Michael Eriksson's Blog

A Swede in Germany

Posts Tagged ‘donald trump

A few thoughts around the Charlottesville controversy

with 6 comments

Disclaimer: I have not had the time to look into the details of the specific situation, and cannot rule out that the blame for the events rests e.g. on Neo-Nazi groups or the KKK. However, the events tie in, especially in light of Trump’s controversial statements, with a number of general thoughts I have entertained for quite some time, and I am taking the opportunity to discuss at least some of them.

  1. On a great number of occasions, I have read both German and Swedish news stories starting with a headline in the direction of “Extreme-Right march results in violence”, followed by a main text discussing victims, property damage, whatnot, leading to the natural assumption that the violence stemmed from the extreme Right*. However, at the very end of these stories there is a small, hidden away sentence: The original demonstrators had been marching more-or-less peacefully—and then been attacked by members of the extreme Left… (Those who only read the head lines or never get to the end of an article will get a very distorted world-view indeed.)

    *I restate my opinion that speaking of “Right” (extreme or not) is entirely pointless; “extreme Right” the more so, since the “extreme Right” does not correspond to a more extreme set of methods or “Right” opinions than the “moderate Right” (and so on)—very much unlike the Left. In fact, the “extreme Right” is often arbitrarily defined as nationalists, racists, and the like, without any regard for other opinions—even when those opinions, as is very often the case in e.g. Sweden, are otherwise mostly on the “Left”…

    Indeed skimming* through the Wikipedia page, I see e.g. that the “Right” used statements like “White lives matter”, while their opponents used extremes like “Kill All Nazis”. Let us turn this around: One group says “Black lives matters”, the other “Kill all Black Panthers”**—what is your take on that situation?

    *I do not claim that these examples, or even the Wikipedia entry as a whole, give a full picture of who is evil, holds what opinions, …, in this specific situation. However, this matches what I have seen in other contexts very well—and should it not hold in this specific case, it does hold in many others. Notably, the people complaining about “hate”/“haters”/“hate speech” are usually the bigger sinners by a considerable distance.

    **By which I do not intend to put the NSDAP and the Black Panthers on an equal footing. Then again, the Neo-Nazis of today are not the NSDAP either and many of those called Nazis are nothing of the kind.

    As always, it is important to look more at actions than opinions.

  2. The original cause, the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue, is part of a great problem of hypocrisy and historical revisionism in the U.S.:

    The civil war is by now almost exclusively portrayed as a war over slavery, with the South a nation of evil-doers and the North the shining knights in white armor. In reality, slavery (and arguably more general disagreements about who should decide what for whom) was the cause of the secession and the war was fought over whether the South had a right to secede—not over slavery. In this, the ensuing civil war goes in direct opposition to the earlier revolutionary war, where the then colonies did what? They seceded over issues like taxation and representation… Would the U.S. have declared war on Canada, had slavery been legal there? Almost certainly not (barring the eventuality of a pretext to expand). Would the North have declared war on the South, had they seceded over, say, a new cotton tax? Very likely*.

    *Doubt remains mostly because of questions of what political issues are sufficiently loaded that a war will gain acceptance in the populace and what can and cannot be patched up. (Compare e.g. the World Wars to the Vietnam war.) It would e.g. be imaginable that a cotton-tax secession would have led to a brief crisis, which was resolved with a voluntary reunification, or to a war of two months after which both sides were fed up and let each other be.

    Was Robert E. Lee such a monster that his statues should be removed? Skimming through his Wikipedia page, I see nothing that would indicate this or anything that would make him worse than, say, Washington (but Washington won; Lee lost). He was to some degree involved with slavery, but apparently somewhat accidentally (as executor of a will) or even reluctantly, and there is nothing remarkable mentioned by the standards of his society. He even appears to have originally opposed the secession… If anything, I suspect, the root is a wish by the populist Left to follow the lead of Orwell’s* Big Brother and stamp out any potential sign of disagreement or dissenting thought, to paint every opponent, even non-ally, as evil beyond measure, and so on—something I have very often observed in Sweden and, to a lesser degree, Germany. Notably, the park of the statue used to be called “Lee Park”—it is now called “Emancipation Park”. There is no doubt to me that this change of name is ideologically and/or politically driven; I would even suspect that the name was chosen demonstrably; I would not rule out a deliberate provocation**.

