Sunday, August 29, 2010 46 Comments

The rabble of Imperial Rome

The study of history reduces to two tasks. One: reading primary sources. Two: assessing their credibility. If we know whom in the past to trust, we know the story of the past. Until he makes this judgment, the historian is no more than a database administrator.

How do we assess the credibility of a dead man? If he was live, we could talk to him. We could see if he had a shifty look, if his hands trembled, if he grinned frequently to impress the gullible. Him being dead, all we have is his books and his skull.

But there is one obvious approach: we can test predictions against hindsight. If a source predicts X and X later happens, we are objectively entitled to suspect that X has a clue.

He could just be lucky, of course. And the man who predicts correctly that his neighbor's house will burn down is a prophet, until a can of gasoline is found in his garage. The Anglo-American journalists of the 1930s were almost unanimous in predicting a second war with Germany. That war came - but who caused it? The activities of these prophets are by no means above suspicion.

Where can we find prophets who are not arsonists? We can read the losers, those whose actions are by definition futile. The man who predicts that his neighbor will burn his own house down, before his own house burns down, shows every sign of being a reliable source. Did he torch his own house, to implicate his neighbor? Possible - but unlikely.

One figure who scores high on this test is an old UR favorite, the Confederate theologian R. L. Dabney. From his Life and Letters of Thomas Jackson (1866):
History will some day place the position of these Confederate States, in this high argument, in the clearest light of her glory. The cause they undertook to defend was that of regulated constitutional liberty, and of fidelity to law and covenants, against the licentious violence of physical power. The assumptions they resisted were precisely those of that radical democracy, which deluged Europe with blood at the close of the eighteenth century, and which shook its thrones again in the convulsions of 1848; the agrarianism which, under the name of equality, would subject all the rights of individuals to the will of the many, and acknowledge no law nor ethics, save the lust of that mob which happens to be the larger.

This power, which the old States of Europe expended such rivers of treasure and blood to curb, at the beginning of the century, had transferred its immediate designs across the Atlantic, was consolidating itself anew in the Northern States of America, with a wealth, an organization, an audacity, an extent to which it never aspired in the lands of its birth, and was preparing to make the United States, after crushing all law there under its brute will, the fulcrum whence they should extend their lever to upheave every legitimate throne in the Old World.

Hither, by emigration, flowed the radicalism, discontent, crime, and poverty of Europe, until the people of the Northern States became, like the rabble of Imperial Rome, the colluvies gentium. The miseries and vices of their early homes had alike taught them to mistake license for liberty, and they were incapable of comprehending, much more of loving, the enlightened structure of English or Virginian freedom.

The first step in their vast designs was to overwhelm the Conservative States of the South. This done, they boasted that they would proceed first to engross the whole of the American continent, and then to emancipate Ireland, to turn Great Britain into a democracy, to enthrone Red Republicanism in France, and to give the crowns of Germany to the Pantheistic humanitarians of that race who deify self as the supreme end and selfish desire as the authoritative expression of the Divine Will.
Check, check, check, check and check. One wonders what the Rev. Dabney would have made of the Love Parade. No, actually - one doesn't wonder much at all.


Anonymous OneSTDV said...

@ MM:

Can you please add me to your blogroll?

August 29, 2010 at 9:57 AM  
Blogger elf2006real said...

Yes but America worked out for the Irish, it just took time. Have you read Michael Barone's "The New Americans?".

When the FDNY, NYPD (or all over the Great Lakes region), USMC and for that matter the FBI when Hoover first built it needed a core of heroes who were also patriotic they went to the Irish. Then there's Churchill trying very hard to drag the Free State into the Battle of Britain.

Now admittedly we're not very smart. But we did morph from this race of rabble into being very family oriented and patriotic.

The reason is of course work, the opportunity in America, and a very different American Catholic Church set out to make them (through it's school systems) model Americans.

And the other waves of largely Catholic immigrants were able to follow them along that path.

I still believe in America, and I think Conrad Black nails it here..

August 29, 2010 at 10:20 AM  
Blogger elf2006real said...

sorry better link..

We will recover

August 29, 2010 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger xlbrl said...

It is good, no less when we are right about a thing, to discover the fatal shortcomings within ourselves causing failure. I see no mention of this whatever in your Dabney. Check.

August 29, 2010 at 10:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah. I had a thought, but there seems to be a big, dark African elephant taking up all the room in my brain.

August 29, 2010 at 11:44 AM  
Blogger elf2006real said...

