they encourage independence of thought—they rarely do. From the perspective of an academic, whose bread-and-butter commitment and economic renumeration are built around identity, someone who argues against the idea that women or blacks or LGBT or Muslims or whoever, experience the world as an oppressed group is simply not thinking.

Given that much more than half the population do not think like “identitarian” academics, bureaucrats, or activists indicates that at least half the population are not thinking—which is why, amongst other things, incorporating critical race theory into the training programs within public institutions and private corporations, having policies on pronouns, ensuring that hetero-sexuality and cis-gender-ism are de-legitimized within the school system are so important for making the rest of society get with the program. Thus, too, any journalists who do not go along with the various ethical proscriptions against values, which are now “obviously” conservative, white-supremacist, sexist, etc. must not be employed, and if presently employed, they have to be fired. Journalists, though, are only part of the “cabal”—to use Molly Ball’s phrase again—students, and indeed anyone with a moral conscience, is required to report on anyone who might say or think such things.

But the progressive sense of morality is as haphazard as it is bizarre as it is self-serving. Our journalists feel it their duty to scout out and destroy any non-black (they do not like—double standards are rife, of course) who somewhere, sometime used a word, irrespective of context, which is endlessly spouted in rap or street talk, while having no interest in the role that our Hollywood moguls, the super-rich, celebrities, rock stars, and well-heeled urban professionals play in supporting an illegal product, the production of which is predicated not only upon the murder of tens of thousands of people, including women and children, but the corrosion and corruption of states.

The journalists, who joined the celebrities who made such a moral to-do about open borders, rarely (if ever) connected the refugee problem with the recreational drug issue and the class of people who it involves—to be sure, not only, but primarily, its audience. The moral line, though, whilst haphazard in terms of content, is consistently self-serving—the greatest moral enemies, who must be hunted down and destroyed, are those who speak out against the progressive spin and program.

This too is why Big Tech had to get in line with universities and other corporations, who have an ethical brand/image to protect and ensure that none say things that are hurtful and harmful, whether it be racist, sexist, Islamophobic, etc. Journalists play their role by identifying anyone who is caught saying or doing something racist, sexist, homophobic, etc. Thus, the never-ending daily stories outing “Karens,” racists, homophobes, etc. It does not matter whether the culprit is famous or not—they will soon be infamous, and have their life pulled through the media, so that they will in all likelihood lose their job.

Though, given that celebrities and sports stars belong to the good, true, and the beautiful, the program benefits drastically by discovering that sometime, somewhere, some high-profile figure did something, or said something contrary to the speech required of the program. Of course, people being what they are, some get more chances than others. Biden and Bill Clinton were held to very different standards on the matter of sexual harassment than various other characters who lost their reputation and livelihoods for deeds far less nefarious than these two presidents were accused of doing.

In a previous age, accusations alone were not generally seen by journalists as adequate for destroying someone’s reputation and livelihood (though the press has always been willing to use this in exceptional circumstances, now it is commonplace).

So while the media has always had its nefarious tendencies, those tendencies were more easily mitigated by its more limited reach. That reach and media scale, though, have expanded over the decades to fill in the gaps left by a world where in the larger cities people’s daily lives are increasingly confined to smaller areas of “thick” social connections. Thus, the disparate levels of trust in the media are connected to the kinds of daily social interactions people have in larger urban centres in comparison with those of people in regional and rural areas. The urban centres are full of people who think they are very intelligent because of what they read, watch, and repeat to others who share the same sources of information and make the same associations—”How could you distrust The New York Times?” they think, shaking their heads in disbelief, when they watch some redneck say things they have long since branded as racist, dumb, or part of a conspiracy theory?

But those who don’t spend their free time watching movies, tv, or reading the newspapers because they think they are garbage, having little to do with reality draw upon a very different set of life experiences. Their experiences make them think: “How can those people push their heads so far up their own behinds they do not see the obvious craziness of what they are saying?” And, as much as it is a surprise to the city slickers, they don’t much care for people who don’t know them, calling them racists and rednecks and imbeciles.

They also don’t roll over and lie down and grovel when a wealthy group of people who have gone to the best schools, earn very good money, and are mostly white, berate them for being white privileged, even though most of them are struggling to meet their mortgage, car payments, kids’ school tuition, etc. They could not choose their colour and most of them have done their best with the far more limited choices at their disposal than the smarties who have gone to Yale or Stanford and speak of them as human trash. They put in to their communities, they are generally good mannered and friendly to strangers, and do not bear people ill-will without cause.

Of course, they know they have their share of bad eggs; but they generally know right from wrong, and don’t dream up smart phrases so that they can no longer tell one from the other. Calling killing a baby “planning one’s parenthood” takes real sophistication and does far more danger to one’s sense of reality than merely taking the sting out of one’s conscience—as is evident when the serious moral dilemma of sacrificing a child to save a mother’s life is put on the same moral plane as the argument that a growing creature in the womb is nothing more than a finger nail. But that is where our “learning” has taken us.

The deplorables might not have gone to these palaces of learning, but they know a con when they see it—they know the people who mock and belittle them can no more have gone to the best schools and been oppressed than 2 plus 2 can make 0. So they also are perfectly able to recognise that when someone says that any member of an oppressed group should be believed, he doesn’t really mean it. They know that the people who say this are habitual liars, who have so lost their moral compass that they do not know they are habitual liars. Hence they do not even notice how haphazard they are in applying their moral standards—if you have the right politics and if you have the right friends your past manslaughter (for the young Ted Kennedy), past black-face (Trudeau) won’t count any more than your sexual harassment.

As night follows day, moral violations become increasingly stupid—cultural appropriation, micro-aggressions join the kind of offences that Lenin, Stalin and their henchmen had to dream up to clear away the old elite to make way for the new. To know what is expected, thus, becomes impossible to consistently maintain. Likewise, the equivalent to the once good old Bolshevik has been discovered to be an enemy of human kind—they may think biology matters, they may have thought it was funny to display their lack of rhythm or inability to do black street talk, they may have dropped a wrong word in a joke. They will all be denounced—or if too important, the media will ensure that their past crime will disappear—all who are found out will publicly repent, hoping they can maintain their career and fame and/or status—and if they do get a second chance they will be at the front of the queue at the next public denunciation. Some will be cast into oblivion and their past deeds will go the way of Eric Coomer’s anti-Trump Facebook posts.

Again we can all see this; but one group has enabled this and thinks it is the way to making a better world; while those who have not lost their minds wonder what planet someone is living on who thinks that good grammar or wearing a sombrero to a fancy dress party is racist. And again, the fact that journalists as well as the rest of the cabal cheer along with this, only shows people who have real connections, relationships, commitments and concerns that they are completely devoid of any understanding of real suffering and real humanity. The old adage “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” might have simplified the matter; but when kids were taught it and chanted it in schoolyards around the country they were reminding themselves and each other that they were resilient and need not wilt when someone said something mean about them.

There is, though, no wisdom in believing that people are so fragile that they will be shaken to their very core and might never recover from a mean or stupid slur. Contrary to what the average journalist and college teacher now seems to believe, people do not need an endless set of protocols, laws, and punishments to stop everyone saying mean or stupid things. People are generally very capable of telling people who are rude to shut up. But an elite who live off instructing people in how to behave need to amplify the pain and sorrow along with the scale of meanness so that it includes entire groups. They target groups by promising to deliver them from the pain of humiliation, and they offer careers to a small number who they can get into the club; but most of what they deliver are words, dependency, family break-down, and impoverishment at an economic and spiritual level.

What I have just described is familiar to everyone—the program is articulated and pushed by all manner of people in all manner of professions and though it is paid for, and backed up by punishment, its success come from the fact that the class which aims for total control of information, normative narratives and associations is every bit as socially powerful as the clergy were within Christendom (the blogger Curtis Yarvin, aka Mencius Moldbug, speaks of its core ideational commitment being akin to the Cathedral). Just as the Church was both the expression of the faith of its members, and a vast employment agency, the political success of the new clerics of the new faith has been in not only creating ever more employment opportunities within the public and private sector to expand their faith, but increasingly ensuring that people who do not embrace the faith become unemployable, and denounced (indeed it is telling just how often the word “denounced” is used today).

There is no real division over the facts about some people losing their careers for saying or doing certain things. But people are deeply divided over whether this control and suppression of speech is a good or just thing. Likewise, people are deeply divided over the key tenets of social justice, including the idea that a specific aspect or personal feature constitutes an identity. That idea, in turn, has becomes central to the demand about how to think about people who share the same features. But if one thinks this is a really bad idea, then none of the attempts to distribute opportunities and resources, based upon that essential feature (that essence), amount to anything other than bad outcomes.

Likewise, no matter how much one bullies or denounces them, many people simply cannot accept that the way to solve certain social problems has been best laid out by critical race theorists, queer theorists, post-colonialists, et al. Likewise, many people simply do not accept, in spite of being told repeatedly that they are stupid or evil if they don’t see all women, or blacks, or LGBT, etc. as more or less all the same because they are women, etc. One does not have to be a poor white to think Oprah is full of it when she identifies herself with the most oppressed people in America because of her race. One does not have to be white to think that not all whites are racists. One does not have to be a man to think not all men are rapists.

Likewise, one does not have to be gay to think gay people should not be persecuted. And people may disagree with the rights of a gay couple to be parents without wanting to harm gay people—whether rightly or wrongly they can provide reasons for why any child might be better prepared for life by having a mother and a father. On this, and everything else besides, people see things in very different ways; and lots of people do not like being told how and what to think. But for those who not only like being told what and how to think, but who like telling other people how and what to think, these people are the problem. And they should go and get a good education, and if they cannot get into a college, they should watch the tv shows and movies which tell them how to behave, and watch, listen to or read the right (I mean left) media.

All of this which is clear now to anyone who does not like the program, nor much care for screaming youth burning down buildings in the name of racial justice, nor journalists telling them that the looting and arson they have been watching is mainly peaceful, or telling them that Antifa members smashing windows in the Capitol as they marched with MAGA supporters were not Antifa people, was obvious to Tyrmand back in 1976. He wrote then that the media in the USA had not only “appropriated, and mastered all the potentialities and subtleties of contradiction,” but had “monopolized” them so that “nobody will be able to effectively contradict the media.”

By the 1960s, he observed, the media, had already “transcended the traditional areas of influence—politics, for one. Larger targets were sought, perhaps the American soul or the totality of American life, so that either of these could be encompassed and shaped according to commandments that were never made clear, but no doubt existed.” To this the only qualification I would add, is that politics had been redefined in the 1960s to coincide with the personal.

The divide taking place in the United States was between those who were controlling narratives, and the ordinary people who smelled something very fishy going on in the stories they were reading and hearing. Given that there may be readers who cannot access this essay, I quote at some length:

“In the democratic ethos, we try not to hate but rather to despise, scoff, disbelieve; bigots hate, but normal people are disgusted by something or can’t stand it. In totalitarian countries, normal people hate in ways that denizens in democracies are unable to comprehend. It is a dark hatred rooted in the necessity to live at the unmerciful mercy of those who hold an unassailable monopoly on governing, informing, and, speaking out. Sometime during the sixties, a similar revulsion sneaked into the feelings of many Americans. The suspicion that “that you can’t beat them whatever you do,” which seemed to have been forgotten since the pre-labour union subjugation to the company store, made its reappearance as the people took a stand against the gemmating power of the media. Vietnam, student unrest, the Black Panthers. Permissive mores, and Watergate—coupled with the absence of any serious and sustained expression of opposing views—triggered in many people something stronger than disgust. The official beatitudes of the freedom of the press were trumpeted as articles of faith and key to Americanism. And the more these were preached as our common good, the more obvious it became that not everyone can bask in them; that among all of us who are free to express ourselves, some are freer than others, and to such a degree their freedom becomes out enslavement. Against this accusation, the editor barons would understandably reply that nay limitation they imposed must be looked upon as. a technicality, such as not enough space to present contrasting views, whereas any demand for checks and balances from them would signify an eventual collapse of liberty. It became clear that if truth is the victim of censorship in the totalitarian state, in America it falls prey to the manipulations that breed bitterness, a sense of bondage, and finally, hatred. Of course, the hatred can’t be ascribed to too many—only those who care about accuracy and equity and are tormented by it.”

I think it fair to say that since Tyrmand wrote this essay, the hatred expanded along with the sense of self-righteousness of journalists, which had, in turn, grown along with the self-righteousness and certitudes about the obstacles to emancipation and justice within the universities. Then came the Internet and cable TV. Millions turned away from the traditional media to find a platform. Trump was not only far savvier than any other politician about how to use social media, but he also gauged who was using it and why.

Trump-haters and Democrats seem to have never understood the extent to which people turned to Trump simply so that they could think independently, simply because they were sick of friends, family and everyone else in their circle telling them X, when they themselves were curious enough to get onto the Internet and discover if what was being said about X was truth or lie. People discovered there were lots of lies—lots of fake news. Or as Tyrmand said back in 1976: “All in all, the idea of information has been reduced to the attitudes of modern liberalism.”

Thus, when the gay New Yorker and former liberal Democrat, Brandon Straka, put up his story on Youtube about how he was ostracized and bullied by his liberal friends when he could no longer reconcile what he saw and heard with his own eyes and ears with some of the claims being made about Donald Trump, his video went viral. Hundreds of people quickly followed and made similar videos telling their stories—some were gay, some were trans, some (quite a lot in fact) had voted for Obama or been strong supporters of Bernie Sanders in 2016 (some had even worked on his campaign). To be more precise, they all told the same story: as soon as they reported back to their friends and family that they had discovered on the Internet something which indicated that what they were all accepting as a fact was not a fact, they were bullied and ostracized, attacked on Facebook, or Twitter. They just needed a platform to connect with people who had been ostracized and bullied in the same way; they wanted to be reassured that they were not mad.

BuzzFeed quickly informed its readers, in all seriousness, that the videos of the Walkaway movement, as it became known as, were created by Russian bots. And as much as BuzzFeed, CNN et al. wished to brand as fake-news, the narratives, information and even experience which they wished to discredit, it was the extent of their own collusion in the Russia election interference narrative and such eagerness to find Russian bots as BuzzFeed had found that was pivotal in people refusing to read or watch fake-news, and dive deeper (the term “deep dive” became commonplace, along with such terms as, “go down the rabbit-hole,” “red -pilled”) into the seemingly endless investigations people were conducting from basements where they would interview people and find audiences from all over the globe.

What was becoming apparent, is that the Media had followed the universities in losing any authority with well over half the country. And again, anyone whose livelihood and prestige were based upon the status of where they had received their education or where they were working was directly affected by this rebuke. Naturally they would get angry and bite back. They were losing clients.

