Propaganda: A Movie and a Franchise

Brief update before this unrelated post: revised, and revised again, the outline for the proposed book on Catholic education, and began to revise and expand the bibliography. There are maybe 20 core books, and 2-3 times that in more peripheral stuff. Yikes – what have I gotten into? Both the outline and the bibliography will become permanent pages on this blog, to be updated and revised as I progress. But let’s talk about movies as propaganda first:

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Maybe my overactive imagination is getting off leash again. Maybe not.

A few years back, I made a few comments on the movie Lincoln here and here. At the time, while bending over backwards to give the man Lincoln every benefit of the doubt in a horrible and horribly complex situation, I complained:

Certainly, Lincoln was in a tough spot no matter which way we slice it. And, since we all seem to agree with his gut feelings about what is right, we tend to overlook how dubious his logic is in many places. The important thing, we say, is Justice: slavery was such an overwhelming injustice screaming out to Heaven that Lincoln – or any man – is justified in whatever he may do to end it. As the speech above suggests, Lincoln would ‘catch at the opportunity’ even if the mechanism by which he justifies his actions are questionable.

In the hands of a man of deep morals and honor such as Lincoln, perhaps we can hope the powers seized will be used only for good, or at least only toward some ultimate good like ending slavery. But the same concepts, having shed the rhetorical splendor Lincoln vested them in, lurk in the claim: “We can’t wait for Congress to do its job, so where they won’t act, I will.” This is the anthem of the rule of men, not law.

That quote within the quote above is, of course, from Obama, who was sworn in on Lincoln’s personal Bible. (1) This movie came out just as he began his second term, during which, in continuation of the precedent established during his first term, he routinely ruled by executive order. Funny timing, huh?

The entire movie is about the four months leading up to the passage of the 13th Amendment on January 31, 1865. Historians evidently refute much of what is presented as Lincoln’s motivation in the movie, where he is shown as desperate to get the 13th Amendment passed in order to ensure the end of slavery once fighting had ended. The Emancipation Proclamation was just an expedient enacted under the President’s war powers, and could, the movie states, be reversed once the South surrenders. So, Lincoln had to do whatever he had to do to get the Amendment passed, including a bunch of stuff that, if the end did not justify all means, would be considered patently immoral and illegal.

But Lincoln is a secular saint, and it all worked out, right? So no harm no foul. Everybody wants to think the evils to be addressed are just like slavery, obvious and vile, and that the guy who violates law, morals, and all propriety to right them is another Lincoln – like Obama, right? It doesn’t even occur to them that he might be more along the lines of the H-man, or even just a Franco, or a Pinochet handing out free helicopter rides. Unlike Messiah-O, those three guys DID face situations as desperate or worse than what Lincoln faced, and did take action to right the wrongs as they saw them. Yet, we very correctly have our reservations, to say the least, about not just their methods, but – and this is critical – their assessments of the problems and required solutions. But I don’t suppose a movie about a well-intentioned hero trying to do the right thing by making a mockery of law and morals, killing people and blowing stuff up along the way, only to have everything turn out just as his opponents warned him would, leading to a situation much worse than where he started, would sell many tickets.

I’d go see it.

The framing stories are of Lincoln’s disregard for the law when it was, in his sole judgement, antithetical to justice. He tells this story in the movie:

Back when I rode the legal circuit in Illinois I defended a woman from Metamora named Melissa Goings, 77 years old, they said she murdered her husband; he was 83. He was choking her; and, uh, she grabbed ahold of a stick of firewood and fractured his skull, ‘n he died. In his will he wrote “I expect she has killed me. If I get over it, I will have revenge.” No one was keen to see her convicted, he was that kind of husband. I asked the prosecuting attorney if I might have a short conference with my client. And she and I went into a room in the courthouse, but I alone emerged. The window in the room was found to be wide open. It was believed the old lady may have climbed out of it. I told the bailiff right before I left her in the room she asked me where she could get a good drink of water, and I told her Tennessee. Mrs. Goings was seen no more in Metamora. Enough justice had been done; they even forgave the bondsman her bail.

(Aside: I observed a similar coincidence when the NYT published an article defending and even praising Tammany Hall for its “honest graft” right around the time a few hints that not all Obama-era actions were strictly speaking composed entirely of sweetness and light. Thugs beating up people and holding the government for ransom are OK, the Times informs us, so long as it makes sure every Paddy get a job as a cop right off the boat – even if it’s some other Paddy that gets beaten up. Well, logic has never been the Left’s strong suit.)

In my extremely fruitful efforts to waste yet more time, I watched the trailer for the latest installment in the very successful Kingsmen franchise, of which I have seen none and have no intention of seeing any. In it, the Kingsmen are explained: “We are the first independent intelligence agency” and “preserving peace and protecting life” and “While governments wait for orders, our people take action.”