Of course it's all very well for the Oxford/Cambridge, Skull & Bones, the antebellum South plantation class and Don Colacho to look down at the great unwashed and wish the peasants knew their place.

But the peasants don't see it that way, be they Irish, Catholic, Black, whatever...

The Great mistake the above made was to be lured in by the Jacobins.

And Dabney's excerpts read as if the primary cause of the Civil War was Irish Immigration.

August 29, 2010 at 12:22 PM  
Anonymous pwyll said...

I have no idea what Dabney would have thought of the love parade.

...but *I* think it's *awesome*.

August 29, 2010 at 12:43 PM  
Anonymous coldequation said...

Dabney blames it on immigrants, but as far as I know abolitionists and fire-eaters were pretty much all old-stock Americans. The more recent immigrants had little interest in dying over the union.

Dabney's theory also contradicts MM's theory of liberalism as puritanism 2.0.

August 29, 2010 at 12:47 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

elf2006real - I fail to see what part of the Dabney excerpt appears to blame the War Between the States primarily on Irish immigration. His sole reference to the Irish, at least in the excerpt quoted, is the phrase "to emancipate Ireland," which is followed by a host of other Jacobinical and reforming projects throughout Europe that were to be undertaken, it is implied, after the overwhelming of the conservative southern states.

The emigration described by Dabney by which "the radicalism, discontent, crime, and poverty of Europe" flowed into the Northern states is quite clearly indicated by his antecedent reference to "the convulsions of 1848" - i.e., a Continental event and not an Irish one. The wave of German immigration that began after 1848 is probably the most prominent of the intended immigrant groups, although the general tumults of 1848 also deposed the Orleans monarchy in France and brought some French refugees. Lincoln specifically used the Homestead Act, which he signed in 1862, to attract German immigrants who were induced to fight for the Union. Clyde Wilson has made some reference to this in his writings.

The Irish were considered unreliable soldiers by the Union, because of memories of their desertions during the Mexican War, and the Draft Riots of 1863 prominently involved Irish immigrants. Dabney would surely have been aware of this; I suspect he did not have the Irish particularly in mind in the passage MM quoted.

August 29, 2010 at 8:24 PM  
Blogger sconzey said...

@Michael: thanks for clearing that up.

I'd read the contrast between the immigrants and 'virginian liberty' to imply that he was referring to the early settlers who came because of perceived or actual religious persecution rather than because they had specific commercial interests (i.e. Plantations)

August 30, 2010 at 6:02 AM  
Blogger elf2006real said...

Perhaps I misunderstood the references to Liberating Ireland?

I also thought Dabney wrong...but that was my take on what he was saying...

August 30, 2010 at 7:22 AM  
Anonymous Paul Milenkovic said...

There you go. Mr. Moldbug has his test of the reliability of a historical source, or of any source, historical, current, or whatever.

It is not so much their predictions but their explanation of their predictions and whether those explanations correlate with, if not reality, at least with reason.

Yeah, so "the Irish" brought over the Unionist Ideology behind the American Civil War, trouble is, if Irish mobs weren't chanting "Hey ho! Hi ho! Tell ol' Abe, that we won't go!" they would have given the chance.

So the explanation of events offered by a historical source diverges from a common sense interpretation of Irish immigrant enthusiasm for the Union war enterprise, which tells you that the credibility of this source is . . .

August 30, 2010 at 9:57 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

Where are you guys getting this Irish stuff? I thought he was pretty clearly talking about the "48'ers" (mostly German).

August 30, 2010 at 10:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Irish must be the new Black. Everyone, especially the Confederates, must be out to get them.

August 30, 2010 at 11:32 AM  
Blogger James A. Donald said...

Consider busing, and so forth. If the South had not had slavery, the rabble would have found some other excellent and noble reason to take it down

Given that all his other predictions panned out, his prediction that the culture he defends would be taken down one way or another, on one excuse or another excuse, probably would have panned out also.

August 30, 2010 at 7:07 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Was is the metaphorical analogue of finding a gas-can in a historical prognosticator's garage?

Blaming immigrants is n/a's schtick. I'm into blaming continental europe rather than America as the source of communism (or similar movements).

History does not now glory the Confederate states, though it might have done something like that during the Dunning school. I wouldn't say it's correct to argue that fought for freedom from overreaching government either, most of the worst things Lincoln did in office were done earlier by the Confederacy. Admittedly, the CSA really only existed as a wartime entity and war is the health of the state.

