Hanging Commissars From Their Beliefs

I’ve been reading a book called Intellectuals by Paul Johnson.

Before you criticize me for reading this sort of summary, a third source at best, be aware that I’ve read all of the people mentioned  — almost all.  I don’t recall having Edmund Wilson inflicted on me – in their own original lucubration in full and ad nauseum, since for my sins I have a Masters in Modern Languages and Literatures.

However, lately I’ve had a niggling feeling at the back of my mind – about what has gone so seriously wrong and how we must counter it.

What has gone wrong, at least in the modern era, is the assumption that a certain type of firebrand, a certain type of what I would call “political mystic” is always right, and when not right yet he has the sort of moral and philosophical high ground, he’s “on the right side of history.”  This assumption has moved our intellectual establishments further and further left, indoctrinating even the most casual TV watcher with the rotten principles of Marxism, and pushing us more and more towards a philosophy that has nothing to give humanity but death and oppression.

In reading Paul Johnson’s work, I was looking at the fathers of this “moral high ground”, this assumption that “all the smart people” think this way that has penetrated media, entertainment and academia, from another perspective.  It was the same as, when taking a portrait, I might look at the subject from a slightly different angle to see how things look from there.

Paul Johnson’s view of Rousseau did not startle me, except to the extent that when I read Rousseau himself I was very young and lacked a certain experience of the world.  Among other things I lacked was the understanding that those seeking to tear the establishment down usually do it for reasons of their own, not out of great altruism; the understanding that the very worst of men – narcissistic psychopaths – can pose as the very best, and be seen and worshipped by others as such; and the understanding of the intimate relationship between growing up in a broken home and longing for an all-powerful and paternal state to look after one.

All of those have been born upon me over the last twenty years (over and over and over again.)  So seeing Johnson’s view of Rousseau rang several very loud bells.

Here we have a man who grew up in a family that was at best inadequate and who went through life serially friending and abusing benefactors.  He lived, in fact, at the expense of others and never returned  even the most elementary gratitude, instead choosing to revile his benefactors as being out to get him.  (In his defense, he was probably at least somewhat paranoid.)

Normally such a man would be seen for what he was and reviled or at least laughed at.  But Rousseau took his shortcomings and made them into virtues.  If he was socially awkward, well then, the affectations of society must be wrong, and it was savages like him who were noble; if he was ungrateful, well, it was no less than should be expected of a genius forced to endure the presence of mere mortals.

To every one of his defects of character, he applied outward force and defended it not as a defect, but as a virtue, which the cruel world had just failed to appreciate.

Rousseau has been dead a long time, and if it were just a matter of Rousseau – no matter how much his execrable theories still infiltrate us – it would be time to let the dead horse lie.  But it’s not.

Rousseau is the prototype for beardo the weirdo who has infiltrated Academia, the arts and – in its more shaven and rubicund version – journalism.  How many times have you found yourself talking to a gentleman of dubious hygiene and ultra-left opinions and when you point out to him some minor social solecism, or merely look offended by it – say, double dipping from the dip bowl, or perhaps shoving past someone with no concern – you get told he is “the natural man” and therefore somehow more virtuous than you and your carefully minded tongue and manners?  Even if it’s not vocalized, such superiority is assumed.

It is assumed on all levels and by everyone on every side.  TV commentators who would need a brain transplant to be capable of thought and actors who would need a brain transplant to be TV commentators and whose private lives brook no scrutiny, are nonetheless considered good enough to be arbitrators of who should lead us, and smart enough to lecture us on such issues as Global Warming.

His ideas of the natural man, of the evils of civilization, of the way one should behave in public, and his assumption that ruder and nastier is by necessity better, infiltrate not just our institutions, but our stories.  It’s got so that if a man has achieved anything of significance in the world of business he’s considered guilty until proven innocent, and in our fiction he’s rarely considered innocent.  It’s gotten so that the “angry young men” are always justified by reason of their anger.

