2019-09-12

Melanie Phillips: The need for a new enlightenment.

Melanie Phillips:
The fact that genocidal Nazism had arisen in Germany, the very heartland of high European culture, dealt a shattering blow to the West’s conception of itself as enlightened. At the same time, Britain became demoralised as a result of its post-war bankruptcy and loss of empire.

Such fundamental loss of self-belief made the West vulnerable to the idea spread by Marxist intellectuals that it was rotten at its core. A new culture was planned that would eradicate division, bigotry and war.

The ideas at the heart of this can be traced back to the 17th century Enlightenment and its great fallacy: the worship of reason that certain powerful European thinkers of the time placed in opposition to Christianity.

Today’s most influential secularists are squarely in that tradition. ...

We need nothing less than a new Enlightenment which conserves and builds rather than destroys.
Go to the link for the whole thing, which is excerpted from a longer (paid access) piece in The Times.

I won't get into the whole "good Enlightenment / bad Enlightenment" debate that is being argued by people much smarter and more knowledgeable than I am, but I do think this piece nails the central weakness of contemporary Western society: a loss of core values, and a self-destructive fear of making any intellectual or moral judgements at all.

Related: Here is Joseph Loconte on the need for a revival of Lockean Liberalism.
Locke’s critics have blinded themselves to the bracing nature of his democratic vision: “But those whose doctrine is peaceable, and whose manners are pure and blameless, ought to be upon equal terms with their fellow-subjects.” Here is the only tenable solution to the challenge of religious diversity: equal justice under the law for people of all faith traditions.

No political doctrine has been more integral to the success of the United States, for no nation has been so determined to regard religious pluralism as a source of cultural strength. America’s experiment in human liberty and equality is profoundly Lockean. It is also, in some important respects, deeply Christian. Locke believed that the gospel message of divine mercy — intended for all — implied political liberalism. The founder of Christianity, he wrote, “opened the kingdom of heaven to all equally, who believed in him, without any the least distinction of nation, blood, profession, or religion.”

That'll teach her.

You might have heard not long ago that Democratic hopeful Marianne Williamson had been quoted as saying that conservatives were on occasion nicer, or at least not worse than, liberals. Now, Eric Bolling has shown her the error of her ways by publicly confronting her with her open-mike statement. Here's Newsweek:
"What does it say that Fox News is nicer to me than the lefties are? What does it say that the conservatives are nicer to me?" Williamson said after an interview with Eric Bolling on Sinclair Broadcast Group's America This Week last week. "It's such a bizarre world," she added.

"I didn't think the left was as mean as the right, they are," the activist and author asserted.

Bolling played the previously unreleased clip ahead of a follow-up Wednesday evening interview with the presidential candidate, confronting her over her criticism. Williamson was clearly caught off guard, explaining that she had previously been told that the clip would not be played.

"Well, what I was told was that if I came on your show, you wouldn't blast it out, and you just blasted it out," she said in response. "I don't even know where to go with that."

Bolling defended his decision to play the clip, despite allegedly saying he wouldn't. Williamson then attempted to explain her candid hot mic remarks.
I love how Newsweek takes every opportunity to attack Williamson's credibility: she "claimed", she "asserted", she "attempted to explain". Still, you've got to give credit to Bolling, and to Newsweek, for giving such a beautiful illustration of exactly what Marianne Williamson was talking about.

"Deplatforming works."

https://twitter.com/witchofpeace/status/1170945244185210881?s=09

According to this individual 'Milo reveals just how much the far right are struggling after being deplatformed from the main social media sites.' She is, of course, quite pleased at the success of the compliant tech industry in unpersoning Milo.

But the reality is, Milo's situation does not 'reveal' anything about the state of conservative social media. Milo is largely the author of his own problems. He was smart, outspoken, funny, often provocative - but he didn't know when to stop. He alienated a lot of folks on the right.

I hate that Milo gave the left a scalp to claim. But he made his own choices. You've got to know how to pick your battles, how to build leverage, how to work with people, if you want to stay in the game. He never learned.

Milo may be out of the game. But there's Brandon, Blaire, Andy, Sargon, Candace, Laura Loomer, Mike Harlow ... the list goes on and on. One casualty does not lose a war.

Abraham Miller: After 9/11.