August 30, 2010 at 9:39 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Also, I think France had already been through the worst by the 1860s. There was the Paris Commune (oddly enough, admired by Adolph Hitler), but it was crushed by Thiers.

August 30, 2010 at 9:53 PM  
Anonymous coldequation said...

Where are you guys getting this Irish stuff? I thought he was pretty clearly talking about the "48'ers" (mostly German).

Like Johann Braun und Abraham Linköln? I don't think post 1848 German immigrants had a lot of influence in the US in 1861.

Southerners thought the "Dutch" soldiers were cowardly, which I would interpret as indicating that they didn't really give a crap about the war and therefore did the minimum, as any sane person would do.

August 30, 2010 at 9:58 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

A point that is implicit in the passage quoted from Dabney should be remembered whenever one hears the Confederacy impugned. It is that the Confederate States of America existed only from 1861-65, but the supposed infamies for which it is condemned were ideas and institutions that typified the antebellum United States for the much longer interval from 1776 - 1861, and indeed the colonies all the way back to 1607.

Those who attack the Stars and Bars do so because it's a convenient surrogate for the target they really have in mind - the Stars and Stripes. It's not just the long-dead practice of slavery, but any sort of inequality of condition they detest. It's not just secession, but any assertion of the principle of subsidiarity or that the authority of the Federal government should be limited.

August 30, 2010 at 10:11 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Coldequation - no, the '48ers didn't have a lot of influence in 1860s America as such - but they were available cannon fodder for the Union and were actively recruited as such. Their liberal politics made the Union cause appealing to them, as did the promises of homestead lands.

It is always a mistake of experienced soldiers (as many Southerners were) to denigrate a hastily raised and inexperienced army fielded by a power with superior industrial strength. Buonaparte made this mistake about Britain, which he despised as a "nation of shopkeepers.' Germany's generals twice made this mistake about both the British and the Americans.

All the splendid leadership of Confederate commanders and all the grit and determination of Confederate common soldiers were not enough to resist the Union's greater capacity to produce steel and other strategic materials, though it had a conscript army and - with the exception of Grant, Sherman, and Sheridan - generals who were mostly political hacks.

August 30, 2010 at 10:24 PM  
Anonymous John Bonaccorsi, Philadelphia, PA said...

Whence this notion that the German '48ers had no influence in America of the 1860s? According to Wikipedia, seven were generals in the Civil War. (See ) With my limited knowledge of history, I recognize only the name Carl Schurz among those. According to Wikipedia, Schurz "is probably the best known of the Forty-Eighters, the German emigrants who came to the United States after the failed liberal revolutions." (See ) I have a vague memory of a fairly-recent academic work in which it was stated that the '48ers who came to America were disproportionately Jewish; and I'm pretty that in Mein Kampf, Hitler expressed the view that German Jews were giving Americans a bad impression of Germans.

August 30, 2010 at 11:52 PM  
Anonymous John Bonaccorsi, Philadelphia, PA said...

Where my preceding post reads "pretty," I meant to say "pretty sure." I lost the word "sure" as I word-processed the sentence.

August 31, 2010 at 12:04 AM  
Anonymous coldequation said...

Even if all of that is true, the principal abolitionists were all WASPs. Why should "cannon fodder" get the blame instead of the leadership?

August 31, 2010 at 6:05 AM  
Anonymous Jeff Singer said...

"How is it that we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes?"

- Samuel Johnson

August 31, 2010 at 8:31 AM  
Anonymous Rollory said...

What is all this babble about the Irish? There is nothing in that excerpt about the Irish. Why are you all talking about the Irish? What do the Irish have to do with the subject at hand?

The Irish were entirely outside the European intellectual currents Dabney is referencing. Theirs was a one-dimensional relationship: they were oppressed by the Brits and wanted an end to it. Full stop. Dabney isn't saying a thing about that.

August 31, 2010 at 12:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said... do you guys read in portuguese? :)

August 31, 2010 at 2:01 PM  
Blogger TGGP said...

Not completely on-topic but Raoul Berger's famous "Government by Judiciary: The Transformation of the Fourteenth Amendment" has a lot on how marginal the "radical abolitionist" viewpoint was within the Union. It is freely available in a few different forms here.

August 31, 2010 at 5:46 PM  
Anonymous dearieme said...

"What is all this babble about the Irish? There is nothing in that excerpt about the Irish. Why are you all talking about the Irish? What do the Irish have to do with the subject at hand?"

The Elephant and the Irish Question.

September 1, 2010 at 7:48 AM  
Anonymous Rob S. said...