Around the necks of those who would stand with civilization, with decency, with parents being responsible for their children, with children being grateful to their parents, with each generation understanding and revering above all the culture in which it was brought up – no matter how understanding or empathetic it might be to other cultures – they hang not our civilization, not our prosperous society, but that of the seventeenth century, with its powdered wigs and its excesses.

Around our necks, they hang aristocracy and wealth from birth, ignoring that in the present age and in any truly economically free society (which ours hasn’t been for almost a hundred years) inherited wealth rarely lasts more than three generations.

And they do this while proposing a regime that, if implemented, would in fact, lead to an aristocracy of birth.  (They are already well on the way there, how far you get being a matter of the right connections, the right schools, all of which require the right opinions and the right pedigree.  Unless you think the recent spate of ivy-league presidents a mere coincidence.)

They reconcile this duality just as Rousseau reconciled his belief in the natural man and his opposition to revolution.  You see, in his own words, the state he envisioned was one that would OWN its citizens.  Since the citizens who would prosper under it would be totally submissive to the state then in the end, the state would create the ideal citizen who would be nothing without it. (How submissive?  “When the opinion that is contrary to my own prevails, this simply proves I was mistaken and that what I thought to be the General Will, was not so.”  In fact, “If my particular opinion had carried the day I should have achieved the opposite of what was my will and I should not therefore have been free.”  Or, if you prefer, the oath to the constitution he proposed for Corsica: “I join myself, body, goods, will and all my powers to the Corsican nation, granting her ownership of me, of myself, and all who depend on me.” )

In the eyes of the current followers of Rousseau, such a state needs wise people to lead it, and they are the wise people, and they have, therefore, the presumption of right on their side.  Their virtue is indistinguishable from their opinions.  It is these opinions, this “anger at society” this “revolutionary zeal” which sanctifies them, so that they need do nothing else.

These opinions protect them from the media, who, steeped in the same “firebrand” mythology refuse to look at the underpinnings and consequences  of their avowed goodness.

Which is why when talking about, oh, Chakra Gore, with his palatial mansion that uses enough electricity to supply a small third world country, or John Advocate of the Poor Edwards, who kept his mistress in style, we hear people say “they’re good people, but…”

No.  They are not good people, just like Rousseau wasn’t a good person.  And while in Rousseau’s time we might not have known where this sort of intellectual tomfoolery led, now we know.

It leads to the terror of the guillotine; it leads to the Holomodor; it leads to the killing fields of Cambodia; it leads to the dead of Africa in the grip of communism – so many that there is no particular name for their  demise, and still ongoing.  It leads to misery, famine, destruction.

When the individual belongs to the state, that makes him the slave of those who run the state.  We divide again into noblemen and serfs, but this time the noblemen have not even the pretense of a religion that believes the serfs are made of the same material and by the same G-d who made the noblemen.  Instead the serfs are mere pieces, cogs in a giant machine, to be used and discarded at the pleasure of those in power.

Monsieur Rousseau, we’ve seen your paradise, and we reject it.

The only ones who like it are those who like the idea of THEIR boot stepping on a human face forever.  And every time they rear their heads, we need to hold up the result of their ideas, to point out they view themselves as the feudal lordlings of a new, never ending dark ages.

There were no trials at the fall of the USSR, more’s the pity, and we never hanged the commissars from their own guts.  Maybe that’s yet needed and yet to come.  Maybe humanity only learns in blood.  But until then – and perhaps to avoid it – we need to point out to them that “natural man” is and has always been an animal, and that our way of individual responsibility and self-respect has created the most prosperous society the world has ever seen, while their way of subjugating all to the government has brought back only the old horrors of tribalism and mass killings.

They are not on the right side of history.  They never were.  They are merely the modern incarnation of  very old human vices.