Hmmm. Now, while the vigilante theme is as old as comic books and The Shadow, this takes it to a new level: a CIA-like (intelligence agency, remember?) group of spies who answers to no government, but takes action to preserve the peace and protect lives by blowing things up and killing people, it would seem. Of course, it fun and British and all that, but the underlying concept – that the people who protect life and preserve peace can’t be beholden to any government – seems, I don’t know, strangely appealing to certain groups just at this particular moment in history.

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J Edgar contemplates the dirt he has on the handsome man to his right.

“Reputation is what people think of you. Character is who you are.” The CIA and its punk little brother the FBI, long having enjoyed the reputation among the non-comatose as, effectively, evil little empires with all the morality and respect for authority of J. Edgar Hoover, are now being framed up as the last, best hope of saving us all from Trump and The End of the World as We Know It ™ (see Severian’s latest for a terrifying yet humorous take on this). Just now, we get a series of movies based on the premise that we need saving and can’t wait for governments to do it! But our freshly scrubbed and loyal and patriotic ‘intelligence community’ can save us! Never let a crisis go to waste!

  1. As was Trump. What a kidder!

How to Take Over

Posted a series of tweets pulling together some new and some old stuff about how to take over an organization. Many thousands of ‘engagements’ later – and my typical tweet gets well under 100 – I’m getting the impression this might be of interest to my well over 10 readers here. Note that I’m congenitally disinclined to be a leader, but, because I like getting things done, I often find myself leading this or that. Anyone with experience in a bureaucracy or volunteer organization should recognize how this works. Also, wanting to be in charge and being good at being in charge are independent variables, as it were.

At the end, I point back to a specific post on Rotten Chestnuts, but should say up front that Severian there is the source or inspiration for many of the points below. So, check ’em out. Anyway, recapped and expanded upon:

1 How do you take over? 90% of success is showing up. Therefore, you want to take over? Show up.

This should be obvious. It is almost a corollary to Pournelle’s Iron Law, which states that, in any organization, there will be two broad classes of people: those who work for the aims of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. In every case, Dr. Pournelle asserts without fear of contradiction, it is the latter group who will end up in charge.

Standard example is NASA: There are, or at least were, many dedicated engineers who were inspired and driven by the goals: put a man on the moon, send a probe to Pluto, build a space station. Meanwhile, there are those charged with the day to day operations, for whom interest in the goals is strictly optional. It is this second group that will end up in control.

People with any focus other than being in control- families, a job, hobbies – are at a severe disadvantage. Those people – normal people – would much rather show up at home or work or with friends who share their hobby than to show up where decisions are being made that don’t really seem to touch those things. People with few or none of those things are much freer to simply show up.

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Federal Open Market Committee Meeting. Looks like a blast, dunnit?

2 Next, volunteer for committees & projects. Normal people do as little of this as possible, because it is generally a thankless task and normal people aren’t compelled to take over. Soon, you will be treasurer, secretary, chairman. Soon, you’ll know who need to defeat.

Those NASA engineers are likely to see all the meetings where mundane things get decided, the planning and budgeting and coordination, as a bother, and only show up when they are either compelled to or the specific meeting is about something they care about. They will be hesitant to volunteer, and get out as soon as they can. They have much better things to do than sit in meetings.

Those in admin do not have anything better to do than call and run meetings. Generalized, as above, people with families, jobs and simple concrete goals will minimize showing up. Those with nothing better to do are thus handed control.

One you get to be chairman or the valued sidekick who is able to set agendas, stonewall, add a little poison here and there, you will be able to see who it is in the meetings that is a threat to your control. You can do any of a number of things to eliminate them: stop inviting them to the meetings – chances are they don’t really want to be their anyway – pooh-pooh their positions, let them know that you sympathize but what they want really isn’t in harmony with the purpose of the committee, propose them as leaders of crap subcommittees (Minister of Agriculture, say), etc.

3 Patience. You need to be patient, as you will probably be in a minority at first. It will take time to weed out the troublemakers. You will need to be charming and seemingly cooperative. (Aside: a characteristic of sociopaths and borderline personality disorder folks is the ability to come off as completely sympathetic at first. Only later does the bullying, manipulation, and crazy reveal themselves. True high functioning sociopaths are able to bluff, lie, and gaslight their way to the top in a way that is almost completely invisible to normal people. So, if you want to try this yourself, beware that you may be up against people who will stop at nothing, feel no empathy, and cannot be shamed or embarrassed.)

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Doesn’t this picture make you want to be a part of whatever it is that’s going on? Or hang yourself? Either one…

But you keep showing up. You talk to people sympathetic to your cause, or easily influenced by the attention of someone who so clearly gets it, or a simply sheep that will follow anything that moves, and get them to volunteer. Over time, normal people will burn out & cycle through, and you can start to stack the committee/project with your team. This takes time.

4. You and your team, who are all people who want desperately to be in the inner ring, then scale it up. You are now the gatekeepers. Soon, at first subtly and then baldly, you promote your people and eliminate/marginalize your enemies. Your enemies, of course, are people who haven’t done the work, don’t really understand the issues to the depth the dedicated committee members, who have *devoted their lives* to solving a ‘problem’ that they, themselves, are the sole people qualified to define. Etc.

