Saturday, October 16, 2021

Still playing with it. The old explaining the new.

We can’t re-fight old battles every time a subject comes up; there are limits to the human capacity for recall. Years after spending time and effort to come to a conclusion it’s the conclusion not the process that sticks in the mind. But that means that no matter how hard we once fought our response now is based on received opinion, even if received from our younger selves. So it’s good occasionally to revisit the past in detail, especially in cases where our relation to the past is the thing under debate. 

1

A North Texas school district apologized late Thursday after an administrator advised teachers that if they have books about the Holocaust in their classrooms, they should also include reading materials that have “opposing” perspectives of the genocide that killed millions of Jews. 

2

Mr. Döpfner said he plans to grow Politico’s footprint both in the U.S. and overseas by introducing new industry-focused products and services and by broadening the scope of coverage. He said he expects Politico’s main news offerings, now free, to go behind a paywall in the medium term.

He also said he expects Politico staffers to adhere to Axel Springer-wide guiding principles that have raised controversy at times at its German properties—though they won’t be required to sign a written commitment to the principles like employees in Germany. The principles include support for a united Europe, Israel’s right to exist and a free-market economy, among others. 

3

It would be an excellent idea to call in respectable, accredited anti-Semites as liquidators of property.

To the people they would vouch for the fact that we do not wish to bring about the impoverishment of the countries that we leave.

At first they must not be given large fees for this; otherwise we shall spoil our instruments and make them despicable as “stooges of the Jews.”

Later their fees will increase, and in the end we shall have only Gentile officials in the countries from which we have emigrated.

The anti-Semites will become our most dependable friends, the anti-Semitic countries our allies. We want to emigrate as respected people.

Efforts by German authorities to clamp down on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign took a sinister turn recently after a Jewish-German singer and daughter of a Holocaust survivor was warned that a concert in which she is scheduled to perform would be cancelled if she made any remarks in support of BDS.

History needs to be re-argued because without the argument history becomes catechism: anti-historical. 

"It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt."

A

We are being told that in effect the decision of the current President and a House of Congress to investigate a violent assault on the seat of government can be stymied by a former President who led the attack! Indeed, the same former President who was put on trial for the crime and had a big majority of the Senate (57 votes for conviction) vote to convict him. And we are told that this is not because of any legitimate authority or privilege but simply because the courts – which are in essence under the management of the highest echelon of the legal profession – can’t decide things quickly enough. And by quickly enough here we mean they can’t process the question in less than a year.

They say – usually in very different contexts – that justice delayed is justice denied. If Shaub’s prediction is right, that is certainly the case here. And that is a grave indictment of the whole legal profession, especially the elite community of law professors who largely define – on the right and left – how the law functions in our society. The legal profession is one of the groups the Republic relies upon for protection and here it’s pretty clearly and disastrously failed.

Shaub: "As for the bottom line, it seems quite likely that the committee is correct that, as a legal matter, it is entitled to most of the information and testimony it seeks. But, as a practical matter, the committee may never receive it."

Shaub is an academic describing the process of lawyering. Academia tends towards passivity or moralism, two forms of evasion.  Prosecutors don't socialize with defense attorneys, but academics are all of the same tribe. That's Balkin's weakness. It takes a lot to pull him out of his shell.

And again: when a non-state actor filters information it becomes a publisher of it. Facebook is not a "platform". But Balkin had a point I didn't admit the first time. Research and targeted advertising are a question of free speech and ending targeted advertising won't pass the test. But filtering at the scale of Facebook and Google is a question of access to information, solving the problem within accepted constitutional limits.  

"Lawyers are the rule of law." Joe Jamail, doing a deposition, and a lecturing at Stanford



The second video documents his conflicts over the relation of professions and business, self-respect and self-interest.

"Doing these cases,” he wrote, “I began to find myself in a dangerous situation as an advocate.  I came to believe in the truth of what I was saying.

Thinking about Balkin's ideas and their relation—or better, his relation—to politics, going back 18 years, but also liberals' confusion. I wrote a new post but decided to add it here, and I've rearranged things a bit.


