The Official Blog Of Edward Cline

Month: May 2006

The Trolls of Drollery

On May 21st, the New York Times Book Review published the results of its survey, “What is the Best Work of American Fiction of the Last 25 Years?” Accompanying the dismal list of “winners” was an essay by A.O. Scott, “In Search of the Best.” With the typical absence of passion, criteria, and commitment that characterizes modern criticism and especially that of the New York Times, Scott, a film critic for the Times, neither applauds the survey results nor condemns them.

Scott describes the “Great American Novel” as a “crossbreed of romance and reportage, high philosophy and low gossip, wishful thinking and hard-nosed skepticism.” His nattering, gossipy article snickers at the subject of “best”, striving to assure its readers that the author could never be accused of valuing anything, not even the rubbish heap that passes for modern literature. It is just there, beyond judgment or comparison.

“…Late 20th century American Lit comprises a bustling menagerie, like Noah’s ark or the island of Dr. Moreau, where modernists and postmodernists consort with fabulists and realists, ghost stories commingle with domestic dramas, and historical pageantry mutates into metafiction. It is, gratifyingly if also bewilderingly, a messy and multitudinous affair.”

How can one judge? Should one judge? Scott asks but evades answering those questions, and abstains from judging the “best” works, twenty-two of them, just as he abstains from faulting or praising the over one hundred judges — “prominent writers, critics, editors, and other literary sages” — for their choices. Little is communicated in his essay but a contempt that percolates through an amused scorn for the whole subject. Comparing the “Great American Novel” with the yeti, Loch Ness monster and sasquatch, he notes, “The Times Book Review, ever wary of hoaxes but always eager to test the boundary between empirical science and folk superstition, has commissioned a survey of recent sightings.”

Focusing on the “winner” of the survey, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Scott merely reports on the judges’ consensus:

“When the book first began to be assigned in college classrooms, during an earlier and in retrospect much tamer phase of the culture wars, its inclusion on syllabuses was taken, by partisans and opponents alike, as a radical gesture. (The conservative canard one heard in those days was that left-wing professors were casting aside Shakespeare in favor of Morrison.) But the political rhetoric of the time obscured the essential conservatism of the novel, which aimed not to displace or overthrow its beloved precursors, but to complete and to some extent correct them.”

“Enshrine mediocrity,” Ellsworth Toohey told Peter Keating in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, “and the shrines are razed.” Reading Scott’s comments on the winning and neglected authors and their works, one is immediately certain that the idea of literary shrines is alien to him. He is a product of his age and education, a subjectivist/relativist who does not presume to venture beyond the perceptual and the visceral, or to question others’ appraisals. If his object is more demolition work, he is unaware that his literary and critical predecessors have already razed the shrines and that he is wandering through ruins overgrown by weeds, infested with vermin, and tenanted by vagrants. The great or notable literature of the past, to him, is a mirage. Who is he to hold himself or other writers up to a higher standard? Or to any standards? To Scott, the dishwater gray culture he sees before him is the norm.

“The American masterpieces of the mid-19th century…were compounded of precisely these elements [what he calls earlier realism, allegory, folk tale, Gothic and romance], and nowadays it seems almost impossible to write about that period without crossing into the realm of the supernatural, or at least the self-consciously mythic.”

Given the novels chosen by the Times judges as the “best” in the last twenty-five years, one might understand why Scott would consider the masterpieces of the 19th century an unattainable mirage. But Scott is not an innocent party; he helps to perpetuate the grayness. Not one of the survey novels deserves extended critical attention here; they all echo the common charge, as critics never tire of pointing out, that America is “mythic,” founded on violence, illusions, hypocrisy, racism, shallowness, and angst. It is a country based on fraud, and populated by trolls and gnomes.

Scott himself apparently does not aspire to anything greater than the stature of a troll. He writes effusively and with nagging drollery about modern literature in Harvard-taught patois, but devotes not one word to what “might and ought to be.” The concept is impossible to him. It is not a treasure trove of values that he seeks or regrets the loss of, but the chamber pots of modern American writers. What they have produced, is there. To Scott, nothing else is conceivable.

