Being Free

I am almost fifty five years old.  In my entire life, in two countries, I’ve never come across a book so dangerous it couldn’t be read.  I’ve never come across an idea so dangerous it couldn’t be debated.  And I’ve never come across a book that while being read went out and hurt other people.

In fact the only books I ever heard say one shouldn’t read or it would hurt people if one read it, it was because some group, often some government thought that the ideas in those books could hurt them.

Most such books were very silly.  I’ve read the communist manifesto.  No sane human being who has read in the world of humans and understands other humans can read that utter piece of delusion without laughing out loud.  Unless that human being knows the graves that piece of nonsense has filled.  But the people who fall for its honeyed nonsense are not rational people.  They’re people broken in the same way its author was broken: little people hungry for power and sure everyone else had what was due to them.  It wasn’t reading the words that broke them.  They would have broken anyway.

I’ve never read Mein Kampf.  No one I knew growing up owned a copy.  People I trust tell me it’s remarkably silly and also hard to read, unless the translator does a fantastic job.  At some point or other I might skim it.  Not that I think it will convinced me, but because I think one should have an idea what’s in it.  In fact, I’m fairly sure it won’t convince me.  People did not fall in behind Hitler because of the words in that book, but because of the Brown shirts, the show of strength, the fear their country and their people weren’t central to the world as they always thought they were.  (And since I’ve been reading about the genesis of the German people, I have a little more insight on how badly that would rub Germans wrong.)

I read Friedrich Nietzsche which in a recent mystery show I watched was portrayed as the gateway to becoming a serial killer.  I was actually 12 when I read him, and he struck me as very silly.  I read Camus at about the same time.  I read Ayn Rand. Only Jean Paul Sartre put me off his reading.  Something about his writing and his way of expressing things and seeing humanity was like being submerged in toxic sludge.  But I wouldn’t say other people SHOULDN’T read him.  On the contrary.  I think he’s given a great deal of power and credit he doesn’t deserve.

I can’t say any one book changed my mind or made me a better or worse person.

Heinlein did change me, but it was subtle and overtime, and mostly he changed me less by telling me what to think than my asking questions that simply weren’t asked in the society I was born and raised in “to whom does tax money actually belong?” and “why should the common person not have the right to defend himself, when criminals don’t care if guns are illegal, because they are — duh — criminals?”

Those questions over time changed me into who I am, but you know, I was not and I’m not sure that what I believe would even have Heinlein’s approval, much less his endorsement.  And as much as I admire him, I have problems with several of his ideas like the fact he views humans as a net drain on the Earth and believed Malthus’s old lies. (Though it was mixed, of course.  All real humans are. His characters were very life affirming.)  And I don’t believe his marriage arrangements would work for a majority or even a significant minority of the population.  Oh, I’m not against them, understand.  If you’re one of the few for whom it does work, be my guest.  There is too little happiness in this world to be restricting the ways in which people find it.  I just don’t think, humans not being bonobos, it’s the natural, untutored way of mankind, where we’d all go except for preachers and repressive societies.  But he was a man of his time and upbringing, as we all are.  Which means some of the things he believed he was rational on, were actually the blinders of his time and situation.  To his credit he knew it, and he advocated reading widely, both fiction and non-fiction, and experiencing others thoughts as much as possible to knock out the blind spots in yours.

I took him at his word.  For fun I’ve read fiction by everyone from deep racists (and no one does racism as well as the elites of the nineteenth century.  Not all, of course, but the baseline for “not racist” was in a place we’d now consider racist) to modern science fiction feminists.

I will not read a book that won’t hold my attention but other than that, I will read writers of any political stripe.  I even like some authors whose basic outlook on life makes me want to pound my head on a wall until it breaks.  I rather enjoyed the Left Hand Of Darkness.  I read it three times.  Once for the book, once for magnificent character development (I’ve been trying to pull that trick of making the reader hate the character, then prove the reader wrong and break his heart for a long time.  It’s a hard one) and once to yell at the book “Biology doesn’t work like that.” and “that’s not how an hermaphrodite human race would work.”  and “you’ve been blinded by stupid feminism.”

(It’s the book that started me writing a — duh — world with a bio-engineered hermaphrodite race.  (Bio engineered for equality and peace.  It …. doesn’t work that way.)  I wrote eight very bad books in that world.  Hey, I started at 14.  Reading them wouldn’t hurt you, except in the sense I didn’t know my craft.  Yes, that world will be revisited… maybe next year, if I can stop being interrupted by health crisis and actually write.  Probably indie because my goal is not actually to drive my publisher insane. I swear.)

I’m often offended by lying history, which is why I stopped reading Anne Rice at Queen of the Damned.  Oh, it’s lying biology too, but I could give her that, its being fantasy.  I’m not going to tell you not to read it, though.  As long as you realize she was pulling history from ass, it’s not a bad set of books.  Yeah, even if you prefer to set vampires on fire.  She does setting really well.  Makes it a character.  Good idea to read it.

The point is, that books I deeply disagree with, but which are still interesting, I read.  Most of the time the worst they do is make me roll my eyes and go “yeah, that is the problem” when the author intrudes upon the action to explain how everything would be solved by a sufficient application of Marx.  At best, sometimes, they make me see that they might kind of, sort of, have a point.  Or at least, as with Heinlein’s ideas on marriage, reading him makes me go “Uh, yeah, I understand how with his history and living when he did–”  And that is good.

Look, unless you believe — as mom would put it — that you are pregnant with truth, and know all the ultimate dos and don’ts of mankind, so that you’ll be forever vindicated, yay and verily, world without end, even if you’re fairly sure that your set of beliefs is the “closest to right humans can get” you know that people believed differently in the past and likely (if you’re not an idiot and understand humans and history) will believe differently in the future.  Reading different opinions allows you to see how other people can believe what they do.  (Even if sometimes it just causes you to say “against stupidity the gods themselves strive in vain.”)  This not only allows you to test your own beliefs against the flint of other minds, it allows you to turn your insight into them into introspection and say “maybe this thing I believe is not so much right, but simply what I believe due to this blindspot.”  (It is entirely possible I find the idea of group marriage weird because I’m a deep introvert, who for a long time thought she couldn’t even do a conventional marriage, because I need so much “getting away and being by myself” time.  Turns out marrying another introvert works.  Also, with time you get okay with having him in your space all the time.  You can sit there and read next to him and recharge as well — better — than when alone.  Am I sure this is my blind spot?  No.  I think the whole idea of group marriage is psychologically too taxing.  But I’ll admit that it’s entirely possible it’s JUST my view.  Hence, ladies and gentlemen, why I say you should be free to try it.  I just don’t think it will ever be a thing of the majority.)

And I’ll be honest, absent magic, I can’t understand how someone reading a book, or even making a book a bestseller — EVEN IF THE BOOK IS BIGOTED AGAINST A GROUP OF PEOPLE — hurts anyone.  Dan Brown didn’t cause the Catholic Church to collapse in a heap.  Oh, sure, it lent some fire to pre-existing hatred of the Catholic Church among Protestant denominations.  The Protocols of the Elders of Zion haven’t caused Judaism to go extinct.  Sure, they lent ammo to some very idiotic people who ALREADY wanted to believe the worst of Jews.  Both bits of hatred pre-existed the books.  Reading them or making them bestsellers didn’t physically run out and kill people or even cause people to say mean things.

This is why this entire dumpster fire annoys me. It annoys me all the more because you know and I know that it happens all the time.  I’ve been subjected to this insanity as have my books.

To put it succinctly for those — you lucky few — not following at home: YA author wrote a book in which the character gradually overcomes racism.  It honestly seems to all intents and purposes a Politically Correct, innocuous book, which was getting the push such books get UNTIL someone decided that portraying a character who started out prejudiced WAS prejudiced, and that the book was therefore the worst thing ever, and the author was racist, and no one should read it because they’d become tainted.

And then there’s this crap — this crap right here:

Author Tristina Wright was one of several who condemned would-be readers of called-out books, while young readers followed suit.
“Imagine being so privileged you care about your own entertainment more than the hurt of marginalized people,” one tweeted, while another declared, “Reading a book specifically because it’s been called out for racism doesn’t make you a champion of independent thought. It makes you racist.”

Say it with me, ladies and gentlemen: no book ever on being read reached out and PHYSICALLY hurt any marginalized (or none marginalized.  Or purple with stripes and three heads) people.  Reading a book can cause you to agree with it, disagree with it, change your mind or become entrenched in your own prejudices, but it DOES NOT HURT ANYONE.  The Necronomicon is fictional, okay?  Reading a book does not open a pathway to the nether realms.

It can’t even be that Ms. Wright thinks reading the book will make people “racist” since the character sees her errors as the book progresses.  So why is she doing this?  I tell you why.  This totalitarian wanna be enjoys the power she has to destroy the career of, honestly, probably a fellow traveler, and to keep emotional bubble children like this one from reading whatever she decides is double plus ungood this week:

Mimi, the teen blogger who had once been so excited about The Black Witch, was among those who urged others to avoid the book, writing on her website and Twitter about the emotional pain it had caused her. She still hasn’t read it, and doesn’t plan to; she feels that Sinyard’s review tells her all she needs to know. “I trusted her take on it. She showed pictures from the book, and certain passages in the book, so it’s not like she was making it up,” Mimi says. And in the wake of the book’s release on May 2, Mimi is upset by the lack of response from Harlequin and galled by descriptions of the novel as pro-diversity and anti-prejudice. “I wanted the author and publisher to understand that there were people who were hurt by this,” she says. “But [Forest] says her book is for diversity, anti-homophobia, anti-racism, and it’s poking fun at all of us, like we did this all for nothing.”

It’s about doing this “for something” and the something is the power of the Puppet Masters.

Mimi is a teen and so we must excuse her twerpitude.  You have to go through miles and miles of twerpitude before you finally, perhaps, arrive at being a worthwhile human being at some point.

But unfortunately she’s joined by many so called adults.  I’ve heard my own books referred to as “racist, sexist, homophobic” (always in that order, yes) and this given as reason not to read them, because you know, quotes pulled out of context totally tell you what a book is about.  Take the sainted Handmaid’s tale, which like most Margaret Atwood I’ve never managed to read, because you know, the world building suspends my disbelief till the neck breaks.  Also she has literary pretensions.  I’m sure her book contains not a single anti-woman quote if taken out of context, right?  That mystery I read last week certainly had a straw man walking around all over saying how women were inferior.  And it was CLEARLY meant to make us think the opposite.

If you’re so emotionally fragile that a sentence that goes against your beliefs will forever destroy your psyche; if you’re such a primitive that you think the magical process of reading a book hurts someone; or if you’re a born slave, who thinks other people should control what you read and think and know, then you’re probably marching on the side of people who want the past bricked up and taken down, and put behind walls, so as to give unthinking children like our Mimi above the impression that what they think and what they know (pitiful little as it is) is the only right thought and was always, forever, in the eternal now.

