1. A Small Island And Perhaps A Big Conflict
What do Cleopatra, the man who blew up the Parthenon, Greek Prime Minister Mitsotakis, and Turkey’s President Erdoğan have in common? A shared interest in a tiny Mediterranean island. Kastellorizo, population 500, is only 4.6 square miles in area but it has the unlikely official name of The Biggest (Megisti), which it is, compared to the smaller islands beside it. Although photogenic enough to be the site of the delightful film Mediterraneo (1991), Kastellorizo is coveted for its geostrategic importance.
The matter has led to tense negotiations and even more tense deployment of military resources this summer, both on the sea and in the air. Greece and Turkey have both sent warships into the Eastern Mediterranean, and France has sent ships as well in support of Greece. All three countries are NATO allies, while France and Greece are both members of the European Union. Turkey has the most powerful military in NATO, aside from the United States, while France the EU’s biggest military power.
Last week two warships, one Greek and one Turkish suffered a minor collision. The matter was resolved peacefully, as well, one hopes, the larger issue. The ripples from one small island, however, could have a large and violent effect.
The complete article can be read here:
2. Crushing the Barbarians Inside the Gates
According to the data science firm, Civis Analytics, between 15 and 25 million people in the United States participated in protests associated with BLM in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. How is such a phenomenon possible?
It is the result of an America that has been demoralized from poisonous seeds planted for decades starting 50 and 60-plus years ago by cultural Marxists, whose main roots trace back to the Institute of Social Research at Frankfurt University in Germany. When Hitler came to power in 1933, the key leaders and members of the “Frankfurt School,” such as Herbert Marcuse, Eric Fromm, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, and Wilhelm Reich, fled to the United States, where they worked themselves into professorships and influence at various elite universities such as Berkeley, Columbia, and Princeton.
While the Frankfurt School was neo-Marxist, it was more interested in breaking down civilization through attitudinal and cultural change than in redistributing wealth. They incorporated Marxist class theory into sociology and psychology and assimilated Freud’s theories on sexuality. Thus, Marx’s dialectical theory of perpetual conflict was joined to Freud’s neurotic ideas, creating a sort of Freudian-Marxism. Their stated goal was a total transformation of society by smashing traditional norms such as monogamous relations and the traditional family — accomplished by legitimizing unhinged sexual permissiveness with no cultural or religious restraint.
Herbert Marcuse and others from the Frankfurt School were all well-read in the cultural Marxist theories of Italian Communist Party member Antonio Gramsci, the most important Marxist theoretician of the 20th century, who authored the Prison Notebooks. For them, the takedown of America would be best facilitated through cultural transformation by way of gradual demoralization of the population and subversion of the system through infiltration rather than through confrontation and revolutionary militancy. According to Marcuse, “the long march through the institutions” meant, “working against the established institutions while working in them.”
So the answer to the aforementioned question as to how the death of one black man because of one white cop could turn America upside down is that the demoralization of America through cultural Marxism had already been accomplished.
The complete article can be accessed here.
3. A flawed analysis on the rise of transnational authoritarianism
György Schopflin on Ann Applebaum’s Twighlight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism
Let’s start with the good news. The book is readable, has been widely reviewed and received a fair amount of publicity.
But it is deeply flawed. It’s deeply flawed for three broad reasons. The author thinks she is writing about democracy and liberalism – hence the “twilight” metaphor in the title – but she clearly has no real idea what these are. Her definitions are vague and more than somewhat inconsistent. Second, the approach that she uses is personal and personalized (disclosure, I have met Applebaum a few times, but not for many years). This allows her to tell anecdotes, but then she generalizes from single instances – something that is inherently problematic. The third reason is about what’s missing from the book, significant factors that offer better explanations than what is in the text. It is hard to know whether these are deliberate or just oversight.
Applebaum’s starting point, roughly, is the end of communism and Fukuyama’s “end of history” proposition (a position he no longer holds). Indeed, the last chapter of the book bears the title “the unend of history”. The argument in the book simply accepts two assumptions, that democracy is the sole future of politics and that democracy is liberal and only liberal. Anything that deviates from this is to be cast into outer darkness – the usual suspects of the bien-pensant left, populism, nativism, xenophobia, illiberalism.
The key here is that liberalism and democracy are separate and separable, yoking them together is, in reality, an innovation and a power grab, maybe an ideology grab. If we accept that liberal democracy as currently defined is the sole, legitimate variant, then pretty much everything before the “end of history” was not democratic. Think of the UK or France after 1945, when the welfare states were launched in earnest. This meant that state allocation took precedence over the individual and what the state did was broadly trusted. Proof? Elections had high participation, the media were free, and the administration of justice was mostly apolitical. So basically, Applebaum accepts without a second thought that Social Democracy, Christian Democracy, Conservatism were not democratic, not properly democratic in the eyes of today’s liberals.
What these constructs are a monopoly, a monopoly in the sense that liberals have declared that they alone have the right to define democracy. In other words, those who vote in ways that liberals do not accept are not democrats. At one point, the book quotes Isaiah Berlin to the effect that the quest for unity is a chimera, indeed central to his work is the proposition that a single, coherent set of moral norms – monism – ends up as coercive and despotic. What Applebaum and the many who share the mindset will not see is that liberalism in its current iteration is just that, a single set of political norms, intolerant of anything that diverges.
Nor does the book see that the inequalities that current liberal thinking accepts – both social and market liberalism –are actually a growing threat to democracy. Applebaum is dismissive. She describes David Goodhart’s division of English society into Somewheres and Anywheres as being a “false and exaggerated division of the world” (and does so without actually mentioning Goodhart by name). Has she ever visited the deprived parts of northern England? Nor does she mention the fall of Red Wall in last year’s election (from internal evidence the book was finished in the spring of 2020). The gilets jaunes in France get equally short shrift, they are “yellow-jacketed, anti-establishment anarchists”. Not a word, however, about how and why the upsurge broke out, namely the sudden increase in fuel taxes making rural journeys unaffordable. It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that Applebaum has neither empathy nor sympathy for the citizens of democracies who have been short-changed by the liberal version of democracy.
The rest of the article can be read here: