Reflections on the “Feel Good” War

Prompted by my current reading — another novel about World War II — and the viewing of yet another film about Winston Churchill’s leadership during that war.

World War II was by no means a “feel good” war at the time it was fought. But it became one, eventually, as memories of a generation’s blood, toil, tears, and sweat faded away, to be replaced by the consoling fact of total victory. (That FDR set the stage for the USSR’s long dominance of Eastern Europe and status as a rival world power is usually overlooked.)

World War II is a “feel good” war in that it has been and continues to be depicted in countless novels, TV series, and movies as a valiant, sometimes romantic, and ultimately successful effort to defeat evil enemies: Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. Most of the treatments, in fact, are about the war in Europe against Nazi Germany, because Hitler lingers in the general view as a personification of evil. Also, to the extent that the treatments are about stirring speeches, heroism, espionage, sabotage, and resistance, they are more readily depicted (and more commonly imagined) as the efforts of white Americans, Britons, and citizens of the various European nations that had been conquered by Nazi Germany.

World War II is also a “feel good” war — for millions of Americans, at least — because it is a reminder that the United States, once upon a time, united to fight and decisively won a great war against evil enemies. Remembering it in that way is a kind of antidote to the memories of later wars that left bitterness, divisiveness, and a sense of futility (if not failure) in their wake: from Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq.

That World War II was nothing like a “feel good” war while it was being fought should never be forgotten. Americans got off “lightly” by comparison with the citizens of enemy and Allied nations. But “lightly” means more than 400,000 combat deaths, almost 700,000 combat injuries (too many of them disabling and disfiguring), millions of lives disrupted, the reduction of Americans’ standard of living to near-Depression levels so that vast quantities of labor and materiel could be poured into the war effort, and — not the least of it — the dread that hung over Americans for several years before it became clear that the war would end in the defeat of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

The generations that fought and lived through World War II deserved to look back on it as a “feel good” war, if that was their wont. But my impression — as a grandson, son, and nephew of members of those generations — is that they looked back on it as a part of their lives that they wouldn’t want to relive. They never spoke of it in my presence, and I was “all ears”, as they say.

But there was no choice. World War II had to be fought, and it had to be won. I only hope that if such a war comes along someday Americans will support it and fight it as fiercely and tenaciously as did their ancestors in World War II. If Americans do fight it fiercely and tenaciously it will be won. But I am not confident. the character of Americans has changed a lot — mostly for the worst — in the nearly 75 years since the end of World War II.

(See also “A Grand Strategy for the United States“, “Rating America’s Wars“, “The War on Terror As It Should Have Been Fought“, “1963: The Year Zero“, and “World War II As an Aberration“.)

Preposition Proliferation

I have a habit of speech — acquired long ago and hard to shake — which is the unnecessary use of prepositions in phrases like “hurry up” and “stand up”. I don’t write that way, but I still (too often) speak that way.

I hadn’t been conscious of the habit, probably acquired from my parents, until about 30 years ago, when a young computer whiz corrected me when I said something like “open up”. She said that “open” would suffice, and my eyes were (figuratively) opened; that is, for the first time in my life I understood that I had long been been guilty of preposition proliferation.

In addition to “hurry up”, “stand up”, and “open up”, there are “fill up”, “lift up”, and dozens of others. I leave it to you to list your favorites.

There are also phrases involving prepositions that aren’t quite wrong, but which are unnecessarily long. Consider, for example, one that is used often: “come in”. It’s really a shorthand way of saying “come into the room/office/house to which you are seeking entry”. So the “in” isn’t superfluous, but it is unnecessary.

“Come” will suffice, as will “enter”. Why aren’t those expressions used as commonly as “come in”? I suspect that it’s because “come in” sounds more cordial than the peremptory “come” and “enter”. That is to say, “come in” is “softer” and more welcoming.

Which brings me back to “hurry up”, “stand up”, and similar phrases. Perhaps the prepositions were added long ago to suggest that the speaker was making a request, not issuing a command. That is, they were added out of politeness.

Perhaps it is politeness that prevents me from giving up abandoning the practice of preposition proliferation.

Thinking about the Unthinkable

Thinking about the Unthinkable is the title of a book by Herman Kahn, who according to an obituary that ran in The Washington Post, believed that

nuclear war would be terrible indeed, but mankind would survive it. Since such wars are bound to take place, it behooves man to prepare for them.

He stated his case in two books that appeared in the early 1960s…. [The first book] argued that the policy of deterrence, known officially as “mutually assured destruction” (MAD), was unworkable. Thus, the techniques of survival must take a large place in policy planning.

The second book [Thinking about the Unthinkable] restated this premise and went on to criticize those who refused to face the possibility of war as acting like “ancient kings who punished messengers who brought them bad news.”

The unthinkable, in this post, isn’t how the United States might (in some fashion) survive a nuclear war, but about how the traditional mores of the United States — which are rapidly being suppressed by enemies within — can be preserved and restored to primacy in the nation’s governmental and civil institutions. The possibility that traditional mores will be suppressed, is unthinkable enough to most people — including most conservatives, I fear. Even more unthinkable is the “how” of preventing the suppression of traditional mores, because (a) it requires acknowledgment that there are enemies within, (b) that they must be treated as enemies, and (c) that they might not be defeated by traditional (electoral) means.

If you are uncomfortable with the proposition that the left (or the organized part of it in politics, the media, academia, and Big Tech) is an enemy, consider the following (typical) report from the latest Democrat presidential debate:

Former Congressman Beto O’Rourke called racism not only “endemic” to America but “foundational.” He explained, “We can mark the creation of this country not at the Fourth of July, 1776, but August 20, 1619, when the first kidnapped African was brought to this country against his will and in bondage and as a slave built the greatness, and the success, and the wealth that neither he nor his descendants would ever be able to participate in or enjoy.”