*And on a personal note, the stomach flu has now gone on to #1 son, which means I’m almost well, but I have a PILE of bedclothes to wash and three bathrooms to clean.  I TRULY feel horrible I haven’t answered all those blog requests and interviews, but I think before I even attempt it I need a nap, and then we’ll see.  I’m fully cognizant I’m pushing the time to an extreme — but the last three weeks have been insane and when there is no strength there is no strength.*

68 responses to “Hanging Commissars From Their Beliefs

  1. I think I managed to escape this delusion largely with my father’s help. We used to have wide-ranging discussions about just about everything. I (okay, I was an angsty teen who had a pretty keen awareness that the world was not “fair” and enough sense of ethics that I wanted to do something about those who were screwed through no fault of their own) used to argue a lot along the “it would be wonderful if –”, and Dad would gently point out that people don’t think that way and you can’t MAKE people think that way, usually via a question that got me thinking so the next round of what my sibs used to call “save the world” had some evolution in my ideas.

    By the time I was living on my own, I was starting to see what Dad mean, and once I’d spent some time in the cube farms of business-ville, I got to understand it myself. Without his questions, I would have taken a lot longer to get there – or maybe wouldn’t have got there at all. (The other sib in the US supports Obama etc. My sibs in Oz, one sister is strongly pro-business, being married to a small business owner, and the other is dependent on the Oz welfare system. My brother… I’m not sure, except that he sees through bullshit pretty fast.) None of my sibs were interested in the discussions, so I guess they tuned out.

    These days I have to remind myself to pull it back if those delusions start getting the upper hand. The world does not dance to my tune, nor should it. That simple lesson is possibly the most important of the lot.

  2. I am in the midst of reading a book, The Geography of Time* which is, as the saying goes, in my intellectual wheelhouse. I had to put it down some six years ago and haven’t been able to re-engage with it because the author, albeit quite interesting and engaging, has a horrible habit of using quotes from public intellectuals who I consider worse than raving lunatics.

    Having mercifully blotted the individual’s name from my consciousness I can only comment that, in a just world he would be tarred and feathered for the agenda he has pushed since the 1960s and certainly he would not be approvingly quoted by any author with even a pretense of intellectual heft.

    Which is the core of the problem of the intellectuals Sarah and Johnson contemplate: their views are without consequence and without validity. Or rather, the validity of their very consequential views is never questioned, and their consequences are never examined. So such idiots as Rachel Carson are never taken to task for the effects of their advocacy and the premises of their positions go unchallenged. The Paul Ehrlichs of the world can go on losing their wagers with our Julian Simons and yet pay no penalties.

    OTOH, Ronald Reagan is still derided for saying “trees cause pollution” (factually correct, as subsequent studies and casual observations prove — ever park your car under a gingko tree? — but Reagan is never credited with having been right) and proposing “Star Wars” anti-missile defenses (Israel is thanking Ronnie Raygun for the idea of Iron Dome right now, ya think?)

    Error unpunished, accuracy uncredited: a sure route to societal decay.

    *Those who understand the different meanings of “tomorrow” in Anglo and Latino cultures will grasp the author’s theme.

    • Look on the bright side. They no longer jeer at him for observing that Communism was on its last legs.

    • Carson is one of the supreme examples of the issue. She killed more people with her lies than several communist dictators combined, and most here know what a criteria that is. My only hope is that she receives the justice in the next world she never received in this one.

  3. Brava!

    Curiouser and curiouser! Can we not see the levels of contradictions we are twisting ourselves around in an exercise that would impress even the White Queen.

    On one hand we celebrate the so-called natural man. On the other we are slowly institutionalizing the neutering of the male of the species. Then we ask why so many boys have no desire to become men — and by men here I do not mean ‘big’, I mean a mench. The males are unhappy, the women are unhappy and the society is unhappy — but the society seems dead set on continuing in this manner.

    • Ah, the difficulties of tranliteration from a different language. I am told that it should have been mensch – in case you need to look it up.

    • The degree to which “men” are disappearing from our society is appalling. Males we have aplenty, but d*mn few men. As Sarah has found, put “men” in your novels and they go unpublished. Men and Women are not, pace the feminists, interchangeable; they are complementary and denying that fact leads to woe and tears. But just try getting funding for a study on the importance of good fathers to boys and girls!