Sometimes, rarely, your opponents will put up a big fight, try to organize opposition, try to unseat you. If you are patient, you can probably just wait them out. Knowing your way around the bureaucracy as expressed in the committee structures and hierarchy is a huge advantage. Again, keep showing up and be patient. (1)

5. Get your people to join other committees, or, better, form new committees to address the ‘problems’ you see. It seems a few decades ago, academics proposed to form committees or subcommittees to address a load of issues, for example, lack of women in the physics faculty. Once the committee is formed, the leadership can simply refuse to accept or even consider any answer other than blatant discrimination and institutional misogyny. Repeat.

6. Soon enough- maybe weeks for a small thing, decades for large institutions – you can exercise complete negative control: you can stop any initiative you don’t like. Everyone will know this, adding a second layer to the filtering: people who won’t play that game self-select out.

As for where to start, you would want to target the Human Resources department in a large company and hiring committees in public institutions. Leadership roles in voluntary organization such as unions and political parties are often surprisingly easy to get – they are always looking for people for these roles because normal people don’t want them.

If you have the resources to start your own organization, do it, and give it an attractive, Orwellian euphemism of a name. But it is more effective, I think, to subvert existing organizations because that both strengthens you position and removes a platform from which you could be opposed. Note, for example, how any would-be professor who might teach anything other than what the hiring/tenure committee would like to see taught simply never gets a job in the first place (unless he is both very subtle and more than a little masochistic). Thus, the Frankfurt School’s takeover not only provides a platform from which to promulgate and enforce Marxist dogma, but has removed the logical and traditional platform from its opponents.

This is pattern followed by Stalin, who, according to Sevarius over on Rotten Chestnuts, was a career bureaucrat and dedicated committee member. It has been followed at every university in America. Marxists have turned this approach into a science, so much so that even Ms. Bluehair Nosering can pull it off.

We, by which I mean sane people with lives, could try this. But unlike career activists, we won’t like. Nobody said cleaning the sewers was going to be fun.

  1. When a couple New York State legislators started an investigation into the Communist control of the New York Teachers Union in the 1940, Bella Dodd and her team launched a three-pronged attack: First, identify the teachers who had no plausible deniability, and have them take bullets for the team, and deflect attention by claiming responsibility for every initiative of the Party; second, for those teachers who could plausibly deny any association with the Communist Party, have them lie; and third – I just know you won’t believe this – launch a smear campaign against the politicians behind the investigation. All the sudden, Rapp and Coudert found themselves facing well-organized and completely unscrupulous opposition to their reelection, and had to fend off all sorts of outrageous slander. End result: about 40 teachers lost their jobs, each a committed Red, while over a 1,000 operative skated. Two years later, when the investigation ended, the Communists were still in complete control of the union, and thus of teachers in New York. The follow up: have your guys write the history: it was a Red Scare! Completely unwarranted! Poor victimized teachers! This is the state of things today.

“Climate Strike” – A Sign of Hope or Despair?

I awoke this morning to discover there was no climate. The mystery of why we had no climate today is that Our Betters ™ had called a “climate strike.” The climate, which, low, these past decades has been awaiting orders from the Right People, complied, as any right thinking climate would. That will show ’em! Us, I mean.

79 at the moment. I’m not buying a high of 88, and note that when I rechecked just now, the forecast high was 87.

I kid, of course. Our little piece of Northern California is having one of those envy-of-the-world perfect sunny California days, mid 80s, very light breeze, totally beautiful. So Climate, anthropomorphised or not, is on the job!

I was blissfully unaware that a Climate Strike had been called, until I was in a little business meeting across the street from the City Hall of an adjacent suburb, and saw a small crowd of children and a few adults who could very well have been Professionally Aggrieved Grievance Professionals, but since the uniforms are somewhat inconsistent, I can’t be sure.

Even with an invitation to ditch school, only about 50 kids showed up to be hauranged by a foul-mouthed teenage girl calling for an end to Capitalism and institution of Socialism – because the planet may – may – be getting ever so slightly warmer, and Socialism is the answer to Climate Change because something something reasons.

Several of the signs called for passing motorists to honk in support of climate action. I suppose driving a Hummer (one went by as I watched – this is a medium-tony suburb – couldn’t tell if the driver honked) could conceivably be seen as taking action on climate change, although not it the direction these gullible rubes protestors might desire. The Left’s irony deficiency, not to mention hypocrisy, was on full display. I’d bet, based on the neighborhood, those kids are living well above average material lives, and have their own cell phones and computers and video games, if not their own cars for the oldest ones. Mom probably drove them to the protest. Every one of them lives in a house with a carbon footprint bigger than several third world villages put together. But it’s those *other* people who are the problem!

A foul-mouthed girl, dropping F-bombs and calling B.S. on everybody, stated to applause and cheers that Capitalism is the problem, that money-hungry business people are destroying the planet, and we must overthrow the system and institute Socialism. People cheered, including the children of all ages who it would strain credulity to think could explain the difference between free markets and totalitarian state control. Little Miss Trotsky then unloaded on the mean schools that told students not to ditch class, stating that they – the schools – were tools of Da Man. Out of the mouth of babes!

