Archives for category: Literature

How Lines of Inquiry Get Shut Down

Finally, someone smart and not a coward asks the obvious questions and expresses the requisite incredulity:

The lack of professional curiosity among journalists about the Jeffrey Epstein case is astounding. Eric Weinstein is speaking truth — to power, even (for the Fourth Estate is indeed a power) — here, simply by denying the lies commonly used to smother public interest and coverage of the subject.

But I have a conjecture. I may know why.

Indeed, I suspect everybody knows why: for everybody knows that at the highest levels of government, and feeding around The Giant Pool of Money, the institutions and people are fantastically corrupt. No, that is too light. Everybody knows that at the top, there is profound evil.

You know it, your neighbor knows it, and the media mavens know it.

But the knowledge is suppressed, quite willingly, by nearly everyone. Why?

Well, most people depend upon — and even obtain their sense of “identity” from — the governments that are evil. Everyone is morally compromised, “journalists” most of all . . . because they seek to be the manipulators of public opinion, and they (for the most part) want the power of the State to grow. Everyone has dirty hands and compromised consciences, so the knowledge of the evil at the heart and mind of the modern state is rarely spoken of, and those who do speak of it are scorned or derided or ignored.

We pretend it isn’t knowledge, and because we all speak of it so rarely, the knowledge ceases to be public, and thus not testable. And this, in turn, discourages tests.

It is a feedback loop of corruption, and it extends from the pinnacles to the barnacles.

Of society.

And Jeffrey Epstein didn’t kill himself.

J. Sheridan le Fanu’s short story “Dickon the Devil,” which can be found in the third volume of The Collected Supernatural and Weird Fiction of J. Sheridan Le Fanu (2010), is a typical spook story of its period, the second half of the 19th century. It has scant drama, and is not dramatically told. The idea, I guess, was realism of presentation, to set the stage for the eldritch element — the indirect method.

The story first saw print in 1872. I cannot say I think much of this one, but
I will try others. Maybe I will even give the humungous novel included in the volume mentioned above, The House by the Churchyard, a go.

Reading Descent of Man (1979; 1987)

T. Coraghessan Boyle’s short stories, from the few I have read so far, are

  1. very good;
  2. often darkly comic; and
  3. close, perhaps kissing cousins, of genre science fiction.

My favorite of his, so far, is “Back in the Eocene,” a story about a father who tries to back up his son’s public school ‘education” about how bad “drugs” are, despite the fact that, “back in the Eocene,” that same father had taken and much enjoyed — and apparently not been harmed by — those now-demonized drugs.

That perspective, of times long gone still casting a shadow on the present, is effectively and humorously communicated by reference to the distant geologic past.

I read that story years ago. Tonight I read “Quetzálcoatl Lite” and “De Rerum Natura,” both to be found in his early collection, now seemingly Pleistocene past (if not Eocene), Descent of Man. The first is a sly tale of the collecting mania, in which a man vies with another, older collector, to find a rare beer can in the jungles of Central America. The second is a stranger tale of a genius inventor, one of whose inventions is a cat that lacks excretory functions. The title references Titus Lucretius Carus’s classic Epicurean poem (see George Santayana, Three Philosophical Poets).

That second story could have been published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. While not standard genre fiction, F&SF regularly publishes material in the same vein.

I consider authors like Boyle and, say, Will Self, to be ultra-fiction writers, engaged in a literary emprise that exists alongside popular traditions of fantasy and science fiction. Both are quite good, no doubt. But I do not consider them light years beyond many who inhabit the genre industry.

It is only by convention and bigotry that they exist in literary worlds utterly apart.

twv

N.B. “Back in the Eocene” and “De Rerum Natura” can be found in T.C. Boyle’s 1998 mega-collection, Stories.

I picked up a paperback in town yesterday, Weird Tales #3, edited by Lin Carter. As is my habit, when obtaining a new anthology, I immediately try one story. This time it’s the title story by Robert E. Howard & Gerald W. Page. Howard is known for his Conan tales, primarily, and this is not one of them. The narrator explains up front what is going on:

The conceit of a first-person account of a buried-in-deep-antiquity tale established, the story proceeds. It is simply and effectively written. And it goes on to advance a familiar idea, of a race of giants — ferocious quasi-human demigods or some such:

The extent to which this is familiar to today’s readers not through Sword & Sorcery fantasy tales, but from the speculations of “alternative archaeology,” is . . . interesting.

