January 5, 2014

The details of evil, soothed by a perception that all is chaos.

"Survival was a moral as well as a physical struggle. A woman doctor wrote to a friend in June 1933 that she had not yet become a cannibal, but was 'not sure that I shall not be one by the time my letter reaches you.' The good people died first. Those who refused to steal or to prostitute themselves died. Those who gave food to others died. Those who refused to eat corpses died. Those who refused to kill their fellow man died. Parents who resisted cannibalism died before their children did."

Ta-Nehisi Coates quotes the passage from "The Bloodlands" that made him shut off his MP3 even though, as he puts it, he "generally ha[s] a strong stomach when it come to reading about evil." Coates goes on to say:
Somewhere between 5.5 and 8 million people died during the famine. "The classic case of Soviet genocide," Rafal Lemkin would call it....

The Soviet Union pitched itself in opposition to the racism of Nazi Germany, and even America. There's a Stalin-era film, which I'm dying to see, in which the American heroine gives birth to a black child and finds peace in the Soviet Union. But it is hard not to look at Ukraine, or look at dekulakization, or look at the Polish operation, or the Latvian operation, and not see — if not racism — a lethal ethnic bias....

We are taught that World War II was a battle between good guys and bad guys. I came out of that notion some years ago. But there's a difference between feeling something to be generally true, and being confronted with it in all the detail. It really is chaos out there. It's always been chaos out there.
That's a fascinating mental journey Coates makes from evil to chaos. The evil is so horrible that he turns off the audiobook, then he cogitates his way to: It's all, always, chaos.

In that progression of thoughts, the idea of chaos is soothing, an escape from detail: Why, there's no pattern to be perceived here at all! He'd thought it was good guys and bad guys, but Stalin as one of the good guys is not a notion you can stay in, and he'd come out of that notion some years ago.

Having emerged, where could he go? The details pile up. One is confronted with so many details.  Where do you go? The notion Ta-Nehisi Coates comes into is chaos. It's really chaos, always chaos. To look at the details and interpret them as chaos is to free yourself from the perception of details and even of patterns.

All is always chaos may feel like a refuge at the end of a blog post, but, like good guys and bad guys, it's no place to stay.

163 comments:

El Pollo Raylan said...

"Maximum disorder was our equilibrium."
- T.E. Lawrence ("Seven Pillars of Wisdom", 1926)

Ron said...

You know in most centuries, Hitler would be a no-brainer for "most evil"...but in the 20th century, hell, he may be third! But, oh, using Haliburton....that's evil, right? Feh!

Lem said...

And Ta-Nehisi Coates saw the light, that it was chaotic: and
Ta-Nehisi Coates wrestled whether to divide light from the darkness.

Darrell said...

And every bite was like union dues--drawing you deeper and deeper into the Party. You must defend the Party at all costs, lest some rational government return and open real courts of law.

Gahrie said...

The idea that the USSR was evil, and the USA was good is apparently causing cognitive dissonance in the young man.

LarsPorsena said...

"..Ta-Nehisi Coates saw the light, that it was chaotic.."

That will help him to deal with modern Africa.

betamax3000 said...

“Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don't mean to do harm; but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.”
― T.S. Eliot

Michael said...

If it is other than Chaos, it has to be evil and that is a notion that does not square with progressives since it leads to too many uncomfortable conclusions.

Ta-Nehisi Coates is not the brightest bulb.

Bob Boyd said...

"The twentieth century was one in which limits on state power were removed in order to let the intellectuals run with the ball, and they screwed everything up and turned the century into an abattoir. . . . We Americans are the only ones who didn’t get creamed at some point during all of this. We are free and prosperous because we have inherited political and value systems fabricated by a particular set of eighteenth-century intellectuals who happened to get it right. But we have lost touch with those intellectuals." - Neal Stephenson

chuck said...

When the leftist myth dies, all that remains is chaos. I think that Ta-Nehisi Coates is sufficiently honest to eventually find his way out of that illusory dead end.

SomeoneHasToSayIt said...

The triumph of rationalization over cognitive dissonance.

The Left has raised it to an art form.

What's called for is a cold and clear-eyed facing of the truth.

It's really not that hard. You just have to be willing to admit that much of what you believe is in error.

And why should that be surprising?

betamax3000 said...

Twentieth Century: Did That, Can Still But the Shirt.

http://www.amazon.com/s/?tag=althouse-20&link_code=wsw&_encoding=UTF-8&search-alias=aps&field-keywords=USSR+shirt&Submit.x=0&Submit.y=0&Submit=Go

EDH said...

To have evil on a truly mass scale, there needs to be order, not chaos.

Rusty said...

And liberalism will provide that order. All for your own good.

YoungHegelian said...

But it is hard not to look at Ukraine, or look at dekulakization, or look at the Polish operation, or the Latvian operation, and not see — if not racism — a lethal ethnic bias....

What an amazingly stupid thing for a lefty to say! How about paying attention to what the people who committed these evils said were the reasons for doing them? Were the reasons given just a wee bit too close for comfort to some of the things he & his buddies give for some of their policies?

Considering that more Russians died than any other ethnic group in the years of the Soviet Union, and that it was the Russians who were running things, it's tough to make the "racist" charge stick.

betamax3000 said...

Want to Add That I Particularly Liked This Line from Althouse:

"To look at the details and interpret them as chaos is to free yourself from the perception of details and even of patterns."

Herringbone.

Lem said...

All is always chaos may feel like a refuge at the end of a blog post, but, like good guys and bad guys, it's no place to stay.

Keep looking for your G.U.T one bozo boson at a time.

John Lynch said...

Too bad these sorts of lefty columnists didn't deal with the reality of the USSR during the Cold War. Nor are they dealing with the reality of Jihad in Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, or Africa. The exact same thing is happening right now all over our planet, but in smaller doses. Lefties have an amazing ability to paper over reality with words and abstract ideas.

People don't change. Somewhere, this crap is going on, always.

wildswan said...

The birth rate of African-Americans is below replacement level by 2006 SO the President passes a law in 2009 which increases the rate of the birth collapse by making contraception free and more available to minorities.

The jobless rate of African-Americans is the highest group rate in the country SO the President works to legalize illegal Hispanics directly competing with African-Americans for jobs.

The family is collapsing in the African-American community SO the President chooses to insult all orthodox religious groups within which the family is holding together.

But it's impossible to see a "lethal ethnic bias" in all this because the President is African-American. And if a policy isn't racism from the right then it isn't bad, is it? And so liberals turn their backs and "pretend that they just don't see". For how long? "The answer,my friend, is blowing in the wind."

Bob Ellison said...

In marketing, you gotta hit people over the head with your message. If your message is truth, like the history of evil in the 20th century, you gotta keep telling them that Stalin and Mao killed many times more than Hitler ever did. Tens and tens of millions.

Hit 'em over the head. This was evil, the people who did it did it because they didn't have morals, they did it for power, and they'll come again and do it to you if you don't watch out. "All is always chaos" is a cop-out, a depravity.

John Lynch said...

I'm shaking my head at people only just now discovering the Ukraine famine.

Doesn't anyone read Conquest anymore?

Rusty said...

Hit 'em over the head. This was evil, the people who did it did it because they didn't have morals, they did it for power, and they'll come again and do it to you if you don't watch out. "All is always chaos" is a cop-out, a depravity.

it's almost as if you are describing modern liberalism.

ganderson said...