I wonder where she got this idea?

A massive Global Climate Strike is set for Friday. Above, students march for climate action in New York City on March 15.
Gee, it’s almost as if the whole Climate Change mishegas is just a cover for a bunch of Useful Idiots to promote Socialism….. The caption reads: “A massive Global Climate Strike is set for Friday. Above, students march for climate action in New York City on March 15. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)” “Massive.” Right. A classroom and a half’s worth of schoolchildren and a couple wanna-be hippies from a population of 300,000+ within 10 miles…

I like the clenched fists. Very original.

So, on the one hand, we live in a world where children are indoctrinated and used (and discarded as soon as they are no longer useful, but that part isn’t in the marketing materials) such that what should have been a pretty young lady learning how to behave as an adult is fashioned into a podium-banging mini-Khrushchev cursing like a sailor, railing against a system that has given her the opportunity to comfortably and safely play the fool, and for a system she doesn’t in the slightest understand. On the other, despite vast efforts and the complicity of the press, they got 50 people to show up. That a whole bunch of kids somewhere would rather sleep through Algebra II than be seen with these goofballs gives me hope. Unless they ditched, but then went to smoke weed behind the dumpster or something – which, all things considered, isn’t the worst alternative.

While I have my strong doubts about Trump, I will crawl over broken glass if need be to vote against the manipulative child abusers behind these ridiculous photo ops.

109th Anniversary: Oath Against Modernism

Yesterday, in 1910, Pope St. Pius X commanded “all clergy, pastors, confessors, preachers, religious superiors, and professors in philosophical-theological seminaries” to swear an oath against modernism.

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I’m getting to be more and more a Pope St. Pius X fanboy the more I read about him. Not the society that took his name – they’re something else entirely – but the man, the pope, the saint.

Ah, the good old days. Give me that old time religion. If it was good enough for Pope St. Pius X, it’s good enough for me. (1)

The Catholic Encyclopedia, published between 1907 and 1913, doesn’t have an entry on this Oath, but does have an entry on Modernism, discussed here. One of these days, when I’m flush with spare time, I need to track down the fascinating connections between the authors and editors of this encyclopedia and Catholic University and the American hierarchy. Catholic University, from its founding in 1887, seems to have some pretty pronounced Modernist tendencies, mostly lurking in the often desperate desire of American Catholics, especially Irish American Catholics, to fit in in their new country, to join, as I generally put it here, the Cool Kids Club. Problem: the intellectual life of this new country, as modeled and lead by the Ivy League schools, was most definitely Modernist, with Hegel, Darwin and Marx being then, as they are today, the darlings of our self-appointed betters.

The Oracle Wikipedia says:

The writing of the encyclopedia began on January 11, 1905, under the supervision of five editors:

Charles G. Herbermann, Professor of Latin and librarian of the College of the City of New York
– Edward A. Pace, Professor of Philosophy at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
Condé B. Pallen, editor
– The Rev. Thomas J. Shahan, Professor of Church History at The Catholic University
– The Rev. John J. Wynne, S.J., editor of Messenger of the Sacred Heart

Note the presence of Fr. Edward A Pace, who has been discussed in connection with the history of American education on this blog. Here he is listed as a Professor of Philosophy at CUA, but elsewhere is noted as the first psychologist on the CUA faculty. In 1892 he became one of the first five psychologists elected to the American Psychological Association by its charter members. In the smatterings of his writings I’ve read so far, he, as is typical of the era, refers to his field as ‘scientific’ psychology, which causes my eyes to go full gimlet: that word ‘science’ they keep using? I don’t think it means what they think it means.

Pace and his star pupil Edward Shields are two key players in trying to make Catholic parish schools more professional, scientific and modern. They thought the untrained generally foreign teaching sisters who learned their craft by, essentially, apprenticing to more experienced sisters were an embarrassment in an age where public school teachers went to teaching colleges and got certified by the state. (2) Instead of the proven method of learning to teach from people who know how, Pace & co were ashamed that these dedicated women weren’t ‘scientifically’ trained and state approved. I am reminded of the concurrent fad of preferring mass-produced goods over hand made items, because some piece of crap furniture from a factory was cool and modern, while something made by an actual craftsman was pooh-poohed as out of date. (3)

So I have my doubts about just how dedicated to defeating Modernism American Catholic scholars and leaders were, back in 1910, let alone today. That the sainted pope thought it necessary to command an oath seems to say he wasn’t too convinced, either.

In the previous light discussions of Modernism here, I quoted the Catholic Encyclopedia article, written before or at least with no regard for the pope’s oath, on modernism:

A full definition of modernism would be rather difficult. First it stands for certain tendencies, and secondly for a body of doctrine which, if it has not given birth to these tendencies (practice often precedes theory), serves at any rate as their explanation and support.

