Political Ideology

Theodore Dalrymple At The City Journal-‘Speakers Cornered: The Anti-Free-Speech Mob Comes To Britain’

Full piece here.

‘I had been invited down to a literary event, the Lewes Speakers Festival, to talk about my recently published memoir of life as a prison doctor, The Knife Went In. I was to be the penultimate speaker, followed by a controversial conservative journalist, Katie Hopkins, who was to talk about her own recently published memoir, Rude.

The event ended in violence.’

If you’ve ever visited Cascadia (I’d count San Francisco, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver B.C. as sufficiently Cascadian), and found yourself amidst the relaxed social mores and relative personal freedom there, you might also find deeper counter-cultural currents brimming with radicalism, radical chic and a general ‘whatever-they’re-for-I’m-against’ attitude. There’s general inculcation and tolerance of Left-Of-Center values, which is to say, lots of ’10-year-plans-to-solve-homelessness’ coming out of city governments.

Go to a coffee shop and you might well run into an old union wildcatter (who never sold his soul to the company store thank-you-very-much) or the occassional lonely conversationalist gentleman bewitched with the pregnant promise of those heady, early Soviet days.

These conversations can be genuinely illuminating and fascinating because I believe conversations can be both illuminating and fascinating.  Such ideas don’t necessarily constitute the entirety of how any of us might like to be judged in our entirety (even if we suspect others would likely not permit us the same courtesy come judgment).

It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to witness actual violence break out at Portland State University as James Damore tried to speak.  Faculty, staff and students are pretty invested (eye-deep) in such identity politics and knee-jerk, ritualistic protest. Such displays can be about a lot of things (group membership, rather utopian and unspoken ideals, imitation, tribal loyalty, purity, the pursuit of the transcendental, victimhood, hating oppenents enough to bind individuals to the group with collective identity and common purpose in a mob).

Obviously, for these people, if we reasonably judge them by their actions, this event wasn’t a chance to keep a reasonably open mind, think and listen, expand and engage in the deeper the pursuit of truth.

For that, we’ll have to go elsewhere…


Via The Future Of Capitalism: ‘The Politics Of The New Yorker’

You know, it just might be possible to nurture experimental literature, poetry and the ‘avant-garde’ without explicit political bias:

Via The Future Of Capitalism, a new editor at The New Yorker opines:

‘Is it necessary for us to have a conservative voice or something like that? We’ve discussed it, but I’m not sure exactly what it would look like. I think The New Yorker’s niche is pretty comfortably in this progressive space and it’s much less of an issue to us than it is to The New York Times.’

I actually might agree on two fronts:  The New Yorker definitely caters to progressive political ideals (a long-term winning strategy?) AND that there’s something loathsome about hiring just to fill quotas.  The idea of letting other people live their own lives and make their own decisions is so crazy it just might work.

The latter is lost on many true-believing progressives, as the presupposed rigged ‘system’ of the oppressor justifies all manner of intrusion into existing institutions through protest, radical unrest and forced quota-systems.

Beware those who would make you care:

Under A Green Moon-Ira Stoll At The New York Sun: ‘Comma in the New Yorker Opens Up Quite a Vista Of Liberal Parochialism’

From The New Yorker: ‘Writing Powered By Amtrak’


A Quillette Review Of Mark Lilla And A Default Liberal Political Idealism Common To the Academy

Oliver Traldi at Quillete reviews Mark Lilla- ‘The Once And Future Liberal: After Identity Politics

‘Lilla’s own explanation of his liberalism, given by the book’s structure, is that politics is liberal by definition.


‘Lilla clearly thinks he is making a pragmatic case, but he does not engage with any empirical political science; no numbers of any kind—polls, turnout, what have you—appear in the book.’

Despite the narrowness of understanding and lack of empirical rigor on display (liberal political idealism is the lingua franca of many a humanities department), I don’t mind Lilla’s plea for more national unity and moderate party politics in American life.

Do I really think Democrat donor parties claiming national greatness, neo-liberal economics and an evening of Beatles songs at the Kennedy Center are enough to placate the activists and radicals?


Do I think the old conservative guard and National Review cruises are going to unite the populist, angry and economically left-behind members of the Right, including some actual race-mongers and dangerous ideologues?

No, probably not.

