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Wednesday, 26 April 2017
A Tale...Signifying Nothing
Topic: The Box Office

I should have seen this coming, really: Margaret Atwood’s 1985 novel, The Handmaid’s Tale, has been adapted for television. In the Age of the Demon Trump, it seems, no dystopian screed, however crude, is quite stupid enough to be passed over.

The Handmaid’s Tale was adapted for the big screen in 1990, starring Robert Duvall, Faye Dunaway and the late Natasha Richardson. One wonders why, after reading the novel and perusing the script, they nevertheless signed on. Atwood’s tale is set in a near-future America, some time after a cabal of religious fundamentalists calling themselves the Sons of Jacob toppled the US government and raised in its place the Republic of Gilead. The new regime is militant, militarized and totalitarian, and one of its first orders of business is to strip women of their rights—going so far, even, as to forbid them to read. As well, environmental contamination has drastically lowered human fertility. Thus one class of subjugated women in the new society is the Handmaids, women of child-bearing age conscripted to serve as stand-ins for the mostly barren Wives (capitalization intentional) of the all-male ruling group. The Handmaids are in effect slaves, attached to the households of the elite ruling class, closely supervised, and required to participate in a bizarre ceremony of intercourse for the purpose of producing children. The penalty for disobedience, resistance or failure to produce a child is death.

Atwood is Canadian and her patent dislike of the Colossus of the South perhaps explains the sheer preposterousness of The Handmaid’s Tale. Not that the basic idea—the rise in America of a fundamentalist religious dictatorship—is a bad one. Robert A. Heinlein used it for his 1940 novella “If This Goes On—” But he took pains to make his tale plausible. The First Prophet—the man who led the fundamentalist revolution that toppled constitutional government, got his start as a radio and TV evangelist. And though the office of president has been replaced by the Prophet Incarnate (whose personal regiment of guards is titled the Angels of the Lord) West Point, the Hollywood Bowl and Time magazine are still there. Heinlein's dystopia is still America, albeit an America that took a wrong turn. But Atwood’s Republic of Gilead, though existing in our near future, is virtually unrecognizable as America. And she takes no pains at all to explain how a nation of 300,000,000 diverse individuals could possibly have been reduced to the condition she depicts: in thrall to a small group of religious fundamentalists who make the most hard-shell Southern Baptist look like a left-wing liberal. Her scenario is, in the strictest sense of the word, incredible.

Now of course one could say the same of “If This Goes On—”But Heinlein, an accomplished professional, knew how to make his imaginary America appear plausible and besides that was mostly concerned with telling a good story. Atwood, alas, is addicted to progressive finger wagging and she hits all the mandatory stops: anti-American, anti-religious, feminist, environmentally conscious, etc. and so forth. The suspension of disbelief so necessary for the success of a story of this type never happens for The Handmaid’s Tale. Consciously or not, Atwood was preaching to the converted, for whom the racism, sexism, religious insanity and militarism of the United States of America are all givens. To satisfy that audience, plausibility was hardly necessary.

And this brings us to the zombie-like reappearance of The Handmaid’s Tale in the form of a Hulu original series for TV. One can readily understand why this lame and dated example of dystopian literature has been dredged up at the present moment. The series was announced in April 2016 and now here it is, almost precisely at the one-hundred day mark of the Trump Tyranny. Critics have of course describe it as “timely.” Gail Pennington of the Detroit Free Press opined that “Viewers and readers may understandably see The Handmaid's Tale as cautionary.” Well, of course. Dictatorship! Sexism! Fundamentalist religion! The Bible-thumping far-right barbarians are at the gates of progressivism! It’s time for a wake-up call and The Handmaid’s Tale…The Handmaid’s Tale…

Well, The Handmaid’s Tale is just about the last dystopian vision that anybody with an ounce of discernment would pick to criticize the Age of Trump. Here we have a president trailing two ex-wives and a pride of girlfriends, a product of the New York City celebrity culture, whose references to God and religion seem as casual as “Have a nice day,” whose vulgarity carries the taint of fanny-patting sexism—and he is supposed to be the target of this Atwood revival, a jeremiad against religious fundamentalism? Please!

Nevertheless it may be that The Handmaid’s Tale, the TV series, will succeed after a fashion. Though the novel itself is a tiresome piece of dreck, the 1990 film version did possess a certain entertainment value—providing that one chose to regard it as a parody or farce. So with good production values and a decent cast, this new TV version may actually be worth watching. The Walking Dead isn’t plausible either, and up to now it’s done pretty well. But as a cautionary tale, as an attack on America, religion, conservatives or Trump it’s bound to fall flat, just like its predecessors.

Just the other day the New York Times published an op-ed that more or less directly advocated the revision of the First Amendment so that it no longer covers that nebulous category of expression, “hate speech”—otherwise known as “statements and opinions that liberals, progressives and leftists don’t like.” The op-ed was written by a professor at New York University. And recently Howard Dean—that stupid man who used to be governor of Vermont, DNC chair and a Democratic presidential candidate—has been running around saying more or less the same thing. And they’re not just blowing smoke.Threats, intimidation and actual violence have been employed by academic leftists to prevent conservatives from speaking on campus. Pretty much explicitly, the broad Left has embraced a concept of group rights that has no patience with traditional civil liberties like freedom of speech. In that abandonment, it seems to me, may be discerned the germ cell of totalitarianism in contemporary America. And thereby hangs a tale that will never be told by Hulu.

Posted by tmg110 at 11:07 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 27 April 2017 12:06 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 18 April 2017
Mr. Orwell's Revenge
Topic: Liberal Fascism

There is irony in the anti-Trump Left’s current craze for Nineteen Eighty-four—once again a best seller, albeit for reasons that would, no doubt, make George Orwell roll his eyes. It seems likely that few of the Trump bashers have read it or, if they have, that its message actually has penetrated their skulls. That their own behavior in many ways mimics the dogmas of Ingsoc as Orwell imagined them is a cosmic joke that they just don’t get. 

Today on Twitter I happened across a bit of extraordinary news. It seems that Mitch McConnell, the GOP Senate Majority Leader, and Paul Ryan, the GOP Speaker of the House of Representatives, colluded with V. Putin to funnel Russian cash into the campaign coffers of Donald Trump. Various replies to this tweet were of the “Aha! Now we’ve got them!” variety: expressing absolute confidence that once this story breaks Demon Trump, his minions and his enablers will disappear behind bars. Winston Smith, toiling in his cubicle at the Ministry of Truth, could not have concocted a more audacious political fantasy. So here we are, almost one hundred days into the Trump Dystopia, and the Left has embraced its very own variant of birtherism: the conviction, apparently unshakable despite a total lack of evidence, that Donald Trump & Co. colluded with V. Putin to hack the 2016 presidential election and steal it from the rightful victor, Hillary Clinton. 