The Oath removes a bit of the haziness expressed in the Catholic Encyclopedia article. A summarized by Catholic Answers, which bullet-points the sections of the Oath, Modernism is the assertion that:

  1. God cannot be known and proved to exist by natural reason;
  2. External signs of revelation, such as miracles and prophecies, do not prove the divine origin of the Christian religion and are not suited to the intellect of the modern man;
  3. Christ did not found a Church;
  4. The essential structure of the Church can change;
  5. The Church’s dogmas continually evolve over time so that they can change from meaning one thing to meaning another;
  6. Faith is a blind religious feeling that wells up from the subconscious under the impulse of a heart and a will trained to morality, not a real assent of the intellect to divine truth learned by hearing it from an external source.

Gee, sound like anything you hear today?

I don’t know from a practical perspective whether an oath is a good or functional way of correcting a purposely muddled world, but it is sad to see the clarity it provided so utterly ignored today. That the message the Oath was trying to send has been utterly defeated (see, e.g., all large ‘Catholic’ universities) I hold to be self-evident.

Chesterton reminds us that the Church has died, been murdered and committed suicide several times over the last 2,000 years, only, like her Founder, to rise again. Here’s hoping and praying. Pope St. Pius X – pray for us!

  1. I’ve long thought that old Bible-thumper song was good, in and of itself, it just needed the right set of patriarchs and matriarchs to whose authority we should appeal for direction to the true religion: if it’s good enough for Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus of Lyon, Catherine of Siena, and Teresa of Avila, darn straight it’s good enough for me!
  2. Bella Dodd on her experiences in education school (School of Darkness, p 135): “I, myself, had given educational policy scant attention . Little that was controversial had been included in my education courses at Hunter College, and in my graduate work I had steered clear of such courses, feeling that my main emphasis must be on subject matter. I held to an old-fashioned theory that if a teacher knew her subject, and had a few courses in psychology and liked young people, she should be able to teach. I had been horrified to see teachers, who were going to teach mathematics or history or English, spend all the time of their graduate work in courses on methods of teaching.”
  3. The Arts & Crafts movement was a reaction to this fad by people somewhat immune to herd psychology..

Following Anything That Moves

Henry VIII, from A Man for All Seasons:

“There are those like Norfolk who follow me because I wear the crown, those like Master Cromwell who follow me because they are jackals with sharp teeth & I’m their tiger, there’s a mass that follows me because it follows anything that moves.”

People who are not insane tend to look around at the Crazy Years we’re in, and believe objective considerations of contemporary phenomena compel the conclusion that we’re screwed. (1) I Here’s another take: Followers gonna follow. Leaders can and do get replaced.

A lifetime of reality hasn’t quite beaten the Pollyanna out of me. Yet. I remain pretty staunchly a small-d democrat, believing people should govern themselves. But people can only truly be said to govern themselves within the context of a strong Commonwealth/Republic. Such a Republic manifests a series of what from one perspective might be called safeguards, chief of which are strong families and traditions and a commitment to the law, such that it is generally obeyed even when it is not enforced. Family, tradition and the rule of law are both causes and results of a strong Republic. Other safeguards are adopted within this context of cultural stability as needed: tripartite government and the electoral college are the kinds of steps a good Republic takes to slow things down. (2) Sane people (perhaps largely theoretical entities, but humor me) recognize that, just as hasty decisions and rash actions are a bane to personal and family life, they need to be guarded against in public life.

Political toddlers and the power hungry always want to speed things up: they want their pony, and they want it now! Perhaps Conservatism could be best thought of as the attempt of the grownups in the room to slow things down so that they can be properly examined, and just say ‘no’ to the toddlers?

Back to the quotation above. History, cultural wisdom and just a look around confirm one truth: as much as we may like to think of ourselves as nobody-is-the-boss-of-me free agents choosing our own special paths unencumbered by pesky reality (gender theory, anyone?), we’re really a bunch of sheep. Some, like Norfolk, follow because of all that stuff just mentioned: family, tradition, the rule of law. Others – and, damn, is their name Legion – are jackals, creatures who live to rend and consume and lord it over others, yet are too weak in themselves, and so follow, and attempt to flatter and weedle, the tiger. Others follow anything that moves. Think of your typical college freshman, 18 years old, away from home for the first time, both flush with the success of getting to college – what smart, ambitious boys and girls! Not like those college-skipping losers! – yet hopelessly insecure. They will and do follow anything that moves. (3)

This is how you get the ubiquitous herds of independent thinkers thundering across our urban plains.

BUT: look at, e.g., Jordan Peterson. I’ve only seen/read a few minutes of the dude’s schtick, but it can’t be denied that his ‘leadership’ has attracted a huge number of followers (fine, independent-minded people, no doubt each making an independent decision). Lead, and people will follow. The power of this idea is testified to by the endless efforts of the Left to silence anything that moves to the right. A guy like Peterson doesn’t exactly come off as a Teddy Roosevelt or George Patton. It would seem that it doesn’t require charismatic superpowers (although those help) if you just present as someone with a clue to where you are going.