I actually forgive a lot of arts and humanities folks a lack of empirical rigor as long as the pronouncements don’t come too grandiose and self-righteous (I happen to think the great books and Western Civ 101 still hold a vital place in our Republic, despite the recent bad stewardship…I could even tolerate a return to William James and John Dewey).

My immediate take after hearing Lilla discuss the book with current editor of the New Yorker David Remnick was pretty basic: What hand-wringing! These guys deserve to have to re-think their own positions and assumptions.

I’m glad they don’t have much political power over my life:

A quote from Ken Minogue I still find compelling:

-Minogue, Kenneth.  Politics.  Oxford:  Oxford University Press, 1995. (Pg 111).

On the many dangers of political idealism, and using political theory as the limits of your field of vision:

‘We may sum this up by saying that the more the style of what used to be called politics becomes theorized, the more political problems come to be reintrepreted as managerial.  Working out the least oppressive laws under which different and sometimes conflicting groups may live peaceably together is being replaced by manipulation and management of the attitudes different groups take towards each other, with the hope that this will ultimately bring harmony.  In other words, in the new form of society, human beings are becoming the matter which is to be shaped according to the latest moral ideas.’

If you leave your speech up to these folks…:


What Are You Doing With The Arts & Humanities? There’s Been A Lot Of Bad Stewardship

I suspect a lot of wisdom can be found throughout ‘Western Civ 101’ about the problems of the human heart, human nature and political power.

Apparently, though, such wisdom is being lost on a lot of people these days.  I humbly submit such people should not merely think their ideas will become more justified, their hearts more pure, simply by organizing coalitions with the purpose of gaining political power.

As previously posted:

Ira Stoll here.

‘There was a wonderful article by an editor at the magazine, Mary Norris, about commas. Wonderful, that is, until this passage, “That was during the Reagan Administration, when many of us suspected that Reagan had some form of dementia, but no one could do anything about it. The country was running on automatic.”

Such politicization can make for bad stewardship of the arts, certainly.

Perhaps New Yorker features are increasingly flogged to maintain readership in a competitive marketplace, or are being put to use for other purposes, like reaffirming political ideology and identities to signal the right beliefs and in-group/out-group loyalties.  Many of the liberal pieties can be found on display at the New Yorker.

Unsolicited advice for The New Yorker: Build a wall around your political stable, don’t bet too much on current trends and politicians, and keep other spaces free for the genuinely ‘avant-garde,’ the strange and beautiful, and biting satire when it shows-up.

For further context:

Here’s one senior New Yorker editor, Hendrik Hertzberg, discussing years ago how to abolish the Electoral College, arrive at a National Vote (to better serve the People, of course) and enact ‘democratic change.’

This strikes me as in-line with much Left and Left-liberal majoritarian populism. activism and softly (ultimately hard) radical change.

He has knowledge, of course, regarding what the People (will, should?) want, and why eroding such checks will lead towards more victims enfranchised voters and the ‘good’ society.

Perhaps some of the publishing decisions at the New Yorker make a little more sense…


As previously posted-A breath of fresh air from George Packer at the New Yorker: ‘Mute Button:

‘The problem with free speech is that it’s hard, and self-censorship is the path of least resistance. But, once you learn to keep yourself from voicing unwelcome thoughts, you forget how to think them—how to think freely at all—and ideas perish at conception. Washiqur Rahman and Avijit Roy had more to fear than most of us, but they lived and died as free men.’

Maybe this kind of moral courage will make a comeback…

As for free speech and public sentiment, perhaps we’ll see where a new speech beachhead lies as the tide recedes from the powerful pull of an activist moon.

The problem with ‘brownstone activism’ may be the material itself:

‘Brownstone is a word used both to refer to a type of building material and structures built or sheathed in it. While it is most closely associated with the Eastern United States, this material was at one point used all over the world in construction, particularly in upper class regions. A distinctive architectural style using brownstone is very familiar to many residents of industrialized nations. Its popularity as a building material waned when builders began to realize that it weathered poorly, and that other materials might be more suitable.’

