2022: Non-Fiction

If I were to discuss the bulk of my reading last year in the depth it deserves, I probably wouldn’t finish this note until sometime next year. Instead, this will be a quick and superficial look at a few of the books that caught my interest.

Paul Johnson’s Intellectuals is a grimly amusing collection of portraits of the thinkers and writers who made western culture the wreck that it is today. By “intellectual” Johnson means someone for whom ideas matter more than individuals, or reality. They want to change the world and reshape humanity, and totalitarianism comes naturally to them. His examples begin with Jean-Jacques Rousseau and end with Noam Chomsky, and include such luminaries as Karl Marx, Leo Tolstoy, Ernest Hemingway, Bertrand Russell and Lillian Hellman, and others who are not as well-remembered but were influential in their day. Johnson doesn’t deny that his subjects are often great artists: Rousseau was a brilliant writer as well as a loathsome creep, P.B. Shelley a great poet and a perfect sociopath, Ibsen a revolutionary playwright and an obnoxious weirdo, etc. However, their achievements don’t outweigh the lies they told1, their indifference to the lives they blighted, or the damage they did to civilization. Johnson’s book is highly readable, entertaining and appalling.

*****

Theodore Dalrymple’s Our Culture, What’s Left of It is a collection of essays on a wide variety of topics: the continuing relevance of Shakespeare, the British underclass, the benefits of corruption, Virginia Woolf’s asininity, the debasement of the arts, and whatever else is on his mind. Life at the Bottom is an extended view of the British underclass from his perspective as a doctor in a slum hospital and in a prison. Dalrymple, a world traveler who has practiced medicine in the third world as well as England, found that his British patients, despite their material advantages, are far worse off spiritually than the poor in Africa. The harm wrought by “intellectuals” is a constant theme throughout Dalrymple’s writing.

*****

The book that took me longest to finish was the shortest: Hillaire Belloc’s The Servile State. Orwell called the style “tiresome;” I would use a stronger term. Belloc structured his book as a formal proof “that industrial society as we know it will tend towards the re-establishment of slavery.” It’s as easy to read as an advanced calculus text, but not as much fun. It’s plenty prophetic, all right, but I would suggest reading Hayek’s far more readable The Road to Serfdom2 instead.

*****

I read a bunch of books on the reactions to and political consequences of the Chinese virus hysteria.3 At this time the list includes:
The Price of Panic, by Douglas Axe, William M. Briggs and Jay W. Richardson
Pandemia, by Alex Berenson
The Real Anthony Fauci, by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.
Lies My Government Told Me, by Robert W. Malone
COVID: Why Most of What You Know Is Wrong, by Sebastian Rushworth
The Bodies of Others, by Naomi Wolf
plus several of Berenson’s “Unreported Truths” pamphlets.

They all blur together in my mind. Much of the information presented will be familiar to those who followed William M. Briggs‘ Tuesday briefings. Collectively, the general points made are that the virus is far less dangerous than advertised, the response to the virus is utterly disproportionate to the risks and cruelly destructive, and the real threat is the ever-increasing control by the powerful over the lives of ordinary people.

If I were to recommend just one of these books, it would be Alex Berenson’s Pandemia, which covers the salient aspects of the disaster through late 2021 as well as any, from the initial scary reports to the lockdowns and lies. Berenson declares in his introduction that his attitude toward politics is that it is impossible to be too cynical, which his book amply demonstrates. Incidentally, no matter what you may think of Elon Musk, he deserves praise for insisting that amazon.com carry Berenson’s pamphlets.

It’s disconcerting to find allies in people like Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Naomi Wolf, but that’s how insane the world has become. As the title indicates, Kennedy’s book focuses primarily on the career of Anthony Fauci, including a close examination of his activities when AIDS was front-page news. Bill Gates also gets a lot of attention. Surprise, surprise: Tony and Bill are not nice people. If just a tenth of what Kennedy alleges in his book is accurate, Anthony Fauci and Bill Gates should be tried for crimes against humanity.

Wolf focuses less on the technical details of the Chinese virus and more on how “Cruelty became as contagious as any disease.” The later chapters of her book read like footnotes to Bruce Charlton’s discussions of Ahrimanic and Sorathic evil. Wolf’s book is probably the best-written of those on the topic that I’ve read, and the angriest.

*****

William M. Briggs’ Everything You Believe Is Wrong is a handy compendium of logical errors you may encounter every day, particularly in propaganda journalism and polemics. There are a lot of them, all of which Briggs gives names. It’s a useful book, but dense. It’s probably best read a chapter at a time rather than straight through.

Amending the amendments

From A Postmodern Permutation of the Bill of Rights:

6. In all criminal prosecutions for political crimes, the media shall enjoy the right to mount a speedy and public trial of the accused, by a jury of partisan hacks, in newspapers and television programs produced thousands of miles from the district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district said partisan hacks shall mock, ridicule, and defame. Participation of the accused in his own media and judicial trials is forbidden as an impediment to the efficient operation of the justice system.

Today’s quote

Dr. Boli:

What was that famously aspirational Google slogan again? “Let’s be evil”? Something like that.