The theme of client loss was astutely and repeatedly and very vocally picked up by black youtubers like Candace Owens, Kevin from Kevin’s Corner, Karen Kennedy, Jericho Green, Anthony Logan, Diamond and Silk, the Conservative Twins and many more—their common message is that the Democrats are the plantation party, that they make permanent clients of blacks, and that the way to a better life for black Americans is not to be found by black men not taking responsibility for their families, turning to crime, becoming a crack addict or selling drugs in the neighborhood. Nor is it to be found in welfare money or other freebies and white leg-ups, like easier entrance conditions for college, which all cement one into a clientelist position. They know that the reason why anyone—except the lucky few, whose inherited fortune may cost them their soul—gets ahead is by behaving well, putting in an effort, going to school and working.

Generally, they don’t like white college kids urging on rioters to loot stores owned by blacks as well as whites. They don’t like poor blacks being the means by which some white or even black college kid gets credit in their social justice class. They don’t like seeing black neighborhoods destroyed, and creating the conditions of gentrification for people from elsewhere to later capitalize on by swooping up cheap property. And they also do not like what they see as the genocidal culling of the black population by abortion becoming a key plank in the Democrats’ social policy.

Thus, their refrain is: white liberals deploy the narrative of systemic racism and white privilege to beef up their own privilege, and they are prepared to sacrifice everything about America that has made it a wealthy and relatively free nation to achieve their ends. They do not think that the expanse of blacks into the middle class is insignificant or bad—what astonishes them is how ignorant so many white ostensibly educated people are who have no idea of the demographics of the blacks in the middle class or even below the poverty line.

In sum—they smell a rat—they call it (as anyone knows who listen to these pods) the “DemocRat.” No wonder they are called Uncle Toms—if too many blacks thought like this, the game would be up. In fact, the game would be up if too many people of any color, ethnicity, shape, or sexual proclivity just happened to think more along the common sense lines of Mum or Pop who work in a café, or a gas station, or run the corner store, than along the zig-zags and spaghetti-rationales coming out of the educated places which cost you a hundred grand or so to learn what to think.

Again back in 1976, Tyrmand asked the simple question: “Why should a tidy old lady who does not believe in welfare, and feels that democracy ought to defend itself against dictatorship, be called ‘pig’ by a mob of untidy wild-eyed detractors with hackles up?” The same mob, though now far more poorly dressed, were out in full force over last summer burning stores and looting in the name of George Floyd.

One image around that time, I found particularly arresting: it was of a young, white woman, possibly late teens or early twenties, yelling at MAGA supporters who were trying to protect their neighborhood from being burned to the ground, screaming, “I hope they rape your children and kill you.” It was the kind of derangement that the most of the media did not bother reporting, because there was nothing strange or wrong about it: she was fighting for the same things as “the cabal”, unlike that schoolboy with the MAGA hat who was hateful to a native American (the ethnic identity was very important) dancing around playing a loud drum and staring him down: the hateful act consisted of—looking back at him!

BLM’s call for defunding the police and opening up the prisons as the race riots (mainly led by white college kids, or the feral off-the grid dropouts who think the way to freedom is to burn the lot down, while waiting for blacks from the underclass to up the ante and be the visible face of the looting) was but a repeat of the refrain from the 1960s and 1970s. Their social vision was the legacy of 1960s and 1970s anti-establishment radicals who are now establishment educators, such as Angela Davies; she supplied the weapons that killed three people in the attempt to free her lover George Jackson from prison, and she is now a Professor at the University of California; Weatherman founder Bill Ayres—he was a partner with Obama in the 1990s in the education foundation he had initiated, the Chicago Anneberg Challenge, and it was from Ayres’ house that Obama launched his first senatorial run; and, one last example, Eric Mann, also a Weatherman leader, who had been imprisoned for conspiring to commit murder, and is now a full time activist and speaker whose star “pupils” include Obama’s green energy “czar,” Van Jones and BLM founders Patrisse Cullors and Alicia Garza. The list goes on and on.

Again Tyrmand’s observation about how the journalists of the 1960s had sided with the criminal class, and prison rioters, by blaming social conditions for their existence is perfectly apt for today’s journalists: “They would never mention that the prison rebellion by now an American folklore staple, is an offshoot of latitude and permissiveness…Over the last quarter-century, the liberals and their press have had their way with crime in America, but neither expanded welfare nor the most lenient judicial and penitentiary procedure have brought anything but the wildest proliferation of violence.”

The following passage by Tyrmand encapsulates what he calls “the deviousness of the factoid” of the contemporary journalist when it comes to the matter of race in a story:

“Time once reported how a black man in Detroit, in a fit of rage, killed his factory foreman and two other men. The story was peculiar in tone: the magazine did not condone the killing, but its social conscience extended to a comprehensive discussion of why this would occur in a racist sweatshop. Shortly thereafter I met on Broadway a Time editor I knew. When I conveyed my doubts to him, he replied: ‘The most amusing thing is that one of the victims was black too.'”

In sum, Tyrmand realized that the liberal position in the 1960s was already being shaped by radical journalists, writers and hip philanderers who lionized terrorists, prisoners, and murders, including those of your more garden variety thug, such as, Jack Abbott, as well as ones with a more far reaching-social program, like Huey Newton. Since then, though, that view of the world has now become the norm among the elite. Thus it was that Trump voters were only showing their ignorance when they took Antifa’s existence and destructiveness seriously. Antifa, as Joe Biden astutely noted, was not an organisation but an idea—which is, by the way, straight from Antifa’s own program.

Though the powers that be at CNN, NBC and Australia’s ABC unwittingly confirmed, when they paid for camera footage from an Antifa activist’s “live shooting” of “the insurrection” of January 6, that Antifa has human members and not just ideational ones. Indeed, had they been interested in finding out how Antifa is paid, or who is in it, and which journalists go along with it, they might have bothered to interview conservative youtuber and business man, Joe Oltmann who had done the kind of thing one used to associate with journalists: he went undercover to get a story about which journalists had connections with Antifa.

In that meeting he stumbled onto an even bigger story that the media would only ever refer to as a conspiracy story, if ever it was even mentioned: the director of product strategy and security of Dominion voting system—yes, the system used in over twenty-four states in the 2020 election—had been merrily posting on Facebook Antifa’s program, along with his vitriolic hate toward Trump and his supporters. They have since been disappeared. Oltmann says that he heard that director—Eric Coomer—say at that meeting there was no way Trump could win—he had, reported Oltmann, made “effing sure of that.”

It is possible that Oltmann may not be telling the truth, though having watched hours and hours of him on Youtube, he strikes me as far more believable than most journalists and politicians, who want to tell us what we must think not only about the election of 2020, but pretty well everything from the weather to geopolitics, and how to solve problems of race and poverty (which amounts to, believe what we say and vote Democrat).

But of all his many masterful insights, the one point that Tyrmand makes which speaks so much to our time is the way in which Media has set itself up as the Ministry of Truth. I could not agree more with Tyrmand’s observation that governments “in democracies are disposable.” This indeed is the very reason why democracies as such are more important than the government within them. Policies can be right or wrong, they can serve this or that interest, and they can be changed—which is not to say that changing them will always be easy.

But when the press supports a government or some set of policies which are no longer beholden to democratic processes, then this an altogether bigger problem.

There are many policies which have long since become unhinged from any democratic input, but the one that had most impact in so far as it led to Trump’s election and the compete upheaval within the Republican Party was, of course, immigration. (There have, though, been plenty of Republicans who have no idea of what has occurred and think they can continue to remain in power by being the diet version of the Democrats).

The battle over illegal immigration is really a battle over the power of demographics. Just as it is commonplace for states to engage in ethnic or religious population shifts, to dilute the political power that flows from a particular group’s demographics; an elite that has lost its base must dilute the power of the old one by recruiting a new base. This is as much an occurrence in Western Europe as in the USA. And just as multiculturalism was an elite consensus policy rather than a party plank in an election platform, the widespread tacit acceptance of illegal aliens within the country and the workforce was never subjected to electoral decision—and this was as true for the Republicans as for the Democrats.

After Trump’s election, though, the tactic was vehemently defended by the elite and the media by calling those who wanted national sovereignty, racists. Thus, too, the substitution of the word “migrant,” a word whose meaning contains the tacit ring of legality, for what had long been the descriptive term for people who refused to comply with legal entry requirements to the country—”illegal alien”—was orchestrated by the media and Democratic Party. It was a typical elite tactic—and it is seen as such by the base, who are not so stupid that they cannot see that their displacement is a major piece in the elite’s program. This is also why it was the most important reason for people who wanted to retain what little socio-economic power they still have and who have suffered from the destruction of their communities, the rising crime caused by a great influx of people with nothing to lose or little to fear from the police and legal system (which tacitly and often overtly condones their presence) to ditch the old Republican-style elite politics for Trump.

The media has always been mendacious and duplicitous and journalists lazy, and pretty sure that they know best—but the monumental lies the media has engaged in the past four years were simply more rabid because Trump’s base was fighting back. But as Tyrmand observes, the monumental lie was part of the media’s arsenal fifty years ago:

“As of now simplisms are secondary; monumental fallacies get erected; The managing editor of Time says coquettishly in an interview: ‘We could never quite figure out whether we were part of the Establishment, and if so, how to deal with ourselves.’ An absolutism firmly in the saddle begins to mince and simper, The Democratic Big Brother longs for love and camaraderie.”

I would just add that none any more is in doubt whether the media represent the Establishment. And as the Establishment, it knows that its job must be to ensure that certain truths never see the light of day. Yet fortunately for those who think that being brain-washed is having a moral conscience, is it a lie if the person ensuring that a truth does not see the light of day simply makes sure that no one actually investigates it because it is beneath them? (The sneer, the snoot, the guffaw and the eyeroll are the ever-ready-to-hand responses to anyone who thinks that they can quote any old conspiracy theory that has not been sanctioned as newsworthy by real journalists). Such was the key response of the media to the Biden family’s interests in Ukraine and China.

There was no shortage of evidence about Burisma, or Hunter Biden’s qualifications, or the family connections with China, or Joe Biden’s role in the show. It just wasn’t to be found in CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, Washington Post, etc. and none of the journalists who worked in such places were interested in following up on the kind of information that Peter Schweizer or the Duran were regularly digging up—it was far more important to find out if someone else might have used the “n” word somewhere sometime.

Reading Tyrmand, whilst watching the moral and intellectual collapse of Western institutions, is a bracing affair. It reminds one how long the collapse has been going on. I very much doubt that even five or six years ago almost half the country would have thought that a coup could have taken place via election fraud. In spite of the media and Big Tech and academicians insisting that this is crazy talk, half the population believes it, and the question of which “evidence” is to be believed has been shut down, along with the de-platforming of ever more people from social media companies. The fact that the New York Times could publish an op-ed piece calling for the government to appoint a Reality Czar to eliminate “disinformation,” or that journalists say without blushing for shame at their own stupidity that millions of people need to be “deprogrammed” illustrates why the moral and intellectual collapse in the US is from the head down.

The biggest problem of all, though, is not solved by knowing how dumb and dangerous the ideas that are now the bread-and-butter beliefs of the elite in Western democracies generally and not just the US. The biggest problem is that all elites are bred over generations, and that the bad ideas that have been accumulating for more than two generations are now so instantiated in the universities, media, the schools, business, in legislation and political parties, and have become central to the way so many people speak and think, it is hard to envisage how they can be undone without it playing out to the bitter end.

Unfortunately, the bitter end also involves the geopolitical advantage that is created for enemies of the Western world who are the real beneficiaries of Western liberal democracies tearing themselves apart. Our species pays heavily for its sins—we think we are building a tower to heaven, but we fail to see all the pieces of what we are making, and by the time people can all see that what we have been making and are now using is a giant scaffold, it is too late: the propaganda merchants, the informants, judges, prison guards, executioners, et al. are already stakeholders in a system that they service and which pays their wages.

It is a great tragedy that our university teachers and journalists, and the elite, as such, think that their simplistic principles and programmatic solutions will solve the “problem” of oppression and thereby fortify the bonds of communal solidarity—and they really think they can achieve this globally. They are so arrogant and ignorant, they seriously think that Africans, Indians, Chinese, Central Asians, and Muslims—almost everyone outside the USA except Western Europeans, and other “satellite allies” such as Australia—love them and what they are doing. Communal bonds, though, are not the expression of abstract systems of ideas, but ultimately of human hearts; and human hearts, being susceptible to pride, sloth and the other deadly sins, are far easier to corrupt than to nurture and nourish through love, charity and forgiveness.

Were our ideas-brokers more attuned to the fragility, endless mutations, tragic colliding contingencies, and shreds and shards of decency and conviviality, and were they less sure of their own intelligence, far more skeptical of their ability, and more willing to reign in their ambition, they might just be a little better in understanding how vastly complex the forces of evil are, and how little any of us know, and how rarely our plans turn out the way we think they will.

Gaetano Mosca’s magnificent book Ruling Class makes the compelling case that all societies have a ruling class. The problem with our ruling class is that while they relentlessly screamed and shouted that a real estate mogul and reality TV star, who at least knew what half the country was thinking, was unfit to rule, the last four years have proven that they are the ones who have shown to that same half of the country at least how unfit they are to rule.

Their unfitness is all too evident in that the best candidate of their preferred party was someone:

  • who had pulled out of an earlier run because of plagiarism;
  • someone who had sung the praises of Democratic senator and one time KKK member Robert E. Bird (if the Democrats were consistent in accepting that we all make mistakes, this might not be seen as so egregious);
  • whose own Vice-President pick had implied was a racist during the Democratic run-offs – actually Fact Checkers provided the appropriate nuance for all the idiots who could not gather the sophistication of her criticism, which did not actually amount to racism: “Contrary to claims in viral internet posts, Sen. Kamala Harris did not call former Vice President Joe Biden a ‘racist’ or a ‘rapist.’ Rather, she has been critical of Biden’s position on busing to integrate schools and comments he made about segregationist senators, and she has said that she believed women who accused Biden of making them feel uncomfortable.” She did not call him out, though, for the sheer stupidity of statements about racial groups he seemed to endlessly conjure up to no specific end;
  • whose creepy hair sniffing and age inappropriate wink-wink banter with children could easily have made him tabloid mince meat;
  • whose claim to believe all women did not amount to a woman who accused him of sexual assault.

And that is before one even starts on the family corruption. The media have tried their best to cover up the China, and Ukraine money trails – but for anyone interested they might also want to look into “S.Res.322—A resolution expressing the sense of the Senate on the trial, sentencing and imprisonment of Mikhail Khodorkovsky and Platon Lebedev” and wonder why he was doing the biding of Russian oligarchs charged with tax avoidance. Normally one would not need to point out that Putin being an autocrat does not make these two plutocrats “good guys,” but with the successful rebooting of the Cold War it would seem that any opponent of Putin is on the side of the angels, irrespective of how much blood money is on their hands.