1

More legal academics. Rick Hills, at PrawfsBlawg, in 2011: 

Eric Posner's and Adrian Vermeule's op-ed piece in the New York Times, urging President Obama to raise the debt limit unilaterally, is just a specific application of their general theory, outlined in their book, The Executive Unbound: After the Madisonian Republic, that Presidents should be free of legalistic limits on their power to initiate policies. The basic message of the book is both positive and normative. On the positive side, Eric and Adrian retail Terry Moe's line (more recently pressed by William Howell) that Presidential power to make policy unilaterally is inevitable. The public wants Presidents to respond to crises quickly without waiting for Congress' imprimatur, and Presidents will accommodate this public desire, regardless of legalistic limits, because neither Congress (bogged down with collective action problems) nor courts (lacking information) will stop them. On the normative side, Eric and Adrian retail a kinder, gentler Carl Schmitt: We should not worry about Presidents' unilaterally claiming powers to (for instance) raise the debt limit, because they will be adequately cabined by politics. Presidents want to win re-election or a favorable place in history, so they will try to accommodate opposing views to signal to the public that they are not tyrants. The plebiscitory limit of regular presidential elections suffices to constrain Presidents: We do not need law to do so.

There is a lot one could say about this briskly written, energetically argued book, but one simple, blog-worthy point leaps out at me: Eric and Adrian are cynical tough guys in dismissing legal limits, but dewy-eyed and naive idealists when it comes to politics. They have a view of presidential politics that I have seen expressed elsewhere only on the more saccharine episodes of "West Wing" (the ones where Alan Alda, the reasonable conservative guy who would not take the Ethanol Pledge in Iowa, was running against Jimmy Smits, the macho but sensitive lefty). They proclaim that voters will be able to distinguish between phony and genuine signals of Presidential trustworthiness, because “[p]eople who seek the office [of the President] have strong incentives to discover and disclose negative information about those in office,” a task in which they are aided by “powerful institutions that are not part of the constitutional structure – most prominently, the media and political parties.” (Pages 115, 119). But this assessment of press and party strikes me as a tad optimistic coming from guys who believe that members of Congress cannot overcome their own collective action problems to stop an aggressive President.

Take, for instance, the press: There seems to be a lot of evidence that the press is the President's Little Helper (to use Jonathan Zaller's phrase). According to this "indexing" theory of reporting, reporters simply repeat -- "index" -- the press releases of the White House, ignoring rival stories offered by scientists and bureaucrats that (for instance) those aluminum tubes imported to Iraq had nothing to do with WMDs. (See Chapter 6 of William Howell's and John Pevehouse's book, While Dangers Gather: Congressional Checks on Presidential War Powers for exhaustive evidence of the "indexing" theory).

There are limits to the "indexing" theory of Presidential omnipotence over the press, but Eric's and Adrian's urging of a unilateral presidency might seem reasonably calculated to destroy those limits. 

Howell, Pevehouse, and Douglas Kriner report, for instance, that, if members of Congress stand up to the President by holding hearings, issuing press releases, and generally making a fuss, then the press reports their opposition, and voters seem to listen. These political scientists do not explain why members of Congress can get public attention that others cannot attract.

Here's a theory of causation: Members of Congress are perceived by the public as being politically relevant actors without whose imprimatur the President cannot lawfully act. Eric and Adrian want to eliminate precisely that perception of Congress by pressing their "legal-authority-does-not-matter" theory. Why would reporters flock to the press conference of a senatorial committee chair whom the President could easily bypass with an executive order? Would not such a blowhard seem just as unnewsworthy as a member of, say, the House of Lords or the European Parliament?

It might be, in short, that constitutional structure has an effect on the behavior of the press. Destroy the structure that makes Congress the preeminent lawmaker, and you destroy the press coverage that members of Congress earn from their constitutional position. 

My reply on the page.
The normative changes over time; it's absurd to say otherwise. The Weimarization of American politics may make Posner and Vermeule's arguments relevant as description, but prescription is another matter.
Can we not find a more direct response to fascist logic than to criticize it as romance? 

"Certainly British journalism is not a profession. Over the years they have tried to make it one. In the United States they have mostly succeeded.... They are taught about the technical skills and the ethics, the heroes of American journalism and its theory. In the process they are moulded and given a protective gloss of self-importance. They have Standards and, in return, they get Status. In Britain it isn’t like this at all. Journalism is a chaotic form of earning, ragged at the edges, full of snakes, con artists and even the occasional misunderstood martyr. It doesn't have an accepted career structure. necessary entry requirements or an effective system of self-policing. Outside organized crime it is the most powerful and enjoyable of the anti-professions."  

3

"i'm a journalist, not an american journalist. my job is not to serve as a propagandist for anybody, just to tell stories and my advantage is that i can tell stories that are hard to come by
...imagine if that one taliban commander had not screwed up my plans to go with them when they conducted attacks, and i had seen that too. isnt that interesting? isnt it important to understand who they are? and most importantly, wouldnt it make for a fun read?" 

