(These ideas are explicated in this sloppy manifesto)
Saturday, December 14, 2002
Hangin' tough in the blowflysphere...
Combining the quixotic with the psychotic, I urge the victims of pusillanimous press pile-ons to hang tough in a new essay:
If [Trent] Lott and the [Roman Catholic] Church are wrong, the forces arrayed against them are still more wrong. Whether those forces are led by the fancily blow-dried or the fanciful blowflies, this is mob rule at its worst--howling, shrieking, screaming bloodlust and nothing else. This is not reasoned discourse among people with a right to have their opinions heard--voters or senators or jurors. This is simply a call to sacrifice by savages, a public display of barbarism.That oughta win me some friends...
Friday, December 13, 2002
Fjord of the lies...
Oh, good grief! John Podhoretz in The New York Post is hooked:
The drumbeat that turned this story into a major calamity for Lott, and led directly to President Bush's welcome disavowal of Lott's views yesterday, was entirely driven by the Internet blogosphere.Hey, Mr. Podhoretz, as Sullivan asked earlier this week about that other New York paper, "Don't they have Google over there?"
For those too lazy to look at the link: There are more than two thousand references in the mainstream press to this Lott/Thurmond pile on. Unfounded hyperbolic self-congratulation from within the blowflysphere is bad enough. Please, Mr. Podhoretz, don't pollute the public prints with it.
Festering pig repels virtual onslaught, remains dead...
Mail from Billy Beck this morning, referring back to me ranking on the 'blogosphere' for its hubris over the hounding of Trent Lott:
I note Sullivan's cite of "a reader", this morning:My reaction: Indeed, 'reader', the blogospheric pressure was so intense that Bush was compelled to act--just as soon as there was an editorial in the New York Times."I have been a fan of blogs for a while now, but I have not seen a story happen around the edges of the major media like this one has. Strangely, this could be a watershed moment for the world of blogging. Not because they have done everything in the story, but because they sustained the momentum when the major dailies could not, or would not."
Sullivan: "I think he's onto something."And there I think I become heretical to all faiths. What Billy is talking about is an amazing display of net.virtuosity--research, rhetoric, polemic, debate, virtual-street-warfare--all of it continuous, much of it Billy's own work. I speak not as a dedicated observer, but more as a tourist: I was aware of it, but rarely was I in it. The grunts who fought that war are of another kind entirely.
But: I am still a skeptic, both of Sullivan's empty hubris and Billy's well-earned pride. What I said to him this morning is simply this:
The festering pig is the Lord of the Flies, Billy, but what are the flies to the pig?Here is my hope: A forum like alt.current-events.clinton.whitewater is actually ideal for this kind of work, except that its sheer volume (nearly 500,000 posts in 1996, which is a long time ago in net.years) makes it next to impossible for the cream to rise consistently to the top. Sullivan has his moments, but he'd still rather be fawned over at a cocktail party than hew to a principle, which makes him mainstream, net.presence or not. But what this medium--the weblog--permits, is a self-selecting auto-filtration--no trolls, no spam, no noise.
Anyone can weblog. No one need read. To hang onto readers, the weblogger must do the whole job--news, insight and artistry. Done well, done right, done in earnest, we have the power of the book with the immediacy of the radio. The power not to change events--unlikely until the festering pig gets net.wise, and inconsequential even so. The power we have, or could have, if we earn it, is the power to change minds. And thus to change lives. And thus to change everything.
Dive-bombing a dead pig is no fit work for a fly, much less a man. And the real job, the one that matters, is all but untouched...
Thursday, December 12, 2002
Thinking outside the sphere...
Amazingly enough E-V-E-R-Y bigfoot weblogger has discovered that Trent Lott must resign at once. Some, like Andrew Sullivan have forgotten they ever knew anything else. Neither that nefarious arch-demon (funny, he don't look fu-man-chu-ish) Howell Raines nor the imminent discovery of a Catholic priest who is simultaneously gay and celebate can distract Sullivan from his campaign to replace Lott, the phony pork-swilling demi-bigot, with... a different phony pork-swilling demi-bigot...
As Sullivan himself says:
Blah blah blah.The nasty old mainstream media, outdated and obsolete, would latch itself onto a trivial non-issue and turn it into a ludicrous feeding-frenzy. But the 'blogosphere', by contrast...
We should have known all this from the term 'blogosphere'. People who write--or even just beg efficiently--keep an ear out for euphony. You can take the boys out of the mainstream, but you can't get the water out of their ears. How will the untutored masses know to take them seriously if they don't shriek meaningless hyperbole, just like everyone else?
