One Cancer Under God: On Defending Woodrow Wilson

A full-fledged review of John Milton Cooper Jr.’s biography of Woodrow Wilson will have to be attempted somewhere else.  Anyone in conservative circles hoping to get a word in edgewise on the nation’s 28th President first has to contend with sentiments along the following lines:

Does anyone really think Wilson wouldn’t have been pretty sympathetic toward the Nazis? I think he would have considered Hitler’s dedication to eugenics an admirable goal.

[A]ny fair minded person of good moral standing would clearly see [Wilson] as an evil individual.

Woodrow Wilson was a slimy, racist, conspiratorial, arrogant rat bastard every day he drew breath….

I hate him. He was the biggest racist. He set this country back decades in race relations.

If you’re bound and determined to defend the most tyrannical fascistic president in history, go f**k yourself.

The above is a sampling from threads at HotAir and Zombie Contentions, and also at a Baltimore Sun on-line column covering Glenn Beck at CPAC this year.  Beck has played a central role in popularizing such views, as his anti-progressive campaign frequently centers on Wilson, for whom Beck proudly and openly declares his hatred – “with all [his] heart.”  In this cause Jonah Goldberg remains a stalwart ally, if a somewhat more restrained one – he merely calls Wilson a fascist.  Other well-known anti-Wilson conservatives include George Will and the American Conservative Union’s David Keene, the latter having revealed during his introduction of Beck’s CPAC speech that his own Wilson animus goes back decades – to a college essay describing Wilson as “one of the three most dangerous people of the 20th century,” the other two being Lenin and Hitler.

Leading elements of this conservative attack on Wilson actually are familiar from the works of his leftwing critics, but that’s not the main reason I mistrust it.  In addition to finding the emotionalism and excess of some of this stuff, 100 years after the facts, a little odd (though Will’s critique is odd in a different way), I find it difficult to reject Wilson or any consequential American president so completely.  It’s the kind of stance that I would associate with revolutionaries and other pitiless radicals:  The full-throated rejection of a critical moment in American history as an excuse to reject America itself.

Not that the Wilson haters don’t have any point at all.  They simply lack any sense of balance or historical perspective. In contrast to the ideologues, Cooper can fault Wilson for his negligence on racial matters, for example, but is also able to conclude that “Wilson essentially resembled the great majority of white northerners of this time in ignoring racial problems and wishing they would go away.” In other words, Wilson didn’t just impose uniquely noxious ideas on an American racial idyll.  He presided during the era of Plessy vs Ferguson (1896) – separate but equal – and it’s therefore not surprising that the Wilson Administration’s widely condemned segregation of the federal workplace, the leftist’s first-point-against for going on a century now, was initiated under prior presidents, and was expanded under Wilson’s successors.  As the historian Samuel P. Hays explains in his standard work on Wilson’s era, the times were typified by a “general notion that Americans, as part of the Anglo-Saxon peoples of northern Europe, were racially superior.”  Belief in the “Manifest Destiny of the White Race” informed attitudes across the cultural mainstream, and policy across a range of issues.  Searching around in that epoch for politicians with a greatly different sensibility won’t typically lead you to Wilson’s right.  You’d have better luck among figures that few conservative Wilson-haters would offer for emulation.

Though some rightwing anti-Wilsonism can be traced to left-liberal origins, much of it seems to follow from Jonah Goldberg’s Liberal Fascism, the 2008 conservative bestseller that I have written on previously, focusing on Goldberg’s provocative claim that Wilson’s wartime government was the world’s “first fascist regime.”  As I stated in the linked piece, I find it obscene for Goldberg to associate Wilson, a deeply reluctant warrior who quite literally nearly killed himself campaigning for a peace organization, with modern history’s worst warmongers.  But Goldberg’s case for the historical prosecution focuses less on the war as fought than on the war at home – domestic security policies that, as Cooper acknowledges, entailed “egregious violations” of civil liberties.  Goldberg’s charge of fascism is much stronger than Cooper’s charge of mere “violations,” however, and demands stronger support.  To that end Goldberg produces an impressive, frequently quoted figure of 175,000 Americans arrested “for insufficient patriotism.”  Yet this vague definition appears to be Goldberg’s alone, and he doesn’t reveal where his number comes from.  Other sources tally around 2,000 arrested, 1,000 convicted under the federal Espionage and Sedition Acts, so Goldberg’s figure, assuming it has a firm basis, must include offenses prosecuted under other laws, perhaps at the local level.  It may include draft resisters, for instance; it probably includes strikers and labor agitators; it may even include violators of quarantines during the influenza pandemic of 1918-9.

