The Official Blog Of Edward Cline

Month: April 2013

Boston: The MSM’s Exploded ‘Journalism’

Over the years, I have
watched via Internet video countless IED (Improvised Explosive Device)
explosions detonated on American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So, when I read the news of
the Boston Marathon bombing of April 15th, and watched the videos of
the incident, I was certain that it was a terrorist bombing that killed three
people and injured over 170, some losing their limbs, and not an exploding fire
hydrant or propane-fueled hot dog stand.

Then came the avalanche of
hastily-written bulletins and aired news reports with earnest-looking reporters,
half-thought-out educated guesses, “expert” speculations, and plain
“yellow” journalism and words and images strung together just to fill
print space and air time.

Shortly after the Boston
bombings flung bodies and limbs and shrapnel over a Boylston Avenue sidewalk,
the Mainstream Media itself exploded to reveal the debris of modern journalism.
 

Certain that it was indeed a
terrorist act, and once the authorities had confirmed that two pressure-cooker IEDs
had been set off, I began researching and writing a column about it, and
attempted to sift through all the cascading hysteria and hair-pulling and come
up with some solid facts and conclusions. I found it virtually impossible to
compose a coherent article on the subject. The haphazard stories of who was
responsible or not responsible for the bombings, and whom the authorities had
arrested or not arrested, or whom the authorities were looking for, kept
flickering in the news and my mind like a badly edited silent movie whose last
nitrate frames had disintegrated. My mind shut down, and refused to function as
it usually would when addressing an important topic.

I gave up on the effort and
decided to wait it out. That patience paid off, for the terrorists turned out
to be two Chechen brothers who “inexplicably” turned jihadist. They
were Dzhokhar
A. Tsarnaev
, 19, and Tamerlan
Tsarnaev
, 26.   But in the meantime,
some distracting but interesting developments also caught my attention, and
none of them reflect well on either the MSM or the Obama administration or on
the FBI.

There was the episode of the
“running man” seen in a security camera video fleeing the scene of
one explosion. He was reportedly tackled by a civilian and somehow turned over
to the police. Whether or not he was the same 20-year-old Saudi student who
suffered burns and was taken to a local hospital, or someone else entirely,
hasn’t been confirmed. His name and that of the civilian who apprehended him remain
unknown.

The student was Abdul Rahman Ali Al-Harbi. Photographs of a smiling, geeky-looking
kid in a hospital gown were published. He looked like he wouldn’t hurt a fly.
It turned out that he was definitely a “person of interest” because
his family has terrorist ties. Not long after the bombing, both President
Barack Obama and Secretary of State John “Swift Boat” Kerry,
he of the bogus combat film, combat medals, and French pedigree, met with Saudi
officials
in Washington and arranged for the kid to be deported
back to Saudi Arabia.

Walid Shoebat
remarked and provided this information about Al-Harbi’s own antecedents:

Perhaps
a quick look at the Arabic sources should raise the eyebrows of every American
relative to the extent of the problem at hand. Many from Al-Harbi’s clan are
steeped in terrorism and are members of Al-Qaeda. Out of a list of 85
terrorists
listed by the Saudi government shows several of Al-Harbi clan to
have been active fighters in Al-Qaeda:

#15 Badr Saud Uwaid Al-Awufi Al-Harbi
#73 Muhammad Atiq Uwaid Al-Awufi Al-Harbi
#26 Khalid Salim Uwaid Al-Lahibi Al-Harbi
#29 Raed Abdullah Salem Al-Thahiri Al-Harbi
#43 Abdullah Abdul Rahman Muhammad Al-Harbi (leader)
#60 Fayez Ghuneim Humeid Al-Hijri Al-Harbi


             Then you have Al-Harbi clan members in Gitmo:

Salim Salman Awadallah Al-Sai’di Al-Harbi
Majid Abdullah Hussein Al-Harbi
Muhammad Abdullah Saqr Al-Alawi Al-Harbi
Ghanem Abdul Rahman Ghanem Al-Harbi
Muhammad Atiq Uwaid Al-Awfi Al-Harbi

In the meantime, Homeland
Security head Janet Napolitano
answered questions about the Saudi student, as visibly displeased with them as
a Cub Scout den mother being asked about the birds and the bees:

“I am unaware of anyone who is being deported
for national security concerns at all related to Boston. I don’t know where

that rumor came from,” Napolitano said….“I’m not going to answer that
question. It is so full of misstatements and misapprehensions that it’s just
not worthy of an answer,” she responded. “There has been so much reported on
this that’s wrong, I can’t even begin to tell you congressman. We will provide
you with accurate information as it becomes available.”

Or picture the late
cross-eyed comedic actor Marty Feldman, mugging for the camera, with his arms
crossed, pointing in opposite directions. Then the FBI
issued a statement about the confusion that reigned in the MSM about the
bombing suspects:

Contrary
to widespread reporting, no arrest has been made in connection with the Boston
Marathon attack. Over the past day and a half, there have been a number of
press reports based on information from unofficial sources that has been
inaccurate. Since these stories often have unintended consequences, we ask the
media, particularly at this early stage of the investigation, to exercise
caution and attempt to verify information through appropriate official channels
before reporting.

The press had published shots
of several Middle Eastern-looking men
in the Marathon crowd. They looked nothing like the Chechen suspects who were
ultimately cornered.

But Jeff
Baum
, who lost both legs in the explosion, was able to identify the younger
Chechen (I can’t force myself to call him an American citizen, a status he was
granted on September 11th, 2012), Dzhokhar, because he and Baum
looked into each other’s eyes just before Dzhokhar left the bomb bag at Baum’s
feet. Then there’s the FBI itself, forbidden to “think” Islamic,
which already had a file
on the older brother, Tamerlan. It was deep-sixed
when, alerted by the Russian government, the agency found “nothing”
disturbing about him. The London Telegraph reported:

Michael McCaul, the chair of House Homeland
Security Committee, said the FBI must explain why it failed to keep track of
Tsarnaev after the 2011 interview, particularly after he visited his family in
Dagestan, which is a known centre of Islamist militancy and training
facilities.

“If he [Tamerlan Tsarnaev] was on the radar
and they let him go, if he was on the Russians’ radar, why wasn’t a flag put on
him, some sort of customs flag?” Mr. McCaul asked on CNN, adding that
there were clear signs that Tsarnaev had been radicalized during his trip.

Other than resorting to stammering that it
was incompetent, the FBI had no comment on these failings. And exploiting a
chance to pontificate on the bombing, Obama at first acknowledged that it was
an act of terrorism, but then reverted to type and called it a “tragedy.”
Excuse me, Mr. President, but accidents and acts of nature are
“tragedies.” Terrorist plots to kill and maim are terrorism. They don’t live in the same
moral or metaphysical room. Or would you rather call the Boston bombings
“racetrack violence”?

Other “experts”
were called in to stem the panic and smooth out the rough edges of the ongoing
reporting.

Such as David Axelrod,
aka Axle Grease, former senior advisor to Obama and now a political analyst for
NBC and MSNBC, who said about the Boston Marathon bombing: “…let’s not
put any inference into this, let’s just make clear that we’re going to get the
people responsible.”

That is: Let’s not be beastly
to the Muslims or Islam. For all we knew, he inferred, it might have been the ghost
of Timothy McVeigh who planted the bombs, or Daffy Duck. Let’s not jump to
hasty conclusions. Let’s not infer that it’s been Muslims over the last twenty
years who have exploded bombs in crowds, that isn’t justification to imagine
that they were at it again. Muslims, you know, and as Obama reminded us in
Cairo, have contributed so much to Western civilization – except when they’re
trying to destroy it.

Axle Grease apparently
contracted Chris Matthews’ version of Legionnaires Disease. He can’t rule
out
violent anti-government
radicals:

“The
word has taken on a different meaning since 9/11. You use those words and it
means something very specific in people’s mind,” Axelrod told NBC News’
Chuck Todd. “And I’m sure what was going through the president’s mind is —
we really don’t know who did this — it was tax day.”

He continued, “Was it someone who was pro — you know, you just don’t know. And
so I think his attitude is, let’s not put any inference into this, let’s just
make clear that we’re going to get the people responsible.”


What’s with this “we” business, since Axle Grease is no longer in the
White House? And, “we’re” going to get the people who did this”
— just as “we” got the people responsible for
Benghazi?
You know, we (that is, you and I and everyone else with at least half a scruple
and a brain pan larger than a brontosaurus’s) have had to exert extraordinary
patience while sifting through all the vacuous and ambiguous information that has
been filtered out to the press and then through the press to us to ascertain
with some certainty that this was indeed a jihadist,
probably Al Qada “strike,” one that has been promised for some time
by our non-enemies and devotees of the “religion of peace.”

The liberal media preferred
that a white
“right-wing extremist”
be found responsible for the bombs, but
the whirlpool of flotsam and jetsam of evidence in the end didn’t conform to
the media’s wishes. Still, Chris Matthews and several other “experts”
proffered their own conclusions before the culprits were killed or caught. 
 

News Busters reported that Matthews
opined:

Just hours after explosions rocked the Boston
Marathon on Monday, Chris Matthews speculated, “Normally domestic terrorists, people, tend to be on the far right.”
He then reconsidered and suggested, “…That’s not a good category, just
extremists, let’s call them that.

During live coverage, the Hardball host
highlighted a possible explosion at John F. Kennedy’s presidential library and
thought this could be a personal attack on the Democratic Party: “But going after the Kennedy Library, not
something at Bunker Hill, not something from the Freedom Trail or anything that
kind of historic, but a modern political figure of the Democratic Party. Does
that tell you something?”
(Police are now considering the
incident at the JFK library to be fire-related.) One can only guess what it
tells Chris.


Then Matthews had this exchange with
Clint Van Zandt:

CHRIS MATTHEWS: Well, Michael, Tax Day today. That
came up. You know, I was thinking of all the iconic events, or being told about
them today. Of course, I knew it was Tax Day because I got them in. But of
course, it’s Patriots Day. It’s also the Boston Marathon. And would you as an
expert be thinking domestic at this point? I don’t think Tax Day means a whole
lot to the Arab world or Islamic world or the, certainly not to al Qaeda in
terms of their world. It doesn’t have any iconic significance.