On the other hand, if you’re a free man or woman, or aspire to be, read whatever you want.  Do not let the howls of outrage from petty totalitarians and their unthinking thralls lead you to either read or not read something.  READ WHATEVER YOU WANT.  THINK WHATEVER YOU WANT ABOUT IT. WRITE WHATEVER YOU WANT.

I’m free to declare your thoughts repugnant and you a wanna-be Puppet Master who wishes control human minds (which I also consider repugnant.  In fact, vomit inducing) BUT I will not declare that you should not read whatever you want to, or write whatever you want to, and that whoever who wants to read you and finds you amusing should read you, whether or not they agree with you.

Most “scary books” turn out to be either boring or laughable.  Some are mildly amusing.

Only people without the ability to think or discern reality think reading something is scary or mind-altering.

Humans grow by testing their thought against other humans.  Prevent them from doing this  and they remain eternal infants.

“For the first time in my life, I was reading things which had not been approved by the Prophet’s censors, and the impact on my mind was devastating. Sometimes I would glance over my shoulder to see who was watching me, frightened in spite of myself. I began to sense faintly that secrecy is the keystone of all tyranny. Not force, but secrecy…censorship. When any government, or any church for that matter, undertakes to say to it’s subjects, This you may not read, this you must not see, this you are forbidden to know, the end result is tyranny and oppression, no matter how holy the motives. Mighty little force is needed to control a man whose mind has been hoodwinked, contrariwise, no amount of force can control a free man, a man whose mind is free. No, not the rack, not fission bombs, not anything—you can’t conquer a free man; the most you can do is kill him.”
― Robert A. Heinlein.

Be free.

334 thoughts on “Being Free

  1. “For fun I’ve read fiction by everyone from deep racists (and no one does racism as well as the elites of the nineteenth century. Not all, of course, but the baseline for “not racist” was in a place we’d now consider racist) to modern science fiction feminists.”

    So I’m finding that I can’t imagine who in particular are the elites you’re referring to, even though I’ve read a sampling of nineteenth century literature and intellectual history. Could I request three or four examples of writers who fit that category? Or other cultural figures?

    1. No. Mostly because I can’t remember their names, since I read them in my grandfather’s library. But I remember a lot of the books considered nationalities races, and the Portuguese were often “a debased race” — they were translations.
      However, for your edification, read H. G. Wells on eugenics.

    2. Thomas Carlyle – Occasional Discourse on the Negro Question

      wiki – In its 1849 publication, a fictitious speaker makes various controversial points ranging from insults about the appearance and intelligence of black Africans to radical alternative solutions to the slavery problem. These are probably opinions that Carlyle had gathered from the British under-class and upper-class, plantation owners, such as his friend John Stirling, and some of the remaining pro-slavery elite he met in London, all fused into one. It brings the contemporary reader into the feelings and controversies of the time.

      1. I’ve read How the Dismal Science Got Its Name, which goes into detail on the attitudes of people like Thoma Carlyle and John Ruskin. But I wouldn’t have thought of them as examples of anti-racists of an earlier era who would now be considered racist; they were overtly racist by the standards of their own time, weren’t they?

        Of course, it seems to me that a speaker who said now that they wanted their children to be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character, as Martin Luther King did, would be widely condemned as a racist. . . .

        1. Of course, it seems to me that a speaker who said now that they wanted their children to be judged not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character, as Martin Luther King did, would be widely condemned as a racist. . . .

          I believe that Jagi Lamplighter was attacked for admitting she didn’t classify friends by race, several years back.

          They’re just friends.

    3. I beleive that by today’s standards, both H.G. Wells and Lovecraft would fit into what she is talking about. You could also make a pretty good case for Burroughs. Howard (Conan), maybe… Of course Kipling, mostly because of “White Man’s Burden”, would get a pummelling as well. Can you even image using the phrase, “White Man’s burden”?!?

        1. Agreed. I always interpreted it to be more of, “As the heirs to western philosophy, science and civilization, it is our duty to go out and make the world better for everyone we come into contact with.” It was a lot more philosophy than race.

            1. Or “The Last Centurion” (speaking of the Roman evacuation from Britain)

              “And last centurion left his sword in the heather, and took a barbarian bride.”

                1. Ahem. (Semi-) cult TV series on SyFy network:

                  Warehouse 13

                  Fictional history
                  The series posits that there have been a dozen incarnations of the Warehouse before the present-day 13th in South Dakota. Warehouse 1 was built between 336–323 BC under Alexander the Great as a place to keep artifacts obtained by war. After Alexander died, the Warehouse was moved to Egypt, establishing the practice of locating the Warehouse in the most powerful empire of the day, under the reasoning that it will be best defended there. Egypt’s Ptolemaic rulers appointed a group of people, known as the Regents, to oversee the Warehouse and act as its first “agents” and collectors of artifacts. Warehouse 2 lasted until the Roman conquest of Egypt. Other warehouses: Warehouse 3 in Western Roman Empire (Italy), Warehouse 4 in Hunnic Empire until the death of Attila the Hun, Warehouse 5 in Byzantine Empire, Warehouse 6 in Cambodia under Khmer Empire, Warehouse 7 in the Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan, Warehouse 8 in Germany during the Holy Roman Empire (1260–1517), Warehouse 9 in the Ottoman capital of Constantinople until the death of Suleiman the Magnificent, Warehouse 10 in Mughal Empire (India), Warehouse 11 in the Russian Empire under the Romanov Dynasty (the 1812 Napoleonic War with Russia was an attempt to seize control of Warehouse 11), and Warehouse 12 in the United Kingdom from 1830 until 1914. It was during the time of Warehouse 11 that the Regents began to employ agents to gather and protect artifacts. This practice continued under Warehouse 12, with British agents traveling further and further searching for artifacts to add to the collection.

                  The next move brought the Warehouse to South Dakota in the United States. Unlike previous warehouses, which were placed in the centers of their empires, Warehouse 13 was located in a remote area of South Dakota to hide it. The first Warehouse 13 was built in 1898, but the structure burned down because of an insufficient understanding of how to safely store artifacts. The move to the rebuilt and current Warehouse 13 occurred in 1914 at the onset of World War I. The Warehouse was designed by Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and M. C. Escher, while the Warehouse Expansion Joints were created by Albert Einstein.

        2. Noblesse oblige isn’t a bad thing. It’s just that like so many things humans do, it’s taken to excess. I like the Wikipedia entry about a poem in commentary with Kipling’s

          We’ve taken up the white man’s burden
          Of ebony and brown;
          Now will you tell us, Rudyard
          How we may put it down?

          We are so good about implementing and starting stuff, “for the benefit of those with less”; but we are absolute idiots, morons, imbeciles because we fail to set the end goal, set an unachievable goal out of hubris or ignorance ourselves, or include any means of measuring whether we’ve reached it or not, and oh so often never put together a plan on how to withdraw from the undertaking.

          Which is my major objection to the all the various Communist. Democrat, Liberal, Progressive, Socialist programs. They put them in place for perpetuity, and the reason why they never put an expiration date or conditions on them is because the ultimate goal is not to benefit any of the downtrodden. Their ultimate goal is always to enrich themselves off the taxpayers under the guise of helping others.

          The Flexible Spending Account for healthcare was a major example. You want to encourage people to save for healthcare, let them claim the costs as income reductions or tax deductions on their tax return; no need to force them to give money to a bank so the bank can use it for the entire year interest free. The insurance company bailouts with the PPACA, and the mandate to have health insurance is another.

          1. Learning the details of “Flexible” Spending Accounts drove me nuts: why in the world should the government create an account for medical purposes such that, if you can’t spend what you save by the end of the year, the government confiscates what’s in there.

            How in the world is this “flexible”? Granted, someone with predictable medical expenses, like Type-I diabetes, *might* find it useful, but in reality, there’s really no such thing as a predictable disease. And why in the world should the Government have any right to unspent health care money?

            And politicians have the gall to suggest we needed the ACA because free market health care was failing, as if we had anything resembling the free market in the first place!

            1. Learning the details of “Flexible” Spending Accounts drove me nuts: why in the world should the government create an account for medical purposes such that, if you can’t spend what you save by the end of the year, the government confiscates what’s in there.

              Well, it’d work great for military budgets and such, if you have a couple of years overlap….

              (sorry, sorry, throwing shoes at myself(

        3. Sarah, the other reason Kipling’s considered racist is the “Huckleberry Finn” fallacy: that of mistaking dialect for reality. “Barrack Room Ballads” and other Kipling works use certain common words of dialect that his audience understood differently.

          1. I dunno. Robert Howard seems far more a classical racist than Kipling ever did. Kipling struck me as an anti-racist – as a culturist, even a bit of an individualist.

            (Doesn’t stop Howard’s stories from being a little enjoyable in a pulpy-sort-of-way (which is what they *are*), but Howard’s worldview contains things far more alien and grating to mine than Kipling’s.)

            1. There’s a difference between people being descriptive, in the unfettered and uncringing language of their time, and people being racist.

              In my reading of older authors, I’d say there’s even a difference between people being racist in the unconscious way that tribal mankind often is, and people being racist in the hostile and malevolent way that some are in places like the old South, where the racism serves a purpose of dehumanizing and degrading the place of some people in a society.

                1. Well, perhaps I don’t get the hostility because I’m unfamiliar with the circumstances. Two examples are in my mind right now: The first was of a sort of sinophile’s history of china written by some english dude (I think he was actually sort of white-washing the mandarins and certain aspects of their culture at certain points). The other was a book written by one of the Pattersons about an expedition to Africa to photograph the wildlife – for Victorian-era dudes doing Victorian things, I never got the impression that they were racist in the hostile way that southerners were about the natives which they had met. In fact, the author seem pretty respectful. His words seemed entirely descriptive to me, not judgemental.

                  1. You seem to think that the Southern United States were / are uniquely racist. How ignorantly SJW you are.

                    1. Also, exploring is a fundamentally different activity than living in the same area, producing different reactions. You are, after all, transitory.

    4. A lot of the old English stuff comes to mind– the idea of the French being a “race” and the natural assumption that so and so would be thus and such because of race, that even hits Chesterton.

        1. …you know, I can even almost see that because of the “a lot of people go over seas to get money” effect, and I KNOW how that tends to go.

          It is still annoying, but at least it makes SENSE.

  2. John Stuart Mill – He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion…

  3. I’ve never come across an idea so dangerous it couldn’t be debated.

    McNair! Fetch me a rum!