Correct me if I'm wrong here- but this guy, who is supposed to (I guess) be one of our leading public intellectuals- is just discovering the horror that was the Soviet Union?

Mark O said...

This should be posted everywhere:

"People don't change. Somewhere, this crap is going on, always."

Hagar said...

I think Mr. Obama very much wants to be an "African-American" and tries hard, but I don't think he has made the grade, or ever will.

annk said...

Right, ganderson. Just wait until he discovers Stalin, Lenin, Mao and Pol Pot!

El Pollo Raylan said...

Clausius inequality and class inequality both share an element of disorder.

betamax3000 said...

Thank Goodness We Have the United Nations to Hold Off the Chaos. Let the Representative from North Korea Speak.

YoungHegelian said...

I wonder is Mr. Coates sees the ongoing horror show in the Congo as also racist.

The Congo, with its 5.4 million dead really is the holocaust no one knows about.

Bob Boyd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
iowan2 said...

"Correct me if I'm wrong here- but this guy, who is supposed to (I guess) be one of our leading public intellectuals- is just discovering the horror that was the Soviet Union?"

You think that not teaching history in public schools is just a casualty of modern times? Not purposeful with a goal in mind?
Reynolds posted today that University of California is no longer requiring the reading of Shakespaere, Chaucer, and Milton.
........For English majors.

Forced ignorance.

Ironclad said...

Ta-Nehishi Coates would be flummoxed over any situation that he could not place into his racist vision of the evils of America or his persecution complex about Africa. That man is a one trick pony on the Atlantic staff whose writing is as predictable as the sunrise.

Chaos is real. There are bad people of all races and groups. Sometimes you have to choose which is the least worst option and follow that path - we did that in WW2 with Stalin to eliminate the Nazi menace. And sometimes you have to support bastards to keep the worse ones down (a la middle east). Coates doesn't seem to get that point.

Bob Boyd said...

Coates, having witnessed a violent crime, is sitting in the cop shop going through the mug books.
As he turns pages he keeps seeing pictures of people he knows, friends, co-workers, neighbors. So he gives up on identifying the perp, closes the book and says, "This is bringing me down. I feel like I just need to go home and be with my peeps right now."

n.n said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
n.n said...

A chaotic process does not lack order. Quite the contrary. Within limited frames it is described as a random process with a definite bound. The frame limitation is imposed by unknown, uncharacterized, or unwieldy sources and sinks, which are capable of forcing non-differentiable state shifts. Whether it is evolution of a human life from conception to death, climate change, etc., our skill to forecast, let alone predict, is limited by the chaotic nature of the system; but, there is order, there are patterns, albeit of varying complexity over indefinite periods.

Lydia said...

Of course Ta-Nehisi Coates wants to pin it all on "chaos." He's a big fan of Eric Hobsbawm, for heaven's sake. Hobsbawm was the English historian who infamously said that he'd support Communism no matter what, even if it meant the death of millions.

Here's Coates quoting Hobsbawm: "To this day, I notice myself treating the memory and tradition of the USSR with an indulgence and tenderness" -- and Coates comments: "See I read that, and I see a deeply appealing intellect. Who doesn't have these sorts of vulnerabilities?"

St. George said...

Lydia--

In the same passage you link to, Coates writes, with regard to considering European history that "you find the Nazis the logical apex of the White Man's Civilization."

Sick.

Terry said...

It wasn't 'chaos'. Stalin's reasons for inducing a famine were well reasoned, by the standards of the time.
-The attachment of the peasants to the land had to be broken. They were supposed to be agricultural workers, not farmers, so entire communities were moved thousands of miles, and it was not their food they were growing, it belonged to the state. If the peasants starved, it was because they were reactionary and had no right to live.
-The state had to allocate scarce resources. Wheat could be sold and the money used to buy industrial equipment, so the wheat was sold to other countries while Soviet citizens starved. It was a rational decision.

rhhardin said...

Through the ages [man] had believed (eyelids fluttering under the mignonettes of modesty) that he was compounded only of good and a minimal amount of evil. Sharply I showed him, by laying bare in broad daylight his heart and life's weave, that on the contrary, he is compounded only of evil and a minimal amount of good which the legislators have difficulty managing to preserve.

Lautreamont

El Pollo Raylan said...

'you find the Nazis the logical apex of the White Man's Civilization.'

That's just racism no matter how he sugar coates it.

Can we move on from quoting racists to discussing the role of chaos in societal breakdown?

Bob Ellison said...

Terry, good points. But what makes it a rational decision? What God did Stalin serve?

Most people find it difficult to believe the truth: Stalin, and Mao, and Hitler, and all like them serve only themselves. For them, a "rational decision" means only one that they like or that serves to enrich them.

Michael K said...

Everybody knows the communists meant well. What's the problem ?

William said...

I just read Bloodlands recently. I found it tough sledding. So many waves of misery, famine, and murder. I was familiar with all of Hitler's crimes, but the book details some crimes of Stalin that I had never heard of. To give just one example: Stalin thought that the Polish government was plotting with Polish émigrés in the USSR. He arrested all adult male Poles who were listed in the Leningrad phone book. He had them executed forthwith. Their families were told that they had been imprisoned without the privilege of contact with the outside world.....Does being murdered because you have a Polish name qualify as racism? The crimes associated Communism have been consistently ignored or underplayed by artists and intellectuals in the west.

Bob Boyd said...

@ El Pollo

like the old joke: Entropy ain't what it used to be.

Quasimodo said...

confusing chaos and evil reveals chaotic thinking

Quasimodo said...

confusing chaos and evil reveals chaotic thinking

Terry said...

Bob Ellison-
"Terry, good points. But what makes it a rational decision? What God did Stalin serve?"

I think you've got it wrong, or your answer is so universal it doesn't clarify the motivations of the 20th centuries socialist monsters.
Stalin and his ilk saw human history as being more important than human individuals. Individuals could and should be sacrificed to make historical destiny manifest, and it was the duty of the state to do so, in fact it was the state's only legitimate purpose. Before the USSR (so its leaders believed), states had only existed to enforce the rules that enriched the capitalists.

Temujin said...

I've long felt (and said) that you can't have possibly have lived in the 20th Century or read anything about 20th Century history, and be a 'progressive' today. After witnessing the carnage of the 20th Century, and the various forms of collectivism take shape as socialism, communism, or national statism, what possible moral or real argument is there for anything that is presented as 'progressive' (and that's a choice reissuing of a word if ever there was one).

At least Mr. Coates is trying to learn what happened. Most on the left seem to think that if they ignore history and economic realities, everything will be fine. Let me see….if I just put my hands over my ears, wear my eye blinders, and keep shouting louder than the person trying to talk to me...

Cliff said...

I can see that not too many have read the linked to article by Coates, which is of course a review and thoughts on a book, much less that anyone is even remotely aware of the book in question. While I agree with Althouse's comments on his review, I believe it to be unfair to claim what most of your readers/commenters are claiming - that being that he somehow had no idea of the the horrors and would be an apologist for them.

Althouse has a very good blog that is usually thoughtful and fair, though still a slight tendancy to see a a complex world in terms of black and white, good and evil. Althouse does not seem to have that same quality of commenters unfortunately, who by and large appear to be simple thinkers with no ability or desire to consider the complexity of mans humanity.