Abraham Miller in the American Spectator: You said you wouldn't forget.
The system of competing tribes with different realities only works if there is an overarching sense of community. From the Europe of the Peace of Westphalia, 1648, emerged the idea of the nation state. This was the binding together of similar yet different peoples into a shared identity.

Three-hundred-plus years later, that ideal began to crumble. Devolution became the objective of peoples who found unity artificial. Minus the integrative loyalty of communism, Yugoslavia crumbled into different ethnic enclaves and civil war. Czechoslovakia broke into the Czech and Slovak Republics. The Soviet Union broke up into its pre-imperial past. Many African states devolved into tribalism.

Our strength is most definitely not our multiculturalism. Our strength is a multicultural society that possess a transformative sense of unity. Dramatic events like 9/11 rekindle that purpose. ...

Read the whole thing.

Victor Davis Hanson on the decline of higher education.

VDH on the downfall of the universities.
Overwhelmingly liberal and often hippish in appearance, American faculty of the early 1970s still only rarely indoctrinated students or bullied them to mimic their own progressivism. Rather, in both the humanities and sciences, students were taught the inductive method of evaluating evidence in hopes of finding some common explanation of natural and human phenomena.

Yes, we studied “mere” facts—dates, names, grammar, syntax, and formulae—but deliberately to ground or refute theories with evidence and to illustrate and enhance argumentation. Essays bled red by old masters of English prose style, whose efforts were aimed at ensuring students could communicate effectively but also with a sense of grace. ...

What went wrong? The former students of the 1970s came into power and gradually began to reject the very code of conduct and training of those who taught them. And in turn they taught a new generation who for the first time had little first-hand knowledge of the great campus scholars and icons of the past. ..

Go read the whole thing at the link. I came into early adulthood in the late 1970s and early '80s - probably would not have been a good candidate for college at that point in my life anyway (I was a mess), but in any case the trajectory of my life took a different direction.

What remains for us as adults today is to somehow build the institutions - either by rebuilding the universities, or by creating alternatives - for the passing down of important knowledge, traditions, and the spirit of inquiry.

2019-09-11

Eighteen years on.

The battle was never "over there".

It was always here.

2019-08-09

The problem with reforms.

Sometimes it happens that there's an injustice in society, and some people see it, and they organize to try to make things better. So far so good, but there's certain things that are gonna happen whether you want them to or not.

(1) People want to hear about what they're going to get, but not about what will be expected of them. So, "You won't be discriminated against anymore!" sounds great. Everybody's fine with getting rights and entitlements. But as for "Equality means equal responsibilities - you'll have to work like everybody else, follow the law like everybody else, no freebies and no favoritism" - nobody wants to hear that part.

(2) People get caught up in the romance of the struggle and can't let go. They look to it for both internal fulfillment and external validation. They get a charge out of marching with signs and chanting slogans, and they bond with others that way. And some become professional activists and actually depend on the struggle for a paycheck. So people become both emotionally and materially invested in it.

(3) The most sinister part is that there will always be people who join the movement caring nothing about the cause or about justice. They don't want to fix things; they want to tear everything down and build a new order on the rubble, with themselves at the top of the pyramid.

If you had explained all this to me when I was younger, I probably would have halfway believed it. Now that I've lived long enough to see it play out, I understand just how inevitable it is.

That doesn't mean don't work for reform. It does mean you need to know what you're getting into.

Jerusalem: Tisha b'Av fast preparations.

Arutz Sheva:
The Western Wall Heritage Foundation is preparing the Western Wall area for Tisha B'av, when thousands of Jews flock to the ancient site to mourn for the destruction of the first and second Temples in ancient Jerusalem.

This year, Tisha B'Av actually falls out on Shabbat, but since mourning is not permitted on Shabbat, it will be observed on Saturday night and Sunday instead.

Israel police will guard the crowds both at the Western Wall itself and on its access roads and has stated that all the roads are secure and the public can safely travel to the Western Wall. However, the Old City will be closed to private vehicles and will only be able to be accessed by public transportation. ...

2019-08-03

Moving ahead on Covenant Lands blog.

In my previous post I hinted that I was considering shutting down this blog. I've since reconsidered, and I plan to continue posting here at this platform.