  4. There is too little happiness in this world to be restricting the ways in which people find it.

    Wellllllllllll … I think there are some happinesses I would limit, Mr. Lecter, Mr. Gosnell. I recognize I am somewhat sentimental in some areas and generally do not demand my prejudices be enacted into law, but there are indeed some forms of happiness which ought be restricted.

      1. I chose the fictional one as representative of an attitude; I selected the real one as example of the underlying reality of the fictional. Alas, the menu of real monsters is embarrassingly rich in options.

        Considering yesterday’s topic, perhaps I ought have named Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed.

      2. I doubt Gosneell was a ghoul because he liked it. He clearly didn’t MIND, but it was about making money.

        OTOH, I didn’t have the stomach to follow the trial, so maybe he WAS exposed as a snuff-pervert.

        1. IIRC, the trial focused strictly on the women who died while in his clinic. The babies who were delivered and then killed weren’t on the list of charges due to how politically charged it would have made things. The last thing the prosecution would have wanted was a die-hard abortion fanatic who refused to find him guilty of the deaths of the babies.

            1. I’ve heard that what was happening in his clinic was an open secret. But because of politics, the people who were willing to take action had their hands tied. So the drug bust was the excuse that they used to arrest him so that they could “discover” the murders.

              1. Incidentally, there’s a film about Gosnell that’s hopefully nearing completion. It’s called “Gosnell: America’s Biggest Serial Killer”. The script is apparently by Andrew Klavan, Nick Searcy directs (and also appears), and Dean Cain stars. No word on a release date. According to the Wikipedia page for it, there’s been a universal refusal by studios, distributors, streaming sites, etc… to pick it up. That won’t stop it from getting an independent release. But it will make it harder for people to watch it.

              2. He was so protected that a (pro-abortion!) guy took heat for not sending girls to his clinic because he was systematically infecting them with STDs, but he did it anyways because he didn’t want to sacrifice the girls like that.

        2. He… uh… kept representative samples in jars. And if his “workplace” conditions weren’t torture, it wasn’t for lack of trying.

    1. Sin lies only in hurting other people unnecessarily. All other “sins” are invented nonsense.
      (Hurting yourself is not sinful — just stupid.)

      1. 10 Commandments in a nutshell:

        “Hi. I’m God. Don’t take ANYTHING that belongs to someone else.”

          1. We are so blessed in this country that it’s common to hear the phrase, “it was only property/material goods” so no big deal.
            Historically speaking horse theft was a hanging offense because the loss of a horse often meant the difference between life or death. Likewise, theft of food could mean the difference between starvation or survival for yourself and your family.
            Those conditions still apply in much of the world, I pray that they never return to our shores.

            1. I spent a portion of my life earning the wherewithal to purchase something; whoever tries to steal it has taken that portion of my life for his own purposes without my consent. That is the very definition of slavery.

              I don’t debate slavers. I put bullets in them whenever I can.

            2. Even so, if you steal from someone’s pantry, there’s a good chance that the person’s family is going to have to go to the food bank or reach out to family, friends and community for help.

              Which begs the question, why doesn’t the thief go to the food bank, or ask the community for help in the first place?

              I can’t remember where I encountered the idea (it may have been in the comments of one of Sarah’s blog posts, or even one of the blog posts themselves), but thinking about this reminds me of the ridiculous attempt to find a line where it’s Ok to steal. Sure, it’s possible to find such a line, but to what purpose? Is it an attempt to establish that stealing is Ok in some circumstances, so why not others? The reality is that there’s almost always ways to honestly get help, or to work for yourself to get what you need, to the point where you really have to *stretch* to come up with a scenario to justify stealing.

              1. The real answer to that is that stealing is never justified; sometimes it may be the best of a bunch of really awful options, but you had better own that thievery. People don’t like to think that they do evil things, so they try to redefine them down. Funny thing is, that doesn’t work…

            3. In modern times, theft means that you’re going “Hey, you have stuff….and I’m not going to lower myself to ASKING, I’m just going to take.”

              I am the kind of fool who will give every SINGLE time someone asks in the parking lot– I actually need to remember to restock our “we broke down” stock, because I gave everything but the water away.

              I don’t give cash, because that is too fungible. Yeah, they can sell the tuna I gave over, but not easily. And if they’re hungry… it’s the food I’d give to me.

  5. Imagine being so privileged you care about your own entertainment more than the hurt of marginalized people,

    “You will be made to care.”

    1. Welcome to the World of Equality. Nobody is permitted to feel better than anyone else. Everyone is required to be equally miserable. Now smile, or we’ll send you to Room 101 for reeducation.

    2. “Imagine someone so privileged, and so deeply stupid, that they’ve never either voluntarily considered ideas different than their own, or been forced to do so by reality”

      The Nazis not only would have, but did, execute many of my cousins for the horrible crime of being Jews. But I still read (in translation) Mein Kampf. Has the phrase “know your enemy” ever sullied these people’s shell-like ears?

          1. I read it when I was a kid, too – my dad is a history teacher, and has a fairly large collection of books on WW2 & the Nazis – he is just old enough to have clear memories of the start of the war.

          2. A friend of mine wound up being a Biblical scholar of sorts. He kept seeing quotes that didn’t match what his copy said, and wound up buying a whole shelf full of Bibles to compare to each other.

            According to him some of the translations were *very* different from each other, besides omitting or adding text. He passed away before the “gender neutral” versions started showing up…

            1. My father (who as his sainted mother said “would argue with a sign that he painted) had multiple Bibles, including a KJV, one of those four-language deals with Greek, Hebrew, and Latin, and both the Jehovah’s Witness scriptures and the Book of Mormon.

              We had a couple Mormon missionaries stop by. Once. Dad broke out the herd of Bibles and went to town. They escaped a couple hours later and we never got any more missionaries.

            2. The “omitting or adding text” is mostly a result of better biblical scholarship. The Vulgate version used some poor manuscripts. And some of the early vulgar language versions used those same manuscripts (or translated from the Vulgate – ugh).
              Those manuscripts had some verses added (pretty few, considering the amount of total text we’re talking about). Later vulgar translations, using the more authoritative versions, left those verses out (though often with an accompanying footnote in modern versions).
              I have a paraphrase or two, and those can get really odd when it comes to verses. Lots of verse numbers missing when several verses are paraphrased into a single statement.

              And, yes, I have a Book of Mormon and a koran (though in English – I doubt I’ll ever learn to read Arabic in this lifetime). The koran is an English academic press from a few decades ago, and doesn’t seem bowdlerized in the least.

          3. This one most certainly had not been. It was one of the few that went into Abrogation.

          4. Just speculation on my part, but that may be a reason why Heinlein pushed reading the Koran in Arabic in several of his books.

            1. Not only that, but no matter how good a translation might be, Muslims only consider the original Arabic to be the one true version of the Koran. And this is true, even before considering the Muslim belief (I cannot remember the name for it) that it’s Ok to lie to unbelievers*, to further the cause of Islam…

              *(Which, incidentally, is *very* similar to the Communist belief in the Big Lie, where it’s Ok to lie about anything, so long as it advances the cause of Communism.)

              1. Let’s see, what’s the best way to put this? The original language anything is written in is going to be the most accurate communication of its meaning. All translation is a matching of closest equivalents based on the filters of the person(s) making the translation; and therefore are always going to be subjective in nature.
                Of course anything written by a crazy person is going to not have the same meaning to someone else even reading it in the same language; because the insanity has it’s own set of filters before the message even gets on media.

        1. I’ve only read a little of it. It was the section from the story of Joseph in Egypt that dealt with Potiphar’s Wife, and how Joseph ended up in prison. While the starting point (Potiphar’s Wife hits on Joseph, and gets rejected) and the ending point (Joseph goes to prison) were the same, the points in between were *very* different.

          The impression that I got was that the person who originally told that particular version of the story had a hard time believing that bad things could happen to good people.

          1. One of the more interesting experiences of that sort I have had was while visiting the Smithsonian a few months after 9-11-01 and browsing some Muslim children’s books based on Bible stories. As you might suppose, some liberties appeared to have been taken.

        2. Bought it at then-buddy’s request.

          He read it.

          Bought him the KJV. Added in a Catholic bible and the USCCB.

          He read ALL OF THEM.

      1. I graduated HS in 1973. My HS library had Mein Kampf in it’s collection. A large percentage of us in the advanced classes checked it out and read it. Or at least skimmed it.Das Kapital and The Communist Manifesto were also on the shelves. Anyone who checked out one eventually checked out all three.. I had my own copy of The Blue Book of the John Birch Society. It was actually much more readable then the others. I got my copy somewhere for free. One of the things I remember is that it had really good instructions on how (and why) to form a compartmentalized organization structure, so if one cell was busted, it couldn’t bring everyone down. And it freely admitted borrowing that structure from the Communists. Also had a copy of the Bhagavad Gita, obtained for a relatively small donation to a Hare Krishna. That was a skim through. Didn’t pay for my copy of the Book of Mormon. Read bit and pieces of it. But of it I have this to say- Only in America could you have a religion founded with a prophet named Joseph Smith who received visions from an Angel Moroni. And I read about engrams in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact.

        Except for the John Birch Society publication and Analog, most of my HS friends perused all of the above. Only a few became flaming liberals…

        And of course I have my copy of the Bible presented to me when I was confirmed. I have yet to read the whole thing. After a few begats my eyes glaze over… I have to wonder sometimes. In my Bible, and a few others, but not everyone’s, the pastor outlined a particular biblical story. That was 4th grade. The story he referred to in mine became applicable in my life shortly after adulthood.

        1. Didn’t pay for my copy of the Book of Mormon. Read bit and pieces of it. But of it I have this to say- Only in America could you have a religion founded with a prophet named Joseph Smith who received visions from an Angel Moroni.

          Mormon theology agrees with you.


          As for the Bible, yeah, parts of it get tedious. One of the reasons why the New Testament is so much easier to read is because there’s not so much tedium. My bible is an edition that’s got lots of cross-references and footnotes on each page – except for one. There is one page in Numbers that doesn’t have a single footnote. It’s a list of what each of the Twelve Tribes of Israel donated to The Lord, and each tribe gave the exact same donation. But instead of just saying, “Each tribe donated XXXX,” the text runs through the exact same list for every single tribe.

          Parts of the Old Testament are like that.

          Of course, other parts aren’t. And there are some truly great stories in there.

          1. When someone talks about the “begats,” I think of that list in Numbers and smile. That list in Numbers, as well as some other portions,is a strong argument that someone was keeping an as-it-happened chronicle, and jotted down the donations as they were made.

            The issue of bible readability depends on the translation. I am not as familiar with Roman Catholic translations (the only difference from the Protestants are some verse groupings and the inclusion of the deuterocanonical books), so have no suggestions. Be aware that some translations are so poor that you wonder what they were working from.