We are not far from Burroughsian territory, I guess, in terms of premise and conceit, but the prose is much more elegantly rugged and effectively paced.

As I have confessed before, this is a genre I have not read much. This is indeed my first reading of a Howard story. And, because the writing credit is shared with another, one could argue I still cannot mark the kill on my readerly coup stick.

I will give Howard another chance.

By Gorm.

twv

Jane Yolen’s “The Uncorking of Uncle Finn” is a droll tale cleverly told. Inhabiting six pages of The Year’s Best Fantasy Stories 13 (Arthur W. Saha, ed., Daw 1987), it is not high fantasy, sword & sorcery, urban fantasy, horror, or any of the more familiar genres included in the generic term, “fantasy.” It is, I guess, a yarn. And very funny.

Opening of Jane Yolen, “The Uncorking of Uncle Finn” (F&SF, v 71 #5, November 1986).

I am not sure I have read anything else by this author, though I have two paperbacks of her fantasies, one of them being the respected Briar Rose (1992). After reading her 1986 short story, I may have to give Briar Rose a try.

Now, I read a lot of short stories and essays, from books in my library. But I almost never record my thoughts, so I of course forget what I have read, no matter how good these shorter pieces are. Perhaps this blog will include little notices of my readings, not by popular demand, but as part of my normal journal writing.

twv


N.B. The image at the top of the page is a detail of the anthology’s cover. It has nothing to do with Yolen’s story.

Pepe is back!

Last Friday, when I was helping Paul Jacob with his weekend wrap-up (This Week in Common Sense), I had only heard rumors about Pepe’s appearance on the streets of Hong Kong,* so I asked Paul if he had heard anything. He hadn’t. But . . . The New York Times has come to the rescue, with “Hong Kong Protesters Love Pepe the Frog. No, They’re Not Alt-Right” (August 19).

“To much of the world, the cartoon frog is a hate symbol,” the blurb expands. “To Hong Kong protesters, he’s something entirely different: one of them.”

The article, by Daniel Victor, confronts how jarring it may seem for Pepe to appear as “a pro-democracy freedom fighter in the Hong Kong protests, siding with the people in their struggle against an authoritarian state.”

Well, jarring if you are a Gray Lady reporter. For was it not major media folks who repeatedly characterized Pepe as “alt right” and a “hate figure”? So, what if that’s just their story? How they want us to see the symbol?

To participants of the online trolling that erupted in the election of Donald Trump, Pepe was not one thing, but all over the map. He was, as I suggested to Paul, an anti-authoritarian Trickster, more Bugs Bunny than a cruel cartoon of Samuel Goldenberg and Schmuyle.

And the anti-authoritarianism of Pepe was directed against our Establishment, in part as embodied in Hillary Clinton . . . and in the news media.

But the Times cannot quite confront that. 

Pepe in Hong Kong.

So we encounter, instead, a very different explanation. We are told how Pepe’s creator Matt Furie’s pre-troll conception of Pepe has survived, innocent as a lamb — or even as “Hello Kitty!” — in the former British colony . . . at least as scribbled and spray-painted on subway walls (and tenement halls).

A bit self-serving? The Times’ narrative almost begs for a response . . . in the form of a Pepe-like wink-and-leer.

twv


* The other day I repeated the rumors, and the images that seemed to back them up, in my “Baizuo Blues” post. There I was dealing with a Medium essay so outrageous I was not sure it wasn’t some bizarre form of post-irony. And, in the back of my head I mulled over this unsettling worry that even the photos might have been doctored. These worries did not diminish when the Medium piece almost immediately vanished from the site. Which is why I was still wondering about the truth of Pepe’s reëmergence later in the week.

Karl Marlantes, an all-too-typical comsymp.

Deep River is a novel about the valley over the hill from where I live. My mother grew up in that valley. She and my father built their first home in the valley head. My older siblings spent the early years of their lives there. I have fond memories, for the most part, of that shadowy place not far from home.

The novel is said to be quite good, and its author, Karl Marlantes, a genius.

He does not seem like one.

