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May 09, 2011

Free-Thinkers and Unchained Intellects All Over the World Decide, Simultaneously, That We're All Supposed To Feel Rather Ashamed That Usama bin Ladin Is Dead

It is truly remarkable how all these maverick minds, these unshackled brains, these members of the Vanguard of Free Thought, nearly always manage to fall into line with what a few of their more mouthy members are saying at any particular moment.

Are we supposed to feel bad that we used lethal force to incapacitate a murderous force for evil? Are we to feel guilt that, having exposed so many of our troops to great risks to preserve innocent, and not-so-innocent life, on this particular mission we told our troops, "Don't worry about bin Ladin's life"?

Are we really supposed to regret this?

The answer, if you're a member of the bien pensant class in good standing, is apparently "yes."

Or, more specifically, the answer is "Yes, congratulations, you! You have found an entirely new way in which to demonstrate your superiority over the stupid, uneducated masses that, for some twisted reason, take joy in the fact that a great evil is no more."

This pity-for-Osama lobby, this bishop-led congregation of ‘uncomfortable’ moral handwringers, might pose as radical, denouncing America’s military action in bin Laden’s compound as ‘Wild West-style vengeance’. Yet in truth it is fuelled by self-loathing more than justice-loving. These critics are not opposed to Western intervention in principle – indeed, most of them have demanded ‘humanitarian’, political or legalistic intervention in other states’ affairs at one point or another....

The most striking thing was the speed with which the great and the good of the Western liberal elite sought to distance themselves from those vulgar, excitable Yanks and to express a more erudite and PC view of OBL’s demise. Barely 24 hours had passed since the dumping of bin Laden’s body in the sea before observers were describing President Obama as a ‘mobster’. ‘Are we gangsters or a Western democracy based on the rule of law?’, asked has-been mayor (and wannabe mayor) Ken Livingstone, who is so used to doing politics in the rarefied environs of London’s mayoral office that he doesn’t realise that the rule of law might not be so neatly applied during a shoot-out in a compound in Pakistan. Elsewhere the killing of bin Laden has already been described as a ‘war crime’ (isn’t everything these days?) while human rights campaigners say it would have been a better advert for Western values if justice against OBL had come ‘from a legitimate court of law rather than the end of gun’.

It didn’t take long for these apparently decent lovers of justice over violence to expose their real fears: that the sight of a few young Americans chanting ‘U-S-A!’ in response to OBL’s death might invite even more Islamist retribution upon us. One writer described this ‘frat boy reaction’ as ‘abhorrent’ – it is ‘sickening’, she said, and, more revealingly, it has ‘no dignity’. A British columnist said the anti-OBL shindigs were the products of a ‘patriotic reflex’ – that is, a nationalist kneejerkism amongst America’s unthinking classes – which is apparently ‘intense and pervasive’. In response to the chant of ‘We killed bin Laden!’, the columnist said: ‘If “they” killed bin Laden in Abbottabad, then “they” also bombed a large number of wedding parties in Afghanistan, “they” murdered 24 Iraqi civilians in Haditha and “they” gang-raped a 14-year-old before murdering her, her six-year-old sister and their parents near Mahmudiyah.’ Yep, that’s right – if you celebrate the killing of OBL then you are also implicitly celebrating American atrocities overseas, including rape. Gang-rape-loving dunderheads.

The most telling phrase in that article was ‘they’, which was used again and again, always in quote marks, to refer to ordinary Americans. Because much of the ‘uncomfortable feeling’ over the killing of bin Laden is really an ‘uncomfortable feeling’ with, if not outright disgust for, ‘them’, the people who make up America, and for the ideals of modern America itself....

Behind the high-falutin’ expressions of passion for justice over shoot-to-kill, much of the pity-for-Osama lobby is really concerned with expressing its moral superiority over apparently vengeful Americans...

This is the primary psychological drive of the bien pensants. If you understand this about them, you understand everything about them.

Everything they say, and everything they do, is calculated towards one specific purpose, one unchanging goal: To differentiate themselves from their "common" fellows, and, by differentiating themselves, in conspicuous demonstrations of anti-common sentiment, declare and affirm themselves to be members of the New Aristocracy.