Mencius, it might amuse you to know that Copernicus' grandmother had the maiden name Katherine Modlibóg.

September 1, 2010 at 5:53 PM  
Blogger master_of_americans said...

Oh, for crying out loud. "regulated constitutional liberty"? Is that what they're calling it these days? Spooner and Brown believed in liberty. I'll say one thing for Dabney, he has some big balls to come up with this sort of nonsense and try to pass it off with a straight face.

And, yet, I do still smile when I see the Confederate flag flying somewhere. They did stand up for themselves and resist power. But, the problem with the Confederacy is that their terrible sins confuse people about the good points they had. They make the establishment's propaganda so damn easy.

September 1, 2010 at 9:47 PM  
Blogger Lurking Apple said...

Moldbug may appreciate this vindication of his comments on nontheistic Christianity as the ruling religion:
Bill Press complaining that it's inappropriate of Glenn Beck to talk about God in a sacred place.

September 1, 2010 at 10:06 PM  
Anonymous Peter A. Taylor said...

Michael S.: I am told by an expert on Afro-Caribbean religion that Joseph Campbell was wrong about, for example, the Oedipus myth being universal. She said it was a European oddity. Do you agree with Leonard's claim that Christianity originated as a "communist cult?" If so, do you think this was peculiar to Christianity, or was a common expression of evolutionary psychology (ie. archetypal)?

September 4, 2010 at 12:41 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"the problem with the Confederacy is that their terrible sins confuse people about the good points they had."

What terrible sins? Slavery was neither illegal nor immoral before 1865. Describing it as such is victor's ex post facto morality.

September 4, 2010 at 6:19 PM  
Anonymous B said...

Carlyle saw immigration of the rabble from Europe to America as ennobling both. So who's right?

On a side note, Carlyle anticipates Trotsky and the Soviet Union in his enthusiasm for Industrial Regiments, i.e., Trudarmiyi (Labor Armies)-and in much the same purpose, i.e., the creation of a newer, better mankind from the old freedom fighters who've lost the battle and are now sprawling in the gutter a la District 9, demanding more cow heads. If we're gonna imaginarily resurrect him and ask him what he thinks of our times, we might as well take a minute to ask him to check out the building of Belomorkanal by Industrial Regiments, and the NKVD's Seventy Fours transporting them to Magadan and Kolyma. What would he say?

September 4, 2010 at 10:30 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Petyer - Describing early Christianity as a "communistic cult" does not seem warranted. Where's the evidence?

Probably the best documents we have about early Christianity are Paul's epistles to several Christian congregations that were already of significant size at that early date. A good and short summary of what then passed for Christian social teaching may be found in the epistle to the Colossians, iii:18-24, and iv:1, which summarize the reciprocal duties of wives and husbands, fathers and children, and masters and servants. Wives, children, and servants are charged to be submissive and obedient; husbands, parents, and masters, to be kind and just. Similarly, I Timothy, vi:1-2 advises "Let as many servants as are under the yoke count their own masters worthy of all honour, that the name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed. And they that have believing masters, let them not despise them, because they are brethren; but rather do them service, because they are faithful and beloved, partakers of the benefit." Verse 10, which is often misquoted, warns that "the love of money is the root of all evil" - not money itself. It is hard to find in any of this a communist condemnation of private property, social or economic inequality, or of the authority of superiors over inferiors.

Indeed, it is a misreading of the New Testament to suggest that it offers any plan for the reorganization of society. Christianity, unlike Judaism or Islam, is not a legalistic religion. Given the circumstances of its foundation it hardly could be, for (at least until the time of Constantine) it had no effective influence over the laws that governed the societies within which it existed. All that Christianity sought to reorganize was the personal lives of its believers; they were to render unto Caesar what was Caesar's, and unto God what was God's.

This does not appear to be archetypal. There are, of course, some similarities between religions, which can be explained by their sharing a common nature as religions. For example, coenobitic monasticism, which took root in Christianity under St. Benedict, has its parallels in Buddhism, but is foreign to Judaism and to most of Islam. The type of anchorite or hermit well known in early Christianity became almost extinct in later periods, but still flourishes in Hinduism. The similar type of wandering sage or holy man, mostly viewed with suspicion in western Christianity, was common to Eastern Orthodoxy (as late as Rasputin!) and also to parts of the Islamic and Hindu traditions. It is probably easy to make too much of such phenomena.