CLINT VAN ZANDT, FORMER FBI PROFILER: At this
point, as an investigator, you don’t want to shut down any options, but based
upon the type of explosive that appears, the size of the explosive, the way it
was done, this is well within the capability of somebody with too much time in
front of the internet who was looking up bombs and who hates government, who
hates America. For whatever his or her reasons for doing something like this,
this is well within the realm of one person.


Do not expect Matthews
or Axle Grease to eat their words. Liberals never apologize for their errors,
slanders, or libels. They just change the subject. They’re protected by the
equivalent of diplomatic immunity. As with former Secretary of State Hillary
Clinton, the truth doesn’t
matter
if it doesn’t fit the fatal fantasy world of the Leftist agenda.
Truth is a bourgeoisie invention and device to fool the citizenry. What’s done
is done and let’s move on. It doesn’t matter. The wise Caucasian lady said so.

National Public Radio, that taxpayer-supported,
soft porn propaganda “news” outlet for the federal government that
broadcasts tearful documentaries about the plight and travails of Mexican
migrant mothers and immigrant Muslims, and celebratory ones about wolves
reintroduced into their original stomping grounds so they can feed on cattle
and sheep, shared Matthews’ tingle-laden obsession with right-wingers who as
everyone knows have left thousands of bodies blown to bits strewn over American
malls and marathons. On April 17th, Dina Temple-Raston, on “All
Things Considered
,” opined:

The
thinking, as we’ve been reporting, is that this is a domestic, extremist
attack….April is a big month for anti-government and right-wing individuals….There’s
the Columbine anniversary. There’s Hitler’s birthday. There’s the Oklahoma City
bombing. The assault on the Branch Dividian compound in Waco.

A river of information flows
through Temple-Raston’s mind, so it was natural that she went phishing, not for
credit cards or personal information, but for data that fit her delusions. I
guess Hitler wouldn’t have much minded having his birthday of April 20th
moved back to American Tax Day and Boston Marathon Bombing Day of April 15th.

Finally, the New
York Times
ran an unbelievably sympathetic article on the Tsarnaev
brothers. That article has now been revised to seem less sympathetic. The DC
Caller reported on April 19th:

The sympathetic portrayal of the men — who murdered three
civilians, including a child, wounded 180 people, murdered one unsuspecting
police officer and wounded another officer — was met with quick condemnation on
social media networks.

Since The Daily Caller’s Jim Treacher took a screen-grab of the
article, the Times changed the layout of the page to one more seemingly aware
of the hundreds of victims and their friends and families, the entire United
States and much of the non-terrorist planet.

The Times was caught with its
pants down, and after being excoriated by the “social media,” it
hastened to pull up its pants and rewrite history, a la Nineteen Eighty-Four. We’ve always been at war with Eastasia,
right, and not with Eurasia? And Chechnya is just a kind of Russian Detroit, it
couldn’t possibly turn out vicious terrorists, just poor lost souls who had
trouble “fitting in.”

Among others, Daniel Greenfield
and Walid Shoebat have both investigated the backgrounds of the Saudis and the
Tsarnaev brothers. Much of the information on both Tsarnaev brothers was
readily available on the Internet. But the FBI and DHS have been too busy
monitoring the email and Facebook accounts of ordinary Americans, to bother
with time bombs waiting to explode. Greenfield, in his column, “Refusing
to be Terrorized,” concluded a comment on Obama’s insipid speech and on
the whole “let’s move on with our lives” mentality:

While
we refuse to be terrorized, those who insist on terrorizing us continue
swarming into this country. A hundred Muslim nations have sent their progeny to
live their tortured lives here, until they grow tired of infidel rule and
decide to do what they do back home. Kill. And then we once again can refuse to
be terrorized at an interfaith service in which the clergy of the murderers
stand side by side with the clergy of the murdered.

The day may come when we finally refuse to be terrorized. They will not do it
by going back to do their part for the next shopping season, the next
interfaith service and the next healing speech. They will refuse to be
terrorized by closing the door on terrorism for good.

What is this column about? It
is about the price paid for evasion of the knowledge, the evasion of the
identify of our enemy, which is Islam. Clinton, the two Bushes, and Obama have
all claimed that the West is not at war with Islam. But at the risk of
repeating myself, and reiterating what writers such as Greenfield and Shoebat
and Steve Emerson and Ali Hirsi and others have pointed out: Islam is at war
with the West.

And that won’t do, it’s too
close to identifying their own corrupt souls or minds. They’re all James
Taggarts (Atlas Shrugged), and you know what happened to him after Galt
told him in the torture room, “I told you, didn’t I?” And Taggart
crumbles when he sees the nature of his own evil. It’s that little clump of
malevolent black glop that’s the core of his being. That’s the MSM, that’s Obama,
that’s his wife, that’s Napolitano, and the Clintons. The roll call is long
with dozens and dozens of names.

They can’t permit themselves
to concede the truth or even glimpse at it without destroying themselves. So
they dance around it and look for scapegoats, for fall guys, for anything that
will reveal that they’re no better than the Chechen brothers or their family or
OBL. That disguise is several onion-skin layers deep. If tyranny — I mean,
real brass knuckles, gulag style, firing squad tyranny — ever comes to this
country, the MSM will have played a large part in making it  possible. They’ll all be complicit, whether
they’re with local TV affiliates or are major broadcasters and newspapers.

Someone might counter: But they’re ignorant, they’re innocent of any malice.

 No, they’re not. They try too
hard at it. They refuse to think.

Yes, the “lone
wolf” mantra is popular with the MSM. The only conspiracies credible to
MSM are right-wing ones, or patriotic ones, or anti-government ones, or anti-tax
ones. Islam, an ideology festering right under the MSM’s noses, is not a
credible candidate. It is off-limits. After all, Muslims are nice people, they wouldn’t
hurt a flea, except infidels of all stripes. The government says we must
“respect” Islam. Yes, Islam, the paragon of ideological evil, an
ideology whose means and ends are destruction for destruction’s sake.

I’m guessing that Obama’s ilk
would have advised the Jews at Auschwitz that they ought to have respected
Nazism.

You really must ask yourself:
how can so many “journalists” be so fatally delusional?

A clue to that condition is
that their own ideology is copacetic with Islam’s, and if they ever questioned
Islam’s means and ends, they must also question their own means and ends. And if one bans a fact from one’s
thinking – that is, if one deliberately evades or represses a fact necessary to
reach a factual conclusion – that makes one as culpable as the terrorist.

And that is how and why the
MSM’s claim to “objective journalism” can explode in a furious, week-long,
panic-driven tarantella of paroxysms of wishing reality away, of denying that A
is A.

James Madison vs. Frank Nitti

Daniel Greenfield, in his
Sultan Knish column, “The
Chicagoization of America
” (April 11th), remarked about the
workings of urban machine politics:

In
2012, tribal politics became national politics. The country was divided and
conquered. A campaign run on convincing a dozen separate groups to be afraid of
each other and of the majority made all the difference, not in some urban slum,
but from sea to shining sea. The country had at last become the city. And
considering the state of the city… the state of the union does not look good.

His column featured a
photograph of Saul Alinsky, author of Rules
for Radicals
and other Democracy
for Dummies and Democrats
tracts that serve as hands-on instruction manuals
for liberals, leftists, and out-and-out communists and socialists in how to
acquire power and disenfranchise everyone but their patrons. In other words,
elective gangsters. Such as Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton, who admired
Alinsky and his “community organizing” philosophy so much she wrote
her Wellesley senior
thesis
on them and even interviewed Alinsky.

Greenfield does not mention
Alinsky in the column, which is about how “democracy” has become a
game and tactic of criminal politicians who manipulate contentious voting blocs
and vested interests. He did not need to. Alinsky’s face and that photograph in
particular are too familiar. Alinsky boasted that he befriended and fraternized
with Chicago gangsters.
That is entirely appropriate, given the state of Chicago and American politics as
described by Greenfield.

Here is an anecdote in
Alinsky’s own words about how cozy he was with Frank Nitti, Al Capone’s
“enforcer.” Nitti liked Alinsky and allowed him to look over the
criminal’s books:

Once,
when I was looking over their records, I noticed an item listing a $7500
payment for an out-of-town killer. I called Nitti over and I said, “Look,
Mr. Nitti, I don’t understand this. You’ve got at least 20 killers on your
payroll. Why waste that much money to bring somebody in from St. Louis?”
Frank was really shocked at my ignorance.

“Look,
kid,” he said patiently, “sometimes our guys might know the guy
they’re hitting, they may have been to his house for dinner, taken his kids to
the ball game, been the best man at his wedding, gotten drunk together. But you
call in a guy from out of town, all you’ve got to do is tell him, ‘Look,
there’s this guy in a dark coat on State and Randolph; our boy in the car will
point him out; just go up and give him three in the belly and fade into the
crowd.’ So that’s a job and he’s a professional, he does it. But one of our
boys goes up, the guy turns to face him and it’s a friend, right away he knows
that when he pulls that trigger there’s gonna be a widow, kids without a
father, funerals, weeping — Christ, it’d be murder.”

Such was the wisdom imbibed
by Saul Alinsky, amoral and pragmatist tactician and organizer of other
criminal mobs, otherwise known as the Left. For what is the Left but a loose
alliance of ideological gangsters who rationalize and sanction force, but who pose
as “humanitarians” sensitive to the feelings of others? Gangster government,
indeed.

But, in this column we will
not be “going there.” I don’t think it’s necessary to compare
Alinsky’s foul character with that of James Madison. That would be an insult to
Madison. This column will dwell on a species of wisdom not possible to Alinsky,
Frank Nitti, or even to any contemporary politician. Here, in speeches,
separate correspondence and in his Federalist Papers, are some excerpted
thoughts and cogitations of Madison, one of our Founders, defending and
explaining the workings of the federal Constitution after it had been framed in
1787 Philadelphia. The document had been sent out to all the states for debate
and ratification. A multitude of objections to it, some valid, some specious, were
cropping up and distracting everyone’s attention. Madison felt obliged to
defend the document and to refute all the criticisms of it that came his way. Originally,
he questioned the wisdom of including a “bill of rights” that would
specifically obstruct federal incursions on specific realms of individual
liberty.
But in June of 1789, he submitted a bill of rights to a Congress embroiled
in other issues. He became known as the “father” of the Bill of Rights
rights which Congress today is contemplating their suspension or nullification.