Bob Ellison said...

Terry, I don't disagree with your main points. But the question remains:

What sort of God do leftists serve?

If they serve a god that appreciates altruism, then communism and socialism, by all means. If they serve a vengeful god that doesn't give a shit about suffering and all that, then Satanism, by all means.

But what if they serve no god?

Lenin and Stalin and Mao said their is no god. That deprived them of having any morals whatsoever. They could do what they liked, and they did, indeed, do what they liked, to the extent that they died rich.

I keep wondering, if you have no god and no morals and no way to justify your philosophy, then what the hell are you doing trying to tell me what to do?

rcocean said...

Tennessee Coats is an idiot, who's just filling their liberal black quota.

He occasionally - in his writing about foreign lands or history - says something outside the usual "race/gender/class" dynamic.

But not often.

Michael K said...

"Althouse does not seem to have that same quality of commenters unfortunately, who by and large appear to be simple thinkers with no ability or desire to consider the complexity of mans humanity."

Says the man of the left, thereby proving what the commenters have been saying.

rcocean said...

BTW, I'm reading "The Secret Diary of Sec of the Interior Harold Ickes". 1939-1941. Ickes was "Mr Liberal" in FDR administration.

His willingness to condemn millions of Western Europeans in Nazi occupied Europe to starvation is truly breathtaking.

"Can't help Mr. Hitler, millions will have to die, ho hum, so sad. Please pass the butter, my toast is getting cold, Mr.President."

sean said...

What's with the sudden anti-Communist binge? It sits very uneasily with Prof. Althouse's earlier defenses of Marxism and criticism of anti-Communists as boring old men.

Tom said...

You have to understand this to understand Ayn Rand.

mtrobertsattorney said...

Terry is exactly right. The rational principle Stalin followed was "the end justifies the means."

Coates' problem is that he cannot bring himself to admit that leftist political thought that denies any kind of transcendent source for morality will always fall back on "the end justifies the means" principle to accomplish its goals.

So the only thing Coates is left with is his comforting belief that all is chaos. He has become a nihilist.

Lydia said...

Coates hasn't yet come to a coherent understanding of just what he does believe, and he has a rather rambling, undisciplined approach to getting there. Here he is writing on December 31, The Myth of Western Civilization:

"I don't have any gospel of my own. Postwar [a book by Tony Judt], and the early pages of Bloodlands, have revealed a truth to me: I am an atheist. (I have recently realized this.) I don't believe the arc of the universe bends towards justice. I don't even believe in an arc. I believe in chaos. I believe powerful people who think they can make Utopia out of chaos should be watched closely. I don't know that it all ends badly. But I think it probably does.

I'm also not a cynic. I think that those of us who reject divinity, who understand that there is no order, there is no arc, that we are night travelers on a great tundra, that stars can't guide us, will understand that the only work that will matter, will be the work done by us. Or perhaps not. Maybe the very myths I decry are necessary for that work. I don't know. But history is a brawny refutation for that religion brings morality. And I now feel myself more historian than journalist."

YoungHegelian said...

@Lydia,

I think that those of us who reject divinity, who understand that there is no order, there is no arc, that we are night travelers on a great tundra, that stars can't guide us, will understand that the only work that will matter, will be the work done by us.

It looks like we'll get to watch as Mr. Coates moves from being a post-Marxist to a Nietzschean.

Sadly, the historical example that comes to mind of post-Marxists with a heavy mix of racial consciousness who went Nietzschean isn't comforting. They're usually called Nazis.

jr565 said...

AT least the Nazis policies didn't make people resort to cannibalism.
and so many progressives were apologists for communism.
And still are.

YoungHegelian said...

By the way, I want to go on record with a prediction: in 15 years or less, Mr Coates will be writing as a black conservative. Hey, would it be any stranger for him than for Eldridge Cleaver?

There are men who have the stomach to live with Nietzsche's "When you stare into the Void, the Void stares back at you", but I don't think Coates is one of them.

somefeller said...

Sadly, the historical example that comes to mind of post-Marxists with a heavy mix of racial consciousness who went Nietzschean isn't comforting. They're usually called Nazis...There are men who have the stomach to live with Nietzsche's "When you stare into the Void, the Void stares back at you", but I don't think Coates is one of them.

Ah, I remember being a sophomore in college. The coffee, the little philosophic pronouncements, good times, good times.

YoungHegelian said...

@somefeller,

Do you really expect someone to explain to you how synthetic a priori judgements are possible in a blog comment?

Cut the snark & try to add something positive, at whatever level is possible for you.

somefeller said...

Do you really expect someone to explain to you how synthetic a priori judgements are possible in a blog comment?

Maybe you can give it a shot. Or perhaps you can send a note to Coates about Facing the Void, with or without a good cup of java. That would be positive!

Seeing Red said...

It isn't so much that liberals are ignorant. It's just that they know so many things that aren't so.”

― Ronald Reagan

Seeing Red said...

Progressive = death cult.

Michael said...

Coates was born after the civil rights victories and so must concoct a racist world out of thin air. He doesnt remember a time when only a fraction of black children were born out of wedlock, only the present when the number is around 70% and climbing. A result of policies he no doubt supports and would strengthen. He doesnt remember a time of strong black families with a fierce love of education, only the present where such a love is considered "white."

Bob Ellison said...

Try writing something positive. Take the discussion forward.

Michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
pst314 said...

Like all Afrocentrists, Coates has a third-rate mind and sees everything through his cartoonish race-obsessed goggles. From the Atlantic Magazine: "Children are roaming the halls singing 'Sexy Bitch,' while their neo-Confederate parents are plotting to chop the penis off Michelangelo’s David, and clamoring for Gatsby and Daisy to be reunited." If this is the voice of a public intellectual then Gomer Pyle should be a tenured professor of philosophy at MIT.

Michael said...

Only for the most simplistic values of "good" and "bad" can you find moral confusion in WWII.

Two sides imprisoned people for racial reasons in WWII. One eventually let them go. The other made soap.

YoungHegelian said...

@pst314,

If this is the voice of a public intellectual then Gomer Pyle should be a tenured professor of philosophy at MIT.

Well, brother Goober was well known for his course on Philosophy of Mind at Vanderbilt. Does that count?**

**I'm making this up. But, growing up in Alabama, I was always told in all seriousness that Minnie Pearl had a PhD in English Literature from Vanderbilt, which also doesn't appear to be true either.

David said...

Coates does not have a third rate mind. He struggles to escape from the intellectual messages that surround him, but that is not easy. He's not W.E.B. Dubois but very few are. The fascinating thing about Coates is how hard he struggles to see things from other than a conventional "progressive" point of view. It turns out it's not easy, especially when you are surrounded with people who will jump all over you if you do not toe the line.

Makes me admire Clarence Thomas all the more.

John said...

Ron said:

You know in most centuries, Hitler would be a no-brainer for "most evil"...but in the 20th century, hell, he may be third!

"May be third"?

He is at least third with 12 million murdered in the German National Socialist death camps.

Not even close to second which is Stalin with 20-40mm or Mao with as many as 60mm.

When it comes to numbers, Hitler's National Socialists were a bunch of pikers.

That they were distant third in no way diminishes the horror of the murder camps.