Against what literary or esthetic criteria does he measure modern literature? None. Such criteria do not exist, according to Scott. It is a “myth.” He might have redeemed himself had he attempted this kind of appraisal: “As modern France is no longer the France of Victor Hugo and Edmond Rostand, America is no longer the America of Hawthorne and Whitman.” But that kind of observation requires a perspicuity and intellectual honesty based on the knowledge that one is confined in a suffocatingly dreary, boring, bankrupt culture.

Scott, previously a book reviewer for Newsday, is also a frequent contributor to The New York Review of Books. He is representative of the modern profession of criticism, virtually indistinguishable in his philosophy and style from his colleagues who write for other major publications. He cannot take literature seriously enough to approach it with any passion or conviction. How could he or anyone stoke up a passion for the drearily undifferentiated trash the subjects of his essay? One holds a conviction about a truth. How could he have a conviction about anything when he claims there are no absolutes and no measures of value?

The measure he does employ is not esthetic or literary, but sociological. Scott calls it “cultural importance.” How does a particular work of fiction “reflect” its time, how well does it succeed in revealing the foibles, absurdities, dishonesty or hubris of society at this or that particular period of history? If one must portray individuals, they must be “types,” or symbols, or transparently neurotic or confused or helplessly miserable or oppressed, and readily identifiable by the random reader as a satirical mirror image of himself as victim or victimizer, or as a helpless, inconsequential cipher in a deterministic milieu.

Heroes? Achievements in the face of terrific odds? The larger-than-life? Happiness? Don’t make Scott laugh. And he will laugh, in chorus with the rest of the literary establishment.

“Every man to his taste,” goes the proverb, and it is claimed that “taste” cannot be accounted for. But, “taste,” or a hierarchy of specific literary and esthetic values, can be accounted for. One can reject the corrosives of naturalism, subjectivism, and nihilism, for which critics like Scott constantly shill in book reviews and essays, and instead measure or formulate literary and artistic values by an “ought.” It was done in the past; it can be done again.

Those who value literature, especially benevolent, heroic, Romantic, life-affirming literature — literature, Ayn Rand once wrote, that serves as live-saving emotional or spiritual fuel to fight one’s own battles and that can propel one to accomplish one’s own goals — in turn cannot take the likes of Scott or anything that passes for literature today seriously. Scott and his ilk cannot, on their premises, fight for or advocate anything of literary or artistic value. All they can do is gloat, and chant in their reviews and essays, “Such is life.”

All we can do is yawn, and work to stage a revolution in literature.

Moving towards freedomless speech

It is not so curious that in the wake of the Danish cartoon conflict, during which the American press and news media revealed their tepid commitment to freedom of speech and the inviolacy of the First Amendment, incidents of assaults on that freedom would not only multiply, but assume odd but no less ominous forms.

In 1996, in “The Ghouls of Grammatical Egalitarianism,” a review for The Social Critic of the American Association of University Press’s Guidelines for Bias-Free Writing, I noted:

“Thought orthodoxy is not synonymous with thought control. There is no Federal Board of Language Usage to which publishers must submit their books and journals to be tested for discriminatory or disparaging language before they can be put on the market for sale to the public. However, while no official agency of control exists, there is a kind of interlocking directorate of semi-public institutions and organizations which accomplishes the same purpose by presenting a united front against freedom of expression and imposing orthodoxy on our culture’s intellectual and literary pacesetters. ‘Say what you please, we’re not censors!….But say it our way, or do not bother to say it.’

“Short of overt government repression, I cannot imagine a more insidious form of thought control than this, which is to thrust independent minds of whatever professional suasion or degree of ability into a purgatory that is not quite freedom and not quite slavery.”