And, finally, there is the whole question of his mental state. Although the media made much of the question of Trump’s mental health, some half of the country could see that one guy could speak seemingly endlessly off the cuff to large crowds which had a party atmosphere, whereas the other conducted a campaign from the basement, and when he did go somewhere, one wondered where was everyone. And when he did something, the problem for his minders was not so much that he might babble something not coherent enough to do the grammatical damage that a sentence of Trump’s might do, but that he just might end up saying something grammatically correct, such as: “We have put together, I think, the most extensive and inclusive voter fraud organization in the history of American politics.” I am sure that many people did not know which was more hilarious—him saying that or that Fact Checkers had to say that, yes, he did say that, but the context indicated that that was not his intention and that he had misspoken.

All of this amounts to the fact that if the election were merely fortified and if Joe Biden was seen as the savior not only of the nation but the global order, then the USA and the world were in deeper trouble than anyone had heretofore imagined. Nevertheless, the media band played on and saw to it that we could all get behind “our Joe,” as if he knew exactly what he was doing – surely, the media line went, he had proved himself by his more than fifty years of public service by doing… apart from making himself rich, and bragging about his biff ability, none of them—or the rest of us—seemed to really know. The way the media spun it and even people way down here in Australia bought it, it was a choice between Trump and preserving everything good about everybody’s way of life on the planet: back to Paris, closing down coal mines, stopping fracking, boys being girls competing in school sports with girls and using their bathrooms, critical race theory shoveled down the throats of public servants, China back in the saddle as the chief beneficiary of US trade mishaps and geopolitical stuff-ups, getting those employed minorities back into their client position and the whole caboodle of what had been all going so swell until that Hitlerite orange turd stuffed it all up by wanting to get all Americans to work, get a better trade deal with China, apply the kind of immigration policies that are pretty well standard in every Western country, provide cheaper pharmaceuticals, avoid foreign military interventions, provide better support for the widows of veterans, and generally better pay for the armed forces, and greater support for the police, and defend traditions, such as, standing for the national anthem, and having the temerity to want to protect statues and the names of military bases of people who fought on the side of the confederacy.

And finally when “our Joe” won there was only one more hurdle: inauguration day. I heard a podcast from the American Mind where the discussants were saying how the spookiness of the image would be long remembered. Certainly the inauguration was unforgettable – an almost deserted Capitol, fenced in by razor wire and guarded by over twenty thousand (vetted) national guards protecting a masked inauguration from the great fear of another insurrection of those deranged Trump supporters, who all called for law and order, when the Democrats carefully explained why it was just and righteous that people express their rage against racism, why it was constitutionally wrong to use the national guard to stop looting and burning, why the party should defund the police, and provide more community education left-wing blah blah blah. And yet again at least half the country simply could not believe this was America; those who wanted this outcome saw only good things. Fox journalist Chris Wallace gushed it was “the best inaugural address I ever heard” – it was “part sermon, part prep talk.” The religious character of the whole show was a pretty common theme among the journalists—who gave the impression that they were as knowledgeable about authentic religious experience as Joe Biden seems to be about his own Church’s take on abortion.

So, while almost all the journalists were deliriously celebrating their victory, and while victors were soaking up and sniffing up the spoils that lay before them through their fashionable masks, relieved that all could now proceed according to the right way history should go, with them doing the driving, millions of people who would never have made it through the razor wire and guardsman, not because they were itching for a violent insurrection, but because they belonged to the other side—the outside—saw a greedy, self-serving, deluded bunch of grifters, bag men/women and non-binaries, liars, sycophants, and know-alls, prepared to do and say any and everything to get their way.

More charitably, and in some ways more importantly, they saw an elite who had lost touch with their support base. In part that is something of a consequence of the kind of elite a modern democracy produces: it produces an elite whose members do not especially think of themselves as an elite – they can have enormous wealth and influence, can go to the best of colleges, and yet because of a specific feature they may have – it all comes back to the same basic list: who they like to have sex with, or their skin colour, or religious heritage, etc.—can represent themselves as victims of more powerful forces. Indeed, it is almost a prerequisite of being an acceptable member of the elite to have some feature of one’s self which is on the “disadvantaged” list.

Being blind to oneself is the first step on the road to a completely fantastical view of reality. And that is what separates the elite as much as anything from the support base whose life-world is built upon day-to-day practicalities like putting food on the table for one’s family. Of course, everyone has to have food, but the elites are elites largely by virtue of assuring that the food will be there for them first.

Just as societies all require elites (contrary to the nonsense that the elite itself endlessly writes about the “common,” the “democracy to come,” or, “fortifying democracy”), the issue is whether the elite actually provides a service to its base. When it doesn’t, it may hold onto power for a substantial period of time, but to do so requires permanently surrounding itself with the equivalent of razor wire and the national guard, and doubling down by persecuting those who see them for what they are. When though the opposition is at least half the country that is quite a difficult trick to pull off. Communist countries managed it for two or so generations.

What also makes it difficult are the surrounding geopolitical forces which gravitate to the weakened state like vultures to carrion. These invariably unsettle the best laid plans of a group determined to control its internal opposition so that it either has to make diabolical pacts with, and/or errors of judgments about, its enemies. In either case it seals its fate. The USA had been a masterful practitioner of taking advantage of its enemies’ internal turmoil; but now its elite have ensured the continuation of that turmoil. One only has to note how the Muslim Brotherhood, whose end-game is a universal caliphate, had been rebranded as “moderates” under Obama’s watch.

Generally the success of the present elite has gone hand-in-hand with a complete overhaul and politicization of the military, intelligence and local policing agencies. The brazenly partisan justification given by officials and former officials from the FBI and CIA for the surveillance of Trump and members of his team in the presidential run showed anyone who believed in the old USA that non-elected officials believed they were the true representatives of the will of the people; and as such the people should comply with their will. Meanwhile the media had done everything it could to support its “deep state,” regularly feting officials and getting them to write op ed pieces or give interviews justifying why they were the real protectors of democracy and hence were largely operating against the president’s interests and orders. As bad as the press were back in the 1960s, journalists could at least see that non-elected state officials should be beholden to the electors and constitution.

The account I have given of what the media have enabled is dire. But it would be remiss not to note that half the population or so recognize that this America and its elite are rapidly destroying the great achievements of old America—independent mindedness, initiative and inventiveness, and the formation of solidarity across racial (an achievement to be sure that required a civil war), class, and religious lines, an America, that is, where people from so many hells-on-earth would do anything to share its blessings and fruits. They do not, as the elite insist, wish to denigrate or humiliate or confine to servitude black or any other people, who live by the law and contribute their energy to making a nation which used to be the beacon on the hill.

The success of the elite in capturing all the major institutions of the nation is serious. Though, perhaps not hopeless. Institutions naturally deteriorate over time, and either they are rejuvenated or die. Within the media, when AM radio was all but dead, Rush Limbaugh discovered an opportunity, and created a power-house that gave voice to millions who thought they had none. Youtube has also provided all manner of opportunities that provided an alternative to the lazy hacks, liars, and “firemen.” Though its success has bred reaction, which in turn has opened up new platforms. There can be no doubt that monopoly interests will use the present state to shore up not only its own economic power, but its social and political power.

It is not the job of authors or a member of the “intelligentsia” to tell people how to act; but it is evident that the university was the first site of almost complete cultural capture, and that those who believe in the old America will continue to lose their children to the elite that is doing all to destroy their liberty, if they wish their children to study in its elite (and even most of its non-elite) universities. Given the role of universities in being an indispensable site for the social reproduction of the professional classes, it is unlikely they can just be avoided. And those that have been lost have been lost. I see little chance for those who want a restoration without a sizable increase in the number of new universities which are as resolutely determined to provide a curriculum that will cultivate a generation that has not been ideologically brainwashed, and taught that their sexuality, or identity is the most fundamental aspect of their being.

Such a new university must cultivate the qualities of humility, appreciation of our limited knowledge, our tragic, error-prone, our “sinful” nature, whilst also engendering devotion to the tried and trusted institutions and forms of communal life which need rejuvenation—the family, and our places of worship. It must teach people how not to think in large (and quick-fix and ultimately vacuous) abstractions and formulae, but how to be attentive to the kind of practical details which need to be viewed with an open-minded understanding of the various possible outcomes and trajectories of any innovation or policy, legislative intervention. It must foster a spirit of genuine dialogue – though not with the dead and lost souls and ideologues who can only be attracted to a better place by it simply being so much better that they themselves renounce “the devil.”

This, though, also requires employers not employing people who think “woke” and have been corrupted by their “woke institutions.” The political success of the left has come through its culling of its opposition for employment opportunities – that is a smart move, and if the non-progressives do not do this, the progressives will continue their strategy of capture and destroy. On the other hand, what the left has done is lie and cheat; and their monuments are their ruins.

I think unless there is a willingness to build new universities, new schools, new tech platforms etc. That is, if there is not a willingness for people to build anew, this cultural revolution will not simply peter out, at least not until there are many dead. All the builders are taking a giant risk and of course, there are many doing this right now.

The risk might even lead to the break-up of the USA, which would be terrible, though less terrible than having it ruled by people who are ensuring mass destruction. Such a change will take at least a generation, probably two—which is how long it took to make an elite who have taken control and draped the Capitol in razor wire, as they protect themselves from figments of their own imagination with politically vetted troops.


Wayne Cristaudo is a philosopher, author, and educator, who has published over a dozen books.


The featured image shows, “The Yellow Press,” an illustration by Louis M. Glackens, October 12, 1910.

A Few Words About Julien Freund

He was born a hundred years ago, in January of 1921, in Henridorff, in the region of Phalsbourg, on the borders of Moselle Lorraine and Alsace. Four years ago, a tribute was organized for him and chaired by the philosopher and historian of ideas, Chantal Delsol, who is his former student, and who just recently mentioned her teacher on KTO, saying that she was “the pupil of Julien Freund,” thus, evoking a “medieval filiation” with her teacher, while stressing that he was Aristotelian.

Julien Freund.

Sociologist, philosopher, “political thinker,” Julien Freund’s originality is obvious. Jean-Philippe Vincent, economist, ever mindful of ideas, who recently published a book on conservatism, underscores this originality. He presents Freund as “one of the few political thinkers that France saw with the birth of the 20th century, along with Jacques Maritain, Bertrand de Jouvenel and Raymond Aron.” And he adds: “Of them all, however, he is the least known, even though his work has recently met with renewed interest…” Witness the book about him by Pierre-André Taguieff, and the reissue of Freund masterful book, The Essence of the Political, originally published in Paris, in 1965.

Taguieff describes Freund as the great “non-conformist,” and calls him a “dissatisfied liberal-conservative.” This is a rather fitting tribute to a man whose trajectory includes not only being the thesis supervisor of Chantal Delsol and Michel Maffesoli, but the one who introduced France to Max Weber (1864-1920) and Carl Schmitt (1888-1983). Freund was born on January 9, 1921 in Henridorff, in that part of the Moselle very close to Alsace, which is the homeland of the Alsatian dialect. His family came from a modest background. Emile, his father, a locomotive driver, was a socialist sympathizer. Marie Anne Mathis, his mother, was a peasant. He was the eldest of six children. His secondary education was in Metz and Sarrebourg. At the age of fifteen, he began the Première Superieur at Fustel de Coulanges high school in Strasbourg. His father died in 1938. He had to stop studying to take up a post as a teacher in Hommarting, a locality west of Henridorff, formerly under the abbeys of Marmoutier and Wissembourg.

Then, war broke out. Following an attack carried out by school children, Freund was held hostage by the German army in his hometown. On November 11, he was detained in Sarrebourg. The next night, he escaped. Together with a train-full of deportees, he was able to get to Clermont-Ferrand and join the displaced University of Strasbourg. While completing a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, he became an activist in the Liberation movement of Emmanuel d’Astier de la Vigerie. Arrested in June 1942 at Clermont-Ferrand, then in September at Lyon, he was, along with Emmanuel Mounier (1905-1950), one of the defendants in the Combat trial. While incarcerated, he managed to escape from the fortress of Sisteron on June 8, 1944, joined a communist maquis and shared the struggle of the FTP in the Basses-Alpes and Drôme. He then discovered that the leader of the maquis was settling his personal accounts with a young woman who was his mistress, accusing her of “working for the Gestapo.” The leader had the woman shot by his men, after a sham trial.

Freund was the only one defending the unfortunate woman. Rough schooling at twenty-three…

Back home, he devoted himself to politics, briefly enlisting in Moselle, under the banner of the Democratic and Socialist Union of the Resistance (UDSR). In June 1946, he resigned. He was preparing for his agrégation in philosophy, which he received in 1949, and was appointed high school teacher in Metz. He profusely read Aristotle (Politics, Metaphysics and Nicomachean Ethics). “I was twenty-eight. It was a real eye-opener. I had broken out of representational idealism, and metaphysics mattered again.” By way of Aristotle, he understood what dialectics was, holding that man is a political animal. He read Machiavelli, Hobbes and Bodin. He discovered Carl Schmitt, through one of his books found in the street. In April 1959, he met Schmitt in Colmar and asked him substantive questions. His interest in this German thinker, who had published in the Catholic review, Hochland, in the 1920s, before joining the Hitler regime in 1933 from which he was dismissed in 1936, earned Freund derogatory criticism.

To overcome the disappointment born of his political commitments, Freund embarked on the preparation of a thesis which would become the source of his masterly book, L’essence du politique (The Essence of the Political). The first hundred pages of his project shocked the pacifism of Jean Hyppolite (1907-1968), a specialist in the works of Hegel and Marx, to the point that the latter indicated to Freund that he must find another thesis supervisor. Hyppolite, whose student Freund was in Strasbourg, was hugely complicit in academic Marxization, and who could not bear to read: “There is no politics except where there is an enemy.” This was one of the teachings of Carl Schmitt that Freund retained. The same evening, Freund wrote to Raymond Aron (1905-1983) to ask him to make up for the defection of Hyppolite.

Freund defended his thesis on June 19, 1965 at the Sorbonne. The title was. Essence et signification de la politique (The Essence and Meaning of Politics). His thesis supervisor was Raymond Aron who had enthusiastically accepted. Raymond Polin, Pierre Grappin, Paul Ricoeur and Jean Hyppolite also sat on the jury. Aron took the floor: “I would like to greet Mr. Freund, who will support this thesis which I find brilliant, but I would also like to underline the fact that he is a resistance member. That a resistance fighter could have done such a thesis is extraordinary. This is why I am asking you to stand in support of him.”