Soft, crumbly, loosely aggregated, weathers poorly…

Christopher Hitchens at Slate: Yale Surrenders

From The Liberal Bastions-James Baldwin, Often

Repost-Heather McDonald At The WSJ: ‘ The Humanities Have Forgotten Their Humanity’

***Whom do you trust for discussions of the arts and culture, and would you just rather publications be up front about their ideological bents and loyalties?

Variations On A Theme-The Downside Risks To Political Idealism

Via ‘A Dose Of Theodore Dalrymple: ‘The Socialist Wasteland

Marxism, Dalrymple explains, answers several needs:

  • ‘It has its arcana, which persuade believers that they have penetrated to secrets veiled from others, who are possessed of false consciousness.
  • It appeals to the strongest of all political passions, hatred, and justifies it.
  • It provides a highly intellectualised rationalisation of a discreditable but almost universal and ineradicable emotion: envy.
  • It forever puts the blame elsewhere, making self-examination unnecessary and self-knowledge impossible.
  • It explains everything.
  • It persuades believers that they have a special destiny in the world. For disgruntled intellectuals, nothing could be more gratifying.’

Aside from the radical doctrines, it’s apparent that many in the West have placed their hopes and aspirations into various flavors of political idealism. Man’s nature is assumed to be fundamentally good, for the most part, merely in need of liberation from previous traditions, injustices and illegitimate claims to authority.

It’s often taken for granted that such post-Enlightenment ideals have room for ever more individuals (or collectives/categories of individuals).  All that’s required is working towards particular ends, usually against common enemies (salvation through individual Romantic conceptions of Nature, shared communally, for example, or the oft confused relation between Scientific truth/method and social/political goods).

For many political idealists in the modern world, the moral goods are good enough, the universal truths sufficiently universal, in justifying their own actions at any given time (the properly balanced ideal State has room for competing factions of political idealists, mind you, as many idealists believe the knowledge is available to design such systems from the top-down).

The below links are to whom I’m indebted in cobbling such posts together on alas…a blog:

-Thomas Sowell discusses his constrained/unconstrained formulation from a Conflict Of Visions.

William F. Buckley And Kenneth Minogue Discuss Ideology…as thorough an exploration of ideology and doctrines of radical liberation as I’ve come across.

A Few Thoughts On Isaiah Berlin’s “Two Concepts Of Liberty”

How might this relate to the Heglian/post-Marxist project via ‘The End Of History’: Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Repost-Classical Liberalism Via Friesian.Com-‘Exchange with Tomaz Castello Branco on John Gray’

Anarcho-syndicalist, libertarian socialist and sometime blind supporter of lefty causes: Via Youtube: (1 of 3) Kant, Chomsky and the Problem of Knowledge

New liberty away from Hobbes…toward Hayek…but can you see Locke from there?: Repost-From Public Reason: A Discussion Of Gerald Gaus’s Book ‘The Order of Public Reason: A Theory of Freedom And Morality In A Diverse And Bounded World’

Richard Rorty tried to tie postmodernism and trendy leftist solidarity to liberalism  more broadly: Repost: Another Take On J.S. Mill From “Liberal England”

Repost-Via CATO@Liberty: ‘Ludwig Von Mises on Fascism’

Full post here.

Interesting quote at the link.

Related On This SiteMilton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’A Few Quotations From F.A. Hayek’s: ‘Why I Am Not A Conservative’…Stanford On The Vienna Circle here.

Postmodern Body Talk-A ‘Narrative’ To Which You Might Want To Pay Some Attention

From The Seattle Times-‘Art, Crime And Survival: ‘Awaiting Oblivion’ Seeks Hope In Hopelessness:’

‘After his arrest at Occupy Seattle, a local actor and youth-homelessness worker corresponded with “AO” — a mysterious graffiti/street artist or artists who mailed him art-based “temporary solutions” to stave off despair. The result, “Awaiting Oblivion,” opens at On the Boards.’

The two pictures at the link probably tell more than my words ever could.

Nevertheless, here’s a brief write-up: Lost, desperate souls wander hopelessly through and around the world’s woes, ground-down and alone, bedraggled and suicidal, finally…perhaps finally, discovering some meaning and purpose by engaging in (A)rt as salvation and (A)rt as therapy.

One voice, a candle-flame flickering in the darkness, provides hope and succor, solidarity and structure, across the meaningless void.  Perhaps, here, bodies of innocence and bodies of decadence spontaneously and rhythmically erupt in joy against systems of oppression and cold, uncaring authority.