And, in discussing the ramifications of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 in my entry on “Censorship” in the 2002 edition of The Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science (Vol. 70), I observed:

“All the provisions regarding ‘obscenity’ are ostensibly for the sake of protecting children. An early precedent for this particular ruse was the Rubbish and Smut bill (or the Schund und Schmutz law) of May 1927, enacted by the Weimar government in Germany, in which children under the age of 18 were similarly ‘protected’ by controls from plays, literature, art, and especially nightclub performances that might corrupt their moral fiber. The act took the form of a ban of all under 18 years of age from proximity to these ‘evils.’ It also gave the police the unlimited power to enter private residences to enforce the law, and even prohibited young adults from attending art classes that employed nude models. The Rubbish and Smut law was an overture to wholesale Nazi censorship six years later.”

Germany was prepared for Nazi rule in more ways than one — chiefly by its philosophy — and the Rubbish and Smut law was passed and enforced in the name of “decency.” In the U.S., such laws are enacted on federal and state levels for the same reason, and also in the name of “fairness,” “balance,” and “sensitivity.” Not to mention that Trojan horse of all regulations, bans, and controls: children.

“Speech codes” have established stultifying purgatories of expression not only on college campuses, but in other venues, as well, such as business and even tourism. In how many numberless places of business would one now risk a sexual harassment lawsuit by paying a colleague a compliment on his or her appearance, and probable dismissal by one’s employer, who would likely be named a co-defendant for not having enforced federal and state “guidelines”?

And what better way to ensure that college students become “responsible” citizens than by creating lists of “protected” and “unprotected” speech, and even linking academic success to the degree to which students adhere to them? Establish in their minds the habit of observing arbitrary parameters of speech and thought, and they won’t give the authorities much trouble. They will be too busy “giving back to society” to discover how much liberty that society has surrendered and taken from them.

And, just the other day, browsing through some Colonial Williamsburg teachers’ brochures that offer literature on how to introduce students to the American Revolution, I encountered the term “tradespeople” in lieu of “tradesmen.” What the first term conveys is that the men who made the Revolution possible were androgynous “persons” who wore strange clothing and practiced odd customs. But the employment of sanitized terminology is not the worst offense committed by Colonial Williamsburg. Its acceptance of federal grants disqualifies the foundation from teaching anything about why the Revolution occurred, for with the grants come the requirements of political correctness, which can only influence how it represents history.

To return to thought control. The “control” that enforces “orthodoxy” in speech by individuals is simply fear of retribution, reprisal, or financial and personal ruin. To work, thought or speech control relies exclusively on self-censorship. The instances of operable thought control are as ubiquitous and innocuous in our culture as countless drops of water falling on one’s forehead in a Chinese torture.

Now, there’s a “disparaging” analogy! Could it be construed as an ethnic slur, or a cultural slur? A sleazy lawyer could make a case for both and take me to the cleaners. Wait! Now I’m offending lawyers! And cleaners! Well, how about saying that thought control is much like the embrace of an iron maiden? No, that wouldn’t sit well with maidens reading this, either. Not that any girl or woman today wouldn’t feel offended by being called a “maiden.” How about risking being hauled before a Spanish Inquisition for speech heresy? Or for playing Russian Roulette with one’s mouth? Nope. I might offend Hispanics, Catholics, or the Moscow Mafia. And perhaps Italians.

A friend remarked to me, referring to the disgraceful behavior of our government and press during the Danish cartoon “outrage,” that “Mohammed was only the beginning.” Rather, Mohammed is only the capstone of an edifice otherwise known as an Orwellian Ministry of Truth, under construction in our culture for the last half century.

I trust I have made my point. The Mohammedan enforcer of politically correct speech is ready with his scimitar, watching your every movement and listening to your every word, eager to behead unrepentant infidels of the First Amendment. “Slay them wherever you find them.” Or take them to court.

And if we are tempted to speak out of turn — that is, to endorse or criticize a candidate for political office and consequently violate the time strictures of the Campaign Finance Law and an arbitrary ruling of the Federal Election Commission — we must not think that law is an abridgement of the First Amendment, but rather as a gag for the “public good.”

In Boulder, Colorado, for example, citizens concerned about the “decency” of their neighbors, coworkers, or strangers may have the chance to snitch anonymously to the authorities if they believe a “hate crime” has been committed.