It’s amusing to recall the scorn and contempt with which the Left treated the original birtherism: the claims by various fringe figures on the Right that Barack Obama was not really a native-born US citizen and was, therefore, ineligible to serve as president. Conservative dislike of Obama was such that many people who ought to have known better gave credence to this fact-free theory. Most notoriously, it was embraced and promoted by one Donald J. Trump—though one wonders whether he really believed it. Anyhow, the Left was right to revile birtherism, a political fable in the tradition of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion that was and remains a blot on conservatism. 

But then a funny thing happened: Donald Trump actually managed to get himself elected president, and the Left lost its collective mind.

The essence of the original birtherism was a stubborn belief in a claim that was obviously not true and was soon refuted by clear documentary evidence. Admittedly this sort of thing is nothing new in political history. I already mentioned The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, a product of the Tsarist secret police that is still cited nowadays by dedicated anti-Semites. There was, too, the charge that the Great War, whose centenary we’re currently observing, was engineered by those Merchants of Death, munitions and weapons manufacturers, in a quest for ever-higher profits. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy spawned literally dozens of conspiracy claims, many of which live on today despite repeated debunking. Some seemed more plausible than others, but all, if not at blatant variance with the facts, were unsupported by any real evidence. 

The current birtherism of the Left—let’s call it trumputinism—has this resemblance to the Merchants of Death charge: some basis in reality. It’s certainly true that the prewar arms race played a role in the coming of the Great War, and it’s also true that Russia was meddling in the 2016 US presidential election. But that is all. Just as there is no evidence that munitions manufacturers actively conspired to start the Great War, there’s no evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian agents to corrupt the 2016 election. Indeed, there’s no plausible scenario by which either thing could actually have happened. Where trumputinism is concerned, on a small foundation of fact was raised a vast, ramshackle superstructure of speculation, wishful thinking, distortions and plain falsehoods. And the less credible it appears, the more fanatically it’s embraced and promoted by the faithful. 

Supposedly the leaders of the institutional Democratic Party are becoming nervous about trumputinism. It served their purpose for a time, perhaps, but if it doesn’t pay off in terms of gigantic headlines, indictments, perp walks and impeachment, the letdown may be such as to ruin the Democrats’ long-term political prospects. The problem is that many trumputiners are also part of the party base. If nothing happens, these people may turn on the Democrats, accusing them of selling out to Trump. Then too, as journalists pursued the story certain details emerged that look problematical for the late Obama Administration. It just goes to prove that so-true truism: Be careful what you wish for… 

The author of Nineteen Eight-four would certainly have relished the irony of all this: The trumputinist Left has become a mirror image of the birther Right they so despise, clinging to a political fable that makes them appear ridiculous to anyone with a scrap of objectivity. It’s condign punishment for the people who are attempting to hijack Mr. Orwell’s intellectual legacy.

Posted by tmg110 at 11:06 AM EDT
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Monday, 17 April 2017
The Great War: Opening Round in the West (Four)
Topic: Military History

(For clarity, German units are rendered in italics.) 

The Battle of the Marne and the German right wing’s withdrawal to the Asine River did not mean the end of mobile warfare in the West. The German right—the Allied left—constituted an open flank and there now followed a series of attempts by both sides to turn that flank, somewhat misleadingly called the Race of the Sea because it ended at the North Sea coast, in the southern part of Belgium. The final battles in the series were fought in Flanders from mid-October to late November. At their conclusion the Western Front was solidified along a line that changed very little until 1918. 

The two commanders-in-chief, Joffre and Falkenhayn (the latter, it will be recalled, had been brought in to replace Moltke at OHL), were undaunted by the course of the campaign so far. Both intended to resume the offensive, and the open flank was the obvious target. Should the German Army’s right flank be turned, it would be compelled to retreat, probably all the way to the frontier. On the other hand, if the Allied left flank could be turned, the Germans might yet capture Paris and compel France to seek peace. 

For Falkenhayn there was an added, and worrisome, consideration: the Eastern Front. Germany’s Austro-Hungarian ally had met with catastrophic defeat in Serbia and Galicia, and already there were fears that the Habsburg Monarchy might collapse. Even the victory of Tannenberg, welcome as it was, gave rise to complications. Hindenburg and Ludendorff, exploiting the prestige they’d gained as the saviors of East Prussia, were demanding reinforcements for a further offensive against the Russians. But Falkenhayn set his face against these ideas. In his view the offensive proposed by Ober Ost (Oberbefehlshaber der gesamten Deutschen Streitkräfte im Osten or Commander-in-Chief of German Forces in the East), as Hindenburg and Ludendorff’s headquarters was now designated, would merely swallow up the German Army in the depths of the Russian interior. Certainly in view of the debacle in Galicia the Eastern Front must be reinforced—but decisive results could only be procured in the West. And for the time being he carried his point in this, the opening round of the long dispute between the “Easterners”—those who wished to concentrate against Russia—and the “Westerners”—those focused on beating France. 

No such arguments bedeviled Joffre, however, and he was first off the mark. Both sides had been transferring troops from east to west and on 22 September the reinforced French Second and Sixth Armies went over to the attack. There followed the battles of Picardy and Albert, which by the end of September extended the front line to the vicinity of Arras, though without smashing the German right flank. Then came Falkenhayn’s turn. Sixth Army having been redeployed to Arras, he ordered it to advance against the French left. There followed another see-saw battle that, by 6 October, carried the front still farther north. By this time both sides had troops in southern Belgium, mostly cavalry, and it was clear that the decisive battle of the 1914 campaign in the West would be fought there. 

At this stage Joffre moved the BEF to the left, where it linked up with the Belgian Army in Flanders. The latter had abandoned Antwerp and retreated down the Channel coast to the line of the Yser River. By now the remainder of the original BEF (two infantry divisions and part of the cavalry division had at first been held back in Britain due to fears of a German invasion) and some further reinforcements had reached France. The Allied front in Flanders thus embodied, from left to right, the Belgian Army (with some French troops) on the coast, the BEF around Ypres and the French Tenth Army. As both sides brought troops into the area a series of encounter battles flared up, which stabilized the front without producing decisive results. By mid-October the Race to the Sea was over; the Western Front stretched from the Swiss frontier in the south to the vicinity of Ostend on the Belgian coast in the north. 