4
Two articles on judicial review in the UK.

"Written​ constitutions? ‘Because of where I came from, these documents seemed profoundly exotic.’"

Vermeule was always a fascist. Now he's a theocrat


Since it's now a topic: the first time I referred to "polling and passivity" was 2006.
The 'naturalization' of the discourse of law, politics, and even culture has resulted in the dumbing down of democracy to the level of polling and passivity. Intellectuals in the mold of Posner do not educate or explain—they have no interest in dumbing down their own discourse by dealing directly with the populace—they collate and presume. And if the first rule of intellectual life is to know oneself, that capacity is the first thing that's lost. The self-absorption of the logician is not too far from that of the autistic child staring at a spinning fan. If the logical system prevails over its creator, there is no need for self to be anything else but the system. Life becomes simple, and perverse.

The third time, in 2010, I linked to Jon Stewart.

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Rooney had been accused of boycotting Hebrew. American liberal Zionists, supporters of Israel and the Green Line, pushed back. Anti-Zionists weren't interested in the distinction.

Rooney should publish in Arabic. Any Jew native to the Middle East will understand, and the immigrants should have learned it. 
In December 1920, the mayor of Jerusalem, Raghib al-Nashashibi, organized a large event in honor of British High Commissioner Herbert Samuel. When he invited Prof. Abraham Shalom Yahuda to speak at the event, there was no need to say the lecture would be given in Arabic. For both of them, sons of distinguished Jerusalem families, one Arab-Muslim and the other Arab-Jewish, Arabic was the local language. It was the language in which members of all religions here wrote, spoke, traded and argued.

Arabic was viewed as the language of the land also among the Zionist movement, which acted to renew the Hebrew language. David Yellin and Yosef Meyouhas, two of the founders of the Hebrew Language Committee and Hebrew education in the land of Israel, could not have imagined that their project for the rebirth of Hebrew would serve one day as a tool to displace Arabic.
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"Popularism" and the problem of leadership. Social science is passive: polling is the only way to know what people want. Any leader who wants to help people knows that sometimes they won't thank him till later. 

Monday, October 11, 2021

Leiter: "The Epistemology of the Internet and the Regulation of Speech in America" 

The Internet is the epistemological crisis of the 21st-century: it has fundamentally altered the social epistemology of societies with relative freedom to access it. Most of what we think we know about the world is due to reliance on epistemic authorities, individuals or institutions that tell us what we ought to believe about Newtonian mechanics, evolution by natural selection, climate change, resurrection from the dead, or the Holocaust. The most practically fruitful epistemic norm of modernity, empiricism, demands that knowledge be grounded in sensory experience, but almost no one who believes in evolution by natural selection or the reality of the Holocaust has any sensory evidence in support of those beliefs. Instead, we rely on epistemic authorities—biologists and historians, for example. Epistemic authority cannot be sustained by empiricist criteria, for obvious reasons: salient anecdotal evidence, the favorite tool of propagandists, appeals to ordinary faith in the senses, but is easily exploited given that most people understand neither the perils of induction nor the finer points of sampling and Bayesian inference. Sustaining epistemic authority depends, crucially, on social institutions that inculcate reliable second-order norms about whom to believe about what. The traditional media were crucial, in the age of mass democracy, with promulgating and sustaining such norms. The Internet has obliterated the intermediaries who made that possible (and, in the process, undermined the epistemic standing of experts), while even the traditional media in the U.S., thanks to the demise of the “Fairness Doctrine,” has contributed to the same phenomenon. I argue that this crisis cries out for changes in the regulation of speech in cyberspace—including liability for certain kinds of false speech, incitement, and hate speech--but also a restoration of a version of the Fairness Doctrine for the traditional media.

Again, Tom Nichols, et al.

Facebook is the rule of experts as power hungry and passive aggressive. "We're only giving the people what they want." Leiter prefers the rule of those like himself. He defends "truth".  End the monopoly; end the shit-funnel. Shit will always be with us, but each of us needs to judge for ourselves.

"Democracies have freedom of speech not because governments grant it but because the government is not granted the power to take it away."

Most arguments against mass surveillance don't respond fully substantively to claims that you shouldn't worry if you "have nothing to hide".  Defense of personal freedom isn't enough.  What's needed is an argument in defense of the need for citizens in a democratic state to be able to be all kinds of wrong, all kinds of confused, creepy, conflicted, desirous, weepy or hate-filled, so that they may be able to learn to understand and outgrow their childishness. The choice is between a community of adults with a minority of the inveterately childish and criminal or a community of children ruled by moralists and crime lords.