Gender becomes fluid, intersectional; bodies heat-up, juxtaposed within many competing narratives of time and space.

Anti-Capitalist ‘Occupy’-style political activism and identitarian political ideology provide some replacement glow of family and friendship.

Enough of that, already.

Yet, dear reader, you might want to pay attention to how this thinking so easily can make its way up through many news and media outlets, seeping down from institutions of higher-ed into the popular culture, forming reefs of public sentiment and ‘right-thinking’ public opinion.

In fact, I’d say it will likely coalesce around a broader, more popular political middle (women’s marches) in a few years time, [that, in turn] cooling into more somewhat-reasoned anti-Trumpism.

On that note, more (A)rt as politics and protest: ‘In Protest of Trump’s Travel Ban, Davis Museum Will Remove All Art Made or Donated by Immigrants.’

‘From tomorrow, February 16, to Tuesday, February 21, 20 percent of the permanent collection galleries at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College will be shrouded or removed’

‘We’re a nation of immigrants’, not of laws, seems to have become the ‘dominant narrative,’ in many quarters these days.

Donald Pittenger, at Art Contrarian, and formerly of 2 Blowhards, has been looking at modernism. From the banner of his blog:

‘The point-of-view is that modernism in art is an idea that has, after a century or more, been thoroughly tested and found wanting. Not to say that it should be abolished — just put in its proper, diminished place’

Tom Wolfe on Max Weber on one conspicuous use of art in the ‘modern’ world:

‘…aesthetics is going to replace ethics, art is going to replace religion, as the means through which educated people express their spiritual worthiness…

Maybe anti-commercialism is kind of commercial after all, and ‘ironically’ ends-up becoming a spiritual prosthetic in many lives (update: Well, at least to hangers-on following artists around like cult-leaders, but more broadly, such influence is not hard to find in popular culture)

David Thompson offers satire on such matters.

Postmodern generator here, via David Thompson.

Simon Blackburn revisits the Sokal hoax.

Do you remember the Sokal hoax?

Some Updated Links On Postmodernism

Daniel Dennett: ‘Postmodernism And Truth’

I have a soft spot for contrarian social scientists, like Charles Murray and Jonathan Haidt, pushing against what can so easily become an orthodoxy: Repost-Charles Murray Lecture At AEI: The Happiness Of People…

John Gray Reviews Jonathan Haidt’s New Book At The New Republic: ‘The Knowns And The Unknowns’

Update And Repost- From YouTube: Leo Strauss On The Meno-More On The Fact/Value Distinction?’

Update & Repost-From Darwinian Conservatism: ‘Haidt’s Vindication of Fusionist Conservatism and Aristotelian Liberalism’

***My own anecdote: After a fruitful Town Hall discussion here in Seattle, celebrated British mathematician Roger Penrose did some Q & A afterwards. Most questions were from math majors, physicists, engineers and hobbyists in the crowd (many were over my head…but I tried to catch a few).

One question came from a youngish man in a beret, a little unkempt, who asked (in a possibly affected, but in a very serious tone):

‘Mr. Penrose, what is meaning in a moribund universe?

‘Eh…sorry…I didn’t catch that?’

‘What is meaning in a mo-ri-bund universe?’

‘Well, that is a different kind of question…I mean, here’s what I can offer you…’

***That’s roughly how I remember it, and Penrose was gracious, but brisk, in moving onto the kinds of questions he might be able to answer, or for which he could provide some insight.

Repost-From The New Criterion: Theodore Dalrymple Reviews Ta-Nehisi Coates ‘Between The World And Me’

Full review here.

‘Coates fails to notice that his blanket exoneration of the perpetrators actually dehumanizes them. On his view, when the young perpetrators pull the trigger or thrust the knife in they are only vectors of forces, not agents with purposes, desires, plans, or motives. Therefore they are not really men at all, so that, ironically enough, they become for him Invisible Man writ large.

Many black writers in America should be recognized as having crossed bridges over chasms in communicating their experiences, experiences which have often made even the best radicalize to some degree in the face of such injustice.

Regardless, I’m guessing we’re all best off if the same high standards are universally applied when it comes to quality of prose, depth of thought, scope of imagination and moral courage.  Good writing deserves as much: Genuine, even if grudging or even if unfettered, respect.