In sorting out the uncertainties, we can perhaps work backward from some numbers that unlike Goldberg’s are very hard and very precise:  48-26 and 293-1 – the votes by which the Senate and the House passed the Sedition Act in 1918.  Vote totals on the earlier Espionage Act are unavailable – but that’s because it passed by acclamation, reflecting overwhelming support two months after the Declaration of War with Germany – which had passed 82-6, and 373-50.  In other words, Wilson rode – and in some respects was overcome by – a wave of patriotism and war fever.  Historians also generally note that Wilson supported the acts to compromise with those demanding more aggressive measures, while Cooper points out that in Wilson’s view a major aim of the acts was to prevent and pre-empt much harsher “extra-judicial” treatment of dissenters and German-Americans.

Before judging Wilson or his contemporaries too harshly for such actions, it’s also worth recalling that revolution really was in the air in those years.  One great nation had fully succumbed to revolution, and others were undergoing revolutionary turmoil.  In America, the assassination of President McKinley, by the anarchist Leon Czolgosz in 1901, was well within living memory.  In the period of 1917-1920, radical agitation led to wildcat and general strikes as well as acts of outright sabotage, especially in the western U.S.  Mail bombs were sent to various officials, including Wilson’s second AG, A. Mitchell Palmer, known for the subsequent Palmer Raids and Red Scare.  Despite criticism, Palmer felt secure enough about his conduct to make it the basis of his own run for the presidency in 1920.  Finally, on the narrow question of Wilson’s personal culpability, it should be noted that Wilson was the bedridden victim of a debilitating stroke and other serious illness during the Red Scare:  As Cooper shows, Wilson “knew nothing about the central role [Palmer] was playing in those events.”

One quick word on Eugenics, another feature of the age that some wish to lay at Wilson’s door: Cooper never notes much interest in the subject on Wilson’s part.  The case for hatred seems to rest on guilt by sympathetic association with certain Progressives; de-contextualized statements on race (see above) ominously linked to Hitlerism; and a bill that Wilson signed into law as governor of New Jersey, with provisions on the sterilization of the profoundly mentally ill – similar to laws in 30 other states at the time.

Against such weakly founded or heavily mitigated indictments, Wilson’s accomplishments as president, governor, educator, and public intellectual stand among the most consequential of any American figure:  His books, especially Congressional Government, written when he was 29 years old, were important works in their own right, and are still read with profit today.  His “New Freedom” legislation established the Federal Reserve System (whose enduring purposes are generally ignored by critics of particular Fed policies), the Clayton Anti-Trust Act, and the Federal Trade Commission.  He was central to the negotiations that ended World War I, and, though the nation rejected his proposal for entry into the League of Nations, he led the United States onto the world stage as a major power, with a unique mission – not to construct an empire, but to foster trade, development, and popular freedom and self-determination among nations.

Other reforms sometimes attributed to Wilson, even though he opposed or had little to do with them, include the four constitutional amendments added during his time in office:  the Income Tax (product of a national consensus going back decades), Direct Election of Senators (advanced by others, but his kind of measure), Women’s Suffrage (late switch to support – he had long thought it better left to the states), and Prohibition (opposed, even vetoing the enforcement legislation).  But go ahead and credit him with or blame him for the amendments and every other major and minor reform undertaken during what Hays calls the Populist-Progressive Era, from the Interstate Commerce Commission to Mother’s Day (est. 1914); include ideas and causes Wilson advocated during his intellectual career – campaign finance disclosure, open deliberation of congressional committees, end of patronage in public administration, and so on; and, while you’re at it, hold him responsible for the presidents who followed in his footsteps from FDR to LBJ to BHO – and let’s garnish the historical smorgasbord with football, a sport that Wilson, a lifelong fan, defended against early attempts to have it banned:  In ways large and small, the legacy of Thomas Woodrow Wilson and his era becomes virtually definitional for present-day political, social, and economic norms.

If, as the haters demand, we hold Wilson responsible for everything that took place during the period of his political ascendancy, then it would follow that we live in a country that Wilson molded.  Considering the growth of the United States in population, wealth, power, and influence since Wilson’s time, it would be arguable that America in 2010 is as much or more the country that Wilson and the Progressives made than the one the Founders made.  It would mean that, if you’re going to excise the Wilsonian progressive cancer down to the last cell, as per Glenn Beck, then, when you’re done with your surgery, you may have less of the patient left over on the operating table than you’ve discarded as hazardous bio-waste. Until such an act of national vivisection and disembowelment, we would be living in the Progressive States of America:  One Cancer under God.