But Falkenhayn was not yet finished. Seeing that the Allied line in Flanders was thinly held, he remained determined to crush its left flank. By this time some six new divisions, composed of war volunteers, were more or less ready for active service and with them in hand the German commander-in-chief judged that he possessed sufficient strength to smash the BEF and the Belgians. The offensive was entrusted to Fourth Army, which had been redeployed and reconstituted, and Sixth Army. On 18 October the German attack began and the First Battle of Flanders was on.

Posted by tmg110 at 10:01 AM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 19 April 2017 1:11 PM EDT
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O Brave New Postmodern World
Topic: Liberal Fascism

Sadly, Karl Marx is still with us—no doubt he’s the most-read political philosopher on campus. It wouldn’t be correct, though, to muster all present-day leftists under the red flag, though some of them undoubtedly belong there. But the abject failure of scientific socialism has been too glaring to deny, and with the exception of a few zealots the broad Left—BL for short—had to move on. By broad Left I mean liberals, progressives and leftists: three groups which, though they have their differences, share a common outlook and set of goals. Liberals are represented mostly in the institutional Democratic Party and its auxiliaries, such as the mainstream media. Progressives are found there as well and they form the bulk of the non-formal Democratic Party base. Leftists, particularly numerous on campus, tend to reject the party label and quite often they may be heard reviling the Democratic Party. But when push comes to shove—say, in a presidential election year—almost all of these people can be relied upon to vote Democratic. 

Today’s BL is the child of crisis. The crisis of contemporary conservatism—the rise of Trumpian populism—is reminiscent of the trauma inflicted on the BL by the collapse of the Soviet Union and the demise of classical scientific socialism. The Radiant Future having been thoroughly discredited, what then could the BL be said to stand for? But politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum. The salvation of the BL turned out to be postmodernism, which supplied the foundation for a relativistic ideology by which facts, evidence and reality itself can be disregarded in favor of the BL’s preferences. Better still, causes and crusades could now be manufactured out of thin air. 

Perhaps the most obvious example of postmodernism’s contribution to a post-socialist leftism is the ideology of gender, marketed as the current chapter of the civil-rights movement. Gender ideology is based largely on the claims of academic gender feminists that something called "gender" exists independently of biological sexual differentiation, e.g. that a human being, biologically male, may yet be female in terms of gender. But these tendencies are, supposedly, stamped upon by an oppressive, sexist, patriarchal society which demands and enforces conformity to an arbitrary binary gender regime. Thus gender identities are socially constructed and, therefore, by overthrowing the present oppressive society, gender can in some sense be liberated from biological sex, with every individual free to assume any gender identity that can be imagined. 

None of this theorizing is supported by a speck of scientific evidence. There may be, indeed, a biological basis for the gender confusion to be observed in some few troubled individuals but the overwhelming majority of human beings, regardless of sexual orientation, experience no conflict between gender preference and biological sex. A gay male, that is to say, remains a male and has no particular desire to feminize himself via wardrobe choice, makeup, drugs or surgery. And when you think of it, the concept of socially constructed gender rather contradicts another item of leftist dogma: that homosexuals are "born that way." So you can choose your gender but not your sexual orientation—a strange situation indeed! 

Because it has no basis in reality, the concept of socially constructed gender can be expanded virtually without limit. New gender identities are constantly being added to an already long list, accompanied by learned dissertations on the challenges of pronoun use in this brave new world of liberated gender identities. The absurdity of it all no doubt explains the fascistic bullying by which the cause is advanced. Were I an academic, composing an email of this kind and broadcasting it to the campus community would lead to furious denunciations, violent riots, death threats and, no doubt, my prosecution before some Stalinist-style university tribunal. 

Nor can the ideology of gender be dismissed as ivory-tower theorizing, with no implications for the real world. The push is on to mainstream transgenderism and the cause has been embraced the BL as a whole. The Democratic Party is now the party of gender-neutral restrooms, even in public schools. Biological males who identify as female are being permitted to play on female sports teams in many schools, to the accompaniment of much doubletalk such as this, courtesy of the National Federation of State High School Associations:  

There is no research to support the contention that enabling a transgender girl to play on a girls [sic] team creates a competitive imbalance. In reality, the overlap in skill and performance in sports among biological males and females and the wide variance within each gender group are important considerations to remember in addressing concerns about competitive equity. Concerns about competitive equity also perpetuate a gender stereotype that assumes that anyone with a male body will outperform anyone with a female body. As girls and women take advantage of increased opportunities to participate in sports, performance gaps between girls and boys have decreased

Now if it’s true that there’s no research bearing on the point at issue, then everything following the first sentence of the extract quoted above is mere speculation. But of course the whole transgender concept is no more than a speculative premise, so intellectual rigor is perhaps too much to hope for. But however scanty the evidence, however, dubious the reasoning, the ideology of transgenderism is opening the door to the girls’ restrooms, locker rooms and showers in schools across the country, and ushering in biological males who, in their heads, are female. And to question the probity or wisdom of such policies is held to be a heinous act of bigotry and hate speech. 

Thus by a different route—postmodern relativism instead of Marxism—the contemporary BL is heading in the same direction as its predecessors: toward totalitarianism. Already on college campuses the atmosphere is alarmingly reminiscent of Paris in the days of the Terror. And things are bound to get worse, for the virus—a kind of ideological HIV—is spreading as well through corporate America, where the price of admission to an upwardly mobile career path demands a pledge of allegiance to the dogma of the broad Left. 

Whether the individual liberals, progressives, leftists actually believe in such absurdities as the ideology of gender is a vexing question. One’s instinct is to say no, that such things are just political weapons: new ways to smear the opposition as racist/sexist/ homophobe/etc. and so forth. But there’s a real and disturbing possibility that many of them do believe it—or discipline themselves to believe it. The fervor they demonstrate in their support of such absurdities as the ideology of gender seems unlikely to be fake. And after all, postmodern relativism rests on the premise that there is no such thing as objective reality. So perhaps, for the BL, it’s really not so hard to believe the unbelievable. 


Posted by tmg110 at 7:59 AM EDT
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Sunday, 2 April 2017
The Great War: Opening Round in the West (Three)
Topic: Military History

(For clarity, German units are rendered in italics.) 

As with Tannenberg, legends cluster around the (First) Battle of the Marne. Famous incidents like the taxicabs of Paris rushing troops to the front have been magnified out of all proportion and the battle as a whole became known as “the miracle of the Marne.” The facts are more prosaic, for the outline of the miracle was not too difficult to envision. Winston Churchill did so before the war in a remarkably prescient Cabinet paper that forecast a forty-day campaign with a German advance to the vicinity of Paris culminating in a decisive battle that would check the invading armies and throw them back. Churchill pointed out that as the Germans advanced their front would become wider, their communications more tenuous, the security of the area to the rear of their forces less certain. Troops would have to be detached to mask fortresses, guard rail lines and occupy captured cities. Casualties would further thin the Germans’ ranks and exhaustion would reduce their battle capacity. 