John Henry

John said...

John Lynch said:

I'm shaking my head at people only just now discovering the Ukraine famine.

Doesn't anyone read Conquest anymore?


I find myself in arguments with National Socialism deniers. Most everyone knows about the 6mm Jews murdered in the death camps.

When I mention the other 6mm non-Jews who were murdered in the death camps, most people just go "Huh?" Or "you don't know what you are talking about."

When there is a Jew present, they usually chastise me for bringing it up on the grounds that recognizing the murder of non-Jews somehow demeans the murder of the murdered Jews.

John Henry

John said...

I read a lot of history and am reasonably familiar with the period discussed in Bloodlands. Based on a couple of reviews I downloaded the sample to my Kindle.

I agree with Coates. It is just too horrible.

It would be horrible if it were fiction. It is even more horrible because it is not.

John Henry

John said...

Re the almost 6mm murdered so far in the Congo.

Where are the people who like to say "Never again"?

John Henry

YoungHegelian said...

@JH,

When there is a Jew present, they usually chastise me for bringing it up on the grounds that recognizing the murder of non-Jews somehow demeans the murder of the murdered Jews.

Sadly, I, too, have experienced this. Here's a good example of what you're talking about:

You don’t put on the same level political prisoners, asocial elements and Jews. You could change your political views, but Jews could not change their Jewishness.

Link here.

As if the Roma, gays, & Slavs targeted for extermination could change their ethnic/sexual identities either!

I remember reading about a rabbi in DC leading a demonstration at the Holocaust Museum to bring attention to the Rwandan genocide, and he said something to the effect that "Never again" should mean something to the Jews of all people. Sadly, this man's moral light seems to be all too rare.

Sam L. said...

Coates no doubt has always thought Communists were good people, as he's likely been taught.

ganderson said...

Iowan- this is one History teacher that makes sure his pupils understand what the Soviet Union was. One of my liberal colleagues and I read the riot act to any kid we see wearing a Che shirt- sadly we can't make him (it's always a him) take it off, but we try to educate.

ganderson said...

There was a TV series called 'Red Empire"- early 90's I think, which covered the Ukrainian famine in all its horror- I believe it was narrated by Conquest.

Cliff said...

"Like good guys and bad guys it's no place to stay".

The main point that I took from the blog post. One I agree with. And one that also must make me a "leftist " per commenters to this blog. It's a fascinating dynamic this blogger and her commenters. One I believe Ms. Althouse must be fully aware of through the offerings that often serve as no more than red meat for the self-proclaimed "good guys" to devour as they lob personal insults at the "bad guys" even while ignoring a principal and insightful point of the blog post by Althouse.

Which is another way to say that the Althouse blog is enjoyable specifically because it provides a conservative perspective that rarely relies on the good/bad righteous/evil dynamic. And then as I read these comments I am reminded that the curiosity of contrary views and courtesy afforded to opposing views that permeate her blogging is almost non-existent among the modern right.

cubanbob said...

John said…

You don't credit Adolph enough, after all he only really had six years to work unlike Joe and Mao.

cubanbob said...

"Which is another way to say that the Althouse blog is enjoyable specifically because it provides a conservative perspective that rarely relies on the good/bad righteous/evil dynamic. And then as I read these comments I am reminded that the curiosity of contrary views and courtesy afforded to opposing views that permeate her blogging is almost non-existent among the modern right." Or left.

cubanbob said...

"As if the Roma, gays, & Slavs targeted for extermination could change their ethnic/sexual identities either!"

The Roma I believe were also targeted for complete extermination but the Slavs were to be reduced in number and the balance to left as slaves. The Jews were to be killed everywhere they could be found. A real difference albeit not much of a distinction to the victims.

rcommal said...

The concept of chaos makes it easier to blame the other guy. The concept of pattern makes it harder not to face the blame that belongs to you. Or at least it should, if the deep-down gets acknowledged.

Gahrie said...

One of my liberal colleagues and I read the riot act to any kid we see wearing a Che shirt- sadly we can't make him (it's always a him) take it off, but we try to educate.

On the High School campus I teach on, one of my liberal colleagues has a poster of Che on his wall, and thinks it's funny that I object to its being there.

Gahrie said...

But, growing up in Alabama, I was always told in all seriousness that Minnie Pearl had a PhD in English Literature from Vanderbilt, which also doesn't appear to be true either.

Nowdays...everybody says even Forrest Gump made it into 'Bama.

St. George said...

Cousin Minnie may not have had a PhD, but she was from a well-to-do Tennessee family and went to a top university where she majored in theater. She was the first female comedienne and did lots of charity work. A good lady.

tim in vermont said...

"And then as I read these comments I am reminded that the curiosity of contrary views and courtesy afforded to opposing views that permeate her blogging is almost non-existent among the modern right."

Ha ha ha ha! Which side is famous for deleting opposing comments? I was banned from the Atlantic by Coates because I said in the comments that his post indirectly tarring Haley Barbour as a "racist" was just a dog whistle to the left to outright accuse him of it. That got me banned.

Your comment is a joke. But you notice that it didn't get deleted? All kinds of comments are allowed here, that is why people come here to the comments. What bothers you is that we simply don't agree with you, and will not concede that genocide by famine is an acceptable political tactic, no matter how "noble" the goal.

Michael said...

Cliff. Good view from your high horse. Thanks for your insights on the commenters, though I could not find your views on the article at hand. I note that most progressives prefer to comment on the commenters and do not like to engage in any debate. Is your horse named Smug or Sanctimony? Tall one.

Cliff said...

Hi Michael. My views are that I agree with Althouses view of Coates writing on this subject. But I am dismayed that most comments assign points to Coates that he does not even hint at, ignore the principal point I believe Althouse was making, and then go further to insult him personally and make wide reaching statements about "the left". I enjoy Coates as I enjoy Althouse and others. Althouse has an intellectual curiosity about people whose views differ from hers, and Coates thoughts on soviet society and Stalin's goals are also directed towards a greater understanding of people with whom he disagrees.

I take serious issue with comments that place all left leaning individuals as sharing the same philosophy, much less supporting communism ( which simply is not true) in much the same way I take issue with comments on other blogs placing all right leaning individuals as sharing the same view (such as supporting Putin's anti-gay agenda).

Grouping everyone who may have a different perspective than you into one group of like minded individuals (and then assigning them them all the very worst characteristics and caricatures) is both widly inaccurate and intellectually hollow. This is what I take issue with in these comments and its something that pervades much of what passes as conservative intellect at the moment. I say this as someone who has more in common, politically, with Althouse than with Coates. I am just frequently frustrated with the conservative tendency to divide the world into good and evil with no room for nuance. The left may have some of that but it is rarely anywhere near as bad since the intellectual left assigns so much nuance to the world that right and wrong often loses all meaning. That's the point I got from Althouses comments that I see almost all commenters missing.

somefeller said...

Tim in Vermont shrieks:What bothers you is that we simply don't agree with you, and will not concede that genocide by famine is an acceptable political tactic, no matter how "noble" the goal.

Ah yes, because genocide by famine is a political tactic supported by liberals in general and Ta-Nehisi Coates in particular. What a brilliant insight. This must be one of the subtle synthetic a priori judgments referenced above.

Michael said...