The Denver Post reports that “the Boulder City Council will take up the matter of allocating public funding for a ‘hate hotline,’ which would giver residents an opportunity to report incidents in which Boulderites use tactless language.”

As though that were not bad enough, try to unravel the illogic of a spokesman for the American Civil Liberties Union. The Post reports him as saying, “Our concern — and there are many — is that there is no confidentiality, no legal confidentiality,” explains Judd Golden, chairman of the Boulder ACLU. “So it’s potentially chilling if people think they are providing this information in confidence and then that information were provided to the government or the government sought access to it. That would chill free speech.”

Here is that gibberish unraveled. Golden is not concerned about the power of the government to punish someone for speaking his mind and asserting his freedom of speech. That it has such power, or is seeking it, is the given he sanctions. He is concerned about the jeopardy in which informants might find themselves if the government knew their identities. It is not the principle of the First Amendment that he is worried can be chilled, splintered, and melted away, but the contextless “freedom of speech” and “privacy” of petit Nazis and would-be gauleiters.

The Boulder Council, flailing about in its own shrunken epistemology, believes it has a duty to protect tattletales from any consequences of their “public spirited” actions. Its resolution would not only condemn “the usual individual or collective acts of racism and bigotry,” writes the Post, but those who attack, disparage, or denigrate “personal beliefs and values.”

Sound familiar? This is Mohammed in the guise of any random soccer mom, public school teacher, community activist, or other endorser of the idea of “hate crimes.”

The criminal code and justice system were once legitimately concerned with determining and punishing criminal actions in order to protect or uphold individual rights. The concept of “hate crimes,” however, extends and sanctions the power of government and our courts to punish thought, as well, that is, for why a crime might have been committed.

It is but a short step from linking an actual crime with “hate” to making it a crime to “hate.” One need not act on that “hate” to be pilloried by a law or society, except to express one’s opinion or position, no matter how rational or irrational it might be. The Boulder Council seems to want to take that step. One can only imagine in how many other American cities that willingness exists in the minds of “stewards of the public good and safety.”

On a fundamental cultural level, it is no coincidence that the introduction and gradual acceptance of the concept of “hate crimes” paralleled the stealthy and de facto imposition of politically correct speech. Politically correct speech, in turn, has established the grounds for punishable “tactless language.”

In May of 1765, Patrick Henry urged the Virginia General Assembly to adopt the “tactless language” of his Resolves over the “politically correct” style of his time to protest the Stamp Act. When other colonial Americans read that language, deemed by the fearful as “disrespectful,” “insensitive,” “disparaging” and “offensive” to the majesty and prerogatives of the British Crown, it moved them to unite for the first time to oppose and resist Parliamentary power. That was the true beginning of the American Revolution.

The growing silence you hear now is a cowed nation exercising its freedomless speech.

* * * *

Other articles by Edward Cline on censorship:

“Here Comes a Chopper to Chop Off Your Head: Freedom of Expression vs. Censorship in America” Essay: The Journal of Information Ethics (St. Cloud State University, MN/ McFarland & Co., Publishers, Jefferson, NC), Fall 1995

“Patrick Henry: Not Merely an Orator” Essay: The Colonial Williamsburg Journal, Winter 1995

“The Ghouls of Grammatical Egalitarianism” a review of Guidelines for Bias-Free Writing, ed. Marilyn Schwartz and the Task Force on Bias-Free Language, The Social Critic, November/ December 1996

“Censorship” Entry: The Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, ed. Allen Kent, Marcel Dekker, New York, Vols. 62 (1998) and 70 (2002)

How to Deter the United States

In the May 9th New York Sun, Daniel Pipes, in “How to Deter Tehran,” listed and discussed three options open to the U.S. in its face-off with Iran.

The first option is to accept without reservation Iran’s assertion that it is only processing nuclear fuel for “peaceful” purposes, and that in time President Ahmadinejad will be muzzled and constrained by Iranians who don’t share his confidence that he is the new “Mahdi,” destined to set the world straight. Pipes rightly dismisses this as an exercise in fantasy.