      • And absent or bad fathers generate the type of wounded personality who wants the government as daddy.

        Coincidental? perhaps, who knows?

        • True– I agree with that one… Of course I am still arguing with myself on the definition of a bad father. My father had some bad traits, but some really good traits too. Still I haven’t been able to really talk to him since I became a woman. I have my suspicions– but I don’t know for sure.

          • Proposition A: Human beings are imperfect. Proposition B: Fathers are human beings. Conclusion: if A & B are correct, then we can state that fathers are imperfect. The same may be said of mothers, siblings, spouses, in-laws, children, other relatives, friends, co-workers and neighbors.

            That said, some people are more imperfect than others* and certain imperfections are unacceptable. It is acceptable to avoid people whose imperfections cause true harm. For example: people who burn down the barn with the live stock in it are generally to be shunned.

            The above took me a long time to learn, but realizing it helped me.

            *No I am not meaning to reference Animal Farm. Although the behavior of the pigs is an example of unacceptable behavior in leaders from which we should take a lesson — but that is for the lamp-posts, figurative or other-wise.

            • I tried to reply to this CACS and then WP lost it– ding dong.

              Anyway– my father had this philosophy that “a child was a blank slate and could be written on.” It caused no end of problems. I stay as far away from the parents as possible– although as a dutiful daughter (snort). I do call at least two or three times a year.

              • I am sorry. I am not particularly close to my Daddy since I grew up either. It appears he had plans for me that I, being a decidedly independent cuss (much like him) failed to achieve. Also, it somehow came as quite a surprise to him, that while he taught me to think for myself, I might come to entirely different conclusions than he about some pretty important things in life.

                I am afraid that I am well aware of that particular adult view of children — that they are a blank slate. I have concluded that most adults must consider very little of their memories of their own childhood. Humans beings may be thinking creatures, but we do it in such inconsistent ways.

                Daddy had a different variation of the problem, he assumed that because I had been so like him in so many ways The Daughter would be like us in those ways as well. The Daughter has equally mystified the Mother-in-law, but in entirely different ways. This has lead to some pretty strange encounters between them over time, and, sadly, none of her grandparents have never managed to form a connection with her.

                • That is sad CACS. I formed a real connection with my grandfather and my great-grandfather on my father’s side. I was very much like my great-grandmother (an independent cuss). ;-) My father has a problem with independent women. He would have made a really good monk because he does better in male societies.

                  It hurts a lot because I was a daddy’s girl until I finally got a brother. Then it felt like I was put aside for what he really wanted. So it took me a long time to really trust a man– I had this feeling that I would be put aside when the guy found something better.

                  Ugh– It took me years to realize that was my inner problem. Now I have a very stable relationship with my hubby. It has changed my attitude and relationships to the men in my life.

                  • oops– great-grandmother on my father’s side— got stuck on father– must be a freudian slip. My great-grandfather on my mother’s side — I formed a connection to too. My mother and her grandfather didn’t like each other– This great-grandfather died when I was five.

                • I’ve been surprised by how like us the boys are — and how unlike us. Robert seems to be a pretty odd (in all senses) mix of both of us, picking up all sorts of basic characteristics from one or the other and using those in novel ways. Marshall meanwhile is so much like my dad he might as well have been dad’s son, without Dan and I intervening. He carries it to the spooky point of doing the same things at the same age, liking the same type of books… all without growing up near dad.
                  The amount of heredity in the personality has shocked me. On the other hand, I never thought people were tabula rasas.

        • Given the rate at which we are subsidizing fatherlessness, and the indignant protests at the notion that people who order their lives so they do not need government help should not be subsidizing those who do — very likely, not.

          • The subsidizing will continue until a critical mass of people realize that what is being done to finance this is the equivalent of are burning down the barns with the livestock in them. ;-)

  4. I saw the natural man up close when I was an early teen. My parents moved us away from civilization (dad was a foreman for a Ute Indian ranch). A lot of the people who would move away to those lengths were NOT the nicest people in the world (crude, dirty, etc). I mentioned before that I didn’t earn my BA until I was in my late 30s. Anyway when I was hit with that philosophy, I had already seen it in action– not good.