We are about to go to war, which will commence the much larger, much longer and much more dangerous cultural war between East and West. Whichever phony pork-swilling demi-bigot happens to be in charge of the Senate matters very little. What the 'blogosphere' has to say about it matters not at all.
From intentional irrelevance to intentional irrelevance in less than three years. Sic semper tyrannosauris...
Wednesday, December 11, 2002
Unclear on the concept award: Poster campaign to show prisoners how to hang themselves
From the British newsbot Ananova we reap this witful wonder:
A poster campaign from the Prison Service will show prisoners in England and Wales how to hang themselves.You read that and you think, "Well, seems barbaric, but it might just possibly be a reasonable solution to the problem posed by habitual criminals." That would be an incorrect interpretation of the new policy's purpose.
The Service hopes the "shocking" campaign will reduce the number of prison deaths, which this year stands at 89.No word on whether they intend to show gay porno to induce the inmates to stop sodomizing each other...
The season's greetings
A very brief Ramblin' Gamblin' Willie Christmas story
"Merry Christmas!" said the Perky Little Clerk to the Misanthrope as she handed him his purchase.
"I'm not a Christian," the Misanthrope growled.
"Well then, Happy Chanukah!"
"Chanukah's over. Besides, I'm not Jewish."
"Do I look black to you?"
"Merry Ramadan?" she asked, her perkiness flagging. "Happy Ramadan? I don't know how to say it."
"Ramadan is over, too. And I'm not a Muslim. And besides, Ramadan is not about happiness."
"Well," the Formerly Perky Little Clerk muttered, "why don't you just go to hell, then."
"Been there," the Misanthrope snarled. "Done that."
"Fine!" she barked.
"Fine!" he barked back.
And that would have been that, except that her perkiness was truly irrepressible. As the Misanthrope stomped out of the store, the Perky Little Clerk called after him:
A woman's place is under wraps...
A facinating op-ed in Arab News explains it all:
Women should not listen to these calls for equality because answering it would only put them on a collision course with men. The advocates of equal rights want to force women into taking up jobs that are basically not designed for them either physically or emotionally.First, where the hell is the American left? And second, this is exactly why we need a President Condoleezza Rice. Join us here on Earth, gentlemen. It's the pretty blue one, third one in from the middle.
Yeah, but how many were killed with complimentary rocket launchers?
Pakistan's main human rights body said Wednesday that at least 461 women have been killed by family members in so-called "honor killings" this year, an increase from the year before.One woman was gang-raped because her brother was sleeping around. And, the AP article adds: "In seven cases, sons killed their mothers."
Why is it that you can never find a multi-culturalist when you really need one...?
And, for a limited time only...
Loan interest is forbidden to Muslims, whether charging interest or paying it. This by itself explains a great deal of the misery that afflicts the Islamic world. But, since all loans are interest free, those big "Zero Percent Interest!" posters don't really pull the crowds into Pakistani car dealerships. But as Arnaud de Borchgrave reports in The Minneapolis Star-Tribune, there's more than one way to skin a sucker:
In the tribal belt adjacent to Afghanistan, automobile salesmen push the envelope with stickers that say, "Buy one vehicle and get a rocket launcher free."Someone should tell Bruce Cockburn. Now he can make somebody pay. Just not interest.
In that same piece, de Borchgrave offers this:
The logic of war in early 2003 now seems implacable. If Saddam Hussein were to concede a number of weapons of mass destruction, either chemical or biological or both, he's toast. If his 11,807 pages of documents and 60,000 pages on CDs demonstrate he has indeed destroyed all weapons of mass destruction, he's dismissed as an incurable liar - and still toast. And if President Bush doesn't toast him, Bush himself is toast - at least for a second term.Sounds like they should be doing a land-office business down at the Pakistani car dealerships...
Tuesday, December 10, 2002
Memo to Beck: Well begun is half done...
To the inquisitive do we extend Curing the incuriosity of the East..., a new essay devised to raise questions if not hackles:
The essence of non-Western cultures, which is to say all cultures except our own, is to solve some exigent problem with the absolute minimum necessary quantity of cognition--and then to stop thinking, ideally forever. We think that Genesis III is just a story, but every story is the expression of an ideal. The ideal human being in every non-Western culture is a thing that emulates, as much as possible, the behavior of an uncomprehending beast.[...] To attempt to question or alter the core doctrine of the culture in any way is to invite homicide, which murder would be defended by the doctrine as being not just morally justified but metaphysically essential for the continued survival of the group.It's long, even for me, so there should be something for everyone. This essay is what presenceofmind.net exists to do, so I am interested in hearing what I am getting wrong--or right.
Monday, December 09, 2002
And then there are the fellow-travellers...