I don’t see how it can ever be a conservative objective to tear the nation, or its history (the two are inseparable), to lifeless pieces.  How, when, and where to advance a project of reversal and re-conception would be something else – as would the much humbler attempt to assess fairly what Woodrow Wilson got right and what he got wrong.  Those are tasks for those who love the country as it is, tumors and all, and who are ready to proceed with care, not ignorant fury.

65 comments on “One Cancer Under God: On Defending Woodrow Wilson

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  1. As I’ve done before,I’m going to refer you to The Illusion of Victory by Thomas Fleming. To me,a debate about Woodrow Wilson is a debate on WW1,was it in our national interests to participate?,were the European powers a threat to our sovereignity? Was WW1 a Victory,or another Illusion/Delusion as seen through an exceptionalist lens? Was WW1&WW2 one war with a 14 year hiatus? Does Cooper discuss these issues,does he discuss the effect of German,and English Debt defaults on the american economy?

  2. My my we are touchy, then again seen as we are coming on the 100th
    anniversary of the great man’s ascension to power, and only now have
    we had anything close to a critique from the right. Dos Passos and
    William Bullitt supplied the left view for a while, and the former was absolutely withering, the latter was more in the psychodrama styling that we see in the Times. Forgive me, if Samuel T. Adams and later
    Francis Russell’s demolishing of Harding, name any author on Nixon, Reagan, W. (who faced much of the same challenges, yet responded
    with much more reserve, not that it mattered)

  3. @ Rex Caruthers:
    It’s a 600-page biography, so of course he touches upon those issues – though probably not in the way you would like, since hardly anyone, except maybe the bloke you mention, discusses those issue in the way you would like.

    As discussed peripherally in the LF review, the US was already “involved” in WW1 whether it chose to declare war or not. Cooper takes the view that US intervention, which Wilson resisted up to the last moment, combined with Wilson’s peace policy, probably saved 100s of thousands of lives, and may have prevented a German victory at even greater immediate cost. Given the long-term results, it all becomes extremely speculative. Wilson’s vision for the League was specifically about preventing another war – which he, like others, viewed as virtually inevitable without major, coordinated effort. His opponents opted instead to see no evil, dance away the succeeding decade, and inflate an equity bubble. Sound familiar?

    Whether or not we had entered WW1 earlier, as many urged, or had somehow stayed out – which would have required Wilson to go up against a near national consensus – the US was becoming the indispensable nation, with complex cultural and commercial ties to Europe and the world. Unless you imagine a return to Jeffersonian agrarian republicanism, arguing about whether Wilson was too hot, too cold, or just right on the war seems irrelevant by now, and not of greater lasting importance than, say, the New Freedom legislation, or the choice of Wilson’s vision over TR’s “New Nationalism” or Taft’s untimely and highly qualified conservatism (in addition to being TR’s former protege, Taft was also an inveterate peacenik-internationalist, a charter member with Wilson of the American Peace Society and a leading proponent of a “League to Enforce Peace”).

  4. @ narciso:
    Considering that Harding exited office died in office under a cloud of scandal, and is remembered for very little else other than the sentence “racial amalgamation there cannot be,” attempts at demolition amount to breaking a straw man. And all sympathy to W., but WW1 was, by the numbers, around 1000 times or so a bigger deal than the Conflict Formerly Known as the War on Terror. But like I said, the attempt to “demolish” a consequential American presidency is a game for leftists to play, not for would-be conservatives.

  5. narciso wrote:

    we had anything close to a critique from the right

    There certainly ought to be a valid “critique from the right” of Wilson – perhaps as undertaken by the people Goldberg refers to as the “Claremonsters,” for instance – but historical name-calling and alternately petty (Will) or bizarrely hyped (Beck et al) denunciations don’t qualify as a critique.

  6. Yes he had some flawed associates, with TeaPot Dome, which involved
    one of TR’s fellow Rough Riders, Albert Fall, Consider the Washington Convention, the work of Charles Evan Hughes as Secretary of State,
    Mellon steering the boom in the 20s, although his liquidation strategy
    left something to be desired

  7. @ narciso:
    The scandals that afflicted Harding’s administration were a tad more extensive than “some flawed associates.” The Washington Conference was a highly Wilsonian enterprise. In fact, naval limitations – and the threat to out-build the Brits if they didn’t agree to them – was a feature of Wilson’s peace positioning.