As for politics, Freund provided a definition that he would use again in L’essence du politique. In line with Aristotle, he maintained that his goal was not to build the kingdom of good feelings, but to work for the “common good” of political unity and to ensure its internal harmony and external security. He affirmed that “politics is an art” rather than a profession; it has little to do with “management,” as a young Minister of Finance, elected to the Presidency of the Republic in May 1974, would have wanted. It comes under “the art of decision.” Politics involves, at the domestic level, the relationship between the private and the public. And, by its nature, it deals with “the dialectic between friend and foe” which governs foreign policy.

Freund supported the autonomy of politics, both economically and culturally. The categories of politics are, in the first place, the relation of command and obedience: it is the presupposition or condition of order that all politics aims to establish or guarantee. A point that he develops in particular in Utopie et violence (Utopia and Violence), where he asserts that “the primary purpose of politics is to regulate the exercise of violence… to compress it within limits which can only be transgressed in exceptional circumstances.” Tough on the excesses of utopianism, Freund asserts that politics cannot be irenism, because it consists in “knowing how to envisage the worst in order to prevent it from happening.”

We must not forget his regionalist profession of faith, which says that “the region is a territorial counter-power, whereas we always imagine counter-powers to be located in the center, in Paris. The region as a counter-power is a condition of civil liberty. In France we talk about decentralization. Unfortunately, that is still done by the center. Regionalization is another logic. Freedom is no longer simply the expression of a grant, but that of a freedom of people who live in a certain territory, in a certain tradition, Champagne, Breton, Alsatian or Provençal. These people must have institutions—under the conditions of the constitution—where they can express themselves differently.”

Then followed a very active university life in Strasbourg. In 1965, he was elected professor of sociology at the University of Strasbourg, where he was the main founder and Director of the Faculty of Social Sciences. Then, he founded the Institut de polémologie de Strasbourg, in collaboration with Gaston Bothoul (1896-1980 ). After that, in 1967, came Centre de recherches et d’études en sciences sociales (the Center for Research and Studies in Social Sciences. Next, in 1972, he launched the Revue des sciences sociales de la France de l’Est (Journal of Social Sciences in Eastern France), followed by Centre de recherche en sociologie régionale (the Center for Research in Regional Sociology) in 1973. Freund taught at the Collège d’Europe in Bruges (from 1973 to 1975), then across the Atlantic at the University of Montreal (1975). All this time, he published a number of articles and books, which followed his magnum opus (L’essence du politique). He was deeply interested in Georges Sorel (1847-1923), the demystifier of “collective happiness,” in Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923), and Georg Simmel (1858-1918) who died in Strasbourg.

To devote himself to his books, Freund refused a post at an American university on the East Coast, where Raymond Aron was chair. At the end of the 1970s, he took early retirement and settled in Villé, a charming town which was once a Habsburg seigniory, and where he now rests. His wife, Marie France Kuder was born there. He had met her in Gergovie during the years of resistance. She was the daughter of the great Alsatian painter, René Kuder (1882-1962), who lived in Villé. To those who were surprised at his refusal to come and settle in Paris, he mischievously replied: “Kant lived in Königsberg and not in Berlin.” He liked to go to the nearby forest to meditate. A Catholic, Freund reconnected with the faith of his ancestors after years of relapse which followed adolescence; he liked to meditate in silence. Quest for the vertical dimension: “Transcendence is that through which we come to God.” Concern for transcendence was a strong constant in his life, and very rarely emphasized.

A great reader of the Russian Lev Chestov (1866-1938) and supporter of his negative theology, which he liked for its “insolence and impertinence,” and as well an admirer of his book, Athens and Jerusalem, Freund cursed the claims of scientism to erase metaphysics and religious faith. In his secret garden there was a figure of Hildegarde of Bingen (1098-1179), who was loved by Emperor Barbarossa (1122-1190). Sensitive to art, Freund, the joyful pessimist loved Shakespeare (1616-1654), the evocator of the furies of the world.

A dedicated European, he was close to Robert Schuman (1886-1963) in the aftermath of the war. The fate of Europe was close to his heart. He was sorry for its refusal of power. His summary of Europe in La Décadence (Decadence) makes him the first historian on the subject of Europe. “Civilizations are mortal.” He does not just quote Paul Valéry, he questions history, analyzes the facts. He reminds the indifferent: “Europe was the first world civilization. And there haven’t been another since, and there cannot be any more, unless we find men two thousand or three thousand years from now. It was Europe that discovered all the lands of the wide world. It was not the Chinese who discovered Europe. It was Europe that discovered China. It was not the Americans or the Indians who discovered America and the Indies. And suddenly this Europe, which was present everywhere in the world, withdrew to its borders, in the space of fifteen to twenty years.”

He thought that “Europe will be made militarily, or not be made. It’s a matter of life and death. Anyone who is not ready to defend Europe militarily, I will go not go along with him, even if he also makes fine speeches.” He noted that a suicidal Europe does not care about its demographics, which is “an indifference bordering on carelessness.” Sharing the concerns of Pierre Chaunu (1923-2009), he emphasized that “The drop in birth rates is one of the signs of renouncing life, either to selfishly enjoy the present, or out of fear of the future. In this case, it is the expression of the refusal to defend the values of the civilization to which one belongs.” He also said: “Europe is not yet on the brink. There are therefore sufficient opportunities and potentials to affect a recovery, provided they are exploited in accordance with the traditional European spirit, educated by criticism. Indeed, the incomparable capacity for invention and creation which has always characterized European civilization is based on a critical spirit, ignored by other civilizations, and which is at ease both in analysis and in synthesis, and, thus, broken to overcome contradictions. The day the Europeans make the mistake of abdicating this critical ingenuity, they will also lose its political corollary, namely, the benefit of their freedoms. Then decadence will be truly consummated.”

The evil that is eating away at Europe? For Freund, it resided “in irrational credulity in a possible going beyond faith.” He argued: “All known civilizations, large or small, rudimentary or developed, have drawn their strength and duration from religion, whether animist, polytheist or monotheist. A civilization decays when the faith or beliefs that animate it die out.”(11)

On September 10, 1993 in Colmar, Freund died prematurely, in his seventy-second year. For his funeral mass, he wished that the Dies irae be sung. At the time of his retirement, he vowed “to be able to contribute effectively to the renewal of metaphysical thought” On the eve of his death, he wondered about the consequences that the “shock wave” would have of the upheavals in Eastern Europe. He worried about the disorder of minds, the loss of meaning, the confusion born of impolitics, the ravages of scientism and economism. His Essence de l’Economique (Essence of the Economic), a book of precious reflections on a subject that remains very topical, reinforced by the thunderous discourse of the followers of “happy globalization” who criminalize identity ties, seeing the future only under the auspices of the leveling out of differences. Freund cursed “the illusions of progress;” and, once again, reminds us that Europe, which is disappearing, discovered the world.

Those who had the privilege of meeting him, safeguard the memory of a righteous man, generous with his time, anxious to share his convictions. A man of clear language, poles apart from the jugglers who now encumber the political field.


The article comes courtesy of L’Ami hebdo (L’Ami du peuple hebdo), the oldest journal in Alsace, France. Charles Haegen is a pseudonym, perhaps that of a monk who lives in the region of Strasbourg. (Translated from the French by N. Dass).


The featured image shows, “Aveugle au baton” (“Blind Man with Stick”), drawing by René Kuder, dated 1922.

The Dissidents’ Rights And Wrongs: The Case Of Jordan Peterson

This month, we are so very pleased to present this excerpt from Zbigniew Janowski’s new book, Homo Americanus: The Rise of Democratic Totalitarianism in America, which is published this month by St. Augustine’s Press. It’s a book that undertakes an unflinching analysis of the future of America.


In contrast to hard totalitarianism, the soft, democratic version does not seem to create dissidents, and thereby the wider opposition that might resist it. If opposition does happen to emerge, it is quickly condemned as sexist, misogynist, racist, etc., and almost never given mass support. Communism, on the other hand, produced legions of dissidents. The names of Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Josif Brodsky, Gleb Jakunin, Andrei Zacharov, Alexander Zinoviev, Vladimir Bukowski, Adam Michnik, Jacek Kuron, Vaclav Havel, and Milovan Dzilas are only a handful of the best-known. To them, and to those who supported them, it was obvious that they fought evil, and they were willing to risk and even sacrifice their lives to do so. Yet importantly, they knew they had the quiet or open support of the overwhelming remainder of society. It was almost an instinctual recognition that totalitarianism is evil, and it was the realization of its evil that created the opposition.

The rejection of communism was, among other things, an attempt to free one’s mind from ideological enslavement in order to reclaim the idea of right and wrong, good and evil—and all this was accomplished independent of politics. Politics was thought to be subservient to values, and as things stood it was clear that politics could corrupt our understanding of what is good and right. The suffering and death of victims of the new totalitarian regime was one reason to believe that good, truth, and justice are not relative, and there was no compromise to be struck. The opposition manifested itself either as a private and quiet attitude of ordinary people, or in open and loud protests of the opponents. Different levels of participation depended on the courage of each individual, and the willingness to take the risk. The most courageous of them became dissidents. They were admired and venerated by the quiet majority. In contrast to the masses under communism, the democratic masses are not just quiet, but seem to be almost deaf to a moral call, and often act as if they reject morality altogether.

2.

According to classical Christian metaphysics, evil is privation, or lack of good; it is a force to be found in man, in his perverted will. It was understood that the role of the State is to constrain evil tendencies in man, or, as the Greeks believed, the task of politics was to create conditions for the development of virtues. As Aristotle wrote in the Nichomachean Ethics, “The function of a lawgiver is to make citizens good.” Such understanding of evil and the role of the State was rejected by the liberal thinkers. The writings of John Stuart Mill, probably the most representative of the liberal doctrine, are virtually peppered with the word “evil.” However, the reader of his writings quickly realizes that its meaning departs from the traditional—classical and Christian—understanding of it. Hundreds of sentences in which the term “evil” occurs in Mill’s writings allow the reader to infer that evil is of a social nature, and is the result of unequal distribution of power. The terms “fairness” and “social justice,” which definitively entered socio-political vocabulary in the 1950s made this a reality. “Fairness” and “social justice” came to signify the situation in which no one has more power than someone else, or that someone does not have more goods than others. Even elevating people out of poverty to the unprecedented level of material well-being and limiting abuses of judicial system are not satisfactory to those who think of evil the way Mill conceived of it.

The shift from a metaphysical conception of evil to a social one stems from the liberal understanding of power. Power, as Mill famously remarked in his argument for freedom of speech, is illegitimate, and therefore evil. Thus, for example, “[The power] of the aristocracy in the government is not only no benefit, but a positive evil.” Similarly, the power of husband over wife, of parent over child, etc., are evil as well. Good, on the other hand, is what diminishes the political power and social authority. The purpose of diminishing authority is to expand equality; and because progress is part of a historical process, as history develops so does the scope of equality. At the end of this historical process, as Mill says in the conclusion of his Utilitarianism, we will witness a slow death of aristocracies of race, sex, and color. Looking at things from today’s perspective, Mill must be given credit for understanding the consequences of his own doctrine. He predicted that as long as there is still a single minority “left behind,” to use contemporary vocabulary, the fight against authority will continue. And it does.

However, socializing the idea of evil turned out not to be without serious consequences. In his discussion of fairness as an ethical principle, Erich Fromm notes that the principle of fairness “is the ethical principle governing the life of the marketing personality. The principle of fairness, no doubt, makes for a certain type of ethical behavior. You do not lie, cheat or use force… if you act according to the code of fairness. But to love your neighbor, to feel one with him, to devote your life to the aim of developing your spiritual powers, is not part of the fairness ethics. We live in a paradoxical situation: we practice fairness ethics, and profess Christian ethics.” Nothing could be further from truth. Today, sixty-five years after Fromm wrote the above words, we hear the leaders of Christian Churches and Reformed Jewish synagogues announce the same message about social justice and hardly a word about our individual responsibility for our next-door neighbor. The answer to the question of how we reached the point of turning away from the individual man and his responsibility within a social collective, toward impersonal help in the form of high taxation, can be traced to Mill’s writings.

Mill’s understanding of the nature of the historical process is similar to that of Marx and Engels, according to whom “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.” In Marx, it is the class of the capitalists who oppress the workers, whereas in Mill the oppressed classes are minorities. Once we accept such a view of history, we must come to the conclusion that the goal of politics is to end inequality. Accordingly, those who either attempt to slow down or stop the progress of equality are perpetrators of evil. In other words, those who fight authority (of whatever kind) fight oppression, and are therefore on the side of good and right, whereas those who uphold the status quo are oppressors who are on the wrong side, are evil.

The idea that authority is evil must sound strange to someone who thinks of evil as a destructive or corruptive moral force to be found in man. But this is what Mill rejected. He socialized the moral right and wrong, and in doing so Mill denied them their former metaphysical validity, rendering right and wrong an instrument of politics. To put it simply, what is good is what promotes equality; what is bad is what prevents its implementation. The consequence of this socialization of good and right, of evil and wrong, is that the words “evil” and “wrong” could no longer be applied to the partisans of progress and equality. Progress and equality are by definition good, and those who are on the side of progress promote the good. In such a conceptual-linguistic framework, the term evil might be legitimately applied only to those who defend authority, or who fight the desired social and political changes.

A perfect illustration of this process of socialization of good and evil is the position of almost all of the current Democratic presidential candidates. In the words of Beto O’Rourke, “Religious institutions like colleges, churches, charities—they should lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage.” A similar attitude concerning different ills experienced by the LGBTQ community was expressed by Corey Booker, Elizabeth Warren, and Kamala Harris. All of them see the support for the progressive causes, however unrealistic or insane they may be, as using political force as normal. There are no economic, social, or other kinds of problems; everything comes down to fighting discrimination, that is, to bringing about more equality. No one voices concerns that such policies are intrusive, undesirable in some respect, or as a violation of individual conscience. The reason is that the aim of politics, according to them, is total submission of conscience to politics. And if it requires war against Christianity, its representatives being the churches of all the different denominations, let it be. Biblical teaching regarding right and wrong, people’s commitment to national culture, transcendence, and conscience do not matter. Their views are simply wrong. And we know them to be wrong because they run counter to the ethics of social fairness.

Let me substantiate my claim with a quotation from a recent news story.

