Commenter Archive

On “Keith Spencer: …data shows that a centrist Democrat would be a losing candidate – Salon.com

Can't say I cared much either, but Spencer's text was such a blatant piece of propaganda that I felt the appropriate response was ridicule. He doesn't really "describe" an "electorate bifurcated along class lines, etc." but rather supposes it--allegedly on the basis of Piketty's authoritative masterpiece of a report--and, of course, that supposition happily affirms his pre-existing commitment to what can adequately be summarized as Trotskyism. It's a joke.

On the other hand, one can't help but wonder if this isn't an early outrider in the genre of crafting a narrative to be deployed in the event the Democrats lose the 2020 election. In this instance, the author would be proposing that said narrative take the form that the explanation for the loss ought to be that the Democratic nominee was insufficiently Trotskyist. Again, 'tis silly stuff.

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Can't say I care much about Spencer's strengths or weaknesses as a polemicist or political strategist - just wanted to note the description of a modern electorate bifurcated along class lines rather than arranged across a spectrum or gradient, and the argument that this bifurcation or its resiliency shows up significantly in voting data.

On “Eli Zaretsky: Trump’s Charisma – LRB Blog

I guess I've always found sociology more descriptive than explanatory. so charisma in the Weber sense seems to be more of a property of the masses which we as observers project onto the leader. I recall a phrase from The Invisible Man in which the narrator says something about the masses "throwing up" their leaders.

I not sure I've got this right, but the observation/explanation distinction of sociology may have been made nicely by the Officer Krupke number in West Side Story, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7TT4jnnWys

On “Keith Spencer: …data shows that a centrist Democrat would be a losing candidate – Salon.com

"The Republican Party has earned a reputation as the anti-science, anti-fact party"

One third of the way in to Mr. Spencer's first sentence--and we know immediately we're reading a piece of the utmost sobriety...

Spencer's piece is essentially an argument from authority--in this case, the authority of "data", indeed "hard data", and even (breathtakingly) "mounds of data"; helpfully compiled for us by that superstar of contemporary data-driven social "science", Thomas Piketty. Though it's wisely, if not perhaps widely, understood that contemporary data-driven social "science" is an enterprise of unimpressive stature, Spencer's affection for it is--shall we say--affecting.

So, Spencer’s point--on the authority of Piketty’s "mounds of data"--is that, if the Democrats will only nominate a candidate of Trotskyite persuasion, then he/she/zhe will obtain a sweeping victory. Speaking as one whose socialism tends to the "false consciousness" Straßerite variety, I hope they’ll do so. Let’s conduct the experiment and see if Piketty’s right...

I shan't belabor further my annoyance with Spencer's drivel, except to address en passant the only curiosity that emerged as I read it--namely, the strange phenomenon of apparently bona fide and old-time socialism in the state of Oklahoma. Well, what can one say--except that the denizens of Oklahoma haven't exactly earned a reputation for wisdom of a political or any other kind, now have they?

On “Eli Zaretsky: Trump’s Charisma – LRB Blog

As you know, it's been a while since I've been active in these parts. I just fell victim to some issues for an un-tended blog, and my longer and incredibly incisive etc. reply to you, Mr. McKenzie, was voided. For all I know, some draft of it may have reached you or bob in an email, but I suspect not...

I'll summarize it as follows: I don't think you give Zaretsky credit for being as careful in his statements and assumptions as he is - more careful than you are, and especially regarding what we mean or ought to mean when we use words like "Americans" and, in this specific instance, when we argue about what "Americans" think or feel or have decided or might decide. As for the rest, see my reply to bob, the newest "Noted and Quoted" as of this comment, and things to come. The gods or God or the masses or the mass-God or -gods or or or and America or Americans may not be all out of tricks.

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Well, Happy 4th nine days later to you, bob. I accidentally surfed to CNN while that fellow was on, found myself as confounded as ever that there are so many people able to tolerate him - just on aesthetic grounds - and moved on before the sentence was done.

Weber understands "charisma" - whose modern usage he invented - as a collective and cooperative realization, as much bestowal (by the masses) as expression of innate qualities. The pre-existing definition of charisma refers to a divinely conferred gift - so also a bestowal.

Donald Trump is found and thus made charismatic by a critical mass of masses, and, if I acknowledge that he's charismatic, I'm not saying that I find his magic working on me in the sense of putting me on his side, only that I can see the magic working, or the finding-making happening, and think I can understand why and how.

Zaretsky via Weber also gets at why Trump is so much better on a debate stage or at one of his rallies, since in the former setting his ruthless aggressiveness, un-dimmable self-confidence, joyful combativeness, amor fati - his spirited-ness (thymos) - make him seem a foot taller than even an outstandingly talented and experienced conventional politician (Rubio, Cruz, even HRC), while in the latter setting he enjoys an intimate, unalloyed connection with those predisposed already to adore him and in adoring him exalt themselves. To observe or interrupt the latter feels like and arguably is a stumbling-upon upon acquaintances shamelessly making love in a semi-public place.