I've repeated both a few times and I'll repeat them again and again.

Saturday, October 09, 2021

It's too easy

1. "Great moments in obscure rock 'n' roll: Tucky Buzzard, 'She's Meat,' 1971"

2. "Academic Ethics: Is ‘Diversity’ the Best Reason for Affirmative Action?"

Charles Mills went from arguing that liberalism is racist, to arguing for a "deracialized liberalism", and philosophers just follow along for the ride. The narrative of the change is left to historians.

Jesus fuck

Bookish as a child, Dr. Mills said he regretted spending more time reading the works of J.R.R. Tolkien than Frantz Fanon, the revolutionary Franco-Caribbean philosopher. But he also joked that his love of science fiction had prepared him for a life in philosophy.

“It could just be that I’m a nerdy alienated weirdo, and nerdy alienated weirdos are disproportionately attracted to both fields,” he wrote in a biographical essay in 2002. “Have you been to an A.P.A. meeting recently? I rest my case.”

Like the man says, I rest my case. 

If I believed in the primacy of ideas, I'd have a hard time figuring who did more damage to the western and then global intellectual tradition in the post war era: Tolkein, Rawls, or the inventors of Dungeons and Dragons. But in the end of course they'd all follow von Neumann.

Thursday, October 07, 2021

Leiter links to Leiter, (my emphasis)
5.  Most discussion of appropriate and inappropriate restrictions on speech on campus are not based on legal requirements, but on ideals of freedom of thought and inquiry that universities are (often uniquely) thought to stand for.  (Recall that even Marcuse, in his critique of "repressive tolerance" for harmful expression, thought universities should be bastions of unbridled expression....)

Absolute fucking bullshit. Academia polices speech in ways the government can't. 

McWhorter and Rauchway and Ronell and Tushnet

Hüppauf is honest

The university belongs, like the church and the military, to the social institutions that are situated at a considerable distance from democracy and adhere to premodern power structures. 

I grew up listening to legal discussions of the First Amendment and freedom of speech, arguments about the principle and the Constitution. Supreme Court justices were acknowledged as political appointees and mostly mediocre minds. And these were debates among lawyers and others involved in cases at the lowest level, who were advocates for people, not ideas. This is how change happens, how principles are preserved, expanded, shaped. The Supreme Court makes government policy; rulings can't define the terms of debate (see the idiot Tushnet, above). The same applies to discussions of foreign policy among those who eschew easy definitions of the foreign. This is what it means to be intellectually serious. Left to its own devices authority serves only itself.

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

"It was strange. My students were all obsessed with sex....

Not the idea of sex or the meaning of sex, but sex!"

NFS means No Fucking Shit 

In a separate paper, “The existential function of right‐wing authoritarianism,” Womick, Ward and King, joined by Samantha J. Heintzelman and Brendon Woody, provide more detail:

It may seem ironic that authoritarianism, a belief system that entails sacrifice of personal freedom to a strong leader, would influence the experience of meaning in life through its promotion of feelings of personal significance. Yet, right wing authoritarianism does provide a person with a place in the world, as a loyal follower of a strong leader. In addition, compared to purpose and coherence, knowing with great certainty that one’s life has mattered in a lasting way may be challenging. Handing this challenge over to a strong leader and investment in societal conventions might allow a person to gain a sense of symbolic or vicarious significance.

Cultures armor themselves under threat. Bullies were once bullied.  "Early Childhood Victimization Among Incarcerated Adult Male Felons"  It was fucking obvious before 1998. It was obvious before I was born. It was obvious before the 20th century. It was obvious before 1789. 

"Very hard to defend a low-lying beach. Eventually people will come for you"


"Political scientists seek to understand politics, not engage in politics."
Social science is anti-historical, anti-political pseudoscience.

Liberal technocrats imagine themselves as defending democracy. If they recognized themselves as managers, as rulers, they'd understand the backlash when they do a lousy job. I'll repeat myself until I die. Technocracy is not democracy.


"the meaning of sex"  The Journal of Philosophy, mid 80s.  Told to me by Callie Angell, who was there.

I know what Mark Blyth does for a living. And he cowrote this book with a hedge fund manager.  Another reason I gave this one the Comedians tag.