The villains in the Democratic Party story of America do not remain hundreds of years beyond our reach. Cops, gun owners, factory farmers, employees of insurance and pharmaceutical companies, Wall Street speculators, the oil industry, Republicans, and so many others who, together, constitute the majority of the nation: our Houston Dems do not look to them as fellow countrymen but as impediments, evil impediments in some cases, to realizing their ideological vision. And if that message did not come across in English, several candidates speaking Spanish not comprehended by most viewers nevertheless did not get lost in translation.

That ideological vision includes a doubly unconstitutional confiscation of weapons through executive fiat endorsed by Senator Kamala Harris and O’Rourke (“Hell, yes, we’re going to take your AR-15, your AK-47”), abolition of private health insurance in a bill sponsored by Senators Sanders and Warren, former Vice President Joe Biden’s insistence that “nobody should be in jail for a nonviolent crime,” reparations for slavery supported by O’Rourke, a wealth tax proposed by Warren, Senator Cory Booker’s call to “create an office in the White House to deal with the problem of white supremacy and hate crimes,” Harris demanding that government “de-incarcerate women and children” (even ones who murder?), Andrew Yang wanting to “give every American 100 democracy dollars that you only give to candidates and causes you like,” and the entire stage endorsing open borders, if in muted terms during this debate, and amnesty for illegal immigrants.

That’s just the tip of the ideological iceberg. I urge you to read at least some of the following posts:

Intellectuals and Capitalism
“Intellectuals and Society”: A Review
The Left’s Agenda
The Left and Its Delusions
Politics, Sophistry, and the Academy
Subsidizing the Enemies of Liberty
The Barbarians Within and the State of the Union
The Culture War
Ruminations on the Left in America
The Left and Violence
The Internet-Media-Academic Complex vs. Real Life
The Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy
Leftism
Leftism As Crypto-Fascism: The Google Paradigm
What Is Going On? A Stealth Revolution
“Tribalists”, “Haters”, and Psychological Projection
Utopianism, Leftism, and Dictatorship
Whence Polarization?
Social Norms, the Left, and Social Disintegration
Can Left and Right Be Reconciled?
The Fourth Great Awakening
It’s Them or Us
Conservatism, Society, and the End of America

Many of the themes of those posts are captured in “Not With a Bang“, wherein I say something that I’ve said many times and have come to believe more firmly in recent months.

The advocates of the new dispensation haven’t quite finished the job of dismantling America. But that day isn’t far off. Complete victory for the enemies of America is only a few election cycles away. The squishy center of the electorate — as is its wont — will swing back toward the Democrat Party. With a Democrat in the White House, a Democrat-controlled Congress, and a few party switches in the Supreme Court (of the packing of it), the dogmas of the anti-American culture will become the law of the land; for example:

Billions and trillions of dollars will be wasted on various “green” projects, including but far from limited to the complete replacement of fossil fuels by “renewables”, with the resulting impoverishment of most Americans, except for comfortable elites who press such policies).

It will be illegal to criticize, even by implication, such things as abortion, illegal immigration, same-sex marriage, transgenderism, anthropogenic global warming, or the confiscation of firearms. These cherished beliefs will be mandated for school and college curricula, and enforced by huge fines and draconian prison sentences (sometimes in the guise of “re-education”).

Any hint of Christianity and Judaism will be barred from public discourse, and similarly punished. Islam will be held up as a model of unity and tolerance.

Reverse discrimination in favor of females, blacks, Hispanics, gender-confused persons, and other “protected” groups will be required and enforced with a vengeance. But “protections” will not apply to members of such groups who are suspected of harboring libertarian or conservative impulses.

Sexual misconduct (as defined by the “victim”) will become a crime, and any male person may be found guilty of it on the uncorroborated testimony of any female who claims to have been the victim of an unwanted glance, touch (even if accidental), innuendo (as perceived by the victim), etc.

There will be parallel treatment of the “crimes” of racism, anti-Islamism, nativism, and genderism.

All health care in the United States will be subject to review by a national, single-payer agency of the central government. Private care will be forbidden, though ready access to doctors, treatments, and medications will be provided for high officials and other favored persons. The resulting health-care catastrophe that befalls most of the populace (like that of the UK) will be shrugged off as a residual effect of “capitalist” health care.

The regulatory regime will rebound with a vengeance, contaminating every corner of American life and regimenting all businesses except those daring to operate in an underground economy. The quality and variety of products and services will decline as their real prices rise as a fraction of incomes.

The dire economic effects of single-payer health care and regulation will be compounded by massive increases in other kinds of government spending (defense excepted). The real rate of economic growth will approach zero.

The United States will maintain token armed forces, mainly for the purpose of suppressing domestic uprisings. Given its economically destructive independence from foreign oil and its depressed economy, it will become a simulacrum of the USSR and Mao’s China — and not a rival to the new superpowers, Russia and China, which will largely ignore it as long as it doesn’t interfere in their pillaging of respective spheres of influence. A policy of non-interference (i.e., tacit collusion) will be the order of the era in Washington.

Though it would hardly be necessary to rig elections in favor of Democrats, given the flood of illegal immigrants who will pour into the country and enjoy voting rights, a way will be found to do just that. The most likely method will be election laws requiring candidates to pass ideological purity tests by swearing fealty to the “law of the land” (i.e., abortion, unfettered immigration, same-sex marriage, freedom of gender choice for children, etc., etc., etc.). Those who fail such a test will be barred from holding any kind of public office, no matter how insignificant.