But what seemed so clear in the cool shade of peacetime reflection was less easy to perceive in the heat of battle. As August gave way to September and the armies of the German right wing loomed closer and closer to Paris, many men took counsel of their fears. The French government decamped to Bordeaux, leaving Paris to its military governor, General Joseph Gallieni, whose orders were to place the city in a “state of defense.” Gallieni, who was General Joffre’s designated successor as commander-in-chief in case of the latter’s incapacity, demanded three regular corps—some six divisions—to bolster his scratch force of Territorials. This Joffre refused, though later, as the German’s drew near Paris, he placed the newly raised Sixth Army under Gallieni’s command. 

The disastrous course of the Battle of the Frontiers had shaken the confidence of soldiers and civilians alike. Prominent among those exhibiting signs of stress was the commander of the British Expeditionary Force (BEF), Field Marshal Sir John French. The hard-fought Battle of Mons with its many casualties had shocked him, the Great Retreat had depressed him, and his suspicions about the intentions of his French allies had matured into defeatism. Late in August he informed the British government that he intended to take the BEF out of the line entirely, withdrawing it to the Channel coast in anticipation of an evacuation from France. Prime Minister Asquith and his Cabinet colleagues were aghast. The Secretary of State for War, Lord Kitchener, hurried to Paris with preemptory orders: The BEF was to stay in the line and conform to Joffre’s general plan of campaign. 

On the face of things it seemed that the German offensive was unfolding according to plan. By 29 August the German First Army had advanced to within 15 miles of Paris and its commander, General Alexander von Kluck was confident of victory, his immediate opponent, the French Fifth Army, having been badly battered. Supposedly Kluck was under the orders of his left-flank neighbor, General von Bulow, commanding Second Army, this to ensure that the advance of the right wing was properly coordinated. The Chief of the OHL, General Helmut von Moltke, far away in Luxembourg, had delegated command authority to Bulow in compensation for his own inability to control the battle. But Kluck took little account of this technicality. Believing that one final thrust would lead to the collapse of the French left flank and the fall of Paris he disregarded Bulow’s call for support. The advance of Second Army had stalled out to the east of Paris, just south of the Marne River and Bulow was becoming concerned for the security of his right flank. He wanted First Army to sidestep left so as to close the gap that had opened between the two armies. But Kluck remained intent on his quarry: the tottering Fifth Army. 

On 30 August, therefore, he made a fateful decision: Seeking to turn Fifth Army’s left flank, he altered his line of advance. Schlieffen’s plan had the German right wing enveloping Paris to the north and west; Kluck now proposed to pass to the east of Paris. And there can be little doubt that had his ploy succeeded the French Army would have sustained a heavy defeat, with the loss of Paris and perhaps even the loss of the war. Nor was Kluck’s turn unwelcome to Bulow, who judged that it would close the gap, now 30 miles wide, that so worried him. It seemed that victory was almost within the Germans’ grasp. 

But it was not to be. As Churchill had foreseen, the German advance became more and more disjointed as casualties, fatigue and the fog of war exacted their toll. When Kluck made his turn he had no inkling of the presence near Paris of the new Sixth Army. The French, however, were better informed: Radio intercepts, confirmed by air reconnaissance, had alerted Gallieni to the German change of front. “They offer us their flank!” he exclaimed and with Joffre’s agreement he ordered Sixth Army to attack. It did so on 5 September, striking at First Army’s exposed right flank. This was the opening move of the Battle of the Marne. 

A prompt counterattack on 6 September by IV Reserve Corps, the right-flank corps of First Army, stopped Sixth Army in its tracks and drove it back. Kluck, now alert to the danger, turned his army to face west, a necessary move but one that prevented the closure of the gap between it and Second Army. The latter was by now in a precarious position. On 8 September Joffre ordered Fifth Army to join the attack, striking Bulow’s right flank, driving it back and widening the fatal gap. Into to it marched the BEF. Brushing aside such German cavalry patrols as they encountered the British troops reached and crossed the Marne, and by 10 September they held a bridgehead six miles deep. Second Army’s flank had been turned. Farther east, attacks by the French Fourth and Ninth Armies added to the pressure on the German right wing. 

Deepening anxiety at OHL had already led to the dispatch to the armies of a staff officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Richard Hentsch, charged by Moltke to ascertain the situation and, if necessary, to issue orders in OHL’s name. It may seem remarkable that an officer of modest rank was given such powers, but this was a feature of the German general staff system. Arriving at Bulow’s headquarters on 8 September, even before the BEF had reached the Marne, he concluded that Second Army was in danger of encirclement, and that an immediate retreat of the entire German right wing was necessary. Kluck, whose army was still fighting well, protested that victory was just around the corner but Hentsch, making use of the authority he had been given, carried his point. Orders were issued for a general retirement to the line of the Aisne River. Thus was the Battle of the Marne decided in favor of the Allies. 

The German armies retreated in good order, not too closely pursued by the French and British, who were as tired and worn out as their opponents. On 13 September the Germans reached the Aisne and there they established an entrenched position: the first appearance in the West of a defensive system that would soon become ubiquitous. The armies of the German left wing were ordered to desist in their attacks around Verdun and give up troops to reinforce the Aisne. 

Kluck’s turn is usually represented as the cardinal error that ruined Schlieffen’s master plan. But in fact the plan had already gone awry when Second Army became stuck while First Army continued to advance, thus opening the gap between them. It would not have been possible for Kluck, with both flanks unprotected, to pass north and west of Paris. Somehow or another that gap had to be closed, either with fresh troops or by a move to the east on the part of First Army. Had it been closed the Germans might still have prevailed. But the presence of the French Sixth Army scotched that possibility. Its attack on 5-6 September, though tactically unsuccessful, compelled Kluck to halt his army and face west. Lieutenant-Colonel Hentsch, who in later years was much maligned for role in the battle, ordered nothing more than the inevitable. 

The failure of the great offensive had a shattering effect on Moltke. He is said to have reported to the Kaiser, “Majesty, we have lost the war.” Shortly thereafter he suffered a nervous breakdown. For fear that the news would depress national morale, he was not immediately relieved as Chief of the OHL. But all business was taken out of his hands and entrusted to his eventual successor, General Erich von Falkenhayn, the Prussian Minister of War. For a month the wretched Moltke lingered on at OHL, his ghostly presence an unwelcome reminder of the victorious hopes that had been dashed on the banks of the Marne. Later he was placed in command of the Ersatzheer (Replacement Army), responsible for mobilizing reserves, raising new units and training conscripts. But his health continued to deteriorate and he died in June 1916.