            In our age of the Internet, it’s easy to compare translations, and if there’s some question, a look at Strong numbers, where each word is numbered according to the word it was translated from, can help.

            1. The main thing about translations is that a really good one will have copious footnotes. Of course, nothing is as good as having something taught by a scholar of the language it was originally written in; I took an Old Testament course from a professor who was an expert in ancient Hebrew and he talked about ALL the puns and allusions. And there are lots of them.

              The one that I always remember is “Ehud the left-handed.” Apparently “left-handed” was slang for a male prostitute, so when the king was “washing his feet” (not his feet), Ehud could approach him without guards searching him for weaponry. (And then his sword got stuck because the king was so fat…)

          2. > tedium

            By modern standards, yes. But you’ll find similar structures in other old works. It was a way of establishing authority and legitimacy, more or less. It was a literary style.

            Modern Western cultures tend to be blind to that kind of thing. We seldom care who your ancestors were, and their accomplishments don’t give you any personal credibility.

            1. I have also wondered about how important repetition was in making sure that things were less susceptible to mistakes in transcription. When you have a chapter where each of the twelve tribes donate each of the same things, and everything is listed, and you have a copy where Dan donated something slightly different from everyone else, it’s bound to raise an eyebrow…

    3. Caring begins at home. Of course you care more for your own than for some nebulous group of “marginalized peoples.”

    4. I do not, in fact, care.

      Offense cannot be given, it must be taken. Nobody, Speaking or writing, is responsible for anyone else’s mental or emotional state.

      1. Offense *can* be given, but it must also be taken. Every so often, it’s even appropriate to take the offense.

        What’s so troubling is how many people who are so eager to take offense, particularly when it’s clear that no offense is even being offered in the first place.

        1. They think (and sadly are often correct) they can abuse politeness by forcing someone to grovel and apologize to them.

        2. Many years ago I read a definition I could relate to: a gentleman never unwittingly gives offense.

  6. I remember seeing a clip where someone had strung together a clip of Disney villains doing villainous things, and declaring how evil Disney was for glorifying such behavior. And didn’t understand why the only people who found it persuasive had already believed it.

  7. I managed about four chapters of _Mein Kampf_ in English, tried it in German, and fell asleep. Ye gads and little fishes, but that man needed an editor. I’d almost rather slog through _Das Kapital_ again. That’s why I encourage people to read them. Takes the mystique clean away.

      1. “I’d rather play Depression Quest”

        Have you checked for signs of fever?

    1. Fellow I knew in school attempted the reading of Mein Kampf (English translation). He gave up after a while. Said every chapter was rehash of the last one, so why go on? And this fellow could slog through danged near anything. So that book had to be one helluva turkey.

      1. Want to REALLY worry? The damn thing was a best seller, in Germany. The despicable Austrian made a freaking FORTUNE on it.

        Of course THE POPULATION BOMB made lots of money too, and so have a lot of other trash books.

        1. Was it a best seller before or after Hitler became chancellor? If before, then yeah, I’d be worried. If after, then it was likely due to concerns similar to the ones we have with the SJWs today.

          1. “Hitler had made about 1.2 million Reichsmarks from the income of his book by 1933”

            from Wikipedia, so might be nonsense, but probably accurate (not a subject people care to screw with).

            1. The section on “Popularity” in Wikipedia says 1.2 million Reichsmarks, but the section on “Sales and Royalties” appears to show only a total of 12,143 Reichsmarks; which seems more in line with actual prices during the 1930s. Perhaps the 1.2 million figure is a confusion with the value in today’s Mark?

        2. It was one of those books that every good German had to have, but very few ever read.

          1. Hess did the actual writing of it. Goebbels claimed he’d read it. Otherwise, from Goering on down, even the top Party members openly bragged they’d never read it.

            I’ve never seen any claim that Adolf cared one way or the other. I have a sneaking suspicion he’d never read it either. (Hess put it together from Adolf’s speeches and rants while in prison)

      2. Well, not liking to disagree, and its been years since I did it, but as someone who can read through most anything, I’d like to say that the English translation of Mein Kampf that I read in my college years I found reasonably readable. His explanations seemed reasonably sane, his concerns well-founded. That he later took things to the extremes they did, may have been in the initial writings, but were not that exceptionally stated…

        1. The first half was mostly a way-too-detailed whinge against the political workings of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which was virtually kaput when Adolf wrote his book.

          I lost traction at the second half, where he was talking about being able to spot Jews hiding out among the German populace. The Voices kept throwing up scenes from “They Live!” where Roddy Piper had the magic sunglasses…

    2. That’s why I encourage people to read them. Takes the mystique clean away.


      That is so long as your mind is not already mighty twisted going in.

      1. That’s why I encourage people to read them. Takes the mystique clean away.

        I’ve always through of it as inoculating against bad ideas.

        I also disapprove of the latest fad of changing name and removing historic statues or flags that are now disapproved of. If you erase history you can’t learn from it and have created a fresh opportunity to make the same old mistakes all over again.

        But that most people don’t make the effort to learn.

        1. If you erase history you can’t learn from it and have created a fresh opportunity to make the same old mistakes all over again.

          I thought that was the whole point of rewriting History.

          My view is that the knowledge that you will have to live with mistakes ought be an incitement to think carefully before committing them.

    3. Ye gads and little fishes, but [Hitler] needed an editor.

      He had one, in the form of Rudolf Hess.

      Which, yes, makes him the first Grammar Nazi.

      1. There’s a Downfall Hitler video in which Hitler struggles to figure out a phrase to describe someone who’s a ridiculous stickler for getting grammar exactly right.

    4. If you keep on reading, there’s some ROFL funny stuff in Mein Kampf.

      Whether it was Hess seeing if anyone would notice or an artefact of translation, I;m not sure… of course, my sense of humor is slightly nonstandard too.

        1. I haven’t read the three Verkan listed, but I’ve read ‘War and Peace’. I sometimes bring up the rather odd death of one of the characters, mention that the novel is considered to be an example of non-depressing Russian literature, and then point out that as such, it proves that Russian lit is horribly screwed up.

  8. My interactions with left wing ideologues makes me think they are angry, maladjusted people. Many are narcissists, or have some tendencies, so it would not surprise me if they felt actual pain in their brain every time their beliefs are challenged. Over past fifty years, these people have put themselves in charge of society.

    1. To understand the political success of the Left you need only ponder the anecdote of the body parts’ argument over which was most important.

      Conservatives/Libertarians fail to recognize that Liberty is never secure, fascism (in all its guises), like rust, never sleeps. We need to recognize that even if we win all the battles we can yet lose the war.

      1. “We need to recognize that even if we win all the battles we can yet lose the war.”

        Socialism or fascism are two most winning ideologies since the Axis was defeated in world war two. Across the western world, technocracy has established itself and the politicians and bureaucrats have stopped caring what common person thinks or desires. I don’t believe argument is ended tho, whigs and libertarians will rise again at some point and re-establish their principles.

        Flanders and swann video reminded me of three of my four grandparents, thanks for that.

      2. In other words, my claim that you can’t have a civil society with Leftists in it is confirmed. And there is only one solution to it, which is to remove them from it.

  9. When I was working at a bookstore lo these many years ago, there was a copy of The Turner Diaries in the Literature section. The entire cover was the publisher’s reasoning for publishing it—basically, that there are people who believe this crap, so it’s important to know what it is that they’re basing their ideology on. No bet on whether they’d get excoriated these days.

    1. *snerk* One of the grad students waltzed into the break room/holding pen one day grinning like mad. “I bet the NSA’s going to be visiting me.” We all looked at him. “I just ordered a copy of the Turner Diaries, a copy of the Communist Manifesto, the DVD of _Birth of a Nation_, and the Anarchist Cookbook.” Pause. “I’m writing the 20th Century seminar paper on terrorism and insurrections, and the DVD’s for class.”

        1. True story. Like another grad student who came into the main office and said, “If anyone searches my bag I am in so much trouble.” He had _Triumph of the Will_ (for World Civ II class) and _Birth of a Nation_ (for the prof who was teaching African-American history and had forgotten to get it from the library, so Grad Student got it). The department chair rolled his eyes and the secretary just shrugged.

      1. The best “review” of Anarchist Cookbook I ever saw was by a chemist detailing why so much was a bad idea – and as I recall even suggesting alternate things that wouldn’t randomly blow up in your face. I wonder if the usenet archives of it are still accessible somewhere.

        1. Heh, back in high school my one friend was quite pleased to tell me that her father had acquired a copy of the Anarchist’s Cookbook at a yard sale. She told me about some of the ‘recipes’ and I immediately countered by telling her what was wrong with them and the proper way, according to my own father, to make various explosives and similar things. It never occurred to me that my father had a pretty odd and eclectic range of knowledge until that moment. I’d just taken it for granted that every little kid got taught what chemicals were dangerous, why and what would happen if you mixed them.

          1. Talk of The Anarchist’s Cookbook remind me of the problematic title of Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book. Presumably the bookseller, publisher and author would press charges if you denied them their royalties by following their dictum. I believe some jurisdictions actually had to rule on whether following the author’s dictum was permissible.

      2. I first read the Communist Manifesto at the suggestion of a retired CIA employee who addressed a college group. He said he read it so many times the librarian was sure to think he was a communist.

        1. I recall Thomas Sowell having written a book on the Manifesto in which he addresses many of its points. It would have been written fairly early in his career, and he has confessed being strongly influenced by the book — virtually becoming an advocate — when a young man.

  10. The world is full of people who have never made a single thing in their lives telling creatives how (or how not) to make things. Take io9,, The Mary Sue (please!). Half their posts are some tumblrista trying to dictate what their favorite TV shows/movies/comics are doing. And doing what they want almost invariably leads to a decline in quality.

    Ignore them.

    1. Chuck Jones said that for a while he’d go to theaters and watch audience reaction to his cartoons. He stopped that when he realized that the more he tried to please that audience, the worse his cartoons got. Termite Terrace (WB’s cartoon studio, such as it was) was a success not from pandering to the audience, but more that the cartoonists were all trying to outdo each other.

      1. I am currently listening to Cary Elwes’ audiobook of As You Wish and he speculates much the same thing about The Princess Brde, that the book works because Wm. Goldman wrote it for himself and the movie works because Reiner made the film he wanted to see.

        OTOH, I recall stories about the Marx Brothers having to work out the timing of some of their best gags by performing before live audiences, so clearly there is some room for differences in artistic temperament.

        1. Alan King did a talk show series called INSIDE THE COMEDY MIND. Most of it was pretty good (the Bob Hope interview was a waste. Hope had been doing his schtick so long he could’t stop and discuss his craft). One of the best was an interview with Jack Lemmon, that went into some detail on timing to the films MR. ROBERTS and SOME LIKE IT HOT. Worth looking up, on DVD.