All quotations are from James Madison: Writings 1,
and are followed by the referenced page numbers. Quotations have been edited
for archaic spelling, punctuation and formatting. Notes in square brackets are
my own interjections on meaning and context for clarity’s sake.

In a letter to William
Bradford in January 1774, before the Revolution began, Madison remarked:

…Political
contests are necessary sometimes as well as military to afford exercise and
practice and to instruct in the Art of defending Liberty and property….If the
Church of England had been established and general Religion in all the Northern
Colonies as it has been among us here and uninterrupted tranquility had
prevailed throughout the Continent, it is clear to me that slavery and
subjection [subjugation or submission] might and would have been gradually
insinuated among us. (p. 5)

Here Madison was exhibiting
prescience, not only about his later task of construing the Constitution for
his readers, but was commenting on how a state religion can suppress liberty. He
would later call for the separation of church and state. We now have two state
“religions” that perform that role: environmentalism,
and “gay
marriage
,” and the state has been empowered to enforce obeisance to
both.

In a speech before the
Convention in June, 1787, Madison inveighed against “pure” democracy,
and warned how religion and combative blocs in a population would lead to
anarchy and tyranny.

In
all cases where a majority are united by a common interest or passion, the
rights of the minority are in danger.…Religion itself may become a motive to
persecution and oppression. These observations are verified by the Histories of
every Country ancient and modern. In Greece and Rome, the rich and poor, the
creditors and debtors, as well as the patricians and plebians alternately
oppressed each other with equal unmercifulness. 
(pp. 92-93)

In this same speech, Madison
endorsed the idea of dividing the federal government into three branches – the
executive, the legislative, and a senate – and prohibiting the branches from
developing overlapping authorities. We don’t see much of that separation today.
The only branch that has retained some independence from the other branches is
the Supreme Court, but that separation can be nullified by an executive or
president who seeks to pack the Court with justices friendly to his agenda. Senate
confirmation hearings on Court nominees are supposed to weed out those who are
hostile or ambivalent to a strict reading of the Constitution. That has not
happened.

On the role of the Senate,
Madison had this to say at the Convention, in answer to another delegate’s
proposal to make the Senate as large as the House of Representatives:

The
use of the Senate is to consist in its proceeding with more coolness, with more
system, and with more wisdom, than the popular branch. Enlarge their number and
you communicate to them the vices which they are meant to correct. (p. 98)

The function of the Senate,
to act as a check on populist legislation and causes with its “coolness
and wisdom,” was annulled by the Seventeenth
Amendment in 1913 which allowed the direct or popular election of U.S. senators,
instead of by state legislatures. Nineteen-thirteen was a banner year for
Progressive statism. The Sixteenth Amendment or the Income Tax Amendment was
ratified in February, and the Federal Reserve Act was enacted in December.

On July 20th,
1787, Madison addressed the Convention on the subject of executive powers and
the impeachment of the president.

Mr.
Madison thought it indispensable that some provision should be made for
defending the Community against the incapacity, negligence or perfidy of the
chief Magistrate. The limitation of the period of his service was not
sufficient security….He might pervert his administration into a scheme of peculation
or oppression. He might betray his trust to foreign powers. (p. 128)

This projection of the
executive branch’s potential depredations can be applied to any number of
administrations since, say, President Grant’s term, but it certainly describes that
of Barack Obama. Anyone remember Solyndra, or Obama’s assurances to dictator
Vladimir Putin that, once he was reelected, he would have “more
flexibility
” in compromising this country’s ability to defend itself?

But Madison could not imagine
that the whole of Congress could become so corrupted as to pose just as
perilous a danger to the country as would a president wielding dictatorial powers.

The
case of the Executive Magistracy was very distinguishable from that of the
Legislature.…It could not be presumed that all or even a majority of the
members of an Assembly would either lose their capacity for discharging, or be
bribed to betray their trust. Besides the restraints of their personal
integrity and honor, the difficulty of acting in concert for purposes of
corruption was a security to the public. And if one or a few members only
should be seduced, the soundness of the remaining members would maintain the
integrity and fidelity of the body….(p. 128)

Do we laugh now, or later?
There are only a handful of Senators and Representatives who are
“restrained” by their personal integrity and honor from feeding with
the rest of Congress at the spend-and-tax-and-regulate trough. Madison can be
forgiven for his naïveté. He lived in an era of intellectual giants, and
presumed the swine of his time would be kept in their pigpens.

Madison forecast the problems
with universal suffrage and recommended that the power to vote for any
candidates in national and state elections be limited to property owners. In a
speech to the Convention August 1787, he explained why:

The
right of suffrage is certainly one of the fundamental articles of republican
Government. A gradual abridgment of this right has been the mode in which
Aristocracies have been built on the ruins of popular forms….In several of the
States a freehold was now the qualification. Viewing the subject in its merits
alone, the freeholders of the Country would be the safest depositories of
Republican liberty. In future times a great majority of the people will not
only be without landed but without any other sort of property. These will
either combine under the influence of their common situation, in which case the
rights and public liberty will not be secure in their hands; or which is more
probable, they will become the tools of opulence and ambition, in which case
there will be equal danger on another side. (pp. 132-133)

In short, Madison was saying
that those who owned land would be more likely to defend its sanctity and their individual rights than would a
“democratic” mob that wished to expropriate it, and vote for
individuals who were pledged to protect it against populist measures and
clamors to “narrow the gap” between the rich and the poor. Madison
could not have imagined a federal government that had the power to “narrow
the gap” with powers not enumerated in the Constitution. Neither he nor
even the most ardent Federalist, such as Alexander Hamilton (who also
contributed to the Federalist), could have predicted the mammoth,
wealth-consuming welfare state that cripples the economy and redirects (or
“redistributes”) the productive energies of the country to the
omnivorous, bottomless pit of the unproductive and anti-productive.

Of course, today, if suffrage
was to be based on property ownership, the definition of property would need to
be expanded to include other kinds of property as well as land, such as private
home ownership and one’s estimated worth in the way of stock holdings and
derived income. But, this is a technical issue beyond the ken of contemporary
theorists and politicians.

In a long letter to Thomas
Jefferson in October 1787, Madison remarked on the foolhardiness of democracy
and the dangers it posed to an individual rights-protecting republic. Jefferson
was in France during the Convention. It would be intriguing to speculate on the
character of the Constitution had he attended the Convention.

Those
who contend for a simple Democracy, or a pure republic, actuated by the sense
of the majority, and operating within narrow limits, assume or suppose a case
which is altogether fictitious….A distinction of property results from that
very protection which a free Government gives to unequal faculties of acquiring
it. There will be rich and poor, creditors and debtors, a landed interest, a
monied interest, a mercantile [commercial or business] interest, a
manufacturing interest….(p. 150)

But, Madison wrote, these
different classes needn’t be hostile to each other nor be in political conflict
with each other as long as the government did not favor one over the other with
special legislation, that is, for example, if neither Congress nor the
executive branch were open to subornation by lobbyists and other special
interests.

In the same letter to Jefferson,
Madison listed three motives which he thought would not protect individuals or a minority against the actions of a
democratic mob or act as guarantors of individual rights: “A prudent
regard to private or partial good…Respect for character….Religion.” Of
religion, he said:

When
indeed Religion is kindled into enthusiasm, its force like that of other
passions is increased by the sympathy of a multitude. But enthusiasm is only a
temporary state of Religion, and while it lasts will hardly been seen with
pleasure at the helm. Even in its coolest state it has been much oftener a
motive to oppression than a restraint from it….(p. 151)

In his Federalist No. 10,
Madison noted the dangers and impracticality of democracies, big and small. In
a “pure” democracy

A
common passion or interest will, in almost every case, be felt by a majority of
the whole; a communication and concert results from the form of government
itself, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker
party, or the obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever
been spectacles of turbulence and contention, have ever been found incompatible
with personal security, or the rights of property, and have in general been as
short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths….

Men
of factious tempers, of local prejudices, or of sinister designs, may intrigue
by corruption or by other means, first obtain the suffrages, and then betray
the interests of the people…. (pp. 164-165)

What a fitting description of
how Barack Obama has won two presidential elections. He is, after all, a man of
“factious temper” with an agenda of “sinister designs.”

Finally, Madison had
something to say about the differences between a democracy and a constitutional
republic, and in Federalist No. 14 wrote in answer to critics of the
Constitution who alleged that a constitutional republic was as dangerous as a
pure democracy:

….A
republic may be extended over a large region [i.e., continental North America].
To this accidental source of the error may be added the artifice of some
celebrated authors whose writings have had a great share in forming the modern
standard of political opinions. Being subjects either of an absolute or limited
monarchy, they have endeavored to heighten the advantages or palliate the evils
of those forms by placing in comparison with them the vices and defects of the
republican, and by citing as specimens of the latter, the turbulent democracies
of ancient Greece and modern Italy. Under the confusion of names, it has been
an easy task to transfer to a republic observations applicable to a democracy
only….(pp. 168-169)

It is a confusion which
persists to this day, when even advocates of limited government, such as the
Tea Party, persistently refer to our republic as a “democracy,”
unable or unwilling to distinguish between the two systems, thinking that no
distinction exists or is necessary.

Madison penned twenty-six
more Federalist numbers, the last in March 1788. But you cannot help but scream
to the ceiling when comparing his grasp of political principles and folly with
the unadulterated folly, ignorance, and indifference paraded by contemporary politicians
and even theorists. Today’s politicians are not Madison’s intellectual heirs;
they are Alinsky’s, and Frank Nitti’s, with numerous political go-betweens on
the descent to legislative thuggery and imbecility:  the prim and proper Progressive Woodrow
Wilson; the disgraceful Warren G. Harding; the socialist opportunist Franklin
D. Roosevelt; the pouting thug Harry S. Truman (the model for Ayn Rand’s
“chief of state” villain, Mr. Thompson, in Atlas Shrugged); the bland nonentity Dwight D. Eisenhower; the
fascist John F. Kennedy. And all of those who followed, including Ronald
Reagan.