    As for Mellon’s boom-steerage, can’t say I know anything about it.

  8. @ Rex Caruthers:
    It’s a 600-page biography, so of course he touches upon those issues – though probably not in the way you would like, since hardly anyone, except maybe the bloke you mention, discusses those issue in the way you would like.

    The “Bloke” I mention,is at odds with your Bloke,my bloke has an awesome resume as an historian,as I assume does your bloke,but after many years and reading many of his books,I trust my Bloke,as a scrupulous historian. Here’s his resume:
    Before I would go on record about WW,I would read your bloke,I recommend you reading The Illusion of Victory before declaring your opinion on WW.

  9. @ Rex Caruthers:
    Maybe you need to argue with this bloke.

    The reviewers seem to take exception to Fleming’s “over-the-top” “contempt” for Wilson. Cooper is concerned with the whole of Wilson’s life, but is quite frank about Wilson’s failings in relation to the peace negotiations and the League fight, and suggests that his inflexibility and inconsistency may have stemmed from exhaustion and from early symptoms of his breakdown (Wilson had suffered from symptoms in earlier years, including partial paralysis, that a modern doctor would have recognized). Possibly related to too much Southern cooking: The later conflagrations of the 20th Century may come down to greasy fritters and fried chicken.

  10. Rex Caruthers:
    Maybe you need to argue with this bloke.
    The reviewers seem to take exception to Fleming’s “over-the-top” “contempt” for Wilson.

    I’m a reviewer,and what I read twice was 600 pages of tightly documented history on the subject of WW’s role beore,during,and after WW1. So if you feel that it would add little to your understanding of WW,I guess what you’re saying is
    is that Cooper has wriiten the Definitive book on WW,and your opinion is definitive also. What I’m saying is that I was impressed by Fleming’s book,having read it twice,and I need to schedule time to read Cooper’s book.

    ” Cooper takes the view that US intervention, which Wilson resisted up to the last moment,”
    this is hotly contested by Fleming

    “probably saved 100s of thousands of lives, and may have prevented a German victory at even greater immediate cost”

    Cost to whom?,If Germany had won the war,and we had butted out,175000 Americans,not counting wounded, would have lived,and we may have been spared WW2/and the Holocaust

  11. @ Rex Caruthers:
    No, I wouldn’t say that Cooper has written the definitive book on TWW. I’m not qualified, by far, to make such an assessment.

    I’ve ordered the book, and will hold you responsible if I don’t like it, or it hurts my tender feelings on my super all-time hero Woodrow Wilson (l) .

    Regardless of Cooper or Fleming, I remain extremely skeptical of “your imperfect war, my perfect alternative” fantasies about what might have been. We just don’t know what we don’t know. Maybe a European continent dominated by imperial Germany would have evolved into an earthly paradise. Or maybe the triumphant Reich would have augmented its dominance with early acquisition of nuclear weapons and a will to use them. It would certainly violate one of the closely held tenets of American grand strategy, but, then, maybe we would have been happier as Germany’s vassal for 1,000 years.

    Could be a fun alternative history anyway – but not a strong political argument.

  12. continent dominated by imperial Germany would have evolved into an earthly paradise.

    been happier as Germany’s vassal for 1,000 years.

    reductio ad absurdem/not really worthy or representitive of your standard skills in rhetoric and logic.

  13. It would certainly violate one of the closely held tenets of American grand strategy

    It’s too bad that not one of those tenents articulated the need to pay for that grand strategy without using debt.

  14. @ Rex Caruthers:
    I’ll bank the compliments, and plead the impossibility of imagining the course of the last century minus all of the major and minor events that defined the last century.

  15. One really bad outcome of the Wilson Presidency was that, by taking the Allied side in WWI, he ratified the Kaiser-as-Satan thesis presented by Lloyd George and Clemenceau. When the war ended and people realized that the Kaiser was, in fact, a relatively benevolent constitutional monarch, it left them cynical. Thus when a real Satan came along–Hitler–everybody ignored the boy crying wolf until he’d grabbed half of Europe.

  16. Incidentally, CK: if you want to use the Burkean argument to try to convince conservatives to accept “established institutions,” you might want to bone up on Burke’s ideas about private property, which made Ronald Reagan seem like Karl Marx.