    You can’t be in this world without someone indoctrinating you with it. When I get to excited about what I hear, I take it to my hubby who brings me down again. He is my course corrector. ;-)

    • The virtue of the “natural” man (or woman) is their (apparent) freedom from hypocrisy. For myself, I keep in mind the adage about hypocrisy being the tribute that Vice pays to Virtue.

      Of course, a little reflection reveals that most advocates of the “natural person” are somewhat more in favor of their right to be natural than of yours.

      • I went through a phase when I wanted to unmask people. ;-) Seems juvenile now. Anyway, I tried to keep my actions as honest and honorable as possible.

        But– even then I was not happy with crudeness. I know I used it as a tool towards my parents when I reached my early twenties and they wanted to still run my life– (I mean they really tried to run my life… my mother even found me a husband, which I rejected.) I used it with precision only (surgical strike). A good thing too because my sister married the guy and divorced him about five years later.

      • Wayne Blackburn

        Again, Heinlein has a quote appropriate to this. I’m too lazy to look it up right now, but it was something to the effect that politeness and civil discourse are the lubrication in the gears of civilization, which doesn’t run any too smoothly even with them. Without them, “”civilization” would come to a screeching halt.

        • It is in “Time Enough for Love” probably in “The Notebooks of Lazarus Long”.

        • Moving parts in rubbing contact require lubrication to avoid excessive wear. Honorifics and formal politeness provide lubrication where people rub together. Often the very young, the untraveled, the naive, the unsophisticated deplore these formalties as ‘empty,’ ‘meaningless,’ or ‘dishonest,’ and scorn to use them. No matter how pure their motives, they thereby throw sand into machinery that does not work too well at best.

  5. “I TRULY feel horrible I haven’t answered all those blog requests and interviews, but I think before I even attempt it I need a nap, and then we’ll see.”

    For the love of all that’s good and holy, REST already! You owe yourself and your family and your friends a lot, but you owe internet people only what we pay for, and thanks to world-class fulfillment infrastructures you can be confident we’ve already received that. All else is a gift. A welcome gift, and urgently desired, but by no means a matter of duty.

    • In this case, I promised my publisher I would do a blog tour. THAT’s what’s worrying me.

      • You get to it when you get to it… sometimes manana (accent over the first n please) has to be the attitude. I was in Panama (Central America) for over six years– Manana could mean never. *grin

        • Insh’allah has been translated as “mañana without the urgency.” Explains a lot, I believe.

          • Amazingly most of the world runs on ‘manana time’ and find it strange that when Americans say we need it by 12:00 tomorrow, that means we need it before noon, tomorrow; NOT if we can get it by the end of the week, that would be nice.

  6. Well put – and enjoyed as much as my stuffed-up cold-addled head will allow. After a wonderfully rested holiday we start back to work and school with both daughters and myself sick. Oh well. But your post reminded me of one comment my 18yo made this weekend: “Mom, you know why all these super hero movies are so popular right now? Because our country is depressed with the way things have been going so we need a hero.” I concur!

    • That’s also why My Little Pony is popular — several different kinds of women, girls, and men disguised as cartoon horses, a lot of comedy and adventure where they get to be heroes, and acceptably secular versions of the moral of the story (although often deeper than they advertise themselves). It’s a cute, clever, and fun cartoon, but there’s no way it would be this insanely popular in a more balanced world. (Much like one thinks about the cartoons popular in the Thirties.)

  7. This is one of the themes that I think of when I reflect back on the sixties/seventies. Everybody was going around rejecting “society” and social pressure was ipso facto a bad thing. “Going with your feelings” was elevated to a religion, and using logic and reason was suspect. Financial considerations were certainly looked down on as invalid, compared with emotions.

    I can remember feeling suspicious that as principles those ideas wouldn’t necessarily work out well.