...and this does all bear on the question of how the Ds might best fight him. Even if we could somehow agree on a return-to-normalcy, make-politics-boring-again alternative, we'd end up attributing some form of charisma, even an anti-charisma charisma, to the nominee.

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happy 4th.

presumably we'll get to see that fellow's charisma on full display tonight.

for me, however time induced hazily it may be, that fellow calls to mind Reich's Mass Psychology of Fascism, relying on, as I think I recall, authoritarian child rearing practices. Writ large, the petty tyrannies usually played out in the family become compelling politics to enough of the populace.

in this way the charisma of O and that fellow differ fundamentally in the family dynamics they echo.

glad to see even just a reposting here. hope if portends more.

to the grill!

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"Most important, the Democratic candidate must convey a sense that he or she will fulfil the promise of 2008: not piecemeal reform but a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking."

I think the naivety of supposing that anyone--anyone at all--can at this juncture bring to pass "a genuine, full-scale change in America’s way of thinking" almost goes without saying--let alone that anyone in the current slate of Democratic candidates could perform such an Archimedean task. The sort of comprehensive transformation of "America’s way of thinking" that Mr. Zaretsky advocates presupposes a unitary something that is "America". "America" is irremediably divided against itself--ever-increasingly by rival ethnic and racial blocs, though no division surpasses that between the white bohemian bourgeoisie and the white working class.

"Finally, the candidate must speak to Americans’ sense of self-respect linked to social justice and inclusion."

Here the author evinces the flaw that vexes most contemporary political commentary; namely, the casual assumption that one's own political/ethno-racial faction is "America" simpliciter--in this case, the "progressive" white and Jewish bohemian bourgeoisie whose "self-respect" is so closely "linked to social justice and inclusion". But "social justice and inclusion" are euphemisms of a factional political ideology that, though widely influential among America's ruling elite, is mostly detested outside the confines of said elite and its bobo fellow travelers.

I'll give Zaretsky some credit. Despite his predictable anti-Trump stance, his piece does represent a stab at relatively sober political analysis. I think the contention that "...Trump’s ‘insecurity’, his unending struggle with those who question his legitimacy, is integral to his charisma" is a valuable insight. One wonders, however, if his recourse to Freudianism doesn't fatally undermine his argument. For example, Zaretsky is quite clear that both Donald Trump and Barack Obama are "charismatic" figures--in fact, he asserts that Obama is possessed of an even greater charisma than Trump. Thus his analysis cum critique of Trump on the line of Weberian "charisma" must apply equally well to Obama. Mark the following passage:

"Freud showed in his book on mass psychology that in democratic societies the charismatic bond may rest on an appeal to frustrated or unfulfilled narcissism. The followers idealise the leader as they once – in childhood – idealised themselves. Etc."

Overlooking the dubious character of Freudian psychology, this is obviously intended to be a criticism of Trump-as-political-phenomenon; but mutatis mutandis it must be true of Obama and his supporters as well. Zaretsky tries to overcome this contradiction by suggesting that some charismatic leaders--presumably including Obama--appeal to their supporters' good sides while other charismatic leaders--like Trump--appeal to their supporters' bad sides, but that badly begs the question and ultimately reduces Zaretsky's piece to a factional rhetorical exercise.

The real issue here is that whereas Trump is possessed of a genuine "charisma"--for good or ill--Obama was just another establishmentarian pol. His veneer of charisma had everything to do with the fact that American whites are programmed to feign receptivity toward blacks, and in Obama--as Joe Biden so gamely put it--they had finally found a "clean and articulate" black to lionize. Obama went on to govern, not as a charismatic leader of course, but rather as a "pragmatic manager"--as Zaretsky admits. The choice before the U.S. electorate in 2020 won't be between rival visions of charismatic leadership. It will feature instead a charismatic and disruptive figure--Donald Trump--and a yet to be determined uncharismatic Democrat who will seek to continue, and perhaps intensify, a long-established mode of governance. Electorates in democracies throughout the world (see, for example, the recent election in India) are more and more disaffected by the latter prospect.

On “"Wiegala," by Ilse Weber

My pleasure.

Agree about the song, though I think the "haunting" aspect mostly comes from the historical context, as I discussed way back when, also a bit reminiscent of the effect when a movie psycho-killer likes to hum or whistle a certain tune. I think almost any song, but lullabies especially, are vulnerable to that, "gone to sleep" being a common if not universal euphemism for "died."

I'd never heard of Asch's and Vogel's works, and glad to know about them.

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Thank you. I know I have "orphan pages" on my website many broken links and even the "blog" of my mother's letters home to Germany in the mid 1930s has broken links to YouTubes of trailers from the movies and radio broadcasts she mentions in her letters. You remind me that I should clean those up.

This song is so haunting. Our book group just finished reading two versions of Sholom Asch's "God of Vengeance" and Vogel's new play "Indecent" which retells the history of Asche's play and uses the lyrics to great effect in crucial scenes.

"

This post (almost ten years old!) was from a discontinued blog, but it turns out I still had the MP3 file in the archives. So the above link should now function. I purchased the file for I think around a dollar back in 2009.

I also found a version on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vNMziun2QMA

"

The audio track does not play.