Cliff. I hope you will excuse those of us who have observed over the last fifty years a consistent covering of the eyes by those on the left to the stunning evil of communism. And by that i mean that it is the rare liberal ( very rare since i cannot recall a single one) who unequivocably renounces the millions who were killed by Stalin and Lenin. Because to renounce you have to first acknowledge. It never happens. Liberals like Coates are stunned when they come across something that has been common knowledge on the right for decades. So forgive us if we think Coates either poorly educated or a fool or both. He has eyes but does not wish to see. As do most on the left when it comes to the horrors of communism: Russia, Cambodia, Ukraine, N. Korea, Cuba. The new Mayor of New York an unapologetic supporter of the regime in Nicaragua.

Michael said...

Cliff. i would be interested to herar your thoughts on why liberals should not be grouped as apologists for communism. Easily solved by a half a dozen links to books by liberals on the horrors of any of the regimes noted in my previous post.

YoungHegelian said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
YoungHegelian said...

and Coates thoughts on soviet society and Stalin's goals are also directed towards a greater understanding of people with whom he disagrees.

Oh, please give the sanctimony a rest, will you? The same Coates who in an article referenced above talks about Nazi Germany as the "logical apex of White Man's civilization"? He's just trying "for a greater understanding of those with whom he disagrees". Yeah, fucking right!

Oh, and somefeller, so you're saying that there isn't a history of denial by the Left about just how horrible the Marxist regimes were in the 20th century? Did you just miss the Hobsbawn quotation in the tread?

I'd really take these accusations about how slanted the comments here are more seriously if the commenters who make such accusations actually seemed to have read the thread in its entirety.

Ameryx said...

Like so many others, Coates is captive to the lie forced on Americans when FDR gave diplomatic recognition to the USSR. See Diana West's American Betrayal for details on how this has corrupted public discourse for the past four score years.

Ameryx said...

Like so many others, Coates is captive to the lie forced on Americans when FDR gave diplomatic recognition to the USSR. See Diana West's American Betrayal for details on how this has corrupted public discourse for the past four score years.

Ameryx said...

Like so many others, Coates is captive to the lie forced on Americans when FDR gave diplomatic recognition to the USSR. See Diana West's American Betrayal for details on how this has corrupted public discourse for the past four score years.

Ameryx said...

Like so many others, Coates is captive to the lie forced on Americans when FDR gave diplomatic recognition to the USSR. See Diana West's American Betrayal for details on how this has corrupted public discourse for the past four score years.

somefeller said...

I'd really take these accusations about how slanted the comments here are more seriously if the commenters who make such accusations actually seemed to have read the thread in its entirety.

I'd take these accusations more seriously if they had something to do with American liberalism rather than quotations from British leftist academics whose influence on American liberalism is nil. And I seem to recall certain American liberals with names like Truman, Kennedy and Johnson spending a lot of time and treasure fighting communism when it actually was a threat. And those guys also supported various forms of social-democratic policies at home like the New Deal and its progeny. Funny how that works!

Seeing Red said...

... wide reaching statements about "the left".


Or 20th century history.

Seeing Red said...

And we're broke!

YoungHegelian said...

@somefeller,

And I seem to recall certain American liberals with names like Truman, Kennedy and Johnson spending a lot of time and treasure fighting communism when it actually was a threat.

An interesting point, somefeller, and one that gets to the root of the disagreement.

Just as the modern Democrat thinks that the Dixiecrat racists have all gone to the Republicans, the modern Republican thinks that the muscular anti-communism of the Democrats of yore would find no purchase in the modern Democratic Party. Remember, most of us here are old enough to remember the Johnson administration, and to know that if you told a 60's lefty that he & Johnson were both on the left, he would break your head. You must admit, the modern democratic party is swift to claim FDR, but not so swift to claim Truman or (absolutely not) LBJ.

And, c'mon, somefeller, liberals were never Soviet apologists? How about Walter Duranty?

somefeller said...

Michael demands:Cliff. i would be interested to herar your thoughts on why liberals should not be grouped as apologists for communism. Easily solved by a half a dozen links to books by liberals on the horrors of any of the regimes noted in my previous post.

I realize this isn't an intellectually honest question, but for starters, here's a squib from the website of Timothy Snyder, the Yale prof who wrote "Bloodlands":

Snyder is a regular contributor to the New York Review of Books and the New York Review of Books Blog and his book reviews are frequently featured in the Times Literary Supplement. They are also included in such academic serials as the Slavic Review, Historically Speaking, American Historical Review, Journal of Modern History, Journal of Cold War Studies, and the International History Review. He has also written articles for Prospect, Transit, Die Presse, Christian Science Monitor, The Guardian, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, The New York Times, and The New Republic.

That doesn't sound like a list of right-wing journals. OMG, the writer of "Bloodlands" may be a librul!

somefeller said...

Just as the modern Democrat thinks that the Dixiecrat racists have all gone to the Republicans, the modern Republican thinks that the muscular anti-communism of the Democrats of yore would find no purchase in the modern Democratic Party.

That's no surprise. Ignorance of history, denial of ideological reality and the desperate need to claim dead liberals for the GOP are all characteristics of modern conservatism.

And, c'mon, somefeller, liberals were never Soviet apologists? How about Walter Duranty?

If the best example you can come up with is a journalist from the 1930s who is largely forgotten except by conservatives holding crumpled-up papers, that's pretty weak.

Marshal said...

Cliff said...
Grouping everyone who may have a different perspective than you into one group of like minded individuals...is both widly inaccurate and intellectually hollow.

...I am just frequently frustrated with the conservative tendency to divide the world into good and evil with no room for nuance.


As usual those giving the lectures are the most guilty.

Terry said...

"If the best example you can come up with is a journalist from the 1930s who is largely forgotten except by conservatives holding crumpled-up papers, that's pretty weak."
Duranty's coverage of the Soviet Union was very important for normalizing a criminal, genocidal regime for a generation of liberals. No wonder they prefer to forget him.

YoungHegelian said...

@somefeller,

That's no surprise. Ignorance of history, denial of ideological reality and the desperate need to claim dead liberals for the GOP are all characteristics of modern conservatism.

For someone who then follows that histrionic statement with no examples with an attack on a perfectly valid example (yeah, because it was just Duranty involved & the NYT has apologized & given back the Pulitzer ---NOT!), while giving none to back up his claims takes quite some gall, somefeller.

You had a point, but then you went off into the weeds. I don't see any reason to follow.

Terry said...

One of the most interesting things about the early modernism of the Soviet Union and the Nazis was the depth of their vision: both intended to shepherd in a new age, unlike any before. No one talks like that anymore. No one with a plan, anyhow.

Cliff said...

Honestly I have no idea why anyone would think that the left even generally supported Stalin. People like to say history books of the last quarter century have been written by liberal academics, yet nearly all have described the failures and horrors of the Stalinist regime. Coates himself, in the article in question, describes the millions of deaths a result of Stalin's communist philosophy. Because he seeks to understand what, other than evil, led him to that philosophy does not make him an apologist. At least not in my opinion.

Consider the most recent argument from the left along these lines. That the right supports racism because they aligned themselves with the South African apartheid regime. Or the continual refusal of many republicans to speak negatively of Saudi Arabia or Qatar means that the right supports islamic facism. Should we view the right as a homogenous group and then make those leaps and assign entire characteristics to all members of the right? Some on the left do. Is that different in some way from what is happening here?

somefeller said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
somefeller said...