    The passing of wisdom from the older generations to the younger was deliberately undermined and thrown away. As a homeschooling family, I believe that institutional schools are a huge cause of this. I know that parents can overcome that with effort and thought, but there are a lot of people who won’t be able to. A lot of leftists see one of the purposes of the schools as getting the children away from their parents’ “incorrect” views.

    I believe that young people are kind of naturally drawn to these kinds of beliefs, just like the classic fantasy of the under-appreciated young person with hidden powers. It’s only by talking to trusted and respected adults that they will be drawn away from a belief system that’s naturally attractive to them.

    • You’ve hit one of the nails of postmodernism on its head. Emotion is supposed to be a more genuine guide than logic and reason. The stronger the emotion, the more correct or truthful the argument. So someone who feels very, very strongly that private property is a tool of oppression is right and Thomas Sowell or Walter Williams are in the wrong (they use logic and reason). That’s why so many of the Occupy people are so absolutely certain that they are on the moral high ground: they feel that they are right, so they must be. If you feel that someone is oppressing you, then they are. If your feelings about your interpretation of history are stronger than mine are, than your interpretation must be the correct one.

      A rather twisted world view, isn’t it?

  8. Yes, but young people are also naturally drawn to fantasies where they make good gradually, learn important lessons from elders and go on to teach those who are younger, etc., build and grow, etc. This isn’t normally what’s provided for their delectation, nowadays.

    But kids love Swiss Family Robinson and similar “build civilization” stories. They love stories about learning to survive in the world and be confident in their skills. They want to learn this stuff.

  9. “… pushing us more and more towards a philosophy that has nothing to give humanity but death and oppression….”

    Most left-wingers in the USA don’t think about what they espouse, but some of the “thinking” left-wingers believe that we can add more government regulations and controls (fascism) and increase government benefits and entitlements (nanny-statism) while still preserving enough capitalism to pay for the government’s largesse. They don’t realize that we almost have reached the point where capitalism capitulates. Our economic agglomeration of fascism, socialism, cronyism, and capitalism is not stable, and capitalism will die unless the other three systems are reduced.

  10. It’s amazing to me how politicians and their accomplices in the media masquerade PR as objective truth… and get away with it with the majority of people. Thx Sarah and I hope your family is feeling better.

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  12. > Hanging Commissars From Their Beliefs

    Why – is there a shortage of lampposts I failed to hear about?

    • Many of them are too high, nowadays, to make convenient gallows.

    • The new, pseudo-historical ones in my region don’t have an arm. You can’t get a good hold for the rope. (Sigh.) It was a lovely dream…

      • Under the guidelines for greening government there are far fewer lampposts (it is part of their policy of keeping “the people” in the dark) and they are, as noted, less suitable for this purpose.

        On top of that, bureaucratic bloat has so badly ballooned the number of commissars in dire need of hanging that the ratio of hangees to lampposts has badly deteriorated.

        Current federal guidelines regulating the hanging of commissars run about 1,237 pages, with supplements and sub-clauses adding another 12,942 pages, further impeding the process of hanging them from lampposts. Although hanging of commissars is not expressly forbidden, compliance with the regulations is very difficult, there being multiple contradictory requirements which are slowly being resolved by the courts in order to allow the hangings to begin. Of course, each court decision adds multiple pages of amendments to the regulations, often entailing further self-contradiction. It is estimated (I just estimated it!) that the burden of sorting out and reinforcing these federal guidelines for the hanging of commissars from lampposts has caused the federal bureaucracy to grow by at least 3% in the last four years alone.

        As a result of the last election it is rumoured that Obama plans to elevate the Hanging Commissars From Lampposts Department to the Cabinet level once a suitable acronym can be found.