The collectivist pot has boiled
away, and what is left in it is the heir and essence of collectivism: Barack
Hussein Obama, the mean, small, malevolent, arrogant graduate of the Alinsky-Nitti
School of Practical Statism, who has succeeded in “Chicagoizing” the American
Republic.

1.  James Madison:
Writings.
New York: The Library of
America, 1999. Ed. Jack N. Rakove. 

Margaret Thatcher: A Singular Ambition Revisited

I thought it appropriate to re-publish this encomium
of John Blundell’s book on Margaret Thatcher,
who died of a stroke on April 8th. It originally ran on Rule of
Reason on January 7th, 2009. It is slightly revised to correct some
errors.

A refreshing antidote to Our
Enemy, the State
is John Blundell‘s Margaret Thatcher: A
Portrait of the Iron Lad
y
(New York: Algora Publishing, 2008). For a
time, as Prime Minister of Great Britain, Thatcher not only retarded the
progress of statism but reversed its course. There certainly was nothing
fatalistic in her or in her political career, and everything inspiring and
encouraging. Blundell, retired director general of the Institute of Economic
Affairs in London, has known Thatcher since 1970 and has written a personal
portrait of her (“a very personal interpretation of a very special life”), as
opposed to an exhaustive biography and scholarly analysis of her life and
politics. (He provides two pages of “further reading” on Thatcher at the end of
his biography, listing books, essays, and articles. He is also the author of Ladies
for Liberty
: Woman Who Made a Difference in American History
.)

Britain, by the time Thatcher
became Prime Minister, had reached exactly the kind of political and economic
nadir forecast by Nock when the State assumed coercive and near total
sovereignty over the lives and fortunes of its citizens, otherwise known as
“society.”  Presumably, by Nock’s
formula, the country should have descended into total bankruptcy, anarchy, and
extinction. “There is no such thing as Society,” she once remarked. “There are
only individual men and women and there are families.” Nock would have agreed
with her, but while he condemned most individuals for harboring what he called
an “invincible ignorance,” Thatcher was certain that most people would listen
to clear reason when their liberty was at stake, and that those who harbored a willful
ignorance
were in the minority and beyond reclamation (such as Arthur
Scargill of the National Union of Mineworkers).

When she took office in 1979,
the willfully ignorant in and out of office had brought the country to the
brink of collapse. Mineworkers were running amok with strikes,
government-fueled inflation was soaring, industrial production was plummeting,
and nationalized industries such as steel, aerospace, and telecommunications
were deficit ridden, congenital beggars for more government subsidies.

“From
being a dominant trading nation Britain’s presence on world markets had
shriveled. The U.K. accounted for 20 per cent of world trade in manufactures in
1955 but only 10 percent by 1979. It had exported 33 percent of the world’s
cars in 1955. That was down to 3 per cent by 1979. Under the socialism of both
parties the British economy was atrophying.”

The “lame duck” Labourite
Prime Minister James Callaghan was reluctant to take a principled stand on any
of the issues. Without going into the complexities of the British election
process and British party machinations, Thatcher won the General Election,
beating party rival (and consummate compromiser) Ted Heath and replacing
Callaghan at 10 Downing Street. She won because she appealed to the
self-interest of the electorate in terms of freedom and the idea that hard work
deserved rewards that were not siphoned off by “society“ or other parasites,
whether they were welfare mothers living in council flats (government housing)
or Rolls Royce or British Petroleum. She promised to free people from the
inherently inefficient, wealth-consuming socialist controls that were reducing
the standard of living and inculcating a fatal miasma of hopelessness, as well
as a militant sanctimoniousness in those dependent on State patronization.

In short, although she (and
Mr. Blundell) might not put it this way, she won because she appealed to the
desperate yearning of productive men to be left alone to live their lives
without having to become slaves to society or to the State. I believe she won
more for psychological rather than economic or ideological reasons. That
portion of the British electorate which sent her to 10 Downing Street
confounded Nock’s determinism, because it did not want to be “taken care of”
and because it saw through the sham of government coercion in the name of
“democracy” and “popular sovereignty.”

As far back as 1975, when she
was a leader of the Conservative opposition party, she was not interested in
offering the electorate or her party a paltry soupçon of freedom.
Her enemy was the State, and her singular ambition was to dismantle as much of
it as possible. Blundell relates that her speech to a party conference:

“…was
a foot-stomping success as she attacked socialism as the arch enemy of freedom
and presented a principled conservatism rooted in private property, markets,
liberty, smaller governments, choice, and the rule of law.” The 3,000 or so
constituency loved it — what a change after decades of lukewarm government paternalism,
easily labeled socialism, dressed up as middle-of-the-road conservatism.”

Blundell continues,
ironically describing the political scenario that has come to pass in 2009 America:

“Margaret
Thatcher had three problems with the middle of the road. First, you get run
over by traffic from both sides. Second, as the Labour Party moved to the left,
so the middle moved with it. Third, Labour tended to introduce new entitlements
which were hard to unpick, so there was a ratchet moving the political scenery
ever closer to the left ever closer to her much hated Moscow and even further
from her much loved USA.”

Substitute the Democratic
Party and Barack Obama for Labour, and the compromising, middle of the road
Republican Party for the pre-Thatcher British Conservatives, and one has a
fairly accurate American political parallel. Unfortunately, America has had no
articulate political leader the stature of Thatcher since Barry Goldwater. (I
do not include Ronald Reagan here; while his defense policies may have
precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Union, he was the first major president
to inject religion into politics.) To most politicians, the State is not your
enemy, but your friend and savior. Republican candidate John McCain was simply
a shot of the mulled wine of demi-fascism, as opposed to Obama’s whiskey neat
of a command, socialist economy.

During her tenure as Prime
Minister, Thatcher embarked on a bold and successful program of denationalizing
industries, privatizing many “social services” presumed to be the natural venue
of government (such as garbage collection), and reducing the scale of
government-built and subsidized housing by offering tenants the chance to buy
homes and apartments.

Blundell features a chart
which shows that in 1914, 90% of Britons lived in private homes or flats and
only 1% in “public” housing. By 1979, thanks to successive governments
“socializing” the housing stock, only 10% lived in private rentals, 53% in
private homes, and 37% in “council” housing. By 1997, 12% lived in private
rental units, 71% in private homes, and only 17% in council housing. Thatcher
apparently failed to make any progress in dismantling Britain’s socialist
National Health Service and the Royal Mail. But, she was successful in reducing
Britain’s notoriously confiscatory income tax rates. She also suspended
currency exchange controls, allowing Britons to travel overseas with more than
$50 in their pockets. By setting a political and ideological precedent, Thatcher’s
1981 budget became a norm which even socialists applauded:

“The
top tax rates had been brought down from 83% on earned income and 98% on
so-called ‘unearned’ to 60%, and then 40%, still high, but a huge drop. Even
leftists today acknowledge the need for a vibrant private sector and low taxes
to encourage it.”

(“The better to eat you,”
said the collectivist wolf to privatized Little Red Riding Hood, which is a
subject Mr. Blundell might have pursued, but it can wait until another day.)

“The
U.K. abandoned all price controls. Dividend controls were scrapped. Limits on
hire purchase were abandoned. Office Development Permits ceased. So did
Industrial Development Certificates. Centralized pay controls ended.”

Blundell narrates this whole
astonishing episode of the recovery of liberty through consistent privatization
in the economy, demonstrating what can be accomplished through an unswerving
dedication to liberty and what cannot be accomplished by middle-of-the-roaders
and compromisers.

Given the sobriquet of “The
Iron Lady” by
Captain Yuri Gavrilov in 1976 in the Soviet newspaper Red Star for
her staunch opposition to the Soviet Union and socialism
, Thatcher took pride in the name and lived up to it
when Argentina invaded the British owned Falkland Islands in April 1982. While
the world looked on in unbelieving horror, Britain sent a fleet to the South
Atlantic and reclaimed the Falklands after a brief war.

The conflict was waged
because the Islands’ residents wished to remain British and under British law,
and not come under the thumb of Argentine law or the military junta that ruled
the country then. Instead of agonizing over possible world disapproval of a
unilateral military response to the aggression, she immediately sent her high
command into action. Compare that policy with President George Bush’s interminable
and disgraceful quest for world approval to respond to the attacks on America
on 9/11.

Many of Thatcher’s
accomplishments in Britain have been undone by her successors, but especially
by the European Union. Initially, earlier in her career, she was warm to the
idea of a Europe united by control- and tariff-free borders. But that
enthusiasm soured when the EU began to assume the character of an arrogant,
ungainly bureaucratic monster. She did not think Britons’ pockets should be
picked or their actions proscribed by unelected placeholders in Brussels, nor
did she think that Britain’s sovereignty should be eroded by EU laws and
regulations, which more or less are reducing Britain (as well as other EU
members) to the status of a client state beholden to a patron state.

Now out of office, and free
to speak her mind as never before on the subject, Thatcher, writes Blundell,
“was openly asking the applicant countries [to EU membership] not to join and
declared that the U.K. needed either to renegotiate its terms of membership or
simply withdraw.”

In 2006 she said in a speech
in Washington, D.C.:

“We
have not successfully rolled back the frontiers of the state in Britain, only
to see them re-imposed at a European level with a European super-state
exercising a new dominance from Brussels.”

In chapter 20, “Dealing with Brussels,”
Blundell paints a grim picture of the prospect of total EU dominance over Britain.
“But as the EU went from a loose trading model toward federalism she [Thatcher]
became increasingly uneasy,” he writes. He probably did not wish to sound
chauvinistic, so I am free to say here that, going by the EU’s unceasing
campaign over the decades to persuade Britain to submit to Brussels, the
advocates of the EU have always envied and hated Britain, and have always
wished to knock it down to manageable size, to humble it, and to eat it alive,
simply because it was freer and “fatter” than any other European nation.