Joseph Campbell always struck me as someone to be taken with several pounds of salt. He, Huston Smith, and Mircea Eliade are 'soft traditionalists' that seduce their readers gradually - to put it in currently popular terms, they shift the "Overton window" gradually into stranger and stranger territory. It is a far more salutary exercise to bypass them and jump right into the work of 'hard traditionalists' like René Guénon or Julius Evola. There you can see plainly what underlies the thinking of Campbell et al., and make up your mind quickly as to whether it is reasonable or worthwhile.

September 5, 2010 at 4:49 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hm, well, you can often find whatever you are after the Bible. There's plenty of support for a communistic reading of Christian teaching:

Acts 2:44 And all that believed were together, and had all things in common; 45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.

Acts 4:32 And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common.

September 5, 2010 at 11:23 PM  
Blogger Alrenous said...

So he was right about the future, but we shouldn't listen to him anyway?

Err...what? Did you have a reason to go with this prejudice, or is it just distaste for the soft sciences?

Sorry, that was rude. If there is an actual reason, I'd like to hear it. Moldbug doesn't spend much time justifying it, it shouldn't be hard to outweigh.

La Wik's treatment of the love parade is far too vague for me to make anything of it.

September 6, 2010 at 1:03 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Anon. of 9/5 at 11:23 PM, you are correct that one can find many things in the Bible. What we are discussing here, however, is history - and the historical fact is that early Christians did not hold their property in common, and lived normally in their own houses with their own families and servants. Thus the admonitions of St. Paul in the passages I quoted more realistically reflect the conditions under which early Christians lived than do the passages you have quoted from Acts.

It is of course a central problem of Protestantism that every man is free to read the Bible for himself and make his own conclusions about what it tells Christians to do. The passages you have quoted probably account for the practices of various Protestant sectaries in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries - e.g., John of Leyden and his followers, or the Levellers of the Interregnum - but to suggest that they reflected customs documentably prevalent amongst Christians during the first few centuries A.D. is plainly incorrect.

September 6, 2010 at 1:57 PM  
Anonymous Peter A. Taylor said...

Michael S., thank you. The sets we are discussing are extremely fuzzy, and I'm having a hard time dealing with it.

Do you have an opinion of Stephen Prothero?

September 7, 2010 at 5:28 AM  
Anonymous josh said...

On another note, this is pretty great:

Wasn't there some discussion here as to whether Huey Long was right or left. This video refers to his ability to "Hitlerize" the Unites States.

September 7, 2010 at 9:02 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

Peter - the Prothero article seems quite sensible to me.

The view he opposes, namely that there is a "transcendant unity of religions," is commonly held by the so-called Traditionalists mentioned in my earlier comment. It is an old one and has its origins in the long-standing Christian doctrine that man, as a created being, has an innate consciousness of and reverence for his creator; but some men, by the accidents of history and geography ("invincible ignorance") lack the complete understanding that comes with the knowledge of Christ. Certain figures of pre-Christian history, for example Vergil, whose fourth eclogue seems to predict the birth of a messianic figure, or Hermes Trismegistus, the nominal author of the purportedly antique texts gathered in the Corpus Hermeticum, were regarded as 'prisci theologi' that represented the existence of a perennial wisdom amongst the ancient pagans. See for example "De perenni philosophia" of Agostino Steuco. Traditionalists like Guénon and Schuon were twentieth-century exponents of this idea, which we find watered-down for the larger public in the works of Joseph Campbell and Huston Smith.

It seems to me that while there might have been some reason, given what he knew, for Agostino Steuco to hold this point of view, there is much less reason to hold it today, when we are aware of so many more religions and their divergent tenets than European scholars were in the sixteenth century.

September 7, 2010 at 11:02 AM  
Anonymous another anon. said...

"It is of course a central problem of Protestantism that every man is free to read the Bible for himself and make his own conclusions about what it tells Christians to do. The passages you have quoted probably account for the practices of various Protestant sectaries in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries - e.g., John of Leyden and his followers, or the Levellers of the Interregnum - but to suggest that they reflected customs documentably prevalent amongst Christians during the first few centuries A.D. is plainly incorrect."

We know precious little about "Christians during the first few centuries A.D." - and you still have not explained why those early "communist" texts are in the Bible at all, or why later texts were inserted so as to negate them. If it were so "plainly incorrect", why do those passages exist? You can't simply handwave them out of existence.

It is entirely probable that early Christian communities were "communistic" and only later (in the 2nd and 3rd centuries) with the growing power of the Bishops, this was abandoned as Christians grew in number and the early communal ownership of property ceased to be practical for a large community.