Works of art are going to do what they’re going to do, polemics what they do, and I tend to believe that respect for the freedom, responsibility, agency and complexity of the individual ought to be central.  Realizing the interior lives of others, especially if they’re just characters in a novel, even when they fail miserably and do horrible things, is what I’ve taken to be a core feature of writing which has moved me. This, much more than ideological solidarity and what may be the shared popular sentiment of the moment.

To my mind, there’s something comic about a man (and I can’t be alone) espousing rather radical political views (theories of victimhood, a lack of individual agency and anti-white racism, postmodern ‘body’ talk etc.) while being feted, possibly with the intent of appeasement and assimilation, by mostly less radical (and often very white) audiences.

That’s got to create some tension.

As to politics and social institutions, sent in by a reader, here’s a talk given by John McWhorter about his views in ‘Losing The Race‘, a man who strikes me as politically amorphous, unsatisfyingly moderate for some, and often very sensible.  As has been the case for a while, there [are] a whole range of views out there:


From The Liberal Bastions-James Baldwin, Often

Related On This Site:   What about black people held in bondage by the laws..the liberation theology of Rev Wright…the progressive vision and the folks over at the Nation gathered piously around John Brown’s body?: Milton Friedman Via Youtube: ‘Responsibility To The Poor’……Robert George And Cornel West At Bloggingheads: “The Scandal Of The Cross”

Race And Free Speech-From Volokh: ‘Philadelphia Mayor Suggests Magazine Article on Race Relations Isn’t Protected by the First Amendment’

Repost-Eugene Volokh At The National Review: ‘Multiculturalism: For or Against?

Under A Green Moon-Ira Stoll At The New York Sun: ‘Comma in the New Yorker Opens Up Quite a Vista Of Liberal Parochialism’

Full piece here.


‘There was a wonderful article by an editor at the magazine, Mary Norris, about commas. Wonderful, that is, until this passage, “That was during the Reagan Administration, when many of us suspected that Reagan had some form of dementia, but no one could do anything about it. The country was running on automatic.”

Such politicization can make for bad stewardship of the arts, certainly.

Perhaps New Yorker features are increasingly flogged to maintain readership in a competitive marketplace, or are being put to use for other purposes, like reaffirming political ideology and identities to signal the right beliefs and in-group/out-group loyalties.  Many of the liberal pieties can be found on display at the New Yorker.

Unsolicited advice for The New Yorker: Build a wall around your political stable, don’t bet too much on current trends and politicians, and keep other spaces free for the genuinely ‘avant-garde,’ the strange and beautiful, and biting satire when it shows-up.

As previously posted:

Adam Kirsch was not so impressed with the 2009 inauguration ceremony:

‘In our democratic age, however, poets have always had scruples about exalting leaders in verse. Since the French Revolution, there have been great public poems in English, but almost no great official poems. For modern lyric poets, whose first obligation is to the truth of their own experience, it has only been possible to write well on public themes when the public intersects, or interferes, with that experience–when history usurps privacy.’

A reader sends a link to a SF Gate review of poet Jorie Graham’s ‘Sea Change:

‘In “Sea Change,” Graham becomes Prospero, casting spells by spelling out her thoughts to merge with ours, and with the voices of the elements. The result is a mingling of perceptions rather than a broadcasting of opinions. Instead of analysis, the poems encourage emotional involvement with the drastic changes overwhelming us, overwhelm- ing the planet.’


‘Strengths and weaknesses, flows and ebbs, yet every poem in “Sea Change” bears memorable lines, with almost haunting (if we truly have but 10 years to “fix” global warming) images of flora and fauna under siege. Jorie Graham has composed a swan song for Earth.’

Oh boy.

What are these poems being asked to do?

Repost-Heather McDonald At The WSJ: ‘ The Humanities Have Forgotten Their Humanity’

***Who do you trust for discussions of the arts and culture, and would you just rather publications be up front about their ideological bents and loyalties?

Via Mosaic: ‘Obama’s Secret Iran Strategy’ To Which I Forthwith Present ‘Aquarius Theory’

First, Walter Russell Mead at The American Interest:

The full essay is, of course, worth the time:

‘We are reduced to hoping that there is some kind of Top Secret strategy of genius that the circle of advisors close to the President isn’t sharing, but the President’s very checkered record as a global strategist makes this kind of confidence hard to sustain.’