From an amazing backgrounder from United Press International:
One percent of 1.2 billion is 12 million Muslim fanatics who believe America is the Great Satan, fount of all evil, to be attacked and demolished. Whether al Qaida is centralized as it was before 9/11 or decentralized, as it appears to be after Bali and Mombassa, is immaterial. Islam is the world's fastest growing religion. From Sweden (660,000 Muslims out of 5.8 million people) to Switzerland (also 10 percent), Senegal and Somalia in Africa, Sumatra and Singapore in Asia, and South America (especially Brazil and Venezuela), there are Wahhabi and Deobandi mosques. And that's just the countries beginning with the letter S.The one percent figure is probably low, at least in terms of emotional commitment if not the will to act. But it is hardly unreasonable to expect the ninety-odd percent of Muslims who are attestedly not fanatical to roll-over on the criminals. Not in the name of any particular nation-state, but simply in the name of peace--the peace they are attested to desire. Far scarier than a few million fanatics is the prospect that the crazed Jihadi may be being shielded--and ultimately may be reinforced--by a billion alleged non-fanatics.
Sunday, December 08, 2002
Gravitas alert: Non-Latinists lack auctoritas
The Latin word 'gravitas' is leaking back into the news. As you can see in the poster of Roman virtues below, it is being used incorrectly. This is a piece of email I wrote two years ago. It in turn incorporates an historical narrative by Kent Polk. (We're nested like Russian cups!)
As Rush Limbaugh and others have been pointing out, the press is leaning all over the word gravitas, even though they seem to not know what it means. They use it as though it means weight or heaviness, when actually it means seriousness of mind. Marcus Tullius Cicero was buried under his gravitas, but he cut a very poor impression in public. The word they're actually looking for is auctoritas, which, along with dignitas, was considered to be an essential virtue of the senatorial class of Rome. Auctoritas is the root of the English word authority, but what it means is a personal conviction of one's own indomitablilty. This story illustrates the kind of balls-first auctoritas no one in Washington possesses.To make the distinction plain: Gravitas is what Al Gore has--in stupefyng bulk. Auctoritas is what he lacks. The word gravitas came into its present (and pretentious and mispronounced) misuse so that the press could hint that George Bush lacks it. We will find out in the coming months if, in fact, he has auctoritas...About 168 B.C., the Syrian Monarch Antiochus Epiphanes attacked Egypt. The Egyptians appealed to Rome for an army to repulse the invaders. The Roman treasuries were depleted by the Punic Wars and there was no army to send. The elderly ex-counsel Gaius Popillius Laenas and his twelve assistants were sent instead.
Ten virtues for the West to live by...
I'm in the process of moving my entire corpus to presenceofmind.net. One of the things I ran across was a poster of ten Roman virtues I made for my son a few years ago. The picture you see here is a pale shadow of the real thing, which is a fairly big PDF file.
I draw your attention to this because I think they are important Western virtues, values that define some of what we are and can become. If I could cite what I see as a crucial error in Hellenic thought, it would be that Western philosophy is insufficiently reverent. Not in the sense of kow-towing to ghosts of pretense, but in failing to revere the things in our thought, in our culture, that are beautiful and honorable and worthy of being cherished and worshipped.
My son starts his day with these words. Time alone will tell if they sink in, but we are what we do, and the words we speak now are the tell-tales of what we will become. If the West will speak beauty to beauty, honor to honor, worth to worth, it can yet become what it was born to be.
(Should you like to join my son in honoring these great virtues, these are phonetic transliterations: dig-nee-tass, gra-wee-tass, pee-yay-tass, hugh-ma-knee-tass, ware-ee-tass, eye-kwee-tass, no-bill-ee-tass, lih-burr-all-ee-tass, ferr-me-tass, coam-ee-tass. Don't pause for the hyphens, just make the sounds. For all of these words, the syllabic weighting, the barest of stresses, goes on the antepenultimate syllable, which is the Roman way of saying the syllable before the syllable before the last syllable (that is, the third from the last, the first in three syllable words, the second in four syllable words).)
Malibu millionaires wake up with fleas...
On the breathtaking beaches of Malibu, they're discovering the other side of communism. It's not just a matter of getting things you haven't paid for. There is also the complementary injustice of not getting the things you have paid for. This is from the Washington Post:
A judge dismissed a lawsuit by entertainment mogul David Geffen alleging the California Coastal Commission does not have the right to require property owners to allow public access near their beachfront homes.Now surely David Geffen and the Hollywood Left in general are all in favor of expropriation--but only of people they hate, not themselves. But if you lay down with dogs... Restrain your chuckling, though. For the dogs they've unleased will not stop with them. Why should they have a private beach, just because they earned it? Why should you have a private home...?