On October 2, 2019, United Kingdom Employment Tribunal Ruled that Biblical View of Sexes is ‘Incompatible with Human Dignity.’ The tribunal in the United Kingdom ruled against a Christian doctor who alleged that the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) breached his freedom of thought, conscience and religion pursuant to the Equality Act. Disability assessor Dr. David Mackereth claimed discrimination after the DWP failed to accommodate his refusal to use pronouns which did not correspond with the biological sex of clients. In its decision, the panel stated that Dr. Mackereth’s belief that “the Bible teaches us that God made humans male or female” was “incompatible with human dignity”… In June 2018, about a week after being hired, Dr. Mackereth attended a training course for assessors, including on DWP’s policy to refer to transgender clients by their preferred name and title. Dr. Mackereth said “As a Christian, I cannot use pronouns in that way in good conscience… I am a Christian, and in good conscience I cannot do what the DWP are requiring of me.

The ruling, no doubt, runs counter to Biblical teaching and common sense. But above all, such a ruling amounts to a violation of individual conscience on the part of the State. However, given that liberalism did away with the transcendent view of right and wrong, what the tribunal declares must be right. Thus. it is not religion that is found is on the side of right and wrong, but the feelings and claims of the LGBTQ community.

In this, the minorities act like the communists of old who threatened their opponents and made them abandon their values for the sake of equality. Lack of acquiescence to the new or socialist morality means one is destined to end up in the dustbin of history.

3.

The acceptance of such a socialized view of right and wrong ejects the individual who dares to adhere to a different ethical code than that of fairness from the social collective. It also explains why dissent in liberal democracies is extremely rare, and when it happens the dissenters are attacked and condemned as perpetrators of “social injustice,” and are being labeled as sexist, racist, misogynist, homophobic, xenophobic, and ageist––that is, as those who oppose progress. Almost nothing else is evil or wrong except being one of the above. Dissent means disagreement with progressive causes, and is viewed as an implicit attempt to restore authority, to roll history back, to return to the oppressive past, to impose the old-fashioned and obsolete moral standards of behavior onto others, or as an attempt to increase the power of the state (or “power structure”) over the individual. Hardly ever is it thought of as an attempt to stop or slow down the changes perceived as socially undesirable, sometimes dangerous, or an attempt to restore a sense of national pride and a return to virtue, sanity, renewal of man’s moral rectitude, or promotion of decency and sanity.

Once we accept a new understanding of evil, everything is decried as fascist. Mussolini and Hitler were fascists, but so was Aristotle because he endowed the polis with considerable authority over the individual. But even if we leave aside the political projects of classical philosophers, the absurdity of such reasoning does not disappear. After the collapse of communism in Russia, it was natural for the former oppressed countries to ponder what post-Soviet reality should look like. One of the voices in the debate was that of the former arch-dissident, Alexander Solzhenitsyn. In his writings, he offers a program of moral regeneration of his country by looking into the past. Soon after, Solzhenitsyn, who spent decades in a gulag for his opposition to communism, was accused by liberal critics (Cathy Young in the Boston Globe and Zinovy Zinik in the TLS) of being “the theoretician of Putin-style authoritarianism and even a quasi-fascist.” Such accusations leveled against former anti-communist dissidents and members of former anti-communist opposition have become almost a norm in today’s liberal West.

In the October 2018 issue of The Atlantic, Anne Applebaum, a well-respected journalist, historian, and author of several books, including an excellent Gulag: A History, wrote a long article titled “A Warning from Europe” as part of The Atlantic’s larger section: “Is Democracy Dying?” In it, she devoted considerable space to Poland and Hungary, addressing the rise of authoritarianism, intolerance, and other ills in these countries. The culprit is of course the past and its defenders, organized into political parties whose policies allegedly threaten democracy. The paradox that emerges while reading articles about former communist countries, written by and large by liberal commentators, is that many of those who represent the parties which supposedly threaten democracy are the former members of anti-communist opposition. Given the anti-totalitarian credentials of the new “totalitarians,” one wonders how credible is the claim that the former anti-totalitarian fighters have become the destroyers of the freedoms they fought for, and, consequently, whether such a reading of political life in Poland, Hungary, and Trump’s America, is correct.

Such claims can be true only if one measures the health of democracy by today’s standards of the socialized right and wrong. Thus, democracy in Hungary and Poland is threatened because of a firm commitment to tradition and religious values that helped the nation to survive forty-four years of communism, or German occupation that wiped out one-fourth of the population, or today’s anti-immigration stance on Muslims to those countries (the disastrous effects we can observe in the countries that did in fact receive them), and the reluctant acquiescence to LGBTQ demands. Any attempt to resist such demands is perceived as anti-democratic, intolerant, or evil.

4.

Lenin once remarked that he wanted “to purge Russia of all the harmful insects.” Such an attitude was responsible for the gulags, murders, brutal interrogations, merciless persecution of dissenting voices, fear, and intimidation. The prime example of such policy exercised today is the case of the Canadian psychologist, Jordan Peterson. Peterson made a name for himself in 2016, during the debate concerning the Bill C-16 in Canada. The bill’s intention was to advance human-rights law by expanding “gender identity and gender expression.” As Peterson argued, such a law would violate free speech because of the way the ‘transgender’ and so called ‘non-binary’ people use pronouns such as ‘they’ (for singular). The Ontario Human Rights Commission concluded that if public institutions (workplace or schools) refuse to refer “to a trans person by their chosen name and a personal pronoun that matches their gender identity,” it could be a violation of non-discrimination principles. Peterson refused and said: “I am not going to be a mouthpiece for language that I detest. And that’s that.”

It would appear, one would think, to every commonsensical person that the debate was over nothing or is simply silly. Plural cannot be singular! Yet Peterson’s obstinacy became a social explosion and the psychology professor was soon the most persecuted man in North America. His public pronouncements about the use of pronouns may have triggered a reaction among some, but it is an unlikely explanation of why the attacks have continued for years and never stopped. An explanation should instead be sought in his views, which he laid out in his 12 Rules for Life. An Antidote to Chaos. The book is what it says it is, but it is also a well-presented case against enforcing equality of outcome, as well as ideological brainwashing; and it is a defense of hierarchy. Let me use a few quotations to illustrate Peterson’s position:

What such studies imply is that we could probably minimize the innate differences between boys and girls, if we were willing to exert enough pressure. This would in no way ensure that we are freeing people of either gender to make their own choices. But choice has no place in the ideological picture: if men and women act, voluntarily, to produce gender-unequal outcomes, those very choices must have been determined by cultural bias. In consequence, everyone is a brainwashed victim, wherever gender differences exist, and the rigorous critical theoretician is morally obligated to set them straight. This means that those already equity-minded Scandinavian males, who aren’t much into nursing, require even more retraining. The same goes, in principle, for Scandinavian females, who aren’t much into engineering. Such things are often pushed past any reasonable limit before they are discontinued. What might such retraining look like? Where might its limits lie?… Mao’s murderous Cultural Revolution should have taught us that.

And:

A shared cultural system stabilizes human interaction, but it is also a system of value—a hierarchy value, where some things are given priority and importance and others are not. In the absence of such a system of value, people simply cannot act. In fact, they can’t even perceive, because both action and perception require a goal, and a valid goal is, by necessity, something valued.

What Peterson says, if an additional explanation is needed, is that contemporary progressivists—just like the former communist architects of the gulag—are trying to force an ideological vision on people by turning them into what they think the people should be, by training them to act as they “ought to.” None of it is done with any concern for their individual well-being. Its most likely effect will be what the history of communism was––utter brutality. The second fragment states it clearly: Hierarchy is a fundamental part of healthy human existence. It is the scaffold without which the world would plunge into chaos, and therefore, the liberal position, according to which all values are equal, is actually morally destructive. One might go further and say that living according to ad hoc whims, by which the progressive liberals want to organize private and public life, is a recipe for chaos. This is what the book is trying to prevent.

One should also add that the book is rich in serious philosophical reflections, references to Christianity, Jesus (who is referred to as Christ), poets, and philosophers. Even though it is a book written by a clinical psychologist, it has an incredibly broad humanistic scope. Clearly, it is written by someone who cares for his fellow man. His 12 Rules is not a personal statement or confession of his religious beliefs, nor is it a book about religion, but Peterson does not hide his sympathy for Christian religion. This in itself, one can suspect, may be a reason why he caused such an uproar. But, more importantly, it explains why he is so difficult to destroy. He was literarily persecuted by his colleagues who wanted his removal from his university post at the University of Toronto. But Peterson refused to give in and bow to ideological dictates that would compromise his moral stance. During the unfortunate two years of attacks against him, he gained many followers and admirers, adding more fuel to the old controversy.

In the Wall Street Journal (January 25, 2018), a well-known journalist, Peggy Noonan, wrote the following:

Mr. Peterson is called ‘controversial’ because he has been critical, as an academic, of various forms of the rising authoritarianism of the moment—from identity politics to cultural appropriation to white privilege and postmodern feminism. He has refused to address or refer to transgendered people by the pronouns “zhe” and “zher.” He has opposed governmental edicts in his native Canada that aim, perhaps honestly, at inclusion, but in practice limit views, thoughts and speech… This is unusual in a professor but not yet illegal, so I bought his book to encourage him. Deeper in, you understand the reasons he might be targeted for annihilation.

Noonan is right on two counts. First, screenings of the new documentary about Peterson in Toronto and New York were recently cancelled, signifying that some desperately wish for the public to forget about Peterson. “ShapeShifter Lab, an event space in Brooklyn, has cancelled a screening of the newly-released Jordan Peterson biopic because of staff complaints. The New York cancellation mirrors a similar incident in Toronto, where a scheduled week-long theatrical run of The Rise of Jordan Peterson was cancelled after some members of the staff vented their displeasure with the film.” Noonan’s prediction about annihilating him was, no doubt, prophetic. However, the idea that one can understand why anyone should “be targeted for annihilation” simply for refusing to use personal pronouns in an incomprehensible and ungrammatical manner, is truly mind-boggling. But perhaps not so much if one keeps reminding oneself that Peterson’s case is not an isolated incident.

In August of 2017, a young software engineer James Damore was fired from Google for circulating an internal memo in which he suggested that the disparity in employment between the sexes may be due to biological differences. Here is a fragment from an article he wrote for The Wall Street Journal (August 11, 2017).

I was fired by Google this past Monday for a document that I wrote and circulated internally raising questions about cultural taboos and how they cloud our thinking about gender diversity at the company and in the wider tech sector. I suggested that at least some of the male-female disparity in tech could be attributed to biological differences (and, yes, I said that bias against women was a factor too). Google Chief Executive Sundar Pichai declared that portions of my statement violated the company’s code of conduct and “cross the line by advancing harmful gender stereotypes in our workplace.

My 10-page document set out what I considered a reasoned, well-researched, good-faith argument, but as I wrote, the viewpoint I was putting forward is generally suppressed at Google because of the company’s “ideological echo chamber.” My firing neatly confirms that point. How did Google, the company that hires the smartest people in the world, become so ideologically driven and intolerant of scientific debate and reasoned argument?

Echo chambers maintain themselves by creating a shared spirit and keeping discussion confined within certain limits. As Noam Chomsky once observed, “The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion, but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.

Mr. Damore became an instant celebrity, but his fame did not last for very long. His case, like Jordan Peterson’s, is symptomatic of how liberal-democracies operate and punish people for their convictions. Neither Damore nor Peterson were sent to a gulag, but the former suffered the highest punishment that the dissidents can suffer in a democracy: losing a job, becoming a social pariah and being decried as an enemy—the enemy of equality. We may never have communist style gulags, but then again nor do we need them. Ideological training, reminding people that there is no right and wrong independent of the social context, that Biblical teaching is wrong, that the ‘good’ is what diminishes authority and expands equality, is all that is needed. And the American educational system is doing just that.

What we all seem to know, but are too afraid to say clearly and openly in public, is that we fear “being purged like insects,” the way Mr. Damore was, and that we are being intimidated daily by the Leninist policies of minority groups instigated by a class of egalitarian ideologues. Those who insist that anyone should use “zhe” and “zher,” (or “comrade,” as was spoken under communism, or “citizen,” as used during the French Revolution), or that we attend various “training” to learn the new norms (unless we want to be fired), are political terrorists. We all should admit that the new progressive terrorists have hijacked public life in America, Canada, and elsewhere, and that America and Canada are not much different from the Leninist State.

Let us also note that policies that require mind-transformation, stifling free speech, thought and actions, are not the work of the right, ultra-right, White-supremacists, or nationalist parties. These policies stem from the liberal ideological dictates. It is enough to compare eastern European countries, such as Poland and Hungary—described by liberal journalists as places where democracies are dying—and the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom, and ask: In which of the above countries does one find greater freedom, and which parties or segments in their respective societies impose ideological rules on others? Or, to put it differently, which of the above countries are closer to being totalitarian?

Anne Applebaum’s article is symptomatic of the perception of danger. Such a perception, if accepted by a large number of people, may miss the real threat to the existence of democratic institutions. She sees one side of the problem and ignores the other––namely, the rise of totalitarianism in America, which poses a greater danger to the health and preservation of a democracy than anything else. The expansion of equality, which can only be done if the State forces the entire population to accept certain views, while ruling contradictory beliefs illegal as was done in the UK (whose tribunal ruled biblical teaching wrong) will transform democracy into a totalitarian system. Even if we agree with her that some of the policies and laws (or, attempts to establish them) in post-communist countries are restrictive and misguided, they are, and always were, simply part of a normal political game: the struggle for influence and power, conflict between social and political claims, competing visions of a nation’s future, all of which stem from normal human motivations.

What one cannot say about politics in those countries is that the parties propagate mind-enslaving ideology as the Democratic Party does in the United States, or like such publications and news outlets as The New York Times, Washington Post, USA Today, CNN, MSNBC, and NPR. Right-wing or conservative magazines exist in Poland and Hungary, just as they do elsewhere, but their influence is limited to a small group of readers who have a certain way of thinking, but are hardly the outlet for ideological brainwashing. Neither Poland nor Hungary have a Canadian-style Bill C-16, the United Kingdom’s 2006 “Racial and Religious Hatred Act” (or the 2016 M-103), sensitivity and sexual harassment training, mandatory ideologically driven courses for students, the De Blasio American bill—which threatens people with a fine of 250,000 dollars for the use of the term “illegal alien”—or a bill that prohibits students in New York schools from eating meat on Mondays. Polish and Hungarian languages are still in good shape in contrast to the American Newspeak, which permits certain phraseology and discards others, such as requiring the use of “maintenance hole” instead of “manhole.” What is more important, unlike the Delaware Regulation 225, which says that “all students enrolled in a Delaware public school may self-identify gender or race” without even consulting their parents, Polish and Hungarian parents have control over the mental well-being of their children. No political party in those two countries worries about parts of the population following Sharia Law, and the Biblical teaching that there are only two natural sexes is accepted by the overwhelming majority of the population. Absence of such regulations, laws, and views leaves the population of those two countries a considerable degree of freedom, something one cannot say about America and Canada, which embody Lenin’s ideal of the State.

