Press

The stupid cult of Russia & the Latin American Idiot

Wednesday, 1 May, 2019

May Day: The comrades are unfurling their red flags and dreaming of revolution. There will be rallies today for expropriation in Berlin and against capitalism in London.

Which reminds us that it was none other than the great George Orwell who said that “Socialism… smells of machine-worship and the stupid cult of Russia.” And it was the same Orwell who brilliantly described the typical Russian commissar as “half gangster, half gramophone”. Which sounds just like Corbyn. But Orwell wasn’t done. “The fact is that Socialism, in the form in which it is now presented, appeals chiefly to unsatisfactory or inhuman types.” Which sounds just like Maduro.

These withering observations have to be placed in context. Orwell was a lifelong democratic socialist and the context in which he made his remarks was the delivery of The Road to Wigan Pier manuscript in 1937. The book had been commissioned by Victor Gollanzc, who ran the Left Book Club, and its 40,000 members regularly received a work that reflected their beliefs. Gollanzc hoped that a work about poverty in the British Midlands would fit the bill. The first half of Orwell’s book depicted the awful conditions in which the coal miners worked and described the sordid nature of their housing. A clear case for socialism, felt Gollanzc. But it was the second half of the book that upset the apple cart.

Orwell stated plainly that the British working class would never take socialism seriously. The notion of a classless society was a delusion, he wrote. Adding insult to injury, he noted that ordinary people could not identify with the Marxist ideologues because they were objectionable cranks, teetotallers and health-food fanatics. He was particularly scathing of those who peppered their sentences with “notwithstandings” and “heretofores” and got excited when discussing dialectical materialism. Gollanzc was shocked and wanted to publish the first part of the book only, but Orwell was a man of principle, not a gramophone, and he stuck to his guns.

Orwell is gone, but all is not lost. The Peruvian thinker Alvaro Vargas Llosa patrols a similar beat and a decade ago, in “The Return of the Idiot,” he wrote: “European journalists like Ignacio Ramonet and some foreign correspondents for outlets such as Le Nouvel Observateur in France, Die Zeit in Germany, and the Washington Post in the United States, are once again propagating absurdities that shape the opinions of millions of readers and sanctify the Latin American Idiot.” Llosa was on target, especially when noting the curious penchant of Western intellectuals to admire thuggish leaders who sprout anti-American slogans and pay lip service to The People. Interestingly, their admiration for these thugs — Castro, Ortega, Chávez, Morales, Correa, Maduro — somehow never leads the same intellectuals to depart the decadent West for the glories of the Workers’ Paradises.

In the 1993 Fall issue of Dissent, Günter Grass, the German winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1999, wrote: “Cubans were less likely to notice the absence of liberal rights…[because they gained]… self respect after the revolution.”

Alvaro Vargas Llosa’s reply was perfect: “Reality check: How would you feel, Günter, about trading your bourgeois liberal rights, including the right to publish, for a bit of Cuban dignity?”

Looking at the misery of those parts of South America then in the hands of the “carnivorous” left, Alvaro Vargas Llosa concluded: “Until the Latin American Idiot is confined to the archives — something that will be difficult to achieve while so many condescending spirits in the developed world continue to lend him support — that will not change.”

But it will. As Sam Cooke sang: “It’s been a long time, a long time coming / But I know a change gonna come.”


Annie Leibovitz fawns over a famous person

Thursday, 28 March, 2019

Yes, the obsequiousness is breathtaking, but Annie Leibovitz is not shy when it comes to putting her cards on the table, especially when she’s dealing with the man who has parlayed his fame into “cable-news ubiquity and a potential 2020 presidential run,” according to Vogue.

“I met him at the rally the next day, and was pretty much with their group through all of that. And we met again the next morning and did the cover. He was by himself. He didn’t have anyone there. I always admire that too. I was in a quandary about whether he should wear a blue shirt or something more relaxed. So when we went out there, I said, ‘Listen, if you’re going to run, wear the blue shirt. If you’re not going to run, let’s wear something else.’ And he said, ‘Let’s put on the blue shirt.'”

Michael Avenatti


Lionel Shriver: Time’s up for #MeToo

Saturday, 20 October, 2018

Speaking at Cheltenham Literature Festival, the author of We Need To Talk About Kevin said that the ongoing movement against sexual harassment has “run its course” and is having a negative effect on relationships between men and women.

According to The Times, Shriver said that that the movement had been “important to begin with”, having exposed “some of the real malefactors” such as Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. However, she added: “Then it took a turn and suddenly we were talking about bad dates and bad taste or making crass remarks and it trivialised itself and I thought that was really regrettable.” Quote:

“I don’t like the feeling that now everyone has to have their story of some kind of terrible sexual abuse in order to be able to have an opinion about any of this stuff. I don’t want younger women to locate their sense of power in their weakness, in their fragility. I think the movement has run its course and we can pretty much call time on it now.”