        2. This is kind of apples and oranges. The first is like impulse items at a check-out, or leafing through a catalog, and seeing things you didn’t know you wanted. Since you didn’t know you wanted that item until you saw it, asking what you wanted would never have produced that item. Comedy depends on surprise as much as anything, such as a very funny version of the old joke about the priest and the rabbi who wreck while racing, all because of a twist ending to a very old joke.

          Working out timing of gags, and sorting out gags that flop, is relying on audience feedback. Anyone who’s so much as told a joke has relied on audience feedback. Funny stuff is kept and polished; humorless stuff gets canned. That’s one thing that makes writing humor so difficult; it doesn’t have the immediate audience feedback. It sounds like the Marx brothers were polishing gags that at least had some positive feedback to make them better, which is different than creating gags that the audience thinks it wants.

        3. Harpo was adlibing in a bit they had accidently forgotten to include lines for him, and a critic slammed him for ruining the skit whenever he opened his mouth. Hence he gave the same skit a silent clown act the next time, and he was them the funniest part of the bit. He then took on the mute persona the is famous for.

          1. Lest anyone be too dismissive of Harpo’s words, his autobiography, Harpo Speaks! is a superb example of the genre, an excellent light read with some lovely insights into persons and nations.

            1. The others thought he was doing fine, but when Harpo decided to do the silent thing just to spite an idiot critic, it went over so well, he stuck to it and not just that skit.

  11. RAH is one of the most influential forces in my life. Not the least because he opened up the world of books and imagination to me. Heinlein made me think. I’d read something of his and discard it as nonsense, only to wake up in the middle the night with the epiphany that he was right. He was the first person who explained to me the creation of wealth (his analogy of the cook in “Starship Troopers.” He understood the concepts of freedom and responsibility and was able to convey those concepts to me.

    I disagree with him on many levels; for example, I’m religious, he was not; he liked cats, I like dogs. There’s more.

    Still, I owe that man a debt and will be forever grateful that I was introduced to his books and thoughts.

    1. With Heinlein it does not matter whether you agree or disagree, what matters is that you know why you agree or disagree.

      With such critics as described above, what matters is only whether you agree (are obedient) or disagree (are an enemy an obstacle to domination by People of Good Thought.)

  12. Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. – C. S. Lewis

    1. I call those critters idiots (which may be an insult to idiots).

      Umm, I think they’re called Googlers 🙂

      1. Yes, there are search engines other than Google. And after this past week, I’ve been using them and avoiding Google as much as possible.

  13. Stretching ones mind is a good thing. As long as you don’t stretch it too far so that it snaps. I have tried reading different lines of thought (Mein Kampf, Das Kapital, Nietzsche, etc.). Most of the time I found them to be overblown wind bags that thought they had a good idea.
    As to different levels of fiction, as long as they tell a good story that’s mostly believable, I don’t care about their political philosophy. Until they get too preachy that is.
    Yeah, I don’t believe in banning books. Today’s banned book is tomorrows literature.

    1. I disagree with a lot that Nietzsche thought. But I’ll honor him forever for one of his epigrams: That people talk of having the courage of one’s convictions, but what’s really needed is the courage for an attack on one’s convictions.

      I’d also note that Nietzsche was one of the very first advocates of cultural relativism in ethics; and being a genuine scholar (apparently he read the Laws of Manu in the original), he gave it a far more sophisticated treatment than the German anthropologists who followed him, who were more sophisticated than the American anthropologists who followed them, who in turn. . . . There’s much to be said for studying an error in its most sophisticated form, rather than its popularizations.

      1. what’s really needed is the courage for an attack on one’s convictions.

        Yes, exactly that. The Google Manifesto’s been on my mind, and the thing that strikes me the most is how the loudest voices screaming about this evil memo … haven’t even bothered to read it, or even tried to refute any of his claims.

        1. Yep. I mean, I read the thing, and thought the author was way more into evo psych than was really warranted, and I could see where Google might take issue with some of the things he said–such as pointing out that the HR department might have been considering identity instead of capability–but nothing that should have elicited the RAGE! that happened.

        2. Just reading it to refute it would make them mysogenists or something, and probably racist, and ableist, and whatever the -ist of the week is.

        3. Indeed. They complain that his claims don’t cite sources; yet none of them cite a single source to refute any of his claims. Which tells me they are all at least as racist and intolerant as they accuse him of being.

          1. His sources were not attached to the most widely circulated version published.

            Personally, I’m really tired of everyone armchair quarterbacking all over social media. I’m on there because I have small children and need adult contact; I don’t want the freaking rumor mill of political link-fests.

                1. And so they did. Everybody knows that footnotes don’t matter. Nobody reads footnotes. We don’t need no stinking footnotes!

        4. The whole point of declaring ideas badthink or thoughtcrime is to avoid having to examine ones own point of view. If you examine your own ideas you might accidentally find that they’re not goodthink, so examination of ideas must be avoided at all costs.

        5. Indeed. What he wrote is readily available for anyone caring to look at the infamous memo. I went into the whole imbroglio at Chicagoboyz this week, and included a link in comments to a list of the various mainstream news outlets who were the most wrong and inflammatory in their headlines and stories about it.

          1. oh, newsies dont need to read something like that to report on it, they might pick up some badthink.

        6. On the other hand the people who generally agree with it or support its publication/dissemination have all read it and demonstrate that in their arguments and many actually argue against parts of what the memo says while agreeing with a lot of the rest of it.

          I’m perhaps an exception to both “supporters have read it” and “people who have not read it have weak counterarguments”.

          I do not find “mostly agrees with the consensus of social sciences” extremely persuasive because I’m not convinced that the social sciences aren’t massively screwed up, and I because I dislike bowing to consensus in scientific questions. I’m really too ignorant of the social sciences to justify confidence in the report on the basis of strong confidence in the citations. Using such an argument might be inconsistent for a ‘climate science is settled’ type.

          I think the report may agree with what I have guessed by other means. As far as I can tell, technical success in STEM depends on early foundations in basic mathematics. I’m inclined to question the general blithe assumption that the early mathematics portion of the pipeline is fixed so that people move through it uniformly with regard to demographics, and that differences at the college level are necessarily caused and repaired at that level. (I suspect that Common Core has worsened mathematical education for the most disadvantaged.)

          Differential degrees of interest are a bit too much mindreading for me, and I couldn’t speak to specifics.

          1. I’m not convinced that the social sciences aren’t massively screwed up

            The social sciences use highly developed methodology and employ rigorous, well-tested means of discerning truths about human behaviour. Just like Astrology.

          2. I admit to ‘only’ having a minor in psychology.
            That was enough exposure to:
            (A) Convince me I didn’t want a career in that field.
            (B) That most ‘authorities’ in psychology didn’t know what they heck they were talking about and mostly pulled it out of their backsides based on their own experiences and values.
            (C) That most psych experiments failed to have any valid scientific methodology.
            (D) That most psych case studies were too small for a valid sample, and most reports of case studies merely reflect the bias of the ‘researchers.’

      2. “This is how humans are: We question all our beliefs, except for the ones that we really believe in, and those we never think to question.”

    2. “Stretching ones mind is a good thing. As long as you don’t stretch it too far so that it snaps.”

      one of my pet peeves is the bumper sticker “A mind is like a parachute; it only functions when open.”

      Leave a parachute open all the time and it will drag you into bushes and over cliffs. It also won’t deploy properly when you do need it.

      1. I usually take such bumper stickerage as evidence the car owner’s mind is only open to the “approved” thoughts.

        1. Okay. I have one bumper sticker on my truck. It says,


          (The NGRA and NRA Life Member stickers are on the back window. And the US Fencing Association sticker is on the tailgate.)

          I really need a bumper sticker that says,

          “I read Science Fiction”

        2. Indeed. It’s always fascinating to see someone insist on *you* having an open mind, while he is completely closed to anything *you* might have to say.

      2. and tangle in the trees and leave you stuck where you are even when the situation changes…..

      3. I always preferred G.K. Chesterton’s phrase: “The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to close it again on something solid.”

        Or, to toot my own horn a little, a version I came up with myself: “The mind is like a door; to do its job, you have to be able not only to open it freely, but also to know when to close it securely.”

        1. Ooh, copying both of those to my quotables file. You want attribution, Stephen, or anonymity?

          1. Attribution under my handle, please, although I’ve come up with an even better version since:

            “A mind is like a door: it can only do its job if it can be both freely opened and securely closed as needed.”

        2. I’ve also heard something on the variation of “You shouldn’t have such an open mind that your brain flops out”.

          1. Richard Dawkins said something like that.

            Another good one: “An open mind, like an open window, should be screened to keep the bugs out.” (Virginia Hutchison)

            And one I just discovered making sure I got the above quote right: “A fully open mind could shatter the skull in both directions.” (Henry Flynt)

  14. …how everything would be solved by a sufficient application of Marx.

    They keep trying implement the methods of Karl when they should really learn from Harpo. Harpo had a much better way with words.

      1. But it’s Groucho who really had the best quotes/one-liners.
        – ““When you’re in jail, a good friend will be trying to bail you out. A best friend will be in the cell next to you saying, ‘Damn, that was fun’.” ”
        – “I never forget a face, but in your case I’ll be glad to make an exception.”
        – “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them…well I have others.”
        -“If you’re not having fun, you’re doing something wrong.”
        – “I’m not crazy about reality, but it’s still the only place to get a decent meal.”
        – “While money can’t buy happiness, it certainly lets you choose your own form of misery.”
        – “Anyone who says he can see through women is missing a lot.”
        – “I am free of all prejudices. I hate every one equally.”
        Most of the truly famous Marx brother quotes were Groucho lines I think.

          1. My understanding was that the issue under the question was not :Which Marx had the best way with words” but rather, “Which Marx had the worst way with words?”

            I therefore submitted my opinion that Karl was inferior even to Chico, previously deemed the most word-bungling Marx. In a ranking of words by Marx, I suggest the following order:


              1. Maybe if the possum learns it can teach the armadillos. Driving a section of I-44 in southwest Missouri during the early morning hours I was seeing an average of one dead armadillo on the road every 100 seconds.

        1. Ok, I just had to include 3 more:
          – “This is not a book that should be set aside lightly – it should be flung with great force.”
          – “Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.”
          – “This isn’t a particularly novel observation, but the world is full of people who think they can manipulate the lives of others merely by getting a law passed.”

          1. Is that first one Groucho’s? I’ve also seen it or very similar credited to Dorothy Parker. (The book, if I recall correctly, was by Mussolini and was ‘popular’ because one didn’t dare NOT buy it because Mussolini… at least in Italy.)

        2. Some other favourite Groucho-isms of mine:

          — “Go, and never darken my towels again.”
          — “Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.”
          — “Either this man is dead or my watch has stopped.”
          — “From the moment I picked up your book until I laid it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Some day I intend reading it.”
          — “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.”