I've gone back and culled some of my old posts so that the remaining archived material here is a bit more focused. (With 15 years of history on this blog, that's a fair amount of editing.)

One difference you might notice soon will be the appearance of ads. Since I started posting in 2004, I've done this strictly for my own satisfaction, and I haven't made a penny from it. Now that I'm working full-time (and, as I get older, becoming more conscious of the value of my time in general), I'd like to see if I can generate a little income from posting here. I'm hoping this will also give me an incentive to work harder on producing better quality posts.

2019-06-23

Blogging and the future.

I started posting here on Blogspot some 15 years ago, in the spring of 2004.  Originally I named my political blog 'Dreams Into Lightning'; later on I changed the name to 'Covenant Lands'.  Blogging was new, the internet itself was still new, and it was very exciting. A short time later, I inherited a modest annuity, which allowed me to live more comfortably than would otherwise have been possible; so, with an interest in world affairs, time on my hands, and an internet connection, I began to post.  Around 2005 - 2006 I was posting prolifically, and typically getting traffic at around 100 hits a day.

In 2007, I became involved in a full-time relationship that was to last about two years.  She had first contacted me over Thanksgiving weekend of 2006; in early 2007, pregnant from her prior relationship, she became my girlfriend and I became the little girl's daddy.  She would leave this world - leaving behind a daughter - exactly twelve years later.  You can go to my LiveJournal to read her story.

So I was caring full-time for a baby girl from the fall of 2007 on for the next two years, and co-parenting for several years after that.  Around that same time, Facebook and Twitter exploded onto the internet and took a big bite out of long-form blogging.  I yielded to the trend myself, and started posting more frequently on Facebook.  Of course, the 2008 election brought the beginning of the Obama years, during which I saw many discouraging developments in the Middle East and in America.  But I'll come back to politics shortly.

More recently, video blogging and audio podcasts have entered the world of internet debate.  Programs like The Rubin Report proved that you could have a serious, intelligent, long-format talk show on topics of conservative interest, and have success.

Myself, though, I have always felt more at home with the written word.  I'm not particularly shy around people or about speaking, but I can't see myself sitting in front of a webcam.  Expressing myself in writing comes more naturally.

And I like to have the freedom to explore events and ideas at length, referencing multiple sources if appropriate.  This in particular is one thing I find limiting about short-form social media:  it's easy to share a single link on Twitter or Facebook, but decent blogging demands the ability to link and compare multiple sources.  A good blog post never just says "HEY GO READ THIS RIGHT NOW!"

We survived Obama and were spared Hillary Clinton.  I did not know what to make of Trump at first, but was willing to give him a chance.  Suffice it to say that by now I think it's clear he has surpassed all expectations.

But the 2016 election brought panic for the Democrats and their enablers in the left-leaning technology industry - the Masters of the Universe, to use Breitbart's phrase.  The giants of Silicon Valley had done everything they could to help Hillary Clinton defeat Donald Trump - and yet Trump still won.  Determined not to repeat the outcome of 2016, they redoubled their efforts to stamp out "hate speech" and "far-right extremism" - meaning anything not conforming to their political agenda - and launched a massive purge of social media which continues to the present moment.

And so, Milo Yiannopoulos, Tommy Robinson, Carl Benjamin, Laura Loomer, Gavin McInnes, Jordan Peterson, and countless other conservative (or non-leftist) voices have been banned from social media outlets, or had their content summarily demonetized.

Nor is it just the newer social media - longtime blogging platform WordPress.com has deplatformed two sites for political reasons.  I am sure it is only a matter of time before Google - on whose platform you are viewing this very post, dear reader - decides to follow suit.

The good news is that there's been a burst of new, underground, free-speech-oriented social media:  Gab, MeWe, Minds, Parler, BitChute, and a forthcoming project backed by Jordan Peterson called ThinkSpot. 

So the bottom line is this:  I'll be looking for a new venue for a long-format blog.  Meanwhile, though, feel free to follow me:

asherabrams at Gab
Asher Abrams at MeWe

.

2019-05-29

Quillette: Journalists covering Antifa often their fans.

Eoin Lenihan at Quillette:
In identifying this group of 15 journalists whose engagement with Antifa is especially intense, our goal was not to accuse them of bias out of hand, but rather to identify them for further study, so as to determine if there was any overall correlation between the level of their online engagement with Antifa and the manner by which these journalists treated Antifa in their published journalism.