Posted by tmg110 at 11:38 AM EDT
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Tuesday, 28 March 2017
The Great War: Opening Round in the East (Six)
Topic: Military History

(For clarity, Austrian units are rendered in italics.) 

The Russian forces facing the Austrians along the Galician frontier consisted of four armies under an army group headquarters, Southwestern Front, commanded by General of Artillery Nikolay Iudovich Ivanov. Fourth and Fifth Armies stood opposite the Austrian First and Fourth Armies; Third and Eighth Armies faced Third Army. There was no Austrian army group headquarters; the high command (Armeeoberkommando or AOK) controlled operations directly. The nominal Austrian Commander-in-Chief was the Archduke Friedrich, but actual command was exercised by the Chief of Staff, Conrad von Hötzendorf. 

After some preliminary cavalry skirmishing, the main Austrian offensive commenced on 22 August 1914. Because Stavka (the Russian high command) had expected the enemy’s main effort to be made farther south, the Austrians at first enjoyed numerical superiority in the northern sector. First Army had ten infantry divisions, an infantry brigade and two cavalry divisions against Fourth Army’s 6 infantry divisions, one infantry brigade and 3 cavalry divisions; Fourth Army and Fifth Army were about equal in strength, though the former with its high proportion of regular officers and NCOs was of superior quality. 

Farther south, Third Army and the Kövess Group were detailed to screen the right flank of Fourth Army. The latter was an ad hoc formation under the commander of Third Army’s XII Corps, consisting of that corps plus the few units of Second Army that had so far reached Galicia from the Serbian front. They were heavily outnumbered by the Russian forces in this sector: Third and Eighth Armies between them had 16 infantry division and 8 cavalry divisions to the Austrians’ 11 infantry divisions and 5 cavalry divisions. Nor would the belated arrival of the bulk of Second Army improve matters substantially for the Austrians. With its mobilization complete, the Russian Army’s margin of superiority would continue to widen in the weeks ahead. 

Conrad was well aware, therefore, that unless his forces gained a quick victory in the northern sector success was unlikely. And indeed, there was, as Conrad later said, “a happy beginning.” First Army scored a considerable victory over Fourth Army in the Battle of Krasnik (23-25 August), inflicting over 25,000 casualties and driving the Russians back in disorder. Fourth Army enjoyed similar success against Fifth Army in the Battle of Komarów (26 August-2 September). This was a hard-fought affair, as the Austrians enjoyed no superiority of numbers. But Fifth Army had been shaken by the defeat of Fourth Army on its right flank and its resistance collapsed. Casualties, including 20,000 men made prisoner, were extremely heavy. Had it not been for quick action by the army commander, General Pavel Adamovich Plehve, who ordered an immediate retreat, Fifth Army might well have been encircled and totally destroyed. 

But these successes of the Austrian armies in the north were sowing the seeds of an eventual catastrophe. To be sure, not everyone was easy in his mind. The commander of Fourth Army, General of Infantry Moritz von Auffenberg, was nervous about the security of his right flank. “We’re not in a good position,” he remarked to his chief of staff. His was a minority view, however. The commander of Third Army, General of Infantry Rudolf von Brudermann, was full of fight. He implored Conrad for permission to go over to the offensive against the Russians in his sector. Hitherto, Third Army and the Kövess Group had remained echeloned to the rear of Fourth Army, in line with their task of flank protection. Scenting victory after First Army’s success in the north, Conrad yielded to his pugnacious subordinate’s entreaties. Third Army was given permission to attack. 

Seldom has a military action been worse timed. Beginning on 26 August, Third Army advanced with three corps—some 9 divisions—against Third and Eighth Armies, which between them had some 20 divisions in 8 corps. Third Army collided with this greatly superior force on the line of the Zlota Lipa River, received a thorough drubbing and was driven from the field. Near Brzezany, the Kövess Group was also thrown back, narrowly escaping encirclement in the process. Conrad ordered a new line to be formed on the Gnila Lipa River, which was possible only because the Russians needed two days to regroup before resuming their advance. Desperate to maintain the initiative, Conrad ordered III Corps of Third Army to counterattack on 29 August. It was a fiasco. Overall, the Russians had 292 infantry battalions and 1,304 guns against the Austrians’ 115 battalions and 376 guns. The Austrian attack broke down amid scenes of panic and rout. III Corps lost 20,000 men and 70 guns, effectively knocking it out as a fighting force. 

Having been soundly defeated, Third Army and the Kövess Group fled to the west. The fortress of Lemberg fell to the Russians on 3 September. Only the arrival from Serbia of Second Army’s VII Corps prevented a complete collapse. Brudermann, once touted as the “boy wonder” of the Habsburg Army, was dismissed from his command. 

This stinging defeat fatally undermined the position of the hitherto successful First and Fourth Armies. Imagining that the Russians in the northern sector no longer constituted a major threat, Conrad ordered Auffenberg’s Fourth Army to sidestep to its right so as to succor the shattered Third Army. But this created a gap between First and Fourth Armies, with nothing to fill it but some cavalry. Nor were the Russians in the north down for the count. Reinforcements had been flowing to Southwest Front and Plehve’s Fifth Army was practically back up to strength. He was ordered to attack and did so on 3 September. By 11 September the left flank of Fourth Army had been crushed, compelling both it and First Army to commence a retreat that only ended on the line of the Carpathian Alps. 

By 26 September almost all of Austrian Galicia had come under Russian occupation. The fortress city of Przemysl with its garrison of 100,000 Austrian troops was surrounded and besieged. In all, the armies of Austria-Hungary had suffered some 500,000 casualties, including many irreplaceable professional officers and long-service NCOs. The debacle in Galicia inflicted a wound from which the Habsburg Monarchy was never to recover.

Posted by tmg110 at 1:17 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 19 April 2017 1:13 PM EDT
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Thursday, 23 March 2017
The Great War: Opening Round in the East (Five)
Topic: Military History

(For clarity, Austro-Hungarian units are rendered in italics.) 

Though Germany had scored a notable victory in East Prussia, it was severely tempered if not negated by the disaster that engulfed the armies of the Habsburg Monarchy in Galicia. 

