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November 22, 2013

Enchanted Crocodiles, Mighty Sorcerers, and Lee Harvey Oswald

@maetenloch (I think) alerted me to this great George Will column on the Left's mythology of the Kennedy assassination. It was published, oddly, last month; but perhaps Will avoided publishing it to coincide with the anniversary of the assassination because the truth would be too painful for the Left -- and his left-leaning editors and syndicators.

“He didn’t even have the satisfaction of being killed for civil rights. It’s — it had to be some silly little Communist.”

— Jacqueline Kennedy, Nov. 22, 1963

She thought it robbed his death of any meaning. But a meaning would be quickly manufactured to serve a new politics. First, however, an inconvenient fact — Oswald — had to be expunged from the story. So, just 24 months after the assassination, Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., the Kennedys’ kept historian, published a 1,000-page history of the 1,000-day presidency without mentioning the assassin.

The transformation of a murder by a marginal man into a killing by a sick culture began instantly — before Kennedy was buried. The afternoon of the assassination, Chief Justice Earl Warren ascribed Kennedy’s “martyrdom” to “the hatred and bitterness that has been injected into the life of our nation by bigots.” The next day, James Reston, the New York Times luminary, wrote in a front-page story that JFK was a victim of a “streak of violence in the American character,” especially of “the violence of the extremists on the right.”

Never mind that adjacent to Reston’s article was a Times report on Oswald’s communist convictions and associations.

Three days after the assassination, a Times editorial, “Spiral of Hate,” identified JFK’s killer as a “spirit”: The Times deplored “the shame all America must bear for the spirit of madness and hate that struck down” Kennedy. The editorialists were, presumably, immune to this spirit. The new liberalism-as-paternalism would be about correcting other people’s defects.


The moral of liberalism’s explanation of Kennedy’s murder is that there is a human instinct to reject the fact that large events can have small, squalid causes; there is an intellectual itch to discern large hidden meanings in events. And political opportunism is perennial.

Do read the whole thing. He writes of liberalism's descent into "punitive liberalism," which is not so much a politics as a religious mode of thought, in as much as modern progressivism is much-bothered by mankind's sins and the various offerings we can make to the Sky Gods to expiate them.

Rush Limbaugh talked about this article last month. The book which both Will and Limbaugh are discussing is 2007's Camelot and the Cultural Revolution: How the Assassination of John F. Kennedy Shattered American Liberalism by James Piereson of the Manhattan Institute.

Now I'll talk about crocodiles and sorcerers. This will make sense, I promise.

I read a book a while ago by Carl Jung, called Modern Man In Search of a Soul. Jung had spent some time as an anthropologist in Africa. In the book, he attempted to explain the differences between the mental states of Modern Man and "Archaic Man," that is, Primitive Man. He noted that there was no real difference in actual intelligence. However, their thought processes were quite unalike.

When first we come into contact with primitive peoples or read about primitive mentality in scientific works, we cannot fail to be deeply impressed with the strangeness of archaic man. Lévy-Brühl himself, an authority in the field of the psychology of primitive societies, never wearies of insisting upon the striking difference between the "prelogical" state of mind and our conscious outlook.

It seems to him, as a civilized man, inexplicable that the primitive should disregard the obvious lessons of experience, should flatly deny the most evident causal connections, and instead of accounting for things as accidents or on reasonable grounds, should simply take their "collective representations" to be valid offhand. By "collective representations," Lévy-Brühl means widely current ideas regarding spirits, witchcraft, the power of [shaman/witch doctor] medicines, and so forth. While it is perfectly understandable to us that people die of advanced age or as a result of diseases recognized to be fatal, this is not the case with primitive man. When old persons die, he does not believe it to be the result of age. He argues that there are persons who have grown much older. Likewise, no one dies as the result of disease, for there have been other people who recovered from the same disease, or never contracted it. To him, the real explanation is always magic. Either a spirit has killed the man, or sorcery has done so.

Many primitive tribes recognize death in battle as the only natural death. Still other tribes regard even death in battle as unnatural, holding that the adversary who brought it about must have either been a sorcerer or have used a charmed weapon.

This grotesque idea can on occasions take an even more impressive form. For instance, two anklets were found in the stomach of a crocodile shot by a European. The natives recognized the anklets as the property of two women who, some time before, had been devoured by a crocodile. At once the charge of witchcraft was raised, for this qite natural occurrence, which would never have aroused the suspicions of a European, was given an unexpected interpretation in the light of one of those presuppositions which Lévy-Brühl calls "collective representations."

The natives said that an unknown sorcerer had bidden it to bring him the two women. The crocodile had carried out the command. But what about the anklet's in the beast's stomach? The natives maintained that the crocodiles never ate people unless bidden to do so. The crocodile had received the anklets as a reward.

The story is a perfect example of that capricious way of accounting for things which is a feature of the "pre-logical" state of mind. We call it pre-logical, because to us such an explanation seems absolutely illogical. But it only strikes us this way because we start from assumptions wholly different from those of primitive man. If we were as convinced as he is of the existence of sorcerers and mysterious powers, instead of believing in so-called natural causes, his inferences would seem to us perfectly reasonable. As a matter of fact, primitive man is no more logical or illogical than we are. His presuppositions are not the same as ours, and that is what distinguishes him from us. His thinking and his conduct are based on assumptions other than our own. To all that is in any way out of the ordinary and that therefore disturbs, frightens, or astonishes him he ascribes what we should call a supernatural origin. For him, of course, these things are not supernatural; on the contrary, they belong to the world of experience [that is, day-to-day natural reality]. We feel that we are stating a natural sequence of events when we say: this house was burned down because the lightning struck it. Primitive man sense an equally natural sequence when he says: a sorcerer has used the lightning to set fire to this particular house. There is nothing whatsoever within the experience of primitive man-- provided that it is at all unusual or impressive -- that will not be accounted for on similar grounds.