In today’s febrile climate, it amounts to an act of bravery to speak sensibly. Lionel Shriver is sensible and brave.


JG Ballard and the rage of the Angelas

Saturday, 18 August, 2018

In his latter days and in his final works, the great JG Ballard, who died in April 2009, focussed on how bored (and boring) materialism and media have made people. It’s not surprising, Ballard said, that the educated would do things like take to the streets in favour of dictators, support terror groups, denounce freedom and join crazed movements. And wasn’t he the prophet! Ballard lampooned all this brilliantly in Millennium People. Here, the narrator has infiltrated a middle-class “Antifa” group and attends a protest against a cat show in London with Angela, a revolutionary:

Angela stared across the road with narrowed eyes and all a suburbanite’s capacity for moral outrage. Walking around the exhibition two hours earlier, I was impressed by her unswerving commitment to the welfare of these luxurious pets. The protest rallies I had recently attended against globalisation, nuclear power and the World Bank were violent but well thought out. By contrast, this demonstration seemed endearingly Quixotic in its detachment from reality. I tried to point this out to Angela as we strolled along the line of cages.

“Angela, they look so happy. They’re wonderfully cared for. We’re trying to rescue them from heaven.”

Angela never varied her step. “How do you know?”

“Just watch them.” We stopped in front of a row of Abyssinians so deeply immersed in the luxury of being themselves that they barely noticed the admiring crowds. “They’re not exactly unhappy. They’d be prowling around, trying to get out of the cages.”

“They’re drugged.” Angela’s brows knotted. “No living creature should be caged. This isn’t a cat show, it’s a concentration camp.”

“Still, they are rather gorgeous.

“They’re bred for death, not life. The rest of the litter are drowned at birth. It’s a vicious eugenic experiment, the sort of thing Dr. Mengele got up to.”

Satire is our only defence against the Angelas of this world. What a tragedy JG Ballard is not with us now to write about the scourge of “identity politics.”


It’s Time to Resist the Excesses of #MeToo

Sunday, 14 January, 2018 0 Comments

Well, so says Andrew Sullivan in New York Magazine. What spurred his “resistance” is the open letter signed last week by a hundred French women who don’t regard themselves as helpless victims of men. Sullivan’s money quote: “A woman can, in the same day, lead a professional team and enjoy being the sexual object of a man, without being a ‘slut’, nor a cheap accomplice of the patriarchy.”

Sullivan then turns his attention to Moira Donegan, the infamous creator of the infamous “Shitty Media Men” list and he calls it for what it is: McCarthyism. Snippet:

“The act of anonymously disseminating serious allegations about people’s sex lives as a means to destroy their careers and livelihoods has long gone by a simple name. It’s called McCarthyism, and the people behind the list engaged in it. Sure, they believed they were doing good — but the McCarthyites, in a similar panic about communism, did as well. They believe they are fighting an insidious, ubiquitous evil — the patriarchy — just as the extreme anti-Communists in the 1950s believed that commies were everywhere and so foul they didn’t deserve a presumption of innocence, or simple human decency. They demand public confessions of the guilty and public support for their cause … or they will cast suspicion on you as well. Sophie Gilbert just berated the men at the Golden Globes for not saying what they were supposed to say. It’s no wonder that today’s McCarthyites also engage in demonizing other writers, like Katie Roiphe, and threatening their livelihoods. And just as McCarthyites believed they had no other option, given the complicity of the entire federal government with communism, so today’s McCarthyites claim that appeals to the police, or the HR department, or to the usual channels, are “fruitless” — because they’re part of the patriarchal system too! These mechanisms, Donegan writes, have ‘an obligation to presume innocence,’ and we can’t have that, can we?”

The time has come to resist the new McCarthyism of the Left and its cruel cadres.


Trump vs. Media: 100 Days of Trust and Mistrust

Saturday, 29 April, 2017 0 Comments

American adults trust President Trump more than the national political media, according to a poll released yesterday. Thirty-seven percent trust the White House against 29 percent who believe the political media in the Morning Consult survey (PDF). Thirty-four percent are unsure or have no opinion.

Morning Consult found that nearly half say the national political media is tougher on Trump than past presidential administrations. Forty-eight percent said America’s political journalists are harder on Trump, compared with 16 percent who say they are easier. Twenty-three percent say they are “about the same,” while 13 percent have no opinion.

Yesterday’s results found a slight majority who say the national political media is “out of touch with everyday Americans.” Twenty-eight percent said it “understands the challenges everyday Americans are facing,” and 21 percent were undecided.

Morning Consult conducted its survey of 2,006 US adults via online interviews from 25 to 26 April. It has a margin of error of two percentage points.