Are my fears exaggerated? I don’t think so, given what has happened in recent decades and the cultural revolutionaries’ tightening grip on the Democrat party. What I have sketched out can easily happen within a decade after Democrats seize total control of the central government.

All of it will be done in ways that Democrats will justify in the name of “equality”, “fairness”, “public safety”, and other such shibboleths. (See “An Addendum to (Asymmetrical) Ideological Warfare“.) Bill Vallicella offers an example of how it will be done in his post, “The Grave Danger to the Republic of ‘Red Flag’ Laws“:

Destructive Democrats now label the National Rifle Association  a ‘domestic terror organization.’ Mind-mannered Mike of Mesa is a member and receives their publications. His mail man, though, is a flaming lefty. The mail man reports Mike to the government as a domestic terrorist on the ground that anyone who is a member of a terrorist organization is a terrorist. ATF agents break into Mike’s house in the wee hours and seize his one and only firearm, a semi-automatic pistol. A year later, Mike is able to get his gun back, but he must pay all court costs.

Not quite Nazi Germany, but getting there….

The Democrat Party is now a hard-Left party.

Kevin D. Williamson expands on that theme in “The Divine Right of the Democratic Party“:

Michelle Goldberg of the New York Times has a dream, a dream in which about half of the American people are deprived of an effective means of political representation, a dream of one-party government in which the Democrats are the only game in town — “Dare We Dream of the End of the GOP?” her column is headlined — which also is a dream of visiting vengeance upon those who dared to vote for their own interests as they understood them and thereby schemed “to stop the New America from governing.”That quotation is from a new book by Democratic pollster Stanley Greenberg bearing the title R.I.P. G.O.P. Greenberg himself has a new column in the Times on the same theme. “The 2020 election will be transformative like few in our history,” he writes. “It will end with the death of the Republican Party as we know it . . . [and] liberate the Democratic Party from the country’s suffocating polarization and allow it to use government to address the vast array of problems facing the nation.”

We might understand the Goldberg-Greenberg position as “the divine right of Democrats,” who apparently have an eternal moral mandate to rule for reasons that must remain mysterious to those outside the ranks of New York Times columnists….

Restrictions on immigration and abortion, conditions on welfare for the able-bodied, lower taxes and lower spending — these are not positions associated with the Democratic party. But millions of Americans, in some cases majorities and even large majorities, hold these views. They are entitled to political representation, irrespective of the future of the Republican party as an organization. And they will have that representation, whether it goes by the brand name Republican, Liberal, Whig, or Monster Raving Loony (RIP Screaming Lord Sutch). Eliminating the Republican party would not relieve the country of the “polarization” — meaning opposition — that annoys the Goldberg-Greenberg camp.

The only way to achieve that would be through the political suppression of those with dissenting political views.

Which, of course, is the Left’s current agenda, from deputizing Corporate America to act as its political enforcer by making employment contingent upon the acceptance of progressive political orthodoxies to attempting to gut the First Amendment in the name of “campaign finance” regulation — it is the Democratic party, not the moral scolds of the Christian Coalition, that proposes to lock up Americans for showing movies with unauthorized political content — to grievously abusing legislative and prosecutorial powers to harass and persecute those with nonconforming political views (“Arrest Climate-Change Deniers”) and declaring political rivals “domestic terrorists,” as California Democrats have with the National Rifle Association.

Which is to say: It is not only the Republican party as a political grouping they dream of eliminating: It is Republicans as such and those who hold roughly Republican ideas about everything from climate change to gun rights, groups that Democrats in agencies ranging from state prosecutors’ offices to the IRS already — right now, not at some point in some imaginary dystopian future — are targeting through both legal and extralegal means.

The Democrats who are doing this believe themselves to be acting morally, even patriotically, and sometimes heroically. Why? Because they believe that opposition is fundamentally illegitimate.

Eliminating the ability of those who currently align with the Republican party to meaningfully participate in national politics is not only wishful thinking in the pages of the New York Times. It is the progressive program, from Washington to Palo Alto and beyond.

William L. Gensert is more apocalyptic in “No Matter Who Wins in 2020, There Will Be Blood“:

Tone-deaf to [the] silent majority and emboldened by victory, the new [Democrat] president will borrow Barry’s “pen and phone” and start issuing executive orders throwing open our borders, banning fossil fuels, and of course, implementing “common sense” gun control.  Buoyed by media, the new president will start with universal background checks and a gun registry.

Eventually, the president will overreach, signing an order for gun confiscation, euphemistically called, “mandatory buybacks.”  Antifa and their ilk will flood the streets in support of seizing these “weapons of war.”  Media will declare, “It’s the will of the people.”

And for the right, that will be the last straw (plastic or paper).

[M]illions will refuse to give up their guns.  And, many gun owners in this country will not go “meekly into the night,” there will be “rage” against what they will see as a usurpation of their constitutional rights.

Confiscation will go well at first, with gun owners in the cities acquiescing to the knock on the door in the middle of the night and the intimidation of, “Papers please.”

But in flyover country, a different scenario will play out.  Most gun owners will hide their weapons and most local police departments will accept that, not wanting to jail their neighbors.  Resistance will be broad, perhaps encompassing hundreds of millions of Americans.  Barack Obama, for once in the dismal history of his efforts to kill the America we love, will be proven correct.  Americans do “cling to their guns.”

The media will call it “white supremacy,” but a still unregulated internet will be rife with videos of an out of control government battling its own citizens.