    Conservatives don’t so much support established institutions. It would be more accurate to say that they support institutions that have evolved naturally from below. Thus the conservatives supported the British law system, but not absolute monarchy (or anything approaching it, which is why they supported the American Revolution).

  17. Well Kaiser Wilhelm was not such a misunderstood fellow, but the Austrians were most at fault in prosecuting the war, and consequently
    losing their empire over it, and it was a citizen of that realm who would cause no end of trouble. Hard to imagine the US not getting involved, but it was Wilson’s categorical assertion in the ’16 campaign
    that did him no favors

  18. @ narciso:
    There was no “categorical assertion,” narc. Discussed in the LF review. @ Ken:
    You’re right that the argument is Burkean – and appropriately so considering that Wilson, like his nemesis Jonah Goldberg, was a devotee of Burke. However, I would never make the attempt, following Burke, to perform a one-to-one transfer of issues and definitions from Britain ca. 1793 to America ca. 2010 (or 1912). That would be a very un-Burkean operation, in my estimation.

  19. Wilson shared the arrogance of his advisor, Colonel House, who really did believe like all good progressives that American society could be managed, so did H.G. Wells and Bernard Shaw. I don’t really shed a tear for the IWW, they wanted to tear the system down even faster

  20. @ narciso:
    Some believe “Colonel” House’s role was exaggerated, especially by House. Cooper struck me as more or less of that view. House spent most of his energy in Europe trying to find something to take credit for.

  21. CKMacLeod: In that case, you lose any claim to being Burkean. Burkean philosophy without absolute property rights is like Christianity without God or Jesus. Without the property rights, the whole philosophy is meaningless.

  22. @ Ken:

    Ah! Did someone mention Kaiser Wilhelm?

    I just finished listening to Larry McMurty’s The Colonel and Little Missy. Little Missy (Annie Oakley) once shot a cigarette out of the Kaiser’s mouth. Later, after the start of WW1, she gave an interview in which she wished she could have that shot to do over.

    how do you like your mustachioed boy, Little Missy?

    (had to fix that purloined line to capitalize Little Missy, ee cummings wasn’t completely into his all lower case mania when he wrote Buffalo Bill

  23. Woodrow Wilson’s
    who used to
    ride roughshod over the
    and break onetwothreefourfive liberties justlikethat
    he was an arrogant man
    and what I want to know is
    how do you like your fascist boy
    Mister McLeod

  24. One wonders if Obama became committed to a more extensive incursion into Pakistan or Yemen, would a Van Jones/SEIU turn on him
    as aggressively as the iWW, and would they prompted to more direct courses of. action

  25. @ Ken:
    can’t agree with you there, Ken.

    To me, the core of Burke’s politics as a philosophy were summed up in his famous quote:

    Circumstances give in reality to every political principle its distinguishing color and discriminating effect. The circumstances are what render every civil and political scheme beneficial or noxious to mankind.

    It gives and admirable flexibility and universality to his approach. Wilson focused on Burke’s related concept of “expediency,” under the “wisdom of circumstances”:

    Questions of government are moral questions, and … questions of morals cannot always be squared with rules of logic, but run through as many ranges of variety as the circumstances of life itself. … The politics of the English-speaking peoples has never been speculative; it has always been profoundly practical and utilitarian. Speculative politics treats man and situations as they are supposed to be; practical politics treats them (upon no general plan, but in detail) as they are found to be at the moment of actual contact.

    Burke offered a brilliant defense of property rights, as part of his indictment of the French revolutionaries’ expropriations, but it’s rather doubtful that his arguments could be applied directly in the U.S. at any time, least of all during a period when the government was still in the process of settling vast stretches of recently acquired territory. On what basis do you convert Burke into a theorist of “absolute property rights”? I’m not sure what absolute property rights means or could mean, actually. Virtually everyone on Earth occupies ground that once belonged to someone else by some version of natural right.

  26. @ narciso:
    What evidence do you have of that level of commitment on the part of Van Jones and the SEIU? They look like institutional lefties on the make, through and through, to me, though in different branches of the complex.

  27. Property as a personal, not a government asset, Burke was criticial of Hastings in the inquiry into the Indian Tea Company, so he didn’t regard corporations as absolute. It’s been years since I read Conor Cruise O’Brien’s bio of Burke

    I was trying to find a parallel, to the Wilson situation, but as long as Soros provdes his umbrella, independent action would be unlikely

  28. @ narciso:
    I know that some libertarians put an emphasis on an absolute right of personal property, even though I find the concept dubious at the extremes, but I’m still trying to understand why Wilson and I are to be banished from the Burkean happy hunting grounds.