  15. There is a certain segment of the population who have discovered that they enjoy being told what to do, what to think, and what to believe. They desperately want to be right, to belong to the right group. It has something to do with the fear of being tied to a (digital) pickup truck and dragged around the block a few times, and a lot more to do with the desire to be near the front of the line while the villain du jour is being drawn and quartered. Social media is the vehicle of choice – the only vehicle, as it turns out. What else would they use?

    When the SJWs select a victim it makes me want to go right out and read or watch the victim’s work. If the SJWs hate it, it must have something to offer. I watched Dunkirk recently because it was criticized for not having enough black people in it. I’d give it three stars out of five.

    As far as books being injurious to the reader, I recently read “Gosnell: The Untold Story of America’s Most Prolific Serial Killer by Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer”, and the events that are described caused me to read it in small sections. It would take me several days before I started to feel ‘right’ again. But Gosnell is a true story, so I guess that makes a difference.

    This is a nice missive you’re written, and it’s well worth reading. Thank you for your efforts.

    1. As far as books being injurious to the reader …

      I had thought of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which made denial of Negroes’ humanity impossible, but it was not the book which was injurious so much as the false reality it exposed.

      1. I couldn’t get past the first few chapters. I like to think I would have been an abolitionist had I been around at that time.

    2. There is a certain segment of the population who have discovered that they enjoy being told what to do, what to think, and what to believe

      This has always been the case. Moses and The Lord freed the Israelites from Egypt, and the first thing that the Israelites did was complain that they weren’t back in Egypt.

      And anyone who’s been struggling as much as I have to find and keep a job over the last couple of years understands the attraction.

      1. I recently saw something that said the reason that the Israelites wandered in the desert for forty years is so that the generation raised in slavery would die off (or be old enough to be ignored.) It does make a certain amount of sense that it’s easier to create a free country if you don’t have half of the population longing to return to certainty.

    3. Oh God. The book is out? I’ve been waiting for it, and waiting with great dread, because it is one of those books that when I heard it was going to be written, I was determined that no matter how horrible the events described, it must be read by me.

  16. Can the author sue? It sounds like people being deliberately obtuse. The author sounds like she is outwardly quite left (and would need to be top get a contract), but the story could still be a good one, but her release should now be advertised as “Read it and see how much they lied about it & me.” I certainly would be calling them the lying sacks of excrement that they are, often and loudly.

    1. “Come see the violence inherent in the system! Help! Help! I’m being repressed!”

  17. Is it possible to fall in love with a blog post? Thank you for elegantly affirming how I feel about reading. Perhaps it’s my age, I am in my sixties, or my sex – male, or my inclination to mansplain, (ask my wife), but I sincerely uphold the maxim “that sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.” Perhaps it’s nasty of me to think that if you disagree you are weak.

    1. words will never hurt me

      Oh really?

      Any who have been butt of a whispering campaign might disagree. Never the less, I would not ban whispering.

    1. So… she only got her first job after college? This happens?

      My first W-2 job was at sixteen, and this doesn’t count the babysitting/house cleaning/light office work/yard work that I did for neighbors before that. AND my parents took half of everything I made to put into savings bonds for college. (I spent the last of those right before my wedding; I had a lot less student loan debt than many of my peers but I carried that for a decade after getting married.)

      1. It’s much harder for kids now. The high minimum wage makes it harder to find jobs, and a lot of the babysitting/etc jobs parents are now afraid to hire anyone… So…

  18. “The Necronomicon is fictional” … um, you do know that there is a published book titled the Necronomicon out there (usually referred to as the Simon Necronomicon). I must admit to having read it as a teen and having some truly awful nightmares thereafter. It has the dubious distinction of being one of the few books I decided to throw away back then. I’m not encouraging you to read it yourself or not to do so – I don’t believe in book banning or burning either.

    Yes, I’m aware the “Simon” book is entirely fictional, wasn’t the real thing, and was created to make money off HP Lovecraft’s creation. There is an interesting discussion as to why that may not matter here: (bottom line – in order to create it, the authors mis-mashed myth, “traditional” Western magic and other sources from the ’70s, some of which may have had some real power). Back when it was published, there were some fun stories making the rounds about odd things happening in homes where the book had been brought in – and that were resolved by getting rid of it. )

    1. Interesting. That link makes me think that I may need to seek out “The Necronomicon Files.” It sounds like a fascinating read.

      As for the Simonomicon itself…I think I’ll skip that. I don’t believe in witchcraft or black magic, but as our hostess has said on other occasions, there are things that’s just best not to poke out. Frankly, if it’s as serious nightmare fuel as you’re suggesting, that would be reason enough for me to avoid it.

      1. That’s what I thought reading the article. Books about New Age paganism and spell-craft poke some things that I really, really do not need to poke. They cause that same “do NOT go that way” sense that is Someone’s way of warning me about certain activities, events, books, and the like.

      2. The Simonomicon is… really tame, from what i remember, and basically pop spellcraft/pop satanism, and doesn’t even cover the subject matter the Necronomicon is reputed to cover. Hence why, iirc, Waldenbooks stocked it.

    2. Giger also released a Necronomicon. It’s the name he slapped on an art book that he released a while back.

    3. Considering it was written in English, it’s certainly not the “original, authentic Necronomicon.” Of course, since it was supposed to drive anyone who read it insane, any publisher who set it for printing would be nuts.

  19. Some books are tiresome. Some books are vulgar. Some books are despicable. None should be censored, save in the leftwing sense of “we like this and you nasty people won’t pay for it for us”. Any government, given the power to censor, no matter what the rationale, will tend over time to censor those books that are critical of the government. And people who are willing to trust the government not to domthat probably believe in the tooth fairy. Or Marxism, whichever you consider sillier.

    To censor the vile is to grant it more importance than it deserves. And that, to my mind, includes pedophillia and snuff fantasies. If no evidence of an actual crime exists, the government should keep its cotton picking paws off.

    Will some unbalanced minds latch onto a book and use it as justification for barbarism? Sure. But I am far more frightened by an unchecked government than by any number of Charlie Mansons. Individual monsters kill dozens, or scores, or maybe even hundreds. Governments kill thiusands to millions.

    We need to revive the custom of denouncing things as vulgar, or vile, without claiming the right to censor them. I think Serano’s PISS CHRIST is vulgar; I don’t wish to prevent it being exhibited. Oh, I question the idea that such exhibitions should be underwritten with taxes, but declining to pay for something isn’t censorship…except to the Progressive Left. I think THE PROTOCALS OF THE ELDERS OF ZION is vile. I don’t want it censored, I want it mocked.

    I don’t want ‘studies’ asserting proof of some fondly held belief censored, I want them fisked. The fate of the author of THE ARMING OF AMERICA and those who seized on it with loud huzzas is perfect.

    1. I agree, Serano’s PISS CHRIST is vulgar. It also shows the artist is lacking in both morality and creativity. I could have achieved the same visual effect with a good beer; and the only objections would have been from those complaining that Jesus was a wine drinker.

  20. I read part of Chung and Halliday’s Mao: The Unknown Story.

    Found myself asking why no one murdered the [obscenity] when he was just a bookseller.

    I ended up a lot more sympathetic with and supportive of foreign governments murdering socialists and artists and the like.

    Of course, I was probably broken before then, and the logical twin to the emotional change is realizing that I only care really strongly about preserving rule of US law in the US.

      1. From what little I’ve read, it isn’t only MODERN Chinese history; that culture seems to have ALWAYS treated the common people like farm animals. Makes for great ‘hero of the poor’ kung fu films. Lousy actual life, though.

        I find it telling that the two large areas that took to Communism hardest (Russia, China) were ALWAYS very bad places to be a worker. Truly “Meet the new Boss, same as the old Boss”

        1. I think that’s wrong. I read Chung and Halliday as part of researching for a paper to cover the parts of Chinese history the course didn’t cover. There is a lot of crazy in various historical Chinese government, but it does not uniformly reach Mao’s level of batshit crazy.

            1. Meh. Add the French Revolution. There is a tendency for the (former) subjects to mimic the only ruling model they’ve experienced, absent the moderating principles (if only existent in theory) of the former lords.

              As Sarah has pointed out, the masses tend to rise up when the boot on their throats is eased. It is a long journey from minionry to self-rule

              1. Some of that shows in the Stanford Prison Experiment. And for that matter, in various business management structures.

                When the only example is a bad example, people tend to follow it, even while complaining about how bad it is…

            1. a) ‘uniformly’ b) It isn’t entirely clear how much of his myth is libel fabricated by the Han c) I can believe that medical mercury still made him pretty nuts d) Mao was pretty batshit, and may still outdo a worse case Qin Shi Huangdi.

            2. Batshit crazy is everywhere, everywhen. Batshit crazy with nuclear weapons is a much smaller subset.

        2. The Taiping Rebellion had a horrific body count, and during one long siege those trapped had a market with human flesh for sale.

          Then there was the Second Opium war, where a Chinese general was found dead next to his cannons *with his opium pipe* and nobody ever informed the central government that in fact the foreign devils were really truly invading and doing a good job of it. (And this has been my sticking point with the whole drug legalization thing. After what happened to the Chinese, yes it is important to keep hard drugs out of circulation.)

          1. As I’ve seen the era described, the Chinese weren’t so concerned about the medical or cultural effects of opium use, as with the horrific prospect of Europeans, who had spent centuries sending massive amounts of silver to China to pay for things like porcelain, silk, and tea, managing to get some of that silver back by finding a product the Chinese were willing to pay for with hard money. So there was a panic about the country falling into poverty because the money supply was depleted—not so much a Keynesian style one as a version of the mercantilism that naturally leads early economic thinkers astray. It didn’t take opium to provide China with corrupt and inefficient officials; they’re all through Water Margin, which was written centuries earlier, for example.

            Note that the current Chinese government is still relying on producing manufactured goods and selling them to the West for currency—federal reserve notes and the corresponding electronic entries. They don’t seem to get the idea that goods and services as such are wealth. Of course it may well have been the European monastic tradition that helped give the West that insight.

        3. I’ve recently read up on King Zhou, and his most (in)famous concubine, Dahji. What he did supposedly under her influence was so horrific that those who came afterwards decided that she must have been a fox in disguise. Dahji the fox supposedly escaped to Japan and much later took the form of a Japanese emperor’s concubine by the name of Tamamo. But so far as I can tell, what Tamamo did was quite mild in comparison with Dahji.

  21. The question I have is this – Why would I read an author or character that I want to punch in the face? Work is the proper environment for restrained violence, not when I’m attempting to relax with a beer and a book.