The president will call for mobilizing the National Guard.  Some governors will refuse, and army units now overseas will be sent home to deal with the growing unrest.  Mistakes will be made and there will be gunfire in the streets; people will die on both sides.  The  president will desperately call for martial law.

Many Army, National Guard, and police will defect, or desert, or simply refuse orders.

What will happen after that is anybody’s guess.

I am less pessimistic about the possibility of widespread violence. But that is because I am realistic about the ability and willingness of a Democrat president to enforce gun confiscation (and more) throughout the nation, with the aid of acquiescent and cowed State governors, and the dozens of federal law-enforcement agencies under his command, including but far from limited to the FBI, the BATF, the DEA, and the U.S. Marshals Service. Only a relatively small number of (literal) die-hards will put up much of a fight, and they will go down fighting.

It can happen here.

Is there a way to prevent it? A year-and-a-half ago I offered a peaceful and constitutional option in “Preemptive (Cold) Civil War” and “Preemptive (Cold) Civil War, Without Delay“. Near the end of the latter post, I quoted a piece by Publius Decius Mus (Michael Anton), “It’s Clear That Conservatism Inc. Wants Trump to Lose“:

I believe the Left, as it increasingly feels its oats, will openly discard the pretense that it need face any opposition. It’s already started. This will rise to a crescendo during the 2020 election, which the Left will of course win, after which it will be open-season on remaining “conservative” dissent. Audits. Investigations. Prosecutions. Regulatory dictates. Media leaks. Denunciations from the bully pulpit. SJW witch-hunts. The whole panoply of persecution tools now at their disposal, plus some they’ve yet to deploy or invent.

Much of that passage covers ground previously covered in this post. The key phrase is “which the Left will of course win”, because Democrats are masters of asymmetrical ideological warfare. And they are expert in the art of “winning” close elections. States that narrowly went for Trump in 2016 can easily be flipped by means fair and foul — and it won’t take many such States to do the trick.

Further, as I noted in the same post,

[t]he squishy center [of the electorate], having been bombarded by anti-Trump propaganda for four years is just as likely to turn against him as to re-elect him.

I ended with this:

There’s no time to lose. The preemptive (cold) civil war must start yesterday.

But it didn’t. And now the fate of America hinges on the election of 2020.

Unless thinking about the unthinkable includes thinking, quickly and cleverly, about how to defeat the enemy within. And I don’t necessarily mean at the ballot box.

Another Thought about “Darkest Hour”

I said recently about Darkest Hour  that

despite Gary Oldman’s deservedly acclaimed, Oscar-winning impersonation of Winston Churchill, earned a rating of 7 from me. It was an entertaining film, but a rather trite offering of Hollywoodized history.

There was a subtle aspect of the film which led me to believe that Churchill’s firm stance against a negotiated peace with Hitler had more support from the Labour Party than from Churchill’s Conservative colleagues. So I went to Wikipedia, which says this (among many things) in a discussion of the film’s historical accuracy:

In The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik wrote: “…in late May of 1940, when the Conservative grandee Lord Halifax challenged Churchill, insisting that it was still possible to negotiate a deal with Hitler, through the good offices of Mussolini, it was the steadfast anti-Nazism of Attlee and his Labour colleagues that saved the day – a vital truth badly underdramatized in the current Churchill-centric film, Darkest Hour“. This criticism was echoed by Adrian Smith, emeritus professor of modern history at the University of Southampton, who wrote in the New Statesman that the film was “yet again overlooking Labour’s key role at the most dangerous moment in this country’s history … in May 1940 its leaders gave Churchill the unequivocal support he needed when refusing to surrender. Ignoring Attlee’s vital role is just one more failing in a deeply flawed film”.

I thought that, if anything, the film did portray Labour as more steadfast than the Tories. First, the Conservatives (especially Halifax and Neville Chamberlain) were made to seem derisive of Churchill and all-too-willing to compromise with Hitler. Second — and here’s the subtlety — at the end of Churcill’s speech to the House of Commons on June 4, 1940, which is made the climactic scene in Darkest Hour, the Labour side of the House erupts in enthusiastic applause, while the Conservative side is subdued until it follows Labour’s suit.

The final lines of Churchill’s speech are always worth repeating:

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

If G.W. Bush could have been as adamant in his opposition to the enemy (instead of pandering to the “religion of peace”), and as eloquent in his speech to Congress after 9/11 and at subsequent points in the ill-executed “war on terror”, there might now be a Pax Americana in the Middle East.

(See also “September 20, 2001: Hillary Clinton Signals the End of ‘Unity’“, “The War on Terror As It Should Have Been Fought“, and “A Rearview Look at the Invasion of Iraq and the War on Terror“.)

A Footnote to “Movies”

I noted here that I’ve updated my “Movies” page. There’s a further update. I’ve added a list of my very favorite films — the 69 that I’ve rated a 10 or 9 (out of 10). The list is reproduced below, complete with links to IMDb pages so that you can look up a film with which you may be unfamiliar.

Many of the films on my list are slanted to the left (e.g., Inherit the Wind), but they’re on my list because of their merit as entertainment. Borrowing from the criteria posted at the bottom of “Movies”, a rating of 9 means that I found a film to be superior several of thhe following dimensions: mood, plot, dialogue, music (if applicable), dancing (if applicable), quality of performances, production values, and historical or topical interest; worth seeing twice but not a slam-dunk great film. A “10” is an exemplar of its type; it can be enjoyed many times.