Not on the basis of the Seattle Times article about the novel, anyway. I got stuck on something he said, a comment about Communism. I raise more than a mere single eyebrow:

Today we have this fear of anyone who has a different political attitude from us. My grandmother was a communist, but her kitchen was clean. She wasn’t scary, but today we gin up the fear.

Oh, is that what we do? Gin up the fear. How thoughtless of us! How bigoted!

Replace one word in his defense of his grandma, though, and would anyone still consider his defense of his grandmother’s radicalism reasonable?

Today we have this fear of anyone who has a different political attitude from us. My grandmother was a Nazi, but her kitchen was clean. She wasn’t scary, but today we gin up the fear.

Karl Marlantes would not write that. He knows that National Socialism was evil. And had one of his relatives been a Nazi who worked as “a political agitator” stirring up “a heap of trouble” in trying to organize for a cause he approved of — like, I bet, a welfare state (which Nazi Germany did indeed establish) — he would rightly be too squeamish to brush aside our abhorrence of the ideology.

But it is worse than that. Communists killed over 100 million of their fellow citizens last century. Hitler, an utterly evil dictator, was a slacker compared to Stalin and Mao.

Oh, and Hitler praised Karl Marx’s economic analysis, too. Leftists cannot hide behind unhistorical platitudes of “anti-fascism” and a witless love for “the left.” The bodies pile up higher the further left you push. And even the “anarchist-communists”/“communist-anarchists” of bygone years have something to answer for, because they promoted ideas that led to revolution that in turn led to tyranny and mass slaughter.

And it is not as if the Wobblies, whom Marlantes’ character Aino — based on his grandmother — “agitated” for, were all sweetness and light. They engaged in quite a number of riots, and several forms of terrorism. Along with the bomb-throwing (and bomb-throwing adjacent) anarchists, they understandably got caught in the anti-terrorist backlash in the early 20th century, and were suppressed.

Marlantes appears to be a typical “progressive” moral moron. He carries on a long leftist tradition of taking sides in the Pick Your Tyranny game that has played for nearly a century. Fascism is bad; communism is . . . well, “communists mean well.”

I am not sure I have ever encountered a leftist willing to plumb the depths of the Totalitarian Ideology Problem, willing to not Pick Your Tyranny. They exist, sure. But once one really comes to grips with the problem, one tends to cease being a leftist.

Leftism is a culturally acceptable Yog-Sothothery, an open flirtation with outrageous moral horror. It is a cult. It corrupts minds. And it is very widespread among moderately bright artistic types. Like Karl Marlantes.


Oh, and for the record: my grandfather hated the Wobblies. Not all Finns were commies.

There were Red Finns, sure, but there were about an equal number of Church Finns — “Whites” — at least in America. My education in politics did not rest upon this divide, but it did haunt the back of my mind. I grew up knowing about the tragedy of “Karelian Fever.” I also knew of the terror of living under Stalin. Socialism of any kind was always a bit suspect.

What made me so lucky, when so many of my culturally “left” artists succumbed? Well, much older relatives of mine, who were Reds, knew it all too well. And told their story. Which was repeated.

Family lore about my great uncle and aunt was this: early in the mad “experiment” of Communism, they had moved, as newlyweds, to the USSR — and within six months became almost afraid of each other. Political correctness under a totalitarian state is one of terror, not mere ill manners and inconvenience. They fled, lucky to escape.

Finnish-Americans who will not honestly confront their history with communist evil don’t do anyone any good.

I will wait to read Marlantes’ latest novel, I think, perhaps pick it up used. Call it my personal boycott of apologists for totalitarianism, “politically correct” fools who make light of mass murder, regimentation, and the philosophy of pushiness and plunder.

twv

Civilization consists in giving something a name that doesn’t belong to it and then dreaming over the result. And the false name joined to the true dream does create a new reality. The object does change into something else, because we make it change. We manufacture realities.

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet (Penguin Books, 2001), pp. 65–66.
…currently reading…
A typically tendentious bit of fake news.

You may have thought that the purpose of a protest march was to garner publicity for your cause, thereby changing minds and then government. We have been told, since at least the days of Martin Luther King, that the protest march is a noble form of activism. Peaceful. Effective. Important for “democracy.”