I include in those movers
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, past and present Prime Ministers, who are on
record of having conspired to bypass the “popular sovereignty” of Britons by
making concessions to the EU on their own advice. (The EU’s partner in the
campaign to compel Britain and the West to submit is Islam, but that is another
drooling, omnivorous beast altogether.)

Blundell and Margaret
Thatcher may not dare call it treason; I do. After all, the same envy and hatred
exists in many American multiculturalists and American politicians, who wish to
see the U.S. submit to U.N. and European law. They, too, hanker to see it eaten
alive in the name of global amity.

I have two bones to pick with
Blundell, one of them minor, the other major. The first concerns usage of the
term democracy throughout his book to describe or refer to countries
whose governments respect individual rights, private property, freedom of the
press, the rule of law, and so on. The term is not synonymous with republic.
Democracy means literally mob rule, in which rights may be granted or
abolished at the whim of a majority. Republic, as it has been used in
the past, implies a nation that meets some or all of the criteria of freedom. A
sedulous commitment to the meanings of these definitions is needed if an
advocate of freedom does not wish to confuse his auditors or the reading
public. But the thoughtless employment of democracy is evidence of a
pandemic disease in semantics. Exactitude matters; it is the antidote to lumpy
thinking.

The second bone is that
Blundell does not discuss the “handover” of Hong Kong to the People’s Republic
of China in July 1997. One cannot account for Thatcher’s lapse in this regard.
It was the predecessor government that initiated talks with Red China about the
future of Hong Kong in 1979, two months before she won the premiership in May (she
resigned in November 1990).
Hong Kong was happily a Crown colony, and its dazzling prosperity a reproach to
impoverished Mainland China and its communist dictatorship. Thatcher even flew
to Peking in September 1983 to discuss the future of the colony. She hated the
communist dictatorship of the Soviet Union, but apparently was not so discriminating
about the one that ruled China.

The original issue was the
status of the New Territories on the mainland per se, for which Britain had
signed a 99-year lease with the Qing Dynasty. The leaders in Red China,
however, insisted that any “handover” must include Hong Kong island and Kowloon,
for which Britain had signed treaties of perpetuity with the Chinese monarchy.
In any event, Britain, and presumably Thatcher, caved and endorsed the
Sino-British Joint Declaration of 1984-1985 ceding all of Hong
Kong
to Red China, to go into effect in 1997.

I noted in a suspense novel
long ago (Whisper the Guns, completed 1977, published by the Atlantean
Press 1992) that “Peking would destroy Hong Kong….Or Hong Kong would destroy Peking.”
An IEA editorial director predicted in 1980 that “China will go capitalist.
Soviet Russia will not survive the century. Labour as we know it will never
rule again.” He was right about Soviet Russia, but Labour is in power again,
and Russia is governed by the dictatorship of Vladimir Putin instead of the
“proletariat.” China never went “capitalist,” but fascist, since much of the
nominally communist party leadership has invested stakes in enterprises that
are “private” in name only. (We see the same phenomenon happening in the U.S.,
with the federal government’s “bailout” program, through which it has bought
controlling stakes in key companies.)

Hong Kong now exists in a political
purgatory. I am reminded by this whole sorry episode of two of Ayn Rand’s rules
on compromise:

1)
In any conflict between two men (or two groups) who hold the same basic
principles, it is the more consistent one who wins;

2)
In any collaboration between two men (or two groups) who hold different
basic principles, it is the more evil or irrational one who wins.

Red China won. Britain was
under no moral obligation to deal with a liberty-hating dictatorship
responsible for the murder of millions, not to mention its regular brutal
suppressions symbolized by Tiananmen Square in 1989, religious persecutions,
and its policing of the Internet today. Further, the current regime was not a
signatory to the treaties of the 19th century, and this should have
been stated from the very beginning. It remains a dictatorship today, an outlaw
government as evil as Iran’s theocracy and Saudi Arabia’s medieval monarchy,
propped up by Western pragmatism.

But, as a refutation of
Albert Jay Nock’s fatalism, not to mention of the doctrinaire collectivism of
various schools, John Blundell’s compact biography of Margaret Thatcher
demonstrates how a nation can, for a time at least, reclaim itself from its
past follies, and give those in it who champion a moral basis of capitalism
time to marshal their courage, arguments and numbers.

After all, freedom isn’t just
a matter of privatization. It is a state of mind.

The Associated Press’s Blanking Out

In
Eleanor H. Porter’s 1913 novel, Pollyanna,
the title character, a child, adopts an unreserved, delusional perspective of
optimism. When given a pair of crutches instead of a doll for Christmas, she
proclaims she is happy because she didn’t need them. From that point forward,
she turns all bad things into good things.

The
Associated Press (AP) this year is one hundred and sixty-seven years old. As a news
gathering and distributing organization it is not a child and presumably is not
staffed by children. Yet, it has adopted an even worse delusional perspective
than Pollyanna‘s
on how to encounter bad things, such as Islamic jihad and illegal immigration. It has excised the terms Islamist and illegal
immigrant
from its style
book
. It will no longer accept copy containing those terms. In effect, the
policy isn’t merely one of turning bad things into good things. It simply
eliminates knowledge of bad things from one’s consciousness in an attempt to
remake reality. No good things replace the bad things.

It
is an exercise in what novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand called “blanking
out.” Discussing the source and power of evil, John Galt, the
scientist/philosopher of Atlas Shrugged,
said:

Thinking is
man’s only basic virtue, from which all the others proceed. And his basic vice,
the source of all his evils, is that nameless act which all of you practice,
but struggle never to admit: the act of blanking
out
, the willful suspension of one’s consciousness, the refusal to
think—not blindness, but the refusal to see; not ignorance, but the refusal to
know. It is the act of unfocusing your mind and inducing an inner fog to escape
the responsibility of judgment—on the unstated premise that a thing will not
exist if only you refuse to identify it, that A will not be A so long as you do
not pronounce the verdict “It is.”

Non-thinking is
an act of annihilation, a wish to negate existence, an attempt to wipe out
reality. But existence exists; reality is not to be wiped out, it will merely
wipe out the wiper.1.

The
AP’s action invites ribald mockery and loads of satirical comments. Jay Leno
scoffed that from now on he will use the term “undocumented
Democrats,” referring to the Democrats’ support of illegal immigrant
amnesty as a means of recruiting millions more voters in future elections. Another
organization said it will employ the term “illegal invader.”

However,
the AP’s action is symptomatic of a seriously flawed mental condition. Both
instances are examples of an
evasive psycho-epistemology, or voluntary blind-sidedness. Or, again, of
blanking out. Islam, Islamism, and Islamists, as Daniel Greenfield explains in
his column, “Talking About Terrorism,” will no more conform to a name
change than the tides obeyed King Canute and ceased to come in.

The first rule of the Jihad Club is that there’s no talking about it.
For the second rule, see the first rule. The culture of silence and terrorism
denial is sometimes well meaning. Since the Bush days, experts on Islam have
warned that the best way to defeat Islamic terrorists is to undermine their
claim to fighting on behalf of Islam by refusing to call them Islamic.

The average Al Qaeda recruit is utterly unaffected by whether the White
House press secretary calls the group Islamic, Islamist or terrorist or
militant. He similarly does not care whether Nidal Hasan’s shooting rampage at
Fort Hood is called an act of terror or workplace violence. Such concerns exist
only in the bubble of experts who offer shortcuts to fighting terrorism that
don’t actually involve killing terrorists.

If the AP or CNN truly wanted to push back against
Islamist violence, instead of censoring the Islamic part in the vain hope that
their followers might not then identify the Muslim Brotherhood or the Islamic
Jihad with Islam, they would challenge their premises by telling the truth
about Islamism and Islam.

 And if President Obama truly
wanted to fight Islamic terrorism and defeat Islam, would he have ordered the
redaction and discarding of all training materials for intelligence and law
enforcement agencies that identified
Islam as the prime mover of Islamic terrorism? Quoting from The Daily Caller,
Raymond Ibrahim of The Middle East Forum, in his November 2011 article, “Obama
Administration Bans
Knowledge
of Islam,” wrote:

The move comes after complaints from advocacy organizations including
the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) and others identified as
Muslim Brotherhood front groups in the 2004 Holy Land Foundation terror
fundraising trial. In a Wednesday Los Angeles Times op-ed,
Muslim Public Affairs Council (MPAC) president Salam al-Marayati threatened the
FBI with a total cutoff of cooperation between American Muslims and law
enforcement if the agency failed to revise its law enforcement training
materials. Maintaining the training materials in their current state “will
undermine the relationship between law enforcement and the Muslim American
community,” al-Marayati wrote. Multiple online sources detail MPAC’s close
alignment with CAIR. In his op-ed, Al-Marayati demanded that the Justice
Department and the FBI “issue a clear and unequivocal apology to the
Muslim American community” and “establish a thorough and transparent
vetting process in selecting its trainers and materials.”

What explanation does the AP
offer for blanking out the term Islamist? In 2012 it defined an Islamist
as precisely what it is now denying one is.  

Supporter of government in accord with the laws of Islam. Those who
view the Quran as a political model encompass a wide range of Muslims, from
mainstream politicians to militants known as jihadi.

Which is a very good and
precise definition, indeed. Islam is a political/theological ideology
whose end is world domination and global submission to Islamic Sharia law. However,
now the AP has atomized the concept Islamist and made numerous
unnecessary exceptions to the definition, and advises its writers that an Islamist
is:

An advocate or supporter of a political movement that favors reordering
government and society in accordance with laws prescribed by Islam. Do not
use as a synonym for Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, who
may or may not be Islamists.

Where possible, be specific and use the name of militant affiliations:
al-Qaida-linked, Hezbollah, Taliban, etc. Those who view the Quran as a
political model encompass a wide range of Muslims, from mainstream politicians
to militants known as jihadi. [Italics mine.]