Earlier, Jung had noted that Primitive Man is not so different from Modern Man as Modern Man likes to think:

The civilized man of today shows these archaic processes as well, and not merely in the form of sporadic "throw-backs" fro the level of modern social life. On the contrary, every civilized human being, whatever his conscious development, is still an archaic man in the deeper levels of his psyche.

It's a principle of sympathetic magic that like begets like. A Voodoo fetish doll can exert power over its target, because it has bits of the target's hair and nails in it.

And this principle works backwards as well. Magical thinking reasons not just from cause to effect (my fetish doll will give me control over the target), but from effect back to cause: if an extraordinary event occurred, such as a crocodile eating a woman, it must be due to an extraordinary cause, such as conclave of sorcerers using their Words of Power to manipulate the crocodile into its lethal bite.

Modern Man and Primitive Man are hardly any different at all. Modern Man likes to think he's given up on magical thinking, of hokum and superstition and dream-logic somewhere between "mythology" and "sustaining lie," but in fact they think precisely the same way. They just call things by different terms.

It is too hard to accept that the Great Progressive Hope could have been killed down by such a pissant little loser of a malcontent crocodile, I mean communist; therefore, he wasn't.

No, no piddly little crocodile, I mean communist, decided to kill Kennedy on its own; rather, it was bidden to do so by a conclave of Rightwing Sorcerers, sorcerers who poisoned the very air with Magic Words, Magic Words of great power, like "socialist" and "Anyone But JFK."

These Magic Words commanded the crocodile, I mean communist, to kill the King.

And once this mythic structure is accepted, and internalized, why then it becomes a "collective representation," and pre-logical presupposition informing all our interpretation of subsequent events.

For example, it was just in 2011 when the rational, logical American media and the secularist, Believer-in-Science Democratic Party decided that a crazed crocodile had been enchanted by a Evil Enchantress, apparently, again, by conjuring up a powerful spirit of hate.

Now, you see, the Evil Enchantress inspired the crocodile, even though the crocodile in question seemed, like Oswald, to be a leftist (to the extent he had any coherent politics at all), and was not a follower of the Enchantress.

He had not even seen the Evil Enchantress' FaceBook Page, upon which she engraved her Magical Glyphs of Power:


And yet, we knew the Evil Enchantress was responsible nonetheless. A great evil must have been worked by a similarly great magic. Like begets like.

The left are secularists, but they are extremely poor secularists. As you may know, I'm a secularist myself. I'm a nonbeliever, and to the extent I'm willing to entertain any belief at all, it's only because I'm a skeptic. That is to say, I'm skeptical of my nonbelief.

It occurs to me-- as a skeptic and secularist -- that if you seek to put away Magical Thinking, you put it all away. If you disbelieve in God, then you really ought to disbelieve in Transcendence as well, and Rightwing Sorcerers, and Magic Words, and Sustaining Myth-Lies, and all the rest of it.

One amusement to me, as a lonely disbeliever on the right, is noticing this about the Left: The Left imagines that their disbelief in God frees them from superstition.

In fact it does no such thing. The Left's disbelief in God does not free them from superstition -- rather, it frees the superstition to infect all other modes of their thought.

Rather than thinking in terms of the divine and magic in the area of theology and metaphysics -- which is really where thoughts about the divine and magic should be contained -- the left, being Bad at Secularism, instead permits superstition, myth, and magic to flood into all other compartments of their ship of the mind.

Rather than keeping religious thought confined to religions matters, as the openly religious do, the left, which is intensely religious but believes it is not, instead employs religious thought in all modes of thinking, particularly in politics (where The Government easily steps into the place of God as the Large, Abstract Power That Lords Above Us), but also in what they call "science."

You know, the science which personifies the Earth as a deity who seeks vengeance upon polluters and people who drive cars.

These Bad Secularists do not call this religion. They will not acknowledge it as fundamentally magical thinking, "pre-logical" and falling into the same primitive thought patterns still kicking around in the human mind which require that every extraordinary event be conjured by Mighty Sorcerers, or sent by the gods as punishment for a Grievous Sin.

And yet those who preen as being the most Free From Superstition are in fact the most shackled by it, because their very vanity will not permit them to see the ridiculous magical mythology they surround themselves in. Thus, within one single day, the Bad Secularists at the New York Times will posit that magical rightwing sorcerers directed the communist crocodile Lee Harvey Oswald to snatch the Princeling Kennedy from the river's bank, and the Bad Secularists at the Washington Post likewise weave mythic strands around Lee Harvey Oswald, Marxist, Soviet Defector, and world's first known Tea Partier.

And thus all the world's Devils are grouped together, ranked in Might and put into their diabolical hierarchy, Satan on top, Baal and Moloch next, and so on, down to Sarah Palin and the Koch Brothers.

We live in an age of religious hysteria. And the religious hysteria is not coming from the usual quarters, the self-acknowledged religious. Instead it comes from the irreligious, whose liberation from god only loosens the leash of their illogic and preference for mythic structures over reality.

You don't need God to be religious hysteric.

All you need is a Dogma and a Devil.

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posted by Ace at 06:15 PM

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