    The first book I ever put down and walked away from was Byzantium Endures by Moorcock. The narrator’s incessant antisemitism got on my nerves so badly I just gave up. Moorcock wasn’t advocating the idea, as near as I could tell, it just peeved me to the point where the book was no longer enjoyable. Same with a recent attempt to wade through Flannery O’Conner.

    Also – to my experience the truly “profound”, world changing books aren’t silly, just painfully, deadly dull. That may be the point. Who can read Nietzsche and not come out the other side scarred and thinking that nothing means anything any more? Turn the last page of Marx and you’re thinking, “I’m going to string the capitalist pig who sold me this crap up from the nearest lamp post!” But then I was reading Camus to see if the guy got the girl in the end so maybe I went in with the wrong expectations.

    1. I have that problem with all kinds of books and movies; I simply don’t want to spend that much time with horrible people. I chucked the first Thomas Covenant book after a chapter and a half; the hero was a despicable prick. I can understand what actors like Dustin Hoffman want to PLAY complicated and unlikable people. I get the artistic challenge. But pray hold me excused from watching them do it for 90 minutes.

      1. Same here. I don’t want to wallow in awfulness, or spend time with awful people. I used to say about movies that were about horrid people – “If I wouldn’t want to spend ten minutes with them, stuck in an elevator – why do I want to spend two hours and more with them in a movie theater?”

        1. “When I go to the theatre, I want to be taken out of myself. I don’t want to see lust, and rape, and incest, and sodomy…..I can get all that at home!”

          Best imagined in a plummy British accent. From BEYOND THE FRINGE

      2. Read the Covenant series when I was a kid and remembered liking them, but little else. A couple years ago I tried to read them again and had the same reaction you did. How did I not hate him the first time?

        1. Lifts hand. I hated him the first time. Book took flying lessons between France and Germany leaving me with nothing else to read on the two day train trip. Worth it. Note I’m not saying YOU shouldn’t read it.

          1. I actually liked it. But I was so exasperated with the “hero”. I found the world and concept to be interesting, though, and read all of the first trilogy.

    1. Maybe Amazon is going to replace whatever-Blackwater-calls-itself-this-week as the prime military contractor…

  22. Posted at 8:29 pm by Glenn Reynolds

  23. The YA kerfluffle you describe reminds me of a story from the declining days of the Comics Code Authority (early seventies, I think) when Marvel did an anti-drug issue of Spiderman and was denied Code approval because the book depicted drug use.

    You know the censors are pretty far up their own orifices when you can’t even do a negative depiction of the thing they’re disapproving of. A sure sign that discernment and thought has long since left the building.

    1. You are referencing issue #96, first in a three issue arc written at the prompting of the Nixon White House, all published without the CCA seal:

      From unrealmaelstrom33.weebly[DOT]com/home/spider-man-joins-the-war-on-drugs
      In 1971 however the White House asked Marvel Comics’ editor/writer Stan Lee to write an anti-drug storyline in The Amazing Spider-Man, one of its most popular titles to aid in the War on Drugs. He agreed. The White House apparently didn’t inform the CCA however, and when the first issue of the three-story arc came before them, it was not approved. (In it, Spider-Man rescues a drug addict on a rooftop who thinks he can fly.) Marvel published it anyway, figuring they were protected since they had White House approval.

      It should be noted that the history of the CCA is a complex one, the code being established largely at the prompting of the publisher of ACG (Archie Comics Group) in large part to cripple the more popular EC publications featuring monster and “True Crime” horror protect young, easily influenced minds. It was mainly there as a shield to protect retailers from torch and pitchfork brandishing mobs of angry parents, under the premise that shopkeepers could wave the seal in the parental faces in defense of their stocking such material.

      By the late Sixties the matter was largely moot and it is doubtful anybody noticed whether or not that seal was on the cover. With the availability and popularity of such Warren Publishing magazines as Creepy Eerie and Vampirella reviving the Old Cryptkeeper and his compatriots and featuring outstanding art by the very best comics illustrators of the era — Frazetta, Ditko, Wally Wood and others — the CCA was largely toothless. That their rules forbade any portrayal of drug use simply underlined their irrelevance.

      1. Some years ago I was checking the British Customs site to make sure something I was sending wouldn’t get snagged by the inspectors. HM Customs had the usual restrictions on hard drugs, military weapons, etc., and the usual scattering of apparently-random items that could not be sent through the Royal Mail, and a huge, detailed section describing “horror comics” and damning anything even approximately close as evil badthink prohibited.

  24. I followed the link and read the entire article.

    My thoughts over and over:

    Dear Lord, please grant me the power to punch people in the face over the internet.

    Haven’t got a response on that one, yet.

      1. “Oh, you’ll never believe it, Jonesy, never. Those internet fools got me so mad that I went to the Imam and asked how I get Allah to hand out the invisible gribblies like ate old mad Izif. You know what he did? Handed me this paper saying that Islam is not a Mythos cult. It’s all notarized and everything. What does it mean Jonesy?”

        “It means you should stop calling on powerless superstition. The solution, as always, is old fashioned scientific policing, like in the RIC. No one is really hidden on the internet. Find out who they are, take them into custody, then you can burn out their tongues, drink their blood, or wind their guts around a stick, whatever it takes to learn them right from wrong. The scientific method is the thing.”

      2. A good friend longs to be able to Force-choke people via Skype like Darth Vader did. Failing that, being able to Force-choke stupid drivers is a close second choice.

        1. I want to send electrical shocks down the phone line on tech support calls. I even asked my manager at a job I was on about a decade ago once, though I suspect she thought I was joking since she didn’t fire me. 😉

          Stupid drivers are more of an ortillery sort of thing.

      3. Oh, good God, no! If people could strangle others over the Internet I would most likely have been choked to death years ago.

      4. I want the wish power Max had in Liar, Liar so I can target any liberal progressive at will. Turn on CNN, click on MSNBC, call up a live Hillary interview and “I wish they could only tell the truth.”

        Wonderful Chaos! And a curse worse than the MIDAS Touch on them.

        1. Might have less effect than you think. I would assume that as long as the people involved sincerely believed what they were saying was true, they could still say it, and I have always thought there were more such sadly deceived people in the ranks than one would think.

  25. For goodness sake!

    Those Who Walk Away From Feminism
    By Sarah Hoyt
    As a woman, (according to the State Department) a minority, and an individualist, I feel the need to weigh in on the whole James Damore controversy.

    I feel like what’s being discussed isn’t even close to what is actually going on. In fact, like in many things that are cherished by the left, I feel their “diversity” isn’t diversity at all, and their social engineering attempts fail because they’re not doing what they say they’re doing.

    First, and before I get into details here, James Damore did not say what most people think he said. He did not say women are unsuited for tech jobs. He did not say women only have tech jobs due to affirmative action. That is all bullshit piled on by those mau-mauing him, in an effort to expel someone whose questioning made them uncomfortable.

    Why it made them uncomfortable is the fascinating part of all this.


          1. That you should — but posting notifications as they hit PJM will allow a little more leisure for Huns’ reading as opposed to having 2 – 3 on Saturday. I don’t know what metrics PJM uses but I would think increasing the hits on the day the pieces appear to be desirable.

            Besides, I’m running out of amusing* ways to introduce them when I post the links.

            *For some values of amusing. YMMV. Jokes in mirror may be funnier than they appear.

  26. Dan Brown didn’t cause the Catholic Church to collapse in a heap.

    It should probably also be noted that the Book of Mormon musical hasn’t yet hurt the Mormon Church.

      1. Sure it’s a book! In theatre the songs and music are one part of the musical and all the filler between numbers is known as the book.

        1. There was a visiting British professor at my college who had apparently made a rock musical version of Beowulf. (Not the one that had a decent run in England, BTW.) Some of my classmates got ahold of it. “BEO BEO BEO BEO BEO BEO BEO BEO BEOWULF!!!”

          (It was… not good.)

          1. A rock musical of Beowulf would have to be Heavy Metal, and more of a rock opera … maybe get Meatloaf for the lead (okay, given his physique and current age, costumed up for Grendel) … wery Vagnerian.

            Sigh. I can envision an entire genre of classically rooted musicals — Gilgamesh & Enkido, David & Jonathan — with seriously overdramatized gay relationships.

            1. It could have been awesome. But it was written by someone who understood neither musicals nor rock music (heavy metal *would* have been appropriate.)

  27. A great article—perhaps your best. But you’re ‘books don’t hurt people argument’ slams into a similar fallacy to that many feminists have.

    I’m referring to their claims that ‘men and women are identical except where women are better.’ If they’re identical, neither can be better and if one is better, then they’re not identical. Indeed, the claim that women are better in some ways implies that they’re worse in others.

    Books are like that. To deny that one can be a causal factor in evil is also to deny that another can be a force for good. If no one is changed for the worse by a book, then no one can be changed for the better.

    Books are like guns or money. They’re tools that can be used for good or evil. The problem comes when, in what G. K. Chesterton termed the atheist worldview, we impute agency, meaning the ability to think and act to them. Wars don’t start, he noted, when cannons go off of their own accord like some historians argue, and economies aren’t driven by ‘the rise and fall of wages’ like Marxists claim. Instead, the Hitlers start wars and greedy employers underpay their workers.

    Debating about books as if they had personalities of their own is missing the point. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, when authors write they’re shaping the thoughts of their readers. It is to the authors that our attention should be directed. Who are they? What are they accomplishing?

    When I was about twelve I read a lot of scifi, including Asmov’s Foundation when it was a trilogy. The first thoughts about political ideas that I can recall came when I realized that Asmov thought humanity was so incompetent that it needed to be managed by a secret cadre of social scientists. He shaped me, but in a sense he did not intend. I became still more against his beliefs. That said, at my same age other boys were reading Foundation and solidifying their politics in the opposite direction.

    Your remark that “It wasn’t reading the words that broke them. They would have broken anyway.” That’s true, but there’s quite a difference between “broken anyway” and participating in the horrors of history. In my Chesterton on War and Peace I include article after article in which he, writing during WWI, warned that something was badly broken (your term) about Germany—an intensely self-focused nationalism that did not respect the similar national feelings of others. Not corrected, he said, it would lead to another war within thirty years.

    At the time Chesterton wrote, Hitler was a nobody. Absent Mein Kampf, would history have taken such a rotten turn? Probably not. The book is so badly written few read it, even rabid Nazis. But absent Hitler’s incredible talent as a speaker, Germany might have stumbled along miserable but harmless much like France at that time. And what Hitler did with Germany’s broken and twisted nationalism with his speeches, others could have done with their books.

    Indeed, I am exploring just that right now. I’m writing a book to help those in medicine and nursing cope with stress. Time and again, I find myself turning from mere techniques to something more fundamental. If you have the right attitude toward what you do, all the difficulties of the work only shape you for the better.