It will be remembered that a prewar agreement between the German and Austro-Hungarian general staffs had provided for an Austrian offensive—this to relieve the pressure on the scanty German forces defending East Prussia. Such an offensive would necessitate the deployment of the bulk of the Austro-Hungarian Army in Galicia, leaving minimal forces to screen Serbia. But the Austrian Chief of Staff, General Count Franz Conrad von Hötzendorf, was ill content with this arrangement. Though Russia posed a serious military threat, he and most leading figures of the Habsburg Monarchy viewed Serbia’s pan-Slavic aspirations as an even greater menace. The Serbs’ desire to unite the south Slavs in a single kingdom under their leadership implied the demise of the Monarchy. Thus Conrad was determined to “strike down Serbia with rapid blows” at the beginning of the war, notwithstanding his agreement with the Germans. 

How Conrad’s duplicity made a muddle of Austrian mobilization has already been related. The fate of his Serbian offensive can be sketched in a few words. Attacking on 12 August, the Fifth and Sixth Armies made good initial progress. The Austrian commander, Feldzeugmeister (General of Artillery) Oskar Potiorek imagined that his troops would easily rout the primitive and ill-equipped Serbs. His confidence was badly misplaced. It was true that the Serbian Army was short of weapons and even boots for its soldiers, but it was a battle-hardened force under a skilled and redoubtable commander, General Radomir Putnik. In the face of the advancing Austrians he withdrew and concentrated his army in anticipation of a counterattack. This was launched on 15 August against Fifth Army and after fierce fighting with heavy casualties on both sides the Austrians were compelled to withdraw. By 20 August Fifth Army had been chased entirely out of Serbia—a painful setback for a country that still counted itself a great power. Further fighting in August and into September produced no better results, even witnessing a Serbian advance into Austrian Bosnia. The debacle being complete, Potiorek was relieved of command. 

This humiliating defeat, bad enough in and of itself, was parlous in its effect on Austrian fortunes in Galicia. Conrad, it will be recalled, had initially thought to stand on the defensive there, well inside the frontier, while Serbia was dealt with. To that end his strategic reserve, B-Staffel (Second Army), was directed against Serbia. But when Conrad changed his mind and ordered an offensive in Galicia, it was too late to modify Second Army’s orders: It would have to go to the Serbian front anyway, there to await the clearance of the rail lines. In the event the army was partly drawn into the Serbian invasion and, thanks to the ill success of the Austrian offensive, when the time came to move north one-third of it (IV Corps with three divisions) had to be left behind. Thus Second Army arrived in Galicia both late and under strength. 

While Conrad’s operations in Serbia were proceeding on their lamentable course, the main body of the Austro-Hungarian Army, A-Staffel with some 30 infantry divisions and 8 cavalry divisions, was being deployed in Galicia. From left to right, these forces were allotted to the First, Fourth and Third Armies. By late August they had completed their march to the frontier (necessitated by Conrad’s earlier decision to stand on the defensive inside Galicia) and were ready to attack. Conrad’s plan, sound enough in principle, was to advance north-east into Russian Poland with the two armies of his left wing. But thanks to Second Army’s non-appearance, the forces at his disposal were insufficient. As First and Fourth Armies advanced, the right flank of the latter would be increasingly bared. Third Army on the right was given the mission—it proved to be a mission impossible—of screening this flank. As Conrad was all too well aware, Russian mobilization would inevitably bring more and more divisions into the line against the Austrian armies. And thanks to Second Army’s late arrival, the resultant pressure on the Austrian right flank would soon bring about a crisis. 

Nevertheless Conrad persisted and the general Austro-Hungarian offensive in Galicia commenced on 22 August 1914.

Posted by tmg110 at 12:15 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 28 March 2017 1:03 PM EDT
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Thursday, 2 February 2017
Dereliction of Duty: The Pro-Life Enablers of Kermit Gosnell
Topic: Decline of the West

In its advertisements the pro-choice movement likes to portray itself as the champion and defender of women’s rights—principally, the right of women to abort their unborn children at any time and for any reason. Only thus, we are told, by securing women’s control over their bodies, can female equality be assured. 

Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion in the United States, was handed down forty-four years ago, in 1973. It represents, as the saying goes, settled law. Yet abortion remains controversial. The anti-abortion or pro-life movement has not withered away but gained in strength and voice. And though a majority of Americans support abortion rights, many of them do so with qualifications and misgivings. It’s not hard to see—literally—why this is so. In 1973 we knew relatively little about what went on in a pregnant woman’s uterus. But with the passage of years advances in medical imaging technology revolutionized our understanding and it has become impossible for the pro-choice movement to go on describing the fetus as an “undifferentiated tissue mass.” The movement’s unease received expression recently: Atlantic magazine published an article, “The Politics of Ultrasound,” arguing in effect that the technology was being used in a deceptive manner to depict life where there is none. The article turned out to be an essay in junk science and was roundly debunked but its appearance was significant, showing that the pro-choice movement recognizes the power of the argument that abortion is the taking of a human life. 

And the insecurity thus aroused has bred extremism: the pro-life movement’s adamantine resistance to any restrictions on abortion, including the barbaric practice that goes by the name of partial-birth abortion. On paper, indeed, the movement has failed to hold the line. Under Roe v. Wade the states retain the power to place reasonable restrictions on abortion and many have done so. In Pennsylvania, for example, abortions are permitted up to twenty-three weeks and six days; after that they’re prohibited except when the pregnancy endangers the life or health of the mother. But a law unenforced is a law emasculated and that, broadly speaking, is the approach now taken by the pro-choice movement. 

Last year the US Supreme Court struck down a Texas law that tightened regulation of abortion clinics in the state. The pro-choice movement argued that that the law would force many clinics to close, effectively restricting access to abortion, and the high court agreed. The law’s most controversial provisions were that (1) doctors working in abortion clinics had to have local admitting privileges at nearby hospitals and (2) that abortion clinics must meet hospital standards. 

One can only imagine what Kermit Gosnell, a former physician and abortionist now serving multiple life sentences for murder and a laundry list of other crimes, made of this Supreme Court decision. 

Gosnell’s Philadelphia abortion clinic, the Women’s Medical Society, was raided by police on February 18, 2010. Philadelphia narcotics detectives had learned that the doctor was operating a pill mill under cover of his practice and indeed, he was found to be one of the largest providers of illegal prescription drugs in Pennsylvania. But in the course of their investigation other troubling information had come to light. Informants spoke to the detectives of the substandard, unsanitary, even filthy conditions obtaining at the Women’s Medical Society. They spoke of medications being administered to patients by wholly unqualified assistants. They spoke of botched abortions and of illegal late-term abortions. They spoke of one woman in particular, a recent immigrant from India barely conversant in English, who had died in the hospital after receiving an abortion from Dr. Gosnell. But even so, they were unprepared for the horrors they found. 

In Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer by Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer, the hideous crimes perpetrated by Kermit Gosnell are dragged under the spotlight. It’s a difficult, even upsetting, book to read. At one point I was moved to exclaim aloud—Oh, Jesus Christ!—at its account of a botched abortion that put one of Gosnell’s patients in the hospital. Investigating detectives found in his clinic the frozen bodies of more than forty aborted babies, all of whom had been born alive and killed by Gosnell, his preferred method being to snip the spinal cord just below the neck with a pair of scissors. And like many other serial killers this mad doctor kept trophies: the amputated feet of aborted babies, preserved in glass jars. 

I’m sad to say—sad in the most literal meaning of the word—that the items mentioned above merely scratch the surface of Gosnell’s crimes. But Gosnell recounts another story too, one as horrible in its way as the account of his bloody deeds: the social, political and ideological environment that made them possible. 

Many serial killers hide in plain sight, behind a façade of normality: Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy. Kermit Gosnell was such a one as well, but he had the additional advantage of a safe space in which to operate, secured for him by pro-choice politicians, public health officials and bureaucrats: his clinic, the Women’s Medical Society. Some of these people knew that Gosnell’s facility was a shockingly filthy sinkhole, virtually a throwback to the seventeenth century. But they said nothing. Others knew that Gosnell was flouting state regulations—refusing, even, to respond to letters and inquiries from various regulating agencies. They did nothing. The pro-choice Republican governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge (served 1995-2001), decreed a halt to abortion clinic regulation enforcement early in his term: a bouquet to the pro-choice movement and a boon to Kermit Gosnell. In 2009 Gosnell applied to the National Abortion Federation for certification of his clinic. A representative of the NAF visited, was appalled by the squalor she found and recommended to her superiors that certification should be denied. But neither the NAF representative nor her superiors said one single word about the Women’s Medical Society to state or local public health officials in Pennsylvania. 

On and on goes this tale of official disinterest and dereliction of duty. Some politicians and bureaucrats feared the political clout of the pro-choice movement, others agreed with its absolutist position. Whatever the motivation—pusillanimity or fanaticism—the effect was the same. Kermit Gosnell was granted a free hand to perpetrate his butchery—literally for decades. And he knew it, too. Not even the 2010 drug raid fazed him; he figured that the whole thing would just blow over. But the dedication of a handful of police detectives and prosecutors eventually pierced the wall of indifference and willful ignorance that had hitherto protected him. Kermit Gosnell was indicted on multiple counts of first-degree murder, found guilty on five of them and sentenced to life in prison. He was also convinced on multiple additional counts, including the involuntary manslaughter of the Indian immigrant woman whose abortion he botched. Later he also pled guilty to federal drug charges. 

One would have thought that such a trial with its sensationally lurid and horrifying details would bring reporters swarming to court—but no. Just like officialdom, the media preferred to look past Kermit Gosnell’s crimes. In the early stages of his trial the courtroom seats reserved for the media stood empty except for a few local reporters. Only when liberal pundit and columnist Kirsten Powers, who is pro-life, broke the story in a bombshell 2013 column for USA Today did the national media, somewhat shamefacedly, appear in court. 

This tale of woe compels a conclusion: that the pro-choice movement, for all its talk of protecting women’s rights, etc. has lost its moral compass. The movement has become imprisoned by its own extremist ideology: that the right to abortion is absolute, trumping even the most fundamental questions of life and death. Now, when groups like NARAL Pro-Choice America appeal to the dark past of dangerous illegal abortions I think of the women, mostly poor and black, whom Kermit Gosnell maimed and killed. Who was looking out for them? And I reflect on the mockery that he made of the very term, pro-choice, with his practice of performing abortions on unwilling young girls, dragged to his clinic by their relatives. 

Pro-choice activists will say that Gosnell was an aberration. But how could they possibly know this? Given the lax enforcement of laws and regulations relating to abortion, it’s very likely that similar abuses—unsanitary conditions, unqualified staff, antiquated equipment, slipshod treatment, illegal abortions—are quite widespread. Gosnell himself performed some abortions in a clinic in nearby Delaware whose conditions, if not medieval, were certainly substandard. After all, there’s a lot of money to be made in the abortion business, especially if you cut corners—which is easy to do when no one’s watching. And the Gosnell-friendly mission of the pro-choice movement is to ensure that the abortion mill grinds on, free of the most elementary supervision. 

If you’re pro-choice I dare you to read Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer. Even if it doesn’t change your mind about abortion it will at least open your eyes to the truly evil character of the extremist pro-choice movement, which never, ever met an abortionist that it didn’t like.

Posted by tmg110 at 11:12 AM EST
Updated: Thursday, 2 February 2017 1:24 PM EST
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Wednesday, 25 January 2017
Oceania's Not for You
Topic: Liberal Fascism

In the aftermath of the Trump Coup, the American Left has added to its obsession with Nazi analogies a newfound interest in George Orwell’s dystopian masterpiece, Nineteen Eighty-four. Sales of the novel are, we are told, shooting through the roof and at first glance it’s easy to see why. BIG BROTHER IS WATCHING YOU, progressives, in the person of President Donald J. Trump. There he is on the telescreen, whipping up orgies of hatred against foreigners, traitors, heretics, etc. WAR IS PEACE. FREEDOM IS SLAVERY. IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH. It’s a message and an image seemingly tailor-made for anti-Trump rallies and demonstrations. 

But I suspect that progressives who take the time to read or reread Nineteen Eighty-four will come away from the book disappointed and somewhat puzzled. They may be surprised to find that the villain of the piece is not some totalitarian bully in the mode of Mussolini, Stalin or Hitler. “Nobody has ever seen Big Brother,” Orwell tells us. “He is a face on the hoardings, a voice on the telescreen. We may be reasonably sure that he will never die, and there is already considerable uncertainty as to when he was born. Big Brother is the guise in which the Party chooses to exhibit itself to the world.” It is the Party—above all the Inner Party, numbering two percent of the population—that tyrannizes over Oceania. Who are these people? Orwell describes them as follows: “The new aristocracy was made up for the most part of bureaucrats, scientists, technicians, trade-union organizers, publicity experts, sociologists, teachers, journalists, and professional politicians”—hardly the fascist cabal of the contemporary progressive imagination. And he adds that Ingsoc “grew out of the earlier Socialist movement.” 