5.

Whence came such similarities between the former Soviet Union and North America? Liberalism and Marxism operate according to the same principle: Both view history as teleological, moving in a definite direction. Its aim and end are known. It is the ultimate realization of equality through man’s liberation from the shackles of oppression, which in liberal ideology is authority and hierarchy. Opposing any progress toward equality is tantamount to opposing history that unfolds itself in an inevitable way. The individual is helpless to stop it, nothing can be done to redirect its course. The conviction that “nothing can be done” and that the notions of good and evil, right and wrong, belong to the discarded dictionary of past historical formations forced many people to resign themselves and accept communism. But it also allowed the totalitarians to keep the atrocities they were committing from occupying their minds. Their moral numbness and dismissal of the idea that they did anything wrong can be explained by their exclusive focus on bringing about more equality. Progressive interpretation of history provided them with absolution for destroying those who opposed progress toward equality, or who had little or no faith in it.

However, it was not the communists who invented the idea of equality. In his Gods will Have Blood (Les dieux ont soif), the French writer Anatole France gives a fictionalized account of the French Revolution, which he had written long before the rise of fascism and communism.

Did you know, Louise, that this Tribunal, which is about to put the Queen of France on trial, yesterday condemned to death a young servant girl for shouting ‘Long live the Queen!’ She was convicted of malicious intent to destroy the Republic.

And:

You must be more careful, Citizen Brotteaux,” he begun, “far more careful! There is a time for laughing and a time for being serious. Jokes are sometimes taken seriously. A member of the Committee of Safety of the Section inspected my shop yesterday and when he saw your dancing dolls, he declared they were anti-revolutionary.

Anatole France’s description of how the revolutionary spirit operates aptly renders the atmosphere in today’s America, where the Barbie doll—her color and size—became a matter of serious controversy, and the Oreo cookies—black on the outside, white on the inside—found themselves in the midst of an ideological whirlpool.

Communism is gone, and, ironically, it was brought down by those who retained the belief that truth, right and wrong, good and evil, are not man-made categories, and yet they are not the product of a historical process, either. They are objective and transcendent standards in which private and public life should be grounded. Only then can human existence, individually or collectively, be fully experienced.

Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life is not a silly 12 step program book for idiots or dummies. It is an attempt to return an insane world to normalcy, from the subjective whims in which we create our own personal and collective destiny, language of standards for right and wrong, or strange personal pronouns according to which one person can be many. It is a book about the human psyche, God, politics, culture, society, human decency, and compassion for the weak. In this respect Peterson, as a psychologist, can be put in the same category as one of his great predecessors, Carl Gustav Jung—a man of infinite compassion for human frailty and understanding of man’s place in the universe. Like Peterson, Jung understood the danger of totalitarian systems. If there is an explanation for why Peterson is still around, it is because of his unwavering commitment to values, religion, hierarchy and decency. That is probably why he is so difficult to destroy, and why he infuriates his foes.

The experience of brutality and death, as in the Soviet Union, made communism a fertile ground for breeding opposition and dissidents. The absence of brutality and death in soft-totalitarianism makes it more difficult to perceive the evil of equality. However, the other reason why dissent grew under communism was a strong sense of moral right and wrong taught by religion. The communists, despite their efforts, did not succeed in entirely socializing right and wrong, and where they did, the opposition was weak, as in Bulgaria or Romania, because religiosity was weak. In Poland, on the other hand, where the Church was strong, ideological opposition was unprecedented.

Given the different faces of opposition in communist countries, one can say a few things with confidence. A rapid decline in religiosity among Americans may be one reason why the country is becoming totalitarian. Young Americans’ sense of right and wrong seems weak, and if it is strong it is often limited to students who graduated from religious, predominantly Catholic, schools. One can also add that the weak perception of evil may stem from the fact that Americans have not experienced the atrocities that other nations have; they don’t even know about them. Furthermore, the high standard of living also contributes to the changes to perception of what real evil is.

The infusion of ideology into education, which is partly responsible for moral weakness, is truly unprecedented. There is no point of drawing any parallels between communism and today’s America because one could not find such parallels. The young American’s sense of right and wrong comes from schools and training, college orientation meetings where students are being told about new sexual rules, the use of proper pronouns, and being addressed by their “chosen” names (Peter can choose to be called Molly, and Barbara can be called Roger). If one adds to it a number of courses, some of which are mandatory, others, if they are not, are often still stuffed with ideological content, the picture of the young American mind is terrifying. For example, “feminist philosophy” might be equivalent to a seminar on Kant, Descartes, Plato, Hume, etc. There are other courses, such as “environmental justice,” “racial justice,” “social justice” and the like. History and sociology classes are often simply about slavery, White privilege, or the discrimination of minorities. Not much is left for real education, which when compared to the one and only class students under communism had to take —that is, “Foundations of Marxism and Leninism” offered only to students at a university level—socialism looks like an educational paradise of orgiastic free-thought.

All of the above is destructive intellectually, but also morally. If, as Peterson claims, human beings need a sense of values to act, socialized norms of what is good and evil, right and wrong, can become a substitute for a real moral compass. But there is a danger in this. Today’s social morality can become tomorrow an instrument for the destruction of others. A temporary moral ersatz is unlikely to build a community of moral beings responsible for each other, due to a lack of the sense of commitment to transcendental reality into which human life is inscribed. All such an ersatz can provide is a sense of temporary belonging to a collective, which over time produces its own leaders who will always ultimately demand mind subjugation. All of that sounds like what we know from fascist Italy, Nazi Germany, the communist Soviet Union, Mao’s China, and the Kims’ North Korea. We may not have a single leader, but a strong, frustrated desire to implement ideology can cause social unrest and generate the need that someone do something. This was Tocqueville’s prediction.

One may not expect great moral courage from ordinary people whose preoccupation is daily bread. But one would absolutely expect such commitment from intellectuals, academics, or generally ‘men of letters.’ They, however, have turned out to be most cowardly, and it is they who planted among ordinary people the seeds of moral destruction. They committed what Julian Benda calls the betrayal of truth in his classic work. Persecution of Jordan Peterson by his university colleagues makes Benda’s The Great Betrayal as relevant today as it was when it was published a hundred years ago. The survival of Peterson says something further. It is a testimony that dissent in a democracy is possible, but given the isolated nature of it, one is bound to wonder: Is Jordan Peterson the only man in North America who knows and has courage to say, “this is right and this is wrong?”


Homo Americanus: The Rise of Totalitarian Democracy in America is now available for purchase.


The featured image shows an untitled work by Zdzislaw Beksinski, painted in 1978.

Panajotis Kondylis: The Enlightenment As Reactionary

In an earlier article, I described Panajotis Kondylis as a philosopher “without a mission,” in the style of his follower, Falk Horst. Horst understands this simply and plainly: While Kondylis took a critical position derived from the Enlightenment, he rejected the dream images that some – if not all – Enlightenmentists attached to their worldview.

When Kondylis developed his deliberately value-free process, he took care to bring forward an optimistic vision of the future. Such a separation can also be found in his thick volume, Die Aufklärung im Rahmen des neuzeitlichen Rationalismus (The Enlightenment in the Framework of Modern Rationalism).

This procedure criticizes left right-wing ruler, who believe that anyone who is not enthusiastic about progress has reactionary intentions. The living as well as the dead, they further believe, pushed away egalitarian values because, according to Zeev Sternhell and Jürgen Habermas, they spurned human good.

Ethnic Differences, Irrational Folk Customs, A Preference For Order

This gallery of villains includes, among past figures of thought, Thomas Hobbes, David Hume, Comte de Buffon and Herder. All these pioneers of the modern age adhered to scientific methods to the best of their ability, but ended up – viewed from the left – on suspicious terrain. Ethnic differences, the defense of irrational folk customs and a preference for a strict order of authority arise from their work.

Because of these errors, these dissident scouts received bad marks from the progressives. Kondylis’ inability to achieve a well-deserved reputation stems from his distancing from the “principle of hope” (Ernst Bloch). What is meant is the utopian fermentation agent, for which our best-known advocates of the Enlightenment advocate.

The self-proclaimed party of progress ignores the ambiguity and contradictions of the pioneers they adore. They refuse to relate their heroes to the prevailing values of a bygone age. Rather, they are putting together a pedigree for their reform work, which lumps all preferred “predecessors” together. Anyone who contradicts this transfiguration loses his place at the round table.

Kant – A Racist?

Contrary to this notion, the Enlightenment adheres to a variety of approaches that our progressive Enlightenment thinkers could hardly satisfy. Even with the typical representatives of the âge des lumières one encounters pessimistic and anti-progressive aspects, as can be read in Henry Vyverberg in Historical Pessimism in the French Enlightenment. Vyverberg examines his main theme not only in exceptional or doubtful cases, but also in figureheads like Voltaire and the encyclopedists gathered around Diderot.

Enlighteners who strongly questioned a theory of progress were not marginalized. Just as widespread among these rational people was the creation of an order of hierarchically systematized ethnic groups – an exercise that has caused consternation among today’s do-gooders. Kant, for example, in his anthropology saw colored people as less developed than Europeans.

Most of the deceased Enlightenmentists would not have adapted themselves better than Kondylis to the templates of our progress priesthood. The endeavor to lure the Germans away from their special path also refers to carefully selected progressive traditions that some re-educators want to impose on their compatriots. However, pieces of evidence that clearly show that even among Western people of reason, “retrograde” positions can easily be found.

Voltaire And Democracy

For example, Voltaire turned up his nose at democracy, continually mocked the Jews and glorified Frederick the Great as the most sensible ruler par excellence. Furthermore, the advocate of natural rights and the social contract, John Locke, wanted to keep atheists and Catholics away from his desired civil society.

In the basic constitutions of the Carolinas, written by Locke (1669), this precursor of the Enlightenment ensured that the settlers of a prosperous North American colony should certify religious tolerance. In the following century, Voltaire could hardly contain himself when he praised this English freedom-thinker who wanted to grant freedom of belief to idolaters and pagan Indians.

Noteworthy, however, was Article 101 in the same document, which granted the slave master unlimited power over his subjects. So powerful was this authority that the master could kill his slaves with impunity. The purpose of this is to draw attention to a truism. It is a futile task if one tries to reconcile the mental figures of a distant epoch with our late modern values.

Paul Gottfried, Ph.D., is the Raffensperger Professor Emeritus of Humanities at Elizabethtown College (PA) and a Guggenheim recipient. He is the author of numerous articles and 15 books, including, Antifascism: Course of a Crusade (forthcoming), Revisions and DissentsFascism: The Career of a ConceptWar and DemocracyLeo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in AmericaEncounters: My Life with Nixon, Marcuse, and Other Friends and TeachersConservatism in America: Making Sense of the American Right, The Strange Death of Marxism: The European Left in the New Millennium, Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt: Towards A Secular Theocracy, and After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial State. Last year he edited an anthology of essays, The Vanishing Tradition, which treats critically the present American conservative movement.

Courtesy Blaue Narzisse. Translated from the German by N. Dass.

The featured image shows, “Voltaire Taming a Horse” by Jean Huber, painted ca. 1750 – 1775.

January 6th: Requiem, Heroism And Renewal

To those engaged in the decades-old fight against globalism, what occurred in Washington, DC, on January 6th 2021, comes as no surprise. Defeat and tragedy are expectations when the individual must, with unending heroism, contend with institutional power – which in its vastness is both disconcerting and frightening.

But then, no one ever said that heroism was easy. Being heroic means being very lonely, for just when you think you are surrounded by supporters, you find that you’re all alone and must fight alone. Being heroic means never quitting, that you reach deep down inside yourself to tap into strength with which to overcome insurmountable odds, because there is no one to help you. Being heroic means starting all over again when everything falls apart because there are no other options. All this is clearly summed up by Winston Churchill’s observation: “Success is a series of failures.”

What happened on January 6th was certainly heroic – the people asserting their will on those that seek to rule over us. However, as often happens, the people were also betrayed by those who acted as their leaders. When push came to shove, said leaders were well-ensconced in their various safe-places.

But first the defeat and the tragedy. I know several people who went to Washington. Their expectation was that the man whom they had implicitly trusted was gathering them in the capital because he had a trump card up his sleeve, which he would at last reveal – and that he would at long last bring down the hammer to finally right some of the wrongs. In other words, people who came in their hundreds of thousands to Washington – came seeking justice. It was not a show of force, but a show of unity against the tightening vise-grips of tyranny.

Instead, what awaited the people was grim tragedy. Sure, there were fiery speeches, with the right phrases shouted to elicit cheers. Demands were made from those present (“You’ll never take back our country with weakness – you have to be strong!”). Of course, no one explained to the crowd why it had been gathered, let alone what was expected from it, and what being “strong” meant.

But a lot of steam was let-off. And that was it. And that was the only point of the entire exercise. There was no card up any sleeve. Heck, there wasn’t even a sleeve. Once the speechifying was done, the leaders expected everyone to just go home. The cast of thousands was no longer needed; it had served its purpose of being useful props in the grand theater of bravura and aggrandization. The same people I know, who attended, afterwards told me – they felt used.

It was more of the usual. Politicians who talk the talk, but are MIA when it comes to doing something. It’s one thing to speechify. It’s quite another to make what you said in the speech reality. There is an old Latin saying, acta non verba (deeds not words). But then who knows Latin any more… Better to spout than to believe.

Every crowd gathers for a reason – and when that reason is missing, there is confusion, followed by frustration and then anger. That is what happened on January 6th, for there was no real purpose to the huge gathering. It was all just to “demonstrate” some vague show of “strength” to an elusive foe. At best, it was a “feel-good” moment. At worst, it was a grand betrayal of the people.

But the dynamics of what occurred next is very telling. We have all seen the videos of people storming the Capitol and being met with police who did not hesitate to use pepper spray, flashbangs, clubs, and a bullet in one instance. Of course, throughout the summer when BLM and Antifa rioted and burned down cities and businesses, the police shot no one – because the rioters were the right type of human beings. In fact, the police was nowhere to be see and so cities burned and some 30 to 40 people died.

January 6th had to be different, because the wrong crowd had gathered. The police were prepared and ready to use all force necessary – and so four people were killed. In the rapidly shifting dynamic of the headless crowd, the vacuum of being leaderless is quickly filled by haphazard action. The violence only happened because those that had organized the rally had no interest in actually leading it – and so people did what seemed sensible – and this led to the tragedy.

When people got inside the House, they milled about in front of the Chamber, inside which police and security personnel stood behind barricaded doors, guns drawn and aimed at the crowd (who were unarmed).