    That part of what I’m writing with be contra to Samuel Shem’s bestselling The House of God, an extremely cynical view of medical residency. Yes, I’ll be writing, if you approach medicine with a “what’s in this for me” attitude, his response to the difficulties of residency makes sense—cynicism, negativism and sneer words or patients like Gomer for “get out of my emergency room.” But if you approach it from a different attitude, one I refer to as that of a good shepherd who cares for the sheep, all those miseries take on a different light. For instance I coped working on a pediatric Hem-Onc unit where a third of my adorable kids were fated to die not by coming up with sneer words for them or their parents but by doing my best for them. That turned me away from my own feelings and gave meaning to my stresses.

    My book intends to help those new to medicine and nursing see that. Will it help them? I hope so. But I’m not so foolish as to claim that my book can help while arguing that Shem’s The House of God won’t hurt them because they’re broken anyway.

    Humans exist along a continuum. There are those who won’t need what I say because they already know and there are those who won’t listen to what I say because they prefer Shem’s M*A*S*H-like cynicism. But there’s a large number of others whose “brokenness” can be pushed one way or the other by what they read. That is my primary audience.

    Again, I stress that we shouldn’t get so focused on books that we forget that they’re simply tools of authors. It’s the author’s impact, intended or not, on which we should focus. Nor should we play little magic games that assume a book can have an impact for good but that another book won’t have an equally great impact for evil. The fact that some people are “broken” can’t be an excuse not to heal them through good books or a rationale that they can’t be made more broken and hence dangerous by bad books.

    –Michael W. Perry, author of My Nights with Leukemia

    1. Wilhelm II started the whole mess, and had a higher body count than Hitler. And somehow escapes any blame for the end of the German Empire, Versailles, economic collapse, and the circumstances that made the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (among many radical groups) a disproportionately powerful political player.

      What seems to be forgotten at this remove is that Adolf Hitler and the NSDAP weren’t unique; they were just one group among many, and their platform was fairly representative of what the German populace was willing to listen to.

      It not the Nazis, it would have been someone else. Maybe not as bad… but the NSDAP were pretty much middle-of-the-road; there were other groups, with varying degrees of influence, who made the NSDAP look like paragons of reason and civility.

      Sure, the crazy was already there to be exploited, but it was Wilhelm II who kicked over the ant hill and let it loose.

      1. I wouldn’t blame Wilhelm II solely – Nicholas II and his ministers, Franz Joseph I and his ministers, Raymond Poincare and his government, and the government of Serbia all bear their fare share.

      2. based on what I’ve been reading over the past 4-5 years, I’d divide “blame” as 40% Russia, 40% Germany and Austro-Hungarian Empire, 15% France, 5% Britain. Serbia gets lumped in with Russia, since Russia was supporting them. Italy was allied with the Austro-Hungarians at the start of the war and Italy had no love for Serbian dreams of a Greater Serb Empire in the Balkans and Adriatic. Really, at this point, I think only the Belgians (and Scandinavia) were 100% blameless. It’s a bog, and I suspect as yet more archive material emerges, I’ll shift my weightings around more.

    2. Re “men and women are identical…” that reminds me of a “notable and quotable” item in the WSJ of Aug 10. It pointed out that the diversity politics of the likes of Google are based on two theories. 1: all races and genders are absolutely identical in abilities, strengths, etc. 2: the races and genders are so different that it is essential for successful organizations to work hard at diversity to take advantage of all those important differences.

      1. There are only 10 kinds of people .. those who can count in binary and those who can’t.

  28. Sara,
    I’ve never read any of your books…only because I discovered you about the time you started posting on Instapundit. I haven’t read them because when it comes to buying a book…or keeping the electricity, water or a roof over my wife’s head, I chose those.

    I genuinely enjoy what you write here and on Instapundit. I am taking a new job, half a continent away from Dearbornistan making significantly more money. I am looking forward to buying your books. Thanks for being who you are, and writing what you think and believe in.

      1. Piper has *nothing* to do with the little plastic tube sitting beside my keyboard.

        It contains a chambering reamer marked “.235 Ultraspeed-Express.”

  29. The Social Justice Warrior lives in an alternate reality made entirely of lies and balderdash. Their entire “reality” can, in fact, be destroyed with specific words, because it is made entirely of words, and they have intentionally made themselves too soft and fragile to survive contact with objective reality.

  30. “… I’ve never come across a book so dangerous it couldn’t be read.”
    That depends. There are certainly books that cannot be read in many countries because you’re not allowed to possess them. For example, in many parts of the world, you’re not allowed to read Mein Kampf. In some countries, you’re not allowed to read the Bible.

    1. That’s for the laws, not the book itself.
      You shouldn’t be caught reading Gulag Archipelago when I was a kid, either. Not death, but you’d get in serious trouble. It was lies. Yeah, lies. That’s what we were told. Did we want to spread lies?

    2. You realize you’re proving our hostess’ point.

      The books aren’t dangerous, the state in these instances ban the books because to those states they represent thinkcrime.

      1. Yes, but I meant something else, and I wasn’t clear about it. “Couldn’t” can mean it’s impossible to read the book because attempting to do so makes your brain explode, or your eyes stop working. I agree, that doesn’t happen no matter how bad the book, though I might argue that some of the works of Al Gore come close It can also mean that it is not possible to read the book because the government prevents you from getting a copy. In that second sense, there certainly are such books, in many countries — even in the USA especially in decades past and probably again in the future.

  31. When I was in high school, I attended a local Jewish college in the evenings. They had a very good library but I was known as a bit of a troublemaker so the librarian would never let me check out their copy of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

  32. If you’re looking for a “dangerous” book, look up Max Stirner’s “Der Einzige und Sein Eigentum” (1844). The standard translation is titled “The Ego and His Own”

    He pisses everybody off

  33. I can’t stand “exposés” of Latter-day Saint religious beliefs and history. Between the doctrine and history taken out of context, the presentation of disagreements in honest belief as though it’s evidence of pure evil, and the half-lies and outright lies about everything, all that any attempts to read such things have done is raise my blood pressure. I have concluded that the best thing to do is read such stuff until I encounter the first blatant lie, and then abandon the thing.

    A side effect of this, though, is that I cannot read anything that is an “exposé” of another religion — even for Jehovah’s Witnesses, or Seventh-day Adventists, or what have you — whether it was written by an apostate of that religion or not (heck, sometimes apostates are the worst offenders!) — because I don’t know such religions well enough to know when I encounter that first lie.

    So if you really want to read any such “exposé”, be sure to take it with huge grains of salt. If you *really* want to learn about the particular religion, you are far better off going with that religion’s source materials, and trustworthy historians (if you can find them — it’s my understanding that controversial topics like religion can often create rather…polarized…historical outlooks…where historians favorable to the religion are a bit too favorable, and historians who aren’t so favorable are a bit too harsh…).

    Oh, and it doesn’t matter if the material is libelous: it’s probably best to just leave it alone. Even when you take careful steps to prove it libelous in a court of law, and use legal precedence to destroy the press publishing the libelous material, all you’re going to do is make the mobs even more angry. It’s not worth it. It’s more effective to put an ad in that libelous newspaper, offering to learn the truth now that you’ve read the lies….

    1. because I don’t know such religions well enough to know when I encounter that first lie.

      So many subjects, I want to know more about–but I don’t even know enough to figure out if there is smoke being blown.

  34. Well, I don’t know if it’s *dangerous*, but the Voynich Manuscript is too *something* to read, apparently. 🙂

    Don’t know if it’s code, or idioglossia, or carefully constructed nonsense, or maybe (messes up hair, holds up hands) aliens.

  35. Sarah. This is the first time I have come across you or any of your writing, after following a link from mobileread. I loved the article. Logical and so eloquently put. I’m going to try some of your fiction.

  36. I’ve never come across a book so dangerous it couldn’t be read.

    I presume you’re leaving out things like the Necronomicon? 😉

    [“Klatu… Barada… Ni-*cough*”]

    1. To be truthful I have met some very dangerous audio books. I would strongly advise against listening to Tony Robinson’s readings of Sir Terry Pratchett’s Eric or Moving Pictures while drive late at night. The resultant paroxysms of laughter does nothing good for either one’s control of the gas peddle or one’s steering.

      1. The very first time I heard Do It Yourself

        So then I looked for disk drives, but it didn’t take me long
        Function follows form, they say, or have I got that wrong?
        I found a drive with five new modes that blows the rest away:
        Cottons, linens, wash and wear, rinse, and lingerie!

        I was driving to work… somehow, I stayed on the road. Probably as well there was no other traffic near me.

  37. “Say it with me, ladies and gentlemen: no book ever on being read reached out and PHYSICALLY hurt any marginalized (or none marginalized. ”

    Why does it surprise you they’re applying the same logic to books they’ve been applying to guns for 40+ years? Inanimate objects obviously act independently.

    See also the Chinese belief that machinery has spirits.

  38. Only Jean Paul Sartre put me off his reading. Something about his writing and his way of expressing things and seeing humanity was like being submerged in toxic sludge.

    Huh, as the quote goes, I thought I was the only one… not about Sartre, in specific, but I’ve had that reaction to books and had a heck of a time explaining to people WHY.

    The answer of “because they feel…wrong, evil, no, no nononono” doesn’t seem to work.

  39. On a less dramatic note, nobody of any sense fell for Al Gore’s baloney because they’d read Earth in the Balance. Anyone of that persuasion who did read it gave the man the pre-emptive “hairy eyeball” ever-after.

    No, the book was reviewed by All The Right People, praised for it’s conscience and scientific (The guy opens by citing Malthus.Good lord. Scientific–?!) acumen. It exists purely as background noise to give the public grand-stander gravitas.

    That’s what the Progs use books for, and that’s why they fight our books, even those of us who have no ambitions to grand-stand or run for office.

    1. I didn’t buy anthropogenic global warming because I was aware that any ol volcano put out more ‘pollution’ into the air than humanity could hope to match, and we have, all over the damn planet, several constantly active ones. But somehow, along the way, that, along with the effect of solar activity on the weather, were to be disregarded as ‘normal phenomena, thus natural, thus ‘not harmful’ and ignored as relevant data.

  40. You are being asked to login because is used by an account you are not logged into now.

    By logging in you’ll post the following comment to Being Free:
    On a less dramatic note, nobody of any sense fell for Al Gore’s baloney because they’d read Earth in the Balance. Anyone of that persuasion who did read it gave the man the pre-emptive “hairy eyeball” ever-after.

    No, the book was reviewed by All The Right People, praised for it’s conscience and scientific (The guy opens by citing Malthus.Good lord. Scientific–?!) acumen. It exists purely as background noise to give the public grand-stander gravitas.

    That’s what the Progs use books for, and that’s why they fight our books, even those of us who have no ambitions to grand-stand or run for office.

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