I have found other versions on YouTube but I would love to hear this one. Do you have another link?

Thank you for your thoughtful essay.

On “The Video of Our Moment – This is America

You filled out your email address as a "mail.com" not "gmail.com." I edited the comment just above, and it's now showing the gravatar associated with the latter, if that's what you mean.

Could also explain not receiving notification emails. However, I might switch to a new tool for those anyway, if I decide to take up blogging again.

There's certainly no shortage of material out there, but a lot of it is just the same old sloppy thinking.

Some philosophy teacher on Twitter said he told his new students that he could teach them to win arguments for all the rest of their lives, with the only downside being that no one would ever know.

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btw I didn't get the confirmation email and it wasn't in spam. also my icon didn't show up here so if you do restart blogging cld be worth fixing, otherwise just random glitches between the nets.

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Don't know whether I'll start blogging again, or why exactly this video led me to post again after such a long hiatus.

Not sure why you would or wouldn't get rap/hip-hop, but this video is as much a movie, a little piece of Gesamtkunstwerk. That it's to me the video of our moment doesn't mean it's a good or enjoyable video, necessarily, but I think it probably is. I threw in the CMM mash-up because within a couple of days of my offhand remark, the thing was coming in over the twitter transom.

These two pieces might help you get why if not necessarily get it.

Wired: https://t.co/SvDgglha6e

New Yorker: https://t.co/LEQeSatCY0

"

so I've been listening to a lot of music, got a turntable and went through to my entire vinyl jazz collection, lots of cd's pre brain injury, lots of stuff Karen got post BI, plus classical, electronic and general strangeness, bought a bunch of new cd's, and I'm still not really getting rap and hip hop. I can appreciate, even admire some of it (my daughter was especially taken by my description of Notorious BIG as the Chaucer of rap), but just not feeling it. So TIA falls in that category of appreciating, even admiring, but the CMM sendup is pretty dumb.

In any event hope you're well and ready to resume posting.

regards - bob

On “Holy American Major League of Nations (Notes on Baseball and the Re-De-Nationalization of Americanism)

[…] This 2012 post from CK Macleod on baseball and the American sense of being is a really good […]

On “Gutenberg: The Invention of the Printing Press, the Destruction of WordPress

BTW, I recently upgraded some this and that on the back end of the blog, and it does seem to make comments post much faster - and unanticipated benefit.

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For WordPress self-hosted people, there is already a "restore legacy editor" plugin, even though Gutenberg hasn't been installed yet as the default.

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I thought you were on WordPress.com, not self-hosted WordPress. I can't find any info on WordPress.com and Gutenberg or Gutenbergerish editing, so I don't know what to tell you. It may not be an issue for you at all.

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so how worried should we be?

the Gutenberg post makes it sound like if would be all but unusable for me. the image discussion is really distressing. I haven't paid that much attention to their upgrades - I've gotten used to the changes they've made in various things altho they mostly seem cosmetic to me. but all this seems pretty user unfriendly.

how responsive have they been in the past to negative feedback? are they likely to go ahead no matter what anyone says, or work hard to fix the problems?

On “Holy American Major League of Nations (Notes on Baseball and the Re-De-Nationalization of Americanism)

…the desperate last-gasp radicalism of American reactionary conservatives before the demographic deluge and the expected relegation of white-European Americans to “minority” status in “their own” country. (Geopolitical theorist George Friedman, in his book The Next 100 Years, describes the Latino-ization of the United States and eventual total breakdown of the southern border as the one “threat” of them all that ascendant white-imperial America will eventually prove unable to defeat.)

One readily detects the hint of relish in CKM’s anticipation of “white-European Americans” (in other words, authentic Americans) being relegated to minority status in (scare quotes) “their own” country. A passage remarkable for its undercurrent of malice and resentment.

Now one can’t plausibly suppose that even a fellow as determinedly obtuse as CK MacLeod really believes that the “Latino-ized” USA of his rejoicing will continue to be the bedrock and pillar of the “liberal international order“--for which he otherwise professes such love and attachment--or any domestic liberal order, for that matter--and thus one is forced to conclude that MacLeod’s animus against “white-European Americans”--authentic Americans, as apart from the multitude of pseudo-Americans whom we’re constantly pressured to acknowledge and acclaim--is so spiteful as to be self-destructive of his own professed support for liberal political arrangements here and abroad. How to account for this strange paradox?

Incipit nihilismus

On “German Trust in America – the Trend (#OAG 12b)

Speaking of George Friedman...

The party of Chancellor Angela Merkel no longer uses the word “friend” to describe the United States in its platform. But in fact, Merkel has blamed Trump for a rupture he has little to do with. At issue are the national interests of both countries. Germany needs for the European Union to be economically healthy enough to buy the exports on which its economy depends, but the United States, which has little leverage or stake in the European Union, sees its disintegration as a European problem.

The divergence between the United States and Germany has been growing since 2008, and there is little Trump could have done to change things.

On “Holy American Major League of Nations (Notes on Baseball and the Re-De-Nationalization of Americanism)

just a note on your observation about the whiskey rebellion

https://youtu.be/ASZ7NXD4i1s

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