… there is not yet a browser extension that does exactly what Dr. Boli would like. The one he uses right now stops videos from automatically playing without his permission, which is good as far as it goes. What Dr. Boli would really like, however, is an extension that would allow him to click on any video or animation that started by itself, and with that click simultaneously kill the movement on the page and deliver a harmless but painful electric shock to the Web designer who thought the autoplaying video was a good idea. Dr. Boli is prepared to reward a programmer who can create such an extension with his patronage. Note that, if the “harmless” part of the specifications proves impossible to implement, Dr. Boli is still likely to be generous.

Today’s quote

Lionel Shriver, via Amy Welborn:

… I was born in the wrong body. I am 5ft 2in. But inside? I feel tall. My soul is tall. I experience myself as 6ft 5in. And because a terrible mistake was made when I was born and ‘assigned’ as this short person, I’m going to force everyone to look me in the eyes by staring 15 inches over my head.

Thoughts for the day

Joseph Moore:

The Great Books are more damaging than helpful when taught outside the traditions that produced most of them. I hate to admit this, as I love the classics, but if they are read as just a bunch of interesting books whose ideas are merely a smorgasbord from which everybody gets to pick what they want and interpret it as they see fit, the Great Books become little more than an excuse for unearned elitism, a closed mind, and the false belief that one is educated simply by having skimmed a bunch of old books.

In context, which is Christendom and the ancient civilizations it saved, the books have something worthy to tell us. This knowledge leads to humility rather than elitism, and destroys the canard that people nowadays are just so much more enlightened and intelligent than those old dead guys. Out of this context, the Great Books are full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

(See also “The Sign of the Broken Sword.”)

The Z Man:

Every day a Western leader publicly frets about civil unrest over food and energy shortages, despite the fact that the people have shown no signs of revolt. The reason the politicians keep talking about potential revolts is the same reason Washington is obsessing over fictional insurrections. These are people who think they deserve a revolution.

Housekeeping

Stuff salvaged from posts I never published.

Maus:

In the 21st century, we have reached the point where Pius X’s observation that modernism is the synthesis of all heresies is beyond dispute. We’ve got Arian’s denial of Christ’s divine nature (I’m spiritual, not religious); Pelegian’s salvation by human effort (CRT, taking the vaxx jab); gnosticism (trust the experts because they F*cking Love Science™); and a soupçon of Donatism (evil white cis-het men are evil just like those icky pedo priests). It’s not an exhaustive list, but you get the idea.

Continue reading “Housekeeping”

Poetry corner: in memoriam

Joyce Kilmer, updated by John Leo:

Versified and rhythmic non-prose verbal arrangements are fashioned by people of alternative intelligence such as myself, but only the divine entity, should he or she actually exist, can create a solar-shielding park structure from low-rise indigenous vegetative material.

John Leo, a very funny, very serious writer whose columns were among the few things worth reading in the newspaper1 before the turn of the century, died earlier this month. His collection Two Steps Ahead of the Thought Police2 is fun to browse through.

(Via Kim Du Toit.)

Timely question

Robbo:

It’s been a long time now since Uncle paid any attention to the notion that you only buy what you can pay for and that there should at least be some rational relationship between federal outlays and federal revenues. He simply prints the stuff now. (Inflation? Never heard of it!) That being the case, why am I still paying any income tax at all?

(… and Revolver is indeed the best of The Beatles.)

***

Yesterday the high was 89°F. I just looked out the window and saw fat snowflakes blowing in the wind. Yep, it’s springtime in Kansas.

Hmm

Perhaps I shouldn’t have formally disaffiliated myself from all political parties. Dutch:

I don’t really vote any more, but I keep my Repub voter registration. The reason is this—the single strongest factor in vote results is the party breakdown of voter registrations. When a precinct has 65% Repub voters registered, but the Dem wins the precinct with 55%, the game is obvious, for someone who is actually paying attention and knows how things work.

The relationship between voter registration percentages, at the precinct level, and actual vote tally percentages was tight, very tight, until 2008. That’s when precincts tallying 65% or 70% Republican registrations started going for the Dem candidate 50% or more. There’s your break, and that is where Dominion entered the picture, 2008.

This seems all too plausible, but I would like to see the documentation.

What is a conservative?

The Z Man:

From time to time a debate breaks out in outsider politics between those who prefer meta politics and those who prefer activism. The former takes the view that it is ideas that drive history so getting the ideas right is the priority. The latter notes that we live in the real world not the world of ideas. Keeping the groomers out of the schools, for example, is what matters now. You are not going to talk them out of it so you have to get involved in order to solve the immediate problem

This is a debate that has haunted conservative politics and it was something that haunted radical politics until the 20th century. Conservatives never solved the problem and it eventually ruined them. The reason is they committed to participating in a political system that leaves no room for conservative ideas. Once you sign onto the long list of left-wing taboos and mob rule, there is nothing worth defending. Conservatives became the tax collectors of liberal democracy.

William M. Briggs:

Another non-surprising discovery is that [Bätzing] describes himself as a “conservative.” This is so if we take the word in its modern connotation as one who surrenders, gracefully, to the left. Surrender is precisely what he wants, saying he wants the Church to “change.”