  29. @ CK MacLeod:

    You’ve been giving a rather fine account of yourself lately, good Tsar.
    I’m rather glad that I’m not presently amongst those with whom you’re fencing.

  30. What makes a clique of bankers, like the Fed more responsible than any other institution, considering that they had the likes of Geithner
    running their most important branch. The experiences that some learned from WW!, was the regimentation on society, through the Creel
    Committee and the War Industries Board, it was also the closest we came to the pre World War ‘historical school’ of Wagner and Schmoller
    ‘s Austria, that Hayek was rebelling against

  31. Ken wrote:
    CKMacLeod: In that case, you lose any claim to being Burkean. Burkean philosophy without absolute property rights is like Christianity without God or Jesus. Without the property rights, the whole philosophy is meaningless.

    What was Burke’s opinions on Bankruptcy? Doesn’t Bankruptcy make a joke of the idea of Absolute Property Rights? Doesn’t War? Absolute concepts are always leftist-Utopian,aren’t they?

  32. @ Rex Caruthers:
    As I suggested above, if Burke held to any particular political or theoretical view absolutely, regardless of circumstance, then it would be un-Burkean of him – self-contradictory. In Reflections, he shows himself to be a firm believer in the typical exception when he defends the seemingly radical act of removing a monarch to preserve the British constitution – killing the kingdom to save it, you might say. You might also see it as violating the king’s “absolute property right” to the kingdom. He takes great pains to differentiate the act from the French Assembly’s wide-ranging assault on the 1st and 2nd Estates.

  33. @ CK MacLeod:

    Both a cache and a whored are pretty good; but in light of recent developments a bailout of bankers may be better. Ordering them in the bamboozles also appeals.

    Goldman Sachs
    Whored its hacks,
    As government flacks,
    To insure that we,
    Would bend our backs,
    And they could make free,
    To deliver a shtup,
    When AIG, quite abrupt,
    Went belly up,

  34. Barry O, made quite a show,
    Of beating on bankers,
    While his merry band,
    Parceled out our cash,
    Hand over hand,
    To those bamboozling wankers.


  35. @ narciso:
    Nice find – and vividly supports Cooper’s description of the atmosphere under which the Sedition Act (actually the name for a set of amendments to the Espionage Act) was sought and passed.

  36. This was pretty good, Highlander.
    Nice to see you break the NRO locking goose-step.
    Can i ax a question?
    Why is the right allus talking about eugenics now?
    Goldberg talks about eugenics too.
    Here is my hypothesis, feel free to correct me.
    1. the rightside base doesn’t actually know what eugenics is, and it makes a good anti-elitist buzzword.
    2. since you can’t successfully yell nigger, wetback, kike or homo anymore, eugenics is code for the liberals are the real racists and jew-haters. it allows you to convolve liberalism with Nazis.
    The Nazi’s were not eugenicists, you know.
    They executed a religious pogrom.
    Genetically, Jews are semites……so are Arabs.

  37. Ah Kate, I wondered when you would show up, nice preening at AS, ‘hyperrational’ please, that nice lady margaret Sanger, thought the wrong people were being born, so did Brahmin OW Holmes about W. Virginia, I’m sure you agree. as did the Kaiser Wilhelm institute on genetics, they took that too far that’s all, in your view

  38. Samething thing I’m just using the French version. I’ve read Richard Morgan, I don’t take him seriously, His world seems interesting to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there, any of them.I do wonder what he was doing in Turkey and Malta for research in his novels

  39. well…it certainly seems to me that anti-miscegenation laws were open attempts at enforcing eugenics.
    Didn’t republican Richard Nixon even get caught on tape saying abortion was recommended for mixed race fetuses?
    I’m just puzzled at the attempt to stick the eugenicist label on liberals.
    I guess it is all part of the “scientists are evil, Darwin=bad, Palin=good, education and intellect are evil, commonsense and religiosity are good” conservative thing.
    We all practice eugenics…..that is how we choose dates and mates.