My Very Favorite Films: Releases from 1920 through 2018
(listed roughly in descending order of my ratings)
Ratings
Title (year of release) IMDb Me
1. The Wizard of Oz (1939)  8 10
2. Alice in Wonderland (1951)  7.4 10
3. A Man for All Seasons (1966)  7.7 10
4. Amadeus (1984)  8.3 10
5. The Harmonists (1997)  7.1 10
6. Dr. Jack (1922)  7.1 9
7. The General (1926)  8.1 9
8. City Lights (1931)  8.5 9
9. March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934)  7.3 9
10. The Gay Divorcee (1934)  7.5 9
11. David Copperfield (1935)  7.4 9
12. Captains Courageous (1937)  8 9
13. The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)  7.9 9
14. Alexander Nevsky (1938)  7.6 9
15. Bringing Up Baby (1938)  7.9 9
16. A Christmas Carol (1938)  7.5 9
17. Destry Rides Again (1939)  7.7 9
18. Gunga Din (1939)  7.4 9
19. The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939)  7.8 9
20. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)  8.1 9
21. The Women (1939)  7.8 9
22. The Grapes of Wrath (1940)  8 9
23. The Philadelphia Story (1940)  7.9 9
24. Pride and Prejudice (1940)  7.4 9
25. Rebecca (1940)  8.1 9
26. Sullivan’s Travels (1941)  8 9
27. Woman of the Year (1942)  7.2 9
28. The African Queen (1951)  7.8 9
29. The Browning Version (1951)  8.2 9
30. The Bad Seed (1956)  7.5 9
31. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)  8.1 9
32. Inherit the Wind (1960)  8.1 9
33. Psycho (1960)  8.5 9
34. The Hustler (1961)  8 9
35. Billy Budd (1962)  7.8 9
36. Lawrence of Arabia (1962)  8.3 9
37. Zorba the Greek (1964)  7.7 9
38. Doctor Zhivago (1965)  8 9
39. The Graduate (1967)  8 9
40. The Lion in Winter (1968)  8 9
41. Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)  8 9
42. Five Easy Pieces (1970)  7.5 9
43. The Godfather (1972)  9.2 9
44. Papillon (1973)  8 9
45. Chinatown (1974)  8.2 9
46. The Godfather: Part II (1974)  9 9
47. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)  8.7 9
48. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)  8.6 9
49. Breaker Morant (1980)  7.8 9
50. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)  8.7 9
51. Das Boot (1981)  8.3 9
52. Chariots of Fire (1981)  7.2 9
53. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)  8.4 9
54. Blade Runner (1982)  8.1 9
55. Gandhi (1982)  8 9
56. The Last Emperor (1987)  7.7 9
57. Dangerous Liaisons (1988)  7.6 9
58. Henry V (1989)  7.5 9
59. Chaplin (1992)  7.6 9
60. Noises Off… (1992)  7.6 9
61. Three Colors: Blue (1993)  7.9 9
62. Pulp Fiction (1994)  8.9 9
63. Richard III (1995)  7.4 9
64. The English Patient (1996)  7.4 9
65. Fargo (1996)  8.1 9
66. Chicago (2002)  7.1 9
67. Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003)  7.4 9
68. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005)  6.9 9
69. The Kite Runner (2007)  7.6 9

“Movies” Updated

I have updated my “Movies” page. I was prompted to do so by having recently (and unusually) viewed two feature-length films (on consecutive evenings, no less): Darkest Hour and Goodbye Christopher Robin.

The former, despite Gary Oldman’s deservedly acclaimed, Oscar-winning impersonation of Winston Churchill, earned a rating of 7 from me. It was an entertaining film, but a rather trite offering of Hollywoodized history. The latter film, on the other hand earned a rating of 8 from me for the quality of its script, excellent performances, and non-saccharine treatment of Christopher Robin’s boyhood and his parents’ failings as parents.

In any event, go to “Movies”. Even if you’ve been there before, you will find new material in the updated version. You will find at the bottom of the page an explanation of my use of the 10-point rating scale.

Viewing Recommendations: TV Series and Mini-Series

My wife and I have watched many a series and mini-series. Some of them predate the era of VHS, DVD, and streaming, though much of the older fare is now available on DVD (and sometimes on streaming media). Our long list of favorites includes these (right-click a link to open it in a new tab):

Better Call Saul
Rumpole of the Bailey
Slings and Arrows
Pride and Prejudice
Cold Lazarus
Karaoke
Love in a Cold Climate
Oliver Twist
Bleak House
The Six Wives of Henry VIII
Danger UXB
Lonesome Dove
Sunset Song
Lillie
Vienna 1900
The Durrells in Corfu
The Wire
The Glittering Prizes
Bron/Broen
Wallander
Little Dorrit
Justified
Cracker
Pennies from Heaven
Mad Men
The Sopranos
Charters & Caldicott
Reckless
Our Mutual Friend
The First Churchills
The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club
Murder Must Advertise
The Nine Tailors
Cakes and Ale
Madame Bovary
I, Claudius
Smiley’s People
Reilly: Ace of Spies
Prime Suspect
The Norman Conquests
Bramwell
Prime Suspect 2
Prime Suspect 3
Mystery!: Cadfael
Prime Suspect 5: Errors of Judgement
David Copperfield
Prime Suspect 6: The Last Witness
The Forsyte Saga
Elizabeth R
Jude the Obscure
Clouds of Witness
Country Matters
Notorious Woman
Five Red Herrings
Anna Karenina
Brideshead Revisited
To Serve Them All My Days

If you have more than a passing acquaintance with this genre, you will recognize that almost all of the fare is British. The Brits seem to have a near-lock on good acting and literate and clever writing.