Now, via Mosaic, a well-made case for there being a secret, or not-so-secret, Iran strategy.  The thesis:  The goal of this administration, all along, has been to work with the Iranians, possibly via the Baker-Hamilton report (the Iraq Study Group):

‘The report, published in December 2006, urged then-President Bush to take four major steps: withdraw American troops from Iraq; surge American troops in Afghanistan; reinvigorate the Arab-Israeli “peace process”; and, last but far from least, launch a diplomatic engagement of the Islamic Republic of Iran and its junior partner, the Assad regime in Syria’

In some ways, this is quite a moderate position to take, not too radical, really.  It involves following a blueprint, which has some sensible suggestions in it…pivoting from Iraq…but execution is everything:

I would surmise you’d have to be something of a realist and have a lot of shrewd and long-experienced hands around for proper execution:  The Iranians support terror, run guns, influence and theology around the region while they smile at the meetings:

We’re still doing business with the 1979 and post-1979 crowd:

‘Expressing the ethos of an influential segment of the foreign-policy elite, the Baker-Hamilton report became the blueprint for the foreign policy of the Obama administration, and its spirit continues to pervade Obama’s inner circle. Denis McDonough, now the president’s chief of staff, once worked as an aide to Lee Hamilton; so did Benjamin Rhodes, who helped write the Iraq Study Group’s report. Obama not only adopted the blueprint but took it one step further, recruiting Vladimir Putin’s Russia as another candidate for membership in the new club. The administration’s early “reset” with Russia and its policy of reaching out to Iran and Syria formed two parts of a single vision.’

And in current hands:

‘Obama based his policy of outreach to Tehran on two key assumptions of the grand-bargain myth: that Tehran and Washington were natural allies, and that Washington itself was the primary cause of the enmity between the two. If only the United States were to adopt a less belligerent posture, so the thinking went, Iran would reciprocate.’

Our author finishes with:

‘Allow me to conclude on a more optimistic note: they have reason to be confident for now, but current policy may not outlast Obama. It remains to be seen whether, after January 20, 2017, the American people and their leaders in Washington will really permit a nation of 70 million, with a third-rate military and a damaged economy, to dominate the Middle East and threaten all of our allies and interests there.’


Aquarius Theory

What kind of worldview would allow one to think that America itself is mostly the problem, an aggressive military hegemon preventing peaceful, democratic protests and uprisings from spontaneously forming around the globe?

Well, this is the dawning of the age of Aquarius, the age of Aquarius.  Aaaahhhh-quarreee-uuuuss:


As posted previously on this site: Many foreign policy thinkers were open to some dealing with those who control Iran, but it was conditional support based upon the enormous difficulty of the task, as I understand it.

Previously on this site:


On June 15th, 2007, Charlie Rose sat down with Henry KissingerZbigniew Brzezinski, and Brent Scowcroft to discuss foreign policy and geo-strategy.  That’s over seven years ago!

I was surprised to find that Brzezinski, Jimmy Carter’s National Security Advisor from 1977 to 1981, described very nearly what the Obama administration’s current Iran policy seems to be.  Runs from 32:52 to 35:10 (Sorry I couldn’t embed with the exact time-stamp).

A few minutes can explain a lot.  Well worth your time.

Addition:  Here’s a brief summary of that argument:

1.  The Iranians and the Iranian regime, despite what their intentions may be, have a right to enrich uranium up to 5% according to international law.   They’re doing this.

2. We’re asking them to abandon this right as a precondition to any negotiations, creating an asymmetry.  We should offer to lift sanctions first in return just to get them to swallow their pride and sit down for talks.  This pride may extend beyond the mullahs and regime, and go into the cultural and national psyche of Iranians.

3.  Whatever their intentions may be, unlike North Korea, the Iranian regime isn’t out and proud about nuclear enrichment and weaponization.  They’re at least claiming to follow international law which gives us some leverage.

On this site, see: George Shultz & Henry Kissinger At The Hoover Institution: ‘What A Final Iran Deal Must Do’

***Post updated, repeats removed.