The second option is a military one, to destroy Iran’s nuclear fuel processing capabilities so that it could not produce nuclear weapons. “Military analysts,” writes Pipes, “posit that American airpower, combined with good intelligence and specialized ordnance, suffice to do the needed damage in a matter of days; plus, it could secure the Straits of Hormuz.”

Pipes qualifies the logic of this option by citing two “unfavorable consequences”: outraged Muslim public opinion against the U.S. and the effect it would have on the world oil market. Aside from moving the “now-alienated Iranian population to rally to its government,” he paints another “unfavorable consequence,” as well: “Globally, air strikes would inflame already hostile Muslim attitudes toward the United States, leading to a surge in support for radical Islam and a further separation of civilizations. News reports indicate that Tehran is funding terrorist groups so that they can assault American embassies, military bases, and economic interests, step up attack in Iraq, and launch rockets against Israel.”

“Even if Western military forces can handle these challenges, air raids may cause Iranians and their supporters to withhold oil and gas from the market, engage in terror against the energy infrastructure, and foment civil unrest, all of which could create an economic downturn rivaling the energy-induced recession of the mid-1970s.”

The third option Pipes lists is international cooperation to put pressure on Iran, either through the United Nations or by persuading other countries that it would be in their best interests to “convince Iranians of the terrible repercussions for them of defying the international consensus.”

Pipes asserts in his article that the political leadership of Iran is “divided, with important elements dubious about the wisdom of proceeding with nukes….Other influential sectors of [Iranian] society — religious, military and economic in particular — also worry about the headlong rush.” “A campaign by Iranians to avoid confrontation could well prevail,” writes Pipes, “as Iran does not itself face an atomic threat.”

Two questions must be posed here: Is the Iranian “oligarchy” so splintered and concerned about international “isolation” that it could gag Ahmadinejad and put its West-hating mullahs on leashes? And why shouldn’t Iran be faced with an “atomic threat”? It is, after all, posing that very same threat to the West, and in particular, to Israel, which Ahmadinejad and his underlings insist should be wiped from the map of the Mideast.

Pipes rightly dismisses the first option as wishful thinking. He concedes that the second option, immediate military action, is a step in the right direction, but agrees with Senator John McCain of Arizona that it is less worse an option than a nuclear-armed Iran.

But his preferred third option would require the diplomatic equivalent of a conga line, necessitating the willingness of Russia and China to join it. But the “terrible repercussions” of international isolation and economic sanctions, presumably administered by the U.N., do not ring with promise, if the sanctions and isolation imposed on Saddam Hussein’s Iraq are any guide.

Further, Russia and China are not likely to agree to anything harsher than a slap on Iran’s wrist. Russia is supplying Iran with the very technology that would help Iran create nuclear weapons (with dictator Vladimir Putin assuring President Bush that he continues to be an ally on the war on terror), while totalitarian China has just signed a trade pact with Iran that includes what might be characterized as an “oil for vetoes on the U.N. Security Council” deal.

There are several things wrong with the last two options.

If it is true that military strikes against Iran might cause the Iranian populace to “rally to its government,” should such a possibility act as a brake on U.S. policy and action? No. If that populace is so fickle, why should we care how it might respond to the U.S. acting in its self-defense? During World War Two, German and Japanese populations “rallied” to their governments. Our policy then was to bomb them into submission and bring home the repercussions of supporting tyranny and sanctioning aggression. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were subsequently and roundly defeated. The ultimate deterrence of aggressive tyranny is its destruction.

If military strikes would raise the level of Muslim “public opinion” against the U.S., should that act as a brake? No. Why should we care about what the Muslim world thinks of the U.S.? The U.S. is already hated and isolated. Should a rise in the emotional intensity of hatred be a factor in formulating a proper policy for dealing with our enemies?

Pipes provides a clue to his own perspective in his article. He writes:

“…Air strikes would inflame already hostile Muslim attitudes toward the United States, leading to a surge in support for radical Islam and a further separation of civilizations.”