That correlation turned out to be quite pronounced: Of all 15 verified national-level journalists in our subset, we couldn’t find a single article, by any of them, that was markedly critical of Antifa in any way. In all cases, their work in this area consisted primarily of downplaying Antifa violence while advancing Antifa talking points, and in some cases quoting Antifa extremists as if they were impartial experts.

These journalists include, for instance, Kit O’Connell, a self-identified “proudly Antifascist” “gonzo journalist,” whose work often reads like an FAQ that one might find on an Antifa web site. In one piece, for instance, he wrote that protestors wear masks so that they may “creat[e] a sense of unity and common purpose [as they] protect other activists from attacks by police and fascists.” ...

'Game of Thrones': two views.

Michael Weingrad: A Jewish view of 'Game of Thrones'.
And it’s not only politics that [George R. R.] Martin treats with bracing realism. His books are shorn of much of our present-day, feel-good notions about the goodness of human nature, the malleability of gender, and other contemporary dogmas. The idealizations he avoids are less chivalric than progressive ones.

At their most compelling, the books and the television series offer characters who see the world and themselves through commitments to family, clan, and nation, rather than our narrow, present-day lens of atomized individuals and their arbitrary desires. “Everything I did, I did for my house and my family,” says Jamie Lannister, an admission echoed at one time or another by most of the show’s characters.

The evident fascination of so many readers and viewers with such thick social connections is worth noting. I happen to live in Portland, surrounded by people indifferent if not hostile to tradition, people who want to live their lives independently of family, religion, canons of art and literature, nationhood, biology, market behavior, and probably the laws of physics. Yet many of them are deeply invested in the continuity of House Stark and House Targaryen.

Unfortunately, the writers of the HBO series seem in the end to have been unable to sympathize with the possibility of a positive identity not reducible to a 21st-century self. This imaginative failure sounded ever louder in the characters’ speech, as when Arya Stark, rejecting her courtly role, explains “It’s not me,” or when Danaerys’s advisors repeatedly proclaim their desire to “make the world a better place” and to “leave the world a little better than we found it.” (Given that the show runners are both Jewish, I was relieved that none of the characters mentioned “tikkun olam,” but it was surely a close thing.) The Starbucks cup inadvertently left on a feasting table in one scene was widely reported as a gaffe, but it wasn’t out of place with the show’s contemporary ethos at that point. ...

Michael Totten: Three cheers for 'Game of Thrones'.
In a world without peaceful transfers of power, the only checks and balances available against tyrants are assassination and war. The Mad King Aerys Targaryen ruled from the Iron Throne in the years before those covered in Game of Thrones Season One. He, too, was a murderous psychopath, burning alive lords who displeased him and advisors who disobeyed him. Half the realm rose up in arms—including Ned Stark and later-king Robert Baratheon. When Tywin Lannister’s army approached the capital, the Mad King ordered his pyromancers to lace enough explosives throughout the city to destroy King’s Landing as thoroughly as a nuclear weapon. “Burn them all!” he screamed. “Burn them all!”

Jaime Lannister, head of his very own King’s Guard, ran a sword through his back in the throne room.

Almost everywhere in Westeros is governed badly, not just by modern standards but by its own. “All I ever wanted was to fight for a lord I believe in,” says the imposing female warrior Brienne of Tarth. “The good ones are dead and the rest are monsters.”

Unlike the Westerosi, modern audiences know the way out: liberal democracy, republicanism, the rule of law, and the separation of powers. Lest we assume these are part of the natural order of things, Game of Thrones—with its echoes of our own distant past—reminds us that they are not, and that maintaining them is as difficult as it is essential.

No Jeffersonian figures inhabit the Game of Thrones universe. Such a modern intrusion would break the spell of epic high fantasy and violate the compact between author and audience. A Jeffersonian wouldn’t make historical sense, anyway. The American Revolution grew out of the European Enlightenment, and no such philosophical movement ever existed in Westeros. Even so, consumers of fiction, whether it’s written or filmed, need someone to identify with, someone who shares at least some of their values. Martin gives us the dangerous yet inspiring Daenerys Targaryen. ...

Go read the rest at the links.