So, a writer must suborn his
mind and go through mental gymnastics to distinguish between Islamic fighters
who are and are not Islamic fighters, or Islamists. The implication
is that not all Islamic fighters fight in the name of Allah; some might be
fighting in the name of the Elks or Rotary Club or the Egyptian Copts and just
happen to fancy the appellation Islamist. You never know, you never can
be sure. Suicide bomber A can be A and non-A at the same
time. You see, the world is littered with the bodies of Baptist and Atheist jihadis
who blew themselves up in the Mall of America and Afghanistan, the AP has run
dozens of stories about those terrorists, haven’t you read them? Who
knows? The 9/11 hijackers killed 3,000 people and themselves because they may
have been having a bad hair day.

What prompted the AP to change
its mind, and not so much back-pedal on the definition, as dismount from the
bike? Political pressure and political correctness in the form of the
communications director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR),
Ibrahim Hooper. CAIR, an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation money-laundering
case with strong links to Hamas (the terrorist organization which President Barack
Obama is seeking to legitimize, just as he has legitimatized The Muslim Brotherhood),
has acted as the point man in the conversion of the U.S. into a
Sharia-compliant nation. Its brothers in this country are the Islamic Circle of
North America, the Islamic Society of North America, the Muslim Public Affairs
Council, and the Muslim Students Association, all of which have chapters strewn
across the country, in addition to a passel of lesser Muslim organizations.

U.S. News & World Report,
in reporting the pressure Hooper applied on the AP, has taken no chances and
refers to CAIR in deceptively benign terms.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, an American advocacy group
sometimes labeled “Islamist” by
critics
, previously lobbied for the AP to drop the term. In a January op-ed
CAIR’s communications director, Ibrahim Hooper, wrote the term “has become
shorthand for ‘Muslims we don’t like'” and “is currently used in an
almost exclusively pejorative context.”

True, CAIR is just an
“advocacy group.” But, what does it advocate? Compliance with and deference
to Sharia law and Muslim religious customs. In short, submission to Islam. And
CAIR is not “sometimes” labeled Islamist; it is often labeled
Islamist.

Islam is a bad thing. Islamic fighters, militants, extremists or radicals, are all Islamists,
and all bad things, whether or not they are al-Qaida-linked, Hezbollah-linked,
Taliban-linked, Hamas-linked, and etc. Lone wolf jihadi, such as the
French Muslim Mohammed Merah, all acting in the name of Islam, are bad things.
Ibrahim Hooper of CAIR is a stealth jihadist, working to subvert the U.S.
from within per the Muslim Brotherhood manifesto.
He and the Manifesto are bad things. Hooper is definitely an Ikhwani, or Muslim
Brother.

The process of settlement is a “Civilization-Jihadist
Process” with all the word means. The Ikhwan must understand that their
work in America is a kind of grand Jihad in eliminating and destroying the
Western civilization from within and “sabotaging” its miserable house
by their hands and the hands of the believers so that it is eliminated and
God’s religion is made victorious over all other religions.2.   

Hooper and his cohorts across the American Islamic spectrum
all pose as “moderate” Muslims, when they are essentially Islamist. Which
means “radical.” Which means committed to the fundamental tenets of Islam.
A very and incontrovertibly a bad thing.  

But, what is a “moderate” Islamist? What
is a “moderate” Nazi, or a “moderate” Communist, for that
matter? The contradictions engendered by the term “moderate” boggle
the mind, as they are intended to, and disarm anyone attempting to grasp
the nature of the evil to which the country is submitting, whether that evil is
Islam or socialism or the rudderless, destructive statism of Obama’s basketball
prowess. Further, anyone charging Hooper and his cohorts with waging stealth or
“civilization jihad” is without fail branded as an
“extremist” or an “Islamophobe.”

All “moderates” of any ideology must ultimately
devolve and default to one of two states: “extremists” or nothing. They
must commit themselves to the entirety of their chosen ideology, or repudiate
it altogether, and become “extremists” (as the neo-conservatives are)
– or become manqués with nothing to say. This is no less true for those who are
“moderates” for freedom, for capitalism, or for the Bill of Rights. There
is no honorable middle ground, compromise, equivocation, or shilly-shallying between
“extremes.”

And it is no less true for an ideology. By their
definitions, “moderate” socialism must end up as full-scale, omnivorous
socialism, “moderate” communism must end up with the universal
expropriation of private wealth and gulags, and “moderate” Nazism
must end up with death camps and war. “Moderate” Islam must achieve universal
conquest and the imposition of Sharia law. Else it is not Islam, but instead
just another California cult that worships moons and magical pyramids, and bows
five times a day to totem poles dedicated to halal organic food.

Teri Blumenfeld, writing for The Middle East
Quarterly, discusses how the excision of politically incorrect terms connected
with Islam from the political lexicon, and the desiccated minds which political
correctness produces, made possible the evil of Nidal Hasan and the Fort Hood jihadist
massacre in 2009. She ended her article with:

Islamists often raise the specter of “Islamophobia” whenever
any legitimate question about or criticism of Islam is broached. But real
Islamophobia stalks the corridors of Washington and other Western capitols [sic]:
The fear of upsetting Muslims of any stripe is so rampant that the security of
the American citizenry has been compromised.

Incidentally, it is only government force that can
fuel and sustain political correctness in speech. See my “Speechless
Speech
” and other essays
on political correctness and incorrect speech on Rule of Reason. “Stealth”
censorship can accomplish this if it has a head-lock on a nation’s educational
institutions, as the government now has.

Syme, a character in Orwell’s Nineteen
Eighty-Four
who works on the ever-shrinking Newspeak Dictionary,
remarks to Winston Smith,

“Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of
thought?…Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness
always a little smaller….Orthodoxy means not thinking, not needing to
think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness…Every year fewer and fewer words, and the
range of consciousness always a little smaller…It’s merely a question of
self-discipline, reality-control….”3.   

Except that in the AP’s case, words and concepts
are not banished, but smashed into their countless referents and sub-concepts,
with the rule being that they may not be re-integrated again, neither in print
nor in one’s mind, under pain of the politically correct punishment of being
silenced. Reality, however, will not be controlled. It will not conform to the
whims, wishes, or fears of those who blank it out.

When it comes to combating Islam and Islamists,
what you refuse to know will hurt you, later, if not sooner.

1.  Galt’s speech. Atlas Shrugged. 1957 (New York: Dutton 35th Anniversary Edition., 1992),
pp. 1017-1018.

2.  The Muslim Brotherhood
Manifesto, p. 21 of 32 of pdf file. Investigative Project on Terrorism.

3.  Nineteen
Eighty-Four
,
by George Orwell. 1949. Ed. Irving Howe. (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,
1982), p. 36.

 

Sarah Conly: Totalitarian-by-Proxy

The
stereotypical image of an ambitious tyrant is of Adolf Hitler
haranguing crowds of rapt Germans, or of machismo-obsessed Benito Mussolini addressing his
adoring audiences in a belligerent, hands-on-hips, jutting jaw pose. To their
sole credit, they could deliver their calls to totalitarianism without the
benefit of Teleprompters.

Then
we have the less hysterical, snooze-inducing example of Mayor Michael Bloomberg of New York
City, discussing in a pontificating, patronizing-the-rubes manner the necessity
of banning everything under the sun for “your sake” and the
“sake of society,” forcing us to “understand.” Bloomberg bypassed
protocol and issued a ban on “sugary” soda drinks larger than 16
ounces. A New York Supreme Court judge
shot down the ban on March 11th.

Finally, we have an academician, one of countless
retiring, oft-times publicity-shy professors, who also sanction tyranny and
totalitarianism by advancing compulsion and submission in the classroom and in
books. May I introduce Sarah O. Conly, a
ssistant
professor of philosophy at Bowdoin College? She is the author of Against Autonomy: Justifying Coercive
Paternalism
? The title may have been an oversight. Was it supposed to have
been Justifying Coercive Maternalism,
or have employed some gender-neutral neologism that editors decided was too
awkward? In any event, that “sexist” Paternalism suggests that Conly is not a “feminist,” but
rather a “counter-feminist” or “anti-feminist.” Who knows? But
she is an advocate of the Nanny State.

In
her New York Times Op-Ed, “Three
Cheers for the Nanny State
” (March 24th), Conly, after the
New York Supreme Court invalidation of the soda ban, wants to know:

WHY has there been so much fuss about New
York City’s attempt to impose a soda ban, or more precisely, a ban on
large-size “sugary drinks”? After all, people can still get as much soda as
they want. This isn’t Prohibition. It’s just that getting it would take
slightly more effort. So, why is this such a big deal?

Obviously, it’s not about soda. It’s because
such a ban suggests that sometimes we need to be stopped from doing foolish
stuff, and this has become, in contemporary American politics, highly
controversial, no matter how trivial the particular issue. (Large cups of soda
as symbols of human dignity? Really?)

If
necessary, large cups of soda just might need to be symbols of freedom. Or it
might be a lit cigarette, or a restaurant’s sugar dispenser, or a salt shaker. Or
perhaps Daniel Chester French’s statue of the Minuteman
in Concord, Massachusetts.  

Hitler,
Mussolini, Obama, and Bloomberg are what Ayn Rand would call the Attilas of
muscle. They employ force to achieve their perfect societies. Conly and her innumerable
intellectual, Ivy-League rain-dancers, whose numbers stretch back to the early
20th century, would be the Witch Doctors, who employ fraud, deceit,
lies, and a practiced dissimulation and verisimilitude to encourage mobs and
their Attilas to achieve perfect societies of selflessness and self-sacrifice.

Conly
is against the autonomy of the individual, that is, against the independence of
the individual in a collectivist society.

John Stuart Mill
wrote in 1859 that the only justifiable reason for interfering in someone’s
freedom of action was to prevent harm to others. According to Mill’s “harm
principle,” we should almost never stop people from behavior that affects
only themselves, because people know best what they themselves want.

That
“almost,” though, is important. It’s fair to stop us, Mill argued,
when we are acting out of ignorance and doing something we’ll pretty definitely
regret. You can stop someone from crossing a bridge that is broken, he said,
because you can be sure no one wants to plummet into the river. Mill just
didn’t think this would happen very often.