    *Reading Orwell is an education in it self, especially when it comes to the problems with the Left. The fact that someone himself so far to the Left was so critical of the behavior, hypocrisy, …, of the Left is remarkable. Much of “Animal Farm” and “Nineteen Eighty-Four” is based directly on his personal experiences, observations, and thoughts on various Leftist parties and movements in Britain, Spain, and the USSR. Orwell looked at the actions of the Left, not the opinions of the Left. Similarly my own extremely negative opinion of the Left, the politically correct, and, above all, feminists is rooted not in their opinions; it is rooted in how they behave, how they confront dissenting opinions, how they handle conflicts between their theories and actual observations, …

    **I suspect that the extremely negative attitudes that e.g. the Swedish PC crowd displays towards everything non-PC actually serve to worsen problems with e.g. racism and xenophobia: Because even legitimate discussion of topics like immigration or immigration problems are so hard to do in public forums, many who try to start such discussions are driven out and end up in discussions with actual xenophobes instead, where they have every opportunity to be “radicalized” or whatnot. The same danger is present with e.g. the above renaming, being a signal (or, if not, very likely will come across as a signal) of “you are either with us or what you think and feel does not matter”.

  3. Somewhat overlapping with the previous item, people in general and the Left/the PC crowd specifically, tend to have a very weak grasp of history, judging behavior and events in different times by the standards of the current time*, seeing too much in black-and-white, seeing the historical “us” as heroic and the historical “them” as evil**, and often being ignorant of even the most basic relevant facts***. Now, I am by no means a historian, but I can at least say that my knowledge and understanding has developed past high school, and that I actually bother to think—the same cannot be said about most people. (Regrettably, the “think” part does not automatically apply to all historians either…)

    *Examples include speaking of “poverty” among modern people who live very well by the standards of a hundred years ago, looking down on or even morally condemning people of old who simple had access to less knowledge, criticizing behavior that was necessary for survival at one time but is so no more, comparing the life of one group of people (e.g. U.S. slaves) back then with modern groups instead of contemporary groups (including e.g. the British lower class of the 19th century or the bottom rungs of the feudal hierarchy a few hundred years earlier); applying modern standards for warfare on wars of old; …

    **Consider e.g. how Vlad Tepes is a Hitlerian figure in most of the Western world, but a folk hero among his compatriots; how Napoleon is still viewed differently in different parts of Europe; how the estimate of e.g. U.S. presidents varies depending on their involvement in “good” wars (Washington, Lincoln, even such a disaster as FDR); or, obviously, how differently Robert E. Lee is viewed in various U.S. groups.

    ***A particular laughable example is feminist complaints that Swedish women did not receive the right to vote until the 1920s—oh, oppression and discrimination! In reality, some men received the right to vote only a dozen years earlier; men in general at the exact same time as women did; and factoring in that men, even then, were only allowed to vote after they had completed the mandatory military service, they were briefly worse off than women…

  4. In many cases, the questions of who is in the right and who in the wrong, who did what to whom, what the facts say, appears to be irrelevant. If the facts do not match reality—ignore them. It does not matter, in this regard, whether Trump was right* or not, when he spoke of violence from different directions—the Left would have condemned such statements either which way. It does not matter, whether “The Bell-Curve”** was good or bad science, factually correct or faulty, neutral or racists—the PC crowd would have condemned it either which way. It does not matter, whether I post a dissenting comment with a scientific finding*** or a curse on a feminist blog—the blog owner will censor it either which way.

    *I have no clear opinion on this specific situation. (But in many others, he would have been correct or even unfair towards the “Right”. Cf. above.)

    **While there have been some scientific objections raised, this applies to virtually any scrutinized work; the picture painted by many Leftists is a very grave distortion of the actual contents and the claims made.

    ***The former has more often than not led to censorship (but admittedly not quite always)—so often that I hardly ever bother these days. I am not certain whether the latter has ever happened (but I have been tempted many, many times).

See e.g. [1], [2] for examples of potentially similar blame pushing; and e.g. [3], [4], [5] for examples of how the Left’s behaviour is more fascist than the “Right’s”. My previous post also touches on some points common with this post.

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Written by michaeleriksson

August 17, 2017 at 10:45 pm

Intolerance of opinion and the threat it poses to society

with 4 comments

It is no secret that intolerance of opinion is one of the things I loathe the most—when people do not merely disagree, be it ever so drastically, but when the one party presumes to consider the other party morally defect, evil, worthy of being shot, whatnot based on the difference in opinion.