Suddenly, a solitary shot was heard. A woman, with a Trump flag draped around her, crumbled to the floor. She had been shot in the neck. Here is a video, which is vey graphic (discretion is advised). She likely died on the spot, murdered by a security man inside the chamber who can be seen quickly lunging forward and firing. Why did he feel it necessary to use lethal force? Was he commanded to do so? Why did he chose this woman to fire at? She was targeted, because he only fired the one shot and then vanished. Who knows if the truth will ever emerge? Regardless, the video evidence of the crime is very clear.

The victim’s name was Ashli Babbit, a married, 14-year US Air Force veteran, who had completed four tours of duty. The poignancy is replete – here was a woman who fought for her country and who was then murdered in the halls of her Congress. There were no regrets, however – because she was the wrong type of human. And, of course, the police shot nobody, and no guns were drawn, when the right type of humans stormed the Capitol. “Justice” is always swift when meted out to the wrong kinds of humans.

It is alleged that the other three were killed as a result of police action. But that remains to be seen. A policeman also died; it is still unclear as to how.

If anything good can come out of all this misery, it’s this – there can be no alliance between the system of politics that currently exists in all Western democracies and populism. Why? Because the ideology that fuels the system is progressivism (which is always wrongly labeled as something other than what it really is – why that is an interesting question). And progressivism is innately anti-human, for it must continually overcome those that are deemed regressive. People always get in the way of progress, and so they must be steamrolled.

This is why there are now growing calls to “cleanse” America of “Trump supporters,” who have long been labeled as regressive. This is not rhetoric. This is the very root of progressivism. Those that stand in the way of progress, must be overcome or destroyed. In this ideology, humans come in two types – those that are either for or against progress. That is the logic behind violence against Trump supporters – first dehumanize, then destroy. This is now understood as “protecting democracy.”

Society is a great big petri dish in which all kinds of social engineering must forever be implemented in order to demonstrate that progress is indeed being made. This is why the propaganda for “progress” is so relentless.

It’s a simple dynamic really – but a dynamic that is also very poorly understood, and therefore very difficult to fight, let alone defeat. In fact, most people believe in progress and cannot imagine life without it. Things always must get better, and we must use politics to that end. This is also the tragic mistake made by most populists. They do not understand that progressivism is the true enemy of populism – not “Marxism,” “communism,” or “socialism” (whatever these terms still mean). It comes as no surprise, therefore, that populists are forever fighting chimeras.

So, what is the way forward now? It is pointless describing what is wrong, while never saying what to actually do about it. Most people are lost in the playhouse of such description – it keeps everyone busy, while the world is controlled by others. Has that not been the grand theme since 2016 – endless griping about how corrupt everything is, “the swamp,” with no one stepping up to the plate and actually doing something about it? The fact is you cannot use the system to destroy the system. The sooner populists realize that – the further ahead they will be.

To make sure that the deaths of the four MAGA-martyrs are not in vain, this is what populists must do, or start to do. This isn’t easy. Nothing is ever easy – the problem is so vast that populist victories must be small, and they must be incremental.

Here is what I suggest…

Stop complaining. Yes, we all know how bad things are. No one needs more descriptions of how things are falling apart. Of course, it is always easier to criticize than to build. But make an effort to offer hope and encouragement. Don’t traffic in despair. There is a great hunger for vision. True leadership is not about uttering the right slogans and talking point. True leadership is about teaching how to build. In fact, despair is the real “swamp” that is drowning populism.

Stop feeding the beast. Politics is irreparably broken and endlessly corrupt. It cannot be fixed by electing “better” candidates. Instead, learn to create micro-communities. Find ways to grow your own food, create your own electricity, set up your own schools. Learn to control your own lives, rather than relying on the government. Government-control is always tyranny. Build shadow economies so you can stop feeding the system with your taxes, your effort, your ideas and your labor.

Stop being compliant. The system does not work for your benefit. It exists to dominate you. Find ways, no matter how small, to resist. Learn to mark your independence by becoming truly ungovernable. The easiest way is to stop funding political parties with your money. And for Heaven’s sake – do not vote for any of their candidates. Why support the elite who have no interest in you? Unite against their governments, their systems. If you must be political then pool your talents and start a populist party and try to win local elections with your candidates. This is the long-march. Do not look for instant solutions – because there are none.

Stop supporting crony capitalism. Learn to be entrepreneurial. Understand the function and purpose of big money, and find ways and means to subvert it. The easiest way, for example, is to stop supporting mega-corporations – they are all tyrannical. This may sound like complete heresy, but cancel all your social media accounts. Stop shopping at big-box stores. You’ll be the happier for doing so. Do not let large companies define the meaning of your life.

On a positive note, get in the habit of looking for beauty, say, in music, in painting, in gardening, in woodworking. Add to the beauty of the world – no matter how small. Do not let mega-corporations hijack your time.

If, as many are predicting, January 6th is the start of a revolution – make sure it’s the right one. Do not get sucked into the rhetoric of others, who will use you for their ends.

Also, make sure you understand that true revolutions are not political; they are moral and spiritual. Good politics can only be the result of good morals. Looking for good politics first is a fool’s errand. There must be something unchanging and constant to guide human destiny. That is true populism, which clearly understands that human worth can never be defined by political agency.

It’s a tough slog ahead. We will need a lot of populism to get through it. Do not lose your way. Do not lose hope. Build your own populism. That is true liberty. That is true heroism.

C.B. Forde, a former academic, lives in a rural location, where he practices what he preaches.

The image shows, “Der Sämann” (“The Sower”) by Albin Egger-Lienz, painted in 1903.

“The Future Will Be Grateful For Thy Universal Goodness:” Talking Points About Public Statuary Now

In November 2020, I helped to organise the Burlington Magazine/ Public Statues and Sculpture Association (PSSA) Webinar on “Toppling Statues.” It was a massive success, with speakers of a multiplicity of political views, representing multiple nationalities and ethnicities, multiple professions from curators to politicians to artists, with anything from Confederate monuments to Rhodes and Colston in Britain to the contemporary Philippines covered in the papers. I am publishing my own paper here and am most grateful to Nirmal Dass and the Postil Magazine for making this possible.

1. The Rule Of Law

Kudos to Sir Keir Starmer, the British Labour Party’s best leader for 25 years, for saying that Black Lives Matter protestors were “completely wrong” to pull down Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol, and if they advocated this, due process should have been followed. I was forcibly reminded of W.B. Yeats’s famous quotation: “Things fall apart. The centre cannot hold… The best lack all conviction, while the worst are filled with passionate intensity.” These were the parting words of my teenage hero Kenneth Clark’s Civilisation, reflecting on its fragility.

Had I been present at the scene, I too would have remonstrated with the protesters, demanding: “Don’t you know your Locke? ‘Where there is no law, there is tyranny.’” I rest my case, even if the likely rejoinder would be a word half-rhyming with Locke. Another important Lockean precept is the sanctity of public and private property in civil society. Colston was not the crowd’s to wrench off its base and toss into the water. “The law of nature hath obliged all human beings not to harm the life, liberty, health, limb or goods of another,” here the people of Bristol and their statue.

Edward Colston resurfaces, 2020 (Bristol City Council).
John Cassidy, Edward Colston, 1895, formerly The Centre, Bristol.

2. Have We Got Colston Wrong?

According to an eminent British historian who must remain anonymous, as opinions are so charged and friendships can be lost – yes, we have. They say this:

“Colston is less culpable than his public reputation has made out. Commentators on both sides describe him on the news as a ‘seventeenth-century slave trader’ pure and simple. He was not: he never ran a slave trading business himself and never made major investments into the trade or drew a steady income – even a minor one – from it. Instead, he made a fortune from trading in other commodities, though twice in his life he became a lesser shareholder in slave-trading voyages launched by others. This was – for whatever reason – not an attractive experience for him because he did not continue it. Instead he became the greatest philanthropist in Bristol’s history, the merchant who did most to help his fellow humans. In particular he ploughed back his huge fortune into three enterprises. One was a school where poor children could receive a free education good enough to enable them to rise in society. Another was a hospital, where those who could not afford medical fees would be treated for no payment. The third was a set of almshouses where elderly poor people were given comfortable retirement homes, each with their own flat. All three survive to the present day. I presume that the school was initially just for boys, but it has long taken girls as well, and all three institutions have lately benefited people from all ethnic groups. The late Victorians – themselves much concerned with finding ways of attaining better social justice – gave him a statue in gratitude for them. I myself think that his contribution to human misery, by those ill-chosen investments, is balanced by his efforts to relieve it in other ways.”

So, even an offending statue demonstrably has a far more complex sub-text once we’ve done our homework. Don’t let your opinions gallop ahead of your knowledge. Be a curious and respectful “pastist,” not a judgemental “presentist” – and remember that was then, this is now. I’ll return to this shortly.

3. Do We Ignorantly Bad-Mouth The Victorians? Are We Willfully Ignorant About Statuemania?

Yes and yes. Remember that not just Rembrandt or Andy Warhol but public statuary is art too, art which excels both in quantity and often quality. Before modernism did so much to de-skill art, if you had the standard training through a sculptor’s studio, art school or a large firm like Farmer & Brindley, your work attained a remarkably proficient technical level. Your attitude to imperialism was immaterial. Harry Bates, a working class, arts and crafts trained sculptor, could make a number of rather fine imperialist monuments.

Harry Bates, Lord Roberts, 1896, London.

What mattered was whether you could literally hack it. Very few of the myriad Victorian and Edwardian public monuments could be called inept. What has this got to do with toppling statues? Lots. Scratch a toppler and you’ll find they are with few exceptions ignorant of, or hostile to, Victorian art, whatever the quality. Professor David Olusoga has many interesting things to say about the politics of imperialist statuary but reveals disappointingly little art historical knowledge of, still less aesthetic responsiveness to, the works in question. Remember we’re dealing with art here, not disembodied political texts.

Talking of great Victorian art, earlier this year, I pointedly refused to sign an open letter organised by Australian academics, curators and cultural commentators, demanding the relocation of Captain James Cook’s memorial in Hyde Park, Sydney to a museum. Perusing the signatories, almost without exception, they were modernists or contemporary buffs; the number who knew anything about Cook’s sculptor, Thomas Woolner, and Victorian statuary was perhaps two or three, and they probably cared even less.

Thomas Woolner, Captain James Cook, 1874-1878, Sydney.

4. Beware Of Presentism!

Historically, topplers are deeply into presentism, which is worse than the Whiggery from which it derives. Presentism involves the wholesale application of present-day values, e.g., deploring slavery and racism, to a very different and often resistant past – a foreign country. Imagine if we could travel back in time in the Tardis just 60 years to Gilbert Ledward and his immense – and rather beautiful – Africa Awakening relief for Barclay’s Bank and confront him with a criticism made by a South African friend who should have known better, that it was “patronising.” Ledward would not have been offended, so much as completely baffled and bewildered. We have a nerve to assume we know far better than our equivalents in 1960 or 1860. What will they be saying about us in 2060? The Ledward relief badly needs a new home, but sadly is suffering for its – and his – whiteness.

Gilbert Ledward, Africa Awakening, 1960.

5. How About A New Empire/Colonial Museum?

A possible new home for relevant statuary could be a UK Empire Museum, a museum of Imperialism if you like. Formerly there was one in Bristol (the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum), but the director’s conduct 10 years ago led to his dismissal and the subsequent liquidation of the museum; that’s another story. I was saddened at the time that they threw out the baby with the bathwater.

William Dalrymple is a prominent advocate of such a museum and I agree with him in principle. My main reservation about both Dalrymple and the prevalent political climate is that if established today, the museum would almost certainly be instantly dominated by decolonising “woke” forces, the Edward Saids of this world rather than the Robert Irwins (or Mark Stockers!). Politics – and Britain’s dire economy – conspire to put such a putative museum on hold, but let’s not lose sight of it. The museum could indeed serve as some kind of repository for victims of statue toppling or shifting.

The former British Empire and Commonwealth Museum (2002-2013), Bristol.

6. Problems With Museums

Should offending monuments go to museums, as sometimes relative moderates in this debate argue? To contradict my previous point, mostly the answer is, No. How come?

Firstly, the basics – museums worldwide are critically short of storage space and offering them a 3-metre-high statue plus pedestal would exasperate any reasonable collection manager.

Secondly, Colston aside, and even Colston before June 2020, Robert Musil’s famous dictum that there is “nothing in the world quite as invisible as a public monument” held good and perhaps should still do so. It’s not as if a monument’s offensiveness will suddenly be dispelled by its more prominent location and visibility within a museum. The arguments against it won’t miraculously stop – or still more miraculously become more intelligent.

Thirdly, having a Victorian worthy or three in your atrium would almost certainly clash aesthetically with any desired installation of art after c. 1920.

Fourthly, which explains why any proposed relocation of Cook to a museum is crass, how can you possibly do justice to the modelling, the aspect, the halation, the everything really, of a colossal four-metre-high statue on a seven metre columnar base? It would dwarf its new setting, whereas its original location, carefully envisaged by Woolner, is ironically too commandingly successful and dramatic. Cook pays the price in today’s fraught political climate.

Yet a museum just might be a suitable location for a work like Francis Williamson’s statue of Sir George Grey in Auckland. Despite its te reo Maori pedestal inscription translating as “The Future will be grateful for thy universal goodness,” it wasn’t. Grey was decapitated by activists in 1987, while in recent months his replacement head, together with fingers, have been vandalised and his body daubed with paint, in obviously crude copycat actions. Marble is particularly vulnerable, Grey with his fairly recent head still more so, and in the absence of alternative measures a museum could provide an appropriate refuge when out there in Albert Park he’s too much of a risk to society.

Sir George Grey.
Sir George Grey, 2020.

7. Copycat Activism

I take a dim view of copycat attacks or calls to defund the police. Just as statuary needs to be appraised on a case-by-case basis, so do the historical records of respective nation states. New Zealand’s colonial past rendered deep injustices to Māori, but these should not be equated with the US’s brutal past. I said this in response to the New Zealand historian Professor Tony Ballantyne when he advocated removal to museums of figures “who propelled colonialism and whose values and actions are now fundamentally at odds with those of our contemporary communities.” I demanded to know “which statues does he mean?” and Tony didn’t answer me. The great white Empress Queen Victoria obviously upheld the Empire but was not racist, and her carving at Ohinemutu was honoured and indeed appropriated by the Ngāti Whakaue sub-tribe, placed on a splendid post and sheltered by a canopy. In Canterbury province, J.R. Godley established a colony which deliberately sought to avoid conflict with Maori and is immortalised in another outstanding statue by Woolner.

Thomas Woolner, John Robert Godley, 1862-65, Christchurch.