  40. @ strangelet:
    Opposition to eugenics serves multiple purposes, strangelet: It asserts the primacy of “culture of life” moralisms; it conjures nightmarish images of the all-powerful, de-humanizing state; it warns against naive trust in faddish pseudo-science masquerading as science; it points to a skeleton in the progressive-liberal closet; it allows conservatives to stand up and declare themselves anti-racist in a way that doesn’t require them to buy off client constitutencies like machine-political liberals; it shows that conservatives read books and know about stuff, too; it sometimes induces liberals to expose themselves as moral cretins, either in regard to past history or in regard to new bio-ethical issues; maybe best of all, it opens a discussion of the slow genocide represented by birth control/family destruction visited on the left’s most loyal constituency by the leading figures of the left, makes the “ghettos” look like the Nazi ghettos, urban mayors and community organizers like concentration camp capos, a view now supported by generations of inexorable math on the black population, which has been induced to abort its own potential and disfigure where not destroy its own culture…

    So eugenics seems great for conservatives to talk about! Its only downsides are that a) it’s too hot, b) it’s too obscure, and c) to the extent it induces hatred and suspicion of “liberal fascist” white people, it just re-ghettoizes blacks, who as a self-defending in-group (and practically and psychologically complicit in their own self-destruction – a complicated topic of its own) still are welcomed by liberals, and remain in relative terms physically, culturally, and politically inaccessible to conservatives. So in the end it’s more effective in amping the moral self-righteousness of social conservatives – and reinforcing their cultural isolation – than in opening a bridge to African Americans and eroding the liberal coalition.

  41. and, ’tis true, ima Quellist.
    But ive been interested in superrationality for a long time.
    I belong to a blog where that is all we do, discuss Hofstadters single-shot Platonia Dilemma from Metamagical Themas.

  42. @ CK MacLeod: quite excellent, Highlander.
    So its just more fodder for the conservative noise machine, and the prevailing cognitive dissonance allows conservatives to ignore their nixonian anti-miscegenation history and blame liberals for the continuing disdain of the dark-skinned for conservatism.
    This was very accurate.

    and remain in relative terms physically, culturally, and politically inaccessible to conservatives. So in the end it’s more effective in amping the moral self-righteousness of social conservatives – and reinforcing their cultural isolation – than in opening a bridge to African Americans and eroding the liberal coalition.

    But you missed another deterrent….raving cluelessly about eugenics makes conservatives look backwards and unscientific, two brandings that conservatism should avoid because that turns off the youth, college-educated, and scientists and academe, all demographics the right is losing badly in.

    Particularily since advances in science including social brain research and cognitive psych are permeating the media quite effectively…do you read third culture blogs like Jonah Lerner, Sean Caroll, and Jerry Coyne?

  43. You’re not a Quellist, Kate, that’s more like the sort that was Stack and Bedell and Bishop, you just play one on the net. Kovacs would be an interesting character to bring to the screen, they’ve botched the first adaptations, and there’s no way it would be less than NC-17 in rating

  44. lawl, ima total Quellist.
    I could have written Things I Should Have Learnt by Now.

    In any agenda, political or otherwise, there is a cost to be borne. Always ask what it is, and who will be paying. If you don’t, then the agenda-makers will pick up the perfume of your silence like swamp panthers on the scent of blood, and the next thing you know, the person expected to bear the cost will be you. And you may not have what it takes to pay.
    Things I Should Have Learnt by Now, Volume II

    Face the facts. Then act on them. It’s the only mantra I know, the only doctrine I have to offer you, and it’s harder than you’d think, because I swear humans seem hardwired to do anything but. Face the facts. Don’t pray, don’t wish, don’t buy into centuries-old dogma and dead rhetoric. Don’t give in to your conditioning or your visions or your fucked-up sense of… whatever. FACE THE FACTS. THEN act.
    Speech before the Assault on Millsport.

  45. Those lines, fit with the theme on the other thread, about ‘beautifying
    through violence’. Then again, if one lived in the faceless oligarchy that
    controls that dystopic landscape, I might agree

  46. @ strangelet:
    Don’t read those blogs – feel free to go to the blogroll and add them if you like (there’s a form that allows you to do so on the page – see link menu at top). I agree that anti-eugenicism if played a certain way – “Evil liberals defied God’s law!” – can reinforce the perception of conservatives as anti-scientific, but I’m not sure that it’s politically more costly than trawling for scary scientisms would be. People don’t mostly want to think of themselves as self-deluding machines, and the moralists are probably right that politicized scientism of this sort points in the direction of Auschwitz – the Reign of Terror – the Great Purges…

  47. @ CK MacLeod: ummm….the reality IS that conservatism is anti-scientific, just like it is anti-elite and anti-intellectual. the skillarchy leveling of conservatism is that commonsense > education and intellect…. and religion > science.