What we were told no longer applies, for today’s protesters do not seek publicity. They are up to something else.

Correction: protesters “on the left,” these days, are up to something else. Protesters “on the right” stick a bit closer to the old rationale.

Yet Another Portlandia Protest-cum-Riot

You can glean what is going on if you read between the lines of an appallingly deceptive article about the recent altercations on the streets of Portland, Oregon. Andy Campbell, the propagandist who wrote the article for an ezine that I had thought was called the Huffington Post, but now goes under the banner of HuffPost, works mightily to convince leftists that their side, whose avant-garde is the black-clad thugs who call themselves Antifa, is on the side of the good, while the “far right” groups Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer (hereinafter identified by their initials), are evil. It is all very interesting, sure. But what the reader may not see is what is what is most important.

And what is that missing something?

Any consideration of who initiates violence.

Sure, the author makes much of PB/PP protesters preparing for violence. But violence can be defensive, and defensive violence can be prepared for. The implication of his tendentious, ersatz reportage is that Antifa’s posture is innocent and good and the PB/PP protesters’ is malign. While he lingers on these right-wingers’ armament styles, he does not do the same for Antifa, or draw any conclusions from their style of dress: black, with faces covered.

So he misses the pattern here: the PB/PP protestors arm themselves, sure; they also get permits and walk the streets of the city, shouting their slogans and holding up their gonfalons, as protestors are wont to do — and then the Antifa counter-protesters show up, sans permits, in their masks and makeshift black uniforms, throwing things at the protesters, taunting them, egging them on so that the violence will escalate.

It had preciously been important, in our age’s tradition of protest efforts, to appear the victim — and undoubtedly both sides here are prepared for violence yet wish, to some degree, to be seen as not “starting it.”

We have only two real clues about the justice of the latest City of Roses mêlée, neither made explicit in Campbell’s dreadful Antifa apologia.

  1. Who was there first, who had a right to be there.
  2. The attack upon journalist Andy Ngo.

These two issues deserve separate treatment.

Who’s On First?

In previous altercations between the PB/PP and Antifa, the former groups had bothered to seek (and sometimes obtain) permits to protests on public property.

Permits are good form, at the very least, for public roads and parks and sidewalks are designed and maintained for the use of people in normal transit, going about the normal business of commerce. Appropriating them to protest and publicize a particular cause blocks transit, and public use, and what amounts to a form of privatization — so one would expect the “public” to be somehow compensated and protected from the change in de facto and perhaps de jure property rights.

Mr. Campbell’s narration, such as it is, does not mention any permitting process. But it is clear that the “right-wing” protesters had priority, and that they were taunting Antifa merely by their presence.

In normal civilized contexts, one expects to be able to go about one’s peaceful business without being attacked, compelled, or coerced. In a society where there is freedom of speech, mere expressions of ideas are not considered provocations — only direct threats and incitements are.

So, as near as I can make out — and nothing Mr. Campbell writes indicates otherwise — when the PB/PP protesters take to the street, they are indeed preparing for violence, defensive violence, and they expect their mere words, slogans, and presence to call forth the counter-protesters who, by initiating violence, show themselves to be thugs.

So for one side, publicity and journalistic coverage is all-important. Protesters on the PB/PP “right” play by the old rules of protest, the ones culturally established in the 1960s.

For the other side, the opposite is true. Counter-protesters on the hubristic left do not want careful consideration of what they are doing, they do not want transparency. They need confusion and darkened cameras to allow “journalists” in partisan venues like HuffPost to make halfway plausible apologia for their violent actions.

Which takes us away from Andy Campbell, propagandist, and to Andy Ngo, victim.

Do We Know Ngo?

For an article about a riot and an attack, the HuffPost effort provides few details. Indeed, details are almost non-existent. Most of the screed is about providing a context for the attack upon Andy Ngo. And it is a carefully constructed context — which does not mention other victims, for example.

Also left out is the fact that Mr. Ngo was merely photographing the event. He was attacked for his journalistic work, here and elsewhere. In other accounts online we are told that his attackers were more than aware of who he was. “One woman in the crowd,” The Daily Wire reports, “can be heard yelling, “F*** you, Andy!”

So why attack Mr. Ngo, a photojournalist and sub-editor for Quillette?