Your comments were examples of the phenomena I mentioned, YH. I didn't see a need to restate them. But if you want a follow-up, witness the examples of conservatives wanting to claim JFK for modern conservatism, because he supported a tax cut or two.

Freeman Hunt said...

In the not too distant past I had a conversation with several people my age, all college graduates and some with advanced degrees, and none of them had heard of the mass killings in the USSR and China. They thought I was making them up. Yikes. What is taught?

YoungHegelian said...

@somefeller,

witness the examples of conservatives always wanting to claim JFK for modern conservatism, because he supported a tax cut or two.

No, they try to claim JFK for conservatism because he ran to the right of the Eisenhower administration on his opposition to communism. Remember, there was so little disagreement on foreign policy between Kennedy & Nixon that they argued over fucking Quemoy & Matsu! So, would you now like to claim Nixon for liberalism because he founded the EPA & supported a guaranteed national income? Because, you know, modern liberals often claim that compared to modern conservatives, Nixon was actually liberal!

SOJO said...

Am I the only one who finds the fact that all the "good" people all die in such situations more depressing than any Ta-Nehisi Coates vagaries?

somefeller said...

So, would you now like to claim Nixon for liberalism because he founded the EPA & supported a guaranteed national income?

Sure, why not? I'm in a forgiving mood. But Nixon's obsessive cultural resentments and sense of self-pity would keep him in good company among contemporary conservatives, who have raised ressentiment to an art form. Life is full of nuances that way.

El Pollo Raylan said...

Althouse wrote: He'd thought it was good guys and bad guys, but Stalin as one of the good guys is not a notion you can stay in, and he'd come out of that notion some years ago.

How exactly, did Coates ever think that Stalin was one of the good guys in the first place? He must have scoffed at Churchill as a kid. He may have been taught that Stalin was a "good guy" but I am not subsumed into his "we were taught" and I grew up in the shadow of lefty Madison. Could it have been more of a family influence?

YoungHegelian said...

@SOJO,

Am I the only one who finds the fact that all the "good" people all die in such situations more depressing than any Ta-Nehisi Coates vagaries?

If it's any comfort, I know a few Holocaust survivors via their children & the DC museum. They are all good people, but when the time came they did what had to be done, and sometimes those choices were hard & cruel. To do hard & cruel things in extremis doesn't mean you have to stay that way in normal times.

Terry said...

"But Nixon's obsessive cultural resentments and sense of self-pity would keep him in good company among contemporary conservatives, who have raised ressentiment to an art form."

You could be describing Obama, Somefeller. If only it weren't for the bitter clingers! If only congress would cooperate with him!

El Pollo Raylan said...

Pete Seeger puts a face on what Cliff notes is just a strawman, the Stalin apologist:

How could Hitler have been stopped? Litvinov, the Soviet delegate to the League of Nations in '36, proposed a worldwide quarantine but got no takers. For more on those times check out pacifist Dave Dellinger's book, From Yale to Jail ...At any rate, today I'll apologize for a number of things, such as thinking that Stalin was merely a "hard driver" and not a "supremely cruel misleader." I guess anyone who calls himself a Christian should be prepared to apologize for the Inquisition, the burning of heretics by Protestants, the slaughter of Jews and Muslims by Crusaders. White people in the U.S.A. ought to apologize for stealing land from Native Americans and enslaving blacks. Europeans could apologize for worldwide conquests, Mongolians for Genghis Khan. And supporters of Roosevelt could apologize for his support of Somoza, of Southern White Democrats, of Franco Spain, for putting Japanese Americans in concentration camps. Who should my granddaughter Moraya apologize to? She's part African, part European, part Chinese, part Japanese, part Native American. Let's look ahead Wiki Link

El Pollo Raylan said...

Did Pete Seeger influence "The Left."?

exiledonmainst said...

"Am I the only one who finds the fact that all the "good" people all die in such situations more depressing than any Ta-Nehisi Coates vagaries? "

No, I do too, it is depressing. And it is a feature, not a bug of totalitarian societies. "Sophie's Choice" - forcing a mother to choose which child would live - happened frequently in the death camps.

It was sheer sadism, but sadism with a purpose: ensuing that there would be no innocents left. Ensuring that even the victims, people who would be harmless under normal circumstances, would become complicit in crimes.

It's taking leftist "equality" to the nth and logical degree: you think you're better, more moral than I am? You think you are not an animal? I will force you to behave like one and if you do not, you will die. There. We're equal now.

El Pollo Raylan said...

rcommal said...
The concept of chaos makes it easier to blame the other guy. The concept of pattern makes it harder not to face the blame that belongs to you. Or at least it should, if the deep-down gets acknowledged.

First, thanks for the focus.

The existence of chaos makes it easier for anything to unravel. The concept of pattern makes it hard to avoid giving something up or to face the cost putting something together.

Lydia said...

Why is it okay for someone like Coates to say that Hobsbawm's expressing affection for the Soviet system shows a "deeply appealing intellect"? Knowing the horrors of what went on under that system shouldn't such a sentiment be beyond the pale, just like expressing an affection for Nazism?

And why is it okay for Coates to ask for a discussion about the particulars of the Soviet scheme, as he did on January 1st, as if somehow examining its intentions is actually important for some reason?

Take it away, Coates -- Talk to Me Like I'm Stupid: Collectivization in the Soviet Union

"I want to ask a question of those who've followed these threads on Postwar and now Bloodlands. I'd like to talk those of you who've spent some time thinking about, reading about, or researching the history of the Soviet Union. I am trying to understood what Lenin, and then, Stalin was trying to accomplish. I have it this way so far:

1.) Marx's theory of communism held that there would be a worker's revolution.

A.) The revolution would begin in the industrialized states.

B.) The revolution would lead to communism where the workers, themselves, ran shit.

2.) Lenin and his Bolshevik comrades were communists.

A.) They did not believe in waiting for revolution, they sought foment one.

B.) They did not live in an industrialized state.

3.) 1A and 2B are in conflict. The Bolsheviks seek to resolve this conflict by industrializing.

A.) The funds for industrializing come from the crops grown by the peasantry to buy heavy machinery.

B.) The peasants lands are seized by the state and organized into collectives.

Is this basically a correct formulation of the plan?

What follows, of course, is something out of mix of World War Z and 12 Years A Slave. Famine. Roving bands of cannibals. State-sponsored slavery. More on that later, but I'd like to understand the basics of the plan before we start critiquing it and outlining its grim (horrifying, actually) results."

YoungHegelian said...

@lydia,

Dagnabbit, Lydia, now you've put me in the uncomfortable position of having to sorta support Coates.

And why is it okay for Coates to ask for a discussion about the particulars of the Soviet scheme, as he did on January 1st, as if somehow examining its intentions is actually important for some reason?

Because, if he sees himself now as "more historian than journalist" it becomes important to understand the historical phenomena, and that involves getting into the minds of the historical actors. Sometimes, that means giving more space inside your brain for those ideas to develop, wrong as they might have been, than might at first be seemly.

Even Great Evils have histories. For years, we needed to know the history of the USSR as part of the military maxim to "know thine enemy". Now, we need to know them to help avoid them in the future.