  48. @ narciso: the Protectorate and Harlan’s World’s ruling class are very emblematic of the white christian conservatives that have essentially ruled america for the past 200 years.
    All three cohorts represent the status quo.
    Look how alike Jefferson and Kovacs sound….they are revolutionaries.

    Thomas Jefferson— The earth belongs to the living, not to the dead.
    Takeshi Kovacs on the Protectorate— The skeletal grip of a corpse’s hand round eggs trying to hatch.

  49. @ strangelet:
    The reality is (Giuliani!) that contemporary conservatism has been over-indulging in an anti-intellectual pose – there I agree with you, but only to that extent. There’s nothing inherently anti-scientific or anti-elite in conservatism as a stance – to the contrary: Science and elite culture are inherently conservative toward their own defining heritage. The moment they leave dead center on conservative vs. liberal, to the precise extent they become ideological in either direction, they cease being scientific and lose their claim to elite status.

  50. @ narciso:conservatives are wholly anti-genetic modification.
    Remember Leon Kass and Bush’s bio-luddite council?
    yup, anti-space travel….or Bush would have scrapped the antique shuttle program and spent the trillion he wasted in Iraq on space-travel.
    yup, anti-technology….a return to colonial american values is all the teatards talk about….that and the constitution in exile.
    conservatism worships the past.

    There’s nothing inherently anti-scientific or anti-elite in conservatism as a stance

    ok, that is a lie. the first one i have caught you in.
    populism is anti-elite. the only version of conservatism i have ever seen is populist. servants of Kylon of Croton.
    i get “all men are created equal” quoted at me all the time.
    That simply isnt true of genetics.
    and all applied conservatism is anti-science….anti-ToE, anti-biological basis for behavior, anti-genetic engineering, anti-eSCR.
    only 6% of republicans are scientists.
    there is a reason for that.

  51. @ strangelet:
    u shush now with that “lie” stuff. Our favorite Murray graph shows that 40 years ago it was 50/50 conserv v lib among intellektuell uppers. You should pick up that Anthology of 20th C Conservative Thought edited by WFB that I was mentioning last night – it even has the famous “immanentize the eschaton” essay. Cain’t get much more intellecshul than that, not in English. Was Burke an intellectual? WFB? Alexander Hamilton? Isaac effin Newton? Anyway, you aren’t processing the logic and you’re letting other people define your reality. I don’t let Sean Hannity define “conservative” for me. All great science and all great intellectual labor is conservative in the highest sense, even and especially when it happens to be revolutionary. If it doesn’t know whence it came, for the sake of those who follow – then it’s not science, it’s a medicine show.

  52. @ CK MacLeod: i can only accept empirical data.
    Due to my age at time of politicization all I have ever observed is anti-science populist conservatism.

    and, no.
    science is heresy overcoming orthodoxy.
    conservatism is desparate clinging to orthodoxy as far as i can see.

  53. @ strangelet:
    no, science proceeds from a strict orthodoxy, or is not science. The General Theory of Relativity was not a novel heresy on the level of its challenge to non-relativistic ideologies/moral order. Such challenges have always existed. What made it science, and powerful and persuasive, was that it was susceptible to criticism and re-production according to orthodox logic, mathematics, and experimental demonstration. It wouldn’t have been revolutionary if it wasn’t also conservative.

    The conservatism that you refer to having grown up with is a show – it’s rightwing agitprop. Of course it’s what you’re most familiar with – it is designed to be the face of the “movement,” so it’s the face you recognize. It also happens to be the face that the intellectualist opponents of conservatism are most comfortable pointing to. To return and refer continually to it is to allow yourself to be intellectually manipulated twice over, and to pass on the manipulation.

  54. @ CK MacLeod: Lying is what drove me out.
    You lie.
    Bush lied about torture, about eSCR, about Iraq.
    Science doesn’t lie, and Allah doesn’t lie, Obama doesn’t lie.
    I give my allegiance to them.

    and still it moves.

  55. e por se move, if you’re going to be pretensious about Galileo, quote him in Latin, escr has gone no where, whereas as stem cells from skin have proven very fruitful. aggressive interrogation has proven very successful, when done correctly, As for Iraq, the DGSE, SVR, Jordanian and Egyptian Moukharabat,had similar conclusions

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