Islam is by its nature “radical”; it can neither be tamed nor made “moderate,” no more than communism, Nazism, or Bushido can be modified to “coexist” with their political antipodes. It is fundamentally a creed of conquest. The notion of a “peaceful” Islam is as ludicrous as expecting a Doberman to behave like a Pekinese. It cannot be coaxed into passive “tolerance” of ideas and institutions it is compelled to oppose and destroy.

As for worrying about a further “separation of civilizations,” the further apart they are, the better. The West, if it seeks to preserve its identity, has nothing to gain from Islam. The only way they can be brought closer is for one or the other to submit: either the West submits to Islam, and no longer is the West but a gigantic theocracy, or Islam submits to the West, and would no longer be Islam, if it began imbibing the ideas of freedom, individualism, and capitalism.

But the West is not advancing freedom, individualism and capitalism. Or even reason. It has virtually abandoned the values that define it and distinguished it from the rest of the world. It is seeking rapprochement with an ideology that is dedicated to their final eradication.

It is a philosophical conflict that exists, not merely a geopolitical one. However much one might wish for reconciliation between the West and Islam, it will not change the fact that they are mortal enemies. It is an issue of reason versus faith allied with force.

President Ahmadinejad of Iran seems to know this. It would explain the smugness that colors his sneering pronouncements about the U.S. and his confidence that it can be stared down in a contest of chicken. It is the root of his hubristic, mocking certainty, that, morally, the U.S. is a paper tiger.

The only practical, realistic option open to the U.S. to resolve a crisis of its own making — to prevent the crisis from becoming even more “complex” and untenable, tangled as it is in economic and “humanitarian” considerations — is to bite the bullet, attack Iran and destroy it. Only then will that “now-alienated” Iranian populace seek to overthrow the government responsible for inviting such devastation to be visited upon it. Islam would be discredited throughout the Muslim world, which would begin to collapse into itself.

While the West, in particular the U.S., wrings its hands over how to deter a nuclear-armed Iran, Iran can count on a more lethal weapon of mass destruction to deter the West and the U.S from annihilating it and Ahmadeinejad’s agenda of destruction: philosophical bankruptcy and a commitment to unprincipled pragmatism.

America’s cowardice only emboldens her enemies

“They smell the fear,” a friend of mine once remarked in an email about current events, most of which were directly connected to the incoherent, irrational foreign and domestic policies of the U.S. and of the West in general. To which I would add, “And they relish the retreat.”

“They” are all the enemies of the U.S., of the West, and of civilization. And the fear they smell is the natural effervescence of panic, vacillation, and indecision in the face of a dedicated enemy, exacerbated and made more potently detectable by an absence of confidence, self-interest, and principle. In nature, the odor of fear invites the attention of alert carnivores and emboldens them to stalk and attack. It is no less so in international relations.

Read history. Appeasement and unprincipled pragmatism can explain the seemingly unstoppable advancement of barbarism. Ayn Rand enunciated the principle of evil’s “potency” in her essay, “The Anatomy of Compromise”: “The spread of evil is the symptom of a vacuum. Whenever evil wins, it is only by default: by the moral failure of those who evade the fact that there can be no compromise on basic principles.” The snarling predators, parasites and religious moralists of a variety of inimical suasions are circling in ever tightening circles for the kill. And few things are more disturbing than watching rival predators fight over a carcass. One should hope that it is not too late for the U.S. to act and spare itself that fate.

The minor whiffs of surrender are almost laughable. Former President Bill Clinton, posing as a globetrotting humanitarian and apologist for the West, just like Jimmy Carter — he condemned the Danish cartoons of Mohammed and was paid a lot of money to excoriate American policies in speeches he gave in Riyadh and the U.A.E. — helped to arm-twist beverage companies into agreeing to withdraw their sugary soft drinks from public schools in a fascist “fight against fat.”