I'm not claiming that Coates is or ever will do good history here. Or, that sometimes detailed knowledge doesn't go along with ideological support, grudging or not. I'm just saying that, from an historical studies point of view, we cannot begrudge him his methodology.

Lydia said...

Yeah, YH, I thought of all that. But it still bothers me coming from a guy who finds Hobsbawm's intellect "deeply appealing."

YoungHegelian said...

I also think that a discussion by someone like Coates in the Atlantic will, intentionally or not, end up awakening more minds that need to be awakened to the horrors of 20th C. Marxist-Leninist regimes than years of pontificating by the National Review.

Preaching to the sinners & not the choir, so as to speak.

YoungHegelian said...

But it still bothers me coming from a guy who finds Hobsbawm's intellect "deeply appealing."

Then pray mightily, O sister Lydia, that one day Coates moves from Hobsbawn to Conquest.

Lydia said...

I also don't think we need to "understand the basics of the plan before we start critiquing it", as he says. We're on pretty firm ground declaring all of it a disaster based simply on the actual results.

Lydia said...

I hope you're right about his musings in the Atlantic maybe awakening more minds. But I have my doubts. I thought the same might happen when Martin Amis's Koba the Dread: Laughter and the Twenty Million was published in 2003. But it didn't.

William said...

I read the comments at the Coates piece. They were for the most part intelligent, informed, and anti-Communist. Likewise Coates' comments on those comments were courteous and reasonable.......Here's my caveat. Liberals, at this late date, are willing to concede that Stalin was a monster and even that Communism itself is a flawed system,but when you carry it out a little further and ask them to criticize a man like Hobshawn, they start parsing their words and retreating into nuances. You can get Coates to criticize Stalin, but I don't think there's a chance in te world he would ever criticize Angela Davis for her avowed communism.

William said...

It wasn't just Duranty. During the Korean War, Lippmann wrote many columns detailing how corrupt our South Korean allies were and recommending our withdrawal from that conflict. Likewise Theodore White reporting from China for Time revealed how corrupt Chiang was and how pure the Reds were. Chiang was definitely corrupt, but it is instructive to note that the island his forces fled to is now a democracy with a western standard of living. Maybe he would have been the better bet for China......Matthews reported on Castro and his revolution for the NY Times. His fine investigative skills were unable to discover Castro's red leanings......As a general rule, liberals always think that communist rule is better than fascist rule. Historically that's s ply not the case.

Kirk Parker said...

YoungHegelian,

"Considering that more Russians died than any other ethnic group in the years of the Soviet Union, and that it was the Russians who were running things, it's tough to make the "racist" charge stick"

Have you actually read Bloodlands? I hope not, because if you did you missed the point that: more Russians may have died, in raw quantities, but the percentage of Poles who died was much higher. Plus in some of the situations Poles were actively targeted qua Poles.

Kirk Parker said...

Lydia,

Good catch! Wow, Coates is even more warped than I realized.

I had some initial high hopes for him, based on a few specific writings that others had linked to. But taken as a whole, he's just beyond confused. There may be some hope for him, but for the time being he just needs to take a job--any job--to support himself and stop writing such a large volume of nonsense. Emulate Mr. Hoffer--go pick crops, or be longshoreman for a while, and just f'n shut up until you gain at least a modicum of moral balance.


Kirk Parker said...

Terry,

Good God no. The famine was not justified by some ridiculous, imagined-by-you "standard of the times". Did you somehow notice that net food production went down under collectivization? And that's just the pragmatic argument--the idea that the peasants "belong" to the state--i.e. in this case are the personal property of the dictator, do live or die as it seems useful to him--is the most loathsome thing I've read so far this year.


As to your reply to Bob Ellison--how despicable can you get? Have you reached your limit, or can you go yet lower in response to me? Look, that horrible "capitalist-serving" system you imagine was Tsarist Russia left those peasants, not only fairly undisturbed* but with enough of them becoming "prosperous peasants" (i.e. "kulaks".)

-------------------------------
*Undisturbed, with the sole exception being if you were Jewish--and even that wasn't totally consistent. How else do imagine all those people of Polish ethnicity managed to stay in the Russian Empire for so long?

Kirk Parker said...

jr565,

"AT least the Nazis policies didn't make people resort to cannibalism. "

SO you haven't read Bloodlands either? The only reason that didn't happen under the Nazis was that they were much, much quicker to just shoot people--even in their death/work camps, those who faltered were quickly done away with. Most of the cannibalism in the USSR was outside of camps, where the officials had stripped the countryside of food.

Kirk Parker said...

I'm with pst314 regarding "public intellectual" status for Coates. And I'd challenge ganderson: who exactly is promoting Coates to that rarified circle? D.P. Moynihan, sure. Paul Berman, certainly. Phillip Bobbitt, maybe--though his work is perhaps to restricted to the foreign-policy realm to truly qualify. Thomas Sowell? Could be.

But this sloppy, ridiculous, third-rate thinker? Never.

Fen said...

"the curiosity of contrary views and courtesy afforded to opposing views that permeate her blogging is almost non-existent among the modern right"

What a load of crap. My liberal friends have no idea what conservatives stand for. While my conservative friends not only understand the liberal pov, they know it well enough to make the liberal's argument for them.

So Tim, prove you're not just another libtard sheltered in an MSNBC echo chamber parroting talking points: explain the conservative position against raising the minimum wage...

Because, ya know, you're so enlightened and stuff.

"Because republicans are racist and hate the poor" in 3.. 2... 1...

Kirk Parker said...


All you guys demoting Hitler to third place:

I'm not asserting this, I'm just asking the serious question--when adjusted for time in power, what is Hitler's annualized rate? That is probably the number that most people will want to use for the Most Evil title, though I admit that some consideration must be made for those who realize the sort of over-the-top goings-on that would prematurely dump them out of the seat of power.



Cliff,

" Because [Coates] seeks to understand what, other than evil, led him to that philosophy does not make him an apologist. At least not in my opinion.

There's no other there there. That might not make him literally a apologist, but it certainly makes him someone not worth listening to, and the very furthest thing from a "public intellectual". (Gag me at the though. And read Paul Berman, especially Terror and Liberalism, The Flight of the Intellectuals, and/or Power and the Idealists to see what the Real Thing™ looks like.)


Lydia,

"Why is it okay for someone like Coates to say that Hobsbawm's expressing affection for the Soviet system shows a "deeply appealing intellect"?"

It just occured to me: maybe Coates is a crappy speller or typist, and meant to write "apalling" instead of "appealing"?





MayBee said...

This is interesting to read now, just a few days after Rolling Stone published a list of Five Things Millenials Should Embrace- all communist.

Kirk Parker said...

Oops, I mean "appalling".

(See, just trying to demonstrate how easy spelling errors are).

Lydia said...

I think he meant "appealing."

Here's Coates quoting Hobsbawm: "To this day, I notice myself treating the memory and tradition of the USSR with an indulgence and tenderness" -- and Coates comments: "See I read that, and I see a deeply appealing intellect. Who doesn't have these sorts of vulnerabilities?"

Kirk Parker said...

Lydia,

Sorry, next time I'll include the explicit <facetious> quotes.

Dr Weevil said...