He has a long history investigating Antifa and other leftist violence and mobbing activity in Portland, Oregon, and elsewhere. For this he is seen as an enemy — a “fascist,” I gather.

More importantly, it is the new style of leftist protest. We saw it best in the Melissa Click Missou Muscle Moment:

Repeatedly, in recent years, leftists in charge of and participating in public protests have ejected and attacked and . . . muscled . . . photojournalists and bloggers trying to cover public events. It makes no sense for a protest, of course. The whole point is to be seen.

Two likely explanations for this strike me as plausible.

One is that the leftist protesters see any non-major media coverage as likely to be antagonistic. Leftists know, intuitively if not explicitly, that major media is on their side, for the most part. But independent media? Much less likely. So why tolerate bad press? Do as Bush and Obama did in public: marginalize the opposition by pushing protest out beyond the margins.

Today’s leftists know that their protests are not free speech zones.

But another explanation is even more likely: leftist protest today is not protest at all, it is insurrection and repressive mobbing.

Antifa and friends are not aiming to appeal to the masses or the politicians. They aim to subjugate them: shout them down, drown out their voices and, by sheer force of effrontery and threat and mayhem, make them cringe in cowardice and fear.

Leftist protests today are mobocracy in motion. They are inherently violent. Their whole raison d’être is revolution and their modus operandi is force and intimidation.

And why don’t more moderate leftists object? I can only speculate. It sure seems like either because they agree with Antifa goals, or because they are cowards.

“By any means necessary” is a popular slogan amongst these people, and, for some reason most journalists and many politicians fail to see its deep immorality, the uncivilized principle of justifying violent, tyrannical means by the purported goodness of one’s chosen end.

Andy Ngo was peacefully covering the event, and Antifa goons attacked him and stole his camera.

And Mr. Campbell spent most of his effort trying to defend the obvious thugs, in part by denying that the milkshakes thrown at him did not (likely) contain Portland cement.

Ah, Portland cement! How apt in this situation.

How We Know HuffPo Is Propaganda

HuffPost spin dubs Andy Ngo a “conservative,” and Campbell uses words like “extremists” and “far right” quite liberally. Antifa, on the other hand, garners no adjectives, and is usually blessed with the eulogistic “anti-fascist” synonym.

This is how we know HuffPost is a mere propaganda mill, a spinner of what we call, these days, “fake news,” a term previously associated most famously with Jon Stewart (self-identified purveyor) and Donald Trump (accuser and accused).

In situations of conflicting interpretations, if you only take efforts to define your opponents, but just assume an understanding of one’s own side, then you are likely just a partisan. Indeed, it is this trick, of always referring to one side by pejorative adjectives and nouns, and letting one’s own side free of imposed modifiers, that defines a centrist cult. The method is well known. It is called “marginalization.”

The fact that the left has long been the most proficient practitioner of marginalization while making marginalization a grounds for attacking its opponents is just one of the drolleries of our age.

I consider this funny, of course: clueless hypocrisy is often funny.

But it is also part of a malign project, and thus quite serious indeed.

Now, it is possible that Andy Campbell is not the evil liar I think he is. He could be just very stupid, a brainwashed stooge with typical-to-his-class revolutionary, statist sympathies. Perhaps because he is on the side of Antifa, he has disabled himself from applying reason to the reality before him. All he can do is paint pictures that makes his side look good and the side he hates look bad. It is just second nature.

In the spirit of Mencken, we might be tempted to dismiss him, therefore, as a boob, mountebank, or moron. But to succeed in journalism surely means possessing a modicum of intelligence, doesn’t it?

While Mr. Campbell is a reporter manqué, I make no such pretentions to “news journalism.” No one pays me to quote fairly from all sides (which reporters are supposed to do), so I have here taken the liberty merely of arguing a case.

Which is all, really, that our HuffPost tendentitarian does. So, I guess the surest method to handle folks such as he is twofold: mock them as journalists and revile them as base rhetoricians . . . and worse.

twv

The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar,” Hermann Wögel (1884)

A number of Edgar Allan Poe’s stories were first published without the honest frame of fiction, and therefore count as hoax literature. This element of American journalism deserves serious study, especially now that journalism has returned to its roots.