Well, what’s a retired anti-American embezzler, liar, and philanderer, living the high life under the umbrella of a tax-exempt foundation and collecting a presidential pension with full benefits, to do but pitch in to make sure that Uncle Sam’s future tax-cows are fit enough to submit and serve and pay for their own slavery? Their bodies are no longer their own, but the government’s or the nation’s. If they won’t voluntarily abstain from soft drinks, they must be forced to.

Not for Clinton to oppose the fat that burdens American taxpayers, such as pork barrel legislation, federal and state taxes collected at the gas pump, or the frauds of Social Security and Medicare. No, those forms of obesity are sacrosanct.

Does anyone recall the full-page photograph in the New York Times over a decade ago of 18-year-old Bill shaking hands with President Kennedy? It is no accident that Bill Clinton revered Kennedy. I still have that page. I call it, “Passing the Torch of Totalitarianism.” Clinton in his own political career may not have been as “idealistic” about it as was Kennedy, but then an amoralist is not particular about the brand of collectivism he adopts, so long as he is seen promoting it and stands to gain something from it. For the relevance of this comment, see Ayn Rand’s various articles on American political trends, particularly “The Fascist New Frontier.”

Not representative of Hillary’s favorite reading material, to be sure. She went through her superficial Rand “phase” to marry Bill, and, in a classic instance of the selflessness of power-seekers, clung to him and his White House ambitions despite his debauchery. Bill was her ticket to power. She always had her own dominatrixic plans to whip the country into shape. If you think this is a gratuitous characterization of her obvious power-lusting persona, I recommend that you put Adolf Hitler on the psychiatrist’s couch and compare the notes you take from his confessions with the ones you take from hers. Apart from differences in stridency and form, they’ll match. He was a man-hater, too, and enjoyed breaking and enslaving men in a quest to realize his own conception of a “global village.” Gender is irrelevant.

Truth, however, neither retires nor ages. It would be interesting to speculate on the distinction between the various forms of treason committed by Bill Clinton, such as when he chose not defend this country when he should have (see Leonard Peikoff’s “Iraq: The Wrong War,” on Capitalism Magazine, from January 28, 1997), and that committed by Jane Fonda, who gave aid and comfort to the enemy during the Vietnam War, when she shouldn’t have. Her autobiography, “My Life So Far,” ought to be retitled, “My Life So Far from the Truth,” chiefly because it also lies and poses the question of what is “is.” Or, rather, of what was “wasn’t.”

Apart from the omissions and memory lapses, her life story, as she or her ghostwriter tells it, is otherwise a narration of blameless determinism. She couldn’t help but pose on an anti-aircraft gun, read communist-written speeches, dine well with her hosts while American POWs starved, and contribute to the defeat of America at the hands of collectivist paupers. She claims to be a victim of circumstance and an exemplar of cluelessness. She just went with the flow, not meaning any harm, acting as Tom Hayden’s Barbarella doll.

But, the French, who pioneered determinism in nature and in man, did it to us again. Fonda’s most recent reward for moral irresponsibility and culpability came in the form of a $700,000 contract from the Paris-based cosmetics firm L’oreal to promote an anti-ageing cream.

The American press and news media must be breathing a collective sigh of relief, now that the Danish cartoon imbroglio is no longer newsworthy. Thanks to the Internet, however, Americans can learn that Islam hasn’t dropped the matter. The most recent episodes of the Islamic jihad against freedom of speech occurred at Michigan State University, where a professor of engineering posted a letter that, among other things, urged Muslims to move to a country where Sharia law is supreme, instead of demanding its acceptance in the U.S., and was roundly criticized for it. And at Wilkes University in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, Saudi students protested a letter in the local Times Leader written by a dentist, Stephen M. Lawrence, who in it blasted Saudi Arabia, the role of Saudis in 9/11, honor killings, and the treatment of women and Christians in Islamic states.

“It is said we are having a clash of civilizations,” wrote Lawrence, “but as we can plainly see, only one side is civilized.”