Religions, like everything else, evolve. This isn't acceptable to many believers, though, so they have to pick certain passages in the Bible, and ignore others, and suppress any curiosity as to why the contradiction exists.

Understanding that the Christian religion evolved, from tiny communistic sects into large Churches with Bishops and hierarchy and rules and division amongst the laity according to social class, sex, race, slavery, etc., just as everything else evolves and changes over time, explains the contradiction in the texts much better than any other proposed explanation.

September 7, 2010 at 5:24 PM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

What we do know of the early Christians, e.g., from the letters of Pliny the Younger (ob. 112 AD) which he wrote when he was governor of Bithynia to the emperor Trajan, or the anti-Christian polemicist Celsus (fl. 175-180 AD), does not suggest that they followed a communistic pattern of living. Indeed, Celsus observes that Christians were "non infructuosi in negotiis," and therefore desires them to be good citizens and to honor the emperor. This suggests that early Christians were rather successful capitalists.

One finds in the works of such early Christian writers as Tertullian and Origen no exhortation that Christians should live communistically. Origen is recorded to have sold his library (private property!) so that he could live modestly on an income from the proceeds. Finally, early Christianity was plagued with schism and heresy, and while it is possible that some of those schismatic sects may have practised communism (though there is little record of this), what is understood by "early Christianity" is the version that survived as Catholicism, and no other. The church of Rome, certainly, never endorsed any sort of communistic life for the generality of the faithful, though there is an element of it in the monastic communities that began in the sixth century AD.

September 8, 2010 at 12:03 PM  
Anonymous jkr said...

Anyone else catch this? interesting...

Hmm... autistic geeks fight for abstract ideas whereas empathic humanists fight to end human suffering?

NYTimes: ... In a paper published last year in The European Journal of Sociology, Gambetta and Hertog argue that the engineer-terrorist connection is part of the answer: it is a new window onto what Gambetta calls the “hidden logic” of society.


Gambetta and Hertog found engineers only in right-wing groups — the ones that claim to fight for the pious past of Islamic fundamentalists or the white-supremacy America of the Aryan Nations (founder: Richard Butler, engineer) or the minimal pre-modern U.S. government that Stack and Bedell extolled.

Among Communists, anarchists and other groups whose shining ideal lies in the future, the researchers found almost no engineers. Yet these organizations mastered the same technical skills as the right-wingers. Between 1970 and 1978, for instance, the Baader-Meinhof gang in Germany staged kidnappings, assassinations, bank robberies and bombings. Seventeen of its members had college or graduate degrees, mostly in law or the humanities. Not one studied engineering.

September 11, 2010 at 10:25 AM  
Anonymous Michael S. said...

I am not sure that terms like left and right make much sense applied to such fringe elements.

Violent Wahhabists like Bin Laden or apocalyptic Shi'ites like Ahamadinejad may be reactionaries in terms of their own cultures, but here in the U.S. they are embraced and defended by the cultural left, which attaches itself to them today as it did to Fidel Castro, Mao Tse-Tung, or Joe Stalin in the past. American leftists just reflexively ally themselves with anyone who hates this country.

On the other hand we can confidently assume that (just as examples) Bill Ayers, Bernardine Dohrn, and the other Weather Underground principals were leftists - and that Timothy McVeigh was on the right. None of the Weathermen were credentialled as engineers, and neither was McVeigh.

Tim McVeigh did not seem to be the sharpest knife in the drawer, but was in strictly practical terms, a much more competent explosives engineer than were the Weathermen, who, despite their expensive college educations, managed to blow three of themselves up in a Greenwich Village townhouse. They were, so to speak, hoist by their own petard. Clearly their university studies had not prepared them as well for what they undertook as McVeigh's service as an army enlisted man did for his project.

What sort of mayhem do you suppose someone with real skill might be able to cause?

September 11, 2010 at 7:47 PM  
Anonymous Rollory said...

"What terrible sins? Slavery was neither illegal nor immoral before 1865. Describing it as such is victor's ex post facto morality."

Morality does not depend upon law. That you seem to take for granted that it does casts any opinion you have into deep question.

Anyway, even if one judges just on the basis of the people for whom the society was organized - the slaveholders - it still was a problem. Slavery, or any system that produces artificially cheap laobr (as we have today with Mexican illegals), weakens the society exploiting it, often eventually fatally. On that basis alone it is a sin.

September 14, 2010 at 10:05 AM  

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