(Not to be confused with considering someone worthy of being shot, be it literally or metaphorically, because of the methods used and actions taken. No-one should be shot for being a Nazi. Those who invade Poland and gas Jews, those are a very different matter—even if they happen to belong to another ideology.)

I will not expound in detail on this topic in general here (again), except in as far as noting that it almost invariably does harm (cf. medieval inquisitions, Nazi or Communist censorship, or, although less violently, the Politically Correct of today); that “Fascist is as Fascist does” (where I use the word “Fascist” in the incorrect but dominating everyday sense); and that no matter how convinced we are that we are the ones in the right, other opinions must be tolerated and only fought with facts, arguments, and reasoning—because there always, absolutely always remains a possibility that we are wrong. (After all, religious and ideological fanatics are almost by definition utterly convinced that they are right—even when they are obviously wrong in the eyes of others.)

Instead, I will point to the immense danger that we are currently exposed to through the intolerance of politically correct fanatics and populists through their attempts to use opinions as a criterion to ban people from work, political office, and similar.

In just a few weeks time, I have read news stories about e.g.:

  1. A young employee in Germany being fired for having made racists posts on Facebook, with no regard whatsoever to his actual performance at work, and even though his statements were irrelevant to his employer. (For instance and to the best of my knowledge, he did not insult his employer or leak secret information.) In effect, those having certain opinions will not be able to utter them for fear of losing their jobs.

  2. Hulk Hogan being thrown out of a hall of fame for professional wrestling for having expressed racist opinions—despite almost certainly being the most famous professional wrestler of all times. Notably, his fame and his importance in the (mis-) development of wrestling in the past thirty or so years is utterly unaffected by this, except in as far as he might become even more well-known because of it.

    If they had at least thrown him out for ruining the action performance art of wrestling and turning it into half-an-hour of muscle mountains screaming at each other, then I might have had some sympathies.

  3. Today, Donald Trump suddenly moved from a prime presidential candidate to a persona non grata over allegedly sexist statements.

I have seen many other examples over the years, including:

  1. The inexcusable firing of Larry Summers for making non-conclusive statements that are, by and large, supported by both science and common sense.

  2. A number of athletes being banned from competition, including the Olympics, or being forced to make (fake?) apologies for allegedly racist statements that by and large were either harmless, in the heat of the moment, or merely racial. (And even if some of them were racist, seeing that I am unlikely to be aware of the details of every case, they still had nothing to do with athletic performance. Note that the criticism raised has, to my knowledge, always been the irrelevant “racist”—not “lacking in sportsmanship”, which in some extreme cases may have been a legitimate reason to act.) A very young triple jumper, e.g., was banned from the Olympics for making a single joke that could realistically only be criticized for not being very funny…

  3. One or several U.S. colleges tried to instigate a policy where students of education would not merely be prevented from teaching unless they were sufficiently politically correct—bad enough, seeing that this would propagate the politically correct brain-wash from generation to generation. No: They would actually be prevented from receiving their degrees! This irrespective of actual academic accomplishment.

  4. The (with very few exceptions) utterly unscientific, prejudiced, and whole-sale condemnation of “The Bell-Curve” as racist, including the absurd idea that Wikipedia should not even provide an article on the book! (Basically, due to it being so evil that it would be best to bury it in silence, as if it were the Necronomicon or some similar work of darkest magic.)

  5. German Leftist extremists calling for a ban of all parties they do not like—much like Hitler in 1932… Again: Fascist is as Fascist does.

  6. A German IT company requiring that their employees, their contractors, and the employees of their contractors (!) have no connections with the Scientology movement. As I answered them upon hearing this requirement for a possible collaboration: Scientology might be a religion for idiots, but if you want exclude them in this unethical manner, well, then I will in return exclude you.

Unless we want to end up in a world were freedom of opinion has no more value than in North-Korea, it is high time that we take a stand and refuse to accept such intolerance and de facto censorship. A far more enlightened and worthy attitude is found in the words attributed to Voltaire:

I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it.

Freedom of speech and freedom of thought by their very nature must not be “say whatever you like—as long as you agree with me”.

(A similar principle appears in many other cases. For instance, “innocent until proved guilty” becomes hollow and hypocritical when taken as “innocent until proved guilty—unless the accusation is of crime A or B, because these particular crimes are so horrible”. Indeed, the entire concept could be seen as invalidated, because possibly the single greatest advantage is removed: Protection against deliberately false accusations, be it from a dictatorial regime, modern day witch-hunters, or feuding neighbours.)

Written by michaeleriksson

August 8, 2015 at 11:11 pm