Alas, of the series listed above, only Better Call Saul, Bron/Broen, and The Durrells in Corfu are still running. The Durrells comes to end this fall for U.S. viewers (Brits have already seen the final season). The final season of Bron/Broen has also aired in Europe, but isn’t yet available in the U.S.

As for Better Call Saul, the fifth season of which will air in 2020, there are rumors of a sixth and final season to follow.

Enjoy!

“That’s Not Who We Are”

I had been thinking recently about that meaningless phrase, and along came Bill Vallicella’s post to incite this one. As BV says, it’s a stock leftist exclamation. I don’t know when or where it originated. But I recall that it was used a lot on The West Wing, about which I say this in “Sorkin’s Left-Wing Propaganda Machine“:

I endured The West Wing for its snappy dialogue and semi-accurate though cartoonish, depictions of inside politics. But by the end of the series, I had tired of the show’s incessant propagandizing for leftist causes….

[The] snappy dialogue and semi-engaging stories unfold in the service of bigger government. And, of course, bigger is better because Aaron Sorkin makes it look that way: a wise president, crammed full of encyclopedic knowledge; staffers whose IQs must qualify them for the Triple Nine Society, and whose wit crackles like lightning in an Oklahoma thunderstorm; evil Republicans whose goal in life is to stand in the way of technocratic progress (national bankruptcy and the loss of individual freedom don’t rate a mention); and a plethora of “worthy” causes that the West-Wingers seek to advance, without regard for national bankruptcy and individual freedom.

The “hero” of The West Wing is President Josiah Bartlet[t], who — as played by Martin Sheen — is an amalgam of Bill Clinton (without the sexual deviancy), Charles Van Doren (without the venality), and Daniel Patrick Moynihan (without the height).

Getting back to”That’s not who we are”, it refers to any policy that runs afoul of leftist orthodoxy: executing murderers, expecting people to work for a living, killing terrorists with the benefit of a jury trial, etc., etc., etc.

When you hear “That’s not who we are” you can be sure that whatever it refers to is a legitimate defense of liberty. An honest leftist (oxymoron alert) would say of liberty: “That’s not who we (leftists) are.”

First They Came For …

… the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist

Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist

Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist

Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew

Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

So goes one version of “First they came …

the poetic form of a prose post- war confession first made in German in 1946 by the German Lutheran pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984). It is about the cowardice of German intellectuals and certain clergy (including, by his own admission, Niemöller himself) following the Nazis’ rise to power and subsequent incremental purging of their chosen targets, group after group.

Niemöller’s message has been repeated time and again by observers of political developments in the U.S. Sometimes in defense of the communists being “persecuted” by Joe McCarthy, and sometimes by conservatives who are (rightly) fearful of the power of Big Tech.

But I find myself in disagreement with the message and its assumptions.

For one thing, it is right to go after some groups (e.g., Big Tech). The “marketplace of ideas” is a fatuous notion, and liberty cannot be sustained if its enemies are allowed free rein to convert the populace to anti-libertarian dogmas. The First Amendment was not meant to be a prescription for political suicide.

For another thing, it is ridiculous to think that intellectuals and clergymen could have prevented the rise of Nazism and its eventual (and largely successful) effort to eradicate the Jews of Germany and occupied territories. In fact, a goodly share of Germany’s intellectuals (and clergy and affluent professionals) gave aid and comfort to the Nazi regime.

The same is true, in large part, of American intellectuals, clergy, and affluent professionals. That they are dupes of the left’s coterie of would-be dictators doesn’t occur to them. But they are dupes, and with the left in the saddle and riding hard toward economic and social dictatorship, it will not matter whether any or most of them recant before dictatorship is upon us.

Some of the dupes, if they are suitably subservient, will become court favorites — until they say or do something that puts their allegiance in doubt, when they will be purged à la Stalin. Those who turned against the left during its rise to absolute power will be remembered and dealt with harshly in Orwellian fashion, as enemies of “equality”, “social justice”, “sexual liberation”, and other such perverted concepts. The silent majority will be left (mostly) alone, though only by dint of its continued silence in an economic and social wasteland.

Political “Memes”

The dominant theme in political discourse changes frequently. As politicians figure out that most of the public is tired of one theme, they pick up another one, and it dominates for a while. Rinse, lather, repeat.

A few years ago the dominant political theme was inequality. Now it’s racism (or, more broadly, discrimination “hate”). Dominant themes of yore include anti-communism vs. anti-anti-communism, relations with the USSR, civil rights, and various wars (especially Vietnam and Iraq II). The economy becomes a dominant theme when it’s down, giving politicians an excuse to promote economically destructive spending and redistribution schemes.

What’s next? I don’t know, but there will be a dominant theme, possibly before the end of Trump’s first term. One possibility (though it may be too arcane) is the power of the information-technology giants, which is being attacked from left and right. Something “sexier” is sure to come along.

(See also “The Age of Memes“.)

In Praise of Prejudice

The title of this post is borrowed from Theodore Dalrymple’s In Praise of Prejudice: The Necessity of Preconceived Ideas. John Stuart Mill, who epitomized The Enlightenment, is a main target of Dalyrmple’s book.

Social custom (along with monarchy and religion) was a main target of The Enlightment. Mill’s On Liberty (1869) is an extended attack on social custom, as Dalyrymple explains:

For Mill, custom is an evil that is the principle obstruction to progress and moral improvement, and its group on society is so strong that originality, unconventionality, and rebellion against it are goods in themselves, irrespective of their actual content. The man who flouts a convention ipso facto raises society from its torpor and lets everyone know that there are different, and better, ways of doing things. The more such people there are, the greater the likelihood of progress….