And what of the ideology—English Socialism or Ingsoc—that guides the party? Though it exhibits some superficial similarities to twentieth-century totalitarianism its underlying philosophy is not the blood-and-soil dogma of fascism or the economics-and-class dogma of socialism. As a matter of fact, Ingsoc is closest in spirit to what we call postmodernism. Orwell again: 

The mutability of the past is the central tenet of Ingsoc. Past events, it is argued, have no objective existence, but survive only in written records and in human memories. The past is whatever the records and the memories agree upon. And since the Party is in full control of all records and in equally full control of the minds of its members, it follows that the past is whatever the Party chooses to make it. It also follows that though the past is alterable, it never has been altered in any specific instance. 

To put this another way: There are no objective truths, only narratives, and which narrative prevails depends on patterns of social, political and economic power. In Oceania the Party holds all power and is free, therefore, to alter reality in any manner it chooses. In contemporary America we are nowhere near that point but in places where postmodern does progressivism rules, a sort of Ingsoc has taken shape. No one can look at the state of affairs on the humanities side of higher education without feeling that George Orwell was prescient indeed. 

One of the great projects of today’s progressivism is the policing of language and here again Orwell anticipated them. While relying on intimidation and police terror the Inner Party of Oceania was not content with negative methods. Its ultimate aim was to make heresy unthinkable, a goal embodied in Newspeak. Orwell took great pains to work out the principles of this artificial language, which was based on English but borrowed many features from Esperanto. He describes the purpose of Newspeak as follows: 

Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meanings and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and by stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meanings whatever. 

Rather more than a trace of this ambition is to be found in the campus Lefts obsession with “hate speech,” “trigger words,” the absurd proliferation of gender pronouns, etc. 

Indeed, though if he were alive today Orwell would no doubt excoriate Donald Trump, there’s good reason to think that he’d be scarcely less scornful of postmodern progressivism with its identity politics, enforced intellectual conformity, corruption of language, fringe crazies and rejection of the very concept of objective truth. Consider what he had to say (in The Road to Wigan Pier) of the socialism of his own day: 

The typical Socialist is not, as tremulous old ladies imagine, a ferocious-looking working man with greasy overalls and a raucous voice. He is…a youthful snob-Bolshevik who in five years’ time will quite probably have made a wealthy marriage… In addition to this there is the horrible—the really disquieting—prevalence of cranks wherever Socialists are gathered together. One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words “Socialism” and “Communism” draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, “Nature Cure” quack, pacifist, and feminist in England. 

Bearing that in mind, today’s progressive admirers of George Orwell might pause to ask themselves what he’d have thought of such spectacles as last weekend’s Women’s March, with its pussy caps, goofy signs and shrieking celebrity harpies. 

So I do hope that very many progressives read Nineteen Eighty-four—not to mention Animal Farm, “Politics and the English Language,” “The Prevention of Literature,” and other gems of the Orwell canon. They’ll find much that’s painful to them—Orwell was, among other things, one of the founding fathers of anti-Communism—but such an education might, just might, do some few of them a bit of good.

Posted by tmg110 at 11:46 AM EST
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Sunday, 22 January 2017
Marching to Nowhere
Topic: Liberal Fascism


During the 2016 presidential election journalists, pundits, TV talking heads and political professionals were nearly unanimous in their denigration of those monster Trump rallies. Don’t be fooled, we were admonished, they were irrelevant. The large crowds meant nothing! It was money and strategy and the ground game that counted! Trump was a sure loser! Also sprach the Conventional Wisdom. There were dissenters from this CW but they constituted a distinct, often despised, minority.


I was reminded of all this yesterday while watching the coverage of the monster Women’s March in Washington, DC. It was amusing to note that many of those who denigrated the Trump rallies professed to see in the Woman’s March a moment of profound political significance. On the other hand, many of those who had seen something significant in the Trump rallies were dismissive of the Women’s March.


Now at first glance this seems like a classic example of that serviceable old Orwellian concept, doublethink: the ability to hold two contradictory thoughts in one’s mind at the same time, and accept them both. But upon further reflection I believe that the latter group—rallies significant, march not significant—are on to something.


When human beings gather together in a large group, the group’s message can only be its lowest common denominator. A rally or march involving tens of thousands of people is not the place for sophisticated discourse; if it won’t fit on a poster, it doesn’t get expressed. And the larger the group, the larger the number of eccentrics, vulgarians, fanatics and just plain head cases it attracts. Even normally well-behaved people, beguiled by the security and solidarity of the group, often feel free to let themselves go.


The mitigating factor, the thing that invites us to overlook the crazy people, is the group’s focal point: a person, a cause—sometimes both. Thus the significance of the Trump rallies: Their focus was Donald J. Trump and the message he embodied. The energy generated flowed, so to speak, into the candidate and he carried it forward to Election Day. Much the same thing happened with the great civil rights marches of the Sixties and even with the antiwar movement of that time. Whatever one’s opinion of the latter it cannot be denied that “Stop the War!” was a powerful, unifying theme.


This brings us to yesterday’s Women’s March and to the question: What was it all about? Well, dislike of Donald Trump, certainly, and the angst so many experienced on the occasion of his inauguration. Every march participant who voted in the election had voted against Trump, so in that sense they were telling us nothing new. You hate the guy; we get that.


But what was the Women’s March for? What was its focal point? That’s hard to say with any degree of precision. Oh, there were the usual factions and organizations pushing the standard issues of the Left, from open borders to LGBTQ—if that’s the current acronym—rights. But mostly the message of the Women’s March was the Left’s standard cry: racist/xenophobe/sexist/homophobe/fascist/Nazi/bad person. That is to say, it was nothing more than a loud and exceptionally ill-tempered expression of the Left’s default reaction to Republicans, conservatives and everyone who deviates from leftist orthodoxy. Sure where Trump is concerned they really, really mean it. Still, we’ve heard it all before and so what?


This was the problem that bedeviled the Women’s March. The lack of a resonant unifying theme meant, inevitably, that attention was focused on the bad actors, of whom two were celebrities—no surprise there. Madonna informed the world that lately she’d been thinking a lot about blowing up the White House: a line that I was sorely, sorely tempted to exploit on Facebook and Twitter. Then there was Ashley Judd—and jaded though I have become where celebrity zaniness is concerned I was disconcerted to see the elegant and comely star of De-Lovely transformed into a grimacing, screaming, foul-mouthed lunatic.


The Women’s March was certainly therapeutic, enabling a large number of disappointed progressives to discharge all that negative energy. But after the euphoria comes the hangover and as time goes by, many of those who clogged the streets of DC and other cities will awake to the realization that their big day was just that: a day, and one with no sequel.

Posted by tmg110 at 1:06 PM EST
Updated: Sunday, 22 January 2017 1:09 PM EST
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