I keep reposting this; it's still true.

The aristocracy has always sought to differentiate itself from the hoi polloi by signalling other aristocrats via the conspicuous display of manners and opinions marking them as elite. In the 1920's, for example, the highborn would talk about opera and symphony, but never popular music-- popular music was for the lower classes, and if you enjoyed a pop song, it was best to keep that to yourself. They would discuss live theater but never filmed features-- again, the first was accpetable, the latter declasse. And of course there is all that stuff about eating and drinking.

Gosford Park catalogued much of this, especially in the screenwriter's commentary, which, for my money, was more interesting than the actual movie.

We still have a moneyed aristocracy, of course. And I imagine that many of those old rules still apply (although, quite frankly, I wouldn't know for certain).

What I find interesting from a sociological standpoint is liberals' aping of the opinions and manners of the aristocracy, usually with a healthy infusion of kneejerk progressive politics, as a new form of differentiation from the masses whom they so clearly despise. Just as the old middle classes would also attempt to mimic the behaviors of the wealthy, so too do today's liberals -- even those who aren't very wealthy at all -- seek to emulate the codes and mores of the leisure-class to show that they, too, belong in the company of the elite.

Quick proof: Go find any liberal. Ask him what he thinks about USAToday. If he does not immediately say "McPaper," I will buy you a Filet-O-Fish or McRib (your choice; supplies are limited).

Now, USAToday is neither an especially good paper nor an especially bad one; it's not really remarkable in any way. But the word has come down from the liberal aristocrats that the proper attitude towards USAToday is that it is a McPaper, and so that's what they all say, even if (as is usually the case) they've never so much as read the paper before in their lives.

They call it McPaper because of a series of faux-aristocratic biases -- the "mom and pop" local operation is always more virtuous than the national franchise, anything that smacks of mass-appeal is to be automatically despised, etc. -- and they say it's a McPaper, over and over again, for the same reason 1920's aristocrats all talked about the operas they usually slept through-- to signal to other "Progressive Elites" that they Belong, that They Are Part of the Higher Class.

Shibboleths, in other words, in that most excellent word Rush Limbaugh introduced me to a month or so back.

The important thing about a shibboleth is not whether it is true. That is not the point of the thing. It may be true; it, more likely, especially as years wear on, may be false.

The important thing, the only important thing, about a shibboleth is that it's not what the commoners are saying. The point of the shibboleth is not reaffirm external truth, but to reaffirm personal identity.

It is no wonder they all quickly fall in a line and begin spouting minor variations on the same stupid claim. The point was never, ever to consider the truth of the matter, and subject it to analysis; but precisely to simply repeat what other self-discovered members of the New Aristocrats are saying, because that's how they each know they belong.

You can stuff your "uncomfortable feelings" in a hat, New Aristocrats. People with some sort of true religious or ethical imperative against killing of any kind may fret a bit over this. But you lot?

The only "uncomfortable feelings" you really have is the fear that one day you might be mistaken for a commoner, by mistakenly saying the same thing the commoners say.

As Michael Palin says in the Argument Clinic sketch: An argument is a reasoned series of premises designed to prove a point. It's not just the automatic gainsaying of whatever someone else says; that's just contradiction.

But that's precisely what the New Aristocrats do. This isn't thinking. This isn't reason. This is simply the automatic, reflexive contradiction of anything a commoner might happen to say. Even if the "commoner" happens to be right.

Because the whole point is to have a different opinion, one the commoners do not share. And the commoners, being, generally, a reasonable and sound-thinking lot, unfortunately have the tendency to think the right things a distressingly large amount of the time.

Forcing the New Aristocrats to often, and more and more, take increasingly unreasonable positions simply to signal their uncommonness.

And hence: Increasing stupidity from the supposedly smart.

As the saying goes: Only an intellectual can believe things this stupid.

Bonus: The World's Least Convincing Populist, Paul Krugman: Paul Krugman's mania is particularly florid today. He reveals a sort of conspiracy of the elites against "us," by which means non-elite common folk, by which he means himself, the editors at the New York Times, and the New York Times' readers.

Thanks to DrewM. for that. Crazy people are funny.


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posted by Ace at 04:42 PM

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