Sunday, October 03, 2021

Ryan Cooper
I made a (somewhat slapdash) video about Lord of the Rings and why America has no tradition of dutiful conservatism

Of course the same applies to liberalism. "The Impossibility of a Paretian Liberal" only came out in 1970, and A Theory of Justice was published in 1971

In the work of Rawls, Dworkin,  Arneson, and Cohen, a central example that clinches the case against equality of welfare as the ethically correct kind of egalitarianism is the required treatment of a person with voluntarily cultivated expensive tastes. Under welfare egalitarianism, such a person must receive a larger-than-normal bundle of scarce resources, which appears to render him a kind of exploiter of others with more frugal tastes. In the model I have presented, a person who has a high rate of time discount (r) or who views education as very costly (low value of s) has expensive tastes, for he will choose a low level of education (ceteris paribus) will consequently have low expected future income, and will have a low expected welfare. 

To take a the classic example, consider the person who derives satisfaction from a drink only If it is a pre-phylloxera claret. Such a person requires more money to derive the same satisfaction that a beer lover derives from her brew. Here is how Dworkin, Arneson, and I would differ in the treatment of a person. Dworkin would not compensate the one who could derive satisfaction only front pre-phylloxera claret if she identifies with those tastes. Arneson would not compensate her if it had been prudent for her to learn to like beer: presumably, if she knew that she would not have the income to purchase the ancient claret, and if she had the opportunity to develop frugal tastes, then it would have been prudent for her to do so. I propose that the decision whether to compensate her depends on how the median person of her type behaved. Let us say that her type is "child of impoverished aristocrats." If the "median preferences" of persons of that type are for pre-phylloxera claret, then she is entitled to compensation to increase her level of welfare to what the person of frugal tastes, who exercised a median degree of responsibility in other circumstances can experience with his resources.  

If you click through the links they get you back to Rawls, Roemer et al. 

And Cooper contracts something he wrote less than a month ago. 

At bottom, the argument that socialists need to behave virtuously for political reasons is liberal and individualist – the same fallacy seen from Matt Bors' famous Mr. Gotcha. The whole point of leftist politics is to solve problems through collective coordination, not by convincing individuals to behave differently. 
And as always
SE: "Arguments for the nobility of greed are a recent development."
Chris Bertram: "If, by 'recent' you mean 1705, you may be right."

To match this, Leiter has a new paper calling for a return to Hart. Varieties of pseudoscience and anti-politics.

I'll add the Aristocrats tag. I don't have one for virtue ethics. And The Discovery of Experience. It's still Tolkien but at least Cooper is trying. But the video is pretty bad. 
---

day later he tries again: "I spent like 60 hours making this video, pls watch"

Because it fits. Because an ex-editor of Commonweal[!]  asks: Does motherhood make us less free?

And that's why the fascist Sophie Lewis calls for abolition. End the family, in the name of freedom, 
self-interest, and self-hatred. 

And we're back to the previous post: "It might be worth defining fascism as the rebellion of individualism against itself, since fascists are incapable of functioning within a community. " 
updated at bit. It's depressing how unsophisticated the sophisticated have become
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Jacob Bacharach in the New Republic, 2021: Ayn Rand Made Me a Communist
How an adolescent love affair with "Atlas Shrugged" opened up the world of radical politics.

I don’t suppose that when my parents sent me off to the University of Virginia Young Writers Workshop they imagined I’d return, a few weeks later, both gay and an objectivist.

Bacharach in the New Republic, 2016: I Was a Teenage Nazi Wannabe

The alt-right is a loser's poor fantasy of what a radical revolution looks like. I should know.

I was nearly expelled from high school my senior year, just before graduation. Only my grades, acceptance to a relatively prestigious college, and privileged position as the son of one of the pillars of the local economy prevented it. I was a weird kid: artsy, fay, obsessed with conspiracies, science fiction, Ayn Rand, and the occult.

2021

...As for me, I’ve never quite figured where to place myself on a left-right spectrum: a moralist but a moral relativist; a queer atheist with an enduring affection for the most traditional of religions; an anarchist by intellect but a collectivist by sentiment. I do count myself a radical, and even if my later development as a political writer and thinker owed a great deal more to Didion and Vidal and Ishmael Reed and a lot of crackpot early-aughts bloggers, then it would still be no exaggeration to say that my earliest, most formative, and most enduring encounter with a radical politics was the high priestess of The Collective herself, Ayn Rand.

“Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).” Get it, girl!

"Individual rights are not subject to a public vote".  Often, they are. It depends. Didion was a Goldwater girl, and she's still not a "liberal". Gore was always a patrician. This idiot is so confused. He still doesn't know what he is, or what he wants to be.