 Conly
writes on her own blog site
about the theme of her Against Autonomy:

…I argue that autonomy, or the freedom to act in accordance with your own
decisions, is overrated—that the common high evaluation of the importance of
autonomy is based on a belief that we are much more rational than we actually
are….

You
see, Mill said it was okay to curb the freedom of the individual if that
freedom somehow impinged on the freedom or rights of others, that is, if it
caused “harm.” Mill was a Utilitarian. He argued that there was no
real moral foundation for freedom. It was just more “practical” than
other social systems of government. Freedom is a value, said Mill, but it cannot
be validated in a Christian society or in one that reveres self-sacrifice, as
ours does, and he regarded a Christian or altruist morality as the touchstone
of ethical matters. Liberty can only be tolerated. Put another way, individual
freedom and capitalism are the only guarantors of a church’s collection plate
not going back to the pulpit empty. Mill says it himself:

I regard utility
as the ultimate appeal on all ethical questions; but it must be utility in the
largest sense, grounded on the permanent interests of man as a progressive
being. Those interests, I contend, authorize the subjection of individual
spontaneity to external control only in respect to those actions of each which
concern the interest of other people.1.   

Mill
does not provide specifics or examples of how an individual’s actions might
harm others to the extent that a government (or “society”) should
step in and compel the individual to desist. The Left, in its quest for a
socialist or communist society, has provided several score instances. Refer to
all the back issues of the Federal
Register
for any or all of them. The conservative Right has advanced no
arguments against these incursions, because it is basically Utilitarian in
nature. It is not opposed to the regulatory state, only to “big”
ones.

Conly
goes on about Mill:
 

Mill was wrong about that, though. A lot of times we have a good idea of
where we want to go, but a really terrible idea of how to get there. It’s well
established by now that we often don’t think very clearly when it comes to
choosing the best means to attain our ends. We make errors. This has been the
object of an enormous amount of study over the past few decades, and what has
been discovered is that we are all prone to identifiable and predictable
miscalculations.

And
all these “identifiable and predictable miscalculations,” if they
somehow subject others to real or imagined harm, should be the subject of government
regulation or prohibition. Conly resorts to the argument from authority by
falling back on the work of other academicians to substantiate her claim. We
suffer, according to some Nobel Prize-winning psychologists and behavioral
economists (What is a behavioral economist? Is it anything like a Paul Krugman
“economist” or an Al Gore meteorologist?), from something called
“cognitive bias,” “status quo bias,” and a “present
bias,” because we are mostly “irrationally optimistic.” Bad things,
we are prone to think, can’t happen to us, just to others.

It’s
all about “harm,” mostly imagined, and Mill’s discussion of the
concept is vague enough that academicians have been chasing their tails in
attempts to defend it as a justification for government coercion. The “Harm
Principle” has given these academicians something to think about, and to
write long, discursive papers without coming to any substantial conclusions. For
example, Gordon Hemsley, in his 2008 paper, “Government
Authority
: John Stuart Mill and the Harm Principle,” opens with:

In simply analyzing the Harm Principle, it becomes apparent that is too
vague and ambiguous to govern alone. Many questions are raised immediately:
Must the harm be physical, or can it be psychological? Must the harm be intentional?
Is the individual also responsible for a lack of action? Does the individual
harmed have to be a human being, or can it be of another species or character?
What if the other individual desires to be harmed? If one single principle is
to be used to govern a state, it cannot raise this many questions.

Furthermore, there are many other principles and concepts that are required
to address the aforementioned deficiencies of protection that the Harm Principle
a
ords. For example, a government that wishes to protect
citizens from themselves would have to invoke Legal Paternalism (as defined by
Joel Feinberg). Also, in order to provide for less fortunate citizens, or to
simply create a communal resource, a government might have to invoke Alan Wertheimer’s
Collective Benefits or Need Principles….The Harm Principle, as it is currently
defined, does not specify what qualifies as harm.

Governing
by the “harm principle,” argues Hemsley, isn’t enough. Government needs
more powers and a better moral sanction to exercise those powers. However,
Hemsley does not say what kinds of powers. He stops shy of being as blunt as
Conly about what those powers should be.

Conly
is more specific than Mill or Hemsley about the Progressives’ Herbert
Croly-esque “moral tonic” of government power.

The freedom to
buy a really large soda, all in one cup, is something we stand to lose here. For
most people, given their desire for health, that results in a net gain. For some
people, yes, it’s an absolute loss. It’s
just not much of a loss
. [Italics mine.]

That’s
an overbearing, nattering Nanny speaking. Never mind your cigarette, or your Kellogg’s
Frosted Flakes, or salt-seasoned cheeseburger and fries or pasta. You can live without
those things. It’s not much of a loss.
Your desires are irrelevant. We will force you to understand this.

But
it’s little losses like those which eventually make possible this kind of loss,
for example, when President Obama just willy-nilly signs (another) executive
order
:

Last Thursday,
while the nation was busy preparing for their Easter holiday President Obama
signed an Executive Order establishing the Presidential Commission on Election Administration,
a wing of the federal government he has tasked with “election administration,”
a move critics say is an attempt to nationalize the country’s elections for
partisan advantage.

The executive
order establishes a nine member board, appointed by the President, that “shall
be drawn from among distinguished individuals with knowledge about or
experience in the administration of State or local elections… and any other
individuals with knowledge or experience determined by the President to be of
value to the Commission.”

The
ostensive purpose of this executive order is to prepare for the 2014 mid-term
and 2016 presidential elections and to help to ensure Democratic hegemony by
registering millions of illiterate and semi-literate voters. For you, the individual
who values his freedom and doesn’t wish to see more statism and regulation and
the perpetuation of the Nanny State, it’s “not much of a loss.”
Right?

Among one of the
missions of the board will be to “ensure that all eligible voters have the
opportunity to cast their ballots without undue delay, and to improve the
experience of voters facing other obstacles in casting their ballots, such as…
voters with limited English proficiency.”

In a bold and
unprecedented step, the executive order, which side steps any legislation or
national debate, created a federal Commission that shall consider, ”the number,
location, management, operation, and design of polling places; the training,
recruitment, and number of poll workers; the efficient management of voter
rolls and poll books; voter education; and voting accessibility for individuals
with disabilities, limited English proficiency, and other special needs.”

In
a long, confusing, and inconclusive 2005 paper by Conly, “Seduction,
Rape, and Coercion
,” which discusses all the parameters of consensual
and non-consensual sex, there is no mention of the Islamic texts and fatwas that sanction
the rape and murder of Muslim
and non-Muslim women, nor of their slavery, nor of the status of women in
Islam. I guess that is because we mustn’t judge another culture’s faith/ideology,
because that would be evidence of intellectual and moral “imperialism.”
Islam is an ideology tailor-made for macho men, and conforming to it would
require Conly to swelter in a burqa or else suffer rape and coercion. But, as with
most Western “feminists,” she has nothing to say on the subject.  

Conly
isn’t finished with her Witch Doctor’s rain-dancing. She’s at work on another opus,
this one about something very personal but whose abridgement or loss can’t be
“much of a loss,” either. She’s done your thinking for you.

I’ve now started on my next book, tentatively titled One: Do We have a
Right to More Children?
…. In One, I argue that opposition to
population regulation is based on a number of mistakes: that the right to have
a family doesn’t entail the right to have as many children as you may want;
that the right to control one’s body is conditional on how much harm you are
doing to others; and that nothing in population regulation entails that those
who break the law can be forced to have abortions, or subject to any sort of
punishment that is horrific. If population growth is sufficiently dangerous, it
is fair for us to impose restrictions on how many children we can give birth
to.

Nanny
has spoken, and will speak again. Having “too many” children may
“measurably” harm others. Welcome to China, that paragon of fascist
economic and population planning.

What
most people do not understand is that is it “thinkers” like Conly –
one of a long, long line of wannabe tyrants-by-proxy stretching back to Plato –
who empower, by default, the Attilas in our midst and in our political
establishment. Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin, Stalin, and Hugo Chavez, long before
they were even born, were preceded by generations of intellectuals who paved
the way for their rise to power. Conly doubtless will be a mere footnote to the
history of statism in America.

Nevertheless,
she deserves slapping down and exposure for what she is: a fantasizing
power-luster. If something evil comes this way, she has helped to open the door
to it.

1.  John Stuart Mill, On
Liberty.
1859 (London: Rowman
& Littlefield., 2005), p. 25.

Music, Movies, and Me

I
chanced upon an essay by Jeff Britting, “Romantic Music:
Dead or Alive?” on the American Renaissance weblog and was slightly
astounded to learn that it was written in the same year as my Social Critic
essay, “Why
the Music Died
,” penned in the summer of 1997, and republished on Rule
of Reason in 2006. Part of my astonishment was that Britting, whom I do not
know and did not know in 1997, had reached the same independent conclusions I
had, one of which is that our culture is not conducive to inspiring the
composition of what is commonly referred to as “classical” or
“Romantic” music, except occasionally as film scores.

And
because our culture is in the process of being “deconstructed,” that
is why such music, if it is being composed, will remain on the far fringes of
contemporary culture, unknown, unacknowledged, and derogated or banished from
an irrational culture by its bizarre “philosopher-king-guardians” in
especially academia.

The
home I grew up in throughout the 1950’s and early 1960’s was not friendly
towards “classical” or “Romantic” music (in fact, was wholly
ignorant of it), and if music was to be heard, it was popular music. My only
introduction to Romantic music was in the TV programs I watched. The theme or
incidental music of these programs contributed in no little way to the
formation of my musical esthetics, while the programs themselves helped me to
form my literary esthetics. I feel fortunate that I grew up in that period,
because children today do not have that advantage. As Ayn Rand has remarked,
the possibilities of conveying Romanticism in television (and in movies) were
developed in the twilight of Romanticism. I do not envy today’s children; in
fact, I pity them.

Britting
writes:

The chief reason
Romantic music can persist and even thrive in today’s context is the fact of
storytelling.

It
is the storytelling element that is crucial here, because I am primarily a
novelist, and while the TV programs did not teach me how to write, they
imparted an appreciation for plotted stories of suspense, adventure, and
heroism, and I began to associate the best of those programs with the best of
the music they were connected to. Music, after all, can evoke an image of some thing, it can help to objectify an idea
or an emotion, even if it differs from what inspired a composer.