Kirk Parker:
Adjusting for time in power is fair enough, but if we adjust for percentage of population under one's control, a Communist still comes out on top: Pol Pot, who killed 1/4 or 1/3 of his people in just a few years. To put it another way, Mao comes first in the total body count partly because he had more bodies under his control than any other totalitarian dictator ever. Hitler and Stalin may well have killed a higher percentage of those under their control (hard to calculate, because the territory under their control fluctuated wildly as Hitler's various invasions succeeded and then failed). And Hitler - as you say - almost certainly killed more per year in power (absolutely and relatively) than either Stalin or Mao. Then again, if we look at particular years, Stalin's or Mao's worst year may have had a higher death count (absolute or percentage) than Hitler's worst year. Again, it would not be easy to calculate.

And none of this is worth calculating. The point is that the three of them were in the same class, and it's astonishing that one can call oneself a Communist or Marxist today and not be shunned by every decent person, as one would inevitably be for calling oneself a Nazi or a Fascist.

Case in point: Years ago, I shocked a D.C. resident by telling him that I wasn't going to the big demonstration against cruise missiles in Europe because I supported putting cruise missiles in Europe. He (a friend of Young Hegelian, if I recall correctly) treated me as if I were beneath contempt, when I was supporting a policy proposed by Jimmy Freaking Carter and probably 75% of Americans and he was a pro-Soviet party-line Communist, at a time when that meant supporting the unlovely Leonid Brezhnev. Yet somehow, I was the weirdo.

Dr Weevil said...

Oops, skipped a couple of words: "a policy proposed by Jimmy Freaking Carter and [supported by] probably 75% of Americans".

Kirk Parker said...

Dr W.,

The argument seemed to be among Hitler, Mao, Stalin... but absolutely in the best-adjusted relative terms Pol Pot is the winner.

So far.

I fervently hope that "so far" qualification continues to hold.

tim in vermont said...

"The only reason that didn't happen under the Nazis was that they were much, much quicker to just shoot people--"

Kind of like the way Obama is keeping new prisoners out of Guantanamo.

tim in vermont said...

I suppose I should give Coates props for puzzling over why his chosen ideology leads to such horrors. Here is a hint: Give the govt total control over people's lives, and eventually, you are going to get a dictator attracted to such power.

Maybe he could consider why those of us on the right consider Hitler a creature of the Left. Because he created a government with total control over people's lives, while conservatives believe in a smaller, less powerful government as a way to prevent such horrors.

Michael said...

Cliff, you dodge the obvious. There is a distinction between being a cheerleader and being an apologist. The claim is that the left, through silence and lack of overt condemnation and yet heartfelt agreement with the lofty goals, is seen deservedly as apologetic.

Michael said...

Another characteristic of central planning and the insistence that crop production be doubled year over year and other such absurd goals was that the central planners always mase it clear that:

Failure is not an option.

Bob Ellison said...

Kirk Parker, I think Terry understands well all that you write. He or she (sorry; you've got one of those names, Terry) is trying to discuss and understand the philosophy behind the awful things you describe. It's a worthy and difficult task.

campy said...

the desperate need to claim dead liberals for the GOP

Some desperate rethugs even try to claim the great Democrat Abraham Lincoln.


http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/06/abe-lincoln-democrat-plaque_n_4228689.html

gerry said...

If all is chaos, then what the hell, right. "...it's no place to stay", indeed.

a psychiatrist who learned from veterans said...

In religion, as most of us know it, there is a Bible. In progressivism there is an implied Bible the tenets of which are covered by TNC's blog posts. There are negative affects expressed in the Bible as well as ideals and hopes. In progressivism as well there are negative affects, anti-inequality, anti-racism etc. TNC is seeing the negative affect and impulse become superior to the original ideal.

ganderson said...

Kirk Parker- I certainly don't think of him as a "public intellectual"- or at least someone whose opinion I value- but the fact that he writes regularly for the Atlantic suggests that someone thinks he is.
When I was in college in the early to mid '70s the prevailing wisdom at the large Midwestern U I attended was that Stalin did some unfortunate things (mistakes were made!), but was trying to make the USSR better, so he gets a pass. And the Cold War, BTW, was Stalin's justifiable reaction to the aggressiveness of the western Allies. I bought a lot of it- woke up for good in the '80s sometime.

pst314 said...

ganderson "One of my liberal colleagues and I read the riot act to any kid we see wearing a Che shirt"

Good for you.

Kirk Parker said...

Bob,

I'm not sure Terry does--at least it's not in evidence here. Starting with "by the standard of the times", and then on to typical veneer about Marxist ideology.

If you actually read Bloodlands you will see plenty of hints, and some outright explicit mentions, that for Stalin it was all about the power, and very little about the ideology.

Mitch H. said...

You know in most centuries, Hitler would be a no-brainer for "most evil"...but in the 20th century, hell, he may be third!

Snyder concludes in the book Coates is talking about, that while the body-count of the Stalinists was considerably higher than that of the Nazis, the Nazis piled their bodies up in a much shorter period of time, while fighting a total war, as a deliberate attempt to exterminate the targeted ethnicities. The Soviets used atrocity as an instrumentality - the atrocity was an actual Nazi goal. There is a difference between the two, as much as I despise both.

To have evil on a truly mass scale, there needs to be order, not chaos.

I actually do approve of Coates' dim detection of "chaos", because in most situations, and most hearts, the problem is one of confusion, Solzhenitsyn's line that runs through every human heart a moral chaos which means no heroes, no villains but which grace and human evil makes them so. And the Bloodlands was that cauldron of disorder and chaos which the paladins of regimentation and the collective will made from a totalizing lawlessness. A lawlessness that was the collective will without limitations, the negation of those social fictions which says, this far and no more. To look on that chaos and accept it as such is the death of the conspiracy theory, and to understand the difference between order and the State.

"To look at the details and interpret them as chaos is to free yourself from the perception of details and even of patterns."

This is what I mean by "conspiracy theory" thinking. There is a certain tendency towards apophrenia in the face of chaos - to search for patterns where none may be. Maybe not in this particular (Bloodlands) example, but I definitely was seeing conspiracy-theory apophrenia in Simon's The Wire, or at least in the show-creator's commentary rants about capitalism and so forth. It's a great piece of art because you can see in it wonders unintended, because it is complex enough in its chaos that the author's intended Aesops are, in the end, phantasmic, or self-negating, or simply absent in the actual work as delivered.

I'm shaking my head at people only just now discovering the Ukraine famine. Doesn't anyone read Conquest anymore?

The interesting thing that Synder does in The Bloodlands is to go past the Holomodor to connect it with the induced famines in the Nazi POW camps, the death camps, and so forth. This repetition of famines, mass murders, and finally gassings makes it more clear how the two tyrannies traded techniques across the region, and learned from each other. And it reinforced for me an often-neglected truth: cannibalism haunts any great famine, or at the very least, induced famines.

pst314 said...

"I'm shaking my head at people only just now discovering the Ukraine famine. Doesn't anyone read Conquest anymore?"

Conquest's books on the Soviet regime where widely condemned by liberal intellectuals.

Those who relied on the mainstream news media to decide what books to read were unlikely to read Conquest's work.

When his publisher asked him if he would like to do a new edition incorporating more recent discoveries, and suggested he might want a new title, he proposed "I Told You So, You Fucking Fools".

rcommal said...

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rcommal said...

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rcommal said...

OK. All of that. Now,what?