2016

We were seniors in 1999, the year of the Columbine massacre. For most of the couple of years preceding, we’d been cobbling together a masterpiece of experimental filmmaking—actually, a semi-related skein of filthy, profane sketch gags centered on the peripatetic wanderings of a character (I use the term loosely) named “Headless,” defined chiefly by the fact that he wore, or was, a full-head rubber Tor Johnson mask. We filmed in our backyards and the woods behind them, in parking lots and alleys, in our bedrooms, and, most ill-advisedly, in the hotel where we stayed on our AP Government trip to Washington, D.C. Then one of us left the VHS master copy sitting on a table in the Laurel Highlands Senior High School cafeteria.


The movie inevitably made its way to our principal. There were plenty of bits to get a decent and unimaginative man riled up—rituals cribbed from Anton LeVay, drug use both simulated and actual, violence, and plenty of fake blood. But I have to believe that the worst moment for that poor administrator and for our poor parents was when they watched another friend of ours, a nice girl from a devoutly Christian family—Lord knows how we cajoled her into participating—crawl between my legs to perform simulated fellatio on a TV remote control. I suspect we meant all this as some kind of commentary on the media. The camera panned up to my contorted face. “Oh yeah, baby,” I growled, “Suck it. Heil Hitler, my dick is your Fuhrer.”

I was already out, the only openly gay kid at my school. I was—I am—a Jew. 
John Waters is a conservative. Ask anyone who knows him.
He even name checks Nick Land, but doesn't get the point. I'm seeing more and more of this... 

I'm so fucking bored 

"I was a weird kid: artsy, fay, obsessed with conspiracies, science fiction, Ayn Rand, and the occult."

"...he double-majored in music and English and became deeply involved in avant-garde theater, trying out and discarding various radical ideologies like costume changes."


Earlier this year, another hipster wannabe communist and Rand, linking to the history.

Jeet Heer retweeting Krugman on Asimov, and writing about comics. Asimov, the intellectual hero to Krugman and Gingrich and Henry Farrell. I liked Asimov at 12 and knew it was intelligent pop crap. Naked Sun, the one that stayed with me, is detective fiction, the only pulp ever to rise above the name. Ray Bradbury and later Philip K. Dick rose above pulp in other ways.  I read a page of Rand at 17 and knew it was incompetent.  But all of the above, as I've aid a thousand times, documents unsophisticated understanding of art. And change is slow.

More of the same, at a higher level. The brilliance of Steely Dan is inseparable from the limitations. As with the Coen brothers and Nabokov: the poetry of velvet-gloved overdetermination, the late style, not of individual artists but of a form: the Russian novel,  American popular song, Hollywood film. Nabokov is better than Borges because not conceptual or in the service of ideas, not openly reactionary, but too knowing.  Didion belongs on that list too; I think she'd agree. The fans bother me more than the people they worship, even Borges. I  didn't read comics much as a kid, but when I found one by Jack Kirby, from the late 60s, the drawings fascinated me: they had something I hadn't seen before. They manifested—made present—a kind of sense, that I responded to, viscerally. My nerves responded to the line and I recognized something. Kirby had done something and I had understood.
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I sent note to Bacharach; we had a bit of a back and forth. I told him he should follow Didion's model and be observant and honest to the point of making others and himself uncomfortable, since that's what makes good writing. He disagreed.

I reminded him of Didion's essay on the Central Park jogger. I told him the top image on the top left, above Lulu, is fascist: the identification with victimhood, and the demand for respect as a victim, of the world, and of being therefore too good for this world. Brooks was too smart to make that generalization. Didion didn't go as far as I have, but she makes the conservative case against individualism and the resulting narcissism. 

Didion is Bacharach's Judy Garland. He's a fan, writing for an audience of fans. But he sees himself as a liberal, or as liberals do, full of best intentions. 

It might be worth defining fascism as the rebellion of individualism against itself, since fascists are incapable of functioning within a community.  

Friday, October 01, 2021

People have been talking about this all week, noting the author, quoting the first paragraph and then footnote 2. But Rudd begins a quote from Dashiell Hammett

Nobody thinks clearly, no matter what they pretend. . . . That’s why people hang on so tight to their beliefs and opinions; because, compared to the haphazard way they’re arrived at, even the goofiest opinion seems wonderfully clear, sane, and self-evident.

Now Leiter's found it, via an article in the Times.

My father will be remembered in the world beyond family and friendships for one essay on Hammett. His father was a Pinkerton, a hired killer, who died of TB a year after my father was born.