Europe continues its spasmodic “civilized” submission to Islam, that is, to the demands of its resident Muslims that it accommodate and integrate with minority aliens whose theocratic premises are antithetical to Western ideas of liberty. Observing Europe’s conversion into a caliphate is as unsettling as observing the reverse metamorphosis of a butterfly into a lowly worm. Denmark apologized for the Mohammed cartoons, and Sweden is diligently shutting down websites that carry any images that might be offensive to Muslims.

Muslims in Sweden and Germany are demanding that Sharia law be granted equal status with those countries’ secular legal codes. One must wonder when Europeans will grasp that “separate but equal” moral codes inevitably prove to be incompatible, and that one must eventually absorb the other, that is, the more assertive, consistent and uncompromising one must nullify the less assertive and more accommodating one. Very possibly many Europeans now regret having invited so many “guest workers” over the decades to perform menial labor, but one will never hear them curse the welfare states that necessitated inviting them to perform it. They’d rather riot and destroy property than give it up, as they did recently in France over the proposed labor law that gave employers some control over their employees.

In the meantime, the Danish cartoonists are still in hiding, and the Muslim Brotherhood, based in Egypt, has issued its own fatwahs on Arab intellectuals who implicitly question Islamic values by upholding some Western ones, including one on Wafa Sultan, who bravely repudiated Islam in its entirety on Al-Jazeera television. To question the validity, veracity or morality of the Koran or the Hadith, of course, is to commit apostasy, whose penalty is death. Islam tamed and made palatable, Islam gutted of its numerous jihadist imperatives and injunctions, would no longer be Islam.

How many Arab intellectuals will live long enough to reach that logical conclusion, if ever, remains to be seen. But you won’t hear their dilemma reported on the national news; bird flu and the latest Kennedy car accident are deemed more newsworthy. Note the news media’s hypocrisy of gleefully reporting the legal troubles of Rush Limbaugh over his painkiller addiction, and offering sympathy and understanding over the Rhode Island senator’s affliction.

Dictators who last long enough in power begin to grow bizarrely senile and increasingly irrational. Witness Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Less frequently, they become lucid. Muammar Qadhaffi of Libya is a case in point. On April 10th, on Al-Jazeera, sniffing the West’s confusion, and forgetting that he admitted that it was his regime’s terrorist agents who were responsible for the bombing of a fully-loaded 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988, and for which he paid compensation (but not with his life), proclaimed that Europe and the U.S. ought to just consent to become Islamic, or declare war on Islam. Would that Western leaders, such as President Bush and Prime Minister Blair, suffer from such episodes of either/or.

But the public polls of those two leaders are plummeting. Liberal and collectivist pundits and news anchors smell the defeat and are snapping at their heels.

Other predators smell the fear from as far away as South America. President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is preparing to stick it to the U.S. by nationalizing all oil production in that country and by supplying oil virtually free to communist Cuba, while Evo Morales, president of Bolivia, will nationalize that country’s natural gas production in the name of “the people.” The U.S. had a chance to oust Chavez and his Gestapo when Venezuelans protested his dictatorial presidency, but passed it up in favor of equivocation and paper admonitions. It was too busy fighting the wrong war and promoting democracy in countries whose citizens wished to vote themselves their preferred brands of religious tyranny. And insisting that God was one of the Founders, his invisible signature is evident on the Declaration of Independence, and only an infidel couldn’t see it.

One must wonder just how dumb are the likes of Chavez and Morales. Surely they know that nationalized, government controlled industries invariably fail and require the eventual reintroduction of hated foreign technicians to maintain the value of their loot. The record is quite clear. Perhaps they do know it, and this is their way of deliberately destroying values in order to destroy a greater value, such as the U.S. Perhaps, like James Taggart in “Atlas Shrugged,” they want to hear us scream.

And President Ahmadinejad of newly nuclear Iran continues to give the U.S. and the West his version of the Bronx cheer.

The howling, yelping and growling you hear in the darkening night are the signals of creatures of the West’s own making. We daren’t hunt for them or even think of setting traps. That might upset PETA, the Animal Liberation Front, and environmentalists in the persons of Al Gore and the terrorists of Earth First.

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