See what I mean?

We moderns cannot understand historical stories about how, once the head of the household was convinced of Christianity, his entire household converted, or how a religion was ‘forced’ upon conquered people. We are appalled: but each individual person needs to make up his own mind! You can’t force people to believe!

Yet the reality is that those people, for the most part, have chosen, as much as they are capable of choosing. They chose to follow. That is why, historically & biblically, it’s the bad leaders who get the most heat. Kings who lead Israel astray; Scribes and Pharisees; false teachers; heretics. There is a reason the secular state burned heretics, and it wasn’t that they were puppets of the Church. Heresy upsets all that family, tradition and especially reverence for the rule of law upon which any state worthy of the name rests. Better to have a millstone tied around your neck and be cast into the sea than to lead any of these little ones astray.

We’re about 99% little ones. We all like to think we’re Thomas More, the one honest man in our particular England. Don’t kid yourself. Instead, focus on being that leader who, in however small a way, points to the truth. Which is another way of saying: know Who you follow.

  1. Yes, I just jackhammered Heinlein and Orwell into the same sentence. It’s my blog. I can do that. We here have, within the first inch and a half of text, Bolt putting words into the mouth of Henry VIII addressing Thomas More, Heinlein making an easy prophet’s call, and a Commie paraphrasing Scripture to illustrate propaganda techniques. Do I win? Achievement unlocked? Or what?
  2. Probably the first solid political insight I ever had, back when mastodons ruled the earth, is that the last thing a citizen wants is efficient government. Democracies more developed than mob rule are horribly inefficient; totalitarian dictatorships can be very efficient. Nope, sane people want their ‘leaders’ to find it difficult to get anything done, and should be scared of politicians who preach efficiency. Alas, “Elect me, and I’ll do my best to make sure the wheels don’t fall off” isn’t nearly as catchy as “Hope and Change.”
  3. Of course, add to their native insecurity, cultivated immaturity and hormone-soaked craziness 12 years of being actively taught to follow the teacher’s lead no matter how stupid and arbitrary, and here you are.

Hagiography as a Door to History

Whether you are Catholic or not, reading the lives of the saints, especially the ones over the last 500 years or so, opens a door into history and particularly modern history. It’s that context thing I keep going on about.

Today, researching the Feasts & Faith meeting I will be leading tonight at our parish, came across the challengingly-named Blessed Scipion-Jérôme Brigeat Lambert (I’d have pronounced Lambert right first try!) who lived from 1733-1794 and was beatified in 1995 by Pope St. John Paul the Great.

He was a priest and scholar who died of starvation and general physical abuse aboard the good ship Washington (of all things!) in Rochefort, France. So, how does a priest and scholar end up imprisoned and left to die on one of the Hulks of Rochefort? By refusing to sign the French Revolution’s oath of loyalty to the new constitution. What’s that, you ask? The Oracle Wikipedia puts it thus:

The Civil Constitution of the Clergy (French: “Constitution civile du clergé”) was a law passed on 12 July 1790 during the French Revolution, that caused the immediate subordination of the Catholic Church in France to the French government. Earlier legislation had already arranged the confiscation of the Catholic Church’s French land holdings and banned monastic vows. This new law completed the destruction of the monastic orders, outlawing “all regular and secular chapters for either sex, abbacies and priorships, both regular and in commendam, for either sex”, etc. It also sought to settle the chaos caused by the earlier confiscation of Church lands and the abolition of the tithe. Additionally, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy regulated the current dioceses so that they could become more uniform and aligned with the administrative districts that had recently been created. It emphasised that officials of the church could not provide commitment to anything outside France, specifically the Papacy (due to the great power and influence it wielded), which was based outside France. Lastly, the Civil Constitution of the Clergy made Bishops and Priests elected. By having members of the Clergy elected the church lost much of the authority it had to govern itself and was now subject to the people, since they would vote on the Priest and Bishops as opposed to these individuals being appointed by the church and the hierarchy within.

Wikipedia, reflecting the modern ‘enlightened’ view of the world, states with little comment and no sense of irony the notion that ‘the people’ would elect their bishop and even their parish priest. Which people would that be? The good, enlightened, and morally superior people, no doubt, as evidenced by their unquestioned embrace and support of the French Revolution. Which would make them atheists, at least. As stated, it’s as if this is merely a case of rejecting foreign meddling in internal French politics, not all out war on the Church by atheist proponents of the Goddess Reason.

This is the same Revolutionary government that slaughtered around a couple hundred thousand French peasants in the Vendee for the crime of NOT embracing the Revolution with sufficient enthusiasm. Those benighted peasants – women and children as well as men – needed to die, as they rejected the Revolution as it was manifested in their bucolic backwater. The Revolution drafted their young men to fight for the Revolution (and, necessarily, for atheism and against the Church) and seized church and other property and otherwise made a show of force.(1)

Image result for goddess reason

Being enlightened and all, the Revolutionary French military simply labeled all the people of the Vendee ‘brigands’ for the crime of fighting back; they took to killing people, including children, by bayonetting them through the gut, so they could dies slowly and in agony. Many – again, women and children along with the men – were marched to the rivers, stripped naked, tied together with rope and shoved into the water to drown. The more attractive women and girls were of course raped, sometimes to death, before execution. Hurray, Reason?