Sir George Grey’s role is highly equivocal, reviled in his lifetime by some Maori, eulogised by others; working closely with his friend Te Rangikaheke, he recorded Maori legends, traditions and customs, doing much more here than most academics today. The list goes on, and I concluded: “We should think twice before we violate our legally protected heritage.” Famous last words – but heated discussion has definitely died down locally.

8. Not Everyone Has It In For Statues

The art critic and cultural commentator Alexander Adams has noted the merciful immunity from iconoclasm in the European continent, which views woke excesses with intelligent scepticism, and the perceived heritage value of its historical monuments prevails over politics. President Emmanuel Macron has explicitly stated that France won’t indulge in tearing-down operations, while Ian Morley’s paper has just explored the refreshingly different attitude in the Philippines. Perhaps this is yet another unfortunate instance where the exceptionalist British world, as seen in Brexit, sets itself apart and tears itself apart.

An irony of the peaceful BLM demonstration in Wellington was the crowd gathering under the watchful eye of Thomas Brock’s parliamentary statue of R.J. Seddon, New Zealand premier from 1893 to 1906. While his relations with Maori were benign, Seddon’s racism towards New Zealand Chinese today appears disgusting: he denied them state pensions, imposed stiff poll taxes on them and called them racial “pollutants.”

I asked a good friend who is a Professor of Chinese if Seddon should go. She replied: “I’m probably more conservative than you on this issue. For me, we should leave the statues alone and they are only and can only be partial representations of history. Destroying statues doesn’t destroy historical injustice or biased historical narratives. Besides, historical fashions come and go. The Russians and the Chinese have destroyed enough statues but failed to rectify any historical wrongs. So, for me, debate historical figures and events as much as one likes but leave material historical remnants alone. I guess that also answers your question about Seddon. The statue can also enable a conversation about racism in NZ.”

Wise words, don’t you think?

Thomas Brock, Richard Seddon, 1911-1914, Wellington.

Conclusion

Statues and monuments are art, they are heritage – and sorry, Professor Richard Evans, as a historian you need to realise they are also fascinating and insightful, highly charged historical documents. And unless they are Gilbert & George, statues can’t answer back when abused by the crowd. What we should do with them will be addressed by subsequent speakers, but I personally advocate additional plaques or virtual ones through QR codes and apps to spell out the case for people’s perceptions today. Conciliation not confrontation, love not war, and thank you Church Monuments Society, don’t expunge, explain. And, last but not least, heed the watchword of the PSSA, “retain and explain.”

Dr. Mark Stocker is an art historian and art curator who lives in New Zealand. His publications are on Victorian public monuments, numismatics and New Zealand art. His recent book, When Britain Went Decimal: The Coinage of 1971, will be published by the Royal Mint in 2021.

The image shows, “Pulling Down the Statue of George III in New York City,” by Johannes Adam Simon Oertel, painted in 1859.

Antifascists

In Return of the Strong Gods, R.R. Reno makes this perceptive point: In “the second half of the twentieth century, we came to regard the first half as a world-historical eruption of the evils inherent in the Western tradition, which can be corrected only by the relentless pursuit of openness, disenchantment, and weakening. The anti- imperatives are now flesh-eating dogmas masquerading as the fulfillment of the anti-dogmatic spirit.”

Reno is entirely on the mark when he tells us that fighting the “dogmas” of the past has become integral to our political culture. In Western countries, particularly in Germany, this struggle has taken the form of a perpetual battle against fascism, which has become the hallmark of what is supposedly an almost uniformly evil Western past.

In pursuit of a fascist-free society, social engineers in government and education have trampled on freedoms and engaged in nonstop persecution of those who are regarded as standing outside of necessarily leftist, political conversation. In a book, in press with Cornell University, I undertake to show how utterly pernicious antifascism has become and how little it has to do with what was once understood as fascism or Nazism.

Antifascist bigots manufacture their own dogma to combat alleged “fascist” intolerance, which by now means disagreeing with progressive gatekeepers. “Fascist” is also attached to anyone who doesn’t march in lockstep with the antifascist elites and who therefore must be destroyed socially and economically to protect a multicultural society.

Where I depart from others who may agree with these premises is in my insistence that certain political developments promoted the antifascist anti-dogma dogma. The Russian or Japanese government does not push this as a state ideology. Only Western countries promote this stuff; and there may be something specific to these societies that predispose them toward antifascist crusades.

All antifascist countries have undergone similar political and educational experiences, although the Germans previewed this transformational process with the “democratic” reeducation inflicted on them by their American and British conquerors after World War II. Such conversions are not attributable simply to the “spirit of the age,” or because of moralizing on the editorial pages of the New York Times or Le Monde. The conversion to antifascism as a state-enforced doctrine, particularly in Western Europe, has happened incrementally for quintessentially political reasons.

Although we can trace back this antifascist fixation to an earlier point, the best time to start may be after World War II, when there were already an entrenched concept of antifascist education and a new stress on universal rights that were to be globally enforced. In the 1960s first in the US and then in other Western countries, an expanding crusade against racism and its supposedly twin evil of sexism was taking place. This enthusiasm gained in intensity, partly under state sponsorship, and brought along a government apparatus to fight “prejudice” and “discrimination.”

In the US, this undertaking was bound up with fighting racial discrimination, while in Europe it built on the struggle against Nazism and colonialism. But this crusade, once begun, just went on and on. It became ever more intrusive and obsessive and enjoyed the support of myriads of administrators, an expanding media empire and a state-subsidized educational establishment.

Throughout this conversionary enterprise, the focus has been on a constant enemy “fascism,” but never communism; and those who have wielded power have conjured up the specter of Hitler, or his right-wing stand-ins to underline the perpetual threat to democracy.

The point to be underlined is that identifiable turning points and coercive policies contributed to the problem that Reno mentions. There were also actors who helped advance a particular model of “liberal democracy,” which supplanted other less controlling and less radical forms of constitutional government.

Certain variables might have made this all-controlling ideology less oppressive and less pervasive, e.g., fewer young people having their brains laundered at our universities by madcap academics, a smaller electorate made up of long resident, literate property-owners, and the absence of a centralized administrative state that in the name of social policy set out to reconstruct the family.

All these factors, and other discernible ones, contributed to the rise and continuity of our antifascist state religion. Here concrete interests came together with ideology in a war against “the evils inherent in the Western tradition.” These evil supposedly culminated in fascism, understood as both Nazi tyranny and whatever obstacles the cultural Left was opposing at a particular time.

A major vehicle for this new dogma has been the managerial class ensconced in both government and corporations. Although this class could conceivably profess non-radical values, this is not the case at the present time. Its members are out to expunge such values and the culture that created them.

Admittedly the “flesh-eating dogmas” we are addressing make no sense to me as a coherent, demonstrable set of beliefs related to any reality that I can grasp. But I am interested in knowing who is benefiting from this crescendo of madness. The old question of “cui bono?” remains relevant here.

Paul Gottfried, Ph.D., is the Raffensperger Professor Emeritus of Humanities at Elizabethtown College (PA) and a Guggenheim recipient. He is the author of numerous articles and 15 books, including, Antifascism: Course of a Crusade (forthcoming), Revisions and Dissents, Fascism: The Career of a Concept, War and Democracy, Leo Strauss and the Conservative Movement in America, Encounters: My Life with Nixon, Marcuse, and Other Friends and Teachers, Conservatism in America: Making Sense of the American Right, The Strange Death of Marxism: The European Left in the New Millennium, Multiculturalism and the Politics of Guilt: Towards A Secular Theocracy, and After Liberalism: Mass Democracy in the Managerial State. Last year he edited an anthology of essays, The Vanishing Tradition, which treats critically the present American conservative movement.

The image shows, “Eclipse of the Sun,” by George Grosz, painted in 1926.

Bohemian Rhapsody: Our Life In Pop Culture

A simple song, but it contains a good thought…
(Adam Mickiewicz, Dziady, Part IV)

I should warn my readers at the outset that the topic of this piece is not my area of expertise. I am not an avid fan of Queen, and my knowledge of rock and roll is no different from others of my generation and those who spent their youth enjoying this type of music. I also haven’t seen Brian Singer’s 2018 film Bohemian Rhapsody, and I am unlikely to have time to see it anytime soon.

Although it was never more than just fun for me, two friends whom I played football with after school in the 1970s later became well-known music journalists in Poland. My friends would meet in the evening at one of the student clubs in Krakow, and listen to records together. One of the two, who later became a music specialist, received these records from an uncle in London – they would come in packages that contained clothes for the family and other items that were hard to get in a socialist country. Sending such packages was also typical of post-war immigrants.

It so happens that I also had an uncle who helped us, and who invited me to Hanover in 1979. At that first trip out from behind the Iron Curtain, I brought back three CDs that were not available in our country. One of them was Queen’s double album, Queen Live Killers, with many hits that were hugely popular at the time. Over subsequent years, Polish Radio began to broadcast this type of music in programs for young listeners. These programs were highly popular. And, I can still remember the first appearance of “Bohemian Rhapsody” on Polish Radio and even the comment of the journalist who hosted the program, who said that the “new, little known” band Queen is “very skilled vocally.”

This truth was confirmed in the following years, when Freddie Mercury and his bandmates celebrated their greatest triumphs, and “Bohemian Rhapsody” won numerous accolades from listeners around the globe. This song, known to everyone, recently came back into my head again by accident. I was preparing a lecture on romantic ballads for my students at the Jagiellonian University, and it occurred to me that the words of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” especially the opening part of the song, correspond exactly to one of the most popular traditional folk ballad patterns. The hero of “Bohemian Rhapsody” (Freddie Mercury) complains to his mother that he has shot someone, so if he’s “not home tomorrow,” she should “carry on.” His life “had just begun,” and now he’s gone and thrown it all away.” He then speaks of “shivers down my spine” and his “body aching all the time.” He says goodbye to his friends because he has to “face the truth,” alone. And although he “doesn’t want to die,” he sometimes wishes he’d “never been born at all.”

Even for the listener who knows that the subject of crime and punishment constantly appears in ballads of all eras and in all countries (from the Polish Romantic poems of Adam Mickiewicz to the songs of the American Johnny Cash), Freddie Mercury’s lamentation sticks in our heads, hitting us hard; the piano keyboard sounds surprisingly serious.

Even stranger thoughts come to mind, if you listen to the lyrics of the middle section of the song, a quartet sung by all the band members. This quartet breaks the continuity of the ballad story with a monumental scene of judgment over the hero’s soul in the afterlife. The operatic associations suggested appear not only in the musical layer, but also in the text, in which individual Italian words stand out (“Figaro,” “magnifico,” and others). But this is not just a reference to Italian as the language of opera. It is also a trace of Catholic religiosity. The “Galileo” that Freddie asks to “let him go” is not Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) the famous physicist persecuted by the Church and the hero of the progressive education we received in the 1970s. He is the “Galilean” – Jesus Christ, whom the hero asks for freedom from this monstrosity, accompanied by a choir asking angels for his release (“Let him go, let him go, let him go…”).

Similarly, the “mama” Freddie invokes when he cries out “Mama mia” – after the chorus of Hell spirits declare, “We will not let you go” — is also not the mother of the protagonist from the first part of the song, but the Mother of God, whom Freddie calls in his hour of death, as does every Catholic. Of course, with these terms (“Galileo,” “mama mia”), the entire religious morality play is camouflaged and parodied here. Freddie plays to his judges for pity, complaining that he is only a “poor boy” and the backing choir adds that he is “a poor boy from a poor family” – as if hoping that “Galileo” will give him credibility points for his humble origin. However, mixing seriousness with irony in this part does not change the essence of the outcome: the punishment of the hero is condemnation – “Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me, for me, for me ….”

And at this point, in the transition to the third and final part, the ballad convention is finally broken. In ballads, crime is always accompanied by punishment. This “law” is accepted by everyone, including the punished hero, because these are the moral foundations of traditional society and ancient popular culture. Meanwhile, in its dynamic ending, “Bohemian Rhapsody” expresses a vehement rejection of this judgment. The soloist breaks the bonds that had bound him thus far (during the performance of the song, Freddie Mercury emphasized this with appropriate behavior on stage) and throws out – against God – rebellious, well-known Promethean accusations:

So you think you can stone me and spit in my eye,
So you think you can love me and leave me to die.
Oh, baby, can’t do this to me, baby…

Addressing God as “baby” is a special idea. I don’t know (although perhaps it should be checked) if Shelley and Byron came up with something similar. So now by freeing himself from his guilt, from reproach, from the Last Judgment and by throwing his accusations back on his Judge, the hero of “Bohemian Rhapsody” becomes both the modern Prometheus and Don Juan. Since judgment no longer has any authority for him, the difference between good and evil ceases to matter. The phrase “nothing really matters” changes its traditional meaning, as expressed in the first part of the song. Now it means the state of ataraxia promoted by libertine philosophers: “Nothing really matters, anyone can see, nothing really matters… to me.”

A strange song. Sweet and bitter; simple but full of hidden allusions, mixing buffoonery with seriousness, and seriousness with irony and mockery. Cheap? Pretentious? And is this important, since the song has conquered the world? The story told in “Bohemian Rhapsody” corresponds to that of Don Juan from Mozart’s opera. Only that Molière and Mozart showed in their works the horror of sin and the justice of the punishment that befell Don Juan. But the sinner condemned in our song, the self-pitying “poor boy” in the end becomes a rebel against harsh moral law. He declaims a manifesto of self-liberation from the shackles of religious morality and gives others a model to follow.

We couldn’t understand all of this as teenagers. We swayed to the beat of the song, glad that the words were sonorous and matched the music. Music that released our youthful emotions and provided a sweet purification from the fear of life awaiting us. Now that we have more experience, in the seemingly nonsensical flow of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” we find something from our later experiences and thoughts. Something that was already in the song from the beginning and which is probably not at odds with maturity. Undoubtedly, 40 years ago Freddie Mercury knew much more about serious matters than we could have imagined then as teenagers.

Today we are no longer “poor boys from poor families,” as we used to be. We may not be completely innocent either; but that doesn’t bother us too much, since we have rejected the religious superstition that Galileo will judge us someday for all that we have done. Anyway, even if he could judge us, he would have to show us that he has the right to do so. Isn’t that the moral history of the entire modern West, especially the West in the age of pop culture? It may not be that “nothing really matters” to us – but certainly nothing matters to us the way it used to. Unfortunately.

Andrzej Waśko is professor of Polish Literature at the Jagiellonian University, Krakow. He is the author of Romantic Sarmatism, History According to Poets, Zygmunt Krasinski, Democracy Without Roots, Outside the System, and On Literary Education. The former Vice-Minister of Education, he is curretnly the editor-in-chief of the conservative bimonthly magazine Arcana and is presently Adviser to Polish President Andrzej Duda.

The image shows, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” by Dan Sproul, 2019.