Trump as Uber

Sunday, 19 February, 2017 0 Comments

The Irish economist, broadcaster and author David McWilliams has made a handsome living by swimming against some of the more popular tides of the past decade and articulating his contrary positions eloquently and entertainingly. His insights on the Crash of 2008, the Brexit vote and the rise of Donald Trump have shown that his radar is finely tuned and have given him an aura of the oracle. That’s why his most recent article, Trump aims to do to the Washington insiders what Uber did to taxi drivers, is so valuable. Snippet:

“From now on, the relationship he intends to have with the American people (at least his American people) will not be mediated by the media. It will not be conditional on getting the ‘thumbs up or thumbs down’ from the commentariat and it will not be determined by experts. It will be as one to one.

By deploying Twitter, he has cut out the media. This is radical stuff and a total departure from decades, possibly centuries, of form.”

After he’s done with the media-establishment complex, what will President Trump disrupt next? According to David McWilliams, it could be the Fed and, if that were the case, “we are in for a big showdown at the very heart of the American economic system.” The current row with media would be a mere squib in comparison because “the near 30-year boom in American asset prices has been driven on the understanding that the Fed always wins.” Except that in a battle with Trump, the tribune of the precariat, the bankers will will not be able to call upon the commentariat for help.


Donald’s Rainy Day

Thursday, 18 August, 2016 0 Comments

“Like a lot of anxious people, I’ve been obsessively watching all the forecasts, predictions, and computer models, hoping for a break in this feverish political season,” Barry Blitt says. Blitt’s cover for the new issue of The New Yorker is the fifth featuring Donald Trump since he announced his candidacy. Given that this blog is inspired by the the idiom of putting (something) aside for a rainy day, it deserves inclusion here.

New Yorker

“Here comes that rainy day feeling again
And soon my tears they will be falling like rain
It always seems to be a Monday
Left all the memories of Sunday
Always standin’ here before the clouds appear
And took away my sunshine
Here comes that rainy day feeling again.”

Roger Cook and Roger Greenaway


Instant indignation impact

Monday, 11 July, 2016 0 Comments

This is an era of instant indignation impact. People now spend hours online each day searching for videos, photos and stories about “injustice” and then instantly share them with others. The result is increased indignation impact. Social media has changed the rules and the playing field has not just been levelled; it’s been paved over. The antiseptic output from traditional media outlets has been replaced by raw, unedited, personal input reports from the front lines that have an immediacy that intensifies their emotional impact. This makes them more effective at triggering outrage and makes us more vulnerable to emotional manipulation.

The paradox is that many people would like their police to be militarized when confronting terrorists, but unarmed when confronting protesters. But what happens when the peaceful protest in Dallas is joined by the armed warrior Micah X. Johnson? Wanting to have our cake and eat it has never made for good policy, however.

Baton Rouge


The memory hole in Europe and China

Wednesday, 16 March, 2016 0 Comments

In George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, the “memory hole” is a slot into which government officials deposit politically incorrect documents to be incinerated. Thoughts of Orwell’s warning were awakened by two recent occurrences, one minor, one major. Let’s start with the minor. A Google search of this blog for references to Steve Jobs produces a results page that ends with the notification: “Some results may have been removed under data protection law in Europe.” This is a consequence of the EU’s “Right To Be Forgotten” ruling, which is Orwellian in its implications.

Now, the major matter. A week ago, the Hong Kong Free Press reported that “All traces of Hong Kong English language newspaper the South China Morning Post have been wiped from social media platforms in China.” The writer, Karen Cheung, added the Orwellian aspect with this ominous sentence: “The paper’s disappearance from Chinese social media came weeks after Chinese President Xi Jinping pledged to tighten control over the news in China, saying that ‘state media must be surnamed Party.'”

As an ex-English teacher, Alibaba’s Jack Ma must be familiar with the works of Orwell. If his bid for the South China Morning Post goes through, he may be tempted to complete its descent into the memory hole. Why would Ma want to buy the paper? “Maybe he’s been told to,” speculates Big Lychee. Orwellian.

Censor


The cruelty and inhumanity of the “brothers”

Friday, 4 September, 2015 1 Comment

The image of Aylan Kurdi dead on a Turkish beach is being portrayed as Europe’s disgrace. What it really illustrates, in fact, is the cruelty and inhumanity the wealthy Gulf Arab states that are refusing to help Syria’s refugees. On Wednesday, Amira Fathalla of BBC Monitoring sought to explain “Why Syrians do not flee to Gulf states.” The harsh reality is that “Without a visa, Syrians are not currently allowed to enter Arab countries except for Algeria, Mauritania, Sudan and Yemen,” she wrote. One cannot imagine that there’s a long line of refugees waiting to enter Sudan and Yemen.

Today, in the Washington Post, Ishaan Tharoor follows up and spells out the inhumanity of the neighbours: “The Arab world’s wealthiest nations are doing next to nothing for Syria’s refugees.” Here, he names and shames: “six Gulf countries — Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Oman and Bahrain — have offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees.” Shame be upon them.

Arab states