Of radical evil, in which the [twentieth] century was to abound, [Mill] has nothing to say, and therefore he had no idea that a mania for progress could result in its very antithesis, or that some defense against such radical evil, of which the commission was not possible without the co-operation and participation of many men, was necessary. The abandonment of customary restraint and inverted moral prejudice was not necessarily followed by improvement.

(See also “On Liberty“, “Accountants of the Soul“, “The Fallacy of Human Progress“, “The Harmful Myth of Inherent Equality“, “Social Norms and Liberty“, “More about Social Norms and Liberty“, “The Harm Principle Revisited: Mill Conflates Society and State“, “My View of Mill, Endorsed“, “Suicide or Destiny?“, “O.J.’s Glove and the Enlightenment“, and “James Burham’s Misplaced Optimism“.)

The Age of Memes

Memes have always been with us, though they weren’t called that until 1976. According to Wikipedia, a meme

is an idea, behavior, or style that spreads from person to person within a culture—often with the aim of conveying a particular phenomenon, theme, or meaning represented by the meme. A meme acts as a unit for carrying cultural ideas, symbols, or practices, that can be transmitted from one mind to another through writing, speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena with a mimicked theme. Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes in that they self-replicate, mutate, and respond to selective pressures.

There’s really nothing new in all of that, except for the “scientific” name that has been applied to it.

No, what’s really new is the rapidity with which particular ideas (i.e., unbaked hypotheses, lies, rumors, and propaganda) spread and seem to take hold without having been examined carefully. Consider, for example, the ridiculous idea that the Betsy Ross flag is a “hurtful” symbol of slavery: from Colin Kapernick’s addled brain to myriad media outlets (including the “social” variety) and thence to the mouths of some presidential candidates in a matter of days. (I would say “to the brains of some presidential candidates”, but their ready acceptance of the meme suggests a dire shortage of gray matter, if not brains that have been conditioned to serve nefarious ends.)

I return to “Peak Civilization“:

In the West, rational inquiry seems to have peaked in the early 1960s. I needn’t remind you of the subsequent descent: mobs, riots, the din of “entertainment”, quasi-religious movements from hippiedom to “climate change”, and on and on into the night.

(In the same vein there is neo-Malthusianism-cum-environmental extremism, which in its mildest form wants some kind of population control and in its most virulent form wants the extinction of human beings.)

Not that rational inquiry has always (or ever) ruled the day, but the decline since the 1960s is striking to me.

What happened in and since the 1960s? Take the idea that humankind is doomed to extinction by “climate change” — a fringe idea, perhaps, but not an uncommonly held one.  Take the shrill and many-fold “social justice” movement, which encompasses so many “wrongs” and “victims” that it would be easier to describe it by listing its exceptions (mainly straight, white, conservative males of British and northwestern European descent whose sexuality has always been tightly controlled).

The meme that “change” (always beneficial, of course) can be accomplished by often-hysterical shrillness and mob action (now virtual as well as actual) got its start with the anti-Vietnam War protests of the 1960s. Adults in responsible positions (e.g. Walter Cronkite, LBJ, and Clark Kerr) encouraged the hysteria directly or by giving in to it. Rare was the person in a powerful position who tried to squelch it; Mayor Daley (Sr.) of Chicago was one such person, and for his sins he became a hated figure in his own (Democrat) party.

And so it came to pass that hysteria in the service of “social justice” became the norm. And then it came to pass that the instruments for spreading and amplifying hysteria were invented and widely adopted (personal computing, the internet, blogs, “social media”). The existing tools of mass communication (radio, movies, television) were swept along in the rising tide of hysteria, the owners and operators of such tools being no less anxious than stoned collegians to prove their “social consciousness”. In fact, the hysteria has spread to the owners and operators of major industrial firms, who swim in the same “elite” circles as their peers in the information-technology complex.

All of this was built on foundations laid insidiously by the public-education monopoly and the professoriate. Their time has finally arrived. And so “public” opinion (where “public” means overt) is dominated if not ruled by what I have elsewhere called the internet-media-academic complex.

The thing about memes, since long before they were called that, is their staying power. A long-standing meme (or constellation of them) — such as obeisance to Judeo-Christian norms in America — can’t be conquered by mere reason. It takes a new meme (or constellation of them) — such as “hope” and “change” and “social justice” — to overrun them. The human animal needs memes to occupy his mind when he has attained a degree of physical security that gives him the luxury conjuring six impossible things before breakfast, instead of having to concentrate his energy on catching or growing his breakfast. (One of the Democrat presidential candidates, albeit one on the far fringe, epitomizes the zaniness that flourishes among the spoiled children of capitalism.)

Do I mean to say that it would take a cataclysm of some kind, a catastrophe so dire that people would abandon political memes in their need to cooperate for subsistence, if not survival? Perhaps, but I am not a full-blown pessimist. Despite decades of brainwashing by the internet-media-academic complex, there is a healthy conservative movement in the country — healthier, in fact, than at any time since the country was essentially conservative (i.e., until 1963). Human nature, in other words, is a powerful force that no amount of brainwashing (or coercion) can eradicate (though it may channel it in undesirable directions for a time).

My hope, and I must call it that, is for the essential neighborliness of the vast majority of Americans to reassert itself among “ordinary” people, who will tire of the hysteria pouring forth from the internet-media-academic complex. Does half of America really want to be on the “other side” (a term that has been applied to the political divide only in this brief century)? I think not.