        • A suitable name of Supervisory Hanging Interagency Taskforce? *run away

        • I know you wrote that in jest, RES, but it’s exactly what’s been happening for the last 50-75 years. The result is tens of thousands of regulations, many contradicting one another, and most of it not making a bit of sense or doing any good. We’re pretty well near the point where we will have to cut through the red tape (C4 works nicely), run the rats back into the sewers, and end the lease on the breeding ground of bureaucratic growth. Since EVERY government bureaucrat has just one purpose in mind (job security! – as long as his job is secure, he can spend a little time doing other things, like what he was hired for), doing away with them by the dozen will force those still filling a chair in an office to get nervous. However, their only response will be to “circle the wagons”, and to become even more defensive. Better to take out the whole lot at once, and end their Malthusian behavior.

          • There are leftist who believe that because regulations have done good — for instance, the government campaign to test all milch cows for TB and destroy the infected ones — therefore it is insane to object to regulation. Any regulation.

            • Wayne Blackburn

              Because if you oppose regulations, you want to poison the environment, or you don’t care about your employees, or you hate children, women, kitties, or kitteh-dragons, or something.

      • On the plus side, impaling people on such psuedo-historical ones has the side benefit of cutting down on ‘light pollution’, which should make the greening government happy.

      • Americans, historically, were quite clever when it came to mayhem. Try trees, they have been shown to serve the purpose quite well. As can the horizontal post used to attach the pulley system to lift materials into the mow or hayloft of barns.

        • Wayne Blackburn

          I assumed these were rhetorical complaints. Has no one watched “The Hitcher”? We have plenty of trucks. Or in less modern times, they sometimes just used draft horses.

  13. Another Yes! from me. How many times have I met people who were cross-wise with the world and blamed the world (yes, sometimes the world is wrong, but it’s a good idea to look in the mirror and see what our own part in all of it is). (And no need to apologize for the book – I’m a Paul Johnson fan and have that one on my Wish list.)

    I had the same reaction to Rousseau way back in college when I first encountered him – he and so many of his contemporaries were too enthralled with the State. I do consider him a product of his time, when the idea of life without a protective State was unthinkable, and these were early, crude attempts at challenging the status quo. And yes, the dysfunctional outliers are usually the first ones screaming about problems, the canary in the mineshaft. But, while they may point out a problem, they’re the last people you want to go to to fix it.

    As for pundits and journalixts, I had a friend who wanted to major in journalism – she’d enjoyed working on her high school newspaper. She was told by her professor to forget about it because she wasn’t pretty enough. And the journalism degree requires very little real education. These people are hired for their looks and their voices, not for their intellect or understanding. I see modern pundits listened to, not for any proven record of achievement, but for mere articulate-ness, despite the fact that this means neither competence, nor intelligence. (Seriously, is there any reason to listen to anyone on NPR?)

    • The primary talent required for television journalism is the ability to channel the words on the teleprompter while following a producer’s instructions issued through an earpiece. Actual intelligence is obviously an impediment to this process.

      In Britain these people are more accurately labeled; rather than calling them journalists or anchors they are known as “presenters”.

      • “In Britain these people are more accurately labeled; rather than calling them journalists or anchors they are known as “presenters”.”

        I disagree, anchor is very apt description for what most of these people are qualified for.

        • Snicker How true!

        • I must correct myself: in Britain they are apparently called “newsreaders.” I am not sure what “presenters” do. They are distinguished from “correspondents” and tend to be on long-form programmes; they may be the British equivalent of what in America are called “hosts” on such shows as The Toady Show or Fox & Friends or even Morning Joe. Apparently they are more perky than leaden.

          It seems possible the terms “presenter” and “newsreader” may be interchangeable, as indicated by this article in the London Telegraph:

          Husband of newsreader ‘devastated’ after affair
          Husband of BBC newsreader Sophie Long was ‘devastated’ after she dumped him for married co-presenter.

          although I think this story of a turf war between two ice cream vendors

          Ice cream turf wars: Mr Yummy attacks his arch-rival Mr Whippy
          An ice cream man known as Mr Yummy is facing jail after he lost his cool in a four month turf war with a rival called Mr Whippy.

          sounds like the sort of case John Larroquette and Markie Post should be arguing before Harry Anderson.

        • Sorry, no, I beg to differ. They are far too light weight to qualify.

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