In
terms of my writing career, music has played as crucial role as a point of
inspiration as have stories and novels for which there is no musical connection.
Early on, as a child, I associated my favorite movies and TV programs with
their scores or theme music. Even today, I cannot hear Emil
Řezníček’s  Donna Diana” without
thinking of “Sergeant Preston of the Yukon,” or  Gioachino Antonio Rossini’s “William Tell
Overture” without
thinking of “The Lone Ranger.”

Not
all memorable Romantic music, however, was written in the 19th
century. Representative of the theme and incidental scores for programs I
watched as a child are Albert Glasser’s theme for “The Cisco Kid,” Walter Schumann’s
attention-getting intro for “Dragnet,” and
Leon Klatzkin’s “Superman” theme. I
could cite a dozen more, including Fred Steiner’s intro to “Perry Mason,” and the
intro to “Captain Gallant
of the Foreign Legion” (whose orchestration of “Le Boudin” gave
me a taste for martial music, as well). Later, the opening credits and
incidental music, written by
Ron Grainer, Robert Farnon, and Albert Elms for “The Prisoner” will
always be thrilling, no matter how often I hear it (Ron Grainer’s name,
however, is I think the only one that appears in the credits). I would regret
ending this partial list of my favorite programs without mentioning Laurie
Johnson’s score for “The
Avengers
” (and my first movie star crush, Diana Rigg, as Mrs. Emma
Peel).

Westerns? Of course. There was “Paladin,” sung by
Johnny Western, and Zorro’s
theme, written by William Lava. There were a score of other Westerns, but these
mentions will suffice. I will mention that I was not a fan of Roy Rogers or
Hopalong Cassidy.  

“Music Appreciation Course 202” for me occurred
when I graduated from television to the “big screen.”  The first movies I saw in a movie palace were
of my own choice, to hear Russell Garcia’s score to George Pal’s “The Time Machine
and Bernard Hermann’s wild, sometimes discordant fandango for Alfred
Hitchcock’s “North by
Northwest
.” Later, I was enthralled by Maurice Jarre’s score for
Lawrence of Arabia,”
and learned how to wed a score and spoken narrative in the opening of one of
the last great memorable epics to be shot by Hollywood, “Khartoum,” the music
by Frank Cordell and
narrated by Leo Genn.

Britting makes a very important point about the
importance of the integration of film music with its subject:

Whether
narrative or documentary, film utilizes dramatic development, conflict and
resolution. When music rises to the level of a successful Romantic film, and
vice versa, the result is not only a seamlessly integrated work of art but also
a score that frequently can stand alone and be appreciated for its own Romantic
quality….

Technically, the
challenge to the film composer is to underscore and suggest an emotional
subtext, whatever it may be, rather than striking false or melodramatic notes
out of balance with the action. The music must be adapted to the film; it must
be functional, and only secondarily can it be considered as art in its own
right. However, the element of greatest interest to listeners and the most
intriguing possibility in film composition is what composers refer to as “the
big tune.” Certain films allow and even demand the use of long, very defined
musical lines….

However, concert
suites of film music, often to the accompaniment of actual film footage, are
heard with increasing frequency. Such arrangements tend to be from pictures
with a grand scale sense of the heroic or the tragic—further evidence of
Romanticism’s ongoing appeal.

“Lawrence”
and “Khartoum” are grand scale movies that demanded grand scale
scores. They are not the only ones I could cite, but they are in the forefront
of films I would recommend watching and listening to. (The fact that they are
fictionalized dramatizations of actual historic persons, and come under the
genre of Naturalism, is irrelevant. Their scores are virtually stand-alone
opuses.)

The
two Western movies whose scores made a deep impression on me were
“Shane” and “High Noon.” Victor Young wrote the score for
Shane” and
it is entirely orchestral. “High Noon,” however,
features a theme written by Dimitri Tiomkin, and sung by Tex Ritter (and it’s
the only song sung by Ritter that I can enjoy).

William
Walton’s score for the Olivier “Henry the Fifth” is
another example of a seamless integration of music with its subject matter.

Then
there is that penultimate British Western, “Zulu,” whose score
was written by the inimitable and prolific John Barry. In this link Barry
explains how he came to write the score. The mass tribal wedding scene in the beginning
of the film always reminds me of a totalitarian society reduced to a
non-technological state. This is where environmentalists want us to go.

I
have written seventeen novels (including the six-title Sparrowhawk series), and music is either mentioned in them or plays
a key role. For example, in The Head of
Athena
, a detective novel set in San Francisco in 1929, the hero detective
attends a concert featuring a ballet that incorporates the rondo from Frederick
Delius’s “Florida Suite” to dramatize the rescue of Proserpine from
Hell and Pluto’s clutches by Mercury. I don’t particularly like Delius’s opus,
but that portion of it suited my purposes because of the theme and plot of the
novel.

Like
me, all my heroes favor “classical” or Romantic music over
contemporary popular music. This is not snobbishness on their part. They are
all of a certain “elevated” level of thinking and acting. The Beatles
and Frankie Avalon just wouldn’t match their epistemology and metaphysics. I
did not much like the popular music favored my foster parents, and that was
when I could understand the lyrics. I was not a fan of the Beatles, even though
they wrote hummable melodies and repeatable lyrics (at least, early on they
did). Today, I have little truck with what passes for pop music. “Rap”
is not music, but a return to pre-music primitivism with its in-your-face
malevolence. Perhaps that is why younger Islamic jihadists are drawn to it. The
genre is nihilistic.

As
for popular music, I cannot stand Country and Western, or any kind of
“achy-breaky” music,  but there
is one exception. This is Iris Dement’s
soulful allegory on the retreat of the West, “Our Town.” I do not
know if Dement intended it as an allegory, but that is what I hear in her
lyrics. I listen to it only when I am in a severely pessimistic mood, and that
is not very often. Another exception is Enya’s “Orinoco Flow,” or
Sail Away,”
which I remember for purely sentimental reasons. While crisscrossing the
country over the years in grim determination to write and finish Sparrowhawk, virtually every time I
stopped at a gas station, that was the piped music being played. It haunted me
for reasons I could not fathom.

Another
film score that ran through my head in those desperate years, while behind the
wheel, speeding east and west across the country, wondering how long it would
last under Bill Clinton, was a portion of Vangelis’s music for “Last of
the Mohicans.” The movie was awful – it turned the story and characters
upside-down for no good reason, but some of the scenes and music were
memorable. Listen to it here,
beginning at minute 1:45 and ending at 6:46.

When
I began researching and writing my magnum opus, Sparrowhawk, in late 1992, it entailed immersing myself in 18th
century culture and politics, and this caused me to develop a taste for much
but not all of its music, all of it pre-Romantic.

The
first instance of music that inspired me was Dave Roylance and Bob Galvin’s
“Tall Ships Suite,”
which I first heard on a Norfolk, Virginia classical station. I recorded it and
played it often to get back into my “Sparrowhawk
writing mood after a droll day at the office. I would also fantasize that
someday it would become the score for a film version of the series. The score
is not on YouTube, and this is the best link I could muster.

There
is so much music in Sparrowhawk that I can only highlight a few examples here.
The first major number is from Handel’s “Judas Maccabaeus,” which Jack
Frake, the young hero, hears for the one and only time during a concert in a London
theater in the mid-1740’s, “See, the conquering hero
comes.” It isn’t the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, which is what I heard for
the first time, and what Jack heard may have been wanting in power. 

In
Book Five: Revolution of Sparrowhawk, I depict a concert given in
a private plantation home. Reverdy Brune, a lost romantic interest who has come
back into Hugh Kenrick’s life, serenades him with what sounds like a song
of love. The words are in Italian, which he does not understand, but Hugh has a
different response to it.

As he listened
to Reverdy sing in a flawless soprano voice, Hugh was suddenly overcome with
the sense that the music was about him. He could not understand the Italian
words that his wife sang, but they seemed nevertheless to beckon him to accept
the aria as his own, and to continue his enthralling, guiltless journey through
life. The words were irrelevant, he thought, yet words were necessary to
accompany the music to convey a joyous, untroubled serenity. The foreign,
unknown words seemed to invite him to substitute his own, yet he knew not what
words to put in their place. Those words celebrated his every conscious thought
and action, his own existence and that of the world. They had the sense of a
debut and an end at the same time, and evoked a vista that stretched behind him
– the one traveled – and another before him, yet to be traveled. It was an
anthem, he thought, one he wished he could somehow project and express. It was
as sacred and joyous as any great hymn he had heard in the cathedrals of his
past, yet it was somehow addressed to him, and to him alone. He wondered if Reverdy
knew this, if she understood him enough to have chosen this cantata for that
reason.

This
link to the performance,
beginning at minute 9:40 to the end, nearly recreates such a private concert in
colonial times, with a small ensemble, as big a group as a small town could
gather. For a full orchestral version, listen to this link, beginning at minute
7:45 to the end.

“Folk”
music also is employed in the Sparrowhawk
series. “Brian Boru’s
March
,” by anonymous, is played here on her harp by Carol Thompson.
During this aforementioned concert, Etáin on her harp redubs it “The March
to Caxton Pier,” when the townsmen of Caxton on the York River marched to
stop the hated tax stamps.

I hope
it is understood that my examples here of film and other music are only the tip
of my particular iceberg. Someday I may write a book on this subject, and this
short essay will be the basis of it.

I
will let Jeff Britting end this column with his advice and recommendations:

Despite its
enormous popularity, unless a voice is raised in its defense, the Romantic
style may well fade from film in the same way it disappeared from live
performances. On the other hand, with a return to the philosophy that made
Romanticism possible in the first place, the musical establishment might one
day rediscover emotional range, drama, melodic depth, and intellectual
seriousness—values readily available to us all over popcorn at the Saturday
matinee.

Well,
now that we can watch virtually any movie on the Internet, and have our
Saturday matinees any day of the week, we will not need to listen to someone
else’s munching popcorn and sipped sodas. Civilization, noted Ayn Rand, is
progress towards privacy.

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