Though the uniting force need not be a cataclysm (e.g., a devastating EMP attack, a missile strike on U.S. territory), it must be a dramatic event of some kind. Perhaps it’s as simple as replacing Donald Trump in 2021 or 2025 with a less polarizing figure (but a conservative one nonetheless).

A final thought: Though the internet-media-academic complex is mainly responsible for the the present state of political polarization (and leftist aggression), I don’t want to cast aspersions on information technology itself.  Polarization is no more caused by information technology than are traffic deaths caused by automobiles, gun deaths caused by guns, or war caused by weapons. People drive cars, shoot guns, and fight wars. The problem is, as it always is, a small minority of the people — a minority that is striving for power and dominance by using words instead of weapons.

Pardon Me …

… I can’t resist. I post this with apologies to Catholics* who are sensitive to hints of blasphemy.

For decades there was a widely used response to a question the could only be answered in the affirmative:

Q. Would you like some ice cream with your cake?

A. Is the Pope Catholic?

Then along came John Paul II (Karol Józef Wojtyła), and my response became “Is the Pope Polish?”.

With the election of Francis and his subsequent pronouncements about “social justice” and “climate change” I have changed it to “Is the Pope a communist?”.
__________
* In case it matters to anyone, I am a long-lapsed Catholic and a deist who is agnostic about the Creator’s role in the operation of the universe.

That “Hurtful” Betsy Ross Flag

Fox News has the latest:

Two Democratic hopefuls have expressed their support for Nike after the sportswear company pulled sneakers featuring the Betsy Ross-designed American flag ahead of the Fourth of July holiday. The company did so after former NFL quarterback and Nike endorser Colin Kaepernick raised concerns about the shoes.

Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro told CBS News on Wednesday that he was “glad to see” Nike remove the shoes from the shelves, comparing the “painful” symbol to the Confederate flag.

“There are a lot of things in our history that are still very painful,” Castro explained. As an example, he cited “the Confederate flag that still flies in some places and is used as a symbol.”\

Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke also approved of Nike’s decision, noting that “white nationalist groups” have “appropriated” the Betsy Ross flag.

“I think its really important to take into account the impression that kind of symbol would have for many of our fellow Americans,” he said,  according to Jewish Insider senior political reporter Ben Jacobs.

As I understand it, the Betsy Ross flag, which became the symbol of the rebellious, united States (i.e., Colonies) in 1777, is “hurtful” because it dates from an era when slavery was legal in what became the United States. How that historical fact is “hurtful” to anyone is beyond me. The fact of slavery is reprehensible, but a flag that merely denotes America’s struggle for independence from Britain really has nothing to do with slavery, except in the slippery way that “social justice” warriors have just invented. (Clearly, they are running low on ideas.)

Well, if the Betsy Ross flag is “hurtful” to professional virtue-signalers and malcontents, it is certainly — and more legitimately — hurtful to me. I am a direct descendant of a man who, with three of his sons (one of whom I am also directly descended from), fought on the British side in the Revolutionary War. They had settled in the Colony of Pennsylvania in the 1750s and, perhaps not unwisely, chose to defend the Crown against presumptuous rebels like George Washington, Samuel Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and 53 other signatories of the Declaration of Independence — all of whom used to be called patriots. (Washington, Jefferson, and many other signatories owned slaves, but that wasn’t why they rebelled; slavery was then still legal throughout the British Empire.)

In any event, because my ancestors were Loyalists, they fled to Canada at the end of the war. And from then until the birth of my father in the United States more than 130 years later, the ancestors in my paternal line of descent were Canadian and therefore (nominally, at least) subjects of the British monarch.

So if anyone has a right to be offended by the Betsy Ross flag, it is I. But I am not offended by the flag, though I am deeply offended by the useless twits who profess to be offended by it.

“Catch 22”

There’s a new, six-part, made-for-TV adaptation of Joseph Heller’s overrated “classic”. My wife, who found the novel funny on her second go it, finds the TV version boring. I, who found the novel boring on my first (and only) go at it, find the TV version mildly entertaining because of the production and acting. But, on the whole, I begrudge the $12.95 that I paid for a one-month subscription to Hulu, which is airing the series as a “Hulu Original”. (I opted for no ads, so couldn’t avail myself of a one-month free trial of Hulu.)

So the new version of Catch-22 suggests a variant of Catch 22: Sometimes you have to pay for something in order to learn that you wouldn’t have paid for it.

Thinking about “Modern Music”

Formal musical composition in the tradition of Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Mendelssohn, and Dvorak (to mention only a representative selection from a vast array) took a turn for the worse in the early 1900s. “Modern” music as it was then and has remained, consists of the following styles:

Gloomy music for a gloomy day/event/epoch — sometimes vocalized for extra dreariness.

Hyper-caffeinated cacophony for noise addicts.

Ponderous musical platitudes, piled high and at great length.

Random noise and random silence, in various proportions.

Throw in dissonance, atonality, lack of rhythm — and just plain non-musicality — and you’ve got “modern” music.

“Greed”

The envious whiner, know-nothing academic, mindless mediacrat, and pandering politician mistake ambition, accomplishment, and reward for “greed”. Unless, of course, it’s the ambition, accomplishment, and reward of the envious whiner, know-nothing academic, mindless mediacrat, and pandering politician.

La Cathédrale de Notre Dame de Paris: A Recollection

My new wife and I ventured into the cathedral on a Sunday evening in June 1964. There was no queue and no entrance fee, just an old crone sitting by the poor box to acknowledge our donation. The stunning beauty of the interior was heightened by a choir singing vespers. Our everlasting memories of Notre Dame are indelibly beautiful and haunting.

A Summing Up

This post has been updated and moved to “Favorite Posts“.