Similarly, most days on the liturgical calendar have some Martyrs of the Spanish Civil War. For example, here’s the set for September 4:

Picking one at random, let’s see who Blessed Jose Bleda Grau was:

Blessed José Bleda Grau

Franciscan Capuchin friar, professed on 2 February 1901. Worked as a beggar and tailor for his religious community in Orihuela, Alicante, Spain; he developed a relationship with the people of his city based on his humility, piety and charity. When the antiCatholicpersecutions of the Spanish Civil War began, he fled to his home village and hid with family. The militia found him on the night of 30 August 1936, spent five days abusing him, and finally killed him. Martyr.

Blessed José Bleda Grau

The enlightened, loving and gentle Commies put a bullet in the back of this man’s head. Scientific socialism at its finest.

What I’ve gained from reading about these guys is, frankly, a lot more sympathy for Franco, who has always been portrayed as little better than Hitler. For years, you had Marxists roaming the country, dragging priests, religious and lay people out of their monasteries and churches, and then torturing and killing them in what they no doubt considered amusing ways. Hundreds and hundreds of people died this way.

So when Franco starts in rounding up and summarily executing Communists, we may not like it, civilized trials are certainly to be preferred, but it sure looks like a man killing plague rats. Marxists do their best to hide behind the law when they don’t have power, only to dispense with the law as soon as they do. As usual, Marxist want to hold us to civilized behavior while rejecting it themselves.

And so on. The numbers of martyrs killed by self-identified Progressive ideologies over the last 250 years starts to get numbing. Viet Nam. Mexico. Spain. China. France. A little farther back, and you have the English martyrs. In their hundreds and thousands, these saints not only show great bravery and holiness, but also illustrate the secular world’s hatred for the Church and her Lord that is never far from the surface.

Today, in this country, people routinely get away with and are often applauded for identifying Christians and particularly Catholics as enemies of Progress, and the meanest people! New laws are written against us; old laws creatively interpreted to put us in the wrong. History shows that it is not paranoia to worry we’re only inches from yet another reckoning, another round of murders. And the killers will applaud themselves for their forward thinking and willingness to finally take action to correct egregious wrong. There will be a hundred Margaret Clitherows dying for every Guy Fawkes, a hundred little old ladies, moms and monks for every person who at least looks like a dangerous criminal. This is not paranoia. This is history.

  1. Read somewhere (here I go again!) that what we think of as France is a creation, over centuries, of the dominant culture of Paris being ruthlessly enforced on the surrounding, often conquered, territories. Burgundy, for example, had a culture and language fairly distinct from what you’d have heard in Paris a few centuries ago, But the Burgundians lost and the Parisians won, so there you go.

The Scary True Believers

Earlier, I wrote about C. S. Lewis’ graduation address concerning Inner Circles, and how the recruitment and advancement in such circles was illustrated in That Hideous Strength. The ever-increasing entanglement of the victims of such circles is lubricated by appeals to ego: now that you’ve reached our level, you are just so much smarter and cunning than those jokers in the circle you just advanced from. (Pay no attention to how you were played right up until you were welcomed in. That might trigger some actual thought, and we can’t have that.)

Anyone who leaves such a circle must be denounced (or denounced and assassinated, as the situation requires, as Prof. Hingest in Lewis’ book), not merely for the damage they might do by disclosing what they know, but by the psychological damage of such a direct assault on the self-image of the larger circles nearest the inner ring. How could anyone leave something so desirable, so powerful, so knowledgeable, so cool, as the inner ring? It must be demonstrated, for the sake of the little people, that the ex-inner-ringer was a problem, a fool, a traitor, someone to be disposed of.

It helps to appeal to people’s vanity. Hegel, Marx and Freud all use the old ‘of course, only enlightened people like you, the smart people who agree with me, truly understand; those who don’t hold and profess all we hold and teach are hopelessly benighted’ schtick to create their own cool kids club. Such a club is immune to all criticism, since such criticism only proves the critic to be hopelessly unenlightened and evil. Hegel, Marx and Freud are fundamentally Mean Girls; their followers’ deepest belief is that they are smarter than you. Every other belief is secondary: how do we know, say, all statements of being are false yet true insofar as they are suspended in dialectical synthesis, that everything is a social construct, that sexual repression is the origin of all psychological pathologies? Because we’re smarter than you, that’s how!

Since most of the tenets of these systems are, when stated in plain language, kind of stupid, it is required that you use the established vocabulary and phrases to make sure you never express them in words that reveal how stupid they are.

Read somewhere (oops, scholar fail!) that the management levels of idealistic organizations such as charities and religions are full of people with surprisingly little attachment to the professed ideology that supposedly drives the organization. On the more innocent end of the spectrum, they just like the people and the feeling of belonging; at the other end are, I imagine, power-hungry sociopaths. Current events in the Catholic Church and in our fine major political parties would do not appear to contradict this.

I would suppose the rank and file would be where you’d find the true believers, and in those who rise up through the ranks because of fervor and hard work. There must be, no doubt, some interesting dynamics, as the winners under Pournelle’s Iron Law might once in a while need some people who do the organization’s actual work, to keep up appearances. True believers would be handy for this. So I’d expect the higher reaches of an organization to have both those there for the power and true believers, with some interesting jostling when something needs to be done.

These thoughts brought to mind this exchange from Bella Dodd’s School of Darkness, where Dodd, who has finally become an open Communist after decades of working undercover in the New York teachers’ union, placing Reds and sympathizers in positions of power and influence. She gets a job with the US politburo – she is invited into what seemed the inner ring – and needs to go through the files:

As I began to prepare for the work I was assigned to do I was amazed at the lack of files of material on social questions such as housing and welfare. When I complained about this, Gil said: “Bella, we are a revolutionary party, not a reform group. We aren’t trying to patch up this bourgeois structure.”

I began to realize why the Party had no long-range program for welfare, hospitals, schools, or child care. They plagiarized programs from the various civil-service unions. Such reforms, if they fitted in, could be adapted to the taste of the moment . But reforms were anathema to communist long-range strategy, which stood instead for revolution and dictatorship of the proletariat .

What I find amazing here is that Dodd, obviously an intelligent woman, could work for the Commies for years and years, and not get a point that, even to this day, they are constantly making: the goal, the point of all their activities, is to bring about the revolution.(1) Marxists don’t want racial equality, good working conditions and pay, good social services, or any kind of justice. In fact, insofar as any of those things may occur, a Marxist would want to destroy them. Peace, harmony, justice and prosperity are the enemy. According to neo-Marxist dogma, anything that placates people, makes them happier with their lot, helps them live fulfilling, peaceful lives, can only be a tool of hegemonic oppression. Happy people must be made miserable; whatever makes them happy must be destroyed. Any steps taken that might improve things must be just that: steps. Those steps must lead to the revolution

Dodd became a communist in the first place because, in her eyes, they were the only ones doing anything to help during the Great Depression. It was precisely their activism in helping the downtrodden that attracted her. She them spent the next couple decades immersed in Marxist literature:

… I was at last beginning to see how ignorant I had become, how long since I had read anything except Party literature. I thought of our bookshelves stripped of books questioned by the Party, how when a writer was expelled from the Party his books went, too. I thought of the systematic rewriting of Soviet history, the revaluation, and in some cases the blotting out of any mention of such persons as Trotsky. I thought of the successive purges…

…In my time with the Party I had accumulated a large store of information about people and events, and often these had not fitted into the picture presented by the Party to its members . It was as if I held a thousand pieces of a jigsaw puzzle and could not fit them together. It irritated me, but when I thought of the testimony of witnesses before the Congressional Committee, some of whom I had known as Communists, much of the true picture suddenly came into focus . My store of odd pieces was beginning to develop into a recognizable picture. There had been many things I had not really understood. I had regarded the Communist Party as a poor man’s party, and thought the presence of certain men of wealth within it accidental . I now saw this was no accident. I regarded the Party as a monolithic organization with the leadership in the National Committee and the National Board. Now I saw this was only a facade placed there by the movement to create the illusion of the poor man’s party ; it was in reality a device to control the “common man” they so raucously championed.

Yet, somehow, she was surprised to discover that the Party’s interest in actions that might actually improve people’s lives was simply expedient, that it had no interest in improving people’s lives, but only in steps that lead to the Revolution. This goal of destroying the system is hardly a secret, yet Dodd could somehow miss it, even in all the works she’d read in the Party library. She was little more, if, indeed, anything more, than a Useful Idiot.

How many people who think Marx got a bum rap (e.g., every college kid), who think they support the general goals of the Marxists as they understand them, you know, fairness and justice and an end to bigotry and hatred and stuff, don’t realize that the goal is real, live violent warfare and the deaths of millions (e.g., me and mine)? If Bella Dodd can pull living with that level of cognitive dissonance off, how many others are doing so now?

But the scary part: there really are informed true believers, those who know what the goals are and enthusiastically support them. True, most of these folks – Antifa is the poster child – do not get the part where they, the enthusiastic purist revolutionaries, are the first to go once the Revolution succeeds in putting some vanguard or other in power. But that’s another kind of cultivated cluelessness.

And, of course, the top levels are occupied by the kind of sociopaths who generally get those kind of jobs, people for whom all this dogma and maneuvering is just a game. These folks are scarier still.

  1. Read somewhere (man, I got to start taking notes!) that when Mussolini took over and began to suppress the Communists, it was a largely popular move even among workers. For years, whenever they organized and struck, the workers were after improvement, while the leaders were after the revolution. This lead to some conflict and animosity, and worker frustration, to say the least, with the Communists.